A/N: So, I experienced my first bout of writer's block with this story... and somehow I got through it. I think I know where I'm going now. Thanks to all my readers and reviewers! You make my day so much better!
And in honor of my birthday (October 8th), I should have another chapter up very soon! Enjoy!
She drove Adelie back to the Warehouse and put the music box in the girl's hands. "Artie is going to kill me for this," she said, "but I can't wait any longer. Show me."
Adelie stroked the top of the music box, then shook her head and tried to hand it back to Claudia. "Piano," she said.
"Adelie, show me," Claudia repeated.
"Piano," Adelie said. She reached out and put the music box on the desk. Once it was free from her grasp, she ran her hand along the desk, walked its length, and found the piano with her other hand. She sat down and started to play.
Claudia picked up the music box.
"Stop," Adelie said.
"You won't play it," Claudia said.
"Stop," Adelie repeated.
"Why can't I play it?" Claudia felt bad. She knew she was baiting the girl. And, seeing as they didn't know what the music box did, it was probably a stupid idea.
But darn it – she wanted to know.
Adelie let out a gusty sigh. She held out one hand.
Claudia picked up the music box and gave it to her.
Adelie set the music box on the piano and held out her hand again.
Suspiciously, Claudia took her hand.
Tinny piano music.
The feeling of cold metal and icy glass like raindrops on fingertips.
Don't you see it's mine? It's me. It's mine. I'm in there.
Light up and down my arms – like it's calling me back to when we were one part instead of two.
Do you know this song? You might have heard it before, think you know it, think you own it.
No. No. It's mine. It's me.
All fall down.
All fall down.
Claudia gasped and yanked her hand away from Adelie. "What…?"
Adelie scratched at the Tesla burn on her neck. She tilted her head away from Claudia as thought listening to something far off. "Sorry," she said distantly.
"Adelie, is that what happens…?" Claudia was having a hard time getting her thoughts together.
Adelie put her fingers back on the piano keys and took up the same song she'd been playing earlier.
Claudia let her play.
At some point she realized the song had changed. In a departure from her usual classical repertoire, Adelie was playing a song Claudia actually recognized and not something that sounded like it should be on an episode of "Masterpiece Theater."
"A little Peter Gabriel, hmm? I think I actually know this one. May I play with you?"
Adelie stopped playing and considered this. "Please," she said at last.
She waited until Claudia had retrieved her guitar from the corner of the office, and then started playing again. Claudia strummed along and sang softly. "Climbing up on Solsbury Hill… I could see the city light… wind was blowing, time stood still…"
She was more than a little surprised when Adelie joined her on the last words of the chorus, whispering, "Hey, I said – you can keep my things, they've come to take me home."
"You… know the words? Wait, that's a stupid question. I'm sorry. Of course you know the words. I just meant… you don't usually… shut up, Claudia." Claudia put her head in her hands.
Adelie laughed. It was an actual, honest-to-goodness laugh this time, one that seemed to start at her toes and radiate outward. Her whole face seemed to light up, the laughter bright and fizzy, her body reverberating with joy.
When at last she was done laughing, she rested her fingers lightly on the edge of the piano and turned her head towards the music box. "Piano… stop," she said after a long pause. "Hmmm… go."
She picked up the music box and held it close to her face, as though she smelled the box's aromatic cedar. Then her fingers trailed over the inlaid stones and she hummed a bit. To Claudia it seemed as though Adelie was going through an intricate ritual, one that had to be followed precisely before the girl could even think of opening the music box.
Adelie turned the music box and held the second side up to her eyes. She tilted the box back and forth rapidly, the mother-of-pearl inlays catching the light as she stared at it. Her breathing was calm and even; she seemed almost reverent.
The door opened to the office and Claudia nearly groaned aloud.
Artie came in. "I thought you were going to get some sleep," he said.
"I slept," Claudia said. She looked back over at Adelie. The girl had put the music box back on the desk. "I woke up when Steve called."
"And how is Agent Jinks?" Artie went over to the filing cabinet and began searching through it again.
Claudia checked her watch. "He should be here in an hour and a half."
"What?" Artie jerked back towards her. "Why?"
"Well, he said something about a rock garden… and drawing too many circles… and he doesn't have a job at Arby's, and…"
"How much sleep did you get?" Artie asked, looking worried.
"Um, I don't know. Where's Vanessa?"
"I dropped her off at the B and B. She had a brainstorm on the way back from the restaurant about the ointment… something she could do to make it more effective."
"Oh, and Artie, something else happened," Claudia said.
"I don't know if my elderly heart can take any more," Artie said.
"She can control the metronome."
"I was on the Farnsworth with Steve, and…" Quickly Claudia recounted what had happened.
"And you let Steve come home?"
"He's a grown-up, Artie," Claudia pointed out. "Just because the two of us are connected in ways no one understands by an artifact that no one really understands doesn't mean I'm his mother. Plus, the temple sounded like a whole lot of boring. What was I going to say? All the excitement is clearly here."
Artie put one hand to his forehead, and for a moment Claudia could see that he was tired. "All the excitement is always here," he said.
"You two are back again?" The guard at the Great Cooper Lake Children's Psychiatric Hospital was clearly not amused.
"We need a hobby," Pete said.
"Well, they haven't found that girl," the guard said. "So whatever you're doin', it ain't working."
"Thanks for the pep talk," Pete said.
He pulled the rental SUV into the parking lot. "Well, we're back."
"And so is the hospital," Myka said.
"Can't decide if that's good or bad," Pete said. "What are we looking for here? We got the music box. What else is there?"
"There has to be another artifact," Myka said. "The music box doesn't explain how Adelie got into the Warehouse."
"We don't know that," Pete said. "We don't know what it does."
"And it doesn't explain where the hospital went the other day," Myka added. "I know what we saw, Pete. This whole place disappeared."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I was here," Pete groused. "How is it possible that a crappy hospital in a backwater town ends up with multiple artifacts?"
"Luck? Sheer coincidence?" Myka shrugged. "Or maybe the psychotic non-doctor was hoarding things to make her treatment even more pleasurable."
Pete shuddered. "Don't talk to me about her. She's like… she's like having an oily rag dragged over your skin."
"That's gross," Myka said.
"Yeah, I thought so."
They were buzzed into the hospital foyer by a nurse in blue flowered scrubs. She smiled. "Back again? Tell me you've found our girl."
"We're still looking," Myka said.
"The doctor's in with a patient's parents," the nurse said. "He would like you to wait in the day room."
She turned to leave. Myka touched her shoulder gently. "I'm sorry to be rude, but did you work with Adelie at all?"
The nurse smiled a bit wanly and tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear. "She's one of my favorites. I'm so worried about her."
"I'm sure it must be frightening," Myka said.
"Especially after the scandal with that woman who pretended to be a doctor!" the nurse exclaimed. "You didn't hear it from me, but I knew all along that she was hurting our kids." She shook her head. "Electrical stimulation is a fraud treatment. You can tell her that if you see her. I hate that woman."
"Is there anything you can remember about Adelie's time here at the hospital that could help us find her?" Myka asked.
The nurse thought. "Whenever the kids got yard time – which wasn't often because we have to have enough psych techs and they're always up and quitting – she would stand in this one place by the fence. I know she's blind, but sometimes I swear she was looking for something."
"And in the ten years she's been here, she's never had any visitors?" Pete wanted to know.
She shook her head. "No. Not a one. She's a ward of the state. The only people who ever visit her are folks from child protective services, mostly when she has to go to the hospital." Tears welled up in her eyes. "Oh, God, I just think of her out there alone. What if she's hurt? She can't communicate! She can't tell anybody what she needs!"
"We're going to find her," Pete said.
"Thank you so much for everything you've told us," Myka said.
The nurse wiped her tears away. "I've worked here more than fifteen years and we've never, never lost a patient. Ever. And to think of somebody like Adelie out there – somebody so dependent and so handicapped – that breaks my heart."
"Can you show my partner where Adelie would stand in the yard?" Myka asked. "I'll wait here for the doctor."
"Yeah, of course," the nurse said.
Pete and the nurse walked off down the hall. Myka turned the corner and headed towards Dr. Wilson-Farrell's office.
His booming voice was carrying through the door, loudly carrying on what seemed to be his half of a phone conversation. "… I don't care if you use up the entire budget! You need to find her!" Pause. "She knows, Ben." Pause. "Yeah, you bet your ass we're screwed if she gets out. And don't even get me started on…" Pause. "Oh, I'm sorry. I let her get out? I thought I was doing pretty well shocking her into submission." Pause. "Well, you just think of that next time you decide to tell me how to do my job. Get off the phone. Find that girl." Pause. "You know exactly why. Ben – it doesn't matter that she can't talk. You've seen what she can do. And now that Hanover's in jail we've got no way to keep her from… no, I'm not going to tell you again. Get out there and find her. No. I've got to go. Those damn Secret Service agents are back."
A loud slam as the phone receiver was smashed back onto the cradle.
Myka hurried back around the corner and leaned against the wall, looking nonchalant.
The door to the doctor's office banged open and then the doctor himself strode down the hallway. Myka could hear him taking a series of long, cleansing breaths. Then he stepped forward. "Hello, Agent Bering. It's good to see you again."
"Hello, Dr. Wilson-Farrell."
They shook hands. The doctor put on a smile. "Any news on our escaped patient?"
"No," Myka said. "Nothing that seems promising."
"And you came back here to see if anything had turned up," the doctor said.
"We're stymied," Myka said, pretending to sound confused and at her wits' end. "And the local field office is breathing down our neck with this. Ugh."
"Well, the local police haven't found a body," the doctor said. He sounded so casual, as if he didn't care whether or not a patient of his was lying dead by the roadside somewhere. "There was an incident the other evening where an elderly woman thought she saw a body in the lake, but when they dredged the lake they found a bear. Can you believe it? A bear."
"That must have been frightening for the woman," Myka said.
"Yeah. She's upstate in a home now," the doctor said. "Listen, I don't really know what else I can tell you about Miss Reagan-Arden. She's a mystery to everyone here. Doesn't speak, doesn't really communicate. Everything with her is a battle. She hates everything – food, therapy, sleep, showers, yard time, art class – you name it, she fights it. Except for that damn piano."
He chortled. "I go home at night and I can actually hear myself think. When she was here I'd go home and all I could hear was that damn classical piano. It was like living in a department store."
He took a peek at his watch. "Listen, I've got a meeting in about five minutes. I asked the upstairs psych tech to pack up Miss Reagan-Arden's stuff for you. You can take it back to your people… you have crime lab people, right?"
"I'm sure the field office has some consultants."
"Yeah. You can take it back to them, see if you can get anything off it. It's just gathering dust here."
"Thank you, Doctor," Myka said.
"Any time. You need anything else, you just come on back," Dr. Wilson-Farrell said. He winked at Myka and headed back to his office.
A grim-faced psych tech met Myka at the front door of the hospital and handed her a brown paper bag.
"Thanks," Myka said. It was strange how a person so vibrant as Adelie could have so small a life that all of it would fit in a grocery bag.
She let herself out into the yard and walked towards the back fence, where Pete was staring at the chain links. "You plotting an escape?"
"I don't think anybody was plotting escape from here, Mykes," Pete said. "But I've got a weird vibe… and I walked around the whole yard and it's just right here."
He gestured to the four square feet of grass closest to the fence. "Here… vibe." He took a big step to the right. "Here… no vibe." He stepped back. "And now we do the hokey-pokey and turn ourselves about."
As though to prove his point, he twirled in place.
A crackle of energy shimmied down across the fence links.
"Whoa," Myka said.
Pete jerked to a stop. "What?"
"Do that again," Myka said.
"You like my hokey-pokey?" Pete did another twirl.
Another jolt of energy wiggled down the fence.
"Holy moly," Pete said. "I felt that."
"There's something in the ground," Myka said.
"And we have no idea what it is," Pete said.
"You say it's in the ground?" Artie asked, peering into the Farnsworth lens.
"Show him, Pete," Myka said.
Pete performed his ungainly twirl and they watched the energy slalom down the fence.
"Oh, my," Artie said. "Um, we'll have to do some research. Is there any place in town where you could get a metal detector?"
"I think we saw a Home Depot," Pete offered.
"Good. Go get a metal detector. And a coil of copper wire, a 60-watt light bulb, two rolls of tinfoil, and a two-inch nail. I'll call you back once we've figured out what it is."
"That's some shopping list," Claudia said as Artie closed the Farnsworth.
"I'm going to have them adapt the metal detector to seek artifacts," Artie said. "Tricky, but it can be done. I'm going down to the Saints and Sinners section to check a hypothesis."
He had been gone no longer than a minute when there was a loud thump at the office door and Claudia grabbed her head as a wave of pain roared through it. "Steve!"
"Sorry," Steve said from the corridor. "You guys changed the pass-key."
"Yeah, but the door's still in the same place!" Claudia said, and hurried over to open the door. "Ow."
"I said I was sorry."
She threw her arms around him. "It's okay. Welcome home."
"No place I'd rather be," he said. "Is this our genius?"
"Tesla burn and all," Claudia said.
Adelie's fingers were tumbling over the piano keys, spilling Bartok into the office. She stared up at the ceiling, her eyes flicking back and forth as though she was tracking something.
"Adelie, this is Steve," Claudia said.
"Hi, Adelie," Steve said.
She didn't respond, still focusing on the ceiling.
"She's not really talkative," Claudia said. "Sit down, sit down, and give me the dish about the temple."
"What's there to tell?" Steve asked, pulling a chair up to the desk. "Rock garden… tiny rake… terrible food… old lady in a pink velour track-suit…"
"Really. Now your turn."
"What's there to tell?" Claudia asked, gently mocking him. "Girl fell into the Warehouse… girl freaked out… Artie Tesla'ed girl… girl stopped breathing… girl's a savant… Dr. Vanessa showed up… girl and other girl jammed out to some Peter Gabriel…"
The music stopped abruptly.
Claudia turned towards the piano. Adelie was still staring at the ceiling, her hands raised above the piano as though she was playing in the air. Then she stopped, got up from the piano, and held her hands out as she walked towards Claudia and Steve.
Claudia held her out her hands.
Adelie ignored her, and reached out for Steve.
He looked at Claudia. "What do I…?"
"Just roll with it," Claudia said, a bit apprehensively. She was totally unsure. She knew what happened when Adelie "showed" her something, and she knew what happened when Steve hurt himself/themselves, but she had no idea what would happen when the two came together.
Steve gently took Adelie's hands.
She smiled. "Please," she said, stepping forward.
With no hesitation, she found Steve's knees and crawled into his lap, snuggling up against him, putting one arm around his neck.
Claudia's mouth fell open. "Holy…"
"I take it she's never done this before," Steve said over Adelie's head.
Claudia shook her head.
Adelie put her ear against Steve's chest, still smiling a dreamy smile. "Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick," she breathed.
Uneasily Steve patted her back.
She smiled and nestled up closer to him, still repeating, "Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick."
He awkwardly stroked her hair. "Umm… Claud…?"
"What do I say?"
"Do you have to say anything?"
Adelie smiled, and snuggled closer to Steve, as though she was trying to get as close to his heartbeat as possible. "Tick-tick-tick-tick," she whispered, and Steve rocked her back and forth, and she closed her eyes in blissful synchronicity.