A World Full of Monsters

Table of Contents

Chapter 47
Renewal, Part 5

It’s time to start contacting parents.


Seth’s son, now named Quinn, came out of the mod process smaller than the others, minus the antennae, and with sealed-shut eyes like a newborn puppy. Jason and Dave and Dr. Chang-Sylva immediately got to work on an infant-formula version of the special fertilizer and a schedule for ‘feeding’ Quinn to encourage optimum growth and development, while Joey and Ivor and I worked with the other tree people to figure out his developmental baseline. It was low, but there was something there so it was possible Quinn might be able to mature into at least a semi-functional tree person in time. The others were satisfied, and confident that they could help him, so that’s where we left it for the time being.

So now, it was time to start contacting parents.

Mr. Eames was first, of course. I called him from the secure line in Jo-Jo’s vehicle, and in less than an hour his truck was pulling up into our parking area. He got out, looking around in disbelief. “This…you guys have done a lot. Why is the sign so big?”

“So people can’t claim they didn’t see it,” Larry told him. “Mr. Eames, I’m Mr. Connors, I’m part of GenoMod’s security team. Since we’ve had some problems up here, I have to ask: Are you armed?”

Now Mr. Eames smelled worried. “It’s in the truck, under the seat. Problems?”

“That’s fine, just make sure you lock your doors. We’ve had a few problems, mostly from a Mr. Knight who kept coming up here and thought the sign didn’t apply to him. He wasn’t able to do any damage, though, and he’s in jail now. We’ll be notified if he gets out.”

“He wasn’t after Jordan, for some reason he was trying to kill Seth,” I explained to the open-mouthed man. “Or possibly he’s the one who already had killed Seth, they aren’t sure yet.”

He froze. “Killed…but there are still five of them.”

I nodded. “The fifth tree-person is Seth’s offspring, his son – he grew through the remains of Seth’s trunk. The others named him Quinn, and he’s still at a very limited stage developmentally – basically he’s a newborn, his eyes aren’t even open yet. But we were able to use the mod process to weed out the mayfly in his DNA, so he’ll have a normal lifespan for his species. As far as how he’ll develop as he ages, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Jordan?”

“Is fine,” I assured him. “Trey was complaining, your son told him to suck it up because no one ever said saving the planet would be easy.”

Mr. Eames laughed in spite of himself. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” We were approaching the circle of tree-people now, and when Ivor stood up from behind one of the tarp-tents his mouth dropped open. “Holy shit.”

“That’s Dr. Vargas, my husband,” I told him, and did my best not to look too proud of myself when his scent said he was impressed and just a tiny bit scared. “We’re continuously monitoring the kids right now, he’s checking the cameras.” I waved to Ivor, who waved back before moving on to the next camera, and kept herding Mr. Eames forward. “The man over by Trey is Mr. Garza, he’s the tree expert we called in to help us. The kids all love him because he’s more than happy to sit out here in the snow talking tree-stuff with them for hours on end.” I walked over to the nearest tarp and pulled one side of it up. “Hey Jordan, your dad’s here.”

Jordan twisted around, one vine branch coming up to push the tarp higher than a really short villeluvu could lift it. “Dad! You shaved your beard.”

Mr. Eames somewhat self-consciously rubbed his chin. “Yeah, I…felt like I needed a change.”

“It makes you look a lot younger. Does your girlfriend like it?”

Oh my god, that scent spike. “Jordan, try to remember what we’ve discussed about not prying into people’s personal business based on what you can smell,” I said. “Yes, Mr. Eames, we told him about the divorce – we kind of had to, because of the situation with the restraining order and the land-use restrictions.”

“Yeah, I…I can understand that.” He stopped short of joining his son under the tarp, though, and gave me a very odd look. “You guys can smell…well, everything, can’t you? Just like a hunting dog.” He caught himself. “Sorry.”

I shrugged. “That’s actually a pretty apt description, since I’m part wolf. And yes, we can.” I considered. “Having canine senses…it was kind of like being able to see after having been blind all my life, but without having known I was blind until that moment, if that makes sense. Jordan and his friends are going through something similar right now,” I smiled, “but they have a lot less tact than I did when I was first changed. They told another visiting scientist yesterday that her husband didn’t appreciate her and she should dump him.”

That got him kicked back into Dad-Mode. “Jordan!”

Jordan rolled his eyes and used another vine-branch to pull his father under the tarp. “You taught me to respect women, Dad. You would have wanted to punch this guy if you’d been here, believe me. And he kept being a jerk to Mr. Garza just because he doesn’t have a PhD, even though Mr. Garza is twice as smart as he is and a whole lot more professional…”

I could smell Jason’s spike of pride and pleasure from all the way across the circle – pretty sure everyone else could too.

 

We couldn’t call in Jordan’s mom while Jordan’s dad was there, of course. I’d had Rick check, and he said to make sure they didn’t even pass each other on the road unless we wanted Mr. Eames to possibly end up in jail. And because of the ongoing investigation we’d had to give the semi-good news about Quinn to the detective on Seth’s case, who was going to contact Seth’s mother herself. The detective came out and talked to the tree-people for a little bit, talked to Mr. Eames, and then joined the rest of us in the meeting tent to bring us up to speed on the investigation. “It’s ugly, and getting uglier,” she said. “We suspect that Seth may have seen or heard something he wasn’t supposed to know about while he was working for a pest control company in town. It was a summer internship sort of situation, with the option to continue working there full-time once he graduated, and then one day he just quit without warning and his mother said after that he developed this overwhelming interest in environmental issues, particularly when it came to illegal dumping. Mrs. Mason also said that he was very interested in this area up here, but he wouldn’t tell her why.” She made a face. “That could also be the reason he decided to become a tree-person, because he thought he’d be safer and so would she. He hadn’t even shared whatever it was with his friends, but they said he did mention at one point how lucky they were that Jordan had rooted where he had.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “When we were up here the first time, I remember Officer Kelly telling Janey’s mother that she was really lucky Janey hadn’t rooted in their backyard, because there’d been a dump in that area and trees didn’t last too long.”

She  nodded. “That edition was built on top of an old reclaimed garbage dump, their HOA had strict rules about planting because of the possibility of contaminants like lead leaching in the soil – no vegetable gardens, no fruit trees, container gardens had to be on a concrete slab. We’re checking at the college now to see if Seth ever brought in soil samples for anyone to test. His mother knew he was collecting them, she remembered seeing some in his room once and yelling at him for bringing ‘long tubes of dirt’ into the house.”

Jason frowned. “Long tubes…so he wasn’t just taking samples from the surface, he was collecting undisturbed samples to preserve the layers. Who was helping him?” Her eyebrows went up. “A broke college kid didn’t just go out and buy a bunch of Shelby tubes, Detective. Someone was at the very least providing him with equipment, and if they had access to the equipment…”

“…They might also have access to a lab for analyzing soil samples.” The detective was nodding. “So who would have access to that type of equipment and a lab?”

“Either an engineer or someone working for the EPA. I’d lean toward the EPA.”

Pete had been busy on his laptop. “You mean like the guy who left his condolences on Seth’s memorial Facebook page four years ago?” He flipped the screen around so she could see the post, and the profile he had pulled up next to it. “He didn’t find out until after the fact. And he apparently quit working for the EPA, he teaches environmental science now.”

The detective’s scent said she was mentally swearing a blue streak, but the only outward sign was a narrowing of her eyes. “Can you print that for me?”

“Better than that.” Pete took his laptop back, did something, and a minute later her phone dinged with an incoming message. “PDF screenshot that includes the URL and the time and date. Want me to call the station and have someone pull it up there too, just in case?”

She actually smiled. “I’d forgotten that you guys work with Interpol all the time. If you want to, sure, but it’s probably not necessary – I doubt our suspects are technologically on the ball enough to think about trying to get rid of four-year-old evidence on someone else’s Facebook page.” She stood up, and the rest of us did too. “Thank you for your time, gentlemen. Dr. Darling, Dr. Montoya, I’ll get hold of you once the victim’s mother is local – we really appreciate you volunteering to help with that conversation.”

“Unfortunately, that’s another thing we have to do more often than we’d like.” I shook hands with her, and then everyone else did, and then she left. Jo-Jo and Officer Kelly escorted her back out to her car, and the rest of us sat back down. “Well, shit. Someone was dumping chemicals where they weren’t supposed to, weren’t they?”

“And someone at the EPA was using an obsessed teenager to collect evidence for them under the table,” Pete agreed. He was fuming. “I’m not blaming the kid, he saw something wrong and he wanted to help fix it, and I’m sure when he wasn’t scared to death the whole thing seemed really exciting…but whatever EPA worker-ant was in on this needs to be bitch-slapped into the middle of next week. They know better. Illegal dumping cases can run into millions of dollars in fines alone, they know exactly how dangerous things can get if a company gets wind of an investigation.”

“The cops will handle it,” Joey said. “You could tell how pissed she was.”

“Even I could, and I couldn’t smell it on her.” Eyebrows went up all around the table, and Jason chuckled. “Of course I noticed. I just didn’t say anything earlier because I didn’t want to tip off Dr. Sylva – he’s got enough hangups about superiority of species now. I’m not sure why he’s a botanist and not an evolutionary biologist.”

Ivor snorted. “I think he may have followed Dr. Chang into her branch of science, possibly in an attempt to prove he was superior. I did make the opportunity to mention to him that he could ‘make his mark’ on the science he loves so much if he were to devote his time and attention to it. I do not believe that he could truly achieve much, but perhaps he will take my advice anyway – his ego was considerably stroked by that idea.”

“That sounds so dirty,” Dave scolded him, laughing. “But yeah, it would have been – it’s pretty obviously the biggest thing about him.”

“Work to be done,” Pete reminded everyone. He’d been a little on the cranky side all morning. “I think we should call in the rest of the parents all at the same time. We already know Kathy Atwell is potentially going to be a problem, but the presence of the other parents might help to keep that in check.”

“I don’t think we should expose Seth’s mother to that, though,” Dave said. “And I’m not sure about Mrs. Simpson either.”

“I still have to go down and see if I can spring Mrs. Simpson from the nursing home.” I raised a handpaw when Dave opened his mouth. “No, supposedly her doctor doesn’t believe in tree-people, I think in this case shock value might work in our favor. He can’t deny the existence of modded humans when one of them is standing right in front of him.”

“He can call the police, though.” Officer Kelly and Jo-Jo were back. “So we’ll arrange for a police escort. Meaning I’ll just follow you down there, because I need to check in at the station anyway.”

“Okay, that sounds like a good idea.” I tapped one claw on the table. “I think maybe we should try to have Mr. Eames up here when Mrs. Simpson is. He was being very solicitous of her the first time around, so he’d probably be a good choice to support her this time too.”

“Which of course means she can’t come up when Mrs. Eames is here, but that’s fine – we don’t want this to turn into a parade.” Dave considered, then stood up again. “I’ll go ask Mr. Eames how long he’s planning to stick around today. The weather is pretty clear and we really can’t delay contacting the other parents, so if we can get Mrs. Simpson up here this afternoon that would work out really well.”

 

Mr. Eames was, as we’d all pretty much expected, planning to stay where he was at until he absolutely had to leave, so Larry and I got cleaned up and headed into town with Officer Kelly following. The nursing home was a big newer one, with an atrium in the front lobby/rec area that sort of reminded me of the admin building at our old college. I strolled right up to the front desk, ignoring the receptionist’s dropped-open mouth. “Hi, I’m here to visit one of your residents,” I told her. “Could you let Mrs. Simpson know that Dr. Darling is here to see her?”

It took her a minute. “Is she expecting you?”

“No, because I wasn’t able to reach her by phone to let her know I was local – I live in L.A.” I smiled, keeping it polite. “Now would you please let her know I’m here? If she’s busy I’ll try to catch up with her another time, but I’d at least like to say hello.”

“I’ll…I’ll send someone to ask her if she wants a visitor.” She got on her terminal, most likely looking up the room number, and then made a call – not to Amy’s grandma, though. “There’s a Dr. Darling here to see Mrs. Simpson, could you check to see if that’s all right? Thanks, he’s down here in the lobby.” She hung up again, smelling nervous. “The floor nurse is going to check, Dr. Darling. Just wait…well, here.”

I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. “Ma’am, it’s okay: I know I’m a villeluvu. I’m not sure Mrs. Simpson knows, though, because it’s been years since she last saw me. That was why I tried to call first, but I couldn’t reach her.”

She nodded, a little too quickly. “She doesn’t have a phone in her room. You’re a…”

“Villeluvu.” A tall, thin man with white hair and a walker had come up to the desk, trailing a few other curious residents in his wake. “Ought to read the news more, Becky – he’s a scientist, works with the United Nations to stop terrorists.” He nodded to me. “Essie knows, it’s okay. She was more than a little pissed off at the guy who did this to you, though.”

“Believe me, so was I.” I offered him my handpaw, and he took it. “Danny Darling, Mr…?”

“Lawrence, John Lawrence.” He raised an eyebrow. “Is this about what I think? Because I heard from my grandson that some rich doctor bought some land up in the hills where the wildfire went through – guess he came in a private helicopter and everything.”

“That was my colleague, Dr. Montoya,” I told him. “I don’t want to say any more until I’ve talked to Mrs. Simpson, but I will tell you it’s some really unexpected good news.”

“Essie could use some of that.” A man in a doctor’s coat came striding into the lobby, and he didn’t quite roll his eyes. “And here comes trouble. It was a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Darling, but I’m just gonna go elsewhere right now.”

I stopped myself from smirking. He was up to something, I could smell it. “It was nice to meet you too, Mr. Lawrence. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

He moved away a lot faster than he’d approached, and the doctor spared a frown in his direction before switching it to me. “Leave now or I’ll call the police. I’m not sure what kind of scam this is, but I won’t tolerate it in my facility.”

I cocked an ear, which seemed to surprise him, and then held out my hand. I was starting to see and smell the problem – he was one of those people who think it’s a costume. “Dr. Daniel Darling, Dr…Vega, is it? Are you Mrs. Simpson’s doctor?”

“I am, and you’re not getting in to see her.” But he took my hand, and sure enough, he tugged. “Is this a full-body suit?”

“No, it’s skin. And fur.” I twitched my tail. “I’m a villeluvu, Dr. Vega, a genetically modified human. And if you want the police, my official escort is right outside.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Becky crane her neck to look out the front doors, then take her hand off the phone. “As I told Becky when I came in, I tried to call Mrs. Simpson before I came down but I wasn’t able to reach her.” This time I raised an eyebrow with the ear. “The state program doesn’t pay for private phones?”

“No.” He was smelling more confused and flustered than angry now. “Usually the family takes care of that. Why are you here?”

“To talk to Mrs. Simpson about her granddaughter,” I told him, which surprised him all over again because apparently he’d thought I was going to lie. “That’s how I met her. When the initial modding incident happened, one of the parents called my company to see if we could help. I’m sad to say that we weren’t able to do anything at the time but give them worse news on top of bad.”

“So why are you here now?”

“To talk to Mrs. Simpson about her granddaughter,” I repeated. “HIPPA applies to my kind of doctor too, Dr. Vega. The only way I could talk to you and not her is if she gave me permission to. Or if her condition is such that me speaking with her would be medically contraindicated.”

He wanted so badly to say that it would be, I could tell. My respect for him went up a notch when he didn’t. “I don’t want a vulnerable patient to be taken advantage of, you have to understand that. Mrs. Simpson’s well-being is my responsibility.”

“I understand perfectly. That’s why I came down here to talk to her before rumors could start going around. And also why I didn’t let my bodyguard or our police escort come in with me, because I didn’t want to frighten her.”

For some reason, he seemed completely taken aback by that. But before he could find a response, another voice broke in. “Dr. Darling?!”

I couldn’t help it, I broke into a huge grin. Yeah, there was John Lawrence, hovering in a doorway, and Essie Simpson was hurrying right over to me. “Mrs. Simpson, it’s good to see you again.”

“You…that…” She looked me up and down, and then I got wrapped in a surprise hug. “Oh that awful, awful man! You poor thing. Where is Dr. Montoya?”

“He’s up at the site. You know those rumors about some rich doctor buying land up there? That was Dave.”

She pushed back but didn’t let go. “The children…”

“Want me to tell you here, or in private?”

She glanced sideways at Dr. Vega. “He thinks I’m crazy.”

“He knows better now,” I assured her. “You have to admit, to someone who’s never seen a modded human up close, this,” I swished my tail, “does look like it could be a costume.”

“Amy?”

Here, then. “The kids grew back, we think the wildfire burning off the dead wood kicked it off,” I told her, and lifted a claw when she started to gasp. “But this time, we were able to fix the problem. Amy’s back, Mrs. Simpson…and she’s fine. Worried about her grandma, but otherwise just fine and looking ahead to a long, healthy life.”

That got me hugged again, more tightly this time, and I’m not ashamed to say my eyes weren’t any drier than hers were. Dr. Vega, however, had gone back to being unsure. “Why isn’t she with you, then?”

Mrs. Simpson actually huffed into my shoulder, and I had to laugh. “Because she’s rooted in place,” I told him, and fished out my phone, pulling up one of the videos. “You can see three of the kids in this one – we’re still trying to figure out what their species name should be. Amy’s the one in the center.”

He ended up looking over Mrs. Simpson’s shoulder, because she’d taken control of the phone, handpaw and all. His eyes went wide. “That…that shouldn’t be possible.”

“I agree with you, it shouldn’t be.” That really surprised him. “We didn’t even know it could be done when it first happened. Now…well, I’ve seen it again one other time since then. It’s not something anyone with any ethics at all would do to a human being. The man who convinced these kids to do it went to prison, and the organization he bought the mod kits from was broken up by Interpol with extreme prejudice.”

Becky had caught on. “Mr. Lawrence said you work for Interpol.”

“GenoMod is part of a task force that investigates international genetic terrorism,” I told her. “The media tries not to report on that kind of thing too much, though – it scares people, and people being scared is what terrorists want.”

See, I can be nice to the press. When they’re not around, anyway. Mrs. Simpson was still hanging on to both phone and handpaw. “I want to go see Amy. Right. Now.”

“I’ll take you. Do you need permission to leave the facility?”

She slanted another look at Dr. Vega, and this time he was the one who huffed. “This isn’t a prison. The residents are allowed to come and go within reason, just as long as they check in with the desk and it’s not medically contraindicated.” She just kept looking at him, and he gave in. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, Mrs. Simpson. I’ll update your file as soon as I go back to my office, all right? Yes, you have permission to go visit your granddaughter.”

She smiled and let go of my handpaw. “I’ll just go get my coat.”

She hurried back out of the lobby, and I nodded to Dr. Vega. “One of the other parents is already up there, visiting his son – she had a really good relationship with him, the last time I saw him interact with Mrs. Simpson he was treating her like she was his own mother. We figured she could visit with Amy, eat dinner with us, and then either we’d bring her back home or he would.”

He nodded back. “You thought this through. But what I don’t understand…it sounds like you’re an important person, Dr. Darling, and probably a busy one. Why come all the way down here for Mrs. Simpson?”

It was a valid question. “Because five years ago I had to look her in the eye and tell her that her granddaughter was dying and there was nothing I could do,” I told him simply. “And a few months later, I got a package in the mail with a thank-you note and a handmade quilt. That quilt has been on my bed at home ever since.”

He nodded slowly, some of the confusion clearing out of his scent. “Since I can’t talk to her granddaughter directly…tell her her grandmother is doing fine. She has friends here. And state aid may not pay for luxuries, but we do try to make sure everybody gets a little something special from time to time.”

“I’ll tell her. She’ll be glad to hear that, she was worried.”

“They always are, when they find out their loved one is in a care facility,” he said. “I usually assuage that by telling them that as long as they’re listed as next-of-kin they can call any time to check up on things, but in this case…”

“Oh, Amy can definitely use a phone,” I assured him. “Believe me, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a tree-person taking a selfie to update their Facebook profile with.”

 

Dr. Vega went out to talk to Officer Kelly, which I had expected, but he was already back in and heading back to his office by the time Mrs. Simpson got back to the lobby. I let her sign herself out – feeling autonomous is important – and then I introduced her to Larry and we headed back to the site. Officer Kelly went the opposite way, going back to the station to check in, but he said he’d be back up in a few hours whether he was still staying on-site or not. Mrs. Simpson was full of questions on the drive up, but the closer we got the quieter she got. “The fire was so big, and there was so much smoke and ash,” she said. “The evacuated us pretty early on, but we could still see the fire. The news said you could see it from space.”

“Wildfires can be really frightening,” Larry commiserated. “This whole area was editions before that?”

She pointed. “Over there were what we used to call tract houses, rows and rows of them. The ones a little farther out and up had bigger back yards, and then in the other direction you had the ones like Jamie and Maggie’s – that’s Jordan’s parents – with half an acre.” She made a face. “I hear they want to sell it all to developers now, build some kind of fun park or office buildings or something.”

“We heard that too,” I told her. “I’m told the realtor just about drooled on the check Dave gave him, though, so I guess no one has been out here trying to snatch the land up yet.”

She looked at me in the rear-view mirror. “How did you find out the children were growing back?”

“Mr. Eames called us. Don’t tell anyone that, though – his divorce settlement had some really onerous restrictions in it about what he could and couldn’t do with the property, we don’t want him to get into trouble.”

Mrs. Simpson snorted. “Must have been dealing with that awful lawyer in town, then. Does Maggie know yet?”

I shook my head. “We’ll be calling her and Trey’s parents and Mrs. Atwell this evening so they can come out tomorrow, but the police are going to bring in Mrs. Mason.” I leaned forward. “That’s a murder investigation now, just so you know. Someone killed Seth, and then his son grew back up through the ring of his old trunk. The other kids decided to name him Quinn.”

Her eyes went round. “Someone killed him? But I thought…weren’t they already dead?”

“They were…but at the same time, not entirely,” I explained. “We didn’t know they could grow back, and especially not with full sentience and all of their memories intact. Jordan, Trey, Janey and Amy all grew back from the root, so apparently in a tree-modded human that’s the way that works. We think someone poured poison into the remains of Seth’s trunk, which killed his root. But the kids are also part cinnamon vine yam, so they all also have a tuber growing off to one side of their taproot. Quinn grew out of Seth’s tuber. He had antennae when we first got here, he had more mayfly in his makeup than the others did, but we were able to fix that issue for him too. He’s in an infantile stage right now, we’ll just have to wait and see how he develops going forward. But according to the kids, there is awareness there.”

“So you’re saying he’s…not quite right?”

“We think he may be developmentally disabled compared to the others, yes. But it’s also possible that he’s just a baby and he needs time to develop into a fully-functional tree person. Quinn is the first offspring of a brand-new species, we just don’t have any baseline that can help us tell what we’re looking at yet.”

She nodded. “The person who did it, what will happen to them?”

“They’ll go to prison,” Larry said. “Someone tried to come up here and do it again, and he’s sitting in jail right now. California’s Citizens’ Rights laws apply to all modded humans, so they’ve got him on premeditation and attempted murder.”

“Who was it?”

He smirked. “That same ‘awful lawyer’ who handled the Eames’ divorce case. They still don’t know what his motive was.”

“They can’t just beat it out of him?”

That made him chuckle. “No ma’am, although I’m pretty sure some of them wanted to. He doesn’t seem to be well-liked.”

“He’s horrible and mean, from what I’ve heard. And he takes the lion’s share of the settlements he wins, but he’s handsome and he does this awful sentimental advertising so all the women keep going to him.” We came around the bend in the road, and she sat forward. “Oh my goodness, this looks like an Arctic expedition.”

“Well, it has been snowing.”

Larry pulled in to his parking spot and I got Mrs. Simpson’s door so I could help her out. Dave came hurrying out to meet us, and he got a hug too. “Thank you so much.”

He hugged her back. “It was the least we could do, Mrs. Simpson. Come on, let’s go see Amy.”

Over her shoulder, though, he was giving me a meaningful look and then he cut his eyes toward the trailer. Shit. “I’ll catch up with you, I need to go check my messages,” I said. “Be sure to tell her what they did to the botanists.”

I walked away to the sound of her interrogating Dave, and Jo-Jo held the door to the trailer open for me…but he stayed outside. Double shit. Pete was sitting in front of his two laptops but not looking at them. I took off my coat and pulled over a chair, plopping down next to him. “You’ve been cranky all day. I’m guessing whatever it was came to a head while I was gone?”

“Did it ever.” He dropped his head into his hands. “I want to do something highly unethical, Danny.”

Oh, this could only be one thing. “Whose baby is it?”

“Nobody you’d know – a friend of Lani’s.” He sighed. “It wasn’t exactly her choice to get pregnant by her ex-husband, according to Lani. She tried to file charges, but the cops just said divorced people get back together for a quickie all the time and didn’t do anything except slap him on the wrist for violating the restraining order. Since she started to show she’s been telling everyone it’s from a casual hookup, but someone eventually told him she was pregnant and now he’s insisting on a DNA test as soon as the baby is born. He wanted one done in-utero, but she refused. He even used the assault charge she’d tried to file as proof that the timing matched…and the judge still let his claim stand.”

I considered that. “She doesn’t want the baby?”

He shook his head. “No, she was going to adopt it out, already had parents lined up and everything. His interference screwed that up.”

“When is she due? And is it a healthy pregnancy?”

“Six weeks, maybe seven? And yeah, it is. It’s gonna be a little girl.”

“Have you already picked out a name for a little girl?”

This sigh came from the bottom of his shoes. “Noelani.”

I put my arm around him and squeezed. “Then the DNA test is going to say Peter Kelekolio forgot to wear his raincoat the last time he went home for a visit and now he’s Noelani’s father. Get us tickets to Hawaii, Pete. And an extra one for the trip back.”

“But…”

“No. This is why I ran all those tests, remember? This is it, this is what you’ve been waiting for. And it’s not unethical. She doesn’t want the baby, and as far as I’m concerned her ex gave up his rights when he assaulted her. Not the first time he’s done it, right?” Pete shook his head; I’d already known there was no way he hadn’t checked both the ex and the mommy-to-be out six ways from Sunday to confirm what Lani had told him. “Okay, then we’re going to Hawaii and bringing your little girl back with us so she can be a tiny science princess and model Hana’s dresses. In fact, forget the tickets, let’s just charter a plane and we’ll all go. That way we can bring back all of the baby stuff your mom’s going to buy without having to pay extra luggage fees.”

He looked me in the eye. “And so nobody gets suspicious like they might if it was just you and me and Dave?”

“That too.” I hugged him. “Use the secure line to call Lani and tell her you’ll be there in two weeks and you’re bringing the entire GenoMod clan with you. And tell her we’ll need two adjoining suites but we’ll bring our own portable crib.”

He hugged me back so tight I almost couldn’t breathe, but that was okay. It’s not every day a man gets the perfect opportunity to become a father.

Table of Contents

2 Comments

  1. Toby

    2 chapters in one day. Ooooh so nice. Thank you, and this will be a mod they will not want to advertise I would think. Still so much going on. Loving it.

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