CHANCED ERASURES: PART FIVE
“Whoops, we can’t go this way,” Sue remarked. She ducked her head out of the nearest corridor, back into the school stairwell.
Chartreuse felt a frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. Why had Sue led them here, only to turn them around? “I thought you knew the janitor routes,” she reminded. “Isn’t this, you know, why you’ve been in the lead?”
“That is not a custodian,” she answered. “It’s Usa, or one of her people. Keeping watch over the corridor down to the infirmary.”
Which was a perfectly reasonable explanation, but then why was Chartreuse feeling uneasy about Sue once again? Though, she’d felt queasy in the afternoon, and there had been that unspecified reaction to Thred earlier. Perhaps her mystic systems were simply going a bit haywire, for whatever reason.
Sam crossed his arms. “They’re definitely hiding something, hmm? I wonder how we can get past that guy to check it out.”
Sue flashed her friend a smile. “Maybe our ‘giftie’ here could draw his or her attention away,” she said, jerking her thumb at Chartreuse.
Chartreuse shook her head. “Security has no reason to, like, treat me nicer than any of you.”
Sue smirked. “Oh, I know.”
Sue was definitely the most likely candidate for messing up their chances at locating Alice. Before Chartreuse could formulate an answer to the other girl’s remark though, Para spoke up.
“Couldn’t we get to the infirmary another way? Not through the corridors?” she proposed.
Thred clasped his hands together. “Yes! We get to do a ventilation shaft run, like in the movies. Cool.”
Para’s nose twitched. “I was thinking a window.”
“Nah, they’ll be bolted. Thred’s right,” Sam agreed, snapping his fingers. “All we need to do is snip the wires on the grate in the bathroom around behind the infirmary and use the duct.” He cleared his throat as everyone turned to look at him. “Not… that… I’d… know…?”
“You’ve been, you know, planning this information gathering mission for a while, huh?” Chartreuse divined.
Sue hmmphed. “More like he already tried that scheme once. Except that’s when he was trying to get OUT of the infirmary.”
Sam winced. “Ahh, no, you heard about that?”
“Read it. You’re not the only newsletter in the region,” Sue remarked. She then shot another glare towards Chartreuse, though Chartreuse wasn’t sure why.
This time Thred spoke before Chartreuse could speak. “Oh, right! That time you got heatstroke, but wanted to capture footage of the sunbathing protest outside.”
“It was for my article, not to see the people,” Sam insisted. “Anyway, nothing was proven, I could have twisted my ankle any number of ways while in the infirmary itself… let’s just circle around and get on with this investigation, all right?”
“Good idea,” Para agreed, again jumping in before tempers could flare. “Because at this rate, we’ll still be here when the building gets locked up. Which could be a problem.”
It didn’t take them long to bypass the security man’s location and get into the restrooms. Chartreuse idly noticed that were marked gender neutral – yet there still seemed to be a couple of urinals? To help save water, maybe?
“This trash can should work for getting us up to the vent,” Thred said, grabbing the object by the door and flipping it upside-down. Paper towels spilled out. So that part of society was recognizable, at least.
“By all means, lead the way then,” Sue said, leaning back against the wall, clasping her hands behind her head.
Sam blinked at her. “Are you not coming with us?”
She half smiled. “Don’t worry, I am, but last. Nice try at having a chance to look up my skirt though.”
Sam opened his mouth, then simply closed it and rolled his eyes as he turned his attention to the vent. For her part, Chartreuse looked down at her pleated school authorized skirt. Good point. The skirt wasn’t short, but crawling through a vent… “Guys can totally go first,” she agreed with a nod.
Sue gave her another look. Chartreuse divined the intent – they were about to have it out. Sure enough, once Thred, Sam and Para had climbed in, the dark haired girl’s palm fell upon Chartreuse’s shoulder. “I’ve figured out your game, you know,” she murmured, eyes narrowing.
Chartreuse couldn’t prevent her natural instinct of darting her gaze from side to side, as if seeking an escape. Had Sue figured out that they were off-worlders? “Like, what?” she managed to say, smiling as sincerely as she could manage.
“Please. You’re not a real giftie,” Sue continued. “Not here, at least. I’d know. Trying to make a name for yourself with this school, are you? Think this ‘Alice’ affair is the way to do it? Think again. Sam’s the one who will be seeing things through to the end tonight. He’s earned it. You, not so much.”
Chartreuse felt a measure of relief at the accusation, though again she tried not to show it. It seemed like Sue had fingered her as someone from a rival newsletter, perhaps even a spy from a rival school… and while having her cover blown wasn’t great, there were worse alternatives.
“Got it,” Chartreuse assured the other girl. “No sweat, with any luck, you totally won’t hear from me ever again after, you know, tomorrow.” Likely not even in the student records, if Beam was to be believed.
Sue’s expression became a grimace, perhaps not liking the quick agreement. She jerked her thumb towards the vent. “Whatever, like, y’know, hurry up and get in,” she snarked. “I want to see what Sam finds in the infirmary.”
Chartreuse didn’t hesitate. When she crawled out the other end of the passage – which was easier thanks to a nurse’s desk up against the wall – she found everyone else still seemed to be getting their bearings. She took a quick look around herself.
They were near the back of the room, in fact the same area that had been pictured for Alice’s interrogation. Off to the side were a couple of beds for students to lie down on, with curtains that could be drawn for privacy. Towards the front of the room was a possible reception area, with another desk and some chairs. And there were a few cabinets in the room for supplies.
One of them was open. A number of bottles and vials were spread out on a small table.
“Yeah, that’s weird, huh?” Thred said, as Chartreuse stepped closer to see. “That guard out there isn’t doing a very good job, someone’s already ransacked the place for medicine.”
Sam turned his attention from a poster of the skeletal structure on the wall to the curious table. “Have they? Is it my imagination, or are these vials not school issue?” He pulled out a handkerchief and picked one up, peering. “This one actually reads Hypno– and the rest is torn off.”
“Well, that’s damn sloppy,” Sue grumbled as she hopped down from the desk. “I wonder why those were left out.”
“So is it even legal stuff?” Thred gaped, looking over Sam’s shoulder. “I mean, maybe it’s whatever they gave that Alice person, in order to make her more obedient or passive or something.”
“So someone left it here as, like, a frame up,” Chartreuse guessed.
“To incriminate a nurse? Why?” Sam asked. He wrapped the vial in his handkerchief and put it back in his pocket. “And why the guard outside, if not to guard this?”
“Maybe for a totally unrelated reason,” Para offered. “Possibly something the guards themselves weren’t even told about.”
“Right! Could be that Alice girl is being held nearby,” Thred proposed.
Chartreuse exchanged a quick glance with Para before speaking. “Let’s, you know, see if anything else was left behind from that interrogation.”
“More to the point, why the video feed here was on the fritz,” Sam reminded them. “That’s the main reason we came, yeah? It wasn’t for the stuff on that holo-disc, though it’s a nice secondary.”
“I’m starting to think a few events are connected,” Sue observed, throwing Chartreuse another look.
Chartreuse busied herself with checking out the floor where Alice’s chair had been. She didn’t spot anything though, and a pass over it with her quartz crystal didn’t yield her any mystic impressions. Thred was the one who located a microdot near the camera; he left it there, Sam taking a quick picture.
Para beckoned to Chartreuse, as the other three gave the room one more sweep.
“I think that recording we saw took place about twenty-four hours ago,” the bunny girl murmured. She gestured back towards the solitary window to the outside. It was dark, but there must have been a lamp in the courtyard, allowing some light in. “That shadow on the wall from the IV stand, it looks very similar to how things are now, whereas in daylight, it would have looked very different.”
“You think all those bottles and things were just, I dunno, left out here for a day then?” Chartreuse asked, scratching her head. Granted, it did seem more likely than the idea that they’d watched a video that had been recorded less than an hour ago. Because how could the disc have ended up in security so fast?
Para shrugged. “Maybe. Or we’re not the first ones here this evening.”
“Oh, yay.” That didn’t bode well. Though it might at least explain the guard.
“Hey, check this out,” Sam said, motioning to them. Everyone came to join him, where he seemed to be again looking at the poster of the skeleton. “Do you see what’s wrong?” Sam asked.
Chartreuse, Sue, Para and Thred all exchanged glances. “Bad colour scheme?” Thred proposed after a short silence.
Sam lifted his finger to point. “The ossicles. The bones in the ear. This poster lists a fourth bone, the torus. That’s nonsense.”
“Ooh, yeah, that’s totally an astrological sign instead,” Chartreuse agreed.
Sue mumbled something under her breath, then louder stated, “In latin, torus can refer to a bed. Did we check the beds thoroughly?”
Sam shifted his attention to the nearest bed, then got down on his hands and knees to look underneath. “It’s funny,” he remarked. “I’m sure I’ve looked at that poster a half dozen times before when I was in here, and it never registered. We’re being trolled by the nurses.”
“Yeah, um, I’m still stuck on our ears having icicles,” Thred said, frowning.
“I’ll be damned,” came Sam’s voice moments later. “Like the previous rooms, it’s another symbol, the letter “C”, and the word “roof”… I’d have thought it to be graffiti, but now we know better.”
“R-E-C?” Para spelled out. “Something to do with recreation?”
Chartreuse pursed her lips. “I’m not, you know, keen on heading up to the roof. It’s pretty open. And what if we get stuck up there?” It also didn’t feel like a useful step in locating Alice.
“Well, I HAVE been suggesting the gym since the beginning,” Sue offered, leaning back against the wall again. Which was true enough, and she seemed to have Sam’s welfare in mind – but that wouldn’t help them with Alice either. Would it?
Sam pushed himself back out from under the bed, dusting off his hands. “No problem – it all makes sense now! On the roof, when the sun hits that weird sculpture a little before noon – the shadow it makes gives the number for the music room. I always wondered about that. That has to be next.”
“Was there a letter and a symbol too?” Para wondered.
Sam rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess? Maybe there was a “T”? I wasn’t looking for it.”
“Sounds like we might want to double check,” Thred decided. “To the roof, with a flashlight? You know how to get up there, right Sam?”
“Ugh, roof’s dangerous. I still say the gym,” Sue mumbled. “I know we can get THERE without being seen or getting in trouble.”
“No, no, I’m sure the music room would be our next stop after the roof, and it’s nearby,” Sam assured. “We don’t need either of those other places.”
“Sam, are you so keen on this scavenger hunt then?” Chartreuse wondered. “I mean, I thought you were in just this to, you know, go after the Clover Club.”
“Oh, we’ve stumbled on something far more interesting now, I’m sure of it,” Sam said. He grinned at her. “So, being one of the elite, which of those destinations do you think we should head for next?”
Chartreuse shifted her gaze towards the ventilation grate. Well, the roof was the more dangerous option, the music room the more logical one – assuming Sam’s memory held – and the gym… could it tell them more about Sue? She was becoming a problem, and maybe it would pacify her.
Either way, it seemed like none of the destinations related to Alice. Unless… well, which one was more likely to have more information about the security guys?
VOTING CLOSES 7am EDT MONDAY SEP 10th
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
Getting stopped en route would have involved the group interacting with that guard fellow, possibly including a chase scene or something. When they got to the infirmary, there wouldn’t have been the drugs. Ending up somewhere before the infirmary wouldn’t have had anyone think of the vents, the alternative destination likely being one of the three in the current vote. And, incidentally, a tied vote would have split the party. It figures I’d have an idea for a tie on a vote where things are unanimous. So, where to now? Please do spread the word about the serial, the votes are close. Thanks for reading.