Hello once again. Fortunately for myself, somehow, I’ve found the seemingly perfect spot for me to finally implement a bit of the overarching story that’s happening behind the scenes in Home For The Unwanted. I might spend another chapter or two exploring the new characters that I’ve just introduced and then spend time back to the more episodic chapters that would eventually lead up to another major arc. I’m eventually planning to have three major arcs that would complete the story with relative closure, but we’ll see. Word count: 21,177. Here you go, chapter 11 of “Home For The Unwanted”.
“And who do we have here?” Ryan turned around in complete disposition as he recognized the voice calling behind him. Earlier that day, when Ryan had arrived, Hailstone and Spark were having a heated argument. In the fray of it all, Hailstone had expressed her concerns over the bread Spark had promised he would buy. Apparently, everybody had forgotten about the bread and Hailstone ended up pretty angry that she wasn’t able to eat bread that day. Ryan had managed to calm the situation and offer to buy the bread instead, but Spark ended up tagging along, saying he wanted to know the town better and that now would be the best time for that.
“If it isn’t Ms. Amanda,” Ryan said as he turned towards the blue uniformed woman known as Amanda.
“Jones. Ms. Jones to you, but I’ll let it slide.”
“Amanda Jones. So, what’s the occasion for today?” Amanda ignored Ryan’s ignorant remarks for honoring his elders and simply looked down to the young boy that had scuttled behind Ryan. Ryan himself was quite unaware of what it meant to properly greet a person of presumably higher status than him. To Ryan, each person had a name, and that name was to be called if one wants to speak to them. There was no real meaning behind mister or missus unless one did not know of a person’s name, Ryan thought. To use Ms. or Mr. to Ryan was all in a way his own admittance to ignorance, once that ignorance is shattered, he shall call them by their actual first name. Nothing less, nothing more. That was a norm Ryan could follow.
“I think the occasion is behind you.” Amanda pointed to Spark. Ryan kept his legs still, and had a grasp of why Spark would want to hide behind Amanda. After all, no one would want to get a mouthful from Lorna about rules on over exposure. Lorna had a strict no-yell policy, but, if the yell is chasing them, then what choice did they have, Ryan thought.
“Oh? There isn’t anyone behind me.” As usual, Ryan played a strange tune towards Amanda.
“Perhaps not so. But there is a strange person under you.”
“Under me? The dirt lay the dead, so the dead lay under me?”
“Not under. There is a person on your legs, to your right.” Spark winced when Amanda pointed at him. Ryan needed to find a way to derive from his current situation, or buy enough time so that she would get called again.
“A person? You mean my nephew?” Ryan gave Spark a wide eyed expression to play along with. Spark did a small nod, and slowly began calming down. If they were going to get out of this, they both needed to be on the same page, and they both needed to trust each other. Ryan and Spark had one shot at fooling Amanda, and that shot was quite slim, Ryan thought.
“Your nephew, huh?” Amanda peered at Spark, trying to find a crack within his armor, and eventually settled on the obvious.
“What’s up with his hand?”
“The bandage?” Ryan never did ask about the white wrap that covered much of Spark’s hand, nor did he have the time now. Spark gave Ryan an urgent look to tell him to say anything.
“He got it while playing sports. He fell on his hand and scrapped it pretty bad.”
“A sports injury?” Amanda reached over towards Spark’s hand, but before she could, Spark immediately jolted back. His entire body moved back, and he nearly jumped to avoid Amanda. Ryan noticed that Spark was shaking, and his eyes widened in what seemed to be fear.
“He’s shy with strangers. Sorry. If he’s not comfortable with someone, he becomes like that.” Ryan quickly explained Spark’s sudden actions, however, in reality Ryan didn’t understand the notion himself. If it was simply to dissuade Amanda from realizing that it wasn’t a sports injury, Spark wouldn’t have reacted like that, Ryan thought.
“I won’t pry then.”
“Well, if that’s all, then we really have to go. Busy schedule today, so I’ll see you around Amanda.” Ryan quickly motioned for Spark and began walking away from Amanda. He still hadn’t bought the bread yet, and he would rather get this errand done then possibly spill the secret.
“Have you heard of unregistered orphanages?” Amanda wasted no time in trying to pull Ryan back into the fray of her notepad. However, Ryan knew that if he simply ignored it and went on with his way, he wouldn’t have to be dragged back in, and simply replied, “Can’t say I have.”
“Well they’re big. They house the homeless, and they care for brigands. Random strangers find random buildings for them, and they go completely under the radar.” Amanda’s previous authoritative tone turned to a more suave voice. She wanted to catch Ryan’s attention, and Ryan had tried his best to avoid the hook, and continued with his way.
“They even say, one resides within this very town.” Ryan tried his best to filter out the words he wanted to hear. He wanted to focus only on one thing, and that was the errand at hand. Ryan’s eyes slowly became jaded, and his vision began blurring in an attempt to wash away Amanda’s statements.
“If the authorities find this place. It’s over.” Spark looked up towards Ryan, and whispered, “Lorna said that if the ‘bad guys’ find us, it will all be over, and everyone will be separated. Is she a ‘bad guy’?” There was a certain glow of excitement within Spark’s eyes that Ryan could catch, and that worried Ryan. Whatever Spark had in mind, it wouldn’t have led to a good result. Perhaps it would even worsen their situation, Ryan thought. There were heroes among the children, and Ryan knew this. Spark was one of them.
“What exactly would the authorities do?” Ryan replied to Amanda, who at this point, was far enough that Ryan had to almost yell to her. Ryan kept Spark behind him and gave him a shake implying to stay out of the conversation.
“Oh, they would do everything in their way to see this unregistered orphanage burn to the ground.” Amanda began walking towards Ryan to close the gap.
“Burn to the ground?” Ryan tried his best to refocus on the situation, and seem as calm as possible.
“I don’t mean that literally, but you do know that underground orphanage’s are illegal, right? If my superiors ever find an underground orphanage, that place would be shut down before you know it.”
“What’s the issue with underground orphanages?”
“The same issue with human trafficking.”
“The government thinks these places are trafficking humans?” Even Ryan had morals on human life and would rather not see to it that people would be traded off for slave labour.
“These places have the potential to traffic humans. After all, if it’s unregistered, then no one will know where these people are going, or who is entering these places.”
“So it serves as a perfect guise to lure in people with the promise of a safe home and then exploit them?”
“You catch on fast. The government won’t stand for these orphanages, and has commissioned my division to stop them.”
“What if the orphanage isn’t doing any illicit business?”
“We have an order to abolish underground orphanages using any means necessary.”
“Even if they aren’t doing anything wrong?”
“Simply being there is already illegal.”
“Legal matters has nothing to do with this, does it? I mean, if it’s doing more good than harm, then shouldn’t you guys turn a blind eye to it?”
“That means turning a blind eye to every other exception. We simply can’t do that. And besides, more often than naught, things that are away from the radar, are usually taken to the extreme.” Ryan knew that Amanda was trying to entice a reaction from him, and tried his best not to rebuke her statement.
“Now knowing this. I’ll ask you again. Have you heard of any unregistered orphanages?”
“No. I haven’t.” Amanda eyed Ryan suspiciously but couldn’t catch a falter. Ryan stood his ground, and wanted to leak out as much information as he could out of Amanda. However, Amanda had her own plans. Amanda had a weird feeling behind Ryan, and behind Spark. She knew that Ryan was hiding something, and that he knew something that would help her investigation. It was an ominous feeling that Amanda had felt when she first saw Ryan, but it was a feeling strong enough to illicit her continued prying. Amanda had always used her intuition for cases, and her intuition had never failed her since. What she wasn’t good at, however, was knowing when her intuition turned into self pride and baseless accusations. Amanda wanted to believe that she was head-strong, but she was merely obstinate in the eyes of others.
“You haven’t? Really?”
“If I ever find an underground orphanage, I’ll be sure to find you.”
“I’ll take your word on it.” Amanda dropped the topic and turned. She knew that continuing her current state would not do much for Ryan, who was holding off pretty well. Ryan turned and left for the store with Spark, while Amanda thought about her next move. Amanda knew that she only had one of two options for this case. She could either search every nook and cranny to find the orphanage, or she could fish enough information to save her from sending out baseless search parties. For now, Amanda took the latter. She had already sent out other personnel to do searches, but she had very little faith that anything would show up. It was just her partner that was doing ground investigations, and she knew that he was still new, and that something like this might not be what he expected. If anything, Amanda found that she needed to focus her energy on information gathering. There was a peculiar rumor spreading around town of children wandering in and about the perimeter. There were even more rumors about children found playing in the forest. Amanda’s first real task was to start memorizing the people who frequented the town, and be able to distinguish oddities. Ryan and Spark was one such oddity. She had never seen them around that part of town before, but what she needed was for one of them to slip up and give Amanda an incentive to attack. Amanda thought of following Ryan to see where he would take Spark, but she still had her own job to do, and she knew that they were still under the light of innocence. Amanda couldn’t take any rash steps in solving this case. All she needed to do was take it slowly and play her cards right, she thought. Those cards would eventually turn into a hand of fate. And Ryan would eventually fall deeper and deeper into a hole too large for him to climb out of. Even Lorna couldn’t beat absolute power. Amanda just needed to wait.