The Riddle of Sappho (Canto II)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
The Riddle of Sappho
by EE Nalley & ElrodW
Skimming down the paths of the sky's bright ether
On they brought you over the earth's black bosom,
Swiftly--then you stood with a sudden brilliance,
Goddess, before me;
Hymn to Aphrodite, Sappho
May 5th, 2007 - About 3:30 pm
Arena 77, tunnels between Schuster Hall and Doyle Medical , Whateley Academy
"Two murders in as many weeks," muttered Mrs. Carson as she shook her head. A pair of crime scene techs from Coos County police were finishing up while the coroner was supervising the gentle handling of the remains into a stretcher to be taken to the morgue. Chief Delarose was stone faced as he let the Headmistress vent her anger and now she was winding down to depression. "I want to know who did this, Franklin," she ordered.
"I want every student's whereabouts on this campus accounted for!"
"God! I have half a mind to cancel finals and the rest of the year and just send them all home!" she said with a sigh.
"No, ma'am," he told her softly. She looked up, startled and angry at security chief. "That doesn't do anybody any good," he reiterated. "Wasn't it you who told me when I took this job that I was going to lose kids? That there was nothing I could do about it? That I should take that frustration and protect as many as I could?"
"I said that?" the blonde demanded with a raised eyebrow.
"No," he admitted. "But you would have." He sighed and looked over the techs who were picking up the bag and placing it on the stretcher. "You know the list of people who know how to use a tomahawk isn't very long..."
"Every student, Franklin," she ordered. "Pictures aren't the only things that get framed on this campus."
She stood, and for the first time, Franklin thought he caught a glimpse of Liz Carson's true age in the thirty-something looking woman beside him. "Now I have to call Gabriela and inform her that her ward is dead." She turned back, her eyes harder than diamonds. "You find who did this, Franklin!"
"Excuse me, sir, ma'am," Officer Michaels said solemnly, interrupting the two.
"What?" Chief Delarose and Mrs. Carson asked simultaneously.
"Um, I ... I got the RFID tracer log for the area," Michaels reported, holding out a report.
Delarose saw something in the man's eyes, something he really didn't like. Hesitantly he reached for the report, but Mrs. Carson beat him to it. Her eyes went wide as she looked over the listing of which students, faculty, and staff had been where in the warren of tunnels surrounding Arena 77.
"Every student, Franklin," Mrs. Carson repeated through clenched teeth, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
May 5th, 2007 - Late Afternoon
The Nations Sweat Lodge Whateley Academy
Elaine woke to the sounds of tears and soft crying, but quickly realized even without that sound she would have woken soon regardless. She was sore and wrung out and, what was worse her mind was perfectly clear and she remembered everything. She remembered the fevered, overwhelming need that had taken over both of them, a need they couldn't seem to satisfy, no matter how many times they climaxed. In addition to her nether regions being sore, her jaw ached and her tongue felt like it was made of lead.
She sat up to see the dusky skin of her new lover sitting on the far side of the rug, her back was to her and she shook with wracking sobs as she cried. Some sense told Kayda that Elaine was awake and she looked over her shoulder, her eyes red and filled with remorse and guilt. "I...I'm...so...sorry," she gasped around her sobs.
"For what?" Lanie asked her as she scooted closer and gathered the other girl into a hug. The hot rocks that warmed the lodge had cooled somewhat and the warmth of the other girl was welcome against her skin. She kissed the top of Kayda's forehead as at first the girl resisted and then all but crushed Elaine in a hug.
"I...I...I...raped you..." Kayda wailed, crying into Elaine's shoulder. "I...I...couldn't stop! I tried! I...!" She practically collapsed; only Lanie's arms around her kept her from falling. "I'm ... I'm an animal! Just like they are! I'm no better than they are!" she cried, bawling uncontrollably.
"Bullshit!" snapped Elaine, surprised at how quickly the hot tears went cold against her skin. "You didn't rape me! Ah'm at least twice as strong as you are and what's more Ah don't recall anyone holding a gun to mah head when I put my face...well..." As she tried to think of a more diplomatic way to put things, Elaine licked her lips, and tasted her there. She sighed, realizing how things were going to be and laid back down, gently, but firmly pulling Kayda with her. "You didn't rape me, Kayda," she whispered softly, using a hand to gently caress the other girl's cheek. "Neither one of us could stop."
Kayda sniffed massively trying to clear her nose. "You...you're ok with...? You don't regret?"
"Regret making love to you?" the other asked. "No. There will be consequences, though," she admitted softly, "and we'll have to find some way to make this right to the people we love..."
The Lakota girl's green eyes went as wide as saucers. "No! I can't...not Kodiak! Or Debra!" Tears welled up in her eyes again. "I've betrayed her. It'll break her heart..."
"Cody will understand," Lanie told her, not entirely sure how she knew. "We didn't do this on purpose and Deb doesn't hold grudges." She turned her head and called, "Grizzly?"
The girls blinked and found themselves on an island, warm from sun above and sand below. They were still in each other's arms but resting up against the soft, furry form of Elaine's spirit. "I'm glad you're both alright," the she-bear said, planting a kiss on the forehead of each girl.
"What happened, Griz?' Elaine asked as she slid her hand down to the small of Kayda's back and squeezed her reassuringly. "Why couldn't we stop?"
"I've been looking into it since you passed out and I could think straight," the spirit replied with a smile.
"Sorry," Kayda murmured, but the spirit chuckled.
"Oh, it's not you, little one," she told her with a smile. "My host is a bad girl and enjoys her carnality far too much!"
"You know what boys call girls who just lie there?" snapped Elaine. She winked at Kayda's perplexed look. "'Ex'," she finished with a grin. "So Ah'm enthusiastic, so what?"
"I'm not complaining," Kayda admitted in a soft voice.
Ahem. The Spirit cleared her throat. "As I was saying, now that I can think straight I've been doing some investigating. Elaine, an oily, long chain, magically active protein entered your body shortly before the, um, activities began, and attacked several different regions of the brain and endocrine system. The vector seems to have been your left hand through the skin."
"Mah hand itched," Elaine admitted from gently stroking Kayda's hair. "And Ah used that hand to open the tent flap of the sweat lodge..." She thought for a moment. "Ah got a note from you asking for mah help with something," she said, looking into the other girl's eyes. "What was it?"
Kayda was perplexed. "I didn't send you a note...but I got one too! The Nations were going to have a meeting to get around some of the stuff Gunny was throwing at us in the sims!" She slowly lifted her right hand staring at it. "My hand ... itched and kind of burned ... after I opened the flap ... before ...."
"It's a setup," finished Grizzly with certainty. "I'll get with Kodiak and see if we can figure out what this substance was that you both were dosed with - before it decomposes," she added ominously. "Meantime, you two should probably get dressed." She looked at Kayda. "You need to have Wakan Tanka examine you to see if she can find anything. And it would probably be advisable to get your blood sampled - just in case."
The girls blinked and were back in the sweat lodge. The calm of the dream-space lifted, Kayda's eyes began to fill with tears again until Elaine sat up and kissed her. It wasn't passion, nor was it platonic, they were something different now, their relationship permanently changed and they knew it. "If...if I wasn't," she stammered. "If we..."
"Hush, Soul Sister," Lanie told her, naming the bond they both felt. "Ah know, and Ah feel the same way. There are goin' to be consequences," she cautioned. "But how we face them will show who we are. If we tried to keep this secret, to deceive them, they would be right to be angry and to leave us. We didn't do this deliberately, we had no control over that, but we do control our own honor and honesty. It is done and we have to face up to that."
After a long pause, Kayda dipped her head onto the taller girls' shoulder and seemed to drink up her strength. "Sister, I'm afraid." she admitted softly. "He was trying so hard to be my friend and now I've betrayed him! He'll be furious! He'll have every right in the world to be angry, and to hate me!"
"He won't hurt you," Lanie promised. "It's not in his nature. And he'll understand." She squeezed the other girl again and relished her return squeeze on her. "Eventually. Come on, we got to face the music."
"I hate needles," she whispered as she stood and looked around for her discarded dress.
"Well, first stop should be Doyle," Lanie told her, pulling on her discarded socks before rooting through the skins. "Where is mah bra?"
"I...I kinda threw it," Kayda admitted with a grin that was trying to overcome her sadness. "Over there I think. You don't ever not...?"
"With these hooters?" she demanded as she scrambled to her feet and went to the far side of the lodge. Kayda watched her effortless grace, it was neither a dancer's grace, nor the semi-liquid flow of a hunting cat, just someone completely comfortable in her own skin. For a moment she burned with envy. "That's a recipe for the mother of all back aches! Here it is." She pulled it on and got her cleavage tamed as she looked at the tent flap like it might bite them. "On the way to Doyle we need to swing by Whitman. Ah want to get mah tricorder and take some readings."
"Your what?" Kayda asked as she pulled the dress down and joined her friend at the flap, well back from it.
"Ah put together a hand held sensor device," Lanie explained. "It has a pile of different sensors and instruments, air pressure and quality, Geiger counter and with that a rough radio-carbon dater, and fairly complete molecular chemistry analyzer..."
"What did you call it?" Kayda pressed. Lanie smirked and rolled her eyes.
"Ah call it a tricorder..."
"You are such a nerd!" laughed Kayda as she hugged her friend.
"Hush," Lanie told her with a smile and a blush. "Mah parents are big Trekkies, and it's how Ah got interested in space exploration."
"What do you sell those for?" Kayda asked. "NASA contracts must be worth a mint...!"
"Ah haven't yet," Lanie retorted as she pulled on her panties and jeans. "Ah'm not done with the integration yet and until Ah'm satisfied it's perfect Ah won't. Lives depend on space hardware."
"I thought everything you did worked?"
"It works fine," she replied from buttoning up her fly. "For what it does, but it's still really just a prototype. Ah have to work out the final stuff and then submit it to UL and NASA to be certified. Just haven't gotten around to it." She bent over and picked up her shirt and eyed the door. "Fine enough that Ah'll figure out what was on that flap, maybe even a bit of who put it there."
May 5th, 2007 - Late-Afternoon
Room 302, Emerson Cottage, Whateley Academy
Darren broke out in a cold sweat from what he saw on the screen.
He didn't count on the bitch having some way to analyze what he dosed them with! And if they were going to come clean to Kodiak...! Darren was no match for the Alpha male and he knew it. Visions of being beaten within an inch of his life danced through his head, then a memory snapped up and demanded precedence.
"It was the most horrific thing I'd ever seen," Psike's mental voice had told them. As if looking at a disembodied brain in a floating jar wasn't the most horrific thing anyone in the class had seen. The senior had been a guest speaker in their Psychic's Canon of Ethics class. "You think because you can read minds or affect emotions you are all gods, you are not! You think the muscle bound bullies on this campus are your playthings, they are not! Wildman provoked Kodiak into doing what he did and Kodiak beat his head into mush!"
Darren could have sworn the brain was 'looking' at him when he'd finished. "Wildman is in ARC, his regeneration saved his life. Or perhaps it didn't, however you want to look at it. I understand he's learning his ABCs all over again..."
Speakeasy started shaking. He wasn't a regenerator. If Kodiak beat his head into mush he wasn't coming back from that. He had to cover his tracks. He had to get rid of that tarp and he had to do it right now. He grabbed a jacket and took off running as fast as he could.
May 5th, 2007 - Late Afternoon
Basement of the secret base of Charles Darrow, Boston
There were few good things about being trapped in the care of the Necromancer, reflected Hekate grimly as she selected the book she wanted and opened it to research. But one of them is definitely the library, she thought to herself. Darrow's magic library was unmatched in the young witch's experience, easily the equal of Whateley's and without having to wade through all of the crap about nobility, 'good' magic practices and the other fluffy nonsense to get to the real magic.
Simply banishing the little turd that was watching Sebastiano wouldn't do; her Master would feel that. But, that bond could be taken advantage of. Summoning it away from Whateley would be tricky, but not impossible, especially not with the magical stores available to her here. In a way, she would almost miss this place; of course, nothing said she couldn't come back and kill Darrow and claim it for herself later. That was a very pleasant thought.
Suddenly, Hekate stiffened and a look of shock registered on her face. 'Damn!' she swore to herself. The answer had been in front of her all along! The means of her escape and revenge was so simple; she'd studied all the spells in her study of Darrow's books during her forced confinement - and she hadn't seen the obvious! It had taken her former master putting a watcher on her former lover to let her see how the pieces fit together! A positively wicked grin slowly crept across her features, replacing her surprise.
She would need a handful of spells for what she had in mind. The summoning was the easy part of this. Then once the demon was here things would get interesting. Ah, here it was, a way to supersede the enslavement of a minor demon without its original master's awareness. Excellent. The rest would take deeper study but she was already on the right track and soon, soon she would show Nikki Reilly what real magic looked like. Yes, this will do nicely.
Kallysta took her phone from a pocket and dialed. "Have you gone back to school?" she demanded without heed to greetings or pleasantries. "Good, don't. Not for three hours at least, you understand? Three hours." She left the book and went over to the store room where the working components were kept. "I don't care what you do, it's not my problem. Do you want the thing gone or not?"
She hung up and grinned. Invisible was just as good as gone as far as the Don was concerned. And what better way to both keep an eye on him, and feed useless trivia to her 'master'? Having what she needed, she returned to the circle and set out. It was time to put her revenge in motion.
May 5th, 2007 - Late Afternoon
Exam Room 2A Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
"Sorry, girls," Dr. Tenent led with as she walked into the room where Kayda and Elaine were waiting. "Your A1C numbers are both 4.8, CBC is normal, MPV and CMP are both right down the middle, in short, you're both depressingly healthy." The Doctor put her hands on her hips and smiled at the two girls. "You want to tell me what you're looking for?"
"We...we thought we might have been exposed to something..." Kayda hedged as Elaine reached for, and was given the clipboard with the results.
"What was your symptomatology?" asked Ophelia.
"Uh, itching and burning sensation in the hand where we touched the...hide...that might have been contaminated."
"No redness, rash, fever, hives?" the Doctor asked, looking at the girl's hand.
"Dr. Tenent, mah estrogen levels are pretty escalated," Lanie pointed out from the test results she was looking at. Dr. Tenent didn't turn from examining Kayda's hand.
"That's because you're on The Pill, dear," she replied, fishing out a flashlight to be sure of the skin. "That's how it works. Miss Franks, I don't see anything wrong here. Miss Nalley, your complexion is lighter, let me see the hand you touched it with."
"You're on The Pill?" demanded Kayda, wide eyed.
"That's right," Dr. Tenent interrupted from her examination of the other girl's hand. "It regulates Miss Nalley's difficult and somewhat irregular cycle, doesn't it?"
"Yes ma'am," Lanie replied. Dr. Tenent sighed and shook her head.
"I'm sorry girls, whatever happened, it's apparently gone now. You're both fine as afar as science can tell."
Elaine brandished the small piece of beige plastic she'd retrieved from her room. "Let's go be sure."
May 5th, 2007 - Late Afternoon
Basement of the secret base of Charles Darrow, Boston
Kallysta double checked the circle she had drawn and the sigils that would protect her from the being she was about to summon. Satisfied, she disrobed and carefully inscribed a matching protective sigil around her navel, irritated she didn't have her slave Skybolt to do it for her. Replacing those two would be a priority at some point. So many things on her to do list and never enough time it seemed.
Once she finished she cleared her mind, focused her essence and began to cast. Kallysta kept her mind in laser focus, sending essence out into the world was like lighting up a flare for the Black Hand. And a summoning gone awry could let it into the warding that was protecting her. Fortunately however, Kallysta had excellent mental discipline and soon a horrific little creature that was all eyes and mouth appeared inside the circle, hissing its displeasure.
Hekate smiled a wicked smile. "You'd struggle more if you knew what I have planned for you," she assured it.
The creature hissed in response.
"First the easy bits." She worked her will on the sigils. What looked like flesh in the circle was merely psychic energy, projected into this dimension from someplace else and soon there were two of the creatures in the circle, both a bit smaller than the original had been. One hissed its outrage, the other stared adoringly at, as far as it was concerned, its mother. "Good," Kallysta purred. "Now, you'll go back to the Don and you'll watch. Stay invisible, don't let anyone see you. If your old master summons you, just fill his mind with images of school, and classrooms, tying shoes, looking at girls," she paused and turned a malicious smile. "And defecating. The Don has eaten something that disagreed with him, lots and lots of defecating."
The creature drooled lovingly.
"But otherwise, you tell me, who he talks to, what he says and what they answer. Understand?" More drool fell on the floor of the circle. "Be on your way then, my pet, and serve me well." The creature vanished, returning to take the vigil by the ward, waiting for the Don to return.
"Now, it's your turn," Kallysta purred. Darrow let her study his texts - he couldn't prevent it, in fact, he had never provided her with what she might need to escape her prison. After all these months, though, she finally had the tool she needed - something that could be shaped and bent to her will. She went back over to her working materials and removed a small white rabbit. "You are connected to the Don," she told the creature. "By the summoning your master placed on you. I am connected to the Don because he was my lover. By the law of similarity, by the memory I give, I combine our connection so you are bound to me." She clutched the rabbit to her breast and concentrated feeling her hatred of Fey grow and fester. Once more she relived riding the Don, feeling him thrust up within her, feeling her orgasm build feeling at any moment...
"Oh, God, thats so good" she whispered "Nikki."
The approaching climax was snuffed like a fly in a hurricane. Kallysta felt her rage burn white hot anew. The rabbit squirmed as the memory and its accompanying hatred boiled out of Hekate and into the innocent she had clutched to her chest, next to her heart. The rabbit's fur was black now, as black as her own heart and its red eyes burned with the same fiery hatred of Nikki Reilly that burned within Hekate. The monster in the circle slobbered and hissed, feeling the beginning of the connection.
Kallysta smiled as she walked over to the circle and the creature within it. "Take my hatred, take my memory and take the consequence of it for your own, by similarity, by intent, by the name Hekate I take from me and give to you." She forced her finger into the rabbits mouth and let it bite her, feeling the blood from the wound fill its mouth. "By the blood of the body it once wore, now and forever, my burden is yours."
She flung the rabbit into the things snapping maw. The rabbit squealed as its life was snuffed out, eaten whole as a weight came off the girl who once was Kallysta Thessellarean, who once called herself Hekate. The weight of revenge that was seeking her soul now had a new target, the new Kallysta Thessellarean, the new Hekate. The Witch smiled as the many eyes of the demon Kallysta widened, feeling the Black Hand that was trying to get to it. To exact its three-fold revenge.
"Now," The Witch cackled. "Now we're ready to begin."
May 5th, 2007 - Late Afternoon
The Nations' Sweat Lodge, Whateley Academy
Darren was gasping for breath as he broke through the underbrush into the clearing by the sweat lodge, watching around himself frantically. He stopped to catch his breath for a moment and to look around and listen. As far as he could tell, no-one else was around, but he knew that would change; Lanie and Kayda were coming with some sensors. They'd find the cameras, and possibly the lust serum on the door flap.
Rubber gloves were pulled on hastily, and then he attacked the hide covering the opening. It refused to come free, and he was afraid of tearing something, but he was more afraid of Kodiak. But the flap wouldn't free. Panicking, he let go of the contaminated edges, and then he saw the sticks - or something - through slits in the leather. He pulled the sticks out, and then the flap dropped free. Breathing a sigh of relief, he tossed the contaminated leather aside and then pulled off the now-contaminated gloves.
From his backpack, he frantically pulled out another piece of leather, holding it up to the door and sawing in some slits. It took him over seven tense minutes, but he managed to get the new piece of skin in place and fastened.
Glancing around quickly once more, he ducked into the sweat lodge, groping in the dark for the cameras, and when he found them, frantically tugging them free rather than taking the time untwisting the ties that held them, shoving the small devices into his pockets. When the third camera was in his pocket, he dashed toward the opening to get away.
The lack of light had not only hindered his search for the cameras, but now he stumbled over the center pit, falling and thrusting out his arm to break his fall. Unfortunately, his hand landed against one of the hot fake rocks, scalding his hand badly and causing him to cry out in pain. Rolling to one side and retracting his hand, he scrambled back to his knees and crawled toward the door, his burned hand and arm tucked up against his stomach.
Rolling out of the sweat lodge, Darren used his good hand to push himself to his feet. A garbage bag came out of a pocket, and he gathered up the gloves and the contaminated hide, turning the bag inside out and using the big, thick plastic sack like a glove to avoid touching the hide, lifting it and then pulling the bag down over the hide. The gloves followed the hide into the bag, and then, still twisting it shut, Darren fled into the trees, to where he'd placed the wireless relay.
Taking down the relay with one hand wasn't working, so with adrenaline surging through his veins and enabling him to ignore the second-degree burn on most of his left hand, he tugged and pulled the electronic device from the tree fork he'd wedged it in.
All of the evidence in the bag, Darren breathed a sigh of relief, but as he crept back away from the lodge, he noticed - for the first time - how seriously his hand had been burned. The pain surged and pulsed as his adrenaline level decreased, and he paused, nearly fainting, and sat down to steady himself.
After ten or fifteen minutes of painful throbbing and feeling nauseated and faint, he swallowed hard and levered himself back to his feet.
He was going to have to go to Doyle. There was no denying that fact; his hand was horribly burned, but his fear of not having a good excuse and getting awkward questions made him hesitate. And the bag in his hand was too incriminating. He had to get it to the incinerator - now!
Wincing in pain, feeling woozy, he stumbled back to the center of campus and then found an elevator down to the lab area. Hiding his hand from the various passers-by, he carried the bag through the tunnels, ignoring the odd looks he sometimes got.
When the bag slid down the chute to the garbage to be incinerated, he stumbled into a stairwell and sat down again before the pain made him empty his stomach. He had to get his hand and arm healed somehow - and without any strange questions.
Too bad he wasn't friends with a healer, he thought, and then he caught himself. With his right hand so badly injured, it took a while for him to fish out his phone, and then he dialed a number. Fortunately, whoever he called answered. "Hey, Banned Aides," he said, trying to sound normal but knowing severe burn had been sapping his strength. "It's Speakeasy. Hey, you remember when I helped you out last term? You said you owed me one." He winced when the phone was instantly cut off. "Damn," he swore to himself. "I guess he's still pissed at me!"
May 5th, 2007 - About 6:30 pm
The Nations Sweat Lodge Whateley Academy
"Anything?" asked Kayda as the little box hummed and blinked in Elaine's cautiously outstretched hand. There was a frown on the redhead's face.
"Ammonium sulphate and chloride," she said, eyes intent on the little screen inside the plastic case. "Formic and Sulphuric acids, traces of Sodium hydrosulphide...you guys just bought a hide from Tandy Leather or something? You didn't tan it yourself?"
"I...I don't know," she replied. "What do you mean?"
"This hide is full of chemicals; it's been professionally processed. Like you go to the store and buy a leather purse, or gloves or something. I wouldn't have expected you guys to just buy leather; you didn't go kill something and skin it yourself?"
"No!" she replied. "Mr. Lodgeman provided them..."
"Hmmm," Lanie said, closing the device. "Well, there's nothing on this flap I wouldn't expect to be a tanned hide."
"Shouldn't we check the other parts - to see if there's a difference?" Kayda asked tentatively.
"Maybe we can tomorrow," Lanie said, aware that daylight was rapidly waning. "But for a final test of the flap tonight, there's only one thing to do."
Kayda flinched. "Touch it?"
Elaine nodded. "Ah'll run the tricorder on you and see if it happens again. I kind of wish I had more biological and medical sensors in it. I'll have to get with Jericho and see what we can come up with." She opened the device again and pointed it. "Anytime."
Kayda closed her eyes and sighed. "You won't let just anyone...?"
"Me and no one else," Lanie promised. The Lakota girl nodded and steeled herself, then ran her hand all over the flap as if she was going to open it. A long moment passed as the birds chirped and flew overhead. "Anything?" Elaine asked after a moment of completely normal readings.
"My hand isn't burning," Kayda said with some regret.
"Whatever it was is gone then," Elaine declared with a sigh as she closed the device and put it in her purse. "Nothing else for it then. Time to go face the music."
Kayda's skin paled but she fell in step with the redhead towards Melville.
May 5th, 2007 - About 6:30 pm
Rm 803, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Wyatt sat going over his notes for Team Phoenix. Mrs. Carson had made him aware that Kayda would be assigned to his team next year as Kali left. On the one hand, having a second magic user on the team could be useful, especially someone who could be more reasonable than Bifrost. On the other hand, Bifrost was exactly the kind of guy who would take having a second mage on the team personally. Not for the first time, Wyatt wished he could boot people off the team.
Of course, as leader, that was one of the things he was supposed to be learning, how to get people to work together to achieve a goal and set aside their personal differences. It was a skill he hadn't considered important until recently. And it was going to be difficult to integrate Kayda's unique Lakota fighting style. She was a low-level exemplar and he didn't want to see her get hurt. Wyatt rubbed his chin in thought.
Maybe she'd stay near Lanie and they'd both do the archery thing? The young man winced and shook his head at the paper he was making notes on. The number of assumptions in that stray thought had been staggering. "Yeah, and maybe I'm Henry the Eighth," he muttered, distracted by the knock on his door.
"In!" he yelled, sitting back and staring at the paper, willing it to give him an answer. He wasn't even sure Elaine was going to shelf the power armor and stay with the Archer theme, or being honest with himself, he realized he wasn't sure at any time of anything Lanie would do.
The door opened and a pretty girl was behind it. She was a little hesitant, mousy brown hair in an attractive style, light 'natural look' make up and it was obvious she cared about her appearance and put herself together well. She was easily an eight or so on the pretty girl meter. On any other high school campus she'd be A list popular for sure, but this wasn't any other campus and here the 'pretty girl meter' started at 10 for exemplars and went up to 20 and she wasn't an exemplar and so she was background at best. Cody's mind flipped through his filling system and pulled out a name. "Amber, right? What can I do for you?"
She smiled, flattered at being remembered. "Yes, that's right," she said with a nice smile and cute dimples. She held out an envelope. "I was asked to give this to you."
"By whom?" he asked, not reaching for the envelope.
"I..." her eyes glazed over a bit and then her expression changed. "Who doesn't really matter. Look, I don't like being the one to tell you this but your girlfriend is cheating on you."
"Excuse me?" he demanded flatly.
"I owe a favor and I'm paying it off," she declared, placing the envelope on his desk. "Watch it or not, your call." He stood, towering over her.
"Who sent you?" he demanded again.
For the first time, fear crept into her face. "Look, I don't want to get involved, ok? I owe a favor, and I'm paying it. And I don't even think the person I'm paying off had anything to do with it either. I think they're paying off a favor. I just found this under my door with a note to give it to you."
After a long moment, Wyatt nodded. "Ok, fair enough. Thank you, Amber. If you have any trouble, let me know, alright?"
She nodded and withdrew. Wyatt looked at the envelope on his desk as if it were a rattlesnake, poised to strike. Finally he touched his left gauntlet and mentally shuffled through the menu in his mind that the Kodiak had shown him how to use. Holding his right hand over the envelope the magic, or whatever that powered the artifact flowed through him and sensed the paper. There was no magic on either the paper of the envelope, or what was in it. Just wood pulp and plastic, nothing that could harm him by touching it. Still, Wyatt didn't take any chances and fished in the drawer of his desk for a moment, coming up with a pair of extra-large latex gloves.
In the envelope was a little SD Memory card that was labeled Watch Me. He retrieved a little hand held media reader one of the techies who had had a tremendous crush on him had given him some years ago and put the card in the throw-away device - just in case the tampering was computer-based, and found the card blank except for a single, extremely large video file. He played it and was stunned into immobility.
There was no lead up, no establishing camera work, no real idea where what he was looking at was. It seemed to be some kind of tent with animal skins on the ground as carpet or floor. On one of the skins, two girls were frantically making love in the classic sixty-nine position. He didn't need to see their faces to know who they were, he would recognize the red-head's body in his sleep. As for the dusky-skinned girl she was with, well, there weren't many possibilities there either and his suspicions were confirmed when first one, then the other would come up, gasping for air then return to her previous activities.
Wyatt very carefully set the device down, lest he fling it across the room. The rage that boiled up within him frightened him a bit because he had not been this angry since Wildman. Then, suddenly he felt his spirit behind him, great heavy paws on his shoulders. Easy son, the Kodiak cautioned him in his ear. You're being played.
"You think I don't know that?" he shouted, whirling on the spirit. The paw came up and a claw touched the young man in his forehead. Wyatt found himself at the cave on Kodiak Island.
"Yelling won't help," the Kodiak told him, still holding him by the shoulders.
Wyatt waved off the bear's paws and took out his anger on a nearby tree, knocking it over. With a wordless yell of pain and rage he panted, trying to master himself. "Who is responsible for this?" he finally demanded in a cold voice.
"Well, at first blush I'd say it's not the Pict...." Kodiak stopped and sighed. "Elaine or Kayda. It's not either of them."
Wyatt whirled, his eyes wild and angry. "Why?" he demanded. "What makes you so sure?"
The Kodiak morphed into his half human form and crossed his arms over his chest. "You've fucked her, boy! Does she act like that when she's with you? Open your eyes! Do either of these girls look like they're enjoying what they're doing?" he demanded, manifesting the little player somehow and holding it up for him to see.
The odd question pierced Wyatt's emotions and let him look more clinically at the recording. He could see the desperation in both of them now. The wild-eyed look in Kayda's eyes and Elaine's lack of a smile. They had been sleeping together for months now; he had seen her accepting him into her beneath him, seen her looking down from riding him, seen her orgasm tremble through every muscle of her body, and seen her just on the edge of sleep, nestled into the crook of his arm. Every time, in every instance, that beautiful smile had lit up her eyes in the simple joy of being a woman who was with her man.
But that wasn't the expression she was wearing now.
Granted, it had only been a dream, but Wyatt had seen Elaine with Maria in the dream they had shared. Seen the same simple, uninhibited joy of life and its affirmation as the two girls had played with each other. In the dream the girls enjoyed each other in a slow, gentle dance, a thing full of love and tenderness that had been a beautiful privilege to watch. But that wasn't what he was seeing now.
He stepped forward, curious. "She looks afraid," he muttered. The two girls went at each other with a desperate, overwhelming need, a need they couldn't seem to satisfy; there was no emotion here, no love, no joy, no caring for the other, other than the deep friendship the two girls already shared. This was lust, undiluted and reduced to its basest form.
"I won't know for sure until we see them, but I'll bet your balls that is a compulsion, a powerful one too." The man bear turned and looked away to the east. "They're coming," he declared, and Wyatt blinked to find himself back in his room. The knock on the door roused him from the stupor of communing with his spirit. He turned off the player and opened the door.
On the step, neither meeting his gaze, were Elaine and Kayda, their clothes wrinkled and disheveled, and their hair was wild. Elaine was still wearing the ring he had given her and the thought of someone taking liberties with his fiancie enraged him all over again. Of course, that's when they would both work up the courage to look up and wince, seeing the anger on his face. "Don't say a word," he cautioned, opening the door wider and motioning them in.
They shuffled in as if on their way to a gallows.
Wyatt shut the door and pulled out chairs for both at his little table, then made his way to the kitchenette he'd made. He drew hot water from the coffee maker and the sugar set and a mug for Kayda, a pair of Cokes from the fridge for himself then walked back over, laying them out before the girls. "Wyatt..." Elaine started, but he shook his head.
"Let me make this easy," he said finally, as he turned and went back to his desk. He picked up the little player, brought it over and turned it on with the screen facing them. Both girls winced when they saw and tears welled in both sets of eyes. He turned off the device and with great effort mastered himself. "Kodiak tells me what he saw was a compulsion of some kind. If it was, tell me what happened and I will find out who did this and I'll make them wish they'd never been born," he hissed, his voice heavy with promised mayhem.
Kayda flinched as she woodenly went about making her tea. Wyatt sighed again and with great care laid the device on the table.
"If it wasn't a compulsion, if you two would rather be with each other, just please look me in the eye and tell me to my face." He swallowed, keeping his temper on the shortest leash he had. "I promise, I won't yell, throw anything or lose my temper, just..."
"Shut up," growled Elaine, her face an odd expression between shame and annoyance. "Ah want to marry you," she whispered. "Ah wasn't lying the other night, Ah wasn't lying when Ah said yes that Ah would marry you and Ah'm not lying now."
Wyatt's eyes flicked over to Kayda and saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. He went into the restroom and returned with a box of Kleenex and put it on the table as he sat down. "Alright," he said softly. "Tell me what happened..." he paused, noticing the girls' down cast expressions. "The PG Version," he added softly with a gesture to the device on the table. "I know the rest."
"Someone lured us to the Sweat Lodge," Kayda said softly. Finally she worked up the courage to raise her eyes and met Wyatt's gaze. "There were fake notes. They put something on the flap. When we touched it..." she trailed off and made a vague gesture at the player. "Wyatt, I swear, if we could have stopped, we tried..."
"Neither of you are responsible for this," he said firmly. Kayda took another tissue and wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "And...I'm sorry I'm probably not making this easier for you. I am angry, no, I'm beyond angry, I'm furious, but not at either of you, alright?"
Kayda shook her head. "No, Wyatt, you don't understand. I...I was... beaten half to death. And then...they..." The girl's gaze fell and her cheeks burned with shame. Elaine reached out and touched her in support as she turned to her fiancie.
"Look, Wyatt, it was bad, ok?"
"I know," he said softly.
The redhead nodded, not really listening, she continued, "If you'd have been there, the trauma afterward ...."
Wyatt nodded, burning inside with the frustrated desire to hurt the wastes of skin that could do such a thing to a defenseless woman. "Would have been too much. I know."
"Just leave it at...what?"
"I said, 'I know,'" he repeated calmly. Kayda's eyes shot up from the table, wide and fearful.
"Debra and I go way back, Kayda," he told her. "After dinner last night, when we both hit the restroom at the same time? You remember?" She nodded. "When we could be discrete, she told me, asked me to keep an eye on you." He sighed. "Guess I'm doing a pretty shitty job, huh? Maybe if I'd been there I could have stopped..."
"No," she said softly. "No, you couldn't have, Wyatt. You know how much I flinch and seize up around men. And if you had been there..." She shuddered. Not a little shake like someone who's cold, but a whole body spasm like an epileptic having a seizure... She couldn't bring herself to complete the thought, her voice was trembling in time with her body shaking. "I couldnt have stopped myself! I would have ....!" She stopped, eyes wide in horror and her entire body trembling. "I would have worn you out. That is how much we couldn't stop. Whatever we were hit with, it's horrible and it's dangerous! You can...not...stop!"
Wyatt rubbed his chin. "Are either of you hurt?"
They shook their heads in unison. "Mah pride stings," Lanie said quietly. "And both of us are sore in places it ain't polite to talk about in public, but Ah want you to know, Wyatt..."
"You don't have to push, baby," he told her softly. "I know neither of you would lie about something like this." He sighed again and his face became stony. "Someone is playing with fire, and they need to be burned."
May 5th, 2007 - About 6:00 pm
Headquarters, Coos County Detachment, Mutant Commission Office, Berlin NH
"Thank you for calling your Mutant Commission Office in Berlin, New Hampshire, how may I direct your call?"
"Let me speak with the agent in command." The voice on the other end of the line was deep, rasping and it set Gretchen Holder's hairs on end. She was glad to get rid of whoever it was and hoped she never had to hear that voice again.
Agent Jack Dougan sat back in his chair, annoyed. No, annoyed was too mild a term. Angry would fit better. He'd been a very good agent for the MCO in the Los Angeles office, helping to control the 'mutant menace', when, without warning, he'd been transferred to this little hick town of Berlin, far away from anything of interest except the promise of bitterly-cold winters and boring, boring, _boring_ summers. He didn't miss the implied threat of the move - Fritz Haustin, the previous director, and his entire staff had been arrested for putting DFA tags on the MIDs of minors. The charges being levied against them were very, very serious; conviction on any one of the lesser charges would put Haustin and his agents behind bars for a minimum of five years. The most serious charge - conspiracy to commit genocide against children? Haustin could face life imprisonment without parole or even the death penalty. As if that wasn't bad enough, the MCO officers in one of the Dakotas had been arrested on similar charges. It was almost like the DPA was conducting a purge of the MCO. It never occurred to Dougan that he'd been placed here to take him out of the line of fire because the LA office was similarly being investigated. Here, in the backwaters of the US, he could lie low until the DPA fanatics were finished, and then the more 'dedicated' agents could return to the real hubs of mutant activity.
The ringing of his phone stirred Dougan out of his fun. "MCO office, Jack Dougan," he repeated blandly.
"Are you the new head man there?" the voice on the other end asked without introducing himself.
"I'm acting head. Who is this?" Dougan asked, annoyed at the interruption.
"The lilies are late blooming this year," the voice said cryptically.
Dougan bolted upright in his chair, thinking quickly of the details he'd been briefed on. "But the colors are spectacular," he repeated from memory.
"I have a juicy little tidbit for you."
"I'm interested," Dougan answered, trying to control his eagerness for some type of action.
"It seems the county mounties and security at Whateley are investigating a pair of murders."
"A couple of particularly vicious murders," the voice reported, "involving mutants."
"Are you sure?"
"It's at Whateley academy. The headmistress has no doubt informed the DPA by now."
Damn! "If the DPA knows ...."
"I'm sure you can figure out a way to make this work in your favor." The phone clicked dead.
Dougan tilted his head back and tried to recall all the details of his briefing on Whateley Academy. It was not under the jurisdiction of the MCO, and he wondered how the hell they managed that. He turned to his computer to read the notes he'd made from the briefing - it was on a reservation. A light bulb clicked on - due to treaties, the MCO had no authority on the reservation, and thus on Whateley's grounds. Growling with frustration, he continued. And then he grinned, pausing to reread some of the notes and very secret procedures that his predecessors had left, and which hadn't been found by the DPA when arrested all of the office and searched all of the computers.
Dougan did a quick search and then dialed a number. "I'd like to speak with Assistant State's Attorney Jerome Hervik, please," he said politely but insistently into the phone. "This is Agent Dougan of the MCO."
Moments later, a male voice sounded on his phone. "This is State's Attorney Hervik. How may I help you?"
"I understand you're the go-to guy for dealing with mutant in the county area?" he asked.
"And you are ...?"
"Agent Dougan, MCO and acting head of the Berlin office. I was recently transferred here."
"Ah, yes, Agent Haustin's replacement."
"Yes. Listen, I've been advised of a serious crime at Whateley Academy."
"You know we don't have jurisdiction there. It's on the Medawihla reservation."
"According to my notes, though, you do have a cooperative agreement with the tribe for assisting with investigations and prosecutions, correct?"
There was a pause on the line. "Yes, that's correct."
"Then you'll be very interested in this," Dougan said, trying not to grin. "An ... a friend ... informed me that there've been two murders on Whateley's campus. They were described to me as a pretty vicious - and they involve mutants." There was silence on the line. "I take it you're interested?"
Assistant DA Hervik's voice was firm. "Yeah. And by the terms of the agreement, I'm allowed to bring assistants to aid in the investigation. I take it you' be interested in being ... .deputized ... to the DA's office?"
Dougan grinned. "I'll be there in five minutes." He paused and though. "No, better make that fifteen. I've got to get ahold of the DPA first."
May 5th, 2007 - Dinnertime
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Kayda felt a little strange walking with Lanie and Wyatt to dinner. To see her lover holding hands with the big senior and leaning on him made her feel strange. It was obvious that Wyatt and Elaine were very much in love, anyone could see that.
And Kayda felt absolutely sick at heart that she had to tell Debra what had happened. Lanie had volunteered to dream-walk with her so she didn't have to do it alone, but Kayda had told her no. It was obvious Lanie really wanted to make things up with her future husband. The lead weight on her heart at the hurt she would do to Cornflower threatened to drown her.
She saw Lanie lean into a hug from Wyatt, saw him kiss the top of her head and she couldn't help feeling jealous! A part of her wanted to tell the big jerk to get his hands off her girlfriend even though she knew she had no right to such a claim. Things were not helped by how soft and solicitous Wyatt was being. He didn't shout at Elaine for having sex with someone else, he was angry that someone had done something to both of them. That someone had challenged his protection of them and he would do violence on their behalf to avenge them.
He was willing to fight to protect the girl who had had sex with his future wife!
Nothing made sense and it seemed every day Kayda was at Whateley Academy was a day when the world made less and less sense! The infamous school bully was a noble, if somewhat shaggy knight in denim and flannel, the school bitch queen helped the new girl in the depths of a black depression because she realized what a bitch she'd become!
And the deadly rival for her own place in the school had become her best friend and now a lover she dreamed about! She stole another glance at the two and, unbidden, the image of him happening upon them in the Sweat Lodge popped into her mind, the look of shock on his face as the two women untangled themselves from each other to rip his clothes from him and put him to stud.
She shuddered as she imagined those big hands on her as she put him to stud.
No! she told herself. I'm in love with Cornflower! Lanie and I are friends! Lanie and I...
Goodness! I certainly was tempted, said Cornflower's voice in her memory.
Out of the corner of her eye, Kayda stole another glance. Lanie was whispering something in Wyatt's ear and...and...that bulge in the front of his jeans was getting bigger! Kayda forced her eyes away and blushed until she was afraid her skin would catch fire. Primal, that was how Elaine had described being with him, being the complete focus of someone's attention to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. As her cheeks cooled, Kayda couldn't help but look at her two smiling friends and wonder what that would be like.
Wyatt held open the doors to the Crystal Hall for both of them, helped them both out of their jackets. Kayda paused nervously in the door frame of Crystal Hall, looking around nervously. "They're all staring," she whispered to Lanie, who was at her side, with Wyatt on the opposite side of Lanie.
Lanie chuckled softly. "Hon, guys have been staring at you since you got here. You are on the top ten list of pretty girls, at least in some guys' lists."
"They ... they suspect something, I just know it!" Kayda said, wincing.
"Nobody knows anything," Lanie reassured her friend and Soul-Sister. "Your friends are at your usual table, so just be calm, act like nothing happened, and get your dinner."
Kayda glanced up at the redhead. "Can you act like nothing happened?"
Lanie winced. "Um, no," she admitted with a slight blush, then she straightened almost unnoticeably and her eyes became a bit harder. "But then what happened doesn't bother me and Ah don't care what anyone else thinks. You just do your best, okay?"
The smaller Lakota girl stared for a moment, taking reassurance from Lanie's assured expression and stance. "Okay." The unlikely trio walked to the serving line, where they joined the queue. Looking at him, Kayda was honest with herself and realized when she had been Brandon, Wyatt Cody was the kind of guy he would have loved to be friends with, solid connections, popular, top of the A-List, the kind of friend any freshman would kill to have.
Now that she was Kayda, she had to admit that he wasn't that bad of a guy from the other side of the gender gap. But now, now there was depth that Brandon would never have seen. Brandon would never have learned of Wyatt's formal to the point of stilted manners, or his love of Romantic Era poetry or the fact that he wasn't that bad of a poet himself, based on what he'd quoted to Elaine on the walk over. Brandon would never had met that Wyatt Cody, but Kayda was glad that she had.
A few feet away, Quickdraw watched the Lakota girl carefully. He had to time this right; the fact that she was in the company of Loophole and Kodiak was more than a little intimidating. As they reached the line for the trays, he moved quickly. His hand a blur, he bumped into Kayda with enough force that she was knocked into Wyatt. "Excuse me!" someone hastily said, backing away. "I'm sorry, I stumbled..."
"Be more careful, Quickdraw," growled Wyatt.
"Sure! Sure, Kody! Sorry..."
Kayda watched the boy leave. He seemed oddly familiar but she couldn't place him. Vaguely she wondered what had him wearing latex gloves. Knowing Whateley, it was something odd.
Quickdraw grinned. It had been so easy - all of it. And so rewarding! His mind replayed the charge under the invisibility spell, fake horn held firmly against him for leverage to simulate an attack from that girl's stupid buffalo, the look of shocked disbelief on Heyoka's face as the horn ripped his guts out, the slow-motion - at least to a speedster - falling of his body, the rewarding thunk as one of the girl's training tomahawks buried itself in Heyoka's skull. And the blood! The crimson splatters of blood everywhere as life force instantly faded from the boy-girl Jamie. Quickdraw trembled at the powerful, enticing memories of his first kill. It was a hyper-adrenaline rush! He didn't realize it, but by that one act of murder, he'd put himself perilously close to the line between bully and psychopath.
"Ya'll want to eat with us, Kayda?"
Franks shook her head. "No, Lanie, thanks though. I think I'll eat with Charge and my other friends."
"We've got to eat and run," Lanie explained as they stood in the checkout line. "We've got ... a meeting." She gave Kayda a reassuring smile. "Everything will be okay, right?"
The other tried to smile. "Okay," she repeated. "Yeah." Despite her words, she didn't look at all confident in what Lanie was telling her. She glanced at Wyatt who was cajoling the cook at the carver station to cut him bigger pieces of the roast beef. "You and Wyatt need some time. I'm good." She took her meager tray, not really hungry, to one of the pay islands and as she brought up her purse to get her ID it beeped that it had already registered it.
Kayda didn't notice, she just walked with leaden feet over to the table Charge and some of the Nations members were sitting. She still had to tell Cornflower - and face the fact that she'd cheated on her lover, betraying Cornflower's trust. Somehow there had to be a way not to break Debra's heart, but damned if she could see it.
May 5, 2007 - Dinnertime
Kane Hall Security Offices, Whateley Academy
Jerry Hervik had an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance. Chief Delarose was already sure that he didn't like the Assistant State's Attorney. Nevertheless ...
"Excuse me for a moment," he told the tallish, thin attorney with piercing eyes and a predatory look about him, and the stocky man next to the attorney, "I have to speak to Mrs. Carson, our headmistress." He took the papers that Jerry Hervik had presented and went into his office, carefully closing the door behind him. Wearily, he sat down on behind his desk and picked up the phone, pressing a single button to speed-dial the headmistress' office. It only took a moment for her to answer. "Liz? Franklin. I've got the assistant State's Attorney in my office with a letter from the DPA."
"I was expecting that," Liz replied wearily. "They sent me the same letter."
"So he is authorized to act on behalf of the DPA?"
"Afraid so," Liz said sadly. "Which means full cooperation from us."
"It's worse," the security chief said, grimacing. "He reminded us of the cooperative agreement between the county and the Medawihla tribe. He's acting in official capacity."
"Shit!" Liz swore in a most unladylike fashion. "Which means ..."
"Which means that I'm effectively deputized to the Coos County sheriff's office for the investigation, and you're now the representative of the tribe."
"Which means Kayda has no advocate or even neutral party right now."
Franklin nodded. "That's how it looks."
"What's your impression of this guy?"
Chief Delarose couldn't help but shake his head. "Not good. He brought along that new MCO guy Dougan as his 'deputized assistant' - and he's already pressing us for a principal suspect - and from their comments, I think they know Kayda is the most obvious one."
"Damn! If he's playing it that way, he'll keep you so busy that you won't have time to find any evidence exonerating Kayda if there is any, and then he'll pull some card to take her into custody." She sighed heavily. "Recommendations?"
Frank Delarose shook his head. "I can't think of any. We're boxed in, and they know it. Kayda's in real trouble. He's already got his sights set on Kayda, and he's already strongly suggested that he knows she's a flight risk."
"Damn. How the hell did he get that?" There was a long pause. "Has he pushed to take her into custody on that yet?"
"Not yet. I'll keep you informed."
"What?" Chief Delarose asked, mouth agog and not quite believing what he was hearing.
"Pre-empt them. We can't give them an excuse to get her off campus," Liz said, her voice grim. "Even if she's innocent, if they get her off-campus ...."
Chief Delarose winced, knowing exactly what Liz was thinking. If they got her in a county or state jail, Kayda was unlikely to leave. "You know I don't like doing this, Liz."
"Neither do I." She sighed heavily. "Franklin, this smells like a setup. It's too neat, too picture-perfect. And they're taking away our ability to find out if it really is a frame job."
Franklin thought for a few moments. "What do I tell her?"
"The truth, Franklin. Tell her the truth."
As soon as he hung up, Franklin pushed a button on his phone. "Sam, I need to talk to you, ASAP."
It took Samantha Everheart less than two minutes to get to Delarose's office. "You want to see me, Chief?"
"You know what's going on with the murder and with Kayda?"
Sam let her nanite hive access the computers. "Yes," she said after a moment. "The State's Attorney has you playing his game."
Delarose nodded. "I'm essentially working for a prosecutor now. And Mrs. Carson has to remain neutral as the tribal rep. Which means that I can't help Kayda if she's innocent."
"All the evidence so far points to her as the perp." She saw Franklin start to speak. "It's too perfect. Her ID card, the weapon, the attack method." She shook her head. "She's smarter than to kill Heyoka in such an obvious way."
"In your opinion, could she?"
"I don't know," Sam admitted. "The whole spirit thing is beyond my experience. But apart from that? I don't honestly know. If she was threatened ....."
"I know. Her uncontrolled PTSD rages." He frowned, looking like someone who'd swallowed something really bitter. "And from what they've already revealed that they know, our best working assumption is that someone has leaked everything about her to them, including her near-rager events."
"How long ...?"
Delarose grimaced. "According to the tribal agreement, Liz has to have a preliminary evidentiary hearing tomorrow to see if there's enough evidence against Kayda to turn her over to the county or state authorities."
"That's not much time," Sam said with a big frown.
"I want you to ...."
"Janice Talbert," Sam interrupted.
"Janice Talbert. Former NYPD Paranormal Investigations Unit, detective, first-class investigator. She's got experience in this area. I don't."
"Get her on the job." Chief Delarose looked grim. "You two bird-dog this one - hard. Use any and all resources you can get. These guys already know how to pin us down. And you have to work fast - they're probably already looking for loopholes and clauses that'll let them take her off campus and into custody."
May 5th, 2007 - Dinnertime
The Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Kayda had been more than a little depressed, trying desperately to figure out how she was going to explain to Cornflower what had happened between her and Elaine. It was great for Lanie to be able to spend some 'quality' time with Wyatt and work things out, but Debra was hundreds of miles away now! She wouldn't be able hold her or do anything but dream-walk or talk on the phone for weeks.
She was so wrapped up in her own worries she hadn't noticed her table mates react to the small crowd that had gathered behind her, nor had she herself. She looked up to see Circe standing next to Chief Delarose. Behind them were the Wild Pack, looking grim faced and a handful of Security Guards in full armor. In her veins, Kayda's blood turned to ice. "Ms...Ms. Circe?" she stammered.
The Head of the Mystic Arts Department held a necklace in her gloved hands. "Kayda, you need to put this around your neck," the teacher declared, somehow less than a command, but certainly more than a question. Kayda forced herself to nod and when the necklace touched her skin she felt a sick feeling in the very pit of her stomach as every bit of essence was pulled from her and held in the charm. For a moment she was sure she would throw up, but the feeling lessened some, leaving her standing, extremely pale and unsteady on her feet, trembling at the shock of having her core of essence ripped from her. "Her magic is sealed," Circe told Chief Delarose.
The head of security looked very old and tired. "Kayda, show me your ID please."
The girl blinked in surprise, not sure if the question itself threw her or another effect of the necklace. She lifted up her purse and frowned, not seeing it clipped to the side pocket where she kept it. "It...I don't have it," she said.
"There, you see?" declared Circe, but Franklin merely shook his head and took a small device off his belt.
"No, it's there," he declared. "Check your purse please, Kayda."
"I don't keep it in my purse," the girl protested weakly as she struggled to open it with shaky hands. "I lose things and I don't have a photographic memory like other exemplars, so I have to...wait..." She dug a bit deeper and pulled out her student ID card. "I don't understand, I don't keep it there."
"Have you had your purse all day?" he asked.
"Where were you between two twelve and four fifteen this afternoon?" he asked.
"Uh, I was...um... in the Sweat Lodge for most of that..." she admitted with a worried gulp.
Franklin sighed. "Stand up," he ordered softly. "We need to continue this conversation in an official capacity. Turn around and place your hands behind your back."
"Do it," ordered Mindbird with a somber expression. "Please don't make us use force, Kayda."
Woodenly, ashen and visibly quite shaken, Kayda turned around and felt the Chief click the handcuffs onto her wrists. "Kayda Franks, you are officially detained. As a minor, you may request a member of the staff to act in loco parentis and sit in on any further questioning. If you do not have a preference, a member of the staff will be appointed."
"Can I talk to Mrs. Carson...?" she asked, but the chief only shook his head, stone faced.
"As the representative of the Medawihla tribe..."
"Mrs. Carson must sit in judgment until I have been cleared or will be turned over to the authorities," she finished in a whisper. What little color was left was drained out of Kayda's face. "Chief, why am I being detained?"
"Miss Franks, you are being detained as a person of interest in the death of Student Jamie Carson." Franklin could not have stunned the girl further if he had gut punched her. "Do you have a preference of a staff member to act on your behalf?"
"Dr. Bellows," she managed to squeak. Franklin Delarose looked at Mindbird, and the Junior began walking in a determined fashion in the direction of Doyle Medical Center.
"Come with me," ordered the Chief of Security.
May 5th, 2007 - After Dinner
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Her expression carefully schooled into as neutral as she could manage, Liz Carson looked around the conference table, her eyes meeting her staff one-by-one, in a brief instant conveying her concern and reading theirs. Chief Delarose was worried, concerned, like her, that they were being forced into a miscarriage of justice.
Sam sat to Franklin's right; her expression was inscrutable, but Liz could read her body language, and she shared her boss' concern. Mrs. Michiko Shugendo was less reserved in showing her feelings; she was very concerned that events were spinning out of control. Surprisingly, Ms. Hartford bore a grim expression; the Assistant State's Attorney, with the authorization from the DPA, had wormed his way into having some authority in this case, and it rankled with Ms. Hartford that Whateley's neutrality was being compromised.
At the end of the table sat the hawk-faced Jerome Hervik, the state's attorney, and next to him was Agent Dougan of the MCO, whom Hervik had dragged along as his 'assistant'. They had smug smiles on their faces, as if they knew that they had the high trumps.
Continuing around the table, Dr. Alfred Bellows, wearing the heaviest worry lines in the room, fretted , and the final person was Dr. Rascomb from Doyle Medical Complex.
"We are going to deal in facts, ladies and gentlemen," Liz growled, mostly at the MCO agent and the State's Attorney. "We are not going to speculate or deal in rumors. Is that clear?"
Hervik smiled innocently. "That's all we can do, Mrs. Carson," he practically purred. "But we also have an obligation to ensure that the safety of the other students is safeguarded, would you not agree?"
Mrs. Carson glared at the impertinent little shit. "That is my concern, Mr. Hervik," she said in an icy tone.
"First, I have to ask if you have any prime suspects," Hervik said smoothly.
Frank Delarose looked like he was about to leap from his chair to throttle the man. Mrs. Carson pre-empted the chief's outburst by fixing a glare that had cowed some of the most powerful villains in the world on Hervik and Dougan. The MCO agent's anger flared, but the lawyer looked on the verge of soiling himself. "Do you have a preliminary cause of death?" she asked Dr. Rascomb simply, not taking her glare away from Hervik and Dougan.
Ted Rascomb took a deep breath. "Dr. Traekham came out from Dunwich for a preliminary examination of the victim. There are two wounds, either one of which would have been fatal. Based on the pattern of bleeding, the first wound was a gash to the abdomen."
"Like the gash inflicted on the security guard?" Dougan asked. "The one inflicted by being horned by a manifested buffalo?" Eyebrows shot up around the room; the MCO agent should not have had access to that information.
Dr. Rascomb nodded. "It would be consistent with the wound, yes." He consulted his notes briefly. "The second wound was a tomahawk blow to the cranium, crushing the skull and embedding in the frontal lobes of the victim's brain."
"Is there a primary suspect?" Hervik repeated.
"Dr. Rascomb," The Headmistress drawled, her steely gaze on the challenging agent. "What else could have caused the gash to Heyoka?" The Doctor blinked in confusion.
"You said the wound was consistent with the wound caused by a manifested buffalo. Is that the only possible cause of the wound?"
"Oh, no ma'am," the doctor clarifed. "To be specific, the wound was caused by a tapered object with a dull tip, about one inch in diameter and perhaps four long based on the tear pattern. There are hundreds of objects that could have caused the wound. Thousands, it could be argued."
Agent Dougan swallowed the lemon his face looked like he had bitten into before he looked away. Mrs. Carson continued to glare, but rephrased the question she knew the lawyer would demand be asked. "Franklin, do you have a person of interest in your investigation as yet?"
Delarose winced even though he already knew that he was going to be put on the spot. "There is a student whose capabilities fit the pattern of the attack."
Dougan leaned to one side and whispered something to Hervik, who nodded. "Would this be a student whose manifestation injured a student, and who has a history of uncontrolled, violent attacks with a tomahawk?"
"Mr. Hervik," Mrs. Carson's tone was ice-cold, "speculating is not in the interest of Justice."
"But it is the same student?"
Delarose scowled. "Yes."
"Is there any other evidence tying her to the crime scene?" Hervik continued as if he was in charge of the meeting.
"Mr. Hervik," Mrs. Carson reminded him, "I am the administrator here." She stared him down until he blinked and nodded acknowledgment of her position. Once he was suitably cowed, she turned to her security chief. "Franklin?"
"The RFID tracking information puts her at or near the crime scene at the estimated time of the attack," he reported grimly.
"Then in accordance with the agreements between Coos County and the Medawihla Tribe, we will take her into custody," Hervik pronounced, a predatory grin on his face. "For the protection of the remaining students here."
"You will do no such thing," Mrs. Carson she replied coolly, eyes lidded and body tightly under control. "You do not have the authorization ...."
"In case you forgot, Mrs. Carson," Dougan snapped, "the DPA has authorized us to assist with this investigation as necessary to ensure the safety of the school."
"Nonsense!" Ms. Hartford growled, startling everyone in the room. "The MCO has no authorization to act on the grounds of Whateley Academy, and your presence here is tolerated only because the State's Attorney's office requested it."
"Our agreement with the Medawihla tribe ..."
"Extends to assisting in the investigation commensurate with the Constitution of the United States, the policies of the DPA, and the laws of the Medawihla tribe," Mrs. Carson completed the thought. "And no further," she declared in a voice as final as Judgment itself. She looked at the Chief again. "Franklin?"
"The student in question has had her magic sealed, and is detained in our secure detention facilities to prevent flight and to protect the other students in the event that she is guilty." He frowned at the two. "In accordance with school policies and DPA guidelines."
Dougan and Hervik did not like the response, but the lawyer knew that their hands were tied and that his gambit had failed; Carson was not going to easily surrender custody. Hervik knew of one other avenue, though. "According to those DPA guidelines, you have twenty-four hours to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if there is cause to have the suspect detained by authorities - which in this case would be the Coos County Sheriff's Department and the State's Attorney's office."
"I am aware of those policies," Mrs. Carson said, controlling her anger. "And you will recall that the timeline is twenty-four business hours. We will have a hearing Monday afternoon." She glanced warily at Mrs. Shugendo and Ms. Hartford. "As is my prerogative, the hearing will be closed to protect the privacy of the minor student who is under suspicion."
Hervik glared at her, his mind racing. The Headmistress was trying to force a closed hearing - probably so she could control the records and hide things she didn't want public. She was apparently not playing the game as a neutral third party, but was going to try to get the suspect off. "Mrs. Carson," he protested sharply, "as an authorized representative of the DPA, I must insist on an open hearing so that facts are not ... inadvertently ... omitted from the record."
"Very well," she agreed. Before either of the outsiders could talk, Mrs. Carson turned to Dr. Bellows. "Alfred," she began, "how is she?"
"Mrs. Carson," Hervik interrupted as though he was in a courtroom, "I object. You are supposed to be a neutral representative of the Medawihla tribe. I must insist that your discussions of the suspect be held outside your presence. And that of your security chief." He smiled wickedly. "We wouldn't want to taint the investigation, now, would we?"
Mrs. Carson nodded in a way that let Delarose and Mrs. Shugendo know that she'd maneuvered them into what she wanted. "Indeed," she agreed. She looked around the conference room. "The purity of this investigation being paramount, Dr. Rascomb, I don't know that you need to stay. Franklin, please escort our guests to your security office so you can continue the investigation. I will be in my office if anyone needs me." There was no doubt but that she expected the others to remain to discuss Kayda's situation. She stood and could not have more forcefully expelled the two interlopers in her domain unless she had chosen to do so bodily. Which was not to say that was needed. In fact, cowed, and tails proverbially tucked between legs, the Agent and the Lawyer followed the Security Chief stealing resentful glances over their shoulders like puppies that were being house broken. Mrs. Carson paused in the door to wink at the remaining members of her staff before she shut the door.
After the others left, Sam picked up where Mrs. Carson had left off. "Dr. Bellows? What's your opinion of Kayda?"
Dr. Bellows shook his head. "Not good. Being detained for murder has shaken her quite thoroughly. Worse, locking her magic has made it impossible for her to commune with her spirits. She's alone in a way she hasn't been for months. She is in considerable psychological stress, almost a state of shock."
Michiko Shugendo grimaced. "You need to have Fubar ...."
Dr. Bellows shook his head, interrupting her. "Fubar can't get through to her. He tried. Her bison spirit has completely sealed her off psychically, and since she can't talk to it, she can't tell it to open her mind to Fubar."
"That wouldn't do any good for the investigation," Sam interjected. Seeing the eyebrows rise, she continued, "Psychic evidence is seriously frowned upon as unreliable, so anything Fubar could find would be contested in the evidentiary hearing - properly so."
"What do you mean, properly so?" Mrs. Shugendo demanded.
"Any evidence which might clear Kayda of charges," Ms. Hartford explained directly to the Dean of Students, "must be in accordance with the evidentiary standards of a court of law of the jurisdiction in which she would be tried. In this case, Coos County or the State of New Hampshire. Neither allows psychic evidence, Michiko."
Sam nodded. "Janice and I have our work cut out for us - and not much time. So I hope she's not late getting here."
"Do you want to interview Kayda first?" Dr. Bellows replied. "Since I'm her chosen representative, I'll need to be there."
Sam looked at them, a gallows expression on her face. "Unless we can find some exculpatory evidence," she said, "her only chance might be to plead PTSD and try to plea down to manslaughter instead of murder-one."
Mrs. Shugendo blanched. "They ... wouldn't? To a minor?"
Sam nodded grimly. "She's a mutant. Yes, they will try for the death penalty."
May 5th, 2007 - After Dinner
The Grove, south of Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
"I don't like this," growled Wyatt for the fourth time since they'd begun walking to the Grove. "Meeting Tansy, way out here, growing dark..."
"Relax," Lanie told him. "If the two of us can't handle Tansy..."
"It's not her I'm worried about."
"The only people who knew Ah told her to meet me out here was her and me, and my computer that was recording the conversation," she told him with a grin. "Momma didn't raise no fools. If something happens, we've got her." He grinned his lopsided grin and gave her a one armed squeeze.
"Smarts! That's what you've got!" he said with a raised eyebrow down at her.
"Oh, give me an easy one why don't ya?" she chuckled. "Firefly, and Ah should point out, there isn't much point to this game seeing as we both have photographic memories." She grinned and elbowed him in the ribs. "That and Ah'm sure Ah've seen more movies than you."
He sobered, but was still affectionate. "Alright, so why all the cloak-and-dagger? What is it that she wants to tell me that you don't want overheard?"
Elaine rolled her eyes. "Ah told you, Ah'd let her tell it. Ah'm not sure Ah believe it mah own self, and Ah don't want to prejudice your decision on mah misgivings. It could be too important." She kicked a rock and watched it go skittering down the rough trail. "Still don't know what you saw in that blonde..."
"I saw the way of getting control of the Alphas," he retorted.
"And a nice pair of tits?"
He grinned and shrugged. "I'll spare you any tales of woe about sacrifices I made for my country."
"There's a good sized bush over there," she observed. He gave her a questioning look and her rapier wit flashed across her face. "You're so full of shit, Ah figure you must need to take a dump..."
"Hey, I'm human," he protested. "You switch hit, you telling me you wouldn't want a piece of Tansy?"
"Not really into Blondes," she replied with a shrug.
"I've noticed that ethnic brunettes are more your speed," he said, causing her to look up into his face with some worry. He caught her glance and his expression softened. "Hey, you're not the first switch hitter I've dated so I do know some of the territory. I know who I am and I know that it's a man you choose to be with. Some guys might be threatened by your past but I'm not. Just like I hope that you're not threatened by my past because you are who I choose to be with."
She smiled and gave his hand a squeeze. "Maria really kind of swept me off mah feet and then you and I happened for reasons we won't mention to keep the conversation pleasant." She sighed, "And Kayda...Kayda just happened. Ah looked at her and she looked at me and...we connected is the best way Ah can describe it. We connected - in a way that...wasn't sexual, at least, not at first maybe? It wasn't love at first sight either. It's like ... when you see someone and you know they'll be a 'best friend'?"
An eyebrow ran up his forehead. "A best friend that isn't sexual, but you sleep with anyway?"
"Yeah, not really a guy thing, huh?" she asked with a pretty blush to her cheeks.
"Not so much," he agreed.
She shrugged and kept walking. "Ah guess Ah'm still working out who mah 'type' is." Her expression became salacious. "Ah know Ah like mah men big and shaggy and...big."
His chest puffed out just a bit in subconscious reflex. "Anything to oblige, my lady."
Her expression softened and became more serious. "Ah don't think of mahself as being vain or really judging people on their appearance. Besides, Ah'm attracted to people, not their parts and Tansy is ugly in a way that has nothing to do with her figure." She felt his eyes on her and sighed. "But, yeah, ok, as pure sex symbol sure, she's hot, but Ah don't know that Ah could separate what she's done from what she is."
He rubbed his chin with a big hand. For a split second she imagined that hand on someone else and had to steel herself to keep her facial expression neutral. "If that's true, why the second chance?"
Again she shrugged and looked away. "Ah gave you one, that's worked out ok." He stopped and used her hand he was holding to spin her around and she was in his arms and pulled against him.
"I picked you," he told her earnestly. "You're not in competition, honey. And even if you were you still have nothing to worry about."
"Ah know Ah'm not as 'experienced' as some of the girls you've been with," she replied, still unable to meet his gaze. He chuckled and leaned down to kiss her forehead.
"Lanie, despite what any number of standup comics would have you believe, guys really don't keep score. I'm not comparing you against anyone else, because there's no one I've been with that would be in your class, baby! You are without a doubt the most..." he paused, trying to find some polite way of expressing his affection. "...I mean...You...you're so...gah." He sighed. "I've had my share of sex, I've even made love to a girl a couple of times, but you are the only girl I've ever made love with. That's loved me back, I love that about you, Lanie!"
"So you're saying a poor plan executed vigorously is better than a perfect plan executed at leisure?"
"Patton," he replied with a grin. "And yes, absolutely. You're extremely vigorous." He paused and his expression got salacious. "Well read too..."
"Ah was thinking of checking out the Kama Sutra from the library," she intimated.
"God save me!"
"We'll see," she purred. She caught sight of something behind him and straightened. "Here she comes." Lanie turned to see Tansy picking her way down the trail they'd just walked, in her version of 'outdoor' clothes, a pair of designer jeans, mukluks that were seeing something other than pavement for the first time in their lives and a red and black checkered shirt that looked like flannel but wasn't.
She looked exactly like what she was, a model playing at being outdoors and 'roughing' it. "There wasn't anywhere indoors we could have done this and not be overheard?' she demanded as she arrived.
"Hello Tansy, how are you?" growled Wyatt.
Surprisingly, she immediately became contrite. "Sorry, old habits."
"Lanie tells me you mean to turn over a new leaf," the big senior grumbled. "If it's true, I wish you well, it's an uphill climb, but I've found it's worth it."
"I'm sorry," she said, looking up into his eyes. "I should never have laughed..." she trailed off, looking away and shaking her head.
"Laughed?" asked Elaine, seeing the dumbfounded look on her boyfriend's face.
"I saw the tape," she said simply. "He tell you about it?"
"The tape of The Don...?"
Tansy's face went hard again, back to its old lines. "Yes, the tape of the Don abusing Skybolt and Cav. God save me, I laughed. It makes me sick to think about now." She turned and looked back up at Wyatt. "I know that's when you made up your mind to dump me and take the Alphas. You...you were right to have dumped me," she said painfully then forced herself to stand up straight. "I'm sorry. If I can make it up, I will, but even if you never forgive me, I need to make you aware of this, and...and beg your protection."
Lanie knew her fianci well enough to know he was deeply moved by her words, but there was a wary stiffness as well. He wanted to believe her, but he was still wary. "Protection from whom over what?" he asked finally.
She sighed. "I know who Hekate's Master is. Or, rather, I overheard the Don talking to him. He's one of the Engineer nerd..." she blushed and stole a glance at Elaine.
"Yeah, we're nerds," she said with her chin in the air, "and you're pissing your pants afraid of a 'nerd' so..."
"You don't want to claim solidarity with this...monster..." she said and shivered. Turning back to Kodiak she went on, "I was tracking down three JR High girls, I got stuck being Ms. Grimes' TA and they went down into the tunnels for some reason. Sebastiano's been gloating for weeks that he's figured out who Hekate's mentor was. Evidently he went to confront him in the tunnels, to blackmail him."
Wyatt crossed his arms over his chest. "And you managed to overhear this without being seen yourself?" She nodded, obviously afraid. "This couldn't possibly have been staged for your benefit?" He left off the hanging threat of her pulling something on purpose.
Her mouth opened and closed several times without speaking as her eyes went wider and she obviously just realized his supposition could be true. "I...I don't know what to do...!" she wailed. "He...if he was acting..." She mastered herself and stood up straighter. "My father is not a nice man," she declared finally. "I can't really say he's ordered anyone harmed, but he's hired men, men whose minds remember being hired to hurt and kill people. I know a killer when I hear one and this 'Nimbus' isn't just a killer, he's evil. Not greedy, not selfish, I was those things. Evil. Evil like there aren't really words for."
Wyatt weighed that for a long moment. "Alright, let's assume you were unnoticed. You saw this fiend?" Tansy shook her head.
"No, I was around the corner. But I heard them and I won't ever forget the sensations from that horrid mind."
"So you're certain you'd recognize him?" Tansy nodded and the fear in her eyes was plain. Finally, he rubbed his chin and nodded. "Alright this is important enough that I want this asshole in a DPA van. So, as of now, Tansy, you are under my protection."
She sagged as an unseen weight of worry was lifted. "Thank you," she whispered.
"You're in Venus, Inc. and Lanie, you do photography work for them, so Tansy you'll stick close to Elaine for a bit as your schedules allow."
"I'll have plenty of time now that I'm not wasting time hanging around the Don..." Wyatt smiled and a cold December went down Tansy's spine. "Don't tell me..." she started.
"Intel is always a good thing, Tansy. And if you suddenly shun the Don, he may get froggy and Nimbus might come calling."
"I hate you and your damned logic," she muttered with a shiver.
"In fact," Wyatt drawled with a grin. "This gives me an idea..."
May 5, 2007 - Early Evening
Kane Hall security offices, Whateley Academy
Sitting in a chair in an interrogation room, Kayda shook nervously, her voice trembling in time with her body shaking. "I told you, I was at the sweat lodge most of the afternoon," she insisted weakly, as if the act of speaking was incredibly fatiguing.
"Is there anyone who can corroborate your story?" one of the two unfamiliar men - the hawk-faced assistant States Attorney - pressed.
"I ... I was ... expecting friends," Kayda said, looking down and avoiding eye contact. Besides the States Attorney Hervik and the MCO agent Dougan, Chief Delarose, Emily Strong, and Mindbird were in the room with her. And Dr. Bellows. She couldn't see, but she knew that two armored and armed security guards were outside the door - just in case.
"I told you!" Kayda complained, her eyes still stinging from the tears which had fallen from the point she'd been handcuffed and marched out of the cafeteria - with all eyes riveted on her and her humiliation.
"I will thank you to calm down and ease your strident tone, Mr. Hervik," Doctor Bellows said calmly.
It immediately drew the ire of the Lawyer. "Or what?" he demanded.
"Or I will use my authority as guardian acting in loco parentis of this minor, and this interview will cease," the psychologist replied in a steely tone of voice and an unflinching gaze.
"You wouldn't..." he started, but as if they'd rehearsed it, Dr. Bellows and Chief Delarose answered in chorus.
"Try me," they declared.
The lawyer gauged the situation and leaned back, switching to 'good cop' mode. "We're only interested in justice, of course," he said by way of massaging his ego. Dr. Bellows gently patted Kayda's hand and shared a smile with her.
"Mule and Lifeline wanted to meet about the simulation tomorrow," she said finally.
Delarose shook his head sadly. "Kayda, Mule and Lifeline swear that they never planned to meet you."
"But I got a note!" Kayda protested. "It's ... I put it in my purse after I read it!"
"They didn't send any note," Delarose said, "and there was no note in your purse."
"I ... I had a note!" Kayda reasserted softly. "I swear I had a note, Chief! They asked me to meet, and then we'd do a sweat lodge ritual." Her voice and energy seemed to be waning as the questioning continued; the trauma of having her essence ripped from her had taken a significant toll on the girl.
"You didn't meet Heyoka?"
"You weren't in Arena 77?"
The attorney plopped some papers down in front of the Lakota girl, a fierce expression on his face. "They how do you explain this?"
"Kayda," Chief Delarose said softly, his voice weary, "the RFID trackers show you going to Laird Hall - presumably to retrieve a tomahawk. And they place you in the tunnels around Arena 77 around the time that Heyoka was murdered."
"But ... that's not possible. I was at the sweat lodge." Kayda protested, fighting tears. "I ... I could never kill Jamie!" She looked around the room desperately. "The cameras - they'll show that I wasn't there!"
Delarose shook his head sadly. "The cameras show nothing, Kayda," he said slowly. "And that's the problem. Since you can ghost-walk, you're one of the few who could get from point A to point B on the campus without it showing on the cameras."
"Someone ... someone hacked the cameras, maybe?" Kayda was clutching at straws, and the desperation in her voice showed it. "And spoofed the sensors?"
"How have you gotten along with the victim?" the state's attorney asked, changing the subject abruptly.
Kayda glanced around the room nervously. "Um, we ... we mostly got along, I guess. We didn't see much of each other."
"Do your ... spirits know each other?" the MCO man demanded. Kayda didn't see the glare he got from Delarose.
"Ye .... yes," Kayda stammered. She looked - and sounded - like she was going to collapse any second.
"Do they get along?" he continued the line of questioning.
Kayda glanced nervously at Dr. Bellows, who nodded. "Um, kind of," she said softly, voice quavering. "Not all the time, because their roles to the People are different."
"I see." The MCO man scribbled in a little book, looking smug.
The state's attorney put a picture in front of Kayda, and she nearly retched. "Do you remember this?"
"Yes," Kayda voice trembled as she answered, staring fearfully at the picture of Officer Lyle Matthews lying on the floor, his guts spilling out of his body from Tatanka's attempt to disembowel him, and his face nearly unrecognizable from nearly a dozen shots from Hick's gun. That attempt on her life had been close, and extremely frightening.
"How did that ... abdominal injury occur?" Dougan asked with a smug smile.
"My ... my manifested buffalo spirit," Kayda said, trembling, "horned him." She was pale, shaking with fright at the awful memories, with seemingly no energy reserves to help her cope.
"And that abdominal injury is remarkably like this one," Dougan continued, dropping a photo of Heyoka lying on the floor, similarly disemboweled.
This time Kayda did retch, managing to turn her head before she hurled what little dinner she'd had onto the floor. The image was ghastly - Heyoka's guts were split open, just like Matthews' had been, but in place of the gunshot wounds, a tomahawk was embedded in Jamie's forehead.
Dr. Bellows stood up. "And that is as far as I will allow this go," he declared with finality. Throwing up seemed to have drained all the rest of Kayda's energy; Mindbird had caught the barely-conscious girl before she could pitch over face-first into the mess on the floor. With a free hand, she took a handkerchief from Chief Delarose and began to clean Kayda's face.
Dougan sneered at him. "And you're qualified to say that because?"
"Because I'm a licensed, trained psychiatrist," Dr. Bellows answered, not backing down in the slightest. "She needs rest; it's clear to see that she's physically and emotionally exhausted. Gentlemen, surely you can see that she's is in no condition to continue questioning." He glanced at the pendant on the necklace on Kayda's neck. "Having a person's magic sealed is a traumatic experience, both emotionally and physically. And when an Avatar loses contact with his or her spirit, it's extremely emotionally stressful. She's been through both experiences tonight!" He shot a glare at the MCO agent and the assistant State's Attorney. "She needs time to recover from that shock. A shock you have aggravated with these needlessly horrific photographs that I will be happy to testify about, either in her defense at her trial, or the hearing to address whether you should be disbarred, sir."
Delarose nodded at the doctor. "I agree," he said, looking at the exhausted girl huddled in a chair. "Mindbird? Please take her to confinement."
Hervik scowled deeply. "If she's not being questioned, she must be taken into custody. She is a proven flight risk."
Franklin stood, drawing himself to full height and imposing stature. "Mr. Hervik," he said, the fury in his voice barely contained - on purpose, "with her magic sealed, Kayda is not a flight risk. She will be held in a warded room for her - and the students' - protection."
"But ..." Dougan started to object.
"And with the physical and emotional trauma she's suffered tonight, she will need to be kept under medical observation," Dr. Bellows added angrily, glaring at the lawyer.
"Let me remind you that until Mrs. Carson has held an evidentiary hearing, you have no right to do anything more than help investigate. If it is determined that the preponderance of evidence suggests guilt, then - and only then - will she be turned over to the proper authorities. Do I make myself clear?"
Hervik looked like he was sucking on a lemon. "Very well. If you're willing to assume the risk ...." He turned and left the interrogation room, with Dougan at his heels.
"Mindbird, can you take Kayda to ... to a cell?" he said, flinching at the word he was forced to use.
The junior nodded, and then picked up the girl who was in a state of psychological shock. "Come on, Kayda," she said soothingly. "Let's get you some rest." As soon as she stepped through the door, the security officers who'd been guarding the room fell in behind her.
Dr. Bellows shook his head. "I don't like this. I don't like it one little bit. You're treating her like she's a hardened criminal, and she's terrified and almost at the point of emotional collapse."
Franklin sighed, nodding. "I don't like it either, Alfred," he confessed wearily. "But we don't have a choice."
"You always have a choice!" Dr. Bellows retorted angrily. "Treating her like this? As much trauma as she's been through? If this doesn't push her over the edge, she'll be damned lucky!"
"We don't have a choice, Doctor!" Franklin replied sternly. "The State's Attorney has a letter of authorization from the DPA to assist." He watched Bellows' eyes widen. "If we weren't being proactive, they'd have every right to insist on taking her into custody because of her powers and the fact that she's a flight risk, hearing or no! And her file with the MCO still has an 'active investigation' tag on it from her misadventure in Sioux Falls. What do you think the chances are that we'd ever see her again if we let them take her off campus?"
May 5, 2007 - Late Evening
Franks Family Farm, South Dakota
"Hello, Franks Residence," Danny was the first one to the phone when it interrupted the family dinner.
"Is this Kayda's brother?" an unfamiliar woman asked. Her voice was pleasant but stressed.
"Yes," Danny answered, a bit perplexed. He didn't recognize the voice.
"Could you please put your mother or father on the phone? This is Mrs. Carson from Whateley Academy."
Danny's eyes widened when he recognized the name. Kayda and her friends had talked a lot about Mrs. Carson, to say nothing of how much his mom gushed about how nice she was from the trip to take Kayda to Whateley. "Sure." He walked to the table and handed the phone to his mom, who was looking at him with a puzzled expression.
"Hello? This is June Franks."
"June, it's Liz Carson from Whateley," the headmistress said wearily. Some phone calls to parents she hated making; this was one of them.
"What's wrong? Is Kayda okay?" June asked, immediately sensing that something was wrong just from the tone of Mrs. Carson's voice.
"Kayda is okay ... for now," Mrs. Carson paused, trying to figure out the best way to word things.
June keyed in on the words 'for now'. "What's wrong? What happened?"
"Kayda has been detained," Liz said, the wince on her expression echoing strongly in her voice. "On suspicion of ... killing another student."
"What?!?" June practically screamed. "What?"
"We're investigating," Liz said quickly, "and she's not under arrest. Detaining Kayda was strictly precautionary."
"Precautionary against what?" June demanded, her hand with the phone shaking visibly.
"Under a long-standing agreement with the Medawihla tribe, the State's Attorney for New Hampshire is assisting in the investigation, and he's brought in an MCO agent as part of his team."
"What? The MCO?" June demanded.
"We detained Kayda to deny them an excuse to take her into their custody," Liz said quickly. "
"She would never kill someone!" June protested. The side of the conversation that Pete could hear alarmed him. He signaled his wife to put the call on speaker phone.
"I shouldn't say this, because under the agreement, I'm supposed to remain neutral as the local representative of the tribe, but we believe that Kayda is being framed," Liz said.
"What do you mean by detained?" June demanded, both angry and terrified.
"To pre-empt the State's Attorney and the MCO, we had to seal her magic and have her stay in a warded, secure ... facility ..."
"A jail cell," June spat the distasteful word.
"Uh, yes," Liz admitted reluctantly. "We had to detain her according to DPA guidelines, or ..."
"Kayda's in jail?!?" Pete Franks interrupted loudly, having overheard his wife's increasing agitation at the conversation.
"Mrs. Franks," Liz tried to calm down June, while understanding completely how the woman felt, "this is a preliminary investigation. We don't know who committed the murder. Kayda is a person of interest, but she has not been formally accused."
"Then why is she in jail?" June demanded angrily.
Liz sighed heavily. "Because somehow, the MCO has gotten information of some incidents, and they're trying to use them to get Kayda into their custody. Now, would you rather that we took her into custody, where we can care for her and protect her, or that the MCO took her into custody? I want you to know that we're leaving no stone unturned here. I've got my best people helping defend her and investigating all the clues, and our best psychiatrist is seeing to her care, because, as you would expect, this is very stressful to her."
"I'm going to be on the first available flight out there," June stated with determination. "And I'll see if our attorney can recommend any ... friendly ... lawyers in the New England area!"
"Of course," Liz replied. "If it were me, I'd break down the gates of hell to protect my child. Let us know your flight arrangements, and I'll have a car to meet you. I want you to know that I've got my best people working on your daughter's behalf. If she is being framed, we'll get to the bottom of it, I promise you."
"O ... okay," June replied slowly. "I'll let you know our arrangements. Thank you ... even though it wasn't good news." Her hand started shaking as she hung up the phone. She stood in shocked silence until she realized that her husband and son were staring at her, bewildered. She turned, just as the emotional dam broke and she began to cry, throwing herself into her husband's arms.
"Oh, Pete!" she sobbed, "they've arrested Kayda for killing another student! She's in jail!"
Pete, stunned held his wife tightly to try to reassure and comfort her. "We'll both go. You call your sister Ida - see if she can't watch Danny for a few days. I'll get us flights booked. And then I'll call our lawyer."
Sobbing, her face buried in her husband's shoulder, June Franks nodded, knowing that she had to count on Mrs. Carson - who she had appraised as a very caring woman - and her husband, because the news had her feeling like she was going to completely collapse.
May 5, 2007 - Late Evening
Kane Hall security cell, Whateley Academy
Mindbird set Kayda down on the cot in the cell, gently rolling the girl to her side. "Rest, Kayda," she said softly.
The Lakota girl sniffled, and then started to cry again. "I ... I can't feel ... my spirits!" she whimpered softly. "I ... can't ... can't ... get to my dream space!" She looked distraught and near panic. "Without my magic, I ... I can't talk to Wakan Tanka! Or Debra!"
Mindbird suddenly felt sorry for the girl; she'd been through so much in such a short time, and in all her dealings with Kayda, Mindbird never got the impression that Kayda could be murderously violent. And now this. But she was security, she kept telling herself; she couldn't let her feelings interfere. And even as she tried to remind herself to remain impartial, she couldn't help but want to help Kayda be more comfortable. "Can ... can I get you stuff for your tea?"
"They ... they took away my medicine pouch," Kayda said, her words barely audible.
"I'll get it for you," Mindbird volunteered.
Kayda shook her head. "It won't ... it won't do any good," she protested weakly. "Without ... without my magic, I can't ... can't make the tea." She stared at the opposite wall, her gaze unmoving, lacking both the strength and the motivation to look at Mindbird. "I didn't kill him," she sobbed. "I ... I wasn't at the arena, I was at the sweat lodge." With great effort, she lifted her head and looked at Mindbird. "Why won't they believe me?" she practically begged for an answer. "I didn't ... I ... I couldn't ... kill him!" Her head flopped heavily onto the small pillow on the cot as if the simple gesture of looking up had taxed all her energy.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" When Kayda didn't answer, Mindbird checked to see if she'd fallen asleep, which she hadn't. Instead, she seemed to have sunk further into a state of denial or withdrawal.
Easing the cell door closed behind her, Mindbird realized that there was something that she could do for Kayda. As soon as she was out of the detention area, she picked up a phone in the security office. "Mrs. Nelson?" she asked. "It's Mindbird. I need you to get a student up and dressed; I'll be there in a few minutes to pick her up. I know it's past curfew, but this is a very important security matter."
May 5th, 2007 - Late Evening
Sam Everheart's Office,Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
"Sorry I'm late," Janice Talbert explained as she strode into Sam's office. "Car wouldn't start."
"Have a seat, please," Sam said to Janice without looking up from the display on her computer monitor.
"May I ask what's so urgent that everyone is operating in 'all hands on deck' mode on a Saturday evening?" Janice asked as she eased herself gracefully into a chair. Though she was dressed in jeans and a casual shirt, she still managed to look professional.
"You've heard about Jamie Carson?" the former admiral asked, turning her chair to face the former detective.
"Heyoka. Murdered in Arena 77 sometime today," Janice said, nodding grimly. "I read the security briefing as soon as you called me." She saw Sam's eyebrow arch, and smiled. "Old habits. And no, I didn't look at anything I shouldn't have had access to."
"There's a leak in security," Sam reported, "and we now have an eager-beaver Assistant State's Attorney and an MCO agent snooping around pressing hard to take the primary suspect into custody."
Janice winced; she knew what it would mean to have the MCO take a student into custody. "And you don't think the student is guilty?" Out of habit, she produced a small notebook and pen and started taking notes.
Sam shook her head. "We don't know if she's guilty or not. Mrs. Carson doesn't think so. The Chief doesnt. According to Dr. Bellows, her psych profile doesn't fit."
"But the evidence is pretty damning," Sam concluded. "There's a file in the computer system with a record of the first round of questioning." She turned her monitor so Janice could read.
"Got it," Janice said when she'd finished scanning the notes from the computer file. "Let's start with what we know about the murder," Janice began, but she had a thought. "How long do we have?"
"According to policy, Mrs. Carson has to have an evidentiary hearing to determine if jurisdiction should be turned over to the DPA. If the DPA is interested - and they have authorized the Coos County State's Attorney's office to investigate, so they _are_ interested - Mrs. Carson must have a hearing within twenty-four hours of the time a suspect is identified. She's got them stalled to twenty-four business hours - which buys us a little time."
"And there is a suspect?"
Sam nodded, grim-faced. "Kayda Franks."
"Okay, let's go through the facts," Janice said, resigning herself to a major effort for the next couple of days.
Interrupted by Janice for clarification or more detail, Sam ran through the known facts of the case. When they'd finished, Janice sat back in her chair, staring at a point on the far wall. "Okay, the first question that comes to mind is why the State's Attorney's office and the MCO are so interested in pressing this so quickly."
"Agreed. I've got a student who does some work-study for us in computer systems. I'll get him trying to trace to get more information about Attorney Hervik and Agent Dougan." Sam smiled slightly. "Blue really likes it when I let him loose on the internet with the blessings and authorization of the school."
"Good. Get him digging for something. There's a reason they're so interested. Let's find it."
Sam hesitated for a couple of seconds, her motion slowing down and her eyes unfocused as her nanite hive interacted through the secure Whateley security computer systems and into the general campus network, searching for a particular student's electronic signature. Once identified, the request was made and an answer received. "He's on it," Sam reported a moment later.
Detective Talbert shook her head. "Damn, that's creepy," she observed. "I'll never get used to the direct computer interfaces and cyberpaths. I prefer good old-fashioned detective grunt work." She shot a quick smile to Sam. "No offense intended." Seeing no adverse reaction on Sam's face, she continued. "This case hinges on three facts. First, was the RFID tracking system spoofed, bypassed, or otherwise compromised? Second, was the camera system compromised to not record events? And third, are there any witnesses that place the girl somewhere else during the crime?" Janice waited to see if Sam had any comments, which she didn't. "I suggest we get resources looking at the known evidence. Because of the time deadline, we're going to have to divide and conquer with all of these tasks. Once those efforts are underway, we can interview the suspect. Then we'll need to look at the crime scene and the entire path the suspect is supposed to have taken before and after the crime."
"Agreed," Sam nodded.
"Let's look at the one note we know of. And the girl claims that she was given a note, too, right? We need to see if we can find that."
"Ms. Hartford has locked down the print servers and file servers and is looking for traces of the note in question. Who wrote it and where was it printed. She also has Kayda's laptop and is running a forensic scan on it for the same reason."
"Good." Janice gave a half-hearted chuckle. "You guys are almost as thorough as the detectives and investigators back in my old job." She screwed on her working expression again. "If there is a note to Kayda, it might be at this sweat lodge she was talking about, so we'll want to go there, too - to see if there's any evidence proving that she was there as claimed."
"Since I doubt you have the visual range and acuity that I have, I assume that would be better done in the morning?"
"Yeah," Janice concurred. "It's too easy to miss important clues in the dark. Has that area been secured?"
"Guards are posted with orders to not come within ten yards of the structure and to keep unauthorized persons away."
Janice nodded her approval. "Good." She paused as thoughts coalesced. "Who can we get to show us the sweat lodge? It's always better to have a guide who can explain any ... irregularities ... so we don't chase down blind alleys."
"Lifeline," Sam answered instantly. "Or Stormwolf."
The detective's eyes narrowed. "Isn't Stormwolf one of the security auxiliaries?"
"Yes. He's spent a considerable amount of time dealing with Kayda during her first few weeks."
"Just for appearance's sake, let's get Lifeline." She saw the quizzical look on Sam's face. "We're dealing with the MCO. They'll use any appearance of prejudice or bias against her. We need to prevent that opportunity." She thought some more. "Let's discount the attack method for now; anyone with half a brain could have used weapons that would implicate someone else. It's one of the oldest tricks for framing someone. Instead, let's focus on two aspects of the case. First, the tracking system noted her presence at the scene, and second, the cameras saw nothing. We need to compile a list of ways that a person could spoof the trackers. Could someone else have used her ID card?"
Sam shook her head. "No. She had it on her person in the cafeteria when she was detained. She had to have it in order to get her dinner."
"Okay, so then let's compile a list of known gadgeteers and devisors who are smart enough to spoof the RFID system and make it appear that it was her."
"That might be a long list."
"And we need to get a list of mages and devisors who could create a cloaking field, as well as devisors and gadgeteers who might be able to jam or otherwise alter the camera feeds."
Sam nodded with a sight wince. The camera trick had been used to devastating effect with the Team Kimba's simulation that had gone south. "Affirmative."
"Okay, now the tricky part," Janice said, "Who do we have that we can trust to help bird-dog some of these things?"
"I'll make a list."
"One more thing."
"We're going to need a lot of coffee." She sighed. "I don't think we're going to get much sleep for the next couple of days."
May 5th, 2007 - About 10:30 pm
Fixer's Patio, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
If Tansy hadn't liked Wyatt's idea, Elaine was certain she hated it. It would be a heavy, heavy burden to bear, and as much as she wanted to, Lanie knew she couldn't argue with the logic of it. That was a great part of what made it maddening. Wyatt couldn't help but look a little smug when he'd laid it out, and as she herself had pointed out to him just the other night, he only acted dumb. It was galling even to know he was far more intelligent than he let on only to be taken by surprise at how subtle he could be.
Nobody expects the high school quarterback to be able to give Machiavelli a run for his money.
And while Lanie wasn't sure if Wyatt even knew how to play football, let alone the fact that Whateley didn't have a football team to begin with, the 'quarterback' was the ages-old agreed-upon king of the high school social heap - that was certainly the spot occupied by Wyatt. At least she'd been able to convince him to wait until next year. Things were far too unsettled just now to try something as complex as he'd laid out.
Still, if Tansy did know who Hekate's Master was, bringing him or her to justice would take a large burden off Wyatt's shoulders. The big man took what had happened very personally; it was the only thing she had ever heard him cry about, in the depths of the night, when he thought she was asleep. The odd trio had walked back to campus in silence, Wyatt excusing himself at Melville while Elaine and Tansy continued on to the Crystal Hall.
"Could...could I talk with you for a minute?" Tansy asked as they arrived at the fixer patio.
The staff were lighting the Pillars - natural gas space-heaters - against the chill of the growing evening, with gas lamps on top for a golden, romantic glow. The fixers were closing up shop to make way for the love-birds that would be taking over the patio for date night. "Sure," Elaine replied as the pair bought cups of coffee from the bar and Elaine followed her lead to a secluded table. "What's on your mind?"
Tansy squirmed and couldn't meet her gaze. Lanie wondered what was coming; in her experience, Tansy was a top-drawer liar and could look you in the eye and tell you the sky was green and the grass blue. "I...well...I learned things ... that are of a personal nature by accident..."
After a moment of parsing through the odd phrasing, Elaine frowned. "You accidentally read someone's mind?" she demanded flatly. Tansy's fidgeting went up a notch and she finally forced herself to nod, still without meeting the redhead's gaze.
"I...I'm a touch...my power always worked better when I could touch someone," she admitted after a long moment. "I don't have to touch someone, but if I do I can go deeper. Ever since I discovered my power I guess I've just left it on by default."
"The better to blackmail with?" Lanie demanded and to her surprise, Tansy nodded, blushing.
"Ye...Yes," she said and wonder of wonders, it even sounded like she was ashamed of herself. "I helped your friend Kayda last week, when she was hiding from Mindbird..." She finally looked up into Elaine's face with what seemed to be genuine look of contrition on her face. "She...she was thinking about..." Tansy sighed and looked around to be sure they were being ignored, then leaned forward and whispered, "She was thinking about when she kissed you in some hot tub."
Elaine rolled her eyes and took a sip of coffee. "Yes, and?"
The blond blinked in surprise. "You...you don't care?"
"Care about what?" she demanded a little crossly. "That you know Ah was naked in hot tub with a bunch of other girls? No, Ah don't. Do Ah care that you know Ah kissed her? No, Ah don't. Why should Ah? What business is it of yours who Ah kiss?"
Tansy blinked, obviously stunned, then stood and came around the table to sit down next to Elaine. "Now I know why she sees you as being so strong," she said as she sat down. "Please...don't misunderstand me, I'm...I'm so confused. How do you not care?"
"Tansy, you're not making a lick of sense," Elaine started and paused when the other girl shuddered at the word lick. "What the hell is the matter with you?"
"I...I don't know," the other girl admitted. "I've just heard all my life that being gay was wrong! That it was perverse and evil and...and..." She saw the expression on Elaine's face and flinched. "Well, what do you expect from me?" she demanded. "I was a little kid and that's what my daddy said and daddy's preacher said and why wouldn't they be telling the truth?"
Elaine sighed and nodded, admitting the point. "Ah guess one of the best things about being Episcopalian is Ah grew up hearing about a God who loved me, not one that wanted to punish me. You obviously are trying to say you've changed your mind, why?"
"Right before I ran into Kayda, Montana attacked me." She paused and looked over at the Oak tree on the path down to Laird Hall. "I suppose I deserved it considering how I'd humiliated him. But, Banned Aides was there to heal me. He...he never had before. And when he touched me..."
"What?" she demanded. "Everybody knows what side of the street Kelly walks. You couldn't deal with a gay man...?"
"No," Tansy retorted quickly. "No, that's not it all." She looked back at the tree and into her mind's eye to see the young man's mind once more. "Yes, he's gay." She laughed mirthlessly. "Completely gay," she said shaking her head. "But he's so...beautiful. He only wants to help, without thought to himself without thought of himself. He would run into a burning building or across a battlefield to get to some stranger whose life he could save. I...I can't believe God would take me over him just because he's gay." Tansy looked back and met Elaine's eye without flinching. "He's more of a human being than I will ever be."
"If you can make a declaration like that, there's hope for you," Elaine told her.
In a hollow voice, the blonde said, "You don't know half of what I've done."
Elaine took a sip of coffee. "Maybe, but Ah do know that admitting you've done wrong is the first step to making it right. You're the one who says she's going to Bitches Anonymous, isn't admitting you're a bitch step one?" Tansy suppressed a laugh somehow without it becoming a snort.
"I suppose so," she said softly. After a long moment she turned and gazed into the other girl's eyes. "You know, I don't know how many boys I've let use me, but I've never felt anything like what Kayda felt when she kissed you."
"You're not a tool, Tansy," Elaine told her. "You're not a piece of furniture. And if you don't care about somebody, why are you having sex with them?"
"To get power over them," she whispered. "To use them back the way they were using me." Elaine sighed and put her coffee down before she held up her hand. Tansy looked at her curiously. "What?"
"Ah'm going to remember something," Lanie told her, offering the hand. "And Grizzly, mah spirit, is going to let you remember it with me. But Ah warn you, Tansy, they just reclassified me and Ah'm an Exemplar Four now; if you try something, Grizzly will know, and we will break every bone in your hand."
Tansy blushed and looked away. "I...I'd rather not experience something...like...that... Thank you, though."
Lanie raised an eyebrow. "You don't think Ah'm so cruel as to make an obvious ... well ... homophobe is a strong word, but let's say someone who is uncomfortable around gay people experience a homosexual act, do you?"
Tansy blinked in surprise. "Then, what...?"
"Ah love Wyatt, Tansy," she told her softly holding up her hand where his ring rode on her finger. "Ah intend to marry him and have his children." Again the blonde shuddered. "And since you have been with him too, Ah thought you might want to know what being with a man you love feels like. So you could compare it to your own memories."
She sighed, shaking her head in amazement and finally looked up. "You...you are everything she thinks you are. I..."
"Tansy!" The two girls looked up in time to see Dale Townsend come rushing up. "Mrs. Nelson said to see you! Where is Clover?" Mindbird was obviously in a panic, then started seeing who Tansy was sitting with. "Loophole? I thought you two hated each other?"
Walcutt blinked in surprise. "Are my personal friends a security matter?" she demanded crossly. "And what do you want Clover for?" She stood in exasperation. "What has she done now?"
Mindbird shook her head. "No, nothing! I need her to make some tea for Kayda!"
Now it was Elaine's turn to blink in surprise. "Why doesn't she make her own?"
"She says you have to have magic to make it and with her magic sealed and under arrest..."
"What?" shrieked Elaine, jumping to her feet.
"You didn't hear?" demanded Dale. "She killed Heyoka! Or at least they think she did! They've got her in Kane Hall in a cell." She turned back to Tansy. "Please! Do you know where Clover is?"
"She's having a slumber party with Irene in Melville," Tansy replied, with a glance at Elaine. "I'll take Dale...?"
"Yes, that's fine, Ah've got to get to Kane. You'll be alright?"
Tansy smiled weakly. "Go help your friend."
Elaine paused long enough to give Tansy a smile in thanks and then she was off at a trot. Most of Schuster Hall would be closed this time of night so she took the long way around the bulk of the Crystal Hall, then the rectangular kitchen extension that jutted off from it, away from Schuster Hall and its triple loading dock and steep ramps for the delivery trucks. From there it was a brisk walk through the parking lot of Schuster Hall to come in the side door of Kane Hall and into the security center.
The desk guard only just looked up from his Kindle. "Can I help you?"
"Elaine Nalley to see Kayda Franks," she declared. He turned back to his computer and typed.
"If you have your pistol on you, you need to surrender it," he told her. Elaine sighed, removed her father's .45 from the holster in the small of her back, cleared it, and presented it with the slide locked open. The guard re-cleared it, placed in the row of gun safes built into the wall behind him, turned the key and removed it, handing it to her. "Sign in," he directed at the little reader by the desk that Elaine swiped her ID through. There was a click, and the security door opened. He led her back into the cells and opened the warded one in the back.
Kayda looked up as the door opened, her eyes dull and practically without life. Seeing her was like being punched in the gut. Elaine rushed in and swept the smaller girl into a hug. The human touch seemed to get through to her and her eyes became a bit more alive. "Lanie? Lanie, I want to go home..."
"Ah'm here, baby, it'll be alright," murmured Elaine as she felt Grizzly come through the warded door thanks to her tie to Elaine. The spirit engulfed both girls and Kayda's breath quickened a bit. "Kayda, what's going on?"
You are not alone, the spirit whispered into the shaman girl's mind and she could feel her spirits through Grizzly's link back to the March of Dreams, but it was like seeing old friends on the deck of a ship, still a ways from the pier.
"Oh, Lanie!" she gasped, grabbing at her friend and this brief glance into the world she had been sealed off from like a drowning victim clinging to a bit of flotsam. "I don't know! They think I killed Jamie!"
"Ah know you didn't," Lanie whispered, smoothing the other girl's hair. "Ah know."
"They won't believe me!" Kayda managed around her fear and emotion. "I keep telling them and..."
"When was Heyoka killed? Where were you?"
The Lakota girl flushed dark brown. "When...when we...you and I..."
"Then you're as good as sprung!" Lanie enthused as she stood carefully. Kayda didn't want to let go. "Ah'll just go tell Chief Delarose and..."
"No!" the other whimpered. "He'll want to know what we were doing! You can't tell him - it would out us both!"
"Do you think Ah give two shits what these nerds on this campus think of me?" Lanie demanded. "Grizzly is right about only worrying about what you think of yourself! They're only jealous because they'll think Wyatt has his way with both of us and they want a piece of that action! As if!"
Kayda curled into a ball. "I...I can't! I'm...I'm not strong like you! It's hard enough and they'll be staring and whispering and..."
"Kayda, baby, they do that now," Lanie pressed, but the ruddy-skinned girl shook her head adamantly.
"No, Lanie!" she shouted. "I can not do that! I...I just can't!"
"Alright," Lanie acquiesced. "Ah won't say anything to Chief Delarose..."
Her face shot up, wide eyed and frantic. "Don't split hairs, Lanie! Don't tell anyone! Promise me!"
"Promise me!" the other girl wailed. Finally Elaine nodded.
"Ah promise. Ah'll run over to Poe and get your night clothes and some pillows. Do you want something specific?"
"Hurry back," the other girl whispered. "I...I don't want to be alone. I'm ... I'm scared."
"You are not alone," Lanie and Grizzly assured her. "We'll be right back!"
May 5th, 2007 - Late Evening
Basement of the secret base of Charles Darrow, Boston
The Witch panted as her spell was finished. Hours she had cast, and was now physically and magically drained. She had used an obscene amount of essence, but she had plenty stored. She was as weak as a new born kitten, but safe here and well warded. She had no fear of attack from without.
From within, the object of her designs was still in the circle where it had been summoned. Already it...now her form was changing, molding herself to the will of the Witch and her spell. What had been her target was now her thrall, consumed and severed of her own will, now only burning with the naked hatred of Nikki Reilly that The Witch had given her. Even this early it was obvious the Witch had out done herself. This would be a master stroke, prelude to a killing stroke.
The Witch smiled and locked the door of her workshop on her way to bed. In the morning, the next phase of her plan would begin and tonight she would dream warm, comfortable dreams of bloody revenge.
Sweet, sweet revenge. The Witch could hardly wait.
May 5th, 2007 - About 10:30 pm
Emerson Cottage, Whateley Academy
Steve Nalley made good use of it being two green flag days in a row. He'd been struggling through a reading assignment for world history when Mr. Filbert had stuck his head into the room he shared with Mechano Man. Steve didn't ask questions when Mr. Filbert told him that Mrs. Horton had called, requesting him. He knew that Mrs. Horton was Marty's house mother; if she wanted him, there could only be one reason. He had been out the door like a shot and his flight had him landing at Poe's door in seconds.
Ayla was waiting for him. "Come with me," the young mogul had ordered, leading the way upstairs. Despite Mrs. Horton's commands, a small crowd had formed around the door to the room. Stronghold could hear his girl's frantic sobbing and stepped around his guide.
"Get out of mah way or get moved!" he bellowed. The curious Poesies parted like the Red Sea before this Heart-of-Dixie Moses. Marty saw her boyfriend and leapt up from the bed where Mrs. Horton was trying to comfort her and flung herself into his surprised arms. "What happened? He demanded. "Marty, are you hurt, baby?"
"They killed him!" she shrieked into his chest. "They're going to kill us all! They won't stop! None of them!"
Steve gently maneuvered her into the room again, and kicked the door closed, putting an end to the floor show. "No one will hurt you," he swore. "Not while I'm here, baby, not while I'll keep you safe!"
"Don't you see?" she wailed. "They hate us! They killed Jamie because he didn't fit in their little gender boxes and now they're going to kill us all! Every...!" her mouth snapped shut as she jerked trying to speak and unable.
"Marty?" he asked, startled. "Marty!"
She couldn't speak for the sobs and hiccups that wracked her. Finally, Mrs. Horton got up and pronounced a heavy sounding word while she touched Marty's forehead. The young blonde sagged as she lost consciousness so completely that her shell dissipated and the young, thin, mostly-androgynous boy underneath was exposed. Steve picked him up and laid him gently on his bed, gently brushing the hair from his face as he did so.
"What's happened?" he demanded of the house parent.
Mrs. Horton's dark eyes bored into Stronghold's soul. "Sit verum audietur. Sit verum sciri!" she declared.
Stronghold felt the sudden warmth of the Denatured Adamantium in his uniform try and fail to block the magic and balled his fists. "Ah wasn't raised to hit a woman, but mah hand of God, Mrs. Horton, if you try to hurt Marty..."
"You knew Marty is a boy under her TK shell, didn't you?"
"Marty is becoming a woman!" he shot back. "She wants to be woman and that's all that matters!"
"Would you kill to defend her?"
"In a New York minute!"
"Will you ever hurt her?"
"God strike me dead first!"
Mrs. Horton sighed and sank back onto the edge of the bed. "I won't hurt your love, Stephen. Sit down, son, let's have a chat." Stronghold was taken aback by the odd turn the conversation had taken, but pulled out a chair from Marty's desk and sank into it. "Marty will be alright," she promised. "She jerked because of a spell placed on her...placed on all my students." Her dark eyes bored into his soul again. "Can you guess why?"
"Spell? All...?" Steve blinked. "Everybody in Poe is gender changing?"
Mrs. Horton smiled. "No, not all. Poe has a secret, it is where we put those who are changing, or gay, or lesbian, where they can support each other. Because Marty is so upset, she was going to accidentally reveal that secret, and the spell wouldn't allow her. A spell I have to put on you now, Steve."
He looked at the sleeping boy on the bed and nodded. "Oh...ok. But, why is Lanie is Whitman then? She...?"
Mrs. Horton squirmed in her seat, clearly uncomfortable with the question. "Stephen, normally, I don't talk about other students, but as you have something of a special situation, I will say that your sister 'discovered herself' here. There was some talk about moving her last year, but it was decided not to for reasons I won't go into with you. Now, does she know that you are aware of her...preferences?" Stephen shook his head.
"No ma'am. I...I found out through someone else."
"I think you and she need to have a conversation, don't you?" the house parent asked softly. The young man nodded his promise, then turned back to his love, the anguish on his face.
"Why is she so upset? She doesn't think Kayda killed Heyoka does she?"
"Oh, of course not," Mrs. Horton replied. "None of us do. But of all my students, this school, even life itself, is toughest on my changelings. They don't really belong anywhere or with anyone anymore."/p>
"Stephen, Marty won't ever not be a changeling," she cautioned him softly. "She'll have a vagina someday, and menstrual cramps and, God willing, beautiful healthy children." With a twinkle in her eye, Mrs. Horton said, "You might even have something to do with that."
Stronghold blushed fiercely, and with a tenderness most wouldn't ascribe to a PK Superman, he again brushed the lock of hair from her sleeping face. "I hope I'm that lucky," he whispered.
"But, despite that, son, Martine's past, thisMarty - Martin - lying here, this won't ever go away for her. And in the back of her mind, whenever she's happiest, whenever she thinks she's finally put it behind her, something will remind her that this, Martin, is who she used to be. Something will renew her fear that her secret will be exposed, putting her in new danger. And, sadly, there will always be those who will be only too happy to remind her. It will take a very strong man to be there for her when she goes through this."
"If..." he stammered. "If I ain't him, I guess I can hang around till he shows up."
Mrs. Horton stood and smiled. "I think he's here already, Stephen Nalley." She made a gesture and touched his forehead. "I seal this truth within you, to aid your honor and only with those you know to be privy to this secret may you speak, lest I free you by Libere loqui." A strange feeling churned in the pit of his stomach and he nodded.
"No one will hurt her, not while I'm around; I swear." He looked down at Marty again, then back up at Mrs. Horton. "Can, can I stay until she wakes up?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
May 5th, 2007 - About 11 pm
Private Lab, Devisor Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Not that she didn't trust the electronic, key-coded locks, but ... well, on second thought, she didn't trust the electronic locks. Not with so many skilled gadgeteers and devisors around Whateley. Especially Belphegor, the fat thieving slob. Satisfied the door was secure, Tweak set her laptop on the workbench and plugged a special plug into what appeared to be a normal power outlet.
Instantly, the computer recognized the external data source that was the lab's secret security camera, battery-run and well-hidden. She wasn't sure if the Secret Squirrels had found it yet or not, but she had reason to believe not. First, they had no reason to check up on her - which was just fine as far as she was concerned. Second, she'd left working 'bait' cameras around, and they hadn't been messed with.
It took her computer about thirty seconds to analyze the video for any motion or intrusion. Satisfied that there had been none, Tweak plugged her computer into a second network and hovered over the keyboard, entering keystrokes. This was the tricky part; according to information she'd gleaned, this was the time that security transferred their sensor data files to the archives, and they were vulnerable to snooping. She looked at a display that monitored the transfers. Damn! She was a few minutes late; the data transfers had already started. A few keystrokes and her computer put an electronic tap on the data movement, copying the files into her computer for analysis.
She was going to show Cueball and the other Masterminds that she had what it took to join that club! She could impress Cueball that she was worthy of her attention! Tweak was honest enough with herself to admit that she had a huge thing for Cueball - and why not? He was very smart and quite crafty; his approach to crime was to treat it like a business, and he was learning business to further his goals. He was her ideal of a Mastermind - someone prudent about villainy. She strongly suspected that when Cueball finished his business studies, he'd use profit margin and comparative risk analysis of all types of criminal activities, selecting those with the highest payoff for given risk. Unlike many of the other - immature - boys, Cueball wasn't drooling over or chasing after the hot exemplar babes, which suited Tweak just fine. She knew that she was reasonably cute, and she kept herself looking nice, but she also knew that she wasn't in the same league as Fey or Cytherea or any of the other exemplar babes. So she had a chance with Cueball - he seemed to respect cunning and intelligence more than looks, and she had both. And she wanted to be by his side, aiding and abetting as she showed that self-righteous son-of-a-bitch who'd impregnated her mother and then mooched off her for years, all the while pretending to be an upstanding hero and defender of good.
Tweak had looked up to her dad for years, wanting desperately to be a hero like he was. It was only later - after he'd abandoned her and her mom - that she learned the ugly truth. He had a huge gambling problem, and he took money on the side to 'overlook' certain criminal activities. Tweak's mom worked two jobs to try to support his increasingly rapacious need for money - a cashier during the day and a strip dancer at night, all the while dear-old-dad fooled around, using the appeal of super-hero-dom to bed lots of adoring young ladies. And then he left, leaving Tweak and her mom to fend for themselves. Tweak's illusions of a good superhero were shattered, leaving her bitter and swearing to never emulate the asshole or any other caped hypocrite.
Instead, she would join the Masterminds, a group who were at least honest in what they were doing - and whose goal in life was to stick it to the phony heroes. First, though, she'd have to prove herself worthy, and what better way than to figure out how to spoof the remote monitors that were all around campus. Good gadgeteers were in high demand in the criminal world; outwitting increasingly sophisticated electronic security systems took talent. But first, she had to figure out how they worked, what data they collected. And so, from the myriad of data streams, she selected one that looked promising; it was a remote monitor north of Holbrook Arena.
As she began a signal analysis to tease out the various different components - she suspected visual, infra-red, and a couple of other sensors merged into one data stream. And so she sicced her analysis program - one of her own design - onto the data, a genetic algorithm to tear into the data stream, analyze it using various tools, and then 'mutating' the strategy to try again, saving only the best mutations for 'breeding' successive attempts.
Within seconds, an alarm flashed on her screen, catching her attention. She read the message - there was something hinky about this particular data stream. It was throwing off generations of program evolution.
After thinking for a few seconds, Tweak connected her computer to some of her electronic equipment and played the data stream out to it.
"What the hell?" she mouthed to herself as she looked at a Fourier analysis of the signal. "Where did you come from?" The signal showed a component that she'd never seen before, a weak, higher-frequency additional signal mixed on top of what she'd expected. Perhaps Security had added a new sensor; if so, it stood out like a beacon, and so should be very easy to isolate and analyze.
It took almost no time for Tweak to configure a sixth-order Chebyshev bandpass filter; when the original data was played through it, a near-pristine, amplified, isolated signal popped out as if by magic.
"Now let's see what you are," Tweak said to herself. She started as she examined it; it seemed like simple, unencrypted, unscrambled video encoding, like one would get from an off-the-shelf wireless security camera. She shook her head; this was no challenge at all; software to decode such a video stream was part of the standard software kit on every Whateley laptop! Still, it was something new. A few keystrokes and a few connections later, she played the snippet of data into her computer, into the software decoder.
Tweak gasped at the scene showing on her laptop. It was the inside of some building or structure, dimly lit, but what grabbed her attention were the two nude figures writhing on some kind of rug, bodies intertwined in frantic sex. She stared, mesmerized and at the same time repulsed by the hot, lesbian sex scene she was viewing. Only too quickly, the short file finished playing, leaving a freeze-frame image - the last complete frame - on her computer screen. "Loophole!" she gasped as she recognized one of the two girls. And the other - she wasn't quite sure, but her makeup looked strangely like that silly Native American pattern that new girl - Pejuta? - wore.
Tweak bit her lip; this could be worth a fortune! And it could be her ticket into the Masterminds. She had blackmail material, proof of something that would humiliate her gadgeteer rival, the girl whose work overshadowed that of everyone else in the labs. Slowly, a grin crept over her face. She'd own Elaine Nalley, getting her to work for her, and at the same time, her ability to 'persuade' the so-called Lab Queen to be her minion would easily earn entrance into the Masterminds. And Cueball couldn't help but notice her skill!
It couldn't be more perfect.
May 5th, 2007 - About 11:00 pm
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
No sooner had Lanie walked into the cottage than she was in a sea of curious girls.
"Is it true that Kayda's been taken away?" "Where is she?" "Is she okay?" "Did she really kill Jamie?"
Lanie shook her head. "Ah don't know much more than y'all do," she replied sternly.
A girl jostled her way through the mini-throng. "Lanie, is she okay?" Evvie asked, looking horror-stricken at the rumors she'd been hearing about her roommate. "It isn't true, is it?"
"Ah know for a fact that she didn't kill Jamie," Lanie told Evvie with a confidence that pierced the roommate's sense of gloom and doom. "There's evidence against her, but ... she didn't do it."
Suddenly, the sea of girls swarming around Lanie parted as if by magic, and Mrs. Horton strode to the girl's side. "Come with me for a moment, please," she indicated to Lanie. As soon as she closed the door to her apartment behind them, Bella turned to Lanie. "What's going on with Kayda? I was notified earlier that someone had ..." she lowered her head, shaking it, "had killed Jamie." The words came hard to her. "And now Kayda's been detained. Do they think she did it?"
Lanie nodded with a grimace. "Ah'm afraid so." She saw the shock on Mrs. Horton's face. A couple weeks earlier, Apathy had disappeared, and then turned up dead. Now Heyoka had been brutally murdered, and a third one of her charges was the most likely suspect.
Events were taking an emotional toll on Mrs. Horton. "Did she?" she asked warily.
Lanie shook her head. "No. Ah know that for certain." She read the questioning look on Bella's face. "We were, um, together," she explained, blushing so that her cheeks matched her hair color.
"You two ...?"
The redhead nodded. "So Kayda doesn't have a good alibi."
"Except to out both of you," Bella said with grim certainty.
"Even that might not be enough," Lanie continued. "Somehow, her RFID tag shows her in the tunnels around the time of the murder - even though we were ...."
Mrs. Horton sighed heavily. "What happened?"
"Someone ... dosed us with something," Lanie said, flinching at the memories of their desperate, insatiable lust. "Some kind of ... hyper-aphrodisiac." She saw the hopeful look on Mrs. Horton's face. "Ah already scanned the items that might have been used to ... infect us," she added quickly, "and we both had blood tests done in Doyle. Whatever it was left no trace."
"So ... it's a setup?"
Lanie nodded. "Ah got a note sayin' she wanted mah help at the sweat lodge. She was ... um, already seriously infected," she decided to explain. "Neither of us could stop." Her cheeks were rosy from blushing again. She took a deep breath. "Whoever is doin' this is playin' a very deep game," she continued. "Cody got a video of the whole thing," she fought extreme embarrassment, "to try to anger him. Ah think whoever did this was tryin' to get him to go rager at her."
"She has to tell Mrs. Carson what's going on!" Bella insisted firmly. She took a hold of the red-head's shoulders, her expression sad. "Elaine, you know I don't want to ask this of you, but could you live with being outed?"
"Ah tried to tell her that." She shook her head. She sighed and shrugged and looked away. "Ah've already had to deal with some of it from mah Circle of Masters trial. Ah guess Maria and Ah weren't as discreet as we thought we were. Hell, Ah don't care who here knows." She laughed a hollow laugh. "Half of them probably will be wishing they had it as good as they'll imagine Cody has it with me and Kayda..."
"I'll have a chat with Mr. Cody," Mrs. Horton started, but Elaine shook her head.
"He won't be spreading it, ma'am. Believe it or not, that's not who he is." The house mother gave the young girl a long, measuring look before letting the matter pass. "Ah already looked at the video," Lanie explained in a heavy voice. "There are no time markers, so there's no way to prove it happened today or yesterday or last week."
"Is there anything I can do?"
Lanie nodded. "You might have to convince her that outing the two of us is her only hope. Ah know she's terrified of doing that, of what it'd mean to the two of us, what with all the gay-bashers on campus. Ah think she thinks she's tryin' to protect me from that, but Ah dont think she realized how much danger she's in. She's exhausted and traumatized by losin' her magic and her connection to her spirits, and Ah know she's not thinkin' too rationally. Ah told her that she had mah permission - in fact, Ah insisted on it, but she's still afraid - more for me than for herself. But if she doesn't, the State's Attorney and the MCO might get their hands on her, and ...." She shook her head, grimacing at the thought. Lanie read Mrs. Horton's expression. "Yeah, someone tipped off the State's Attorney and the MCO offices, and they've already got reps here nagging Mrs. C."
"I'll get some of the older girls trying to control the rumors, at least within Poe."
"If you don't mind, Ah was going to get a few comfort items to take to her."
"Go right ahead. Is there anything else?"
Lanie nodded. "Pray."
May 5th, 2007 - Late Evening
Franks Family Farm, South Dakota
Pete franks sighed heavily as he viewed the travel reservations website. June picked up on her husband's mood from subtle hints from her husband. "What?" she asked bluntly.
"We can't guarantee arrival until Tuesday morning. Best I can do is standby for Monday."
"What about ... through New York? Or Boston?"
Pete shook his head in frustration. "I've tried everything. Hell, I even looked at flying into Boston and taking that train of theirs!" He banged his fist on the computer desk in frustration. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but flights into everything in New England are booked solid!"
"Take what we can get," June said, standing and putting her hands on Pete's shoulders, rubbing them out of habit as she did whenever he got tense. "And we'll have to pray and hope that Mrs. Carson was being honest when she said she had her best people on it, and she's certain that it'll turn up that someone is trying to frame Kayda."
May 5th, 2007 - Late Evening
Security Cell, Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
Janice sat in a chair facing the bed in the cell, on which a visibly shaken and distraught girl lay curled up in a fetal position, facing her. To one side of her, Dr. Bellows occupied another chair. Sam stood by the closed cell door. "Kayda," Janice said soothingly, "you need to talk to us."
"You think I did it, don't you?" the girl muttered, her voice devoid of emotion and weak.
"No, Kayda," Dr. Bellows said firmly. "I don't think you would consciously do such a thing."
"But you think I did it - while I was having an attack," the girl said.
"Kayda, the only times you've had a violent attack with your PTSD are when you've been attacked first, and by a male," Dr. Bellows continued.
"Were you attacked?" Janice asked.
"No," Kayda answered. "You think I did it, don't you?" she repeated sullenly.
"Kayda," Dr. Bellows said soothingly, "I'm not going to lie to you. It really doesn't look very good for you right now."
"All the evidence so far points to you," Janice continued that line of thought. "We need to know where you were, and who you were with someone that can vouch for you."
"I was in the sweat lodge," the girl without thinking. "By myself," she added hastily.
Janice glanced toward Dr. Bellows, surprised at the certainty with which she'd attested to being alone, and being an experienced enough interrogator to see it for the pale lie it was.
"Kayda," Dr. Bellows tried another tack, "right now, you're looking at Murder One - premeditated murder. And as a mutant, you would most likely get the death penalty."
"But I didn't do it."
"That's not what the evidence so far says," Janice prodded further. "Why were you at the sweat lodge? No one...saw you go out?"
"I ... I got a note from Mule that he wanted to meet about the team simulator tomorrow," the girl finally admitted. "And Lupine suggested the sweat lodge because ... because we might get a blessing that would help us."
"Do you have the note?" Janice asked hopefully.
"I ... I don't know," Kayda shook her head weakly. "I think I put it back in my purse."
Sam shook her head after a brief moment. "The contents of your purse were inventoried. There is no note."
"I ... it might have fallen out," the girl replied softly, "in the sweat lodge. Or when I was walking there from ... from the guest cottages."
"Did you send a note to Heyoka yesterday morning?" Sam continued probing gently.
"No," Kayda answered. "I was ... busy ... all morning."
"And someone was with you in the morning?"
Kayda nodded. "My ... friend from back home was with Lanie, Cody, and me in the simulator. We were ... on Lanie's sailboat simulation. Then we had lunch, and I went with her to say goodbye. And then I went to the sweat lodge."
Sam nodded. "That would be Debra Matson?"
"I'll contact her to confirm your whereabouts."
"Can ... can you tell her ... what's happening?" Kayda sobbed, the first display of emotion from the emotionally-exhausted girl. "I ... I can't dream-walk with her! Not without my magic! And they won't let me call her!"
Dr. Bellows and Janice exchanged a knowing glance. "Okay, Kayda," Dr. Bellows replied.
"Let's let her rest," Janice said to Sam and Dr. Bellows. "We can talk to her more tomorrow." Janice stood and walked with Sam to the door. As the guard opened the cell door, she continued. "Can you find out how Ms. Hartford is doing tracking down the note that Heyoka got?"
"We'll go out to the sweat lodge at first sunlight." Sam stepped through the now-open cell door. "We might want someone knowledgeable about the lodge to accompany us."
"Good idea." Janice paused, laying a hand on Sam to hold on now that they were out of earshot of the cells. "And Sam, she's lying. There was someone with her. If we can find out who...?"
The Admiral nodded. "That might be the key to this whole thing. I'll see what I can find out."
May 5th, 2007 - Very Late Evening
Security Detention Area, Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
Clover's eyes were wide in shock and fear as she let Mindbird lead her into the cell holding Kayda. She'd never seen the Lakota girl look so ... haggard, almost like the living dead.
"It's okay, Clover," Mindbird said, holding the junior-high girl's hand.
"What ... what happened to her?" Clover stammered, unable to take her eyes away from the girl who'd been so friendly and helpful with her magic tea.
Mindbird flinched, on the spot to tell Clover something without causing the rumor-mill to run rampant. "Something ... happened ... to Jamie Carson ..."
"Heyoka? The kid who got killed in the arena?" Clover asked curiously.
The rumors were flying fast and furious, Mindbird realized. "Yeah."
"Did Kayda kill him?" she asked, eyes bulging as she stared fearfully at the near-catatonic girl. "Is that why she's in jail?"
"We dont know yet," Mindbird replied. She saw an opportunity to help curb rumors and to educate the girl. "In our system, a person is considered innocent of a crime until they're proven guilty."
"So why's she in jail then?"
"Kayda ... tried to run away from school last week," Mindbird said carefully, "when she was afraid that she'd hurt a friend. Because of that, and because she's a suspect, she has to be kept here so she doesn't try to run away again."
"Oh." The girl glanced between Kayda and Mindbird. "Why did you bring me here?"
"Part of being kept here is that her magic has been sealed. She can't access any of her essence or magic," Mindbird explained.
Clover's eyes, which were already wide, threatened to bulge out of their sockets. "They can do that?" she asked very nervously.
Mindbird nodded. "It's very traumatic - it hurts a lot when that happens." She knelt down so she was looking more eye-to-eye with the young girl. "Kayda needs her tea to help her, but with her magic sealed, she can't make it."
"No, and that's why I brought you over here. She did a big favor for you by teaching you how to make the special tea. I'd like you to make some to try to help her now."
"But ... but she made me do a sorcerer's contract," Clover stammered.
"I know," Mindbird explained. "And if you help her now, she'll agree that the favor has been repaid."
Clover pondered that for a moment. "You can't make her agree to that. Did she say that?"
Mindbird flinched at the girl's logic. "She can't, Clover," she replied. "She's ... almost unconscious." She saw the young witch staring at her tea benefactor. "How about this - if she doesn't agree, then I'll agree to owe you a favor."
The girl's eyes opened wide, and one could practically see the gears turning as she thought about the possibilities.
Mindbird noticed. "But I won't do anything to break any rules. Okay?"
Clover thought a second or two. "Okay." She took Mindbird's hand in her own and shook. "Deal and deal."
"Get out your supplies," Mindbird directed, "while I get a cup of water." Working from memory - which was pretty good - Clover said the incantations and sprinkled the ingredients into the cup. A small flash in the cup signaled that the magic was completed.
Mindbird sat down on the bed and carefully lifted Kayda to a sitting position. "Kayda?" she asked softly, "I've got something that should help you." Kayda's eyes opened a bit and she stared blankly at Mindbird, trying to focus. Mindbird reached out and took the cup from Clover. "I had Clover make you some tea," she said gently. "Drink some. It should help you." She held it up toward Kayda's mouth.
The girl stared at it for a few seconds, and then slowly reached up her shaking hands, cradling the cup of the precious tea. "Clover?" she asked. Slowly, she brought the cup to her lips, still trembling, and took a sip.
The small amount of essence in the tea was a splash of water on a parched land that immediately absorbed it. The essence begun to spread, bring relief to Kayda's inner magical core, soothing it after the sudden, painful removal of all of her essence mere hours before. For a moment, the girl's features softened as some of the ache was soothed.
But no sooner had it begun to calm and comfort Kayda than the charm, still around her neck, grabbed hold of the essence and violently ripped it away, stealing it to the untouchable magic repository that it contained. Kayda was wracked by a massive spasm, much bigger than in the cafeteria, and the ache of her missing essence became a stabbing pain that wrenched her guts. Her stomach convulsed violently and what little fluid was there was expelled.
When Kayda quit convulsing after nearly a minute, Mindbird, apoplectic over what the tea had done, held the girl close. "I'm sorry, Kayda," she said, almost weeping. "I'm so sorry. I ... didn't know it would do that to you!" Over and over she apologized profusely, trying desperately to comfort the stricken Lakota girl and ignoring the vomit spattered on her armored suit. When Kayda's breathing seemed regular again, she gently laid the girl back on the cot. "I'm so sorry," she repeated, standing and getting some paper towels from the tiny sink in the cell, and then wiping Kayda's face.
Only then did she become aware that Clover was watching her, horror-stricken. "See if she'll take some plain water," Mindbird told the shocked little girl. "A sip or two. I'm going to call Doyle so a doc will come to look at her. And then get this mess cleaned up once we know she's okay." Inwardly, she was kicking herself. Her attempt to help the girl had backfired badly; Kayda's pallor was far more noticeable, and she seemed to be closer to full-blown catatonia.
May 5th, 2007 - Very Late Evening
Highway 110, Between Berlin and Dunwich
The gloom of night felt less heavy than the frustration felt by Jerome Hervik as he drove back to Berlin from Whateley. In the passenger seat, Agent Dougan was working feverishly on his laptop, seemingly oblivious to the darkness around them.
"I had a feeling she was going to pull something like that," he grumbled aloud.
Dougan looked up, interrupted from whatever he was working on. "What?" he asked as Hervik's words caught up to his thoughts. "Oh, yeah. My predecessor left some copious notes on Mrs. Carson and Whateley. They said she's tricky to deal with."
Hervik nodded. "We had her! They have no grounds to not turn her over to us."
Dougan snorted. "She knows the laws, regulations, and policies associated with that school inside-out and backwards." He shook his head. "Face it, Jerry - she played us."
"What pisses me off is that they're going to get away with it!" Hervik said disgustedly. "They're trying to protect a murderer - just because she's a mutant."
Dougan started chuckling. "Maybe not."
Hervik arched an eyebrow. "What?" he asked simply.
"My ... friend ... in security gave me a few ... notes. Some incidents in the girl's file." He was almost chortling in glee. "It seems she has PTSD, and has had several episodes where she's been in an uncontrollable rage. She severely wounded a boy in her hometown with a tomahawk, and was ready to deliberately kill another, but she was dissuaded by her friends. She attacked students twice and a training dummy once in a rage - and would have injured or killed them had they not been invulnerable."
Hervik's mind was racing with this news. "So ... I can persuade the administration that the State's Attorney's office would be willing to accept a plea bargain of manslaughter with extenuating psychological reasons."
Dougan frowned. "What good does that do?"
Hervik's grin was purely evil. "It'll convince them that we will go light on charges for a guilty plea, that the girl will get a probation and counseling for her PTSD since she's a minor."
Hervik chuckled. "Once we get our hands on her, it's full-court press for Murder One."
"And the needle?" Dougan asked.
"Of course," Hervik said with an evil grin.
May 5th, 2007 - Almost Midnight
Security Duty Office, Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
"Ah demand to see mah friend!" the redhead snapped to the duty officer.
"I'm sorry, but you're not permitted to see her," the duty officer replied gruffly. "Visiting hours are over."
Lanie frowned at him. "According to regulations," she began to cite, "if a student in detention is in distress, you have to make provisions to ensure maximum physical and psychological comfort. Ah happen to know that mah friend is in severe psychological discomfort because her magic has been locked away from her."
"You're not a psychologist," the duty officer replied curtly.
"Then you are required to call one to get an assessment of Kayda's condition." She saw the officer looking uneasily at her. "Go on, look it up. Ah'll wait."
"He left about thirty minutes ago,"
"Call him," Lanie insisted. She fought the urge to call forth her Grizzly spirit to intimidate the man; it would have made it so much easier to ... persuade him ... to be cooperative. But the lesson of the morning hadn't been lost on her. Besides, security would respond with extreme force, and that wouldn't help Kayda one bit.
"I'm sorry, but ...."
"Would you like to be on the receiving end of a grievance, followed by a lawsuit if anything happens to the detainee?" Lanie asked. "Because you didn't follow procedures and regulations?" She pointed over her shoulder at the camera trained on the desk. "It's not like you'll be able to lie about this conversation or having been notified of..."
The man flinched. "I'll call him," he reluctantly gave in.
Five minutes later, Lanie was let into the cell with her friend. "Hi," she said as she sat down, trying not to flinch at the sight of the girl. Her eyes were fixed in the thousand-yard-stare. She was pale, looking utterly and completely broken psychologically, her clothing rumpled and her hair mussed. She looked like she was catatonic. "Kayda?" Lanie asked again. Again, there was no reply. "Kayda?" she tried a third time.
Lanie turned toward the door, to the security officer standing guard outside the cell. "Get Dr. Bellows! Now!" she barked. The man hesitated. "She's having a PTSD attack!" Lanie tried to get through the man's thick skull. "She needs Dr. Bellows' help now!"
As the guard hastened out to the security desk, Lanie picked up Kayda and cradled the Lakota girl in her lap, hugging her tightly. "It's okay, Kayda," she said in as soothing and calming a voice as she could manage. "It's going to be okay, Sister." She wished she could sound more confident.