Episode 10: Speeding Away
By Lauren Derrick
The Pensieve Editor's Note: This story is a continuation of the Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen series.
Brigham’s phone lit up, and he jerked, then stood upright. Byrd looked up at the younger man. “On the move? Hopefully she’s on her way back now.”
Brigham didn’t answer.
Finley stood and peeked at the phone. She frowned. “She’s…moving away from us? Where is she going?”
Brigham swiped to a camera that showed a crowd of people in the airport. He adjusted the camera until, barely visible at a side angle, the blonde woman Marilyn had left with came into view. Brigham’s frown deepened, and he shook his head.
Byrd cursed and stood. “If they’re not coming back here then they’re leaving the airport. Let me make a call and see if I can get a car here so we can follow her.What’s the range like on the tracker camera?”
Brigham glowered. “I-i-it w-wo-works by u-ut-ut-ut-util-utilizing th-th-the bl-b-b-bl-blue-too-tooth…cap-cap-ca-capab-abilities…fr-fr-from ce-ce-ce-cell ph-ph-pho-pho-phones.”
“So you’ll know right where she is as long as she’s in a populated area?”
Brigham nodded curtly.
“So we’ve got a little time.” Byrd grumbled to himself. He stepped away from the table and flipped through the contacts on his phone.
Finley looked up at Brigham. “Shouldn’t you go stop her?”
Brigham seemed to consider for a moment, but he shook his head after a moment.
“Mr. Byrd’s here with me–I should be fine…” Finley said, a strained tone defying her own words.
Brigham set his jaw and shook his head again. “W-we n-nee-nee-need t-t-to st-sti-sti-stick t-t-to-to-ge-gether.”
Finley grimaced. “But what if they hurt her? What if she’s being taken away somewhere?”
Brigham opened his mouth, but then whipped out his phone instead and typed a note, then passed it to Finley.
Byrd said she left to talk with this woman of her own volition. Marilyn is able to defend herself, and the camera suggests she isn’t being taken anywhere against her will. If she’s not reasonable right now, then confronting her could be disastrous, and could undo any progress she has made.
I initially prioritized her safety simply because I thought Madelyn could be motivated to harm her. Knowing what I know now, your protection is much more important.
Byrd finished a series of calls, and Brigham briefly showed on his phone that Marilyn was in the pick-up area of the airport. Byrd gritted his teeth. They gathered the luggage, and Finley took Ladybug’s leash. The little pug hesitated, glancing off in the direction her mistress had gone, but with some gentle prodding, she followed the group.
They boarded a shuttle, which took them to a car rental garage. A round, stout man with thinning black hair greeted them. “Hey! Brady says you folks need a car pretty quick here. We’ve got a red Mustang convertible or a gray Hyundai Sonata—what’s your pleasure?”
“The Mustang.” Byrd said instantly.
Brigham nudged the older man and shook his head vigorously. Byrd just grinned. “Oh come on, kid. Live a little.”
Three hours later, the group was headed towards Baltimore. Ladybug was buckled in the back beside Finley, tongue trailing to one side. Brigham was scowling in the passenger seat as he tracked Marilyn on his phone. Byrd was exceeding the speed limit by fifteen miles per hour.
Finley had shrunk down and had one hand gripping her ponytail as the wind snapped at her hair.
“We still got her?” Byrd shouted to Brigham over the sound of classic rock on the radio and the air rushing by.
Brigham glanced coldly at Byrd but gave him a thumbs up. Byrd grinned.
Sirens sounded behind them, and Byrd’s face fell in an instant. Brigham hid his face in his hand. Byrd cursed, but it was barely audible.
“Hey Finley, hand me my water bottle.” Byrd said.
Finley bent down, still holding her hair with one hand, and retrieved a half-empty plastic water bottle. She passed it to Byrd.
As the Mustang came to a stop at the side of the road, Byrd stared at his lap and licked his lips. For a moment, his eyes lit up, and he glanced hopefully back towards Finley. Finley’s lips puckered out slightly, and she dropped her chin as she met his eye and shook her head at him. Byrd set his jaw and opened the water bottle.
Casually, Byrd held the bottle over Brigham’s lap and began to tip it. Brigham caught the older man’s arm and shook his head. He then forced Byrd’s elbow to bend as he pressed the bottle back to the driver’s side of the car.
Byrd struggled, but clearly did not have the upper body strength to compete. When Brigham suddenly released his grip, a little water splashed onto Byrd’s khaki pants. Byrd gritted his teeth.
“Fine, I guess I was the one speeding.” Byrd muttered, pouring the remaining water onto his pants. He shoved the empty plastic bottle under his seat.
The police officer approached. “Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”
Nervously, Byrd cleared his throat, his voice noticeably hoarser than normal. “Yeah. I’m sorry, officer. My bladder isn’t as strong as it used to be. I…didn’t quite make it.”
The policeman’s bushy eyebrows furrowed as he glanced at the wet spot on Byrd’s pants.
In the back seat, Finley buried her face in her hands and let out a soft groan.
“It’s a rental.” Byrd told the police officer, motioning to Brigham for the papers. “Just wanted a fun ride with my grandkids. Don’t ever get old—it sucks.”
Brigham handed the rental car papers over to Byrd and the officer examined them. After a moment, the man cleared his throat. “I understand you had to go, but this road is dangerous, and the speed you were pulling isn’t safe. I’ll take your name down and let you folks off the hook, but you gotta be more careful. We’ve had at least four crashes on this stretch in the past week, and it isn’t pretty when a convertible gets involved. There’s a car wash that does interiors about two exits down if you wanna… wash up.”
Brigham met the man’s eyes and nodded coolly. The policeman touched the tip of his hat and climbed back into his car. He pulled away.
“I can’t believe that actually worked.” Finley remarked, shaking her head.
Brigham unbuckled his seatbelt and walked over to the driver’s side.
Byrd licked his lips and looked up innocently at Brigham. “Lost my driving privileges, eh?”
Brigham threw his thumb back over his shoulder. Byrd complied, slinking around the car and into the passenger seat. Brigham took a moment to assess all of the controls, taking it in. He then turned back to Finley and let out a shaky breath.
“C-c-cou-could y-y-you p-pl-pl-please…” He pointed to his eyes.
Finley gave a quick nod and made eye contact with Brigham. His shoulders relaxed and he pulled back out onto the road. The noise of the whizzing air crumpled in their ears.
Finley pursed her lips together.
“A R-RED CON…CONVERTIBLE?!” Brigham roared over the freeway noises. “S-SERIOUSLY? WERE YOU TRYING TO GET PULLED OVER?! WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE SOMETHING SO CONSPICUOUS?! AND IT’S S-S-SO HA-HARD TO TALK IN THESE THINGS! AND WHY WOULD YOU THINK IT WAS OKAY TO POUR WATER ON MY LAP?!”
“Maybe I just didn’t want to talk!” Byrd bellowed. “But we got out of that ticket–which is good, because I’ve had enough car trouble this past week!”
“Grandma is probably the one who usually stops him from getting the fancy convertibles.” Finley called out over noise.
Byrd threw a glance back at her. “Mine’s in the shop right now because of a drunk Italian. She would understand.”
“Regardless,” Brigham said as he maintained an appropriate following distance from the vehicle in front of him, “we n-need to g-get on the same page here. Once we st-stop we should contact the agency and let them know w-what’s going on.”
The sky was a light gray, but after another half an hour, the light gray began to darken. A sea of lights ahead forced Brigham to brake, and traffic moved at a crawl.
“I hope it doesn’t rain.” Finley said after a moment.
Brigham threw a cold glance at Byrd, who just shrugged and said, “Nah, the sky always looks like that around here.”
“I think,” Finley said carefully, “maybe we should put the top on, just in case. It would make it a lot easier to talk, too.”
“What’s the point of getting a convertible if you’re just going to put the top on?” Byrd asked defiantly.
Brigham glowered. “W-w-we sh-sh-shou-shou-shouldn’t ha-have g-go-go-got th-the con-con-conver-con-convertible a-a-at a-all.”
Nobody said anything for a moment as traffic came to a complete stop. Far ahead, the top of a fire truck was barely visible, lights flashing.
“Brigham’s right.” Finley finally said. “We probably should have gone with the…less fancy option. But we’re here now. And we really need to figure out what to do about Grandma. What are we going to do once we get to her?”
“W-w-we nee-nee-nee-need t-to co-cont-co-co-contact…” Brigham repeated.
“Kid,” Byrd said. “If we inform the agency, you’re going to put Monica in a bad spot. If her superiors find out that Marilyn’s done anything unstable she’s going to have restricted freedoms for the rest of her damn life. She’s human! She should be allowed to get emotional and go off the script without having everything taken away from her.”
“We don’t know for sure why she left.” Finley added.
A few scattered rain drops began poking at the group. A drop landed on Brigham’s phone screen and he hurriedly dried it, once again throwing dirty looks Byrd’s way.
Byrd simply looked up into the sky, his face holding the forlorn look of a believer searching for his lost faith.
Finley sighed, rubbing her temples. “Okay, how do we put the top on this thing?”
Byrd let out a sigh and pressed a button above the rear view mirror. A black top slowly moved over on top of them, and the windows rolled themselves up. A moment later, Brigham gripped the handle to the top and twisted it to lock the top into place.
Traffic began to crawl forward again.
“Thanks, Mr. Byrd.” Finley said, letting out a sigh of relief as she finally let her hair fall and stretched her arm. “So if we tell the agency what’s going on, that could be bad for Grandma, but she also might be in danger right now. So what do we do?”
Byrd sighed. “Gather intel.”
Reluctantly, Brigham nodded.
“Okay, same page.” Finley said. “One question though. If Grandma is in distress right now, and she can adjust her brain chemistry—why doesn’t she just regulate her emotions?”
Byrd sighed, leaning back in his seat. “Because she’s distracted, that’s why. Most people can regulate their emotions to some extent if they are willing and able to take the time for it. But they don’t. That’s why we’re going to run an intervention here—she needs to take some time.”
Traffic picked back up. After another hour or two, the group pulled off the interstate to refuel and reassess. Brigham’s phone had lost Marilyn’s signal, so they moved towards Marilyn’s last known location.
Once they reached it—a small neighborhood full of Victorian-style houses in varying states of repair and disrepair—Brigham allowed Byrd to drive while he assessed what had happened. Byrd drove around, examining the houses.
“Th-th-the ba-bat-ba-ba-ba-batter-battery g-ga-gave ou-out.” Brigham stuttered.
Byrd dropped his chin and let a fountain of air hiss out of his mouth. “Well, still, that’s a pretty damn good battery life for a camera that small. Hope they’re rechargeable.”
Brigham nodded, not bothering to meet Byrd’s eyes.
“Should we look for a hotel to stay the night?” Finley asked quietly.
They found a Holiday Inn and checked in to three separate rooms. Byrd and Brigham’s rooms were adjoined by a door that could be locked from both sides. Finley’s room was across the hall.
After a shower, Byrd dressed and emerged into Brigham’s room, triumphantly holding three tiny cameras in his hands. “Now that I know what to look for, you’re going to have to work a little harder to…”
Byrd cut off as Brigham gave a wan smile and held up four fingers. Byrd furrowed his eyebrows then turned back into his room.
An hour later, Finley knocked on Byrd’s door, a large handbag on her shoulder, cradling a droopy-eared Ladybug. “She won’t eat her kibble.”
Byrd ushered her in. The door between Byrd’s room and Brigham’s room was open, and Brigham was typing away at his computer with a large set of headphones.
Noticing Finley’s quizzical expression, Byrd cleared his throat. “Brigham thought we could apply for permission to track Marilyn’s phone. He’s been through the paperwork four times almost just making sure that we won’t incriminate ourselves or lie about anything. He’s precise. Careful. He’ll be a great asset. I can really see what Marilyn was on about now.”
Finley nodded slowly and smiled tiredly, her eyelids drooping a little.
Byrd examined Ladybug’s mournful, drooping facial expression and scratched her behind the ear. He looked back up at Finley.
“Sorry about earlier. I had to know you two weren’t going to hide behind me. I need full partners for this who are going to point out anything I miss. I wasn’t sure Brigham had it in him. But he’s confident in his knowledge and abilities. I like him, and I’m real glad to have him right now.” Byrd raised an eyebrow at her. “You gonna ask him out?”
Finley’s head spun to face Byrd square on. “No! He’s like—WAY out of my league.”
“But you basically have a superpower. One that can help him.” Byrd pointed out. “And apparently he already knows about it.”
Finley’s cheeks burned. “What about you and Grandma? Is that going anywhere?”
Byrd chuckled as he took Ladybug from Finley and began cuddling the despondent little creature. “I wish. After your grandfather left the scene, Marilyn swore she’d never marry again. Now that the basis for that decision is up in smoke… Well, I don’t know.”
Finley frowned. “I can tell you have feelings for her. But…it’s been so long. How are you still hanging on?”
Byrd shrugged, digging through Marilyn’s bag with one hand while holding Ladybug in the other. “Whether we’re official or not, well, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve had a thing for Mar since the first time I saw her. She was still in the process of going through treatments to get her abilities. She was in the lab with a bunch of puppies. Like a kid in a candy store. I’d never seen someone look so happy before.”
“I never knew my mother—my dad raised me. I never knew what I’d been missing out on without having a good woman in my life until I saw her. She was so nurturing. And powerful. Beautiful. Smart. It’s not that I’ve been hanging on to hope all these years. She just has everything I ever wanted. So I stay close to her.”
The frank declaration captivated Finley’s attention, and she just stared at Byrd’s face for a moment, as if waiting for some sort of punch line. Byrd found a can of wet dog food in the bag and used the metal tab to open it.
Finally, Finley snapped into motion and retrieved a little bowl from the bag. “I’m…surprised you would tell me all that.”
Byrd gently scooped the wet food into the bowl. “Kid, I know I don’t look it, but I’m actually getting up there in years.”
He set the wet food on the floor, where Ladybug sniffed at it for a moment before gently licking at it.
The white-haired man smirked, his eyes growing soft and misty, making it clear that he knew good and well just how old he really looked. “And I don’t have any kids of my own. My life’s just about done, and there’s nobody who’s going to remember much about it once I’m gone. Or care. Maybe you can at least remember me as the guy who was in love with your grandma. That’s something.”
Marilyn stared into the icy blue eyes in the mirror.
“I am helpful. I am caring. I am kind.”
Monster. A voice hissed in her mind.
“I am good. I am talented. I can make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Others fear your power.
“He wasn’t afraid!” Marilyn snapped at the mirror. She inhaled sharply, staring down at her wrinkled, trembling hands, then back up again at the lady in the mirror.
The old woman in the mirror was gone, replaced by a curvy woman with dark flowing curls. The woman’s eyes were red, mascara smudged, her stomach swelled with the imminent arrival of new life. She wore an old, brown, oversized button-up shirt.
The young woman in the mirror sobbed. “He left me. He left me alone and pregnant–I loved him, and he jumped off a bridge because he couldn’t stand the thought of having me in his mind! He abandoned me. He abandoned me and his baby girl.”
“No.” Marilyn replied, looking down at her fingers and fidgeting. “No, he…he wasn’t who he said he was. He was a spy. He must have been afraid of being found out. Whatever he did–it wasn’t what we thought.”
“He left!” The pregnant woman shrieked. “The night I told him what I was, he left!”
“I’ll find out why.” Marilyn’s voice cracked. “I’ll discover the truth. Soon we’ll know why he really left. We’ll know. You won’t have to hurt anymore…”
The younger woman crumpled under the pressure of streams of tears.
Marilyn woke with a start. She was sitting in an old recliner in a Victorian-style house. A small, boxy television set sat on a coffee table a few feet away. From the next room, she could hear one side of a telephone conversation.
“…just thought I’d give everyone the heads up. No. No, you’re right. The only thing left is to hope for mercy. You’ll call him and let him know?”
The voice trailed off as Marilyn stretched. She instinctively reached her hand out as if to pet some small, imaginary creature. She pulled her fingers back into a fist and rested her hands on her lap.
“Can I get you something? Coffee?” Julie asked, walking in and noticing Marilyn.
Marilyn licked her lips. “Water?”
“Sure.” Julie disappeared around the corner into the kitchen. When she reappeared, she had a water bottle and a small, silver flask. She handed the water bottle to Marilyn, but took a sip from the flask.
She retrieved a small silver key from the coffee table next to the TV. It was labeled with an aged white tag, attached with a piece of string. “Here’s your key. I wouldn’t still have it, but the nearest of kin was his sister, and she had cut ties with Friedrick and fled the country months before. I can’t help but wonder now if he had something to do with that.”
Marilyn accepted the key and clutched it tightly in her hand. “I don’t know. I never met his sister.”
Julie said nothing for a moment, but took another swig from her flask. “The man who actually pulled the trigger on Friedrick has been dead for more than ten years, so if you had any hopes of vengeance, I’m afraid you won’t get it.”
Marilyn smiled ruefully. “That’s not exactly what I had in mind.”
“Well,” Julie said, dropping onto the loveseat, “the next closest person would be Andre. He reviewed Friedrick’s case before the execution. Wrote the report that went back to the Kremlin.”
“I would very much like to meet him then.” Marilyn said quietly.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what for?” Julie asked casually, wrinkled eyes half closed.
Marilyn paused. “I…just need to know. I need to hear the details for myself.”
“And what about your sister?”
“Madelyn wants me to follow this trail.” Marilyn sighed. “Has she come to see Andre yet?”
“No, actually.” Julie admitted, swirling her flask around.
“Then she will.” Marilyn mused. “As she’s been talking to your people, you said she has mentioned me more than once. I’m confident that she’s digging up information on Friedrick to get to me. She’s been creating a trail for me to follow.”
“Ah, interesting.” Julie said. “So we get to Andre first and set a trap.”
Brigham emerged from his seat to find Ladybug picking at her wet food as Finley and Byrd sat on the bed. The young man cleared his throat and passed his phone over to them.
Monica has approved the tracking. She also had some interesting news. They’ve looked more closely at the camera footage of Madelyn’s compound from the past couple years. Apparently she has been going in and out for more than two years without anyone noticing.
“So why escape now?” Byrd mused, frowning.
Finley gasped, and her eyes widened as she threw her hand over her mouth. Byrd and Brigham stared at her.
“What is it, kid?” Byrd finally said.
“I don’t know what Aunt Madelyn’s up to,” Finley said slowly, eyelids still pulled far back. “But I know how she’s doing it—and I think I know what she wants.”