The Magic Markers
“I thought the whole point of this exercise was to keep her out of danger.” Zach kept his voice quiet so Cassie, who was right behind them, wouldn’t hear. “And now we’re taking her straight to the house of the guy who probably put her in danger in the first place? This makes no sense.”
Binny kept walking determinedly towards Dr. Huitre’s house with Zach and Cassie trailing behind her. Zach looked at Binny for a while longer hoping that maybe his expectant stare at the back of her head would prompt a response. But after a bit he gave up, realizing that no answer was forthcoming.
As for Binny, she felt a lot less confident than she looked. She tried to focus on just a few important facts to guide her. Her sister had the power to make herself invisible. Their obstetrician had given their mother an experimental drug before she got pregnant. If the lab, or anyone else for that matter found out what Cassie could do, they would take her away and do experiments on her. These things were clear.
Binny’s parents’ total lack of usefulness was another thing that was clear. Whatever it was that was distracting them was clearly more important than this. But what could be more important than their children being in danger?
Binny didn’t know why she was so certain that she and her siblings were in danger, but she was. Binny had a strong feeling. And usually, when she had a strong feeling, she was right. And that meant it was up to her – with or without help – to deal with the situation.
Knock. Knock. Knock. Each of Binny’s knocks on Dr. Huitre’s door punctuated her thoughts. She was doing the right thing. The necessary thing. For Cassie.
Binny fidgeted with the phone in her pocket. Zach had helped her set it to record before she started knocking. Zach and Cassie stood behind her. Zach was nervous, but Cassie had a big smile, likely inspired by the prospect of more junk food. For a moment Binny thought there would be no answer at the door. But just as she was considering what to do next, the door opened.
Dr. Huitre was on a phone call. Again. He smiled broadly as he opened the door, winking at the kids, and motioning towards the phone against his ear. “Yes. Of course I am listening,” he said into the phone, and then mouthed the words “come in come in” to the kids as he shut the door behind them.
Rembrandt snuffled up to Cassie as the kids entered the house. Zach stood so far back from the dog his back was almost up against the front door.
The man disappeared down the hallway to his office, gesturing to the kids that he’d be done in a minute or two and to make themselves at home while he wrapped up his call.
“Cassie, what are you doing?” Binny reproached her little sister.
Cassie had marched over to the kitchen counter to retrieve the markers she’d been using the previous day. Next to them were a few sheets of what looked like scrap paper. She had helped herself and started drawing at the table. “I’m coloring.” Cassie responded, ignoring her sister’s annoyed tone.
Binny was about to put an end to that when Zach intervened and told her it was no big deal. At least Cassie was distracted. Zach had a good point.
Soon Dr. Huitre reappeared, his phone call apparently concluded. “So sorry about that, children. Would you like some cookies?”
Before Zach or Binny could respond, Cassie piped up with an instant “Yes please.” Binny shook her head.
“We didn’t come here for cookies.” Binny replied to Dr. Huitre.
“Well, whatever the reason, I am glad you did. You are always welcome to visit. My front door is open to you children.” Rembrandt was over-excited at having guests in the Huitre home. Dr. Huitre led Rembrandt out to the backyard, closing the sliding door after the dog. Binny could sense Zach’s relief.
Why was Dr. Huitre being so friendly? And why was he referring to the front door specifically? Did he know they had been the ones to break in? Binny steeled herself and continued. “We want to know what you did to our mother.”
A ripple of uncertainty flashed across the doctor’s face as he arranged the cookies and brought the plate to the table where Cassie was coloring. “Did? To your mother? I did not ‘do’ anything to her. I helped your parents have the three of you. I assure you this is completely standard medical practice.”
“But you didn’t give my mother the standard drugs. You gave her experimental ones.” Binny replied acidly.
“Ha. Yes.” Binny thought Huitre’s frivolity sounded forced. “Well, clinical trials of new drugs are also standard. I assure you.”
“But this one wasn’t. Was it?” Binny’s question seemed to finally shake Dr. Huitre’s confidence. He looked as if he didn’t know how to respond. Binny continued. “You know that already. Don’t you?” Binny paused gathering up her courage for her next statement. In a low voice she continued, “Why are you so interested in my sister, Dr. Huitre?”
Dr. Huitre had retreated to the kitchen, pouring Cassie a glass of milk. But he couldn’t retreat far enough to get away from Binny’s questions. At her final statement, his shoulders slumped and he seemed to come to an internal conclusion.
Huitre returned to the living room and sat down on the couch, motioning for Binny and Zach to sit down as well. “Please, call me Henry,” he said as they all sat down.
“Why are you so interested in my sister, Henry?” Binny repeated.
“Binny, Zach,” Huitre responded, looking earnestly at each of them as he said their names. “It is true that I know what your sister can do.”
Binny’s mind went blank for a moment. She did her best to try and hide her reaction, but she couldn’t think straight. Of course she knew that Dr. Huitre must have known about Cassie, probably for much longer than she did, but to hear him come right out and say it was shocking.
Zach, who hadn’t said a word up until now, responded calmly, “We don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Zach’s cool refocused Binny’s mind on the task at hand – getting Dr. Huitre to incriminate himself on tape. And it seemed like they were already halfway there.
Dr. Huitre ignored Zach’s comment, presumably knowing it was untrue, and continued, “Your sister is not just special. What she can do is unparalleled.” Dr. Huitre was talking quickly and excitedly now. “I saw her, the other day, she was surrounded by beautiful swirls of light for a moment and then she just disappeared. Invisible. I don’t really know. I don’t believe in miracles, but I have no other words. Un ‘événement surnaturel’.” Huitre was so excited he started speaking in his native French. When he saw the puzzled looks on his audience’s faces he quickly added, “Oh, so sorry. A supernatural event.”
Binny and Zach looked at each other. Not quite sure what to say. And not believing their ears. It was strange to see the doctor’s unbridled excitement. But would he reveal anything that they could use to protect Cassie?
Huitre calmed a little bit, hunching closer to Binny and Zach as his comments took a more scientific bent. “Your little sister may be a result of genetic drift. She may represent the greatest evolutionary leap since chimpanzees and humans. She may even be the first example of a new superhuman race!”
Binny and Zach’s mouths were wide open as they processed Huitre’s statements.
“Do you have any pretzels?”
The seven-year-old that according to Dr. Henry Huitre might be the first example of a new superhuman race wanted pretzels. Huitre hastily jumped up to accommodate her. As soon as his back was turned, Binny turned to Zach, now more distressed than ever. Zach motioned to her to settle down. They still had a job to do. When the pretzels had been dispensed, Huitre returned to his position on the couch.
Zach addressed Huitre. “If what you’re saying was true, I suppose you and your good friends at Luce Laboratories would want to put her in a lab to see how she does it?”
Dr. Huitre started laughing at that accusation. “No, no, no. It is not like in the movies. Well yes. But no.” Huitre noticed the distrustful looks on the faces of the two siblings. “Sorry sorry. You are correct, that if people knew about this, it would have a profound impact on the life of your sister.” Binny sucked in her breath, her worst fears confirmed. “But we cannot let that happen. Nobody can know what your sister can do.”
“What you think she can do.” Binny said cautiously.
“Yes. Of course.” Huitre allowed Zach and Binny to continue denying the existence of Cassie’s powers.
“But you admit that Luce Laboratories is interested in Cassie?” Zach kept up the interrogation.
“Yes. That is true. They are interested. But I am not entirely sure why.”
“It’s because of that experimental drug you gave my mom!” Binny accused.
Huitre sighed. “You may be right about that.”
Binny could hardly believe that Huitre was confirming everything she had suspected. She had known there was something fishy about him, and here was proof that she was right.
Huitre continued. “I am your mother’s doctor. And by extension I am your doctor. I would never knowingly recommend or administer any medicine that I thought would harm her.”
“Knowingly? Knowingly? So you admit that the drug did something?” Binny’s voice kept getting louder.
“No no. Of course not. I thought at the time, and still do, since I have no evidence to the contrary, that your mother participated in a clinical trial of a fertility drug which happily resulted in the three of you. But…”
“But you’re not 100% sure whether this fertility drug had other effects.” Zach said quietly.
“No. I am not sure. Because the people at Luce Laboratories have asked all the doctors who participated in the study for updates on any children born as a result of this drug trial. To report back on any ‘abnormalities’.”
“Abnormalities? They think the drug might result in something being wrong with Cassie?”
“Not just Cassie. All of you. But the only subject who has exhibited anything out of the ordinary has been Cassie. Unless either of you can do something you have not told me about.”
“Of course not.” Binny immediately chimed in. Zach didn’t say anything until Binny glanced sideways at him, prompting him to agree.
“Of course not. No.” Zach concurred.
“It is normal for drug companies like Luce to follow up on clinical trials many years later. But usually they will articulate specific issues that might come up. Things the doctor should look for. They haven’t done that. So that is a bit worrisome.”
“So tell them that there are no abnormalities and we can all move on with our lives.” Binny seemed satisfied with her suggestion.
Huitre thought for a second, “The people at Luce seem determined to bring Cassie in for an examination regardless of what I say. I think we should agree to bring Cassie in for the exam under my supervision. I will be there the whole time. When they do not find anything, Cassie will be free to go and then you can move on with your lives.”
“Your ‘supervision’ is what got us into this situation in the first place.” Binny responded sharply.
“The abnormality they’re looking for is the ‘special power’ you think you saw Cassie perform.” Zach said. “You think the fertility treatment is responsible for this power. You think they did it on purpose. You believe that Luce Laboratories gave our mom this drug in the hope that Cassie would develop a super power.”
Huitre’s face said everything Binny needed to know. Binny stood up, “You did this to all of us. You were in on it. And now you want to put Cassie in even more danger!”
“Binny, I am so sorry about my involvement. But I truly believe…” Dr. Huitre tried to calm Binny down.
Binny cut him off, getting even angrier, “You know what? I don’t really care what you believe. You expect me to let you take my sister over to Luce Laboratories to poke and prod her? I don’t trust them. And I don’t trust you. I think you’re hiding something.”
Zach was standing now too. He put his hand on Binny’s shoulder to try and calm her down. She didn’t seem to notice.
“What if they do find something? Or what if they pretend to find something? If they weren’t honest about the drug you gave our mom, then what makes you think they’d be honest about this? Everyone told me it was nothing. But it’s not nothing. Something’s not right here!” Binny was yelling loudly. Her hands were shaking.
“Binny, calm down. I promise I will supervise. Nobody will get hurt. I do not believe Luce Laboratories intended or intends to hurt anyone. This is about making sure that all you kids are safe. Not to mention, I do not think we have a choice. I will call the lab. You will see. It will be fine.”
The living room where Binny, Zach, and Dr. Huitre were sitting spanned two stories. A large modern metal chandelier hung from the high ceiling above. The chandelier was attached to a long chain that snaked through a loop in the ceiling and was connected to a spot on the wall nearby. The chandelier could be raised or lowered by pulling on the chain.
Binny and Zach wouldn’t have noticed the chandelier except that just as Dr. Huitre said he was going to call the lab, it came flying down, landing directly on his head. Huitre hit the floor, and then his body was still.
Everything seemed to freeze for a second. When Binny and Zach looked up, standing by the wall where the chain holding up the chandelier had been attached, stood Penny.
They looked back down at Dr. Huitre lying on the floor, a small crimson pool forming around his head.