Continued from yesterday:
Janine stared at the ceiling in her new flat. The late owner’s blood was still turning up in weird places, but, thanks to Sara and her somewhat grousome fascination with all things forensic, she knew exactly what to do about that.
The landlord sure as hell didn’t give a shit.
The bullet holes had been easy. Again, Sara knew where to pick up specific weights of plaster powder on the cheap.
And then there was the furniture. Most of it had come from the former resident and Janine was in no position to be picky. She just donned the gloves - Sara’s favourite brand - and cleanup-fairied the place into respectability.
As for employment… it was astonishing how much the little things added up. Dog-walking after school, babysitting in the evenings, even a fair deal of fetch-and-carry stuff for the older residents. She was no Sara, but she was paying for rent and food and, once her jar of change was full, something extra to reward herself.
It was exhausting, it was shitty, her life at school sucked and her grades were circling uncertainly around the drainpipe of educational doom, but the important thing was that she was improving herself.
And the strangest thing, Janine would report to Mr Kian, was that Sara was still helping her, even though they hadn’t said more than ‘hello’ to each other in more than a week. Every time she needed something, there would be a past tip from Sara Louise in the back of her mind.
Something she’d previously ignored as verbal trivia, while her mind was churning up grousome things to say about people.
Her letterbox, this morning, also contained a locally printed pamphlet for a writing competition. There was a cash prize and no entry fee. If she concentrated on writing it, *then* editing it, she might have a chance.
All she had to do was remember everything Sara had ever told her.
What the hell? It wasn’t as if she’d lose by entering. And if nothing happened, she’d be yet another also-ran in a writing competition. Big deal.
That morning, in assembly, Janine took out a notebook and started stage one of her entry. It was entitled, _The Worst Friend_.
Fred smiled at his ceiling. Not a saggy, baggy ceiling any more. No more mornings with plaster flakes in his eyes. Or his hair.
Those reconstruction guys knew their work. And they were actually glad he was there to do some of the heavy lifting.
And speaking of heavy lifting, he’d have to tell Sara and the guys about that obnoxious A-hole at work last night…
“Do you have *any* idea who I *am*?” The slick suit had wailed. He’d spent his time in the queue either buying the position ahead of him in line or talking non-stop to some guy named Barry, who would not listen.
_Yeah, you’re an obnoxious jerk,_ Freddy had thought. Aloud, he said, “Your name isn’t on the list for tonight.” It could well have been, but he was allowed to keep anyone out who was being a complete jerk.
“I happen to be *with* Desmina Karlyle!”
Desmina had breezed in hours ago, with her entourage. She hadn’t said a word to *him* about friends catching up, and everyone previously with her was already checked off the list.
Ergo, this guy was a stalker creepazoid.
“All people with Ms Karlyle are already in the club. Your name isn’t on the list. Move along.”
Oh dear. Fred was very sensitive about his weight. Anyone calling him a variation of 'fat’ was in for it. His hand shot out and lifted the guy by his front without even thinking about it.
“*You* listen,” he said. “It’s my job to make sure everyone *on* the list has a good time. *You* are the sort of person who makes people have a rotten time. Plus, you ain’t on the list.”
“I could sue you,” he croaked.
Freddy pointed to a sign. “The club reserves the right to eject with necessary force any patrons who are not conducting themselves in a manner conducive to a mutual good mood,” he recited, then bought the guy close to his face. “Don’t make me eject you with force.”
The jerk wet his pants. Freddy let him run away, and basked in the cheers of those still waiting to get in.
All in all, it had been a good night. And it looked like a better day was beginning. Even Lance, stumbling towards coffee, looked well-rested.
Fred started cooking, humming as he did so.
 Ancient Yo-go commercial. There’s one guy on a mobile phone who’s always demanding that Barry “just listen” to him… before disaster strikes.
 Kiddie packet-o-pudding line that does not contain any actual yoghurt. Near as I can tell, it’s chief ingredients are flour, sugar, water and colours and flavourings.
Sara had fallen asleep in the plastic chair, in the end. It was a good thing for her she only needed a little sleep, since the crick she found in her neck would have been enormously annoying if she needed 'normal’ hours of rest. She stretched and sighed, noting the dawn creeping up on the horizon.
“Good morning, starshine,” she whispered. It was worth missing the new light just to protect Todd from any kind of approaching evil.
She couldn’t protect her father from the loss of the one, dearest person who mattered the most. She’d tried, but it had injured her soul to the point where she took the first window of opportunity out of there. _If there is a God,_ she thought, _who I’m currently mad at… it would regain my favour if I never experienced that kind of loss, myself._ Her soul was just bruised. Dad’s was bleeding.
_On the other hand,_ said one of her inner voices, _You’ve delayed the inevitable for eleven years. That has to count for something._
“…just made the boot drop from a higher station,” she murmured.
“Mmmn?” said Todd, waking up. “D’d you *sleep*.”
“You blinked and missed it,” said Sara. “Sorry I woke you, darling.”
“Can’t never sleep in hospitals anyhow,” he said.
“Your snoring to the contrary.”
He, too, yawned and stretched. “Man, I’m so dried out…”
“It’s the air conditioning. Nasty stuff.”
“So what happens now?”
“We wait until nine, check out, and rally the defenses against a world most cruel.”
She was holding his broken hand. He moved the fingers he could move so he held her back. “Trouble happens when we let go, yo.”
“I’d posit that we meet said troubles together, but that can’t happen with separate classes. Hmmm. I may have to invent a new light, concealable body armour. A force shield, perhaps. Something with an easy panic switch.”
Todd laughed. “Sounds like an idea. I wanted one o’ those my whole life.”
“I figure it should sell well in the nerd quarter.”
Sara had climbed into the bed with Todd and was petting his hair when 9 o'clock rolled around.
“As much as I loathe to suggest moving, I think it’s time to get going.” She shifted to hold his uninjured hand.
“But I’m comfortable…” To an outsider, the position they were in would not only look uncomfortable but inappropirate. It was, however, very relaxing. Sara liked being this close to her boyfriend.
“As am I, dear.” Boyfriend. She liked the word as well.
“Yo, can we do this when we get home? It’s really nice.” He was face down in her meagre chest and obviously enjoying it. He squeezed her hand. “It’s *really* nice.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Sara. “Alas, we have to trip merrily through the labyrinthine mess of American Hospital Red Tape, so let’s get started, hm?”
“Sooner started, sooner done, sooner home and having… mmm… waffles?”
He almost sprang out of the bed like toast. “Bribery accepted.”
It was a very small meeting. Principal Kelly and the few people who had noticed “something odd” around certain people at Bayville High… and resented the possible causes.
“All I know is something is weird with those Boarding house kids,” said Graydon.
“I know all those Xavier kids are messed up,” said Duncan. “Except Jean.”
“I know what *I* know,” said Kelly. “They’re not… exactly human…”
“How do you mean?” said Jack.
“I mean… strange things happen around them.” He dropped a picture of Kurt Wagner on the table. “He vanishes without a trace. Disturbs electrical surveillance equipment. And what’s with his 'no touch’ thing? It’s bizarre. This one,” a picture of Todd Tolenski, “has shown a prowess at jumping that borders on supernatural. Slime happens to appear near his location.”
“His stink’s definitely out of this world,” said Duncan.
A photo of Rogue. “She learns things without apparent research, and possesses knowledge she can’t have obtained through normal means.” A picture of Kitty. “She never has any problems accessing locked rooms.”
“So what?” said Jack. “Lots of this stuff can be explained.”
“That’s why we need proof,” said Kelly. “We need to capture one. Study it.”
“Are you kidding? They all flock together,” said Graydon.
“That’s why we’re going after their newest recruit,” said Kelly.
He put down a picture of Sara.
It wasn’t as though he hadn’t tried his hardest. But more and more incidents kept piling up- the inspector would be here Wednesday- and it was always that lot somehow right in the thick of it.
And now, with Haufmann* having disappeared, after his misconduct in the hallways- no contact with a student, he should have made sure the man understood it belt and bracers and double-underlined contract in blood- it was just too much. Something had to be done, and if his suspicions turned out to be smoke and stress, so much the better.
But in the meanwhile, let the boys handle getting the dirt on that little menace and her friends. Provoke another attack, this one spun properly so that it was the student making trouble, and they could all be out of his hair…
*I don’t think Kelly actually knows about Haufmann yet- it’s only been a day, and so far as I know the police know him as Manny, not his current alias.
“You take over,” said Graydon. “I need to take a leak.”
Duncan yawned as he accepted the binoculars. So far, the mansion had been a dull, boring nothing happening. How the hell did cops on stake-out *manage*? He shook himself and focussed on his task. Waiting for Essel. Adrians. What the fuck ever it was calling itself.
Stupid tranny whore.
There it came, having an animated discussion with the goth freak.
He wrote the time and the activity in the notebook. Watched the tranny mount a scooter that was *not* its usual hunk of junk. Now he had to wait and watch and time how long it was gone.
“Whaddayadoin’?” Graydon demanded. “We gotta go after it.”
“Thought you had to piss.”
“So’d I. Let’s scrag it.”