The Amazing Adventures
of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Five: Flight
"I am thinkink maybe," growled Mrs. Jachimczyk, "I vant to
have commink here ze policeman. That is maybe vhat I am
thinkink. You stay," she said, jabbing a fat
finger at Alex, "I go."
Helpless, Alex watched her steam out the
apartment door like an aging tugboat, slamming it behind her in righteous disgust, while
his intestines wrapped themselves tightly around his stomach.
"Damn," he rasped,
Sara parroted happily, "Damn."
Alex spun around to look at her. He had a
brief thought about telling her to wash her mouth out with soap. Lot of good that would
do. He almost laughed.
She was still dripping with soapy water.
Oh, well, first things first. "Come on," he told her,
"Let's get you
He led her back upstairs, stuck her under
the shower to rinse off, and then showed her how to towel herself dry, more or less. When
she was finished, she shook her head like a wet dog, water spraying everywhere, and her
hair flew into its original pristine condition, seemingly completely dry, as if nothing
had ever happened to it.
convenient, he thought.
He managed to scrounge up some old sweats
that were sufficiently nondescript as to look normal on a teenager. Her costume slippers
would have to do for her feet, but they'd pass. The rest of her outfit (already quite
dry) he stuffed into a suitcase, along with as much of his stuff as would fit.
His mind was racing. The apartment was bad
enough, but surely Mrs. Jachimczyk had pegged Sara as a teen runaway, lured into his
clutches for despicable purposes. What could he do? Tell the truth? Hah. He didn't
think waiting around to try to explain things to a cop was a stellar idea. He'd wind
up in a cell with other perverts and Sara would end up God-knows-where.
How long do I
have? he wondered. Some of his stuff was still by the door
and more was in the car. It would have to do. Time to clear out.
Trailed by Sara, he skipped down the
stairs and cautiously opened the door. Standing guard just outside were Rudy and Jesus, a
couple of the omnipresent Mexican handymen who managed to keep the complex from being
condemned. They were carrying heavy, ugly plumbing tools and didn't look like their
usual jovial selves.
pasa, muchachos?" said Alex in
as friendly a manner as he could muster.
Their obviously watchful silence was
deafening. Jesus turned his head and ceremoniously spat on the sidewalk, then folded his
arms across his chest, resting his pipe wrench on his shoulder like Casey waiting his turn
at bat. Alex ducked back inside.
Hoo boy. What now? Sic Sara on them? Great
lesson that would be. Nah, that's unthinkable. He was floundering for some way out.
Time to call out the Marines. His current
on-and-off occasional date the last eight months was a lawyer, hopefully a good one. He
picked up the phone (relieved to see that Sara hadn't eaten it yet) and fumbled
through his wallet for her card.
justice, the American Way
here," she answered at last.
"Hey, it's Alex. Uh, looks like
I'm gonna need a lawyer. You busy?"
Sure, I'm not busy tonight. Where do you want to go?"
"No, I mean it. I've got a
"You? Come on. What is it? I
can't fix parking tickets, you know."
"Please, listen to me. My landlady
just called the cops, and she means it."
"You are kidding, aren't
"Serious as the national debt,"
he said as forcefully as he could. "My apartment is way trashed. Like Mick
Jagger's hotel room. Nuclear fallout and everything."
"Oh. Wish I'd been at that
party." She paused for a long moment. "Look, I can't be your attorney, but
maybe I can get someone. Might be cheaper to just buy the whole lousy apartment building,
from the looks of it."
"Well, that's not all.
There's a girl involved. Like, uh, underage."
"Thank you for sharing that with
me," she said icily.
Alex plunged in, somewhat deliriously,
"It's not what you're thinking. I know it doesn't look real good. The
landlady barged in and there's this debris lying all over the place, a lot of broken
stuff, the walls are ruined, the carpet's ruined, the plumbing's ruined, the
fridge is lying on my kitchen table — and this girl pops out of the bathroom. OK, she
looks like she's a runaway, and she's not even exactly legal. You know,
she's like an alien, not from the US of A. She just showed up in my apartment while
I was out of town on a gig. But she's got no ID, no family…" Talk about
digging a hole.
"Sounds like you need a lawyer,
alright." She thought for a moment. "Did you cause the damage yourself?"
"Did you leave your apartment locked
up while you were away?"
"You didn't let her in to your
apartment or invite her or anyone else in while you were away?"
"No. She was there when I got
"She caused the damage? Or her
"You touch her? I mean, kiss her,
grab her boobs, drop trou, anything like that?"
"No way. She was a mess, so I let her
sleep on the couch and then drew a bath for her. I was washing out her clothes when Mrs.
J. showed up. The girl came out to see what was going on and Jachimczyk put two and two
together and came up with 69. There's two of her stooges standing guard outside while
she calls 911."
"Hmm. You know, the reason I'm a
good lawyer is because I can tell when someone's telling me the truth. Alex,
you are hiding something from me. But I can't imagine you doing anything really
kinky. Not you. I don't know what's going on and it sounds
like you're not exactly up to speed yourself. I'll see what I can do, but first,
you're going to have to get a grip."
"Look," she went on, "if an
officer shows up, don't say anything. Don't try to explain anything to him,
don't talk to him, don't give him the time of day. I mean it. Not a word. Give
him your name, show him your TDL, do whatever he says without any hesitation. But
don't say anything. You understand?"
"If they take you to the station,
don't speak to anyone there, either. Do what they tell you to do. Sooner or later,
you'll be able to call me and I'll get you out, I promise.
"And don't say anything to the
girl, either. They'll take care of her. Don't offer to help. Stay away. For
God's sake, don't think about touching her. I'm guessing you felt sorry for
her or something, like she was a stray cat. Nothing you can do now will help her.
She's out of your hands. Got it?"
"Yeah," he said glumly. So much
for Sara and him. What would happen to her now? She was just not in any shape yet to be
put through some impersonal, bureaucratic meat grinder. At first, they'll treat her
like a delinquent, then as a retard, and finally as a freak.
God, he felt awful. What an
idiot! He should have tied her up when he went to bed, as if that would have done any
good. Well, he should have done something. He looked morosely at Sara, trying to drink in
what might well be his last sight of her.
Dinah spoke up, "Hey, you still
"Sure," he replied, trying not
to sound as choked up as he felt.
"Listen, this isn't as bad you
think, unless you're hiding something a lot worse than what you've told me. In
the long run, this whole incident will just be expensive and annoying. You'll get
over it and have a story to tell. Cheer up, OK?"
"OK, thanks. I really appreciate it… I owe you one."
"Yeah," she said,
"I gotta go. Mrs. J's coming
back any second."
"Don't forget what I told you.
Keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself. And call me," he heard her say as he
"Sara," he started,
"We're in trouble."
She looked down guiltily. "I'm
sorry," she mumbled.
"It's not your fault.
You're just a kid in a candy shop. With a bulldozer. It's my job to look after
you, and I didn't think through the consequences of leaving you alone. You are
completely outside of my experience, I'm afraid, and I just hope I get another chance
to get it right."
He looked at her
intently. "I don't really know what
I'm gonna do the next few minutes, but whatever happens, unless I tell you different,
stay close to me. Even if I run out of here. Can you do that?"
She nodded. It sounded like it could be
Rudy and Mrs. J came in.
"Mistor Luthor. Ze policeman is comink. But you tellink me, vhat it
vas that vas goink on here. Such
a mess, it vould take army to be makink."
Alex tried to start edging closer to the
door, but Rudy would have none of it. "I don't know what to say, Mrs.
Jachimczyk. I'm really sorry for what happened. I can pay for everything,
"You did this?" she demanded.
"I… Well, I'm not
— I mean I am…" he sputtered. "It's my responsibility."
"That is not vhat I
vas askink. You
did this, you didn't do this. Who?"
Alex glanced quickly at Sara. Mrs. J
caught it and turned to look at her. Sara looked blissfully ignorant of what was going on,
with not a care in the world.
Mrs. J launched into a powerful diatribe
in whatever language was her native tongue, hands waving in the air.
Sara answered her cheerfully in the same
language. It suddenly got real quiet.
Finally, Mrs. J barked a
long series of questions
at Sara which she answered unconcernedly. Mrs. J thought for a while and turned to Alex.
"She gots papers?"
"No," Alex replied, "She
doesn't have any parents, either." He felt shameless.
"Vhy you are beink responsible?"
"She was given into my care. I
couldn't say no." He shrugged his shoulders helplessly.
"You are a man livink alone."
"She is a baby."
Mrs. J looked at Sara again, then turned
back to Alex and tapped at her own head with the end of her stubby forefinger, eyebrows
raised in an obvious question.
Alex replied, "She's
Mrs. J nodded thoughtfully.
The proverbial light bulb went off over his head. He took a desperate gamble.
"In a minute, the policeman will be here. Then the state will have her."
Mrs. J's eyes narrowed, her face
becoming grim. Time passed in a whirl of thoughts for both of them,
until — through the
open door — Jesus whistled and nodded down the long sidewalk to the street. They could hear
the crackle of a police unit two-way.
Mrs. J strode purposefully to the door,
fluidly grabbing a screwdriver and hammer out of Rudy's tool belt as she passed. With
what looked like well-practiced expertise, she jabbed the screwdriver into the deadbolt
keyhole, drove it home with the hammer and twisted. Spinning, she backhanded the bolthole
in the doorframe with the hammer, rendering it useless. Then she put all her weight on the
doorknob. It broke off immediately and she kicked it unerringly into the bushes. She
flipped the tools to Rudy, who holstered them on the fly like a western gunfighter just as
the cop arrived at the door.
"Hey, Mrs. J," the young black
officer smiled at her, "Doin' OK?"
Mrs. J beamed at him like she was his
grandson, "Ah, Mistor Monroe! So fine you are lookink today. All
"Pretty fine, can't
complain." He put on his business face. "OK, what do we got?"
"Mistor Luthor here," she started,
"He goes avay couple days, comes back and — boom! — vandals ev'rywhere
breakink in. Vhat a mess!"
Alex's knees went weak with relief.
The cop said, "Vandals? What, broke
in? Damn, that's too bad. Nobody hurt, though, huh?"
Mrs. J and Alex
shook their heads.
He glanced over at the door and started writing
busily on his notepad. "You got a tally?"
Mrs. J led him into the kitchen, showing
him the carnage.
"Ve fix for veeks, maybe then ve
know. Look, completely busted everythink is."
"Whoa," he said, eyeing the
refrigerator. "Man, you got some sick dudes here." More scribbling.
Finally, he turned to Alex.
"You live here?"
"Need to see some ID, sir."
Alex fumblingly grabbed his TDL from his
wallet and handed it over. He didn't dare speak, not knowing what would come out of
his mouth. The cop scribbled some more and handed it back, eyeing Sara the whole time.
Officer Monroe asked the usual
questions — what was missing, did anyone see the perpetrators, etc. Everybody was ignorant. They all
tromped upstairs, looked around perfunctorily, and tromped back.
Finally, he took Mrs. J
aside and asked her, "Who's the chick?"
Mrs. J beamed and announced proudly,
"My granddotter she is! From my country to visit."
She turned to Sara and said something
unintelligible to which Sara replied in kind.
"She thinks so handsome you
The cop laughed. "Tell her I think
she must be a princess back home."
He continued, "You know, you oughtened let
her wander around out here all by herself. You need to keep an eye on this sweet thing,
"Ah, like her big
brother you are soundink. Ve take good care of her, don't you vorry!"
He handed his
clipboard to her. "OK, I'm done. Sign."
meticulously autographed the form.
"You know where to get your copy, right?"
Thanks! Such a sveet man
you are beink. If only younger I vas! Such a kiss I vould give you!
Good-bye." She waved
him down the sidewalk.
When he was gone, she parlayed with the
Mexicans briefly, pointing upstairs, then turned to Alex and Sara.
began, but she cut him off.
"Shut up," she growled,
"Come vith me."
plowed through the door and turned down the sidewalk between the apartment units toward
the front of the complex where her office was. Alex scurried in her wake with Sara close
While Alex tried to figure out what Mrs. J
had in mind, Sara drank in the new world she was seeing with unabashed rapture. It was her
first morning under the new sun, and it was beautiful…!
Clouds, puffy and white,
drifted lazily in the hot sky. Singing birds and buzzing insects
flew busily around. The grass was full of tiny life, exuding new, fresh smells, complex and rich.
There were thick, fragrant bushes and waving trees, with people moving
about — and color, sound
and life everywhere she looked. It filled her with wonder and excitement. How glorious!
Her own sense of being alive leaped within her,
blossoming and spreading into every corner of
her body. She couldn't take in enough during the short walk to the office.
Inside, Mrs. J curtly told the
receptionist, "Open 'B' for Rudy and Jesus. Drive ze cart over to 1207. No
calls." She led them through the back into her private unit.
Her apartment was unexpectedly spacious
and elegant. There were real hardwood floors with fine Persian rugs scattered about. The
furnishings were expensive and tasteful, with what looked like original artwork on the
walls. There were a lot of bookshelves, filled to capacity with serious-looking books in
several languages. Alex raised his eyebrows and gave an appreciative whistle. He
hadn't realized that being a slumlord could be so profitable.
Mrs. J motioned them into a couple of
overstuffed chairs. Without preamble, she began, "You are
thinkink maybe I save your ass,
Alex blinked a couple of times,
"I'm really grate…"
She cut him off, "Vhy you
think I save
your ass? 'Cause you beink so clever? You try pullink fast one on stupid old foreign
lady. 'The state vill have her'," she mimicked. "Hah!"
Alex could only stare at her, his mouth
"Four days ago, I see you
road trip, same as last two years. Amarillo, right? Takink you
three days. Vhen you go, ve alvays
vatch out your apartment for you. You never notice. First thing, Rudy go in, change AC filter, pour Drano in
drains, sprayink bug stuff.
"All of sudden, comes big
storm — rain, hail,
lightnink, wind, whoosh! Drivink ev'rybody inside. Then gone like that." She snapped her
"In evenink, Rudy tell me 1207
windows wet, I tell him turn off AC, he say he makink sure
thermostat vas beink off. Vhen he check,
compressor not runnink. Then Jesus tell me valls vet in 1206, 1208, 1215, all next to you. Big mystery!
I decide, stay out! Ve vatch, ve vait. Who knows vhere it goink?
"You comink back lookink like hell,
same as alvays. Pretty soon, windows OK, compressor start. Ve hear tools runnink, lots of
vacuum cleanink. You stay inside, not even get paper next morning. Later, such a
clangink and bangink, then big flash like maybe bomb explode, but no noise. Smoke alarm
goink off later, ve almost rush in, but siren stopink vhen you
battery out. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
"In morning, vater
under valls in 1215. Now I decide ve go in, get ev'rybody up, get ready. Vait for shift
change at precinct, not takink chances.
"So I go in, see such a mess! But I
know you not be doink all zis. I am thinkink maybe you vouldn't, hah?"
Alex, mesmerized, could only nod his head
weakly. Sara thought this was a great story and was paying rapt attention.
"I see crowbar bent like pretzel. I
see fridge on table. I see big burn on vall and skillet vith holes. I see bites in
nobody bites. Then I see your books, like a child vould mark them. Not you. You vould no
more do such a thing than I vould, hah?" She gazed around at her own precious books
for a moment.
"Then I see her comink down
ze stairs, all soapy. No marks, no cuts, no bruises, no needles, healthy, lookink like Barbie
doll, not like refugee, not like runavay. I see how you are lookink. I
think maybe I callink policeman, see how you lookink then. Besides, I am needink report for insurance. Cop too
dumb to see anything, not to vorry, as long as I show him door vas break into.
"So I comink back
— sure enough, you beink scared, ready to be runnink avay,
leavink ev'rything you have, your whole life, vith girl who bend
crowbars and not beink smart enough to be usink towel.
"Then I gettink big surprise! Girl speak
And Czech, Polish, Greek, German and Hebrew. But havink mind of child."
She turned to Sara, "Vhat
"My name is Sara Corel. I'm very
pleased to meet you. You may call me Sara." She was very polite and proper.
"Pleased I am to
be meetink you. I am
Ekaterina Jachimczyk. Ev'rybody callink me Mrs. J, but you be callink me Banggo."
at Alex, "Means 'grandmother' vhere I am comink from." She somehow made it
clear the name was not for him to use. Ever.
Switching to what turned out to be a whole
series of Slavic-sounding languages, Mrs. J and Sara carried on a lengthy conversation
while Alex looked on uncomprehendingly. Bewilderment seemed to be a permanent condition of
his lately. He had suffered through more life-changing revelations in the past
than in his whole previous life. There might not be an end to it all in the foreseeable
Finally, Mrs. J turned back to him.
"So. She is foundlink child left on
doorstep. She think you her father are. So many times I am thinkink maybe
meetink someone who vas born
yesterday, now findink someone who is. Good joke, hah?"
"Vhere comes her from? Good question,
no answer, hah?"
Alex cleared his throat, "Well,
I've given it a lot of thought, but there isn't really much to go on besides the
fact that she is a very unusual young lady." He briefly explained Sara's
metamorphosis from iceberg to awakening, including the highlights of his testing.
Mrs. J nodded her head knowingly through
his recitation, glancing frequently at Sara as if confirming his story. Sara seemed
fascinated, paying rapt attention to every word.
Alex finally concluded, "I think
it's obvious that she isn't from anywhere on our planet, Mrs. J. Wherever
she's from, however she got here, whoever sent her isn't telling. The only thing
she had with her were the clothes on her back."
"Clothes? Vhat clothes?" Mrs. J
Oops, thought Alex. "Oh, yeah, I
forgot about that part."
How was he going to explain the costume? He doubted very
much that Mrs. J read many comic books.
"Sara was wearing a, uh, kind of…
A special outfit, I guess you could call it. I had just finished washing it when you rang
the doorbell. As you can imagine, it was kinda…"
"Vhere is, now?" Her eyes
narrowed ominously, as if he were holding out on her. Alex wondered if she used to torture
confessions out of enemies-of-the-state in the 'old country'.
"Brown suitcase by the door."
Mrs. J went to the door to her
outer office and yelled out commands in Spanish. Alex had a sudden image of a small army
of Mexicans in battle fatigues scurrying around the apartment complex, enforcing
discipline in Madame Jachimczyk's personal police state. In less time than he would
have believed possible, she was opening the suitcase.
She pulled out the costume and looked at
the emblem thoughtfully for a minute, then carefully laid it out on another chair next to
her front window. She went behind her desk, pulled open a drawer and brought out a deadly-looking pistol. Without any explanation or warning, she calmly fired several shots in
rapid succession directly at the golden 'S'. The material leaped and writhed
from the impacts, but was obviously undamaged. Still-smoking bullets spun around on the
floor in front of the chair, making a clatter.
Mrs. J noted Sara's reaction
carefully. The girl watched the whole episode with delight, neither flinching at the loud
reports, nor showing the slightest sign of fear, blue eyes taking in everything
unblinkingly. Unlike the horrified Alex, hands over his ears and probably needing a change
Nobody rushed in the door from the outer
office. Mrs. J evidently had absolutely no concern that anyone would. She then very
deliberately pointed the gun at Sara's chest, exactly where the symbol of her costume
would be located, and slowly squeezed the trigger again.
Much to Alex's surprise, he found
himself flying out of his chair faster than he would have believed possible, throwing
himself on top of the unmoving Sara as the gun went off. It was pure instinct, and proved
beyond a shadow of a doubt the depth of his commitment to his child.
Not an alien being from some
unknown planet. Not a transitory infatuation with a compellingly beautiful abandoned girl.
Not merely compassion, not service to some duty, but the unreasoning act of courage
necessary in that instant to shield his child from danger.
The shot rang
out. Alex flinched. Realizing that he had not been hit, he
quickly spun around off of Sara to confront Mrs. J. She was already returning the spent
weapon to her drawer, apparently unconcerned.
"Show him bullet, Sara, before he
is jumpink over desk."
Uncertainly, he turned around to look at
Sara, who was smiling broadly, holding the hot projectile in the palm of her hand like an
As he slowly succumbed to adrenaline shock, he heard Mrs. J telling him,
"Congratulations on lovely new-born daughter. Is miracle, virgin birth,
Chapter Six: School
Patrick Hill, 2000