25

That Friday morning, Paul's plane landed in Manhattan, and afterward, a cab took him straight to the hospital. In his mind, all sorts of things were going on? If this was Bridget, it meant that she could not be Supergirl, but if she wasn't, could this girl just be another girl with Bridget's identity? Could there even be another possibility? Whatever the truth, what he found here would answer two questions at once. Was the girl he had raised from infancy a costumed adventurer, and where had she been hiding all these years? Stepping from the elevator, Paul checked at the nurse's station.

"Bridget Hennessey?" He asked.

The nurse directed him to Detective Don Flack.

"Mr. Hennessey?" Don turned around from talking to a doctor. "I'm Detective Flack. I'm working with Mac Taylor on this case."

"Is it my daughter? Are you sure?" Paul held his chest. His heart valve was about to burst.

"We checked her fingerprints on the familiars you had left with the Detroit police after her disappearance. It's definitely her."

"A sex ring?" Paul was shocked and appalled at the details of her disappearance. "How?"

"These people have a state wide underground network moving girls through the country." Flack revealed. "Do you recall that Detroit arrest of Dennis Oliver Patrick and James Oliver Karlen a while back? They're a part of it, and although they denied grabbing your daughter, we now have the evidence to bust their entire network… all thanks to a mysterious tip from a girl in a red cape."

"Yeah…" Paul thought again about that girl. "Have you ever seen…"

"I had a splitting glimpse of her at month ago during her purge of our offices of explosives…" Don paused to reflect. "I think she's real, and you owe her thanks. Man, she helped you get your daughter back…"

Paul had just casually looked off to the side and saw a nurse wheeling a girl out to meet him. At first glance, he thought the young lady was similar, but as she got closer, there was no mistake. It was Bridget… She was taller than he recalled and hair was longer, her face was tanner but her blue eyes… those big blue eyes, he recalled them. Father and daughter met eyes, and Bridget jumped up hugging him amidst several tears and short breaths. Paul squeezed her back not wanting to let her go. She was taller than he recalled. When he saw Bridget again with his own eyes again, his heart began pumping faster. They hugged crying their eyes out surrounded by the parents of other missing girls, all of them from parts all over the country either yanked from arrival at Grand Central Station or from nearby cities in nearby states. Father and daughter were reunited. It had been so long. Bridget cried and wept holding her father again. Paul squeezed her lovingly to have her back. He swore he'd never let her go again. Off to the side, Don realized these were the moments on the job he lived for and then clicked his buzzing cell.

"Flack…"

"Don, can you get to the warehouse?" Mac and Danny were still processing the building the girls had been found in. "There's something here you need to see."

"I'm on my way…" Don patted Paul on the shoulder to lend his support and returned back to business. Twelve girls had been rescued from a small warehouse room with bars on the windows. Twelve girls… maybe. Mac stared at the windows. All the windows had been boarded up but this one. Five men and three female accomplices had been arrested in the bust. Taylor stood watching Danny process the tenement the precinct had invaded to discover the girls.

"Mac, look at this…" Messer directed Taylor's view to the bars on the windows. "Boards and bars on all the windows, but on this one…" He stooped before the window and pretended to grip them. "And… these two are distorted as if someone really powerful bent them apart and then bent them back."

"Could be a manufacturing error at the foundry."

"Except…" Danny showed him the indents. "They're shaped like fingers. What sort of defect causes that?"

Mac slowly exhaled. He was not sure what to make of all these super-blonde stories that kept occurring.

"So, this… being…" He paraphrased for lack of a better word. "Bends the bars wide to free the girls then changes her mind? Why would she do that?"

"Maybe not to let them out, but to get in herself." Danny guessed.

"So one of those girls is possibly the mystery blonde everyone is calling Supergirl…" Mac thought about it. "Passing herself off as one of the victims…"

"Hernandez did say he only had eleven girls." Messer reminded him. Mac exhaled deeply and thought about it. Why would this girl want to vanish back into society by pretending to be a victim of Hernandez's sex slave ring? He mulled it over. Which of the twelve was it? Should he try to find out?

"Danny, make a note on it and file it, but don't press on it." Mac decided. "I don't want to be the one to out this girl's identity to the world when she's done so much." He paused. "Let her have her secret identity."

"Aren't you the least bit curious?" Messer was excited. "We are right on top of discovering who she is before anyone else!"

"Not interested…"

"Aw, come on. Mac…." Danny was incredulous.

"She saved our lives." Mac looked back with a wry grin. "We can give her that."

At that moment, Bridget was on her first airplane flight in her life taking a trip that she could cover in less than ten minutes. Her father was unable to stop grinning. He had offered to take her shopping, but she wasn't interested. It was then that Paul realized she had changed. Shopping and spending money had been Bridget's mantra since before her disappearance. No, that wasn't right. She had stopped acting that way even much earlier… about the time Supergirl first appeared in Detroit all those years ago. That realization now hit him. Could becoming this heroine have changed her personality in a way he was just now realizing? If his daughter was Supergirl, why had she been found held captive with all those other kidnapped girls? Maybe she wasn't a captive. Maybe this was her way to come back home…

Getting out of Manhattan had been a challenge. When the New York Press learned Detroit sports writer Paul Hennessey's long lost daughter had been found as part of a top local news story, they had tracked him through La Guardia Airport trying to get a comment, and the press in Detroit was likely to be less forgiving. Luckily, after calling Cate, he learned that she worked at the hospital with the wife of one of one Detroit's top police officers, Captain Mike Hammond, and Hammond arranged for Paul and Bridget to spirit them off the airport through the gate and get them home to miss the press and still reasonably make it home. It was already dark and the lights on the highway home were already on. Fretting and anxious, Cate was a nervous wreck. She had waited years for her daughter to show up alive and healthy, and she would stay up until midnight to have her back. The whole idea that Bridget was Supergirl was finally dead in the water. No one was going to make that assumption again… However, Kerry was conflicted. How could this whole abduction story be true if she had found Bridget in Pasadena? Even with the partial remnants of the hypnosis still on her to block out her memories of the meeting, all Kerry could think about was... who the heck was Penny Parker?

"I bet you're excited to finally have Bridget home." CJ asked her.

"Yeah…" Kerry mumbled.

"You don't sound excited." CJ looked her over.

"I'm excited…" Kerry rolled her eyes to her cousin.

"Really…." CJ looked her over. Kerry was standing and leaning on the kitchen counter sipping a glass of orange juice with a blank look on her face as if someone had rained on her parade. She looked more annoyed than anything else.

"Well," CJ looked her over again. "Don't get too excited… you might sprain a muscle cracking a smile."

Kerry shot a look at him.

"What's the family secret?" CJ asked.

"You were raised by monkeys."

"She's home!" Cate came racing down from stairs after changing into her fifth dress. "She's here." She had seen Paul pull into the driveway from the upstairs window. "My baby's home! She's really home!"

"Cate…" Her father called from the big chair. "Help me up so I can hug my granddaughter."

"Careful, Grampy…" CJ strolled closer. "You might break a hip."

"I'll break your leg." Ed swung his cane at his impudent grandson then stood and listened to his son-in-law coming into the house. The front door cracked at Paul looked through grinning and right behind him was a familiar statuesque blonde girl in a white sweater and faded blue jeans. Nervously looking up, Bridget lifted her head just as her mother grabbed her and squeezed her with tears streaming down her face. Hugging her mother tightly, Bridget felt her cousin CJ reaching to hold her and give a small platonic kiss. Her grandfather hugged her next and stroked her face. She still had the same look he had seen that day in the drugstore when she saved his life, but now, it was more scared and more nervous. Cate hugged and squeezed her daughter again crying and laughing and joy as she rocked her little girl back and forth. Rory was on his way home from college to see her. Her grandmother was coming from Florida and her aunt from Texas. Through the whole happy and momentous occasion, Paul looked over to Kerry struggling with her thoughts and conflicting memories. Looking up from her mother's arms, Bridget and Kerry realized each other's presence.

"Care-Bear?"

"Bridget…" Kerry looked at her emotionally distant. She felt Bridget pulling her close to hug her and realized she had been here before. What the hell happened to her in Pasadena? Who the hell was Penny Parker?!

"I missed you so much, Kerry…" Bridget embraced her.

"This seems awfully familiar." Kerry rolled her eyes and tried to be civil. Her mother was grinning contently. Her grandfather was grinning ear to ear, and her cousin even forced a contented grin.

"I am making your favorite dinner." Cate marched grinning into the kitchen. "Macaroni and cheese with little sausages!" She grinned ecstatically.

"That's not my favorite…" Bridget looked confused. Her mother slammed the frying pan down.

"Whose favorite was it?!" She yelled.

"No one!" CJ revealed the truth. "You just make it because it's easy to make!"

"Cate," Paul hugged Bridget and turned back to his wife. "Beej and I ate on the plane…" He paused happily content. "Did you hear me? I said "Beej" again! My baby's home!" He hugged and kissed his daughter's face.

"I'm just very tired, mom…" Bridget felt secure in her father's arms. "I just want to go to bed and get some sleep."

"Of course, honey…" Cate kissed and squeezed her daughter several seconds more and forced herself to let go. Unable to stop smiling, she beamed ecstatically and deliriously happy to her husband to have both her daughters finally home. CJ was watching from a distance unsure how to act, but Ed remembered seeing Bridget save his life in the drugstore. What sparkle she had then was not as obvious now. The blonde one acted as if all the energy and spirit in her had been used up. She was quiet, tired and distracted as if she were trapped in a dream.

"Bridget…"

"Yes, grandpa?" The girl looked to him as she followed Kerry back up to their room. Ed looked into her face. No make-up, no expression, just tired and worn out. If he thought Bridget and the girl in the cape were one and the same, he was not so convinced now.

"Good to have you home."

"Thank you, grandpa." Bridget turned and exhaustedly followed Kerry back up stairs as if no time had passed between now and the last time she was home. Her parents were excitedly more than she knew to have her home, but it was also obvious they were holding back from attacking her with questions on how she had survived for ten years imprisoned in an illegal forced prostitution ring. In all those years, it sounded logical that she had to have tried to escape or make her existence known, but they didn't doubt the story at all. They were just glad to finally have her home. Kerry was the only person who had her doubts about the whole thing. The whole thing seemed too… convenient. She had read about the men who ran those things. They generally murdered girls who refused to cooperate and those who tried to escape were usually never seen again. There was only one other logical conclusion.

"Bridget…." Kerry's voice stammered as they returned to their room together for the first time in over ten years. "I'm going to ask this one last time and then I'm never going to ask it again." She closed her eyes, lowered her head and tried to talk. Her throat was dry, her head was light and her voice quivering. "Are you Supergirl?"

Bridget sighed back on the sight of her old bed in her old room then drew quiet.

"Kerry…." Bridget sounded annoyed. "Do you know where my old comforter is?"

"Yes, Bridget…." Kerry stuck to her promise and reached to the trunk to pull out Bridget's old comforter. She lifted the lid, picked up the comforter by the edge and lifted it out as something fell out of it. She placed the wrap before Bridget then turned to pick up what had fallen out of it. In the darkened room, it looked dark but when she turned around she found a flash of red and yellow. Turning it around, she recognized it for what it was. It was a girl's blue leotard with the Superman symbol on it. A sorceress named Samantha Stephens had weaved it for Bridget to be bulletproof and flame retardant. Her eyes widened to be holding it. She felt her heart beating faster. This was it! She turned to her sister standing before her beaming ear to ear.

"I've, uh…" Bridget wiped away a tear for this emotional moment. "I've kind of got a date with Leonard in thirty minutes. Think you could cover for me?"

"What?" Kerry reacted confused for just a moment before the realization reached her mind. Maybe the hyponosis was finally wearing off after all... She remembered being in Pasadena, meeting Leonard and Howard, their talk, the confrontation, their heart-to-heart talk... She started crying as Bridget took her costume from her sister then pulled her close and hugged her.

"I always trusted you..." Bridget whispered to her then gently pushed her away. She picked up her skirt, cape and boots and backed from her sister toward the window. Kerry watched as her sister sat down into it, ducked under the windowsill then dropped down into thin air. Kerry rushed to see where she went, but her sister had just vanished into that blink of an eye between the seconds on the clock. Looking up, she saw a shadow crossing the sky over the neighborhood. Brushing her teeth at that moment, Cate noticed the red and blue flash beyond the corner of her eye outside her window. Behind the house, Paul dumped the trash into the garbage cans and saw the shape pass over his house.

"No…" He tried to convince himself. "Please, God, tell me I didn't see that…"

Her fist extended before her, Bridget scowled as she fought to climb higher. Rain vapor formed in her hair and costume as she climbed higher. She couldn't let Leonard down this time. She just couldn't. Speeding faster through the air, her long tresses of blonde hair blew backward against her shoulder and cape. Nearing the state line near Chicago, she started mentally rehearsing things she had to tell Leonard to pass off her revised past to him.

"It turns out I was adopted. My biological family lives in Detroit…" Her mental voice rehearsed to Leonard on their date.

In Pasadena, Leonard was getting dressed for his date with the girl he knew as Penny Parker. He pulled on his dark slacks and pulled out his new white shirt. It was brighter and cleaner than his others.

Over North Missouri near Kansas City, Bridget ripped across the darkened skies of farmlands and made cattle flutter and respond from the phenomenon over their heads. Upon counting the lights of the large cities beneath her, Bridget swerved even more westward to return to Leonard. Her mind was still working out a way to tell him who she really was and merge both the worlds of Penny Parker and Bridget Hennessey into one…

"My birth name is Bridget Erin Hennessey…" Penny's voice echoed in Bridget's head.

"Bridget!" Paul rushed through his house to finally expose his daughter's secret costumed identity once and for all. Cate was right behind him. Was the sex slave thing just a scam and excuse to hide her whereabouts for the last few years from the world? They approached the girl's upstairs room and pushed their way in then stopped. The shape of their daughter's body filled her bed, and Kerry was right there next to it. There was even blonde hair poking up over the top of the blanket.

"It's a nice firm…" Kerry sat by the human-sized lump under the blankets on her bed and seemed to be catching up her sister on her past. "Miss Flockhart says I have a very good chance of getting a position there..." She looked up to her parents peeking in through the door and then looking back at each other confusingly. Bridget seemed to be in bed. She couldn't be flying over the house. Dismissing the thought, Paul and Cate backed back out and tried to permanently put to the past all their past fears and suspicions. Behind the closed door, Kerry placed her hand to her heart and took a deep breath.

"Okay, what have I not told you about…." Kerry continued. "Oh, remember Kyle? He's now running a comic book shop…" She heard the door latch as her parents backed out of the room silently. Taking a cue from her sister in manipulating the perceptions of others, she patted the pile of clothes under the blankets with the blonde wig. It was the same trick Bridget had pulled in high school when she was concealing herself sneaking out of the house. "Just like old times…" Kerry realized that all that subterfuge was good practice for hiding her sister's secret identity from the general public.

Traffic on Interstate 207 in the Oklahoma panhandle slowed as the whistling sound of an object shot over them. Someone said it looked like a small basketball rushing at great speed over their heads while others said it looked like a girl in a red cape. In Pasadena, Leonard was cleaning his shoes and trying to get them to shine for his date. Wondering how Penny was going to look, he checked his breath and thought he better gargle with mouthwas once more. Approaching the state line, the blonde goddess started realizing that in addition to adapting her past as Bridget to Leonard, she just had to explain things about her past to her parents too.

"Mom, you're not going to like this, but while I was gone, I actually finished high school and college…" She mentally rehearsed the truth.

In Pasadena, Leonard was nervously brushing his hair once more. As Bridget's flight passed over New Mexico and reached Albuquerque, she was wondering how to explain Leonard to her father.

"Daddy, I'm dating this guy named Leonard." Her imagination played the scene in her mind. "I met him while I was living in Pasadena."

Clean and dressed, Leonard exited his apartment and buttoned and unbuttoned his dark blue jacket. His tie hung discreetly from his collar. A few steps and he was at Bridget's door. He knocked once for her and waited. Several hundred miles away, his date was swerving to miss flights over Las Vegas. Lowering to check her landmarks, she saw a police pursuit of a speeding red Mercedes and suddenly deviated from her flight. In Pasadena, Leonard stood in the hallway of his apartment building, sighed, checked his watch and waited. Bridget's apartment seemed quiet. His head slightly cocked to one side, he knocked once more.

"She couldn't have forgotten again." He mumbled. "She couldn't have."

He knocked again then checked her apartment door. It was locked. There was no light under the door.

"Of course…" Accepting the inevitable, Leonard turned away and pulled out his cell phone to call her. He pulled up Penny's number, tapped it and rang her phone. It rang and rang again.

"Hello, this is Penny…" Her voice mail came on. "Please leave a message." He heard the beep. Stood up again… He started wondering if trying to date Penny was really worth it, but then he mentally flashed back on how beautiful she looked on the double date with Howard and Bernadette.

"Penny," Leonard started leaving a message on her phone. "Where are…"

"Leonard…" Bridget's door suddenly opened. "Why are you calling me?" She flashed her cell phone at him. She looked incredible. Garbed in a simple red dress with her hair blown out long and wavy, she looked like a supermodel. The young physicist felt his heart beating faster.

"I thought you'd forgotten." Clicking off her phone, Leonard felt like a young boy before her. "You look beautiful."

"Thanks…" Bridget turned to lock her door and place the keys in her purse. "So, where are we going to eat?"

"Do you feel like Italian?"

"I'm always in the mood for Italian." She let Leonard take her dainty hand as they headed down the stairs. In her mind, Bridget was rehearsing one more future potential conversation she was going to have this week.

"Leonard… I'm Supergirl…"

END