Frank checked the Olaes pressure bandage wrapped around the girl’s arm. Though the bleeding seemed to have stopped, the girl had lost consciousness. He wondered what to do with her.
Leaving her at the hospital would get her medical care and put her into the official system.
If California’s system was as soulless as New York’s, there was no telling what she would go through or what would happen to her.
No, he decided, she needed someone who would actually care about her to get her started on her official journey.
A glimmer of gold from the girl’s throat caught his attention. Brushing aside her hair revealed a cheap gold colored crucifix hanging around her neck. That gave him an idea.
Frank tore the foil away from the small plastic bag containing a prepaid phone. Once activated, he dialed a number with a New York area code from memory. A sleepy voice answered after four rings.
There was a brief pause while Father Anthony came fully awake. “What’s wrong my son?”
“Do you have any contacts in the Los Angeles area?”
Another pause. “What kind of contacts?”
“I found a little girl. She’s hurt and I can’t just abandon her. She needs someone who’ll care enough to make sure she’s all right.”
Father Anthony’s reply was immediate and his voice was alert. “I’ll make a couple calls. Can I call you back at this number?”
True to his word, Frank’s phone rang four minutes later. He answered with a grunt.
“There is a nun, Sister Sarah.” Father Anthony read off an address and a phone number.
“Go with God, my son.”
Frank pulled up in front of a small Catholic Church and school. He’d given Sister Sarah only 5 minutes warning over the phone and hung up before she could reply.
He had scattered the pieces of the cheap phone and its SIM card through the streets on his drive here.
He sat and observed the church, which was dark save for a single lighted window that must have been a small apartment.
As he watched, a door opened and a pretty young woman wearing a grey hoodie and jeans stepped halfway out and looked up and down the street.
The girl couldn’t have weighed more than eighty or ninety pounds, and Frank lifted her easily in his arms, carefully supporting her head on his left shoulder.
Though unconscious, the girl shifted slightly, almost seeming to nestle into him. An image of his own daughter flashed through his mind, and his breath caught in his throat.
He slammed an iron lid shut on that particular mental box and carried the child towards Sister Sarah.
The young woman couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, Castle thought as she led him into the small apartment without a word.
Not at all what he had expected when Father Anthony had said she was a nun. Frank followed the nun into her bedroom, and gently laid the girl in the small bed.
Pulling the covers up to cover the child, Sister Sarah turned to him and asked, “How badly is she injured?”
“A couple of buckshot pellets went through the meat of her arm. She lost a bit of blood, but it isn’t life threatening. I stopped the bleeding and gave her a dose of antibiotics.”
“My source left out the safe signal. When I went to try and free the girls, the two scumbags opened fire. Two of the girls were dead when I got into the back of the truck.
This one was conscious when I got to her, but she passed out within a minute or so.”
“What happened to the men who did this?”
“They won’t hurt any other little girls ever again.”
Sarah searched his face carefully for a few moments. “I can’t say that I’m sorry to hear that.”
Before Frank could respond, the girl shifted and her eyes popped open. Sarah quickly knelt by the bed and brushed the hair from the little girl’s face.
“Do you speak any English, honey?” she asked. The child responded with a blank look. “Est-ce que tu parles Francais?” The girl’s eyes brightened and she nodded vigorously.
“Mon nom est Soeur Sarah. Comment vous appelez-vous?” The girl responded with a torrent of French.
After several minutes of nonstop talk from the child, she seemed to sag with weariness, and Sarah quickly put an arm around her and held her gently. She looked at Frank.
“She said her name is Achara. She said that she prayed for an angel to save her, and that when you rescued her from the truck, she knew that her prayers had been answered.”
Frank had nothing to say to that, so he cleared his throat and asked, “Where did she come from, in the truck? How long was the drive?”
Sarah answered without having to ask Achara. “She said that they were loaded onto the truck in the middle of the night, and that it was daytime during the whole drive.”
“It seems unlikely that she knows where she was held in Seattle. What happened before that?”
Sarah turned to Achara and they spoke quietly in French for a few moments. Sarah turned back to him.
“She said that they were on a boat for a couple weeks in a shipping container, then the men put the girls into a small, fast boat and took them to a beach and gave them to some other men.
They rode in a van until they got to a very big building.”
“What does she know about the men who trafficked her?”
“She doesn’t know exactly. I don’t think she recognized their language, but she said that they were white men, but they didn’t sound like you and I.”
Frank’s eyes narrowed as he uttered a short phrase in Russian. Achara’s eyes widened, and she babbled in French to Sarah, who translated.
“She said that the bad men sounded like that. Was that Russian?” Frank nodded and stood.
“Will you look after her? Make sure the system does right by her?”
Sarah stood as well, carefully tucked Achara in with a smile and a kiss on the forehead, and turned to him. “You have my word. Thank you. For saving her."
She smiled, one corner of her mouth quirking up higher than the other.
“She calls you “Mon Ange Sombre.” It means “My Grim Angel.” She wanted me to make sure you know that she is grateful.”
Frank shrugged his shoulders awkwardly. “I need to go. Thank you for looking after her.” He started for the door.
His hand was on the doorknob of the front door when he heard Sarah’s voice behind him.
“What are you going to do?” Though the words framed a question, her tone indicated that she already knew exactly what he was going to do next, so he didn’t bother to answer.
He turned and looked her in the eyes and understanding seemed to pass between them. She stepped closer to him and lifted a hand to his cheek.
“Be careful. You are a good man, in spite of your actions. May God protect and strengthen you on your path.” Her hand left his cheek and made the sign of the cross on his forehead.