Virga: Entry 1c

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1c

“And that’s it,” Melissa concluded, having laid out the tale of how she met Danielle. She cocked her head to the side. “And I don’t think I missed out on noticing anything after all. Good.”

It took me a moment to find my voice. “All right, wait, hold on, did I hear you right? Are you saying there’s some sort of bomb in the physics building that’s going to go off this weekend??”

Melissa nodded. “Probably in the evening on Saturday. Or rather, this evening, seeing as I guess it’s already early Saturday morning.”

“And you’re OKAY with that?” I demanded. I was incredulous.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Of course not,” she sighed back. “Given your good memory, I’ll have to assume you weren’t listening. I DID say that altering the new residence plans and moving physics into engineering wasn’t an ideal situation.”

“But… but you told Dan we had too many buildings. And you didn’t want Danielle to tell you where this device was. Or even what she’d set the timer for!”

“Of course not. Not with Dan standing right there with us,” Melissa replied, saying it as if her reasoning was the most obvious thing in the universe.

She raised her arms over her head and stretched, an action which might have otherwise caused my gaze to wander, but I was so mixed up after what she’d been telling me that, at the time, I hardly noticed.

“I might as well go to bed,” my roommate concluded, lowering her arms again and rising from her chair. “Again, let me know if you hear anything about amulets, would you? Once your hearing improves? Though the point will be moot by about six o’clock this evening.”

“No. Melissa, you just stop right there,” I objected. “You can’t leave me hanging this way… what are you going to do about this situation? How will the amulet help? For that matter, what was the point to your question about Dan’s first tormentor?”

Melissa lifted an eyebrow. Then she smiled. “I like you, James. You’re not dismissive, you assume there’s method to my madness. And to be sure, there is.” She then waggled her finger at me. “But how do you ever expect to develop your problem solving skills if I simply give you all the answers? Anyway, I’m not a hundred percent sure about how it’s all going to wrap up, and I’d hate to look like a fool on the first case you’re witnessing. So sleep on it. Tell me what you think in the morning.”

With that, she retired to her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Feeling thoroughly exasperated, but not sure what else to do at this point, I turned off the office light and stumbled back into my own room. I glanced at my clock by the nightstand in passing. It was after three.

“Why did I let my curiosity get the better of me?” I recall groaning to myself. Surely any sane person wouldn’t have taken Melissa’s bait, no matter how pretty her smile was.

It must have taken me at least a half hour to fall asleep again.

*-*

Melissa was already gone by the time I woke up Saturday morning. (I slept in, no surprise there.) So I made myself some breakfast and tried to get some work done on one of my first university assignments.

However, my mind kept coming back to Dan, Danielle, and most of all, Melissa. What was the story with this case of hers? Ridiculous or not, it nagged at me. So, with the help of my memory, I sketched out some of the main points of the conversation from the previous night. Trying to understand where Melissa’s logic had been coming from.

I couldn’t make any sense of it. (Well, at least those notes proved useful for writing up this case.)

Exasperated, I tried approaching the conversation from Dan’s point of view, instead of Melissa’s. There, at last, I clicked into something. He really did know an awful lot about Danielle. He knew which of his friends she’d spoken to, had known of her goal to become real, knew how she’d planned on doing it, he even knew about the colour of her nail polish… yet he hadn’t seemed to know a thing about the actual setting of the explosives and the use of a timer device.

Why had that caught him off guard?

Danielle had often looked towards Dan before answering too, something Melissa had picked up on. Near the end, the supernatural detective had even asked Danielle not to think about his reaction. Could it be that Dan was still controlling her somehow? My pencil began tapping on the page.

See if you can follow my reasoning. Suppose that you have an imaginary friend who suddenly becomes real. Suppose further that he or she isn’t a mischievous spirit, but someone more like Danielle, who constantly looks to you for guidance. Would you or would you not take advantage of that fact? Ordering her to do things for your own amusement?

“Yet Danielle no longer needs his guidance,” I murmured aloud. “She set up these explosives by herself, in pursuit of a plan to become corporeal. So, if I were Dan, I might find that irritating.”

Also, he sure didn’t mention that goal of becoming real to Melissa up front. For that matter, we only had his word that Danielle’s reappearance was recent. And would a guy like that actually consult with any scientists, like he said? Again, we only had his word.

Just like that, I was seeing Dan in a whole new light.

What if Danielle wasn’t the dangerous one here? What if it was HIM? Granted, my reasoning didn’t explain everything, like why this guy was seeking to banish his imaginary companion rather than regain his control over her, or why he had chosen to come to Melissa for help in the first place.

Perhaps he’d suddenly had an attack of conscience? And was holding back information out of guilt? In which case, was Melissa trying to make him sweat a bit, to ensure that this lesson would stick? After all, she’d deduced the existence of the explosives. She might also know where they were already, and how to deal with them.

Resolving to ask my roommate about it, I finally found myself able to concentrate on my homework.

*-*

“Very nice,” Melissa said, after I outlined my thinking.

She was sitting behind her desk, leaning her chin on her palms and smiling broadly at me as we discussed the situation later that afternoon. And I know I should stop injecting this colour commentary, but she really does have a pretty smile.

“I like your reasoning, James, you’ve really thought about this. And doesn’t it feel a lot better, having worked through this problem by yourself?”

“Then I’m right?” I asked eagerly.

“Eh. You’re getting there,” Melissa countered. “I’ll admit up front that I don’t know exactly where the explosives are, nor exactly when they’ll go off. And there’s still the matter of the third question I asked of Dan, hm?”

My balloon deflated somewhat. “I thought maybe you were just trying to keep him off balance with that one,” I said.

“I suppose that could have been a side benefit. But don’t get discouraged, James. You’re on the right track with the way Danielle has been manipulated. Now, tell me, where do you think she originally came from?”

Again with the threads that I felt I should be able to follow, but couldn’t quite. “Came from? You mean, out of Dan’s imagination?”

“Children have imaginary friends all the time,” Melissa elaborated. “Most of them don’t manifest themselves and start interfering with our lives. Why is that happening here?”

“Yes, well… I suppose Dan’s been dabbling in your ever present supernatural forces?” I hypothesized. “That somehow he used them to create Danielle?”

“Could be,” Melissa replied, her voice suddenly quiet. “Though Danielle is very atypical – there aren’t many supernatural manifestations who would willingly take orders from a human. I don’t like to admit it, but this Dan… he does worry me. He worries me a great deal.”

She paused for a moment, as if to let the impact of that sentence settle over me. But it could equally be that she was thinking about whether she’d eaten lunch. Given how the next thing she did was ask me for the time.

I glanced down at my watch. “It’s five to six.”

She stood. “Time for me to go then. You’re welcome to come, though it may be dangerous.”

“Go?” I asked. “Go where?”

“To the physics building, of course,” she replied matter-of-factly, grabbing her purse and moving for the door.

“But I thought you said you didn’t know where or when the explosion was set to occur,” I protested.

“I don’t,” she acceded. “But Dan does, and I wager it will happen sometime soon. So it’s a matter of following him when he arrives.”

“But if Dan knew, why was he so surprised?”

She paused with her hand on the doorknob. “He didn’t know then. But it was inevitable that he learn of the location. After all, one warning by me to Danielle is hardly going to undo the months, perhaps even years of mental programming that Dan’s instilled into her. No, as soon as Dan knew that she was actually going ahead with her plan, he would stop at nothing to find out the details. And now that he knows, he is going to try to interfere. So it’s up to me to see that Danielle’s plan succeeds.”

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. “Melissa… if Danielle succeeds, the physics building will blow up,” I reminded her.

Melissa pursed her lips. “Yes, well, I still hope it doesn’t come to that,” she remarked, opening the apartment door. “Now are you with me, or not?”

*-*

If you were to ask me now, I couldn’t tell you why I went with her. I had met a few other people while on campus, frosh like me, most of whom would have jumped at the invitation of a trip to a bar that Saturday night. Why give that up for the chance to hang around with ‘Weird-gal’, when I only had her word for it that an explosion might be involved?

I can say that it wasn’t because I believed all the supernatural stuff she’d been telling me, not then. I didn’t think it was a joke exactly, but I didn’t really believe it either. It also wasn’t because I found Melissa attractive. As that wouldn’t have been enough, and I hope I haven’t come across as being very shallow for my earlier remarks.

Thinking back, I suppose what it came down to was that, to hear Melissa tell it… well, if I didn’t go, I’d somehow be missing out. Even someone less naive than me would have felt this way, I’m sure.

However, after three hours of nothing, even I was starting to have my doubts.

“I thought you said it would happen soon,” I whispered to her, crouched as we were in the bushes only a short distance from the dread physics building. “Exactly what definition of ‘soon’ were you using?”

“I can’t be right all the time,” Melissa answered in a similarly low tone. “At least it’s a clear night. Look, even with all the light pollution you can still see lots of stars.”

“Some of them are there when I close my eyes,” I grumbled. “We should have eaten before we left.”

“I have a leftover candy cane in the pocket of my jeans if you’re desperate,” she offered. After peering at her face to verify that she was serious, I refused, on the obvious grounds that it was September.

Just then, a figure moved towards one of the side doors of the building. It wasn’t hard to identify Dan, given his build.

“We’re on,” Melissa asserted, moving out of the bushes to follow him. “Stay back and follow my lead.” I indicated agreement.

We proceeded through the door after him, down into the poorly lit basement area, to a door marked “Restricted Access”. Don’t ask me how Dan got a key to that room, but he had it.

The door was swinging shut ahead of us until Melissa grabbed a nearby block of wood and slid it into the path of the door. We both held our breath as the door rebounded slightly and remained ajar, but Dan did not investigate. Probably because he had been distracted by what was inside.

“Oh, please… please don’t do this,” came the voice of a girl behind the door. I could only assume it was Danielle. It sounded like she was practically in tears. “Please Dan, don’t stop the explosion.”

“You don’t understand,” Dan replied. His voice sounded like it had more of an edge to it, as compared to when I’d first heard him. “You’ve never understood.”

“But it’s so late at night that there’s not many people here,” Danielle pleaded. “Plus I scared a few away less than a half hour ago, and the rest might have time to evacuate before the building completely collapses. Doesn’t that make things all right?”

“You stupid girl. Don’t you get it yet? I don’t care if you kill a hundred people,” Dan scoffed. “Hell, some of the things you’ve done for me have probably assisted in doing just that. I can’t let you go through with this because of what would happen to ME if you succeed.”

“But… how would you get in trouble?” Danielle protested. “A-And what do you mean when you say I’ve helped you to k-kill?”

“Nice mirrors,” was Dan’s only reply. “Wonder what would happen if I did this…?”

“Oh, stop!” Danielle shrieked. “It took me so long to set those up, because I had to concentrate so very hard to move them. And they have to be aligned just right. No, Dan, what are you doing?! If you turn it that way so many more people could be hurt. Even I could be killed!”

“Oh, I was hoping you’d say that,” Dan replied.

“Stop, stop, no, no, stop! There’s only five minutes left, I’ll never get them put back… Dan, you could die here too!”

“Oh no, not me,” he laughed. “I’m out of here.”

“I think not,” Melissa countered, now swinging the door open wide. During Dan and Danielle’s conversation, she’d been pulling labelled pieces of paper from her purse and pasting them up around the door frame. I couldn’t read them. I hoped they were meant to be protective wards, or some supernatural equivalent.

“You!” Dan said.

“Expecting someone else?” Melissa mused, stepping forwards into the room.

She had a flashlight with her. This was useful, given that the regular lighting was so dim. Admittedly not as useful as an offensive weapon might be, but Melissa’s said she’s not too fond of things like guns.

Anyway, it was by the light of her flashlight that I saw two mirrors in the room – or rather, three, if you counted the one on the ground. The others were standing upright in swivel frames, resting on what seemed to be several crates and boxes. One of the uprights was facing a wall. The other was angled down towards the floor mirror. Dan was standing by this one, with Danielle standing on the one on the floor.

I did wonder momentarily as to why access into the room was restricted, which was when I saw the pipes at the back reading ‘Natural Gas’, and the timing device on them counting down from 4 minutes, 45 seconds. My mouth went dry.

“Dan, what’s the reporter doing here?” Danielle asked in confusion.

I now knew it was Danielle, based on the description, right down to the glasses she wore. And for a moment, I thought that Danielle was asking about me, until I realized she was looking at Melissa. I suppose that’s why Danielle had consented to Friday’s interview. Dan hadn’t told her that Melissa was a detective.

For his part, Dan ignored his ‘imaginary friend’, glowering at Melissa instead. He didn’t even try to hide his emotions. He must have known the jig was up.

“I should never have involved you in this,” Dan growled angrily. “You with your insipid questions and devil-may-care attitude… why didn’t you just banish her like I asked you to in the first place?”

“Because,” Melissa stated simply. “Danielle’s supposed to exist. You’re not.”

I knew I was definitely going to need some time to process that bombshell. Of course, in the moment, I was rather more concerned with the possibility that Dan would lunge forwards and try to knock us all unconscious.

<PREV MISC INDEX NEXT>

ASIDE: Do you see the logic or are you as confused as James? What will happen now? This case concludes in two weeks!

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