Chapter 9: CATS

The streets of Providence were still bustling behind the group of teens who had just captured the elusive Steven Alley. Gary was proving himself more of an asset than Allison could admit to since he was the only one with a car that they could detain Steven in. Tony's Cavalier had a broken lock, and Steven could easy slip out unnoticed.

“What are we going to do with Alley?” Tony asked.

“We are going to do nothing until we get to the bottom of this information sharing,” Allison explained. “I think we all agree that Drake told Gary because Gary blackmailed him. We also all agree that it was Gary who told Ashley. The only thing we don't agree on is how and why he told her. Ashley says Gary called her and told her. Her reasoning lacks a motive. Gary says that Ashley came to him and demanded the information. Once again, that explanation lacks a motive. Either of you care to explain?”

“I'm telling the truth!” Ashley yelled in defense. “Gary's lying!”

“Good enough for me,” Miles replied.

“Hey!” Gary yelled. His tongue was getting tied on his own defense, and he could tell that the argument was against him from the start. There was only one thing he could think of saying that would lead Allison to another conversation: “Sarkassian had another vision!”

“I knew it!” she instinctively replied. “That little liar said he'd call me when he got a new vision. That's it. He's getting a swift kick in the ass when we get back to Hyde's Park.”

“We might as well head back now,” Miles insisted. His patience was already wearing thin. Even the girls noticed. “Alley's not saying anything about what he's done in the past or what he's going to do in the future. He is however mumbling profanities to himself and it looks like he might start crying soon. Let's take him back with us to Hyde's Park. Maybe he's talk after a few days in jail. He's all yours Gary. We'll stop by tomorrow.”

Gary gleefully reentered his squad car and began to drive back to Hyde's Park. Allison was giving Miles a dirty look, which he purposely ignored. “Why would you just bring him into the loop like that? Gary is a manipulative jerk. He can't be trusted.”

“Alas, we have no choice,” he replied with an aura of elitism. “He knows about the investigation, and as long as we keep him out of the loop, the more he'll interfere. Gary Derceto honestly seems like he wants to help, and he's in a position where he can help. We already know dialing 911 is useless. Having the law on our side, even if it is Gary Derceto on a technicality, can prove to be very helpful.

Day turned to night and night turned to day. Chuck found it hard to sleep as he wondered how Donna was doing, wherever she was. Miles plopped himself in bed and fell instantly asleep, and was the first to wake the next morning. However, Chuck was already up and on the couch reviewing the tape he, Richard, and Donna saw the previous night. He hadn't slept a wink. Donna hadn't retrieved to retrieve her things, and Chuck was determined to say something that would make up for his mistake when she did return.

“Where's Donna?” Miles asked unknowingly. “Did she already leave for Vienna? I thought mom wasn't going to arrive there for three days.”

Three days seemed like a lot for Miles, but that gave Chuck three days at the most to apologize to Donna and get her back on the case before it was too late. Chuck figured he didn't need Miles worrying about it. “Yeah. She decided to leave early. Mom has been giving her the slip too many times, so Donna went early to prepare herself so mom doesn't get away again.”

“Good for her. At least your investigation is going well. We just caught Steven Alley and I don't know if he's going to give up anything. I don't know if he even has anything to give up. We're just doing what the coma guy was doing.”

“And doing it diligently,” Chuck added. Miles was interrupted from responding when a car horn blared through. The sound was unfamiliar, but the girl in the front seat wasn't. Chuck and Miles stepped outside to see Ashley Brock in the front seat of a brand new Suburban.

“Suburban? Really. Does she even know about gas prices these days?” Miles sighed and waved goodbye to his brother. He slid into the passenger seat and glared at Ashley for a few seconds. “I understand that you need a new car. You previous one got totaled when you were too busy trying to convince me of something that will never happen. However, did it really have to be a Suburban?”

“My cousin Daniel was selling it,” she replied in defense “He's been trying to sell it for months, so he's slashed the cost to pretty much next to nothing” Miles uncaringly waved his arms and turned to face the window. Ashley shrugged and put the car in drive as they headed off towards the police station to meet up with Gary and Steven Alley.

Meanwhile, Allison was arriving at Hyde's Park General Hospital with ire in her eyes and tongue ready to reprimand. “Where is he?!” she yelled as she walked through the front doors. She wasn’t' really directing the question at anyone and as a result, no one even acknowledged her question. “I won't ask again!”

“That would be a godsend,” the janitor said slyly as he swept passed Allison's feet. “Sarkassian is coming up behind you right now.”

Allison spun around to see that Drake was exiting an adjacent door. The two made eye contact and Drake easily fell victim to her deadly stare. “Two things,” she began. “First off, where do you get off telling Gary Derceto about the investigation?”

“Let me explain that!” he insisted. “I didn't want to lose this job, Allison. It's really the only thing I have. Gary intimidated me. He was willing to have me fired. If I told him about the investigation, and how I was the only connection he had to it, I figured he'd let me stay. Jamie caught wind of it so we stayed here all night fixing all the code violations.”

“That was intense work!” Jamie said joyously as she joined the conversation already in progress. At one point in the night, Jamie's clothes were probably pretty nice. Hours of menial labor had caused them to be covered in dust and grime as well as torn in numerous places. The comparison with Drake was obvious as he looked like he just came out of the shower. It was evident which one was doing the real work.

“Doesn't look like you did any work at all, Drake,” Allison pointed out.

“That aside,” he explained, “all the violation codes have been fixed.” Jamie nodded in approval. “Gary won't have anything to blackmail me with, so he won't be a problem anymore.

“The damage has already been done, Drake. Gary showed up in Providence while we were capturing Steven Alley. If it weren’t for him, Alley would have escaped. Miles felt there was no choice but to include Gary. On top of that, he told Ashley Brock. Who else might he tell if we didn't include him?” Drake's expression was apologetic, but Allison didn't accept it. “Secondly, it always seems like you're working against us, Drake. Gary told me you had another vision. Is that true?”

Drake rolled his eyes and then sighed heavily. “Yes. It's true.”

“You have to tell me these things, Drake. It needs to be recorded.”

“No it doesn't!” he shot back. The force he exerted in that sentence shocked all three of them. “My visions for lack of a better term are not here for you to prod and study. They have nothing to do with the Polar Shift and event if they do, recording them gets you nowhere closer to discovering its origin. Okay?”

“Okay,” Allison replied. “If that's how you feel.” Allison confidently turned back around and marched back out to her car. Drake felt dread and remorse for his actions, but Jamie picked his head and forced him to look at her. “Drake Sarkassian, do not feel sorry for yourself. You are a good doctor and you are doing what good doctors do. Repeat that back to me.”

“I am a good doctor and I am doing what good doctors do.”

“Very good. Now continue doctoring, Drake. I have secretarial work to get to.”

Miles and Ashley arrived at the police station. Gary awaited them at the front door with open arms. “Don't do that,” Miles suggested. “Holding your arms wide open implies eagerness and not dedication. You want in on this investigation, Gary? Prove that you’re willing to work for it. Don't just tag along and steal the glory.”

“I have Alley in custody for you, right?”

“Right.” Miles causally walked passed Gary and entered the station. Everywhere was completely void of officers, all of which resigned in protest when they learned they would be taking orders for a sixteen-year-old. Gary was close behind Miles, and Ashley was bringing up the rear with the video camera in toe. The three teens arrived at the interrogation room where Steven had spent the night. Steven was tired, hungry, and a little dehydrated. He immediately looked at the three as they entered and gave them the popular puppy dog stare.

“Classic,” Miles noted, “but that's not going to get you out of this interrogation, Alley.”

“Whatever you want,” he admitted. “Just get that girl with the camera out of here. There's someone I don’t want knowing that I'm here. I can lie and tell her I was at a bar last night and forgot to go home. She'll believe that. After all, I told her something similar when I was caught hacking.”

“Good to know,” a new voice said as she entered the fray of the interrogation room.”

“Gary! You're supposed to lock the interrogation room door!”

“I lost the key!” he shot back.

“Are you telling me the door was open all night?” Alley questioned.

“Forget them,” the new woman interrupted again. “You don't have to deal with them. Your problem is with me now.” The woman was in her twenties and was wearing elegant pearls along with her expensive earrings and stylish jeans. “Well? Do you have anything to say for yourself, Steven?”

“Natalie, please don't be mad!”

“Who are you?” Miles finally asked.

“His wife,” she replied bluntly.

“Natalie Alley?” Gary inquired with a smile on his face. “Natalie Alley? Do you have any idea of how much of a cartoon character you sound like right now?”

“Like I haven't heard that one before,” she joked before returning to chide her husband. “Steven you promised me that you wouldn't get into trouble again. Do you consider this staying out of trouble?”

“No, but I have a perfectly logical reasoning for this. They have been detained for something I did almost three moths ago, and I didn't promise you I'd stay out of trouble until a month ago. Technically, I haven't broken my promise.”

“You're in jail, Steven,” she reminded him. “Tell them everything you know or you get no sex for a month.”

“They're called CATS,” he blurted out. “She told there were seven of them in total, one leader and six operatives. If your investigating them, then chances are you've already met one of them. They very well might be hiding amongst the people you think you know best.”

“You've met them,” Ashley pointed out. “You can identify them.”

“Correction, I've met one of them. They value secrecy above all else. The one I met told me that they don't even know each other's real names. They call each other by the characters from the game Clue. The girl I spoke with was called Ms. Peacock, but she told me her real name was Meredith. She seemed honest enough. I'd point her out in a line-up, but she told me she rarely ever leaves the base.”

“What base? Where's the base. Where did you meet with Ms. Peacock?”

“I'm getting to that!” His voice was cracking. “I spoke with Mr. Boddy over the phone a number of times. He hired me to create a security system for his new base. He knew I operated outside the law, so no one would know how to crack it except me. Except they turned the tables on me. Instead of them sending some one to pick it up, they sent Ms. Peacock to augment it so only they knew how to crack it. Peacock was nice about it, though. She apologized and told me it was only a precaution.”

“Is that all?”

“That's all I know. Ms. Peacock had glasses with a reddish tint to them. They looked expressive. She also wore her hair in a ponytail and wore very modest clothing. She was hot, but there was nothing sexy about the way she wore he clothes. That's all I know.”

The five people began to randomly glance at someone else in the room. They were each waiting for someone else to break the silence. “I know criminals,” Gary finally spoke up. “I bet my bottom dollar that Alley isn’t telling us everything.” Steven's jaw dropped. Natalie simply rolled her eyes. “I think it would be a good idea to detain him for a few more days.”

“Natalie!” Steven yelled. “Are you just going to let some kids keep me hostage here? I told them everything I know.”

“I'm sure you have, but hey have to verify it first. Until then, I'll just sleep with your brother.” Natalie made a triumphant exit from the room leaving Steven flabbergasted. “We should make out exit, too,” Miles told Ashley.

Ashley nodded and opened the door. They exited, leaving Gary and the distraught Steven Alley behind. “Pan the camera over to me,” Miles ordered. Ashley was shocked at first. Miles had been trying to ignore the camera since she introduced it. Now he was finally getting into the spirit of video recording. “Contrary to what Ashley says, I'm the star of this show, not her. With that said, the threat level of this story has just bumped up a notch. In reality, we could be killed walking out those front doors. Steven Alley has given us named to put with the Polar Shift. Parker Brothers may have invented these names, but it's what we have now. Ms. Peacock. Miss Scarlet. Mrs. White. Colonel Mustard. Professor Plum. Mr. Green. Chances are we've net at least one of these guys. It's up to us to figure out who these people are, and why they're shifting our magnetic field.”

“That was a good speech. I thought you hated the camera.”

“I just wanted to say it before you did.”

The next day, Miles and Allison awoke from their respective houses and headed off to school. At the same time, Chuck was waking from him good night's sleep and prepared himself for a long journey. He rewatched the video again the night before and saw that Richard had caught the address on camera. Chuck jumped in the car, requesting that Jamie take the bus to work for that day, and nervously left for Providence. In about an hour, Chuck found himself at the front door from where Donna snuck the child.

He took a deep breath before knocking on the front door. After a few seconds, a bald man in his late twenties wearing a bathrobe answered the door. The robe had satin lining, so Chuck assumed the man was at least a little bit rich. “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Chuck said nervously. “I was wondering if you knew someone by the name Donna Murphy.”

The man grimaced and groaned. He seemed truly embarrassed when Chuck mentioned Donna's name. “Look, whatever she broke or whatever she stole, I'll write you a check. Just promise me you won't press any charges. She's desperate.”

“I'm sorry. That's not the impression she gave me.”

“Don't beat around the bush,” the man insisted. He now had a checkbook in his left hand and a pen in his right. “Just give me a round number. I can write any number on this check.”

“I don't want your money,” Chuck finally said. The man at the door found it hard to believe it and kept the check book close in hand. “I just want to know why Donna's been acting so strangely.”

“You tell me,” the man began. “Who do you think the real Donna Murphy is?”

“I think Donna Murphy is a screw loose private investigator who believes she has more skill in her abilities than she really does. She has trust issues and now she won't look for my mother because I embarrassed her.”

“Dona Murphy was never looking for your mother,” he blatantly told Chuck. “Donna is a scammer and a schemer. Trust me. I know. She's never held a job and I can honestly tell you that she has never been a private investigator.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I've known Donna since middle school. We dated throughout all of high school. The pressures of living on her own coupled with the fact that she got pregnant—my fault—caused her instability. She doesn't work. She scams people into giving her a place to stay and money for her to live. When she's not scamming people, she's living in her car.”

“It doesn't make any sense,” Chuck replied. “I called a legitimate agency. Donna came from that agency. I don't see how she could have been lying.”

“Ask her about it,” he insisted. “If she denies it, tell her you spoke to me. My name is Doug Danson.”

“I will.”

Everything seemed to be going well at school. Mary Ling hadn't questioned Miles on the valedictorian speech he was supposed to be working on, even though Mary had requested a rough copy due to hr six days prior. Miles took it as a stroke of luck, but he knew that Ling was taking it easy on Miles and Allison so they could focus on the investigation. Mr. James wasn't aware of the investigation, but even he seemed to be taking it easy. He didn't even single Ashley out for torture even though she was the cause of the car accident.

As usual, Allison skipped out on lunch. Unrepentantly, Miles found that Ashley was nowhere to be found. The Devil and his entourage were missing as well. On the other side of campus the two were meeting secretly. “What did I tell you?” Michael asked. “Gary Derceto told you about the investigation, didn't he?”

“It took a little convincing and some womanly charm, but I got all the information out of him. I know what Miles and Allison are doing with Drake Sarkassian.”

“Good. Gary isn't telling me. What is it?”

“I'm not telling.”

“That was the deal. I gave you the perfect subject for the project in Mr. James' class and in return, you were to give me the specifics in the investigation.”

“I'm not doing it,” she reiterated. “Miles is actually allowing me to participate in the investigation and he seemed to be determined to our project as well. If I tell you, you might ruin that.”

“You're a waste,” he complained. Suddenly, he let out a chuckle that confused even his group of friends. “You know, the funniest part is that you call yourself a lesbian the one thing keeping you from partnering with me is your infatuation with Miles Westin.”

“I don't like him like that! He's just not as bad as I thought he was.”

“You keep telling yourself that.”

The school bell rung and The Devil left with his friend to class. Ashley went the other direction towards Mr. Burke's history class. She vehemently discarded Michael's words as false and just an attempt to get the information from her, but she was reminded of them when she saw Miles arrive at the door first. His facial expression appeared disappointed, but he held the door open for Ashley anyways. Ashley found herself smiling even though she didn't really want to. She had plenty of time to smile as well since Larry Burke was nowhere to be found. Instead, Tony Cortez was at the head of the class.

“You're not Leisure Suit Larry,” Miles pointed out. “Where's Leisure Suit Larry?”

“Mr. Burke received an important call and had to leave early,” Tony explained to the class. “He didn't tell us what it was about, but he assured us that he would be back tomorrow. So where in the textbook did he leave you on Friday?”

“The part where Ben Franklin was running for president.” It wasn't until forty minutes later that Tony realized that Miles was only kidding.

A few more hours passed. At the hospital, Jamie would occasionally give Drake another rousing pep speech that would work well for a few minutes, but Drake would soon go back to feeling depressed. Her left like he lost a friend in Allison when he yelled at her.

“I should apologize,” he told himself as he took out his cell phone.

“Don’t even think about it,” Jamie ordered him. “You shouldn’t have told Gary anything, but that doesn’t give her the right to intrude on your privacy. Your visions are between you and yourself. They are none of Allison's business.”

“Still, I want her to trust me. I want her to know she can come to me with anything, and not just about the Polar Shift either.”

“It doesn’t work that way. You want her to be in your debt. Don' t grovel. Let her come to you.”

Drake didn't reply. He say out of the corner of his eye that someone had exited the elevator and was making his way over to the coma guy's room. “Excuse me sir!” Drake yelled as he caught up to the man. “Can I help you?” The man didn’t reply, and Drake finally caught up to him at the entrance to the coma guy's hospital room.

“It is him,” he said as he looked at the man on the hospital bed. “I didn't believe it, but it is him.” Drake finally got to see his face. He didn't recognize him, but it was Larry Burke. “Can I help you?” Drake asked again.

“You can't help me,” Larry replied. “No one can help anymore. All is lost.” Larry slid out of Drake's grip and exited through the stairwell.

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