Colourful People – Chapter Two
Kate leaned back against the side of the van and studied the two kids in the flickering light that filtered through the windscreen. They were in a sorry state and it was not just their tattered clothes. The girl, the one who called herself Sis, was clearly suffering from shock and probably exposure. Her friend, the bald boy – Gino was it? – probably had pneumonia or worst. Susanne, she said silently, can you check on the girl? I’ll see to the boy. Talking mind-to-mind was one of the abilities she and Peter had developed. It was a natural consequence of the way they healed people with their minds.
Kate placed a hand on Gino’s shoulder, causing the boy to moan, but he didn’t surface. She was shocked to realise his body was burning up with fever. Arming herself against the inevitable feverish assault, she plunged mentally inside. Sure enough, his whole body had a deafening discordant ring to it, much of which came from his lungs. There was infection everywhere, but what worried her most was his body’s lack of response. It was as if he had no will to survive.
She could use her own energy to encourage the body to fight the infection, but if no help was forthcoming from the boy’s body itself, the moment she stopped, his health would inexorably decline. Whatever happened, urgent action was needed. The infection was spreading and his heart was labouring noisily to keep up. She fought off the infection, stimulating the body’s natural defences. Her efforts gained her a brief respite, but it wouldn’t last.
Normally she’d use the body’s own blueprint to heal it, that innate memory of how a healthy body should be. It was always her best ally in curing people. But something was wrong. Usually, the blueprint would resonate like a celestial chorus, but Gino’s gave off a discordant note as if it too were broken. Kate had never come across such a case. It was unthinkable. Without the blueprint, how was she to heal the boy? Their whole method depended on that healthy reference to guide their work.
Her instinct was to examine the entire body in search of problems that might be throwing the blueprint off kilter. That seemed unlikely. The blueprint, which was present in every single cell, was necessarily sheltered from outside influence. It needed to ring true even when the body was wracked with illness. If the body revealed no explanation, she’d have to check his mind. Reading people’s minds was not something she did willingly. It was the ultimate invasion of a person’s privacy. Prying on intimate thoughts and memories clearly breached the trust and confidence essential to healing.
At a quick glance the rest of the boy’s body seemed in order, bar the ever-present fatigue and muscle ache due to the fever. She was reluctantly preparing to jump into his mind when a distant doubt tugged at her attention. Unsure what had triggered her malaise, she reconsidered his body more carefully. The answer was staring her metaphorically in the face. How had she missed it the first time? Gino was no boy, but a girl. Physically at least.
Surely pretending to be a boy would not cause such havoc. Her best friend, Peter, was born a boy, but dressed systematically as a girl. Yet he suffered no such damaged. True. He might have been distressed, had he not had access to experimental hormones that staved off puberty. In her desperation, was this girl taking some medicine that disagreed with her? Kate checked. There were residues of unwanted substances in her liver, but Kate was easily able to encourage the body to eliminate them.
The girl’s state was stable. Her temperature had come down and most of the infection in her lungs had been removed, but she was still weak and terribly vulnerable. She would remain so as long as the damage to her body’s blueprint had not been fixed, but Kate decided that for the moment she’d forego an examination of the girl’s mind. She’d find other ways to sound out the girl’s history. In the meantime, she would need to be kept under observation.
She was about to tell Klaus to take them to their village on the hillside overlooking Lucern – the girl would be safe there and she could keep an eye on her – when a voice sounded in her head. Kate, what have you done now? It was Peter, as playful as ever.
I miss you too, you naughty girl.
I’m serious, Peter shot back, his tone uncharacteristically sharp. We’ve been invaded by the police searching for a young girl called Gina who’s been kidnapped.
Why on earth do they think we have her?
One of her friends tipped them off. Apparently she told the parents Gina was seriously ill and the Lost Girls had been called to help.
That’s a nuisance. Presumably once they get fed up searching they’ll go.
You must be kidding. They’re camped out as if they owned the place and are in no hurry to leave. We never were in their good books and the hunt for a lost girl has given them the pretext they’ve been looking for.
She immediately thought of Viktor, a close family friend whose wife, Beth, had influential friends in town. I’ll talk to Viktor. See what he can do.
I already have. He’s got some of Beth’s lawyer friends working on a restraining order to get the police out.
Well that’s relief…
So what are you going to do with the girl? Peter asked.
You are too astute my friend. She sent him a mental image of the girl, saying, Meet Gino.
Gino? I thought her name was Gina.
I suspect that’s the crux of the problem. I can’t be sure, but my guess is she wanted to be a boy and ran away when her parents refused to accept her as she was. Sound familiar?
There was a brief pause, but Peter didn’t react. He’d had his own problems with parents about gender, but that was a thing of the past. Where are you going to take her? Him? You can’t go to Beth’s. They’re sure to look there.
True. I’ve no idea.
Wherever you go, don’t go in Klaus’s backer’s van. Everyone will recognise it.
Charming, she muttered. She knew Peter was worried about her safety, but him blocking all possible avenues of escape was annoying.
What about Heinz and Regina? Peter asked. The couple – he was a reporter/photographer and she was an investigative journalist – had helped them in the past. I’ll give them a ring if you like.
Good idea. Although, don’t let the police hear you doing so.
I won’t. Where do want them to meet you?
When she suggested a car park in town, he dismissed the idea. These people have loads of money. You know how the police are. They’ll be pulling out all the stops. There’ll be roadblocks everywhere.
A meeting was fixed in a narrow lane off a little-used road above town. At the sight of them, some might have taken Heinz and Regina for a comical pair. He was tall and as thin as a rake while she was petite and delicate looking. But their brand of investigative journalism had already floored a number of eagerly-enterprising, but not-exactly-legal figures in the local jet-set. It also meant they were not without enemies and well-versed in keeping danger at arm’s length.
“I know you,” Sis said, spotting Regina. “My father was always ‘pesting’ against one or other of your articles.”
“Is that even a word?” Heinz asked as he opened the door for them to get in.
“I doubt it,” Regina shot back.
Unfortunately, unlike Klaus’s van, their car was not designed to cater for large numbers of fleeing young girls. Especially when one was out for the count. Sis, who insisted she was feeling better, sat in the back with Susanne and they held an unconscious Gina draped across their knees. Kate quickly checked on the girl before squeezing onto Regina’s lap in the front seat. Heinz, the tallest of all, got behind the steering wheel. Seeing how they were packed in, Klaus’s parting comment, accompanied by a grin was, “Try to avoid police roadblocks.”
“Love you too,” Kate called out as they drove off.
“Is she going to survive?” Regina asked as they headed further along the narrow lane.
Kate hesitated which pronoun to use, finally opting to underscore the drama of Gina’s story. “He’ll be okay.”
Heinz shot her a startled look and Regina stiffened, saying, “I see.” After a brief pause, the woman added, “Presumably you two have all you need to tend to the lost, rich child.” There was no scorn intended in her comment, just knowledge about Kate’s abilities. Both adults were well aware what the young people were capable of.
“So you are Cyril Koehl,” Regina said, turning to catch sight of the girl.
Cyril? It was Regina’s turn to spring a surprise on them. Didn’t you notice? she hurriedly asked Susanne.
The girl mentally shook her head. I’m not in the habit of checking for such things.
“Sis,” the girl insisted.
“So, is that why you ran away all those months ago?” Regina was in full investigative mode.
“You don’t need to answer,” Kate interjected, seeking to spare her Regina’s professional ardour.
“No. It’s alright,” Sis insisted. “I’d rather have it known. My parents couldn’t bear the idea their son wanted to be a girl. It hurts to say so, but the damage to their image as a family worried them more than my well-being. They covertly tried all sorts of remedies, but never anything so radical as the treatment Gina’s parents subjected her to.” Sis broke down and cried softly. Susanne handed her a handkerchief. “If we hadn’t helped her escape from that clinic, I’m convinced she’d have killed herself. As it was, when she was so ill and she thought her parents were coming to fetch her, she was determined to let herself die.”
Kate had seen true. There had been no will to survive.
“And who was the girl who ratted on you?” Regina asked.
“Freya.” There was a long pause during which Sis cried some more. “It was not her fault,” she said, blowing her nose. “She loved Gina like a sibling. But after we went to such lengths to rescue Gina from certain suicide, she couldn’t bare to let the girl die. Her father was a doctor. She’d been brought up believing in the powers of medicine. Even if her parents turned medicine against her when they learnt of her ‘deviance’ as they called it. She couldn’t put her faith in people who were untrained and without diplomas. The Lost Girls were no choice for her. She refused to lose her friend and was convinced she had no alternative but to inform Gina’s parents.”
“And rather than go in person to fetch their daughter,” Regina said, “they paid the police to do it, an army of them.”
“The police must have been delighted,” Kate added. “They’ve been waiting for an opportunity to invaded our village.”
“What a mess,” Sis moaned.
“Oops!” Heinz said, bringing the car to a sudden halt. “The mess is not finished. There’s a police roadblock up ahead.”