Copyright© 2021 by Charly Young
After meeting with Katie, Quinn found himself far more confused than enlightened. If things were going to go to hell that badly, why the hell did they think HE could make a difference.
He drove home and picked up his little guest. She was sitting out on his porch waiting for him. From the look of her, Gus’ lady friend had been successful in finding her something to wear. Now, instead of a baggy t-shirt, she wore jeans, a University of Washington hoodie and some blinky-light pink sneakers.
“Wow, don’t you look like the little co-ed.”
No answer of course, just a dark look.
“Okay, run in and give Uncle Gus a hug, he’d be gone by the time we get back. Then we’re going on an adventure.”
After she got herself seat belted in. Quinn wondered if he should have gotten some sort of car seat for her. Then thought he should get one, just in case. Did Target have car seats? He shook his head. What a difference a couple of days made—here he was driving along debating the purchase of a car seat.
Time to get back to the business at hand. He called to the man Gus thought could help him.
Kirk Falstad answered on the first ring.
“Gus Harpe gave me your number and suggested you could give me some advice on a small problem. How about meeting me at the Raven’s place?
“Give me an hour.” And he hung up.
“Wow,” Quinn said to the little girl, “that Kirk’s a talker. Talk your leg off if you give him half a chance. First though, I’m gonna stop for some ice cream. You can wait in the truck because I know you probably don’t like ice cream.
She turned to look at him with a perfect look of outrage on her face. Then she caught the glimmer of a tease in his eye.
She gave him a level glare that told him she didn’t think he was one bit funny.
Quinn laughed and turned on the radio for some music to drive to.
Down in Ballard, they pulled over and parked and walked into Salt and Straw.
After they had silently feasted on a couple of Chocolate Gooey Brownie scoops. Quinn spoke up. “Next we’re going to see my friend Edie. She can check you out while I have a talk with Gus’ friend. Have you ever been to Oldtown?”
She shook her head no.
“Well then, prepare yourself for an adventure.” They climbed into the truck and started off.
“You’re an idiot, you know that, don’t you?” Quinn muttered to himself as they drove along. At the sound of his voice girl cocked her head at him, then went back to staring out the window at the city whizzing by. Quinn smiled at her. His life had never been long on companions. It was kind of nice just hanging with her. Just being with the little person made him feel lighter somehow. She does not belong with you, he told himself firmly. Just get her back to her people.
They stopped at a Starbucks to get a bag of coffee beans for Edie, who loved Starbucks. Then they drove into Fremont and parked in a parking lot by the Ship Canal. He held out his hand and they walked hand and hand the two blocks up to the statue of Lenin with the blood red hand. Quinn glanced around to make sure they were unobserved and slipped through the passage into Oldtown.
It was mid-morning in Oldtown as they stepped out of the passage and onto Market Street. The girl wrinkled her nose as they were immediately hit by a combination of coal smoke from cooking fires and the manure smell from the countless horses and oxen that hauled freight in the city.
Earth tech did not fare well in this world.
The cobble-stoned street that ran by the passage thronged with shoppers of all species. The little girl’s head swiveled back and forth like a metronome as she took in the scene.
“I told you we were going on an adventure,” Quinn whispered with a smile as he watched her excited face.
She nodded agreement absently and pulled on his hand to slow their walk so she could watch a stone skinned rock ogre bargain furiously with two white-forge dwarves over a double-bitted axe. The big ogre wanted it, but the price was too high. The dwarves said he was a skin-flint thief trying to take food out of their babies’ mouths.
As Quinn and the girl passed by, the three stopped their bickering. and smiled cheerfully at the girl and gave Quinn a wary glance. They crossed the street dodging the overloaded wagon of a produce seller and walked into Steve and Edie’s Clinic and Apothecary.
Quinn met Edie and her brother Steve a couple of years ago, after Gus had volunteered him to do the finish work on her remodeled clinic. He’d been friends with them ever since.
“Hey there, stranger, long time no see,” Edie said as they entered. “Is that Starbucks I smell?”
“Yep, thought you might like some.” He put the bag of coffee beans down on her counter. “I need a favor.”
“Of course, if I can,” she said, looking at the little girl at his side. “Who’s your little friend?” Edie took a closer look at the little girl. “Lachlan, what the hell are you doing with a little wolf-kin girl.”
“It’s a long story,” Quinn said and began filling her in while the little girl in question played with the clinic’s malamute.
The petite elf-halfling’s amber eyes widened as the story unfolded. “Sweet Mother All, Lachlan, you don’t do things by halves do you.
Quin sighed. “I guess not Edie. Anyway, could you take a look at her, please? I didn’t see any signs of physical injury but the psychological—who knows.”
Quinn knelt by the dog and the little girl.
“Honey, I’m going over across the street for a short little while. Edie here is a real nice lady. She’s going to check you over.”
She gave him a resigned nod of her head, stood, and took the pretty doctor’s hand and the two of them walked to the back.
The last Quinn saw was the girl’s looking back at him with a fearful look on her face.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” Quinn called out trying to reassure her, but knowing it wouldn’t. He remembered well the fear he felt when he was little, and a social worker left him all alone with strangers.