Chapter 8: .the/scheme
For the first time since the incident I thought I would get through an entire school day. I was sitting in class, analysing some pop-song when France pulled me out of the room. I hadn’t seen that sleaze in months. He had been out of town on business, and now, right after his shop had been all over the news, he was back. Back to make more sweet money.
“You look great." His eyes combed my body. In the beginning of our partnership, I felt uneasy. Now I was used to the flirting and the constant “poor-me’s”.
“Why are you back in town?” I asked casually.
“I was out of the country. I tried to arrange plane tickets as soon as I heard of the shooting...”
“We call it the incident,” I interrupted. He squinted at me and continued. “It was hard because all the planes were booked. I heard about Emily. Oh sweet Emily, she was the selling point of the petrol station... No offence. How will I manage without her?”
“The incident was pretty great for publicity. All publicity is good publicity.”
“Oh you really are a little journalist. But how can I ever remove the bloodstains from the floor?” he continued to feel sorry for himself.
“I’m sure that’s the least of your worries. You probably have to go the police or something to give your statement,” I said.
“I will do no such thing. They need to contact me first.” I slapped my palm against my face. France was so damn stupid. He would get into some serious trouble sooner or later.
“I need to get back to class,” I turned to go back to class, but he put a hand on my shoulder.
“You are coming back right? We need you at the station,” France was almost begging. His voice sounded so innocent I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. For the first time in a while I started thinking about my future. Lately it had all been about the incident and I had just been thinking about the past events. Now I had to look forward. It was a part of putting this whole thing behind me. I stared into the air in front of me for a while. Then I answered as quickly as I could, without even thinking it through.
“I’m coming back. Just sign me up for a shift as soon as we get the place up and running again. Just not the graveyard shift.” I immediately regretted it. I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to work at France’s anymore. The events of that night were burned into my memory. I didn’t know if I ever could look at it the same way.
“Thanks for the talk.” France usually didn’t thank for anything. I tried to swallow to get the lump away from my throat.
“No problem. If you ever need anything, I’ll be there for you,” I shook his hand. France had tears in his eyes. It was the first time I saw him like this, the first time he looked vulnerable. I didn’t like this new France. France was supposed to be a sleazebag and a weirdo. I didn’t recognise him as this heartfelt individual.
My scooter was parked in the middle of the parking lot. I didn’t want to walk there alone. Especially after the weird footstep noises the last time I was here. I didn’t want to feel like I was being followed. It was probably just paranoia from the trauma of the incident.
I found Beatrice in the hallway. She had a car; I remembered the shabby pick-up. I didn’t particularly like her or enjoy her company, but I didn’t want to be alone in the big parking lot. Plus she used to be Em's friend, so I guessed that meant she was my friend. Beatrice was so skinny and pale. She was always sickly. I didn’t know anyone that could catch a cold like Beatrice could. She was snuffling as I met her in the hallway. Her locker was full of stickers from different TV programmes for children. She was standing in front of it with music on her ears. She loved Japanese animation, comic books, video games and the Internet. She was honestly one of my weirdest friends.
I poked her shoulder as I came up to her. She jumped out of fright.
“Sorry,” I said, trying to hold the laughter back. She tore of her headphones and looked at me with a look of confusion.
“Oni?” The music filled the hallway. It was Eminem. I was surprised that an innocent soul like her could listen to that music. I didn’t have a problem with Eminem, or rap music. I had even made some pretty sick raps in my life. It was just weird that she chose to listen to that kind of music.
“I thought you were dead,” she choked out. It was my turn to be confused.
“I thought you were killed at the petrol station…”
“What?” I repeated, immediately regretting going up to her.
“Thank God! I seriously thought you were dead,” she came charging towards me and hugged me tight. I couldn’t breathe.
“Why did you think I was dead?” I asked as she let me go.
“You were gone. I couldn’t find you at school.”456Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3QdtJrwufP
“You went looking for me?” I didn’t know whether to feel touched or creeped out.
“I looked for you as soon as I heard of the… incident, is that what you call it?”
“I’m honoured,” I lied. The awkward silence spread throughout the hallway. I was pretty sure the other students could feel it as well. “Are you done? I would like to walk you to your car.” She lit up like a damn torch as soon as I uttered the words. I sent her a restrained smile.
We walked. She made sure to do all the talking. I didn’t even get to say a single thing. Not that I minded, I would rather be quiet. She was telling me about this new game she had played. I didn’t even catch the name of the game. I was sure she would be a good match with Derrick, if he only were a little older.
As we arrived at the parking place she said something strange.
“Did you know the man in the hallway?” she asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“The man that kept staring at you. Did you know him? It looked like he was hiding or something.” I went cold.
“Do you see him now?” I asked in a low voice. She looked around, not trying to be discreet at all.
“No, I don’t see him.” I exhaled slowly. It wasn’t just me being paranoid. Others had started to notice as well. I didn’t know if I was relived or scared to death.
I rode off to the police station. I needed to ask Scott if they had had any development in the case. The light rain made my gloves wet. I started freezing and I hoped that they had a spare cup of coffee at the police station.
As I parked the scooter, I saw Chris exiting the building. He sat down in his Toyota and drove off. I couldn’t read his face, but he didn’t look angry. Note to myself: I should talk to him sometime today.
I had never seen that many police officers in one place. There were officers absolutely everywhere. The spare cup of coffee was a no-go. Scott sat on the phone in his cubicle. His right leg nervously shook. Derrick was sitting by his side, playing a game on his phone. He looked up as I closed in on him. Then he got up and greeted me.
“How was school?” he asked and hugged me.
“Exhausting,” I answered.
“Ah, the arduous school life,” he said and smiled.
“You and your words.” I sat down next to Scott and waited. He looked at me and gave me a stiff smile. Then he continued his conversation.
“Yes, we have a computer forensic analyst at the station,” he said into the phone.
“You know, I once read that DNA testing usually took six months,” Derrick suddenly said. I laughed quietly. There was no way it could take that long under usual circumstances.
“Stop joking around, Derrick,” I said. He shrugged.
Scott hung up and looked at us. He had his hands folded over his lap.
“That was one of my superiors,” he explained. “He decided to go on holiday right before one of the biggest events in the city’s history.”
“What’s happened since I last spoke to you?” I completely ignored the “good night”-text, and hoped he would do the same.
“We got a computer analyst down here. The camera and the computer equipment are some sort of live-streaming gear,” he told us and started moving towards one of the back rooms. I followed him to the room.
Inside the room there was a middle aged man and a younger fellow sitting in front of the computer from Sundrive Avenue. They were faced with a blue screen full of white text. As I looked at it, I understood nothing. It looked like a bunch of codes. A language I didn’t understand.
“Have you figured it out?” Scott asked them. They looked up. The older man looked like a typical nerd. He had big round glasses on his sharp nose. His hair had started falling off, but he had fixed it with a comb-over hairstyle. He was also on the heavy side, which didn’t help his appearance.
The other man was handsome. He too was a little heavy, but his facial features made up for it. He was dark skinned with striking chocolate-brown eyes.
“We haven’t found out where it’s streaming yet. It’s encrypted and I’m afraid breaking into it will delete all the data. This computer is built like a suicide bomber,” the handsome one said.
“The clock is ticking. I called you down here ‘cause you said you were the best.”456Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8f4KwjTaCT
“We are,” said the ugly one. “But this computer is a fucking puzzle.”456Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡz0dcE5dtu2
“Watch your mouth, Herbert,” Derrick singsang.
“Who is this beautiful young woman,” the ugly one… Herbert… asked. He gave me the creeps.
“Herbert, Jason, this is Onila.” They shook my hand and asked what my relevance to the case was. I told them I was a witness and that I helped Scott with the investigation. I probably shouldn’t have told them, but I don’t think Scott minded. They were two nerds, who were they going to tell?
Scott then guided me out of the room. He stopped abruptly as we came out of the room. The oldest officer I had ever seen was stood in front of the door. His face was one big wrinkle, and his eyes were so sunken in that I could barely see them. I quickly understood that this meant trouble.
“What is the witness doing here?” The superior officer asked. Scott froze where he stood. He opened and closes his mouth.
“I’m here as well,” Derrick interrupted.
“I know you’re here, but what is she doing here? Don’t you think I’ve seen you sneaking around with her?” He sounded like he was about to explode.
“I haven’t been sneaking around with her,” Scott lied.
“Don’t lie to me, boy. Know your place. Just because you fancy this girl doesn’t mean you can involve her in your investigation.” I blushed. “If I see her here again, you’re off the case!”
I was shocked. This was my fault. I shouldn’t have come to the station. I felt nothing but regret. I had gotten him into trouble. This was his job, his way to make a living, and I was screwing that up.
Scott and Derrick followed me out of the station. Some officers were standing outside smoking. I was surprised when Scott hugged me, especially since there were so many officers here. He pressed himself as close into me as he could.
“We need to go to the other crime scene,” he whispered into my ear as he hugged me. Then he quickly pulled back and smiled.
“Bye, Onila.” I liked the way he said my name. He said it with such a compassionate tone. A tone you wouldn't expect from a stern man like Scott.
As I got home I was faced with another freezing apartment. I went to look at the window. I got a shiver down my spine as I saw that it was wide open. I looked out of it, but couldn’t see anything. It was one meter to the ground from this window. People could easily sneak in and out through it.
I locked it with both bolts and prayed that no one would open it. I was going to replace this window if this kept happening.ns 22.214.171.124da2