S... Is for a Lot of Things
Marcy Adair squinted at the book she was reading and massaged her temples. She glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall and allowed her eyes to adjust to it. It claimed that it was five after midnight, but Marcy deeply wanted to debate that. The ticks and the tocks the clock produced were entirely too slow for time to have actually moved ahead to the point of five after midnight. She, however, relented to time’s alleged passage and closed up her books.
“Mrs. Adair…” whispered a tiny voice.
Marcy turned and looked around the office. Standing in the doorway was a small, flannel gowned, girl that looked more like an apparition than a child. “What are you doing out of bed so late? The headmistress wouldn’t like this at all!”
“My medicine,” the girl explained. “Miss Fairfax was supposed to get it for me before I went to bed. I’ve been waiting for her!”
Marcy wrinkled her brow. “You most certainly have –that’s been hours! Well, we both know that Miss Fairfax gets a bit distracted at times… well, most times. She must have gotten side tracked. I’ll get your medicine for you. Where is it?”
“It’s in the pantry, but Miss Fairfax said she was going to the freezer to get me a Popsicle.”
“The medicine tastes all icky,” explained the girl, making a face. “The Popsicle makes it go down better.”
“How altruistic of Miss Fairfax,” muttered Marcy. Secretly she believed that Miss Fairfax, the boarding school’s new English teacher, had other intentions behind visiting the freezer that night. The woman’s behavior was yet another thing Marcy had wanted to debate, only she could never find the right audience.
“Will you get me a Popsicle?”
“Yes, yes,” nodded Marcy, grabbing her keys and steering the girl to the door. “You’d better come along. The sooner we’re done, the sooner you’re in bed."
She shepherded the girl down the hall and into another wing of the building. They walked through a set of double doors and from that point made their way into the kitchen. Marcy marched over to the pantry and opened the door. Inside was a shelf lined with bottles of pills, cough syrups, and antacids. There was no such bottle, however, for the girl in question.
“Interesting,” remarked Marcy.
“Maybe she took it in the freezer with her,” suggested the girl.
The two then made their way over to another room off of the kitchen that was filled with only cupboards and a walk-in freezer. Marcy scowled at the stainless steel door on the other side of the room. While entering a walk-in freezer might be amusing to some individuals, she entertained the idea with a fair amount of anxiety. She could easily imagine being trapped inside such an appliance until some passerby found her blue corpse propped against a side of beef.
“Perhaps she went back to bed,” suggested Marcy.
“I checked her room,” insisted the girl. “She wasn’t there.”
Marcy felt her stomach sink. “I’m going to go in the freezer. You are to keep this door wide open. Do you understand?”
The girl nodded. Taking a deep breath, Marcy pulled open the door as a blast of cold air hit her in the face. Seeing that the door was secure, she walked into the freezer and looked around. Everything seemed straight and in order. The Popsicles were on their proper shelf and the sides of beef and ham were lined up like flanks of soldiers. She noticed that everything seemed to be in line –including the pair of feet in her path that she accidentally tripped over.
“Excuse me, Miss Fairfax,” apologized Marcy, sitting up and turning around to face her obstacle. “I didn't notice you lying there…all dead… and in my path… and dead…”
Marcy blinked at the blue tinged body lying in front of her. She knew the woman had already been sent to her final reward, but a voice in her head told her she should confirm this assumption by checking for a pulse. Another voice in her mind, however, reminded her that she would have to touch the body. Marcy then resorted to the only thing she could do: scream.
* * * *
“Make it stop,” moaned Max, rolling off of the sofa and onto the floor. “I can’t take it –I need silence!”
“Max,” said a deep flat voice that seemed to come from nothing.
Max ignored the voice and focused on the sounds of horror that were bouncing back and forth in his brain. It was a scream –the type of scream that could echo from the base of hell and be heard up in heaven at the same time. It was everywhere all at once, but he was certain that it was rooted entirely inside him.
“MAX!” shouted the voice.
Max rolled over, opened his eyes, and shook the cobwebs out of his brain. The screaming, however, remained. “Hymie, can’t you see that I’m busy having another nightmare?”
“Wouldn’t this be a daymare since it’s morning?” asked Hymie.
“Morning?” asked Max, sitting up and wondering how he had managed to forget to go to bed. “Why did you wake me up?”
“A woman is on the painting phone,” explained Hymie. “She wants to speak to you. She sounds… she was crying, Max.”
Max jumped up, shoved his way past Hymie, and very nearly flew up the stairs. He slid over to an oil painting of 99 that hung on the wall just inside the door. Inside the painting was a Princess style phone, which Max was now pressing against his ear.
“Marcy?” he asked.
“Max…” sniffled the woman, “ I have a… this woman… she was…”
“You found a body again, didn’t you?” asked Max.
“Max, this isn’t a pastime I have,” fretted Marcy. “They say it was an accident. They said that with the last one! I can’t take this –I need you!”
“You found her in a freezer?” asked Max.
“Yes… how did you –oh, yes! The dreams!”
“How did you expect me to know?”
“Will you be here?” asked Marcy.
“Yeah,” agreed Max. “Where is ‘here’ this time?”
“Rocksburg,” said Marcy. “I’ll be looking for you.”
Max hung up the phone and slumped down onto the bed. Hymie walked into the bedroom and pulled out Max’s suitcase and proceeded to flop it down right next to Max. Annoyed, and not wanting to acknowledge his duty, Max picked up the suitcase and tossed it onto the floor.
“You’d better get packing, Max,” advised Hymie.
Max sat up and glared at Hymie. “You weren’t listening to that conversation, I hope.”
“I was eavesdropping,” corrected Hymie. “You still didn’t fix my snoopiness problem.”
Max frowned and trudged over to the closet. He opened it up and began to pull out clothing when a thought hit him: he was supposed to be at Control. Indeed, this was not the moral dilemma he wanted to begin the day with. His pondering of the problem came to a sudden halt when Hymie butted in front of him and pulled an entire row of bulletproof shirts out of the closet. Max’s jaw dropped as he watched Hymie stuff the shirts into the suitcase.
“Hymie, what are you doing?” asked Max, pulling the shirts back out.
“You have to get going, Max. It’s a two and a half hour drive to Rocksburg,” explained Hymie.
“Well of course it’s a two and a half hour drive to Rocksburg! Everyone knows it’s a two and a half hour drive to Rocksburg!” Max paused and thought about what he had just said. Then he turned to Hymie with a sheepish look. “Uh, just one question, Hymie.”
“Where is Rocksburg?”
“It’s in Pennsylvania,” said Hymie, flatly. “It’s north of Gettysburg, north of Chambersburg, and north of Shippensburg.”
“Sounds like it’s north of the middle of nowhere to me,” muttered Max.
He went about the rest of his packing and rather sloppily finished the job in about five minutes. Dressed in his usual dapper style, he strode over to the front door, only to be stopped by Hymie who was holding something behind his back. Max rolled his eyes and pushed past the robot.
“I’m sorry, Hymie, but I’ve got to get going,” apologized Max, opening the door.
"But, Max,” began Hymie, “you forgot—"
“Hymie, whatever it is will have to wait until I get back!” insisted Max.
Hymie watched Max, suitcase in hand, dart out of the room in only his stocking feet. He set the pair of shoes he had been holding behind his back on the coffee table and stared down at them. Shrugging, he picked one of the shoes up, removed the sole, and began to dial out on the telephone dial that was embedded in its base.
“Hello? Is this Albano’s?” asked Hymie into the shoephone. “I’d like a large thin crust pizza with anchovies, pineapple, and no cheese…”
* * * *
“Where is 86?” asked the Chief as he paced around his office.
“Have you tried his shoephone?” asked 99.
“Yes, but it’s either busy or forwards me to his Control answering service account,” frowned the Chief. “I need him for this assignment –it’s critical!”
99 leaned back in her chair and sighed. “Chief, it’s not like Max to be truant. Late, maybe, but we’ve been waiting for well over an hour. Did you call his apartment?”
“Larabee called and the line was busy,” groaned the Chief.
“Well then someone must be there,” said 99, hopefully.
As those words escaped 99’s lips, the agent Larabee in question walked directly into the Chief’s office and laid a piece of paper down on the desk. The Chief squinted at the slip of paper, which happened to be blank. He then turned to Larabee and raised a single eyebrow.
“Larabee, what is this?”
“That’s the piece of paper you gave me to write down any messages from Max on,” explained Larabee.
“Then why aren’t you using it?” demanded the Chief in a sharp tone.
“Max didn’t have any messages,” shrugged Larabee.
“You spoke to him?” asked 99, her eyes brightening.
“No, I spoke to Hymie.”
“And what did Hymie have to say?” asked the Chief.
“Well, it was mostly a lot of sulking until he mentioned he was lonely because Max went on a trip without him,” explained Larabee.
“Are you saying Smart went AWAL?” cried the Chief, nearly choking on his words.
“Yeah… that would be the gist of it,” shrugged Larabee. “What would you like me to do with that piece of paper?”
“Take it and leave,” groaned the Chief. He couldn’t believe how he always allowed Larabee to suck him into such worthless conversations. He then looked over at 99’s downcast expression. “He’s just going to have to be excluded from the mission. We’ll decide what to do about him after it’s over.”
“Chief, whatever it is, I’m sure I can tackle it solo,” said 99.
“Not this time, 99,” said the Chief, shaking his head. “The last two female agents put on this case were killed.”
99 felt her stomach churn as she moved to the edge of her seat. “What exactly happened?”
“Initially this was a low profile case,” explained the Chief. “We were trying to determine whether or not there was a link between the Rocksburg Girls Academy and a recent influx of new female Kaos recruits.”
“Chief, don’t forget that more and more women are entering the workforce these days,” 99 reminded him.
“Not these girls, 99. We believe they were forced into Kaos. A dozen girls have disappeared from this school in the past year –girls that had superior academic records! Furthermore, there are the deaths of our agents! Agents Temple, and Fairfax have both succumbed to mysterious accidents. Temple drowned in the bathtub and Fairfax was found shortly after midnight in a freezer,” said the Chief, his tone grim.
“She froze to death?”
“Apparently so. The deaths were set up to look like accidents, but I feel differently. Just before they died, both agents had sent Control messages that they were on to something big,” said the Chief.
“Apparently someone was on to them,” sighed 99. “Have the police given us any leads?”
“No,” frowned the Chief. “It’s a small town with limited resources and closed minds. “They’re convinced these were indeed accidents. There is one common thread in both cases that I want investigated: the school librarian.”
“The librarian?” asked 99 doubtfully. “That sounds like an unlikely suspect, Chief. Is she embezzling the overdue book fines?”
The Chief smiled weakly at 99’s sarcasm. “I wish. Her name is Marcy Adair and she’s found both of the bodies. Either she’s our star witness or our prime suspect. We’ve done some research on her and have come up with nothing.”
99 wrinkled her brow. “That doesn’t seem quite right. Shouldn’t there be something?”
“Yes,” nodded the Chief, “but for now that’s the least of our worries.”
“So what’s the plan? Do we interrogate her?” asked 99. “Perhaps ask her what planet she came from?”
The Chief smiled. “I’m going to be doing the interrogation. You, 99, get to be the new teacher. Hopefully my presence will draw attention away from you so the school can be infiltrated more effectively this time.”
“Right, Chief,” nodded 99. She still wanted a better feel for this mysterious Marcy Adair. The woman had to know more than she was telling and that was all there was to it. She also wanted to find the illustrious Maxwell Smart and present him with a solid knuckle sandwich for bailing out.
* * * *
“Mrs. Rektor,” began Marcy, as she sat down in the headmistress’s office, “I was wondering if I could—"
“Yes, dear, you can have the day off,” said Mrs. Rektor, patting the Marcy’s hand.
Marcy stifled her urge to shrink away from the woman. She usually tried to keep her distance from the headmistress because she was certain that the woman could make a room’s temperature drop ten degrees just by walking into it. Coincidently, Marcy could not help but notice that Mrs. Rektor resembled the stereotypical fairy tale crone with her beady eyes, wiry hair, and gaunt features.
“You don’t want me spending the night again?” asked Marcy.
“No, you’ve had a rough time of it –what with all that police business. I would prefer that you get some rest,” said Mrs. Rektor. “Our replacement for Miss Fairfax should be arriving this afternoon, so you needn’t worry about anything here.”
“Oh… good…” said Marcy, not knowing whether to be relieved or horrified.
“Will you be alright dear?” asked Mrs. Rektor in what Marcy determined was mock concern.
“I’ll be fine,” said Marcy, suddenly brightening. “My brother is coming up.”
“The famous Maxwell you always speak of?”
“Yes,” nodded Marcy. Seeing that she had the headmistress in a rather compliant position, she decided to see how far she could go with the woman's leniency. “I was wondering… can I be the one to send Miss Fairfax’s things back to her family?”
“Yes,” nodded Mrs. Rektor, “if that will make you feel better.”
“It would,” nodded Marcy.
The two bid each other goodbye and Marcy left the room only to be nearly trampled by Mr. Sexton, the towering caretaker of the school. Sexton glared at in the direction Marcy went and the slammed the door shut behind him. He walked up to Mrs. Rektor and gave her the most frigid of glares. She, however, did not seem at all phased by the man’s obviously irritated demeanor.
“You happen to be taking to great a liability with Kaos in dealing with that woman. She should be shot!” said Sexton in what was almost a growl.
“Shot for what? Finding your messes?” huffed Mrs. Rektor. “Really, Sexton, if I were in your position, there would not even be a body to find! However, you always have to leave your mark. I wouldn’t worry about Mrs. Adair, though. She’s too inept to uncover us –she’s certainly had enough clues. She’s also not helping her reputation by finding all those dead girls. I’m quite certain that the next agent Control sends us will focus all her attention on Mrs. Adair.Sexton smiled. “Then, after we’re through with them, it will be kind of like a two for one sale…”
COPYRIGHT ©1999-2018 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.
What does Kaos have in store for Control? More importantly, what kind of a tongue lashing does 99 have in store for Max? Find out in Part Two.
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