Chapter 13: Offer
It had been at least a week since the investigation group had gone to Providence. Larry Burke was released on bail and he was somewhere with Mrs. White. Where they were exactly was anyone's guess, but Larry made daily calls to Judge Harrington to assure him that he was still in town. That didn't appease Miles in any way, as he wanted to know what Mr. Green and Mrs. White were talking about behind closed doors.
Hyde's Park High School had a lively flavor to it that hadn't been seen since the days before the Polar Shift. The teachers suddenly began to care about their jobs and began to teach what they were supposed to teach. Even Aaron James was ecstatic since Mary Ling had hired a replacement for Larry Burke, which meant Mr. James could leave early like he used to.
Miles wasn't too impressed by that. He was more impressed that Allison Dreary was actually coming to school on a regular basis. Now that the world knew that an investigation was occurring, and CATS was the prime suspect, people were acting as if the Polar Shift never happened. Routines were being brought back. Miles felt it a bit to premature, but it was nice to have the old world back.
The same old sadistic Aaron James was still teaching English however. “I am pleasantly surprised,” he told his class. “I'm seeing kids here that I haven't seen since before the shift. At this rate, I think Matthews could reopen some of the other schools in the state. Honestly, I'm going to ask Mary to tell him that. Hyde's Park High School can't handle all these kids. I know I can't.”
Aaron James continued his mumblings for the rest of class. He didn't realize he forgot to teach until five seconds before the bell. Miles and Allison ate lunch in the lunchroom as usual. Unusually, they noticed Ashley was sitting with Michael Ross. They paid it no mind. They just went through the school day as normal as they possibly could.
Allison slid into the driver's seat just as her cell phone began to ring. She tossed it to Miles for him to answer as she never drove and spoke on the phone at the same time. “It's Gary's number,” he observed before answering. “What do you want, Gary?”
“It's not Gary,” Steven Alley's voice replied. “I'm kind of worried about him though. Ever since he came back from Providence, he's been spending the night here at the station. I thought he lived at home with his parents?”
“He does,” Miles replied. “Is he there with you now?”
“No. He said he was going home.”
“We'll figure this out,” Miles assured Steven before hanging up. “Make a course for the Derceto residence. We have a new little mystery to figure out.”
Back at the Westin house, Jamie was trying to enjoy her first day off from work in days. Chuck was on the phone nonstop with Doug Danson. They talked about everything from the Polar Shift investigation, Mrs. White and Mr. Green, and Donna Murphy’s coincidental disappearance. They might as well be dating each other, which worked out well for Jamie since she was still thinking about the kiss Drake gave her before leaving for Providence.
Jamie noticed that Chuck was still walking back and forth on the phone. “Great. How long will it take you to get here? Thirty minutes? Great. See ya.”
“Thirty minutes?” Jamie questioned. “I thought Doug Danson lived in Providence. That's at least an hour drive.”
“That wasn't Doug,” Chuck corrected. “I was talking with that doctor from the hospital. I met him in Providence. He said he recognized the lawyer from somewhere, but he can't put his finger on it. I invited him over so we could try to figure it out together.”
“Drake's coming here!?” Jamie asked. “I'm going to be here between you and Drake?”
“Yeah. Is that a problem?”
“No! Why would that be a problem? Of course it's not a problem! It's not like there's some kind of underlying drama and tension between the three of us! It's perfectly find for Chuck Westin, Jamie Reese, and Drake Sarkassian to be in the same room. Perfectly fine!” Jamie plastered a forced smile on her face, which Chuck seemed to believe. She tore it down as soon as he turned his back, and she took that time to escape to her room for some peace and solitude for at least ten minutes.
On the other side of town, Allison and Miles arrived at the Derceto residence. Miles hadn't been here since he and Gary were forced to do a group project together in freshmen year. The route to his house was still unfortunately locked in his head, but it proved helpful in this case. There was only one car in the driveway: a red Ford pickup truck. Allison took the lead and knocked on the door.
A woman in her late forties wearing a white blouse and a pair of green shorts answered the door. Her brown hair color matched Gary's hair color exactly. “Miles Westin, right?” she recognized. “I haven't seen you around here in a long time. I heard on the news that you're investigating the Polar Shift. Some guy named Larry Burke is responsible. I hope he rots in Hell.”
“I guarantee it, Mrs. Derceto,” Miles replied. “Is Gary home?”
“He's not here,” she replied, “but even if he were, I wouldn't say he's home. He moved out a few days ago. He came back and got the rest of his stuff today.”
“Yes. If you see him, tell him that his parents wish him luck on his own.”
“We'll tell him,” Miles assured her.
Mrs. Derceto closed the door on the teens. The two began to walk back to the car as Allison questioned. “She's lying?”
“She's lying,” Miles answered. “Come on. We have to find Gary.”
Tensions continued to mount not only in the quaint little town of Hyde' Park. Providence was having it's own share of tension. Mrs. White had been staying at the Hilton under yet another alias: Marge Moser. Larry Burke was with her, but he wasn't being cooperative. He had no reason to, since if Mrs. White won the trial, he'd be killed. Larry didn't consider the incentive in cooperating.
Mrs. White spent days in trying to build a defense, but Larry continuously knocked it down. Eventually, she grew tired and called Mr. Boddy for a possible incentive. He promised he would send something the next day, and that twenty-four hour window was ending.
Larry Burke was lying on the twin-sized bed somewhere between comfortable and relaxed. He couldn't really put an exact word on the feeling, but he knew what it wasn't. Coretta must have slept at some point, but Larry always seemed to fall asleep first and wake up second. Either that, or she didn't sleep. She didn't seem to be fatigued by it, as she was still pacing back and forth, in and out of the room that Larry was laying in. He tried to ignore her, but it wasn’t working.
Finally, a knock came at the door. Larry discarded all hopes to rest and jumped up to watch Coretta cautiously answer the door. Larry knew it would be CATS related, but he wished it was someone else...anyone else. “I'm really sorry if I woke either of you,” Meredith pointed out as she walked in.
Ms. Peacock was wearing yet another conservative red sweater that covered her arms and neck entirely. That coupled with her black gloves, pants, and sneakers covered almost every part of her body. She was dragging a suitcase with her that she was relieved to drop onto the bed where Larry was just resting. “Let me see if I got this right,” she began. “Mr. Green was trying to blow the whistle on our mission. I'm sorry Mr. Green, but that wasn’t very nice of you.”
“Get on with it,” Coretta ordered. “I don't like you anyways, so I'd appreciate it if you got on with it already.”
“Okay, so since Mr. Green wants Miles Westin to win, he has no reason to cooperate. That's where I come in. Mr. Boddy still wants you dead and Miss Scarlet—well, she just wants to kill someone. Mustard came up with a different idea, and I think it's better.” Coretta was dead tired of hearing Meredith's voice.
She didn't notice either of her coworker's disdain for her as she proceeded to open the briefcase. Inside was her trusty laptop computer coupled with a manila folder filled with about ten to fifteen sheets of paper. She removed the laptop and began to type swiftly. Meredith bragged about being about being able to type 300 words per minute, 45 words faster than the world record holder. If her seed hurt anyone’s feelings, it was the only thing she never apologized for. Soon enough, a new window came up on the screen.
Larry glanced over to see that it was a picture of him along with a lot of personal information. “If you cooperate, we'll change some of this information here. Mr. Boddy assures you that once the trial ends favorably, you can live a comfortable life away from CATS under a new identity. We'll even ensure your survival after the shift is completed.”
“Your wife and daughters will be protected as well,” Meredith continued. “If you don't cooperate, I'm sorry to say Miss Scarlet will quench her thirst for blood on them.” Larry was shocked into silence. “I need an answer,” Meredith ordered. “Hello? I'm sorry, but I need an answer.”
“Just get out of here, space case,” Coretta ordered. “I'll call Mr. Boddy with his response later. We only have about two days to prepare a defense.”
“I can help with that, too,” Meredith said. “I have to go meet someone. I'll call you tomorrow.” Meredith excused herself and left to room, leaving Coretta to watch the despondent Larry Burke sit in silence.
Miles and Allison were at the police station, but Steven Alley assured them that Gary hadn't been back since that morning. Now that Gary wasn't living at home anymore, his position as chief of police was his only source of release from constant boredom. The teens contemplated their next move as they walked down the station parking lot towards the car.
“Gary's a cop,” Allison mused. “Nothing more and nothing less. If we can’t find him, we have to orchestrate a situation where he finds us. How do you feel about speeding?”
“As long as you pay attention to the road unlike Ashley,” Miles warned.
The two entered the car and peeled out of the parking lot and hit sixty miles per hour after about ten seconds. Allison continued push the speed limit and tried not to slow down to much when taking the curves. Every so often, another car would pass by and honk, but Allison was too busy screaming as if she were on a roller coaster to notice. Miles was grinning ear to ear as well in excitement. They continued at the same pace for about five minutes until they finally found what they were looking for.
Allison turned onto Old Mockingbird Avenue just as Gary pulled out of his hiding spot and began to following in his squad car. Allison slowed down since it was evident Gary was too afraid to go over fifty. After another turn onto a larger road, Gary was adjacent to the car on Miles' side Gary rolled down his window and yelled. “I know that we're doing an investigation together, but that doesn’t give you the right to speed. I'm going to have to give you a ticket.”
“Forget that right now,” Miles ordered. “Steven Alley told us that you've been spending the night at the station for the last few days. Your mom said that you moved out. Is that true?”
“Is that what she told you?” Gary inquired back. “She must be telling everyone that. Well, I guess that's my fault. I kind of forgot to tell her I dropped out of school. She put two and two together when she saw the news cast on Larry Burke's arrest. It kind of hard to pretend you're still in school when you're on camera in Providence.”
“So you moved out?”
“She kicked me out,” Gary corrected.
“So you're living at the station?”
“If you can call it that. I'm kind of running out of food there.”
“Gary, if you need a place to stay, we have an extra room,” Miles offered.
Allison slammed on the brakes instinctively. “Hold on! Do you have any idea what you just offered? You just offered one of the most annoying kids in Hyde's Park and an all-around bother to live in the extra room in your house. How do you think Chuck and Jamie are going to feel about this?”
“After Chuck let Donna live in the room without consulting us, it would be a double standard if he opposed this.” Allison was clearly against the decision, but she had no choice in the matter. Miles' mind was made up.
Back at the Westin house, Chuck waited by the door for Drake Sarkassian to enter the house. Drake was smiling. Chuck was smiling. The only person that wasn’t smiling was Jamie Reese. On the left stood that man that she had been kissing on a regular basis for the passed year or so. On the right stood the man that she had known for no more than a month, but his small kiss on the cheek felt more powerful than all of Chuck's kisses combined. She needed them apart from each other as soon as possible.
“Drake,” she spoke up. “If we're both here, who's watching the coma guy?” Jamie was sure this revelation would send Drake running back to his post at the hospital.
“I thought about that,” Drake responded happily. “I didn't think I would be able to get away, but then out of the blue, one of the old doctors came back. He told me that he moved to Providence after the shift, but he's come back after watching the news cast about Larry Burke's arrest. On top of that, he says he's called two other doctors that moved away and they'll be back within the week. They don't need to know about the investigation. All they need to know is not let anyone see the coma guy they don't recognize. The hospital is in good hands.”
Jamie bit her lip and discreetly punched the back of the couch she was sitting on. Neither of the guys noticed it. Jamie tried again. “Chuck, shouldn't you be looking for Donna Murphy? You should be in Providence with Doug looking for her, right?”
“If Donna Murphy doesn't want to be found, she won't be,” he retorted. “Doug doesn't need me looming over his shoulder when he has a life to live as well. Donna will come back when she's ready.” Jamie lost both attempts and now Drake and Chuck were sitting on opposite ends of the kitchen table.
Drake was rubbing his temples in an attempt to clear his mind, per Chuck's request. Chuck was sitting calmly with his hands folded on the table. Jamie was watching everything with a close eye. Chuck stared it off. “Okay. We need to go back. We need to probe your mind as far back as possible. What's the earliest memory you can think of?”
Drake was still rubbing his temples as he gave his answers. “Okay. I'm four years old. I'm in the living room watching television with my older brother. No. Wait. I was watching something. Malcolm! Stop changing the channel. I was watching that! Mom! Malcolm's won’t let me watch my cartoons!”
“Good,” Chuck said. “This is good. Get it all out. I need you to say everything that comes to your mind.”
“This is just embarrassing,” Jamie interrupted. Her actions may have seemed humanitarian, but it was entirely selfish. If she didn’t jump in now, Chuck and Drake would be sitting there all day. Jamie couldn't take much more of it. “Memory is a fickle thing. You can't just pick a random memory and hope that Mrs. White will pop up. Drake remembers her face, but not her name. That means that he saw her a lot more than he spoke with her. It must have been fairly recently, too. Within the last couple of years. Drake, what have you done in the last couple of years?”
“I graduated high school seven years ago and then studied pre-med at the University of Illinois. Then I moved here to continue my education and got an internship at the hospital. Then, I came here.”
“That's apparently the abridged version,” Jamie quipped. “Okay, Mrs. White is unnamed in your memory. If she was unnamed in your past, it would have registered in your memory as odd if she was the only unnamed person in a group of people you knew well. She must have been among many people you frequently saw, but never spoke to. Can you think of anything like that?”
Drake thought for a few seconds before coming up with the answer. “College. I think she may have been a professor I once had. I don't remember her name because it was a lecture class with like five hundred other students. That bitch! I think she failed me, too!”
“There you go,” Jamie said. “Now one of you—I really don’t care which—can get out of my house.”
“Are you kidding?” Chuck retorted. “Drake spent seven years in college, so we have seven years of memory to filter through.” Jamie groaned in anguish before returning to the couch in an attempt to block out their conversation. It wasn't working.
Gary came home with Miles. Allison followed, if only to see how Chuck would react. Everyone knew she was saving his old bedroom if Donna Murphy were to return, but Miles was going to insist that room go to Gary. He was all too eager to take the available room.
It was fairly close to night when they arrived home. Drake had finally gone home, much to Jamie's relief. Chuck was sitting in the living room when the three teens came in. “Gary,” Chuck pointed out. “What brings you here?”
“Dinner, mostly,” he replied. “Is there anything left over?”
“He's kidding, right?”
“Not exactly,” Miles replied. “His mother kicked him out because he dropped out of high school and it looks like if we successfully prevent the Polar Shift, it would have been in vain. She was really nice about, though. That, of course, brings us back to here, where I offered the empty room to Gary.”
Chuck took a long hard look at Gary Derceto. He was feeling quite uncomfortable at the moment. “You do know that's Donna's room, right?”
“Donna's not here. She hasn't been anywhere near here in at least two weeks. I say we put this up to a vote. Raise your hand if you think we should save the room for Donna Murphy?” Chuck immediately raised his hand. He turned to Jamie expecting her to follow his lead, but she wasn't. “Now, who thinks that Gary should have the room in her absence?” Gary was the first to raise his hand, followed close by Miles and Jamie. Allison figured that since she didn't live there, she didn't have the right to participate in the vote. “Then it's settled,” Miles said. “Gary gets the room.”
“What happens if Donna comes back and Gary is still living here?”
“Tell you what,” Gary offered. “If she comes back, I'll move onto the couch. Donna can have the room. Deal?”
Reluctantly, Chuck accepted the deal. Jamie was the first to leave the room and head off for bed. Gary ran back to his car to lug all of his things upstairs and into his new bedroom. Allison helped him before heading for home herself. Eventually, everyone in the house was tucked into their beds and was getting a good night's sleep.
Their relaxation came to an abrupt halt when a crash was heard downstairs. Miles was the first one out of his bed, rubbing his eyes and trying to adjust his vision to the night. Chuck came out of the master bedroom equipped with a baseball bat. Miles didn't deem a weapon necessary, but Chuck's decision paled in comparison to Gary, who came out of his room with two guns in hands. He ran out, not realizing the wall was only a few feet in front of him. Miles picked Gary up off the floor and took the guns out of his hands.
“These things aren't even loaded,” Miles whispered to him.
“I couldn't find the ammo!” Gary whispered back in defense.
“Are you telling me the entire time you've been a cop, you've never actually carried a loaded weapon?”
“You said it, not me.” Chuck groaned and decided to head down the stairs without them. Miles and Gary followed as soon as Miles handed Gary the guns back. They were useless anyways. Chuck tiptoed down the stairs and followed the path to the kitchen, where he flicked the light on the reveal the intruder. “Donna! You're back!”
“Oh come on!” Gary complained. “I only had that room for two hours!”
“I thought I'd come in through the window once more, for old times sake,” she answered. This Donna Murphy seemed different than the previous. She was actually smiling, and it didn’t seem forced. She genuinely seemed happy for some unknown reason. Whatever she did during her time off, it was clearly beneficial. “Before you ask, I couldn't find Andrea Westin. I just missed her in Vienna. However, she took another train back down to Italy where she's going to take a ship to Northern Africa. My latest intel says she's headed for Egypt.”
“Same old Donna,” Chuck said.
“Old happier,” she added.