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Chapter 7: Gracias

Drake Sarkassian had an average night. He received about two calls from employees letting him know that they would not be coming into work anymore. Drake knew that only a small minority had the courtesy to call him and that he'd be missing at least ten more employees when he got to the hospital. Unfortunately, Drake accepted it as inevitable.

Drake took the parking spot reserved for the dean of medicine, a parking spot he still felt he didn't deserve. Taking a deep breath, Drake prepared himself for another chaotic day at Hyde's Park General Hospital. The automatic doors slid open, acting as a warm welcome. Drake wasn't expecting any more welcomes from the staff. “Morning Drake,” came Jamie's voice from the front desk. “I put on a pot of coffee if you want some. Oh, you were' here when I got here about two hours ago, so I went ahead and logged into the system and rearranged some of the files you hadn't gotten to yet. Oh, and some people tried to call off, but I convinced them to come in. Is that okay.”

Drake was speechless. He hadn't seen so much work enthusiasm, not since before the Polar Shift when Dr. Talseed was in charge. “Yeah,.” he manage to cough out. “Yeah. That's okay.” Drake began to walk off, but a second question still lingered in his mind and he just had to ask it. “Just wondering, how did you get people t come into work.”

“I promised them I would wear that shirt I did the other day. You know, the one that showed my cleavage a little bit too much?”

“You had a jacket on the other day.”

“I know, but they don't. The human mind is an easy thing to play tricks on. Did I even tell you that I was a psychology major back in Providence? I'm telling you, if Miles and Allison do succeed in this reversal, the first thing I'm doing is going back to Providence. Hyde's Park is nice, but it's not me.”

“I hope they take their time,” he replied. “I don't think this place will run as efficiently without you, Jamie.”

“Keep saying nice things like that and I might be tempted to stay on permanently.”

“I can only hope.”

A few hours passed. Jamie was keeping the hospital running smoothly and Chuck was relaxing at home wondering where Donna had run off to, not that he really cared. By 10:00 A.M. Miles and Allison hadn't gotten anywhere. Literally, they were still in Principal Ling's office.

Tony had explained the situation to the group three times already, but Mary, skeptical of the whole thing, asked Tony to repeat it every hour on the hour and the time had arrived for Tony to restart his story. “The man whose name Allison had requested I do not mention called be about two weeks ago. He needed to know something about a man who frequents the nail salon that my mother, whose worker's visa you found in the man's wallet, manages. His name is Steven Alley and the nail salon is the only place that he uses a credit card, so it's the only place that he leaves a paper trail.”

“Why doesn't he just go to a different nail salon? You know, one that accept cash?” Allison inquired, knowing full well that she had already ask that question three times and received the exact same response each time.

“My mother is the best in the business, or so he says. He gets his nails done. How normal can he possibly be? Anyways, he abruptly stopped calling me. I tried to call him back, but I didn't get an answer. The last time he called me was two days before the Polar Shift was discovered.”

“Three days before I hit him with my car,” Allison added. “Did he mention he was coming to Hyde's Park?”

“No. Never. I didn't even know this city existed until I got transferred here. Honestly, I thought it was a joke. That’s why I was a few days late getting here. Mrs. Ling. Sorry.”

“Never mind that now,” she replied. “Has your mother called back yet?”

“No. Her staff tells me that she hasn't had this much business since the Jackson 5 were touring. I don't think she'll be able to get away at all today.”

“Try again,” she demanded. Tony shrugged and stepped back into his office.

Miles had tried to nap in the meantime, but the rock hard tabled coupled with the deformed chairs he was forced to sit in did not make for comfortable bedding material. “I just want to recap,” he said aloud. “Allison, I thought this was supposed to be a secret investigation known only to your supposed ream team. How many people know about it?” You. Me. Chuck. Jamie. Drake. Principal Ling. Donna Murphy. Tony. You have to be an idiot not to think that Gary hasn't caught wind of this yet. He's a dumb ass, but he's not an idiot.”

“Cut me some slack. This is my first time.”

Miles didn't bother to respond, mainly because Mr. James, who was now casually strolling into the office, would overshadow any sarcastic remark. “Speak of the devil,” he started. “Miles Westin. You are here today. You know, it's a shame that you chose today to skip class.”

“Does it look like this was my choice?”

“Aaron,” Mary insisted. “While I normally enjoy your company, right now, Miles, Allison, and I have more important matters to discuss. Whatever it is you have to tell Mr. Westin can wait until tomorrow, right?”

“I suppose,” he started, “but that would take away all the fun. We picked partners for a class project I assigned, Miles. I haven't decided what the project will be about, but I will by Monday, and as you know, if two people are missing from class, they are automatically paired up together. How lucky is that?”

“I'm with Allison? That's not bad.”

“Her? I've already crossed her off the class list,” he replied. Mr. James' words were clearly offensive to Allison. He saw it, but didn't acknowledge it. “Someone else missed class today, someone I heard from Gary was almost inseparable from you, but that new student, The football player from Central, tells me that you and her aren't getting along as much as you used to.”

“Please don't.”

“You and Ashley Brock will do this project and you will get an A on it or you will fail my class miserably. Just think of it as therapy.”

“One of us will die by the end of this, Mr. James.”

“I'm okay with that.”

“I've got her!” Tony yelled as he burst out of his office. “I got my mother on the line. Shari had to literally yank her away from a client. I hope those nails dry correctly.”

“Aaron,” Mary insisted again. “Leave. Now.” Aaron glanced at all the other people in the room before slowly slinking backwards into the school hallway. Allison nodded and Mary as a means of thanking her. “Mami,” Tony said into the phone. “Mami! Calmate! Te voy a ponerte en speaker phone.” Tony put the phone on the table and pressed the speakerphone button. “Ahora mami, y en Ingles por favor.”

“I do so much for you boy,” she chastised. “Steven Alley comes in every two weeks or so to get his nails done. He doesn't seem to have a specific style. One day he’ll want a single color, anything from black to pink and other days he'll want an intricate design. He was just here a few days ago, so he won't be back until October 5th. He calls to confirm his appointment the day before, so I don't know where to find him any other day.”

“Gracias mami,” Tony replied.

“Gracias? Si quieres decir gracias, debes buscar un mujer y dame un nieto ya. Tienes que? Veintesies año ya? Y no teienes ni una esposa ni una novia?”

Tony dove for the phone and closed it before the elder Cortez could finish her rant. Tony coupled it with a nervous laugh saying, “Moms. What are you going to do?”

“I agree with that,” Miles said.

“Anyways, now we know we're on the right track. Have your mother call you when Alley checks in for his appointment. We'll head up to Providence and meet him there.”

“In the meantime,” Mary interjected, “School is not over. You still have time to make to your final class. Get going you two before Aaron decided to crash the party again with yet another sadistic assignment.” Miles and Allison left the office. Mary and Tony stared at each other silently for a few seconds before Tony decided to uncomfortably inch backwards into his office. Mary took off her glasses and sighed deeply.

Miles and Allison jogged to class before the final bell rung. Allison hadn't been to school in so long she had forgotten which class was her last of the day. “Aw! You again?”

“Yes,” Mr. Burke replied. “Me again. I'm here five days a week at about this time. This is my history class. You are supposed to be here everyday at about this time as well. I figured you'd return eventually. Look. I even have a special seat selected just for you. Miss Dreary, front and center, please.”

“You think you can just get me to stay like that Mr. history teacher? Oh please. I have better things to do.”

“Go ahead. I dare you to tell me one thing more interesting than sitting here and learning history. Go ahead. Just try and find something interesting and it must be limited to an hour because that's how long this class is.”

“The hospital,” she replied.

“You know, I've heard rumors about you little investigation. I can't say I know what its about, though. Regardless, Gary Derceto is over there right now, doing is monthly inspection. I don't know how much fun you could have with him around.”

“The park.”

“Try again. The park is slowly beginning to be torn down by nature and hooligans. The basketball hoops have already been stolen, as have most of the fish in the lake. The gazebos are substandard. They look like they're going to fall any second.”

“McDonald's.”

“That, along with all fast food restaurants in Hyde's Park have shut down production, if you would call it production. With the world ending, the last thing they want to think of is whether or not a girl skipping class would want fries with that.”

“I've got nothing.”

“Good. Then you can sit down with your fellow classmates and open your textbooks to chapter seven. The American Revolution is riveting, don't you think?”

Just as Larry Burke explained, Gary Derceto was walking and talking with Drake Sarkassian in and around the hospital. “You know,” Gary began, “You weren't this chipper when we last spoke.”

“I didn't have a reason to be chipper, Gary,” he explained. “Everything was a mess. I admit that I wasn't in control and that the hospital was going down fast. I don't know what it is about her, but Jamie Reese is holding this place together like super glue.”

The two stopped walking as they approached the glass front doors. Drake waved at Jamie who waved back before answering the phone on the desk. The two resumed their walk and talk. “So I can assume the hospital has fixed most of the violation codes I saw before.”

“Most, but not all.”

“Glad I got those questions out of the way. You know that not why I'm here. Miles and Allison. Their investigation. Where are they with it.”

“I haven't heard anything.”

Drake cell phone began to ring just as he finished his sentence. Taking it out, he could see Gary looming over his shoulder to read the name on the screen. The screen showed the number, which Gary recognized. “That's Miles' phone number. Answer it and put it on speaker.”

Drake did as Gary requested. “Miles. How are things?”

“Allison just wanted me to update you on the Polar Shift investigation. We found Carmen Cortez. He's the assistant principal at out school. His mother owns a nail salon in Providence. A man named Steven Alley frequents it and the coma guy was intent on meeting this man. Of course, his plans were cut short so now Allison and I have to take his place at the impromptu meeting at the nail salon on the 5th.”

“Good to know.”

“Anything new on the coma guy?”

“No, but his sister has finally returned home to Providence.”

“Hold on.” Miles paused before asked the second question. “Allison told me to ask you if you've had anymore vision.”

“No,” he replied with a disgruntled tone. “I have to go.” Drake hung up and Gary gave him a thumbs-up. “Good. See? We can get along., This doesn't have to be a terse alliance. We can be friends.”

“Don't push it.”

Gary smiled and began to walk off towards the squad car. Drake continued to watch him until he closed the driver's side door behind him and turned on the ignition. Suddenly, Drake felt the sudden urge to stop him. Drake ran in front of the squad car before Gary could even hit gas pedal. “Excuse me! You're in the way!”

“Someone cut the brake line,” Drake hesitantly yelled. Suddenly, a wave of images shot through Drake's mind. None of them made any sense to him except for the video of an unknown man breaking into the squad car and cutting the brake line. Drake's vision returned to normal.”

Gary got out of the car. “You know if you're right you have to call Allison back and let her know.”

“No,” he replied.

Night fell on Hyde's Park. Jamie returned home and immediately nodded off to sleep. Miles returned home and did the same, intent on getting a good night's sleep to contend with Ashley Brock the next day. Only Chuck remained awake as the clock chimed 1:00 A.M. And the sounds outside were limited only to grasshoppers.

Finally, the sound Chuck had been waiting for finally arrived. The kitchen window began to open from the outside and Chuck waited in the couch in the living room until the person was completely inside the house. Chuck turned on the light expecting to surprise her, but Donna Murphy still stood with an emotionless expression.

“Where have you been, young lady?”

“Chill, mom,” she replied. She was being overtly sarcastic, but it was being offset by her natural monotone voice. “I was with my boyfriend Jake. You know, the high school drop out with all the tattoos and body piercing and shag carpeting in the back of his van?”

“Are you kidding?”

“Yes, I'm kidding. And just so you know, I have a few years on you, so stop trying to be my mother.”

“I have to be your mother because my mother isn't here yet.” Donna rolled her eyes as Chuck continued. “If you're going to live under this roof, you are going to follow my rules. Okay?” Donna remained silent. “First of all, this is unacceptable. You come home by 11:00 and call if you 're going to be late. If you do call, it better be to say you're on your way home.”

Stop being such a square, mother,” Donna retorted, “You just don't understand what it means to be a kid!”

“Go to your room.”

The next morning came and Miles was the first one to wake up. “Ashley. Ashley. Ashley. Ashley. Ashley.” He continued to mope about his situation throughout breakfast with Chuck and Jamie, Donna being spared, as she was still asleep on Chuck's old bed. Miles bid the family good-bye and joined Allison in her car outside.

Except, it wasn't Allison outside. The silver Toyota came equipped with An Ashley Brock Jr. in the driver's seat. “You're not Allison,” Miles pointed out. “Normally, that wouldn't bother me. Anything that would take me to school will do. Allison just so happens to be the only one to fall in that category. You, Ashley, do not fall in that category. If I get in that car with you I will wind up opening the door and jumping out in less that five minutes, preferably when you've hit at least fifty miles per hour.”

“Get in,” she ordered. Miles begrudgingly obliged and the girl put the car in drive and pulled out of the driveway. “I had a dentist appointment yesterday. I don't care why you were absent but because you decided not to be there yesterday, but now where stuck together. We have to put our differences aside if we want to get through this with an A. Can you do that?”

“No,” he replied sternly.

“I need an A on this project and if you want to keep your perfect grade average, so do you. Work with me, not against me.”

“Oh so I should watch you back, I suppose. I guess that means I should tell you to watch the road because you're going 40 and you're about the pass a red light. Ashley jumped back at attention and tried to swerve the car and slam on the brake. The effort was good, but ultimately pointless as Ashley hit a crossing car directly in the middle.

Ashley caught her breath and put the car in park before taking off her seatbelt and exiting the car. Miles did the same in order to get a better look at the driver of the other car. He was okay, which made Ashley and Miles even worse, because this was going to come back and bite then worse than if they had killed him.

“You know this won't bode well for you two on the project,” Mr. James said as he stepped out of his car.

“We're bonding,” Miles replied. "It's part of the therapy."

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