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Chasing Sparrows

Remy LeBeau's arrival in New York and his discovery of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters

 

Chapter 5

Remy wasn't worrying. No, it was just habit that brought him back to the KFC and the corner where Rachel never was. Not worrying because there were lots of corners in the world for a girl to hang on, lots of alleys to sleep in and in a city like New York, not finding people happened all the time. Best he could hope was they went home. Remy hoped they went home and their momma opened the door for them and there was dinner on the table and clean sheets on the bed and they never paid no mind to the streets they'd lived on or the stranger's they'd met.

Remy spun that line, walking the streets with no one to talk to, no one to feed, no one to say his name. The house would be warm and the air would be sweet with paprika and the voices heavy with Cajun slang. There'd be good wine and a place to lay his head with no fear. The warm rain would kiss like a woman, Remy pulled the collar of his army coat tighter with a grimace as water ran down his shades, not like New York rain. Remy was so sick for home he wanted to lay down and die.

"Remy! Remy-y!" The tackle came with the name and Remy - heart hammering at being discovered - flipped his attacker over his shoulder, knee in his belly and knife at his throat before he recognized Slice's wide, terrified blue eyes.

"Bioque!" Remy stood, hauling Slice with him, tangled in the thin white cords of the kid's Ipod. Shouting in his face because he'd nearly killed the brat. Adrenaline was sour in his mouth and he spat onto the sidewalk. "W'at you thinking eh? Jumpin' sombody like dat gonna get you killed -"

"Shut up! Shut-up - dammit!" Slice's tears weren't new and the fear wasn't of him as he dragged in a desperate breath and shook Remy's arms so they were doing a strange little dance on the sidewalk.

"W'at, w'at -?"

"Rachel's gone!"

"W'at you mean, gone?" All Remy could think was Rachel lying cold in an alley. Dead. Gone. "How gone? When? What de fuck happened?"

"Someone t-took her - this big fucking car - dammit!" Slice started crying again, gasping out his words between sobs. "I h-hate this fucking place! Sh-she didn't come back, figured - figured it was a john."

Remy shook him again, and pulled them both into the shelter of an alley. Needing the shadows at his back instead of the blank, carefully neutral faces of New York passing them by. "Talk to Remy, cher. Start at de top. 'Ow long she been missing?"

Every hour, he thought, shaking with nerves. Every hour was one less hour Rachel had. The longer a girl was gone, the less chance of her ever coming back. He let Slice go, stroking the boy's shirt back into order with fidgety fingers before pulling out a smoke and lighting up to calm his nerves. The thief in him woke up, finally, questions sharp on his tongue.

With someone to talk to, someone who sounded like they'd help, Slice pulled himself together. Remy watched him settle his cap and drag the sullen, hard street mask over the fear and the love he could feel boiling in the boy.

"One night," Remy hurried Slice out of the alley and turned back to his SRO once he'd dragged every bit, every memory Slice had from last night out of him. "Dat not too bad -" and maybe still too long. Remy racked his brains for the recent news, trying to remember if he'd read anything about someone out killing prostitutes - or mutants. All he could recall was Xaviers, a list of useless schools. "And dat a SUV you're talking about. Dat a whole different kinda person than what drive a van."

It was easy enough to get Slice into his room and sit the kid down on his rumpled bed. "I got some of the plate number -"

"Hmm?" Remy grabbed a piece of newspaper and a pencil, scratching down the half-number. "No more? Close your eyes, cher, and t'ink about de back of de van. What else eh?"

"It was kinda dark," Slice closed his eyes obediently, brow furrowed and grubby face looking young with the tear streaks and pinched with fear. "Um - there was a bumper sticker -"

"W'at it say?" Remy breathed, leaning towards him as if he could somehow pull the memory out of Slice's head. He was counting his own heartbeats, measuring them against Rachel's. Every one could be one less she had. If she wasn't dead already.

"I c-can't remember -" Slice pressed his fists to his face, breathing harshly. "God, I wanna go fucking home!"

"W'at it look like, cher. Don cry, dere's lots to do still. It be okay."

"It was red and yellow - oh - and one of those 'Honor Student' things, I think. My - my dad had one -"

"Red and yellow?" Remy's eyes fell on the white ear-buds dangling around Slice's neck. "Eh, where'd you get dat?"

He tugged on the cord.

"The bags."

"Eh?"

"The ones you left, the bookbags," Slice said, confused. "Had this and some school crap and some money even."

"Did you keep de books? De homework and stuff."

"Nah, it was all crap …"

And a red and yellow school tie tied around one strap, Remy remembered. It was his turn to shut his eyes, waving off Slice's questions. Red and yellow and an Ipod and him trying to remember if there was a school name stamped on anything he'd spent a few moments rifling through a week ago. He'd been trained to remember details, because everything was in the details but he couldn't be working every minute of every day. It was Rachel's tears he remembered. The boys' harsh words and the gratifying fear on their faces. Not boys, Remy built the day in his head again. Some of them old enough to drive, seniors in their school. School uniforms with kakhi pants and red and yellow ties half undone over white shirts.

"Red and yellow -" he muttered. "Red and yellow."

"Yeah, Rachel liked the tie," Slice muttered.

Remy's eyes snapped open. "Was she wearin' it las night?"

"Uhh - think so."

"Hastings!" Remy scrambled for the phone books still scattered over his floor. "Dat's w'at I saw, Hastings High."

There wasn't one in New York. Like the mythical Xaviers, it couldn't be found. Remy threw the book across the room to slam into the wall. A moment latter, his neighbor hammered back, shouting through the thin wall for him to beat people up somewhere else.

"Fuck you!" Remy yelled.

"Maybe it's a suburb." Slice piped up uneasily. "There's a lot of suburbs in New York. And what does it matter anyway?"

Remy scowled at Slice thought fully. "Remy t'ink mebbe dose boys from de park are what got Rachel. 'Cause of de sticker and de ties - de same color."

"That seems kinda -"

"Makes sense, non?" Remy broke in, because if he was wrong, then some random stranger had picked Rachel up and they'd never find her. So, he had to be right, or right enough to make Slice easy in his mind. "De boys was pissed but too scared to do nothing open. And Rachel - they remember her non? And de books, I remember de name on 'em. And she wearing de tie. De park - not so far from where you two hang out."

Slice believed him and listening to himself, Remy thought maybe there was a chance he was right. Enough chance to find this Hastings and find some pictures of the students and find some addresses. Then ask some questions.

TBC