By the time I got back home, Mom was loosely gripping a bottle of Magennis stout beer. I could tell she was thinking about a lot.
"So, how was V.D.D?"
"Yeah," I said enthusiastically. "It was so beautiful and big."
Mom leaned back in her chair. "I remember going to an open house there. It looked so magical when I saw it for the first time. I never got in, but went to a party or two. I met your father at one of them, since he took journalism there. Still blows me away that it sits in the middle of the city, like a Shangri-La. Shame it's so expensive nowadays, or I'd be happy to send you there."
That last sentence stung. So I'll only be able to visit but not see the libraries or labs without knowing someone.
She took another swig of the Magennis before sitting forward.
"Caitlin, when was the last time you spoke with Pastor Kenneth?"
Why was she bringing him up? I took some leftover Chinese food out of the fridge.
"The last time I went to church."
"I don't know. Two months ago, maybe?"
"Okay, when we go tomorrow, I'd like you to talk with him."
"Mom , No. I don't want to." I squirmed in my seat. He smelled like talcum powder and old people. Besides, he was someone who knew me since I was a baby. It's just weird.
"It freaks me out to talk to him."
"Why? He betrothed Daddy and me. He's a good man."
"It still feels weird to talk to an old man like that."
Her wide, glaring eyes sent me shrinking down.
"I...I can't explain it, Mom. Honest."
She leaned back in her seat. "Okay. But you're going to do it anyway."
"Mom ," I whined.
"I don't care. I'm your mother, and you're going to speak with him privately about everything that has been happening. It will be good for you. End of discussion."
"But that's not fair!" I leaned forward on the table, and my hands squeezed the wood so much that I wished I was strong enough to leave marks.
"What's not fair?"
"I said I didn't like him, and now you're forcing me to talk to him!"
"That's life, sweetheart." My Mom smirked. I could only glare at her.
"Now, shower and get ready for bed. We're leaving for church early tomorrow."
"Because we're getting good seats, and I refuse to let people murmur about us if we walk in late. Okay?"
I nodded, regretted nodding, then walked into my room and removed my jacket- only to feel the piece inside one of the pockets.
Wait—the jetpack. I could fix it tonight.
I rearranged my desk into a surgeons table, removing and tossing away any old papers and other things into my trash bin. I pulled out the key and laid it on the side, then sat on my bed, popped in some music, and set myself an alarm to wake myself in a few hours. That should be how long it takes for Mom to go to sleep, and I may need all night for this.
My alarm blasted me awake through headphones. I leaped out of bed, turned off the music and listened for any movements in the apartment. Mom was asleep- I could hear her snore. Perfect. I brought my lamp over to the operating table and went to my closet.
I took out the Marastrike Interceptor and, like before, removed the casing. The beautiful piece of machinery was going to get a slight fix. I brought the laptop in from the living room table and opened up the leaked technical maps for the jetpack.
I pressed the key into the lock and jiggled it around until I heard something click.
Oh, no. I prayed it wasn't the key. He said that I shouldn't press down on the key too hard. This whole shindig might be ruined.
Only after did I realize that it wasn't the key, but the lock. It had clicked open and the inside was officially exposed. I exhaled with excitement.
I was in. This was it. The hardest part of the operation was over! Let's go!
I opened the casing fully and found the inner workings- the beautiful intricate design of the jetpack. Miniature boards were stacked near the top, far away from the exhausts and the batteries. I used the finger-pad to zoom in on one of the parts near the head of the machine. There it was, like it said on the schematic- a tiny bulb-like piece attached to the motherboard through a loop circuit. If I remembered correctly, I could just remove one single part of it and the chip would be read but permanently display only one position- where it was first tested. That would be somewhere near Toronto, probably.
It said the removal would be a delicate operation, but then again they've never seen me work with a pair of tweezers. I gripped the tiny button on the chip and twisted as gently as I could. The tiny button deflated like a really tiny balloon and I was able to remove it no problem. Thank G-d I'm good at following directions when it counts. I looked back at the forum to see if I did it right, and turns out I needed to input some more code in as well. Deleting the key file from my flash-drive, I used the extra space to load the file from the laptop. I found the appropriate plug on the outside of the jetpack. Wait, how was that possible, I thought. How could it just be able to be hacked like that? Maybe they'll fix this in later versions. Might as well take advantage of that.
I plugged it in. After loading just the computer of the jetpack I clicked all the appropriate buttons, ran the file and restarted it.
Amidst all of this I barely registered how I had just turned on my jetpack for the first time, and it worked. After a restart, I saw the magical sign that it wasn't being tracked: The small black and white screen read out the location, and it certainly wasn't Mensink.
I was too happy to do a Slaminy shuffle. All I could do was wrap my hands around the Interceptor. This was how I would save Indigo. Not by using this for fun, but by finding the person who shot Steven. I'll fly into the darkest places in New Amsterdam, find him and drag him out into the light. He will face justice for this.
I turned it off again and sealed up the jetpack. I returned the laptop and lamp to their rightful places and made sure to put the flash-drive and key away somewhere safe. Only then did I realize that not only had the night flown by, but that I was leaving for Church in two hours.
Trying to force myself to sleep is possibly the worst thing I could do, especially when I needed it the most.
I had never yawned so many times as when I got dressed that morning. The sun barely lit the sky as we walked out of the lobby. Mensink Heights actually looked asleep, save for the garbage trucks and delivery men.
We covered our Sunday dresses with coats to block the early morning winds. Mom looked radiant, even in the dull light of the morning.
Despite my fears of the reporters, Mom insisted that we should have a morning stroll. She refused to take the subway or a taxi this early, so we walked up the thirty or so blocks to the church. I wished I could go back in time and kill me for saying yes to this.
The sun peeked out a bit by the time we reached Our Savior's Atonement Church. Everything flooded back, and I was heading to my own version of purgatory. The times I dreaded Bible study because one of the teachers hated me; because no one was from our area in Mensick so everyone else hung out away from Indigo and I; because of the times I learned about Hell and how I was the worst human being on Earth for listening to rap; because when Indigo and I were in different classes I was bullied to no end by June Wilson, the daughter of the couple who donated a lot of money to the church. It's where I learned that it was better to live in the shadow than risk getting burned in the sun.
Pastor Kenneth, a tall man in his seventies, with wrinkles around his mouth from smiling, opened the church doors as we walked up the stairs. His salt-and-pepper hair blew in the breeze as he beamed.
"Good morning, Eileen! You're early again. And with Caitlin, too! How wonderful."
My Mom brushed her hair from her face and smiled.
"Thank you, Pastor. I'd like my daughter to speak to you in place of our usual meeting. Would that be alright?"
"Not a problem. I'd be happy to talk to her."
So that was why Mom always left early on Sunday mornings. I guess Pastor Kenneth was the closest thing to therapy she could get, especially after all of the craziness recently.
Mom offered to help get the Chapel ready with the rest of the volunteers while I joined Father Kenneth in his office.
It looked a lot different from the last time I was in there, trying to explain why I didn't need Sunday School anymore. The wallpaper used to be blue with fluffy clouds at the top, now it was beige and covered with Lutheran Church American Youth posters.
I remembered the plushy dog that used to sit on the top of his shelf, next to the trophies for the Church's baseball team. There used to be a box of toys in the far corner, where I'd sit and play sometimes as my Mom spoke with him. I once finished every puzzle in his office at one point during some meeting I don't quite remember. Pastor Kenneth had known me since I was a kid, and so I shifted in my seat during the beginning of our talking session. It didn't feel good to talk with him at all. He knew everything about me, and told everything to my Mom as well. It made me feel exposed.
"So," Pastor Kenneth began, "tell me everything that's happened recently."
I squirmed in my seat. The "old people" smell crept in.
"It's okay, Caitlin. This is just between you and me."
I looked back toward his brown eyes. His hands were locked together on the desk. He smiled. It seemed fake. I couldn't stare at his face for very long.
Here was the problem. He'd know if I was lying. He's known me for far too long. How could I make anything up? I can't tell him anything about the case, especially what Zulema and I found out, or the jetpack, because then my Mom would get involved. She'll definitely get rid of the jetpack one way or another.
So I made up how school was getting hard now that Indigo was gone. Okay, maybe it wasn't a total lie, but it wasn't all that was on my mind.
As much as I could, I tried not to make eye contact. I spoke about wanting to help my Mom. She had the world on her shoulders and I wanted to make her load feel less overwhelming. I told him how I saw it in her eyes; she looked tired and miserable. The State wanted to lock up Indigo for crimes she didn't commit, and I could only watch people work from behind the scenes. Truthfully, I did share my frustrations about being left out, but only that I'm taking it out on exercises and music.
Pastor Kenneth sat there, unmoved, his hands clenched and his shoulders stiff. He looked like he somehow heard all of the things I left out.
"Caitlin, I must say, for a girl your age, that is a lot," he began.
"So, first things first, how do we deal with your mother? Well, that's pretty simple. Just listen to her and be a good daughter. But you knew that—you're thinking of helping in a different way, right?"
I leaned forward in the metal chair, feeling the brunt of his "advice" and trying to let it fall off of me. He didn't understand…
"Deciding to allow your mother to fight doesn't make you a wimp. It certainly doesn't make you a follower like you think it does. As you've learned in Sunday school, there's strength in passivity."
"Okay," I said without really meaning it.
"If your mother needs you to be a good girl and carry on for the next few months as the case is solved by adults, then so be it. That would help solve your guilt about your sister and mother, and make all of this go away, right?"
"Yeah..." I said in empty agreement.
"You don't need to be involved anymore, and now the case is out of your hands. It's that simple."
Really? That simple, huh? Just let everyone else do the work? Indigo was my sister.
I really wanted to scream at him for that, but I wouldn't dare. I said too much already and everything will be told to Mom. All I wished was he'd never said any of those things. I wanted him to believe me, not to try to fix everything with something that he thinks is so "simple".
"Caitlin, I'd love to talk with you more, but I must take care of some other matters before service."
I almost wanted to scream at him all of the things inside of my head. I have a jetpack that has become untraceable and perfect to use to examine crime scenes and chase criminals down. Mom didn't know and I found a contact number in her briefcase that connected me with an associate who helped us along with the case. I've done more for Indigo by breaking rules than my Mom has by following them.
I deflected his smile with one of my own and left the meeting.
Mom was scanning the Psalms as I sat down in the chair next to her.
"Hey, sweetie. How was the meeting?"
"Good," I answered automatically, feeling my anger had leaked out.
"Would you mind saving my spot, dear? I'm going to talk with Pastor Kenneth for a few minutes."
I nodded, thankful that she didn't notice. The rest of the congregants filed in and sat down in the rows of chairs behind me. I heard murmurs, and I could have sworn someone called me the "poor MacCuaig kid". One of them had the shutter sound on their camera on. They were pointed at me, but I only hoped it was a tourist admiring the shiny, wooden cross on the wall.
Without any music to keep me company, I picked up the Psalms book in the pocket in front of me, the same one Mom had been using. It opened up to Psalm 91 and I got a burst of nostalgia, like hearing my first jazz songs. That's my favorite paragraph in Psalms, ever since I learned about it in Bible Study.
We were asked in class to read a Psalm and talk about how it made us feel. This one made me feel secure. The phrase "do not fear the terrors of the night" helped me fall asleep when Indigo used to tell me scary stories at night. After all of this time it still brings me back to the days when all that mattered was listening to the radio, not eating too much milk at once, going to the big rock in the park and pretending to see all of New Amsterdam, and making Indigo laugh. I read it over a couple of times, despite knowing it by heart.
Someone was watching me. I calmed down as my Mom sat down next to me. As the congregation settled down and Pastor Kenneth stood in front of us, Mom wrapped her arm around my shoulder, held me close, and kissed my head.
Even though a part of me still wished I was back at home, and another hated hearing Pastor Kenneth sound like he was the smartest man in the room, I smiled at her. Her embrace was as warm and comforting as the Psalm. This place brought back memories I wanted to forget, but it made Mom happy for me to be here. She wanted me to feel just a bit calmer in the only way she knew. At that moment I was grateful.
"I'm glad you're here, my love," she whispered as the service began.