PART 34: SHOTS FIRED
Julie stared up the driveway to her house. Despite her earlier assurances to Clarke, she realized she was feeling more than a bit anxious. “I’m being silly,” she chastised herself. “Probably unsettled because of those storm clouds moving in.” Taking in a deep breath, she approached the front door and entered the mansion.
“I’m home,” Julie called out. “You’ll never guess what happened to me today.” Her father came around the nearest corner, heading for the front door. “Hi Dad,” Julie greeted. “Jeeves and Mimi already get the evening off?”
Her father didn’t immediately reply. Instead, he glanced outside, closed the front door, and allowed his gaze to fall upon Julie. He looked upset, but then, that was normal when it was only the two of them. Finally, he spoke. “So what in the hell have you been up to?”
Julie swallowed. “Wh-What do you mean?”
“Jeeves has been informing us of your principal’s calls to the house,” he clarified, crossing his arms. “Damn it girl, can’t you ever stay out of trouble at school? We’re running out of places to send you.”
“What did you expect, dear?” came a new voice. Julie’s mother entered the hall, idly filing her nails. “She’s your *daughter*, after all.”
“Juvenile delinquent,” her father spat out. “Well, you’ve forced the two of us to use your birthday as an excuse to come back here to handle things. I hope you’re happy.”
“N-Not exactly,” Julie said, her confidence eroding fast. “And it’s been over two years since you last heard from any school administration.”
“Meaning you haven’t been caught until now,” her mother observed, blowing on her fingertips.
Julie swallowed. “I guess,” she yielded. She had done some rather terrible things. “But… but it’s fine now. I got everything resolved with the principal today.”
Her father turned. “Did you hear that, dear?” he remarked. “She got everything resolved. Everything. There was no need for us to come home after all, our daughter somehow accounted for every last little detail.”
“Your daughter,” Julie’s mother reminded. She finally put the nail file away and came closer, directing a look towards Julie for the first time. “But you’re right. It’s good that we came. She can’t have any idea just how complicated things are in the real world, after all.”
“No, I… I d-do,” Julie stammered. “I’ve been reading and learning and… and today, today I was running the whole school,” she blurted. “Look!” Julie fumbled within her sweater, pulling out the precious agreement. However, she was developing a case of the shakes, and it slipped through her fingers before she could hand it to her father.
He reached down and scooped it up off the floor before she had time to retrieve it, letting out a sigh of exasperation in the process. Julie bowed her head, biting her lip as he scanned over the paper.
This was it then, the moment of truth. The culmination of six – seven? eight? – years of effort. So many setbacks. But now – they had to understand. They had to see that she was capable, that she was worthy of being their child, that she deserved their love and attention…
“What damn fool stunt are you trying to pull?”
Julie snapped her gaze back up. “W-w-w-what?”
“Honey, have a look at this,” her father remarked, handing over the paper. “She actually believes she was running the school today because the principal signed some agreement. Assuming it’s not forged.”
“Lovely. Something even more troublesome than usual to clear up,” said Julie’s mother dryly, scanning the paper herself.
“N-No, it’s true,” Julie assured them. “Mr. Hunt asked me about every decision today. I also kept other students from committing any violent acts. I was handling it, I was handling it all!”
Her mother sighed and pressed a hand to her temples. “Dear, you deal with this today, all right? It’s going to give me a headache, I’m sure of it. I’ll see you back in the kitchen.” She returned Julie’s signed agreement to her husband and flashed him a smile, before spinning on her heel and stalking back down the hall.
Julie’s father returned the smile before resuming his severe expression. “Now see what you’ve done to your mother?” he accused of Julie. “I hope you have a VERY good explanation as to why you did something so idiotic.”
Julie felt herself getting lightheaded. Was this even really happening? “I did it for you,” she said quietly. “Don’t you remember? When I was young, you used to tell Mom that if I’d been a son, I would have been able to run an organization before even graduating from high school. So, even though I’m not a son, I… I did it. I ran the high school. So doesn’t that document prove to you that I’m every bit as good as a son would be?”
“What?” Her father shook his head. “Leave it to a girl to take things too literally,” he concluded. “I mean honestly, what WAS going through that empty head of yours?”
“I… I…” Julie swallowed, no longer sure what to say.
“Let me show you how important this little piece of paper is,” her father concluded. With that, he tore the document in half.
Julie felt like she was being torn in two. “Dad, no!” she choked out, reaching out towards him. Her father simply stepped back, out of reach, and then he tore again, and again.
Julie fell to her knees. The document she’d signed with the principal that morning was soon scattered on the floor like so much confetti. A tear ran down her cheek. “No…”
“I will deal with this situation now,” her father concluded. “Pray that it’s not as bad as it sounds. You will go to your room. Make sure I don’t see your face again tonight.” With that, he turned and walked away.
Julie was left behind, a crumpled mess on the floor.
The ‘play room’ was a shambles. Her maps had been torn from the walls, file cabinets had been tipped over, electronic gadgets had been thrown against the floor, a couple of legs had even been snapped off of the central table.
In the middle of the room stood Julie, breathing hard.
Interestingly, she didn’t feel angry. Or sad. If anything, she felt numb. And not the happy, lightheaded numbness from earlier today, it was… well, nothing. Emptiness. Complete and utter void.
Julie sank back down to the ground. Destroying this room, it had felt like the right thing to do. Perhaps she should start a fire too, to burn up all of the useless information she’d accumulated. But no, such a blaze could prove dangerous. Dangerous.
The thought of her doing something dangerous struck Julie as funny, so she laughed. Later, she stopped. Then she fell back onto the ground in a completely prone position.
“All for nothing. All of it,” the brunette whispered. She wondered if that was funny or not. Should she giggle? She couldn’t decide. Instead, she let her head fall to the side.
An item caught her eye, and she realized that during her destructive rampage, it must have fallen out of the lower drawer of the file cabinets. Julie crawled over towards it, then looked down upon the smiling faces of her mother and father. She traced her finger over the glass. A tear splashed down.
Then the glass covering the image cracked as the picture was thrown forcibly against the wall. “Should have stayed in that cabinet,” Julie shrieked at the object, hands clenching into fists. “We were both better off!”
She curled up into a ball on the floor for a while.
Gradually, she became conscious of something poking her in the side. It was starting to get annoying, so Julie decided to see what it was. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small neatly wrapped package. That’s right, Clarke had given it to her earlier that day.
“Happy birthday to me,” Julie murmured. She decided to stop staring at the package long enough to sit back up and remove the wrapping paper.
Inside she found a silver brooch in the shape of a rose. “So pretty,” Julie gasped. She pinned it onto her sweater. “He really shouldn’t have though,” she said sadly. “He’s too good to me…”
“You’re not half as bad as you think you are.”
Julie spun. “Phil?” she breathed. When did he get here?
“You are SO strong, Julie. Stronger than I realized.”
How could he be standing there behind her?! It didn’t matter. Julie stumbled to her feet. “Phil,” she repeated.
“This conversation isn’t over yet, okay?” Clarke continued. “In the meantime, here’s something to remember me by.”
Julie reached out for him, but the image of Clarke faded from view before she made contact. She stumbled and fell against the wall. “Wow. Now you’re hallucinating, you idiot,” she breathed. Her fingers traced over the silver brooch. Well, at least he was going to call her.
“He’ll call, that’s right,” Julie gasped, head snapping back up. What had she done with her phone?! She’d left it upstairs before sneaking down here, so as not to damage it, or get it confiscated. She was making so many bad decisions today! “I’ve got to make sure I can answer the phone,” she gasped.
Julie sprinted out of her play room, back upstairs. She didn’t know if talking to Phil Clarke would do any good. She didn’t even know if the phone had already rung that night – was it even night yet? It seemed to be raining outside. She found her phone. Less than two hours had passed. Clarke hadn’t phoned yet. Should she phone him? No. Too needy.
She waited, her finger over the button to accept the next call. Her hands were shaking. She made them stop. It was fine. He would call. He had to call. Please, he had to call. He had to know she was waiting for him now. Right? Please?
When the phone rang, Julie hit answer before seeing who it was. “Phil?” she breathed. “Phil, are you there?”
It wasn’t him. It was an older male voice. Someone she didn’t recognize.
“Julie, don’t hang up,” the voice continued. “Okay?”
Julie bit her lip. “O-kay?” she said tentatively.
“You are going to do something for me now. Listen carefully. You are going to sneak out of your house, and meet me at the corner of Parkside and Erb. You will receive further instructions there. Do you understand?”
“I will receive further instructions at Parkside and Erb,” Julie acknowledged, feeling a curious fog in her brain. “What… what instructions? What’s going on?”
“You are not ready for answers yet. All in good… time.”
“I am not ready for answers yet. All in good time,” Julie repeated back.
“You will receive further instructions at Parkside and Erb.”
“I will receive further instructions at Parkside and Erb.”
“You will go there now.”
“I will go there now,” Julie confirmed, feeling her body swaying from side to side.
Julie obediently hung up the phone and went to find her jacket. Her parents didn’t notice when she left.
“Oh, shoot,” Luci muttered.
Chartreuse glanced over at her companion. “What’s wrong?”
“I took some music out of my bag to look over while waiting at Frank’s, and I never put it back in,” Luci sighed. “You go on ahead, I’m going to run back and get it.”
“You can always, like, look on with someone else,” Chartreuse pointed out.
“Yeah, but my music has all my little pencil markings on it,” Luci noted. “Anyway, it’s not raining that hard now, and it’ll only take me, what, ten extra minutes? I’ll meet back up with you at practice.”
Chartreuse shrugged. “Okay, see you there then.”
Frank set the pencil back down. “So that’s the equation you come up with,” he concluded. “Understand?”
Carrie leaned against her hand. “No,” she admitted, eyeing the page. “What’s the x mean?”
“That’s the length of the ladder.”
“Uh huh. Remind me, why do we use x?”
Frank shrugged. “Why not x? Doesn’t matter. We have to solve for something.”
Carrie drummed the fingers of her free hand against the table. “If you ask me, using x is a stupid system. It always makes me think of multiplication.”
“Well, you can pick another letter if it makes you happy,” Frank said with a smile. The doorbell rang, diverting his attention. “One of the others must have forgotten something,” he remarked, glancing at the clock. “Be right back.”
“Okay,” Carrie decided. “While you do that, I’m going to trig this thing up again using h.”
“You do that,” Frank said as he walked out of the sitting room. The grin on his face faded as he opened the front door. “Julie?” Frank greeted.
“Carrie still here?” the brunette asked blankly.
“Er, well, yeah… Julie, your hair’s dripping wet, don’t you have an umbrella?”
“I must see Carrie,” Julie said. She pushed her way past Frank and advanced into the hall.
“Um, come in? Julie, what’s going on?” Frank wondered, closing the door and hurrying after her. Julie stopped at the entryway to the sitting room.
“Julie!” Carrie said, standing up as she caught sight of the visitor.
“Carrie Waterson,” Julie responded evenly.
The two girls stared at each other across the room. Frank hesitated, not sure whether to intercede or not.
“Look Julie,” Carrie said at last. “I hope you’re not coming to me with any thoughts of restarting our friendship. Because honestly, I think you got exactly what you deserved today. Heck, now that I’ve started to get my life back together, I couldn’t care less about you. So, know what? It’s probably in both of our best interests for you to turn around, and walk back out through that front door.”
Julie didn’t bat an eyelash. “Shut up,” she said calmly. She drew the gun out from underneath her jacket, aimed, and pulled the trigger.
Carrie stumbled back a step, reflexively bringing her hand up to her side. Her eyes dropped down to the redness that was starting to stain her shirt. “Then again, maybe we can negotiate,” she gurgled out, before collapsing down onto the floor.
“CARRIE!” Frank’s voice screamed. She heard him running into the room, and then he was pulling her back up into something of a seated position, leaning her against the table. “Carrie, are you all right? Speak to me!”
“I… I seem to be bleeding,” Carrie murmured, pulling up her shirt to see. She tried to apply pressure to the wound. The gunshot wound. Wow. They hadn’t covered this yet in health class…
“What? What happened?” someone gasped – Julie gasped?
“What HAPPENED? YOU JUST SHOT CARRIE, DAMN YOU!”
“Frank, don’t upset the crazy person,” Carrie suggested. Okay, talking hurt now. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“N-n-no,” Julie whimpered. Carrie reopened her eyes, in time to see that her former friend was now staring at the gun as if she was seeing it for the first time. That didn’t make much sense. However, when Carrie saw Frank rising to his feet out of the corner of her eye, Julie quickly cocked the weapon back up at him. “D-D-Don’t move,” Julie warned.
Unlike before, the gun was now wobbling all over the place. Then again, Carrie decided it was equally possible that her vision was wobbling all over the place. Should she call 911? Wow, yeah, someone should definitely do that…
As if reading her mind, Frank said, “Julie, let me get my phone out. Carrie needs medical attention.”
“This is not how my birthday was supposed to go,” Julie gasped. With that, Carrie decided that both of them were shaking. “This is NOT how my birthday was supposed to go. This IS NOT how…”
“Julie, put that gun down, so we can straighten all of this out,” Frank suggested.
“NO!” Julie shrieked. Her head snapped from side to side. “I’ll fix this,” she declared. “I’ll fix it all. Where’s your time machine?”
“I KNOW you have one! Carrie told me all about it, you MUST have fixed it by now, so WHERE IS IT?”
The brunette was not longer whimpering but practically screaming, while holding the gun in both hands. Even that wasn’t helping to keep it steady. Heck, Julie’s whole form was starting to look blurry. Wait, no, Carrie realized everything was getting blurry…
“D-Downstairs,” Frank said.
“Downstairs,” Julie repeated. She swallowed. “I know how to make everything better. I never should have been born.”
“NO!” Julie shrieked again. “I can’t LIVE like this any more!”
She fired the gun a second time. Frank stumbled back as the bullet slammed into the carpeting somewhere by his feet, and Julie took the opportunity to run out of the room.
It was as Carrie heard the new voice calling out from the front of the house that she discovered her unfocussed gaze was drifting up towards the ceiling.
That was Luci’s voice! “In here,” Frank called out to her.
“Frank, I came in because I thought I heard a… holy geez!” Luci gasped out as she rounded the corner and spotted both him and Carrie.
“Julie’s gone crazy and she’s after the time machine,” Frank explained to her, fumbling with his phone. “See if you can tell what she’s doing as I call Carrie an ambulance, but BE CAREFUL. Julie got herself a gun from somewhere.”
Luci nodded wordlessly, and ducked back out of the room.
Frank finished dialling 911, requesting aid for a gunshot wound, and giving them his address. He winced, as he now recalled that their time machine was sitting out in plain view, on his lab bench.
“Frank?” he heard Carrie rasp. “Frank, it’s getting cold. Did your parents not pay the heating bill?”
Frank pulled the phone away from his mouth. “Yes, Carrie,” he replied, tears stinging at his eyes. “But we’ll get it fixed, so you make sure you stay conscious until then, okay? You promise me you’ll stay conscious!”
“Okay,” Carrie agreed quietly. “Okay, yeah… I’ll… try… that……”
“You won’t just try, you WILL,” Frank pleaded. He saw movement by the entranceway, and whirled towards the source.
“It’s me,” Luci said, raising her hands.
“She’s… gone,” Luci admitted quietly. “I saw her grab about half of our notes, take a coin for a particular year from your collection and then she activated the time machine. I’m not even sure what time period she selected.”
Frank ran a hand back through his hair. “From what she said, I’ve got a pretty good guess,” he admitted. “But… without the machine, we can’t follow her.”
“Right.” Luci swallowed. “So… so what do we do?”
Sirens began to wail outside. “I wish I knew,” Frank replied. “I really wish I knew.”