“I know what you can do.”
Cassie looked at the older man sitting across from her. He’d approached her outside of the small roadside diner near Broadus, Montana. He offered to buy her a cup of coffee if she’d give him ten minutes of her time. He seemed harmless enough and, if he wasn’t, she could certainly take care of herself.
He introduced himself as Arthur Sheridan and claimed to be a scientist—a geneticist, he said, among other specialties. Sheridan appeared to be in his early fifties, but with a youthful vitality despite walking with a cane. His close-cropped red hair was graying at the temples and streaks of gray ran through his carefully trimmed beard.
“You know what I can do?” she asked, not bothering to meet his blue eyes with her own. “Great. My mom and dad are real proud that I know all the state capitals. I can name the presidents in chronological order, too.”
Sheridan smiled and damned if that smile didn’t say “We both know what I’m talking about.”
“Okay, look, I appreciate the coffee, Mister, but I gotta go.”
Cassie started to slide out of their corner booth—
Sheridan took a sip of his coffee—he drank it black with lots of sugar, just like Cassie’s dad. “I have a PhD. Several, actually. So it should be Doctor. Not Mister.”
Cassie laughed. She couldn’t help it. He had said it without reproach or any indication of wounded pride. He was simply stating a fact and doing so with a smile. “Sorry,” she said. “I appreciate the coffee, Doctor.”
“You should probably eat something,” Sheridan muttered as he scanned the diner’s simple, two-page paper menu. “Especially after you single-handedly stopped that runaway train earlier this morning.”
That got Cassie’s attention. No one saw her stop that freight train, not even the engineer. She was sure of it. She’d been careful. Her parents always taught her to be careful. She wasn’t like other girls and not just because she was adopted. No, she was special; she could do things. And, in a place like Rampart, Alaska–where there were less than one hundred residents–being different would have been noticed. So, she had kept her abilities hidden. Even now, almost ten years after leaving home, she made sure no one saw her use her abilities. It wasn’t possible that anyone other than her mother and father could know she was special.
Yet here was Dr. Arthur Sheridan, and he apparently knew it all.
Cassie leaned over the table. “How did you—”
“Doesn’t matter,” Sheridan waved his hand. “What matters is I know. I know you’re special. I know you want to help people. And I know others like you who feel the same.”
She sat back, arms folded across her chest and thought for a second. “Okay,” Cassie finally said, brushing a wayward strand of black hair behind her ear, and looking at the menu. “But first, how about a bacon cheeseburger?”
Sheridan got the waitress’s attention with a simple nod and, looking back at Cassie, said: “John Tyler.”
Cassie grinned. “James K. Polk.”