"The question is, what are you willing to do to pass?"
"Powell, Carpenter, and Vincent were in on the fix. There is no way they would have acted like they did otherwise."
"I found out from Jennie an hour before the game."
"To the mall!"
Basketball Night in Canada
Chapter 6 - Mall Trawl
Oshawa Centre bustled as shoppers wended their way from store to store. The food court was busy as the supper rush descended on the various offerings. The mood changed, a subtle change, one that the crowd of shoppers would not be able to articulate, but one that the crowd could trace. The source of the mood change had entered the mall - four teenaged girls, all wearing the uniform of the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy. Security guards appeared along the girls' path, keeping a watchful eye on them. For their part, three of the girls ignored the attention.
"Caitlin, why are they watching us?" Laura asked. She moved in closer to the red-haired leader.
"Our reputation precedes us." Caitlin smiled at a guard as she walked past him. "We're like wolves in a herd of caribou. If we keep our body language friendly, no one gets spooked and there's no stampede."
Autumn tugged on Laura's arm, pulling her away from the redhead. "Not so close. Showing fear isn't good. Someone might act on it and then it'll get messy."
"Remember that we're not here to start anything," Caitlin said. "We're just looking for Jennie Carpenter to ask her a few questions."
"And that's why everyone in a uniform is staring at us?" Laura kept an eye on the guards. "It's making me nervous."
"Just what were you involved in before you came here?" Skye asked. "No, never mind. The less I know, the less I can be compelled to repeat in court."
Laura laughed, though it came out sounding forced and false. "There are going to be witnesses, Caitlin."
The redhead pointed at the ceiling. "Cameras everywhere. Even if the guards weren't here, they'd be watching. Laura, I am well aware of the limits we're working under here. You have to trust me that we will get the information and leave without any problems."
"Right. Trust you."
"Don't roll your eyes. It's unbecoming." Caitlin came to a stop at the wide entrance to the food court. "Let's see if Carpenter is here."
Skye scanned the crowd. "Can't see her in the crowd. If she's sitting, she's too low for me."
"It'd be faster if we split up," Autumn suggested.
"And then have one or two of us confront her?" Caitlin shook her head. "No. She's here, probably with a boyfriend, and he'll be an issue, too. We need to stay together."
The four Unruly students entered the food court. With a steady pace, they entered the crowd, which parted for them. Their search took them past a line of offerings, from burgers and fries to teriyaki. Autumn felt her stomach rumble but ignored it. She turned her line of sight away from the vendors. "Hey guys?" the Asian girl said. She nudged Skye, "Is that her?"
Skye followed her roommate's gaze to a girl with black hair cascading past her shoulders sitting at a table, oblivious to anything around her except the teenaged blonde boy sitting across from her. The two shared a packet of fries. "That's her," Skye confirmed.
Caitlin led the group towards the couple. Skye broke away briefly to get on the boy's side of the aisle between tables. "Hello, Jennie," Caitlin said, several steps away from the pair.
Without looking away from her boy, Jennie waved away the newcomers. "Not now, guys. I'm busy."
"This won't take long. He can wait."
With a sigh Jennie tore her gaze away from her boyfriend. "Monique, I--" The Simcoe girl cut off the rest of her sentence on seeing Caitlin. "What the hell?"
"Good, I have your attention." Caitlin stood over the Simcoe student. "Jennifer Tamara Carpenter, correct?"
Jennie looked over to her boyfriend. "Dylan, do something!"
Dylan began to stand up, only to have Skye push down on his shoulder. "I wouldn't do that, Dylan," Skye said. "Might lead to unpleasantness."
"Jennie, just one question and we'll leave you and your new toy alone," Caitlin said. "Who told you yesterday's basketball game was fixed?"
"I don't know." Jennie shifted in her chair. "Bree, I guess."
Caitlin pouted. "Oh, wrong answer. Guess who told us that you said the game was fixed." The redhead loomed over the Simcoe student. "Try again."
"Leave her alone!" Dylan tried to get up again, only to be held down by Skye. "Let go of me!"
Jennie glared at Caitlin. "None of your damned business, bitch."
"She's not being friendly," Autumn said. "Can we go to Plan B?"
"What's Plan B?" Jennie narrowed her eyes. "You can't touch me."
"I know." Caitlin shrugged. "Quite frankly, I don't want to touch you." She looked over at the seething Dylan. "Do you know where she's been lately?"
Dylan shrugged out of Skye's hold and got to his feet. "Leave her alone!"
Skye took a step away from Jennie's boyfriend. "This has nothing to do with you, Dylan. Go wash up or something."
"Jennie, you can tell us," Caitlin said. "You don't have to be a pawn."
"Oh, screw you."
"Back away from her!" Dylan took a step towards the corner of the table, getting ready to go around it.
Skye sighed. "Dylan, think hard about what you're about to do."
Dylan spun to face Skye. "Or what?" He poked the tall girl hard in her chest.
Skye looked down at her chest then over to Dylan. "Yeah, that wasn't an option."
Dylan lunged at Skye. He cocked back his fist, threw a punch. Skye sidestepped the blow, grabbing Dylan's arm. She twisted his arm behind his back, then pushed him down hard on the table. One cup fell over, its clear soda running over the table and into Dylan's t-shirt. Around the fight, people started shrieking and moving away. "Cait," Skye said, a warning tone in her voice.
"A name, Jennifer. Now."
Jennie stared wide-eyed at Skye and Dylan. "Phil. Phil Wheeler."
Caitlin nodded. "And who is he?"
"He lives near me. He's the one who told me that the ref was going to call the game for us."
Half a dozen security guards arrived. Skye let go of Dylan, taking several steps back and keeping her arms raised. One of the guards spoke into a radio as another stepped forward. "What's going on?"
"A very good question, Mister," Caitlin paused to read the guard's name tage, "Calderon."
Dylan pointed at Skye. "That bitch took a swing at me."
"Me? You're the one who missed." Skye turned to the Calderon. "He attacked me. I put him in a hold in self defense."
"I want her and her friends arrested!"
Caitlin stepped in between Dylan and Calderon. "That would be a bad idea. Our lawyer would first subpoena the camera footage." The red-haired girl pointed at the camera dome in the ceiling. "That probably caught it all. Does it do audio, too? Or is it too busy here to get anything clearly? Never mind, not important now. What is important is that the footage will show that we were just talking when he lunged at my friend. It'll boil down to whoever has the better lawyer." Caitlin gave a demure smile. "Of course, if the police do get involved, I'm sure my tall friend wouldn't have problems filing charges, too. Imagine that, a teenaged boy trying to hit a girl." The redhead tsk'ed. "Caught on video, too."
More security guards arrived. Calderon looked at Caitlin, Dylan, and Skye, in order. He sighed. "I'm not getting paid enough for this." He keyed his radio microphone. "Base, it's Calderon in the food court. Is there a supervisor around? Over."
The radio crackled. "She's on her dinner break. Had the sense to be somewhere else. Need assistance?"
Calderon regarded the girls and Dylan. "It's under control for now." The security guard sighed. "All of you, out!"
Jennie sputtered. "I didn't do anything!"
"I don't care. Everyone here, all six of you, you're banned from the mall for the night. Go cause problems somewhere else." Calderon waved to his fellow guards to move in. "You're not welcome here."
"Come along, ladies." Caitlin started back to the food court's entrance. "We're done here anyway." Autumn gave the food vendors one last longing look before following the redhead.
Outside, the Academy students marched past the bus stop, leaving the mall's grounds entirely. Laura kept looking back at the mall until it was out of sight. "Caitlin, I can't get arrested!"
"Psh. We were never going to be arrested."
"I'm in witness protection! I can't take that chance!"
Caitlin brought the group to a stop. She put a hand on each of Laura's shoulders. "Laura, remember what school you go to. You were never at risk. I knew security would be there."
"I'd have dealt with Jennie's boytoy long before he took a swing at me if we weren't at the mall," Skye said. "Academy students don't necessarily start fights. We do finish them."
Laura pulled away from Caitlin. "You're not getting it! I can't be found!"
Autumn stepped in between Caitlin and Laura. "We do get it, Laura. You have people hunting you. That's why you're at the Academy. Understand that whoever arranged for you to come here knows exactly what the Academy is. If they didn't, you'd be somewhere else, bored to tears." Autumn took her new roommate's hand. "None of us want to go to jail, especially over those two losers in the mall. We've been at the Academy since Grade Seven, Laura. We're really good with Rule Four."
"Can we just go back to the dorm?" Laura wiped her eyes. "Please?"
"That's where we're going," Caitlin said. "We're just heading off a bit so that mall security doesn't get antsy with us on the edige of mall property. Skye, flag us a cab."
Back at the dorm, Laura flopped face first on her bed. Her moan was muffled by her blankets. Autumn perched on her bed, picking up her tablet. "Oh, please, Laura."
"I'm angry and hungry," the new roommate said. "And I still have homework. I really hate homework."
"Suck it up, buttercup." Skye sat down at the table. "And we're all hungry. Cait, we could have grabbed something to go before dealing with Jennie."
Caitling hung up her blazer. "And risk having one of them spot us before we were ready for it? No. We got what we wanted."
Autumn laid back on her bed. "Which I won't get to until after dinner, Caitlin." She checked the time on her tablet. "Cafeteria's closed. Who's cooking?"
"Isn't cooking a type of chemistry?" Skye asked. She looked over at Laura. "And we know who is good at chemistry."
Laura rolled over on to her back. "I can burn water. It's impressive."
"Fine." Autumn set aside her tablet as she rolled out of her bed. "Do we still have soup stock?"
"I haven't touched it." Caitlin sat down across from Skye. "We need to figure out or next step."
Autumn banged a pot on the kitchenette counter. "After dinner. And after homework. We still need to keep our marks up."
"That reminds me." Caitlin turned in her chair to face Laura. "There's a one page paper due tomorrow morning. A poem about a favourite memory." The redhead smirked as Laura groaned. "Free verse. Should be fun."
Laura snorted. "Yeah, fun." She rolled out of her bed. "What about Wheeler? Won't Jennie warn him that we know what he did?"
Caitlin smirked. "You say that like it's a bad thing. I want him to know. I want him looking over his shoulder. I want him trying to clean up after himself. The more he panics, the more mistakes he'll make. Mistakes can be exploited."
"Unearned runs are still runs." Skye got up and walked to the cupboard. She reached over Autumn to get bowls out. "Baseball."
"I got the reference, thanks." Laura grabbed her book bag and removed some paper. "I've been to a few Blue Jays games. Box seats."
"Wheeler will expect us. The longer we take, the more worried he'll get." Caitlin leaned back to let Skye set the table. "He'll imagine the worst we could do. When we approach him, he'll be worked up enough that whatever we suggest will be better than what he imagined. We have to, however, do our research."
Autumn looked up from the pot she had boiling. "After dinner, Caitlin. After. It's not like we have to rush."
"We have until Friday," the redhead corrected. "However, tonight should be an early night. Someone needs to go to see a teacher before her first class tomorrow morning. It would be nice if that someone could wake up pleasant."
"Tell me that you are serious."
"A fate worse than death. Fine, I'll adapt."
"He was waiting for us."
"I said I didn't want to be disturbed."