Charmanderchar ch11

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True to her word, Claire brought me into the city. Crossing the US-Canadian border without a passport was oddly easy (at least for her.) Somehow Claire had passwords, name drops. (This was likely how she stayed under the radar for as long as she did.) We were easily waved through.

As expected, she didn’t take me to my actual apartment building (nor did I want her to.) She got me to the nearest bus station where I could blend in with other late-night partiers; drug addicts, homeless, prostitutes, etc. Wearing a pair of sandals, I found in a trash can (likely belonging to a former prison inmate), I made the walk to my address. Thankfully my landlord was home.

Mrs. Vivian Leu, although forced out of bed at an unreasonable hour, recognized me from a mile away. “You kids, always going on road trips, acting like you’re going to live forever.” Wearing just her sleepshirt and sweatpants, she was well within her right to turn me away, but she’d never been one to judge. She went to fetch her ring of keys and let me into my apartment.

“Yeah, it was one hell of a road trip.” I knew I couldn’t go to the police; they’d done their jobs. The man who kidnapped and assaulted me was now in custody. That’s all I could reasonably expect.

I entered my front door, immediately looking for the location of my actual wallet and house keys. Once I knew those items were safe, I laid down on the sofa, grateful for direct deposit. Even if I had been gone for over a month my rent and utilities would be paid from my checking account and then my savings. Looking at a nearby wall calendar I could see I had been gone since July. “Holy crap.”

Now, the leaves were turning. In fact, most had been turned and there was snow on the ground. “What day is it?”

After some research comparing the dates from my laptop, and wall clock, I had been missing for nearly two months. The investigation would likely be ongoing for a long time. that was even if Vice was deemed sane enough to stand trial.

I showered, changed in to sweatpants and a t-shirt before daring to open my laptop. first, I monitored my online store, and my YouTube views. ‘This is bad.’ As expected, my lack of content resulted in a lack of views. As far as anyone was concerned, I was off fucking my new boyfriend on our private island.

I checked my bank balance, awaiting the carnage. Hopefully I’d have enough to buy some groceries, without having to tap into my savings. My eyes grew big. I cupped my hand over my mouth. This had to be a mistake. There was a little over 100,000 dollars in my account.

I immediately clicked on my statement. The deposits were via my donation page; my digital tip jar that had never seen a triple digit number much less a six-digit miracle. There were tears in my eyes as I laughed uncontrollably. This was some kind of cosmic joke.

I walked to the bathroom, taking off my superhero stripper costume. The warm water felt amazing, like a gift from heaven. And my bed; oh God my bed, it was something I never knew I’d miss. I fell asleep almost on contact, sleeping in the nude, with my soaking wet hair. It was such a moment of peace; the culmination of all the negative energy washed away from my soul.

After an amazing night’s sleep, I started on the painful task of cleaning out my fridge. there was just enough to survive on, but since I apparently had a generous sugar daddy, I decided to put in a massive order from my local grocery delivery.

At around nine in the morning, I sat backdown on the sofa, falling into a deep state of relaxation. I awoke moments later to the sound of the gate buzzer.

“They’re early,” I muttered glancing at a nearby clock. ‘Very, very early in fact.’ I made my way to the front door, pushing the buzzer to let whoever it was into the building. I figured I’d been kidnapped once, what’s the worst that could happen? Gleefully calm, I went to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. Thankfully Keurig cups last forever.

The smell of cholate and cinnamon filled the air, it was the smell of autumn in Canada. I took a sip, the warmth filling my stomach. After a minute I heard the sound of knocking. The sound was low and deliberate. I thought that was strange way for a delivery person to knock but given the fact that the delivery service was run by locals using their own vehicles, anything was possible. I opened the door and nearly dropped my mug.

My hand turned to the side, as my body froze. It wasn’t a grocery delivery, instead it was Henry holding a baby in his arms. “Hey,” I said with an abnormally wide smile. “It’s been a while.” The joyful smiling baby was a sight to behold; she had Alicia’s black hair, with Vice’s sky-blue eyes.

“She’s a real heartbreaker.” Henry grinned and nodded. It took me as second to realize he was wearing a white suit, like an angel from heaven (or a mafia boss.) “I need a favor.”

“A favor? What kind of favor?”

The baby smiled, looking up at me. Her arms seemed to be reaching out to me.

Henry shifted her little body, allowing her to sit up. “I think she’s a fan of your red hair.”

“What’s her name?”

Henry shrugged. “The social worker named her Alexa. She seems to like it.”

“Alexa? Like the google robot thing?”

The sound of my voice caused the baby to laugh.

This was followed by an awkward silence. “Come on in,” my voice quivered. There was something about her, a strange connection that made her seem like more than just an infant. It was as if she could understand everything around her.

I forced myself to shift focus back to Henry. “Would you like some coffee? It’s not much, I have a grocery order coming.”

Henry nodded politely, while glancing down at the mess on my floor. “Coffee would be lovely.” Without saying a word, he reached into his bag producing a towel. With a single graceful motion, he cleaned up, and tossed the towel into a nearby trashcan, before taking a seat on my sofa. “You have a beautiful home.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

Resting a large leather tote bag at his side Henry started to remove other items. “Alexa is exclusively on formula and hopefully the money I sent will cover any essentials.”

“Essentials?”

“You know; diapers, bottles, the fact that she’ll need to be fed at all hours of the day.”

“So, you’re leaving?”

“There is work to be done,” he said, while taking a delicate sip. “While Vice is in a high security mental hospital, Claire remains at large.” he casually turned, handing me the entire bag. “Anyway, this all is for you, if you want it.”

“All for me?” I took out the folder, the first page was a birth certificate listing me as the baby’s mother and the father as unknown. “No one’s going to believe this is my kid.”

“That’s why I left the father unknown, for all anyone can tell she could be my daughter. in fact, that was the story I chose to tell.”

“I imagine that’s how you managed to get custody without a lengthy legal battle?”

“That, and dollars talk,” he said proudly.

“You purchased a baby?”

“I guess I did. Just one of the perks of this new body.”

“What else have you learned about the identity of the man your inhabiting? Has he killed any notable politicians?”

“Yes,” he replied with a nod, “And we’re actually quite good friends.”

I forced myself to smile with approval. Even if his answer creeped me out, I knew it was better to have powerful friends, than powerful enemies. “What do I call you?”

“You can continue to call me Henry for the sake of simplicity.”

“Sounds good.” I had to admit, that answer brought me a sense of joy. My arms moved on their own, reaching for the baby. She seemed so happy, as if she already knew who I was. “Did you show her my picture? Or is she just this naturally friendly?”

“I put her to sleep with your videos playing in the background,” Henry said in a reasonably thoughtful tone.

“So, she could associate my voice with comfort, right?”

“That, and your YouTube channel is pretty boring.”

I knew I had walked straight into that joke, but still I raised an eyebrow. “This is the part when you say: just kidding.” I attempted to look offended, but I was too happy to pull off such an act.

“Just kidding.” Henry leaned in brushing a lock of hair from my cheek. “I actually watch your videos whenever I’m lonely.”

“Have you heard from your actual daughter?”

“Alicia has gone missing. I have a fear she aims to continue Vice’s work.

“Or maybe she just wants to destroy evidence?” I suggested. Option one meant that she was fiercely loyal to the monster but the second would imply she had a true empathy (or she had extremely villainous ambitions of their own.)

“No need,” Henry scoffed.

“No need for evidence?”

“Vice will be convicted on the falls incident alone, and that’s if he’s even declared sane enough to stand trial. Otherwise, our favorite mad scientist will likely live out the rest of his days in a padded room.”

That was the more likely scenario. “So, what’s your plan?”

“My plan?” he repeated with a chuckle, as if I just asked the rules of tic-tac-toe. “To put it simply, Claire thinks she’s smarter than the rest of humanity and smart people are easy to read. they make plans, following a path with plenty of branching options.”

“Is that how you knew she’d be at the convention?”

“Partially,” he replied, placing his cup on the nearby table. “The owner of this body had several million dollars’ worth of cybernetic implants, which allows me to latch on any and all wi-fi signals. It’s like swimming through a sea of information. I was able to track published books honoring the life and work of Dr. Claire. Due to the nature of her philosophy, there was not much to find outside of the dark web and occult.”

“So, you’re saying you’ve been tracking the sales of certain books?” Such as the one I gave to Vice? I figured he’d probably traded it for drugs.

“Not quite. I track the popularity algorithm associated with her name; google searches, and such.” That seemed logical; the world was connected to the internet, all Henry needed was an open door.

The level of brilliance was impressive, regardless. “Do you know where she is? Or where she’ll be?”

“Yes, and that is why I need to leave my granddaughter with someone I can trust.”

I pursed my lips. Was I actually ready for such an important responsibility? I had worked as a babysitter in my teens and I even did a year of travel as a nanny, but Alexa was different. She was a treasure. “Can you tell me the general direction of where you’ll be going?”

“I think you’ll figure it out. I’ll keep sending you money until I come back.”

“You mean if you comeback.”

“Then I guess I’ll be the one who needs saving.”

“Not funny.” Before I could say more, the buzzer rang again, but this time for my actual grocery delivery.

Henry stuck around to help me unload my bags; meat, fresh vegetables, milk, ice cream and other foods that were not intended for a baby. He then helped me put in a second order for supplies that would actually help me care for Alexa.

We spent the afternoon setting up a place for the baby to sleep. I offered to make grill cheese sandwiches for lunch, but Henry suggested that we order in. “Just so you can have more time to get used to Alexa.”

“Yes, of course,” I replied nervously. Part of me feared that once Henry left, the baby would show her true colors.

“She’s not a fussy baby, but she still has the little quirks that take you by surprise.”

I wanted to ask what he meant, but given that we were talking about a baby, it would mean any number of things. “Any idea where you’re ordering from?” I asked, resting my head on his shoulder.

“Since it’s my first time in the city, I’ll do a bit of research.”

“You’ve never been to Toronto?”

“No, actually.” He said as he typed. “None of the souls inhabiting this body have.”

“Ok.” I let him order while I gave Alexa a tour of my apartment. She seemed to marvel at the world around her. She was so happy, so perfect. Almost too perfect.

Over the next few hours, she only ever laughed and smiled, even when she was clearly hungry or had a dirty diaper. It was only the smell that tipped me off that Alexa was in fact a human baby (and not some sort of doll). “I’m going to go change her.”

“You’ll need the baby wipes.”

“I know how to change a baby.”

“I have faith that you do.”

I would like to tell you he spent the night, but that was never part of the plan.

I awoke to the sound of Alexa’s cries. she was facing the now empty side of the bed.

Actually, it wasn’t entirely empty; on the deflated pillow was a note written on what appeared to be a business card.

‘Dear Charli,

you don’t need to be the hero, but I know I can’t stop you from perusing the truth of the story. Stay strong, and keep safe. much love, H.’

The card was from the front desk of the Motel6 in Niagara Falls. Was Claire still in the general area?

She did say she was looking forward to seeing Vice/Vincent again. Would she attempt to finally make good on her word? Or something more nefarious?

With Alexa in my arms, I looked up any public info on Vice’s arrest. according to an article on Yahoo News, ‘World renown New Jersey body modification artist, Vice Paul’ was being held in a privately run hospital in upstate New York.’

“Well, that was easy.” Now it was just a matter of getting there.

“Ga!” Alexa turned her head. She appeared to be locking eyes with Vice’s hypnotic, mesmerizing gaze. Instead of going with the mugshot, the article made use of Vice’s promotional photo from his shop’s official website. With his sexy cheekbones and jaw, he looked strong, powerful, even a little beautiful. It was like they connected on a spiritual level.

“And to think he wanted me to cook you,” I said as I tickled her cheek. “Although you are so cute, I could just eat you up.”

I knew I had to find Vice; he was the chum and Claire was the shark. I had no vehicle but I did have a suitcase, baby supplies and a six-figure sum in my checking account. I looked up just how far an Uber could take me. It was a little more then I wanted to spend, so I settled on a trip to the bus station instead.

With my very calm baby in my arms, I rode a bus to Angola, New York. That was the closest bus station. From there I would need to make an additional seven miles walk into the most dense, secluded forest.

As I figured, there was no easy way to enter the facility. The hospital was at maximum level of security with barbwire gates and multiple armed guards. A conversation with one guard (while holding my baby like a human shield) got me a canned response; they only allow visitors under the orders of government officials or the military.

“The military?” I asked. “Like a military escort?”

“Yes, but we will ask for ID,” the guard added, as if that made a difference.

‘Do you get a lot of people trying to sneak out their mentally ill family members?’ I pretended to meekly walk away, heading towards the nearest town.

After calling back the uber, I used some of H’s money to book a hotel room near the truck stop. The area was like a mini mall with several restaurants and small shops within walking distance. There was a gas station attached to a camping store. This was a sign if I’d ever seen one.

I went inside and purchased a two-person tent that seemed easy to set up on my own. with the hotel reservation still active, I decided to pursue my plan. I was going to camp, alone (with the baby,) in the darkest part of the woods in upstate New York, to spy on a mental hospital. ‘Yes, this seems like an idea that will not end poorly.’ I figured after every thing I’d been through, death (the worse possible scenario) would be a minor inconvenience.

I also bought a battery powered hotplate to be able to have hot water. My plan was to keep a bottle in the baby’s mouth to maintain silence but it turned out to be a non-issue. Alexa slept as quiet as a doll. As I held her in my arms, I noticed an odd occurrence. Whenever she would open her eyes, this would be followed by a visual alarm at the hospital. Sometimes the lights would blink red and blue other times just a solid red hue (as if someone was filming a funhouse horror movie.)

“What do you think is going on?” I asked my baby.

I didn’t expect an answer, but she tilted her head, looking in the direction of the hospital. “Ah!” the sound was nothing more than a squeak. “Da!”

“Can you hear your daddy?” I asked jokingly, but I knew it was very possible they shared some kind of psychic connection.

I took out my phone, it was at less than 50% power. “Thank God I still have the hotel room. I made a recording of the lights through the mesh window of the tent, making note of the time. I was fully intending to return to the hotel room to analyze my findings, but when I awoke the next morning, I was promptly arrested.

I went without struggle. On one hand this was my way in.

I was handcuffed and taken to a small room where I was shown footage of a tall red-haired woman standing over Vice’s bed. The figure removed his restraints, coaxing him to his knees like a loyal dog.

“That doesn’t even look like me.” The woman on the tape was clearly Claire, but since she held her head down like some kind of demon for the majority of the visit (and the fact that Claire was legally dead,) I could understand the confusion. “Plus, if that was me, where’s my daughter?”

“I assume you left her in the tent during the attack.”

“What attack?”

Before he could answer, a second guard opened the door. The blonde female was holding my baby in her arms. “It’s not her, cut her loose.”

“What are you talking about, Rylan?” asked the male guard.

“Commander Heart took a frame by frame look at the tape; check out time stamp 5: 07: 36, there’s a partial view of the suspect’s face.

As she left the room, covered in blood, Claire turned her head, allowing the camera to get a shot of her distinctly shaped left eye. Although the frame was blurry, I could see that Claire was smirking, proud of what she had done.

I felt my mouth go dry as I involuntarily shuddered in fear. “What did she do to him?”

The guards looked at each other. The female handed me my baby. “I’ll ask the commander about the possibility of a supervised interaction. It should be possible since the patient is no longer in the max security ward.”

“Where is he?”

“The ICU,” she replied with a stern nod. “I’ll see what the commander has to say.” After a few moments we were given clearance. “Follow me, keep close.”

The female guard escorted me to the ICU floor. We walked down a hallway, to a remote room. She held the door open, allowing me to go in first.

I glanced at the guard who stood by the door. “May I approach him?” I’d already been searched, now all I had were the clothes on my back and the baby aggressively squirming in my arms.

“Yes, of course. This whole room is under surveillance. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

“I assumed as much.” I approached Vice’s body. His face was covered in blood-soaked bandages but I could clearly see his chest moving.

The guard spoke from her post, unwilling to come any closer. “According to command, the medical team believes he’s become delusional from the pain.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” I lowered the blankets revealing his chest. I recognized Vice’s tattoos. This wasn’t a trick; someone had actually cut off his face, and left him to die. Alexa was aggressively fidgeting in my arms.

“I can see now,” Vice said in a gurgle. He sounded like he was choking on blood while drowning in quicksand.

“What did you say?”

“I see the error of my ways, the path of my destruction. This had all been foretold.”

The clarity of his words was beyond creepy. “Really? You don’t say.”

“The bold will die, as will the strong. As legends, we go on.”

“That’s really pretty. Did you write it yourself?”

Vice lifted his hand, reaching towards Alexa. “My soul, my flesh, my daughter.”

I don’t know why I put the baby in his arms. Part of me felt like he was entitled to her; he wouldn’t be complete without her.

Alexa started to cry, and then shriek. It was not the sound of a normal baby.

I was frozen in place. My limbs felt heavy, as if some force was attempting to pull me through the floor.

The female guard drew her weapon. “Drop the kid!”

Vice laughed, the remains of his throat visibly trembling. “Are you suggesting I drop an infant?” His hands were suddenly covered in black ink tattoos.

“Permission to fire!

“Try to use non-lethal force, if possible.” The guard switched from her gun to her tazer, but in the short time Alexa fell to the floor with a thud.

Acting on instinct, I picked up Alexa’s body and immediately ran for the door.

Her eyes sparkled with an otherworldly glow. He looked up at me with a gentle, joyful glance, just as Vice’s body caught on fire.

The guard pulled us out of the room, locking the door. “Fire, I repeat, fire! Emergency response needed in the ICU!” After shouting into her radio, she pulled me towards the nearest fire exit.

The door flung open all on its own. I rolled with Alexa in my arms, acting as if I was jumping from a moving car. In the darkness of the forest, I had no idea what direction to go. All I knew was that I needed to get clear of the hospital grounds because something truly evil was about to happen.

Not wanting to risk running in circles, I went in search of a cave or other shelter. Moving in a straight line I ran with my head down. All I could hear was the sound of my footsteps against the dirt, leave, gravel, and then pavement. Confused, I looked down at my feet. To my surprise I had apparently located a road.

I started to walk the direction of billboards and other signage. With any luck I’d find my way back to my hotel room.

A black car pulled up next to me, slowing down to match my walking speed. “You really couldn’t just stay away,” said a disappointed female voice.

“I guess not, Claire.”

“Then what happens next is all on you.”

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