Chapter 17: Reassessment
Two hours had passed since the first chapter in the trial against Larry Burke had subsided. Coretta was feeling good about herself as she sat down on the edge of her twin-sized bed, and flipped through the channels in hopes that something of her victory had managed to come through the airways. Specifically, she was searching for footage of Doug Danson.
Burke was resting on his bed across from Coretta. He was trying to remind himself why he sided with Coretta. He kept thinking of his wife and two daughters. They were as good as dead if Mr. Boddy did not get what he wanted. Sleep wasn't coming easy for him, and it wasn’t going to get any easier as time went on.
Two consecutive light knocks came at the door. Both of them knew who it would be. Reluctantly, Coretta stood up and answered the door to let Meredith inside. “That Miles Westin kid sure is smart,” she pointed out first. Coretta had a displeased look on her face. Why would she start off with a compliment of the enemy? “Anyways, Miss Scarlet reported to Mr. Boddy about the trial, and he's very pleased with the results, specifically your refusal to answer the question. Nicely done, Green.”
“Is there a reason you're here?” Coretta chided. “If not, I'd be more than happy to escort you out. We have a lovely front door, or a window if you prefer.”
“I'm sorry if I'm being intrusive, but I have orders. Mr. Boddy relayed to Colonel Mustard that the investigation team has learned about his existence and location. Mustard is a bit worried at this point, so I was asked to wait here until Mustard replied to Boddy.”
“How long is this going to take?”
“Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Who knows?”
“I'm not waiting for that,” Coretta impulsively revealed. “I'm going down to the bar and get a drink. If she's still here when I get back, she going out the window.” Coretta put her hat back on and left out the front door of the room.
“She's kidding, right?”
Meredith looked at Larry. Larry looked at Meredith. That's all they really could do. There was nothing to talk about that wouldn't have erupted in some kind of argument. The silence continued to linger on for quite some time, as both of them simply just took to the silence.
“This is awkward,” Larry finally said.
“Sorry,” she replied.
“That makes it worse.”
“Sorry,” she instinctually repeated.
Larry moved away from Meredith and her constant apologies. She seemed disappointed in herself as she sat down at the edge of the bed and flipped the television back on. Only a second later, there came a knock at the door. Larry motioned to answer, but Meredith stood up quicker and headed for the door before he could reach it.
She wore a brilliant smile on her face as she approached the door. Larry simply went back to watching the television. Immediately after she opened the door, Meredith found herself facing down the barrel of a gun. “Open the door slowly,” Michael Ross ordered. She continued to open the door to see Miles and Gary were standing behind him.
As soon as the door was fully open, Michael dove in to grab her in a chokehold. Meredith stood about an inch taller than Ross, so the grab was not seamless. Larry Burke jumped up in anticipation as he eyes the teenagers holding Meredith hostage. “You really don't want to do that,” Larry suggested with a derisive tone in his voice. “You don't want this to be brought up in the next session.”
“Oh really?” Miles shot back. “Does she have an alibi?” Miles turned to her before he continued. “Wow. You look like you just jumped out of a Richard Dawson-era episode of Family Feud. Before you put a smile on your face Peacock, that was not a compliment.” Back to Larry. “I'm going to ask you one more time. Do you recognize the man in that photo?”
“You are not getting anything from me,” he insisted again. “I have my reasons. Leave now before White gets back.”
“I don't think so,” Miles explained. “I didn't expect this good fortune, but now we have leverage. Peacock is coming with us.”
“That’s enough,” Larry said as he began to march towards the group. Michael continued to hold his ground with Meredith as Miles stood in the back trying to formulate a plan. Gary moved on instinct. He jumped in between Larry and Meredith and launched a straight punch directly at Larry Burke's face. The hit was strong and on point. Larry Burke hit the ground unconscious.
“Way to go, Gary!” Miles applauded.
Gary was still facing forward, and hadn't said a word. Miles walked over to see him with a look frozen on his face peering down the bloodied fist. Suddenly, Gary unfroze. “Oh my God! That hurt so damn much! You don't even know! He just broke my hand with his face!” Miles grabbed him before he could say anything else. The group needed to get out of the building before anyone else noticed their existence.
That night, the Westin house had much to say, but it was restraining itself until everyone had arrived. Miles and his group were the first to arrive home. Chuck had to stop and chat with Doug before returning to Hyde's Park, which irritated Jamie. Drake was there, since he had to bandage Gary's broken hand. Ashley was there as well, although she had no reason to be. Meredith was sitting on the couch, trying to keep a close eye on her captors. She was weary of everything they did, even it if was as simple as Michael Ross getting a drink of water, or Gary Derceto trying to get a drink of water, but spilling most of it on the counter. He didn't clean it.
“I can't believe you kidnapped a CATS member,” Ashley said.
“I can't believe we didn't do this sooner,” Chuck jumped into the conversation. “Shouldn't you go home already?”
“My mom won't be home until tomorrow. I don't think I have a set curfew right now.” Ashley replied. Meredith remained on edge as they people around talked about her, but not directly to her. Finally, Miles broke her suspense.
“Your name is Meredith, correct?” She seemed too jostled to answer the question. “Steven Alley already told us everything he knows, so it would be in your best interest to go along with the simple answers. I'll ask it again. Your name is Meredith, right?” She nodded. Jamie brought her a glass of water to calm her nerves. “Do you recognize the man in the picture?” Miles took out the picture, and handed it to her.
She sighed heavily as she observed the picture. She seemed more intent on the background than the actual man in the picture. “Yeah, but I'm not supposed to tell you. That would be against everything CATS has worked towards. I'm sorry, but I can't tell you. How'd you get a picture of him in Egypt, anyways?”
“This was taken in Egypt?” Chuck questioned. She nodded. “You didn't know? The signs in the back are written in Arabic. This one right here specifically says Cairo.”
“Donna was never in Vienna,” Chuck realized. “That lying bitch went to Cairo after I spoke with her. I bet she’s there now with Mustard, too. From now one, we treat Donna Murphy as an enemy!
“Awesome!” Gary yelled from the kitchen. “That means I get her room, right?”
Everyone ignored him. “We can't just wait for her,” Drake correctly pointed out. He slid over to the computer and logged on to the Internet before he continued. Jamie loomed over his shoulder as he spoke. “Remember, Donna Murphy is just one of the many pawns in Colonel Mustard's game. Defeating a pawn is not that big of an accomplishment in the game of chess, especially if we wait for that pawn to get into our territory. I think we need to get on his turf.” He paused and began to click on the mouse a few times. “We're in luck. There are still four seat left on a flight to Cairo in two days. Who's going?”
“I am,” Chuck insisted. “Donna is answering to me.”
“Peacock over here has to go as well,” Miles said. “She's still valuable as leverage, even if she won't talk. Oh, and she wouldn't even think about doing something as stupid as revealing that she's been kidnapped, because she still does not have an alibi. Her very existence jeopardizes the CATS trial. It's probably best for her to remain low-key.”
“Jamie and I are staying,” Drake explained. “We're going to see what we can do about Talsteed. Gary stays, too. He might be helpful. Plus, a broken hand might seem suspicious to airport security. It might be best if he kept that hidden for a while. That pretty much leaves Miles, Allison, and Ross to fill the remaining two seats.”
“And me?” Ashley quipped. “Never mind. I wouldn't even do anything.”
“Ross should go,” Miles announced. The announcement was a surprise to everyone in the room. “I will talk to Allison tomorrow at school about which one of us should take the final seat. Meanwhile, we'll take turns watching Peacock in groups of two until tomorrow morning. Sound good to everyone? Okay.”
The following morning, Allison Dreary was nowhere to be found. Miles tagged along with Ashley Brock in her Suburban to school. Miles would have to wait for his audience with Allison, who was entering Principal Ling's office, a good half an hour before school even opened.
Mary was at her desk as usual. Unusually, she wasn't doing paperwork. She was in an argument with Aaron James. “I just spoke to your V.P.,” Aaron said. Mary was trying to cut him off, but he just kept repeating to same thing over and over again. Each time he tried to put emphasis on a different word in hopes of it cutting her off efficiently. First, he emphasized, “just”. Then, he did the same for “you”. Then, he did it for “I”. (This emphasis was probably the worst and least efficient.). Finally, he stressed “V.P.” It seemed the Mary was relenting. “Tony Cortez says that he knew about the Polar Shift and its origins.”
After taking off her glasses to rub her eyes, Mary Ling responded. “You're exaggerating a bit. Tony Cortez's mother owns a nail salon at which Steven Alley visited frequently. He is the man who knows the people to started this.”
“But you knew about it,” Aaron accused. “You knew about it ever since that day I walked in you, Cortez, Dreary, and Westin talking about it. That's why you sent me out. You didn't want me to know about it.”
“For you own protection, Aaron,” Mary continued to insist. “I am your friend. I have been for over twenty years now. You leave early, you come in late, you punish your students randomly, and I let that slide because I know how good of a teacher you are, and I know that you have helped students reach their fullest potentials in a way that most teachers can only dream of. However, that does not mean that I must share everything with you.”
“That is the Polar Shift we're talking about here!” he yelled back at her. “You can't just keep something like that a secret and expect me to be okay with it. And don't give me that bull about protecting me. Aaron James can protect himself.”
It was at this point that they both noticed Allison was in the room. Aaron rolled his eyes, and stormed out of the room. “Please make this important,” Mary ordered with a slight growl. “As you have just witnesses, the Polar Shift investigation has brought me nothing but trouble and strife.”
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news Principal Ling,” she began, “but I'm going to need to hand you a little bit more strife. The trial up in Providence isn't going in our favor, so I was hoping to get you to testify in favor of us. All you have to do is explain to the court that we're telling the truth. Feel free to extend the invitation to Tony. Haven't seen him around in a while.”
“I will extend the invitation to Mr. Cortez as you requested, but I would personally prefer to remain as far away from this investigation as possible. Center stage at the trial of the century does not sound promising to me.”
Miles entered and walked over to Allison. “Finally I found you. You didn't pick me up. I had to ride with Ashley. I need to talk to you about the investigation.”
“Oh yeah!” she said back, excited. “I got that text from Gary that you got Peacock!”
“Why is it always my office!” Mary yelled in anguish before slamming her head on her desk and covering her head in an attempt to ignore it without having to leave. The attempt only worked moderately. Meanwhile, Allison showed Miles the text message. He read: “'We have peacock in our possession. My bad.' My bad about what?”
“This is actually his second message. He tried to abbreviate the first time, so he left off the first syllable in peacock.”
“Enough said. Anyways, we're treating Donna Murphy as an enemy now, so we need to catch her and Colonel Mustard in Egypt tomorrow before they make they're next move. Chuck, Peacock, and Michael Ross are going, so either you or I have to take the final spot.”
“You go,” she offered. “The trial is going downhill. We need more people to testify, or else Mrs. White will win. I have much to do before the court gets back in session.”
“I really don't want to go,” he admitted. “Hyde's Park is my home. Every time I leave it—Providence, for example—something always goes wrong. Imagine what could happen if I go to Egypt.”
“You're being paranoid. Lots of good things have happened outside of Hyde's Park. You captured Peacock, didn’t you? Steven Alley, too. You really shouldn't let your first experience outside of the town bother you. Go to Egypt. I'll handle things on this side of the ocean.”
Larry Burke was fully awake, but his nose was completely dead. He sat on the edge of the bed as Mrs. White sat on a chair examining the damage Gary left on him that morning. “Ow!” he yelled as she continued to move the nose around. The more she prodded, to louder his screams would get.
“Yep,” she said. “It's broken.”
“I could've told you that!” he shot back. “Did Mr. Boddy call back yet?”
“He's putting Mustard on alert,” she explained. “Personally, I think he should hightail it back to the states, but he seems dead-set against it, and I don't think Peacock knows how to keep her yapper shut for more than a few minutes. As long as Doug Danson is still watching them, we can't send Scarlet to retrieve her. You still think it was a good idea to trust the Westins?”
“They only did what they thought they had to do,” he defended. “Can't say my nose agrees with his actions, though.” Larry Burke once again winced in pain as Coretta moved it back into place.
“Come on,” she ordered as she pulled him off the bed. “We're going to use this to our advantage.”
Drake and Jamie arrived at the hospital. Parking in the back parking lot in hopes of avoiding detection, the two stepped out and eyes the rear emergency entrance. Robert Talsteed couldn't possibly monitor all of the exits and entrances, or so the two figured.
“I don't know why Steven Alley hasn't gone home yet,” Jamie mused as she toyed with the tracer in her hands, “but it sure is working wonderful for us. Come on. You run point with me. I'll get this up and into the coma guy. You watch my back. Okay, Drake?”
“This seems a tad excessive,” Drake replied. “Sneaking into a place full of high-strung nurses and underpaid interns wielding hypodermic needles? It just doesn't seem all that exciting to me. Besides, I think we could be just as effective if we follow the transport ambulance at a safe distance. What do you think?”
“I think that the transport driver is obviously going to be Miss Scarlet in disguise. How do you think she'll feel about us driving at a safe distance?” As expected, Drake had no answer. He simply stood in her presence with his mouth slightly open as if he was going to say something. He was never going to say anything, however. Jamie gave off a knowing smirk and pulled him by the arm. He was resistant, but he followed along regardless.
The duo passed the regular employees without a hitch. Some didn't recognize them. Some did not know that they were on Talsteed's ban list. A handful was blissfully unaware that they were even fired. In any case, they made it up to the third floor without any interruption. Jamie led the way into the coma guys' room. His hair had grown down to his shoulders and his face continued to grow facial hair at an unbelievable rate.
“I really think I could put the tracer in his beard and no one would notice,” Jamie told herself, only half-jokingly. Drake didn't see the humor. He was too busy standing guard at the hospital room door, looking at no one. The hallway was completely empty. “I can't put it in his clothes. They might change it before he's transferred. Do you think he can swallow it?”
“Maybe with soy sauce,” Drake replied, only half-listening.
“Not a bad idea, actually,” she replied as she continued to walk around the lifeless man in hopes of finding a better answer. “Got it!” she said as she stepped closer. “Would it be disgusting if I put the tracer in his nose? It'll fit nicely.”
“Maybe later,” was his response. Since he clearly wasn't listening or paying attention, Jamie shrugged and stuffed the miniature tracer up the comatose man's nostrils.
“Okay,” she said, wiping her finger on Drake's shoulder. He didn't think much on her actions. “We should probably leave before Talsteed spots us.”
“You should,” Talsteed said as he came up the hallway. “Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it will happen. I've already warned you once. I have a lobby full of employees and a handful of patients that can testify to that account. Now I am calling the proper authorities, and I mean the Providence Police Department.” Talsteed motioned with his fingers, and two security guards came up from behind him. They motioned to restrain the trespassers, but Jamie ducked under the simple-minded man's arms and made a run for the stairwell. Drake failed in his attempt to do the same and the second security guard managed to get a tight grip on his arm. Jamie only managed to glance back before entering the stairwell and making it through the lobby and out the front door.
Upstairs, Talsteed looked out the window to see the girl successfully returning to her car. He growled a bit under his breathe as she pulled out of the parking lot just as the security guard was making his way out the front doors. Talsteed turned back to his success: watching Drake aimlessly try to get out of the man's grasp.
“I've already warned you enough times,” he said as he tapped Drake derisively on the forehead. “Now you're going to jail. What happens to you then is of none of my concern.”
“Then your well-being is none of mine,” Drake shot back. Talsteed saw it as an empty threat, especially considering that Drake neglected to mention the vision he just had of Talsteed's death.
Jamie returned home that night and explained the situation to the others. Chuck made a call to Doug Danson, who promised to speak with Harrington in the morning. That was all that could be done in the situation. They simply needed to let Drake's release come through legally. There was really no way that Harrington would find Talsteed's actions legal in any case.
The next morning was the most important. Hardly anyone slept a wink. Meredith, after not having slept the previous night, managed to get a good night sleep in Chuck's old room. Miles figured it would be harder for her to escape from a second story room with one window, one door, and two people watching her than in the living room with multiple access points, so Gary had to contend with the couch for one more night.
“Don’t forget your toothbrush,” Gary said with a smile as the flight team made their final preparations before heading to the airport. Meredith's request for a shower was immediately denied. Chuck waited impatiently in the driver's seat for Miles to come down with the bags. One suitcase consisted of clothing for both Miles and Chuck. Ashley insisted they take the camera, and Michael Ross offered to operate it while oversees. He sat in the backseat with Meredith.
Jamie, still worried about Drake, stood at the doorway with Ashley and Gary to wave them goodbye and good luck. The hour-long drive was arduous for almost everyone. The drive was ridden in almost complete silence. Meredith tried to spark up a conversation on body lotion, but no one was interested.
Michael kept a close arm tight around Meredith's arm as they came out of the parking lot and rode the elevator to the gates. They got their tickets at the gate, and proceeded through the to the shuttles that would take them to the terminal. Miles read on the ticket that her full name was Meredith Unity Doherty. Funny.
The four took their seats. Miles sat by the window on the left side with Meredith at his side with Michael and Chuck sitting across the plane. The pilot came on with his preflight announcement, and the flight attendant gave the mandatory pre-flight instructions. Meredith hadn't said a word throughout, but the words she was trying to create finally came out as the plane began to move. “Why do you care so much?”
“I don't,” Miles replied. “Now relax and watch the movie. Finding Nemo.”