Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to work we go.
(But mind the recruiters)
Author’s Note: This chapter was an experiment for me. I wanted to see if I could write a mystery.
I woke up, and what a way to wake up. I opened my eyes to see Sara sitting next to the bed looking at me. I rubbed my eyes and took stock of myself. Hive showed it to be seven AM and the glow of daylight was shining in the window.
“Shit! I’m late! And on the first day of work too!” I yelped as I hopped out of bed.
“Relax, you have a late start today,” Sara said.
“I do not. I was supposed to be down there for morning briefing, and that was two hours ago!”
“Relax; the security chief changed his mind when you should show up. See? It’s in this note,” she said holding up a piece of paper.
“That doesn’t excuse this. I went to bed early to be ready for today, and I overslept. How does that reflect on me?”
“Pretty good from my angle,” Sara said looking at my tush.
“Oh hush,” I said throwing a pillow at her. “No time for a bath; I’ll have to take a shower.” I headed for the bathroom.
“I’m telling you, you don’t need to hurry,” she said as she followed me into the bathroom, “Will you just read the note?”
I was stepping into the shower as she flipped the note down in front of my face.
Some important business came up that I had to handle personally. Don’t worry about making the morning briefing. You’ll probably spend most of the day filling out forms and getting your issue of equipment.
“Told ya so.” Sara gloated.
“Did he also tell you you’re a pain in the ass?”
“No, but he did thank me for not letting you pull a Charles Whitman on Academy property this morning.”
“Maybe I should let Hive explain it while you shower. If I stay in here, we’ll both be late.”
Bewildered, I got in the shower and said, “Ok explain it to me,” as I soaped up.
“Last night at approximately 10:36:23 pm, Hive recorded cerebral activity consistent with that of attempted suicides and persons who failed to commit suicide after going on a killing rampage,” Hive explained.
“Hive contacted those current associates in positions of authority that might be able to render assistance. Ms. Waite was called in to assist, due to her somewhat unique talents and experience. While you slept last night, a prolonged psychotherapy session was conducted.” Hive explained
“Apparently successful. Though continued monitoring is medically recommended.”
I washed my hair, got out, and dried my hair and myself. Slipping back into my bedroom, I heard a wolf whistle from the living room, then, “My, my, I didn’t know toes could blush.” I continued into the bedroom and got dressed in my jeans and flannel shirt.
As I walked back into the living room, I said, “And I thought last night was a hangover dream.”
Sara got up and walked over to me. “In my previous life, I wrote a lot of stories that are considered horror classics. You’ve lived your own.” Then she hugged me.
“No worse than any other soldier who has seen combat. It’s behind me now.” I said.
The little minx squeezed my tush as she broke the hug.
“Listen, all is better here; you’d better get your rear to class,” I scolded.
“Aw, do I have to? I’m already three weeks ahead in class anyway.”
“Yes, you do. You have to turn in your holiday assignment, and I have my own mountain of paperwork to climb.”
I herded Sara out the door and grabbed a bowl of cereal and glass of milk from the kitchen. After eating that, I headed downstairs. Joshua was on desk duty again.
“Hi Joshua. I guess I’m here to scale Mount Paperwork today,” I said.
“Do you know you’re late?” he asked looking a little put out.
“I have a note from the teacher excusing me,” I said, showing him the note.
“A-yup, that’ll do. I guess we can start with these,” he said pulling out a stack of forms.
“All this for a job I already have?”
“’Fraid so. Insurance for the school, state and federal require these and more, “ he said tapping the pile.
“Let me look this over.” I turned the pile around and started flipping through the pages. “Hmm, Federal deputization, concealed weapons permit, insurance, healthcare plan, request for a copy of my military records. Ha, this will be useless unless you like looking at a blacked out piece of paper. Who’s in charge of this phase of the initiation?”
“Initiation? This isn’t an initiation. Every new employee in security needs to fill out all these forms,” Joshua said.
“Listen, dollars to doughnuts, I’ll bet most of these forms are already in the system with a great big ‘Drop dead before reading’ stamp on my military service records. I’ll fill out the insurance and healthcare forms. Anything else we can work on as it comes up. Due to something I did during my military service, I’m already a recognized federal marshal. My badge number is 29265, inactive as of a month ago, but that’s changed. It’s probably not in the records yet. Can we proceed to the next step?” I asked.
“Give me a minute while I send this paperwork up the chain with a few notations to check federal records, then I’ll put you in the loving arms of Mathews. He’s got Cage duty this rotation. He’ll get you outfitted with the basic issue. Then we can go from there.”
Shortly, Joshua pointed me in the direction of “the cage.” The name was commonly given to any equipment room that required a locked area for security purposes. Inside was a large black man; he was working on a rifle and had parts spread out across the table where he sat.
“Excuse me, Mathews? I’m Samantha Everheart, the new hire; I’m supposed to see you about equipment issue?” I prompted.
He grunted in response, looked me up and down, then wandered off back into the cage. A few minutes later, he came out pushing a cart loaded down with equipment. He picked up a clipboard, reached down and picked it up a piece of body armor. He handed it to me and said, “Try that on for size.”
I put on the piece of body armor, adjusting the straps to fit my body shape. When I was happy with the fit, I was handed another piece. Soon I was wearing a full suit except for the helmet.
Matthews was holding the helmet in his hands and looking at me expectantly, “This little baby is the heart of the system. Contained in the helmet is a built-in multipurpose visor with flash protection and sight enhancements. A respirator can be attached for gas protection and even underwater use.”
I took the helmet and bent over as best I could in the armor to work my hair into the helmet. A little tweaking and the helmet settled nicely over my head. Next, Mathews held up the staple of every solider, a combat knife. I hung it in a cross-draw position at the bottom of the chest armor. With a raised eyebrow, Mathews reached down and handed me a rifle.
Examining it, I listed off what I could determine about it. “Hmm, .308 caliber rifle, bull pup configuration, with a forty millimeter grenade launcher. This is the basic weapon for school security?”
“Well you do get a nine millimeter Glock as well, but bear in mind we have mutants at this school; some of them could be considered ‘bricks.’ And I don’t mean that in relationship to their intelligence. There may come a time when you need a shot from that rifle just to get their attention. The forty can load a few ‘special’ rounds that are like souped-up taser rounds for the same reason.” Pointing down at some grenades, he said, “You will be allowed to draw two of each of the following grenade types: stun gas, flash-bang, smoke, and web types. That completes the standard load for our security team members. The officers have access to a h.u.d. system add-in for their helmets that gives access to school ground cameras and any they have with them. And they can draw a patrol car.”
“So it’s just a slightly advanced Land Warrior system,” I said as I took the Glock from him.
“Ours is deployed, where the army’s is still in testing. We can afford the maintenance time on the small number of sets we have. Also, they’re somewhat customized beyond what the Army has.”
Mathews handed me a piece of paper listing what was issued to me. I checked it and the serial numbers on the equipment in confirmation. Then he showed me to the locker room. “Man on deck!” he called out as he opened the door to the female side. He led me down to an empty locker, opened it up, and I loaded my equipment into the locker. Mathews then showed me an access panel inside the door and the procedure to set the personal combination.
“There is a master combination that is used if an unforeseen event were to happen. But only the chief has it, and it’s in his safe.”
I reached in, picked four random numbers as the combination, pressed the “Set” button, and closed the access panel. I put the helmet in the locker and closed it.
“Ok, ready to go. I do have one question, Mathews. What are the feelings about personal weapons on the job?” I asked.
“While not actually policy, every security person has at least one preferred holdout and a weapon that they are particularly fond of,” Mathews said.
I chuckled. “Mathews, do you have time to see my preferred weapon?”
“I’m with you. You’d have to check it in with the cage anyway.”
We made our way up to my apartment and to my bedroom. I went over to the closet to get Baby’s case.
Mathews, attempting to sound sexy, said, “Hey, hey, if I knew this was your preferred weapon, I’d have said wait to show it to me at lunch.” He started reaching for his shirt buttons.
I had to shut him down. While I have recently been exploring my own sexuality, I don’t think I’m ready to go to bed with the first guy who thinks he can get away with it. I pulled out Baby with a one handed grip on the stock and held it at arm’s length.
“This is my preferred weapon.”
Dropping his hands, Mathews bent slightly forward, looking at the rifle. “Is that an M650?” he asked.
“Yep. And I can confirm, using match grade ammo, shooting a target one point two miles away single-handed. I also have some devise ammo that will increase the effective range of the weapon to its maximum range.”
“Well, uh, you’d better bring it with you, and you can leave it in the locker.”
“No. As the saying goes, ‘You can have my weapon when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.’ I do have all the serial numbers and batch numbers for my ammo. Those I will let you have. But these are mine. My baby is NOT going into the general inventory for security,” I declared.
“It has to go into inventory. It will be returned when you leave Whateley Security,” Mathews said, sounding like it’s a common argument he had. He was filling himself up in preparation for the argument he felt was coming.
“Don’t mess with me on this.”
“I’ll have to report it.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
As we started back down to the cage, Mathews said, “You know, you may have a fight on your hands for that rifle. We have an old guy coming in who was some hot shot sniper. I’m sure he’ll claim your gun for his own use. There’s a provision for that in the contract.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem for two reasons. First, the provision in the contract you’re talking about specifies an employee using their own weapons while on duty. There’s nothing in the contract about other employees using each other’s weapons. And, besides, I’m the old guy.”
I spent the next half an hour being very “Fu Man Chu” to Mathews. He thought I was a slut and ready to throw myself at the first guy that took my fancy. He needed to be tortured. Finally, we had finished checking in my weapons.
“OK, where to next?” I asked Mathews.
“Back to the front desk and Joshua; he’ll know where you need to go next.”
As I left, I turned back to him with a grin, “Don’t despair, Mathews. Think about the money you’ll win from the other guys who think the new sharpshooter is a guy.”
I left him chuckling as I made my way back to Joshua.
As I arrived back, I asked, “Where to next, oh guru of the paper mountain?”
In a hokey Indian voice, Joshua said with a grin, “Ah, yes sahib, our leader would like to see you, yes in-dee-dee.”
“OK, should I just head on back? I know where his office is.”
“Yes in-dee-dee-do.” He replied waving me on.
I headed back. On the short walk back, Hive said, “Hive has a sleeve for Everheart network.”
“Say what? Explain,” I asked quietly.
“Examination of armored helmet that now resides in storage completed. Using currently installed enhancements of Everheart network, duplication is possible. Except for armor protection.”
“So you are able to duplicate the Land Warrior system?”
“With currently installed systems, affirmative. Vision enhancements only require slight retuning of ocular sensors as needed. Encryption for communication system duplicated. Data prossessing and presentation already in place, along with targeting enhancements which you have used.”
“OK, nice to know; if we need the armor protection, I’ll wear the armor.”
I arrived at Chief Delarose’s door and knocked.
“Come in, Everheart. I’ll be right with you,” the chief said.
I stepped in, and he was belting on a weapons belt that any security guard would wear.
“Glad you could make it today. You ready for your tour?” he asked.
“You’re going to give me a tour yourself?” I asked a little surprised.
“Of course, I’m not one of the kind of officers that, once they get behind a desk, they are glued there. I like to go out and ‘show the flag’ of security. Makes the kids keep their heads down at least,’ he answered with a smile. “Besides, it keeps me from spreading in the middle.” He patted his stomach.
“Will I need anything special for this?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, just your belt. I see you’re in uniform. You’ll have to get it tailored for your body shape. We haven’t had many women on the force, but it will do for now.”
I followed him to the locker rooms, and he waited outside while I went in and grabbed my belt. We then headed out from Kane Hall.
He started the tour here.
“I guess you are somewhat familiar with the main campus here, but I’ll run through one more time, just in case you don’t know something yet. Security’s and your home are located in Kane Hall. Along with the observatory on top of the tower, there are a few classrooms and labs here as well. To our left is one of the bigger buildings on campus. It’s Laird Hall, which is our athletics building. It contains the martial arts “dojos” and exercise class areas. Beyond the hall are the athletics fields.
“Across the Quad from Laird are Shuster Hall and next to it is Dunn. Shuster is truly a multi-role building on the campus. Inside are administration offices, classrooms on the upper floors, and it also serves as the cafeteria and the main hangout for the students on campus. You’ll probably pull a shift or two in the Crystal Hall. That’s the big dome attached to Shuster.
“Beck is the campus library. The library has a secure area for certain special items that are best not talked about. It also is the home to our server farm. Those servers also provide the web space and mail servers for the students. Dunn hall is the campus infirmary. It also holds the various bioscience labs. There are a lot of underground cross connections between the labs, so it gets a bit fuzzy on just what is where.”
“I can tell,” I said, a little distracted by the number of camera and sensor feeds Hive was picking up on. “Chief, how many sensors are on the campus proper?”
“Which type of sensor? We have quiet a few.”
“All of ‘em.”
“Well, at last count we had some three to five thousand sensors spread across the valley here. We have everything from multi-spectrum sensor arrays, to plain cameras, to laser grids and some sensors that defy classification. Those students in the technical side of the coursework sometimes earn extra credit by developing new sensors and systems. They naturally get tested out on the campus.”
“Hive, categorize and filter please,” I said.
“Yes, Hive is connecting to every sensor net in its reach. I’m feeling a bit ill, but I’m getting better.”
“Why didn’t the Hive hit you with this before now?” the Chief asked.
“Well, before I was minding my own business. Hive did pick up on the sensor net the first time I drove on campus, but I wasn’t ‘working’ here yet, so it didn’t bother to interface with it. Now that I’m working here, the sensors are important to my and Hive’s security, so it has taken action to protect itself. I’ll be ok.”
“Alright, let me know if it gets to be too much for you. To continue the tour, the academy is located in a shielded valley. It contains four hills. The campus is on one. To the northwest, northeast and south are the others. Also in those three directions are the student cottages. To the northwest is the boys’ arm with Emerson on the hill and Twain beyond it. To the northeast are the girls-only cottages of Whitman and Dickenson on their own hill. To the south are the co-ed cottages. The newest is Melville located on the hill. In the hill’s shadow but further out is Poe. Beyond those two and in a small sheltered area is Hawthorne.”
“Sounds somewhat like most college campuses, though with a younger student body,” I said.
“True,” the chief began, “but we are not your normal school. We have some rather unique students that make up the student body. And speaking of those, I should fill you in a bit. The three closer cottages, Emerson, Dickinson and Melville, house the students who could pass for students at any normal school. The other cottages contain our more… exotic students. Those who have strange physical traits that are not easily hidden live in the two outlying cottages, Whitman and Twain. Of the remaining two cottages, one is actually easier to explain. Being ex-military you are familiar with the armed forces’ ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, correct?”
“You’re talking about Poe Cottage right?”
“I know it’s almost an open secret among the faculty, but how did you find out?”
“I was asked to keep a friendly eye on one of the students there by the father of a newly minted daughter,” I explained. “What about Hawthorne?”
“Hawthorne is a special case, because that is where we send our special students. It’s for those students who are extreme cases -- the ones who have changes that are so extreme as to necessitate special care needs or assistance, along with those students who can actually be a danger to the rest of the student body.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I said.
“We have a resident right now whose body excretes a toxic substance. Another who’s a powerful empath with little control over projection and reception, which can end up in an emotional feedback loop that could, in the end, affect an unprotected person to become violent or the empath becoming suicidal. Thankfully, we have avoided both cases so far. Let’s walk.”
We followed the twisting pathways, generally heading south as the chief continued, “Scattered around the campus are access hatches for the various campus utilities. There is a tunnel system running from the outer cottages to the campus proper. Its use allows us to keep up appearances with the public. You have noticed the school flagpole and the school flag there. The piping on the flag indicates the school’s presentation condition. Like a stoplight, we have green, yellow and red conditions. These set the allowed level of… I guess we can say ‘weirdness’ allowed on each day. Red days, we look like any school. Yellow days, you might glimpse a high speed runner or a student dressed to hide their mutation. Green days, you will probably see students using their powers outside, such as flight, heavy lifting or any of a number of blast type powers.”
As we walked on he continued, “Also weaving its way around the outer edge of the campus is a road for service vehicles. It’s mainly used for transporting bulkier items to the various cottages. You would think that it would be used by security a lot. The fact is, the primary users are those students who like to skateboard, roller-blade, walk or run somewhere other than the track. That pretty much covers the two-bit tour of Whateley. There’s more you’ll need to know, but you can pick up on it as you go.”
“I think I can do that. Which shift do you want me to start working with? Since today seems to be pretty much shot as far as working the day shift, should I change?” I asked.
“After your little display earlier, accessing the sensor net, I’ve changed my mind. I would like to place you in an ‘on call’ status. You live on the campus, so you’re usually available. I promise we won’t make you pull a double shift. Though if something happens on a shift you’re not working, we may still call on you.”
Just then, the chief’s radio beeped. “What is it?” he asked.
“Chief, we just received a call from the County Sheriff. Seems he has a death on National Forest land near the campus. He’s asked for assistance,” the voice said.
“OK, Cruise, get an escort team together minus one. Our new girl will fill that slot. Let the science department know, so they can assign someone.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Since security personnel here are registered federal marshals, and this death took place on federal land, the Sheriff had to call us or wait for the FBI to send someone. Our lab is better equipped than his for an investigation.”
“This county has a lab?”
“Yes, they do, but serious forensic examinations are a bit beyond them. They deal more in matching bullets to guns. That’s not putting down the capabilities of the lab, just that they don’t perform that many full site evaluations. We’d better get back to the office; you have a van to catch.”
We arrived back at Kane Hall to find a van idling outside. “Just provide protection and assist the lab boys as best you can. I’ll see you in a few hours. We’ll send out a relief team at shift change.”
Thinking about where we were going, I realized it was a wilderness area. Animals could interrupt the investigation, so I had best be prepared. I went in and checked out my rifle and a few special rounds, just in case.
The ride out to the site was uneventful and surprisingly short at only ten minutes. I roughly estimated it to be less than ten miles from the academy. We were met by a deputy by a cordoned off truck. He greeted us, and the scientist cum crime scene investigator introduced us.
“Hello, deputy, I’m Dr. Debbie Sams; this is my assistant, Simon Hawke, and our security escort. Is this the crime scene?” she asked.
“One of them, this is the victim’s truck. The body is up this way,” he said and led the way.
Three hundred yards into the woods was a clearing enclosed by trees. To one side of the clearing was the body. The Sheriff had the presence of mind to just cordon off the whole area.
Dr. Sams took charge, “OK, we’ll start here and work towards the body. Photograph everything that seems out of place, tag it, and we’ll grid the site after we process the body.” She pointed at me. “You go do what ever you’re supposed to do and watch out you don’t contaminate the site.”
Gee, I just got dismissed. Did putting on this uniform lower my IQ or something? I started by walking around the site, looking for paths of approach. And I listened to the team process the site.
“The Sheriff said it was an animal attack. That appears consistent so far. Appears the animal approached from this direction at a run, hit and knocked him down here. He appears to have fought back but lost. The animal chewed on him a bit and left,” Dr. Sams said.
As she explained that, I looked at the supposed attack. Something didn’t feel right to me. I stopped my circuit and looked closer at the path from where I stood. Wasn’t that first set of clear tracks rather deep?
I walked around the cleared area till I lined up between the victim and the supposed attack path. I looked for other prints. The dirt was not disturbed along the line of the attack. I saw some bark lying on the ground between the start of the prints and myself. It looked fresh, so I looked up. A large branch overhead was missing some of its bark. I follow the branch back to the tree and examined the trunk. There were scratches in the trunk. I walked back around to the first set of tracks and examined them more closely. They were deep and compacted. Whatever hit there was heavy.
“Dr. Sams, what did they say killed the victim?” I asked as I squatted next to the tracks.
She looked up, “They didn’t, why did you… Hey, we haven’t processed that area yet!”
“Relax, I approach here through the area you already processed, and I have pictures of where I stepped. Now come here and look at these,” I said.
She carefully came over and examined the tracks. “What are you thinking?” she asked.
“A couple of things really -- first, what creatures in the area could take down a full grown man? To my mind, that would be a wolf pack or a bear. In my security sweep, I didn’t see any path of approach that a bear used. They tend to leave a trail like a truck, broken branches and trampled grass. I didn’t see any. A wolf pack would have come at him from all angles. He’d also be a lot more torn up and eaten. Wolves don’t abandon a meal. Also, look at these prints. They are deep; whatever landed here weighed a lot. I’ll bet this bark matches the scrapes in that branch overhead. Whatever landed here was on that branch. There don’t appear to be any bear tracks, and I have never heard of wolves waiting in trees to attack. That leaves a puma or another big cat. Ever hear of any attacks in the area?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Have you processed the shotgun yet?” I asked.
“Just finished,” said Simon, “It’s been fired. Shells are still in it”
I hummed in thought for a moment, then pulled out my flashlight and started shining it around.
“What are you looking for?” Dr. Sams asked.
“Traces of where he shot or what he shot. If it was big enough to make these impressions, it had to make some noise when it landed. He turned, saw it, and fired.” I turned and walked back to the trees and started looking closely at them. “I’m looking for any pellets that missed. He fired double-aught buckshot, right?”
“Right,” Simon said, checking the shells.
“Eighteen pellets, since it’s a double barrel,” I mumbled.
Looking back along the line of attack, I saw some damage on a couple of trees.
“Yes. One, two, four, five holes. If you have the time, Simon, I’ll bet you will find five buckshot in those two trees,” I said.
“Where? I don’t see anything,” he said.
I gripped my rifle so the laser site came on and pointed to the locations, “That’s where. I’d better walk the perimeter again.”
As I started my walk around, I could hear Simon and Dr. Sams talking.
“Where did they dig this one up? She has a brain,” Dr. Sams said.
“And incredible eyesight -- she spotted those buckshot holes from thirty feet away. And the reasoning of the tracks and the possible attack is sound. It’s like she’s done it before,” replied Simon.
“If she can perform the autopsy, I’ll turn in my resignation,” grumbled Dr. Sams.
I had to smile at that comment, because with Hive’s help I probably could perform the autopsy. Together, we wouldn’t get through the data as fast as the doctor, but still.... As I continued to walk the perimeter, a flash of red caught my attention. I found it to be the remains of a backpack. The backpack looked like it had been chewed on, then thrown away.
“Hey, guys? I think I found something,” I called them over.
“Good eyes, officer,” Dr. Sams said
“Dr. Sams, you of all people should know at least my first name. It’s ‘Samantha Everheart.’ Yes, I have a brain and very good hearing, thank you very much. I also have a number of years of combat experience. This let me visualize the attack in my head. The rest has been deductive reasoning,” I scolded. I never liked anyone who would treat someone like a machine. “Are we done here?”
“I’m sorry, you’re right. We’ll be done with what we can do here. We’ll get more from the autopsy. Simon, bag and tag the bag after it’s been photographed. We’ll examine the contents when we get back to the lab.”
While they were doing that, I put in a call to Whateley.
“Security, this is the CSI detail. Hold off on sending the relief team, we are pretty much done here.”
“Roger, Samantha, we’ll expect you back within the hour. If that changes, contact us or we’ll send the Calvary,” the radio responded.
“Joshua, just how many hats do you wear at the front desk?” I asked.
“Depends on how many heads I have at the moment,” was his response.
“Very funny. CSI detail out.”
With all my vision enhancements, I had an idea. I stepped back over towards the clearing with the sun behind me.
“Hive, cycle through the available vision modifications and photograph the area in each; please let me know when I should move to allow for another angle,” I asked.
“What? Who are you talking to and about what?” Dr. Sams asked.
“I have a passenger inside me, Doctor. It has made some enhancements to me, among them vision, that let me examine the area in a new light. Pardon the pun. Currently, I’m photographing the area in all available light modes I can see. When we get back to Whateley, I plan on downloading these images into a computer to see if I can’t create a three dimensional view of the scene. Who knows, it might help later,” I explained as I moved around the site.
As soon as I finished the photo sweep of the site, we were ready to leave. We ended up having to bag the body for the trip back to Whateley. I ended up carrying it. Not that it was heavy at all, but I guess chivalry is dead in the science community. After the hike back to the van, we processed the truck, which was towed away to the impound lot. After a short drive back to Whateley, I left the victim with the two scientists and headed for the security office to check in.
“We’re back,” I said as I walked in.
“Yeah, we knew that when you entered sensor range,” Joshua quipped.
“Haha. Listen, do we have access to a holographic display system?” I asked.
“What size do you need?”
“What sizes do you have?”
“Desktop to auditorium sizes.”
“Do you have one around twenty feet on a side?” I asked
“Sure, what do you need it for?”
“I have some data from the scene I want to process. Do I have access to one, or will I need authorization?”
“Well, I don’t think your paperwork has gone through completely yet. Let me get someone to help you.”
He pressed the intercom button and said, “Mike, come out front, I have a request for assistance.”
A minute later, a tall skinny guy came out. “What do you need Josh?” Mike asked.
“First, I’d like to introduce you to our new hire. Miss Samantha Everheart. Mike Rorke.”
First, let me say, he was tall. He walked over to me with a hand out to greet me. I looked at his sternum, then looked up and up, finally reaching his face. He was black too.
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask. Why aren’t you playing basketball?” I asked.
“I wanted to join the Navy.”
“In the submarine service, no doubt.”
“How did you…?”
“Lucky guess. Why aren’t you still in?”
“They said I was behind the sonar Internet. That I was passing porn between subs using it.”
“Wait a minute! You’re talking about the Mark 204 sonar communication system that the Navy claims they designed and built in-house?” I asked
“Yeah, I designed and built the whole thing and passed the designs to other techs, and they got on. Before long, we had quite a community. Then the Navy found out, took over the system, and filed patents. I’m not going to see jack from it.”
“Tell me about it. That system outmoded the entire ULF sub communication system”
“While I love talking about the money I missed out on, I have to ask. What do you need me for?” Rorke asked.
“I want to build the site of a homicide,” I replied.
“Oooooookay, I ask again; why me?”
“Well, you were highly recommended,” I replied looking at Joshua. “I have a group of photos I want to convert into a holographic representation.”
Suddenly Rorke was very interested. “How many pictures?” he asked.
“Well, I took enough for them to completely map the area.”
“Come with me,” Rorke said as he started off. “You were able to walk a perfect circle at the site?”
“No, but I can duplicate the path I did walk.”
“Down to the decimal second in latitude and longitude,” I replied.
“Whoa, that’s a lot of work,” he said, looking at me differently. I wasn’t sure if he was impressed or thought I was nuts.
We walked on a bit and came to a door. “You’re familiar with that space-going television show that had a revival in the late nineties?” he asked.
“Vaguely, I wasn’t much of a television watcher then. I was too busy to catch much more than the news,” was my reply.
“Well, when they came out with the new version of the show, they included a system to allow the crew to entertain themselves without taking up too much space. Geeks will be geeks. Within a week, the school had a duplicate up and running. Even though it takes the equivalent power of 8 mainframes to run it, they still haven’t quite gotten the system to be exactly like the show, but they are damn close,” Rorke explained.
We entered the room. Inside the doorway was a computer terminal. The room was black, but lit from the ceiling by some recessed lights.
“New network detected. Attempting to access,” Hive said in my ear.
“Let’s start with someplace to sit while we work this out,” Rorke said as he punched a few buttons.
Two chairs and a table appeared in the center of the room.
“OK, color me impressed. What now?” I asked.
“Well, we need to access your photos, where are they?”
“In here,” I said as I tapped my temple.
“What? We are going to have to draw them?” he asked, shocked.
“Connection established,” Hive said in my ear.
“Where do you want the pictures?” I asked.
“On this computer,” he replied.
“How much space is available on this system?”
“A couple of terabytes, it’s a development system, so it has storage out the wazoo.”
“Good, plenty of space then. Hive, copy images acquired at the homicide site to the computer. Place them in a folder called Everheart.”
I felt weak and dizzy for a moment as I heard Rorke yelp in surprise. I was glad there was a chair here.
“OK, what just happened? There are now close to 6 gigs of images in the Everheart folder that wasn’t there a few seconds ago.”
“Would you believe me if I said I just downloaded them?” I asked.
“You forget where we work, Samantha. I just wasn’t expecting you to be like a student. Who’s Hive?” He asked.
“Hive is my closest companion and a genius with computers,” I replied with a smile.
“OK, I ask one more time. What do you need me for?” he asked, sounding a little angry.
“Well, I didn’t even know this room existed. I didn’t know if Hive could access the network. I didn’t mean to surprise you. Besides, in looking this over, another set of eyes would help a lot. Let’s get this set up. Besides, if it works, we can show up a certain scientist with an attitude,” I said with a grin, and we set to work.
Over the next two hours, we established the outer edge of the perimeter I walked at the site. Then we mapped the locations I had taken the pictures from along the route I had walked. Then we placed all the pictures vertically, fitting so the view was correct.
“That is a lot of pictures. But it’s barely scratched the surface of the number in that folder,” Rorke said.
“Welcome to my Fantasy Island. Hive, using the pictures, is it possible to render the location in three dimensions?”
“Affirmative,” was the response..
“Please do so,” I requested. Then the real fun began. The area in the center of the outlined area began to fill in. First trees, then leaves, then smaller plants appeared. Soon we were standing next to a re-creation of the clearing. As we continued to watch, the areas beyond the clearing started to fill in, but appeared a lot flatter since less data was available. Rorke walked into the clearing; the ground was up to his ankles.
“This is incredible. It’s one thing to render a chair that we had scanned in and had solid dimensions, but to render all this, this quickly, is amazing.” he said.
“It’s not quite right. Hive, render the ground.”
Rorke appeared to float up until he was standing on the ground of the clearing. “This is all quite impressive, but what do you hope to find with this?”
“I’m not sure. I recorded it as a precaution. You will find duplicates of all the images in other spectrums, from infrared to ultraviolet. If you have time, could you see what you can pull out of the scene?” I asked.
“Sure. I wish it was sound though,” he said. “Hmm…I wonder….”
I left and headed back to the main security office. When I got there, Josh was packing up.
“End of shift?” I asked.
“Yeah, John Caruthers will be on the desk for this shift. I’ll probably be back out here at five in the morning. You’re on our shift; you should be knocking off too,” Josh said.
“I got a late start. I figure at the very least I owe them a patrol of the campus.”
“I’ll mark you on patrol and the reasons you are. Watch yourself out there.”
I headed out, wove my way all the way down to Hawthorne Cottage, and worked my way back past Poe Cottage. I could see quite a few lights on at the cottages. It was a school night and after dinner; I figured they were studying. From Poe, I headed for Whitman, past the campus proper.
As I was walking, Hive said, “Proximity alert. Human target bearing zero six three degrees. Range thirty feet.”
A target appeared in my vision, and it shifted slightly, infrared displaying the person hiding in the bushes. I dropped to the ground and went into a sniper’s crawl. A crawl is a true exercise in stealth. Most times, you don’t have to worry about being heard until you make the shot, then you move quickly and quietly to get clear. Here, there would be no shot; though if there were to be one, a miss would be doubtful. This crawl would be both easy and hard. I had one bush between me and the subject, but no noisy underbrush to give me away. I moved around until I was past the bush and could see the person better. He had something in his hand and was watching back up the path I had been taking. A few soft steps and I was behind him.
Getting right up next to his ear, I whispered, “Who are we waiting on?”
If a man could climb out of his skin and scream at the same time, I think he might have tried it. One hand reached for a weapon that he wasn’t carrying while his knees gave out.
“I… I’ll… tell you as soon as my heart starts again.”
I waited a ten count and said, “Give me one reason I shouldn’t report you to security.”
“I’m here to see you and make you an offer. My name is Zack Meyers, and I would like to tell you about the opportunities available for one such as you with the Federal Bureau of Investigation….”
“You’re a recruiter?” I asked
“I prefer candidate investigator and procurer,” Meyers said.
“Tough; get off the school grounds; you’re not authorized to be here.”
“Our agreement with the staff on recruitment policies applies to the students.”
“Whatever. I have found a man hiding in the bushes on the school campus. I see you as a threat to the students. Now get off the campus, or you can explain it again from a holding cell.”
“OK, OK, I’m leaving. A simple ‘not interested’ would have been enough,” he said as he left. As he was moving out of normal hearing range, I heard, “Sheesh, what crawled up her butt and died?”
I snapped. I could still see him moving away. As he approached a tree, I drew my combat knife and threw. It landed with a thunk in the tree next to his head. As I raced to catch up to him, he stood there in shock. Standing right in his face, I said, “Listen, there are only two things between you and me killing you -- air and fear of God.” I blew out forcefully through my nose. “Now there is just fear of God. Apparently, you were not briefed very well. There’s such a thing as common courtesy to a lady. Simple respect. A comment like that in the wrong place and you could get Permanent Change of Station orders to a spot in Arlington. Remember that.”
This time he walked off quieter, though I’m sure he was thinking rather rude thoughts. I continued my walk.
The valley was in full darkness now, and I was swinging back by Whitman when I heard a smack combined with a thud in a tree overhead. I looked up and nearly broke out laughing at the sight of a girl in a black dress wrapped around the tree trunk ,very much like the Halloween ornament that Joann use to hang on the telephone pole out front of our house. The ornament was of a witch who, while riding her broom, had run into the tree.
I called up, “Don’t move, I’m calling the medics.” I proceeded to do just that.
“Central, this is Everheart.”
“This is Central, go ahead,” a deep voice with a slight British lilt replied.
“I have a person who apparently flew into a tree here. She is still up there; could you send a medical team and someone to help get her down. She hit rather hard.”
Surprisingly, he answered with no laughter, “Roger, Everheart, a two-man medic team with packs will be there in a minute.”
They did arrive shortly after I finished the call and proceeded to lower the girl to the ground and began examining her. Seeing she was in good hands, I got ready to leave, but I had to ask, “Just how often does something like this happen?”
“We usually get a few each year as new students discover or develop flight. Feel they are comfortable and quite skilled flying, but some of them forget that they are still subject to inertia and end up wrapping themselves around some vertical object on or around the grounds. It usually settles down after one or two accidents, and the word spreads. ‘Course there are always the slalom jockeys who deliberately try to run the woods,” one of the medics explained.
I guess it’s starting earlier every year. I use to have to deal with hot dogs when I was in the navy. The trick was to beat some sense into them before they got out in the field and the opposition did it for us and usually ended the hot dog’s career at the same time. I finished my patrol and headed back to the office.
“Great, now I get to spend more quality time filling out reports on everything that happened on this patrol,” I mumbled to myself.
“Working on them now,” Hive said.
“Huh? What are you doing, Hive? And use small words so I understand,” I asked as I walked
“Hive… is… writing… reports… to… be… filed. Reports… will… be… ready… on… return… to… office.”
“OK, smartass, I guess I asked for that one. How did you find the forms that needed to be filled out?”
“On first access of network during initial interview, forms were located in electronic format,” Hive explained.
“And you’re just telling me about this now?”
“Not deemed necessary at the time to continued survival of Hive/Everheart network. Importance of forms increased now that interference with physical recharge of Everheart network noted.”
“Since filling out forms would keep me up late and thus place undue stress on my body, you decided to fill them out for me?” I asked
“Evaluation correct,” Hive replied.
“Oh, this is gonna be interesting,” I chuckled.
As I walked into the security office, a new man was behind the desk. He had dark hair and a heavy eyebrow that took a second look to determine if there were two of them. If he was put in a loincloth, he could have played a Cro-Magnon in a documentary. A normal person’s evaluation of him would be “low brow grunt” as a literal judgment. I had met quite a few soliders whose pre-historic looks hid very sharp minds and skills.
“You must be John Caruthers. Joshua told me you would be taking over for the night shift. I’m Samantha Everheart,” I said, extending my hand over the desk.
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss Everheart,” John replied with a reach forward, taking my hand then turning it over to kiss the back.
“So cavalier! Tell me, sir knight, why are you being so gracious?” I asked.
“Just giving the sugar before the vinegar,” John began. “You have some reports to fill out for your patrol.” He began to pull together papers as the printer behind him began to whir.
“You mean these reports?” I asked walking over to the printer to get the stack as it completed printing. I turned and handed them to him with an expectant look on my face.
Flipping through the papers, John looked up and said, “Uh, yeah,” with a puzzled look.
“Listen, I think I’ve now put in a full shift. Between the investigation and the patrol, I’ve been working for 12 hours. I’m signing out now, but I’m going to check up with Rorke. If he’s still here that is…,” I prompted.
Checking his logs, John said, “Rorke… Hmm, he didn’t sign out. He must still be here.” I turned and headed for the holographic lab I had left him in.
I arrived and opened the door to find the holographic scene filled with red lines, and Rorke bent over the keyboard entering commands and grumbling.
“What’s wrong, Rorke?”
Surprised he looked up. “Oh, it’s you. I could use your passenger’s help.”
“What have you come up with?”
“Well, I was looking through the preliminary reports from the investigation, and I saw that the shotgun had been discharged apparently at something. I thought by plotting the trajectories of the buckshot you found, that I might be able to come up with a rough idea of the size and shape of the target. But I’m having problems getting all the buckshot holes I have found to line up. It doesn’t help that the attack happened at least two days before he was found,” he explained.
“Oh, that explains the spider web,” I chuckled. “I guess we found a limitation of this procedure. We forgot that this area has apparently been used for hunting for some time. There’s bound to be ‘down range’ shot buried in almost every tree out there. Hive, eliminate all tracks but the fresh ones I spotted at the scene.”
Track lines started disappearing until only five were left, coming from two trees across the clearing.
“I made some assumptions when I was at the scene, but I feel they are sound. The victim had a shotgun, and I saw no shot damage at ground level, so I knew he hadn’t fired it into the ground. The damage to the tree was fairly fresh; I could still smell the tree sap. So he shot from where he was standing -- probably even from the hip. By taking these bullet tracks and tracing them back to where the victim fell, we should be able to get an idea of the mass of the target he was shooting at. Both barrels of double-aught buckshot and only five pellets found. Something of fair size either blocked the shot, or the scatter was a lot wider than I’ve guessed. I’ll have to ask the lab to run a shot pattern check on the shotgun.”
A gray column appeared in the hologram.
“That is the rough size of the attacker at that distance. By moving it closer or further away from the origin, it will change,” I said.
“Where did you get all this forensic knowledge?” Rorke asked.
“I watch a lot of TV. And I have had to deconstruct some combat scenes to see who fired what,” I said.
Just then, my radio squawked.
“Everheart, Delarose wants you in his office,” John said.
“I’ll be up in a couple of minutes,” I replied
“He wants you now.”
As Rorke made wide-eyed shoo’ing motions, I responded, “On my way.”
I arrived at Chief Delarose’s office and knocked.
I entered and said, “You wanted to see me, Chief?”
“Yes, I was just going over your crime scene report when another call came in. A student was shot,” he explained.
“A shooting? When and where did it happen? I was out walking a patrol; I didn’t hear anything,” I said.
“As for when, apparently it was a couple of days ago. Where we aren’t sure of. The student isn’t talking.”
“I should think the student would be in the hospital by now from blood loss alone,” I wondered.
“Remember, I said we had some rather unique students here. Well, this is one that is a Lycan,” the chief said.
“There’s a student here that’s a mold?” I asked, suspicious of a prank.
“Not this year. No, this student is a classic werewolf as in lycanthrope -- everything portrayed in the movies and so on.”
“Oh, why do you want me on this call and not someone from the current shift?” I asked.
“The infirmary just pulled twelve double-aught buckshot pellets out of him.”
This caught my interest.
“Alright, I’ll go talk to him and find out how he got shot. I may get some use out of my project after all. I’ll let you know what I find out,” I said as I left.
“I’ll expect the update tonight,” he called after me.
It was a short walk over to the infirmary. When I arrived, I could hear shouting, some of which was almost barking. “You can’t hold me. You have no right!” yelled the barking voice.
“We were asked to have you wait. It shouldn’t be long,” a voice consoled.
I followed the shouting to an examination room. I rounded the corner to find a nurse looking up at a mass of hair and teeth.
“And your wait is over. I’m from security and would like to question this boy further,” I said.
“I ain’t got nuttin’ to say to no cop!” he snarled.
“Such manners, maybe a rolled up newspaper across your nose would get your attention.”
“Just you try it!”
“Listen you, either calm down, and answer some questions truthfully, or I’ll just take you over to security and throw you in the lock-up till the federal marshals can come get you,” I countered.
That cowed him a bit.
“Feds? Why?” he asked
“Thank you, nurse, that will be all,” I said to dismiss the nurse. “Walk with me, fuzzy.”
He followed me as we headed outside. “My name is Raphael Hodges. My code name is Bloodwolf; it’s not ‘Fuzzy.’ Where are we going?” he asked.
“Pleasure to meet you, I’m Samantha Everheart. We are going somewhere to talk.”
I lead him back to Kane Hall as he got more nervous.
“No, I’m not taking you to be booked. But Kane hall is the only place I know of we won’t be bothered,” I explained
We entered Kane and went past the desk and down into the holographic lab. I knocked on the door to the lab Rorke and I had been working in and stuck my head in.
“Rorke, you’re still here? Turn it off and bring up the lights,” I said.
We entered and I snagged a chair.
Sitting down, I began again, “Listen, Raphe, I’m investigating a homicide.”
“I’ve been on school grounds all day. I only went to the infirmary because my skin was itching, and I was a bit sore,” he said.
“Getting shot can do that.”
He flinched. It was warm in the lab after being outside, but Raphael was sweating more than I felt was normal.
“Rorke, would you please bring up what we’ve been working on today,” I asked.
The clearing appeared in the room. Raphael flinched again.
“Look familiar?” I asked. “This is where we found the victim. Not only was he dead, but he had been chewed on by an animal of some sort. Listen, those buckshot that were taken out of you are going to be given to Dr. Sams. She’s going to compare them to the ones we dug out of that tree at the scene of the homicide.” I indicated the tree.
“One buckshot is like another. You can’t match them up,” Raphael said.
“It’s difficult, but it can be done. The other part that can be tested is the gunpowder residue. Ammunition and explosive manufacturers have been including lot identifiers that don’t burn in their powder. I’m willing to bet that when tested, we’ll get a match. So, save me some trouble and tell me the truth. I want to go get some sleep. Right now, you are a prime suspect.”
With a sigh he began, “Alright, I’ll tell you. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. I was out getting to know my animal, when I smelled this truly sweet and wonderful smell. I just had to find it. I followed my nose. After a bit, I found a truck parked not too far from the school. The smell was stronger, so I started stalking the source. Two minutes later, I climbed a tree to get a better sense of direction since the hollow was full of the smell. A moment later, this hunter walked in the clearing, and I could tell the smell was coming from him. I had to have it. I jumped down and intended to ask him what the smell was. I forgot I was with my animal. He turned at the noise of my landing and fired his gun at me. Surprised, I jumped away and headed back for the school campus. He was alive when I left him, I swear!”
“Ah, how far can you jump?” I asked.
“When I’m with my animal?”
“Maybe twenty-five feet -- I was scared, and I didn’t want to hit a tree.”
“Thanks, don’t leave the campus until this is cleared up,” I warned. “Let’s go, I’ll walk you out.”
I led him out to the door and made sure he could get back to his cottage. I even wrote an excuse for the housefather. After that, I signed out and went up to my apartment.
I woke up alone. No one in bed with me. No homey noises from the kitchen. It was after Thanksgiving, and I was alone.
Dr. Terry’s voice, “Don’t go there, I’m still with you.”
“What?” I asked.
“Scheduled shift to begin in sixty minutes,” Hive said.
I got up and opened the door to the smell of coffee. Thank god for automatic coffee machines. I poured myself a cup and went back to the bathroom to brush out my hair. Twenty minutes later I was out and replenishing Hive’s battery and eating my own breakfast. Boy, eating cereal with moonshine is an experience I’ll have to try to avoid in the future. Yeah, eat it with lunch or dinner. I rinsed out the dishes, grabbed my uniform belt, having already changed into the uniform after brushing out my hair and headed downstairs.
As I entered the security office, Josh was just relieving the man on desk duty.
“Stuck out front again, Josh?” I asked.
“What can I say? The boss likes a pretty face,” he replied. “Oh, the boss wants you now. Something about the investigation, I’ll bet.”
I thanked him and headed back to the chief’s office.
As I approached, I heard a raised voice, “You have evidence. The boy even admitted to being there. I demand you turn the boy over to the local authorities so he can be arraigned.”
“No, we haven’t completed our investigation yet. I’ll not have a rush to judgment ruin a child’s life. We’ll wait,” said Chief Delarose.
“You will do as the board of the school demands or face disciplinary action,” the voice threatened.
“From whom? You forget, Reverend, we are here at the behest of the governments whose children attend this school. We work closely with the board, but we have our own mandates that we have to follow. One of which is the protection of the students of the school. ALL the students. What about the right of innocence until proven guilty?”
“The law can conduct the investigation then.”
“They were the ones who asked us to handle it,” Delarose countered.
“You gathered their evidence. Let them proceed with the case.”
“Reverend, do I have to remind you of what happened when there was a rush to judgment in Salem in 1692? Twenty people were killed by due process of law. All with no physical proof! If he is guilty, we will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt BEFORE it goes to trial and not a second later. Do I make myself clear to you, sir?”
“You will learn your place,” the Reverend threatened as the doorknob began to turn. I stepped out of the way.
A tall gaunt older man stormed out of the office. After a moment, I knocked.
“Come in, Everheart,” the chief ordered.
I entered. “You asked for me chief?”
“Yes, I want an update on the investigation.”
“There’s not much to tell at this point. But I’ll run though what I know. Friday the victim was apparently out hunting. Something Bloodwolf smelled drew him to the victim like a wino to booze. He jumped down into the clearing, figuring to scare the victim into giving him what he had smelled. The victim, surprised, raised his shotgun and fired, hitting Bloodwolf with twelve double-aught pellets. There is only a slim chance that forensic testing will be able to match the gunpowder residue to that on the pellets we dug out of the tree. At that point, Bloodwolf, scared by being shot, ran off. At this time, he’s the last person to have seen the victim alive that we know of. I’m waiting on the autopsy of the victim to see if anything else gets turned up,” I explained.
“What’s on your schedule today?” Delarose asked.
“Since I started working here, I don’t think I’ve had a ‘normal’ day yet. So I have no idea what my schedule is even supposed to be.”
“Well, it’s not going to descend into any sort of normal routine for the foreseeable future. The arrival of Reverend Englund tells me that this year is not going to be different from any other year. Things are happening at the school that are jostling a lot of apple carts, and the owners are not happy about it, so they are looking for someone to vent their frustrations on. As the saying goes, ‘Shit rolls downhill,’ and you are downhill from me.”
“Pardon me sir, apple carts and owners?”
“Oh, I’m just saying that a lot of people who have any rank at this school seem to be pleased to try and flex their rank over areas that it doesn’t extend. Meaning security,” Delarose explained.
“Lovely. Do you have any other wonderful news for me?” I asked.
“Just that Dr. Sams has the results from the autopsy and other tests; she’s ready to report on those results.”
“Things are looking up. Maybe some progress can be made on this investigation. All I’m doing so far is getting more questions to ask,” I grumbled.
“Keep on top of it, and it will work out,” Chief Delarose consoled me.
I headed out of the office and over to the medical section of Dunn Hall. About halfway there Hive said, “Single subject beyond the tree ahead on the right.”
“Crap. It’s too early in the morning for this,” I grumbled to myself, then said aloud, “You there, behind that tree. Come out slowly with your hands in view and make no sudden movements.”
A man stepped from behind the tree with both hands in view. He was dressed in a suit that seemed out of place for someone hunkered down behind a tree.
“Alright, who are you?” I asked.
“My name is Carstairs. Alex Carstairs, Miss Everheart. If you have some time, I’d like to talk to you about business opportunities in the United Kingdom.”
“Great, another one. Listen, I’ll give you the same warning I gave the last recruiter. Get off the campus grounds. If you don’t, I’ll consider you a stalker and a danger to the students. You’ll be arrested and thrown in jail. Now get lost!” I ordered and kept walking.
I made it to Dunn Hall without further interruption and made it down to Dr. Sam’s lab. I entered and was greeted by an annoyed look from Dr. Sams. “Oh, it’s you. About time you showed up,” she groused.
“Good morning to you, Doctor,” I greeted her, determined not to let her annoy me.
“I suppose you’re here for the autopsy results.”
“Yes, I was sent over to get them.”
“Well, the cause of death was a severed spinal cord at C-5, C-6, and C-7. The bruising to the face and arms happened before death, the rest is post-mortem damage. The post-mortem damage is consistent with animal feeding. The major bite marks are from one feeder; the few others are from smaller wildlife. I took a casting of the bite marks. The bite is too large to belong to a puma or wolf. The fact that the neck was snapped and there’s no other damage to the neck seems to indicate some intelligence behind the attack,” she said.
“Interesting, may I have the bite casting?”
“It’s over there,” the doctor said pointing.
“Oh, we did find one thing that was a bit strange. He had a fungus on his hand. The fungus is called ergot, which produces a substance called ergotamine – a natural psychedelic compound. In difference to you, you can call it a natural form of LSD and not be far off. When I found this, I had a blood toxicology series run and they came up negative. He only had some metformin and some blood pressure meds present. His stomach contents even had some of the pills present. Metformin is a generic diabetes medication.”
“Thanks again, Doctor, for your completeness,” I said as I left.
Going back to Kane Hall, I berated myself for missing a clue. I should have had Bloodwolf make a bite impression. I guess I can get it later.
As I arrived back at Kane, Josh caught me coming in the front door. “Samantha, you have a command performance.”
“A what?” I asked.
“’A command performance.’ You were asked for by name, by none other than Mr. Lodgeman, one of the trustees.” Josh explained.
“And where am I supposed to meet him?”
“Over at Schuster of course. All the trustees maintain offices on campus.”
“Okay, I’m off to see the wizard,” I said.
“More true than you realize,” Josh said to my back as I left.
Once more, I headed for the Crystal Hall that adjoined Schuster. Students were between classes, so the paths were busy. It apparently was a rare “Green day” on the campus, since I was seeing things that, before a week ago, I would have expected to see faked in a circus sideshow. Students flying, walking talking statues; I even saw a mermaid in a wheelchair. It was cold today, so everyone was moving quickly.
I arrived at the hall, then followed the signs into the administrative wing, and arrived at Charlie Lodgeman’s door. As my hand moved forward in the first stroke of a knock the door opened.
“Come in Miss Everheart, come in,” Charlie Lodgeman greeted me.
He was dressed rather more casually than I would expect a trustee to be dressed -- in blue jeans with a large turquoise belt buckle, cowboy boots and a vertically striped blue and white button down long sleeve shirt. To the back of the room, tossed on a cardboard box was a white Stetson cowboy hat.
“Why don’t you take a seat? Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Or would you prefer white lightning?” he asked.
That simple set of questions told me that this man knew more than he was letting on.
“A coffee will be fine, sir,” I responded.
“None of that, you’re not a student here. It’s Charlie.”
As he poured two cups of coffee, I asked, “Why did you offer me moonshine?”
“Oh, I heard about your testing. Remind me not to get in a drinking contest with you. I know you can cheat.”
I asked, “Ah, what is the reason you asked for me? It’s not to talk about drinking contests.”
“You are the chief investigator on the murder case that security is currently investigating for the county. And your primary suspect is a student at the school.”
“You’re correct, so far. Did you bring me here to demand that I arrest the boy and turn him over to the Sheriff?”
“Hardly; I want you to find the real culprit.” Then he smiled grasping his chin. “Hmm, how to go about this without sounding like an old man following a hokey religion using a strange weapon? I know! I’ll tell the truth!”
“Seems to be a novel approach for this place, from what I’ve seen so far.” I smiled.
“I know that Bloodwolf didn’t do it,” Charlie declared.
“Pray tell me how you know this?”
“I have my ways. Not all of which are admissible in court.”
“Is this ‘way’ illegal?”
“Well, I don’t think ‘A little bird told me’ would go over well in court.”
“Somehow, with all the strangeness I’ve seen here so far, I’d have to agree with you.
“But I need physical proof that he didn’t do it. Or proof that the victim died a different way. Even if I get that bite impression from Raphael, and it doesn’t match the bite marks on the body, that doesn’t prove he didn’t kill him; just that he didn’t snack,” I explained.
“I know you can do it. You’ve gotten this far, discovered and deduced some evidence that the others missed. You’ve even gone so far as to recreate the crime scene. I just know that my source says that Bloodwolf’s story checks out.”
“I just had a thought,” I began, “Dr. Sams said that the victim was killed by some intelligence. That, tied with the size of the bite marks, still points me at a werewolf attack. You are more familiar with the area than I am, Charlie; are there any weres in the area other than those at this school? I know of two at the school, though I really don’t think Harry would be the type to do it.”
“Nether would I, and I know his family,” Charlie said, “Besides, he’s not really a werewolf. He can’t change back.”
“Why is that? He certainly looks the part.”
“Granted, but his looks are the result of an ancestor crossing a witch. Every man born in that family looks like a classical werewolf. And every woman born to that family could win beauty pageants if she wanted to. But that’s getting off the subject. There was something else I think you should know. Ergot fungus is to a werewolf like catnip to a cat.”
“So, why would a hunter be carrying something he probably knew would draw werewolves? Was he hunting them?”
“I doubt it. Even the Klan and H1 know better than to hunt weres. They don’t like them, but they won’t hunt them. They tried back in the twenties. They stopped when they realized that for every were they killed, the entire family of the killer was killed in retaliation before the killer was killed, and then the entire family was left tied to crosses in front of the grand high wizard of the Klan’s house.”
“Another ‘bird’ story?”
Charlie shook his head, “No, actually, the head of the local were pack told me.”
“And you were going to tell me this when?”
“I just did.”
“Couldn’t you have told me this sooner?”
“I mean, gee, it would have been nice. ‘Oh hey, I know the local were pack; they might be able to help you out.’ Would have been a great help. But no, here I am blundering through this investigation not really knowing what I’m doing. I have a boy’s life in my hands, and possibly the lives of anyone else this killer decides to go knock off before I stumble upon him. Probably right before he snaps my neck!”
“Calm down, Samantha.”
“Why? I’m a… I mean, I was a Navy SEAL, the best of the best. I know it’s behind me now, but my skills are in fighting, not detective work.”
As I continued to be worked up, Charlie looked me up and down. Then he stood up, took a deep breath and bellowed, “Ten-hut!”
Out of long schooled reflexes, I snapped to attention, eyes focused across the room. My outburst quieted.
“Miss Everheart, I think you need to see the doctors. In your past, by your decisions, you held control over many men and women. You handled that admirably then. Therefore, I think your outburst might be due to your current physical condition. Go check on it. I’ll be available if you need to talk. Dismissed.”
And strangely, almost automatically, I turned and left. Walking back to Kane Hall I asked, “Hive, since the change, have there been any physical changes other than the ones you implemented?”
“Affirmative. There has been an increase in FSH-RF, FSH, LH hormones in the bloodstream, along with the female hormone estrogen.”
“No duh, of course there’s estrogen, I’m female now,” I replied.
“Precisely,” Hive replied.
“You don’t mean?”
“Yes, you’ve started menstruation.”
I swear I heard laughter from somewhere.
“This is a sick twist of fate,” I grumbled to myself as I continued walking.
When I arrived at the security office, Josh was still on the desk.
“Hey, Samantha, we got an I.D. on the vic,” he said
“One Michael Baur, fifty-three years old -- he was rich, started out making handmade furniture. His life took off when an interior designer used some of his pieces in a show house that made it on some home improvement show. Orders started pouring in, and he had to expand. He started going to various trade schools and finding promising woodworking students, who he offered to teach in return for work. Soon he had a thriving handmade furniture business. Then he started investing. He purchased a lot of land in the area. Some say it was to protect the forest; others claim it was to ensure the views for a resort he was planning to build. Then he turned up dead.”
“You got all this in the I.D. packet? I may have to change my opinion of Dr. Sams, if this is what she turns out,” I said.
“Nope. Life here at the front desk isn’t all answering phones and smiling at students. I did some web searches, and that is what I’ve picked up so far.”
I said, “Listen, can you check me ‘out of service’ for a while? I need to head over to the school store and pick up a few… um… items.”
“Um, items?” he asked with a grin. “It’s either chocolate, booze, drugs or personal. I can do it though.”
“I’m only doing it because I know you’ll rip my arm off and beat me over the head with it if I don’t,” he dissembled.
With a chuckle, I left and headed for the campus store. I’d been told that the store was particularly unique in its existence. Not only did it carry materials any normal campus bookstore would carry, it also had a selection of items comparable to most convenience stores, and yet it also carried strange things like eye of newt and dew struck by the first light of the spring solstice, right next to micro-circuits and batteries. I was there for “feminine care” items.
After some searching, I found the section I needed through the clutter, and I tipped a few of everything into the basket. Douche, feminine cleansing, feminine deodorant, cramp medication, panty liners, maxi pads, and tampons are what I bought. I didn’t know what half this stuff was for, let alone how to use it. It was one of those feminine mysteries that I’d avoided as a man. The only thing I saw when I looked at maxi-pads and tampons were “military field dressings.” I never had to think about what they were really used for, before now that is. I arrived back at my place even more confused as I tried to read the instructions on a box.
After twenty minutes of reading instructions, I sighed in frustration, “These items have been around in one form or another since at least the twenties. How, pray tell, did they get away with such lousy instructions?”
“That’s probably because there was someone around to show the new girl how to use them,” Sara said, walking in off the balcony.
“Don’t you ever use the door?” I asked.
“It’s a goddess’ prerogative to choose how she enters a room. Besides, I haven’t gotten that whole knob thing worked out yet. By the way, welcome to the club.”
“Argh! Not you too?” I groaned.
“Huh? Me too? You forget to whom you speak. I’m a goddess of Lust. Or demoness, depending on who you talk to… If I can’t smell Myrtle the Fertile Turtle from a distance, no one can. Chances are I’ll be able to tell if you’re pregnant too, but enough about me. I have a favor to ask. Can my team study here tonight? Mrs. Bohn, the powers lab teacher, gave us an assignment to plan the clearing operation of a building using our powers. The other Poe residents are going to be filling up our study area working on the same project. We need room,” Sara asked.
“Shouldn’t you be at lunch?” I asked.
“Only takes me a second to eat. And it disturbs the others when I do, so I volunteered to ask.”
“I guess so; I may still need help with this though. Do you have to use all this?” I asked indicating the cluttered table.
Laughing Sara answered, “Not all at the same time. They are choices, depending on how your cycle is treating you.” She sniffed the air. “You have a few of days before you start bleeding yet. I wouldn’t take a man to bed for at least a week to be safe. Unless you want to get pregnant, that is.”
“As if! I don’t think I’ve gotten to that comfort point yet. I still feel as if I raped my own daughter. Don’t worry, I’m not going postal,” I said.
“Truth be told, I raped your daughter, if you want to get into specifics. But you consented,” Sara scolded me with a smile.
“Not to be splitting hairs, but you didn’t answer my question about this stuff,” I said, holding up a box marked ‘Summer’s Eve’.
“Hey, I may be a goddess of lust and female, but I’ve only been one for about two months. Besides I’m dead; I don’t menstruate,” she finished with a smug look on her face.
“Don’t gloat, it’s unbecoming of a goddess. Do you realize, you can’t search this kind of stuff up on the internet? Sure they have guidelines about steps to take, but there is nothing about the mechanics of what goes where,” I groused.
“I may even be able to give you some advice on your homework. And speaking of homework, I better get back to work on mine.”
I left everything and went back downstairs to do some research. Namely, who were the people who could want Baur dead? I found an empty workstation in the office and started by pulling up the case file. Now what? I have too many questions to ask about this man and no sources. “Guess I’ll have to call the Sheriff,” I mumbled to myself. I dialed the number to the station in town.
“Hello, Sheriff’s office? If this is an emergency call, I can transfer you to the 911 operator,” the voice said.
I said, “No, this is not an emergency. This is Officer Samantha Everheart of Whateley security. I would like to talk to the detective who was originally assigned to the killing that you handed off to our Crime Scene Investigators.”
“That would be Haley Brown. Let me transfer you.”
The phone was laid on the desk, and the voice rang out, “Haley, pick up; it’s some woman from Whateley for you.” Then I heard the phone picked up and the voice said, “Transferring you now.”
I then heard the rattle of another phone being picked up, and a new voice called, “I have it Betty!” I heard the rattle of a phone being hung up.
“Hello, this is detective Haley Brown; how can I help you miss…”
“…Everheart. I am leading the investigation into the death you passed on to us.”
“The bear mauling? I was wondering why we’d not heard back from you. Seems pretty simple.”
“It’s not. First off, it seems that it wasn’t a bear; the creature that did kill Michael Baur had some intelligence behind it. More than the average wild bear possesses. Also, some additional evidence at the scene points to it possibly being premeditated,” I explained.
“Are you just calling to gloat?” he asked sounding irritated.
“No, actually I called to ask for your help. I’m new to the area, having been brought in from Washington state. I don’t know the area well. What can you tell me about Michael Baur?”
“Made his money the old fashion way, he earned it. He always enjoyed woodworking. When we were in school, he became very good at it. He caught a break when an interior designer picked up a couple of his pieces at a flea market. As demands for his work increased, he needed more and more wood. He started going out in the woods looking for prospective trees in the area to harvest to make his furniture. Very quickly, he saw he needed to replace what he took; so, like the big lumber companies, he started planting replacements for what he took. One thing led to another, and he became bogged down in business. But he still made time to go scout trees.”
“Who were his friends?”
“Oh, most anyone in town could say they were friends. When his business took off, he shared the wealth. Using the local crafts people on his projects, or showing their work to interior designers, which in turn increased business for them. That in turn increased demand for more furniture from all the craftsmen in the area, which boot-strapped the entire town. He genuinely loved this community.”
“Do you know of anyone who might not like him?” I probed.
“Well… On two occasions, I was called to break up disturbances involving Baur and Charles Scrimshure. He’s a land developer. Seems like he had been pressing Baur to sell his local forestland to him. I’ll check him out.”
“OK, you do that, and I’ll keep you in-the-loop on what I find. Nice talking to you.” I hung up the phone.
As I sat there thinking, the phone rang again.
“Hello, Security office, how may I help you?” I answered.
“Miss Everheart, this is Dr. Sams. I have completed my investigation if you’d care for the report.”
“I’ll be right down,” I replied and hung up.
Shortly, I was standing there looking over Dr. Sams’ report.
“You did nothing else with this fungus bag you found in the red bag?” I asked
“I identified what was carried in the bag. Is there something else I should have done?”
“Checked for fingerprints for starters,” I replied.
“United States Patent 4407842 comes to mind.”
“Do you have any superglue and a large and small container?”
“Sure, over there,” she said indicating the containers.
“Bring me the bag and some gloves please,” I requested.
I turned over the large container and pulled over a chemistry stand. I adjusted the clip on it to close completely. Doctor Sams arrived with the superglue, the bag and the gloves. I put the gloves on and placed the bag in the clip, held on by an edge. I then took some aluminum foil and made a small dish. Grabbing the doctor’s cup warmer and coffee, I placed both near the sample. I took another piece of aluminum foil, rubbed my nose with my thumb then pressed it squarely on the foil. I then put a nickel sized squirt of the superglue into the aluminum container; I placed it near the bag and then covered the whole thing with the larger container.
“What is all that for?”
“The superglue will lift any fingerprints by adhering to the oils left by the hands. The coffee is for humidity and the warmer is to accelerate it,” I explained, “Don’t you guys watch TV?”
“Just how did you know that patent number? I mean this is a rather esoteric use for your average person to know about in such specifics,” Simon asked.
“Well, I asked before about watching TV. There are quite a few crime dramas on that are still popular. After my accident, I spent a long time in rehabilitation. I had time to watch these shows. At one time or another, they have shown this method of getting fingerprints off difficult to print items. I was curious and looked up the procedure on the Internet. Seemed it was real and not something the show writers had cooked up. You know how, if you get superglue on your fingers, you can get them stuck to the point that you need to go to the hospital to get them apart again? That’s because of the primary ingredient, cyanoacrylate (or C5H5NO2 for you chemistry buffs). The cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin that cures almost instantly. The only trigger it requires is the hydroxyl ions in water, which is convenient, since virtually any object you might wish to glue will have at least trace amounts of water on its surface. Thus, by placing a non-permeable item in a closed container with some mild heat, cyanoacrylate will react with the trace materials left behind in fingerprints, such as amino acids and glucose, making them visible,” I explained.
“Impressive. You continue to amaze me. You’re showing a lot of intelligence in that blonde head of yours,” Dr. Sams said.
“That’s good, because I don’t know what I just said. Even before I came here, I had a mind like a steel trap for trivia. And it’s really bad for stuff I’ve seen on television. Though, if I keep working in this field, I’m going to have to get some specific investigative training. Seems, I have a knack for it. Ah, here’s a fingerprint now,” I said as I lifted the lid off the box. “Throw out that cup of coffee, the scum on it is super-glue.”
I fished out the baggie and found what looked like a good fingerprint on it. I grabbed a piece of wide clear tape and captured the fingerprint then taped it to a card.
“Now to go scan this in and run it through the National Crime Information Center and anyplace else I can think of. I have to find out who this is.”
I walked back over to Kane Hall and entered security. Over the last few days, Hive had managed to filter down or set up its own connections to most of the sensors whose data was displayed in this room. Since they were located in Kane Hall, they took advantage of the rounded wall and used it as an area to mount displays. It was very reminiscent of many science fiction shows, allowing a centralized display area with control stations arrayed behind stadium-like. Beyond the control area were the offices. I made my way back to one of the empty offices with a scanner and scanned the fingerprint in. I then called up NCIC and requested a comparison run. I received no matches. Ok, it wasn’t a criminal who handled this bag. Or at least one that hasn’t been caught yet. Sighing, I decided to pull a rabbit out of my hat. I accessed the national archive. After working through multiple layers of security checks, I was able to run a comparison to military records. This scan wouldn’t be admissible in court, but it could give me a lead. Some thirty minutes later, I got a hit.
Charles Scrimpshure, U.S. Army. M.O.S. 3534. He used his G.I. bill money to take a real-estate course. I noted down his social security number and ran a credit check on him. While I was at it, I ran a credit check on Baur as well. The check turned up a list of their credit cards and accounts. I then ran a comparison between the Baur’s and Scrimpshure’s accounts to see if there were any parallels. Sure enough, there was a commonality between them. Seems they were often eating at Sally’s Restaurant at the same time. Over three months, there was a charge a week on at least one of their cards on the same day of the week.
Hmm, looks like I have something to pass on to the Sheriff. I called the Sheriff’s office and asked for Detective Brown.
“Brown here,” was the response.
“This is Officer Everheart, I have some more info for you to check out. It seems there was a plastic bag in the effects of Mr. Baur. I was able to lift a fingerprint off of it, and it pointed to a Charles Scrimpshure. Using some connections, I ran a credit check on both men’s credit cards and came up with a common location. Sally’s Restaurant. It seems they were often both eating there at the same time. It’s possible that they were meeting. Could you swing by there and see what you can find out from the staff?”
“Sure, I’ll get on it tomorrow. I eat lunch there myself on occasion.”
After classes had let out, Sara and the rest of Team Kimba showed up at my apartment. They settled in and pulled out a plan of a two-story building. The debate began with all of them except Jade and Nikki wanting to be first one in.
Chaka campaigned. “Listen I should be the first in. With my speed, I can scout and take out anything we come across quickly.”
At the same time, Hank was saying, “I should be first in. My TK field will protect me from most any damage. If they have guns, I won’t get hurt.”
Jinn was also saying, “I should be first in. I’m dead; I can’t be killed twice.”
And so on it went, with most of them trying to explain why they should be first in. I just stood back and shook my head.
Finally, I asked, “Are you in that much of a hurry to die and or fail?”
Silence descended on the room as all eyes turned to me.
Toni perked up. “What do you mean?”
“Are you actually going to trust the provided intelligence?”
“The teacher provided it. Why would it be wrong?” Toni asked.
“As a learning experience?” I countered.
“They don’t do stuff like that in schools.”
“Have you been to any other school like Whateley?” I asked.
“Here, more than any place you know of, you should not take something at face value. In combat that can get you dead. I survived my time as a sniper because of situational awareness in a combat zone. The first thing you need to think about is confirming the provided intelligence,” I explained. “So, what do you have at your team’s disposal in the way of sensory and or intelligence gathering skills, tools, or powers?
“Is it possible the enemy can detect any of those? If they can detect them, which is the most unlikely? Actually, a lot of this depends on who you’re going up against. That will go a long way to determining the answers to those questions.
“Now, assuming you confirm the information you have, what’s still missing? Where are the defenders located and how are they armed? All this information will help you decide how you’ll approach the structure. While having all this information is nice, sometimes it’s a luxury that isn’t easily available. So you need to be able to clear a building as safely as possible. While I am not familiar with all the facets of your individual powers, I can explain the military procedures for clearing a building using conventional weapons. Once you know them, I’m sure you can put your heads together and develop tactics along the same lines using your unique skills and powers.”
Over the next two hours, I explained military combat methods for clearing a building using two and three person teams, combined teams supporting each other during a room entry, and so on. Then I went on to explain about fortifying the positions once they had been taken. I kept hammering away at just how important situational awareness is.
I finished with a warning, “Remember, watch out for Murphy.”
“Who’s Murphy?” Ayla asked.
“Ever hear of Murphy’s Law? Same guy,” Hank explained.
“Yep. The unexpected, the unplanned for, and plain old dumb luck for the bad guy. Murphy can move a mission from the successfully completed right into the toilet. Sometimes it can’t be prevented, in those cases the trick is to get as many as possible out alive. Murphy crashed more than one mission I went on while I was active duty,” I finished.
“Well, it’s getting late, and we need to get back before curfew,” Sara prompted.
Everyone bid their goodbyes, and I took a shower and went to bed.
I woke to pain. It felt like someone had stuck their hand in my belly, then twisted and started to squeeze. Damn, it hurt! As I lay there doubled up in pain, I heard a noise in the darkness. It was the sound of glass being set on tile. Someone was in the apartment. Putting the pain aside, I quietly rolled out of bed and crept over to the bedroom door. As I moved, I heard quiet voices.
“She really does good work. I wonder if she does cottage rooms,” one voice said.
“Listen, we’re here to plan our next mission. This place being an apartment now interferes with that. Let’s get rid of her and get back to planning,” said another.
“Won’t take long, she’s asleep in her bed,” said a third.
“Ahh, this is good booze!” stage whispered the first.
“How would you know? That’s probably your first drink,” the second jibed.
Don’t cha just love stupid people? I settled by the door to wait. Apparently, these guys might be students, so I shouldn’t kill them. It wouldn’t do for me to kill someone I’m supposed to be protecting here, even though they have invaded my home. I heard the floor creak as they moved around. It occurred to me I could go for a shock and awe attack. I slipped off my sleeping T-shirt and waited by the door.
I watched the knob slowly turn until it stopped. Just as the door started to open, I reached out, grabbed the knob, and pulled it open on my own.
I found a black-garbed kid gawking at me, since I had pulled the door out of his hand. Beyond him, I saw two more figures dressed the same.
“Pardon me, I need to go to the bathroom,” I said sleepily. I knew I had pillow hair.
He actually started to step back out of reflex.
I took a step forward, thrusting the heel of my open hand into his chest. “I said, MOVE!” as he flew over the peninsula of the kitchen counters, landing with a crash into the splintering dining table.
“Crap, now look what you made me do,” I grumbled.
The other two tried to close with me, but I had an advantage of terrain. Only one could get at me easily. That is, until the third one started to climb over the counter. They both drew their swords.
“Guys, I’m so-o not in the mood for this. I’m hurting and ticked off. And you were going to steal my medicinal alcohol.”
The one closest made a cut to my neck. Suddenly, everything was in slow motion. I stepped into him, ducking under the swing and pushed him off balance. I turned to number three, jumping the counter, and helped him across and into his partner, relieving him of his sword as he passed me. To get it out of the way, I threw the sword out the nearest window I saw. That happened to be a closed balcony French door. It went through it with a crash, narrowly missing the number one, who was drawing his sword as well.
Again, I closed the distance. This time I completed the draw for him, ripping the sword from his grasp. Then I pulled him off balance with enough force to pile him into his partners.
“You guys have really pissed me off,” I said as I stood in front of the balcony. “You break into my house, drink my booze, plan on killing me, and then break my furniture. I think I’ll take the cost of it out of your hides.”
They reached into a pocket and made a throwing motion. The room was filled with smoke. My vision shifted to infrared and I tracked them as they fled for the other balcony doors. I stepped over to those doors and as each passed me, I yanked down a curtain cord, wrapping it around an arm, and threw them out the doors. I tied the cords off to the balcony before they had stopped screaming.
The screaming stopped with a trio of thuds. It was followed by groans, then more screaming of pain.
I walked over to the phone and dialed the security desk.
“Security desk, this is officer Franko. What’s the problem?”
“This is officer Everheart upstairs. I would like to report a breaking and entry, assault and attempted murder. The perps are hanging off of my balcony. Could you have someone come remove them?” I asked tiredly.
“Uh… We’ll be right up,” he stuttered out.
I hung up and went to go get dressed.
I got down to security, coffee in my hand, trying to wake myself up. I was sitting with one of the officers, filling out my report and drinking the last of my coffee, when a voice from on high was heard.
“Everheart! My office. Now.”
With a smirk and a subtle shake of his head, I left the officer and headed for Chief Delarose’s office.
“Close the door and sit down,” was all he said by way of greeting.
After I sat, he continued.
“Tell me something, Samantha; were you this much trouble in the SEALs? Since you’ve shown up, I’ve dealt with being told you were hired without really being asked for my opinion. I assigned you on the first murder investigation this force has had to deal with in ten years. Found out you can be very emotional. And now I have you hanging teenagers out your windows by curtain cords,” he said, getting more forceful with each sentence.
“The line was securely tied to both them and the railing. The shock point on the rope was higher than their weight.”
“I’ll assume you knew that.”
“Everheart, if you know what’s good for you, don’t answer that question. Just what is your problem? Did you take on a second job as a walking trouble magnet? What will be your next stunt? Shooting a lit cigarette out of the headmistress’ mouth?”
“What did I just say? Did you know I’ve been approached three more times demanding that I turn Raphael Hodges over to the authorities for the murder of Michael Baur?”
“I want an explanation, Everheart,” he demanded.
“I’m having my period! I’m menstrual all right! I’m on the rag. Riding the cotton pony. It’s my first time! I woke up doubled over in pain from cramps, and I heard them in the other room talking about getting rid of me. What did you expect me to do, kill them or let them kill me? I’m sure that would go over great at the next parent teacher conference. I woke up with fucking PMS, be happy I didn’t shoot them,” I said with a grumble.
He sat down behind his desk and motioned me to sit down. He sat there looking at me. The sides of his mouth began to twitch, then he began to grin, then snort, and finally the laughter escaped him. It was infectious, and I ended up joining in.
After that meeting, I went back up to bed. I guess the exertion of the fight got rid of the cramps, because I slept the rest of the night through. I woke up at six a.m., dressed and went down to check on things. It was too early to call the Sheriff, and classes didn’t start for at least another hour. I signed myself out to patrol the grounds.
It was one of those penetratingly cold days -- the kind that are common across the northern United States and Canada during the winter. It just seemed to find a way in to chill you to your core. During the outer loop of my walk, I saw a few students. Hive helped me identify them, and all, if not most, had some sort of thermal mutation. Though I did see one student trying out motorized cross-country skis.
I was out on the backside of the access road for the cottages. I had sent packing five recruiters who actually seemed more interested in me than any of the students. I was getting annoyed by it all. My luck wasn’t about to change. I got a call from the office.
“Security to Everheart, you have a visitor to see you. He says it’s urgent,” voice said.
“Mathews, is that you?” I asked.
“Good ear, Everheart. Yes, it’s me. It’s my turn out front,” he replied
“I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”
I checked my belt to make sure everything was secure, then took off running. I did keep it to a normal runner’s pace, since it was a red flag day. I arrived at Kane Hall, shook off snow, and stepped into security to see Mathews dwarfing the desk and the Rear Admiral in front of it.
Mathews began to make introductions, “Samantha Everheart, this is ….”
“I am Vice Admiral John Stewart, and I’m here to notify you, Rear Admiral S. Everheart, that pursuant to Department of Defense directive 1352.1 Section 4.1, and as described in reference sections 12301 and 688, that you are hereby recalled to active duty by the Secretary of the Navy in the interest of national defense,” he interrupted.
“Now wait just one damn minute! After the accident, I offered to stay in active duty, holding down a desk job because there might be a need. The Navy chose to medically retire me. After close to fifteen years of fighting the VA for my earned benefits, you come waltzing in here and tell me I’m being recalled? I have a better idea. Go practice origami. Fold those orders till they are all corners, then stick them where the sun don’t shine.”
“That doesn’t matter, the letter of the law does. If you’ll come with me, we can complete the paperwork.”
“Oh, you want to follow the letter of the law do you?” I countered, “Then where is my salute? I deserve one. If you weren’t just a delivery boy and had bothered to check my records, you would know why. First, I out rank your sorry ass, and second tucked away in those records is at least one Congressional Medal of Honor.”
While I was venting on the admiral, Mathews was dialing and talking on the phone. At nearly the same time two voices rang out, “Just what is the problem here?” asked Mrs. Carson and Chief Delarose at the same time.
“Laughing boy here has pulled out Department of Defense directives to recall me to active duty. Not to mention the five other head-hunters I sent packing this morning all wanting to recruit me.”
“You should be impressed, Samantha; they sent an Admiral to deliver the orders,” the headmistress scolded.
“Anything lower I’d have sent back bent like a pretzel, and that would have happened before too.”
“You said five others? Just how many are on campus right now?”
Hive brought up a display of dots overlaying a map of the campus. They were scattered, mostly near the cottages and moving towards the campus proper. The number sixteen was blinking in the lower right corner of the map.
“At the moment, sixteen outside, add one if you want to count this guy.” I indicated the Admiral.
The Headmistress turned to her chief of security. “Would you see to it that they are all in the conference room in fifteen minutes, Chief?”
“It’ll be done,” he said as he left. I could hear him giving orders in the control room after that.
“Miss Everheart, would you be so kind as to escort the Admiral up to the conference room?”
I knew an order when I heard it, even if it was phrased as a request. I did manage to not frog march the admiral to the conference room. I decided to wait outside. Over the next twelve minutes, various persons, some in black suits, some in camouflage, some in gardener clothing, were brought into the room. Then I entered the room. It looked like a meeting of the who’s who of the spy game when I walked into the conference room. As soon as they saw me, they all stood up and started introducing themselves and making their pitches at the same time.
“Hello, Ms. Everheart, my name is Zack Meyers, and we are very interested in you working for the FBI….”
“Ms Everheart, I’m Special Agent Grant Cross, and we would love to have you work for us in the Central Intelligence Agency….”
“Rear Admiral Everheart, I’m Vice Admiral Stuart, and I am here to notify you that you’ve been recalled to active duty….”
“I’m with the National Security Agency, and we would like to explore the possibility of you joining our agency….”
“Miss Everheart, I am Wayne Manning, I work for DARPA, and we would like to talk to you about furthering our relationship….”
“Mz. Everheart, I’m Leonard Mclean, and we at ARC would like to hire you.”
“I’m Treasury Agent Chad Baldwin, and we would like you to come and work for us….”
After these, it became just so much noise. I brushed off the noise, walked in and sat down, as they continued to try to make their pitches.
Finally, I had had enough. “Sit down, all of you!” I said with a forceful voice.
After they had all sat down, I said, “If you will pass your proposals down to me, I’ll gladly look them over.”
“The Navy has a prior claim to you,” said Admiral Stuart as he thumped on the table.
“The CIA has a claim as well,” chimed in Agent Cross.
“The Office of the President requires her services,” said the Treasury Agent, even louder as it once again descended into a shouting match. It got so noisy, I didn’t hear the door open behind me.
“Quiet! That means all of you!” The voice of the Headmistress rang out over them all. Once order was restored, she continued in a more reasonable tone of voice. You all know the academy rules about recruiting on campus. You’re endangering the students, the faculty and the staff with your antics,” she huffed.
“The rule applies to students of the academy, which Samantha Everheart is not,” Zack Meyers said.
“May I look these over Samantha?” she asked. She took the pile of offers from me and began looking through them. She stopped at one.
Reading aloud, she began, “The Department of the Navy, hereby recalls to active duty Rear Admiral S. Everheart…. Forgive me for the confusion, but after the accident that injured her, didn’t the Navy give her a medical discharge, after which she even had problems getting treatment from the Veteran’s Hospital for the chronic medical conditions brought on by the accident? I believe the excuse used was ‘the condition was not brought about by combat or directly related to military service.’ Yet now, here she is hale and well, along with possessing a powerful bit of technology, and suddenly the Navy is interested in her again. I find it hard to believe there is no ulterior motive involved, such as shipping her off to Bethesda and running her through a strainer.”
Flipping to the next offer, she read aloud, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation… It seems to me you would have the same or similar plans for Samantha that the Navy does. What’s the reason you were told to give her?”
“I was told to say that her handling of the attack at her home was well executed and impressed us enough for the Bureau to offer her a position.” Zack Meyers said.
“Pull the other leg. Any trained solider could have done what she did,” Mrs. Carson countered.
“That is precisely why the Treasury Department requires her services to protect the Office of the President. She has done so in the past; we would like her to continue to do it now,” Baldwin put in.
“If I recall, she, or rather he, performed that duty before receiving the hive, and you didn’t ask her to stay then. Why now, if I may ask?” Mrs. Carson asked.
“She would be of incredible value to the department…” he began.
“I can imagine. I believe at the time he also saved the leader of another country. One who believes himself to be in debt to Miss Everheart. I can guarantee you that HE wouldn’t like any plans that would involve the possibility of shortening her life expectancy. I can imagine you have the same destination in mind for her as the others here. You want the hive. Do you really want to risk the reprisal this action is almost guaranteed to bring about?”
“How would the Lord Paramount find out about her?”
“I would tell him. You do recall he donates heavily to the school. He likes to check in to see how his donations are being spent,” she answered with a smile reinforced with steel.
She continued to flip through the offers, then she said. “From what I see here, these offers are nothing more than a smokescreen for your real goal.”
“I would like to point out once again that Miss Everheart is not a student at the school, so the prohibitions against recruiting don’t apply to her,” Zack Meyers restated.
“Granted, but she does live on campus, and I believe the exact wording of the rule was ‘residents of the academy,’ and since she does live and currently works at the academy, the grounds rule applies. Now, get off the campus grounds. Or do I have to change the rule about finding and removing the recruiters to, say… kill on sight? I’ll also toss in that I will personally ensure there will NEVER be another job fair on this campus again if you are caught slinking around the campus.”
Scratch that. It’s not lined in steel; its titanium.
As other security officers escorted the recruiters away, I found myself alone with the Headmistress.
“Do you think it will work?” I asked.
“Of course not. I give them a week before they’re sneaking on campus again. They will leave you alone though; by setting you as the example and the fact that they know something about your history, they won’t risk a direct response from you that’s more than a simple ‘no’.”
“You seem to believe they only wanted me so they could get at Hive. How did you come to that conclusion?”
“You have to remember I’ve had a bit more experience with these agencies. Personnel are an easily replenished commodity. Cutting edge technology, on the other hand… Let’s just say that it took awhile for them to learn that devises can’t be mass produced,” she explained.
“But Hive can be mass produced. It’s rebuilding itself all the time as nanites reach the end of their service life.”
“Yes, but the devise in question isn’t the nanites themselves, but the software that allows them to operate without the need of an external computer to program them. There have been other people with nanites since they where first developed back in the eighties. But they were all programmed from an external computer, told to go to a specific spot and do a single job. Such as ‘repair this blood vessel’, ‘clean this artery’, and ‘repair this heart’. Hive, on the other hand, can, after a fashion, think. It’s making choices from a list, just like some brute force chess programs out there. And everyone thinks if they get your nanite hive, they can copy the software and change it.”
“Hmm, ulterior motives… Thank you for bringing this to some form of closure. I do have some thinking to do, and I need to get back to work.”
“One more thing, dear. I heard about your outburst with the Chief. You might look into trying some cramp medication or asking for help from Hive. If I didn’t have medication, there would have been a lot more destroyed buildings in the cities I worked in, believe me,” she said with a smile.
Blushing, I left.
Once I had composed myself again, I went to work on the computer. Five hours later, I had my answer. I called the Chief and asked him to arrange for him, the Headmistress, and Mr. Lodgeman meet me in the holographic lab. I snagged Rorke and dragged him down to the lab with me.
Soon everyone was in the lab.
“I wonder if I should put on a deerstalker cap or be smoking a pipe?” I asked by way of introduction.
“Not ‘I suppose you’re wondering why I called you here tonight?’” Charlie Lodgeman asked with a grin.
“No, but then I never pictured myself as a Nancy Drew type. While I don’t know exactly who did the actual killing, I think I’ve figured out the mastermind behind the whole thing.”
“Who’s the culprit?” Mrs. Carson asked intently.
“Charles Scrimpshure,” I said, crossing my arms and grabbing my elbows.
“What’s your proof?” Charlie asked.
“His motive for one, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.”
“Michael Baur was a pinnacle of the community. He supported the local populace. All the local populace, both human and otherwise. I learned he has close ties to the were community and actually had land deeded to them in his will. Rorke, could you call up a map of this area of the state?”
After the map was up, I continued, “These are all his land holdings at the time of his death. Please highlight them, Hive.”
The map changed again, showing most of the undeveloped wilderness areas highlighted. “He owned every bit of undeveloped land not owned federally or granted to the Native Americans. I found that Scrimpshure had filed a land use proposal with the state. Overlay the proposal on the map, Hive.”
“As you can see, his proposal included land he didn’t own. He was campaigning Baur to sell his undeveloped land to him. I have records of many meals and reports of arguments the two had together. Some further digging revealed a will change that would activate at the time of Baur’s death. He intended to deed all the undeveloped land to the weres. The largest block of land could be made if you combined land the weres were already given through a treaty and Baur’s land. You can see that it about matches Scrimpshure’s land use proposal.”
“So he has motive. How did he do it?” Charlie asked.
“He tried to take out both parties with one shot. Ergot fungus.”
“Damn, that’s sneaky,” said Charlie.
“And problematic in working,” I said
“Pardon me for being unknowledgeable. What is ergot fungus?” Mrs. Carson asked.
“A natural hallucinogenic. Its effect is like LSD, and for weres it’s like catnip is to a cat. I found a plastic bag in Baur’s backpack. I was able to lift a thumbprint from the bag, and it matched Scrimpshure’s. Baur’s habit of hiking in the woods was well known. He went armed with a shotgun.”
“It was only a matter of time before a were smelled it and game to investigate. Under its influence, a were would probably treat Baur as a chew toy,” Charlie added.
“Exactly, and Bloodwolf was the first one to find him. But since Baur was armed, Bloodwolf ended up shot and spooked,” I explained.
“How can you be sure he didn’t kill him?” Mrs. Carson asked.
“I have a casting taken of the bite wounds on Baur. Even just looking at Bloodwolf’s muzzle shows that he couldn’t have made those bite wounds. Another were did. Who, I can’t say without getting bite impressions from every were in one hundred miles. It’s not something the weres would like.”
“You’re right there, Samantha,” Charlie said.
“Besides, the were population is out of our jurisdiction. They have their own policing body,” Chief Delarose said.
“So, we have motive, method, even placing the murderer in contact with the victim prior to death. But even I know you’d have an impossible time convincing a jury that the weapon was a werewolf,” Mrs. Carson said.
I asked, “So what can we do?”
With a sneaky grin Charlie said, “We do have other options to pursue this.”
We put our heads together and talked long into the night.
Two days later
The Mercedes parked next to my truck, as we watched. A dapper man got out. His tailored suit managed to hide most of his weight. His face was strained, and he looked tired. Charlie stepped over to greet him.
“I’m so glad you could make it, Mr. Scrimpshure. They are about to start.”
“What’s this about? Who is she?” he asked pointing at me.
“Oh, my terrible manners, this is Officer Samantha Everheart of the security force at the Whateley School.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Everheart,” he said as he presented his hand for a shake.
I grasped it firmly to return the greeting, and he tried to turn it into a kiss to the back of my hand. He failed. ~Hey, if I have the strength, I’m going to use it. Besides this slime ball makes my skin crawl.~
Looking a little put off, he turned back to Charlie. “Now what’s this all about?”
“I’m going to tell you that the school security force performed the investigation into the murder of Michael Baur. We’ve completed it, and after a bit of jurisdictional wrangling, we have the killer,” Charlie explained.
“Who was it?” Scrimpshure snapped quickly.
“A were from the local pack. He’s about to be punished for killing one of their own.” Charlie pointed.
In the distance, there was a large group of people. One that seemed to be the leader gestured, and another was pushed out in front of him.
“That’s the alpha male of the pack. He’s asked that the killer be brought before him. Did you know it only took them one day to find the killer?” Charlie asked. “Now the pack will pass judgment on him.”
As we watched, the pack moved to stand behind the alpha male, then turned their backs to the one being punished. “They have expelled him from their pack,” Charlie filled in.
The loner started shouting, then with a scream changed into a big hairy half-man half-wolf and charged the alpha male. He was met by the alpha male, and a moment later the loner was lying on the ground with his neck at an awkward angle.
“Oh my god, he killed him!” Scrimpshure almost yelled.
“No, He’ll heal. It’s a werewolf thing,” Charlie said.
“Why show me this?” Scrimpshure asked.
“It’s simple really; the investigation has been completed and closed, sir. The lycanthrope that actually killed the hunter has been punished per pack law. Also, per the hunter’s will, land is being awarded to the werewolf pack. And finally, charges are not being pressed against you,” I said.
“I’m a patient man, things will change in time, and I will eventually get to develop that land,” he said.
“I would not rest on your laurels just yet. You see, while local law enforcement is not taking action against you, there are some people who might. You see the packs are very social groups. They considered Mr. Bauer a furless member of the pack, and they don’t take kindly to their members being threatened or killed. The werewolves are treated somewhat like the military is, in that they have their own enforcement arm. Accidents happen. Be careful in the woods; accidents can happen,” Charlie warned as he headed for my truck.
“The weres have a long memory, Mr. Scrimpshire. It tends to happen in races with long lifespans and social organizations. In my investigation, I found that the weres only now feel a grudge has been brought to completion; it was completed with the death of the last person in the genetic line of a family that wronged them in 1840. It had something to do with the Salem witch trials. When the Klu Klux Klan tried to purify the South of weres, every member of the party that attacked a pack was found crucified on the Grand High Wizard’s own front lawn. Weres don’t turn the other cheek when wronged. They get even,” I said as I left as well.