Sidestory - Wednesday, August 8, 1928

by Julie


Toby's face lighted into a grin when he managed to turn the key. He pulled it back out of the ignition and left the car, intending to go back to the motel room, but Libby was standing beside him.

"Get back in," she said softly. "I'll teach you how to drive it." She got in the passenger side, and Toby obeyed her.

"Is this really the time for a driving lesson?" he asked quietly.

"The police will check the trains, I'm sure. Put the key in again and turn it," Libby said. "Make sure that lever there is turned all the way to the right, and then you'll press the starter on the floor a few times. No, with your foot." The engine finally turned over, and Libby explained how to put it into gear, how to adjust the spark if it needed it, and how to drive. It had been about five years since Toby had last been behind the wheel; the car had been a manual transmission, but he had had a seat belt, and the dash wasn't metal. So this was a little foreign, and a little frightening. But he was too busy obeying Libby's instructions, to ask any questions. She took him out on the road past the motel, which, in a couple miles, turned to dirt. Libby taught Toby to brake and shut off the car, and then showed him the basics under the hood.

"Guess I'll be a good backup when you get too tired to drive," Toby said hesitantly.

Libby let the hood fall closed and wiped her hands with a cloth, looking down. "Toby," she said in a low voice. "I'm...not coming with you."

Toby looked back at the car, wide-eyed. "What? I can't drive!"

"You'll know enough once I'm done; you're a fast learner." Libby reached into her purse and pulled out a plain card--an unlaminated driver's license, with no photograph. "Make one with your name on it; once you're out of the state, they won't be able to check your record anyway. And don't copy my number."

Toby slowly made a copy, the familiar action bringing him a little comfort. "What's your plan, then? Where am I driving to?"

"You're going to take Maeve and Becky across the country," Libby said softly. "Raymond said there's an island, far to the west, past California. A place where freaks are--"

"Kitar Island," Toby said quickly. "Where there's no electricity and *freedom.* I don't want to go there. Can't we just go to Europe?"

Libby shook her head. "Erin...she used to be in the show...she fled here to escape Europe. Because of her talents."

"Then Canada! I'll drive us there!"

Libby sighed. "Toby, how long do you think it would be before Maeve ran into trouble in Canada? Even if the police didn't follow her you really think it would be long before she got in trouble? On the island, perhaps she'll fit in."

"Oh, great; an island full of people like Maeve. Does that sound like fun to you?"

Libby's eyes glittered. "I thought you wanted to help her, Toby! Look--as long as you make sure Maeve and Becky get away safely, I don't care what you do after that. Drive down to Brazil, for all I care!" Tears suddenly came to her eyes. "I don't want this to happen any more than you do, but someone has to stay with Daniel."

Toby looked away uncomfortably.

"I've thought it out, Toby. You'll go on ahead to the island, and I'll remain here with the play, making whatever money I can. That will come in handy when that 'Depression' of yours comes, right? And then I'll come over with Daniel, by private train, as soon as the season's over. But you're the only one who can drive. I need you to take care of them, and get them out of this safe." Libby wiped her eyes, then took Toby's arm. "Will you?"

Toby pulled his arm away. "If they want," he said quietly. "But we'd probably be safer just staying hidden in the countryside until this blows over."

"I hate to imagine what Maeve would do to you if you tried it," Libby said, smiling slightly.

Toby smiled too, then looked back at the car. "Are you going to teach me some more? Maybe we can go over ten miles an hour this time?"

Libby looked back at Toby, frowning. "You'll keep your hands off Becky, right? If you do anything to her..."

Toby's face reddened. "Yeah. I'll behave."

"Good." Libby got back in the car. "We'll practice a bit longer, then drive to Coney Island. We'll park far away from home, of course, but if you can drive through New York City, crossing the country will seem like a dream."

Toby was briefly worried, but he glanced at Libby, who seemed more cheerful, now that Toby had agreed. Why not? Maybe he could do this after all.


They got to Coney Island without wrecking the car, although Toby's braking skills left much to be desired, and it's a wonder the gears didn't get stripped. They parked far from the main strip and walked. There was a commotion, but then, it was nearly 5 PM, so of course Coney was a mess.

"It's around your place, isn't it?" Toby asked quietly as they drew nearer.

"Looks like it," Libby murmured back. "I don't want to be seen there, if I can help it. We could be held up for hours in questioning."

"I'll try. I'm leaving town anyway, right?" Before Libby could stop him (and before Toby could lose his nerve), he strode up to the corner of the Freak Show building. There were two officers hanging around, waiting, and questioning one of the actors.

"Yeah," the actor said quietly, as though he was afraid not to answer. "We have someone named Becky here. She's in the play sometimes. Long hair, blue eyes. Why?"

Toby didn't want to hear any more. When no one was looking, he ducked down behind a trash can, and formed a small hole in the wall, praying there wasn't an officer inside. But he wound up in Becky and Libby's bedroom, and the only living thing in there was Daniel. The cat pounced Toby when he came in, and Toby couldn't get out from under him.

"Where's Becky?" he hissed.

"Sssh, sssh," Toby said, still unable to sit up. "Let me go, and I'll explain."

Daniel kept his paws firmly on Toby's shoulders.

"She...had to go on a trip," Toby said slowly, cringing as he felt the cat's claws. "She didn't want to leave, but she's in trouble here."

"Where is she?" Daniel asked, his eyes wide. "I'll go with her!"

"You can't," Toby said. Daniel's claws drew blood this time, but the young man tried to stay calm. "She has to run away. But she...she sends her love."

Daniel's claws retracted. "Really?"

"Yeah," Toby said quickly. "She loves you, man; she wouldn't go away if it weren't very important. And you and Libby are gonna come after her real soon. I *promise.*"

Daniel grudgingly let Toby go. "You took her away."

Toby ruffled the cat's fur. "Libby will take you to her real soon. So calm down." He suddenly hugged the cat. "That's from Becky."

Daniel blinked, and then pounced Toby, licking his face. "And that's for Becky!"

"Sssh, sssh," Toby said, looking around anxiously. "Do you know where Becky's things are?"

Daniel pointed out everything he remembered as Becky's, including the hideous teddy bear Toby had won for her at a game. "And give her this," he added, handing Toby the Dr. Doolittle book she used to read him.

"Don't you want this?" Toby asked. "I thought you liked this book."

"But this way she'll have it when I get to see her again."

Toby smiled weakly and tucked the book in one of his bags. "Okay." He looked back at Daniel for a few moments, and decided to take another couple minutes, forming a small thing in his hands, and giving it to Daniel.

"What's this?"

"A picture of Becky," Toby explained. It was done from memory, but the likeness was fair, though more like a painting than a photograph.

"Oh," Daniel said, looking at it. He set it on the dresser. "I'll be careful with it."

"But if anyone but Libby asks you, you don't know where Becky is. All right?"

The cat nodded solemnly. "If I don't get to see her again soon, I'll eat you up," he suddenly threatened, his tail twitching.

Toby believed him. "Libby'll talk to you. It'll be okay." He went back to where he came in, melting a peephole to make sure it was clear before going out. Somehow, he managed to get through the crowd and back to Libby unnoticed. She took his arm anxiously, walking back towards the Packard.

"Did you get everything?" she asked.

"I think so, and I can make anything I missed. Except that cat," Toby added.

Libby sighed. "Poor Daniel. Do you want to go back and see Raymond?"

Toby shook his head. "The less he knows, the better. You can tell him once we're safe on the island."

"Right," Libby said softly, a sad look in her eyes. "I wish..." But she didn't finish her thoughts.

She made Toby drive around the city, ostensibly for driving practice, though he suspected she was trying to find Becky and Maeve's old friends, so they could wish them goodbye. They also went to Maeve's apartment--a place the police, luckily, hadn't found yet, though the less said about that incident, the better. They made it to a grocery store sometime along the way, to buy something that Maeve would hopefully eat, and had to stop for gasoline as well. But finally, as night fell, they made it back to the motel...

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