Kirsten had been expecting her for a while. She noted how Silja looked a little unsteady and obviously had been crying at some point.
Kirsten had heard slightly raised voices coming from the study intermittently, but no out and out arguing, which in part surprised her and pleased her at the same time.
"You must be starving, hmm. Did the policemen give you any food?" Kirsten gave a welcoming smile to Silja and motioned for her to sit at the table.
"No, nothing." Silja managed to croak through a tight throat.
"I thought not."
Kirsten took a plate of stew which was keeping warm in the oven and placed it in front of Silja then put a few slices of bread beside it before pouring herself a glass of wine and taking a seat
"Anni's in bed. No need to worry about all that tonight." Kirsten smiled and waited for a few moments. And a few moments more.
Silja had picked up her cutlery but only held them in her hands, resting them and her elbows either side of the steaming plate of food.
Kirsten couldn't see Silja's face, only the top of her head.
More long moments passed, punctuated only once by a sniff from Silja.
"Is the stew, OK?"
Kirsten sipped wine, showing the utmost patience. She figured Silja might have had enough of questions for one day, so she elected to keep her peace and let Silja talk, only if she wanted to.
Silja looked down at the food, she was famished, it smelled good, but she could not force herself to eat.
Her mind wandered down many passageways of possibilities, and each time came upon a dead end.
She had spent her life hiding behind a wall, the memories she held had up until now been her own business. Her secrets.
She had trained herself to bury the memories of her father, the camp, her step-sister. People didn't need to know about these things.
It was the past and deserved to be buried deep and forgotten about.
The only person she had ever confided in was Tuki. Her best friend. During those long hot evenings on the lip of the canyon. No one else around.
Only then she had been able to unburden herself, and it felt good.
But they had grown up. Jobs, burgeoning adulthood, responsibilities. Those carefree evenings felt a million years away.
Kirsten watched. The knuckles showed white on Silja's hands, and she was shaking. Slowly, the first drops of tears and snot dripped into the stew. It was time.
Kirsten rounded the table and held out one hand for Silja. Silja rose slowly, red-faced, eyes streaming as Kirsten gathered her up and took Silja in her arms and held her.
"Shhhhh. Everything will work out." She whispered into the top of Silja's hair.
Silja hung on to Kirsten, burying her face into her shoulder, taking comfort from the first maternal hug she had had since... since 'then'. And oh, how she had so missed being comforted.
She realised that, now, after so long, she had a family. Brick by brick, her wall was coming down.
Some hours later, Kirsten was sitting in bed when Joe finally came upstairs. The light was on, the room was bright. Kirsten had elected to wear pyjamas. And the least sexy pair could find.
She wanted no distractions.
She watched Joe get ready for bed, her hands one above the other in her lap, waiting for him to finish his ablutions so that she would have his full attention.
Halfway through, Joe paused and looked at Kirsten. He knew she had something to discuss.
When he finally slid into bed. Kirsten put a soft hand on his shoulder.
"Silja and I had a long talk."
"Mhh... me too!"
Joe sat up and faced his wife, she had a soft smile, and her eyes were wide. That look reminded him of the day she told him she was pregnant, which unsettled him a touch.
Clearly, she had news, big news.
"Joe, Silja told me some things. A lot of things. Things we have no idea about..."
Joe settled back on his pillows and listened.
Joe waited until Kirsten was asleep.
Then he carefully slid out of bed and, wearing the silk dressing gown she had bought for him and for which he had considered making Silja sign a non-disclosure agreement about,
Joe tip-toed downstairs and back to his study.
The information Kirsten had imparted about Silja's early life meant changes would have to be made to his plans.
There were several burglars Joe knew about who were capable of breaking into the Ranyhyn building.
Unfortunately, none of these who Joe trusted with information that may affect his family's security. And, whether he liked it or not, Silja now came under that umbrella.
Joe opened his files and spent a good hour looking further afield for a burglar he could trust. At about this point a name drifted up from his subconscious but was rejected immediately.
However, as his list of possibles became smaller and smaller, the name kept popping back up like a turd in a toilet bowl. And each time it did Joe kept flushing it away.
Joe's list of trustworthy burglars poofed into oxymoronic nonexistence and Joe was left staring down at the innocent little turd floating happily on the surface of Joe's less
than legal underworld.
With a sigh, Joe crossed out the name of the man he had initially pencilled in to carry out the job and replaced it with the new name. He stared at it for a few seconds.
"Shit." He whispered.
In the silence of the house, nobody heard but his conscience.
The following morning Finny's less than eager entrance to the factory was halted by Joe's hand on her shoulder.
He held her there without offering any explanation as the remainder of today's workforce filed past them both and into the building.
Finny frowned and crossed her arms. Whatever it was that Joe wanted, it meant that she would lose her favourite spot on the production line.
Close enough to the small radiator to keep the chill off but in an excellent position to, not only see whoever the overseer was today, but also keep Joe's office door in her peripheral vision.
Finally, the last stragglers entered the factory, and Joe closed the door. Finny looked up at him, puzzled at this break from routine. Joe stared down into the galaxy of freckles.
"I've got a job for you. Interested?"
Finny, still not happy with having lost her place, scowled.
"Dunno. Depends what it is an' whatcha gonna pay me."
Joe turned towards his van.
"Come with me and find out."
Finny watched Joe cross the pavement to where his green tonneau waited by the kerb. She glanced at the closed factory door, then back to Joe. Joe held the car door open for her.
Finny shrugged then skipped across the pavement and jumped into the car.
If Finny had been expecting an exciting trip to one of Joe's sleazy criminal hangouts, or even back to Joe's posh house, she would have been very disappointed.
Joe drove for less than a minute to the nearby square and parked up next to the pond, close to GlobalTech's LifeNet bunker entrance.
In the square, the various vendors were just in the process of setting up their wares for the day.
Through the car windscreen, Finny could see that a queue was already forming at the pagoda behind the bunker.
She sensed a movement next to her and turned her head to see Joe reaching over to the back seat. When his arm reappeared, his hand held what looked like a thick tool roll.
Joe dropped it onto Finny's lap.
"Here. Present for you."
Finny stared at Joe through slitted, suspicious eyes. Why was he giving her a present? Joe noticed the lack of childish excitement on Finny's part and sighed heavily.
"Well. Go on. Open it then."
Finny treated Joe to another couple of seconds of hard stare then turned her attention to the heavy canvas roll on her knees. It kind of looked like...
Her fingers found and unbuckled the leather straps holding to roll together. When she unrolled the canvas, her suspicion was confirmed.
Her own little set of lock picks had been confiscated by the orphanage weeks ago. What she was staring at now with wide-eyed avarice was a much bigger version of what she had lost.
More picks, more tension wrenches, more... everything. There were even things included in the professional-looking set that she had only ever read about.
Taps and dies, key blanks, adjustable keys... even an electronic keypad... thing.
Finny's heart pounded in her thin chest. This was the set of lock picks from her dreams. Her excitement got the better of her, and she turned to Joe with a big, beaming smile.
Then common sense slapped excitement around the face a couple of times, and the suspicious scowl returned. Finny was a street kid, after all. You got nothing for nothing in Finny's world.
"What do I have to do?"
Joe turned to look out of the windscreen. He nodded his head towards something outside.
Finny pushed herself up to get a better view. See what? The tree? The pagoda? The people? The... With a tightening of the stomach, everything went out of focus except for, The Building.
Now, Finny didn't actually know anything about the Ranyhyn Company, not even its name. She definitely didn't know what the Ranyhyn Company did or who worked for it.
But she knew of the rumours surrounding the building itself. People went in, but didn't always come out again.
That was the main rumour, but give that to a bunch of preteen kids,
and suddenly there was gore and screams and walls dripping blood and anything else their feverish little imaginations could come up with.
She stared at the building and then looked down to the thing on her lap. Then back at the building. Two and two became four, and that was when Finny found out about child locks on car doors.
Joe managed to calm Finny down enough to avoid worried pedestrians calling the union guard and to also explain to her what had happened with Silja,
but without him having to go into unnecessary details.
After ten minutes or so, the car pulled slowly out of the square and, Finny having reluctantly agreed to help, headed for its next destination.
This time to a place more in line with Finny's original expectations.