It was early morning when he woke with Skye still sleeping beside him. Devlin managed to get out of bed without waking her and made his way as quietly as he could to the bathroom. He had begun folding up and packing away the clothes that they had rinsed out the night before when there was a light tapping at the door. He opened the door to find the sleepy-eyed girl standing there. She pushed her way inside, so Devlin took the hint and left her alone.
He had to admit it was nice to have company for a change, even if she never spoke. Living on the streets and hiding meant he didn’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize. Devlin was an only child who had been bounced around from city to city every time his father had been reassigned. He was used to being independent, but that was not the same as being alone. Still, it was too dangerous for the girl to stay with him. If he were caught, he would hate to think what might happen to her.
While he was waiting for Skye, he turned on the television. There was nothing on at this hour except morning talk shows, so he went through the channels until he found one that was recapping the local news. As he finished packing, he watched as they showed footage of a garage fire that had consumed the entire building and killed two people including a local celebrity car dealer. They talked briefly about an asteroid that was going to make a close pass by the Earth in the next few days. Then they switched to a story about how a local councilor was holding up the city budget debate in an attempt to force drastic cuts. Devlin realized now why the shelter had closed. Without a budget, all sorts of non-essential programs were shutting down as they ran out of money. It sickened him that one man should have that kind of power.
The bathroom door opened and Skye wandered back into the room. He turned off the television and smiled at her. A little soap and some fresh clothes had transformed her back into a presentable young woman. She saw him smiling and turned away, embarrassed.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get out of this dump and find you a place to call home.”
Devlin knew of a woman’s shelter that took in teens who came from abusive families. He hoped that they would have room for Skye there. He knew if the government got involved, they would send her back to her father, and she would just wind up on the street again or worse. The shelter offered counselling services and would help get her into decent foster home. It wasn’t strictly legal, but it helped keep girls off the street and from falling into prostitution. As long as they kept a low profile, the legal system was willing to turn a blind eye to their activities. Devlin felt that it was their best option under the circumstances.
It took almost an hour to walk there from the hotel, and when they arrived they found the doors locked. A hand-written sign in the window merely said they were closed due to lack of funding. Devlin swore and pounded his fist on the door.
Skye stood with her hands in her pockets staring down at the ground. Although it was only an illusion created by his ability to connect and influence minds, their shared experience made him feel responsible for her. Now he felt like he had failed Skye, and all the other girls in this city like her who needed help. When she looked up at him again, her eyes seemed to say that he had done his best. Still he blamed himself. He had the power to make real changes in people’s lives, but he had spent his time hustling for pocket change. That was going to end here and now.
“Let’s go,” he said. “We’re going to make this right.”
After a quick stop at a hotdog stand for lunch, they walked into the centre of downtown until they were standing in front of city hall. A small group of protesters picketed the street outside. From the signs and chants, they seemed mostly to be protesting the drastic cuts proposed in the budget. Devlin led Skye past them and up the steps to the main building. Once inside, the shouts of the protesters all but vanished.
He looked around, uncertain of where to go next. Against one wall, a uniformed guard sat at a desk and eyed the two of them suspiciously. When Devlin saw him, he marched directly toward the guard and said, “I’m looking for Councillor Moore. Can you tell me where his office is?”
The guard stood up and leaned forward, pressing his knuckles against the desk. “Do you have an appointment?”
Unfazed, Devlin gripped the man’s fist and said, “I don’t need an appointment. We’re old friends.”
The guard leaned back and smiled. Oh, it’s you. I didn’t recognize you. Just take the elevator to the tenth floor, turn left, and go down to the end of the hall. You can’t miss it.”
The office was exactly where the guard had promised. Devlin turned the knob and walked in. A young blonde woman looked up from her computer and smiled placidly. “Hello there,” she said. “Can I help you?”
“I need to see the Councillor right away,” said Devlin. He looked at the clock on the wall and saw it was almost two o’clock. “I have an appointment for two.”
“That can’t be right. He’s supposed to be on a conference call until two and then he has a late lunch with the mayor.”
“I’m sure he can squeeze me in,” he said. “Could you just check and make sure?”
She ran her finger down the page of her calendar checking the appointments. Devlin laid his hand on her shoulder for a moment and said, “I’m sure that I had an appointment today at two o’clock.”
“Yes, you’re right,” she agreed. “Go right in.”To be continued…