Chapter 5: History
Tuesday, unlike most Tuesdays, was feeling heavy and important. Miles meet most of his new teachers the day before. But with the amount of confusion, most of them never got more than two words in edgewise. Only Mr. James seemed comfortable in his position and if he was comfortable, Miles wasn't.
“By the way,” Miles called to his brother before exiting the door, “did that private investigator ever show up?”
“Yeah. Yesterday, while you were at school.”
“What's his name?”
“Her,” Chuck corrected, “and her name is—crap! I forgot to ask her name!”
“Ready for school?” Allison asked sarcastically as Miles jumped in the passenger seat.
“I know. This is witty banter. We do this every morning. Let's just say I'm not in the witty banter mood. You told me on the phone last night that you have big news pertaining to the coma guy and your little investigation.”
“Big news is right,” she replied as she pulled out of the driveway. “Apparently, I was right. It must be fate. Dr. Sarkassian found his sister's number in the wallet and she confirmed my suspicions. The coma guy knew the polar shift was coming and the way to reverse it locked in his head. If we want to stop it, we have to start his investigation over from scratch. Shouldn't be hard. We have the dream team, of course.”
“And by dream team, of course you mean yourself and probably your pet hamster. Scratch that. He probably has plans to run around in a wheel all day.”
“Don't you want to save the world?”
“And what? Get a medal? Mr. James will still be my teacher. Gary will still loom over me. I'll always stand in Chuck's shadow as intellectually inferior. I'll never get Ashley Brock. Maybe this shift isn't such a bad thing.”
“You're going to help me whether you like it or not.”
The two arrived at school where the population was back to the amount it was before the shift. More people must have dropped out and now school could be conducted in a much more calm manner, like it had before the shift. “Five minutes,” Miles observed. “You missed first period yesterday, Allison. Mrs. Levy is quite an interesting teacher.”
The teens' new physics teacher, Mrs. Levy, was an odd character. A transfer from Chase High School just outside of Providence, Mrs. Levy had a habit of dropping the “t” from some words and had zero tolerance for side chatter. The day continued with pain after pain from hard-ass teachers that made Mr. James seem like a wet noodle.
“Remind me again why I haven't dropped out yet?” Allison asked.
“High school drama is interesting to you. Plus, after lunch, our last class is the most interesting of the day. History. Allison was amongst the majority who believed that was is past is past and has no relevance for the future and with a world that doesn't have much of a future, history class made even less sense. How was this going to be any more interesting?
The teacher at the desk was young, no older than twenty-five, perhaps. His hear was short and he wore a leisure suit as he watched the students shuffle in. “His name is Larry,” Miles whispered to Allison with a chuckle.
“Larry,” he repeated. “He's wearing a leisure suit and his name is Larry.” Allison still remained speechless. “You don't get it. Never mind, then. If you're not going to appreciate my comedy, then you can just leave.”
“Saving the world is so much more important than some leisure suit Larry. I'm leaving.”
“You remind me of someone,” the teacher at the desk called to Allison. “I just can't quite put my finger on it. Ptolemy. That's it. You think you know what's best for the world, don't you? Ptolemy thought so. He wanted to get on Julius Caesar’s good side, so he had Pompey the Greta assassinated. They were political enemies, so it only made sense to the man. Ptolemy presented Caesar with his severed head in a basket and, much to Ptolemy's surprise, Caesar got angry. So angry in fact that he had Ptolemy removed from power and Cleopatra brought back from exile to take his place. History does not repeat, but it does rhyme. Are you sure you want to get yourself entangled with something beyond your control, or would you rather sit down and learn history?”
“Mr. Burke. I don't know how Miles found out my first name.”
“History is dead. That way we call it history. I'm looking towards the future. I have an investigation to get to.”
Back at the Westin household, Jamie and Chuck were beginning to realize the gravity of their situation without Andrea Westin here to handle it. The bills were beginning to make themselves noticeable and Jamie had already made plans to meet with a wedding planner. There was no way they were going to be able to pay for both.
“Wedding or bills?” Chuck asked hypothetically.
“It was hypothetical and you still got it wrong. We can't choose.”
“We have no choice but to choose.”
Chuck cell phone rang. Standing up, he answered to Allison on the other end. “Carmen Cortez. Next time you see that private investigator looking for your mom, could you ask her to find out who she is for me?”
“I don't even know her name,” Chuck insisted. “I'm not exactly in a position to make friendly requests. We're lucky she's doing this pro bono.”
“Everytime I come into the room, Chuck Westin always seems to be either insulting me or others in my profession collectively.” The private investigator was back. “You're making it really hard to continue doing this as a favor to the Westin family.”
“You say that like you owe us or something.”
“My name is Donna Murphy. I left a business card on the kitchen counter. I suppose you never noticed it. You're speaking to someone on the phone that requires my services. Who?”
“It'll cost her.”
“It's important to my brother Miles, too. I would assume.”
“If it's for a Westin.”
“They're looking for a woman named Carmen Cortez.”
“You just asked me to find a woman with the second most common Hispanic female first name couple with the fourth most common Hispanic surname. I'll need more information.”
Allison relayed everything she knew about Carmen to Chuck, who relayed it to Donna. “She's here on a worker's visa and she might have something to do with the Polar Shift.”
“No one had anything to do with the Polar Shift. It was an act of God.”
“Allison and Miles seem convinced, by the words of some coma guy, that God had some assistance.”
“Not counting the substantial connection to the Polar Shift, the fact that she is here on a worker's visa should narrow down the search, especially if you' prefer for me to narrow my search only to Maryland.”
“Thank you. Oh, and did you find my mother?”
“Not yet. Your mother hops around. She's finding it hard to stay in one country for longer than a few days. I spoke to the bartender. She was there. She left. Said she was going to where the Rhine meets the Thames.”
“Mrs. Westin is mistaken,” Jamie finally rejoined the conversation. “Both rivers are in Europe, but I don't believe they meet.”
“Your fiancée is correct,” Donna added. “I have a plane to France leaving in a few hours. With you mother's lack on knowledge in geography, she might not even be in Europe. I'll be back in a few days.”
“One more question. Wedding or bills?”
“Wedding. Most repo men have quit their job and you have enough money to pay the mortgage for at least half of the year. You can stay in the house while they force evection on you until the final days. The other utilities are running for free, but they don't tell you that.” Jamie had a wide grin on her face as Donna bid the two farewells. Chuck sighed.
The coma guy's sister hadn't left her brother hospital room since she had arrived a few days earlier. Drake, sympathetic to her plight, took it upon himself to bring her meals. She had been there for four days now. There was still a crucial part of acting as the Dean of Medicine that he didn't want to deal with and it was personifying itself in the form of Gary Derceto.
Gary, wearing a spiffy new brown uniform, strolled through the revolving doors. The brown uniform discarded most of the regular pieces attributed the police officer's blue uniform, instead opting for a button-up flannel shirt with long brown jeans. The collar was pristinely folded down in an effort to show off Gary's devilish grin.
Exiting the elevator, Gary passed all of the other hospital employees and immediately approached Drake. “You're in charge, right?”
“Drake Sarkassian,” he introduced himself.
“I know who you are,” Gary replied sarcastically. “I had an interesting morning. After a long night of cleaning the mean streets-”
“How many criminals did you actually arrest?”
“As I was saying, after a long night of cleaning the mean streets, I took a break at the station. You can imagine the surprise I felt when I received a call from the Deputy Surgeon General. THE Deputy Surgeon General Charles Dodgson.”
“The Deputy Surgeon General is named Howard Steeg. Charles Dodgson is the real name of Lewis Carroll. Don't mind me. Continue with your story. I'm very interested.”
“The United States Government, the government of which both you and I have sworn our loyalty to, is inspecting every single one of the hospitals in the United States. The Polar Shift has got the president worried that hospitals will be even more frequently used. That's what the call was about Since the Secretary General doesn't have enough people to go to every hospital in the country, I was given the power to review this hospital myself, and I counted six or seven damaging traits in this hospital that could have you shut down. At the very least, you'd be removed from power.”
“You can't do that!”
“I don't see why not. You're not even a doctor yet. You don't inspire loyalty very well and I'm sure the stress of being the boss is waning heavily on your shoulders. Steeg has assured me anyone forcibly removed from power will be given a retribution that should last him or her until the end. You won't you leave.”
“Her,” Drake replied as he pointed to coma guy's sister. “Her brother is in a coma and she won't let any of the other doctors come near either of them. She only trusts me.”
“Coma guy,” Gary said to himself before returning to his conversation with Drake. “He's just a guy in a coma. He doesn't need you specifically to loom over him, right?”
“You know Allison Dreary, right?” Gary simply nodded. “She hit him while driving down Fowler. Apparently, he was on a mission to find out how the Polar Shift happened and he had come here to Hyde's Park to confirm his suspicions. Allison and Miles are determined to finish his work—not just to find out what caused the shift, but also how to reverse it.”
“That guy? That guy right over there? That guy with eight tubes inserted into random parts of his body? He knows how to reverse the shift?” Gary paused for a few seconds to think. “You see this notepad, Sarkassian? It's a list of all the things that can have you fired.” Gary took the note pad and began to rip up the papers one by one. “In return, however, everything that Miles and Allison find out in their investigation has to come through me. Deal?”
It had been a week since Super Intendant Matthews informed Principal Ling that a new assistant principle would be joining her. Five school days passed and Ling found herself running the school unfairly by herself, operation as secretary, guidance counselor, and principal all in one. Only Aaron James cared enough to sympathize, but was swamped with teaching and unable to help.
“How behind are you in your work?”
“I don't even know how far behind I am. I have paper stacked from here to Canada and I have calls on hold since last week. Matthews said there was an assistant principle coming. Where is he?”
“Over here,” a meek voice said. James and Ling turned to the door of her office. A young man with a slight goatee wearing clean, well-iron pants and a brand new blue shirt stood at the doorway. He was biting his nails, but he didn't really seem to notice.
“Nice of you to show up a week late. Now I know Matthews told me your name, but it’s been so long that I must have forgotten. What was it again?”
“Please just call me Tony. I've never liked by first name. My middle name is so much better.”
“I'm sure it is, but I still need your real name. For paperwork and such. In case you haven't noticed, I have a lot of that.”
“Fine, but before I say anything, I want to point out that my parents were incorrectly informed that their child would be a girl and so they hand their heart set on the name well before my birth.”
“Spit it out!”
“Carmen! Carmen Cortez.”