A/N: Thank you to the reviewer who asked if I was going to include Steve. I must admit that I didn't start writing the story with the thought of including Jinks, but after being asked, I realized there was definitely an excellent place to stick him in. If you see anything else you'd like to add to the story - let me know!
Artie came into the kitchen, gnawing on an oatmeal cookie. He was carrying a packet of papers, which he set down in front of Claudia.
She was at the far end of the table, tapping away at her computer. Vanessa had convinced her to leave Adelie for at least a few minutes, so the doctor could drain the infection caused by the Tesla burn and administer first aid to glass-spattered hands. But Claudia wasn't happy about it. "What's this?" she asked Artie.
"It might be a piece of the puzzle," he replied.
Claudia looked over at the papers. "The glass-cutting compass of Andrew Cyprus Russborough?"
"He was a famous art thief," Artie said, sitting down at the table. "He was one of the first to use a glass cutter to gain access to galleries and museums."
"Why do you think it's the compass?"
"Our last thought, the portrait of Julia Etta Crane's mother, was located at one of the Smithsonian galleries in Washington, D.C. And look at this part."
He pointed to the file. Claudia looked down. "It was a sonar glass cutter?"
"The earliest version consisted of a tone-producing box powered by a hand crank, which sent out a high-pitched frequency that was high enough to shatter the glass. The compass had a brass knob and a brass cutting tube on it. The tube directed the frequency along the pane of glass and enabled Russborough to cut in an even circle."
"It says it's here in the Warehouse," Claudia pointed out.
"It is," Artie said. "I don't think Adelie uses the compass. I think she is a compass."
"What's in those cookies?" Claudia asked.
"Think about it," Artie said. "One of her reports says she broke a window that was, for all intents and purposes, out of her reach. A window that had been double-glazed from the outside, and had bars along the entire length. She has small hands, but not that small."
"You think she…"
"Broke it with sound."
"What does that have to do with the music box?"
Artie shrugged. "I don't know."
Claudia thought about this, tapping the drawing of the Russborough Compass with her index finger. "Maybe they're two separate things. Maybe the music box… isn't even an artifact."
"A music box made out of glass and human bone?" Artie snorted. "If that's not an artifact, I'll eat my hat."
"We need to play it," Claudia said.
"No, no, too dangerous."
"Artie – we need to have her play it," Claudia said. "It's hers. She knows how to use it."
Vanessa came down the stairs looking tired. She set her kit on the table in the hall and came into the dining room. "I got most of the infection drained," she said, sitting down next to Artie.
He put his hand on top of hers.
"And she's still sleeping," Vanessa went on, brushing her hair off her forehead. "I'm glad, because I think she's in a lot of pain. She is such a fighter, though. God. Even asleep she still tried to fight me."
At the end of the table, Artie's Farnsworth started vibrating. He reached for it and flipped it open. "What?"
"The fake doctor is a jerk," Pete's voice emanated from the device.
"Pete's just mad 'cause she hit on him." Myka's voice joined her partner's.
"The fake doctor is a jerk," Pete repeated, a little more strongly. "She made it very clear that she doesn't see Adelie as a person."
"She said Kanner's syndrome isn't a diagnosis, that Adelie's not a savant, and autism is just a cry for attention," Myka added. "And she was… I'm sorry, excuse the horrible pun… shockingly cavalier about the electrical stimulation treatment that she tortured Adelie with."
"She thinks she's going to be the next Freud," Pete said. "Or… whoever his torture-y cousin would be."
Claudia gripped the edge of the table hard, even though the offending doctor was thousands of miles away and in federal prison.
"Did you go by the hospital yet?" Artie asked.
"Not yet," Pete reported. "We're on our way to see the neighbor lady now, and we'll hit the hospital after we're done there."
"Do you think everything will be back in place, Artie?" Myka asked.
"At this point I don't know what to think," Artie said. "But based on the sheer amount of power it would take to create two separate hospitals – one without people and one with – I think you'll find that everything will be the way it was on your first visit. I'm still trying to figure out what caused the dual realities, but it's just one of the many mysteries we're investigating."
"Good," Pete said. "'Cause even though that doctor was an asshole, he was still better than going through that creepy empty hospital. It was like a video game… I half-expected to see Slender Man following us."
"Who?" Artie asked.
"Um, nothing," Pete said.
"We'll call you after we see the neighbor," Myka said.
"Good," Artie said, and closed the Farnsworth.
He looked over at Claudia. "Vanessa and I have reservations for lunch," he said. "Will you be all right here?"
"Because… we can stay," he said. "I mean, it's not a big deal."
"No, I'm fine," Claudia said. "I think I might try to get some more sleep while she's knocked out… she dreams like crazy."
Vanessa stood up, but Artie stayed at the table, looking at her gravely. "Claudia."
"Artie, I'm fine," she said, refusing to look up from the computer screen.
"You've just been through a lot lately," he said. "The whole business with the metronome, and taking Steve's pain, and now this girl falls into the Warehouse and…"
"I said I'm fine," she repeated, still staring at the screen as though she could cause it to implode.
"Okay," he said, clearly knowing when he was being dismissed.
He'd gotten as far as the front door before Claudia called out, "Artie?"
Artie turned. She stood in the hallway in her mussed pajamas, running one hand through her hair. "What?" he asked.
"Promise me… promise me we're going to make things better for her," she said softly.
Artie hesitated with his hand on the doorknob. Then he squared his shoulders and strode towards her. He took her head in his hands and tipped her forehead towards him. He kissed her gently. "We're going to make things better for her," he said. "I don't know how, but I promise we are not sending her back to that hospital."
"Thank you," she whispered.
He stepped back. "And if Agent Jinks calls, you tell him he was supposed to check in every forty-eight hours."
She smiled, and the sadness in her eyes abated somewhat.
"Get some sleep," Artie said.
She was at the bottom of the stairs when he said, "Claudia?"
"What, old man?"
"There's no shame in loving people."
"Yeah, yeah," she said.
"Claudia. I'm serious."
"I know. Now go have lunch with your girlfriend before she forgets why she came out here."
"Can I help you?" Joyce Bradley opened her door as far as the safety chain would allow.
"We're from the Secret Service," Pete said as he and Myka raised their badges.
"Oh, my goodness!" the older woman exclaimed. She was in her sixties with close-cropped gray hair and piercing gray-blue eyes. She pushed her wire-rimmed glasses up on her nose as she leaned in to look at the badges. Then she jerked her gaze up to the agents. "Is the President here? Is he coming to visit?"
"Um, no, ma'am," Pete said. "We're actually on a special assignment."
"We'd like to ask you some questions about an incident that happened ten years ago," Myka said.
"I don't know if I can remember that far back," Joyce Bradley said with a smile.
"You found a little girl in the house next door," Myka said.
At that the smile dropped from her face. "You'd better come in," Joyce said.
She asked them to sit in her living room while she prepared refreshments. She was in the kitchen for a very long time, and several times dishes clattered a bit disturbingly to the floor.
Pete busied himself looking at Joyce Bradley's photographs. She seemed to be the creative-photography type, and her works were lined up in minimalist black frames. The photographs were populated mostly by two good-looking, broad-shouldered men with dark hair, a cheery-looking redhead woman, and an army of small, cute children, but there were two that interested Pete the most – one seemed to be a full family portrait with Joyce, a slump-shouldered, broad-smiling man with kind eyes who was obviously her husband, the two men, the redheaded woman, and, at the far side of the photograph, a beatific woman in a nun's habit. The other portrait featured Joyce and her husband, posed around a young man in a high-tech wheelchair. He was redheaded and had a huge smile on his face.
Joyce came back in while Pete was still looking at the photos.
"You have a beautiful family," Pete said to cover.
"Oh, thank you," Joyce said. "I hope you like lemonade."
She set a tray of lemonade and shortbread cookies on the coffee table. Then she sat down and wiped her hands on her knees. "Please, have some lemonade," she said.
Pete sat down next to Myka and reached for a cookie.
"I never thought… I never thought anyone would come looking for that girl," Joyce said. Her eyes focused on her family photos, as though she was reliving something painful.
"What do you remember about the day you found her?" Myka asked.
Joyce put one hand to her mouth. At last she spoke. "There was a vandal in the neighborhood. He wasn't really doing any damage, but he was shaking everybody up. Breaking windows, smashing mailboxes, throwing garbage cans into the street, keying cars… just an annoying punk. That house was empty. It's been empty forever. The MacAllans used to live there, but that was twenty years ago. They went back to Scotland. I was watering my flowers on the far side of the house and I heard something. I walked over towards the MacAllans' house and saw a broken basement window."
She took a deep breath. "I saw the broken window first, but I don't know how I didn't hear the girl crying. It was absolutely pitiful. She looked like no one had ever cared about her. She looked hungry. And terrified."
She buried her head in her hands and then looked up, squaring her shoulders. "My son… my Carson… he has muscular dystrophy. Every single event in his life has been hard-won. I thought I knew what suffering was… and then I met the Wren."
Pete looked at Myka, confused. Myka shoved the file over to him and tapped Adelie's first name – Wrenna.
"It was a perfect name for her," Joyce went on. "She had these little frail birdy arms, and she reached out immediately. She sobbed until I picked her up. She couldn't weigh more than thirty-five… forty pounds. Absolutely frail. Her legs were so stick-thin that she couldn't stand up."
"Do you know how she got into the basement?"
Joyce shook her head. "No."
"What happened after you found her in the basement?"
"I brought her back here. She was terrified. So scared. She just screamed and screamed. I tried to figure out what I should do… who I should call…" Joyce pursed her lips and brought one hand up to adjust her glasses. "She just sobbed."
Pete reached for another cookie.
"I have never seen a child so badly treated as that little girl," Joyce said.
"How did you find out what her name was?" Myka asked.
"This is going to sound absolutely insane, but she had a note in her pocket," Joyce said.
"Do you remember what it said?"
Joyce nodded. "I still have the note."
She stood up and walked over to the desk in the far corner of the living room, picked up a piece of paper, and brought it back to Pete and Myka. "I thought this kind of thing only happened in the movies," Joyce said.
Myka carefully took the note.
She knows everything. She hears everything. Every time I look into her eyes I am faced with the knowledge of what I have done. She can no longer see me and that is my fault. I took her sight. Only monsters do that. Only monsters take away their daughter's sight. God strike me down if I lie – I love her too much to hurt her again. Please take my baby, because I know I will hurt her again. Her name is Wrenna Adelie Reagan-Arden. She loves music. I am so sorry. – Julie
"This breaks my heart," Pete said.
"It broke mine," Joyce said. "How do you recover after reading something like that?"
She wiped tears from her cheeks. "It's been ten years and I still think of her every… single… day."
She looked over at the family pictures again. "My daughter… my daughter is a nun in a convent upstate. I asked her to take the Wren into her heart and to pray for her every day, to bring her cause to God. My daughter has been in the convent for eight years and every day I know she prays for the Wren."
"That's lovely," Myka said.
"It's the least I could do," Joyce said. "I'm just an ordinary woman… five kids who turned out all right, husband who loves watching baseball far too much... I do what I can for my church and my ladies' aid society, but ever since I met the Wren I know it's not enough. Tell me – what is she like now?"
Myka smiled and handed Joyce a photograph Claudia had taken. Adelie was at the piano in the Warehouse in Claudia's too-big clothes, a smile on her face and an almost-peaceful look in her distant eyes. Claudia had managed to catch Adelie with her head turned somewhat, so that the nasty Tesla burn wasn't obvious.
Joyce's hand flew up to her mouth again. "Oh, in the name of Our Blessed Mother Mary – look at her! She looks so happy! She's so beautiful! And she plays the piano!"
"She's a savant," Myka said. "She can play anything. It's amazing."
"Oh, Our Lady bless and keep her!" Joyce exclaimed. "And she's… she's with you?"
"She's staying with us now," Pete said.
"God sent you," Joyce said. "God sent you to help her."
"We're doing all we can to help her," Myka said. "I just have one more question."
"Of course, of course," Joyce said, her eyes rapt on the photograph.
"When you found her, she had the note with her… was there anything else in the basement with her?"
Joyce looked up, thinking. "There was… a music box. I remember trying to get it away from her, but she wouldn't let go of it."
"Do you know what song the music box played?"
Joyce shook her head. "No. She never played it. I only knew it was a music box because my grandmother had one that looked like it. Austrian… or maybe Swedish. Beautiful, though. Very European. Very Old World. I thought it was lovely."
She looked back at the photograph. "May I… may I keep this?"
"Of course," Myka said. "Thank you so much for your help, Joyce."
She and Pete stood, and Joyce stood with them. "Did they ever find her mother?" the older woman asked.
"Not that we can tell," Pete said. "But now we have a name – maybe that will open up the search."
"If you don't find her… please tell her that Nana would love to see her again," Joyce said. "That's what I called myself. Nana. I thought it was easier to say than Joyce."
"We'll tell her," Myka said. "Again, thank you for your help."
"God bless and keep you, agents," Joyce said. "I know He brought you to me today."
Claudia slept, tossing and turning in an endless maze of dream corridors. She started waking up when the walls of the maze began to vibrate, and came fully awake when she realized it was the Farnsworth in her pocket doing the actual shaking. "Hmmm?" she said, blinking as she flipped it open.
"Claud. Thank goodness. Artie's not answering."
"Jinksy?" she asked blearily, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
"I'm coming home."
"What?" Claudia sat up. "I thought you were going to stay at the… the monastery until we figured the metronome out."
"I was," Jinks said. "Until I realized that I'm going to die from boredom if I stay here."
"But you're all one with the earth," Claudia said. "Meditating. No contact with the outside world. Guys in saffron robes. Selling stickers at the airport."
"Those are Hare Krishnas," Steve pointed out.
"Whatever," Claudia said. "Don't come home."
"We don't know if it's safe."
"You know what's not safe? Me, here at the temple. I've already made eight hundred little circles in the sand garden, and they told me if I couldn't learn to relax my raking that I was going to have to work in the kitchen."
"So – I can't work in the kitchen!"
"Because I'm not eighteen and I don't have a job at Arby's."
"Jinsky – I have no idea what you're talking about," Claudia said. "More so than usual."
"I'm coming home."
Claudia crossed her legs and propped herself up against the headboard. On the far side of the bed, as though responding to the light and movement, Adelie stirred. "Just be safe, Jinsky."
"What is… I mean, who is that?"
Claudia tilted the Farnsworth so Steve could see Adelie in all of her tiny, Tesla-burned, savant self. "Meet Adelie."
"You adopted somebody? I'm touched that you missed me so much, but I've only been gone four days."
"Listen, Jinsky – she adopted me. After she fell into the Warehouse."
"There, now you know as much as we do. Almost."
"What happened to her neck?"
"It's her neck… her chest… her ear… and Artie Tesla'd her. Apparently she's the first person in thirty years to react like this."
"You've been having fun without me," Steve said.
"Only the most."
Adelie blinked and rolled over. She reached out for Claudia's hand.
Claudia shifted the Farnsworth and took Adelie's cold fingers in hers. "Come home soon, Jinksy," she said. "Artie's having a date with Dr. Vanessa, Pete and Myka are in Illinois, Leena keeps asking me if I want scrambled eggs, and Mrs. Frederic keeps showing up in my dreams."
Adelie's other hand came up and took the Farnsworth from Claudia.
"Hey," Claudia said. "Not for little girls."
Adelie's face swam in the lens.
"Claudia?" Steve called.
Adelie pressed the Farnsworth against her ear.
"I don't know what she's doing!" Claudia said.
Adelie held the Farnsworth against her ear as though it was a shell promising audio tours of the ocean. Then a smile crossed her face and she pulled back, holding it upright in one hand as she conducted music in the air with the other. "Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick," she whispered, keeping precise time.
"Claudia?" Steve repeated, a little more uncertainly.
"I know, it's unsettling," Claudia said.
"No," Steve said, and he moved the Farnsworth so Claudia could see the metronome.
The pendulum was going back and forth at the same rate.
"Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick," Adelie whispered, and Claudia watched the pendulum sway back and forth, back and forth, in absolute rhythm with Adelie's syllables.
Then the girl slowed, "Tick… tick… tick…" and the pendulum slowed with it. "Tick…"
Claudia felt the air in the room get heavy and the edges of her vision got hazy. She couldn't get enough air into her lungs and her heart felt like a neglected bass drum in a middle school band class. "Adelie," she grunted with one of her last breaths, and pinched Adelie's elbow.
"Tick-tick-tick-tick." Adelie resumed the original pace, counting off the pendulum's flicks.
"I lied, Jinksy," Claudia said as the room slowly stopped spinning. "Come home. Come home now."