7. Meeting James Oromchi
While Geena was occupied with a "visitor," I hurriedly helped Ellie throw some belongings into a duffel bag.
"Take the things that are most important to you," I said. Ellie took Teddy and Blankie by default, then stood blankly in the middle of the room. I watched her for a moment before urging her to continue. She took a few faded pictures, her favorite storybooks, and her favorite dress. I stuffed some of Ellie's other necessary clothes and belongings before packing a bag of my own.
Money. Clothes. Food. Toiletries. I thought along more practical lines than Ellie did. There was just a bit of room left in my bag, so I took my journal and the only stuffed animal I'd ever owned in my life. Perhaps I was just being sentimental, but my little pink bunny, BreeBree, still held a special place in my heart.
Looking around the room, I tried to think of anything else we might need. No, I'd covered it all. At least, I hoped so.
"Let's go," I said. Leaving a note on Geena's door that said "Took Ellie to find some new school clothes," I grabbed Ellie's hand and left the apartment.
I thought it would be the last time I saw my "home." When I returned, though, it would be under far different circumstances.
Caruso was waiting for us as I urged Ellie in the door. What I hadn't expected was for a tall, almost lumbering man to be sitting on Caruso's couch. He stood when Ellie and I entered.
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly used to chivalry.
"Katie, this is James Oromchi."
I quirked my eyebrows. "Since when do you call me 'Katie'?"
"Since you changed your name to protect your identity."
I felt butterflies take flight in my stomach. Clasping Ellie's hand more tightly, I held my head a little higher. "So you're helping me escape?" I asked, trying not to get my hopes up.
"If you accept what I'm about to say." He motioned toward James. Or Mr. Oromchi. I wasn't sure which name I should refer to him by. "James" - well, there was my answer - "is on the run, too. He's bringing with him a baby girl, who's taking a nap in the other room. Why he's on the run, I can't tell you, but I can assure you that James is honorable. I trust him implicitly."
I wasn't sure why all this was so important. "Ellie," I said, voice quiet, "are you alright?"
Ellie was slightly pale, but she nodded. "Yeah," she said. Then, in a squeaky voice - "Are we really going to do this?"
I turned to Caruso. "Where are you going with this?"
Caruso didn't answer my question. At least, not yet. "James' daughter...we're going to call her Annaliese. She's fifteen months."
"Caruso, please tell me what's going on."
James, who had remained silent through the entire exchange, looked me in the eyes. I was stunned by the beauty of those dark blue mysteries. Though James certainly wasn't handsome - rather homely, even - there was something about him that made him somehow endearing.
But no matter how endearing James Oromchi might have appeared, I was wholly unprepared for the words Caruso said next.
"You'd be much harder to track if you were married, Katie."