PART 22: LOCKER UP
“Chartreuse? Golly, Chartreuse, are you okay??”
The pink haired girl blinked her eyes open to see Laurie kneeling next to her. Laurie had a hand upon her shoulder, and had been shaking her. Sunlight streamed in through the bedroom window. Chartreuse felt a shudder pass through her body.
“I’m… I’m okay,” Chartreuse murmured, pushing herself up into a sitting position. “I…” The memories of the previous night flooded back to her and her stomach wrenched. “Excuse me,” Chartreuse managed to get out, even as she stumbled to her feet and ran for the bathroom.
She emerged some minutes later, having cleaned herself up following a reencounter with the previous night’s dinner. “Chartreuse, I don’t think you’re okay,” Laurie observed, moving to offer physical support.
Chartreuse smiled weakly. “Well, I will be. It was, you know, only a bad dream,” she assured.
Laurie frowned. “Don’t even. I saw your vision stones out on the floor, it was more than a dream, wasn’t it?”
Chartreuse leaned back against her friend. “Yeah,” she admitted after a moment. “It was. I’d been picking up, like, bad vibes. I wanted to figure out where they were coming from.”
“Golly, Chartreuse, it wasn’t a deep vision, you did, was it? I thought you’d given up doing real deep vision encounters, aren’t they dangerous, didn’t you say something about them being dangerous or painful or something sometime?”
“It’s fine if you know what you’re doing,” Chartreuse interjected. “But yeah, it’s been a while – that’s probably why I’m having the bad reaction.”
Laurie reached out to take Chartreuse’s hand, squeezing. “Are you sure that’s all? I mean, you didn’t see anything bad, did you?”
Chartreuse resisted the urge to collapse back to the floor, instead offering up a cheery smile. She couldn’t burden her friend with this. Not until she had more information. “Nothing you need to worry about, Laurie. Come on, we should, you know, get ready for breakfast and school and stuff.”
“You SURE you’re sure…?”
Chartreuse nodded. “Your mom still make the best pancakes on the block?” Gesturing the way back to Laurie’s room, she followed her friend as the redhead launched into a soliloquy about the aforementioned pancakes. Thank goodness Laurie seemed to be feeling better. It allowed Chartreuse to think about something else. Namely, the people who might be able to provide her with the necessary additional information.
“I d-don’t understand,” Tim murmured. “You’re worried about a locker?”
Chartreuse nodded. After taking a full day to think things over, she had called Luci and Tim on Monday evening, getting both of them to meet her in the school library before Tuesday classes. Where she had explained to them about her vision Sunday night. To a point.
The mere thought of the gun spooked her, so Chartreuse was holding out hope that they’d be able to avoid that outcome by playing the locker situation the right way. “A locker will be majorly important in the coming days, for sure,” Chartreuse reiterated.
Tim sighed. “I kind of thought this stuff would end after the dance.”
“Whose locker did you see?” Luci piped up.
“I don’t know,” Chartreuse admitted. “It’s never that easy to, you know, see details. But I’m betting that it’s either Julie’s or Carrie’s since they’re at, like, the centre of Corry’s wrath.”
Luci leaned forwards. “Well, from what I know of Corry, he would target Carrie first. There’s more signs pointing to her, and there’s some question as to whether Julie will even stick up for her associate.”
“B-But Chartreuse didn’t see Carrie in the vision,” Tim put forth. “Only Corry and Julie. And if Julie was removing something from the locker, it could have been hers.”
Chartreuse began rolling one of her crystals between her fingers, trying to keep her mind focused. “I don’t know if there’s any way to tell. There’s also the question of whether Julie was removing the same thing Corry stuck in. I think so? But I’m not sure.”
“Which raises the question of what was left for the teacher to find,” Luci remarked.
“Isn’t there anything you can say for sure?” Tim wondered.
Chartreuse bobbed her head. “Oh yeah! I’m sure we’re heading for, like, real deep, dark places… so is there any way we could all, you know, make discrete inquiries? Or at least keep an eye on both lockers for the rest of this week?” She smiled hopefully.
Tim ran a hand back through his blonde curls. “If w-we know this stuff, how about confronting Julie or Corry with it? Get them to stop that w-way?”
“They’re more likely to simply change their strategy if we call them out,” Luci countered. “Julie in particular seems to have lots of backup plans in place. To the point where the dance outcome might have been inevitable.”
“We cannot lose our advantage,” Chartreuse agreed. “So we’ve gotta be, like, sneaky, sorta. But… Tim’s right. This is turning into a longer term commitment. That wasn’t my original deal. So, if either of you want to cut out here, that’s, you know, all right.” Chartreuse tried to keep the disappointment out of her tone; she had the feeling she was less than successful.
Luci and Tim exchanged a glance. “Well,” Luci began, “I’m willing to continue on. Except…” Her face clouded. “Carrie had a falling out with Frank over the weekend. He told me he tried calling her last night, and she wouldn’t even take the call. So I’m not sure I’ll be as much help as you originally thought.”
Chartreuse nodded, eyeing the soothing sparkles within her crystal. “Well, your input will still be, you know, valuable,” she said with a sigh. “I mean, it’s not your fault that Carrie can get like that.” When Luci’s face clouded even more, Chartreuse shifted her attention to Tim. “How about you?”
Tim squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. “I-I-I’m not used to groups,” he explained. “But if this is really as important as you say, I… I guess I can keep helping out.”
Chartreuse smiled. “Thanks guys. If we stick together, I know we can beat this! Or, you know, minimize the damage.” She reached out her hand towards the others in imitation of her gesture from Friday. “Here’s to us then, the 2DEGS! Still together!”
Luci placed her palm on top of Chartreuse’s. Tim hesitated. “There’s… maybe one more thing,” he said.
Chartreuse withdrew her hand. “What is it, Tim?”
“A-At the dance…” He stopped. “You’ll think I’m nuts.”
“No, we won’t,” Chartreuse assured. “I mean, hey, you’re talking to someone who reads auras and sees the future. I’m, like, as nuts as you get!” She winked at him.
Tim smiled weakly. “I guess. Except, well, no, but… okay. Know when everyone’s attention was drawn to that blow out between Corry and Carrie at the dance? Well, I was trying NOT to look… and so I swear I saw Carrie slipping out of the cafeteria, over by the stage.”
“What, you mean, like, after they argued?”
“No. During,” Tim explained. “As if there were two Carries there. Dressed differently. Which I KNOW sounds nuts and I wouldn’t even bring it up – if Clarke hadn’t had a similar experience a few weeks ago.” Tim paused again.
“He did?” Chartreuse prompted.
Tim bit his lip. “Promise not to tell this to anyone else??”
Chartreuse nodded, then glanced over towards Luci, who was still frowning. Off a gentle nudge with her elbow, Luci nodded too.
“Well, as I say, this was a couple weeks back,” Tim continued. “Clarke went to the drug store for me on his lunch, to pick up some over the counter medication. While there, he ran into Carrie, looking sick. Yet at the same time, Carrie was apparently also having lunch here in the cafeteria, and was not sick.”
“So there’s been two cases of two Carries,” Chartreuse summarized.
Tim nodded. “Clarke thought he had made a mistake, and he told me not to mention it to anyone else after having some conversation with Julie. I’d even forgotten about it until what I saw Friday. I only mention it now in case it’s relevant to your… your apocalypse thing. So don’t tell anyone else, please! I don’t want Clarke to be in trouble!”
Chartreuse smiled again. “Your secret’s safe with this group!” She turned to Luci. “What do you make of that?” Their youngest member remained silent. “Luci?”
“Oh! Sorry,” Luci apologized, squirming in her chair. “Well, um, it could be someone’s dressing up like a duplicate to cause mischief? I agree that not saying anything is by far the wisest course.”
Chartreuse nodded. “Okay. Let’s all keep our eyes peeled though, ‘k?” She repeated her earlier hand motion, and this time the three of them touched palms.
The next couple of days passed without incident. Chartreuse was on pins and needles throughout. She had seen Julie go into Carrie’s locker a couple of times, while Luci had observed Corry fiddling with the lock on Julie’s locker the other day. By Thursday morning, Chartreuse was trying to use logic: If Corry was going to strike against someone this week, he would wait until Friday, to avoid the chance of immediate retaliation. Meaning he would hit Thursday if they thought he’d be waiting until Friday! Or did that mean nothing would happen until next Monday?
Damn it, last time she’d known the when but not the what, this time she knew the what but not the when! She could hardly find out through Laurie either, since Laurie was still innocent of all the goings on, bless her heart. At least the gossip around the school with regards to the dance had started dying down, with more suspicions having been directed towards Corry than Carrie. Even less so towards Julie, perhaps due to the brunette saying relatively little. Chartreuse and the 2DEGs had to nip this madness in the bud!
It was last period on Thursday when Chartreuse spotted two fingers waving frantically from beside the door frame of the music room. The group symbol she’d thought up. The funny honking noise that came out of Chartreuse’s clarinet at the sight was enough to attract the attention of their instructor. “Mrs. Willis!” Chartreuse said quickly. “I, like, need to get another reed from my locker.”
Their music teacher glanced at the clock. “The school day’s almost over, Chartreuse. Don’t worry about it.”
“I really need, er, at least a drink though, you know?” Chartreuse countered, coughing.
“Oh, very well,” Mrs. Willis sighed.
Chartreuse hurried out the door, pretending to go for the fountain. “Tim? What’s going on?” she muttered as she spotted him. They moved a bit further down the hall.
“I’m cutting class,” Tim replied, looking disturbed. “I’m supposed to be in Geography, Clarke’s probably wondering if anything’s happened to me by now.”
“Tim! Is this, like, something to do with the locker?” Chartreuse pressed. She now recalled that, at the beginning of the music period, Corry had needed to return to his locker to get his music. Of course, a perfect opportunity! All Chartreuse could say in her defence was that apparently Luci, who was also in their class, hadn’t picked up on his action either.
Tim nodded in reply. “Yeah. I noticed Julie was out of class for at least fifteen minutes at one point. It occurred to me that maybe she knew something, so I figured why not, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and went by both Carrie and Julie’s lockers. Just to see. One of the science teachers was at Carrie’s, and as I went by I saw him take something out of it.” Tim shifted his weight back and forth uneasily.
“Nuts!” Chartreuse cursed. “Then we’ve missed it! Did you at least notice what the something was?”
Tim nodded again. “Mr. Fisk tried to hide it from me and g-got upset that I was in the hallways between class, but I saw. It… it was a little bag of drugs, Chartreuse. Like, an assortment of p-prescription medications.”
Chartreuse felt her throat go truly dry. “Dear God,” she whispered. “What are we going to do about that?”
The public address system came on with closing announcements for the day. The very first one was a request for Carrie Waterson and Julie LaMille to come to the principal’s office immediately. Tim bit his lip. “Apparently, nothing,” he observed.
“I wonder what the hell this is about,” Carrie groused to Julie as the two of them walked to the office. “Do you think it’s Corry’s doing?”
“Yes. I do.”
Something in Julie’s tone made Carrie stop in her tracks and turn towards her friend. “Julie… you know what’s going on here?”
“Yes. I do.”
Carrie frowned slightly. “Well, care to let me in on things before we face ol’ Hunt?”
Julie stopped a few paces away and turned back to face Carrie. Her eyes were cold and unfeeling. “No. I don’t,” she said simply.
Carrie felt a shudder run down her back. She forced out a smile. “Uh, Julie? You’re starting to unnerve me here.”
Julie didn’t bat an eyelash. “Yes. I am.”
Carrie visibly flinched. “Julie, what’s going on? I thought things were getting back to normal between us.”
“Yes. You did.”
“Damn it, will you stop that?!”
“You know what! Speaking so… so terse and ominously! What’s going on? What’s about to happen?!”
Julie appeared to size up Carrie for a moment. “Let me tell you a story, Carrie,” she began slowly. “There was once a very powerful wizard. This wizard had an apprentice.”
“One day,” Julie continued undaunted, “the apprentice was tempted away from the wizard’s castle. However, the girl quickly realized the error of her ways and returned, seeking the wizard’s forgiveness. The wizard, being a kind sort, took the apprentice back in.”
“And they lived happily ever after?” Carrie offered. She attempted to follow up her comment with a laugh but the intensity behind Julie’s stare caused the noise to die in her throat.
“No,” Julie stated. “The apprentice then stabbed the wizard in the back, deciding she’d really preferred that other way of life after all. Demonstrating the true danger of trust, and the folly of the wizard in not striking first.” She took a deep breath. “Carrie, you’ve changed. You will get no help from me in this affair against Corry. It’s really a pity you weren’t more up front with me from the very beginning.”
“Julie, this isn’t funny.”
“No. It’s not.”
“Hey, pipe down in the hall please, the bell hasn’t quite rung yet,” came the annoyed voice of a teacher, poking his head out of a nearby classroom.
“We’re moving on,” Julie assured, spinning on her heel and continuing towards the office.
“Julie… Julie, wait, you were called to the office too,” Carrie pointed out, hurrying to catch up. “You’ve been implicated! What are you going to do about that?”
“Nothing. I’ve been called in due to a slightly different personal matter.”
“You sound awful sure of that.”
“Yes. I am.”
The chill Carrie felt seemed to be taking up permanent residence inside her. “You knew what Corry would do,” she realized. “Yet you never had any intention of helping me get out of it.” Julie said nothing. “For how long have you felt this way towards me, Julie, since Sunday? Longer? Why, Julie?! We’ve been friends for two years! Why are you ending it this way, why didn’t you just tell me it was over on the weekend??” Julie merely kept walking, so Carrie reached out to grab her by the arm. “Damn it, Julie, I deserve an answer!”
Julie turned, and something about her stance made Carrie not only release the brunette but take a physical step back. “If you must know,” Julie said coolly, “The reasoning was simple.” The corners of her mouth turned up. “Doing it this way allows me to see the priceless expression you’ve got on your face.”
The bell rang signifying the end of the school day.
“What’s going on, Corry?” Luci said, looking at him pointedly as the two of them finished cleaning and putting away their flutes. “Are you responsible for Carrie and Julie being called to the office?” There had to be something amiss, given how Chartreuse had yet to return from her supposed drink.
Corry smirked. “What business is that of yours?” he retorted. Luci opened her mouth to reply, but Corry cut her off with a wave of his hand. “I’m not saying anything. Word about this stuff always gets out, you’ll have to wait along with everyone else.” Luci frowned as he turned his back to her.
Continuing to ignore her, Corry closed the case on his instrument, gathered up his music and books, headed for the door, and in his continued efforts to avoid her gaze, managed to trip over Lee’s music stand. Luci then allowed herself a small smile.
Carrie was summoned into the principal’s office first, as Julie took a seat outside. The blonde knew Mr. Hunt’s reputation for being both fair and compassionate, but there was also a strict side to his personality. His strict face was firmly in place as Carrie sat down across from him.
“Ms. Waterson,” he began, folding his hands upon his desk. “A matter of some importance has been brought to my attention. First, I must inform you that a search was performed upon your locker. It is school property, as per the agreement listed in your agenda.”
Still feeling a bit numb from her discussion with Julie, Carrie simply nodded.
“That said, is there anything you would like to tell me?”
“Uh… I’ve been set up?” Carrie ventured.
The corners of the principal’s mouth twitched. “Do you know what was found?” he asked. Carrie shook her head, so he reached into the drawer of his desk, produced a small plastic bag, and set it down. Her eyes widened. “Now, I know of no medical condition which requires you to have any one of these pills with you, let alone a mix like this. That said, it appears that there are no substances in there which are actually illegal. So while I am obligated to inform the school’s police liaison and guidance counsellor, there is still a chance we can resolve this matter internally. You have one chance to explain how these came to be in your possession. I suggest you use it to tell the truth.”
“Sir,” Carrie said, mind spinning. “I swear to you that I have never seen that bag before.”
Mr. Hunt leaned forwards. “Ms. Waterson, I want to help you here. But unless you tell me the truth…”
“Honest! The stuff isn’t mine, sir! I think it was planted there by–” Carrie caught herself in time. If it was indeed Corry’s doing, he was sure to have some way of dissociating himself from the act. And finger pointing would only make things worse for her among her peers.
“It… nevermind, sir.” She straightened her posture and looked the principal right in the eye, trying to keep her body from shaking. “But I swear to you that those pills are not mine. I don’t know how they got into my locker.”
Mr. Hunt regarded Carrie silently for a moment. “I’m not sure why, but I’m inclined to believe you,” he remarked. “Nevertheless, this is a very serious matter, particularly in light of what took place at last week’s dance. Another event in which you had some involvement, as I recall?” Carrie could only nod. “So, I cannot allow you to go unpunished. You are definitively facing detention, and probably a suspension – unless some better explanation is forthcoming?”
Carrie slumped back in her chair. She wished she could think of something more to say. Then again, what was the use? Her life had essentially collapsed down into nothing. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to slam her fist through a wall, wring both Corry and Julie’s necks, or simply crawl into a hole and die.
“Well then,” Mr. Hunt concluded. “If you have nothing further to add, I regret to inform…” He paused as there was a slight commotion outside. Then Chartreuse burst through the door to his office.
“Sir!” the pink haired girl said breathlessly. “It’s my fault, Mr. Hunt, sir! The drugs you found in Carrie’s locker, they’re not her’s – they’re mine!”
Both Carrie and the principal blinked back at Chartreuse, expressions of surprise and confusion upon their faces.