S... Is for a Lot of Things
(Thanks to Saber for her morgue knowledge, Becca for her detective work, and Ishaan for tipping me off to Tipper)
Noticing the leather case at her feet, Marcy bent down and picked it up. Figuring that it was Ziegler’s badge, she opened it to confirm her thoughts. Instead she found herself blinking at a picture of her brother. She glanced over at Max, who appeared to be spilling cold tea all over the coffee table. The card she was holding claimed he was a Control Agent, but nature steered her into the field of doubt. She walked over to Max and flashed the card at him.
“Maxwell, is this a sick joke?” demanded Marcy.
Max looked up at his ID and then refocused on the puddle of tea. “Uh… yeah… sure. Do you have any—"
“You just lied to me,” observed Marcy in a quiet voice.
“Yes,” nodded Max, “now how about the—"
“You’re one of those spy people and you didn’t tell me!” cried Marcy, raising her voice.
“Marcy,” said Max, snatching his ID card away from her, “the secret part of being a secret agent means I can’t tell anyone about it. Besides… I’m probably not much of a secret anything anymore.”
“I jumped ship on Control. I came up here and didn’t tell anyone where I was going,” explained Max.
“Maxwell…” said Marcy slowly, “since your little spy klatch isn’t fond of me and probably wants to fire you, why don’t we both move to California and start life over as movie stars.”
Max looked at her as if she were crazy and then shook his head. “Marcy, I don’t care what your friend Ziegler says –I have to check out that body!”
Marcy sighed and picked up the tea service. “Have fun getting to it. The morgue is next door to the police station and I have my doubts that Roger would even let you within ten feet of the area.”
“Would Roger let you in?” asked Max, hopefully.
Marcy smiled and walked into the kitchen. “Oh, I’m sure he would,” she called from the other room, “but only because I’d never ask to see a corpse.”
Max sunk back into the sofa and scowled at the puddle of tea that was slowly oozing its way to a Reader’s Digest. Somewhere in the recesses of his brain, he knew that there was a plan he could hatch to at least get him a peak into the morgue. It was, after all, irrational to assume that Ziegler would baby-sit a morgue all day.
Absently, Max picked up the Reader’s Digest and began to flip through it. He threw the magazine back on the coffee table –directly into the tea puddle. Still feeling the urge to fidget, he searched the table for something else to play with. His eyes rested on a small journal entitled Murder Mystery Monthly. He picked up the magazine and slowly flipped through it. As his eyes began to glow with the satisfaction of a newly formed plot, he decided that Murder Mystery Monthly would be the beginning of a beautiful ruse.
* * * * *
As the following morning progressed, 99 found that teaching, especially in a private school, was a rather routine profession. That is, routine in comparison to dealing with the likes of Richelieu, Kubacheck, and Dr. Yes. Although her pupils were not on the behavioral level of Siegfried and Shtarker, there were a few unexpected crises on the first day –such as wads of gum dropped into hair, mice that would shoot across the floor mid-lecture, and a fire in the trash can. The most annoying disruptions to her day were a series of mysterious blasts from the bathroom upstairs. While no one would divulge any information on the mini-explosions, 99 had reason to believe that someone had gotten their hands on some firecrackers. The unfortunate end of it all was that between lecturing and maintaining classroom order, there was little time for extra-curricular spying.
Research class, which always took place before lunch, was scheduled in the library that day. Considering that Marcy Adair was the librarian, 99 was not sure whether this was a benefit or just another source of grating aggravation. One benefit to working in the library was that the students were left to work by themselves. This gave 99 much-needed breathing room and a chance to unobtrusively observe Marcy.
99 decided that, for a librarian, the woman had a fairly flashy wardrobe. Mrs. Adair’s current attire consisted of a formfitting black sweater, a lime green mini skirt that would have certainly flunked a Kneel Test, tights with embroidered flowers, and a pair of black platforms. Her observations, though, shuttled her back to the sight of Max draping his arm over Marcy’s shoulders. Max’s arm around another woman, though not usual, was intolerable. Max’s arm around a woman named Marcy that dressed like she was trying to stop traffic was intolerable to the point of nausea.
“Miss Rivers?” asked a voice
99 looked up to see that Marcy was staring down at her. The absolute last thing that she wanted to do –aside from daydreaming about her rival— was to speak to her. “Yes?”
“I was wondering when you wanted to schedule your next library period,” said Marcy.
“Oh… uh… how about at the regular time?” asked 99.
Marcy tried to avoid shooting 99 a funny look –not for the sake of the good opinion of “Miss Rivers,” but more so because such a response had become too predicable in recent months. The mysterious disappearing English teachers never knew their names and always asked about being scheduled for the “regular time.” It seemed to Marcy that, if they were all part of a spy syndicate, then they would do a better job at being convincing.
“Eleven o’clock is the regular time,” answered Marcy, dryly. “You also might want to know that your class goes to lunch at noon.”
“I believed that seemed fairly obvious,” said 99 in a silky but icy tone.
Marcy poised to reply with an equally sharp retort when the phone in her office cut her off. Excusing herself, she marched into her office and glared at the phone for interrupting her. In an attempt to keep 99 in her view, she picked the phone up from the desk and moved as close to the doorway as she could without the cord popping out of the wall. Just inches away from the door, she set the still ringing phone on the floor and stretched the receiver cord out long enough so that she could just peek out the door at 99. She pressed the phone to her ear and smirked at 99 who appeared to be ignoring her. A familiar nasally ‘hello’ then brought Marcy's attention back to reason she had gone to answer the phone in the first place.
“Max,” cried Marcy into the phone, “you just interrupted me!”
“I was about to come up with a sharp retort!”
“Oh. Really? What was it?” asked Max.
“I don’t know –you interrupted me before I could come up with it,” groaned Marcy. “What did you want?”
“We need to met,” said Max. “I’m about to stumble across vital information.”
“You mean you haven’t stumbled across it yet?”
“No, I’ve been on the phone with you!”
Marcy shook her head. Even though she and her brother were twins, there were times when Max’s actions mystified her. In fact, as she recalled, there were a lot of those times.
“Okay,” sighed Marcy, “I’ll meet you in the lobby at half past twelve.”
Marcy hung up the phone and sat down at her desk, ignoring “Miss Rivers.” While she and Max were talking, she noticed that 99 seemed to be paying an inordinate amount of attention to her phone call. What she did not take into consideration, though, was that 99’s ear was an extremely biased ear.
The words that seemed to pound within the walls of 99’s brain were “Max,” “meet,” “library,” and “half past twelve.” If she had not been hot under her turtleneck before the phone rang, she was well past simmering now. The idea of a man-trap named Marcy having a meeting with the spy she had her eye on for the last three years almost made her want to explode. She decided, though, that an efficient agent must show tact, poise, and should investigate situations before acting on assumptions. Considering that, she decided to return to the library during the lunch period and see what the tête-à-tête was all about.
“Then,” she muttered to herself, “I’ll kick Marcy, miniskirt and all, directly into next semester.”
* * * * *
It seemed to Max that the most logical way to get into whatever Ziegler was hiding in the mortuary was to pass himself off as a journalist. Added into this logic was timing –as in running the operation when the good detective was out for lunch. Therefore, Agent 86 concluded that the best time to actually be a journalist was when the subjects of the story were unavailable.
He looked over at the mortuary and straightened his tie. Everything was in place: his phony baloney credentials were in his wallet, his exploding notepad and poison pen were in his vest pocket, and his horn rimmed glasses were resting on his nose. Looking unassuming, but composed, Max strode up to the front of the building.
The town morgue did not consist of much. It was conjoined to the police station, but had its own office. The rather sterile front office of the morgue was visible to the outside world through a picture window. This particular picture window was perhaps even more spotless than the office it displayed. In fact the window was so clean that Maxwell Smart, upon arrival, walked directly into it with a thud and smashed his glasses up against his nose.
He left his bent spectacles on and walked into the office as if nothing had happened. As he approached the man sitting at the front desk, Max took in the room’s every detail –including those related to the occupant. The man at the desk looked to be pushing ninety and was occupied with a dysfunctional Rolodex. He looked up at Max just as the index cards shot out of the Rolodex and fluttered to the floor.
“You should get your glasses fixed,” observed the man.
“Uh… yeah,” nodded Max pulling out his notepad. “I’m a writer for Murder Mystery Monthly and I was wondering if you could help me.”
“You want to get new glasses?” asked the man.
“No, I’m writing a story on a local murder,” explained Max, pushing up his crooked glasses.
“Murder?” gasped the man. “Where was this at?”
“The school,” answered Max, a little surprised that the man did not seem to know what he was talking about.
“The private girls school!” said Max, looking the man up and down.
“Over there?” asked the man, looking out the window at the school. “Aw, that wasn’t a murder –that was an accident.”
“Okay,” said Max, taking a deep breath. “Can I discuss this accident with you?”
“Sure, but there’s not much to discuss when it boils down to hypothermia,” shrugged the man.
“Actually...” Max glanced at the nameplate on the man’s desk. It revealed not only that he was Dr. Tipper Tarper III, but the fact that he was Dr. Tipper Tarper the county coroner. “Dr. Tarper, I was wondering if I could see the body.”
“The body? What for?” demanded Tarper. “You’re writing a story about a murder. What good would the corpse of an accident victim do you?”
“Well I just can't go back to my editor empty handed! Besides, a body is a body,” shrugged Max. “One’s as good as another –as long as it really is dead.”
“You do have a point,” nodded Tarper, pulling out a ring of keys.
Tarper led Max back a narrow hallway to a room that looked as if it had been converted from a kitchen to something that almost resembled a morgue. He opened up the vault and pulled out the remains of Miss Fairfax. Max studied the toe tag and then looked up at Tarper.
“How do I know this is the one that died at the school?” asked Max, eyeing Tarper suspiciously.
“I thought you said a body was a body,” huffed Tarper. “Look, you’re just going to have to settle with this one –it’s all we have in at the moment!”
Miffed at the fact that Max thought the body was not good enough, Tarper decided to go back to his Rolodex. Max looked down at the sheet-draped figure and wrinkled his nose. He was not too keen on inspecting it because, in his experience, corpses had a tendency to give him severe queasiness followed by repeating nightmares. Nevertheless, duty called so he took in a deep breath and pulled back the sheet. Max looked down at the pasty figure and resumed breathing again. Clearly what was left of Miss Fairfax was more pathetic than frightful.
He did not get too far in examining this particular body of evidence before his solitude was interrupted by a familiar voice in the hallway. He looked over at the door and froze in place. The muffled groans of one person had shifted to the din of a trio, but one voice still stood out. Rising above the other two voices was the deep resonant tone of the Chief of Control.
“I think I should have another look,” said the Chief.
“What good will it do?” asked another voice that Max recognized as Ziegler’s.
“You’re both going to have to wait your turn,” snapped Tarper. “The man from the mystery magazine is having his look-see right now.”
“Mystery magazine?” asked the Chief. “That body is supposed to be classified!”
“I guess that shoots down my idea of charging admission,” sighed Tarper.
“Dr. Tarper, I told you not to let that clown in here!” barked Ziegler. “If I see him in here, then I’m going to… he’ll be your next tenant!”
Max cringed and thought fast. He pushed the drawer back into the vault and glanced around the room. The only available place to hide was in one of the vaults. He opened the one next to Miss Fairfax and shimmied inside the drawer. He managed to successfully slide back into the vault, but the door did not come flying shut as he had expected. That was both good and bad all at once. Certainly it was good because he did not run the threat of being stuck and suffocating. Most definitely it was bad because he was still visible to the entourage about to enter the room.
He then remembered the electric mini-magnet embedded in his tie clasp. He pulled off the tie clasp and flipped on the magnet. Much to his relief, the magnet seemed to be working. It pulled the door with in an inch of it being completely shut just before the battery died. Max winced and stuck his tie clasp back on his tie. The creaking of a door and two sets of squeaky footsteps broke the silence of the room. Max only hoped that they would ignore his hideaway.
“I don’t see anyone in here,” observed the Chief.
“Dr. Tipper Tarper is a little off,” sighed Ziegler.
“Is Dr. Tarper off often?” asked the Chief.
“It’s mostly when he gets tipsy. Tipper has trouble with the trappings of his job,” explained Ziegler, opening a vault and finding it unoccupied.
The two went about opening vaults and poking their heads in them. The Chief popped opened another door while Ziegler opened the one right beside it. Both men found themselves faced with a pair of feet and both took to the idea of announcing their discovery.
“I found it!” the Chief and Ziegler cried in unison as if they had won the daily pick four.
“How can that be?” asked the Chief, showing Ziegler the toe tag tied to Miss Fairfax’s foot.
Ziegler blinked and narrowed his eyes at the pair of shoes in front of him. He pulled out the drawer and scowled down at the occupant. Max, who was playing possum, could feel the eyes of both the Chief and Ziegler searing into him.
“Well, well, well,” sneered Ziegler, pounding his fist on the drawer with each ‘well.’ “I wonder if Marcy is aware that her dear brother has recently departed.”
“SMART!” cried the Chief, turning almost purple.
Max sat up and looked the Chief squarely in the eye. “You know, Chief, that’s not a good color to turn to. It’s not just because it doesn’t look good on you. If you turn that red often, you could wind up with serious health problems.”
“You are a serious health problem!” growled the Chief, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
“So you two know each other,” observed Ziegler. “Very interesting!”
“And very stupid of you to up and vanish!” said the Chief, glaring at Max. “I’m going to have to write you up for that, 86. Why did you do it?”
For once in his life Max was without even a flimsy excuse to use. He looked around the room, focused his attention on the drop ceiling for a moment, and then turned back to the Chief. “How about I felt like it?
“How about I didn’t feel like it?” offered Max.
Ziegler shook his head. “Allow me to spare you the interrogation. He has ‘family business.’”
“He also had ‘go on a mission and serve his country business.’ Max, you do recall that part of being an agent revolves around making personal sacrifices?” the Chief reminded him. “Why couldn’t you have discussed this with me before running off?”
“This is real cute,” interrupted Ziegler. “Marcy never told me her twin was a spy. Do you have an exploding briefcase or a gun that pops out of your sleeve?”
“No,” said Max, through gritted teeth, “but I do have a fist that will pop directly into your mouth if you don’t butt out of my personal reprimand!”
“I think it would be best if we were left alone,” said the Chief in a tone that left no room for debate on the topic.
Shrugging and grumbling under his breath, Ziegler left the room. The Chief sighed and pulled the door shut. Max hopped down from the drawer and straightened his necktie. He felt like a kid that had sneaked out of his house without permission.
“I have a good explanation for all of this, Chief,” said Max, tilting his chin up.
“Alright, let’s hear it.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to share it with the group,” pouted Max. “I just said I had a good explanation.”
“Max, if you don’t give me something…”
“Okay, Chief, just calm down,” advised Max. “I’m working on it.”
Seeing that he was getting nowhere with threats –or rather guarantees of disciplinary action, the Chief decided to take a different tactic. “Since when did you become Marcy Adair’s brother? 99 said she saw you with her. Mrs. Adair happens to be our top suspect.”
Max looked at the Chief with a smoldering glare. “She happens to be my twin sister, so that hardly leaves room for her to be your suspect!”
The Chief looked at Max and rubbed the dull ache that seemed to be pounding just inside his forehead. “That explains a lot.”
“I don’t need to go into anymore detail for you?” asked Max, eagerly.
“No,” moaned the Chief. “Now, why don’t you explain why you were hiding in here?”
“I wanted to see Miss Fairfax,” explained Max. “You see I have a theory about her.”
The Chief tried to look interested. “Yes?”
“I think she died before she froze to death,” said Max.
“Max, the coroner’s report says—"
“I know! I know!” moaned Max. “I just don’t buy that. All agents are issued a communication device. Correct?”
“Yes,” nodded the Chief.
“And she was wearing hers –correct?”
“Yes. She was issued a Swayze Wrist Communicator,” explained the Chief. “We confiscated it.”
“Then if she was locked in, she could have used her Swayze,” concluded Max.
The Chief scratched his head. With all the commotion, he had not considered an idea like Max’s. Instead he had resorted to taking the coroner’s words for granted. It was almost fitting that Max, the most unlikely agent to come up with an insight into a case, would deduct something so painfully obvious. “Okay, Max, then how did she die?”
“She was unusually blue in the face when she was found,” said Max, “and she was found with her hands clasped around her neck –the universal choking symbol.”
“You saw the murder scene?” asked the Chief.
“Uh… Marcy told me all about it,” explained Max, uneasily. “I conclude that she was asphixieted.”
“Yes!” said Max, indignantly. “That’s what I said –asphaxieteded.”
“No, Max. First you said asphixieted and then I said asphyxiated. Now you’re saying asphaxieteded.”
“Don’t tell me what I’m saying, Chief!” retorted Max. “I know what I’m saying!”
The Chief rubbed his forehead. “That makes one of us.”
As Max and the Chief were concluding their argument, Mrs. Recktor was involved in a rather thick “chat” with the Project Manager of Kaos Recruiting. She drummed her fingers on her desk as she listened through the telephone receiver pressed against her ear. Much of the conversation consisted of her superior’s grumbling about the increased Control intrusions into their recruitment program. Not seeing the news about Control’s current tactics as a problem, Mrs. Recktor decided to respond with a simple “uh-huh.” After a dozen or so affirmations, she slammed the receiver back in its cradle and shoved the crimson phone under her desk. Sexton, who had been watching the conversation with interest, approached her desk.
“What did our leaders at Kaos headquarters have to say?” he asked eagerly.
“I’ve just been informed that the agent Control sent to investigate Miss Fairfax's death is none other then the Chief of Control,” said Mrs. Recktor.
“Then we can’t kill his new agent without him hanging around,” pouted Sexton.
“Who says we can’t, Sexton? Who?” demanded Mrs. Recktor, a glint forming in her eyes. “Do you know, the sooner that we rid ourselves of Miss Rivers, then that is all the sooner that we can move on to bigger things –namely the Chief of Control!”
Sexton’s lips curled into a sneer. “So when do we make our first move?”
The headmistress walked over to a metal cabinet behind her desk and pulled open the doors. Inside were numerous knobs, control panels, and electronic gadgetry. Grinning, Sexton walked over to the cabinet and pulled out a microphone. Mrs. Recktor, however, promptly slapped his hand and snatched the microphone away.
“Not now!” she hissed, her eyes bulging like an aggravated terrier. “You will use our hidden speaker system to lure Miss Rivers out of her room and into the freezer at half past noon. The children will be at recess then and our little spy will be in her room regrouping for the afternoon classes she will not be teaching.”
“You’re certain of that?” asked Sexton, eyeing the coo-coo clock on the wall.
“Of course I’m certain of that!” Mrs. Recktor huffed as if insulted by such a question. “I made her schedule! Do you have anymore questions?”
Sexton took another glance at the clock. “This clock is five minutes slow.”
“They’re all five minutes slow,” groaned Mrs. Recktor.
“Then… does anybody really know what time it is?” asked Sexton, fingering the clock’s draw chains.
The headmistress shook her head and pulled the chains out of Sexton’s reach. “Does anybody really care?”
* * * * *
Max glanced at his watch as he walked into the library at The Rocksburg Girls' Academy. He had expected to find his sister waiting for him, but the room was oddly empty. According to his watch, he had arrived promptly at 12:30, but the walk clock claimed he was five minutes early. Figuring that everyone at the school was simply five minutes behind the rest of the world, he picked up a copy of Gulliver's Travels and started to read it. About halfway through the first chapter, Marcy was still not there. Halfway through the second chapter, Marcy was still missing from her post. Halfway through the third chapter, Max felt someone whack him across the back of his head. On instinct, Max drew his gun and spun around to face 99.
“You… louse!” hissed 99, clubbing him with a hard bound edition of Jane Eyre. “I can’t believe you, Max! You have some nerve showing up here!”
“A lot of good nerve did me,” muttered Max, shoving his gun back in its holster. He leaned up against the bookshelf and flipped Gulliver's Travels back open to where he had left off. He secretly wished 99’s living breathing presence was another nightmare that he would eventually wake up from. That, however, was a doubtful outcome.
“Max, you went AWOL on Control and are consorting with a suspect to a murder!” exclaimed 99. “What has gotten into you?”
“99, keep your voice down!” whispered Max. “This is a library!”
“She’s a married woman, Max!” cried 99.
99 rolled her eyes. “Your dark haired friend –the girl you’ve been paling around with.”
“Oh… yeah,” nodded Max, flipping his book shut. “You know, 99, you should get to know Marcy. She’s real nice and you two could talk about what ever it is that girls talk about… like clipping coupons and baking cookies.”
Her blood pressure on the rise, 99 responded to Max's remark with a cutting slap to his cheek. Stunned more by her reaction than the pain, he rubbed his stinging jaw and watched her turn on her heel. As he listened to her shoes click against the linoleum, Max wondered if he had once again forgot to engage his brain before putting his mouth in gear.
The tardy Marcy, in the meantime, was quite occupied with the contents of Miss Rivers’ room. She had uncovered what she had expected: a cache of weapons and a Control logbook owned by an Agent 99. The logbook, as she flipped through it, only repeated every conclusion she and Max had already reached. She tossed the book back in the dresser drawer she had pulled it from when a small pink book caught her eye. Curious, she pulled out the book and flipped it open. Clearly, with all its dated and lengthy entries, the book was 99’s journal.
It seemed logical to Marcy that a spy’s journal would detail daring exploits that held rank with the activities of James Bond. As she flipped through 99’s journal, she discovered that it was no such book. Many of the entries were typical rants over workplace frustrations and the male half of the species. Reading further, Marcy discovered that one anonymous gentleman in particular was the focus of a good portion of the entries.
Marcy could not help but become engrossed in the book and had she been any more involved, the jingling of a key ring would not have broken her attention. She looked up from her reclined position on 99's bed just in time to see the doorknob turn. Taking a move out of a John Wayne movie, she slid off the bed and rolled under it. She looked at the journal that was still clasped in her sweaty hands and groaned. The door slowly creaked open and Marcy winced. If 99 found that her deep dark secrets were in the hands of someone else, that someone would get hurt.
At the moment, though, 99’s thoughts were far removed from who was holding her journal. Her agenda was currently focused on the merits of containing her temper versus the benefits of throwing a tantrum. In an attempt to satisfy her rage, she slammed her door shut with enough force to rattle the walls. The door swung back open and she moved to slam it shut again when she saw Max standing in the doorway. He walked into the room and gently shut the door behind him. 99 only glared at him.
“Get out!” she finally snapped.
“Gosh, 99, you sure did wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” he remarked.
99 moaned. She wondered how Max could be so oblivious to everything –including her feelings. “Max, if the headmistress finds you here she’ll—"
“Send me to the torture chamber?” offered Max. “No, I don’t think so 99. She’s probably reserving those seats for you and Marcy.”
“Marcy! Marcy! Marcy!” cried 99. “That’s all I ever here! From you, from the Chief, from the headmistress… Max, if you like her so much, then why did you make it your personal crusade to save me from Victor Royale?”
“99!” gasped Max, looking at her saucer-eyed. “First of all, Victor was a Kaos agent! Secondly….”
“Uh… I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
99 studied Max’s clueless expression. He had to be putting her on. He had to be making a fool out of her. No one could be as thickheaded as he was making himself out to be.
“You don’t know?” cried 99, throwing her hands in the air. “Oh Max, how can you not know? You chase after girl after girl and then you chase after other girls!”
“That’s because they keep running away, 99,” Max replied airily. “99, do you honestly think that any girl that I’ve chase after in the past, and will chase after in the future, would give me the time of day?”
“Well Max, if you ever want to get in touch, I have a complete list of your contacts in my journal,” said 99 bitterly, walking over to the dresser and pulling open the top drawer.
Max was about to pull out a cigarette when he felt something tap at his foot. He looked down and saw a small pink book propped against his shoe. Attached to the book was a small pink hand. Trying to keep himself from gasping, he coughed and picked up the book. Taking a quick peek under the bed, he caught a glimpse of Marcy winking at him.
“What are you doing?” asked 99, noticing that Max had her journal. “How did you get that?”
“I… uh… well... I just picked it up, 99,” said Max, searching for words.
99 snatched the book away and was about to challenge Max’s story when a groan filled the air. Moaning and groaning came with the territory of old 19th century buildings and 99 would normally shrug off such a noise. This groan, however, could not go ignored, as it sounded human as opposed to creaking floorboards.
“Max, did you here that?” asked 99.
“Yes, 99. You should really go get lunch with your stomach growling like that,” insisted Max.
“Max!” cried 99 as another groan filled the air. This time, though, it sounded as if words were intermingled with the din. 99 walked over to the bed and bent down. She started to pull up the cover when Max pulled her away.
“99, gollywoggles could be under there!”
99 rolled her eyes. “Max, that sounded like a person moaning something. There’s something under here.”
Before Max could protest, 99 poked her head under the bed. A pair of dark eyes flashed back at her. Grumbling under her breath, 99 reached under the bed and pulled out a squirming and kicking Marcy.
“Would you believe I’m a gollywoggle?” offered Marcy, pulling a dust bunny from her hair.
“No!” said 99, icily. She then stood up and looked at Max. “What is she doing here?”
“Well, 99,” said Max, rubbing his chin, “unless I miss my guess, Marcy’s trying to play amateur detective.”
“By snooping in my room and making groaning noises?” asked 99, doubtfully.
“I said amateur, 99 –not professional,” insisted Max.
“And I wasn’t the one groaning,” added Marcy.
99 looked around the room. Another groan filled the air only this time it was clearly a person trying to yell something. The trio exchanged confused glances as the words “Help me” echoed against the walls.
“What was that?” asked Max looking at his sister only to catch a glimpse of her darting out of the room. He scowled and walked over to the doorway. “99, what room is below here?”
“The kitchen,” answered 99, walking over to Max. “Max… just tell me the truth. What are you doing here with this woman?”
“I’m trying to keep her out of trouble,” sighed Max, taking 99 by the hand and leading her down the hall. “Sisters! They’re always getting into something and now she’s going to—"
“She’s your sister?” asked 99 incredulously.
“Of course 99!” said Max stopping at the staircase. “I’m surprised you didn’t notice a resemblance –we’re twins after all!”
99 only shook her head and followed Max downstairs and into the kitchen. The room was vacant and she found this rather surprising since lunch was only a half hour ago. It was hard to believe that the cook was not still occupied with some sort of kitchen duty. Shrugging the strangeness of the situation off, she followed Max into the room where the freezer was located. Like the kitchen, this room was also void of human presence.
“Where could she have gone?” asked 99, looking around the room.
“I have an uncanny feeling she went to the walk-in freezer,” said Max, leading 99 over to the giant steel door at the end of the room. “It’s a sensation I can’t explain. It’s—"
“Max!” exclaimed 99, pressing her ear against the freezer door. “Someone’s pounding on this door!”
“That too,” added Max, pressing his own ear up against the door. Sure enough, the pounding was quite steady and was coupled by coughing. Like Miss Fairfax, Marcy was clearly being gassed. He studied the deadbolt above the door handle and pulled out his pistol. “99, get your gas mask ready.”
99 pulled her turtleneck over her nose and looked at Max. “What about you?”
“I’m going to open the door and you’re going to grab her quick,” explained Max, looking at 99’s blue eyes peeking above her turtleneck. He blinked and shook his head. “99, I don’t think wool will cut it –this gas is lethal!”
“Max,” said 99 in a muffled tone, “this Control’s new turtle-mask. It’s a gas mask in a turtleneck sweater.”
Max nodded and then fired at the door several times. 99 tried the handle and opened the door only a crack. As a cloud of nocuous fumes escaped the room, Max covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief and pushed the door open the rest of the way. Just inside the door he found Marcy lying face down on the floor.
COPYRIGHT ©1999-2016 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.
Will our Miss Adair survive the next segment? Will 99 let Max survive the next segment? Will my laptop be resurrected so that I can write the next segment? Find out in Part Four.
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