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, "Damn, damn, DAMN!"
        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 dressed, anyway."
        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.
        That's certainly 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.
        "¿Que 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.

        Dinah Prinze, attorney
        Perry, Dyess, Eyelandt
        Truth & justice, the American Way

        "Prinze here," she answered at last.
        "Hey, it's Alex. Uh, looks like I'm gonna need a lawyer. You busy?"
        "That's original. Sure, I'm not busy tonight. Where do you want to go?"
        "No, I mean it. I've got a problem. Really."
        "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 you?"
        "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 home."
        "She caused the damage? Or her friends?"
        "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 there?"
        "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, "You do."
        "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 hung up.
        "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 fun.
        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, really."
        "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 — unusual."
        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 is vell?"
        "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 vas 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?"
        Alex nodded.
        "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 are beink!"
        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, y'hear?"
        "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."
        She meticulously autographed the form.
        "You know where to get your copy, right?" he asked.
        "Sure, sure. 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.
        "Mrs. Jachimczyk, I…" Alex began, but she cut him off.
        "Shut up," she growled, "Come vith me."

        She 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 behind.
        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, hah?"
        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 hanging open.
        "Four days ago, I see you leavink for 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 fingers.
        "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 takink battery out. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
        "In morning, vater comink 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 things 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 Russian! And Czech, Polish, Greek, German and Hebrew. But havink mind of child."
        She turned to Sara, "Vhat is your name, child?"
        "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."
        She glowered 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 two days than in his whole previous life. There might not be an end to it all in the foreseeable future.
        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?"
        Nobody laughed.
        "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 demanded.
        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 of underwear.
        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.
        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 offering.
        As he slowly succumbed to adrenaline shock, he heard Mrs. J telling him, "Congratulations on lovely new-born daughter. Is miracle, virgin birth, hah?" 

Chapter Six: School

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© Patrick Hill, 2000