The flight from Flagstaff to Los Angeles went quickly and well in the Silverstone private jet. They immediately got a cab and took it to Brain’s home. On the way Brian called there. Mrs. Romero answered the phone and was delighted to hear that he was on the way. He told her that there were three of them and would appreciate some lunch. “Are my sister and brother-in-law still there?...Good, Please tell them we’re on our way...Thanks, Mrs. Romero.”
On the way Christy was staring out the window at the city. When they stopped for a traffic light she pointed at a tree and asked “What’s that?”
“That’s a palm tree” said Wendy. “They grow all over Southern California.”
“Oh. And that one?”
“A eucalyptus tree.”
Christy obviously thought about trying to say “eucalyptus” but evidently decided to try it later.
When they reached Brian’s home the door opened wide and standing there were Louise and Jason Moran with big grins on their faces. The Romeros were standing behind them.
Brian just stood and looked at his house for a moment. It looked like a different house to him. A great sense of relief settled over him. After all that he had been through for the past couple of weeks it seemed like he was having a new start, as if he had been in some sort of purgatory, washed clean of a mud bath of wrong choices and missed opportunities, of a manufactured life. He had lost more than toes. He had also let go of some regrets, some fears and, thanks to Christy, a lurking cynicism. He hoped he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.
As they walked up to the door, Louise stepped out and gave her brother a big hug. Then she looked up at him and said “You don’t look any worse for the wear. You probably made the whole thing up, right?”
“Well, that’s what they tried to tell me. But I’ve got a witness. This is Christy.”
Christy put out her hand and they shook it, graciously.
“And this is Wendy Klein, the lawyer who proved them all wrong.”
“Welcome Ms. Klein.”
“It’s Wendy, please.”
They entered the house. Brian introduced Wendy and Christy to the Romeros. Christy shook hands with them also.
Jason put his arm around Brian’s shoulder and said “Well, you’ve been through hell. How do you feel?”
“As I told the priest, I thought hell was supposed to be hot.”
“What priest?” asked Louise.
“Let’s go sit down and I’ll try to tell you all about it. If I leave anything out, Christy will remind me.”
They moved into the dining room where Brian made some drinks for them.
In the midst of recounting all that they had been through, Mrs. Romero came in with lunch. So they all ate and finished hearing the tale. The Romeros stood aside to listen also.
That night the Romeros fitted up Christy in a guest room while Brian was very grateful to fall completely asleep in his own bed.
He planned to go for a swim in the morning, to contact Bloom at Silverstone to tell him he was back and to start work on revising his script. Then in the afternoon Wendy promised to come over and help him and Christy buy her some new clothes. That was going to turn out to be a total and painful exercise in futility although Brian wouldn’t know that for quite a while.
Brian awoke refreshed and glad to be home. It was early. He went down stairs for a cup of coffee. He found Mrs. Romero busy in the kitchen.
“Good morning” he said.
“Good morning. It’s good to have you back, sir.”
“Thank you. It’s good to be back, and so nice to see your friendly faces again.”
Mrs. Romero smiled.
Brian took his coffee to his room, found some swimming trunks and put them on. He went to the pool and sat on a bench looking at the water. How nice it was to see water that wasn’t frozen. He thought about the frozen lake that almost swallowed Christy. He remembered putting his foot through the ice. He looked down at his poor mangled foot and wondered if it would hinder him in the pool. He laughed at the memory of being called “Three Toes” by the chief. “Mr. Three Toes” Wendy had called him. No doubt Myron Bloom would have some joke to make out of it. Good old Myron and his private jet. Soon he would call Silverstone and get back to work. That pleased him. He liked to work. Writing was a pleasure. So was swimming. He finished his coffee and slipped carefully into the pool. He did some simple strokes just to warm up. But soon he was swimming easily back and forth, waking up the muscles that hadn’t been worked for a while. He decided to try swimming under water as he used to do. He remembered his medals and his little black disk. He would have to tell Wendy about that. He ducked under again and swam back and forth. When he emerged he found Christy sitting on the bench, watching him.
“Good morning, Christy.”
“Morning. Brian, would you teach me how to swim?”
“Sure. Maybe they have a pool at the home. You could practice.”
“We’ll get you a bathing suit today.”
Brian got out of the pool, dried himself off and said “Let’s go get some breakfast.”
“Okay.” Christy jumped up.
When they got to the kitchen Louise was already there.
“He’s a sleepy head this morning. He’s been very worried about you, Brother-Of–Mine. He hasn’t slept too well since we got here.”
“Must be the California air” said Brian.
“Sure. So what’s up?” she asked.
“I have to do some work. Then Wendy said she would come over and help me go shopping for Christy, who's been wearing the same clothes for a century.”
“Maybe we should come too.”
“Sure. We’ll all go; the salespeople will think she’s a princess.”
“Princess Christine. Sounds good.”
“Sounds good to me’ said Christy. The she said to Louise “You’re an ant throw polly gist?”
“Anthropologist, Here I’ll show you the word.” Louise wrote it down.
“A person who studies the history of humans, ancient civilizations, stuff like that.”
Brian said “Okay. While you two scientists discuss things I have to go to work”
Brian went to his office, called Myron and then went to work on his script. Christy hung out with Louise and Jason.
Wendy came around at about noon, now in her own car and she, Louise, Brian and Christy went out to shop.
“Now the first thing you need to know, Brian” said Louise “is that girls don’t buy clothes. They buy outfits.”
“Whatever you say” said Brian.
Wendy had obviously done some research because she knew exactly where to go. She parked the car near a store that specialized in children’s clothes. Once inside a sales woman came up to them and Wendy said to her “Good afternoon. This is Christine. She’s 10 years old and we need to completely outfit her.”
“Okay. Come with me.” She led them to another section of the store. Brian followed, but from that moment on no one seemed to notice him. He found a nice, comfortable chair and sat down while Wendy, Louise and the sales woman poked through shelves of shirts, pants, skirts, blouses, socks, tights, sweaters, coats, belts, shoes, hats and sundries, occasionally holding something up against Christy to see how it looked. Now and then they would all disappear into a changing area and Christy would come out to show Brian how she looked. He approved of everything.
Finally, after about two and a half hours and with much discussion between the four of them, they came out and Louise said to Brian “Okay, we’re done.”
Everyone was piled with clothes and the sales woman, who by this time was known as Carol, led them to the counter and totaled up the purchases. Brian didn’t blink at the price but put down his credit card and signed the slip.
Carol put the things in several big bags. Brian said “She should have a suitcase to put things in, don’t you think?”
“Two doors down” said Carol.
“Thank you” said Wendy. “You’ve been very helpful.”
They walked out and two doors down was a luggage store. Now they were in Brian territory. They went in and Brian found some brightly colored suitcases. Christy favored a light blue one and a smaller one like it. So he bought them.
Back in the car Brian said “I forgot to find out where there is an art shop.”
“I’ve taken care of that” said Wendy.
She drove a few blocks and parked again. Nestled in between some trees at the side of a park was a store called The Artists World. Inside was everything Christy would need, Brian thought. He bought her some drawing pads, colored pencils, pastels, charcoal pencils, a box of charcoal, some erasers and a book on how to draw.
“When you think you’re ready I’ll get you an easel, some canvas and some paints.”
“Okay.” Christy was quite dazzled by all this attention and all these things she now owned.
But Brian said “There’s one more thing."
“What?” said Wendy.
“The cell phone place. It’s up on Hollywood, near the Mall.”
“Oh, yeah” said Wendy, and drove there.
“When they finally got back to Brian’s he said to Christy “Why don’t you go to your room and change so we can get your old clothes in the bath?”
“And hang some stuff up in the closet, so you’ll have something to wear when you come to visit.”
“Oh, yeah, okay.”
Brian found Mrs. Romero and asked her if she would clean Christy’s clothes. She said just to bring them to her and she would put them in with the rest of the laundry. After Christy did that she said “Oh, I forgot about your sweater” and ran back into the room to get it.
Louise said “That is an amazing young lady.”
“Yes” said Brian. “Everyone says so.”
“How did the two of you make it through that terrible situation?”
“I’ll give you the answer I give to everyone who asks, because it’s the only answer. We stayed together and we kept going. That is the only explanation.”
“Did you know where you were going?”
“No. I thought, at first, that there would be some sort of building, a ski lodge or something, but it was total wilderness.”
Christy passed through the room with Brian’s sweater and took it on to Mrs. Romero
“Did you think about giving up?” Louise continued. “Pardon me Brian, I know you better than that, but I’m just curious.”
“Oh, I gave up a few times, particularly after several days when I was in such pain and it looked like we weren’t getting anywhere. And Christy gave up a couple of times. But we pulled each other out of it.”
“Do you think you could have made it by yourself?”
“I don’t know. Probably not.”
“Well. I don’t know, but it seems to me you owe a lot to each.other.”
“I guess we do, yes.”
“Why don’t you keep her?”
“Her aunt and uncle signed a contract with this Saint Jane’s Home For Girls. I’ve already spoken with the den mother over there; if Christy doesn’t show up she’ll be breaking the contract. There could be a big legal hassle. Her folks could get into a lot of trouble. Me too.”
“Why don’t one of you adopt her?”
“That may not be possible because of our ages” said Wendy. “But it’s worth looking into, I guess.”
“Well” said Brian, “I’ll get her over there, get her in and set up with the home, see that she’s okay and has everything she needs, arrange for some visits, and then maybe I’ll look into it.”
“Good” said Louise. “I think you and Christy belong together.”
For the rest of the day Christy busied herself with her art tools, checking out the colors of the pencils and pastels, drawing with the charcoal and seeing what the erasers could do. Brian paid back the $400 Louise had sent him when he was still in Buffalo Gap and then went to work on his script. Jason and Louise made arrangements for going back east. Wendy called her boss Tom Wong and filled him in and then said that she had to go over to her office. She agreed to come back the next day and help Brian move Christy into Saint Jane’s, then she left.
The next morning Christy packed her new clothes and her art supplies in her two new suitcases. Wendy showed up at about noon. Louise and Jason said goodbye to Christy and wished her well. They said farewell to Wendy and the Romeros and got in the cab they had called. Brian, against his heart, his will and his intuition, picked up the phone and called Saint Jane’s Home For Girls.
“Hello, this is Brain Sims and I’m calling in regard to Christine Flynn. She’s scheduled to enroll in your home there. Well, she’s here with me ready to go. If you tell me where you are I can run her over there. Tt would save you the trouble, and I’d like to see that she gets in and settled...Oh. Hi, is this Mother Magda?...We spoke once before, if you remember...Yes, I’m sure but...I know, but...So what? So, I think I explained to you at that time that Christy and I had been through a very severe experience together and I feel responsible for her, so I just want to know that she is finally someplace and...That’s what I’m hoping but I just want to make sure she’s okay. You understand?...Well, all right."
Brian gave her his address.
“We’ll be outside, waiting...Yes...Good bye”
Brian hung up. “I don’t like that woman.”
“I hope she isn’t typical of the whole place” said Wendy.
While they were waiting, Brian made sure Christy had all the appropriate phone numbers logged in to her cell phone and took her number himself.
“There, now you can call people. I know they will want to hear from you, so do call them.”
“Okay” she said. "I will."
Mrs. Romero came out with a sandwich in a paper bag and gave it to Christy to put in her suitcase.
“Here, child, in case you get hungry.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“And I call you, after you get settled.”
Finally, after about a half an hour, they went outside to wait.
“Are you nervous?” asked Brian.
“A little” said Christy.
After a while a black limousine pulled up to the curb and parked. The driver got out and came over to them. “Christine Flynn?” he asked.
“Come with me.”
“Wait a minute” said Wendy. “How do we know who you are and where you’re from?”
The driver produced some identification from his pocket, a document showing that he was from Saint Jane’s Home For Girls authorized to convey Christine Flynn to the Home as soon as possible, signed by Magda Cirelle, HM.
“All right” said Wendy.
“Why can’t she stay with us and we’ll just follow you?”
“No. Come” said the driver.
“She must come with me. Come on.”
They walked over to the limo, Brian followed. The driver held the back door open. Christy jumped in with her suitcases and sat. The driver closed the door and went around to the other side. Christy looked through the window at Brian and smiled.
That was the last smile he would see from her for a long time.
The driver started the engine and the limo began to move out into traffic.
Brian recalled a dream Chrity told him about. A dream she had back in the wilderness about a man in a big black car taking her someplace. He turned back to the house when he saw Wendy drive up in her car. He opened the door leaned down and said “Where are you going?”
“Get in” she ordered. He did and she started off even before he got the door closed.
“You’re following them” he said.
“You bet. I don’t like his attitude. He behaves too much like Mother Magda. If we don’t like this place we’ll yank Christy right out of it and let Tom take care of the chips.”
The limo went down the Boulevard for a while then turned off and headed for the Freeway. They drove for a while on the Freeway and the limo turned off into a residential area. It passed through that into a less populated place and came upon a tall brick wall that surrounded a piece of property which couldn’t be seen from the road. Without signaling, the driver of the limo turned through a gate in the wall. There was no sign at the gate. Wendy followed. Now they were on a private road that was quite long, but they could see buildings in the distance. As the driver of the limo approached the buildings he made a left turn around the side of one of the buildings. Wendy followed. After about 50 yards the limo turned a sharp right, down a ramp and into a garage. As soon as it did the garage door closed.
Wendy stopped the car and waited to see what would happen. They sat there for several long minutes, but there was no more activity.
Wendy continued on to the end of the building where the driveway came to a halt next to another wall. She made a U turn and went past the garage which was still closed and back to the other side of the main building. It was a two story brick building with windows on both floors. On the first floor the windows were boarded up, the second floor windows had metal guards over each one.
“This place looks like a prison” said Brian.
“I don’t like it” said Wendy.
She drove around to the front. They were searching for a door. They came upon another limousine parked in a small parking area, and near it they saw a single metal door.
Wendy pulled into the parking space and stopped the car. They both got out and went to the door. Brian knocked. There was no answer. He knocked again.
Brian had a sudden flash of memory about knocking twice on the door to Father Portera’s church, Saint Andrew’s. So he waited, but there was still no response. He knocked a third time and was just about to try the door handle when it opened.
Holding the door open was a nun who said “This way.”
They were in a corridor that stretched in both directions. The nun was walking in front of them toward the left. At the end of the corridor there was a small office with a counter. There was no desk. The nun stepped behind the counter. “Name?”
The nun looked at a book and said “I don’t see your name. Do you have a reservation?”
“No. We just came to see that a girl I just enrolled here, Chirstine Flynn, is okay.”
“But can I see her please?”
“Why not. We’re friends and I have been responsible for her getting here. I just want to see her for a moment.”
“No. She won’t be ready to receive guests for quite a while.”
“There’s an orientation process she must go through first. Become familiar with our procedures and fundamentals, get acquainted with the staff and the other girls, learn the facilities and what’s expected of her and enter her training program. That takes time.”
“Well then, when can I see her?”
“That’s hard to say at this point, but if you’d like to make a reservation….”
“Okay. How about tomorrow.”
“Oh, ho! No. She won’t be ready to see anyone tomorrow.”
She looked down at her book, turned a page, looked it over and finally said “I’ll make one for March 22nd. What’s you name again?”
“That’s a month from now! Surely I can see her before then.”
“I’m sorry sir, that’s the first available date. Now may I have your name please.”
“It’s Brain Sims.” She wrote it down in the book.
“How were you recommended?”
“No one recommended anyone. Her family arranged for her to come here.”
“You have no recommendation, Mr. Sims? Where are you from/”
“I live in LA.”
“What do you do?”
“Don’t worry. All information is kept confidential, I can assure you.”
“I write film scripts.”
“Oh.” The nun was not impressed.
“All right Mr. Sims, I guess that’s acceptable.” She wrote something down on a card.
“When you come present this card at the desk and you’ll be ushered to her room.”
Brian took the card, it said “449” and nothing else. “What is this?”
“That confirms you’re appointment. And when you come it will be one thousand dollars. Cash.”
Brian and Wendy were both stunned.
“Why so much money?”
“Mr. Sims we are a religious organization, not affiliated with any church. We do not receive any grants from the city or the state. We rely solely on the contributions of our guests to pay for the staff and facilities. I’m sure you can understand that. Our requested donation is a thousand dollars. Please have it with you when you come.
“Are you asking for a thousand from each of us?”
“No, madam, the reservation is for Mr. Sims, not for you. For her to see you will take a lot longer, I’m afraid.”
“This is ridiculous. I insist on seeing Christy right now” said Wendy.
“You can insist all you want to, madam. She is not available to you.”
“Mr. Sims, remember the date, March 22.” She looked at the book again. “I’ll make it for one o’clock.”
Brian grabbed the card from off the desk and headed down the hall for the door. Wendy followed. Once outside Wendy said “This is too fishy for words.”
“You smell fish and I smell a rat. I’m calling Christy on her cell phone right now.”
He dialed and waited. “That’s strange. It’s not ringing.”
“Let me try” said Wendy. She dialed. “You’re right. It’s dead.” Then she dialed another number. “Hello Tom, it’s Wendy. I’m with Brian Sims and we need to see you right away. It’s urgent...Thanks.” She hung up. “Mr. Wong is waiting for us. Let’s go.”
Thomas Wong’s parents moved from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the early 20th Century. Mrs. Wong’s recipes came with them and they soon opened a Chinese restaurant. There were many Chinese restaurants in LA at the time but the Wong’s Garden was one of the best and was soon successful. They had 4 boys. Three of them graduated from college, the other one joined the U.S. Army. Sam Wong, went into the insurance business, married a corn fed girl from Nebraska named Shelley and they had 2 boys. The eldest, Lee, went into his father’s business. The youngest, Tom, went to law school.
From the start it was clear that Tom would have a fine career in law. He enjoyed it and was very conscientious and compassionate with his clients. One day, in a court room, he met Lawrence Schaeffer and they decided to establish a partnership, hence the firm Wong & Schaeffer was established. Now they represent primarily people in the motion picture business. They negotiate contracts, deal with agents, managers and producers and get the stars out of trouble when they get into it, which is frequently. The firm has grown to have many Associates, but Tom Wong’s favorite is a gal named Wendy Klein.
Tom listened very carefully to the explanation about Christy and Saint Jane’s. He asked few but very pertinent questions. After about an hour he reached over, flicked a switch and said “Heidi would you please bring me that contract we got from Connecticut about Saint Jane’s Home For Girls?”
“Right away” a voice said near the switch.
Their conversation continued for another few minutes when Heidi entered. She was a pleasant woman in her 40s, with short dark hair, glasses and wearing an I-mean-business looking skirt and blouse. She handed a document to Tom who said “Thank you. Heidi, were you thinking of taking the rest of the day off?”
“Oh, no, sir.”
“Well do that. Okay?”
“I will. Thank you sir” and she left the room.
“She’s been with me for 15 years. I can say anything I want to her.”
While Tom was looking over the document Wendy said “The way I see it, the only way to get her out of there is to adopt her since it’s probably registered as a foster home already.”
“Are you prepared to do that?” Tom asked Brian.
“Well, yes, if I can. But I don’t know if I can, considering my age and some shady untruths about my reputation.”
“Don’t worry about your reputation” said Tom. “I can take care of that.”
“If Brian can’t do it, I can" said Wendy.
Tom looked at her with a bit of suspicion. ‘Would you want to do that?”
“Yes. And if you met this girl you would know why. She’s a remarkable child.”
“No doubt” he said. “Well maybe I will meet her. Let me go over this contract and do some snooping around and let’s see what I can come up with. Call me tomorrow.” He stood up and ushered them to the door.
“Brian, how’s that new script coming?”
“Slowly. But I’m back to work on it finally.”
“Good. Bloom has been bugging me.”
“They left and went back to Brian’s place. When they got there Wendy parked the car, got out and came inside, uninvited, which pleased Brian. Brian tried a few more times to contact Christy on her cell phone, but it was still dead.
Wendy and Brian had drinks and dinner. and sat around talking about themselves. The mutual attraction seemed quite obvious to both of them, as if it was a perfectly natural thing for them to be interested in each other, as if they had known each other for years. It was just a matter of filling in the details. And so they spent the night together.
They rose early the next morning. The Romeros weren’t up yet. Brian took Wendy into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and then said he wanted to go for a swim. He did and Wendy sat on a bench with her coffee and watched him. When he finished and dried off he said “Wendy, I want to ask you a simple but serious and important question.”
“What is it” she asked.
“Will you marry me?”
“What was the question?"
“I said will you marry me.”
‘That’s what I thought you said.”
“Well, will you?”
“I like your style.”
“And I like yours. No getting dressed up, no bouquet, no diamond ring, no getting on your knees, just a simple question. Well, a simple question deserves a simple answer and the answer is 'yes.'”
“Whew!” Brian said.
Wendy laughed. “What did you think I was going to say?”
“Just what you said. But I’ve only done that once before and that was a long time ago so I’m rusty at it. Besides it’s always scary for the guy.”
“I don’t know.”
“When should we do it?”
“As soon as possible I think.”
“I know a judge who will do it quickly. I can take care of the paper work.”
“When can we tell people?”
“Well, I have to tell the Romeros right away because I asked her what she thought about it the other day and she approved. Besides. They’re very religious and don’t like me sleeping with strange women.”
“How many strange women have you been sleeping with?”
“Christy will be delighted if we could only get in touch with her.”
“I tried again this morning, the phone is still dead.”
“Later on we’ll call Tom and see what he says.”
They went in for breakfast and Mrs. Romero was there with a serious look on her face.
Brian said “Mrs. Romero, she said yes.”
She drew her palms together and smiled a big smile. “Oh, I’m so glad. So happy. That’s so good. I’m glad. Wait, I tell Juan. Juan...” She was calling into another room.
A moment later Juan appeared and said “Congratulations Mr. Sims, Miss Klein. My wife and I are happy for you. We’re so glad.”
“Thank you Mr. Romero” said Brian.
“When will you do this?” asked Mrs. Romero.
“We don’t know yet, but it will be soon. We will certainly tell you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The Romeros went back into the kitchen with big smiles on their faces.
Later that morning Wendy called Tom Wong’s office. She listened while he talked for a while saying only “What?...When?...How?...How soon?...Okay.” She hung up and said “The news is not good.”
“What is it?”
“It is the policy of Saint Jane’s to never allow any of their girls to be adopted. It has never happened in its entire history.”
“But we can’t just leave her there.”
“Tom said he was looking for a way around it, but he said it was a very tightly written charter. He called it a trap door that has already closed.”
“That doesn’t sound good” said Brian.
“No, but Tom has looked at those before.”
“What should we do?”
“Well” said Wendy “I’m going over to my office to see what’s going on. I still have to make a living. While I’m there I’ll get a marriage license in the works and call my friend judge Parks to set it up. Unless you want to take the day off and run over to Nevada to do it.”
“No, that’s okay; I’ll take it as it comes.”
“You sure? We could hire an Elvis Presley interpreter.”
“Sounds like fun, but let’s stay here.”
“Okay. What are you going to do?”
“I have to finish this script and take it over to Silverstone to talk about it. I have a couple of stars in mind for it. The choice is ultimately up to Myron Bloom, but at least I can discuss it with him."
After a nice warm kiss and an affection goodbye-for-now, Wendy went off to her law firm. Brian went to his computer, read through the script again, made a few minor changes, emailed it to Silverstone Studios with an FYI for Myron Bloom, and then printed out two copies. He called Bloom’s secretary to find out when he would be there.
Brian had some lunch and that afternoon went over to Silverstone and when he got to Bloom’s office the secretary told him to go right on in. When he opened the door Myron leaned back in his chair and said “Well, ‘The Iceman Cometh’ at last.
Myron Bloom was a man in his 50s, bald, wearing sunglasses, in his shirtsleeves and smoking a pipe. He was a very successful Hollywood motion picture producer. He had an amazing knack for finding talent, and he knew it. He was a tough boss, rough on the lazy and a rewarder of the hard working. He was a difficult man but everyone who worked for him trusted him.
“What took you so long?”
Brian again explained about the experience in Buffalo Gap, the amputation of his toes, the hearing about whether he was really on board the plane, how it was resolved and then getting Christy into her foster home. Then he said “By the way, I’m getting married.”
“No shit” said Myron, “who’s the unlucky woman?”
“You probably know her, Wendy Klein, from Tom Bloom’s office.”
“Yes, I’ve met her, beautiful gal. How did this come about?”
“Tom sent Wendy over to Arizona to help solve that stupid case against me, and I guess we sort of fell for each other.”
“So when is this going to happen, and am I invited?”
“Soon, and of course you’re invited. Wendy’s working out the details and she knows a judge who will do it right away.”
“So, other than nuptials is there any other thing to keep you from coming back to work? The girl is settled, you said?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
“What’s she like? Is she fresh young meat for us?”
“Oh, I don’t know. She’s more interested in drawing and painting than in making movies.”
“Well, bring her by, let me meet her. From your description she sounds like an amazing kid.”
“She is. But unfortunately I can’t bring her here because that foster home won’t let her out and I can’t go and see her without a reservation, a month from now, and I have to pay a thousand bucks to see her for an hour.”
“That’s terrible, TERRIBLE! Is there anything I can do?”
“Not unless you can figure out a way to adopted her. They don’t allow their girls to be adopted.”
“I don’t know.”
“I have an idea.”
Myron opened his desk drawer, took out a pad of paper, closed the drawer and unscrewed the top of his big fountain pen, fastening it to the back end.
“Now” he said “what’s the name of this place?”
Brian gave him the name, address and phone number of Jane’s Home For Girls.
Then Myron asked “What’s the girl’s name?”
“Do you have a picture?”
“Too bad. I need a picture.”
“There was one in the local paper, but it was the two of us together after we got to that small town.”
“Can you get a copy of it? Maybe we can crop it.”
“Let me call the paper and see. I can also call her aunt in Connecticut; maybe they still have a picture of her”
Brian first called Aunt Lydia in Hartford because it was already getting to be evening out there. He didn’t want to tell her his opinion about Saint Jane’s. He felt it would upset her, so he just said that Christy was there and settled. Then he asked about the picture. At first Lydia wasn’t sure they had one but she went and asked Uncle Sy. When she came back to the phone she said they had one from the Christmas album. She was reluctant to part with it but Brian convinced her it was for a good reason. So she agreed to send it right away. She took down his address.
Then Brian called Peter Straw at the Gap. Pete said that they had a pictures but only of the two of them together. He agreed to send it.
All the while Brain was on his cell phone Myron was making notes on his pad. Then he picked up his phone and pushed a button. “Beatrice would you please call Lester Lynx and see if we can have an appointment in the next couple of days, and also call What’s-his-name at People Talk, and tell him I will have a story for him in the next few days.”
He put down the phone and said “By the time I’m finished with this your young friend is going to be famous.”
“Because I’m interested. An orphanage that won’t allow adoptions? There’s got to be a story there somewhere. It sounds like fun.”
Then Myron picked up Brian’s film script, held it between his thumb and first finger and waved it slightly back and forth.
“Now let’s talk about YOUR fame.”
There was a 30 minute argument about who should star in Brian’s film and what the title should be. Brian wanted it to be called Courage Underground. Myron preferred Tunnel of Passion. At the end of the session nothing was accomplished except that Brian had a headache. They agreed to meet again the next day which would give Myron a chance to read the revised script and to perhaps find something to help fix the Christy situation.
When Brian got back home he was tired and felt weak. He wanted to go for another swim, to wash off Hollywood, but instead he just lay down to take a nap.
He dreamed of giving a speech to a large group of people and noticing that Christy wasn’t among them. He left the auditorium where he had been speaking and wandered outside looking for her. He thought he saw her in the distance and called her name. She turned. He waved. But she didn’t wave back. Instead she turned and walked away from him.
He awoke later, in time for dinner, and when he went downstairs to the dining room Juan came in to say something.
“That place is a no good place.”
“That place where the little girl went.”
“I got that same impression of it, Juan. Do you know anything about it?”
“I asked around.”
“Girls go there and they don’t come out.”
“They don’t come out?”
"Are you sure about this?”
“I asked around.”
“And someone told you this?”
“You mean even after they’ve grown, they still stay there?”
“I don’t know, but no one knows any girl who was there.”
“Maybe they stay and become nuns.”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Well, thank you, Juan. If you hear any more will you let me know?”
“Of course, sir.”
Juan left the room and now Brian was perplexed. If they never left there, what happened to them. They must go somewhere or the place would be filled with older women hanging around. Saint Jane’s was getting stranger by the day.
At his next meeting with Myron Bloom the revised script was approved and the cast was decided upon, with a back-up cast if necessary. Myron then placed the project in the hands of an assistant. As he was still busy with the final part of the SAG negotiations he didn’t have much more to say to Brian. So Brian left the office satisfied that he was still employed and more fame and money would be coming in. He should be very pleased about that but there was a big hole in his heart.
Back home he wanted to take a swim. But he just sat by the pool staring into the water. He felt very much alone and vulnerable. Wendy was busy with her court case, Christy was gone, maybe for good, and there was no way of contacting her. Louise and Jason had gone back home. And now he had nothing to do. Start another project? Clean up his desk? Call someone? He was too depressed to think about any of those things.
Instead, he went to his computer and wrote a letter.
I miss you very much. Not having you around here has me feeling very lonely and depressed. I am so sorry I made you go to that place. From the outside it doesn’t seem like such a nice place to be. I hope it’s better on the inside and that you are happy there. I assume you are making new friends and getting used to the people.
Wendy and I followed you there and we wanted to see that you were in and comfortable but the nun at the desk wouldn’t let us see you. I had to make a reservation. It’s not for several weeks. That’s the earliest she would give me. I tried calling you on your cell phone but I couldn’t get through to you. Is there something wrong with it? Please ask them when you can come and visit us.
Wendy and I are getting married. I know that pleases you. And, of course, we want you to be at the wedding. You can be a bridesmaid. You’ll be a very pretty one.
The studio accepted my script and it’s going into production. That’s good for me, but it means I’ll be busy making adjustments to it as we go along. That’s all part of the job.
I’m sitting here thinking about all the time we spent together, the plane crash, the awful experience in the wilderness, the hunger, the pain, the wolves, the frozen lake, your ankle, then Buffalo Gap with Father Portera, Bridget, Doctor Bite, Fred, Chief Running Bear, Peter Straw and Mike and then Wendy. It seems like we’ve lived a whole life together in just a few weeks.
I hope this letter doesn’t make you sad. It’s just that it’s hard for me not having you around, I miss you so much. I love you Christy.
Brian (Three Toes) Sims
He printed out the letter, put it in an envelop addressed to Miss Christine Flynn c/o Saint Jane’s Home For Girls and put a stamp on it. Then he took another envelope, addressed it to himself, stamped it and enclosed a sheet of paper. He put everything together in the first envelope, sealed it, walked to the corner mail box and mailed it.
For the next two days Brian busied himself with fixing little details of the script, with phone calls back and forth to Simon (LeGree) Le Groh, Bloom's assistant. It was hard to concentrate because Christy was always in his thoughts. Wendy was busy with her court case. She called Brian every evening but stayed in her apartment so she could be up and out early.
Days dragged by and there was no word from or about Christy.
Then, on the third day, the mail brought a letter from Mike Wyman of Buffalo Gap and another from Lydia Collins. Brian quickly opened the letters hoping they would have the pictures, which they did. The picture from the Gap was the one he remembered, but it was the two of them standing close together with his arm around her. The other picture was just of Christy, taken at a Christmas party. There was a tree in the background, but otherwise it was a nice simple photo of Christy’s pretty face and a smile, but she had a slightly melancholy look on her face.
Brian quickly called Bloom’s office to see if he was there. Then he got Juan to drive him over there with the photos. Myron was on the phone but waved Bpain in. Brian sat down and listened to Myron wheel and deal. Just at the moment when the deal was off, whatever the deal was, Myron slipped in another suggestion as if it had been brought up before and rejected. That apparently clinched the deal. He hung up the phone and said “The secret is to make them think it’s their idea, and then they go for it. What have you got?”
Brian handed the two pictures to Myron, with the one from the paper on top. Myron looked at and frowned. Then he looked at the second picture, the Christmas shot and, without giving it a second glance, he said “Bingo.”
He picked up his phone and said “Beatrice, would you please call the Art Department and have them send up a photographer right away, please. Thank you.”
“The folks in Connecticut will want that picture back. It’s from their Christmas album. Is that okay?”
“Why not. Now, I have an appointment with Lester Lynx tomorrow and then I’m talking to Grace Werbler the day after. We’ll get this Christy girl sitting in your lap before you know it.”
The door opened and a young, thin, nervous, spectacled man came in. “What’s you name?” said Myron.
Myron held the photograph of Christy between his thumb and first finger, the same way he had held Brian’s script, with the face front.
“Bruce, I need you to take this photo and copy it. Make a dozen first rate copies but don’t damage the original. Can you do that?”
“No problem, Sir.”
“Good. Please do it pronto.”
Bruce took the picture of Christy carefully in his hand and left.
“Mischief thou art afoot” said Myron.
“What’s going to happen?” asked Brian.
“I’ll know more after I talk to Lester and this Werbler woman.”
“I don’t want Christy’s name dragged through the mud.”
“Don’t worry, Brian, if there’s any mud slung it will go in the opposite direction. Trust me.”
“She’s a sweet, innocent kid.”
Brian left Bloom’s office and went home. Back home Brian was feeling encouraged. He went for a swim and awaited Wendy’s call. Sitting on the bench beside the pool he remembered Christy asking him to teach her to swim. He remembered teaching Louise to swim. Some days all he wanted to do was swim. He felt at home in the water, relaxed and clean. It was the therapy he needed to clean himself from the dirt and sweat of Hollywood. He wondered if he would have had a happier life if he had stayed in Dorado and just done theatre. He sometimes wished he could go back to Waynesburg where he grew up, be with friends, go into his father’s business and never venture into the rocky world of films. No use thinking about those things now but it was a brief vacation of the mind from the doubts and fears he felt about himself, Christy, Wendy and his newest script.
When Wendy called he told her about what had happened in Bloom’s office, about the photograph and that he didn’t know what was going to happen but that Bloom seemed to have taken charge of the situation. He mentioned the appointments with Lester Lynx and someone from People Talk.
Wendy said she would check things out with Tom Wong but she said that if there was going to be publicity it would be a good idea if he canceled that appointment at Jane’s. When he asked her why she said she wasn’t sure but that it was her intuition.
Brian had long ago learned to trust women’s intuition. He trusted Christy’s intuition back in the wilderness when she chose which direction to walk in. And she had been right. Still he was crushed at the idea of not seeing Christy again even if just for an hour. And what if the person at Saint Jane’s had already told Christy that he was coming? How would she feel to hear that he had canceled the visit?
He went to his desk and very reluctantly picked up the phone to call Saint Jane’s. Then he put the phone down again. He sighed a deep sigh. His stomach hurt from fear and sorrow.
He was about to pick up the phone again when it rang. It was Wendy. She said she talked with Wong about that appointment and he said by all means to cancel it, as soon as possible. She also said that the court case was going well and that she would come and spend the weekend with him. So with that to look forward to and with Wong’s opinion pushing him on he picked up the phone again and dialed the number for Saint Jane’s Home For Girls.
“Hello Sister Magda, please...Pardon me, MOTHER Magda. This is...Yes, I realize that now. This is Brian Sims. I brought the girl Christine Flynn to your home a few days ago...That’s right...At last, yes, but I think I told you about the difficulties we encountered trying to get her there...Well...I know...I know it...Well I should hope not...So that part of it is settled then?...Good...Now the reason I’m calling is that when I brought her in I wanted to see her to make sure she was settled in and had everything she needs...So I was told...But the sister at the desk would not let me make sure so I...That’s what she told me. So I made a reservation to see her a few weeks from then...Yes...Okay.”
There was a pause while Mother Magda checked the records.
...”Yes, that’s right...Well I’m calling to cancel it...That’s right...Well, I don’t...I don’t care that you don’t like it, I’m...No, I just...Well, I’m sorry Mother Magda but I’m unable to keep the appointment...There are personal reasons...I’ll call and make another one...No I can’t change it today...Because I don’t know when...Maybe so, but in my case I just don’t know...No I don’t want to see another girl, it’s Christy I want to see...What does that mean?...Well I’m glad of that, I think...But...No….There’s no point in doing that because I’m just not going to show up then. So please remove my appointment from your book...Well that can’t be helped, I suppose...No...Of course not...If that’s the way it has to be then so be it...Mother Magda, I went through a great deal of trouble to bring her there and I’m not happy that I couldn’t get to see her right away, so since you don’t seem to be thankful for my efforts I’m not too inclined to be all that cooperative with you, you understand?...All right then please cancel my reservation...Thank you.” He hung up.
Mother Magda reminded Brian of that encyclopedia salesman who once came to call. He wouldn’t leave until Mrs. Romero kicked him out.
Maybe I should send Mother Magda a dozen roses, Brian thought. No, I guess not.
Mother Magda was going to get an unexpected shock. And so was Brian.
For now Brian felt encouraged and a little bit relieved. Saint Jane’s was such an unpleasant experience for him when he was there that he didn’t really want to go back and both Wong and Bloom were interested enough in the dilemma about Christy that he felt things were progressing well.
Brian was thinking about Wendy and was looking forward very much to seeing her on the weekend. He was puzzled with himself. Why after all these years he even contemplated getting married again was a mystery to him. And then to actually go ahead and propose surprised him. It seems that it surprised him more than it did Wendy. But he did it, and she accepted, so it was going to happen. He again wished very much that Christy could be there when they actually tied the knot. Getting Christy back into his life was now becoming an obsession. He plainly could not think of his life without her. The child he never had, the family he never had. It was finally within reach after all these years. He gladdened himself by thinking of the possibilities. But the difficulty of attaining them kept creeping up from his gut and caused him a lot of distress. From the crash of the plane, to the hard trudge through the wilderness, to carrying her to safety, to being with her as a protector, father and friend through those days in Buffalo Gap it was hard to believe that all that tillage and planting would not reap the joys of companionship and love. He wanted to go to Saint Jane’s, break down doors, grab her and take her away, but he felt powerless to do anything, like a fish on the beach next to the shore line that can’t squirm enough to get back into the water.
His only hope besides the wisdom and warm support of Wendy was that Tom Wong and Myron Bloom wouldn’t lose interest in the problem and would follow it through to whatever complicated end would be the result.
Brian didn’t realize it at the time but there was a third, shadowy figure who was also interested in the case. They would soon meet. Again.
Brian spent the rest of the day trying to keep his mind off his troubles. He read, went for a walk, went for a swim, took a nap, had some dinner, watched some DVDs and finally retired for the night.
The next morning there was a rare rain storm and it exactly matched Brian’s mood. There is nothing to be done in a warm rain but watch and listen. So that’s what he did. The watching was internal, mostly, the listening was musical. The rapid fugue of raindrops on the window relaxed him and made him think that Christy was listening to the same patter and watching the rain from a window somewhere.
At mid-day Wendy called and said that Tom Wong was looking into the possibility of challenging Saint Jane’s policy of not allowing their girls to be adopted. She said that one of his Associates found a case back in the 19th Century where a similar establishment for homeless boys was not allowing adoptions and a court overruled their charter. Right then he was feeling things out but if it turned out to be a viable action he would twist some arms to get a hearing on the matter next week.
“Ask Tom to talk to Myron Bloom. I know they don’t particularly like each other, but since they are both on the same war path, maybe they can cooperate on this one.”
“If this is going into court it probably won’t be a good idea to have any advanced publicity about it. If there is something wrong there it might tip them off. “
“And if there isn’t?”
“Then it wouldn’t matter. But something tells me it is better to be safe….”
“then sorry. I’ll tell you truly Brian, I have the same feeling. I’ll talk to him right now.”
“Thank you. I love you.”
“Love you right back.”
After he hung up Brian had a sense of relief. He hadn’t realized it but that was something that had been bothering him. Bloom was a powerful man in Hollywood and he knew that Lester Lynx was also. If they wanted to start any sort of publicity campaign about Christy it would be a big one. Better not to do it than to have Christy drawn through the sieve of public scrutiny. But a challenge in the court to Saint Jane’s mad policy is a much saner, cleaner way of doing things. If it works he and Wendy can get Christy back without turning a searchlight on to Saint Jane’s. After she returns, if the authorities want to investigate the place then let the mud fly if it must. It depended now on Tom and Myron agreeing with each other on this one.
He sat back and composed a couplet which he kept repeating to himself.
“Bloom and Wong,
All day the rain kept drumming against the windows like impatient fingers. Brian tried to pass the time without thinking too much about the problems. He was smoking too many cigarettes, the result of frustration, anxiety and delay. Finally he sat down at the computer and started writing another story, another film script, perhaps. It was about a small town in the west. Another Western, he thought, with a smile. Is Hollywood ready for another Western? With Navajo, bison and an Irish Tavern keeper? Why not?
So he typed away, fully engrossed in recreating a priest, a Navajo chief, a half breed mechanic, a Mexican doctor, an ebullient Irish lady, a newspaper editor, a surly waitress and some “troll brains.”
Brian was generally happy doing only two things: swimming and writing. He sometimes thought back to his life as an actor, a director and then a playwright. But he didn’t like to. There were too many bad memories. He wished to look forward. Even at 70 he felt there was much good future to be had for him and now for Wendy, and, of course, for Christine. Thinking about her twisted his stomach again, so he went back to the keyboard and concentrated on fashioning a tale from his memory and his imagination about a town he thought he once knew and how to make a film about it.
Certain details from his memory seemed to be slipping away, pushed out of importance by events that demanded attention and focus. Things became more important than people. Why was losing two toes a bigger deal than the kindness and humor of those involved, or the brutality of strangers? Brian had never known people like those in Buffalo Gap, and they, in turn, were not impressed that he was famous in Hollywood. He and Christy had been accepted for their courage in making it through the terrible wilderness and for no other reasons. But then they were embraced for being who they are, for the people they are. Things were not stacking up right in his head. If it was going to be a Western it had to focus on events more than people, he thought. There had to be a chase, a gun fight, the bad guys had to be brought down and justice prevail. Buffalo Gap was not like that. It was an experience in direct love and simple living. A New Western. Brian was very confused.
He spent the rest of the afternoon at the computer, stopped for dinner and then went back to it and typed until bedtime.
Overnight, while he was asleep and not paying attention, the rain clouds had packed up and moved on and now the air was fresh and clean. He went for a swim, had breakfast and returned to the computer. Then the words started flowing more easily as he realized the story was not about Buffalo Gap or about him, Brian. It was about a 10 year old girl from New England, and there was no last chapter to it yet. That would come as a terrifying surprise to everyone.
But for now his task was to try describing this girl who emerged from the snow one day as some winter ice angel, helpless but courageous, innocent yet resourceful with hope and faith while standing up against all the destructive forces of the world. He named her Crystal.
His fingers were not flying now, as they usually did, across the keyboard, but were carefully picking from his mind the exact words to narrate a mystical tale of a heroic child. Each word seemed to be an integer in a vast equation, one which would define the landscape and horizon of existence.
This was no film script or biography. Nor was it the summation of survival from a life threatening situation. It was a blessed opening of a door into actual life through the impulse and guidance of his creative ability as an artist to uncover the hidden truth of what happens when we say yes to life. This was a healing of the pain by denouncing its reality. Instead of carrying her to safety through the sleet, he was now carrying in his mind the real life of a magical child into the safety of words the world must read.
He knew he was writing about a child, the only child in his life, a child he may never see again. It was hard and painful. Bur Brian once said:
[We are the only two people in this frozen universe. I am now all the wise old men in the world and she is all the young innocent girls in the world and it is my responsibility to see that she survives.] And
[I will keep going and see her to safety and stay alive until I do it. Then he said softly, “Christy, we’re gonna make it.”]
There was much to do, much to learn, much to be written and still much life to be lived.
He returned to the keyboard, a deep sea fisherman, casting his net and hoping for the right ideas to visit him.
That afternoon Wendy called to say that it looked good for a hearing to determine adopting Christy. The judge seemed disposed to at least hear what the parties had to say about it. What it needs now is a court date and Tom is pushing for an early one, sometime next week.
“I’m very anxious” said Brian. “If the judge decides in favor of Saint Jane’s we may never see Christy again.”
“Don’t lose hope, Brian. Talk to the wolves.”
Talk to the wolves. Nothing is hopeless I guess, thought Brian. Even if you’re in a fog and don’t know what you’re doing, even if faced with life threatening danger, there is hope. Christy taught him that. Or rather she reminded him of that. Never give up. That was the rule of life.
Brian went back to typing the story of “Crystal.” This was not about rolling down a mountainside or chewing on bark. This was about a real life. Slowly his fingers found the words to tell about knowing, about standing with trust and innocence against the irrational forces of the world, about looking danger calmly in the face and turning it into advantage, about translating hallucinations into realities and about finding the right road in life without the benefit of sign posts. This was Crystal, the ice angel who appeared out of nowhere and yet is always present to those who seek her.
Brian’s phone rang. It was a friendly voice.
“Well, hello Fred. How’s it going up there? Uh huh….Yes?....Oh, well, that’s great. Is Father Portera pleased?....Glad to hear it….Now when is it going to be up and operating?....Now is the furnace in a good location, where it’s easy to get to and yet won’t stink up the place?....Ah ha! Good idea….Do you need me to send you any dough?....Well, you let me know, okay?....Oh well. Good and bad….Mainly about Christy….Yes she is but I don’t like the place….I don’t know, they wouldn’t let me in….I know….Well, I’ve been told that once they go there they don’t leave, not even to be adopted…..You have to make an appointment, and it costs a thousand bucks a visit….Well, that’s how they make their money, I was told….We’re working on it. By the way, you remember Wendy, my lawyer?....Well, she’s soon going to be my wife….That’s right….We don’t know yet, we’re working on that, too….We want Christy there when we do it, so we’re hoping to get that settled first….Sure, Fred, I will definitely let you know….Please give my best to Nina and your kids, and anyone else you happen to see….Thank you for calling….Any time Fred….Bye”
He hung up. “I miss Buffalo Gap” he said.
Friday morning Wendy called to say that Tom Wong was successful in getting a hearing for the following week. It was to be on Thursday. Brian was disturbed that it was going to take almost a week before anything was decided, but he knew that these things could be adjourned for months so he remained hopeful.
Wendy also said that she would be over after work to spend the weekend. And that pleased Brian very much.
She arrived at about 6:30 with a suitcase.
“Are you moving in?” he asked.
“Almost. Just a few weekend things to hang in your closet.” And with that she headed for the bedroom.
Brian felt a mixture of apprehension and delight. It had been many decades since he had women’s clothes in his closet. Something about that made him realize that this was getting serious. He wondered, after all these, years what it was going to be like for him to be a married man once again. Of course he was a much different kind of man now, and Wendy was definitely a much different kind of woman than Cindy. I think I’m going to like it, he thought.
Among the items Wendy brought was a swim suit. So he put on his and they headed for the pool. When Brian bought the house the pool was decorated with an awful, poorly painted array of blue, pink and yellow fish. When he was in the water they seemed to be moving back and forth. It was ghastly and gave him the creeps. So he had it scraped and painted black. Now the accent was on the water. It was much nicer.
They dove in and swam back and forth for a while. Brian was showing off as if he needed to. Soon they became like children splashing each other in the face or diving down and pulling each other under by the ankles. Brian was feeling light hearted for the first time in many days.
When they tired they came out of the pool and sat on the bench while Brian had a cigarette. As he was staring at the water slowly massaging itself back to calm he said “Christy asked me to teach her how to swim. I hope I get a chance to do that.”
“I can’t promise that. But I won’t stop until I get her out of there. I can say that.”
And so the weekend came. Neither of them wanted to do any work. They spent the time getting to know more about each other, planning for the future, enjoying themselves as much as they could, considering the problems still confronting them. Saturday they went for a drive out of town to help clear their heads and see new things. That did help Brian a lot. In his senior years he liked peaceful adventures.
At one point Wendy asked him “After we’re married will I be known as Mrs. Three Toes?”
Brian laughed. “If you wish. But if we go back to visit, Chief Running Bear may give you a new name also.”
“Oh I would like to see them again. That was a fascinating place. It would be Christy’s third visit there, or her fourth?”
“Third, I think.” Brian thought about the portrait she drew of Running Bear and how much he seemed to like it. He hoped that Christy was getting a lot of drawing done where she was,
That evening he let Wendy read the two pages he had written of his new story. She read through them carefully and said “It’s a beautiful metaphor, it seems a pathway to understanding realities.”
Sunday was the Romero’s day off. They spent much of it in church So Brian and Wendy played in the kitchen making breakfast and lunch and dinner, in between splashing in the pool and making love.
Monday morning Wendy was up and off to work early. Brian went back to work on his story of Crystal, the angel of the ice, the mirror in which he would see realities behind the unrealities.
In the afternoon mail there was a summons from the Family Court of Los Angeles to appear for a hearing on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. So it’s going to happen, he was pleased to see. He wondered if Christy would be there. I suppose so, he thought. I hope so.
Later on Wendy called to say that she had also been summoned, and that so had Christy, Mother Magda and associates. She also said that the judge, Agnes Weinstein, was a good, compassionate woman, unlike some of the Family Court judges who were otherwise so dissatisfied with where they were that they tended to be harsh on people. Wendy expected a clean, well run hearing and predicted a positive outcome.
Brian couldn’t decide if she was telling the truth or just trying to assuage his anxiety. He decided to believe her.
So, he thought. I’m going to get to meet the dragon lady, Mother Magda. Won’t that be interesting?
But the thought of seeing Christy again really pleased and excited him. At last he could see her and find out how things are going there for her. If Wendy is right then he hoped he would get, at least, to visit with Christy for a while, maybe before the hearing began. It would heal a great hole in his heart just to see that she was okay, no matter what the outcome of the hearing.
Now he was more anxious then ever for Thursday to come. It was all the focus of his life now.
But the hearing was not going to go as smoothly and cleanly, neither as Wendy suggested nor as they both expected.
Tuesday was spent working on his story, taking walks, swimming and trying to rest his fevered heart.
On Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock, Juan came into Brian’s work room to tell him that there was a man at the door who said he was from the FBI. Brian was shocked at that news but told Juan to show him in. When the man entered the room, Brian had a feeling he had met him before. The man introduced himself as Inspector Chuck Stanger and showed Brian a badge.
“We’ve met before, Inspector, haven’t we?”
“Yes, in Sanman. You remember.”
“I do. Well what can I do for you this time, Inspector?”
“I need to ask you some important questions.”
“Would you care to have a seat?”
“I would, thank you.”
They both sat down and Stanger stared at Brian for a few seconds and then said “Mr. Sims, the Bureau has asked me to look into some allegations involving Saint Jane’s Home For Girls. Are you familiar with that establishment?’
“Yes I am” Brian’s heart was now pounding.
“Yes, you are. In fact you visited Saint Jane’s sometime within the past several days. Isn’t that correct?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What was the occasion for your visit?”
“I had just enrolled a young girl in the place and I wanted to see that she was okay.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, it’s so.”
“Where did that girl come from?”
“And what is your relationship with her?”
“Friend. We survived a plane crash together and I felt responsible for her getting to her destination. You were in the court room in Sanman when that was all discussed and affirmed. Surely you must remember.”
“Uh, yes I do, sir. And when you went to Saint Jane’s did you see her?”
“No. They wouldn’t let me.”
“I had to make a reservation to see her. But I canceled it>”
“Why did you cancel it?”
“Upon the advice of my attorney.”
“All right, Mr. Sims. The Bureau is investigating Saint Jane’s because it feels there might be something illegal about some of their practices. But we can’t enter the establishment without a warrant and we can’t issue a warrant without evidence. It’s regrettable that you didn’t get in to see your friend, otherwise you might have something to tell us that would be useful.”
“My fiancée is attempting to adopt the girl in question. There is a hearing tomorrow morning in family court about it.”
“Yes. I’m aware of that.”
“Do you plan to be there?”
“But why not? The woman who runs the place, Mother Magda, is expected to be there, she might say something that would reveal something. Don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t think. Besides, the Bureau doesn’t usually concern itself with adoption cases. We have more important things to do.”
“But what do you think may be going on in there that the Bureau is interested in?” Brian was really getting on edge with Mr. Stanger.
“I can’t tell you that.”
“All right, but I still think you should be at that hearing. What you do is none of my business, but I’m very concerned about the girl I placed in there. If there IS something illegal going on, I need to know about it.”
“Mr. Sims, if I find anything out I, or someone from the Bureau, will let you know.”
“I hope so. Please.”
“Thank you for your time Mr. Sims.” Stanger stood up. So did Brian. Agent Stanger wasted no time on good bye but turned and made his way to the front door and left. Brian was now more anxious then before. He went into the kitchen and made himself a drink.
When Wendy called he told her about the meeting with Stanger. She was concerned that Stanger thought there was something illegal going on at Saint Jane’s but said that if there was maybe they could uncover it at the hearing. And she said she would make sure that Tom Bloom was there. That eased Brian’s anxiety somewhat. He knew that with both Wendy and Tom in the hearing room nothing was going to slip by. Fingers were already deftly feeling around under the carpet.
The next morning Brian was up very early preparing himself for the day. He agreed to meet Wendy at 8 in front of the Family Court building. It was a cool, clear morning and Brian felt a bit more at ease that finally something was going to happen and also that he would be seeing Christy again.
When Juan dropped him off, Wendy and Tom were already there. There wasn’t much to discuss so they went inside to wait.
Tom checked the docket and found that the case would be heard in court room #4, down the hall. So they walked down, entered the court room and took seats at a table on the left side of the room. Brian’s stomach was churning with the expectation of seeing Christy.
About 10 minutes before 9 the door opened. A nun came in. She was a big woman with a hard, domineering look on a pasty complexion. She was followed by three girls in school uniforms, plaid skirts with shoulder straps over white shirts, white socks and black shoes. They were followed by a second nun, a slight woman with a sweet face. The five walked to the front. The first girl in line was Christy. She had a sad, frightened expression. Brian stood up when they came in and was smiling at Christy, his heart filled with love and joy at seeing her. Christy glanced at him briefly as if she didn’t know him.
Mother Magda pushed Christy into a chair behind the table on the right then sat next to her. The other girls filed into the second row, with the other nun sitting next to the aisle.
Christy sat staring straight ahead of her.
Wendy leaned over and whispered to Brian “That uniform is not hers. It’s too big for her.”
A clerk of the court entered followed by three police officers. Two of them stationed themselves at the door; the third took a chair to the side of the room. They looked very bored.
The clerk went to the judge’s bench and put some papers down on it, then took a seat on the side, next to the police officer.
After several minutes the door at the front of the room opened and through it came a woman in her 40s, with shoulder length brown hair and a pleasant smiling face. She was wearing a judge s robe.
The clerk stood up and said “All rise.” Everyone stood. “In the matter of the adoption of Christine Flynn, Her Honor Judge Agnes Weinstein presiding.”
Judge Weinstein took her place and said “Be seated, please.”
Everyone sat. But as they did Christy slid down under the table in front of her, crawled under it and ran over to the judge. She cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered something to her.
Mother Magda stood up and shouted “Christine, come back here and stop bothering the judge.” She struggled to get around the side of the table. When Christy saw her coming, she ran around to the other side of the judge stepped up and whispered right into her ear. The judge stood, took Christy by the arm and ushered her down to the side of the room. The clerk and policeman also stood, but judge Weinstein motion for them to back off.
By this time Mother Magda was free of the table and approaching Christy and the judge. The judge was speaking very quietly to Christy and holding her finger up in Christy’s face. But Christy kept whispering to her.
Mother Magda held out her hand with her fingers down and the thumb on top as if she was holding something, then she said “Christine. I’m warning you.”
Brian could see Christy’s face looking up at the judge, with tears on her cheeks. He could see her mouth say “Please!”
Judge Weinstein opened the door next to her and ushered Christy through it. Then she turned and said “This hearing will take an indefinite recess. Officers, please see to it that no one leaves the court room.” She then said to the officer on the side “No one is permitted through this door without my permission.” Then to Mother Magda “Madam, please take your seat.”
Judge Weinstein went into the other room with Christy and shut the door.
The police officer at the side stepped over and stood in front of the door. Mother Magda went back to her seat but didn’t sit. She was watching the door. They were all watching the door.
After about 5 minutes when no one came through it, Magda went over to the officer and said “Listen, I am that girl’s legal guardian and I’m responsible for her. Let me pass.”
“No, Ma’am” said the officer.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your first name?”
“Well, Carl. “I’m sure you can understand a mother’s concern for her child. I am now a mother to her since she is an orphan, and I’m very concerned for her well being. On that basis I ask you to let me into that room so that I can at least see that she’s okay.”
“Get out of my way!” Mother Magda pushed the officer aside and opened the door. “Christine” she hollered and started into the room.
Judge Weinstein appeared at the door, stood in Magda’s way and said “I told you to return to your seat.”
“I need to know what’s going on in here.”
“When you’re needed you will be called. Now sit down.”
“No, that’s not good enough. I’m in charge of her. Let me in.”
“I can step up to this bench, bang the gavel down, declare this court in session and have you in contempt. Do you understand that?”
Magda was silent.
“Officer Burnside” called the judge.
“Yes, Your Honor” came a voice from the back of the room.
“Will you please conduct this woman to her seat and see that she stays there?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
A large, imposing female police officer came down the aisle, walked over to Mother Magda and said “Let’s go.”
Magda didn’t move, so Burnside took her by the arm.
“Get your hands off of me, I’m a nun.”
“I don’t care. Let’s go.”
Magda was taken to her chair. She sat while Burnside stood beside her, her arms folded across her ample chest.
Judge Weinstein returned to the room and closed the door. Officer Fogarty resumed his place in front of it.
Another 15 minutes went by. Mother Magda took a cell phone out of her pocket and started to dial a number.
Officer Burnside said “Put that away, please. Cell phones are not allowed in the hearing room.
“No. This is important” she said, and continued to dial.
Burnside reached down quickly and took it from her.
“It will be returned to you at the end of the session” said Burnside, and put it in her pocket.
There was a knock on the rear door. The policeman opened it and ushered in two more officers who took various places around the room.
Another 10 minutes went by. There was another knock on the door. Three men entered. Two of them wore suits; the third was another police officer. The three of them went to the door at the back, spoke quietly to the guard who opened the door and let them in.
Another 10 minutes went by, another knock on the door and FBI Agent Charles Stanger entered, went to the door at the front, spoke to the guard and showed him a badge. The guard opened the door and let him through.
Mother Magda stood up and said “I have to go to the rest room.”
“Fine” said Officer Burnside “I’ll accompany you there and bring you back.”
“I can do it on my own, thank you very much” she said, scornfully.
“I’m sure you can, but I will take you there and bring you back.”
“Oh, forget it” Magda said, and sat down.
More minutes went by and Judge Weinstein came out of the room and said “This hearing in the matter of the adoption of Christine Flynn will continue shortly. Another issue has come up that requires my immediate attention. When that is resolved we may get back to the business at hand. I know this is very tedious for you. I ask you to be patient and remain in your seats. Thank you.” She went back into the room.
Tom Wong leaned over to Brian and Wendy and said “It must be getting very crowded in that room.”
“Is there any other way in or out of it?” Brian asked.
“Yes, It’s just an interview room. It leads to the back offices of the judges and other court officials, and then through a private entrance out to the street.”
“I hope Christy is okay” said Brian.
“She’s fine, Brian. None of those people would do her any harm.”
Another agonizing 20 minutes went by. There was another knock on the door. A man in a suit came through, went to the front and with no discussion the guard opened the door and let him through.
Tom Wong took a pen out of his pocket, reached over to Wendy’s legal pad, drew it to him, flipped to a blank page and wrote: “This is serious. That was Dist. Atty. Martinez” and showed it to Wendy and Brian.
Within 3 minutes the door opened and Judge Weinstein came out followed by the men in suites and one policeman. Christy was not with them. The DA walked over to Mother Magda and said. “ Magda Cirelle, I’m District Attorney Mario Martinez. You are under arrest for child prostitution, soliciting clients for child prostitution, possession and distribution of child pornography, transporting a minor across state lines for an immoral purpose, endangering the welfare of a minor, wrongful possession of a controlled substance, torture, fraud and a list of further illegal activities”
“That little bitch” said Magda.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney,”
“Oh, I can afford one, don’t worry.”
“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
Magda was silent.
“Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
“Yes” she snapped back.
“With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
Magda was silent, staring in front of her.
“Will you come along peacefully or must we restrain you?”
“I will not be restrained by you.”
“Very well then please accompany these police officers.” And turning to the other nun he said “Sister, you must also go with them.”
“Of course” she said meekly. “Come girls.”
“No, Sister, the girls remain with us.”
So Magda and the other nun went up the aisle and out the door in the custody of Officer Burnside and three policemen.
DA Martinez turned to the two young girls who were still sitting in their chairs. “Come with me girls. You’re captivity has ended.”
The two girls were taken out. Wendy sat with her lips pursed together and a furious look on her face. Brian was holding his bowed head in his hands. Tom Wong watched the whole proceedings of the arrest of Magda and the other nun.
When they were gone Judge Weinstein said, “Well, under the circumstances it won’t be possible to decide anything in regard to this adoption request today. You are all dismissed.”
Then Tom said “Let me go talk to the judge for a minute, to find out where we are.”
While he was doing that, Brian said “Oh God, I feel so bad making her go there. What a dope I’ve been.”
Wendy put her hand on his shoulder and said “But Brian, you didn’t know.”
“Yeah, but something, her intuition, was telling her not to go there, and I should have listened.”
“Well, she’s out of there now and, I guess the place is closed down. We’ll soon know.”
They sat silently for a while. When Wong returned he sat down and said “Well, during all that delay, when we thought nothing was happening, they were conducting a raid on Saint Jane’s. Based on Christy’s description, which I guess, was very graphic, Judge Weinstein signed a warrant and the police went off to find out. The raid is still going on, but they uncovered enough evidence to arrest Magda.”
“Where’s Christy?” asked Brian.
“We don’t know. When the raid started she was quickly taken off to a secure place, for her protection. She’s under a 24 hour guard.”
“Can we go see her?”
“No. The judge wouldn’t tell me where she is. But she can get whatever she needs, the Judge assured me.”
“I’ve been such a fool” said Brian.
“Stop it, Brian. You only did what you thought was right. Why don’t you go home? I’ll go talk to the DA tomorrow and get as much information as I can, and I’ll call you and let you know what’s up. Wendy, take the rest of the day off.”
“Okay. But can I come with you to the DA’s office?”
“Yes. If you wish.”
The stood up and slowly left the hearing room. Brian was silent. He walked down the hall feeling like a criminal. They drove in silence back to his house. Once there Wendy went to fix her and Brian a couple of drinks.
They sat quietly, staring at nothing. Brian was trying not to think of anything, but his mind was going over the memory of buying her those clothes, and the art things, how she was so pleased with them, getting her to that place and then not being able to see her, of how she looked when she came into the hearing, how she only glanced at him and then how she ran up to the judge, pleaded with her and disappeared into that room. And now she was gone and they didn’t know where she was. This was not the way things were supposed to be.
He went over to his computer, turned it on and looked at the few pages he had written of “Crystal, The Ice Angel.” He read through them and then reached over to the “delete” button and pressed it.
Wendy spent the rest of the day with Brian. She was primarily concerned about his feelings, so she kept hers inside. But she was boiling with rage over the disclosure of what Saint Jane’s Home For Girls was really all about. She really wanted to destroy Mother Magda and her whole group. She thought about saying to Martinez that she would gladly do whatever she could to help him put them all away for good. He would probably refuse her help, since they had been adversaries once or twice, but it was worth a try.
Brian kept silent most of the afternoon. There were too many things wrong. He had trouble sorting them all out in his mind because his feelings kept flying through his head like predatory birds. He was drinking a cocktail of sorrow, guilt, fear, despair, anger. What have I done? he thought. How could something that wasn’t my fault turn out to be something I am guilty of? Injustice wasn’t a new topic to him. He had written about it. But it was always some one else who was the victim. But now there were a great load of victims and he and Christy were two of them. He wanted her there right now, to start a healing process. But she was gone into some secret place, and who knows when he will see her again? Even with Wendy there, he felt so desperately alone.
He turned off his computer, had some more to drink, sat by the pool but didn’t swim. Mrs. Romero had prepared a nice dinner for the two of them which Wendy enjoyed. But Brian just picked at it. Finally he had had enough to drink that he felt like passing out, so he went to bed, leaving Wendy to describe to the Romeros what had happened that day..
Brian awoke the next morning to the sound of Wendy talking on her phone to Wong. She affirmed a meeting with DA Martinez and checked up on other business. When she saw that Brian was awake she said “Gotta go….Bye” and hung up. “How do you feel?”
“Before or after my coffee?” he said.
She slid off the bed, got dressed quickly and went to the door “Meetcha there” She said, and left the room.
Brian rose, took a shower and slowly got dressed. This was a day when he wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything except fencing with the foils of thoughts and feelings jabbing at him.
In the dining room there was a pot of coffee waiting for him and a pack of cigarettes. Mrs. Romero came in with Mr. Romero behind her. “So sorry to hear what happened with the girl” she said. “Bad place. Very bad.”
“Yes, thank you Mrs. Romero.”
“Where she is now?”
“We don’t know, but maybe we’ll find out soon.”
“Should be here.”
“Yes. Maybe. We’ll see.”
Brian had his coffee and cigarette. With Mrs. Romero’s coaxing, he had some breakfast. His day was spent waiting to hear from Wendy about the raid on Saint Jane’s and the fate of Christy. The charges against Magda were running through his mind and he was asking himself how such a place could exist practically under the noses of the authorities. Some people must have known about it. He wondered how it could have been protected. And who was responsible for shielding it.
But then he realized that since it was discovered and closed down now, all the guilty parties would be found or would disappear.
Still there was the deep concern about Christy. It was courageous of her to blow the whistle like she did. If the judge hadn’t been willing to listen, she might have been sent back to Saint Jane’s to who knows what punishment.
He wasn’t surprised that Christy had the nerve to do what she did. After a long walk together in the freezing and dangerous wilderness, he was well acquainted with her courage. What startled him about yesterday was the extent of the practices that Magda was being charged with.
He booted up his computer and tried to do some writing. But his creative mind was withholding any useable ideas. He just felt a deep sorrow, rage and frustration.
Midafternoon Wendy arrived. When she came in, they hugged and she said “I need a drink.”
When she was finally settled in she said “Okay. Here’s the story. First of all, DA Martinez was very cooperative with Tom and I. We didn’t have to pry much information out of him. He was very forthcoming with it. I get the impression that he has some daughters of his own or there are some in his family. Whatever, he is going after these people with big guns.
One of the first things he did was to contact the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to find out what they know. Saint Jane’s has no affiliation with the Catholic Church. In fact the priest he spoke to was outraged to think that anyone could pull off such a fraud. In fact Saint Jane’s borrowed the name, or I should say, stole the name from a 17th Century woman who established a home for girls. What further connection there is there he didn’t know.
The raid uncovered so much evidence that there is no doubt about a conviction. The police arrested 4 women and 6 men, one of them a doctor, or so he claims. They found about 25 girls, from very young up to mid teens. All the girls were naked. At first, he said, the police had trouble because the girls thought they were being arrested, and they tried to hide. Some of the older girls were very difficult to bring in. They spit at the cops and struggled against them. But they finally managed to get them all into a bus and taken away.”
“Where are they?”
“I don’t know but, at first, the Catholic Church was going to take them in until some wise person pointed out that if they went there they would be surrounded by nuns and the girls would probably scream and run.
The police also uncovered pornographic photographs and video tapes of the girls posing in erotic positions or performing sexual acts on the men. They found devices, such as ropes and handcuffs, that sort of thing, that seemed to be used. And they found sticks, like electric goads, which would sting and hurt but not cause any marks on the body.
They found records. Books and other records of the girls that were there and the names of customers, clients, when they came and which girl they wanted. That Mad Mother Magda was a good record keeper. Your name was in there with a cancellation notice.
They also arrested a client, from some Middle Eastern nation but they had to let him go. Diplomatic Immunity, you know.”
“Martinez couldn’t tell me more than that she was safe and under 24 hour police protection. I asked if I might see her and he said only if she requests to see me. I asked him if she knew that she could ask to see someone. He said she could but whoever it was had to pass approval from the police and the welfare worker who is assigned to her.
I still wasn’t getting the answer I wanted so I asked for the case worker’s name and number. He got that for me. I told him that she had some personal items when she entered Saint Jane’s, could she still have them. He said everything they found was being held as evidence and wouldn’t be available for a while. So I asked if I could send her some things, same clothes and things. I said she likes to draw pictures, could I send her some paper and colored pencils with a note leaving her my phone number and saying that she could ask for me to come and see her if she wanted. Martinez thought that was feasible so I told him I would do that.
He also said it was more than likely the judge would deny bail to all of those people, so as soon as they were all processed and locked up Christy would be safer and might be able to leave if she has any place to go. I said that she could certainly come and stay with me. After all, I told him, we are friends and it’s likely she would feel comfortable with me. He agreed.
Tom got as much information as he could about when the preliminary hearings would be, when it was likely a grand jury would be paneled and when Martinez thought the trials would begin. Much of that Martinez didn’t know yet. Tom asked him to keep him informed. Martinez wanted to know why. Tom said so that he could be there. When Martinez asked him why he wanted to be there, Tom said so that he could be a nail. The DA asked him what he meant by “a nail” and Tom said to close the coffin. Tom wasn’t joking.
So we left it there. I’ll call this case worker woman, Alice Foster, interesting name for someone looking after an orphan girl, and see what she says about sending stuff to Christy and making a visit.”
“What about a visit from me?”
“I’ll ask her.”
“Poor Christy, all alone in some strange place with no friends around. That is not a happy life.”
“No, but I guess it’s better than the one she’s had for the post two weeks.”
Wendy phoned Alice Foster, who sounded like a practical, businesslike woman, but with a reasonable attitude. Foster told Wendy that providing Christy with clothes and other things would be a good idea as long as whatever goes in to her is inspected by the police and approved of. She also told Wendy that a visit was possible if Christy agreed but that she would have to be there during the visit. Wendy found that acceptable. So they made arrangements for Monday to bring a package to Ms. Foster to take to Christy. Wendy thanked her and expressed her gratitude and appreciation for Ms. Foster’s concern and protection of Christy.
After she hung up she said “Mr. Three Toes, do you have any money left?”
“Yes” said Brian, “I got a check from Silverstone for a film script I’ve almost forgotten about.”
“Good. Then tomorrow let’s go shopping: new clothes, we still have the sales slip which has the sizes on it, more art stuff, a new cell phone and something that tells her that we love her.”
They spent the evening trying to enjoy themselves and keep their minds off of recent events and how they may have affected Christy’s otherwise buoyant, positive attitude about things. She was, after all, the girl who got his lighter to work when he thought it was dead, and was the girl who picked him up and kept him going when he fell, injured himself and thought he was dead. Brian hoped that she still had the spirit, enough to bounce back from the terrible time she spent at Saint Jane’s.
Saturday they went shopping. It was a sad experience for Brian. Every time Wendy held up an item of clothing and asked Brian for his opinion, he tried to see Christy wearing it and the image of her in his mind just made him miss her more.
But they finally chose a few outfits that Wendy thought Christy would like. Then they stopped by the art supply store where Brian purchased a drawing pad, some colored pencils and a box of pastels. After getting another cell phone they returned to Brian’s place to have dinner and spend the weekend, sadly but comfortably, hoping that Christy will call when she gets the phone. They programmed it with Brian’s number and Wendy’s numbers, both her personal number and her office.
“What else can we get her?” asked Wendy.
“I don’t know. She never asked me for anything except a candy bar.”
“What sort of candy bar?”
“Once was a Nestlé’s chocolate and the other I don’t remember.”
“Well, that’s it. Monday morning when I bring the stuff over I’ll buy her a box of chocolates.”
“Sounds good” said Brian.
Wendy went into the bedroom and came back with a canvas bag.
“Where did you get that?” asked Brian.
“When I brought the things I used to invade your closet.”
Wendy carefully removed the tags and folded the clothes for Christy and put them in the bag. Then she placed the art materials on top, and finally the cell phone. She sat down at Brian’s desk and wrote a note. She showed the note to Brian.
Dear Christy, Brian and I miss you very much. They told us you’re safe and comfortable where you are, and that’s good. But I told Mr. Martinez, the District Attorney, that you could come and stay with me, where you would also be safe, or you can stay with Brian. Your choice. We want to come and see you. But we can only do that if you ask for us. Our phone numbers are on the cell phone. Please call either of us any time you want. If you tell Ms. Foster that you want us to visit, she can arrange it. Please do that, because we love you and we don’t want you to be all by yourself.
It was very courageous of you in that hearing room to talk to the judge like that. You helped a lot of girls, not just yourself, and no matter what happened at that awful place, you should be proud of yourself for what you did. We admire you for that.
We hope to see you soon. Enjoy the chocolate.
Brian thought it was a good note. They both signed it.
”I just remembered” said Brian “there are some of the clothes I bought her the first time still hanging in my closet. Shouldn’t we put those in the bundle?”
“Not a good idea. She might think you were inviting her not to come back here.”
“Good thinking. I’m very glad you’re in my life, Wendy. Especially now. This whole thing has me so unnerved I’m likely to make the wrong choices. I feel like such a dope.”
“Just because you act like a dope sometimes, in your own charming way, doesn’t mean you are a dope.”
There was nothing to do now except wait for Monday, when Wendy could take the bag to Alice Foster and hope everything passed her approval.
Late that afternoon a messenger arrived with a package for Brian. Inside the large envelope was a smaller one. In the corner was written “G. Werbler”. He opened it and found an advance copy of “People Talk” magazine. He noticed three paper clips on various pages and a post it on the front saying FYI.
He opened to the first clip which was on the inside of the cover page. In the corner was the picture of Christy with the title “Why can’t Christine be adopted? Story page 12.”
He turned to the next clip, which was page 12 and there was the story of the raid and arrests of the people from Saint Jane’s. The story talked about the girls and the conditions they lived in. It explained about the policy of not allowing adoptions, only using Christy as an example.
Brian was grateful for that, that they didn’t make a big deal out of Christy’s part in uncovering the crimes. Although Brian was amazed at how much and how quickly they got the information, he was glad something was being published about it, for a number of reasons.
He turned to the third clip and found a strange and unexplained item which read: (PT News) Police reported the death of Senator Carl LaJoie (R) of Louisiana. LaJoie’s body was discovered yesterday by some fishermen. He had been shot through the head with a rifle which was found in his hands. Police have determined his death a suicide. He leaves a wife and three daughters. Calls to LaJoie’s home have not been returned.
The item had been circled.
He showed the copy of the magazine to Wendy who read through the story about Saint Jane’s and remarked that it was carefully written to protect the publisher from any liability, but she surmised that People Talk was probably not finished with the story since it was exactly the kind of dirt the magazine was famous and ever so popular for.
Then she looked at the envelope and asked “Who’s G. Werbler?”
“I think she was Bloom’s contact at the magazine.”
“Well, if Bloom has any clout with Ms. Werbler maybe he can keep Christy’s name out of things.”
“Oh, I hope so. But he said he was going to make Christy famous.”
“In the best possible way, let’s hope.” Then she flipped to the last entry and read it.
“Did you know Senator LaJoie?”
“Well, it’s probably not the last suicide we’ll read about.”
“I will have to check, but I’ll bet the Senator was a favorite visitor to Saint Jane’s.”
“My God! That’s some nest of vipers Christy uncovered. Back in Buffalo Gap, Doctor Gonzago was known as Doctor Bite because he is an authority on frost bite and snake bite. I wonder how he would treat Saint Jane’s brand of venom.”
Wendy was quiet for a few moments and then asked “Brian, do you think it would be a good idea to send her back up there for a while? Just until things calm down here?”
“I don’t know. That’s an interesting idea. She was well liked up there. She spent some time with the Walker family while I was in the hospital. I know she enjoyed being with them. Frank has two kids of his own. It’s a thought. It depends on what she wants. But I tell you the truth I would rather have her here with us.”
“Me too. But maybe we should ask her.”
“Okay.” The idea made Brian feel sad, but he knew that it might be a good idea. He thought about Buffalo Gap and how life was so much simpler and direct up there. There were no pretensions, no inconsistencies in behavior. People were what they seemed to be. And even though he was knocked unconscious by one of the resident “troll brains” he basically enjoyed himself. And Christy was so sweet following him everywhere and full of curiosity about everything. Maybe, he thought, we should all move there. But it was an impractical idea. He and Wendy both had careers they couldn’t work at from The Gap.
Monday morning came and Wendy set off to visit Alice Foster with her canvas bag filled with things for Christy. Later she called Brian to tell him that Ms. Foster gave her “okay” to everything, including the chocolates and that she hoped Christy would call soon.
The day wore on with no phone call.
Wendy returned to Brian’s place that evening with some good news and some bad news.
“What’s the good news” he asked.
“About mid day Christy called me. She thanked me for the clothes. She said she wanted to get rid of that stupid uniform she was wearing. It was all she had to wear since she left the judge’s office. She said she was glad to get the art things and said to thank you for thinking of them. She said she had been drawing with a stub pencil on the hotel stationary. They put her up in a hotel room they use for juries when they have to stay overnight. She didn’t tell me where it was. They told her not to tell anyone. She said that Ms. Foster was very nice. And she said she was delighted to get the chocolates. She sounded sad and bored. But she did say that she really would like me to come and visit her. She asked Ms. Foster if I could come. I should call Ms. Foster about that. I asked Christy if she would like to come and live with us if we can get permission from Welfare. She said she would love to be with me, where I live, instead of staying there for who knows how long. I’ll speak again with Ms. Foster about that. Foster seemed to think, the last time I spoke with her, that it would be a good idea.”
“Well, that all sounds great. What’s the bad news?”
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
‘She said that?”
“Yes. I’m sorry Brian.”
Brian felt a stark, bright, bare, light bulb shining on all the accumulated futilities of his life. How often can a heart be broken? Six simple words spoken into his open pit of yearning. “She doesn’t want to see you.” She came back to be with me in that terrible fog. She said “Brian, please don’t leave me here.” She waited for me to come out of the doctor’s office instead of going off with Frank. She came to me for comfort after her nightmare. She walked with me down the streets of Buffalo Gap. She came to see me after my surgery. She has been with me almost every day since I dug her out of the snow. We faced terror, pain and death together.
And we made it. She has been the sweetest, brightest dawning of joy in my life, the child I never had, the “amazing youngster” who I have felt is a gift from heaven. And now? She doesn’t want to see me.
“Did she say why?” asked Brian.
“What could it be? What have I done to her?”
“I think that whatever has been done to her, you didn’t do it.”
“But then why?”
“I don’t know Brian, but when Ms. Foster lets me I will go there and try to find out.”
“Well,” Brian said with a sob in his throat “I guess I shouldn’t be expecting any phone calls.”
“I guess not” said Wendy. “I’m sorry.”
“Brian, I have to go back to my place. I’ll be in court all day tomorrow and I have to prepare for it.”
“Are you going to be all right?”
“No, I’m not all right, but I’ll survive. I’ll just sit here and wait.”
“Have a drink. Have a swim. Do a little work. I’ll call you tomorrow, first chance I get.”
They kissed. She left.
Now Brain was facing dark days. He saw that by making Christy go off to that place on her own he not only hurt her, he also hurt himself. His back was against a wall and there was nothing to do but wait and try not to feel sorry for himself. He felt useless, powerless. He didn’t know what to do now. There was nothing he could do. He was lost in a fog.
The next day, at lunch time, Wendy called to say that she got a message from Alice Foster. Christy had asked to see Wendy so they set it up for the following day. She explained that the judge was a lazy man, who was happy to adjourn the case on any pretext, so she didn’t think she would have any conflict at getting to Christy tomorrow. She said she would come by afterward and let Brian know how it went.,
Brian would have preferred to wait until Wendy could talk to him about Christy and what her future would be, but he felt obligated. So, with a knot in his stomach, he picked up the phone and dialed Connecticut.
“Hello Lydia…..This is Brian Sims….I know….Yes, I know….No, the whole place is closed down and everyone has been arrested….She’s okay, she’s safe….Yes, the court is protecting her….She’s in a safe place, under 24 hour guard….I know….Me too….Well. It’s not your fault. We both thought we were doing the right thing….Yes….Yes, I know….No, I haven’t seen her since that day, but my lawyer, Wendy Klein, who is also my fiancée, has talked to her and is going to see her tomorrow….Yes. Then I’ll know more….Yes it is….Yes, it’s terrible….She was very brave….She could have been sent right back there. But the judge listened to her….Yes she is, everyone says so….Well, Ms. Klein is working on adopting her….I don’t know….Yes, it would….Well, please don’t feel that way, Lydia. We didn’t know….Yes, I will….I certainly will….How is your husband? The last time we talked he was ill….Much better?....Oh, that’s good. And how is Flicker doing?....Good. Christy will be glad to hear that…..I’ll call you as soon as I know anything….I promise….Bye.”
He was glad he made that call. Talking with Christy’s aunt cleared away some of the stress. But the waiting went on. His mind was working so slowly now. Brian felt old, and finished.
He got up and made himself a drink, set it down on the table and let the ice melt. He sat by the pool and stared at the water for a while, but didn’t go in. He went back to his computer and looked at the keyboard: Q W E R T. Nothing made any sense to him. He sat in a corner of the room, on a big comfortable chair, closed his eyes and thought about giving up, And then a silent, soft voice in the back of his mind said “Brian, we’re gonna make it. This is not a good time to die.”
Brian thought again about the plane crash and how many people lost their lives, and how many loved ones were now mourning their loss, and he remembered that in spite of all the pain and trouble they had, he and Christy were still alive and he felt a rush of gratitude about that. Things will eventually get straightened out and healed. It is still time for patience and hope. He strengthened himself with that thought. It seemed impossible that he would ever get Louise and her friend out of that flooded cave, but he did it. It seemed impossible that he would ever get in touch with Cindy’s brother, but he kept at it until he did. It seemed impossible that he would ever make a decent living in show business, but again he kept going until he made it. It was impossible that he and Christy would ever make it out of that wilderness alive, but they did and they would make it out of this one, somehow.
The next afternoon Wendy showed up. She plunked her briefcase down on a table and flopped, exhausted into a chair.
“You look like you could use a drink” said Brian.
He set right to fixing a couple of drinks. He handed her one with a smile and sat.
She took a sip and then said “So, I suppose you want to know everything.”
“Well, I saw her. She looks good. When I came in she was sitting on the bed, wearing some of the clothes we bought her, drawing on the pad we got her. When she saw me she jumped off the bed, ran over and gave me a big hug. She’s living in a hotel room. It’s a good hotel, the one they use for putting up juries when they have to be sequestered. I had a feeling that was where she was. There is always a police officer outside in the hall, next to the door.
Alice Foster is a very nice, smart woman who quite obviously loves kids. She immediately checked up on Christy to make sure she had what she needed and that everything was going well for her.
We talked about the possibility of her coming to live with me and we even broached the subject of adoption. Ms. Foster was inclined to favor the idea of both, but she said there were details that had to be confronted since Christy was now a ward of the state. It was not impossible she said, just complicated.
But here’s the hard part. Christy talked about some of the things that happened to her at Saint Jane’s. First of all they immediately took everything away from her when she got in. They took her suitcase with all of her nice clothes that we bought; they even took the clothes she was wearing. They took her book and art things. They took her cell phone. They left her naked in a room until she was brought in to dinner. At first she thought it was some sort of initiation until she got into the dinning room and saw that all the girls were naked. While they were eating, the men wandered around watching them. After they ate she was taken back to the room and left there.
In the morning they were taken to a chapel where there was some sort of a religious service which she said she didn’t understand, but there were some nuns there and Mother Magda gave a sermon about obedience. After the chapel she was taken back to the room. She never knew that we had come through the front and tried to see her. She never got your letter. She was only told that her first “visitor” would be coming in a few weeks and that she had to rush to get ready.
In the morning, she said, she was told that her instruction would begin. She thought that meant a school but it wasn’t. One of the men came into her room and forced her to do what she called “nasty things” to him and when she wasn’t doing what he wanted he would shock her with a stick that hurt. She said it hurt “bad.” They called it a “wand.”
She said they took pictures of her and the other girls, making them pose naked in strange positions and sometimes wearing strange clothes. They also took videos of them.
She said that some of the older girls were mean to her. She said that the men were mean and very demanding, especially the older man. He was particularly cruel.”
Brian put his head in his hands and sighed.
“After I left the room” said Wendy, “I spoke with Ms. Foster to find out what we can do. I wanted to know what sort of therapy there was for someone in Christy’s position. She said the first and best thing for her would be to be in a home with loving parents who would care for her and be patient with the healing process. I said ‘Well, I can provide that’ but I had to tell her that Christy didn’t want to see you. So she asked me a bunch of questions about you. I answered them as best I could but there were some things about you I don’t know yet.”
“Well I met your sister and brother-in-law, and they are very nice people, and obviously love you. But I know nothing about your folks, where you came from, where you grew up. I only know that you were married once before and that you are a sweetheart of a man.”
“She asked if she could come and meet you and get to know what Christy would be getting into. I thought it was a good idea. So I said I would check it out with you and call her back.”
“It is a good idea. Go ahead. What else?”
“I also asked her about counseling. But she said that, although there were professionals who are trained in this sort of problem, Christy would have to get in line as there were many girls to deal with and all of them had been at Saint Jane’s longer than Christy. Some of the older girls have been so brainwashed that they actually believe in what they were doing and are very hostile to the efforts to rehabilitate them. It’s a big, big hornet’s nest, the whole thing.”
“Do you think Christy will ever want to see me again?”
“Yes. Because I know she loves you. She basically hates all men right now. She hates all men but she loves you. As long as you are ‘all men’ she can’t deal with you.”
“How long will that take?”
“Brian, don’t be selfish. You’re the adult, you can deal.”
“You said that the older man was crueler to her than the others. How old is he?”
“I don’t know. But you and he are not the same man so don’t worry about it.”
“When will you call Ms. Foster?”
“Tomorrow. She’s off duty now.”
“I hope she’s as nice and understanding as you say she is.”
“Brian! Stop fretting. Christy is okay, she’s safe. Have another drink. Let’s go for a swim.”
The next morning Wendy called Alice Foster and set up a time in the late afternoon when she could come and meet Brian and see where he lived. She also called Bloom and was told that since the publication of “People Talk” with the picture of Christy they have been overwhelmed with offers to adopt her. And they are still coming in.
She had to go to her office to do some work but assured Brian that she would be back for Ms. Foster’s visit. Brian went through his house to make sure it was presentable and then sat down at his computer and tried to do some work. It was pointless.
That afternoon Alice Foster arrived, a nicely but casually dressed woman of about 30. She had an open case over her shoulder filled with papers. Wendy arrived at the same time. When they came in Brian greeted Ms. Foster with a smile and asked her if she wished a coffee or anything. She said “I wouldn’t mind a cup of tea if you have any.”
“Okay” he said and headed for the kitchen. Wendy took Alice into the living room where they sat. Alice took the case off of her shoulder, put it on the floor and fished out a file.
“Do you live here as well Wendy?”
“Sometimes. Since we’re engaged I try to spend as much time as I can with Brian, but my career keeps me busy.”
“When’s the happy day?”
“It’s not settled. We want Christy to be there, so we’re waiting until this whole thing is straightened out.”
“I hope things get settled soon. Do you think they will?”
“Well, a lot of that is up to Christy. I must say I have been very impressed with her. She’s very respectful and cooperative even though she’s under a major strain. Some of the other girls assigned to me, give me nothing but trouble. Christy is amazing.”
“Yes. Many people have said so.”
Brian returned with a tray and set it down next to Alice. It had a cup of tea with milk and sugar on the side.
“Thank you” she said.
Brian sat down at his desk and said “Now Ms, Foster, what can I tell you and what can you tell me?”
Alice smiled and said “Well, first of all it’s Alice, and you can tell me a little bit about yourself and how you know Christy,”
Brian retold the story of the plane crash, the long walk, the time spent in Buffalo Gap, the hearing which cleared him and Christy of the claim that they weren’t on the plane. He told her about why he had enrolled her at Saint Jane’s and how they tried to see her and about the letter he wrote that she never received.
He explained about being a successful script writer for Silverstone Studios and how he met Wendy.
Alice listened carefully, occasionally making a note in her file.
“Do you consider yourself a patient man, Brian?”
“Yes. Not as patient as I would like to be, but I’ working on it. Why do you ask?”
“I think I can tell off hand that you would make a good parent for Christy, but she has been through a hard knocks experience with some men who treated her badly. She has a lot of healing to do. How long is up to her, but for now she needs to be alone and not in the company of men. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, I do. But how long will that condition last, do you think?”
“I don’t know. It’s up to her. But I think I can safely get her released into the custody of Wendy, here. And then we’ll see how she responds.”
Alice was thoughtful. She looked around at the room. “Mm” she said. “I noticed that you have a pool.”
“Yes. I enjoy swimming. Christy asked me to teach her to swim.”
“I was just thinking of something. I’d like to make a suggestion. Is there ever a time when you’re not here, Brian?”
“Hardly. This is where I work. But I can go to the studio whenever I want. Why?”
“I was just thinking that it might be a good idea, after a few days at Wendy’s place, Wendy could bring her over here when you’re not here, maybe for a splash in the pool, and see how she feels being in the house, with your things around. If she freaks then we’ll try something different but if she seems comfortable being here that will be a good sign. What do you think?”
“I like it” said Brian.
“Me too” said Wendy.
“Then let’s do it. And if that works out, I suggest that you go over to Wendy’s place for a brief visit.”
They all thought that was also a good move.
But it was going to cause some trouble.
Then Brian asked “Alice, according to Wendy they took everything away from Christy when she got to that place. Is there any chance of getting any of it back?”
“I can’t be very promising about that. Everything the police collected is being held for evidence, and apparently they collected a lot. But I will look into it for you>”
“Thank you. I’m so glad she didn’t try to bring Flicker along.”
“Flicker?” asked Alice.
“Her kitten. Still safe and sound back in Connecticut. I recently spoke with her Aunt Lydia.”
“Well, that’s good” said Alice. “Well, I think I have enough information to make a favorable evaluation of Christy’s situation. I’ll be in touch with you soon. Thanks for the tea.”
Alice tucked her file back in her bag, gathered it up and stood. Brian and Wendy saw her to the door. Then Wendy said “Brian, I still have a lot of work to do for next week, I’d better go back to my place.”
“Okay.” They kissed. Wendy left.
Early Friday evening Wendy called to tell Brian that Christy had moved in to her apartment and was glad to be there. She also said she felt it was important to stay with her over the weekend so she wouldn’t feel alone and abandoned. Wendy said she brought up the subject of the wedding and told Christy that we want her to be there. She said she got a noncommittal answer out of Christy. Wendy won’t bring up the subject of coming over to Brian’s house until later in the weekend. In the meantime they’re having fun together although Wendy said she misses Brian.
“Same here” he said.
They said their good byes and hung up.
The weekend passed. Brian was pleased that Christy was out of that hotel room and with Wendy but he missed both of them so much he was having trouble thinking about anything else. He wanted to rework some of his stories so he turned on the computer. He found some places that needed work, but his writing was so common and uninspired that he was disgusted with himself. He kept wondering what he could do to get Christy to like him again. There was nothing on his plate except patience. After what they had been through together it was impossible for her to be completely gone from his life or he to be gone from hers. He turned off the computer and went for a swim.
Back and forth, slowly, over and over, his heart pounding with impatience and doubts, he swam. One of the only places he really felt at home was in the water. I must be part fish, he thought.
He swam until he wore himself out. Then he pulled himself up out and lay down on the tiles next to the pool staring up at the glass ceiling. Why weren’t things right, why weren’t they settled, why weren’t they harmonized, he asked himself.
Then he rolled over back into the water and paddled slowly back and forth, a few more times.
On Sunday evening, after a nice dinner he tried to relax in his living room. He thought about what to do to pass the time when the telephone rang. He answered it and was surprised to hear the voice of Christy.
“Hello Christy….Oh, I’m okay. How are you?....Good….What?....So I heard. Do you like it there?....Is Wendy treating you good?....When?....Hi Wendy. That was a brief, unexpected pleasure…..Did you tell her to call me?....Did she put up a fuss about it?....Well, that’s good, if it didn’t crack the ice maybe it melted it a little bit…Is she still there by the phone?.....When?....Okay, I’ll go to the studio. What time will you be coming?....All right, I’ll let Mrs. Romero know to expect you….Have you girls been having fun?....She has?....That’s good….Did she have any nightmares?....Oh, well, that’s a good sign….Okay….I love you Wendy. Love you both….Please tell Christy I love her….Bye.”
Brian hung up the phone and was pleased that he got to talk with Christy briefly, but he was still concerned because it didn’t seem that she wanted to talk to him. There’s a difference between real love and obligatory love. Brian didn’t want Christy to talk with him because she had to. When will the day be when she really comes to him because she wants to, when she doesn’t tag along after Wendy? Wait, wait and keep loving, he thought. But his stomach was churning with doubt and frustration.
At breakfast the next morning he told Mrs. Romero that Wendy and Christy would be coming over to swim, then went off to Silverstone Studios.
When he walked into Bloom’s office, Myron was on the phone as usual. He motioned for Brian to sit and after a few moments hung up, looked at Brian and said “I hope you’re ready for some bad news.”
“My whole life these days is bad news. What now?”
“Launce Lojak read your script, doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to do it. I’ve been on the phone with his agent this morning. No go.”
“Why doesn’t he like it?”
He said he doesn’t want to spend a whole film digging a tunnel and he says there isn’t enough fierceness in it.”
“Fierceness. It’s a story about courage, bravery and ingenuity, not about violence.”
“So what? It’s a no go with Launce. It sucks, but we’ve got to find another star. I’ve got phone calls out.”
“Not yet. People are busy. We may have to go east, as much as I hate it there.”
“John Clancy. He’s doing a Broadway but maybe he can get away. I’ll call him. Otherwise I’ll drop an order on the New York agents and see what they come up with.”
“I’m sorry. I sort of had Lojak in mind when I wrote tie script.”
“Those are the breaks, kid. You’re good buddy Wong and I finally settled the dispute over the new SAG contract. The union is plundering us, as usual, but what can you do. You still hold a card?”
“Well maybe I’ll put you in the film and save a little money. How’s your young friend doing?”
“She’s doing okay. As well as she can under the circumstances.”
“When are you going to bring her around here?”
“As soon as she starts talking to me again.”
“Why doesn’t she talk to you for Chrssake?”
“She’s going through a thing about men, I guess.”
“No wonder. Those bastards. I hear they’re getting themselves put away, one by one. Forever, let’s hope.”
“So what’s happening with you?”
“She and Wendy, my fiancée, are at my place swimming, so I’m staying away for the day.”
“So hang out. Go over to studio 17. They’re shooting a fight scene with two macho gay stunters. It should be very interesting.”
“Thanks. I think I’ll go to the library.”
Brian left Bloom’s office, chatted briefly with Beatrice and then went walking around the studio lot feeling as if he didn’t belong there, or anywhere. He was always amazed at how many people there were involved in making a film, a “large paint box” Orson Welles had called it. He hoped he could bring Christy here one day. He knew he would have a lot of explaining to do because she would be so curious about everything. The thought of Christy made him sad.
He wandered into the library which, as usual, was empty of all except the librarian, Janice Swarth, a quiet, friendly woman but one who never smiled. Brian chatted with her a bit and then went back to the shelves. He took down a few books on American History. He was basically killing time until he could return home, but he was also looking for an idea for another film. Something with fierceness, he thought, with an ironic grin. No more miners digging tunnels. A war story perhaps.
Unless the tale is well known, with famous characters people are usually not interested, and if it’s a famous story it’s usually done in an antiseptic manner so as not to insult the heroes of the past.
So maybe he should return to a fictional story. He would like to do one about Buffalo Gap. That would mean going back there to get more information. Now there’s a film Myron could cast Brian in easily.
The time passed while Brian mused on these things. At about 4, Brian called Wendy’s cell phone to find out that they had finished swimming and had gone back to her place. So he put the books back on the shelf, said good day to Janice and went home.
Once there he settled down at his desk and tried to relax. His fingers were itching to write something. What he typed was “I’m angry!”
He leaned back in his chair and said to himself, I’m angry that I have to be away from my home in order to avoid someone I love. I’m angry that Launce Lojak doesn’t want to do my film. I’m angry at Mother Magda and her whole bag of perverts. I’m angry that I had to lose some of my toes. I’m anger at the Buffalo Gap troll brains. I’m angry that the badness of the world is getting in the way of the goodness. I’m angry that I’m tired and want to fold everything up and just go away. I’m angry at the whole damn world!
Brian got up and went out for a walk. He walked for a long time down unfamiliar streets, not looking at houses or anything, just staring in front of him trying to think clearly instead of just fume with rage.
He came to a big park with pathways, trees and benches. He sat down on a bench and lit up a cigarette. While he was sitting there a woman came along pushing a baby carriage preceded by a young girl, much younger than Christy, about 6 or 7, Brian guessed. The girl was doing cartwheels, and doing them very well. She did one right in front of Brian.
“You’re very good at that” he said.
“What’s your name?”
“Jane,” Saint Jane, Brian thought. The real Saint Jane. “Is that your Mommy?”
The woman with the carriage was approaching with a concerned look on her face. Brian waved at her. “Hi Mom” he said.
“Jane, do you do cartwheels in school?”
“You enjoy it?”
“Uh huh. It’s fun.”
“Who’s in the baby carriage?”
“That’s my brother, Tommy. He’s brand new.”
“Well, you keep learning acrobatics because it’s a good thing to know. Maybe someday you’ll be in the Olympics.”
“Don’t talk to strange men.”
The mother was standing and listening. She was smiling.
“Thanks, Mom” said Brian.
They moved on.
Brian finished his cigarette, rose, saw in the distance the little girl doing cartwheels and then returned to his home refreshed. His anger had subsided. He thought that the day would come soon when all of the experiences he and Christy had shared together would eventually purchase enough recovery from her most recent nightmarish episode to allow her to appear back into his life once again Patience and compassion were the tools he needed now more than anything. Forget your toes, he said to himself, they’re gone. Forget the troll brains. Forget that bitch Mother Magda, the faux nun, and her “enterprise.” And if Lojak doesn’t want to do your film, then to hell with him. He’s not the only actor in Hollywood.
Back home he wanted some companionship, so he went into the kitchen and found Mrs. Romero fussing with dishes and things.
“Hello Mr. Sims. What can I get you? A drink? Some coffee?”
“Is there a pot on?”
“I put one on right now.” She did.
Brian sat at the table and said “How are things with you?”
“Oh they’re fine Mr. Sims. Juan is out in the back working in the yard. Do you want to see him?”
“No, if he’s busy let him be.”
“Oh. Here he is.”
Just at that moment Juan Romero came in through the back door, took off some work gloves and said “Hello Mr. Sims. Is there a problem, sir?”
“No Juan, no problem. I just thought I’d sit in my own kitchen, have a cup of coffee and some company. Will you have a seat?”
“Thank you, sir.” Juan sat at the table leaving room for Maria.
“How are things?”
“Oh, fine, sir. I put some more fertilizer under that one palm tree that was looking not good. And I clipped the hedge.”
Maria poured a cup of coffee for Brian and set it in front of him.
“Will you join me?”
She smiled, poured two more cups, brought them to the table and sat.
“When will be the wedding?” she asked.
“We don’t quite know yet. We have to wait for Christy to get adjusted to being away from that place she was in and readjusted to me.”
“Such a sweet girl. They came to swim and she came right in first thing here to say hello.”
“Were you here, Juan, when she came in?”
“No, sir, why?”
“She is apparently having a little trouble dealing with men.”
“Oh, she will get over that” said Mrs. Romero.
“I hope so” said Brian.
“I wanted to ask you something, sir.”
“After you are married shall there be changes?”
“Oh, no doubt there will be a lot of changes. But you mean will there be any changes in your positions here?”
“No, none at all. I’m very satisfied having the two of you here. You’ve been a great help to me. I plan to stay living here. I’m planning that Wendy and Christy will also live here. That will give you more to do, I’m sure. So I’ll raise you wages accordingly. If you don’t mind.”
“You take good care of us, sir, but, no, we don’t mind.”
“It will be nice to have them here” said Mrs. Romero.
After some small talk, Brian finished his coffee, thanked them for the chat and went back to his computer.
He sat down in front of it, thought for a moment about the Romeros, about his quiet time in the park and about Jane. Then he reached over, deleted “I’m angry” and started a new page about a young girl who does cartwheels.
He was interrupted by a phone call from Wendy. She said that she had spoken to Judge Parks about marrying them and he was pleased to do it, but wanted to meet Brian first, so she extended a dinner invitation to Parks and his wife for the following evening. “Did you check this out with Christy….And what did she say?....Sounds hopeful….Probably.….Okay, what time?....I’ll be there, sweetheart….Love you too.”
Wendy had suggested he come early to give Christy a chance to adjust to his being there. Brian thought that was a good idea. But he wondered if it was going to be a strain on all of them. Maybe an informal situation would be better.
Why am I being so cautious? he thought. Any situation, just about, is a good one for them to be together. The time has come! After all, we have both suffered through this latest disaster; surely she wants to share in the recovery with me as well as Wendy. I’ll go to the dinner expecting good things and giving as much love as I can.
Wendy’s apartment was a duplex, well and comfortably furnished. She had good taste, which was no surprise to Brian. She greeted him with a warm hug and kiss when he arrived at the time she gave him.
“Upstairs in her room. She’ll be down. Have a seat, have a drink.”
Brian sat with expectation, watching the staircase.
Wendy returned with a couple of drinks and set them down. Then she went to the foot of the stairs and called “Christy?”
“Yeah” came a voice from upstairs.
“Come on down. Brian is here.”
After a few moments Christy stood on a top step and then slowly came down the stairs. When she reached the bottom she stopped and looked at Brian. She wasn’t smiling.
Brian stood up. “Hi Christy.”
“Hi” she said.
“Brian went over to her and said “Christy, I’m sorry about the things that happened to you and I’m glad that your okay.”
He reached out to hug her but she pulled back.
“No” she barked. “Don’t touch me. Leave me alone!”
She started to run up the stairs.
Brian stepped toward her, put his hand on the bottom of the banister and said “Christy. I will never leave you.”
She stopped briefly. They both vividly remembered the first time that promise was made.
[They made their way through the tangles of the forest, around the frozen lake, in and out of clearings and over fallen trees. When they got to the far side of the lake there was a brook.
“This must be the same brook we were following once,” said Christy.
“Probably. I don’t know.”
The brook was filled with ice covered stones. The water was coming from the lake and it was moving very slowly.
“We’ll have to be very careful going across here,” said Brian. “It will be very slippery.”
He started to cross the brook, stepping carefully, testing each stone before he put his weight on it. Christy followed him. Brian made it to the other side of the brook and turned to help Christy who was almost there, when suddenly there was a rapid double flash of light and a loud crack of thunder. It frightened her and she slipped. She cried out and fell forward onto the snow. “Ow! Oh! My foot. I hurt my foot. It’s bad.” She was crying.
“Is there any way you can turn it so that it doesn’t hurt?”
She turned over on her back and tried twisting her foot around, crying with the pain, but she said “If I turn it in it’s not so bad. But it still hurts. Oh, Brian, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay. You just lie there, take it easy and keep the foot turned in.”
“Okay,” she was crying a lot.
On that side of the brook there was a short, steep climb,, thick with trees, up to a clearing. “I’d better go up there and see where we are,” he told her.
She reached up to him with both hands, “Brian, please don’t leave me here.” Tears were coming out of her eyes and flowing down the sides of her face.
Brian put his hands in the snow on either side of her, leaned over and looked at her tear stained face.
“Christy. I will never leave you.”
They looked at each other for a long moment and each of them knew there was a bond now, a bond that would never break.]
But Christy ran up the stirs into her room and closed the door.
Wendy was standing there watching and Brian said “Maybe you should go to her.”
“No, Brian, I don’t think so. She needs to be alone.”
Brian was very perplexed. “What’s she doing?”
“She’s probably crying.”
“Because she loves you.”
“Well if she loves me why is she crying? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“If you were a sensitive, confused girl it would.”
Brian was still confused himself but he deferred to Wendy’s wisdom.
“Okay” he said.
“Now come and sit down, have your drink and relax.”
Brian sat but was not relaxed. Why do I always manage to say or do the wrong thing, he wondered. What did I do wrong this time? I feel hopeless and useless.
“I know what you’re thinking” said Wendy, “but don’t worry about it. She just has to sort things out in her head. And she will. You’ll see.”
“I hope so. I feel like a fool.”
They sat silently for a few moments and then the buzzer rang. Wendy crossed over to the door and pressed the speaker switch “Yes?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Parks at your service” came a voice over the speaker. Wendy smiled and pressed another button. She stood by the door for a moment and then opened it to let in Allen and Felicity Parks.
Mr. Parks was in his fifties, with gray hair, a stern expression but with a twinkle in his eye. Felicity, his wife, was a slender woman with thinning ashen blond hair and a big smile.
Introductions were made all around, seats were taken, drinks were made and distributed all around and conversation ensued.
“So you two want to get hitched, do you” said Allen.
“Yes we do” said Brian.
“I think it’s just wonderful” said Felicity, “that the two of you found each other after all the years you’ve lived.”
“Thank you. I guess it is” said Brian.
“How did it happen?” she asked.
“Wendy came to represent me in a legal matter and we hit it off right away.”
“That’s about it” said Wendy. “Neither one of us were looking. That’s why we found each other.”
“Isn’t that grand?” said Felicity.
Then Allen said “I thought you told me that the girl from the orphanage who blew the whistle on them was here with you?”
“She’s upstairs now, dealing with something. She will probably come down when she gets hungry. You will like her.”
The conversation went on with small talk about this and that until Wendy said “Well, dinner is ready, if you’d like to come in and sit at the table.” So they did.
Wendy’s dining room had a medium sized wooden table, circular when the side flaps were folded up. There were place settings for five. Wendy went to the bottom of the stairs and called up “Christy? Dinner’s ready.”
There was no answer.
The four of them gathered around the table. Wendy took the chair closest to her kitchen and said “I’m here. You can sit where you please.”
Allen and Felicity sat next to each other. Brian sat leaving a space for Christy between himself and Wendy.
The dinner was simple but delicious: lemon chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, a California salad, fresh rolls and a fine local Chardonnay. There were pleased remarks all around.
“Thank you. I’m not much of a cook. I was a fast food addict in school and then my husband was usually on the road with some ball team.”
“Oh, you were married before?” asked Allen.
“We both were” added Brian. “Mine ended in divorce, but it was many, many years ago.”
“And my husband was killed in an airplane crash. Also many years ago.”
“Oh” exclaimed Felicity. “How sad.”
There was silence for a few moments. Then Christy came into the room and said “Hi.”
“Here she is. Christy come meet my friends” said Wendy.
Introductions were made. Christy walked around and shook hands with both of them. Then Wendy said “Christy, sit and have some dinner. They tell me it’s good.”
She looked up at Brian, and then sat next to him in the remaining chair.
Allen Parks tried to discuss the break up of Saint Jane’s and Christy’s part in it until it was obvious she didn’t want to talk about it. So he dropped the subject.
The topic changed to the up coming marriage of Brian and Wendy. Simple details were discussed and plans were made. Brian noticed that Christy was paying close attention to that conversation, but she still wasn’t smiling. Not yet.
After dinner they all went back into the living room for coffee and some fresh fruit. Christy went with them.
When it was time to leave, they all stood up to thank Wendy for the meal. Judge Parks said that he saw no reason why Brian and Wendy couldn’t be very happy together and he was pleased and proud to marry them.
As Wendy was seeing them out the door, Christy came over to Brian and said “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Of course, sweetheart. Let’s go over here and sit down.”
They moved away from the front door and sat on a sofa.
“I’m sorry I was mean to you before” said Christy.
“That’s okay, Christy, I forgive you. And I’m sorry I put you through that awful experience. I didn’t know I was doing the wrong thing.”
“I know.” There was a silence. Wendy saw them talking together and busied herself in the kitchen.
“Those men were so nasty” she said. “I didn’t know people could be cruel, like that.”
“Well, some people are, and it’s best to stay away from them.”
“You’re not like that. Are you?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Listen. You like Wendy, don’t you?”
“Yup. She’s cool.”
“Do you think she’s like any of those nuns in that place?”
“No. She couldn’t be like them.”
“And Wendy likes me. So do you think she would if I could be like any of those men?”
“No. I guess not.”
There was another silence. Christy was thinking hard.
“Are you and Wendy really getting married?”
“Yes. We are.”
“Am I gonna’ be there?”
“You better be. We both want you there.”
“Then there will be a reception, with a bunch of people.”
“At my house.”
“Oh. And then what?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is she gonna’ go live with you?”
“Probably. Although I don’t think she will give up this apartment.”
“You’re wondering what’s going to happen to you, aren’t you?”
“Yup.” After some more silence she said “I miss Flicker.”
“I spoke with your Aunt Lydia the other day. Flicker is doing fine. She’s grown a little bit, but she’s very healthy, and she and the other cat…”
“…Smoky, are getting along just fine.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
“Do you want to go back to Connecticut?”
“I don’t know. I guess not. There’s no place for me to be there. Besides I like it here.”
“You know you can’t stay here in Wendy’s place because her job takes her away a lot and there would be no one to look after you.”
“I guess not.”
“I’ll tell you what. After the wedding why don’t you and Wendy come over and live in my house. You will have your own room. We will find a good place for you to go to school, and I’m there most of the time, working. I’ll teach you how to swim, and I happen to know, because they told me, that the Romeros will be glad to have you there.”
“What do you say?”
“Okay” she said and jumped off the sofa to go help Wendy in the kitchen.
Christy spent the weekend with Wendy. When Brian returned to his home he went to sleep quietly for the first in many days. The knot that tied him and Christy together had been chopped at but it wasn’t broken. There had been some growing up on both sides. There were wounds that were still healing. There would be scars. Brian knew that. But he already had scars on his foot where his toes had been and he was still walking. The emotional scars on Christy’s life were not going to prevent her from being the “amazing” child that everyone could see she was.
In the morning Brian called Wendy to discuss some of the wedding details that still had to be worked out. Then he went and found Mrs. Romero to tell her that the wedding would be held there and that there would be a reception afterward. He said “Now, please tell me what you need and who you need to help you and I’ll make sure you have them. I’m going to make up some invitations today so I can let you know about how many people to expect. I don’t know much about these things, so you think about the food and whatever else you think we may need.”
“Oh, yes sir” she said.
“Wendy and I are working out the details now. I’ll have more information for you as we do.”
“By the way, I think Christy is coming back to stay here soon.”
“How is she?”
“God bless her.”
“I’ll tell Juan what’s happening. He’ll be glad.”
“Thank you, Maria.”
Brian left the kitchen. He went to his room, changed and dove with joy into his swimming pool.
Monday evening Wendy and Christy came over. Christy brought a bunch of her things in a canvas bag with a picture of buffalo on it.
“Where did you get that?” Brian asked.
“From Wendy. She got it for me.”
“Well” said Wendy, “she was telling me all about the buffalo she saw and about the pictures she drew of them, when I saw this I thought she should have it.”
“Christy, do you have some new drawings to show me?”
“No. I don’t like my pictures now. They’re ugly.”
“Well, then, it’s time for you to have something pretty to draw. Tomorrow, if it’s a nice day, why don’t you go out in the back and see the trees and bushes. There are flowers. Juan keeps the grounds looking very nice. You’ll probably find something interesting to draw.”
“Okay” she said.
Now Wendy and Brian had a problem. Who were they going to invite to the wedding? If they invited everyone they knew and they all came, there would be no room for them.
“I want to keep it simple but I don’t want to leave anyone out” said Wendy.
“What if we just rented a lot of chairs and tables and did it around the pool?”
“Well, that might work if we set up the chairs for the wedding and then had them mill around while we set up the tables. We could even put some of them in the backyard and inside. How many people are you going to invite?” asked Wendy.
“I don’t know yet. They’ll all be people from the studio I guess. How about you?”
“Well I have to invite Wong and his wife, and a few colleagues. Not too many.”
“I thought I’d send invitations up to Buffalo Gap although I doubt if anyone from there would come, it’s such a long way.”
“Still, you’re right, it would be nice to include them.”
“I spoke to the Romeros yesterday and Mrs., Romero is doing some planning for the reception. She’ll tell me what she needs as soon as we know how many are coming.”
“She’s going to need a lot of help” said Wendy. “Can she handle it?”
“This is the kind of event she loves. Feeding a lot of people is her pleasure. I’ll bring in cooks and waiters to help her. Don’t worry.”
The next morning Wendy went off to work and Brian called Myron Bloom. “Good morning, Boss….Fine….That’s good….I need a favor….I need a bunch of wedding invitations ASAP….I told you, I am….to Wendy Klein….How quickly you forget….Yes, you’re invited. If you promise to behave yourself….I know you never behave yourself, but I would like you to make an exception in my case, and Wendy’s and Christy’....Yes, she is….I don’t know, I think so…..Okay, here it is. Are you writing?....Good.”
Brian gave the information to Bloom and thanked him. Then he hung up. Brian couldn’t help being a little nervous and anxious. Was he actually going to go through with this? Getting married again, after all these years. Something inside him made him want to run, go to some strange place, change his name, become anonymous and forget the whole thing.
Just at that moment Christy came into the room and asked “Brian, when are you gonna’ teach me to swim?”
“Right now. Go put on your bathing suit.”
At first Christy was apprehensive of the water, but at Brian’s urging she eased her way into the water and held on to the steps. Brian stood at some distance from her and said “Okay, let go of the steps and swim to me.”
She did and with a lot of desperate huffing, flailing and splashing she reached him. “Very good” he said trying not to laugh.
He held her front down and told her how to breathe, how to stay buoyant, how to kick her legs and move her arms.
She eventually began to feel more confident and could swim on her own for a few feet. Every time she felt frightened, Brain was right there to hold her. He could not help remembering how she was so close to falling through the frozen lake and drowning and how he carried her that lest day of their terrible staggering through the wilderness.
[“TAKE MY LIFE! TAKE MY LIFE, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT! KILL ME, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT! BUT I’M GOING TO CARRY THIS CHILD TO SAFETY AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!]
And he had done it. Now in the safety of his own home, in his own swimming pool, he was carrying the same child and she was letting him, because she felt safe in his hands.
And what was Christy thinking? Not about malignant men who had handled her in rough and rapacious ways, but about the mysteries of swimming.
Under Brian’s care and teaching she learned quickly not to fear the water and to keep afloat and to move through it. She eventually got to swim the length of the pool in an awkward, haphazard fashion, staying close to the edge and with Brian close beside her. But she was pleased and excited.
“I did it! I did it! Wow! I can’t believe it. Brian, you’re a good teacher. Thank you. Oh, I can’t believe I did it.”
“Well, you did. Now let’s get out, dry off and go have some lunch.”
“You are cordially invited to the wedding of Brain Sims and Wendy Klein, Esq. at 2:00 P. M. Saturday,” etc. etc. Myron Bloom had flagged the invitations through the Silverstone print shop and they arrived in record time the next morning by messenger. Brian set about addressing them.
They could have rented a huge hall and had an elaborate wedding with all the luminaries of Hollywood and the legal world, but neither of them wanted it that way. Brian, for one, did not want to join the carousel of Hollywood weddings which were shams at the worst and publicity events at best. Wendy had long past the blushing bride stage of life and as she had said “the marriage is more important to me than the wedding ceremony.” They even thought of taking Judge Parks and his wife off to some obscure place, like Buffalo Gap, and doing it there, away from any gossip. Instead they settled on Brian’s house with a few close friends and colleagues.
While he was preparing the invitations, Christy was in the back yard with Juan, asking a hundred questions and getting a lesson in all the plants, bushes and trees of southern California.
When Brian finished he went out back and said “Christy. I’m going to the post office. You can come with me or you can stay here. Whatever you want.”
“I’ll stay here.”
“Okay.” When you’re 10 years old even a rose bush is an adventure, he thought.
The post office was a few blocks away, so he walked there. On the way he saw a black limo driving by and he wondered, with a chilling feeling, if that could be the limo that took Christy away to Saint Jane’s. He knew it couldn’t be because the whole enterprise had been shut down by the law. Still it made him uncomfortable. He was very glad Christy was with him now and away from that awful experience. He knew that she was safe with Juan and, even though things may not be completely ironed out between them, he felt that Christy was doing her best to adjust.
But he still also felt inadequate and thought there must be something more he could do for her to regain her complete confidence in him. He would give that some more thought.
On his way back from the post office he stopped off to sit for a while in the park. He was hoping to see Jane, the cartwheel expert. He didn’t, but there were other children playing around with mothers sitting on the benches watching them. How innocent and full of life they are, he thought, and how carefully they need to be protected. He had known so little about it before. He had lived for 70 years and had never been a father. Now, suddenly, within a few weeks he had a family, the family he always wanted, and he had learned the hard way about taking responsibility for it.
But he was concerned about himself as a father figure. Was he going to be a good one?” Would he stand up well next to the other fathers of the other kids that would soon be in her life? Would she make comparisons and see his flaws and inabilities? It’s true he was more of a grandfather to Christy than a father, but she didn’t seem to mind that. If she did she never let on. And Wendy certainly fell into the mother role without much effort, and soon she was going to be the wife as well. And as for taking responsibility for Christy, could there be any doubt in his mind that he proved it on an ice field in the wilderness, when they were hungry and in pain, when they didn’t know where they were, or where they were going and when eventually she couldn’t walk? Did they make it? They made it.
He felt a surge of pride and importance, stood up and strode home like a lion.
He found Christy in the kitchen with Mr. and Mrs. Romero having a drink of something.
“Pepsi” she said.
“Mrs. Romero I mailed out about 15 invitations, so if they all come with partners I figure it to be about 20 to 25 people. I didn’t ask for a reply but since it’s informal I guess we can expect at least that many.”
“All right, sir.”
“So make a list of what and who you think you need and I’ll see that that you get them.”
“Am I coming?” asked Christy.
“Are you kidding? You’ll be the guest of honor.”
Christy giggled. That’s a good sign, Brian thought. She hasn’t laughed around me since we got her here.
“Are you ready for your swimming lesson?”
Yup. But first I gotta’ pee.” She got up and ran off to her room.
After the swimming lesson and some lunch, Brian settled down at the keyboard, thought about Jane the cartwheeler and Crystal the Ice Angel and began to write.
That evening Wendy came over and after Christy had gone to bed she took out a piece of paper and said “I brought you something to read.” She handed the paper to Brian and he looked at it.
“Who’s Priscilla Fabricant?” Brian asked.
“She was one of nuns at Saint Jane’s. She agreed to speak to the police with a lawyer present. I think she thought she was defending the place but if you read it you see that she did anything but. Detective Mike Sanchez conducted the interview. Extraneous comments have been edited out.”
Minutes of the Consultation with Priscilla Fabricant
MS Now Ms. Fabricant…
PF Sister Priscilla, please.
MS As you wish. You claim that Saint Jane’s was doing nothing illegal or immoral and yet the police have evidence to show that approximately 30 young, underage females were being held by the establishment against their will and being forced to perform sexual acts with the men employed there.
PF Oh, no. None of our girls were there against their will. They were all happy to be there.
MS Are you sure of that?
PF Oh, yes.
MS Then why did one of the girls feel it important to reveal to a judge what was going on there?
PF Well, she was brand new to Saint Jane’s. She hadn’t been there long enough. Sometimes, when the girls first come they miss the outside world and want to get away, But once they get accustomed to Saint Jane’s and see how well they are treated they all learn to love the place.
MS Are they treated well, Sister?
PF Of course, we feed them well and take care of all their needs.
MS What about the wands?
MS The wands. The electric goads that were used on the girls.
PF Well, being young they were inclined to be rambunctious and disobedient and thus needed a little discipline.
MS Do you think torturing the girls was a little discipline?
PF Well it worked, and it really doesn’t hurt that much.
MS Really? I have one of those wands with me, Sister. Would you like me to show you how it feels?
PF No thank you. I’m not being disobedient.
MS When the police investigated Saint Jane’s they found two girls in the basement, naked and locked in a bare room.
PF Those two were very disruptive and needed to be kept away from the rest of the group.
MS But wasn’t there a better way to keep them separated than locking them in the basement?
PF No there wasn’t. Besides they were fed and their instructions continued while they were there.
MS I see. Now the records show that men from various parts of the world have been coming there to have sex with these girls. Is that true?
PF We don’t know what goes on in those rooms. That is strictly between the girl and her visitor.
MS But aren’t sexual favors the main reason your so-called visitors come?
PF That is what the girls are trained for, yes. So I suppose so.
MS You say they are trained. Who does this training?
PF Why, the men of our home do it, as I told you.
MS You have men who train these young girls in how to have sex with adults. Is that it?
MS Sister I don’t understand how you can possibly justify such activity.
PF No. What you don’t understand is that it is God’s work that we do. Our visitors are some of the most important men on earth. They are leaders, governors, decision makers and policy makers. Their positions and their actions affect the entire world. It is vitally important to them to be able to retreat to a place of innocence, peace and gratification. The blessed Holy Mother Magda had a vision once, when she was in prayer. Blessed Saint Jane de Chantal came to her and said Magda, my work is not done. I need girls, devout and religious, who will serve God’s chosen men of the world and keep them happy and satisfied. So she founded our order. She knew she had to split from any association with Rome, so our order is independent.
MS I understand that. The Catholic Archdiocese has disclaimed any knowledge or approval of your activities.
PF Yes. Of course they have.
MS Sister, those girls in your home, where did they come from?
PF Oh, from all over. Some from broken homes, some from the street, from families that cannot keep them for one reason or another. Some of our visitors bring us girls to train for them..
MS So there are girls there who are already owned by someone. A slave.
PF Heavens no, not a slave.
MS What then?
PF More like a household servant. A special member of the chief’s family.
MS And you trained them in erotic arts specifically for that chief?
PF That’s correct. Mr. Sanchez I have to explain something to you. Our girls are not only given instruction in the erotic arts, as you so melodically describe it, but they are also given religious training. Every morning there is a religious service during which there is prayer and one of the sisters gives a sermon. We are very careful to see that the girls are taken down the right spiritual road, the road that leads to God, so that as they progress they will maintain a close association with our maker, continue to serve God and not be turned aside from the true path. That is a very important function of our order.
MS I see. During the police investigation they found girls who were very young, and some teenagers. How can you possibly train the very young ones, they are little more than babies?
PF Oh, but the young ones are the easiest to train because they are so sweet and innocent, and they want to be cooperative.
MS And some of the older girls have been with you a long time.
PF Yes, that’s true. Some of them have regular visitors, you see.
MS When these visitors come they pay you for the session. Isn’t that so?
MS What is the fee?
PF The contribution is one thousand dollars.
MS So doesn’t that make those girls prostitutes?
PF Oh, my God no. The girls don’t receive any money for their services. That money goes to provide for the home, to cover its expenses, to provide for the girls and for the people who live and work there. We are a non-profit organization. We have no grants or public assistance of any kind. And the visitors don’t object to the price. They are satisfied with our services.
MS One more question, Sister Priscilla. Why were there no girls over 15 years of age? Surely your visitors would enjoy the company of some older, more experienced girls.
PF No. The men whom God has chosen for us are in need of the young and innocent. We only keep the girls up to the age of 17.
MS Then what happens to them?
PF When they turn 18 they are graduated.
MS Then where do they go?
PF They go wherever God wants them to go.
MS You put them out on the street?
PF No, no. I told you they graduate.
MS So you said, but I’m not quite sure what that means.
PF There is a beautiful ceremony which everyone attends and then they are sent away.
MS Sent away where?
PF To heaven.
MS You mean they die?
PF Well, that is the usual way of getting to heaven. None of us are holy enough to ascend like our Blessed Master did, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Mother Magda accomplished it when her time has come.
MS Let me understand this. When they become 18 years old they die. Is that it?
PF When they become 18, they are no longer children and so they are no longer of any use to us or our visitors, you see?
MS So they are killed.
PF They are sent to heaven.
MS How is this killing, this sending to heaven, done?
PF I am not permitted to know that.
MS By whom is it done?
PF I told you, I’m not permitted to know.
MS But what do you think happens?
PF I assume there is a sacred ceremony of some sort, probably carried out by the men with the Holy Mother Magda presiding over it.
MS And what happens to the earthly remains?
PF I don’t know.
MS I have no further questions for you.
Brian lowered the papers and said “Oh my God. Oh my God..”
“So now there is homicide on top of all their other crimes” said Wendy. “The police are inspecting the grounds around Saint Jane’s. If they locate a single corpse and it can be proved that death was caused by violence it will be all over for the defense.” “Why didn’t her lawyer stop her from telling all of this?”
“He tried, but Sanchez kept pressing and after a certain point it was useless.”
“Those poor girls! How could this have been going on for so many years?”
“I don’t know, but I guess there was some protection. After all, their “clients” were rich and powerful men. I’ll tell you I wouldn’t be surprised to know that there are other establishments like that, perhaps some for young boys, tucked into some place that’s in plain sight but undercover. As long as there are perverts there will be those that serve them.”
“Unfortunately. And as long as there are religious fanatics, like Magda and those others, terrible things will be done. They justify it by faith in some twisted idea of deity, with visions and everything” said Brian. “Even though I write about it, sometimes I wonder if I really know anything about the human race.”
“Well, I guess there is always something to learn.”
“What are you going to do with these papers?”
“Get rid of them. Take them back to the office and shred them. Obviously I don’t think Christy should see them.”
“No. That wouldn’t be a good idea. I wonder if she knew about the disposing of older girls.”
“Probably not. It sounds like none of the girls knew, which is not surprising. If they did, they would all be running like Christy did.”
“My head is still reeling” said Brian. “The whole thing sounds like a giant nightmare. You know, the first night we spent in Buffalo Gap Christy had a bad dream. I woke up to hear her screaming. When I went into her room I found her sitting up reaching to the ceiling with both hands as if she was trying to grab something. When I woke her she said that she was falling through a crevasse in the ice and that I was trying to reach her to pull her back up but that I couldn’t and she couldn’t reach me.”
“She’s still reaching” said Wendy.
“I know, but she’s waking up, I think.”
“I think so.”
“Let’s have a night cap and drink to it” said Brian.
“By the way” said Wendy. “If this adoption goes through, and it looks like it will with Tom on the case, after we’re married we will both be responsible for Christy.”
“Mm. That’s true.”
“I was thinking that we have to make sure she goes back to school. She’s missed a whole semester. We should find a good summer school for her so she can catch up.”
“Well there’s a very good school, I’m told, two blocks down the street. It’s a junior high and high school. It’s private. No nuns.”
“That sounds good.”
“Yeah, but the thing is I think we should make sure she goes somewhere where she can get some formal art training. I think it’s important and I think she would appreciate that.”
“Can we check out that school, see if they have a summer session and find out about art classes?”
“I’ll look into it tomorrow. Wendy, thank you for thinking about that. It’s been so long that I’ve been any where near a school it didn’t occur to me that she should be getting an education.”
“I guess it’s a typical Mom’s concern” sad Wendy.
That made Brian smile. Mom and Dad, he thought. 70 years old and I finally have a family of my own.
Wendy spent the night but was up and out early in the morning. When Brian woke and came down for his morning coffee, he found Christy in the kitchen dressed in her swim suit with a grin on her face. After the good mornings were done he said to her, ”Is somebody going for a swim?”
“Yup” she said. “We are.”
After some breakfast Brian got into his swimming trunks and joined Christy at the pool who was sitting on the edge splashing the water with her feet.
They spent a couple of hours together. Brian taught her a few more strokes and then had her try holding her breath under water. She finally managed to do it for almost a minute.
“That’s very good” he said. “Next time you can try swimming under water.”
They were sitting on the bench next to the pool drying off. Brian said “Wendy and I were talking about you last night.”
“Yes, and we both agreed that you should go back to school.”
“Would you like that?”
“I don’t know. I guess so.”
“There’s a school down the street here. I don’t know anything about it, but it’s a junior high school,”
“I was in the sixth grade.”
“But come September you would probably qualify for the seventh grade if you took some courses in summer school.
“I guess so. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Would you like to go and have a look at the school to see if you might like it, and see if they have a summer program?”
“Okay” she sighed.
“You don’t sound enthusiastic about it.”
“No, it’s just that I’m glad to be back here with you, learning to swim, and my drawings are getting better and everything.”
Well, but Christy, it’s only spring. You’re here with us for a few months until summer. And then, if the place is any good, you’ll just be down the street.”
“Christy, you’re not having the same feelings about it as you did about Saint Jane’s, are you?”
“Why don’t we go have a look at it and then see what your intuition tells you?”
They got dressed and after Brian had a second cup of coffee they strode down the street to the school.
They came to a beautiful, inviting modern building set back from the road, with a well kept lawn, a few trees and some bushes along the side. They went up the path and entered the building.
Brian spoke to a receptionist inside, who then picked up her phone and said “There’s a man here with a child who wants to see the school.”
Soon a woman arrived, nicely dressed and with a pleasant smile. Everyone was introduced and the woman led them through a door and down a hall to a series of classrooms. They peeked into a couple of the rooms and the woman explained what they were seeing. She then took them into an office and closed the door. She asked Brian if they were interested in enrolling Christy in the school. Brian was impressed by the way the woman, Clare, included Christy in the conversation as if her thoughts were important.
Brian asked if the school had a fine arts program. Clare explained that one of their students had won first prize in an exhibit of paintings from all the high schools in Los Angeles. Christy was quiet.
They discussed costs, curriculum and, yes, they had a summer program.
Clare said “Pardon me for asking this but, since your last names are different, are you Christy’s father?”
“Almost” said Brian. “I’m engaged to marry the woman who is adopting her. Christy lost her parents some time ago.”
“He’s my Dad” said Christy.
Brian explained how Christy had missed a semester of her 6th grade but that he felt she was very bright and would be able to pass to the 7th easily if she could make up the missed semester. Clare thought that was a possibility, with the proper tests.
Clare handed Brian and Christy some literature about the school. Brian was relieved to see that there was no church affiliation connected with the place.
After the interview Clare accompanied them to the door and said she hoped to see them again.
Once outside they walked down the path to the sidewalk and stopped. “Well” asked Brian “what do you think?”
“I don’t know. It looks nice, but I don’t know.”
Just then a voice behind them on the path said “Hi.”
They turned to see a young black girl with a big smile. “I’m Sally. Who are you?”
“I’m Christy, and this is Brian.”
“You a new student?’ asked Sally.
“No. I’m just looking around.”
“Oh, come on. It’s cool. You’ll love it.”
“The teachers are great and the kids are fun.”
“Yeah. You comin?”
“Awesome. See you later.”
“Nice to meet you Brian” and off she went.
“Was that a ‘yes’ I heard about this school?”
They started back toward Brian’s house when he said “Christy, would you like to go for a walk in the park?”
When they got to the park they walked along and saw the women with their babies, sitting around talking with each other. Some of the older kids were playing on the swings and slides. Christy ran over and got on one of the empty swings and started swinging back and forth vigorously while Brian watched,
When she saw a vendor with a push cart she stopped swinging and said “Brian, can I have an ice cream?”
“Sure” he said.
She jumped off the swing and they went over to the vendor. Brian bought two ice creams on sticks and they sat on a bench and ate them.
“Christy, back there at the school you said that I was your Dad. Is that true?”
“Yup. I don’t have any other Dads. You’re it.”
Brian felt tagged. “Why am I your Dad?”
“Because you care about me.”
A silent laugh came rising up in him like a big bubble.
“Would you ever do anything like that to girls?”
“You mean like what happened to you at Saint Jane’s?”
“No sweetheart, I never would.”
“There was an older man there. He wasn’t very nice. He was mean.”
“I’m sorry about that. I’m not that man.”
“I hope he’s in the clink.”
That brought back another memory to Brian. A nice one this time.
[“Well, the two troll brains I met are now in the clink.”
“What’s the clink?”
“It’s slang for the jail.”
“Oh. The clink. That’s a funny name. Why do they call it the clink?”
“I don’t really know” said Brian, “but I think it refers to the sound the metal cell door makes when it closes.”
“Well, Christy, I’m sure he is, for a good long time. Maybe forever.”
“Did you make any friends while you were there?”
“No. I just wanted to get out. Soon as I got there.”
“Well, you’ll make some friends at the school.”
“I guess so.”
“Sure you will. That girl Sally seems like a bright, friendly girl. She could be your friend.”
When Christy finished her ice cream she looked at the stick turning it over in her fingers, holding it up to the light.
“How’s your room?” Brian asked.
She looked up with a big smile “Oh it’s great. It’s the best room I ever lived in. Cept” she frowned.
“Are you going to have any more children?”
“Yes. I’m going to round up as many kids as I can find, 12 or 15, and move them all into your room.”
She gasped “You’re kidding!”
“Yes. I’m kidding. You’re it.”
When they got back home Christy went into her room and Brian went to his desk to read and answer some mail
Mrs. Romero came in. “Pardon me, sir?”
“I have a list here. I thought if we got a turkey and a good ham?”
“Sounds good to me. What else>”
“It’s all on the list here.”
“Let me see.” She handed Brian the list. He looked it over and said “That’s fine, but should we have a wedding cake?”
“Okay” Brian smiled. “When do you want to buy everything?”
“The day after tomorrow?”
“All right I’ll see that you have the money then.”
“Thank you. This will be good fun.”
“I hope so. How many people do you need to help you?”
“Oh. Four I think, sir.”
Later that day Wendy came and she and Brian talked about the wedding preparations.
Then he said “I think things are going well with Christy. She called me ‘Dad’ today.”
“That’s good. She called me ‘Mom’ the other day.
“It was odd, you know, because I’ve sort of felt like her father for weeks. Only it wasn’t official. It still isn’t. Do you think we are rushing into this thing? I mean getting married before her relationship is settled?”
“Of course we’re rushing into it. That’s the fun of it. Do you love me?”
“Yes. You know I do.”
“Then why wait. Don’t worry about the adoption. That’s going to happen. In fact Tom is saying once we’re married it will be even easier.”
“Well, it had better happen. I took her down the street to that school, which looks very nice, and she agreed to let me enroll her there for the summer session.”
“How did you talk her into it so quickly?”
“I had a little help from one of the students.”
“Will she be able to make up her lost semester?”
“The administrator seems to think so.”
“Somehow I have a hard time thinking of her as a school girl, she has been such a 24 hour part of our lives.”
“I know. I feel somewhat the same way as I felt when we sent her off to Saint Jane’s. But this is completely different. We’ve been on the inside, looked into a few classrooms, met one of the other students and got to interview the woman who runs it. It seems like a total antidote to the horrible poison Christy is still carrying around in her.”
“I’ll go and have a look at it if you want me to, but I trust your judgment. Do you want me to look into it from my office?”
“Not a bad idea. Here’s some literature the woman gave me.”
“Christy also asked me if we were planning on having any more children.”
“Hm. She asked me that when she told me how comfortable she was in her room. What do you make of that?”
“I’d say she was worried that it was going to turn into another household like her relatives in Connecticut have. Where there will be too many kids to take care of and we will ship her off to some other “Home For Girls.”
Anyway I told her we weren’t. What do you think of that?”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Good” said Brian. So the budding artist, the Ice Angel, the Mountain Sprite, Little Orphan Christy is ours to keep.”
Brian handed her the list of ingredients Mrs. Romero had given him. “Here’s our menu?”
Wendy looked it over and said “Shall we order a cake, or not?”
“Mrs. Romero said she’ll make one. I’m sure it will be a beauty.” “You’re lucky to have them.”
“We’re lucky to have them.”
“Yes we are.”
The next morning, after Wendy had left for work Brian got on the phone to call a catering service for the 4 men to help. None of them were able to help. They were all busy or they couldn’t meet such a small order. He even tried the ‘positions wanted’ section of the newspaper. No luck.
Brian rose, went and found Mrs. Romero and said “I’m going out now to get the money you need, but I’m having trouble getting a hold of any one to come and help us..”
“Oh” she said “let me ask Juan. He knows people.”
Brian went to his bank to extract a wad of money for the Romeros to purchase what ever she needed for the wedding and was pleased to see that Silverstone had come across with a large payment for his script.
It was a beautiful sunny day and Brian was feeling good about things. Even though there was still some tension in his life because of the unresolved matter of Christy’s relationship to him and Wendy, he trusted Wendy. But until the adoption went through and the wedding was over, he felt as if he was holding Christy as an unauthorized dependant. He told himself how silly it was to feel that way considering how he had taken care of her through that long, terrifying walk, how, in fact, they had taken care of each other. He remembered thinking, in their desperate loneliness, when survival was so uncertain, that she was all the children in the universe and he was all the old men in the universe. No one else was there, nor could anyone else know how completely starved of alternatives there were or how close and interdependent they had become upon each other. There was no breaking of that bond, he thought, even through the turmoil of Saint Jane’s. If anyone had the authority to raise and care for Christy he certainly was the one.
[.“Why am I your Dad?”
“Because you care about me.” ]
You’ve cared about her ever since you found her on the side of a mountain. “So knock it off Brian” he said.
On the way home he stopped off at his florist and told him about the wedding. Lee, the florist was delighted to hear it and Brian asked him to decorate his house. He said he wanted flowers everywhere to spread the feeling of JOY. Lee understood and knew exactly what to do,
Lee Walsh and his partner Todd Cromwell were gay. They were partners in business and life and Brian had been their customer for many years. This was the biggest order he had ever placed with them but he knew they would fill it beautifully. He handed over a generous chunk of money to Lee, thanked him and went on his way.
When he arrived home he went into the kitchen and told Mrs. Romero about the flowers, then found a stack of mail on his desk. He was about to open and read it when he heard a splash of water coming from the pool.
He got up and headed for the pool. When he didn’t hear another splash he got worried that Christy had fallen in. He had a sudden vision of a moment when she was standing out on a frozen lake, too far away for him to reach her, about to fall through the ice. Frightened, he picked up his pace and called out, as then “Christy.” When there was no answer he panicked. But when he got to the pool he saw that she was standing in the water, at the shallow end of the pool. When she saw him she reached into the water, scooped up a handful and threw it up into the air, letting it splash all over her. Then she laughed.
“Okay” said Brian. “Don’t move. “I’ll be right back.” He went and got on his swimming trunks and came back. He stepped down into the other end and said “Now, swim to me.” and held out his arms.
Suddenly she wasn’t laughing or even smiling. She looked scared.
“Come on, sweetheart, you can do it.”
Christy started forward with a very serious look on her face and started flailing her arms frantically, but soon she was doing the strokes that Brian taught her and when she finally reached him, gasping for breath he took her in his arms and said “Good for you.”
“I made it” she said. “All by myself.”
“You sure did, Now let’s swim back.”
“Okay” and they swam back to the shallow side.
Christy was exhilarated. “Wow! I can do it.”
“You can do anything you want when you really want to “
“But for the time being, don’t go into the pool without one of us here to watch you. At least until you get stronger at swimming.”
“You had me worried.”
“Okay. I promise.” There was a pause “Brian?”
“What shall I wear?”
“At the wedding.”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Wendy?”
They got out of the pool and dried off. Brian went back to reading his mail and Christy went to check out her closet.
One of the letters on his desk was from Ms. Werbler of “People Talk” magazine telling him that since their publication showing Christy’s picture thousands of people have come forward to adopt Christy, some of them important people, including the Governor of Connecticut who has already filed an application with the Connecticut Family Court in Hartford to adopt her.
“No, no, no!” screamed Brian. He picked up his phone and called Thom Wong’s office. He wasn’t there and neither was Wendy. They were both in court. Brian told the receptionist to please tell them to call him as soon as possible. Then he called Wendy’s cell phone and left a message to call him. Maybe there’ll be a recess, he thought.
Brian was in a panic. I have saved this little girl’s life, I’ve done everything I can to love and protect her, I carried her to safety in my arms through a blinding, freezing rain storm. No one can step in at the last minute and take her away from me. I won’t allow it. There’s got to be some way to stop this. I’ve got to do something.
Just then Juan came in and said “Is everything all right, sir?”
“No. I just found out that someone else is trying to adopt Christy.”
“No, no. That is not right.”
“No it isn’t, but I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Does Ms. Klein know?”
“Not yet. She’s in court, but I left her a message”.
“That’s bad news, sir. Christy belongs here.”
“Thank you, Juan. She does belong here. I don’t know what to do.”
“What I can do, tell me?”
“I would appreciate it if you and Mrs. Romero didn’t let Christy know about this just yet, until I know what our next move is.”
“Of course, sir.” He left the room.
Brian lit a cigarette and stared at the letter. Then he went on line and found Edward Fremlich, second term Governor if the State of Connecticut, Democrat, married with no children. His first impulse was to email the governor. But then he thought he should wait to hear from Wong about what to do. This was an awful turn of events Brian wasn’t prepared for. None of them were.
Even though Wong might have a simple answer, Brian couldn’t help pacing the floor ad going through in his mind all the possible arguments he could think of. He was very frightened. Some judge in Connecticut could be deciding the case at this moment and awarding custody of Christy to some stranger.
I can’t bear that, he thought. Losing Christy after all this time would be the biggest heartbreak I could ever have.
Hours went by and there were no phone calls. Brian left another frantic message for Wendy. Then he made himself a drink. Had another cigarette and continued his pacing.
Finally, at about 5:15 the phone rang. It was Tom Wong wanting to know what was so urgent.
“Edward Fremlich, the Governor of Connecticut is trying to adopt Christy, and may have already done it…. I know that….All right….We’ll be there….” He hung up.
A few minutes later the phone rang again. It was Wendy. Brian explained the problem to her and said “Tom wants us to be in his office at 6 tomorrow morning….No, I’m in a terrible state about it. Please….See you….” They hung up.
At 6 a.m. sharp Brian and Wendy entered Tom Bloom’s office. On the side table was a two pot coffee maker, one side fresh brewed coffee, hot water on the other. A box of tea bags and a jar of decaf coffee for the squeamish were next to a tray of bagels and corn muffins. All typical breakfast for an early morning rehearsal in the motion picture business, Brian noticed.
Tom was sitting at his desk going through a book. He motioned them in and said “Help yourself” pointing to the table.
Tom checked his watch and at about 10 past six he made a phone call. “Hello. I need to talk to Norm Nelson….Yes, he probably is but would you please tell him it’s Thomas Wong and it’s important. I’ll hold.” He placed his hand over the phone and said “Norm is a morning newscaster at a big station in Hartford. I counseled him once. He’s probably….Hello Norm. Tom Wong here….I’m in my office in LA….Yes, very early….I want a favor from you….There is a case pending in the Hartford Family Court. It’s a request for adoption. The thing is it was filed by your Governor….Yes. He’s attempting to adopt and young girl, Christine Flynn. She lives here in LA but she was born in Connecticut. What I need to know is where that request is in the court. How far it has progressed through the system. Can you find that out for me?....Yes….Flynn….No….No. I’m not. Not yet, that’s why I need to know….Okay, When?....That’s your time?....Good. This number?....Okay. Thanks a lot Norm….Bye.”
Tom hung up and checked his watch then refreshed his tea.
“These things take time, but since it’s the Governor of the state he no doubt has some influence with the court and could speed things up.
What we do depends on how far along the adoption has come. I have no legal associates in Connecticut but I do know someone there.”
He went through his book and then dialed another number.
“Good morning, I’m trying to reach Travis McLeod. Does he still work there?....He did….How long ago….I see. Well, do you happen to know where he is?....Well, is there anyone there who does? It’s very important….Thank you.”
While waiting for an answer he said “Travis retired and move to the Caribbean. They’re trying to find out where.”
There was a long pause, during which Brian got another cup of coffee and lit a cigarette. He was very nervous. Wendy was chewing on a bagel.
“Yes….Where’s that?....Oh. Sounds nice. Do you have a phone number for him?” There was another long pause. “No. Travis is an old friend and I’m trying to reach him on some very important business. However if I get to talk to him I will probably be back to you….Yes….That’s very possible but I must talk with him first….Thank you….Good. What is it?” Tom wrote down a phone number. “Thank you.”
“What now?” said Brian.
“Now we wait. It’s still too early in the Virgin Islands. Take another coffee.”
“I just did.”
“So” said Tom “how are the wedding plans coming?”
“Very nicely” said Wendy.
“You’ll be there?” asked Brian.
“We will be there and I will toast the bride and groom.”
“Great. Bloom is coming, I think. Will you two get along?”
“Oh Myron is a pain in the neck but we can get along just fine as long as we don’t talk shop.”
“Maybe we should separate you just in case.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary. I know how to take care of Myron if he gets uppity. Besides, don’t tell him this, but I actually like Myron.”
“I already told him he has to behave himself” said Brian “so I think he will if he doesn’t drink too much.”
Small talk continued for a while, mainly to keep everyone’s mind off of the problem at hand until something could be done, until the next step emerged out of the fog.
At about eight o’clock there was a buzz in Tom’s intercom. “Yes.”
“It’s Heidi Mr. Wong, just letting you know I’m here.”
“Good morning, Heidi.”
“Is there anything for me?”
“No, Not right now, but come in and take a coffee and a muffin, if you want.”
“Thank you.” She did.
After she left Tom said “Let’s try Travis.” He dialed a number. There was a long pause. Finally. “Hello. Travis McLeod?....This is Tom Wong. Remember me?....I’m in Los Angeles….Did I what?....Did I use a gun?” Tom laughed. “No Travis I did it legally….I called your old firm and they told me you had retired and moved to the land of sunshine and hurricanes….How’s life?....That sounds good….Uh huh….Mm….Have you had any problems with weather?....You did?....Was there a lot of damage?....Aw, that’s terrible….Really?....Well, what do you know ‘And the cat came back’….Well, I was hoping to get you to do something for me over in Connecticut but since you’re retired….No big deal. An adoption case….Yes….Who?....Max?....Mathew Speziale. You call him Max?....Okay….Well, possibly. It’s a ten year old, a girl. She’s living here in LA. My clients are in the process of adopting her but it seems the Governor of Connecticut is trying to do the same….Fremlich, yes. I don’t know where it stands right now, but I may need someone to file a challenge or counter claim or something, someone who knows Connecticut law….You say Max is the guy, do you?....All right….Only if it gets sticky….What’s the matter Travis? Are you getting bored?....Can’t keep your nose out of it?....Sue I will. Thank you Travis….Good talking with you again….Good bye.” Tom hung up.
“Travis said he had a tropical storm last year. There was no significant damage to his property except a flood washed away his cat.”
“Aw no” said Wendy.
“But a week later she came back looking for food and love, in that order.”
“Good for her.”
As it got to be nine o’clock Tom went back to his address book, looked up a number and dialed. “Hello I need to speak with Norm Nelson. It’s Tom Wong, he’s expecting my call….Hi Norm, what could you find out?....Good….What is it?....Really?....Christine?....Oh?....Oh, no….Oh, no….Oh, no….No….No….No, I did not….Do you know who is behind this?....You think so?....Oh, no….Well, I don’t know….Listen Norm, if you happen to hear anything else, like who is behind it and what the real story is would you please let me know?....You have my number?....” Tom gave Norm his phone number. “Thank you Norm. I appreciate it….I’ll let you know….Bye.” Tom hung up the phone, stared down at his desk for a moment and then said “Well, folks we have a problem. A big problem.”
“What’s the problem?” asked Brian.
“Someone, Norm doesn’t know who, has begun a statewide campaign to reclaim your little girl. There are ads in the press and on TV, posters up all over Connecticut with her picture and the words ‘Let me come home’. Evidently there’s a number and an email address for people to get in touch with the organization behind this, to pledge support and, I suppose, to donate money.”
“There must be a lot of money and power behind this. But it explains why the Governor is involved.”
“Norm is faxing me some of the information, but evidently they are claiming that since she was born in Connecticut she belongs there, that she’s living in a hot bed of sin and corruption by being in Hollywood, and other claims to that effect.”
“What can we do?” asked Wendy.
“Fight” he said.
He picked up his phone, looked at a number on his desk and dialed.
“Hello, my name is Thomas Wong, I’m an attorney calling from Los Angeles, California and I’d to speak with Mathew Speziale….Yes….Hello. Attorney Speziale?....Tom Wong here. I have your name from Travis McLeod….An old friend of mine….He said to call you Max. May I do that?....I’m calling about Christine Flynn. Have you seen the publicity surrounding the attempts to bring her back to Connecticut?....Yes….Well I represent the people in LA who want to adopt her and that campaign has thrown things into some confusion….Really….Have you any idea who’s behind it?....Well, I’d like to find out and put a stop to it….Are you for hire at the moment?....Well, consider yourself on my payroll, if you wish….Wong and Schaeffer….Yes….First of all do whatever Connecticut law describes as the procedure for putting a blockade against that Governor’s attempt to adopt the girl. Can you do that?....Good. Then we’ll have to go after this spurious campaign and the people behind it…. Fax me whatever you can find about it, will you?...Hire a PI if you have to….Thank you Max….I may send up one of my associates to help you, not that you can’t handle it on your own, but I’d just like to have one of my own people around to help. It will probably be John Weymes. He’s a good guy. You’ll like him. If it’s someone else I’ll tell you. Otherwise expect him….Good. Thanks Max. I’ll turn you over to my secretary now.”
Tom pressed the intercom. “Heidi would you take this call, please? It’s a Matthew Speziale, a lawyer in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I just hired him. Make sure he has all the proper numbers and get his info.”
“It’s Situation Red.”
“All right, sir. Let’s go for it.”
“What does that mean?” asked Brian.
“It means it takes the place of whatever mumble jumble is on her desk now and there is a time issue involved. It’s the kind of stuff Heidi thrives on.”
“Oh. Tom, Christy saved my life and I saved hers. I’m not giving her up. Not even to a governor.”
“Of course not, Now I need some background information. Do you have Christy’s birth certificate?”
“Do you know where it is?”
“No, but it was probably with her stuff on the plane when it went down.”
“Well, we can probably get a copy, although some city clerks draw the line at providing a copy to anyone except family members or the police.”
“We might get some help from her relatives in Hartford.”
“Who are they?”
“Her aunt and uncle. Collins is their name.”
“Do you have a number?”
“It’s on my cell phone.”
“Good. Well, that can wait. Now remind me again how you met Christy and what happened since.”
Brian went over the whole story beginning with the plane crash on the mountain, through the long walk in the wilderness and into Buffalo Gap.
“Mr. Wong.” Heidi’s voice came on the intercom.
“Some faxes came in for you. Do you want them?”
“Yes, please, Heidi.”
A moment later Heidi came in, handed a few papers to Tom, and while he looked them over, made herself another cup of coffee and left.
After looking over all the pages Tom said “Whew! These people mean business.”
“What is it?”
“Well, this appears to be an editorial or an op-ed piece.
‘Item. 10 year old Christine Flynn is being held against her will by an unmarried couple in Hollywood, California. After possibly kidnapping her, the man escorted her to a small town somewhere in the west where they were apprehended in bed together. After transporting her across state lines to Hollywood the couple sent her to the underworld of organized crime to be taught prostitution. That unholy establishment has since been closed by the police. Christine escaped from the awful place but is now living with the couple who sent her there because she has no where else to go.
It is imperative that Christine be immediately returned to Connecticut where she belongs. Governor Fremlich has issued an urgent appeal to all Connecticut residents to help make it possible and has begun adoption proceedings in order to provide Christine with a safe and decent home here in Connecticut.
Please contact Let Me Come Home, Inc. at….’
Then there’s an address and phone number.”
“What a load of malignant crap!” said Wendy.
Brian said “Tom, they’ve twisted everything around to make it sound like something it wasn’t.”
“Is there any truth to any of it?”
“It all happened, but not in the way that story says. I didn’t ‘escort’ her through the wilderness. We stayed together and kept going. That’s the only way we could, otherwise one or both of us might have died. She climbed into bed with me because she had just had an awful nightmare. We didn’t transport her across state lines for an immoral purpose. Myron Bloom transported all of us, and it wasn’t for any immoral purpose, at least we didn’t know that at the time. And there is nothing unsafe or indecent about my home.”
“Are those people who work for you….?
“Yes. Are they legal immigrants?”
“They are US citizens. I made sure of that. Plus they are very religious people. I give them Sundays off so they can be in church.”
Tom flicked his intercom switch “Heidi would you see if John Weymes is in hi s office and if so ask him to step in here for a few minutes.”
“How would whoever wrote this know about the episode in the bed?”
“Only one person saw us, but she evidently talked about it. It seems to have made its way around the town. I think that’s why I got hit on the head.”
“Okay. There’s a letter here from Matthew Speziale. Esquire, which says that there are posters up all over the state with Christy’s picture and the title Let Me Come Home. It seems she has become the poster child for Connecticut youth.”
The door opened and a young man with a finely trimmed moustache entered. He was dressed in a sharp blue suit and carried a briefcase. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yes. Have a seat.”
“Thank you.” He sat and put his briefcase on the floor next to the chair.
“Brian, this is John Weymes. This is Brian Sims, a client, Wendy you know.”
“John, what’s happening with that case?” asked Tom.
“It’s closed. The jury will be sent into session tomorrow morning and will come back with a not guilty, I’m positive.”
“Good. I want you to fly to Bridgeport, Connecticut to meet with an attorney there named Matthew Speziale, they call him ‘Max’. I’ve hired him on a very thorny problem involving a young girl and an attempt to remove her from the care of Brian here and Wendy and transport her back to Connecticut. We do not want that to happen.”
“Take these documents. Make a few copies. Return some to Heidi. As soon as you get out of court tomorrow, hop on a plane. It’s Grinder, Speck and Salazar, LLC. Heidi has the address and phone number. Speziale is expecting you. He’ll clue you in when you get there.”
“Okay sir.” Weymes picked up his briefcase, stood, took the papers from Tom, nodded to Brian and Wendy and left the room.
Tom flicked the switch again. “Heidi, do you know where my partner is?”
“Yes sir. I believe he got back from London last night. He might still be asleep.”
“Well, would you please leave a message with his secretary asking him to come and visit me if he’s rested and has the time?”
“I will, sir.”
“Thank you. And then get me Myron Bloom.”
“Myron Bloom, sir?”
“All right, sir, if you say so.”
“And when you get him I’m going to put it up on the speaker phone, so listen in please. Although I doubt it, he might say something important.”
“Very well, sir.”
“Tom, Christy doesn’t know anything about this” said Brian. “Should we tell her?”
“And what should we tell her?” asked Wendy.
‘I think she should be told before the wedding. Loud mouth Bloom will probably spill it. But don’t go into all the details just yet.”
“Mr. Bloom, sir” said Heidi.
Tom picked up the telephone, placed it down on the speaker phone and said “Hello Myron.”
“What do you want?”
“I want your advice about something.”
“What’s this, what’s this? Distinguished Council Thomas Wong, Esquire, adviser to the stars seeks help from the lowly Myron Bloom? Well ‘down court, down king.’ What is it?”
“Are you going to be at the wedding?”
“Not if you are.”
“Myron grow up, this is important. Are you going to be there?”
“I was invited.”
“Amazing. Are you going to be there?”
“Good then maybe we can find a corner and hash this thing out provided you haven’t had too much to drink.”
“I’m planning on having too much to drink. What is it we have to ‘hash out’ to use your superior legal terminology?”
“There’s a big, well funded attempt to take Christine Flynn from her home here in LA and bring her to Connecticut. The Governor of Connecticut is trying to adopt her.”
“It’s on the east coast, just north of New York City.”
“I never go north of New York.”
“You should try it sometime. They say it’s very nice.”
“Yeah. Nice and cold. Christine Flynn. Is that Brian’s little girl friend that he found in the winter wonderland?”
“Have you ever met this creature?”
“No, I only saw her briefly in a court room.”
“Well, if she’s everything they say we have to keep her here.”
“Well, what can I do about it?”
“There’s a very vigorous publicity campaign going on all over the state there, with a lot of spurious information about Brian and Wendy.”
“Wendy. Who’s Wendy?”
“Wendy Klein, my associate and the woman Brian is getting married to on Saturday, if you stay sober enough to notice.”
“Very funny. Send me more information, if you have it”
“I do, and will fax it to you now.”
“And just how do you think I can help the Mighty Wong?”
“My associate in Connecticut says there are TV ads about the girl. I don’t know what they are like, but if they publicize the same sort of garbage they need to be countered somehow. So far no one’s name has been mentioned but hers. Unfortunately.”
“Why unfortunately?” asked Brian.
“If they do we can sue them for slander” said Wendy.
Tom continued “I’ll try to get a video tape of the TV piece for you.”
“That would help. I’d love to see what those bastards are up to.”
“So then I will see you on Saturday?”
“Quite against my better judgment, but yes.”
“Good. Thank you Myron. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, as usual.” Myron hung up. “Myron and I have a special relationship.”
Tom flicked the intercom switch “Well, Heidi, any thoughts?”
“Such a gentleman he is. Would you like me to call Mr. Speziale and ask him if he can get a copy of the commercial?”
“Good thinking, Heidi. He may have to call one of the TV stations to find out when it is scheduled to be aired.”
“Okay, will do. Oh, sir, here’s Mr. Schaeffer.”
“Send him in.”
The door opened and Lawrence Schaeffer entered wearing dark pants, a white shirt and a scarf around his neck. He had a gray beard and a yarmulkah. Brian thought he looked like a Jewish philosopher or maybe a Rabbi.
“This is my partner Lawrence Schaeffer. Brian Sims, Hollywood script writer. Wendy Klein you probably know.”
“Mm” said Schaeffer “pleased to meet you Mr. Sims.” Lawrence Schaeffer spoke slowly and quietly. He sat.
“How was London?”
“Cold. What have you got, Tom?”
Tom Wong, with the help of Brian and Wendy went through the story of Brian and Christy in the wilderness, in Buffalo Gap, at Saint Jane’s, the current adoption tangle, the efforts to take her away to Connecticut and how they are trying to stop it.
Schaeffer listened intently through the explanation occasionally going “Hm.” When Tom finished Schaeffer said “Sounds colorful. What have we done so far?”
Brian liked the sound of that “we.”
Tom replied “I hired a lawyer in Bridgeport, Connecticut to stiff the Governor’s adoption proceedings and I’m sending John Weymes to help him. Here are the documents he sent me.”
Tom handed the papers to Lawrence Schaeffer who read them carefully, now and then shaking his head and muttering “Hm.” Finally he said “This is stupid. Is any of this true?”
“As I explained to Tom, it all happened but not in the way they imply.”
“Where is the girl now?”
“At my home.”
“No, my domestics are there. They’re good people.”
“You live in LA?”
“Does this Christine Flynn know what’s going on?”
“Not yet” said Tom.
“What else have we got?”
“Nothing much yet. Bridgeport is trying to get me a copy of the TV ad.”
“Are you the girl’s official guardian, Mr. Sims?”
“I am” said Wendy. “The city welfare department turned her over to me.”
“Why is she living with you Mr. Sims?”
“Wendy and I are getting married in a few days.”
“Oh. May you have lots of nachas.”
“Why not have Weymes get a list of the papers and TV outlets that are publishing this nonsense and slap a suit on a few of them? If we’re lucky a judge may issue a cease and desist. That would purchase some time.”
“Yes” said Tom “that might work “
“What time is it in Connecticut?”
“I know a guy in New Haven. I go home I’ll call him.” Schaeffer got up to leave. “When is the wedding?”
“Saturday” said Wendy.
“Hm. A Shabbat wedding. Good sign.” Without another word he left.
Brian had a sudden flash of intuition that Lawrence Schaeffer, Esquire and Chief Running Bear would like each other.
“Well” said Tom “it looks like we’re in play.” He rubbed his hands together. “This is much more fun than getting movies stars out of jail.”
“I hope so” said Brian.
They wrapped up the meeting. Wendy went back to her office. Brian went home.
When he got there Christy met him at the door and said “Guess what?”
“I drew a picture of Mr. Romero.”
“Yup. You wanna see it?”
She grabbed Brian by the hand and dragged him into the kitchen. Mrs. Romero was there, preparing dinner. On the table was a piece of paper which Christy held up to show him.
It was a very fine pastel drawing in two colors of the face of Mr. Romero.
“This is very good Christy, as usual.” He held the picture up for Mrs. Romero to look at. She smiled and said “Yes, It’s very nice. It looks just like him. But Juan was funny. He didn’t like to sit still for so long. He likes to be doing things. But she took her time and did a good job.”
At that moment Juan came in the bock door.
“Hello, sir” he said.
Brian held up the picture, “What do you think?”
Juan smiled an embarrassed smile and said “She’s good.”
“You like it?”
“Well, Christy, why don’t you give it to them?”
“I’ll take this in tomorrow and get it framed” he said to the Romeros. “Then we can hang it up somewhere where the wedding guests can see and then, after the wedding, you can put it wherever you want to.”
“Oh, thank you, sir.”
“Wait a minute. What’s this at the bottom? It says C. Flynn. Who’s that?”
Christy smiled “That’s me.”
“Is that your signature now, C. Flynn?”
“Yup. Christine is long, so I’m just using C. Flynn. Is that okay?”
“Sure. As long as you do it every time.”
Brian stood up, picked up the drawing and said “I’ll put this in a safe place until tomorrow.”
“Oh, sir?” said Juan, “I asked four men from our church to come and help us on Saturday.”
“Thank you, Juan.”
“They’re good men.”
“I’m sure they are, if you say so.”
“How should they dress, sir?”
Brian smiled “Clean and comfortable.”
Back at his desk Brian saw a pile of mail, telegrams, cards and letters. It seems that all the LA people they invited were going to show up.
Christy came into the room and sat down watching him.
When he saw her, he saw a precious child that was everything about his life. He saw someone who somehow was who he had been working for all this time. He saw the dream of the ice angel actually sitting there in his room. He saw the innocence which overcame some of the worst of human evil. He saw the being who sat with him when he confronted the wolves. He saw the best of childhood hopes and possibilities. He saw the love that asks no questions. He saw the trust and companionship that could overcome the winter storms. He saw his daughter and his friend.
But he also saw something else. He saw a hook, like the talon of a great predatory bird slowly descending to pick her up and tear her away from him.
“Christy, when Wendy comes we have something very important to discuss with you.”
Brian chuckled “I said when Wendy comes.”
“Okay, In that case let’s go swimming.”
They swam for an hour. Christy swam the length of the pool underwater. Brian taught her to do the backstroke which she liked a lot. Then he tried to teach her how to propel herself through the water just by kicking, without using her arms. She found that very difficult and was frustrated. But Brian said “You’ll catch on soon. We’ll try that again another day.”
After they left the pool Christy was tired and went to her room to lie down. Brian went back to his desk and thought about what they were going to say to Christy about the plot to take her away. It seemed too complicated to explain to a youngster, and yet she needed to be told as much about what was going on to be prepared for whatever might come up.
When Wendy came they hugged, sharing the love and also the fear of what might happen.
Then Brian reached into his desk, took out the drawing and held it up for Wendy to see.
“That’s very good” she exclaimed. “Did she do that today?”
“That tells me that she’s getting better.”
“Yes, it looks a little better than her last few.”
“But she’s getting better in other ways also>”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s a drawing of a man.”
“Oh, yes. I didn’t think of that.”
“Maybe it means she’s getting around to being able to draw another portrait of you.”
“Oh, I hope so.”
“I need a drink” said Wendy. “I’m celebrating. Back at my office I found out that my assistant got the case adjourned for 4 weeks, so we may actually have a bit of a honeymoon, if you want one.”
“Sounds good. Where shall we go, Connecticut?”
“You’re a funny man.”
Christy heard Wendy’s voice and came out of her room to say hello.
“Brian said you have to tell me something.”
“Let me fix a drink and I’ll be right back. Have a seat.”
Christy perched on the sofa and smiled at Brian.
She’s expecting something good, he thought. Instead she’s going to get some more nasty knowledge about the ways of the world. That made Brian feel sad. But, he thought, there’s no point in hiding anything from her. She’s young and can process things in her own way, she’s already proved that.
When Wendy returned she sat next to Christy.
Brian began. “Christy, do you have any friends in Connecticut?”
“Well, there’s my aunt and uncle and few girls from school. Why? And Flicker. Why?”
“Do any of those friends from school come from very wealthy families?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do your aunt and uncle have any very wealthy friends?”
“I don’t think so, why?”
“Well Christy, some one or some group of people is trying very hard to take you away from here and move you back to Connecticut. And the Governor and his wife have filed papers to adopt you.”
“Why. I thought you were going to adopt me.”
“We are” said Wendy. “But the Governor is very powerful and we have to find some way to stop him.”
“I don’t want to go to Connecticut, ‘cept to visit. I wanna stay with you.”
“And we want you here with us, you know that” said Wendy. “But since you’re what’s known as a minor, people have a right to push you around if they do it legally.”
Christy looked as if she was about to cry. “I’m not going to go back and live in any Connecticut. I’m staying here.”
“And this is where you should be.”
“Who are these people?”
“We don’t know.”
“Why are they doing this?”
“We don’t know.”
“Why do they want me to go live there? What’s wrong with me staying here?”
“Nothing. And my boss at the law firm, Mr. Wong, has a lot of people trying to find out who is behind this and to put a stop to it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do we’ said Brian, “but we’re not going to let it happen. The reason we’re telling you is that a couple of people at the wedding know about this and they might say something to you about it, so we wanted you to know ahead of time what they are talking about.”
“Okay.” Christy stared at the floor and then said “Brian?”
“I don’t want any dinner. I want to go to my room.”
Christy went into her room and closed the door.
Brian said “What do you make of that?”
“I think she’s frightened.”
“Oh. I guess she has every right to be. That’s a lot of unpleasant information to put on her all at once.”
“Yes. But you did the right thing Mr. Three Toes.”
“Well, at least she knows that we’re on her side, so when the wolves show up we’re not going to fed her to them.”
“And speaking of feeding, shall we see if there’s any dinner waiting?”
They went into the dining room where there were three places set. Mrs. Romero came in with a tureen of soup.
“Christy is feeling bad and doesn’t want to come to dinner” said Brian. “But she might change her mind later.”
“Aw. Well, I make up a plate of salad and bread and leave it for her in case.”
The next morning Brian awoke alone, took a shower and got dressed. When he left the bedroom he heard laughter from the dining room. He went in and found Christy and Wendy having some breakfast.
He said “What have you girls been up to? Mischief?”
“Yup” said Christy.
“Yup” said Wendy. “I called the office and I don’t have to go in today. So I have the whole day to get nervous about tomorrow.”
“Why are you nervous?” asked Christy.
“I don’t know, but being a bride is not something I’m used to.”
“Oh. Are you nervous Brian?”
“I won’t know until after I have my coffee.”
“I guess you’re feeling better” said Brian.
“Good. After breakfast let’s all go get the drawing framed.”
“Okay” said Christy.
“I know a good frame shop in Hollywood” said Wendy’
“Do you think they can have it done by this afternoon?”
“Probably, if I ask him nicely.”
“Well, then let’s go there.”
After they finished breakfast Mrs. Romero came in to clean up and Brian said “Tell Juan we’re going to Hollywood to get him framed.”
“Framed?” She frowned.
“Ooooh.” She smiled.
They got into Wendy’s car and left for Hollywood. “That Mrs. Romero seems to be always in a happy mood” she said.
“Yes” said Brian. “I’m sure she has her sad moments, who doesn’t? But she’s always pleasant with me. The only time I ever knew her to lose it was when I called her from Buffalo Gap to tell her I was still alive. She thought she was talking to a ghost.”
Wendy parked her car near Tom’s Old Time Frame Shop. Tom was a Japanese/American fellow who greeted them with a smile.
“Good morning” said Wendy. “Tom, we’d like to get this picture matted and framed.”
Brian handed the picture to Tom who took it carefully by the corners and looked at it. “That’s beautiful picture” he said. “Who draw this?”
“I did” said Christy.
“You?” said Tom with a surprised look. “You artist?”
“Tom, I hate to ask you this but could we have it by this afternoon. It’s for our wedding tomorrow.” Wendy took Brian by the arm.
“You getting married?”
“Yes” said Brian.
“Ooooh. Okay. I do it for you.”
“When should we come?”
“Come back aaah four o’clock.”
“Okay” said Wendy. “Thank you Tom.”
Tom looked down again at the drawing and took it carefully into the back.
After they left Tom’s Old Time Frame Shop they decided to walk around because Christy had never seen Hollywood.
They turned on Hollywood Boulevard and Christy was immediately intrigued by the sidewalk.
“What are all these stars for?”
“Those are to honor people who’ve become famous in the arts, the performing arts. And there’s a picture of what they were famous for. See?”
As they went along Christy read off the names of people she had head of: “John Wayne, Johnnie Cash, Elvis Presley. Who’s Kristin Flagstaff?”
“Kirsten Flagstad. She’s an opera singer.”
“Oh. I’ve never seen an opera.”
Brian looked at Wendy and thought, So young and so much to do.
They walked on a while more with Christy reading the names on the sidewalk. Finally she said “Where’s your star?”
Brian laughed “Oh, I’m not important enough to have one.”
“Yes you are. I wish I had a crayon. I’d draw a big star and put your name in it.”
“Thank you Christy. Maybe someday I’ll have one.”
“You will.” She took his arm.
They walked on and checked out the big theatres: The Chinese, The Pantages and some of the fancy restaurants and other buildings.
“Where do they make the movies?” Christy wanted to know.
“There are big studios near here in Burbank. That’s where.”
“Can we go and watch them make a movie?”
“Sure, but we have to plan ahead to do that.”
They walked on some more and Brian was getting tired so they found a nice simple, charming restaurant, one that Wendy knew and they settled in for lunch.
“Wendy” said Brian “about tomorrow….”
“You want to call it off.”
“Nooo” squealed Christy.
“No.” Brian laughed. “No I was just thinking that I didn’t make arrangements for any music. Should we have music at the reception?”
“Oh, I don’t know. There’s no place to dance. If they drink and try it they might fall into the pool.”
“Let’s forget music.”
“Brian?” Christy asked.
“Do you think I could be a movie star?”
“You can be anything you want to be. But you’re a good artist and I think you should study it and get better and better.”
“But as for being a movie star. That’s a completely different road in life.” Brian looked at Christy and smiled. He knew that he would support her, whatever decisions she made, but he shuddered at the idea of seeing her plunge into the predatory pit of Hollywood. But then maybe once she got a taste of it she might be glad to stay with her pastels and paint brushes. Or maybe not. Time will tell.
After a leisurely lunch they strolled slowly back down the boulevard to Tom’s Old Time Frame Shop. They got there a little early but Tom had already finished the job. He held up the drawing. It was beautifully done. The matt color was just right, it added to the force of the picture but didn’t intrude, there was a pane of glass protecting the surface of the drawing and the frame was a simple wood structure. Tom was smiling.
Wendy said “Christy, what do you think?”
“Wow” she said “it looks like a real work of art.”
Wendy said “Tom you have excellent taste. It’s just right, as usual.”
Tom nodded, set the picture down on his counter, tore of some brown paper from a roll and covered the drawing all around, taping it securely. He handed a bill to Brian who quickly paid it, and they left.
Before going home Brian stopped off at this bank and took out a large chunk of money.
When they reached home there was a message on Brian’s phone from Tom Wong informing him that Wong’s partner Lawrence Schaeffer, had spoken with his friend in New Haven who was fairly certain that he had the name of the person behind the campaign to bring Christy back to Connecticut.
“Wendy, does the name Roderick Quinn mean anything to you?”
“No. Roderick Quinn? No, not a thing. Why?
“Schaeffer’s friend in New Haven thinks he’s the man behind this campaign in Connecticut.”
“Is Tom following through?”
“Yes, He said he was. There are probably more than one Roderick Quinns in the country, but if we can find him and he’s the man that will be a big step in the right direction.”
Christy sat quietly listening, with her drawing still in her lap.
“That it would” said Wendy. “But for now let’s all decide where we’re going to hang Christy’s picture then relax and pretend we’re getting married tomorrow.”
“Put it someplace nice” said Christy.
“How about where that covered bridge etching is by the front door. That way they can see it when they come in.”
“What will you do with the bridge picture?” Wendy asked.
“I’ll put it n the bedroom tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, or the day after that, or sometime next week.”
“Very enterprising of you.”
So they took down the etching, carefully took the paper off of Christy’s picture and hung it up
“What do you think, Christy?”
“It makes me feel like an artist.”
They made some drinks and settled down in the living room for a nice, well needed rest. But it wasn’t to last long.
The doorbell rang. Christy jumped up and said “I’ll get it.” She skipped to the door and opened it. “It’s flowers!” she said and came back into the room followed by Lee Walsh with his arm full of flowers.
“The flowers you ordered, Mr. Sims.”
“Oh, good” said Brian. “What shall we do with them?”
“Let’s put them out by the pool until we decide” said Lee.
“Sure” said Brian and opened the door to the pool. Right away Todd Cromwell came through the front door with another armload of flowers and went directly out to the pool as Lee went back out to the truck.
It was a dazzling half an hour of back and forth to the truck but eventually the pool area was loaded with flowers, pots, bouquets, baskets, vases large and small, single blossoms and all sorts of arrangements.
Brian, Wendy and Christy just stood in a safe place and watched in amazement. Eventually there were so many flowers out there they couldn’t see the pool.
Lee looked at Wendy and said “Hi. I’m Lee and this is my partner Todd. Are you the bride?”
“Yes. Wendy’s my name. Nice to meet you.”
Then he looked at Christy “And who are you?”
“I’m Christy. Nice to meet you.” She shook hands with both of them.
“All right” said Lee, “now where is the ceremony to take place?”
“I don’t think we thought of that” said Brian.
“Well, how many people are you expecting?”
“I don’t know. Maybe 15, maybe 25, maybe more.”
“Uh huh” said Lee. He touched the tips of two fingers to his forehead.
“I thought we could have the reception around the pool and in the backyard. We have tables and chairs to set up. It will probably be a buffet in the dining room.”
“Ah! May I suggest” said Todd “that you get married in the backyard? It’s very nice and there’s lots of room.”
Brian looked at Wendy. She nodded.
“I hope it doesn’t rain” said Brian.
But Christy said “It won’t rain.”
“She’s our resident meteorologist” said Wendy.
“Okay” said Lee, “how will you dress?”
“Good. Well we can start decorating.”
Brian said “Let me get the Romeros to help you.”
When Brian brought Mrs. Romero into the room she looked out at the pool, put her hands on both cheeks and went “Oooo!”
Mr. Romero came in with a big smile and said “Must be big celebration, no?”
Lee went into the pool area and took two small flowers and handed them to Mrs. Romero saying “These are for the bride and groom and, wait.” He poked around with his clippers, snipped off a length of white blossoms, twisted them into a circle and said “and this is for the young one. Please put them in the refrigerator until tomorrow.”
“Of course, yes.” She took them to the kitchen.
For the next hour Lee and Todd with Juan’s help rearranged Brian’s house, moving things on the tables and desk to accommodate vases and baskets as they filled the house with flowers. Everywhere one looked there were flowers. They even had some floating in the pool.
When they were finished Wendy said “I feel like I’m living in a garden.”
“That’s the general idea” said Lee.
“It all looks wonderful.”
“Can we offer you a drink, some dinner?” said Brian.
“Thank you, but we’ll be off. Congratulations and best wishes to you” said Lee.
“And much happiness” echoed Todd. And they left.
“Mr. Three Toes” said Wendy “you are a high class act.”
The next morning, at the first grin of dawn, everyone was up and busy except for Brian. He was still asleep. But he gradually woke up and realized that he was alone. He slowly slid out of bed, sat on the floor staring out the bedroom window and wondered why there was a knot developing in his stomach. Then it dawned on him that it was his wedding day. It was supposed to be a joyous day. So why was he nervous? Maybe, he thought, I should just run out the back door and take off for Canada. But I don’t want to leave Wendy and Christy. Maybe I could take them along. But then maybe I should just stay here and get married.
Having pieced out the logic of that problem in his half asleep brain, he rose, took a shower, dressed and went to the kitchen where he found Wendy and Christy having a light breakfast.
The Romeros had obviously been up for hours. The ham was cooked and the turkey was already in the oven. Mr. Romero and the four men from his church were out in the back setting up chairs. There were tables leaning against the fence waiting.
After they cleaned up from breakfast, Mrs. Romero started putting piles of plates and cutlery on the table. Brian was amazed. He hadn’t even thought about the need for extra plates, napkins and things.
The Romeros seemed to be taking care of everything. They sure deserve a raise, he thought. This reminded him of something.
He went to the back and motioned Juan to come over to him. Then he took out his wallet, removed a wad of 100 dollar bills, handed them to Juan and said “I will probably forget in the excitement, so here’s some money for the men you hired.”
Juan looked at the money and said “Thank you. You’re very generous, sir.”
“I hope so.” He turned and went back into the kitchen.
“Mrs. Romero” he said “are you getting the help you need.”
“Oh yes, sir. Later the man will come in when I need him. He’s with Juan now. He works in a kitchen. So will be big help.”
Brian went and found Wendy and Christy in the living room admiring the flowers. Christy wanted to know the names of all of them. Wendy knew what some of them were but not others.
“Brian, do you know what these flowers are called? Christy wants to know.”
“No, these are all just flowers to me. I don’t think I should have asked Lee to put names on all of them.”
“No” said Wendy “that wouldn’t be appropriate. People would think we were trying to sell them.”
“Sorry Christy, I can’t help you. They’re all Greek to me.”
“No. That’s just an expression. It’s from Shakespeare. It means I don’t understand them.”
“You don’t know what they’re saying?”
“Oh, I know what they’re saying. I just don’t know their names. Now you take these small pink ones over here. This one is saying ‘I might be small and humble but if you get to know me I have bright colors that dazzle your eye.’ That’s sort of like you, Christy.”
Brian then said “It’s too early yet but I wish I had a drink to bolster me.”
“You need bolstering?” asked Wendy.
“I was thinking of taking my last swim as a single man, but the pool is full of flowers.”
“Why don’t you just have another cup of coffee and relax?”
“I’m getting married today. Who could relax?”
“Okay. You just sit there and be nervous and I’ll go relax for the two of us.” Wendy went off to the bedroom.
“She’s so cool” said Christy.
“Yes she is.”
“What happens after the wedding?”
“Then we have a party.”
“Then we relax. But first we clean up.”
“Aren’t ‘cha gonna have a honeymoon?”
“We didn’t plan on it.”
“I think you should have a honeymoon. Go someplace.”
“I don’t know. Some place nice.”
“Well, maybe we’ll take a drive out to the country tomorrow. But we both have things to do, so we can’t be away for long.”
“Christy did Lee and Todd put any flowers in your room?”
“I’ll bet you could make some mighty nice drawings.”
“You mean of flowers?”
“Oh. Okay. I’ll do that tomorrow while you’re out driving.”
Later that morning the door bell rang. Brian and Christy both went to answer it and it was the postal worker with a large packet of mail: telegrams, cards and letters. Brian took it and put it on his desk along with the other mail that had been pouring in since the wedding invitations went out. Brian glanced at the telegrams. They were all congratulating him and Wendy on their marriage. There were too many cards and letters to look at. He would have to go through them another day, perhaps Monday. He wrapped a rubber band around the stack and left it on his desk. In among the letters was a stinger which he wouldn’t know about for a few days.
Brian went to the front door and opened it. He looked out at the sky and saw that it was a bright, sunny day. Christy was right, as usual, there would be no rain. He went into the kitchen to fetch another cup of coffee. He saw a large coffee urn sitting on the kitchen table. “Where did we get that?” he asked.
“One of the men brought it” said Mrs. Romero.
“Ah, good, coffee for a mob.”
The doorbell rang. Both Brian and Christy went to answer it. It was Judge Parks and his wife Felicity. Brian was glad to see them. He was also pleased to see that they were casually dressed and that the judge was not wearing his robes. He ushered them in.
“Well, you’re the first to arrive” he said.
A moment later Wendy came out of the bedroom looking beautiful.
“I heard the door bell. Hello Judge, Mrs. Parks.”
“Or Plum” said Judge Parks. “That’s what I call her.”
Plum looked amusedly embarrassed.
“And I’m Allen.”
“Well” said Brian, “Lee and Todd my designers have determined that we should do it in the back yard. So let me take you out there and see what you think.”
They went out there and Judge Parks suggested setting up the chairs so that there would be an aisle down the middle. Wendy and Brian thought that was agreeable so Brian went off to tell Juan. Wendy offered them a coffee and the four of them headed for the dining room. When Brian came back in he said “One of us should probably greet people as the come.”
“I can do that” said Christy.
“Okay” said Brian. “But wait.” He went into the kitchen and returned with the flowery circle Lee had arranged for Christy to wear.
“Here.” He placed it on Christy’s head. She looked very pretty, but she looked up at him with a very serious expression.
“What is it?”
“I was just remembering the last time you put a hat on my head.”
“When was that?”
“On the mountain.”
[The girl stood up and looked. She was wearing boots, corduroy trousers and a thick shirt, but not thick enough for this weather. Brian took off his back pack, zipped it open and fished out a sweater. It was way too big for her but he rolled up the sleeves. Then he found his blue knitted cap put it on her head and pulled it down over her ears. She placed a hand against her cheek and pushed her dark hair back behind her ears on both sides of her head.]
“Oh yes. You’re right. I remember”
“I still have that cap. You want it back?”
“Okay. I’ll keep it to remember.”
The door bell rang again and Christy was off in a flash to answer it.
As the guests arrived Brian and Wendy mingled with them. One of Juan’s men had set up a serve yourself bar in the dining room and Mrs. Romero had put some crackers and dip and other munchables on it.
Christy was greeting everyone and shaking hands with all of them.
Tom Wong arrived by himself and said to Brian “I’m leaving something on your desk. No need to look at it now. It isn’t urgent.” He took a piece of folded paper from his pocket, moved over to Brian’s desk and placed it on top of the pile of letters. He gently cupped his hand under one of the flowers on the desk, leaned over and whiffed it.
Myron Bloom came with a little blonde, fluffy bit of arm candy called Rebecca and found his way immediately to the bar.
Brian’s house was now filling up with people, chatting away with each other.
When Brian and Wendy were out at the pool with Tom looking at the flowers floating in it a female voice behind them said “Wendy, are you really going to marry this old hunk o’ junk?”
They turned to find sister Louise and brother-in-law Jason. Brian and Louise hugged each for a long time. Finally they broke the embrace. Louise held on to his arms, looked up at him with tears on her face and said “Oh. Brian. I am so happy for you.”
“Thank you Sis.”
“I never thought it would happen again. But here we are to see it.”
Then Louise turned to Wendy and said “Congratulations Wendy. You are marrying a particular hero of mine.”
“I know. Mine too.”
They were introduced to Tom Wong and meandered around meeting people and talking with them,
Brian and Wendy wandered into the library to greet a few more newcomers. Among them was Rebecca looking over Brian’s shelves of books.
“You like books?” asked Wendy.
“Ooo, yes” she said. They look so interesting.”
While they were still in the library, Christy came running in, tugged at Brian’s sleeve and said “Mom, Dad, come quick.”
“What?” said Brian. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s the chief and – and - and Laughing Woman!”
“No, no, come on.”
They went quickly to the front hall and found Chief Running Bear and Laughing Woman standing there, looking around.
“Chief” said Brian “what a surprise and pleasure to see you two.”
“We have come to share your happiness.”
“Thank you Chief. We are honored.”
Laughing woman was holding a blanket which she offered to Wendy saying, “Please accept this. I wove it last year. The symbols say ‘Blessings from The Great Spirit’.”
“Thank you” said Wendy. “I am pleased and proud to have it.”
“Come and meet our friends” said Brian.
They moved into the living room where Brian found Tom Wong talking with a group of people. “Tom” he called.
Tom excused himself from the group and came over.
“Chief, I’d like you to meet Thomas Wong, my attorney. Tom this is Running Bear, Navajo Chief of the Dine Reservation of Colorado and his wife Laughing Woman.”
Tom and Running Bear shook hands.
“It is a pleasure to meet you Chief. Brian told me of the visit he made to you and the help you rendered.”
“My people were happy to be of assistance to them.”
“You have come quite far to be here.”
“Not far. We have family out west. We will visit them tonight.”
Myron Bloom came over to find out what was happening.
“And this is Myron Bloom, producer of my films. Myron this is Chief Running Bear of the Navajo and his wife Laughing Woman.”
“Well, Chief, came to see them get hitched up, did you?”
“Yes, we came to see them hitched up.”
“Can I get you a drink, Chief” said Myron.
“No thank you.”
Brian and Wendy took them around to meet Judge Parks and Felicity. Then he introduced them to a few other people. After a while the Chief was in conversation with Judge Parks about things so Brian went to make himself a drink while Wendy took the blanket to the bedroom and Christy went back to her duty at the door.
Brian found Myron at the bar refilling his glass.
“That Chief is one imposing son of a bitch” said Myron.
“Yes he is, and watch your tongue around him please.”
“Don’t worry, old socks, I’ll behave myself.”
“Speaking of behavior” said Brian “how are you and Tom getting along here?”
“Tom and I always get along in our nasty back biting manner.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“Listen Brian, don’t you ever tell Tom this, because he’ll take advantage of me in his clever, courtroom manner, but I actually like the guy.”
“Really? One would never know.”
“Well, you’ll soon know it. Tom and I have already agreed to sit down together and discuss you’re current mud puddle and see what we can come up with as a solution.”
“Right after you kiss the bride.”
Brian felt a surge of relief. The tension he didn’t realize he was feeling began to ebb with the news that Tom and Myron were not only going to talk to each other but they had Brian’s difficulties on the agenda.
“Now” said Myron, “where’s this wonder girl of yours?”
“Probably still by the front door.”
Myron went off to find her, drink in hand.
Brian wandered into the kitchen to see how things were going. He found Laughing Woman in there. “How are things, Mrs. Romero?”
“Everything is fine, sir” she said and turned her back to do something with Laughing Woman next to her also facing the other way. They were fussing over the stove.
So Brian went back into the living room and saw that everyone was busy talking to someone. He meandered around to see if anyone needed anything. Nobody paid any attention to him. As he wandered here and there he heard snatches of conversation.
Myron: “How long have you been doing that?”
Christy: “I don’t know. A few years I guess.”
Myron: “Is that what you want to do when you grow up?”
Christy: “I think so.”
Running Bear: “No, I am not a judge. We have a council that judges.
Tom: “What about sentencing? Who does that?”
Running Bear: “The council does, unless it’s a petty crime.”
Rebecca: “Are there any fish in this pond?”
Wendy: “It’s not a pond. It’s a swimming pool.”
Rebecca: “Oh. How can you swim in it with all those flowers?”
Felicity: “We plant as early as we can.”
A Woman: “But aren’t you worried about the cold mornings?”
Felicity: “We cover them if there is going to be a frost.”
A woman: “Isn’t that interesting?”
Myron: “That is one cool chick, that Christy. She’s dynamite.”
Tom: “So I’ve been told.”
Myron: “Go meet her. Talk to her.”
Tom: “I will.”
Myron: “So tell me chief, do you get into town much?”
Tom: “Brian tells me he thinks he’s found a good school for you>”
Tom: “Are you looking forward to going back to school?”
Christy: “I like school. I hope it’s good.”
Allen: “She seems very bright for her age.”
Wendy: “Super bright. You have to listen carefully to keep up.”
No one was paying any attention to Brian so he went out, sat by the pool and had a cigarette.
After a while he went to the door and said “Christy, I think everybody who is coming is here, so why don’t you come in and join the crowd?”
“Okay.” She stood up from the bench, took Brian’s arm and they strode back into the living room. Naturally, with Christy on his arm, he was more noticeable. They wandered into the library where they found Wendy and Chief Running Bear talking about the raid on Saint Jane’s. Christy didn’t want to listen to it, so she broke free from Brian’s arm and went somewhere else. Brian let her go.
Brian looked around and saw people talking with people, getting to know each other and having a good time. This is what it’s all about, he thought, people coming together to celebrate. It’s more than a marriage between two people. It’s a joining together of diverse spirits in a happy time.
The actual wedding, though so important to us, is just the key to celebrate life, what people should be celebrating every day.
The day was getting on. Brian looked at his watch, saw it was 2:15, found Wendy and said “You still have fifteen minutes if you want to slip out the back, get in your car and head for Canada.”
“Not without you and Christy” she said.
“Well then we might as well stay and get married. What do you think?”
“Okay” she said.
A few minutes later Judge Parks announced that the ceremony was about to take place if people would like to go into the back yard and find a seat. All except Myron put down their drinks. They all moved past the pool and into the area where the chairs were set up with an aisle down the middle.
Brian and Wendy went into the kitchen to get the flowers Lee had brought them to wear. Mrs. Romero was ready for them with the flowers and pins to attach them.
“You’re looking good councilor” said Brian.
“As are you Chief Three Toes. Shall we do it?”
“Let’s do it.”
They walked along the side of the pool, arm in arm, and into the back yard where Judge Parks was already standing at the front. They went down the aisle and took the places in front of him.
“Folks” said Allen Parks “we are here today to celebrate the lives of Wendy Klein and Brian Sims as they join together in matrimony. It is an honor for me to preside at this wedding. I have known Wendy for several years. She has argued cases in front of my bench and done so with fairness, honesty and respect. I have only recently become acquainted with Brian Sims but know him from his films as an excellent writer, with a keen sense of character and a poetic gift.
But it is not as lawyer and author that we find them here, but as two of the finest people you will ever know, two great souls who miraculously, or maybe not so miraculously, found each other after many years of being alone. Their story is a love story. And it is that love we are here to celebrate.
As we agreed among us not to make this an elaborate occasion I will not ask them if they promise to love and cherish each other. It is clear that they already do. So I will simply say Brian Sims do you take Wendy Klein as your lawfully wedded wife for as long as you shall live?”
“Wendy Klein do you take Brian Sims as your lawfully wedded husband for as long as you shall live?”
“Therefore by the powers vested in me by the laws of the State of California I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
They turned to face the group who applauded and cheered and then walked back up the aisle toward the pool. Christy was sitting at the back, between Running Bear and Laughing Woman. When he saw her Brian motioned her to join them. She did. Then they walked past the pool and into the living room where they stood in a line. Judge Parks, Wendy, Brian then Christy stood there as the people came by, each with a word of congratulations and good wishes.
Once inside the guests could smell food and went into the dining room where they found a table spread for a banquet. A ham sliced, a turkey, sliced, potato salad, egg salad, green salad with bean sprouts, a cold noodle dish, some greens with bacon chips, savory beets, enchiladas, lasagna, fish cakes, mussels in wine sauce, two kinds of fresh bread still warm from the baking, stacks of plates and cutlery wrapped in napkins and fresh glasses. Mrs. Romero was standing there with a pleased, smug smile on her face.
As the back yard emptied out of the celebrants, Juan and the four men from his church quickly set up the tables and chairs.
When the last people made it through the reception line Judge Parks found his wife and went into the dining room. Wendy and Christy started for the dining room, Brian headed for the front door.
“Brian, aren’t you gonna’ eat with us?” asked Christy
“Yes, but first I need a cigarette.”
“Okay, we’ll save you a place.”
Brian stood outside his house, lit up a cigarette and began to relax.
Brian, what have you done? he asked himself. You got married again, did you? At 70 years old you’re a newly wed. Who would believe it?
He also had to admit that it was as much for Christy as for himself or Wendy that he did it.
He felt anxious still about the adoption. He hoped that it could be done quickly. Something had to put a stop to this nonsense in Connecticut. At least now the court would be able to see that she was going into the home of a respectable married couple, if that mattered to the court.
He wondered who this Roderick Quinn was that was causing so much trouble. He hoped Tom had come up with some information for him. He wanted to go to his desk and look at the paper Tom had left. But he resisted. This was a day for Wendy, Christy and friends. He mustn’t be unfair to them
He listened to the hubbub inside his house. So many people, so many friends wishing me well, he thought. There was no thought of relaxing into old age. There is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of responsibility to bear, a lot of life to live. Better get moving.
There was no ash tray out in the front so he pushed his cigarette butt down deep into the dirt of the potted plant in front of the house and went inside.
He saw smiling people with plates of food heading for the back yard. When he entered the dining room and looked at the table he was amazed. He looked over at Mrs. Romero and said “Mrs. Romero you have made a miracle here.”
“Thank you, sir” she said smiling.
He took a plate of food and went into the back yard where he saw a table with Wendy, Christy and Laughing Woman sitting and eating. Christy waved and called his name. He went over and sat with them. He looked over at the far corner where he saw Running Bear, Tom, Myron and Rebecca at one table. A Chinese/American attorney, a Jewish motion picture producer, a Navajo Chief and a little blonde “starlet” all dining together. “Only in America” he said.
“What was that?” asked Wendy.
“I was just remarking at the odd collection of people at that far table, Myron with his little blonde and Tom Wong. The Chief is with them and seems to be enjoying himself.”
“He likes to meet new people” said Laughing Woman. “He’s very interested in people.”
“He seems like a very good man, Laughing Woman.”
“He is a very good man, and please call me Betty. I owe him my life.”
“How is that?” asked Wendy.
“One day in the smoke house he had a vision that he would meet his wife on that day. He went out walking and saw me. I was trapped against a wall by a bad snake.”
“Ew!” said Christy.
“He killed the snake, held out his hand, I took it and we’ve been together ever since.”
“Was he chief at that time?”
“Oh no, we were just kids. His name was Henry Snow.”
“How did he get to be called Running Bear?”
“Oh, that was very funny. One day a big brown bear came into the reservation. There were children there and some women, but no one had a gun. So he chased the bear away by running after it, shouting and flapping his arms like some great bird. It was so funny. Everyone was laughing except the bear. But the bear kept running away from him and didn’t come back. So the Council changed his name to Running Bear. A few years later they made him Chief.”
“That’s an amazing story, Betty” said Wendy.
At that moment Myron Bloom stood up and got everyone’s attention.
“I would like to toast the bride and groom. It is a pleasure to toast this young couple just starting out in life. There they sit with their whole future before them. Two young kids pretending to be senior citizens. It’s quite an act and I’m sure they’ll play it well and not forget where they live, or leave their keys in the refrigerator or loose their marbles. I’m glad they’re in a one story house so they don’t have to climb stairs and wear themselves out before they get to the bedroom, and may they always be able to find each other in the dark. To Mr. and Mrs. Brian Sims.” He took a drink from his glass. People applauded.
Then Tom Wong stood up and said “I’d like to second Mr. Bloom’s toast, in intent if not in content. I’ve known both of these people for many years. Wendy has been an eager, efficient and amiable associate in my law firm for about 15 years and Brian has been a client of ours for almost that long. I know them both to be the best of people and I know they will be happy together. The love and respect between them is obvious. And the fact that they are opening the hearts and their home to the young orphan Christine Flynn over there is evidence of the true worth of these two terrific people. To Mr. and Mrs. Brian Sims.” More drinking, more applause.
The four men from Juan’s church were now being waiters, going around checking up on people to see if they needed anything.
“Is it all set that you are being here?” Betty asked Christy.
Christy looked up at Brian with a doubtful expression.
“Well, almost” he said. “She lives here but we’re waiting to get the adoption finalized. However, there’s a problem. There are people in Connecticut, where she came from, that want her to return and become the adopted daughter of the Governor. There’s a temporary delay on his adoption proceedings, but otherwise we’re not sure what to do.”
“Does the Chief know about that?”
“I think so. But if he doesn’t, he soon will. I think Tom and Myron are talking about it right now.”
The eating and drinking continued. People were going back for refills of food and drink. Everyone was having a good time and no one was getting drunk.
Some folks were returning with cups of coffee. When others saw that they went in and got some for themselves. Brian knew the big urn must be up and working. When everyone had enough to eat and the plates were being cleared away Mrs. Romero came and got Brian’s attention. She wanted him to tell people to come and see the cake. A cake! Brian thought. Of course, there was a wedding cake. He had forgotten that Mrs. Romero said she would make one. He followed her into the dinning room and there was a magnificent large double layer chocolate cake with trimming along the edges. On the top it said “Brian and Wendy” in bright white color, and on the lower layer, along the side it said “and Christy” which when Christy saw she gave one of her universal smiles.
So Brian invited everyone in for the cutting of the cake. Mrs. Romero was standing there, beaming with smiles. A tall glass of hot water with a knife in it was sitting on the table. And when all the oohs and ahs were done she handed the knife to Brian who cut neatly and cleanly into the cake. He dipped the knife into the hot water again, made another cut, carefully lifted out a slice of cake, put it on a plate and handed it to Wendy. He dipped the knife again and cut another piece for Christy. Then he handed the knife to Mrs. Romero who continued to cut slices. Every now and then Juan would bring her a fresh glass of hot water and take the other one away.
Brian stepped away from the table.
“Aren’t cha gonna have a piece of cake?’ asked Christy.
“I sure am, sweetheart, but right now I’m gonna have a cigarette.”
Brian stepped outside again where it was cool and quiet. The short explanation about Connecticut had upset him a bit. He didn’t want to mar the day by bringing it up, but since Betty asked he had to.
Now he had a sense of foreboding. He felt that there was something wrong, but he couldn’t identify it. A quiet fear, like the rumbling of a distant storm, nagged at him. He wanted to discard it somehow, fling it from his front door out into the air and let it blow away.
But he carefully put the cigarette out and went back inside. He took a plate with a piece of cake on it and went back to his table. On the way he noticed that Rebecca was sitting by the pool having her cake and being talked up by one of Brian’s younger friends. Brian smiled and when he got back to his table he looked over to the corner of the back yard. He saw the three men in intense conversation. He decided to leave them alone. He sat down to eat his cake.
When Christy had finished hers, she got up and went into the dining room. After a moment she came back out with a tray and three plates with cake on them. She took it to the table where the three men were talking and served them each with cake, forks and napkins, then took the tray back to the kitchen. The three of them dug right into the cake.
Brian caught Juan’s eye, who came over to him “Yes sir.”
“Juan would you or one of your men see if the three fellows at that far table want some coffee, and if so would you bring it to them? I don’t want them to be disturbed.”
Juan went over to the table, spoke briefly and went to the dining room. Brian could see Myron gesturing intently with his fork. Juan returned right away with a tray containing two cups of coffee, milk and sugar. He placed it down and walked away.
Brian was tied up with curiosity about what was being discussed over there. Were they talking politics, baseball or about his dilemma? But still he decided to leave them alone and so he did, until he heard a sharp whistle. He looked over and Myron was beckoning to him. He went over and sat.
“That is a remarkable youngster” said Tom. “I really think we should keep her here. We’ve been discussing this problem and we have some ideas. Chief?”
Chief Running Bear said “I will talk to Star Feather tomorrow and he will tell us something. It will help if I have a thing of the young one that she doesn’t need, for him to hold.”
“I’ll ask her” said Brian and stood up.
“But then come back” said Tom. “We need to talk.”
Brian went over to Christy who was sitting and talking with Wendy and Laughing Woman.
“What’s going on here? Girl talk?”
“Yup” said Christy.
“Christy, the Chief wants to talk to Star Feather tomorrow about you, but he needs something of yours that you can part with.”
She thought for a moment then got up and ran off to her room, returning with a drawing of a tree which she had signed.
“Will this do?” she asked.
“Let’s go find out.”
They took the drawing over to the Chief. He looked at it, smiled and said “May I fold it?”
“Yup” said Christy.
“Thank you.” He folded the paper and put it in his pocket.
Christy went back to her table. Brian sat down with the men.
Tom Wong spoke first. “Brian, one of the papers I gave you when I came in is an account of what we have been able to find out about this Roderick Quinn fellow. There isn’t much to tell. There are a number of them, but only a few that have any connection with New England. On a hunch I checked with DA Martinez to see if he was listed on Mother Magda’s list of clients to Saint Jane’s. No such name on it. And I left a profile of Governor Fremlich and his family. Nothing there that I can see. But have a look at it anyway.
It would be helpful if I had a copy of Christine’s birth certificate. Attorney Speziale is trying to pull some strings to get one from the Hartford City Hall.
I was in touch yesterday afternoon with my associate John Weymes in Bridgeport. He said that the challenge to Fremlich’s adoption attempt is going to run out in another week or so unless we can come up with some evidence to keep it active.
So, other than having a name of the alleged perpetrator of this scam, we are basically where we started.
Attorney Speziale of the local Bridgeport firm opined that if the girl on the tape they are playing all over Connecticut identifies herself as Christine Flynn and she, in fact, is not, there may be the opening for a suit. But it’s a flimsy possibility at this point. That ad is doing us the most harm and it’s done a lot of serious damage already.
Myron, who had been listening intently, leaned back in his chair with a smug smile on his face and said “Brian, now you listen to me young man.”
Myron went on “I can have a film crew here at the first sniff of dawn Monday morning. I want to do a 60 second ad with Christy talking about how she is the real Christine Flynn, showing where she lives, maybe a shot of you two guys, a picture of her room and this house, the neighborhood, does she go to school?”
“There’s a school down the street. I’m planning to enroll her for the summer.”
“Great. A shot of the school and whatever else your inventive mind and hers can come up with. Two days of shooting, back to the lab, I can have tapes on the air in Connecticut by Friday. I know it’s ambitious, but it’s only a minute of actual product and with Tom’s help over union contracts and all that nasty stuff it can be done.”
“Myron” said Brian, “you are determined to make Christy a movie star, aren’t you?”
“Well, I’m always looking. If she can be as ingenuous in front of a camera as she is with people, she’s a natural. I’ll call Lester Lynx. He can have ads in the local papers announcing the tape and when it will be on the air and on what stations.”
There was a long pause. “Well? What do you say?”
“Let’s ask her” said Brian.
The four men got up and moved over to the table where Christy was sitting with Wendy and Betty. They pulled up some chairs and sat down.
“What’s this” said Wendy “an invasion?”
“More or less” said Brian.
“To what do we own the pleasure of your company?”
“In our caucus over there we came up with an idea.”
“What’s a caw cuss?” asked Christy.
“It’s a meeting of people who have a united cause.”
“Christy, I don’t think I told you this before, but there’s a video being shown on Connecticut TV with a girl’s voice pretending to be you and saying how much she wants to return there.”
“No!” Christy was shocked and angry.
“Mr. Wong thinks it’s causing a lot of trouble for us, so Mr. Bloom here has the idea.”
“Christy” Myron spoke up, “I’m very glad I met you. Everyone has been saying what a great kid you are and now I know for myself. It would be a shame to have to lose you. Tom and I and the Chief here don’t want you to go back to Connecticut. And I know Brian and Wendy don’t. So here’s my idea. I want to make a video of you, saying that you’re the real Christine Flynn, and that you’re living here and this is where you want to be. We’ll show you, your room, this house, the neighborhood, even some of your art work if you like.”
“How about her swimming in the pool?” asked Brian.
“Great idea. We’ll even include these two mugs if it seems the right thing. What do you say?”
“What would I have to do?”
“Just talk into the camera as if you were talking to people. People, real people will be seeing it.”
“Who will see me?”
“The people in Connecticut who watch TV.”
“When do I have to do this?”
“Starting Monday morning. It should only take a couple of days.”
“What if I get it wrong, if I make a mistake?”
“It will be done in little, short scenes, if you make a mistake they’ll just do that scene over. But you won’t make any mistakes.”
“I think it’s a great idea” said Wendy.
“Yes, sweetheart, I do.”
“Okay, I guess.”
“Great” said Myron. “Why don’t the three of you spend the day tomorrow working out some sort of scenario, a script of sorts? The director will go through it with you when he gets here. Christy, all you have to do is be yourself and the film crew will take care of everything else. They know what they’re doing.”
“Good” said Brian, “then that’s settled.”
“Christy” said Tom, “did you have a birth certificate with you when you left Connecticut?”
“Yup. But I lost all that stuff when the plane crashed.”
“Well, that’s okay. My associate in Connecticut is trying to get a copy of it. They will have it on record at the City Hall in Hartford since you were born there.”
“But I wasn’t born there.”
“You weren’t born in Hartford? The girl on the video tape they have says she was born in Hartford.”
“No. I wasn’t even born in Connecticut.”
“Where were you born?”
“Albany, New York?”
“Yup. That’s where my parents were.”
“BINGO” said Myron.
“Well” said Tom if she’s not native to Hartford, or Connecticut, if she’s not even a native New Englander, their case is getting flimsy.”
“That info should be on the film, right away” said Myron.
“Okay” said Brian.
Myron went on “Let me call right now to set this up for Monday. It’s the day off for everybody so I’ll get a special crew out here. Some of the best.”
“Good” said Brian.
“And you get to work on a script in you own magical fashion.”
“Mr. Bloom” said Christy.
“I think Brian should have a star with his name in it on Hollywood Street.”
“Well if he keeps writing beautiful films then one day he probably will.”
“Hope so” she said.
Myron took his cell phone out and went off to call the studio to set up the shoot for Monday.
Tom Wong then said “Now that the two of you are living in wedded bliss, I’ll transfer the adoption papers over to reflect both of you.”
“Will that slow things down” asked Brian.
“No, in fact it might speed things up.”
“I hope so.”
“Well” Tom stood up “I’ll be going in a minute. I just want to check with Myron to see if he needs anything from me first. Congratulations. May you have much joy. Wendy, I won’t expect you back in the office until sometime after the film is shot.”
“Thank you Tom” she said.
Tom went over to sit with Myron.
“Brian?” asked Christy.
“What did he mean by ‘shot,’ do they use a gun?”
“No dear, it’s just an expression they use about the camera. There are no firearms involved.”
“Well” said Wendy “a lot of things have happened today. Not only did we get married and have a swell party, but we got Tom and Myron talking to each other in a friendly manner and we’re going to spend our honeymoon making a movie. I’m excited.”
“That calls for another drink” said Brian. So they got up and went to the bar, with Christy tagging along.
Chief Running Bear and Laughing Woman went with them but didn’t drink. Instead the Chief said “We will go now. We will ask the Great Spirit that you may have happiness in your new life together, We will call and tell you what Star Feather says. Little one” he said to Christy, “as you grow up don’t forget you are always welcome in our midst.”
“Thank you, Chief” she said.
They left. Brian and Wendy saw them out and then went into the living room and sat.
But they were soon standing up again as wedding guest were coming over to give their best wishes and make their departures.
Tom came up to them and said “Myron has everything under control so I might as well be on my way. It was a great wedding. I wish you both great happiness.” He left.
Guests kept coming up to them. Among them was Rebecca, who said “Thank you for inviting me to your party. It was fun. Where’s Myron?”
“He’s in the back yard making a phone call” said Brian.
“Oh” she said and went off to find him.
Soon after that Myron showed up with Rebecca on his arm. “Well’ he said “how do you like married life?”
“So far it’s great” said Brian,
“And will always stay that way. Monday morning Fairfield Parker, the director, will show up here with a film crew. There will be a lot of big, heavy equipment coming into your house, so be prepared.”
“Okay” said Brian.
Everything seemed to be turning out well. Why was there still a small knot of fear in his stomach?
The last of the wedding guests had left and so Brian and Wendy wanted to sit and rest. But Juan came into the room and said “Sir, my men would like to clean up in here.”
“Sure. Let’s go sit by the pool.” They went to the pool and Brian said “When will it be over?”
“What?” asked Christy.
“This party. I’m tired.”
“Me too” said Wendy.
“This getting married business is exhausting. I’m glad we don’t have to do it every day.”
Soon the living room was cleaned up, the glasses and plates collected, the tables and chairs from the garden folded and stacked, the leftover food wrapped and put away, and the four men from Juan came into the pool area. One of them said “We are finished here sir, unless there is something else.”
“No. Thank you” said Brian. “You guys have been wonderful.”
“Thank you, sir. May the Lord grant great happiness to you and your family.”
They left. Then Mrs. Romero came out to the pool to say “Sir, the cake is all gone, eaten up, but there’s plenty food in the frigerator.”
“Thank you Mrs. Romero. You and Juan were so helpful today with all those people here.”
“Oh, we had fun. So many people. Nice people.”
“So enjoy your day off. Rest.”
“Because Monday there are going to be more people coming.”
“A film crew is coming to do a movie about Christy. I don’t think they will need anything from you, but they’ll probably be in everyone’s way.”
“All right, sir. I’ll tell Juan.” She went back inside.
“Is Mr. Bloom gonna try and make me a movie star?”
“You want me to be a movie star?”
“I want you to be whatever you want to be, whatever you think is right for you. But if you become a movie star, who knows, you may get your own star on Hollywood Boulevard.”
“No. I want you to have the star.”
“Well, maybe, some day.”
“I hope I do okay on Monday.”
“You’ll probably do more than okay. Two things you need to know. There is always a lot of waiting around while the crew sets things up. So don’t get impatient or frustrated if you find yourself sitting for a long time doing nothing.”
“And the other thing is that when they shoot a scene they may do it many times until the director is satisfied. Which means you have to do the scene every time as if you were doing it for the first time.
“That sounds hard.”
“It is. But don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”
A few hours later there was a phone call. It was from a man who said he was Lucky Fairfield. At first Brian thought it was a wrong number until the guy said he was the director of the film. He told Brian he would be arriving at 7 a.m. on Monday morning to meet everyone and go over the script. A crew would be coming around 8. And Lucky said he wanted to check out the address just to make sure. He did, and they hung up.
After a light snack and couple of drinks Brian and Wendy retired to the bedroom and spent their wedding night in an immediate and delicious state of profound sleep.
Christy went to her room and started drawing one of the flowers.
The next morning Brian awoke to the aroma of breakfast. He went to the kitchen and found Wendy making a very large bowl of scrambled eggs and frying pieces of the ham. She also had toast popping with a “thunk” which she quickly buttered and put on a platter. The coffee pot was hissing and gurgling Jam was on the table along with plates, forks, knives, spoons, mugs and napkins. Our first morning as a married couple is looking good, he thought.
Soon Christy came in looking sleepy. “Morning” she said.
“Hey Christy” said Wendy, “you want some juice.”
“Orange or apple?”
“Okay, go sit down. You too” she said to Brian.
The three of them sat and had breakfast, Brian and Christy slowly waking up.
“Well” said Brain, “we have a big day.”
Christy looked up in concern “Are the movie people coming?”
“No, they’re coming tomorrow, but we have to write a script for them.”
So they spent the day talking about what could be on the film. Brian reminded them that it would only be a 60 second film when it was all done so they had to stick to important things.
At first they were thinking of having Christy just sit and talk about how she liked California and wanted to stay there.
Then it was suggested that she stand between them and do the talking.
“Why can’t I show them my room?” she asked.
Wendy thought that was a good idea and, “In fact, why doesn’t she take them on a brief tour of the house?”
“I guess so” said Brian, “but it will have to be brief.”
They spent some time discussing back and forth about which rooms to include in the tour. Then they gathered up some of the flowers from the wedding to put into Brian’s bedroom so that it wouldn’t look like a garden.
“Maybe she should show them the pool” said Wendy. “Do you think?”
“Oh yes, but if she does that, maybe they’d like to see her swimming in it.”
“Yeah!” said Christy.
“That means” said Wendy, “that we have to gather out all those flowers floating in it.”
“That’ll be a good project for after lunch” said Brian.
They went on discussing what should be in the film and then what Christy should say.
They agreed that she should say that she was the real Christine Flynn, that she was born in Albany, New York, that she only lived in Connecticut for a few years and that she now lives in California and wants to stay here. They discussed whether Brian and Wendy should appear in the film, and decided that if so, it would only be in passing and that they should be mentioned only in the context of Christy’s life.
After lunch they all got into bathing suits and slipped into the pool. They had a contest to see who could get the most number of floating plants out of the water. Wendy was first, Christy second and Brian last. He didn’t mind. His family was having fun together, and that’s what pleased him.
After dinner Wendy went through Christy’s closet with her to help her decide what to wear for the filming. Wendy thought the director might want her to change her costume at some point so they chose two outfits that Wendy was sure would be good, and Christy agreed.
They set their alarm clocks for 6 a.m. to be sure to be up and awake when the film crew arrived. They then went to bed.
At 7 a.m. the next morning they were up and ready when the doorbell rang. They all went to answer it. When they opened the door they found a man wearing Bermuda shorts, a flashy Hawaiian shirt and a cap that read Ocean World.
“Hi” he said “I’m Fairfield Parker, you can call me Lucky.”
“Good morning” said Brian. “Please come in.”
As they entered the house, Lucky went looking around and then followed them into the dining room.
“May I get you a coffee, or some breakfast Lucky?” asked Wendy.
No, thank you. You I know from your films. Great work. And you are?...”
“I’m Wendy, Brian’s wife. And this is Christy, the star of the show.”
Christy put out her hand. Lucky looked at it and then decided to shake it. He said “Well, thank God she’s a pretty girl. I may swoon.”
“Aren’t you the chicklet that escaped from that awful nunnery?”
“Well, bless your brave little heart. We’ll have to make this good. What are you wearing for the shoot?”
Christy stood. Lucky looked her up and down and said “Good. Do you have another outfit, just in case?”
“Good, good, good. Sit.” She did and then Lucky said “Now let’s have a gander at this script.”
Lucky slowly and carefully read through the script. At one point he said “You have a pool.”
“Yes” said Brian.
Lucky continued to read. When he finished he said “Christy, did you write this?”
“No’ she giggled.
“Wendy, you wrote it?”
“Some one else then. Well it’s damn good whoever wrote it.” He looked up with a half smile at Brian. Then he said “Why do I hear other people in the house?”
“The Romeros” said Brian. “They live here, take care of us and the house.”
“Are they in the flick?”
“No. I would guess they don’t want to be.”
“All right. Show me the set.” They all stood up.
Brian took Lucky through the living room, showed him the nook where his office was and then opened the door to the library. Lucky was taking notes on a small pad. He pointed with his little finger and said “We may have to move that table.”
“Fine” said Brian. “Whatever.”
From there they went out to the pool. Lucky walked down to the far end of it, looked back, took a small object out of his pocket, held it up and squinted through it, put it back in his pocket and made a note.
“Okay” he said. “What else.”
They went down the hall to Christy’s room. Lucky looked around, looked at the drawing Christy was working on, made a note and said “All right. Good, good, good. Back to the dining room we go.”
Once there Lucky said “Brian.”
Lucky stared at Brian for a moment, and then turned his gaze on to Christy. He stared intently at her. She stared back at him smiling.
“I have to run it past His Highness, the Great Mr. Bloom, but I want to do this with a hand held video camera.”
“Now fret not my boy. I have a great crew coming. They’re all chattering with glee about the overtime. It just means we can have a more personal product and can get it done faster.”
“Well, okay, if you say so.”
“I say so.”
Soon they heard the rumbling of trucks outside.
“Ah” said Lucky “here come the marines.”
He got up and went to the front door, opened it and shouted “This way you pirates!”
Soon the house filled up with crew people bringing in equipment and setting it down, going back out, bringing more equipment while Lucky was telling them where to put things, what to bring in and take back out again. It was clear that Lucky was used to giving orders and having them carried out and used to being respected by the people who worked for him.
He came back into the dining room and said “You people make yourselves invisible while we set up. We’ll shoot in here first so the caterers can set up for lunch. You, Little Diva, we’ll call you when we’re ready.”
“Let’s go out to the pool” said Brian.
Once out there Brain lit a cigarette and Wendy said “Lunch? Aren’t they getting ahead of themselves?”
“They’re always either ahead or behind” said Brain. “Let’s hope they stay ahead.”
More equipment was coming into the house now. The front door was wide open, cables were running out the door to the trucks below and very bright lights were turned on inside the living room and then turned off again. There was a great hubbub of conversation going on. Fairfield Parker was a general arming his troops for the ensuing battle.
A middle aged man wearing a smock came out to the pool and said “Christine?”
“Yes?” she said anxiously.
“Come with me please.”
She got up and followed him. More bright lights came on in another place.
Wendy said “I wish I knew what was going on.”
“Well, don’t worry” said Brian. “It all looks like the normal chaos to me.”
“I feel like we don’t belong in the house any more.”
“We don’t. Not until they’re finished.”
Christy came back out with a towel wrapped around her neck and chest. “He put make up on me” she said. “How do I look?”
“Stupendous” said Brian.
She wrinkled her nose “What does that mean?”
“It means you look beautiful” said Wendy.
“Sweetheart, we’re going to be just in the way while all of this is going on” said Brian. “So Wendy and I will probably not be around. We may go for a drive or something. But you’ll have plenty to do. You have your cell phone. Give us a call if you need us.”
“You’re not going to be here?”
“You can handle this alone. We won’t be gone. We’re just a phone call away.”
“Oh Christy, there’s nothing to be scared of, It’s not a fog to get lost in, you know.
She smiled with her head down and said “Thanks Dad.”
“Christine, we’re ready for you.” came a voice from inside the house.
She got up and went inside. Brian and Wendy followed her. They saw the lights shining on the dining room and people standing around. They saw the camera and the boom microphone on the floor leaning against a big black box. There was a woman peering through the camera. As they passed Lucky said “Maxine?”
“Meet Brian Sims and Wendy”
Oh ho” she said. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Maxine is the cinematographer, and she’s damn good.”
“Good to meet you Maxine” said Brian.
“We’re going out in order not to be in the way” said Wendy.
“Good, good, good” said Lucky.
“When can we come back?”
“We’ll shut down around 4 o’clock.”
“Miss Flynn. Over here please.”
Christy went into the dining room and, squinting into the lights,
looked back at Brian and Wendy with a frightened look.
“Maybe we should hang around for a while” said Brian, “until she gets used to things.”
“Okay” said Wendy.
So they stayed out of sight and let Fairfield Parker work his magic..
“Christy” he said “I want you to sit sideways in that chair and tell me about the dining room.”
“It’s where we eat.”
“How does it feel?”
“It feels nice. It’s comfortable in here.”
“Tell that to the camera.”
Christy looked at the camera and said “It’s…it’s nice. Comfortable” and looked back at Lucky.
“Christy, don’t tell me. Tell Maxine. She’s down at the other end of that lens looking at you. Tell her.” Maxine waved.
“Okay.” Christy looked right at the camera and said “It’s nice. It’s comfortable.”
“Excellent!” said Lucky.
“Now I want you to come over here. Stand here, and when I tell you I want you to walk in there, sit down on the chair and say what you said and then get up and walk back here. The camera will follow you. Don’t hurry.”
“Go.” Christy walked into the room, sat down and said “It’s nice. It’s comfortable” then stood up and walked out of the scene.
“How was that?” Christy asked.
“Great. Now I want you to sit in the chair for a moment while we take care of some things, and then come over here and do the scene once more. Christy went and sat.
“Boom!” said Lucky.
“Boom” said Christy.
The boom mike was lifted and appeared over her head.
“What’s that?” She asked, looking up at it.
“It’s the microphone. Don’t worry, it’s not going to fall on your head, I promise.”
“Ready” a voice from the back said.
“Christy say your line.” She did a couple of times.
“Got it” said the voice.
“She’s spritzing” said Maxine.
“Make up” ordered Lucky. The man with the frock came forward with a puff and daubed it on Christy’s face, then stepped back.
“Okay” said Lucky, let’s do it. Come here Christy.” She did.
“Now you remember what you’re going to do?”
“Okay. Quiet please. Roll.
“Speed” said Maxine.
“Christy walked into the dining room, sat in the chair sat down and said “It’s nice here” put her hand on the table and said “It’s comfortable” smiled and after a short moment got up and walked off.
“Good, good, good” said Lucky. “Now Christy, that was excellent. I want you to do the same thing, twice more.”
After doing it twice more Lucky said “Set up the living room.” He said to Christy. “That was very good. Now go sit down and wait somewhere while we get ready for the next scene.”
Christy spied Brian and Wendy and went over to them “You’re still here. Did you see that?”
“Yes, dear one” said Brian. “You did very well.”
“Thanks. This is fun, mostly. I’m cool. Have a nice drive. Okay?”
“Okay. See you later.”
As they left Wendy said “I think she’s a little embarrassed at having us there watching her.”
At 4 0’clock they came back, after a pleasant drive around the countryside that seemed like a vacation from all the turmoil of movie making and other things. When they got there they found that the trucks were gone, the front door was closed and all the movie people had left.
They entered the house and heard voice coming from the pool. Out there they found Fairfield “Lucky” Parker and Maxine sitting around having coffee and talking.
How’s it going?” asked Brian.
“It’s done” said Lucky.
“You mean all done?”
Yes, yes. yes. We wrapped about three fifteen or so.”
“Wow!” said Brian.
“Not so wow” said Lucky.
“What do you mean?”
“The wow goes to the leading lady. That little leprechaun is amazing.”
“Yes” said Brian, “people have a tendency to say that. Was she good?”
Maxine spoke up “Once she got used to looking into the camera and not at Lucky she became a natural.”
Lucky added “She not afraid of asking questions.”
“No. She’s quite curious most of the time. Did you have any trouble?”
“Only here at the pool because we had to keep repositioning the camera. And every time she got out of the pool she started steaming from the hot lights.”
“They had to dry her off before we could shoot drying off” said Maxine with a laugh.
“Where is she?” asked Wendy.
“I think she’s taking a bath” answered Maxine.
“Good for her” said Brian, “relaxing and washing off a day’s work.”
“Well” said Lucky, “The tape is in the lab. Tomorrow we edit and make magic. If all goes tickety-poo it’ll be done by Wednesday. If you invite me to dinner I’ll bring it over to show you.”
“Consider yourself invited. Maxine?”
“Thank you but I’m a working girl. I’ll be off again to Vancouver tomorrow morning.”
“Anything interesting?” asked Brian.
“Who knows? It’s a dog film. Bunch of trained huskies.”
“Can I offer you a drink?
“Not I” said Lucky. “I just stayed to tell you that we’re done. I think it’s divine, but we’ll see on Wednesday. Ta Ta.”
“No, thank you. I’m off. Good to meet you Brian. Loved ‘Miracles.’
Good luck with your new one.”
They both left.
Right after that there was a plaintive cry from Christy’s room. “Wendy!”
Wendy got up and went into Christy’s room. A few moments later she came out and headed for the other bedroom.
“What’s the trouble?” asked Brian.
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
Another moment and Wendy came out of the bedroom carrying a jar and went back into Christy’s room.
Brian decided it was time to go through the huge stack of mail that had accumulated on his desk. He sat down opened the first letter and read a congratulations on his marriage from someone he sort of knew. The same with the next few letters, short notes and a few telegrams. There was a nice note from Alice Foster. There was even a telegram from Launce Lojak.
After a while Wendy came out of the other room.
“What was that all about?” asked Brian.
“She tried to wash the makeup off her face with soap. It just gummed up on her and got into her hair. I went after it with the cold cream and now she’s washing up again. She’ll be out soon.”
Brian showed Wendy the note from Alice Foster and a few of the others from people she would know.
When Christy came out of her room she was wearing her bathrobe with a towel wrapped around her head.
Brian said “Now all you need is shades and you’d look like a proper movie star.”
“I don’t want to be a movie star.”
“It’s too hard. I had to do everything over and over again. The made me jump in the pool and swim out, I don’t know how many times. And it’s hard to smile and look happy when you don’t feel like it. And I hated all that gunk on my face.”
“Well, you don’t have to do it again. Lucky said you were very good so the job is done.”
“Okay. Can I have something to eat?”
“If course, sweetheart” said Wendy. “There’s a lot of wedding food left over. Come.”
They went off to the kitchen to find Mrs. Romero. Brian went back to looking through his mail. After a few more pieces he came upon something that gripped his stomach and made his hands shake. It was a letter addressed to him from the Connecticut Circuit Court, Hartford, He opened it, read it and was shocked.
“Doc. No. FCN/8077604 - 90z
To: Mr. Brian Sims
Pursuant to the finalization of the adoption proceedings involving Governor and Mrs. Edward Fremlich and one Christine Flynn currently at your address, and according to Statute No. 40065 of Connecticut Sate Law, this court has granted total custody of the aforementioned Christine Flynn to Governor Fremlich and his assigns, to take effect immediately.
You will shortly be informed when, how and in what manner the aforementioned Christine Flynn and her moveable possessions will be transported to Hartford, Connecticut.
At that time please make sure, if at all possible, that Miss Flynn has her luggage packed and is ready to depart. Such conditions will greatly assist in the transition.
Hon. Taylor Blake, Judge
First Circuit Court
Brian put the letter down and dropped his head into his hands.
There is too much trouble, he thought, TOO MUCH TROUBLE. Why can’t they just leave us alone? I feel like everything is coming apart and I can’t do anything about it. After what I have done for this child, how can they just summarily take her away with one bang of a gavel? No. NO! I carried her through the wasteland and no one else did. No one else has the right. I could have died back there in the wilderness, when she couldn’t walk.
[Don’t slip. Don’t drop her. One foot, Then the next foot. Slowly. Carefully. Don’t think about anything else. Just one step at a time. Forever if you need to. This is your life now. One foot. The other foot. Don’t think about any thing. Don’t think about the pain. Don’t think about the injury. Don’t think about the hunger. Don’t think about the cold. Don’t think about the rain. Forget all of it. Just one step. And then another step. That’s all that your life is now. Just one step. And another. And another. Forever.]
Now, too young to be responsible for herself, she needs to be in my arms again, and no one else’s.
Wendy came back from the dining room and said “A turkey sandwich, potato salad, an apple and a glass of milk. That should do it for a hungry girl.”
“Wendy, look at this.” He handed her the letter. She read it and said “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
“What does it mean?”
“It means the Governor has made an end run around Tom’s effort to slow down the adoption process. Once she’s living under his roof, the court won’t listen to any objections.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know. Let me call Tom first thing in the morning. Maybe he can have John Weymes file an appeal. It’s a slim chance but short of that I don’t see there’s anything we can do.”
There was a long silence. Finally Brian spoke softly. “Maybe we should reconsider.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. It seems that this Fremlich is determined to have Christy. They can, no doubt, give her a good home. She’ll have all kinds of opportunities and advantages. The Fremlichs are probably younger folks. Besides, Christy had friends there, in Connecticut. She has no friends here, except for us. The Fremlichs will probably let her have Flicker, her kitten. I don’t know. I think she would be happy there. What do you think?”
“And for whom did you lose two toes?” answered Wendy. “And for whom did you get hit over the head and left for dead? And for whom were you willing to pay a thousand dollars just to see her for an hour? And what about this Roderick Quinn? Who is he?”
“He’s a phantom.”
Brian took the papers that Tom had brought him. The top sheet was a list of the Robert Quinns that had anything to do with New England.
“One moved to Canada years ago, another is a night watchman in Boston, another retired and now lives in North Carolina, another is an elementary school teacher in Meriden, and so on. Nobody seems to have the kind of money or position in life to make this kind of trouble.”
“What’s the other paper?”
Brian looked at it. “Oh, it’s just a short genealogy of Fremlich’s family. He and his wife Bertha have been married for 27 years, no children. She has a twin brother, Brad, unmarried. Parents now deceased. Fremlich has two sisters, one deceased, one married to a Sylvester, last name, three children. That’s about it.”
“Not much help either way.”
“No.” There was another pause.
“So what do you think about letting them have her?”
“I think you need a drink.”
While Wendy fixed a couple of drinks, Brian glanced through the pages once again, then folded them and put them in a small drawer on the side of his desk.
When Wendy returned she said “Now Mr. Three Toes let me say something. I know you to be a fighter and a survivor. So is Christy and so am I. That’s an army of three. Plus we have Tom and his office, Mad Man Bloom and his company, the Romeros and an Indian tribe on our side. That’s a formidable force to fight any phantom Roderick Quinn.”
At that moment Christy came out of the dining room.
“Hi Christy” said Brian. “Feeling better?”
“Yup. Cept I’m tired. I want to work on my picture then go to bed.”
Christy gave Wendy a hug, then gave Brian a hug, then said “I love you both.” She went down the hall to her room and closed the door.
“Now Brian, do you really want to send that back to Connecticut?”
“Of course not.”
“You know what I think?”
“I think that if we sent her to Connecticut, within 3 weeks, a month at the most, maybe sooner, she would be back here on our doorstep, even if she had to hitchhike, God forbid.”
“I guess you’re right. I know you’re right.”
“So let’s not think about that again. I’ll call Tom tomorrow morning and tell him what’s up. He’ll have some answer. And if he doesn’t, he’ll come up with one. “Now let’s have a nice evening together.”
They did and the next morning after breakfast Wendy went into the bedroom so Christy couldn’t hear and read Tom the document from the Connecticut court.
Brian was anxious to hear what was going on but he stayed with Christy.
“Guess what?” she said.
“I finished that drawing. You wanna see it?”
She ran back to her room and came back with a drawing of a flower in pastels.
“This is beautiful, Christy. Is that one of the flowers in your room, left over from the wedding?”
“I see a lot of colors here. Not just red, but different shade of red.”
“Yup.” She smiled.
“I like it” said Brian. “Who’s this C Flynn?”
“Me. I’m C. Flynn.”
“Wait. Are you the C. Flynn, the famous artist?”
“You’re that C. Flynn? Well. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I have one of your drawings hanging in my house, near the front door where everyone can see it.”
“Are you and Wendy gonna send me to Connecticut?”
“No, we’re not. Why did you ask?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I had a dream.”
“Was it a bad dream?”
:”Kind of. I said goodbye to you then got in a helicopter and flew away.”
That sounded familiar. Brian flashed on a dream he had back in Buffalo Gap.
[He was lying on the grass. It was warm. There was a bright sun shining. He could see trees, hear birds singing and in the distance there were mountains. Christy was there.
“Hi Brian, how are ya?”
“My head hurts.”
“Here. Put your back pack under your head, you’ll feel better.”
He lifted up his head and she slid the pack under it.
“I have to go now, Brian.”
“Yup. See the helicopter has come to take me to California.”
“Christy, please don’t leave me here.”
“Aw, you’ll be okay. I gotta go. I’ll see you again someday.”
“Brian sat up and yelled, “Nooooo!”]
“No, Sweetheart, we wont send you there.”
Wendy came back from the bedroom. She was smiling. “Tom said to fax him the letter and wait.”
“What letter?” asked Christy.
“Just more of the paper being exchanged about you. It’s not important” Brian lied.
“Can I see it?”
“Sure. But you won’t like it.”
Brian knew that if he was evasive about it, Christy would put up a nasty fuss, so he showed her the letter.
After she read it she said “Is this going to happen?”
“No, Christy, it’s not” Said Wendy. “If and when anyone comes here to take you away we will simply tell them that they can’t and to go away. If you say you’re not going with them then they can’t take you.”
And Brian said “And as soon as I fax this to Mr. Wong he will deal with it. It’s just paper.”
“But, even if it’s the Governor?”
“Even if it’s the Governor. He has no power in California.”
“Okay” she said and gave the letter back.
“Now” said Wendy “what shall we do today that’s fun?”
“I have an idea” said Brian.
“What” asked Christy.
“Why don’t we have a swim and then go down the street and enroll Christy in that school for the summer session?”
“Yeah. Sounds cool.”
“But first I have to tell Mrs. Romero that there will be a guest for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Fairfield Parker, with a movie he wants us to watch.”
“Uh huh, staring a young girl we know about.”
“I hope it’s good.”
“I’ll bet it is” said Brian. “Now you girls get ready to swim while I talk to Mrs. Romero.”
On the way back from the kitchen Brian’s phone rang.
“Hello….Charlie, of course I remember you, You were a great help at that stupid trial in Sanman. You brought the airline seat….How are you doing up there?....Good….You do?....Yeah….Sounds interesting….Well, I hope so. I know Christy would like to come back to visit….Star Feather, yes….He did?....One hour?....He chanted for an hour….Did he have Christy’s drawing?....
What did he say?....Brother Wind?....That’s all he said, Charlie? Just ‘Brother Wind’?....Just those two words?....Well, I hope so. We’ll see….Thank you Charlie….May it indeed. Bye.”
Brian went into the bedroom where Wendy was getting into her swim suit. “That was Charlie Water on the phone, calling from the reservation.”
“Oh, what did he have to say?”
“He told me that Star Feather went into a session with Christy’s drawing and chanted for an hour.”
“But then all he said was ‘Brother Wind’”
“Brother Wind? What does that mean?”
“Who knows? But I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.”
When they got to the pool Christy was waiting, perched on the edge. They all jumped in, and after swimming back and forth a few times they gathered around the shallow end where Christy’s feet barely touched the bottom, but she held on to the edge.
“Guess what?” she said.
“I think I grew some.”
“Yup. I can feel the bottom with my foot. I couldn’t do that before.”
“You’re growing up? How surprising!”
“Guess what?” asked Brian
“I got a call from Charlie Water at the Navajo reservation.”
“Yup. He told me that they put up a shrine.”
“The constructed a post with symbols on it telling the story of the plane crash, the rescue, and, I don’t know, some other things. The put the airline seat with the post and a leather pouch with the pages of my script they had recovered and the drawing you gave to Chief Running Bear for Star Feather to use.”
“Did he use it?”
“Yes. But all he said was ‘Brother Wind’ and we don’t know what that means.”
“Hm” said Christy. “Brother Wind. Wind Brother. Brother of the Wind. I don’t know. Let’s swim some more.”
Later that day they walked down the street to the school Brian and Christy had checked out before.
When they got there, they told the receptionist that they were there to enroll Christy. The receptionist picked up the phone and spoke to someone. A few moments later Clare came out to greet them.
“Hi, I’m Brian Sims. Christy and I were here a week or so ago to check out the school. This is my wife, Wendy.”
“Yes, Mr. Sims. I remember you both. Nice to meet you Mrs. Sims. Please come into my office.”
When they were seated, Clare said “What can I do for you today?”
“We came to enroll Christy in your summer school.”
“I see. Well, I’m so sorry folks, but we filled our last availability this morning. There’s no more room.”
“Oh no” said Christy
“Oh dear” said Wendy.
“That is really disappointing” said Brian. “She missed a whole semester. We’re hoping she can catch up this summer so she won’t be left behind.”
“Pardon me for asking” said Clare, ”but why have you waited this long to get her back to school?”
“She was enrolled in another school but it turned out to be the wrong place and the wrong kind of school.”
“I see. Well enrollment for the Fall is still open. Perhaps you would consider that option and find some other way of filling her requirements until then.”
“Have you any suggestions?” asked Wendy.
“Well, let’s see. I believe there’s a Friends school that’s very good, but it’s a considerable distance from here. It would be a very long bus ride every day. And I think the local Community Center has a summer program. I don’t know how good it is or what they cover.”
“Thank you” said Brian. “I guess we’ll have to look around. We were hoping that this would be the answer. Christy and I were so impressed with your school when we came to visit.’
“But please consider her as a pupil come Fall. It’s such a shame that she has to be held back a year. She’s very bright.”
“How old are you Christy?” Clare wanted to know.
“10, almost 11.”
“I see. Well, maybe if you work hard and take some extra classes you can skip a grade.”
“Maybe, I don’t know” she said.
“I’ll tell you what folks. Let me put Christy’s name down on a waiting list in case there are any changes. If so I will give you a call. In the meantime, good luck finding a summer program that suits her.”
“Thank you” said both Brian and Wendy and they left.
Once outside they didn’t speak. They walked back to the house in silence. Christy went into her room and closed the door.
“What shall we do?’ asked Brian.
“I don’t know” said Wendy. “What about home schooling?”
“Well that’s an idea, except I think she should be with kids her own age. Don’t you. She doesn’t have any friends.”
“The poor kid has been pushed around since January, yanked from here to there. I don’t want her to have to take a one hour bus ride back and forth everyday just to go to school. She shouldn’t have to do that.”
“No. Well maybe the Community Center program has something worthwhile which we can then augment here. What do you think?”
“Possible, possible. Let’s wait and discuss it after she recovers from this latest blow. Which won’t be long, I imagine, if I know the amazing leprechaun, as Lucky called her.”
“Fine with me. Then what’s next on the docket Mr. Three Toes?”
“I should do some work” said Brian.
“How’s Crystal the Ice Angel?”
“Good. Well, I’m going back to my apartment to work on my own computer. I have a few ideas about this mysterious Roderick Quinn that I want to check out. Let me have the page about him that Tom gave you.”
Brian handed her the paper, then she said “Now keep your fingers on that keyboard. Don’t go getting sad, morose and negative and start drinking before I get back.”
“Give me a kiss. I’ll be back for dinner.”
They kissed. “Good hunting” he said.
Christy spent the rest of the day in her room. Brian was concerned about her but he decided not to bother her. He realized that one of the best things he had ever done for her was to provide her with her own room, a safe place to be alone, to sort things out in her mind, without interruption or someone watching over her.
What a difference it makes, he thought, to be able to be by oneself. Even if there is only one other person in the room, one is still not safely alone. Except for that hotel room, where she wasn’t comfortable, the poor kid hasn’t been able to be with just herself until she moved in with Wendy and now in here.
Brian wondered how well he really understood her or how well she understood herself. How well can you know yourself when you’re 10 years old? Probably better than you think.
He turned back to his keyboard to try to write about Crystal the Ice Angel but no words would come. Where are you? he said to himself. It’s digging out of the snow again just to find the Ice Angel.
After several feeble attempts to find the words to tell the story he stopped. He stood, looked down the hall at Christy’s closed door, he looked at the swimming pool but decided not to swim, he passed the liquor cabinet but didn’t open it and he finally went into the bedroom and lay down. He fell asleep.
When he awoke he was at Saint Andrew’s Church sitting at the table drinking form the mug of coffee Father Portera had given him. When he looked up at Christy she wasn’t there.
“Where is she?” he asked.
“Who?” said Portera.
Just then he heard her calling his name from a distance, outside of the church. He stood, ran down the aisle and opened the door. She was standing out in the snow.
“Christy, what are you doing?” he asked.
“Brian, my name is Crystal and I have things to do now. I’ll see you again some day, I hope. Bye.”
At that moment the wind blew up a fine mist of snow between them and when it settled she was gone.
“Christy!” he called. He stepped out to look for her, he went around the side of the building, looked in all directions but she was nowhere.
Finally he turned and went back into the church. He said “I don’t understand it. She was sitting right there and suddenly she was outside and now she’s gone. I don’t understand. I’m frightened.”
“Sit down Mr. Sims and drink the coffee” said Father Portera. “There was no one with you when you came in. You were alone.”
Brian awoke puzzled about the dream. It wasn’t really a bad dream just a curious one considering the real outcome of their experience when they reached Saint Andrew’s and Father Portera. Maybe, he thought, I’m already inventing another story.
When Wendy arrived later she found him in the bedroom, reading.
“What did you find out about Roderick Quinn?” he asked.
“Not much. I located a few others here and there around the country, but none of them would have any connection with Christy, or with Connecticut. But I have other news for you. Gruesome news.”
“I got an email from Tom. The police have found, so far, three bodies buried in the field behind Saint Jane’s. All adolescent females. The medical examiner is still at it trying to determine time and cause of death but it appears they were strangled. The most recent victim appears to have rope burns around her neck.”
“If that’s the case then it is definitely provable homicide and our friends from Saint Jane’s will be locked up for a long time.”
“In her room. I think she’s still upset about not being able to go to school.”
“I’ll go check up on her.”
Later Christy came out and joined them for dinner and they spent a pleasant evening together.
The next day the house was buzzing with excitement because they were awaiting the arrival of Lucky Parker and the video. At about noon he called to say that he would be by at 5:30.
“Is there anything you don’t eat?....No frogs legs Provencal in other words….All right. It’s not likely, but I’ll warn Mrs. Romero just in case. No reptiles.”
Promptly at 5:30 the doorbell rang. Brian opened it to find Fairfield “Lucky” Parker with a brown leather case slung over his shoulder.
“Hello and enter” said Brian. He did.
Wendy came forth to greet him. “Greetings” she said.
Then Christy appeared and Lucky said “Hello Twinkle.”
“Hi. Did you bring the movie?”
“Yes, yes, yes.”
They settled in the living room and Brian said “Would you like a drink, Lucky?”
“I only drink expensive California wine.”
“I have that” said Brian. “Christy, you want something?”
“I only drink expensive Pepsi” she said. That got a chuckle out of everyone.
Brian went to get some drinks. He opened a bottle of wine and put it on the tray with a glass, got a Pepsi from the kitchen and made Wendy’s favorite and his own, and brought the tray back into the living room.
Meanwhile Lucky opened his case and took out a video cassette. He held it flat in his hand as if it was a rare edition of a famous book and placed his other hand over it as if to give it a blessing. When Brian was settled he handed it to him. Brian carefully inserted it into the VCR and this is what they saw.
First some bands of color and some numbers flashing then it went to dark. Suddenly there was Christy. A close up of her face.
“Hi, I’m Christine Flynn. The real one. You can call me Christy.”
A shot of the front of the house.
“This is my house.”
“Christy walking up the steps to the door. She turns and looks back
“Come on in.”
The camera follows her through the front door and into the living room.
“This is our living room…” The camera pans around the room. “…where we sit and talk or watch TV. And in here…” The camera follows her, as if trying to keep up with her. ….”is the dining room.
Shot of her sitting down in the chair “It’s nice here” She puts her hand on the table. “It’s comfortable.” She gets up and walks back to the living room. The camera follows her. She points to the office nook. The camera looks in.
“That’s my Dad’s office, where he works.”
Camera shows Christy looking into the office.
“He’s a famous writer” Back on her face. “He writes movies” She grins.
She moves again. The camera follows her.
“Here’s the library.”
Shot from inside the library toward Christy at the door.
“There are a lot of books in here. When Dad is working I have to be quiet, so sometimes I come in here and look at the books.”
She looks at the camera.
“I like books.”
She walks out of the library and back into the living room, the camera follows her, she turns and looks at the camera.
“Now I’m gonna show you the pool.”
Long shot from the far end of the pool showing Christy swimming away from the camera to the ladder. Then at the ladder showing her climbing out. She stops with her hands on the side of the ladder.
“Dad is teaching me how to swim. He’s a good swimmer.”
Shot of Christy’s head covered with a big towel as she dries herself off. Her face emerges from the towel with a smile on it..
Next shot she’s in pajamas and bathrobe standing at the entrance to her room.
“This is my room. Come in.”
Camera follows her into the room. She holds up a drawing of a flower. Close up on the drawing.
“This is my latest drawing. See? It’s that flower.”
She points to the flower on her table and the camera pans up to it and back down to the drawing.
“Mom told me they’re going to send me to art school so I can learn more about drawing, painting and stuff. I’m lookin’ forward to that.”
Final shot of Christy sitting on the side of her bed with her fingers folded in her lap.
“I was born in Albany, New York and after my folks died I went to live in Hartford, Connecticut for a few years and then I moved out here to California. Connecticut is a very nice place and I’d like to go back and visit sometime. But please don’t make me go and live there again. This is my home now, and I love it.”
Big warm smile.
Fade to black.
After the film there was a long moment of silence. Finally Brian said “I like it.”
“Me too” said Wendy.
“I don’t remember writing that part about how she would visit Connecticut but please don’t make me live there.”
“You didn’t” said Lucky. “She just said that, ad lib. But it was so honest we kept it.”
“Christy, what do you think” asked Brian.
“That was weird” she said.
“Do I really look like that?”
“Of course. Don’t you ever look at yourself in the mirror?”
“Yeah, but I never see my whole self like in the movie.”
“Well, what do you think of your whole self?”
“It’s good, I guess.”
“No guessing, imp” said Lucky. “It’s good. Are you sure you’re not a movie star? Some famous actress I’ve never heard of before?”
Christy laughed. “No.”
“Well, I’m glad you all like it because it’s already on its way to Connecticut. The High and Mighty Bloom told me that Lester Lynx has it already booked on major stations in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. It’ll be on the air starting the day after tomorrow.”
“May we keep this copy?” asked Brian.
“Yes, yes, yes. Put it with the Christine Flynn Archives” .
After a pleasant dinner together, during which Brian and Lucky talked shop, mainly because Christy and Wendy were full of questions about film making, Fairfield Parker said his good night and left.
The three of them watched the tape again. After Christy went to bed Wendy said “Brian, I’m curious about something>”
“Well, considering that she’s the center of everyone’s attention theses days, why hasn’t she become a stuck-up, egotistical brat?”
“I don’t know, but I have a theory.”
“For 6 years of her childhood she lived in a house with 7 other kids. That’s good training for anyone to learn how to be a member of a group and still keep your own identity. She had to take responsibility for herself and not be paid any particular attention to outside of all the others I wouldn’t be surprised if all those Collins kids are growing up with the same sense of self-control and comradeship.
And then, as soon as she left there she was plunked down into Saint Jane’s where she wasn’t treated well at all.”
“So, and that sense of taking responsibility for herself probably gave her the guts to blow the whistle on them as she did that day in the court” offered Wendy.
“Yup, I guess so. You know, the first time she called me Dad was at the school when we went to check it out. She said to the woman there ‘He’s my Dad.’ Later I asked her why I was her Dad and she said ‘Because you care about me.’”
The next morning Wendy went back to her apartment to do some work. Brian was busy at his desk and Christy was doing something with her pastels. About mid morning Brian received a phone call from Clare at the school which pleased him very much and which he knew would please Christy. He saw her door closed and didn’t want to disturb her so he went back to his computer.
About midday, when Christy knew that Brian would take a break, she came out of her room with her swimsuit on and called out “Ding! Ding! Swim time! Everybody in the pool!” then went into the pool area herself.
Brian couldn’t help laughing. He got his swim trunks on and joined her. She was sitting on the edge of the pool waiting. He said “I have something to tell you.”
“Stand up.” She did and he picked her up in his arms, flung her forward then back and then forward again, tossing her up in the air as high as he could. She squealed, and with arms and legs flailing in all directions, fell with a great splash into the pool. When she came up to the surface laughing she said “Is that what you wanted to tell me?”
She scooped up a handful of water and threw it at his face. “What then?”
“I got a call from Clare at the school. One of her students dropped out because the family is moving to the east. So you’re in.”
“School doesn’t start for a couple of weeks. She’s sending me a list of the things you’ll need, so maybe this weekend we’ll go shopping.”
“Are you glad?”
“Yup. Now jump in the pool.”
That evening when Wendy came home Christy said to her “Guess what.”
“Brian said the school called and someone is moving away so I can go there. Isn’t that cool?”
“Cool” said Wendy.
But the next afternoon, Friday, Brian got another phone call that he did not like at all.
When he picked up the phone a pleasant female voice introduced herself as Cecile calling from Governor Fremlich’s office in Hartford. She was calling to inform Mr. Sims that Governor Fremlich will be attending the Democratic Governors Conference in Sacramento. That he expected to address the Conference on Monday morning and that after it, he and Mrs. Fremlich will arrive to pick up Christine Flynn and take her back with them to Hartford. The Governor has asked me to tell you to please have her ready and packed as they won’t have much time to visit.
“She’s not going with them.” There was a long pause. “I said she’s not going with them. She’s staying here….I don’t care. And she doesn’t care. She doesn’t want to go with them, and that’s that….I will certainly do that, if and when he comes. But if he calls in for messages you can tell him that they are not welcome here….By no means….Thank you Cecile.” He hung up.
When Wendy arrived that evening Brian told her about the phone call and the plan to take Christy.
“Brian, I can’t be here. I’ll be in the office all day. It’s very important. I can’t miss it.”
“Can’t you call in sick?”
“If I did that Tom would be very unhappy. It’s a new client with a big problem. But Brian, if and when they come you can handle it by yourself. You know that.”
“Of course. I was just hoping for some legal brains to back me up.”
“You don’t need any other brain then the one you’ve got and a big resounding NO! from both you and Christy.”
“I guess you’re right, as usual.”
“Then that’s that.”
“I just wish I had some more ammunition to throw at them besides just shaking my head.”
“What do you want, a couple of Navajo warriors on horseback?
“Yes, that would help.”
“Come to think of it” said Wendy “if they’re from Connecticut they’ve probably never seen a Navajo warrior in the flesh. It might intimidate them enough to turn around and run back home. Too bad we don’t have time to arrange it.”
By this time they were both laughing at the idea.
“So Clare from the school called to tell me that Christy is in.”
“How did she react when you told her?”
“She jumped in the pool. Well, actually I threw her in. She was very glad. Clare is sending me a packet of information about things she needs.”
“If it gets here tomorrow we can take care of that this weekend. Where is she?”
“She’s around somewhere. The last I saw her she was in the backyard talking to Juan and drawing things.”
“Well let’s relax and wait for her to show us her new drawings.”
“New drawings. I hope they’re new drawings and not nude drawings.”
“Somehow I don’t picture Juan as the artist’s model type.”
Soon Christy showed up with a handful of pictures.
“Hi” she said.
“Christy” said Brian “May we see your drawings>”
“They’re just sketches.”
“Does that mean we can’t see them?”
“No, here.” She handed over a few pages with pictures of flowers and trees. “One of those books you bought me shows me how to make little sketches before I try to make a whole picture.”
“Very nice” said Brian.
In the mail the next morning was a folder of information about the school, a short list of books Christy would need and a list of suggestions for supplies. “Well, we can certainly handle this” said Wendy.
“Good” said Brian.
“And, Christy, if you insist upon growing maybe we should get you some new clothes. Something you can grow into.”
“I’ll let you girls take care of that while I do some pondering.”
“What’s pundering?” asked Christy.
“Pondering, with an ‘o’.“
“Oh. What’s pondering?”
“It’s thinking deeply about something.”
“Like a pond?”
“So what are you pondering about.”
“An ice angel.”
“It’s my new story.”
“Oh. Am I in it?”
“You wanna be?”
“Okay, you’re in it.”
“Is Wendy in it?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think we should both be in your new story.”
That weekend Brian’s pondering took him out for a walk in the park. While he was sitting on the bench he happened to notice a young girl doing a cartwheel. Jane and her mother pushing a baby carriage were coming up the path toward him. When they got close Brian said “Hi Jane.”
She looked surprised as she said “Hi.”
Brian said “Hello Jane’s mom. Remember me Jane? I talked to you a few days ago about your cartwheels and acrobatics in school and things.’
“Uh huh” she said not quite remembering.
“Mom, would you like to sit for a spell?”
“Oh well, okay. It’s a warm day, He’s asleep.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Jane, what’s your whole name?”
“No. Youman” she insisted.
“Oh, Youman. Sounds like Newman. My name is Brian Sims.”
“I’m Nancy Youman” said the mother. “Janie has a time with people when they hear her name they think it’s Jane Newman, so she has to correct them all the time. Jane was my grandmother’s name. I promised her that if I ever had a daughter I would name her Jane. I didn’t know at the time I would marry a man named Youman. We try calling her Janie so there won’t be any confusion but she doesn’t like ‘Janie.’ What do you do Mr. Sims?”
“I write movies.”
“You mean you write the scripts?”
“What are some of your films.”
“Oh, ‘Trumpets Blare,’ ‘The Barnaby Story,’ ‘Miracles’.”
“Ah, we saw ‘The Barnaby Story,’ that was very sweet, very inspiring.”
“Do you have another one coming?”
“Soon, I hope. It will probably be called ‘Tunnel of Passion.’ It’s about coal miners.’
“Well, we’ll look for it. Come along Janie, let’s go.”
Nancy got up to go. Brian said “Good by Jane Youman not Jane Newman.”
“Bye” she said.
On the way back to his house Brian was thinking how storage language is: new drawings – nude drawings, Jane Youman – Jane Newman.
Back at his house Brian sat by the pool smoking a cigarette and thinking about Monday’s confrontation. He knew, or thought he knew, what the outcome would be. But he continued to wish that he had one more arrow in his quiver for when The Governor arrived, if he did.
Soon Wendy and Christy came back. Christy had an armload of books. Wendy had an armload of clothes.
He went into the living room to greet them. “Wall, are there any books left in the bookstore?” he asked.
“They had all the books I need. And Wendy let me have some more art books. See?” said Christy holding up a book of Surrealist painters.
“Wow. You’re really going to be learning al lot of things about art, C. Flynn,”
“Hope so” she said.
Wendy put Christy’s new clothes in her room and together they scraped together a dinner and sat around the dining room table while Christy talked about the pictures she had to look at in her new books.
Brian and Wendy were quite delighted and a little bit amazed at how well Christy could explain the pictures and what she thought the artist was trying to convey. Some of the paintings were abstract and difficult for even Brian to understand. Christy was having no trouble understanding them, however.
Brian didn’t wish to hamper Christy’s enthusiasm, but he needed to remind her that the Fremlichs were arriving the next afternoon to take her back to Connecticut.
“Well, I’m not going” she said.
“Good” said Brian. “Whatever they say to you just keep saying ‘no,’ okay?”
“Okay” she said with determination.
6:00 a.m. Monday morning Wendy’s alarm goes off. She goes into the kitchen. The Romeros aren’t up yet so she makes herself a pot of coffee. While it’s brewing she showers and dresses.
6:48 Brian gets out of bed, joins Wendy in the dining room for coffee. “How do you think you’re going to handle them?” she asks.
“Just say ‘no’ until they go away.
7:15 the wake up call comes to the Fremlichs in their hotel room.
7:35 a sleepy Christy comes into the dining room and sits with them.
8:05 Edward Fremlich is dressed and waiting for his wife to shower and dress.
8:12 Wendy leaves for work’
8:30 Mrs. Romero is up and fixing breakfast.
“Wendy has already gone off to work” he tells her.
8:47 Mrs. Fremlich is dressed and ready. They leave the hotel and take the limo to the convention hall.
9:02 Mrs. Romero serves some breakfast to Brian and Christine.
“When are they coming?” asks Christy.
“I don’t know but they said sometime in the afternoon.”
9:12 The Fremlichs arrive at the convention hall in Sacramento and are ushered to the dais.
10:03 Christy finishes her breakfast and asks “Can we go for a swim?”
10:18 after an introduction by the chairman, Edward Fremlich begins his address to The Democratic Governors Convention Annual Breakfast, recounting his successful efforts on behalf of his state and the party and a hope for the future as the country progresses into the next century.
10:24 having agreed to the swim, Brian meets Christy at the pool where they enjoy a good swim, racing each other back and forth.
11:00 they get out of the pool and dry off. Brian goes to get dressed. Christy takes her new books and goes back into her room.
11:06 Governor Fremlich finishes his speech. After applause and some handshaking, he and Mrs. Fremlich leave the convention center.
11:20 Brian is back at his desk. He tries to work but the anxiety of the confrontation with the Fremlichs keeps him from concentrating.
11:14 The Fremlichs get into the limo to take them to the airport where the Governor’s plane is fueled and waiting.
11:22 Brian stares again at the paper Tom had given him about the Fremlich family.
11:47 The Fremlichs board the plane.
11:48 Brian notices something strange on the paper he hadn’t seen before.
12:00 The Governor’s plane takes off on schedule, bound for Los Angeles Airport.
12:02 Brian’s phone rings. He answers. It’s Wendy wanting to know how things are going. “I’m looking at this paper about the Fremlich family….because there are some things I don’t understand….I will…How’s your meeting?....Well take your time, I assume we will both be here when you get back….Okay, I love you….Bye.”
12:07 Brian goes to the kitchen to get himself another cup of coffee.
12:10 He tells Mrs., Romero that Wendy will be gone for the day and will probably be late for dinner. Then he goes back to his desk.
12:14 He picks up the paper he was looking at and reads: “Edward Fremlich, Governor, 52, wife Bertha Wynne Fremlich, 48, married 27 years, no children. Governor Fremlich has two sisters, Marie, now deceased and Agnes, married to Sylvester, last name, three children. Parents deceased Mrs. Fremlich has a twin brother, Brad, unmarried. Parents deceased.”
He puts the paper down and wonders what it is about that paper that bothers him, that bothered him a few moments ago, before Wendy called.
He picks up the paper and look at it again. “Edward Fremlich, Governor, 52, wife Bertha Wynne Fremlich, 48, married 27 years, no children.” That certainly would seem to explain why they want to adopt Christy, he thinks. After 27 years, no children. I wonder why they waited so long to adopt one. And why Christy? There must be plenty of available orphans in Connecticut. Why come all the way here? That part seems strange to me. But there’s something else that bothered me. What is it? He looks back at the paper.
12:32 The phone rings. It’s Myron Bloom informing him that he has to be on the Silverstone jet at 9 a, m, tomorrow to go to New York City for a few days. Auditions are being held for Brian’s film and he has to be there. They will return on Friday.
12:35 Brian looks back at the paper. “Mrs. Fremlich has a twin brother, Brad. unmarried.” What’s with the brother, that he’s not married? He’s probably gay.
But Brian looks again at that entry. “Brad. unmarried.” Why isn’t it Brad comma unmarried? He looked closer. It’s not “Brad” it’s “Brod” B R O D period. Brod. I didn’t read it carefully enough. It’s an abbreviation. For what? Broderick. Broderick Wynne.
And then it strikes him: nude drawings - new drawings, Jane Newman – Jane Youman, Roderick Quinn – Broderick Wynne. That must be it.
1:00 Mrs. Romero comes in to say that lunch is available. Brian calls to Christy “Lunch Christy.”
They enjoy a nice lunch together.
“When are those people gonna come?” she asks.
“I don’t know but he had to make a speech in Sacramento at the Governors’ Convention this morning and it will take them some time to get here.”
“What’s a convention?”
“It’s a big meeting with a lot of people where they make speeches and sometimes vote on things.”
“Christy, in all those books you have is there a dictionary?”
“Okay. I’m going to see that you get a dictionary. I don’t mind answering your questions, because I love you, but you should get used to looking things up for yourself.”
Brian thought, this C. Flynn must be one of the most agreeable children in the world.
1:53 Lunch is finished and she goes back to her room. Brian returns to his computer, types in the name Broderick Wynne in several search windows and eventually learns that he is the CEO of Eagle Insurance International, serves on the boards of The First New England Savings and Trust, Lord, Locke and Templar Investment Inc. and the Wadsworth Athenaeum.
This Brod fellow gets around, he thinks. He can certainly afford all that publicity that’s been plaguing us. And poor Roderick Quinn had nothing to do with it. H’s innocent, whoever, whichever he is.
2:17 Brian relaxes for a while, thinks about Fremlich and his family and waits.
2;30 Something is not right. Whether its his active imagination, his ability to make plots or just plain paranoia, Brian picks up the phone and leaves a message on Wendy’s cell phone to call him as soon as possible, It’s urgent.
Now Brian is up and pacing around. He is impatient to get some information, a fact that could settle everything, the nail in the coffin, the arrow in his quiver that he was hoping to have.
He knows Wendy will call him back as soon as she gets the message. He just wants her to get to him before the Fremlichs arrive.
2:51 The Fremlich’s plane is approaching the Los Angeles airport.
3:02 Brian’s phone rings, It’s Wendy. “Forget Roderick Quinn, I want you to find out from DA Martinez if the name Broderick Wynne is on that list of clients at Saint Jane’s. That’s Broderick with a B, Wynne W Y N N E….Yes, Broderick Wynne….He’s Mrs. Fremlich’s brother….Offer Martinez my right arm if you must. Just don’t offer to go to bed with him….All right, go to bed with him if you have to….I know you’re just kidding. Please find out, as quickly as you can. Before they get here….Thanks, Dear.”
3:15 The Fremlich’s plane has been cleared for landing.
Brian resumes his pacing. He wants a drink, but decides to wait until it’s all over. I may need all my wits about me, he thinks. Time to celebrate when it’s done.
3;30 The Fremlich’s plane touches down at the Los Angeles airport.
They soon find the limo waiting for them and head for Brian’s house.
3:40 Brian is waiting expectantly by the phone, almost holding his breath. He imagines what could go wrong. Wendy can’t leave the meeting. Martinez is in court or somewhere and unavailable. He doesn’t want to give Wendy the information.
3:47 The Fremlich’s limo is approaching Brian’s neighborhood. Brian goes to the front door and looks out to see if any car is there. Seeing nothing he returns to his desk.
3:52 The Fremlich’s limo turns onto Brian’s street.
Brian is now standing at his desk bent over the phone.
4:02 The limo stops in front of Brian’s house and the Fremlichs get out.
4:04 Brain’s phone rings. It’s Wendy. “Hello….Yes?….Bingo, as Myron would say. Thank you, Darling. You just made my day….See you later.”
4:05 Brian’s doorbell chimes.
Brian opened the door and, without being invited, Governor and Mrs. Fremlichs entered the house. Governor Edward Fremlich was a distinguished looking gray haired gentleman wearing a brownish three piece suit. Mrs. Fremlich was dressed in a tasteful blue outfit of skirt and jacket with a sheer green scarf around her neck.
“We’re here to pick up Christine Flynn and we don’t have much time” said Governor Fremlich. “Where is she?”
Brain called, “Christy!” She came out of her room to meet them and Mrs. Fremlich immediately started baby talking.
She leaned over with her hands on her thighs and said “Hellloooo.
Howw are youuuuuu?”
“Fine thank you, how are you?”
Oooohhh, I’m just fiiiine, thank youuuu. My aren’t youuu a preeeety girl?”
“Ooooo yeeeess. You’re a reeeaal cutie pie.. Ooooh we’re going to have such fuunn together. We have a BIG house, much bigger that THIS one and we have a BIG backyard with a swiiiing and a sliiide and a saaaand box. And a pooool which you can SWIM in when the good weather comes.”
“Alright” said Governor Fremlich, we’re in a hurry so let’s see what you’ve got to take with you.” They started toward Christy’s room. She looked back at Brian who nodded. As Brian was following, Fremlich looked back at him and said, “Thank you, if we need any help we’ll call you.” Then they entered the room, closing the door behind them. Brian went back to his desk and waited.
He could hear muffled voices coming from the room, some of them sounding angry. Then he heard Christy loud and clear saying “Noooooooo!”
The door flew open and the Fremlichs came out. Christy closed her door after them.
“Well” said Mrs. Fremlich “congratulations. You’ve raised a brat.”
“I didn’t raise her and she’s not a brat.”
“Are you Brian Sims?” asked the Governor.
“Well, Mr. Sims my office contacted you to have you make sure she was packed and ready to go. Now why hasn’t that been done?”
“Because she’s not going with you.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” said Mrs. Fremlich.
“Mr. Sims this has all been carefully worked out. The court has given us custody and adoption papers are pending.”
“That doesn’t matter. She’s not going with you.”
“‘Now look here Mr. Sims, evidently you don’t appreciate who I am.”
“I know who you are. You may be the Governor of the state of Connecticut, but you’re not the Governor of California, you’re not even the Mayor of Los Angeles. She’s staying here.”
“I’ll bring the Marshall here to get her if I have to.”
“You can bring the Green Beret if you want, she is not leaving here.”
“Any why not?”
“Because she doesn’t want to. You heard her say it. Now hear me say it: No!”
“Just what gives you the nerve to think that you have the authority to stop us?” asked Mrs. Fremlich.
“The fact, Bertha Wynne Fremlich, that your brother Broderick Wynne was a frequent and favored visitor to an underage whore house known as Saint Jane’s Home For Girls.”
There was a pause and Mrs. Fremlich’s face turned red, formed into an ugly grimace with the hint of a tear in her eye and with all the venom in her voice of which she was capable she said “YOU WOULDN’T DARE!”
“Mrs. Fremlich I would dare to die for Christine Flynn. I have dared to do that already, more than once, and I will do it again.”
“Bertie” asked the Governor “is this true?”
Mrs. Fremlich lowered her head, eyes closed and, after a few moments, with a trembling voice, said “Let’s go Ed.” Fremlich didn’t move. Then she said “I’ll wait in the car.” She left the house leaving the front door open.
There was a long pause.
Finally Governor Fremlich looked at Brian and said, quietly “May I call you Brian?”
“Brian, I am currently running for reelection to my final term as Governor. When I took office the state of Connecticut was a mess. There were remnants from the previous, corrupt administration that had to be cleaned up. Since then I have made great improvements in the state. The economy is in better shape, education, transportation, standard of living have all been improved. Crime is way down and so is pollution. I want to go back and finish the job.”
“We haven’t been able to have children. Bertie has wanted a child for a long time. We had given up hope until her brother convinced us that we should adopt this ”waif from California” as he put it. It seemed like the best solution. And when we saw her picture in ‘People Talk’ and read about her ordeal, we thought it would be not only a blessing for us, but a magnanimous gesture for the Governor and his wife to make. Of course I hoped it would gain me votes, I won’t deny it. I am a politician after all.”
“It seems Bertha and I should try to find another choice of child to adopt. I don’t want this to completely break her heart. She’s been a good wife. Bertha and her brother were very close growing up. Being identical twins of opposite gender life was very confusing for them. People couldn’t tell who was the boy and who the girl, so they became known as Sister Wynne and Brother Wynne.”
[“Brother Wind”] What do you know, thought Brian, Star Feather knew the answer before anyone. If only they had heard him correctly.
“As they grew they gradually separated from each other and now there is only an occasional get together. I don’t think he likes me. And now I know I don’t like him.”
“Brian, I want to serve my final term as Governor. What do you want?”
“I want four things, Edward. Besides the crooks who are all in jail, the only people who know about your Brother-In-Law are District Attorney Martinez, my wife Wendy, who’s a lawyer, and myself. Christy never knew the names of the men who visited there although if she saw him there she might recognize him. Martinez has decided not to prosecute the clients of that place because there are too many rich and powerful people and because some of them are internationals. It would take many decades to bring them all down.”
“So, then, what do you want?”
“First I want you to withdraw your adoption request, your claim of custody, guardianship or any other legal proceedings you may have pending in regard to Christy.”
“Yes, alright, I will do that.”
“Second, I want you and your Brother-In-Law to remove all of the advertising about her on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and any posters that have been put up.”
“We can do that.”
“Good, Third I want you and any member of your family to make no further attempt to gain custody of Christy or to participate in her life in any way.
“Alright. Yes.” ”I may be visiting Connecticut soon and will be able to determine if those things are done.”
“They’ll be done. Do I have your word as a gentleman that you won’t publish that information about Broderick?”
“Yes. Do I have your word as a gentleman and a Governor that you will do the things I ask?”
“Yes, you assuredly do.”
“Good, because I still hold the card you know.”
“I know. We won’t forget that. You said there were four things you wanted. What’s the fourth?”
“The word is you’ve been an excellent governor. I want you to win the election.”
“Thank you, Brian.”
` Fremlich goes to the door, then turns and says “By the way Brian, I enjoye your films, very much.”
“Thank you, Edward.”
The Governor left. Brian closed the door behind him. Then he called for Christy. She opened her door part way. “They’re gone.” She opened the door wide and looked out. “And they’re not coming back.”
She came up to Brian, threw her arms around him with her head on his chest. “Thank you” she said. “Does that mean I can stay here now? All the time?”
“All the time.”
“I love you Dad,”
“I love you too, C. Flynn. What do you say to celebrating by washing it all away with a swim?”
“Yup. I’ll meet cha there, Three Toes.”
After their swim, Brian and Christy enjoyed a lasagna dinner together and Mrs. Romero showed Brian a plate she had set up for Wendy to pop into the microwave when she got back.
Later Brian packed a suitcase for his trip to New York. Then, after Christy went to be, had a drink and waited up for Wendy.
When she came home he sat with her as she had her lasagna and told her all about the confrontation with the Fremlichs. Wendy was amused and relieved.
Then Brian said “I have to go to New York for auditions.”
“First thing in the morning. I have to be at the airport at nine.”
Wendy had a serious look. “How long will you be there?” she asked.
“A few days. Why?”
“You better be back by Friday.”
“It’s her birthday.”
“Oh damn. She never told me.”
“Didn’t tell me either. I happened to ask her.”
“What’ll we do for her?”
“How about we fix up her room?”
“Good idea” said Brian. A TV and disk player. She’ll need a computer with a printer. Does she have an easel in there?”
“An easel then. How about an extension on the phone?”
“Better give her her own phone. Once she starts school she’ll make girl friends that she’ll want to talk to in private for hours,” offered Wendy.
“Okay. Can you take care of all this while I’m away?”
“Oh, I think so. If I need to I’ll get Juan to help me carry and install things.”
“Good. I’m relieved.”
“Well then off to bed with you.”
Brian woke at 5:45, showered and dressed, called a cab and was at the LA airport at 8:45. Myron was there with a few sleepy designers and camera people. Brian knew there would be breakfast on the plane so he wasn’t too worried about being hungry.
At nine sharp the plane was ready and they boarded. The trip would land them at JFK at about 4:20 EST. On the way Bloom announced that the auditions would be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and they would stay on until Friday, if necessary. Brian hoped not.
Once there they took a pair of cabs to the swanky midtown hotel where they would stay, guests of Silverstone Studios.
After he deposited his suitcase in his room he went immediately and rented a car which he parked in the hotel garage.
Auditions started at nine. The actors were New York people with some film credits, agency submissions. A few had worked for Silverstone before. Brian noticed that there was no director among his group. That was strange, but Myron asked Brian to give the actors pointers and suggestions as they tried out.
The last one to audition was John Clancy, the actor Myron chose to replace Launce Lojak, who had turned down the role. Clancy was doing a Broadway play but thought he could leave it if the role suited him and the contract was right. He couldn’t make the audition until Thursday at noon, but once there he got through the reading and the discussion quickly and said he would call on Monday.
So Myron wrapped up the audition schedule, said the company jet would leave JFK at noon sharp and went back to his room to look through the pictures and make some decisions.
Brian made a phone call, got his rented car from the garage and headed for Hartford, Connecticut, stopping off once to make a purchase for part of Christy’s birthday present.,
Later that afternoon he was at the home of Sy and Lydia Collins, Christy’s aunt and uncle, and their house full of kids,
He wanted to reassure them that Christy was fine and doing well, going to summer school in a few weeks, had her own room and was enjoying life. He also wanted them to know that the terrible situation she had been through was not affecting her spirit and that those people had all been put away. He also wanted to find out if the erroneous publicity about Christy had been removed. They both reassured him about that as did two of their very polite older children.
They invited him to stay for an early supper which he did and enjoyed. At about 8 he got in the car and headed back to New York. When he got there he returned the rented car, took the package he had for Christy and went to his room. He phoned Wendy and asked her to buy a few items he needed, had a drink and a cigarette and went to sleep.
In the morning he had a room service breakfast and met the rest of the Silverstone crew at the desk, where they boarded a special car to take them to the airport. It was a gray, gloomy day in New York and the plane was delayed taking off. But Myron was anxious to get back so he urged his pilot to get in the air as quickly as he could. The pilot obliged.
“He’s an old Korean War flyer; he can fly in any weather.” But as it was now after twelve, they wouldn’t reach LA until about 9 or 9:30 Pacific Time at the earliest.
After digging her out of the snow, rolling together down a mountain, trekking for ten days through the miserable ice and cold with her, making sure she was taken care of while he was in the hospital, getting her safely to LA, taking her in after she escaped from that terrible place and finally giving her a home, I will be heartbroken if I miss her birthday, he thought.
On the way to LA Myron came over to Brian and said “Brian, old socks, this is your lucky day.”
“Oh oh, I don’t like the sound of that.”
“You’re gonna love it.”
“I doubt that.”
“Brian, young fellow, I’m gonna make you a star.”
“Do I have to take my clothes off?”
“Nothing of the sort. I want you to direct the film.”
“No, sir. I saw the way you handled those actors at the audition, you’re a natural.”
“But I’m not a director. I’m a writer.”
“Come on. You’ve been an actor, a stage director, a producer, now a writer, you know about films, cameras, egos, politics and all the rest. Do this and I have other films I want you to direct. You can keep writing them, but now I want you to direct them.”
There was a pause.
There was another pause. Then Brian said “Yes.”
“Good boy. Have Tom call me tomorrow, we’ll work out a contract. You’ll have to join the director’s union.”
“By the way, Brian, why are so nervous? Afraid you’re going to crash on the mountain, like before?”
“No, It’s Christy’s birthday and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Is that wee, sweet creature having a birthday? How come I didn’t know?”
“I just found out Sunday night.”
“Okay, I’ll call and have a car waiting for you at the hanger.”
“Thanks. And thank you for the promotion.”
Myron went off to get another drink.
The Silverstone jet pulled into its special hanger at 9:05 p.m. Brian got off with his two pieces of luggage and saw a limo waiting; the driver was standing by the rear door.
“Mr. Sims?” he said as Brian approached.
The driver opened the door for him. Brian got in with his bags and the driver closed the door, went around to the driver’s side and got in.
Meanwhile Brian looked at the driver’s license and chauffeur’s name and number. His name was Al Ochs.
Brian leaned over, gave his address and said “Mr. Ochs, it’s my daughter’s 11th birthday today and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Yes, sir” said Al, flipped the car into gear and took off.
The limo went like a big black bullet through the traffic and along the freeway. They reached Brian’s house at 9:55. Brian reached over and slapped a $50 bill into Al’s hand, got out of the limo with his two bags and closed the door.
When he entered the house the lights were off in the living room. He put his suitcase down and took the box with Christy’s present into the library, opened the box and put the present on the floor, then came out closing the library door.
Wendy came out of the bedroom still dressed. They kissed. “I’m so glad you made it. Christy was so unhappy that you weren’t here.”
“Well it was a close call but here I am.”
“How was the trip?”
“Very interesting. Myron promoted me to director. I’m going to be famous.”
“That’s fine with me. Congratulations Three Toes.”
“ Is she still awake, I hope?”
“I think so. She’s probably watching her TV or playing with her new computer. She’s absolutely delighted with everything. I’ll go knock.” Wendy started down towards Christy’s room, then stopped and turned. “By the way. We went to court yesterday, all the documents from the Connecticut courts have been withdrawn. The judge took one look at Christy and nodded. The adoption has gone through. She’s legally our daughter now.”
Wendy went to Christy’s door and knocked. “Christy?”
“Yes?” came a voice from inside.
The door opened wide and Christy came funning down the hall. She threw her arms around him in a big hug.
“Oh Brian, I’m so glad you’re here I was afraid you weren’t coming. Guess what.”
“It’s my birthday.”
“We saved you a piece of cake.”
“Thank you. I brought you something.”
“A present. For your birthday.”
“What is it?”
“It’s in the next room.” She started for the library. “No” he said. “Sit down, I’ll get it.”
He went back into the library and then came out, leaving the door open.
Christy frowned and said “Where is it?”
Just at that moment and orange colored, furry face with white whiskers appeared at the door peering into the room.
Christy gasped, jumped up and shouted “FLICKER!” She ran over and scooped up Flicker in her arms. “Flicker. Oh, Flicker.” She held Flicker up to her cheek. Flicker rubbed her face on Christy’s cheek, stretched out her paws, relaxed and started purring.
“Oh, I’m so happy. Dad, thank you. Thank you, Mom. This is the best birthday I ever had in my whole life!”
Of Book Three
It’s 27 years later, Christy, is now known as C. Flynn, successful New York painter, sculptor and graphic designer and in private life is known as Christine Flynn-Hunter, married to John Hunter, architect and builder, eldest son of Nathan MooseHunter and his wife, Maiona, of the Colorado Navajo Reservation. John and Christy have two children, both boys.
She was visiting Los Angeles to attend the opening of an exhibit of her works. She was walking down Hollywood Boulevard on her way to a meeting when she looked down and saw, embedded in the sidewalk, a bronze star, with the figure of a movie camera and the name BRIAN SIMS. She quietly asked “Did we make it, Dad?” and a silent answer whispered in her mind “We made it.”
She smiled, stepped carefully around it and walked on.
(To be continued.)