HUMAN/SUPER Higher Learning 104

Gertrude chuckled and leaned over the engine, shining a light down into its guts. She reached her other hand inside.

“I’m sure she has some redeeming qualities, though,” Frederica said. “Your sister, I mean.”

“Oh sure,” Gertrude said. “But everything’s a double-edged sword with her. She’s smart as a whip but never applies it to anything constructive. She’s got empathy but she only uses it to get into people’s heads. She has the potential to be a good person but not the will.”

Gertrude sighed.

“Sorry, if this is a sore spot we can change the subject,” Tommy said.

Frederica glared at Tommy behind Gertrude’s back. He shrugged sheepishly.

“No need, I’m done,” Gertrude said, and pulled the hood shut. “Now, how about you tell me why you’re really here?”

“Uh… what do you mean?” Frederica said.

“Well, you clearly sabotaged your own engine so you’d have an excuse to come in here,” Gertrude said. “You have to be more convincing than that to pull one over on me.”

“Look,” Tommy said, “we just—”

Frederica held up her hand and shook her head. She shifted back to her true self. Gertrude raised an eyebrow.

“I’m looking for Virginia,” Frederica said. “I was hoping you might be able to put me in touch with her or with someone who knows where to find her. It’s sort of urgent.”

Gertrude crossed her arms and drummed her fingers on her elbow. Behind her, in a little office sectioned off from the rest of the shop, the boy from earlier stood and approached the window. Without hesitation, he passed right through the glass and came over to Gertrude.

“Aunt Trudy, I’m hungry,” he said.

Gertrude fished a bit of cash from her pocket and handed it to him.

“Grab yourself something from the store down the street,” she said. “And come right back. Don’t make me go looking for you again.”