Windows

Seeing White

Chapter One

PART ONE

Waking up each morning thinking that life is meaningless and without purpose, that each breath taken is a reminder of a limited existence, this is humanity's average day. The thought of wondering what second will be your last has crept into and left everyone's mind at least once. This thought, though, has not left Charlie's mind since her mother died only five years ago. Since that day, she'd learned to live with no regrets seeing how short and precious life already is.

Charlie was sitting down on a smooth bench in the more peaceful part of the park across from her apartment where the ducks never stop yapping. She stretched her legs out in front of her as Coconut, her white German shepherd, leapt beside her and got comfortable snuggling on Charlie's side. Charlie ran her fingers through the puppy's fur, soothing the small dog. She laid her head back against the bench and closed her eyes, taking in the warmth of the noonday sun. Enjoying the sound of the mild wind blowing through the trees, until her phone began to vibrate in her pocket. She looked at her it and let out a silent sigh as she placed it by her ear. "Hello Officer Rick. How goes it?"

The caller responded with a low moan that she could tell was from a long days' work, "Charlotte, are you busy?" She shuddered at the mention of her real name and shook off the chills. Charlie had despised being called Charlotte ever since she was a little girl, and Rick knew it, too. "I found a case you might like."

Charlie had taken up the job of being a private detective for a few years now. Since the death of her mother, she had to keep her mind from wondering, and finding things that no one else could has done just that. She has not had a day of rest, but that is how she liked it, it reminded her that she is still alive and well. "Where are you now?"

"I'm at the corner of Chestnut and Mill. That old Kratts School."

"I'll be there soon." She hung up, stuffed her phone back in her jacket pocket and stood up. Coconut bounded to the ground to her side and followed her down the street.


Cameras and reporters buffeted her and she made slow progress as she wound her way to the school gates. Charlie had been ignoring the press since she had started working the cases, but it never got easier. Officer Rick stood just inside waiting for her to get through the entrance. His hair had been slowly graying ever since Charlie had known him. He handed her a manila folder and she took it, hefting the paperwork inside. This was going to be a doozy.

"Kidnapping, and, possibly, murder. Too soon to tell, though." He placed his hands on his hips, as he always did when he was thinking intently, and tapped his foot. "I was hoping you could get us a lead?"

Charlie nodded and smirked at Rick's attempt to hide a sigh of relief. He lifted the police tape over her head as she ducked down and headed inside the school building. "What do we know so far?" He led her around a few corners, passing lockers that have long since been decorated, before opening a door to the playground in the back.

"The victim is a young girl Fourteen years of age. Asia Blake, daughter of John and Kali Blake. She attends this school and is loved by the many teachers."

Charlie stopped at the end of the sidewalk and gazed around. Monkey bars, swings, a slide and a jungle gym. She knelt to the ground and shifted her head parallel with the cement. "Who else has been over here since you've called?" She tapped the cold sand with her fingertips, and then blew a little section away from her face.

"No one that I can think of." He turned to his side and scratched the back of his neck before returning his attention back on her. "Do you have something?"

Charlie stood up and brushed the excess sand off her coat as she walked towards the jungle gym. She made her way to the top, winding in between each bar as well as hitting her head a few times. She balanced at the very top, staring all around her before Rick broke her concentration. "There is no time to waste, Charlotte. Do you have something or not?"

"Stop calling me Charlotte," she carefully climbed down, being cautious of her head, and stood a few inches taller than him, with a smile, "and yes, I do." She folded her arms across her chest. "But I need to be certain. I need to talk to the parents."


A dismal looking woman answered the door after Charlie knocked until her knuckles hurt. She blew her red nose and tried to smile, "Yes?"

"Good evening, ma'am. I'm Officer Rick, and this is detective Doyle."

A heavy dark man grabbed the door and pushed it open wider. The snarl on his face shown he was very upset with something. "We already talked to the police. They can't help us, why are you any different?" He started to close it when Charlie placed her foot in the doorway, blocking the door.

Charlie scrunched her nose at the pain. "Because I'm not the police. And I can find your daughter." Charlie moved her foot after a moment and the man opened the door again. The expression on his face quickly changed from a scowl to a look of fear. "Please, come in."

He offered for them to sit on his worn out, color-faded sofa. Charlie had to hide her disgust as she forced her body down. They kindly refused for any refreshments, but were given some water to drink anyway. The couple then sat on two chairs opposite of them. "I am sorry for my behavior. I'm just very tense."

"It's understandable, Mr. Blake." Rick smiled, and then took his glass of water. Charlie could see that he was trying hard not to spit it all out. Once he managed it down, he took his notepad and pen. "Now, can you tell us what happened in your own words?"

"It's John," He cleared his throat and squeezed tight to his wife's hand. "I dropped her off at school, like Kali normally does but it was my turn this time. I kissed her good bye, and she went off to school."

"Did you actually watch her enter the school building?"

"Well- no. She ran straight to the play ground with her friends." He stroked Kali's arm as she stared at the ground.

Rick jotted down something on his notepad, "Can you tell me what you meant by how it was your turn to take her to school?"

"I didn't have a job a few months back. I finally was able to get one just this week. The school is on my way to work in the mornings, so I have offered to take her and let Kali sleep in. it's worked perfectly, until we received the call that she was…" He took in a deep breath and hid his face with his hands.

The officer waited for the brawny man to collect himself before continuing on, "Is there anybody you know of that would want to harm Asia? Or want to harm either of you two in any way?"

John shuffled uncomfortably in his seat at the question. He curled the edges of his mouth down as if to be in deep thought. After a moment, he answered, "No. No one comes to mind."

"Can you describe what your daughter looks like?"

"She's light brown, like her mother. Dark curly hair. The shirt she is wearing is purple with a pink butterfly, if that means anything."

Rick's demeanor changed as he quickly placed his things back in his pocket. "That'll be enough for now. May I use your restroom?" Kali nodded and showed him where their bathroom is.

Charlie stood when John stood and they shook hands. She noticed that he had a tattoo of a six-sided star on his right hand. "I want to thank you for trying to find my daughter. I trust you more than the police."

Charlie tilted her head in surprise. She does not like or trust police as much as the next person, but he had just met her. "Why is that, John? You don't know anything about me."

"Because of how you presented yourself to me." He cleared his throat and looked at her questionably. "May I ask, detective, why didn't you ask any questions?"

She gave him a cunning smile. "I only ask questions when I need to. I get what I need just from observing. And I received exactly what I needed just now, Mr. Blake."

Rick entered the room, adjusting his belt, and smiled with a nod. "Thank you for your time, Mr. and Mrs. Blake. We are doing all we can to find your daughter. And thank you for being patient with us." He nodded to Charlie as they headed out the door.

"Are you okay?" Charlie asked, with a laugh once they were in the car.

The old man groaned as he turned on the car and backed out onto the road. "I swear there was something in that water she gave me! Why didn't you tell me it wasn't good?"

"I thought it was very obvious. The fact that their sofa was dirty and stained and goodness knows how old. The glasses she brought out were cracked and were covered in a thin layer of mud, and who knows what else, all over it." She smiled. "It's clear they're not in good condition."

A few minutes passed in awkward silence until Rick spoke up. "How's your," he twirled his fingers in a circular motion near his head, "thing? Anything new?"

"You mean my ability?" She leaned her shoulder against the car window and stared at the passing people. She laid her head on her hand, letting her short, blonde hair fall in her face. Her fingers lightly stroked an old wound that has long been since healed, just barely covered by her hairline. The cut was a result in the accident that had killed her mother, and very nearly killed her. Charlie had hit her head on the glass of the wrecked car, and ever since, she thought she could see ghosts.

One little boy she met when she was younger was by the train tracks near her house; they would balance on the rails pretending to be trains. Every time an engine would travel by, he would disappear and re-appear five minutes later. Another kid would always be seen around her neighbors' pool. It was not until her father explained that she was not actually talking to anyone that she finally understood. These people were dead. Certain individuals are self-explanatory showing how they died with how they looked. When Charlie was fifteen, she noticed a young boy walking around a park with a hole in his chest, later finding out that he was involved in a gang shooting just a month before. Others are so banged up you would have absolutely no idea how they died. This has happened to her before, but the only ghost she wants to see that she has not is her mother.

"Nothing has happened for at least a few weeks."

Rick sighed. "You were young, Charlotte. That night was a very big night for you; I still believe that your childish mind just made it all up to cover up your pain."

Charlie rolled her eyes and mocked his tone. "I don't need your therapy session; I've had enough from you to last a life time." Rick slowed down and stopped in front of Charlie's apartment. She hopped out of the car and placed her arms in the drivers' side window.

He kissed her forehead and grinned. "Get some sleep tonight."

"Thanks, dad." She smiled and headed toward her house where a loving Coconut would greet her.

PART TWO

Charlie knew that something was off; her front door was just barely propped open, and she could hear a faint yelp from Coconut somewhere inside. She looked back toward Rick who must have seen her hesitation because he was already making his way towards her. Charlie reached inside her coat pocket and held tightly to her gun. Holding it steadily in front of her, she slowly pushed the door an made her way inside.

All the lights were off. Every piece of furniture had been toppled over or ripped apart. Kitchen utensils were scattered on the counter and floor. "What the heck?" She whispered to herself. A crash down the hall turned her attention towards her bedroom. Charlie motioned for Officer Rick to go ahead. He quietly walked towards the closed door in a squatting position, which Charlie knew for a fact hurt that man's legs more than anything did. Rick kicked opened the door, just about to yell before a dark figure slammed him out of the way.

Charlie ran to the front yard, hoping to trap whoever it was inside the house, but failed. She was pushed hard into the lawn, sliding lightly over the wet grass.. The intruder yelled something in her direction, but she couldn't make out what it was. She laid dazed for a moment, catching short breaths, when she saw her father hanging over her. "Well, go get him!" She forced out.

He ran after the intruder, leaving Charlie struggling to get up. She rolled onto her stomach, and then breathed in and out as much as she could to get air. Charlie heard footsteps on the grass near her, then something grabbing her arms. She quickly rolled onto her back, out of the grip, and pointed her gun at whoever it was near her.

"Easy now." Said a masculine voice. "I was only trying to help you up."

"I can get up by myself." She slowly pushed on the ground and struggled to get up with her gun still pointed at the man. "Who are you?"

"My name is Oliver. I saw that guy push you down and I just wanted to help." Charlie stared at his calm green eyes, and lowered her gun to the ground. "Is there anything I can do?"

She sighed and started to walk inside. "Thank you, but no." Oliver followed her inside and gapped in surprise at the mess. Charlie flipped a chair right side up and slumped down into its ripped cushion. "Hey! What are you doing?" She yelled when she saw Oliver pick up a pillow.

"I'm trying to help." He knelt down to pick up the silverware in the kitchen.

"I can see that. I said I didn't want any."

He walked over to the back sliding door. "But you need it." He slid the door opened and was immediately pummeled over by Coconut. He was stunned but covered his face with his arms to try to block the dogs' tongue. "Get it off me!"

Charlie could not hide a smile, but felt a little confused. Coconut only did that to a person if they were friendly. Charlie remembered one man her dog attacked in the park to find out later that he was wearing the jacket he had stolen only ten minutes before. "Coconut, off!" The pup obeyed and jumped onto Charlie's feet.

"What the heck was that about?" He stood up quickly and wiped off the dirt the dog had smeared on him.

"My security system. She likes you." She pet the pooch until it slowly settled down.

"Yeah, I can see that!"

"Oh, quite your whining!"

Rick stomped through the opened doorway, panting for air, and held up an old sack. "Got 'em." He grinned and tossed it onto her lap. "Who's this?" He asked when his eyes fell on Oliver.

Charlie was too busy searching frantically through the bag to answer. "My name's Oliver. I saw the man you were chasing push her down and I wanted to help."

Rick's skeptical gaze turned towards Charlie. "Oh, really?"

"Quit your belly-aching. He's fine." She held tightly to her inhaler and that was at the bottom, and quickly shoved it in her coat pocket. She took a deep breath of relief and stood up. "The rest of it isn't anything belonging to me." Flinging the pouch her fathers' way. "You two may go now."

"What about the guy?" Rick asked. "He disappeared after he dropped the bag."

"I'll be just fine. Trust me." She walked towards her bedroom. "Good night, both of you." She closed the door, after Coconut followed her in, and Rick showed Oliver out.

PART THREE

The next morning Charlie dressed herself- a black shirt, grey suit jacket, black fedora and dark jeans- then headed down the street, with her hands shoved in her pockets, towards a little sandwich shop that she normally frequented. She opened the door and a little chime sounded, singling there was a new customer.

"Hallo, Charlie!" Beamed the man behind the counter. "What do you want today?"

Charlie took her place at the counter and beamed back at her foreign friend. "Hello Adrian. Make me something I can eat on my way." Her elbows laid on the counter as her head dangled in her hands.

Adrian ordered one of his workers to finish her sandwich. "Are you okay, darling? What is eating at you?" He leaned across the counter and grabbed her hands in his.

Charlie looked at his striking grey eyes and let out a deep sigh. "I have another case."

"That is good thing, yes?"

"Yes, Adrian. It is a good thing."

"Then why, how do you say it, the horse face?" When she stared at him with no answer, he grinned from ear to ear and kissed her forehead. "You need sandwich. And boyfriend."

"Adrian!" Charlie pushed his hands away in shock as he stepped back with a laugh. "What makes you think I need a guy in my life?"

"Your attitude, for one thing." Replied a familiar voice next to her. "And the fact that you deny it, for another." Oliver gave her a sly smile as he seated himself beside her.

"Who is this?" Adrian seemed suddenly unaware he was supposed to be running a sandwich place.

Charlie pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to avoid both their gazes. "This is Oliver. He's a nobody."

He shrugged off her comment and turned his attention to Adrian. "I'll take whatever she is having, please."

"Coming right up!" two minutes later, Adrian handed them each a sack and Oliver escorted Charlie out the door. He elbowed her in the side playfully as he followed her down the street, but Charlie wasn't in the mood.

"Leave me alone."

"Oh, please." He bounced beside her like a giddy child with a new toy. "Where you off to?" To which Charlie responded with a low groan.

"Come on, you know you're happy to see me."

"Happy to see you? Oliver, I do not even know you. For all I know, you could have helped that man rob me last night." When she caught his quizzical look she continued, "You did just randomly appear right after the thief ran out of my house."

"Then why let me go?" He paused in front of Charlie, forcing her to stop in her tracks. "There's a table right over there in the park, lets eat our lunch and if you're sick of me after, I'll leave you alone. For good."

"For good?" She thought about it for a moment then remembered how quickly Coconut had bounded to him before even greeting her last night. Charlie grit her teeth and growled, "Fine. This better be worth my time."

Oliver grinned and dragged her to the nearest table where they both unwrapped their bags and began to eat their sandwiches. "So," he started, "tell me about yourself."

Charlie grumbled then answered, "Fine. I'm a private detective, and a pretty darn good one, too. I can read anyone just by looking at them." Oliver gave her a look of disbelief and took another bite of his food. She sighed and looked him over intently. "That shirt hasn't been washed in, I'd say, three days judging by the stains that are visible on the back of your collar and your sleeves. Your hair-looks nice, actually- you took a shower maybe yesterday because your hair is not oily. But you didn't shave." She leaned in over the table close to Oliver's awe-struck face. "But there is something about you that I just can't put my finger on quite yet."

Oliver raised one eyebrow. "Impressive. But you didn't get everything." He gave her an annoying smile, which only aggravated her further, before taking another bite of his sandwich.

Charlie grumbled as she took a bite, and then folded her arms across her chest. The park was calm and quiet, with only the songbirds singing a sweet tune. She fixed her attention on the people far in the distance as they went about their own way. One man, though, caught her eye when she realized he was John Blake. He walked around with a shifty gate as he wound through the crowd. Charlie stood up and started to walk his way.

"Where are you going?" Oliver put down his food and followed her.

"I'll be right back." She hid behind a tree and Oliver hid behind her. "I told you I am a detective, right? Well, I was hired by him to investigate the disappearance of his daughter."

"He doesn't look very devastated for a dad who just lost a child."

"Never underestimate a grieving father." She snuck behind a bench as John walked into a pawnshop. "What are you doing, John?" She whispered to herself. "I'm sorry Oliver but I need to go now." She stood and tried to make her way down the street before Oliver stopped her.

"Where are you going?"

"I want to be at his house by the time he gets home. So I need to leave, now." She tried to push beside him.

"Let me at least give you a ride."

She stared at him for a long time before giving in and accepting his ride.

PART FOUR

"Thank you, Oliver." Charlie forced out of her mouth when they pulled in front of the Blake's house. "You should probably go home now."

"You might need me in there." He said then continued when she started to refuse. "You saw him, he's huge! And who knows what he might do in his condition."

"Do you need to be home for anything?" Oliver looked away from her stare and did not answer. "Come then, I guess." They walked to the front door and knocked until the doorknob moved. "Mrs. Blake, it's me. Can I come in?"

The drained woman nodded and opened the door wider. "Please, sit. Can I offer anything to drink?"

"No. Thank you." Charlie sat down and motioned Oliver to do so as well. "Mrs. Blake I get the feeling that I haven't been told everything from our last visit."

Kali slowly sat down in her seat, with her hands shaking. "John," she paused when the door flung open with her angry husband.

"What the heck are you doing here?!" He screeched when he saw the detective. He clutched tighter to a bag he tried to hide behind him.

"Trying to find your daughter, Mr. Blake." Charlie stood up and walked towards him. "There is something you're not telling me. Last time I was here officer Rick asked you if there was anyone you knew that would want to harm you or your daughter. You answered no."

"That's because no one came to mind."

"I highly doubt that. It is because you did not want to say. I saw you hesitating to answer it the first time. You need to answer me truthfully if you want me to find your daughter."

John swelled up, indignant, standing a foot taller than Charlie. He ignored her personal space, glared down into her sky-blue eyes as he drew dangerously close. "Stay out of my way." He shoved hard past her and disappeared in the hall.

Charlie neglected his childish act and turned her attention back on Kali. "Mrs. Blake. I really need your help. Please."

Kali avoided her strong gaze and looked at Oliver, who had stood silently behind Charlie the whole time. She slowly started to nod her head up and down. "Follow him, please. I don't know what he might do."

John Blake walked into town, swerving in between the townspeople going about their day. His demeanor was that of a powerful, robust man, but Charlie could see that on the inside he was quickly breaking down.

Charlie nimbly followed a fair distance behind him, along with Oliver, not wanting to be seen. "Charlie? I know it's private business, but, what is it with this guy that would make someone want to kidnap his only child?" She ducked behind a bush for a few seconds then continued her steady pace, not looking Oliver in the eyes.

"I'm not positive yet. However, not everyone needs a reason for doing what he or she does. Some do it to show they have power over others." Charlie pulled Oliver behind a tree when John looked back. She looked into his green eyes, "And the person who is being attacked could go to great lengths to be free."

"What's he doing now?" They watched as John, with sweat dripping down his brow, turned the corner of a building into an alleyway.

"Crap." Charlie jumped from behind the tree and dashed towards the alley that John disappeared into. She forgot about Oliver and pushed past all the bystandards in her way. "John!" She yelled when she came to the entrance of the alleyway.

The large slouched man turned around in disbelief. "What the heck are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing!" She takes a few steps closer, now only a foot away from him. "Whatever you're going to do won't solve anything. What happened to the John I met at the house? He said he trusted me and that he believed I could get his daughter back!"

"I don't see her do I? I have been waiting detective and I think I have waited long enough! It's time I took it into my own hands."

Charlie was about to argue back but shut her mouth when she saw someone behind him. "John?" She said almost in a whisper. "Didn't you say that your daughter was wearing a purple shirt?"

"With a pink butterfly, yes. Why?" He scrunched his eyebrows together to form a straight line. He stared at her with a quizzical look, before following her gaze. He did not see anything, but Charlie saw a little girl that matched John's description of his daughter. "What do you see? My daughter?"

She brushed beside him slowly, making her way to who she thought was Asia. The little girl, skin a lot paler than her own, tilted her head at the blonde woman then ran off into a part of the alley that breaks off into a fork.

"Charlie!" Oliver called from behind John who was anxiously waiting for an answer.

She looked back at the two still in shock over seeing Asia, and reached into her coat pocket for her gun. "Oliver, I need you two to stay here. I'll be right back." She turned the same corner without waiting to hear a reply or argument. The buildings nearby caused a shadow to darken her view, making it almost impossible to see.

"Asia?" She whispered. "Asia, where are you?" Charlie kept the gun clutched tight between her fingers. A rustling noise threw her attention behind her before she was caught off guard. Something hard slammed her in the temple then moved her feet from underneath her, making her fall on her side and dropping her weapon. Charlie felt fingers grip her arms before she could find her gun, then the grip tightened.

"I told you not to follow me." Came the voice of the man who was now sitting on top of her. "This won't end well for you."

"Why are you doing this? What did John do to you?" She cringed at the pain of his knees piercing her legs.

"It wasn't me he upset. Boss is angry with him. I'm just doing what I'm told." The pain from her legs moved as his weight shifted onto her stomach. With his knees holding her arms, he gripped her neck and started to squeeze. "This didn't have to happen; you just got in the way."

The pounding in Charlie's head was becoming unbearable; she couldn't breathe at all. She forced her quivering eyes open to a squint as her vision became blurry and her hearing faint. The man pushed down harder, and her eyes slowly began to roll back in her head.

A gunshot exploded in the alleyway and the man's weight rolled off of Charlie. "Get away from her!" John's strong voice commanded. Charlie rolled onto her stomach coughing and gagging for air. Her eyes watered and her hands trembled as she pulled her inhaler from her pocket. She quickly took a puff and felt her lungs unclench. Sweet street air brought relief as two strong hands gripped her waist gently and pulled her onto their owner's lap.

"Charlie?" It was Oliver. "Charlie, we got the guy. Don't worry." He brushes some of her golden hair out of her eyes.

"You're not the only one that is armed, detective." She heard John quip. "I called your father, he sent for paramedics and they should be here soon enough."

"Asia." Charlie finally choked out. "I saw her come this way. Where'd she go?" She forced herself up off Oliver onto her feet. He saw she was still wobbling so he held her hand to steady herself. She felt on the ground until she found her gun, blinking back tears. She put it back in her pocket and used her mini flashlight to see light in the dark alley. Behind a pile of rubble, she could barely make out the heartbreaking outline of a small girl covered in trash and mud. "There!" She let go of Oliver's hand and fell to her knees beside the motionless body. She looked up to find what she knew to be Asia's spirit standing above her body. The small apparition smiled sympathetically then vanished in the air. "I'm so sorry, Asia."


The paramedics wrapped Asia in a blanket and pulled her onto a gurney before loading her in the same ambulance with Charlie who was sitting opposite the stretcher on a padded bench. A paramedic was shining a flashlight into each of Charlie's eyes, testing her movement, and reflexes. She clenched with the pain when he brushed her hair off her neck. "Sorry. There is going to be some bruising and swelling there for a few weeks. I'll get you some prescription medication for the pain."

Charlie nodded her thanks then walked over to Asia. She caressed her soft light brown skin and rubbed a bump she found on top of her head. The same bump Charlie received after hitting her head on the jungle gym at the school. With a hoarse voice she asked, "What about her?"

"She'll be fine. We were able to get her heart beating again and now all she needs is rest. We'll keep her in the hospital for a few days, though, just in case." He threw a blanket over Charlie's shoulders and sent her out with the medication.

Outside, she was greeted with warm, welcoming smiles. "Thank you, detective, for getting me my daughter back." John was the first to walk up to her.

She nodded then slapped him on the cheek as hard as she could. "You still haven't told me what all this crap is about! Now would be a good time, John! He told me that you upset someone named Boss, and that you'll get what you deserve. What the heck was that about?"

Everyone backed off and John shuffled back and forth on his feet. "I was going through a rough time twenty years ago and needed money. This man comes along and offers me a job. I took it and he paid me. He kept paying me as long as I did what he wanted. Then I met Kali, and we had Asia. I knew I could not work for him anymore. So I ran; I have been running since, and he did not like it. He tried to show he still had power over me by taking my daughter." He put a firm hand on Charlie's shoulder and pumped his fist in the air. "But we showed him!" He smiled before walking back to his daughter, squeezing her hand.

Charlie's father wrapped her in a painful hug. "I'm glad you're safe, Charlotte." She pushed away from the hug and tightened the blanket around her. "By the way, you never told me what you saw on the playground."

She replayed that day in her mind, remembering all that she did. When she had blown the sand away on the ground, she had found a few drops of blood. And a few more on the jungle gym that had been dried onto the metal and almost undetectable. At the top, she could see all around her, just like Asia could when she tried to run away. "I saw her."

"You mean Asia? At the park?"

She shook her head. "No, just before that dunce attacked me. She led me to him, to her body. Dad, she was dead."

"But look at her, she's all right now!" She turned to see her laying on the gurney with, surprisingly, a smile on her face. Her eyes sparkled and she laughed along with her father, who was trying not to cry. "She may be a little traumatized, of course, but the paramedics say she will be just fine. Charlotte, YOU found her, and she is back with her family. That's all that matters."

When Rick saw that he would not receive a reply he dropped the subject. "I have to stay to fill out the reports, but I need you to go home right away."

"I'll get her home, sir." Oliver snuck up behind Charlie, startling her a bit. "I'll make sure she gets home safely."

Rick raised an eyebrow at the boy and smiled. "You see to it that you do." He kissed her on the forehead then walked over to the paramedic taking care of the man who had attacked Charlie.

Charlie tightened the blanket once more and started to walk down the sidewalk, with Oliver traveling behind her. "Oliver," she began, "why do you follow me around?"

He shrugged. "Because I feel like you might need help."

She stopped and looked him dead in the eyes. "If you really want to help me, I need you stay with me. Because now, I think I really do need your help." They stared at each other for a few seconds longer before they continued walking again.

"So, what now?"

A smile crept up onto Charlie's face, "It's time to find out who this Boss character is."