"Laura, stop looking so nervous."
"I want a weekend in your body."
"You are never passing English."
"Make sure you call the police in five minutes."
Basketball Night In Canada
Chapter 9 - I'll See Your Bluff.
"Someone hand Laura her coffee." Caitlin opened the refrigerator door to look for milk for her cereal. She pulled out a half-litre carton of half-and-half. "Wait."
Laura took the mug from Autumn's hand. "Too late."
"Laura, where's the milk? How am I supposed to eat my cereal?"
"I was going to stop at the store on the way back here last night, but you said everything was urgent. Besides, there's no cereal, either."
Caitlin closed the fridge door. "Lovely."
Skye got the bread out of the cabinet. "I'll get the toast started."
"Thanks." Caitlin sat down at the dorm's table. "I'll make this fast since we need to get to class." She paused to swoon. Autumn joined in with a dreamy sigh. Laura only rolled her eyes. "Autumn, some time today, I want you to look for a call to the police to go to Wheeler's shop. Find out what happened and if he got written up."
Autumn sat down. "Right, break into the police computer. Like they'd keep anything useful there." She bit into her hunk of cheese.
Caitlin ignored her roommate's complaints. "Skye, can you ask your teammates if they recognize that girl. I need to know who she is."
Laura raised her free hand. "Why not just hack into St. Dimple's computer?"
"Autumn, care to answer that?"
Autumn swallowed her bite. "They don't have one. Their administration knew that it'd be molten slag the moment they got it up and running. All their records are on paper, locked away where we can't see them."
Caitlin nodded. "It's the same here. Everything is paper."
"That's not efficient," Laura said. "Must take them forever to get stuff done."
The toaster popped. Skye grabbed the toast and started buttering it. "It also means students from certain schools can't get at the them and change them."
"It also means that if someone were to request the records," Caitlin added, "it'd take a few weeks. It works for us as well as against us."
Skye set down a plate of toast on the table. "There's also the risk of having to go in. No one tries unless they have a really good reason." She put more bread into the toaster.
Caitlin picked up a slice from the plate. "We're well off-topic." The redhead took a small bite from her breakfast. "We have an annoyance to deal with. Autumn, I need to know who that girl is. Find out who Wheeler's wife is."
Laura grabbed a slice of toast before Autumn could. "Wouldn't Verity's people know? I could always ask Mackenzie."
"No, Laura." Caitlin took another bite of her toast. Once she swallowed, she continued, "I don't want any of Verity's crew warned. I doubt that the girl is working for Verity, but her school has a similar rule to our Rule Three."
"Oh, right, supporting each other." Laura ripped the crust from her slice of toast. "So why do you think Verity's not involved? I mean, Mags said it was someone you knew that hates you."
The toaster popped again. As Skye prepared the new batch of toast, she said, "Laura has a point, Cait. You and Verity should never be alone in the same room."
Caitlin waved her hand in dismissal. "Only because Verity can't admit when she's outclassed."
"I can't imagine why." Laura finished her slice of toast.
The red-haired girl eyed her new roommate. "Verity has other ways to get at me. She would never stoop to mere name-calling. No, this is someone I'm not expecting. I'll make a list of people I'd least expect after English class."
Autumn swallowed her bite of toast. "Speaking of." She pointed at the alarm clock. "Time to go."
Laura downed her coffee. In a monotone, she said, "Oh, yay, be still my beating heart."
Mr. Baker's classroom already had half the class inside when Laura and her roommates arrived. From his desk, Mr. Baker waved to the newcomers, then called Laura over. Feeling the glare of almost every girl in the class, Laura walked over to the teacher's desk. "Good morning, sir."
The English teacher gave Laura a warm smile. "How did it go with Megan yesterday?"
"We talked for a bit. She's meeting me on Saturday."
"Excellent. Can you give Megan this?" Mr. Baker held up a sealed envelope. "It'll help her help you."
Laura took the envelope. "I will."
"And make sure you give me a copy of anything you write for her. I'll keep it in your portfolio. It could help your marks at the end of the year."
"Thank you, sir."
"You better go sit down. It's time to start the class."
Laura returned to her roommates, who had saved a seat for her. Autumn leaned over from her desk. "Well?"
"It's an envelope."
Laura slipped the envelope into her chemistry text. "It's not for me."
Caitlin leaned back in her seat. "Everyone here saw Mr. Baker giving you the envelope, Laura."
"Everyone can go," Laura paused as she searched for a phrase better suited for the classroom, "can go get stuffed."
"Really, Laura, we're just looking out for your better interests." Caitlin sat back up. She threw her long red tresses over her shoulder. "But, if you don't want to be a team player, then we can't help you."
"Can I explain later? Or should I just stand in the middle of the room and yell it at everyone?"
Caitlin tsk'ed. "Sarcasm is so unbecoming. Now shush. Mr. Baker's getting up."
Keeping her head down in English class was easy enough for Laura, with the class fixated on Mr. Baker. Chemistry, however, meant having Flora constantly nudging her when the teacher was busy writing on the whiteboard. Getting back to the dorm room without being stopped was impossible; every girl in her year stopped Laura on one pretext or another. By the time she reached her dorm, Laura's patience was thin. She cut off Autumn's greeting with a cold stare that left the Asian girl frozen halfway up from her chair. "Not one word about the envelope," Laura warned through gritted teeth.
"You're late," Caitlin said.
Laura tossed her books on her bed. "Tell that to everyone who stopped me."
"I have my list."
Laura dropped on her bed. "Am I on it?"
Caitlin arched an eyebrow. "Should you be?" The red-haired girl pointed at a sheet of paper on the dining table. "I was just going through it with Skye and Autumn. Do you need to hear the names, too?"
"Only if I know who they are."
"I see." Caitlin picked up her paper. "Verity." She set the page back down
"What about Cassie?"
Autumn looked over at Caitlin. "You never mentioned her."
"That's because she's Cassandra." Caitlin sat down. "She can't even spell 'grudge'."
"Doesn't mean she can't hold one."
Skye set down a plate of sandwiches on the table. "Autumn has a point. Cassie should be on your list. You two have never got along."
Caitlin rolled her eyes. "I was perfectly happy with her, until she first spoke."
"And called you 'Kitty-Cait,'" Autumn added. "Don't forget that."
"I don't see how I could." Caitlin printed Cassandra on her list. "Happy?"
Laura picked up a sandwich. "No."
"You don't count, Laura. You're upset over something else. Autumn? Skye?"
Skye shrugged. "The list sounds complete."
Autumn nodded. "You have managed to piss plenty of people off." She grabbed a sandwich. "How are you going to narrow it down?"
"Can I see the list?" Laura pulled the paper to her without waiting for Caitlin to answer. She skimmed the names. "Some of these girls go here. And you missed the Jennifers."
Caitlin took the page back from her roommate. "How would they even start to have a grudge against me?"
"First, you never call them by name. Oh, add Flora and Fawna, for the same reason."
"No one remembers their names, the Jennifers or our neighbours."
Laura snorted. "And you don't think they'd find someone to hold a grudge against?"
"I am not adding them, Laura." Caitlin chose a sandwich from the steadily growing smaller pile. "Besides, I think you should be starting a list after this morning."
Autumn smirked. "Not every girl gets an envelope from Mr. Baker. Have you looked inside?"
Laura rolled her eyes. "No. It's not for me. It's for my English tutor."
Skye held out her hand. "Let me steam it open. No one will know."
"Megan will. She graduated from here."
"Fine, don't open it." Caitlin took a dainty nibble of her sandwich. "It's not important right now."
"To you," Autumn added.
Laura glared at Autumn. "Can I just fail English in peace?" She devoured her sandwich and reached for another.
"Ladies, one crisis at a time." Caitlin picked up her sheet of paper to wave it. "Someone is out to shut down the Academy. I think it's more important."
"Cait's right, guys." Skye sat down across from Caitlin. "I'd hate to have to go to another school. So would you, Autumn."
"Alright, alright." Autumn brushed her hair out of her face. "But why shut down the school to get at Caitlin? It's like bombing a room to kill a fly."
"Thanks for that comparison, Autumn." Caitlin shook her head. "Maybe it's easier to get the school than me?"
Laura shrugged. "That leaves out everyone from the Academy on your list. They'd have to find somewhere else, too. Unless there's someone here that really doesn't like it here."
Caitlin sighed. "Everyone here would be in the same predicament if the school closed. Even Cassandra."
Skye nodded in agreement. "This is the school of last chance for a lot of girls here. Look at you, Laura. Where else could you have gone?"
"Yeah, I know." Laura snapped her fingers. "Wait! What about students who have left?"
"Left?" Autumn asked. "Like graduated?"
"What about that Alyssa girl?"
Caitlin set down her sheet of paper. "Alyssa ran into problems over the summer. She didn't have any problems here, even when she blew up the field house. Alyssa and I were the best of friends."
Laura shrugged. "Just an idea."
"And it's appreciated, Laura. An outside look helps."
Skye sat down beside the red-haired girl. "Cait, why would someone here want to shut down the Academy? It seems like suicide."
"I know, right? While the Jennifers might not appreciate what we have, everyone in our year is well aware of the advantages the Academy provides. Even Laura."
Laura forced a smile. "Yeah, because being here is a lot better than being killed by one of my father's thugs."
"Bitterness doesn't help with digestion, Laura, and we're going to be busy tonight." Caitlin finished her sandwich. "We'll be late for dinner and may miss what's served in the caf."
"That's a feature, not a bug," Autumn said.
"Does this mean we're eating out?" Laura asked.
"We're picking up groceries afterwards. You owe me milk and cereal."
After class, Caitlin led her roommates out of the Academy's grounds and into Oshawa proper. The cab let the girls out a few blocks away from Wheeler's machine shop. Autumn didn't try to stifle her groan. "Really? Back here? Why?"
Caitlin allowed herself a sly smile. "Whoever is playing Wheeler's puppet strings will learn that we were here. I want the puppeteer to think we're on the wrong path."
"Aren't we on the wrong path as it is?" Laura asked. "We started with trying to find out who wanted to fix the basketball game."
"And we are. However, Laura, the more we dig, the more we find that the basketball game was merely a ruse, an attempt to provoke the team so that the Academy can be shut down. A melee with St. Dymphna is one thing, especially with the bad blood between the two schools. A one-sided battle with Simcoe when we've never encountered them before would bring the wrath of not just the school board but the also Ministry of Education down on the Academy." Caitlin patted Laura's arm. "Trust me, Laura. I know what I'm doing." She stopped outside the machine shop's main door.
"Besides," Autumn said, "think of all the things you're learning with us."
"I know about breaking and entering already," Laura said.
"We're not breaking in," Caitlin said.
Skye nodded. "We're failing to break in. We know just how far we can go before we break a law." The tall girl grabbed the door handle and rattled it. "See? This is seeing if the shop is open, which it isn't."
Caitlin stepped up to the door and rattled the knob. "Still not open. We can go." She looked around. Seeing the security camera, the redhead waved at it before walking away. "That should do it."
The other girls dashed to catch up. "So, that's it?" Laura asked.
"Now we get down to the real work." Caitlin led the girls around the corner, out of sight of the machine shop. "Autumn, you're sure there's a feed offsite from the camera?"
"Positive. I watched some of the feed."
"Good." Caitlin came to a stop. "Skye, Laura, I want you both to go to Oshawa Centre. Keep an eye out for Carpenter, Powell, and Vincent, but don't attract attention. If you see them, make a note of who they're with. Skye, you have your camera?"
Skye patted her breast pocket. "Got it. It might be a little obvious, though."
"Remind me to ask Vamsi for something smaller for you when this is all over. Laura, try to help Skye look inconspicuous."
"How? Interpretive dance in the middle of the crowd?"
Caitlin levelled a stare at her new roommate. "Sarcasm doesn't become you." She turned to Autumn. "Meanwhile, you are with me. We're going to start digging into some records."
Autumn smiled. "Excellent. About time."
"We'll need shovels."
Autumn's arms dropped to her side. "What?"
"Didn't I mention? There's a time capsule that we need to examine."
The Asian girl groaned. "Caitlin, do you know what digging is going to do to my nails? Jay likes my hands."
"Hey, guys?" Laura broke in. "Why is the machine shop closed? It's still early."
Skye nodded. "Good point. It's like we're being set up."
"Of course it's a trap," Caitlin said. "Wheeler is trying to bolster his hand. Too bad we're working on the dealer instead."
Laura sighed. "Poker metaphors."
Caitlin smirked. "You brought it up. Cope." The red-haired girl took Autumn's arm. "Get going. Remember, keep out of sight as much as you can."
Oshawa Centre was busy for mid-week. Families were out wandering from shop to shop while young people milled about. Laura kept close to Skye, well aware that their uniforms were causing a stir. "Caitlin knows that we're as inconspicuous as an elepahnt here, right?"
"They see the uniform, not us." Skye waved to a security guard as the two girls passed him. "We're here window shopping."
"Can we dinner shop instead? Besides, if any of those girls are here, they'll be eating, too."
Skye laughed. "Yeah, makes sense. Try not to spoil supper. I've got a list for tonight. Are you allergic to fish?"
"Not that I know of. I haven't had fish and chips in a while."
"It may be even longer. I want to try fish in a bag, and there's no potatoes involved."
Laura looked up at Skye. "You cook?"
"I do more than just sandwiches and hit annoying people, yes."
"It's not that. I mean, how did you learn?"
"My mom and dad taught me different things. I can barbecue, broil, fry, and fricassee. Living at the Academy, it comes in handy." Skye chuckled. "The caf is horrible."
Laura nodded in agreement. "Can you teach me? I burn water."
"I thought you were into chemistry."
"I am. I can get compounds to mix and boil. Food eludes me."
Skye smirked. "I'll teach you. I am surprised." Movement in the crowd caught her attention. "Hey, Laura, does she look familiar?" She nodded her head in the general direction of her quarry.
Laura peered into the crowd. "That's the cheese girl."
"Yeah." Skye walked into the crowd. "Wonder why she ran?"
Laura followed in the tall girl's wake. "Because you're tall and scary?" She looked around. "Do you see her friends?"
Skye scanned the crowd. "No."
"Weird." Laura looked back. She spotted a young man her age sneaking into a video game store. "Not so weird. Skye, she had a friend."
Skye slowed down. "Where?"
"In the game store. He's wearing the green windbreaker and the red ballcap."
"I see him." Skye found a bench where she could look into the game store. "Laura, keep an eye on him." She fished out her camera.
Laura sat down beside her roommate. "He's doing a poor job of looking at games."
Skye adjusted the settings on her camera. "Laura, lean in a bit. Make it look like you're trying to help me figure the camera out."
With a shrug, Laura leaned over, looking down at the camera. She glanced up time to time to keep an eye on Bree's friend. "He's over by the Playstation games."
"I see him." Skye took a quick photo. She raised an eyebrow. "Good, no flash." She took two more. "Laura, correct me."
"Point at the camera. Make it look like I'm doing something wrong."
Laura pointed at the settings dial. "Like this?"
"Good." Skye took another shot. "I think that should be enough." She checked the photos on the camera's display. Satisfied, she said, "Yeah, this is good." The tall girl looked up. She saw a security guard approaching. "Time to go." Skye put the camera back in her pocket as she stood up.
Laura also got to her feet. "No pre-dinner snack?"
Autumn's shovel clinked when it hit the metal box. Caitlin knelt down in the dirt to find the box's edges. The red-haired girl grabbed her shovel again to unearth the treasure. "Finally!" With Autumn's help, Caitlin got the box out of the hole.
"Just how deep did they want this?" Autumn stared at her hands. "My nails are ruined!"
"Good thing I don't need your nails." Caitlin examined the metal box. "Simple lock. Autumn?"
Caitlin sighed. "Do I really have to ask after all this digging? Can you pick the lock?"
"If I still had feeling in my hands, sure."
"Try, so we can bury the box again and go back to the dorm." Caitlin moved aside to give Autumn room to work.
The Asian girl pulled a simple lockpick from her hair. With a moment of effort, the box's lock clicked open. "There."
Caitlin pulled the box to her. She rummaged through the papers inside. "Aha!" She skimmed over a newspaper clipping. "Found what I wanted." Taking a notebook from her pocket, she scribbled a few details down. She placed the clipping back in the box.
"A newspaper report? Caitlin, I could have looked that up online in less time."
"You could have, if we knew what we were looking for. I knew there was something useful in here, but not what." Caitlin closed the box. "Let's get this buried again."
"You owe me a pedicure, Caitlin."
"Do I really have to ask after all this digging?"
"A computer system filled with life-threatening medical information? Autumn will enjoy the challenge."
"Time to let us in on the good stuff."
"Let's get back at Caitlin first"