Previously: Sue attacked Corry at September’s dance, claiming she did it for Julie. A time trip to help Lee’s sister led to questions about what triggers Carrie’s temporal headaches.
3.12a: POWER STRUGGLE 1
The morning jogger stopped and turned at the sound of crackling energy. He frowned as it ceased. There were no power lines near that bridge, were there? So what was that all about? “Hallo?” Lars called out. He began to jog back. “Is anyvun…”
Lars stopped as the girl stepped out from the shadows. She hadn’t been there a moment ago, surely. The red dress the teenager wore looked to be a pretty good match for her short red hair, so she would have been pretty hard to miss. But then where had she come from? The energy? He watched in confusion as the girl looked around, before affixing her gaze upon him. She approached.
“I require transportation,” the redhead stated, a hard edge to her voice. “You will drive me.” And somehow, there was more to her voice than an edge, the girl’s tone seemed so compelling that it removed any trace of resistance Lars felt to her request.
“Ah, vhere you vant to go?” the jogger replied. She merely smiled.
On that same Thursday morning, Principal Hunt arrived at his high school a full hour before classes started. He proceeded directly to his office, where he sat down, opened his lower drawer, and pulled out four files. His eyes scanned down the tabs as he set them on his desk: Corry Veniti. Julie LaMille. Tommy Kvish. Joseph Drew. All of them seniors, all of them polarizing forces within the school, directly or indirectly. Hence the reason for keeping his own separate records.
“Pity I can’t suspend the lot of them for the next two days,” the principal mused, turning his chair to look out the window. “But of course, we have no evidence of their wrongdoing.” He rubbed his forehead. There was also the fact that, even if he COULD suspend them, he likely wouldn’t. As a general rule, he disliked the idea of sending students away from the education they often so desperately needed. Not that he’d ever tip his hand by saying so.
There was a knock on the open door. Hunt glanced at his clock. Right on time. “Come in and close the door behind you,” he said, turning back around.
Melanie Willis did so. “You wanted my opinion on something?”
Hunt gestured for the school’s music teacher to sit, then folded his hands on his desk. “Indeed. As you have expressed some interest in a more administrative position in the future, I’m curious to get your read on the school atmosphere over the past two weeks.”
“You mean ever since Sue Simmons’ outburst at the dance?” Melanie inquired, smoothing her dress. Hunt nodded. She seemed to consider before responding. “It’s made a target of Corry Veniti. Other senior students are realizing that he’s not untouchable. They’re thinking they have a shot at dethroning him in the social order, claiming his status, maybe even becoming valedictorian themselves.”
She was good. But then, he wouldn’t have brought her in here if he hadn’t already believed they were on similar wavelengths. “And when do you think the hammer will fall?”
“Hard to say, but I’m going to guess soon. Otherwise why would you talk to me now?”
Hunt smiled. “In fact, I think it will be today. Or perhaps tomorrow. Certainly this week, a week which was already shortened due to Thanksgiving Monday. People’s guards are down, and acting shortly before a weekend will prevent immediate retaliation.”
Melanie sat back in her chair. “Whereas the longer they wait, the greater the risk that a rival gains the coup first,” she mused. “All right. So what can I do to help?”
“Be a sounding board as I run through the likely suspects. Let me know if you’ve seen anything going on that I might have missed.”
The music teacher nodded. She then reached out to tap the folder belonging to Tommy Kvish. “I can tell you right away that he’s trouble. Corry always kept him honest, but the falling out over Sue getting into that band? It’s had Tommy pushing at the envelope for months, with students and faculty alike. I could see things getting physical with him.”
Hunt nodded. “What do you think has been holding him back?”
Melanie shrugged. “Educated guess, he’s not sure how much support he’ll be able to pull from within Corry’s ranks. I think he has more than he realizes.” She eyed the other folders. “I don’t know Joseph.”
Dell Hunt picked the folder up. “Never a problem until that flyer about Julie appeared last November. Since then, he’s been trying to amass support towards drumming Julie and/or Corry out of school. Most of his initial support was from Julie’s supporters in the school, likely people who were blackmailed in the same way he claims he was. His attempts stalled early on, but he’s recently gained more support from junior students in his clubs this term.” He set the folder back down. “Corry, I think we both have a handle on.”
Melanie nodded. She seemed to want to say something else, so Hunt gestured at her. “Please, speak your mind.”
“I can’t help but wonder – why did you allow the Corry and Julie feud to go on for as long as it did? I mean, if the flyer Corry engineered was true, and over the years Julie was scheming she got to the point of blackmail…” Her voice trailed off.
Hunt sighed. “I didn’t know the LaMille girl had sunk to that. I did know it was in my best interests to give those two certain latitude in their shenanigans. Consider, they were never violent, and they rarely disrupted daily school business. What’s more, as neither of them were smokers or drug users, they rarely tolerated such behaviour from the people who wanted to associate with them. In fact, the more the student body became polarized towards them, the more rule breaking incidents actually went DOWN.”
“Hm,” Melanie Willis mused. “Never thought about it that way.”
“That said, I may have erred in my analysis back then. Julie LaMille did suffer for it. I cannot afford to do make that mistake this time.” Dell looked down at Julie’s folder.
At least she was in counselling now. He could still remember how she had looked in this very office, nearly a year ago, practically begging him to sign the school over to her. All because of some internal struggle Julie had been having with her parents. Could he have anticipated that? Should the family domestic being the only point of contact have been a red flag to him?
“Do you think Julie’s still a threat then?” Melanie asked, breaking into his thoughts. “I mean, the other three make sense to me now, but why also have her folder out?”
Hunt looked back up. “It’s more due to people who might act on her behalf. As Susan Simmons did. For instance, there’s Philip Clarke, perhaps even Carrie Waterson who would advocate for her.” He separated out the folders. “Thus we have four factions… and at least one of them will act against Corry, or each other. Likely today. But who will act first, and what will they do?”
“What about Megan Falls?”
The principal kept his face neutral. “Who?”
“Megan Falls. Not a senior, a year behind them. But lots of the younger students who were once backing Julie have gravitated her way. As well as the new freshmen this year. After all, Megan is rather pretty, and personable. But she’s also devious, in that she’s good at deflecting attention and playing innocent. In fact…” Melanie paused.
“Go on,” Hunt insisted.
The music teacher sighed. “Far be it from me to spread rumours. But there has been some talk that Megan is the one who initially encouraged Sue to remove Corry from the social hierarchy. Claiming to Sue that it would be in Julie’s best interests.”
Dell Hunt raised an eyebrow. “Oh my.”
“Exactly. So our school doesn’t have four factions. By including Megan, it has five.”
Hunt steepled his fingers. “Very well then. I’ll open a new file on Megan. Meaning five groups of teenagers, all vying for final control. What do you think that I, a mere principal, can do to stabilize such a situation?”
She had to tap Corry on the shoulder a second time before he turned towards her. “Yes?” he sighed.
“We need to talk. Now. Before class starts,” Julie stated.
“I think not.” Corry looked back down at his homework.
Julie clenched her jaw. “Corry, we really have to speak. Away from everybody else in here. Right NOW,” she insisted.
His look this time was visibly irritated. “Julie, I don’t think–”
“Dammit Corry I saved your life at the last dance so you will listen to me now!” the brunette hissed. “We… need… to… talk!”
Corry froze, and for a moment Julie wondered if she hadn’t pushed him too far. But then he rose and headed back for the busy hallway, motioning to her over his shoulder. She hurried after him, glancing at the clock as she passed – still three minutes before the final bell. Once outside of the room Julie opened her mouth to speak, but this time Corry beat her to it.
“Don’t you ever, EVER speak to me like that again!” he said in cold fury. “Because in case you forgot, I spent four days in the past, trudging around Illinois for you. And I’ve been keeping a lot of nasty people off your case ever since you returned to school! Anything you’ve done for me since doesn’t even come CLOSE to settling the score!!”
With effort, Julie bit back the first response that came to her mind. Along with the second, and the third. “I’m sorry,” she yielded. “But PLEASE listen. Joe Drew is coming after you today, and according to a reliable source, he’s going to do it by implicating me too. We have to stop him.”
Corry snorted. “Please. Joe Drew, the business and chess club guy? He’s a dreamer, and the axe he grinds is rarely levelled anywhere specific. What ‘reliable sources’ are you yammering about?”
This time Corry outright laughed. “Kim? The chess nerd with the huge glasses?”
“Yes. She used to be a follower of mine,” Julie continued doggedly. “Apparently she’s since hooked up with Joe. But she had some qualms about what he was planning to do today, thus talked to me after I arrived at school.”
“Oh dearie me. What, is Joe going to make it look like you helped me cheat on a test or something?” Corry said.
Julie wasn’t sure if that was a jab at what she’d done to his sister Laurie or not. She decided it didn’t matter. “I don’t know exactly!” she admitted. “Kim was upset enough to speak to me, but she wouldn’t go into detail. I mean, monitoring threats is supposed to be your department. It’s not like I have the power to do that any more!”
“As it should be,” Corry countered. “Especially given these rampant attacks of paranoia you’re having! I’m going back into class now. Please don’t bother me again today.”
Julie clenched her fists as Corry turned his back on her. “Your overconfidence will be your downfall!” she called after him. Corry paused briefly, yet did not bother to turn as he passed back through the classroom doors.
“Jerk,” Julie whispered after him. The anger she felt towards Corry was quickly burning itself out though – because despite his current attitude, he had been right. He’d done SO much for her the past few months. More than she could have ever imagined from the guy a year ago.
So, the onus was on her now. To return the favour. To get Corry out of trouble. She couldn’t do that alone though, not if she’d correctly read Kim’s state of mind. So, who could she turn to for help?
If you missed Sunday’s Commentary, yes, we’ve gone Semi-Weekly.