"Caitlin, I don't like this."
"We're looking for an Unruly?"
"What's stopping them from stealing a uniform from the Academy, then?"
"Then let one of us go back."
The Great Jennifer Round-Up
Chapter 4 - We Are All Jennifer
Caitlin and Skye returned to their dorm room. Inside, the red-haired girl flicked on the lights. The scene in front of her halted her. Autumn was tied down In Caitlin's bed, spread eagle, each wrist and ankle bound to a different corner. The Asian girl raised her head. "About time you got back."
"This is different." Caitlin removed her blazer and hung it up in the closet. Skye continued in to the kitchenette to retrieve a bottle from the fridge. "The Jennifers didn't even do this to Cassandra," the red-haired girl continued. "What did you say to them?"
Autumn pulled at her bonds. "Can I get untied first?"
The tall girl set down her drink. "On it." Skye reached Caitlin's bed in three long strides.
"Thank you." Autumn let her head fall back on to the redhead's pillows. "Laura checked for aerosols. There aren't any, at least in that room. Caitlin, you need to have a talk with her. She never tried to stop those brats from using be as a guinea pig. I had to set off one of their traps on purpose!"
Caitlin snapped her fingers. "Ah, yes, the traps. Only someone familiar with the Academy would know about that."
"You know already?" Autumn felt blood returning to the foot Skye had just freed. "What am I saying, of course you know already."
"Please, go on with your story, Autumn. The more I hear, the better a picture I'll have."
Autumn sighed. "Laura worked out that whoever took the girls had to be in uniform. The Jennifers recognize the uniform as one of theirs. Anyone else would be at their mercy and they don't have any."
Skye freed Autumn's other ankle. "You left Laura down there?"
"They kicked me out, Skye. Me. They brought me up here and tied me to the bed." Autumn raised her head to glare at Caitlin. "Just where were you tonight? Do you know how long I've been here, waiting and waiting?"
Caitlin sat at the table. "Trying to get you and Laura free by finding the missing Jennifers. The juniors needed more convincing than expected. I had to put the fear of me into them."
"They won't forget that anytime soon." Skye untied Autumn's right wrist. "But, they got the message."
Autumn twisted to work on the knots trapping her left hand. "How long did that take?"
"I also did my English homework." Caitlin stretched in her chair. "I wanted to make sure the sonnet was just so."
"The sonnet!" Autumn finished freeing her hand. "Caitlin, you conniving, scheming brat! You know I'm a better poet than you!" The Asian girl rolled out of the redhead's bed and dashed to her own.
"All is fair in love and war, Autumn."
"First my hose and now this." Autumn retrieved her tablet. "You owe me a pair of stockings, Caitlin. These were my best."
Laura sat on the edge of her chair as she watched Jenn's roommates return. The din of the young voices echoing off the walls grew louder as each girl tried to talk over the previous. Kristie pulled up a chair to sit beside the older girl. "A pain, right? It's like they don't know they're inside."
"Maybe I didn't miss anything coming here now instead of your age."
"You get used to it, sort of. I've got a place I can go to get away from everyone."
"How much is it worth to you to share it with me?"
The young brunette smiled. "No sale. But, once all this over, I can help you find your own spot."
"Thanks." Laura thought for a moment. "Um, what if we can't find your class?"
Kristie stood up. "No one will ever find you." She rubbed Laura's back. "But you won't have all this noise around." The young brunette ran to join the growing mob.
Laura felt her face growing pale. She got up from her seat. With the advantage of being a head taller than the younger girls, she easily found Jenn at the centre of the Brownian motion of human bodies. Laura threaded her way through the throng, making her way to the calm eye around the leader of the Jennifers. "Jenn? Can I have a word with you?"
"Sure," the Jennifer leader said. "Which word?"
"Can I talk to you somewhere more private?"
"Whatever you say can be said in front of my roommates." Jenn spread her hands as she took in the mob surrounding her. "After all, they are my people. Isn't that right?" The mob roared back an affirmative. Jenn turned her focus back to Laura. "What is it you want to talk about?"
"What's going to happen to me?"
"What do you mean? Your friends find mine, you go back like nothing happened."
"And if your friends can't be found?"
Jenn stood toe to toe with Laura. "You," the Jennifer emphasized by poking Laura in the chest, "won't leave here. Some of the girls have already asked about what they can do with you."
Laura swallowed. "Jenn, I can't disappear. People will need me."
"That's on your friends, not me."
"No, really, I can't just go away."
Jenn smiled. "What's wrong? Don't you trust your roommates?"
"Trust?" Laura shrugged. "I've known them for four days, then they left me here." She took in Jenn's expression. "No offense meant."
"None taken. We really got the worst of the worst."
Laura turned in a slow circle. "You really need windows. And some posters. Cheery ones, nothing in shades of black."
"Now you're an interior decorator?"
"I had a basement bedroom. Some of it was my lab."
Jenn took Laura's arm and started walking. "You're not like the others here."
"No duh." Laura kept pace with the younger girl.
"No, really. The brunette's name, what is it?"
Laura blinked. "Kristie?"
"Jenn. Well, Jennifer, but that gets confusing. What's your point?"
Jenn stopped walking. "You're learning our names. We're not just Jennifers to you. The wuss never bothered. And the redhead certainly wouldn't unless there was something in it for her."
"How do you know I'm not angling for anything?"
"You would have asked for something by now." Jenn smiled. "Ignoring wanting to go back to your dorm."
Laura shrugged. "There's nothing wrong with being polite. Being polite means people will listen to you and not shoot you, your dog, and your entire family and leave them to be found in the middle of some farmer's field ten kilometres out of town." Laura's expression remained pleasant, as did her tone of voice.
Jenn took a step away from the older girl. "You," she began, pointing at Laura, "you are scary. Maybe I should have kept the scaredy-cat."
"What?" Laura looked puzzled. "What did I do?"
"Why did your folks send you here?"
"I can't say." Seeing the younger girl turn pale, Laura continued, "I really can't say. There's court orders in effect."
Jenn shook her head. "And I thought Kristie was here for scary reasons." Keeping her distance, the Jennifer leader brought Laura to a bunk. "Here, you can have this bed tonight. It's Juliana's, but she's one of the missing girls." Jenn sighed. "She never said a word."
Laura knelt down and looked under the bed. "Did she take anything with her?"
"Like what?" Jenn watched Laura, still putting more space between her and the older girl.
"Clothes? Books? Something from her home?"
Jenn opened a footlocker at the head of the bed. "All her uniforms are still here."
Laura walked on her knees to look in the chest. "What about socks and underwear?" She began pawing through the clothes. "Something to change into so she doesn't have to buy more."
"How would I know? I only do my laundry."
"Think, Jenn. What does Juliana have most of the time you see her?"
Jenn sat down on the lower bed. "She has an mp3 player she has with her all the time. I think her school photo will have her with the earbuds in."
Laura looked in the footlocker again. "Not here." She raised her head to talk to Jenn. "Anything else?"
"Juliana's always reading manga. I don't think she's touched any of our textbooks, but she's always got a stack of manga near her." Jenn stood up again. "I don't think we should be looking through her stuff, though. It's disrespectful."
Laura ignored Jenn as she dug through the footlocker one more time. "No manga." The older girl got to her feet. "No mp3 player. Juliana wasn't taken. She went willingly."
"How can you tell?"
"Everything in her chest is folded neatly." Laura looked down at the mess she made. "Was folded neatly," she corrected. "Let's say I'm trying to kidnap you. I've drugged you enough to make you docile, which is easy enough. A sedative, either injected directly or hidden in a drink, to get you thinking fuzzy but not enough to put you right out. I could give you a name if I was in my own dorm. I bring you to your room so that you can get a change of clothes, at least a change of underwear, then lead you away where I give you the second half of the sedative. You leave your footlocker a mess to show that it was rummaged or, if you're naturally messy, you leave it neat as a call for help." Laura sat down on the bed. "So why would I let you bring manga? Your mp3 player is in a pocket or clipped on your shirt or vest, so it's there and easier to let you keep it instead of taking it away here. But the manga?"
"Why would you kidnap me?"
Laura shrugged. "That's a different question. Caitlin can find the answer to that. No, right now, I'm kidnapping you. I have you drugged to avoid a fight. Why am I letting you bring manga?"
"To give me something to do while you hold me?"
"Why? I have you. I can lock you in some basement so I don't have to hear you. Or I tie you up, gag you, and leave you in an empty room until I get what I want, whatever that is."
"You're trying to give me nightmares, aren't you?"
"Don't you see? Juliana left willingly." Laura began to get up.
"No! Stay there!" Jenn looked over her shoulder. "Kristie! I need you here!"
Laura settled back on the bed. "Okay, okay. Staying on the bed."
Kristie ran to Jenn's side. "What's up?"
"Keep an eye on her." Jenn pointed at Laura. "If she looks at you funny, hit her."
"What did I do?"
Kristie glared at the older girl. "Sure."
"Fine, I'll shut up." An idea dawned on Laura. "But only if you let me sleep late tomorrow morning."
"Jennifers aren't quiet, Cait."
"When did it become sarcasm o'clock?"
"Get the coffee brewing. It's going to be a long morning."
"Give me a moment. I can figure out something if I get enough time."