The Dealey Five
Chapter 6 (or, "Race Cars And Speaking The Truth")
Last Adventure: We ended on a sour note when Amiga passed out at Carissa’s apartment.
He sat with his hands folded in his lap, staring straight ahead, as if he had been trained to do so. There wasn’t anything else he could do, anyway.
There had been no other clues, no hints. Amiga had just stopped functioning, her eyes dead. Mac and Carissa had taken her to Carissa’s room, and Carissa and her mother were taking a further look at her. Which meant that all he could do was wait.
Squirrel sat by Matsumoto on the couch. They were both quiet for a while. Then, Squirrel tried to crack a joke. “I’m sorry about your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Matsumoto noted. He remembered when Amiga had kissed him, a dramatic play to uncover Squirrel’s identity. “But she is my friend. And she’s in this QWERTY thing with me.” He turned. “And you.”
“I know.” Squirrel sighed. “But you two were both together when you realized where you were, right?”
“Yeah. We were both at QWERTY headquarters. It’s not like how you woke up here alone.”
Matsumoto realized what he was saying. “Now I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m here now.” One more sight from Squirrel. “I just hope she’s okay.”
The door to Carissa’s bedroom opened, and Carissa stuck her head out. “You all okay?”
Mac had been guarding the door (preventing Matsumoto and Squirrel from going in); he turned now at the sound of his girlfriend’s voice. “We are. What’s up?”
“She’s awake, but just barely. You can come in, but stay quiet.”
Matsumoto and Squirrel both got up from their seats, but Mac held out his hand. “I’ll go first,” he said.
Amiga was laying on top of Carissa’s pink bed, head on a pillow, wet washcloth on her head. Her eyes were closed, but she was visibly breathing, still wearing the clothes she had bought from Yuniglow and the purple jacket Mick had given her. Carissa’s mother sat on the bed next to her, and Carissa stood aside so Matsumoto and Squirrel could get in closer.
“Give her room,” she said.
Matsumoto nodded and knelt by the bed. “Amiga?”
Her brown eyes flickered open. “Matsumoto,” she said, and then, soft, “No hablo.”
“What?” Matsumoto asked, but Carissa spoke next.
“¿Puedes hablar en inglés?”
Amiga seemed more at ease. “Creo que no.”
“Entonces, habla a mi. Voy a traducir al ellos. Digame.” Carissa turned to Matsumoto and Squirrel. “I don’t know why, but she’s only speaking her native language right now. But since I know Spanish, she can talk and I’ll translate between us.”
“Do you know why she’s only speaking Spanish?” Matsumoto asked. “Maybe we need to get Mick here, so he can redo whatever that thing was that makes us talk in --”
Carissa put her hand on Matsumoto’s shoulder. He became quiet, and then, without any warning, Amiga began.
“I am not Amiga. I am not a friend. I do not understand why anybody would want to be friends with me. It should be illegal to be friends with me, and it is...is was, in our old world.”
“What do you mean, illegal?” Squirrel asked in the pause.
Amiga did not answer his question. “I do not remember everything about our world,” she said. “But I remember my part of that world, and here is what I remember. My father’s name is Jorge Querida. He is one of the most influential people not only in Mexico, but in the entire Allied network of countries. If I remember correctly, there are two groups of countries in the world, and they are always at odds with each other. Not war. Not as far as I remember, anyway. But maybe my memory is just a bit rusty on that. I suppose you couldn’t blame me. I was a sheltered girl. Sixteen. Known for all the wrong reasons.” Another pause, but this time, Matsumoto and Squirrel let Amiga have it.
“I don’t know a lot about the Allied network, except that it does include America. My father would go to America a lot. I never got a chance to go. He always said that he would take me when I was eighteen. I guess I got here on my own.” At this point, Amiga was crying too hard to continue any further for a minute.
Matsumoto reached out and took one of Amiga’s hands. “We are here,” he said, and Carissa translated for him. Squirrel took Amiga’s other hand.
Amiga looked hesitant, then closed her eyes, removing herself emotionally from the scene and Matsumoto and Squirrel. “My name is Rosa Elena Meira Querida,” she said. “Since my father was so famous, I was famous, as well. I was his only daughter. I never knew my mother, because she died when I was very small. The maids helped raise me -- the woman’s name I mentioned, Solana, she was one of the maids. Because I was always in the public eye anyway, my dad decided to train me in the arts. I became a child actress, then a singer. You couldn’t go anywhere in Mexico before long without seeing my face. My father owned the premier television network in Mexico, and therefore, I was always on the television. Everybody loved me. And because I was so famous, I learned that I was the face of Mexico. Whatever I did, everybody else would do as well. I learned that I had to support the Allied forces and whatever their decisions were, to combat the Soviets and make sure there was no war. I could never say what I wanted to say, but Mexico isn’t America, and I was no ordinary girl, anyway. But I did the worst thing imaginable, and it ruined everything. I don’t know for sure if it started war between the Allies and the Soviets, but I have to be sure it did.”
“You guys made mention to the Soviets before,” Mac said, Carissa translating as he went. “I’m just curious: there were Soviets in our world as well, but they disappeared in the early 90’s. Do either of you remember who they were, other than Ami -- I mean, Rosa?”
Matsumoto shook his head. “They seem to be something we should be afraid of and dislike, inherently, but I don’t know any more than that.”
“I do remember that they didn’t knock down the Empire State Building,” Squirrel said.
“You’re right, Señor Ardilla,” Rosa said. “The terrorists in the Middle East did that. The Allies and Soviets joined together to wipe all of them off of the earth.”
“Wow,” Squirrel said as Mac said, “That’s a bit...extreme,” with a strange look on his face.
“After that, the Allies and Soviets tried to get along, but they disagreed with too much. They were at odds, and I helped keep the morale up for the Allied Hispanic community. I participated in public service announcements talking about the Allies, and even sang some of the patriotic songs in ceremonies. But then...something happened, and I don’t know if the Allies and Soviets ever went to war or not.”
Rosa took a deep breath. “The day was Christmas, this past year, I believe. There is a grand cathedral in the heart of the city, and on the day when most people would be worshipping there, somebody set off bombs in the cloisters. There was nowhere to run. Many, many people died. The person who set off the bomb was caught and imprisoned immediately. No longer a threat to the world.”
“Did your dad’s network broadcast anything about it?” Squirrel asked. “I don’t remember hearing about this supposed network.”
“The network was only in Mexico,” Rosa explained. She became unnecessarily quiet for a moment. “I was the one who attacked the cathedral,” she finally said. “And before you stare in shock or call me a traitor or decide we can’t be friends anymore, I don’t know why I did it. I really don’t. I don’t even know if I was set up. But they locked me up in a bright white room, and that’s the last I remember of our world.”
The room was silent for a moment after Rosa’s revelation. Then, Squirrel spoke. “So, you killed a bunch of people by setting off bombs in a cathedral? And you don’t know why?”
“Well, if everybody else in our world died anyway when the worlds collided, it’s a bit of a moot point. Come to think of it, that might be useful if QWERTY has to set any bombs off in the future.”
Matsumoto glared at Squirrel. “Hey!”
“Don’t give Sarah any ideas,” Mac noted. “Ariana was the one who used bombs.”
“Isn’t she supposed to be the one with all of the information?” Squirrel asked.
Matsumoto held up his hand, and the room was quiet again. He looked at Rosa. “Amiga?”
“That's not my name,” Rosa said with disdain.
“We chose that name for you when all of this started,” Matsumoto said. “We originally chose it because you didn’t have any other name to go by. But over the past couple of days, you’ve fulfilled that name. You charged fearlessly into this world to find the three missing kids. And we found Squirrel. We found Mac and Carissa, and I’m sure they’re going to help us out with our mission. They already have. You’re the girl who spazzed out with me over the Empire State Building, who pointed at the new building downtown, who wasn’t afraid to kiss me for the good of the project.”
Mac’s eyes widened. “She did what?”
“I thought you knew that. Anyway, the point is: you are Amiga. Whether you like it or not, you are our friend. And I don’t know what happened in your past. I don’t even know what happened in my past. All I know is the Amiga I’ve had the privilege to meet, and that’s you. And if you happen to have some uncontrollable desire to destroy things, we’ll let you set off Tanabata fireworks every year.”
“What’s Tanabata?” Squirrel and Mac both said at the same time.
“Sounds like a Japanese Fourth,” Carissa noted, making reference to Independence Day.
Matsumoto continued. “We’re in this together, Rosa. No matter what happened in our past. Got it?”
She gave a small smile. “I understand.” And she gave Matsumoto a quick hug across the shoulders. “¿Puedo dormir?” she asked Carissa.
Carissa nodded, then turned to Matsumoto and Squirrel. “She wants to sleep now.”
Mac took Matsumoto and Squirrel back to his place in Coney Island for the night. “It’s probably a smart idea to give Rosa some space,” he said.
That’s right, Matsumoto thought to himself. She has a full name now. Rosa. Not Amiga. It still didn’t mesh in his head. Maybe the same thing would happen to him, if he finally remembered who he was. And Squirrel. He looked over at the other boy, lounged on the couch, soda in one hand, cheese chips in the other.
Okay. So he wasn’t worried about Squirrel. But then again, Squirrel wasn’t worried about Squirrel.
Mac showed them how to play the video game system, and just like that, both boys were up for most of the night. The only game they could figure out was the racing game, but that was all they needed.
“Sixty five out of a hundred and twenty eight,” Squirrel muttered -- they were on a roll, and Matsumoto was winning two times for each of Squirrel’s wins.
“Face it.” Matsumoto put down the controller. “I am the man.”
Squirrel just laughed. “You know what? This is the most relaxed I’ve seen you since this entire thing started.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Duh. You’re strung up tighter than -- than...” Squirrel couldn’t think of a good analogy. “Okay, so I don’t know what. But you’re usually wound way too tight, like the entire world is on your shoulders or something. You’re what, twelve, thirteen?”
Matsumoto shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either, but I’m guessing I’m about your age. The question is, what do they do to kids in Japan that makes them all so formal and concerned with everything all the time?”
“You’re asking the wrong person, Squirrel. I don’t know. I don’t even know myself.” He pushed the buttons and started up another race. “The things I know are trivial. My last name. Where I’m from. That I’m good at racing games.”
“I can see that.” The race started, and Squirrel was already behind. “Same here. My last name, I think. I’ve got a boombox, and I know how to dance. Much better than I can race -- hey! Quit cheating, you lousy excuse for a person!”
Matsumoto grinned. “I was just seeing if you were paying attention,” he said as he stopped driving right in front of Squirrel.
“Oh now. That’s not funny.”
“I never said it was.”
When neither of them crossed the finish line first, they both laughed at the stupidity of it all.
Sunday morning started with Matsumoto, Squirrel, and Mac at Saint Arbucks.
“We need a better plan,” Matsumoto said, back in total serious mode. “I’m trying to remember how long we had to do all of this, but something tells me it’s not much longer.”
“Did Sarah or someone actually give you a timeframe?” Mac asked as he drank a fruity orange soda.
Matsumoto nodded. “Mick. But, again, my memory is rusty.”
“Then it’s safe to assume we should move as fast as comfortable. Matsumoto, you’ve been noting down all of the facts you guys are remembering, right?”
“Here,” Matsumoto said, unlocking his device and showing Mac. He had updated it the previous night with all of Rosa’s information.
“Do you mind if I make a new list?” Mac asked.
“Not at all.”
Squirrel flicked the lens of Matsumoto’s goggles. “Stuck in a rut and wound too tight AND totally submissive to authority. You shouldn’t have remembered your last name so I could call you Whipped Puppy.”
Matsumoto blushed. “Hey!”
“We don’t know why he acts the way he acts,” Mac said as he tapped into Matsumoto’s phone. “Same with you, Squirrel. Just because you act one way now and you think that’s the right way, doesn’t mean that it’s the way you will always act.”
“Okay, but I’m never gonna be a stick in the mud like Whipped Puppy here.”
“Matsumoto, Jones-san. Matsumoto.”
Squirrel stopped talking when he heard Matsumoto say the name on the disc, and he knew: That’s mine. He sipped his drink in silence, and Matsumoto was left to wonder if he did something wrong.
“Here.” Mac handed the phone back to Matsumoto, ending the silence. “I’ve typed in a list of popular places in all of the boroughs. They’re easy to get to. Squirrel, you woke up in Central Park, but we can’t assume that’s where everybody landed. For all we know, they’re in Staten Island, and nobody wants to be in Staten Island.”
“What’s Staten Island?” Matsumoto asked as he looked over the list.
“I think he’s saying we don’t want to know,” Squirrel muttered.
“Your phone will tell you where to go, and your cards will pay for everything no problem,” Mac said. “There’s no actual money on the cards, but this world won’t know that unless you spend too much in one go.”
Which is what Rosa did when she bought all those clothes, Matsumoto noted to himself. “So now what do we do?”
“We wait for Carissa and Rosa to get here and to diagnose their situation.” Mac pulled out his own phone. “I haven’t heard from Carissa yet this morning. Once we figure out Rosa, though, there’s no reason the two of you can’t go out on your own without her to find your other teammates.”
“Who said I wasn’t going with them?” And there she was: Rosa Elena Meira Querida, sixteen and tall and dressed and right behind Mac and speaking English. So the language barrier had been temporary. Her eyes went up to Matsumoto, and he noticed they were no longer brown, but purple.
“You changed your eyes,” was all he managed to get out.
Rosa shrugged and smiled. “Carissa helped with that.”
“Quite illegally, I might note,” Carissa muttered. “You were the one who sneaked in the back way at the costume shop. You’re supposed to get an exam before you buy any lenses, even just colored ones.”
“Oh, bebe pobre mi. I’ve worn them before.” Rosa gave another smile. “What’s up?”
Matsumoto went into commander mode. “We’ve received a list of potential scouting locations from Mac, which will be useful as we go out and search for our missing team members. I was thinking that there are too few of us to properly split up, so --”
“And Matsumoto kissed you to wake you up,” Squirrel joked.
Both Matsumoto and Rosa jumped. “When was this?” Rosa asked as Matsumoto, face red, sipped his frapp.
Squirrel grinned inside. Matsumoto hadn’t actually kissed Rosa -- except for that time in Times Square, and that had been her -- but it was fun to watch them both sweat it out. “After you passed out and remembered who you were,” he said. “That’s when you started moving again.”
“I did NO such thing,” Matsumoto whispered to Squirrel, tossing him empty frapp cup right at him.
Squirrel grinned back, catching the cup in midair. “I know. Now, what you say we get out of here and start searching? We’ve been around this popsicle stand too long, and now that we’ve got the list, this will be easy.”
“Easy’s relative,” Matsumoto noted, glad the attention was no longer on him. “But I’m game. Let’s go.”
They packed up and set out -- three kids from another world, only one with any sort of clue as to who they really had been. Now, none of that mattered. Now, as they set out to find the two remaining, they had to focus on creating the new themselves.