"It has a good reputation, but there are nasty stories going around. They sound like sour grapes to me, but a good reporter always investigates, goes deep." She looked around. "This is fun, I like the start of winter, but I think I'll find a few stories that take me south once January hits. I can wait until March or April to head east to Akron, Ohio, thanks very much."
"Yeah, that's where the Arc Foundation is headquartered." She pulled a business card out of her pocket and showed it to him, the business card for S.M. Stankiweicz, representative of the Arc Foundation, Quarry Hall, Portage Trail, Akron, Ohio. A pen sketch of the front face of a Tudor-style, massive building, filled the background of the card like a watermark.
McAllistair's brain spun as he hurried down the street to the boarding house. He fought to focus on his surroundings, just because experience taught him that disaster always struck when he wasn't entirely focused on his assignment. Still, the image of the mansion kept flashing before his eyes. The one and only time he had seen it had been in the early morning hours, as the sun rose from the valleys and gardens behind it, driving chilly mist away. He had driven up with Annie Hachworth still drugged asleep, wrapped in the sheets from her bed at the mental hospital. The restraints were still on her wrists and ankles. He had cut them, and wasn't ashamed to admit his petty pleasure in the damage, when he stole her from the prison her so-called guardians had thrown her into. What kind of guardians decided medicating the symptoms and throwing the girl into a dark hole and throwing away the key was the best option for treating the damage to her mind and soul? He had taken even greater pleasure in the damage he did to their reputations and wresting Annie's trust fund out of their control.
He knew better than to approach the Stankiweicz girl to ask if she knew how Annie was doing, but the temptation almost ached in his chest. McAllistair's standard practice was to help people and then walk away. The only time he made contact again was when he needed help from the people who owed him for the help he had given them. Annie Hachworth and Mike McCoy were the only two exceptions, because he blamed himself for the damage that Snow had inflicted on their lives. He had checked on Annie every few years -- Mike had vanished into the system, and McAllistair was still looking for him. When he learned how Annie had disintegrated in college, and her guardians locked her away -- conveniently eliminating the only person they had to answer to when handling her trust fund -- McAllistair had called in a debt owed him, taking her to Harrison Carter. If anyone could help Annie find her soul and the healing that had eluded her, the man once known as Oracle would have the resources. McAllistair had told himself not to look back. He had told himself to be satisfied and have faith that Carter and his wife could be trusted to take care of Annie.