Dinner proved to be semi-formal and Sam sat uncomfortably halfway down the table, between Jessie and Abby, who had buried her face in a book again after greeting him. Jessie was playing with her silverware, making two of the forks battle as the food was passed around. He served her and himself generously, hoping she would eat it all. Sarah finally stopped bringing dishes from the kitchen and sat down at the head of the table, signalling that they could eat.
He could tell his mother had instructed the girls not to discuss the recent misadventure at the table because the conversation floated as far from the topic as possible. With coaxing he got Jessie to focus and eat, although she had worn herself out already and looked ready for bed by the time others were finishing up. Four of the girls gathered up the dishes and he waited until the room was almost empty to nudge Jessie again. She looked up at him, eyes drooping a little.
“Ready for bed, Jess?”
“Nooo, we just got here.” She whined as he stood up and pulled her chair out. His mother signaled him to join her and he sighed.
“I’ll put her to bed Sam, you go talk to mom.” Elizabeth appeared beside him and took Jessie’s hand, ignoring her protests.
“I’ll be up to say good night in a bit, Jess.” He joined his mother instead and the two of them headed down the main hallway to the library. Inside the two story room she sat in one of two upholstered chairs facing each other in the center of the room. There was a small table with a tray of untouched crackers on it between the chairs. “What now?” He sat down in the other chair and slumped.
“Our soon to be guest, Samuel, I’d like some answers.” She frowned at him until he straightened up.
“Take a look.” He took the data pendant out and handed it to her. She read the file, her frown increasing until she shut it off again.
“You want to…”
“Test him, see if there’s a connection. Same with the vagrant.”
“And if there’s a connection?” She leaned forward, folding her hands together in her lap, “What next?”
“I don’t know, follow up on the information?”
“She’s your daughter, and my granddaughter. Nobody responded when you put out the notice, there’s no reason to believe they’re out there. Why won’t you let this go?”
“I just-” He cut himself off as she gave him a concerned look, “I’m sorry, I’m still really tired from the trip. Once we have some answers I’ll discuss a plan with you. For now I need to go say goodnight to Jessie.” He stood up and she looked ready to protest but said nothing as he kissed her on the cheek and headed out of the library.
The next month settled into a steady rhythm, with Jessie bouncing between her aunts each day and Sam hiding in his room except for meals and walks in the evening with Jessie and his mother. It was on one of these walks that a ship arrived at the far end of the estate. Jessie spotted the lights first and ran back to them excitedly.
“Who’s coming?” She tried to pull Sam so he’d move faster.
“That must be Mr. Sutro. They’re early.” Sam’s mother said. Jessie stopped tugging at his arm and lagged behind as they kept walking.
“That’s Mr. Calvin, Jess, you remember him.”
“I know who it is.”
Sam looked down at her, surprised at her sour tone.
“I thought you liked him.”
“Why is he here?” She was holding his hand again, this time slowing him down.
“He’s here to get well again, dear. Remember we help sick people sometimes.” His mother came to the rescue before he could respond and he relaxed a bit as Jessie let go again.
“Just to get better?” She raised an eyebrow at him.
“He’s been transferred to us for therapy, Jess, that’s all.” She didn’t seem to notice his discomfort and matched their speed again finally. The rest of the walk was silent until they got back to the house, where Elizabeth and Sarah were already heading out the front door to greet the ship. Sam joined them while Jessie went back inside with his mother.
“I can’t believe I actually get to meet a technopath for real.” Elizabeth was in the lead as they approached the ship.
“Don’t overwhelm him, he’s been through a lot and you interrogating him won’t help.” Sarah chided. Elizabeth slowed down a little to let them catch up.
“The reports said he isn’t talking anyways, hasn’t said a word since he woke up. He isn’t communicating much at all yet.” Sam let his sisters go ahead as the last of the hired men unloaded random supplies into the nearby storage shed. Calvin’s possessions were neatly packed in bags and Sam picked up a couple as the girls went inside. The other men grabbed the rest and started jogging toward the house.
Inside the ship Sarah and Elizabeth were standing in the hallways peering into one of the rooms. When he managed to elbow his way in he finally got a look at the man he’d last seen almost comatose in a bed.
Calvin was sitting on the bed in medical scrubs, clutching the little cleaning robot as a lifeline. He was still pale and thin, seeming to shrink even more as he noticed Sam.
“Stop gawking and get him inside. They need to take the ship back tonight.” Sam clapped Sarah on the shoulder and she jumped a bit. Elizabeth was the first to act, offering a polite hand-up to the man, who kept glancing at them nervously as they parted to let him pass before returning his gaze to the ground. She started leading him to the house and Sarah and Sam hung back, letting the gap grow. Sam finally broke the silence “He looked…”
“Haunted is the word your looking for.”
“No it’s not. He looks nervous.”
“Can you blame him?”
“I didn’t do anything to him. I’ve never even talked to the man in person.”
“I didn’t say you did, Sam. But he’s been through a lot.”
“I’ve been through a lot.”
“I’m just saying.”
“Sam.” Sarah got ahead of him and whirled around, stopping him in his tracks.
“I promise I’ll behave, I want him better.”
“Samuel.” She waited until he shut his mouth and looked her in the eye, “The last time I saw that look on someone was when you came back home to stay the first time. Remember that before you say a word to that man, remember what you wanted.”
“This isn’t-” She slapped him before he could finish his sentence.
“I’m sorry but you were about to say something you’d regret. Think before you speak, Sam, or don’t say anything.” She turned to the house and left him alone to rub his sore cheek and trudge his way back.