“What do you want to do now?” Carter asked finally.
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I’ve never been out on my own. I’ve never seen someone I know go out on their own, either.”
He nodded sagely. “Yes, that could be a problem,” he said. “Since you entered the church when you were a kid, did you have any other relatives that might not be all…” He trailed off and waved his hands.
“My grandparents died,” I said, “but I have two uncles and an aunt.”
Carter’s eyes lit up as though I’d said I knew the location of the lost city of tattoo ink and pointy bits of metal.
“That’s great!” he said. “Do you know their names?”
I wracked my memory. “My uncles were Jack and Mark, and my aunt was named Deidre. I called her Didi.”
“That’s a good start. Last names?”
“Ware. Although I guess if Aunt Didi got married her name would be different.”
“No,” Carter said, “that is plenty to go on. Where did you live before your mother went woo-woo on you?”
I giggled at the word woo-woo. It was incongruous coming out of his mouth. “California,” I said. The word came out with a sigh. I remembered California quite well. It was always beautiful there, always clean and fresh. Nothing like the heavy Texas air, full of pollen and dust and baked into something resembling an oven. “We lived near San Francisco.”
“Yeesh,” Carter said. “Did your mother grow up in San Francisco?”
“Yeesh,” he said again. “I find it hard to believe anyone would go from San Francisco to Crazytown.”
“To hear the prophet tell it,” I said, “it’s San Francisco that’s Crazytown.”
Carter pursed his lips and nodded. “Yes, I suppose from a certain perspective that is true. But still, it seems weird to me.”
I just nodded again. “I know.” It didn’t make much sense to me either, but it was done. That’s how I had to think of it. Over and done. Ten years of my life had been stolen and sold to a cult for my mother’s own peace of mind. I was just lucky it wasn’t more.
I was still angry, though.
“I suppose our first task is to find your aunt or uncles,” said Carter, pulling me back to the matter at hand.
“My aunt would be best. She was pretty close to my mom in age and my grandmother told me they were practically best friends growing up.”
“Great. Deidre Ware. That’s a pretty good name, nice and unique. She should be easiest to track down.” And with that he flipped his phone open and dialed a number. I tried not to stare–I’d wanted a cell phone since I was just a kid, but my mother had always berated me for it, and of course in the compound only wives got cell phones, or the older kids with jobs in the outside world. Carter touched the screen and then we were listening to the phone ring.
After two rings someone picked up.
“Carter!” A woman’s voice. “Where the fuck are you?”
My jaw dropped at the language, but Carter was unaffected. “Hello, Rebecca,” he said. “I need your help.”
“Yeah? When do you not?”
“Ouch! But I’m serious this time.”
“So am I.”
Carter grimaced and glanced at me, but I had many years of practice schooling my face into a masque of innocence, so he sighed and continued. “I need you to do something really important for me.”
“And what is that?” she replied sarcastically. “Run interference between you and Kent? I’m not getting between you guys, it’s too much, and he wants to have your ass for dinner anyway.”
“He doesn’t eat your ass for dinner?”
“For dessert. And you are gross. I mean it, he’s going to tear you a totally new asshole.”
“It will be if you don’t get back here by midnight.”
I frowned. Midnight? What happened at midnight?
Carter apparently didn’t know either because he said, “Or what, I’ll turn into a pumpkin?”
“Maybe,” Rebecca said. “It would explain your lack of common sense or self-preservation. Dumb as a pumpkin. You should write a song with that title. I get royalties.”