HUMAN/SUPER Higher Learning 105

He turned and shuffled away.

“And don’t steal anything!” she called out.

“I won’t!” he replied and walked through the wall.

“Is he… Virginia’s?” Frederica asked.

“Barely,” Gertrude said. “At this point he’s been with me longer than he was ever with her. I’ve spent most of that time trying to repair the damage she did. So the last thing either of us need is to get dragged back into one of her messes.”

“I get that,” Frederica said, nodding. “I’m trying to protect the people I care about, too. But if there’s really nothing you can do….”

“There really isn’t,” Gertrude said. “Sorry.”

Frederica shrugged and looked into Gertrude’s eyes, probing for anything relating to Virginia. Her memories were clouded with anger—Frederica saw every argument the two sisters had ever had, but little else.

“Thanks anyway,” Frederica replied.

“How much do I owe you?” Tommy asked, taking out his wallet.

Gertrude shook her head.

“Just don’t come back and I’ll call us even,” she said.

“Fair enough,” he said.

He climbed behind the wheel. Frederica hesitated and joined him. Gertrude turned away without another word. Tommy backed out of the garage and merged with traffic.

“Well, that could’ve gone better,” he said. “Sorry I couldn’t be much help in there.”

“No, you were great,” Frederica said. “I’m surprised you got her to open up as much as you did. But I don’t think we were ever going to get much useful out of her. Sorry I wasted your time.”

“Nah, it was fun,” he said, smiling.

She chuckled, and they drove on in silence for a while.

“Why were you asking about my mom?”

Virginia’s son popped up in the backseat, right between their shoulders.

“Holy shit!” Tommy screamed, and slammed on the brakes.