A/N: I'm guessing some of you expected a PB update. No such luck. Instead, I bring you a Finder-oneshot. Because I genuinely feel like Fox effed up again by cancelling that show. I could go on forever ranting about how badly they ended the show, but that would get old real fast. If you haven't seen the show, then this is one big spoiler for the last episode "The Boy with the Bucket". And here's to hoping someone else realizes just how much potential The Finder has, and adopts it.
Disclaimer: I, the author of this story, has no intention of making money off of this. I like writing, but that's it.
Maybe it was because I never really got the hang of math. It shouldn't have taken me this long to figure out. I really should send Uncle Shad a Thank You-note. I mean, Timo and I had tried everything else (asking, begging, bribing), considered every other option (each one crazier than the other).
Or so we thought.
But there was one option we hadn't considered, because, let's face it, together Timo and I had all the balls of a eunuch. Ms. Farrel told me to stand up for myself. So I tried. Uncle Shad didn't bite. Unfortunately for him, he showed his hand. The family appreciated Timo for one reason: he kept me in the family. Only lately... that family was not the one Uncle Shad had in mind.
The family I cared for the most was the one who cared for me, about me. I wasn't accepted only because I could pick someone's pocket without them noticing, or because I could lie convincingly. I was accepted for what I was, with or without those traits. Uncle Shad had no idea. He used to threaten us about life without the family, being gaje. It was beaten into our heads. Lord knows I heard it from Timo often enough. Uncle Shad probably thought it would intimidate us, and me especially, enough to agree to the marriage.
I'm not gonna lie, at first it did. I had never known anything else but the family. The family business was the only thing I had ever been involved with. Getting busted for that diamond boost was unfortunate, and I thought getting banished to The Ends of the Earth would literally be the end of the world. Uncle Shad was not happy, The Ends of the Earth was not exactly a prime location for me to keep up the family business. Then again, Shadrack was only happy when he got to screw people over.
Surprisingly, The Ends of the Earth was not that horrible. Not that I would ever openly admit that. Crashing in the trailer was okay (and somewhat ironic). Working for Leo was okay, having his trust was... different. Walter was a sideshow in his own right. The first month of my probation, he didn't let me into the bar, he kept asking who I was working for. I remember turning to Ike, saying "Dude, what's his damage?", only to have Walter come up to me and ask who told me about Ike. Don't get me wrong, I've seen all kinds of weird, but that... was unexpected. Ike and Leo stepped in and managed to turn Walter's attention back to that stupid board (which had said Polar Bear vs. Grizzly Bear). Ike left The Ends of the Earth about a week later. She swore it wasn't because of me, but she still refused to tell me why. Leo later told me she couldn't stand the thought of being there when Walter's finding mojo finally failed him. She still sent post cards.
We made up a kind of family, I guess. Leo being the protective dad, Walter the crazy uncle who gets locked in the attic and only let out for Christmas or when he wants to set your curtains on fire. Ike was the absent, but cool aunt, and Isabel the sister you loved to hate but secretly looked up to. Even Ms. Farrel had her place in the family tree: that great aunt you only invite out of courtesy, and whom you don't talk to unless you lost the coin toss. It wasn't logical all the time, and definitely not the standard American family, but it wasn't like I'd lived a happy family life in Suburbia before that...
I'm not saying Timo didn't matter. Timo means the world to me. He took care of me when my mom shipped me to Miami, and I love him like a brother, a cousin, a friend. He may have been the rope which tied me to the family once, but not anymore. He was just Timo now. Uncle Shad was wrong, Timo didn't have any pull over me. That's why I left. I figured that if I left, everything would fall into place. Uncle Shad would realize he misjudged me. Timo would be free to make a move on his precious Magdalena. If Shadrack had any brains, he would realize that if he went ahead with his plan, marrying off Magdalena to some numbskull in the family, it would most likely end with Timo and Magdalena taking off. Timo may still be under Uncle Shad's spell, but I'm fairly certain there will come a day when he won't take it anymore, and he'll nut up and ask Magdalena to run off with him. I knew Magdalena. She loved Timo just as much as he loved her, and she would follow him if he asked. Uncle Shad wouldn't risk it. I'm not boasting, but losing me is bad enough. It's a win-win situation for everyone, including Uncle Shad.
I'm hoping he will be too proud to contact Walter about finding me. Perhaps even too proud to send Timo to ask. Even more so, I'm hoping that Walter can stand against Leo if Leo asks him to find me. If Walter wanted, he could probably say no to Uncle Shad, but Leo... Leo could manipulate Walter like a deprogrammer working over a cult kid, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that Walter could say no.
Then again, maybe Leo would understand, being a man of the law and all. I mean, I took the wind chimes with me, doesn't that say something? I had no choice. Uncle Shad wouldn't stand down, Timo had given up, but I sure as hell wasn't getting married. I may have left the family, but not my family. I took something that reminded me of them, so I could always have them with me, and carry them in my heart.
I kicked a pebble down the road, feeling my feet going numb. I wasn't sure how long I'd been walking, or how many trucks, cars and motorbikes had passed me. No one seemed to appreciate the youth of America or the Great American Roadtrip anymore. Getting out of Florida had been easy, that was one month ago. Getting out of Texas was a bitch. I knew there was a reason I'd hated Texas. I'd been dragging my ass across the state for a week now. There hadn't been a car down this sorry excuse of a road in forever, and I had no idea how far it was to the Texas/Oklahoma border.
Finally, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a car behind me. I stuck out my arm, thumb up, hoping I'd get lucky. The car, a faded flatbed truck raced past me, and I sighed. Another one bites the dust. Or not. Break lights. I burst into a sprint as soon as I saw the truck pull over, and I ignored my aching feet and the clinking sound of the wind chime strapped to my back pack. I opened the door, hopping in without even looking.
I froze, my eyes wide. I turned my head slowly, and was met by Walter's sly grin. He was wearing his flip up-sun glasses, and the lenses were down at the moment, but I could still imagine the look in his eyes behind them. It was that same look he got when he'd found something. Which meant he'd been looking for me.
"Who sent you?" I asked tersely.
"That's my line," he pointed out, flipping up the lenses.
"Is it Uncle Shad? Timo? Leo?"
"All of the above?Your dear uncle came to visit me in prison..."
"Prison? You were in prison?"
"Long story. Let's just say Isabel lost her position as US marshal, and Leo had to literally bend over backwards to get me released. I'm on parole."
"Aren't you violating your parole now?" I asked, nodding out towards the Texan landscape. "In my experience parole officers aren't too happy about their parolees skipping town."
"Let's just say my parole office has a soft spot for my tenacity and my ability to find things. Things like runaway gypsy girls."
"Your parole officer is Ms. Farrel? I thought she only dealt with juvie kids."
"She actually said I behaved like one, so go figure." Walter smirked and pulled out from the road side.
We laughed, and I wasn't actually surprised. This should go on that board. Willa vs. Walter.
"Did Uncle Shad really ask you to find me?" I inquired after a moment's silence.
"Yup. He wasn't happy about it. Basically told me it was Leo's and my fault that you had run away. I turned him down because he kept calling the bar The End of the World."
"Yeah, well, I've tried telling him..."
"Then, Timo came asking me to find you. I asked if Shadrack sent him. Say what you want about the Romani, but Timo's a lousy liar."
"So you said no?"
"I told him he didn't want me to find you, thus I couldn't take the job." Walter shrugged his shoulders. "Then Leo asked me. I know he wanted to find you, and he's been all miserable since you left."
Damn you, Leo.
"Now what? Are you going to take me back to Miami? Uncle Shad will eat me alive and then spit me out and marry me off with Timo if I go back."
"I had to leave, you know that right? It was the only way, otherwise I'd be married now."
"Enough with the suspense, am I going back or what?" I exclaimed, trying to decipher Walter's expression.
"I think the obvious question is where are you going?"
Funny. I had never really thought about it. I briefly considered finding my mom, but I knew Uncle Shad would get to her, and that if I showed up she would be obligated to send me back into the family business. I had "family" all over the country, but all of them would get the message from Uncle Shad. Send me back, or else. So I wasn't really heading for anyplace in particular. Away was fine.
"Away," I therefore replied. I wasn't lying and if I gave Walter a specific place, the location would just find its way back to Leo. "I don't know where, there isn't a specific place. I'll manage. How did you find me?"
"90% of people entering a store usually turn right, because they are right handed. You are right handed. Turning right would've landed you in the Atlantic, plus you are running away, so you turn left. You've left your family, so you probably won't go and stay with relatives or whatever you call them. You lived with Leo for long enough that you probably won't steal unless necessary, so hitchhiking. You hate Texas..."
"How do you know I hate Texas?" I interrupted, a little curious as to how he could possibly know that.
"Because you told me. That time when I was in Texas to find that crashed satellite. I called to check up on you, and you told me you hate Texas."
Oh. Yeah, I did say that.
"Anyhow, you hate Texas, so you're not going to either New Mexico or Mexico, that leaves us with Oklahoma, because if you wanted to go to Arkansas, you would've crossed into Arkansas when you were in Louisiana. With that info, Isabel called in a few favors from colleagues, well, former colleagues now. Surprisingly many girls are hitchhiking, but not that of them are hiking around with a small backpack with a wind chime attached to it."
"Well, at least I won't get run over by old grannies and brats on bikes..." I mumbled.
We sat quietly as Walter drove us God knows where. About half an hour later, we rolled into a small town that seemed to turn up from out of nowhere.
"Where are we?"
"I'm sorry what?"
"Paris, about fifteen miles from the Oklahoma border," Walter explained, turning down the volume on the radio just as an old country song came crackling out through the speakers. "There's a truck stop just up ahead, I'll drop you off there."
"You're not taking me back?"
"Leo asked me to find you, not to bring you back. You're found, so my job's done."
"But, what if he asks you to bring me back?" I asked agitatedly as we pulled up outside the truck stop.
"I'll tell him you left for Paris, which really isn't a lie."
"He'll never believe you," I protested, but nevertheless got out, shouldering my backpack.
Walter peered at me though the windows, his glasses low on his nose.
"I'mma risk it."
I climbed out of the truck with my jingling backpack, and slammed the door shut. Walter rolled down the window on the passenger side and leaned out.
"You know, you're welcome back whenever you want, Willa. You're still the best finder's apprentice a finder could have."
"I can't come back, and you know it," I replied, shrugging my shoulders.
"Well, I had to try, at least."
Walter watched me in silence for a moment, then flipped down the lenses of his sunglasses.
"Be safe, apprentice."
I smiled at him, and waved goodbye. I couldn't bring myself to say it. If I said it, I knew I would crumble, and be back in that truck faster than I can pick a pocket. It had to end this way. Walter leaned back in, revved the engine and made a 180 before pulling out and heading back. I watched him disappear down the road before turning and scoping the truck stop. A few semi trucks, couple of cars. I'd probably be able to get a ride.
One hour later, I'd chatted up a young truck driver, Dane, from Kansas, who would be passing through Oklahoma on his way back home. He said I was welcome to hitch a ride to wherever I wanted as long as it was on the way. I thanked him, thinking that maybe I'd take the chance to see Kansas. Maybe I'd see Superman. Or Dorothy. Or the Winchesters.
As Dane sped down the highway, I found myself thinking if this was the right choice. No clear destination. Maybe I'd end up lost, one of the things Walter would really have to search for. Maybe I needed a destination after all. But no matter how I tried to look at it, it all came back unanimously. No. No destination. No preset path. So what if I ended up lost?
I'mma risk it.
A/N: Like it? Please, leave a review! :)