Dim Sum Mysteries - 10. Chapter 10 - Feathery Days
Chapter 10 – Feathery Days
Wednesday, Mac Worthington High School, 08:48
It was unrealistic to think that everyone would just move on after Emma’s death so quickly. The days so far this week had gone by sluggishly, almost painfully so. There were fewer rowdy bunches in the corridors, invoking this kind of stillness throughout the school. It was frightening, to be honest. I hadn’t really noticed how much of an impression Emma had made on everyone.
I found Michael, Yuki and the other two members of the Japanese Culture Club folding origami cranes in the library. I gently bent forward and tentatively tapped Michael on his shoulder.
“Anyone sitting beside you?” I asked, indicating the empty seat next to him.
Michael shook his head and gestured for me to sit down, so I did just that. I watched in fascination at his fingers as he expertly sculpted a cute little crane from a piece of origami paper.
“What’cha doin’?” I asked.
“We’re trying to make one thousand paper cranes,” Michael explained with a small smile. “We’re going to give it to Emma’s parents.”
I picked up a bright yellow crane and peered closely at it. “Why?”
“The one thousand origami crane legend is quite popular in Japan,” Michael told me, placing another green crane on top of my hand, next to the yellow one. “They say that if you fold one thousand origami cranes, you can get your wish granted.”
“Do you need help?” I offered. From the looks of things, they had barely made twenty so far.
“Sure. Do you know how to fold a crane?”
I shook my head and then Michael proceeded to teach me. I was actually more fascinated in enjoying his hand touching mine, but oh well. While I was trying to salvage a crane that I had somehow turned into something that looked like a grotesque elephant, Michael nudged me with his elbow.
“Hey, are you busy after school?”
“I don’t think so,” I said absently. I struggled with the crane in my hands and ended up nearly tearing it into two. I crumpled the piece of paper and tossed it aside.
“Let’s go meet up at Spring Park,” Michael suggested eagerly. “Just the two of us. It’s been a while since we last had a good talk together.”
“Shouldn’t we be trying to find out how to stop the murderer instead of frolicking in fields of flowers?” I said. I knew it was unfair of me to have said that and in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to spend some more time with him.
Michael frowned at me. He looked slightly hurt and that made me feel guiltier.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “Okay. I’ll meet you there after I’ve dropped Anna off at home.”
Wednesday, Mac Worthington High School, 10:31
I was contemplating my relationship with Michael. I’ve always wondered where it would go, whether whatever we had between us would last, at least for a long time if not forever. I don’t know, I guess I was confused. I wanted so badly to be with him forever yet in my head, I knew I should take things more slowly. There were bigger things to think about; the murders, for one.
Talking about the murders, I suddenly remembered the text message Artie had given us all. It was just as chilling and perplexing as all the other ones before and it had been slow going for all of us to decipher its meaning.
After the heavens appear, you will find a body at the place where this began.
The message was probably there – I supposed I had a lot on my mind, so I couldn’t really decode it that moment.
I was at my locker, just thumbing through my books aimlessly, trying to think about the message and Michael at the same time. Obviously, that didn’t work out very well. I soon felt a presence behind me. That familiar, creeping feeling of aversion crawled underneath my skin and I could tell that it must be …
“It is I,” she replied. She brought Cynthia dangerously close to my face. “Cynthia has told me that there has been no news of a new text message.”
I gulped, hoping that the movement wasn’t visible. “Oh, yeah …”
“We may be going in blind this time, if the murderer wishes to strike again,” Victoria mused. She sounded like she knew something. Even if she did, she didn’t say so.
“I’ll be on the lookout,” I told her. Please, Victoria, just buy it. “You can help me, uh, you know … I mean, you tell everyone to be more careful too. And, I – well, I mean, you just call me if anything else comes up.”
Victoria’s eyes narrowed and then she pursed her lips. I still couldn’t believe that she could have been the killer, or the mastermind behind this all. I wish I had mind-reading powers.
“I’ll do that,” she said finally. She gave me one last, calculating glare before turning to leave. When she was out of sight, I heaved out a great sigh of relief. I knew there she was on to something, like she could tell that I had just lied to her. But that just added to the mystery – why didn’t see just tell me? Maybe Victoria really could be fooled, at least for now …
At the far end of the corridor, I caught a glimpse of one of our more … popular janitors. Yes, this was the man that we had been talking about. Gary Reed. He looked definitely scary, but there was no way he could have been the killer. He had nothing to do with us, or so I believed.
And then he looked at me. No, it wasn’t just some kind of passing glance. He looked straight into my eyes and held that gaze for more than a second, like he was singling me out of the crowd. It was freaky and I wanted to turn away, but it was as if I was mesmerized. Finally, he blinked and went on with his own business, appearing as if nothing really happened.
Holy. Shit. That was scary.
After I managed to compose myself again, I spun around a little too quickly and collided with someone.
“Oh, sorry,” the person said.
I looked up at familiar green eyes. “Sheriff Elise? What are you doing here?”
The Sheriff shook her head and smiled at me. “There’s nothing to worry about, Ryan. I had just talked to Principal Gladys and she said I could have my officers here to patrol the school from time to time. You can never be too careful.”
“Okay, but what are you doing here?”
“I don’t want my officers slaving around for me all the time,” the Sheriff said. “Now, off you go. I’ll be patrolling every Wednesday and Friday, so if you want to talk to me, or if you have any new information, you know when to see me.”
Before I could say another word, the woman brushed past me. A sudden shiver ran through my spine. This was not a coincidence. So, those were our three main suspects … and it was up to us to find out which one was the dreaded Gunner.
Wednesday, Spring Park, 16:14
Michael was already waiting for me. He was sitting alone on a bench near the small lake. I had often come here when I was a little kid, just enjoying the free space and running around like little kids do. If you were lucky and you were really quiet, sometimes you could spot a few swans on the lake, especially if you timed your visit well and made sure they weren’t migrating or something. No swans today, though, as far as I could tell.
“Hi,” I said, and placed myself beside him.
“Hey buddy,” he said. He had a bit of a dreamy look on his face as he stared off into the distance. “Don’t you think this is romantic?”
“Well, not really,” I told him truthfully. “Sure, it’s nice and quiet, but we’re not really alone. I kind of prefer that romantic candlelight dinner kind of thing instead …”
In one quick, fluid motion, Michael took my face in his hands and pressed his lips to mine. I couldn’t fight back – I didn’t want to fight back, actually. It was nice. And then I realized that we were in a public place and other people could have been watching us, so I pushed him away.
“Mike,” I stammered. “People could be looking.”
“I don’t really care,” Michael said, shrugging. “Do you?”
I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t really ready to come out to everyone just yet, let alone show romantic affection in clear, open view.
Michael looked a little disappointed and that made me feel really bad. “Michael …”
“No, it doesn’t matter,” he mumbled. “I know you’re still going through it. It’s a process, I know that. I’m still going through it too.”
“Sorry,” I said. It was the only thing I could say at that moment, and I wished he knew how much I meant it.
Michael tilted his head and gave me a half smile. “’s okay, Ryan.”
We were both quiet for a while. Normally, I would have enjoyed sharing this silence between us, like it wasn’t awkward at all and purely natural. But this time, I could feel some kind of tension in the air. It was just a tiny little feeling, but it made the quiet uncomfortable. It made my heart ache … clichéd, I know. But there it was.
I was about to say something to break the silence, but Michael beat me to it. “Wanna take a walk around the park?”
“Sure,” I replied.
So we got up and walked around the park on imaginary paths. We talked a bit, mostly about boring stuff like school, but sometimes Michael would tell me some of his problems. It felt good to just listen to him rant and rave (which was very unlike him, by the way). I guess I felt good to know that he trusted me enough to confide in me. I didn’t want to just be his boyfriend or his partner or whatever. I wanted to be his best friend, his confidant, as well. Just spending time with Michael like this, while breathing in the fresh air, trying to take in as much as I could of the scent and the breeze – it felt good.
The park was mostly empty and it felt like we owned it all, actually. When we nearly arrived back at our starting point, I took his hand in mine and I guess I didn’t really care if anyone saw us or not. It was just the two of us, for now.
“What do you think about that message?” Michael asked me. I guess our conversation would eventually go back to this.
After the heavens appear, you will find a body at the place where this began.
“It says where ‘this’ began,” I said. “You think the killer will be on that road where we found Fred?”
“Not so fast there, buddy,” Michael said. “That’s not where it all began. Victoria’s cousin was the first victim, remember?”
“But we’ll check both places, just in case,” Michael suggested. “Now … how do we predict the time? I’m guessing this Friday.”
I frowned at him in confusion. “Why Friday? Don’t tell me it’s because of all this Rebecca Black hype. Ooh, I know, maybe Rebecca Black’s the killer! Wouldn’t that be fun, fun, fun …”
What a terrible joke. “That’s a terrible joke,” Michael told me bluntly. “Come on, Ryan. Think about it. All of the past murderers happened on Fridays. Have you noticed that?”
I guess I must have noticed it, but never really put much thought into it. Now that I thought about it, it was beginning to make some sense.
“Maybe you’re right,” I said.
“I don’t see why they would suddenly change their schedule,” Michael said. “But then again, you’d think it’d become predictable.”
“But Friday’s our best bet,” I concluded. “What about the part about the heavens or something?”
I thought a light bulb suddenly appeared on top of his head and lit up. “After the heavens appear … that would mean after sunset, right? When it’s getting dark …”
“And do we have any idea who would be the next target?” The last message had been quite specific on who they wanted to target. This one wasn’t.
Michael shrugged. “From the message alone, I don’t think we can really know … there’s all of us in the Dim Sum Club, except for Anna, and there’s Sharon, Bill, Linda in the choir and Ricky in the Fashion Police. There are probably a few more, but those are the only ones I remember that came to that meeting at the Jade Phoenix.”
“Great. Let’s go tell the others.”
Wednesday, the Liu household, 19:43
I knew Anna would be mad. Why had I expected a different reaction? But I had to do this.
“Whaddya mean, ‘I can’t go’?” she shrieked. “I want to help, Ryan. That’s all!”
“Not a chance,” I said. We were inside her bedroom, which was the furthest from our parents’. That way, they wouldn’t overhear, or at least I hoped they wouldn’t …
“Come on, how hard can it be?” Anna said, still indignant. “I can help!”
I shook my head firmly at her. “No way, Annie – look, I don’t care! I mean, I care about you; that’s why I’m not letting you come with us.”
“But you let me in the club,” Anna countered.
“Yeah, so you can help out with gathering information and that’s it,” I said. I guess I couldn’t help being an overprotective older brother, but I had to keep her away from danger. If mom and dad ever found out that I took Anna out to find a possible murderer, I’d be murdered myself. Murder weapon? Mom’s cheese grater.
Anna threw her arms into the air. “Ugh!”
“Sorry, Annie,” I muttered. “But nothing’s gonna change my mind. It’s settled – on Friday night, you stay at home. I’ll make sure you do.”
Anna didn’t reply and went over to her bed and sat down, her arms folded. She didn’t even look at me and I knew she was still seething with anger. But I had to do what was best for her … and for me. To tell you the truth, I was pretty freaked out about all this as well. I didn’t have to go, to investigate and solve these murders, but I wanted to. For Emma. For any other possible targets out there.
Thursday, Mac Worthington High School, 12:20
There was a commotion in the cafeteria. A lot of people had gathered around the middle, forming a ring of some sorts. I could only guess that some people were fighting.
That high-pitched, snotty sounding voice could only belong to Ned Ross, Victoria’s apprentice. Great, what did he want now?
Another voice joined the fray. “Fuck you!” It sounded like Artie.
I crept up behind the crowd and tiptoed. Damn it, I was still too short to see anything! I scooted around the group, trying to find a small space I could squeeze into.
“Hey, watch the merchandise!” That was Nicole.
Somehow, I managed to pull myself up high enough to just see above the shortest person in the ring. I caught a glimpse of Nicole’s head as she tried to pry away what I assumed was Ned’s fingers latched onto her hair. Artie reached in and tried to push Ned to the ground, but then the latter grabbed the former’s outstretched arm. Without warning, he widened his mouth and then clamped it down on Artie’s vulnerable flesh.
With a great roar, Artie practically lifted Ned up into the air and then smashed the poor boy onto a nearby table. There was a mass flinching of pain as we heard a sickening thud. But then, Ned sprang back up and started scratching wildly at Artie’s head, catching him on his cheek. That’s when Nicole jumped back in, wielding some kind of feather duster, and began whipping it pathetically at Ned’s bottom. Oh, yeah wow, Nicole that sure must hurt, huh?
Principal Gladys’ booming voice cut through the sounds of battle. “Oi! What’s going on here?”
The entire ring broke apart, trying to get away from her wrath. Normally, Principal Gladys was easygoing and a bit eccentric, but she could never tolerate things when it got physical.
She wasn’t very big, so she surprised all of us when she managed to pull Ned away before he could take a bite out of Nicole’s hair. Ned reminded me of some kind of weird animal thing that could just stick to you with gluey secretions coming out of the pores of his palms.
“I want the three of you to come with me!” the Principal ordered. “Ridiculous! How old are you all, actually?”
It looked like Ned was about to attack her instead, but he seemed to have calmed down. He released himself from the Principal’s grip and retrieved the feather duster. It was actually a hat, like those ones that the Native Americans wore.
All three of them marched off sulkily with the Principal and then the crowd began to disperse. I saw Yuki’s familiar face amongst the sea of people and managed to catch her attention before she was lost.
“Hi,” she said as she walked up to me.
“What was that all about?”
Yuki shrugged. “Oh, you know … Nicole and Artie wanted to find out more about Victoria, and then they started interrogating Ned.”
“Did they find out anything? And why the fighting?” I asked. They must have done something really bad to piss off Ned. But then again, Ned was pretty easy to piss off.
“You could ask them later,” Yuki told me. “I guess Nicole can be a little bit forceful. Anyway, Michael updated me on the message. You ready to handle things tomorrow?”
I thought about it for a while. Deep down, I was scared to death, but I guess we had gone this far. “Yeah, sure,” I said, surprised to find that I sounded quite confident. “We’ll leave right after school.”
“Okay,” Yuki said. “You, Michael and I’ll be heading off to where Victoria’s cousin was found. Nicole, Artie and Jeffry should take the road where Fred was.”
“So, what do we do if we see someone or something bad happens?”
“Well, I guess we should make sure no one gets killed,” Yuki said, like it was the most obvious thing to say. “And if it gets out of hand, we’re gonna have to prioritize our safety and call the police. But stay hidden – you never know what’ll happen.”
Yuki turned around and went off towards the bathrooms. I was about to head the other way when I nearly bumped into the Janitor, Gary Reed. It was just a small, quick movement, but I could tell that his eyes flickered over to mine. When our eyes met, I felt like the soul had been sucked out of me. But in a split-second, he looked away as if nothing happened and then I felt my soul returning to me.
Holy shit that was scary.
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