Public Domain Image
“Your car smells like onion rings.”
“Comfort food. I was stress eating,” Ken frowns as he turns up the heat in the car.
“How was Officer Bailey?” I inquire as I pick at the red polish on my fingernails.
“Intense,” he blinks. “How was Hernandez?”
“Irritating,” I roll my eyes as Ken laughs. “Did she show you the mysterious plant thing?”
“Oh, you mean the daffodil? Yeah, I saw it. Kinda scary looking. How do you think it got in Mack’s bloodstream?”
“It doesn’t matter. Because we’re going to find the people responsible,” I reply, dazed.
“What do you mean?” Ken furrows his brow at me.
I pause for a moment and play with the charms on my bracelet. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Ghosts?” he questions. “Well, that depends.”
I bolt upright and stare at him intently. “Really? On what?”
“Well, are we talking Casper or the thing from GhostBusters?”
I deflate and punch him in the arm. “I’m serious,” I huff.
“No, I don’t believe in ghosts, Cass.” he laughs. “But I take it you do?”
“I saw her.”
Ken looks over at me from the corner of his eye quizzically. “Saw who?”
“Mack. I saw her.”
“Like, you saw her on the news or…”
“No, Ken, I saw her. In the flesh. She was there.”
I turn to look at the expression on Ken’s face. “You think I’m crazy,” I scoff.
“I think you’re traumatized. And I also think you haven’t slept in days.”
“I know what I saw, Ken.”
“Your subconscious is playing tricks on you.”
“The only reason I’m even telling you is because she told me I could trust you.”
“Oh, really? She told you that, did she?”
“She told me to find the Allens.”
“Yeah, I don’t know either. But they’ll help us.”
“I don’t know anyone who has that last name and neither do you. How are we supposed to find them?”
“Mr. Moore will lead us there.”
Ken lets out a loud cackle. “Mr. Moore? Are you serious?” Ken takes a look at my face and realizes that I am. “Our calculus teacher is going to lead us to the promised land?”
“We just have to tell him that the earth is quiet here.”
“What does that even mean? That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Not to us, but it will to him.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“This is the only way for me to find out what happened to my sister.”
“So, just to summarize, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re telling me that we need to tell our 30 year old, introvert of a calculus teacher that the world is quiet–”
“The earth, right, my mistake. The earth is quiet so that he will lead us to a bunch of people we’ve never even heard of to solve a problem I didn’t even know we had. All because your deceased older sister appeared to you and made you believe that the sky is falling?”
“Yep, that sounds about right.”
Ken lets out a long sigh and closes his eyes. “Fine. We’ll find Mr. Moore first thing tomorrow morning.”
I smile at Ken and tell him, “Slimer.”
“The thing from GhostBusters. His name is Slimer.”
Ken rolls his eyes and I smile and laugh as we pull into my driveway. I go straight to the mailbox and pull it open. Bills, bills, bills, I think to myself.
“What’cha got there?” Ken looks over my shoulder.
“Just a stack of bills that I have no idea how I’m paying this month,” I continue flipping through them.
“What’s this?” he asks as he pulls out an envelope addressed to a name that is not mine. “Who’s Elizabeth Nelal?”
“I don’t know. I keep getting letters addressed to her name and I have no idea who she is,” I laugh.
“Maybe it’s one of the neighbors and it just got delivered to the wrong house.”
I grab it back. “They’re all addressed to my house.”
“Maybe the person who sent them just messed up one the numbers in the address,” Ken shrugs. “Cass, it’s fine. Not everything is a conspiracy. Who’s it from?”
“Katherine and Scott Nelal.”
“Just send them back. It’s no big deal.”
“I would if there was a return address.”
“Oh,” Ken laughs. “Nevermind then. Just forget about it. We have more important things to worry about. Like the fact that we’re going to completely humiliate ourselves tomorrow in front of Mr. Moore.”
“He’ll know what we’re talking about, Kenny. I promise,” I say as I stack the letter back in the mailbox along with all the other letters addressed to Elizabeth.
“Whatever you say, Lizzie,” Ken smiles at me. “Go upstairs and grab the necessities and meet me back here.”
“You’re staying at my house until further notice.”
“I’m fine here.”
“You’re not,” he cocks his head. “Eventually you’re going to run out of Ramen and then what are you going to do?”
“Eat the Spaghettios, I guess.”
“Not to mention, the only thing that was keeping the lights on around here is no longer around,” he smiles at me sympathetically. “I got you, Cass.”
“Fine, wait here,” I sigh.
I run upstairs and gather only the things I can’t live without:toothbrush, clothes, hairbrush. I come back downstairs and then we’re in the car again.
“Did they ask you where you were when Mack died?”
“Yeah,” he reminisces. “It was the weirdest thing.”
“What was?” I hold my breath.
“I can’t remember a thing I did that night.”
“No, Cassie, nothing.”
“You don’t remember one thing you did that night?”
“I remember going to your house, being astonished by the lack of food, driving you here, and everything else is gone. All I remember is the next morning and you weren’t here.”
“Because you drove me home at 1 AM.”
“What? No, I didn’t”
I squint at him. “What do you mean? I woke up on my couch with a note in your handwriting telling me you drove me home in the middle of the night.”
“I didn’t have my car that night, Cass. My mom took it after we got here so she could work late. I couldn’t have driven you anywhere even if I wanted to.”
“Ken, do you realize how bad this is?”
“Please stop pacing. You’re creating a draft.”
I stop moving and sit down on the bed. “There’s an entire night of our lives that’s missing.”
“The night that my sister was murdered, no less.”
“So, what? You think we had something to do with it?”
“I don’t know, Ken, I don’t remember! We could’ve been doing anything! We’ve forgotten everything.”
“I didn’t forget what happened, I just misplaced the memories,” Ken shrugs as I stare at him in disbelief. “They’ll come back to me eventually.”
“ We need them to come back to you now!”
“You need to relax. We didn’t kill anybody, we’re fine.”
“Relax? I don’t remember what I was doing the night my sister died! Or how I got from here to my house.”
“One of your parents probably sobered up, realized you weren’t there, and came here looking for you.”
“I guess that makes sense…”
“See, Cass, there’s an explanation for everything,” he smiles as he swivels around in his computer chair.
“Then why don’t we remember anything from that night?”
He points his finger in my direction. “When I come up with that explanation, I’ll let you know.”
I roll my eyes and put my head in my hands.
“Hey, maybe the almighty Mr. Moore will be able to tell us tomorrow,” Ken mocks me as he begins typing on his keyboard. “Since he seems to have all the answers.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I lift my head up.
“No, I was kidding.”
“You’ll see,” I stand up. “He’s going to be exactly what we need.”
“I just don’t want you to be disappointed if he doesn’t turn out like all he’s cracked up to be,” Ken raises his eyebrows.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
“You’re sure you wanna do this?”
“Ken, I need you to trust me.”
“I trust you. The ghost that told you to do this, however, I second guess.” We’re walking toward the stairs that lead to all the math and science classes.
“Mr. Douglas and Ms. Wilthrop?” I stop short. I’d recognize that voice anywhere. We turn slowly and gaze upon Officer Hernandez and Officer Bailey.
“This is getting to be borderline harassment,” Ken peers at them.
He laughs that familiar laugh and then his smile disappears. “We need the two of you to come with us.”
“Why?” Ken crosses his arms. “We’ve told you everything we know.”
“We got the surveillance footage back from the parking lot where Mackenzie collapsed before she died.”
“Okay,” I blink. “And?”
Officer Hernandez reaches his hand back towards Officer Bailey who hands him a photograph which he holds out in front of us. “New evidence has surfaced.”
Ken and I both look intensely at the black and white photograph. I see Mack laying in front of the coffeeshop doors, surrounded by people, each trying to save her. I think of all the better ways Mack deserved to go out, not laying on the ground in a dusty old parking lot.
“What are we supposed to be looking at here?” Ken’s irritated voice pulls me back from my thoughts.
“Well, if you’ll look here,” Officer Hernandez points to the left side of the photograph. “You’ll see–”
“Us,” I exhale as my heart begins pumping faster and faster. Ken’s eyes go wide as I say again, “that’s us.” And there we are, crouched behind a red truck, in the same parking lot as my sister when she took her last breaths.
“We’re going to need you to come with us. It appears we have yet to hear the entire story.”
I’m frozen in place, lost in the swirl of my thoughts. I was there when Mack died. I watched her as she lay dying. I was with her in her final moments .And I don’t remember it at all. I’m suddenly pulled out of my daydreams as I watch more officers appear behind Officer Hernandez and Officer Bailey. And suddenly they’re walking purposefully towards us.
In less than a minute, I watched Ken as he took off his backpack and started throwing things in the direction of the officers. Papers were flying, pencils were launched, until he finally threw the entire backpack itself at the officers. I couldn’t see anything behind all the floating papers, but I felt Ken’s hand as he grabbed my arm and started racing towards the staircase.
“I hope you’re right about this guy,” Ken called out breathlessly as we lept up the stairs toward the calculus room. “Because right now he seems to be our only hope.” We throw the wooden tan door open as we reach the classroom and lock ourselves inside.
Mr. Moore is sitting at his desk with a stressed hand running through his black hair and a stack of papers in front of him. He looks up and removes his glasses as we slam the door shut. “Ah, Cassandra, Kenneth,” he smiles warmly at us. “How may I assist you?”
“Mr. Moore, we need your help,” Ken gasps at him.
“What can I do for you two?” he furrows his brow.
“What if I told you that..,” I stand behind Ken and analyze Mr. Moore’s confused face as I tell him, “the earth is quiet here.”
Mr. Moore’s face drops into the most serious I’ve ever seen it. His eyes go wide as he swivels around in his chair and walks quickly across the room to the air vent in the wall. He pulls the cover off and removes the bag from inside along with a bunch of maps and gadgets I’d never seen before.
“Mr. Moore, what’s going on?” Ken starts to ask as we suddenly hear a pounding on the door.
“Mr. Douglas and Ms. Wilthrop,” Officer Hernandez yells through the door. “Things will be significantly easier for you if you just come out now.”
“Mr. Moore, we–,” I start.
“Robert,” Mr. Moore tells us as he’s stuffing things hurridely into his bag. “You may call me Robert.”
“Listen, Rob,” Ken starts panicking. “We’re in big trouble here and I have no idea what’s happening–”
“It’s time,” he says as he throws his bag over his shoulder. “I’m going to help you from here.”
“Well that’s great and all, but we can’t leave. The door is sort of otherwise occupied.”
“You’re running out of time,” Officer Hernandez calls through the door.
“That’s why we’re going to have to go through the window,” Robert announces as he unravels his tie, opens the bottom drawer of his desk, and starts tying a bunch of cloths together.
“Are you crazy?” I shout. “We’re on the second floor!”
“I won’t let anything happen to you, Cassandra. It’s my job to keep you safe.”
“Oh, cool,” Ken throws his hands up.
“I won’t let anything happen to you either, Kenneth,” he laughs.
“Where are we going to go?” I inquire.
“Wherever we’re going, we need to go now because I just heard the word “battering ram” come out of one of these officer’s mouths,” Ken presses his back to the door.
“I’m taking you to the Allen’s.”
“Last chance to come out!” Hernandez shouts.
“We gotta go!” Ken yells.
Robert ties one side of the line to the leg of his desk and throws the other end of makeshift rope out the window. “Follow me.”
“See, the problem with that is that I have this medical condition where I need to be able to breath to live, and I won’t be able to do that with my collapsed lung after I fall out this window,” Ken folds his hands together.
“Would you rather take your chances with the people on the other side of that door?” I raise my brow at him.
He thinks it over and then says, “out of my way,” as he grabs the rope and begins scaling down the side of the building.
I hear the officers count to three and then use the battering ram to throw the door open. But we’re already running across the campus grass when that happens.