Anne turned from the scene behind the reinforced glass window to see Bree in her pink linen pajamas. Bree held a threadbare kitten that was at one time white, but now, even the industrial lighting in the room couldn’t wash out the dinge.
Anne knelt in front of Bree, and pushed Bree’s blonde hair over one of her ears. “What is it sweetie?”
Bree hugged her kitty close, and in a small voice asked, “Why are you so sad here?”
Anne glanced back at the window where Peter and Kristoff lay on medical beds, tubes running from their arms and wrists into machines whose purpose was known only to Dr. Globe, and the team of scientists that were constantly going to and fro from the room to their lab past another reinforced glass window.
“Well, honey,” Anne replied when she returned her attention to the little girl, “I’m not happy here.”
“Why don’t you leave?”
“Doctor Globe won’t let me leave. He says I have to stay here.” Anne mussed Bree’s hair. “Besides, who’d look after you?”
Bree stuck out her lower lip. “I’m big enough to take care of myself,” she declared with a defiant squint of her eyes.
“I’m sure you can, Bree, but I’m not sure I have anything to go back to.”
Bree frowned. “I shouldn’t’ve led them to the cabin.”
Anne stood and stared into the room behind the glass. She rested her head against the glass in the same spot she had every day. Each time, her forehead left a smudge against the glass, and each morning the smudge was gone. “Why’s that, sweetie?” she asked the precocious ten-year-old. She wondered for a moment if Bree understood the ramifications of the showdown in the woods; if she understood Anne’s forced stay in the secure bunker. Or the lives forever altered because of one man’s lust for power, for control.
“Well,” Bree responded, her attention on the stuffed kitty in her arms, “there was so much mud from when the snow melted. It made my pretty, pretty shoes dirty.”
When Globe had captured Peter, Kristoff and Anne with Bree’s help, many people died on the freshly melted snow. Anne was almost glad that there wasn’t a lot of snow. The red soaked into the mud, and mixed. The white ground would’ve shown the world where Justin died. Not that Globe would allow anyone in the area. The entire portion of the provincial park was quarantined. False documents declared it a biohazard. Bree’s display with the birds had convinced the powers that be that there was a real danger in the cold dark forest. Little did they know that the real danger left with them in the helicopter.
“Pardon?” Anne mumbled. Bree had been telling her something, and she had missed it.
“I’ll ask Doctor Globe to let you leave.”
Anne smiled. “I need to stay here with you.”
Bree’s smile dropped. “No!” she cried out. “I don’t need you! You’ll leave tomorrow.” Bree turned and walked out of the room.
Anne knew that when Bree set her mind to something, she always got it. She looked back at the hospital beds, and the two comatose bodies. I’ll find a way to free both of you, she thought and left the cold room toward a future she was only now admitting scared her.
* * *
Joaquin sat awkwardly on the chair while Mr. Jabbar filled in his Sudoku. On the desk was a neatly written recommendation with Joaquin’s better picture pinned to it. Mr. Jabbar pushed his thin-rimmed glasses higher on his sweaty and large nose. He stole glances at Joaquin from time to time, but they were short and unrewarding.
“So, Frank tells me you need work.”
It was a question, but Joaquin didn’t get that. He cleared his throat.
“Yeah. I’m… I’m lookin’ for a job.”
“You worked in a store before this?”
Joaquin shook his head.
“So why you think you’ll be good?”
“I’m quick. I…”
Joaquin shifted on his seat again. He didn’t really know what to answer. He was good with threats, good with a knife, but when he stuck it up in people’s faces, good with his fists, but when he punched someone in the gut. He was fast with guns but only when he shot for real. Quick, yeah he was but with stealing wallets.
“You know you look like a thug that once came in here, trying to rob me. Frank’s soft spot for you doesn’t mean you’re not a thief.”
Joaquin put his hands up in protest.
“Nah man you got me all wrong. I just want a job.”
“No. I don’t like your face. You tell Frank my position is filled.”
“What the fuck man, you ditchin me cause I’m black or something?”
Mr. Jabbar stood up. He was a much larger man than he gave out to be. His meaty hand pointed at the door.
“Out of here, now. No thugs, or gangsters, or junkies, or liars. Strict store policy. You go look for a job elsewhere.”
Joaquin stood up too his fists flaming with the pressure he was putting on his bones from squeezing. He knew it would be like this. He wasn’t good at this shit. He was a superhero. He shouldn’t have listened to Massey.
Joaquin loosened his tie and stuck up his jaw at Jabbar’s face before he stormed out of the small backroom which served as an office. He didn’t remember coming into this store before or robbing it. Passing the liquor Joaquin pinched a bottle of Whiskey. They fuck him, he fucks them in return. That was his policy.
“Hey, put that back down!”
Joaquin snapped towards the cashier. He started to scream something in Arabic when Joaquin didn’t put the bottle, but charged for the door.
A loud click-click! sound made him turn around. Mr. Jabbar was standing with a shotgun in his hands pointed at Joaquin.