HSH: Hero Heist - Chap 5-6
The continuing story of the High School Heroes saga!
Last Day Blues
I sat through science, and waited to hear my final grade from Mr. Jenkins. I received a B, which I think was most unfair, considering I hadn’t gotten lower than an A on anything the entire quarter. But rather than argue with the man, I simply nodded my head and went back to my seat. Though I did laugh the loudest when at the end of class his chair mysteriously moved out from under him as he was sitting down. When he fell flat on his back with a loud crash, I couldn’t help but feel a small amount of satisfaction.
History was no better, though I did get up to present my poster. It wasn’t the best one, but Mr. Murray said I got a B on it. Good enough for me.
As I was exiting the room, I had a thought. Earlier in the year, we had gone over a unit about World War II. In that unit, Mr. Murray had spoken about the Spear of Destiny, and when I asked him about it, he’d had a lot of great information. I wondered if he could help me now, and knowing I probably wouldn’t get another chance to ask him, I hung back as the class exited.
“Mr. Murray.” My voice was meek, almost embarrassed.
“Yes, Christine. I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about your grade. You’ve shown great improvement this quarter. I wish you would’ve shown this kind of initiative earlier in the year.”
“It hasn’t been a good year for me,” I commented. “But I wasn’t going to ask about my grade.”
The teacher sat behind his desk as he stared up at me. He felt concerned. Even if I couldn’t read his mind, I’d have been able to see that much in his eyes. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” I said a little too quickly. “I was remembering some things from earlier in the year, and I was wondering if you could explain them.”
“You do know the year’s over. There isn’t going to be another test.”
“I know. I was just…” I began, then stumbled over my own words as I thought up the best one to use, “curio… no, interested.”
“Okay.” He felt relieved I wasn’t in trouble, but also contemplative as to why I would seek out such information. “What do you want to know?”
I explained how we’d had the conversation about the spear and how I wanted to know more and why Hitler was seeking it out.
A crooked smile stretched across his face, and I could feel his delight someone would ask him about this. It was apparently a subject he was very fond of. “Well, Hitler was after many artifacts he believed would help him win the war. And who knows, if he possessed any of them, he may very well have. The four main items were, the Spear of Destiny, which we already spoke about, the Holy Grail, the Shroud of Turin and the True Cross. Each of these items is associated with the death of Christ. The spear stabbed him, the grail held his blood, he was wrapped in the shroud and nailed to the cross. The four items are said to have unimaginable power.”
“Yeah, like the Holy Grail can make you…” My voice trailed off even as the last two words escaped my lips. “Live forever.” Of course. That’s why Quinn was so protective of the cup. It really was the grail and if he lost it, he gave up immortality. Why didn’t I see it before?
“That’s the rumor,” Mr. Murray responded.
Immortality. I couldn’t believe it. So, Quinn’s only true power was the mind abilities. He never did get another injection which made him age slower like he’d told us. He was still so young because he drank from that stupid cup.
“What about the other artifacts? What could they do?”
“The spear is said to bring victory in battle to the person who possesses it. People claim the shroud has healing powers, and can even raise the dead. But, I can’t say what the cross can do. I will tell you people have fought for these artifacts for nearly two-thousand years now. King Arthur was the most famous hunter of the Holy Grail. Charlemagne supposedly possessed the Spear of Destiny until he lost it and then was killed. King Richard the Lionheart fought a whole crusade to take possession of the True Cross.”
“Where are they? Does anyone know?”
“Why are you so interested?” He crooked his head and raised an eyebrow.
“I find things like this fascinating.” It was a lie, and a weak one at that, but it was the best I could do on short notice.
“No one has ever found the Holy Grail—as far as we know, anyway. Also, there is no evidence anyone has ever uncovered the True Cross. However, the Spear of Destiny was said to reside in a church in Vienna, Austria until World War II, but then it disappeared. And the Shroud of Turin—well the whereabouts of the shroud should be obvious.”
It was my turn to arch an eyebrow. How was I supposed to know where the artifact was? I was about to say as much, but Mr. Murray spoke again before I had the chance.
“The shroud is named after the city it is held in—Turin, or as the Italians call it, Torino.”
I nodded, trying to hide the excitement filling my body. “Thanks. I should get to English.” I walked to the door and turned just in time to say, “Have a good summer.” Then I ran off to English as the bell rang and the halls emptied.
We had an end of the year party in English, but I mainly sat in my desk and talked to Sam. Then, it was off to lunch.
I was looking forward to lunch today. The last day I would get to sit together with all of my friends for a while. It was going to be hard though, because I promised Abby I wouldn’t say anything to the others about my trip with Quinn. At least, after school I’d be able to say anything I wanted. None of them should have any contact with Quinn after the final bell today.
I gave a polite nod to Samantha as she came to our table to say hello to Sam. She gave one in return, but we exchanged no words. That didn’t bother me. It was better off for everyone we didn’t speak to each other. The girl might have saved my life back in May, but that still didn’t mean we had to like each other. Being cordial toward one another was enough.
It wasn’t long before I was joined by the rest of my friends. Peter came first, sitting quietly at the end of the table as usual. Ethan and Sam flanked me on either side with Tiffany and Savanah bringing up the rear, both sitting across from me.
“So, Mrs. Sampson gave a test today,” Savanah announced. “I swear, I hate that woman.”
“Eh, Mr. Clark did the same thing,” Ethan said. “Fifty questions.”
“Nothing for me,” I said. “Stupid last day nonsense. But boy do I have something to tell you guys later.”
“Tell us now,” Tiffany insisted.
I shook my head. “I promised I wouldn’t say anything yet.”
Tiffany’s bottom lip poked out as she did her best to look like a grumpy four-year-old. It didn’t faze me.
“Really. I can’t. Trust me. You’ll understand when I get to tell you.”
“Well, then I just won’t tell you about Ryan Herbert asking me out.”
She had my interest piqued. “Another summer romance, huh?”
“No. I think he could be the one this time.” Tiffany’s cheeks flushed red, and her smile got even wider.
“I don’t know,” I said. “You seemed to think the same thing last summer with you and David, and look how that turned out.”
“You’re right,” she admitted. “But I’m going to make this one work.”
I didn’t say anything. Ryan Herbert wasn’t the classiest guy in school, but I figured he would at least treat her right. I just didn’t want to see her get crushed again like she had when she found out David was cheating on her.
“Well, I officially made the state team for track. The meet is in two weeks at Penn State,” Ethan announced.
We all offered our congratulations, but he only received a kiss on the cheek from me. I was really excited for him, even though we all knew he’d make it. I mean, how could he not? The boy chase down a car on the highway—how could any normal human beat him in a race?
But then my excitement was replaced with another emotion—guilt. It filled my body like a bad flu, and I wanted so bad to sneeze it out. Ethan wouldn’t get to go to the state tournament because in two weeks, he, like me, would be going on a forced Italian vacation.
All the joy I’d had from discovering one possible motive for Quinn dragging me to Italy, now felt like horrible and intense pain for the hurt I would be causing my boyfriend. The worst part was, I knew and I couldn’t even tell him. It felt like the secret I held from Peter. Every day I promised I would tell him I’d once hurt him and how Quinn had erased it from his mind, but every day I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
“What’s the matter?” Ethan asked, always the first to sense a change in my mood.
Again, I was forced to shake my head. “I’ll tell you later.” Then I shoved the chicken sandwich I’d bought on the lunch line into my mouth. For the first time, Peter wasn’t the quietest person at our table.
The day only went downhill from there. The morning’s discoveries were a thing of the distant past, and weighing heavily upon me was the intense pain I’d have to cause my boyfriend when he found out he wouldn’t get that state championship he wanted. I had a test in Art—yes, ART. I had to identify the painters for certain portraits and landscapes, like I was supposed to remember all that. I know I lost my A in that class because of one stupid test.
Then, when I stopped into the guidance office again, Abby was nowhere to be found. I must have looked like a crazy person, because all the real counselors insisted on speaking to me before I left the room.
Then, because gym wouldn’t be complete without an injury or two, I spent the last period of the day in the nurse’s office with an icepack over my eye after getting hit with a football. I told Coach Green I’d had worse, but he insisted.
All in all, it was a crappy afternoon.
When the last bell rang, I think every fiber in every muscle in my body relaxed.
The halls of the school had never cleared out as quickly as they did that day. You would think they were giving away free iPads in the parking lot. Papers flew in the air as the students raced each other to the doors. Thankfully, I wasn’t among the stampede, because I probably would’ve lost my cool.
I didn’t have the patience to hang around the school any longer. I’d been lurking about for eight hours and I needed to go home.
My car had never looked as pleasant to me than it did when I stepped through the school doors and out into total and absolute freedom. My bones were so weary, I wouldn’t have even considered flying myself home. I took a few deep breaths of free air, reveling in the warm sunshine, then drove home at a nice, leisurely pace.
I was totally relaxed by the time I reached my house, but it was all for nothing since my mother was waiting to charge my car like a bull as I pulled up.
“I’m late!” she shouted. She handed me Conner before I even got out of the car, then jumped in her own car and drove off, almost leaving skid marks in our driveway.
I looked at my brother, fidgeting in my arms. “She’s your mother.”
Like yesterday, he laughed, making me think for a moment he understood me. But he didn’t. I couldn’t wait until he could. He’d be much more fun then.
My mother’s car turned the corner and I grabbed my bookbag—empty thank God—and took Conner inside.
As soon as I opened the front door, I knew something was wrong. There was someone in the house, and they were waiting for me. Most people would think it was paranoia driving that feeling, but I could sense at least three people waiting only steps within.
They must have slipped in when my mother went outside to meet me. She never realized her house was being invaded by… invaders. Feeling their thoughts, I tried to sense their intentions. They were definitely waiting for me, but beyond that, I couldn’t tell if they were hostile or not.
I thought about busting in, with mental guns blazing to take all of them out. With Conner in my arms though, that wasn’t a possibility. I wouldn’t risk him getting hurt. And I couldn’t leave him on the porch while I went inside. Not only would Child Protective Services come knocking on the door, but who knew if someone would come by and kidnap him while I was occupied.
I could have turned around and left, but thought what would happen when my parents came home and found a bunch of strangers, possibly armed, in our house. It wouldn’t be pretty—especially for me.
“Agent Carpenter,” an impatient voice spoke before I could make a decision. “Step inside, please.”
Feeling the need for continued caution, I slowly crept through the door into my living room. Standing by my couch were three Agents, none of whom I recognized. One was an older, dark skinned man, with white hair, keeping his hand on the gun resting in its holster on his right side. The other two, a man and a woman, were younger, maybe a couple of years older than Abby. All three wore those black business suits.
“Agent Carpenter,” said the older gentleman, “I’m here to brief you.”
“That’s great,” I said. “And who exactly are you?”
He relaxed his stance, moving his hand from his sidearm. His expression however, turned sour. “My name is Agent Smith.”
“Really?” I closed my eyes and shook my head. “You couldn’t come up with a better codename?”
It was barely above a whisper, but I still heard his response. “I hate teenagers.”
Conner began squirming again, and starting making little groaning noises. I scanned his mind and saw an image of his bottle. Knowing what that meant, I moved toward the kitchen.
“Let’s continue inside,” I said. “The baby needs to be fed.” I didn’t hide my annoyance with the man, nor did I wait for a response, and disappeared through the kitchen entrance.
Agitation filled the room as Agent Smith followed me. “Agent Davidson said you were a handful.”
My head was already in the refrigerator as I grabbed one of Conner’s bottles. “Yeah, well so is she. You have any idea how whiny she is? I shoved the bottle in the microwave and set the time for sixty seconds. Then I turned on the old man and frowned. “You said you wanted to brief me. Let’s hear it.”
“Are you always so brash?”
“Only when someone breaks into my home.”
He shook his head and sighed. His exasperation level was beginning to reach its limit. This man clearly had no patience. He definitely wasn’t going to last dealing with me.
“In les than two weeks, you are going on an important assignment with a very dangerous man.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Shut up!” he yelled. “A proper Agent listens quietly as her superior explains things.”
“I guess I missed that lesson at the academy.”
The microwave beeped, cutting off whatever response was mustering in the flustered mind of Smith. I grabbed the bottle and without bothering to test to make sure it was warm enough, put the nipple in Conner’s mouth. He instantly began sucking the formula out.
“Look, I don’t want to go on this assignment of yours,” I told the man. “I promised to spy on Quinn, but I think asking me, a sixteen year old, to go into a dangerous situation is frankly ridiculous.”
His face turned an even darker shade than it already was, and Smith looked like he was fighting the urge to let loose a string of curses. When he calmed a little, he let out some very tense words. “You are an M.H.D.A. Agent. You will do as ordered and you will not question it.”
“Wait a sec. Don’t your Agents usually get paid? After my first paycheck you can lecture me about proper Agent etiquette.”
“I am not going to sit here and argue. If you continue, I will instruct my Agents to bind you and tape your mouth shut.”
He waited for me to begin arguing, but I saw in his mind how serious he was, and though I was sure I could take on the three Agents, I was still not willing to risk hurting Conner in the struggle.
“As I was saying—two weeks—dangerous man. You are going to pretend to cooperate with this man Quinn, no matter what he asks you to do. The only intel we have thus far, is what you learned last night. For the next two weeks, we need you to get as much information out of him as possible.”
“Actually, I’m not sure how much info I’ll be able to get. I’m not sure he trusts me, since I’m working with you. But I can tell you this—”
“Hold on.” He held up a hand then called over his shoulder. “Franklin, get in here!”
A second later, the male Agent stepped into the kitchen. The man practically saluted Agent Smith and said, “Yes, sir.” He was way too eager to please.
“I need a record of everything Agent Carpenter tells me. Please set up a recorder.”
The Agent pulled a small recording device, something like a news reporter used when getting the big interview in a movie, and set it on the table. “Ready.”
“Is Agent Thompson putting the devices in place?”
“Devices?” I asked.
“We need to monitor you from now on,” Smith explained.
“Tell me what you were going to say a minute ago.”
Conner had finished his bottle, but was still sucking on the rubber nipple like there was no tomorrow. I pulled it out, propped him on my shoulder and patted his back.
“Well, like I said, Quinn told me he doesn’t trust me because he knows I’m working with you. But he also said he needs me.”
“Can you remember the exact words he said?” prompted Smith.
“Why does that matter?” I continued patting Conner’s back and rocked him back and forth.
He sighed and frowned so hard, at least seven wrinkled ridges appeared on his forehead. “Because sometimes the way someone says something, or the exact words they use can tell more than the simple information. Quinn could very well have been giving you a clue as to what he needs you for without actually saying it.”
I rolled my eyes. All this covert nonsense was just that—nonsense. “Okay. I think his exact words were, ‘you’re essential to my plan’.”
“That’s it?” he asked. Disappointment radiated from him.
“Well, that’s what he told me. But I did some digging of my own and I think I know what he’s after.”
“Elaborate.” He motioned toward the recorder.
Conner finally burped, but I continued rubbing his back in hopes he would soon drift off to sleep. “Quinn drinks from this cup. It’s a very old cup. I believe it’s actually the Holy Grail, and that’s why he’s stayed so young all these years.” I paused to make sure he understood what I was saying. He did. “So, anyway, I asked my history teacher about it and he said it was one of four artifacts.”
“You asked your history teacher?” Smith interrupted.
“Well, I didn’t say why I was asking.”
Conner let out a deep breath that told me he was getting ready to drift off.
Tiptoeing toward the recorder, I continued in a quieter tone. “I think he’s trying to collect these four artifacts. And one of them is definitely in Italy—in the city of Turin. The Shroud of Turin.”
“The death shroud of Jesus Christ?” Smith asked. “You really think he’d want an old piece of cloth?”
“If you’ve got a better idea, I’d love to hear it,” I whispered. “Now, please be quiet.” I jerked my head toward Conner.
Smith motioned Franklin to turn off the recorder. The young man did as instructed.
“What else do you need?” I asked. “This hasn’t been much of a briefing. I’ve told you more than you told me.”
“If Quinn is smart,” Smith continued in a low voice, “which we already know he is. He will know we are tracking you, so he’s going to get you to remove pretty much everything that might be a tracking device, including the watch we gave you. So, we need to implant something inside you he can neither detect nor have you remove.”
I suddenly had a bad feeling this was going to involve a needle of some kind. The last thing I wanted was some homing beacon implanted in my arm, or leg, or worse.
I didn’t argue though. This was something that would help keep me safe, which was the most important thing. Instead, I said, “Okay. Let me go put Conner upstairs, and then you can do what you need to.”
Smith nodded. Finally I’d gotten his approval on something—not that I was seeking it, of course.
I snuck up the stairs with Conner as quickly and noiselessly as possible, being careful not to jostle him into wakefulness. I lay him in his crib, grabbed his baby monitor, and went back downstairs.
Smith and Franklin were waiting for me in the living room, along with Agent Thompson, who I swear wasn’t there when I’d gone up with Conner. She had probably been planting some surveillance system somewhere in the house.
“Okay, so this tracking device,” I said as I walked toward them. “What do we have to do?”
Agent Thompson held up an item that had the shape of a futuristic pistol. Then she motioned for me to sit on the couch, precisely where I’d been sitting last night when I’d been talking to Quinn.
The device in her hand really was starting to freak me out. If she used it on me, it looked like it was going to be very painful. She must have noticed my wary glance at the device, because she said, “Don’t worry, you’ll barely feel it.” Then she pointed at four points on my body—on each shoulder and then at each knee. “We’re going to insert the trackers in four specific places, where they will likely not be found. They are no bigger than a pin head, but send out a powerful signal we can pick up by satellite.”
Her words were pretty much doing nothing to ease my nerves. “That’s all very interesting, but can you put them in?”
Her smile was apologetic. “Roll up your sleeves.”
I did as instructed, and cringed as the cold metal touched my upper arm. I did my deep breathing to keep myself calm, but when I heard a whir followed by a click and then felt a sharp pinch on my shoulder I jumped.
“Ow!” I rubbed my arm where she’d injected the device in me. So much for not hurting.
Unfortunately, I had to sit there through three more—one on my other shoulder then lifting up my legs so she could place the other two behind each of my knees. Those areas were going to be sore for a week. I glanced at my left shoulder to see what looked like a hicky forming on the spot she’d shot me.
When she backed away, I was finally able to relax.
“You are to report any contact you have with Quintus before your trip,” Smith said to me. “For the next two weeks your point of contact will be Agent Davidson. Do you understand?”
I nodded. Still mentally recovering from the assault on my limbs. Before I knew it, the three Agents had left my house. So, their very weak instructions to collect information was pretty much a moot point, since Quinn wasn’t going to reveal anything anyway.
I picked up my cell, wincing from the pain in my shoulder as I lifted it to my ear. It was time to let my friends know everything.
“Hello, Ethan?” I said when he picked up. “I need you to come over.”
Ethan took it better than I would have.
“Yeah, I figured something would happen,” he said. “There’s always next year. Besides, how many tenth graders win the state tournament anyway?”
The five of us were sitting around my living room. Ethan was to my right on the couch, with Savanah and Tiffany next to each other on the loveseat.
Peter sat alone on the armchair arcing lightning between his hands. “Why didn’t Abby come to tell you this?”
It was something I hadn’t thought anything of. I figured he was Abby’s superior and wanted to handle things himself. But she hadn’t been present at all. “I don’t know,” I responded. I honestly hadn’t thought about it, leave it to Pete to make a single thoughtful comment. “She could have been busy.”
“She is,” mentioned Savanah. “I saw her running out of the school after lunch today. The way she was rushing, I wouldn’t be surprised if something big happened.”
“No. Nothing happened. If it did, we’d know about it,” I said, sounding more sure of myself than I felt.
“And Quinn?” Tiffany asked. “You’re actually going to help him get Christ’s shroud?”
“That’s what I’ve been ordered to do.” I twirled a finger in my short hair, not looking at any of my friends. “If I can double-cross him, believe me, I will. He can’t be allowed to have it if we can prevent it.”
Savanah rose and tromped over to our television. It wasn’t turned on, but she stared at her reflection in it for ten seconds before turning back to us. Her lips were curved down in a frown. Her jaw tightened. She looked directly at me. “It was only a couple months ago you were so sure we couldn’t trust the M.H.D.A., but when you volunteered us to join we all followed. Now you’re telling us we can’t trust Quinn. So, which one is it? Who can we trust?”
I was about to respond when a wave of dread rippled through my body. Ethan called it my “Spidey-Sense”. I knew it was a premonition. Danger was coming—but from where? I froze, trying to pinpoint where and when the trouble would come, but I couldn’t. It would probably come to me in a dream like it had before I set off to find Eddie.
Shaking my head to clear feeling from my brain, I finally responded to Savanah. “I don’t think we can trust either of them. But Quinn was a Nazi. If I had to choose between the two, he would be the least trustworthy. So, for now, we stick with the M.H.D.A..”
“And if it turns out Quinn is right?” She plopped back on the couch next to Tiffany, causing the girl to jump about four feet in the air before landing on the soft cushions herself. “I mean, he could be telling you the truth. He could be one of the good guys.”
“I know,” I responded. “But look at his actions. When he first met Ethan and me, he told us he was the reason we all go to Thomas Jefferson High School. He somehow manipulated our parents to moving here. Then he begins training us, but disappears, leaving a replacement—a replacement, I might add, he never told any of us about. Then he just shows back up with this wild mission he also refuses to tell any of us about.”
“She’s right, Savanah,” my boyfriend added, “the evidence is against him.”
The feeling came back. It felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice-water over me. Whatever the danger was, it was close—and getting closer. I started to say something, but was interrupted.
“I’m not ready to give up on Quinn yet. I think he’s going to surprise us,” Savanah almost shouted.
“I can’t believe you don’t trust Christine,” Tiffany said. There was venom in her voice. She never spoke that way to Savanah.
The girl was completely taken aback by Tiffany’s remark. She wanted to respond, but her brain wouldn’t allow her. She stammered a few times before finally getting out, “Don’t you have a date to get ready for?”
“No one said she doesn’t trust, Chris,” Ethan said. “I’m sure she needs to see for herself.”
Savanah turned and glared at Ethan. The gaze said only one thing to Ethan: “Stay out of this.”
When Savanah did speak, her words were said very slowly and deliberately. “I’m more concerned my summer vacation is going to be ruined for absolutely no reason. This whole thing sounds stupid, and idiotic, and I honestly want no part of it.”
“How do you think I feel? I’m being forced to go with Quinn.”
“And from what you’re telling me, we’re being forced to follow you around for a month. Does that sound like a vacation to you?”
“No,” I admitted.
“No one ever said it was a vacation!” Ethan yelled.
My sense of danger was completely overwhelming me now. I needed to tell them. Something was about to go down, and we didn’t have time to keep arguing amongst ourselves. “Guys.”
“I’ve got my own crap to deal with. I don’t need to go running off whenever Abby tells us to!” Savanah shouted at Ethan.
“Guys.” I wanted to calmly bring the argument to a close, but with each passing second, that seemed more impossible.
“You knew this would happen when you signed up!” he continued arguing. It was as if I weren’t even there.
Tiffany and Peter were both intently watching the shout-fest in front of them, rather than help me out to calm them down. But the danger was coming and I really needed to alert them to it.
“I didn’t sign up for any of this!” Savanah screamed. “I wanted to just have a normal life!”
“But you’re not normal! None of us are. We have a responsibility to help those in need!”
“Hey, I’m normal!” Tiff interjected.
“Guys.” I tried in vain to get their attention one final time.
Savanah stood again, as if challenging Ethan. He stood too, rising to the bait. If I didn’t stop this soon, I was going to have a fight in my living room, and the two of them had the potential to destroy my entire house.
“Yeah! Well, who helped me when I needed them? Who came to my rescue when Bruce did… did those things to me!” A single tear rolled down her face. Usually this was the breaking point, when anger turned into grief and everyone apologized. Savanah’s rage didn’t subside. “Who helped my grandparents when they were murdered? Who helped my dad when he was in his accident? There are hundreds of us out there! Why don’t any of the others help?”
I had to end this. I pushed both of them back down with a mental push as I shouted once more, “Guys!”
The both of them finally paid attention to me.
“We have something more important to worry about. There’s something coming.”
Before any of them could respond, the baby monitor blared with the sound of Conner crying. It wasn’t his normal cry, he was screaming. There was the possibility he could feel the danger too and it frightened him, but I didn’t think that was it. No, whatever the foreboding feeling was, was coming from the nursery.
“C’mon,” I said, sprinting for the stairs. “It’s in Conner’s room.”
I was the first up the stairs and I felt a split second of panic as whatever was in the room heard us coming. I heard a crash as the intruder dropped something to the floor. I ran for the door and flung it open with my mind before I reached it. Then, not hesitating for an instant, I jumped into the room, ready to face whatever was in there.
The room was empty, except for the crying baby. The light blue drapes over the windows wafted in the slight breeze coming through them. I hadn’t left the window open. The changing table had been flipped over as the intruder made his hasty escape.
Ethan entered right behind me, not able to pass me on the narrow stairway.
“Check the window,” I ordered. While he did that, I picked up Conner to console him.
With his head stuck out the window, searching the neighborhood for any sign of disturbance Ethan said, “Nothing out here.”
I heard Peter call up from the driveway outside. “I’ll check the other side of the house!”
“Be right down!” Ethan shouted to him. “Wait a second!”
Ethan then turned to me, his eyes were wide open and looking at me like a puppy might when it knows something’s wrong. “You alright?”
Conner continued to cry very loudly in my ear. I rubbed his back and rocked him. My heart was beating about a thousand miles a minute and my breath was coming in very short gasps. I couldn’t bear thinking what might have happened to him if I hadn’t sensed something was wrong. “I’m fine,” I managed to say. “Go and see if you can find anything.”
A brief gust of wind, and my boyfriend was gone. Over Conner’s crying I could hear him giving orders to Peter on where would be the best places to search. I started moving over to the window to watch, but felt a hand on my shoulder.
With my body in full on panic-mode, and with my heightened levels of adrenaline coursing through my veins, the girl was lucky I didn’t tear her arm off when I spun around. Once I saw who it was, I relaxed, but only enough so I didn’t kill her on the spot. “Tiffany,” I breathed out, “don’t ever do that again.”
She held out her arms. “Give me Conner. Go and help the other’s search.”
I shook my head and clutched Conner tighter to my chest. There wasn’t a chance in hell I was letting him go now. Besides, with me outside helping Ethan and Peter searching, there’d be no one left to protect Conner. “Where’s Savanah?”
“Followed Pete outside.”
Nodding, I sat in the rocking chair my mother had bought so she could rock Conner to sleep at night. Only when I started rocking in it did Conner’s screams begin to calm.
“There,” I cooed. I kept my voice soft and light despite my still rapidly beating heart. “Where all right now. All right now.” I looked up at Tiffany and pointed briefly at Conner’s crib. “His pacifier should be in there. Can you grab it?”
“Sure.” She searched the crib, moving his tiny blanket to locate the pacifier. Suddenly I felt her tense and a tsunami of fear hit me. She froze, looking down at the sheets.
“What’s the matter?” My stress levels were beginning to rise as well. Whatever she was seeing couldn’t have been positive.
She looked over her shoulder. Her eyes were so dilated they looked perfectly black. She wasn’t focusing on me at all, but looking directly at Conner. They began filling with tears as she pointed at the baby. “Chris... is he… is he bleeding?”
My heart skipped a beat as I pulled Conner away from my chest to inspect him. He didn’t look like he was bleeding. I ran my hands up and down his arms and legs, then turned him around to check his backside. There was nothing on his clothes, nor any cuts on his arms or legs that indicated he was injured in any way.
All the jostling disturbed him, and he began crying again. So, I pulled him back to me and began rocking him again. Looking at Tiffany, I shook my head.
“Are you sure?” She turned back to the crib and looked back down. “Because there’s a stain on his sheets.”
I stood and walked to the crib. “Could it be something else?”
She shook her head. “It’s definitely blood.”
Peering down in the crib, I saw the stain Tiffany was looking at. It was a reddish brown color and from the shine on it, I could tell it was still wet, which meant it was fresh. Someone had bled in the crib only a few minutes ago. If it hadn’t been Conner, then who?
“Let me see him,” Tiffany insisted. She held out her arms to take Conner from me again.
I shook my head and pulled back from her.
“Chris,” she said. “I’m not going to steal him. I want to make sure he’s okay.”
She was my best friend and I knew I should trust her, but at the moment, I didn’t trust anyone with my baby brother. I was, pretty much the only protection he had. And if anything happened to him, it would be all my fault. However, I also knew Tiffany was trying to help, so, hesitating and with a bit of reluctance, I handed him over. But I still stood close enough so I’d be able to snatch him back at any moment.
She felt his body, ignoring the fact that Conner struggled and continued screaming in her arms. She moved his clothes out of the way, exposing more skin for her to scan. Tiffany was determined to find the source of the blood and the more she looked, the more I was sure she would find it.
Under his shoulder, she found something. “Chris, look.” She indicated a mark on his skin which was sort of yellowish in color with a bluish ring around it. The blemish couldn’t have been bigger than a dime, and was so faint I’m surprised she even saw it.
“What is it?” I asked. I’d never seen anything like it before.
“It’s the beginning of a bruise.” She rubbed her finger over the spot. It must have been sensitive, because Conner shook when she touched it.
“How would a bruise make him bleed?”
“He didn’t bleed. But I think it is his blood.”
I raised my eyebrows at her. She wasn’t making any sense. If he didn’t bleed, then how was a splash of his blood on his sheet?
“It’s the same kind of bruise I get when I go to the doctor,” said Tiffany. She eyed me with such intensity then and I could tell the next words were going to hit like a sledgehammer. “It’s the kind of bruise I get when they draw blood.”
My head spun as it tried to fathom what had happened. Nothing made sense.
I took Conner back from Tiffany and resumed rocking him in the rocking chair. I needed to figure this out. There had to be some kind of logic somewhere. I started speaking aloud, thinking if the words were said, I could begin to understand. “So, someone broke into the house—I’m assuming through the window—and drew some blood from my brother. I started sensing danger, but couldn’t pinpoint it. When I finally realized, the intruder bolted back out the window, knocking over the changing table and, since I see no blood on Conner, spilled some of his collected sample. The question is: why?”
“Do you think this has anything to do with Quinn and this trip to Italy?”
I nodded. There was no doubt in my mind everything was connected. “What we need to figure out is how these puzzle pieces fit together.”
Conner finally seemed to calm down from the trauma inflicted upon him. He’d gotten shots and had blood taken before, but my mother had always been standing over him, consoling him. He still cried, but at least he could feel safe in my mother’s arms. Having some stranger wake him from a fitful sleep by stabbing him with a needle had to frighten him more than anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if the boy was scarred for life with an irrational fear of needles.
Ethan came back into the room a second later. “We didn’t find anything. Whoever was here is long gone.”
Savanah entered behind Ethan. “They left no trace either. Nothing I can find anyway.”
Peter came into the tiny room now, making me feel a little crowded. Involuntarily, I clutched Conner a little tighter to my chest and started my deep breathing. “Whoever it was couldn’t have jumped out of the window and run off.”
“If they jumped,” Savanah mentioned. “He or she could have flown out, which could also be why we can’t find anything.”
There were only two other people I could think of sharing the power of flight with me, and one of them could be ruled out immediately. Which only left—
“And one more thing,” Savanah said, interrupting my thoughts. “I’m sorry for what happened downstairs. I don’t know what came over me. It’s, like, the words weren’t really coming from me. It’s the strangest thing. It was like someone was playing with my emotions—guiding me to say those things. I mean, I think those things all the time, but I’d never say them out loud like that. Do you understand?”
I understood only too well. The person who was in this room had used Savanah as a distraction. With her yelling and arguing with the rest of us, none of us—especially me—would notice what was happening upstairs. By the time I had come to my senses and stopped the arguing, it was too late. Again, there were only two people in the world who had that ability other than me.
“It was Quinn,” I said. “He’s the only one who could have done this.”
Then Peter said the one word on all of our minds. “Why?”
Like what you’ve read? Well this isn’t the end of the story for Christine and her friends. New chapters will be coming soon! Stay with us and enjoy the fun!
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