A tall, portly man almost
“That’s right, Mr. Spelling,” Storm replied. “We met when my Mom signed me in.”
“You wanted to see us, Mr. Spelling,”
“We have an unfortunate situation.” Spelling gestured toward his office. “It seems during an altercation outside the high school yesterday, Dave Amador and Marty Meyers were injured. Mr. Amador has demanded an investigation, claiming his son was assaulted. Let’s take this in my office so you two won’t have to repeat your version of what happened.”
Having served in combat for nearly a year in
Janet met Storm’s look with something between impatient anger and a knowing bond.
Spelling gestured for
“This is concerning an incident outside the high school yesterday morning,” Spelling addressed the group as
“Those are the facts, yes,” Amador stated belligerently. “These two attacked my son and his friends for no reason. The Stanfield boy broke my son’s wrist.”
“I didn’t break his wrist,”
“He has a cast on his arm,
“Yeah, I know,”
“Are you insinuating…” Amador began to bluster.
“What about it, Commissioner,” Principal Spelling interrupted. “We should confirm the injury before this goes any further.”
Amador reddened. “Broken, sprained, who cares?! My son was attacked, and his friend’s ankle almost broken. I want these two expelled!”
“I’ve heard your version of this,” Spelling replied in measured tone. “Why don’t you tell us what your version is Ms. Crandall.”
“I was walking to school alone when…”
“You weren’t with Mr. Stanfield?” Spelling broke in.
“No, I hadn’t even met him yet,” Storm said. “Dave Amador and his two friends began harassing me as I walked. When Marty pulled the book bag off my shoulder to look through it, I stomped on his instep and ran for the school. Dave and Chuck chased me.
“So you admit to attacking my son and his friends over a harmless prank, you…” Amador broke in angrily.
“Woe there, Pointdexter,” Janet cut him off. “You better rein in that mouth of yours. I saw your son and these other two harassing kids when I drove Storm to school the first week we were here. I should have reported them then.”
“Bullshit!” Amador shouted, standing up in a rage. “You and your daughter come here making wild accusations, and…”
“Are you calling me a liar?!” Janet pushed out of her chair and went around toward Amador in the blink of an eye.
“Wait,” Mrs. Meyers said, standing up, and holding out a hand in placating fashion to halt Janet. She grabbed Marty by the ear. “Did you grab this girl’s bag, Marty? By God, you better tell me the truth. You and Chuck haven’t been the same since you started hanging around with David. Now you tell me the truth, boy!”
“I…I grabbed her bag,” Marty admitted, his head tilted to relieve the pressure on his ear.
“Have you and Chuck been hassling kids on the way to school in the morning?” Mrs. Meyers asked, resignation plain in her voice.
“Yeah, we did. Let Marty go, Ma,” Chuck answered for his brother, still staring down at the table dejectedly.
“This doesn’t prove anything!” Amador shouted, pounding his fist on the table. “Those two will say anything under coercion. My son…”
“Kevin McGraff saw what happened,” Storm cut in. “He’s not afraid to tell you what he saw. No one’s pressuring him one way or another.”
“How do we know you’re not…”
“I’m warning you, you little turd,” Janet moved past Mrs. Meyers, pointing a finger at Amador, who stepped back with his hands up. “You keep running off at the mouth, and…”
“Please, Mrs. Crandall,” Spelling pleaded. “Let’s all sit down. I’ll have my secretary call Kevin McGraff out of class. If he backs your daughter’s story, the school’s part in this investigation will be over.
Amador looked relieved, but Janet’s face had not changed expression, causing Storm to launch half way out of her seat.
“C’mon Mom,” Storm added her plea. “Do what Principal Spelling asked. Please sit down. Kevin will clear this up.”
Janet never looked away from Amador. Her fist clenched and unclenched at her side. She relaxed momentarily and everyone relaxed around the table. Janet shot forward suddenly, gripping Amador’s lip between her forefinger and thumb, twisting Amador’s head as she twisted his upper lip. Janet leaned down, as Amador danced with a kind of mewling sound issuing from his mouth.
“Be real careful what comes out of your mouth from this moment on,” Janet whispered fiercely as even Amador’s son had scooted away from the two. “Understand?”
Amador nodded his head in agreement as he continued to dance in place.
“Good,” Janet said, releasing Amador and walking back toward her seat. “Please call McGraff, Mr. Spelling. I believe we can wait calmly now.”
Spelling looked around the room doubtfully. When Amador sat down patting his lip gently, Spelling went out to give directives to his secretary. He came back a moment later and sat down.
“After the Meyers’ boys’ revelations, if Mr. McGraff backs up their account of yesterday morning,” Spelling reiterated, looking at Amador directly, “we’re done here. Would you like to add anything,
“Storm related it just as it happened,”
“And before you say anything, Amador,”
Amador started to respond. One glance over at a smiling Janet and he huddled with his son for a moment, speaking to him in an urgent whisper. Five minutes later, Kevin McGraff walked into the room, escorted by Spelling’s secretary. A confused look entered his facial features when he saw the attendees in the room.
“You wanted to see me, Mr. Spelling?”
“Did you witness the altercation yesterday morning before school?” Spelling asked.
“Yes, I did,” Kevin smiled. “Marty there tried to take Storm’s book bag and got his foot stomped. Then, Dave and Chuck chased Storm toward the school. It was going to be a close race until
“Thank you, Kevin,” Spelling said. “You may go back to class.”
“Anytime,” Kevin replied, looking directly at Dave Amador. “Anytime.”
After the door was closed behind Kevin, Spelling stood up.
“I’m sorry. As I see it, I should be thinking of expelling your son, Commissioner and the two Meyers boys. Something valuable has come out of this: I realize I will have to extend the safety perimeter around the school.”
“Not for these two, Mr. Spelling,” Mrs. Meyers stated angrily. “My boys will not be bothering anybody from now on, or messing around with this trouble maker over here. I’ll walk them to school holding their hands if I have to. My husband detests bullies. I’m sure he’d like a chance to reeducate his sons.”
“Very well, Mrs. Meyers,” Spelling nodded. “Marty, you and Chuck may return to classes. Dave, you owe Ms. Crandall an apology, as do your two cohorts.”
“I’m sorry,” Marty told Storm, and his brother echoed the statement with some sincerity.
Dave stayed quiet, looking at his folded hands in front of him on the table. The elder Amador stared at Spelling as if daring him to say something. Spelling obliged him.
“You’re suspended for three days, David,” Spelling stated. “After your return I will be watching you. Any more incidents and you will be expelled. Is that clear?”
“I hear you,” Dave retorted, standing up. “Can we go now?”
“You haven’t heard the last of this, Spelling,” Amador added angrily. “C’mon, Dave, we’re getting out of here.”
Amador and his son brushed by Spelling on the way out, slamming the conference room door behind them.
“I think this meeting is at an end,” Spelling said with a sigh. “Thank you all for coming. I know this whole thing was engineered by the Commissioner, but it did make me realize I’ve been neglecting some safety concerns around here. Please accept my apology for any inconvenience this caused you. There really wasn’t any real alternative.”
As the group left their seats to walk out, Mrs. Meyers held out her hand to Janet. “I meant it, Mrs. Crandall. There’ll be no more trouble from my two boys.”
“Thank you,” Janet replied with a smile, shaking the woman’s hand. “Call me Janet.”
“I’m Anne. Things just haven’t been the same since those kids disappeared and my boys started hanging out with that Amador kid,” Anne said gratefully. “You sure ate that arrogant toad Amador’s lunch today.”
“Here’s hoping we’ll only see each other at PTA,” Anne said with a sigh, before walking out of the room with a warning gesture for her sons.
“You have a hell of a kid there, Mike,” Janet commented. “He’s a Marine all right.”
“Oh,” Mike said with some surprise, looking over at his son. “He doesn’t usually tell anyone about being a Marine for some unknown reason. My wife and I almost croaked when he disappeared. Then we get a call he’s been found, he’s been wounded in action, and received the Navy Cross. It’s pretty tough to chew him out after all that.”
“I can only imagine,” Janet laughed.
“We’re proud as hell of him and no dirt-bag like Amador is going to mess with him while I’m breathing,” Mike added with a gritty tone. “I know
“I’ll keep an eye on them,” Janet promised him.
“You do that,” Mike laughed. “Nice move on Amador. I’m sure
“Bye, Mike, nice meeting you,” Janet said, taking out her PDA and making a few notes.
Mike put a hand on
“Next time, tell your old man about the day’s events, so I can plan my schedule.”
“Sorry, Pop. I didn’t think it was any big deal and I sure didn’t think Dave Amador would claim to have been attacked.”
“I understand.” Mike nodded, shaking hands with Principal Spelling and then Storm while ignoring the Meyers boys. “I’ll see you at home. Nice meeting you, Storm. You two… stay away from that jerk, Amador.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Chuck replied dejectedly. “We’ll end up grounded over this until sometime in the next century.”
As Mike left the room,
“Glad to hear this,” Spelling said approvingly. “You four get along back to class.”
As the four students exited the office, Storm waved at Janet, who had looked up from her notes in time to wave back. She gave her the forefinger and middle finger pointing at her eyes and then at Storm gesture, mouthing ‘I’m watching you’. Storm giggled and walked out with
“I must say, Mrs. Crandall, that was a bit more than I’ve seen in a meeting from a housewife,” Spelling complimented her. “Commissioner Amador can and has been very intimidating at PTA meetings and board meetings.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Janet asked in some surprise. “You folks around here let that twerp push you around? If he tries anything, Mr. Spelling, you call me. I have some friends in higher places than him. If nothing else, I’ll go over his house and kick his ass.”
Spelling burst into laughter, shaking Janet’s hand with both his. “I bet you… would… Mrs. Crandall. I bet you would.”
“Wow, exciting morning, huh?”
“I think we’re going to need them,” Storm replied with a short laugh. “I hope
“You were right about Janet,”
“We didn’t get along very well at first. She still knows how to stick the needle in just enough to make me howl. Of course I’ve been holding my own on that count.”
“So I’ve noticed. Are we still getting together for lunch with
“We’ll hit the lunch room once we hook up with
* * * *
“I heard on the grapevine you two were pulled out of class,”
“Just Dave and his Dad,”
“She did not!”
“We figured the cafeteria would be the best place to pick up our three cohorts,” Storm answered. “Do you know if Carol, Chris, and Nancy have lunch this hour?”
More than a few students watched the three walking through the cafeteria. The rumor mill in any high school grinds out news at a pace far in excess of the school’s hierarchy’s wishes. Have the same set of characters cast in two consecutive days’ gossip and in short order, rumor plots begin looking for those particular characters. Add in pop culture names, mystery backgrounds, escalating unanswered questions, and the mix rapidly shoots past the normal attention span of gerbils most high school students foster.
“What’s going on?” Carol asked immediately when Storm,
“It was nothing, Carol,”
“No, we were hoping one of you had picked up on something,”
“Not yet,” Storm replied. “My Mom was summoned to the meeting so she would have said something if she had anything to report. Not even an absentee?”
“Our English teacher was absent today,” Chris spoke up for the first time. “Ms. Grable.”
“Grable the Goth?”
“Are there two?” Chris retorted derisively, provoking chuckles from everyone but
“We…” Storm’s cell-phone vibrated and she answered it.
“You were right,” Janet greeted her succinctly. “They unearthed the remains of five bodies, all pending DNA confirmation. There were enough personal effects with the bodies to make it pretty clear who they are. I’ll fill you in on the details later. Tell your little friends, but play around with swearing them to secrecy. They won’t be able to keep their mouths shut and then we’ll see what happens when they talk. Ted’s on Grable as we speak, Good work.”
“Are you going to pick her up?”
“We can’t do that yet, Wendy, or all this shit will be wasted and she’ll get off. All we have so far is your friend Chris’s report Grable was absent today. Let’s not blow this. Ted and I are floating in the good graces of our boss after finding the bodies. Don’t shoot us down yet.”
“Understood, Mom,” Storm added, and hung up. She hunched over the table. The others did as well when they saw the look on Storm’s face.
“The police unearthed the bodies of who they think are the missing students over in
“Jesus! That means the cloud thing from last night was definitely what murdered them,” Carol concluded in a hushed voice. “What’re we going to do?”
“Same thing as today, Carol. Calm down,”
“Do you think Grable has something to do with this or not?” Chris persisted. “She’s creepy enough to be involved in anything.”
“I’m writing her name down,” Storm told her, taking her notebook out, knowing the action was just for show. “I’ll see what I can find out about her tonight.”
“I’ll spring for dinner at the King, if all of you want to compare notes later,”
“Sorry,” Carol said immediately, shaking her head. “I don’t want to be that near to Perkins. Besides, my Dad is reining me in for a while after the supposed accident last night.”
“I think Chris and I will be staying away from there for a while too,
“I’ll pick up Storm and come over,”
“Diet Pepsi,” Storm said. “Thanks.”
“Same for me, Hulk.”
“Is this the study group warm-up?” Kevin asked, winking at
“Table? I don’t need no stinking table,” Kevin joked, pulling another chair around to the table and sitting down while balancing his tray. “Quite a meeting this morning.”
“We survived, thanks to you,” Storm said. “I’m sorry about dragging you into it but I remembered you telling me about seeing the whole thing yesterday with Dave.”
“I didn’t mind a bit,” Kevin replied. “It got me out of English. We had a sub anyhow. Did I miss anything, Chris?”
“Nope, I was telling them Grable the Goth had been absent today,” Chris answered.
“She’s okay,” Kevin piped in, frowning as he took a bite of his sandwich.
“We…we thought maybe her absence… with all that’s been happening…” Storm began hesitantly, perking up at Kevin’s immediate defense of Grable.
“All of what?” Kevin asked, looking around questioningly.
Storm decided to take a gamble. She related in detail what had happened the night before, and ended it with the fact the police had uncovered the remains of five bodies in
“Wow, you’re pretty well informed, Storm. I haven’t heard anything about any bodies being found.” Kevin chuckled a little. “I have no opinion on monsters in the park.”
“You would have if that thing had reached for you last night,” Carol retorted, standing up. “I’ll see you all later. I have to take care of a few things before class.”
“What’d I say?” Kevin asked innocently. “It’s not that I don’t believe you guys but I’m just not into monsters.”
“We know it’s hard to believe,” Storm said. “Do you know Ms. Grable pretty well?”
“She’s a good teacher. I like English though. What’s this about?”
“The five girls who were killed all dressed Goth and they were honor students,” Storm replied. “We were just snooping around for something out of place, especially with what happened to Carol.”
“I don’t remember you being real big into English, Kev,” Chris interjected.
“Can’t get through high school and on to college without it,” Kevin replied. “Anyway, I better get going too. Are we still on for Saturday, Storm?”
“Oh… yeah… here,” Storm jotted her address down on a piece of notebook paper, and handed it to Kevin. “Is noontime okay with you?”
“Perfect, and don’t forget I need help in Chemistry, big time,” Kevin said, standing up with his tray and walking away with a wave. “See ya.”
“That was weird,”
“I knew it!”
“Hey, let’s not go over the cliff here,”
“He is pretty tight with Grable,” Chris added. “I guess the key here is what you find out about Grable. This whole thing could be bullshit if she just caught the flu.”
“Would you be willing to go over to her place and see how she’s doing?” Storm asked.
“Let me think,” Chris replied, tilting her head up thoughtfully with one hand on her chin for a moment.
“No, and hell no!” Chris stated comically, giving Storm the wave off. “If you think I’m going over to some witch wannnabe’s house, where she might have ‘The Darkness’ waiting for me, you’re out of your sophomore mind.”
“Just asking,” Storm shrugged, as even
“The police won’t believe cloud monsters. Even if they did, what the hell would they be able to do about it?”
“I guess we’ll get together tomorrow once I find out more as to what the police came up with,” Storm said finally. “Let’s keep up the surveillance of things extraordinary and get together for lunch tomorrow.”
“It’s not a big thing,”
“Does it make a difference if kids are dying and the best chance of maybe catching the killer rests in her hands?”
“Yeah, we noticed,” Chris sighed. “First, Carol couldn’t stand the sight of her and now she’s Storm’s bitch. What’s up with that?”
“She told us you stopped the monster, Storm,”
“Storm chanted something,”
“A chant?” Chris asked, looking around in confusion.
“Maybe we ought to forget this group thing,” Storm suggested, standing up, with Logan and Tracy following her lead. “Just watch your backs for a while until we see where this goes.”
Storm turned to walk out. Chris called her back.
“Wait… we’re in,” Chris said reluctantly, getting a nod from
“Do dogs piss on bushes?” Chris fired off a quick retort, evoking laughter as she dug around and came up with a piece of paper and pen. She jotted down her number and handed it to Storm. “Don’t call me unless you can guarantee I’m not going to end up as bait.”
“I’ll go with you to the door, Chris,”
“Great… another nickname,” Storm muttered, as the others laughed at
“I bet Janet will like the updated witch reference nickname,”
“Oh my God, thank you for reminding me I’m transmitting,” Storm hissed through clenched teeth as
“You’re… oh, I see,”