The Butterfly Garden

Page 60

Sophia just smiles. “It’s pretty much his job. But perhaps . . .” She glances over at the boy in the bed, Victor’s eyes following. Desmond hasn’t so much as twitched in all the noise. “Elsewhere?”

Victor nods and leads them out of the room. In the hallway, he can see Senator Kingsley standing alone in front of the door to the Butterflies’ room, taking deep breaths. She should look softer in just the blouse and skirt; instead, she just looks scared. Victor wonders if her suit is like Inara’s lip gloss, a way to armor up against the rest of the world.

“Do you think she’ll go in?” Inara asks.

“Eventually,” he answers. “Once she realizes this isn’t something she can be ready for.”

He takes them into a room in the buffer zone between the Butterflies and the MacIntosh family. It’s private, at any rate, and one of the guards shifts down to make sure they’re not disturbed. Inara and Sophia settle side by side on one of the stripped beds, facing the door and anyone who might try to enter. Victor sits on the opposite bed. He’s unsurprised that Eddison decides to pace, rather than sit.

“Ms. Madsen?” Victor prompts. “If you please?”

“You do like to get right down to it, don’t you?” Sophia shakes her head. “I’m sorry, but no, not yet. I’ve been waiting longer than you have.”

Victor blinks, but nods.

Taking Inara’s hand, Sophia wraps both of hers around it, holding tight. “We thought something from before had caught up with you,” she says. “We thought you ran.”

“It was a logical assumption,” Inara tells her gently.

“But all your clothes—”

“Are just clothes.”

Sophia shakes her head again. “If you were going to run, you would have taken your money. Whitney and I started an account for you, by the way. We didn’t feel comfortable with that much cash sitting around.”

“Sophia, if you’re trying to find a way this is somehow your fault, you’re not going to find it from me. We were all running from something. We all knew that. We all knew not to question it if someone disappeared.”

“We should have. And the timing . . .”

“There was no way to know.”

“The timing?” Victor asks.

“The event that the Gardener—Mister MacIntosh—”

Sophia gives a startled laugh. “He has a name. I mean, of course he does, but . . . how bizarre.”

“The event at the Evening Star,” Inara continues. “I didn’t say anything about Mister MacIntosh being creepy, just about the run-in with Avery. But then we came home with all those costume butterfly wings.”

“I drank myself damn near insensible,” Sophia says grimly. “It was like being back in hell.”

“I took her out to the fire escape to get some fresh air, and she ended up telling me all about the Garden.”

“I’d never really told anyone before.”

“Why not?” Victor asks. From the corner of his eye, he sees Eddison’s pacing stop.

“At first, there didn’t seem to be anything to say. I didn’t know his name, I’d been so panicked on leaving that I didn’t pay any attention to what was around me. I didn’t know where the estate was. All I had was a tattoo and a growing fetus and a crazy story. I thought if I went to the police, they’d be just like my parents: assume I was drunk or high or screwing around and lying to avoid consequences.”

“You went back to your parents?”

She makes a face. “They kicked me out. Said I was an embarrassment. I didn’t have anywhere to go. I was nineteen and pregnant and didn’t have anyone to help me.”

Eddison perches on the very end of Victor’s bed. “So Jillie is the Gardener’s?”

“Jillie is mine,” she retorts, baring her teeth at him.

Eddison holds up both hands in a placating gesture. “But he is the father.”

Sophia deflates, and Inara leans against her for comfort. “That was the other reason not to say anything. If he’d found out about her, I could have lost her. No court in the world would have let her stay with a heroin-addicted hooker when she could live with a wealthy, well-respected family. At least when social services took my girls, I could work to get them back. If he’d taken Jillie, I would never have seen her again, and I don’t think Lotte would ever have gotten over it. They’re my girls. I had to protect them.”

Victor looks at Inara. “Isn’t that what Desmond was doing? Protecting his family? You didn’t think very well of him for it.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Isn’t it?”

“You know it isn’t,” she says dryly. “Sophia was protecting her children. Innocent children who don’t deserve to suffer for what happened. Desmond was protecting criminals. Murderers.”

“How did you escape?” asks Eddison.

“I was going to have to take a pregnancy test,” Sophia replies. “I’d been gaining weight, and I was sick sometimes after lunch. Lor—our nurse brought the test to me, but got called away to deal with an injury before she could watch me take it. I just panicked. I ran around looking for any way out I might have missed in the past two and a half years. And I saw Avery.”

“Avery was already in the Garden.”

“He’d discovered it just a few weeks before. His father gave him a code but he had trouble remembering it. He was very slow when he put it in. That day I hid in the honeysuckle and watched him fumble through it. He even said the numbers while he pushed the buttons. I waited for a bit, then punched it in myself. I’d almost forgotten that doors could open normally.”

Victor rubs at his cheek. “Did you tell any of the others?”

She starts to bristle, but then her shoulders slump. “I guess I can see why that’s a question,” she admits. “After all, by not going to the police, I left them there to die, didn’t I? But I did try.” She meets his eyes firmly. “I swear to you, I did try. They were just too scared to go. I was too scared to stay.”


“What happens if you only almost escape?” asks Inara, but it feels more like a reminder than a question.

“It had been less than a month since a girl named Emiline stayed out during maintenance,” Sophia says. “She tried to tell the gardeners what was going on, but the Gardener must have smoothed it over somehow. The next time we saw her, she was in glass. Escape is a hard thing to attempt when you see it punished like that. But you blame me for leaving them behind.”

“No.” Victor shakes his head. “You gave them the chance. You can’t save someone against her will.”

“Speaking of which, Lorraine is here.”

Sophia turns to Inara with dismay. “Oh no. Still?”

Inara nods.

“That poor woman,” she murmurs. Inara gives her a sideways look but says nothing. “I was on the street with other whores longer than I was in the Garden, but I’ve never seen a woman so thoroughly broken as Lorraine. He loved her and then he didn’t and it was never any fault of hers. Hate her if you have to, but I just feel sorry for her. More than the rest of us, maybe, she never had a chance.”

“She’s never going to be in glass now.”

“She was never going to be in glass back when I knew her. Does it change anything?”

“Inara?” They all turn to look at Eddison; as far as Victor can remember, it’s the first time Eddison has called the girl by name. “Did you get kidnapped on purpose? Is that what you’ve been hiding?”

“On purpose?” gasps Sophia, shoving off the bed.

“No, I—”

“You did this on purpose?”

“No! I—”

Victor tunes out Sophia’s rather impressive lecture, turning sideways to look at his partner. “How did you get from complicit to getting caught on purpose?” he asks, mind racing. If Eddison is right, this could change everything. There’d be no saving her from the senator, or the courts. To go to such lengths without going to the police? To be deliberate in the middle of such dangers is one thing, but to choose to go there? To knowingly endanger herself and, perhaps, those other girls?

“If she wasn’t hiding that she was part of it, what was she hiding?”

“I was hiding Sophia!” snaps Inara, grabbing her friend’s arm and tugging sharply. With a startled “oomph,” Sophia falls back onto the bed. “On purpose, really, do I look that stupid?”

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