"Tell Verity exactly what we're doing?"
"Laura, we're going to Neutral Grounds tonight."
"Just because it was my idea doesn't mean I need to go."
Basketball Night In Canada
Chapter 12 - Scorpions
Caitlin paid no mind to her new roommate. Instead, she kept her focus on her rival. "Verity."
"Caitlin." Verity returned the redhead's gaze with an equal intensity.
The barista stepped forward. "Is there a problem, ladies?"
"No, no problem at all." Verity's smile never reached her eyes.
"None at all." Caitlin motioned for her rival to sit down.
The barista nodded. "That's what I like to hear." He returned behind the counter, but kept a watch.
Verity sat back down. "This is unlike you, Caitlin, coming out to the coffee shop." She smoothed out her skirt.
Caitlin sat in the chair opposite the brunette. "I don't believe I've seen you here, either." She poured herself a cup of tea. "I believe we have a mutual problem."
"Odd. For an Unruly, I'd have never expected faith from you." Verity took a sip from her mug. "My prayers, though, have been answered. Caitlin Kane-O'Shaughnessy, looking for my help."
A red eyebrow raised. "Your help?" Caitlin scoffed. "Your informants have been mislead."
Verity raised her head to look down her nose at her rival. "Oh? I've been told that your school may have to shut down. I'll miss you."
"That rumour has been around before we ever met, Verity." Caitlin's voice remained calm and collected. "There are a number of people who would celebrate the Academy's closure. However, if the rumours are true, it won't be you who gets the bragging rights."
"Why would I need to brag when I'll have what I want?"
Caitlin leaned forward, her red hair cascading over her shoulders. "Do you really want Carly Sullivan to claim she was the one responsible?"
Verity set her mug down harder than she intended. "Carly? Please. She has troubles tying her laces." The brunette lifted a leg to show off her buckled Mary Janes. "And we don't have laces." She set her foot back down. "Besides, I owe you for that stunt with the exploding cola."
Caitlin took a sip of her tea before waving off the accusation. "We owe each other for so much over the years, Verity. Carly is a mere sideshow for me. However, I believe she's been foiling some of your schemes for almost as long as I have."
"Carly is a St. Dymphna problem. Why would you care, Caitlin?"
"Carly seems to have gained competency lately." The redhead leaned back in her chair. "As you say, she's normally your problem. A minor pain. But if she accomplishes what you've failed to do, namely, top me, how would that look for you?"
Verity broke away from the red-haired girl's eyes for a moment. "This is a condundrum," she said. "Help Carly, or, at least, stay out of her way and see you sent to, well, I have my dreams; or, help you to prevent Carly from being a right pain." She shook her head, her twin tails brushing her shoulders as she did so. "Caitlin, are you saying that Carly is as much a problem as you are?"
"Believe what you want. What I'm saying is that if Carly can all of a sudden take down the Academy, what will stop her from going after you with the same efficiency?" Caitlin took another sip of her tea. "Who would be able to stop her?"
Verity nodded. "I see your point. You have an idea of who is helping Carly?"
"Someone's helping her?" Caitlin feigned surprise. "I wish I knew how to gasp properly."
"Please, Caitlin." Verity rolled her eyes. "Carly is not in our league and never will be without assistance."
"True. Few are." The redhead looked over to Laura, then back to Verity. "We've seen a girl wearing a St. Dymphna uniform, though I didn't recognize her."
"You know what all the girls at my school look like?"
"Of course. After all, you could use anyone in your vendetta against me."
Verity gave a pointed stare at Laura. "I believe you would do the same thing to me, Caitlin. Doesn't the Academy have a rule about using new students in their first twenty-four hours? Oh, and I do know both our schools have a mandatory rule about wearing uniforms."
"Only when the girl has one." Caitlin smiled. "There's surprisingly little said about what happens when a girl arrives but her uniform hasn't. Would you prefer new girls go out nude? What would your Headmaster say to that?" The redhead ignored Laura's coughing fit.
"What do you want, Caitlin?"
"Funny. If my girls and I hadn't been hit by exploding bottles of soft drinks, we'd have had Carly distracted for you." Verity shook her head in disdain. "Very sloppy of you, Caitlin, not thinking your scheme through like that."
Caitlin shrugged. "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
Verity smiled, a genuine one this time. "Are you calling for a truce?"
"Hardly. For one, neither of us can resist opportunities to embarass the other. However, sharing information can be done even if we're still plotting against each other."
"How can we trust the information we pass along to each other? After all, as you said, we naturally will take advantage of each other."
"I have a thought on that." Caitlin set down her tea cup. "We must agree that, despite anything else happening between us, any information shared about Carly must be accurate."
Verity nodded. "That still leaves room for setting each other up."
"I am fully aware of that." Caitlin smiled. "And we are both aware of that possibility. After all, Carly is just a minor player, one who is getting a little ambitious. Isn't that one of the seven sins?"
"There's debate. Lots of debate." Verity exchanged a knowing look with Mackenzie. "I agree to your terms, that all information about Carly passed between us must be truthful."
Caitlin beamed. "Excellent."
Verity picked up her mug again. "May I ask what you think Carly is up to? It must be serious to get you to think about making a deal with me."
"Rigging basketball games." Seeing her rival's puzzled expression, Caitlin continued, "It's an elegant idea, despite the clumsy execution. You may have noticed the basketball schedule is different this year?"
"I have." Verity nodded.
"Normally, both our schools would be suspended after our first game, traditionally against each other. Having the Academy play a different team and hoping for the same ferocity as against St. Dymphna? Genius, provided that the Academy's team stays true to form. After all, St. Dymphna gets protrayed as the victims to the Academy's viscious and feral girls who should be in a detention centre instead."
"I wasn't going to mention that, but, I see your point." Verity moued as she thought for a moment. "That's the surface, though. We do have good public relations, but the reality is different, and I do admit that. Our two schools have a history that expresses itself in many ways."
"Indeed." Caitlin finished her tea. "I must go. Even I must do homework."
"Wait. We need a way to pass information along."
Caitlin held out her arms, turning slowly to point out the coffee shop. "The café's name suggests that info exchanges should be done here."
Verity levelled a glare at her redhaired rival. "Even Carly will figure this out. No, we need somewhere else. Somewhere with not so many witnesses."
"Anywhere else, and someone will notice an Academy girl and a St. Dymphna girl talking to each other. Word would get back to Carly faster."
Laura cleared her throat. "What about a museum or something? Oshawa does have museums, right?"
Mackenzie nodded. "There's a few. And I'm sure whoever is sent won't be as noticeable if she takes a notebook with her."
Caitlin mused over the suggestion. "Museums would work. There's always someplace secluded."
"Just how do we know when to send someone? I am not sending any of my girls to a museum on the off chance that one of your would be there."
"Would you accept passing that information through here? It's not as damning to talk about a museum as actually talking about our mutual problem."
Verity shrugged. "Sure. Oh, and make sure you send someone who can behave herself."
"I will if you will." Caitlin got to her feet. "Come along, Laura. I believe we're done here."
Skye pulled Autumn to a stop when she recognized the street they turned on. "Really? Cait said we should avoid Wheeler's work. This isn't avoiding it."
"Wheeler's aware of the tap I've put on his cameras."
Skeptical, Skye glared down at her roommate. "How do you know that?"
"Some of his visitors have been avoiding the camera this afternoon." Autumn shrugged out of Skye's grip. She rotated her shoulder. "Ow. Watch the kung fu grip."
"Cait's going to be wondering where we got to."
"Let her. Skye, this is a chance to get to whoever's behind all this. Wouldn't Caitlin appreciate that sort of information after dealing with Verity tonight?" Autumn smirked. "Besides, what she doesn't know won't kill her."
Skye rolled her eyes. "Or you."
"We're wasting time. All we're doing is watching. There's no crime in that."
"I think watching falls under privacy laws." Still, Skye let herself be led down the street.
Autumn found a parked car the two girls could hide behind that still gave them a good view of Wheeler's shop. The sun set, turning the sky from its baby blue through the spectrum of orange and red before the dark of night settled in. Street lights came to life, hedging back the darkness. Skye shifted further in the shadow of the sedan she and Autumn hid behind. Autumn got to one knee to look around. Spying a figure on a bicycle, she ducked back down.
Both girls listened as the cyclist approached, the clack of the bicycle's chain growing louder. The cyclist stopped across the street from the girls. Skye lay down on the sidewalk to look under the car. She saw two feet, in running shoes and socks, as the cyclist dismounted. Skye pushed herself up to a crouch to peer through the car's windows to get a better look. The cyclist, Skye recognized her from Wheeler's home, walked up the steps to the shop, unlocked the door, then entered.
"Okay, not helpful," Autumn muttered.
"You didn't think she'd be the one here?" Skye asked, her tone low.
"I was hoping for someone else, like Mackenzie or Melina. Not Mystery Girl there."
"We should go now." Skye started to get up.
Autumn pulled on her roommate's arm, bringing Skye back down on her knees. "Not yet. I want to see if she figured out how I got into their system."
"Your ego can wait."
"It's not ego. Mostly. I want to know if Mystery Girl is competent." A yelp erupted from inside the shop. Autumn smiled. "Okay, that was pure ego there."
Skye stared at the shop. "What did you do?"
"Demonstrated why going cheap and having everything controlled through one computer is a very bad idea." Autumn looked back at Wheeler's workplace. "Apparently, Mystery Girl didn't realize that shutting down my security tap meant completing an tiny electrical circuit. I wonder what part of her got zapped."
The mystery girl stomped out of the shop, slamming the door behind her. Autumn and Skye heard her guttural mumbles, but couldn't make out much beyond profanity. The girl fumbled with the keys before locking the shop's door. As she turned, the two Academy students ducked back down. The mystery girl manhandled her bike around before she got back on it to leave.
Skye and Autumn waited a few minutes before getting to their feet. "She was not happy," the tall girl remarked.
"Not at all." Autumn sighed. "I still have no more idea of who she is."
"She's not from St. Dymphna."
Autumn looked up at Skye. "Because of her language? She's not in school and there are no nuns around armed with rulers and soap. She can swear as much as she likes."
"It's the uniform." Skye started walking, forcing the bewildered Autumn to follow. "It's too big for her."
"When was the last time you saw a Dymphnoid in a unform that didn't fit properly." Before Autumn could answer, Skye added, "Not including the Dymphnoids whose uniform got changed by someone at the Academy."
Autumn deflated. "Oh. Wait, Caroline still counts, right? Her shirt and jacket are too big for her, or would be if she didn't stuff her bra."
"You get my point."
"Yeah. We should let Caitlin know."
"You did what?"
"Poker is a game. Chess? Chess is war."
"Can we please not go down this sordid road?"
"Mystery Girl has a name."