S... Is for a Lot of Things
Marcy slumped down on the sofa in the front room of her Colonial-style house. She cocked her feet up on the coffee table --knocking over an ashtray and a pile of magazines in the process. Pretending to ignore the mess, she rubbed the back of her neck and looked up at the bay window that was directly across from her. Seemingly out of place against her blue velvet drapes and her plant laden windowsill leaned an athletically built and rather attractive dark haired man. He pulled out a cigarette and greeted Marcy with an exceptionally charming smile.
"Max!" exclaimed Marcy, sitting up.
“It’s too bad you knocked that ashtray over,” said Max, lighting his cigarette. “I’m going to need it.”
“Why? So you can die a speedier death?” snapped Marcy, picking up the ashtray and slamming it on the table. “Those things taste like dirt, Maxwell. The only reason I keep this one around is for when Jim comes home…”
Max took a long drag. The last thing he wanted to touch on during this visit was Marcy’s soldier husband, but it was an unavoidable topic. He had lost track of the number of months that had passed since it had been determined that Jim was MIA. It was a safe bet, though, that his sister had a wall somewhere in her house hashed marked in red for every day he continued to be missing.
“You know, you look really nice, Marcy,” said Max, hoping a compliment would change the discussion.
“Thank you, Maxwell,” beamed Marcy.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” continued Max, sitting on the arm of the sofa. “I mean, after all, if you can look nice, then why can’t I look nice?”
Marcy twisted her lips into a smirk and shook her head. “I don’t know… it seems you’ve always had that problem.”
“But the way I figure, since we’re twins, we should look alike,” said Max, in unblinking seriousness.
“You’d have a hard time getting dates looking like me!” said Marcy, trying not to laugh.
“I don’t get any looking like me!” huffed Max. “Now what’s all this dead body business? Who was she?”
“I’ve been working on that!” smiled Marcy, picking up the box of Miss Fairfax’s belongings. “This should give us some answers.”
Max pulled a pair of nylons from the box and looked them over. “These are giving me a couple of answers.”
Marcy snatched the hosiery away from her brother and tossed him a piercing glare. “If you’re through playing, it might interest you to know that she kept a journal –that’s what will be giving us answers.”
The two then settled into examining Miss Fairfax’s formerly private property. Max, in the process, had discovered two things: she must have been a snappy dresser and had a hobby of collecting letters. Marcy, however, after skimming through the journal, discovered more than what she wanted to know about the deceased woman.
“Max, this isn’t an ordinary journal --it’s some sort of logbook!” breathed Marcy. “I think this woman was a government agent of some sort.”
Max took the book from Marcy and flipped through it. The leather bound book was a standard Control issue logbook. He had one of his own stuffed in his suitcase –which he hoped his sister would have the decency not to root through. He turned to the last entry and mulled it over:
After the clues I’ve found today, I think I’m closer to finding where Kaos is keeping the missing girls. I have a theory that they are being held nearby and are not being sent elsewhere as has been speculated. If all goes well, I should be able to test my theory tonight.
“Missing girls?” asked Max.
“Some of the girls just up and leave the school,” explained Marcy. “I hardly call that missing. They leave notes.”
Max pulled out the pile of letters and looked them over. They were all written out on the same pink notepaper with the same loopy handwriting. “Gee, Marcy, I get déjà vu each time I read one of these. They all say the same thing: ‘I am homesick and can’t stay away from my family. I will miss you all very much.’ These kids sure weren’t good at coming up with unique excuses.”
“What are you getting at, Max?”
“There’s something wrong with your school!” cried Max. “It’s not normal for kids to come up with such bland excuses!"
“No institution of learning is perfect, Maxwell,” retorted Marcy.
“But this place could be hazardous to a person’s health! I think you should leave,” advised Max.
“I think I should figure out what’s happening with these girls and why teachers keep turning up dead,” said Marcy, ignoring Max’s scowl of disapproval. “Now what is this Control and Kaos that Miss Fairfax keeps mentioning?”
Max tried to keep from squirming. The last thing that his sister needed to know at this point was that her brother was a spy. He decided to take the semi-honest route and spout off spy trivia as if he were a walking encyclopedia. Marcy had, after all, always thought he was a know-it-all.
“Control is a government agency that was set up to thwart the evil activities of Kaos,” explained Max, nonchalantly. He noticed that Marcy was giving him a questioning look. “I found them in the phone book once.”
“Sounds like a bunch of kooks to me,” declared Marcy, shoving Miss Fairfax’s things back into the box. “Maxwell, it is my opinion that while this incident appears to be an accident, it only seems so in the aspect of its design.”
“Who ever did this –Control, Kaos, or the Merry Pranksters—made this appear to be an accident. I say it’s murder!” exclaimed Marcy, punching her fist right into the center of her hand. She looked down sheepishly at the palm of her hand as it started to sting. “Of course the police are not investigating it as a homicide.”
“Figures. This was all too cleanly laid out: the woman walks into the freezer, the self-locking door slams shut, and she freezes to death. It could have been anybody –including you!” noted Max, “But if it were a homicide, then there has to be a reason why it was her.”
“Are you saying that why will tell us what?” asked Marcy.
“Why will tell us who” corrected Max. “We already know what.”
“When did we figure that out? What’s what?” asked Marcy, confused.
“Could you repeat that?” asked Max.
“How? What’s going on? What am I missing in all this?” fretted Marcy, standing up and starting to pace around the room.
Max knew exactly what Marcy was missing –or not admitting. She was failing to bridge the culprits to the victims. It was clear to him that Kaos was kidnapping the girls for a recruiting ring they were running. Of course, this insider knowledge did not come from his own superior intellect –he had found an article on the situation in the Control Indicator.
“Were there any similarities between this murder and the last one?” asked Max.
“No,” frowned Marcy. “I found Miss Temple drowned in the bath tub. That’s hardly similar.”
“Any similarities between the victims?”
“Nothing,” shrugged Marcy, recalling the two teachers. “One thing that bugged me about both of them, though, was that they seamed so distant. It was like they were always distracted. They never… I don’t think they knew their names!”
“Marcy, considering that bit of information, I would conclude that both women were using aliases and since both women were using aliases, that leads me to conclude that they were spies. Therefore, having spies in your school leads me to conclude that there are probably other spies in your school which leads me to conclude that—"
The ring of Marcy’s rotary phone then abruptly interrupted Max, who was still in the middle of his conclusions. Marcy took the call on the extension in the dining room. She marched back into the living room a few minutes later, grabbed her coat, and started for the door. Sensing that something was wrong, Max put out his cigarette and moved over to her.
“Where are you going?"
“The police station,” frowned Marcy. “Detective Ziegler just informed me that they’ve decided to investigate this as a homicide.”
* * * * *
Detective Ziegler rubbed his forehead. He had been through quite an ordeal during the wee hours of the morning when he should have been in his armchair, sleeping in front of a test pattern. Bagging a teacher, investigating the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death, and trying to get Marcy Adair calm enough so that she made sense had left him unglued. Reopening what he had declared a closed case –solely to appease a government agent— was pushing his patience into a tight corner.
“Is she here yet?” asked the Chief.
“Do you see her? No? Then I guess she’s not here,” snapped Ziegler.
“I understand your position, Detective,” said the Chief, not allowing the man’s gruff temperament to ruffle him, “but this case is not—"
"You don’t understand my position,” retorted Ziegler. “What you are trying to do is accuse an innocent –a victim of misfortune— of something she didn’t do.”
“I’m not accusing her of anything!” groaned the Chief. “I just need her statement.”
“She already gave a statement,” huffed Ziegler.
Much to the Chief’s relief, the dispute was put on hold. The door to Ziegler's office swung open and Marcy walked in with a policeman. The policeman left and Marcy made herself comfortable in a chair across from Ziegler’s desk. The Chief noticed that the woman was quite attractive. This shed some light on why the detective was so eager to protect her. He scrutinized the woman and found that his gaze almost became glued to the sight of her alluring brown eyes. Agent 86, he decided as he watched her tuck a lock of curling black hair behind her ear, would have loved this job.
“Miss Adair,” began the Chief.
“Mrs. Adair,” corrected Marcy.
“Mrs.?” asked the Chief. “There is no ‘Mr.’ listed as living with you.”
“My husband is in the Navy,” replied Marcy.
“We’ll have to check on that,” sighed the Chief.
“You can’t –he doesn’t exist to them anymore,” frowned Marcy. She then turned to Ziegler with an impatient scowl. “Did you call me in here just so I could discuss the failings of our current war effort with this man?”
“He’s a government agent,” explained Ziegler. “He claims that Miss Fairfax was murdered.”
“Oh… then why is he wasting his time with me? He has some Jack the Ripper to catch,” said Marcy, getting up out of the chair.
“Miss Fairfax was one of our agents,” said the Chief. “I’m sure you can appreciate the seriousness of the situation. What I’d like to know about involves the other body you found.”
“Which other body?” asked Marcy.
“She finds bodies like they’re Easter Eggs,” explained Ziegler. “You don’t understand why poking and prodding around here isn’t going to help you any. This girl has some sort of death radar built into her.”
The Chief scratched his head and paced around the room. “No one is being eliminated as a possible suspect. No one is being eliminated as a future victim. Would you like to cooperate Mrs. Adair, or should I use force?”
On the other side of the street that afternoon, 99 was being given the grand tour of The Rocksburg Girls' Academy. She was quite impressed with the school, but was also quite suspicious of its educators. Headmistress Recktor, who was giddily outlining the daily regimen, was not outside of 99 realm of reasonable doubt. Half of 99's orientation was spent watching the Headmistress giggle as she wound up grandfather clock, after grandmother clock, after coo coo clock. Kaos or not, 99 was certain that anyone who doted over clocks as if they were children was clearly off the mark.
“Well Miss Rivers, what do you think of the school?” asked Mrs. Recktor, as she fixed the setting on a brass mantel clock.
“It’s quite nice,” remarked 99, listening to the eerily soothing clicking and clacking of about twenty odd clocks. “When do I begin?”
“Tomorrow. Your class is going to be doing library research so you will be working with Mrs. Adair. She will answer any questions that you may have,” explained Mrs. Recktor. “You can have the rest of the day to get yourself settled in.”
Her clock maintenance finished, the headmistress made her way back to her office. Seeing that their chat had concluded, 99 glanced at her watch and went upstairs to her room. She had hoped that this assignment would have better accommodations than the usual places she wound up in. Her dorm room, however, resembled more of a sardine can with a bed and a window than it did a livable room.
She picked her suitcase up off of the floor and plopped it on the bed. Wanting to put off the chore of unpacking, she walked over to the window and took in the sights. Her view was of the town’s main thoroughfare –which at the moment was being traveled by a jalopy, a bicycle, and a few pedestrians. She looked over at the police station across the street and noticed a man smoking outside the door. 99 blinked at the dark haired and athletically built figure. From her position it looked like Max. She shook her head and decided that a million men could look like Max from her viewpoint.
Hoping to put her suspicions to rest, she reached into her suitcase and pulled out a pair of binospecs. She looked out the window and focused the lenses on the front of the police station. Indeed Max was the loitering smoker -only now he was no longer loitering alone. Standing beside him was an attractive dark haired woman in an orange and pink striped mini dress. She watched the girl pull the cigarette from Max’s lips and crush it under her boot heal. The two then linked arms and walked down the street. 99 followed them with the binospecs until they were out of her view and even then she wanted to follow them some more. This, she decided, merited a personal investigation.
* * * * *
“Any luck?” asked 99, glancing over her magazine and making eye contact with the Chief, who was hiding behind a newspaper. The two had agreed to meet up in the public library. What was not considered about their rendezvous was that Rocksburg’s library was only a few yards bigger than the Chief’s office. This left trying to be secretive rather difficult. Trying to be secretive without looking inconspicuous was entirely out of the question.
“Getting information from Mrs. Adair was like pulling hens teeth,” frowned the Chief, shaking his head. “You’re going to have to keep a close eye on her, 99. I figure that if there are any leads to be found, they’re going to come through her.”
“What’s she like? I’d like to know so that I can prepare myself,” said 99.
“She’s not like anyone you’ve ever met,” explained the Chief, shaking his head again. “She’s a very attractive woman that looks rather… demure, but she has a way with people.”
“How do you mean?”
“I wanted her to talk about the bodies of the agents she found, but she kept changing the subject,” said the Chief, turning a page of his newspaper.
“Do you think she’s with Kaos?”
“No –too innocent,” decided the Chief, not looking up. “She is withholding information, though. Did you find anything unusual at the school today?”
99 shrugged. “Nothing much –just Max taking a dark haired girl for a stroll.”
“Max!?!” cried the Chief, nearly jumping out of his seat. “You saw him? Where? When?”
“This afternoon. I looked out my window and saw him standing outside the police station smoking. The next thing I knew, he was with this girl. She looked like trouble, Chief. I think we should check up on her because she doesn’t look at all like the type of girl that Max should be consorting with."
The Chief dropped the paper onto the table and scratched his head. “99, was this girl wearing an orange and pinked striped mini-dress?”
“Yes –and she had on a pair of go-go boots that could have hid an arsenal!” said 99.
“That was Marcy Adair,” explained the Chief.
“Her? That’s our suspect?” asked 99, her eyes widening.
“Yes,” nodded the Chief. “I wonder what she’s doing with Max.”
99 stuck her nose in her magazine in an attempt to hide her unprofessional scowl of jealously. While Marcy Adair may be a threat to national security, the question was not about what she was doing with Max. What needed to be answered, as far as 99 was concerned, was what Max was doing with Marcy Adair.
“Whatever it is,” said 99, peering over the top of her magazine at the Chief, “I’m certain I’ll find out.
* * * * *
That evening, after they had filled their stomachs at the Victory Diner, Max and Marcy walked up to the front door. Marcy started to reach in her purse for her keys when Max stopped her. He bent down and looked at the doorknob. The brass coating that surrounded the keyhole was noticeably chipped and scratched. He then turned to peek through the window, but could not see anything except a pair of closed shutters.
“What’s wrong?” asked Marcy.
“Were these scratches always on your keyhole?” asked Max in a low voice.
“Max, you can’t be trying to insinuate that someone broke in!” said Marcy, in a doubtful tone. “Who would want to steal anything from me?”
“Anyone wanting that box of evidence you’ve got stashed in there,” Max pointed out.
“That really narrows it down, Maxwell,” frowned Marcy. “You know, I don’t give a-- I don’t care who is playing around in there! I’m going in!”
Marcy then went about unlocking the door in a rather noisy fashion. Max, at her heels, followed her into the house only to trip over the edge of the welcome mat. Marcy flipped on a light and looked around the room. Everything appeared to be in order. The furniture was upright, the tea service was on the coffee table where it had been left, and Detective Zeigler was quietly sorting out the contents of Miss Fairfax’s things on the ottoman. Marcy blinked at Ziegler while Max jumped up and pulled out his gun –holster included.
“Ha! I was right!” declared Max, moving slowly over to Ziegler. “Okay, Lumphead, get your hands up!”
Marcy turned to Max and wrinkled her nose. “Maxwell, this is Detective Roger Ziegler! He’s not here to hurt us. How do you think you could shoot him, anyway? Your gun is still in its holster!”
Max scowled and put his gun away. He then wrapped his arm around Ziegler as if they were old school chums. “I hope I wasn’t out of line with that crack about Lumphead.”
“Marcy, who is this clown?” demanded Ziegler, shrugging off Max's arm. “He’s got a lot of nerve coming in here and acting like he owns the place!”
“You’ve got a lot of nerve breaking and entering,” snapped Max.
“Roger,” interrupted Marcy, “this is my brother, Maxwell. Now why are you messing around with my things?”
“I am messing around with these things which are not yours because you’re hiding evidence,” explained Ziegler as he started to put Miss Fairfax’s things back in the box. “Marcy, you could be tried for evidence tampering or contempt for stashing this stuff here. What are you trying to do?”
“I’m… finding a solution to the problem,” said Marcy, searching for an excuse.
“You’re becoming part of the problem,” huffed Ziegler. “That guy from Washington wasn’t too pleased with your answers this afternoon."
“I think,” said Max, “that this box would be of little help to Control… it’s just personal stuff. You know… girl junk like lipstick and nylons."
“Thanks for the recap, but I’ll be taking this ‘girl junk’ with me” said Ziegler, picking up the box. “My guess is they’re sending another agent to replace the two they lost and this may provide some pattern or insight as to what’s really going on.”
“Maxwell, if they are sending another girl, then she’ll be a sitting duck!” cried Marcy.
“That’s why sharing with the rest of the class would cause information overload. We need to be proactive and look to the future –not the past,” insisted Max. “Now, I’m prepared to make a deal with you, Ziegler. You can have that worthless box –if you let me have a look at the body.”
“Too bad, Sherlock,” said Ziegler. “I don’t make deals and there is no we in this situation.”
“No we?” asked Max.
“Exactly, Bright Boy,” smirked Ziegler, walking to the door. “No box and no body, for you!”
Ziegler slammed the door on his way out and a disgusted Max slumped down on the sofa. He turned to Marcy, wanting to ask her why the local law enforcement lacked in customer service, but his eyes caught something out of place. On the floor, just at Marcy’s feet, was a familiar looking black leather cardholder. It was not long before Marcy caught her brother’s gaze and shifted her eyes in the same direction.
Praying that it was not his Control ID, Max shoved his hand into his inside jacket pocket only to find it empty. This revelation left him with a stomach that had shifted into a painfully empty pit and a heart that was threatening to stop with every labored beat. Wincing, he watched his sister move for the card. He wanted to jump up and stop her, but everything was happening too quickly for him to move.
COPYRIGHT ©1999-2018 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.
Will Max's secrets be revealed? Find out who will tell the truth in Part Three!
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