Dim Sum Mysteries - 11. Chapter 11 - Uncertainty
Chapter 11 – Uncertainty
Friday, Mac Worthington High School, 14:33
Anticipation. No, it was more like anxiety. I couldn’t concentrate in class – I was too busy looking at my watch and biting the tip of my pen. When the final bell rang, I quickly packed up my books and stationary and practically ran out of the room.
Today was the day. If we were lucky, we’d catch the murderer before he or she could take another life. We weren’t sure how we’d be able to handle things if they did appear, but Nicole had mentioned to ‘just keep an eye out’. I knew Victoria had been going around telling everyone to stay indoors today at school, and I guess she had already found out that the murders were scheduled for Fridays.
I met Michael on the way to my locker. “Hey, buddy,” he said. “I’ve got some bad news.”
More bad news. I braced myself for it. “What is it?”
“Nicole and Artie won’t be joining us,” Michael said. “They’ve got some serious afterschool detention, along with Ned. I bet you heard about the fight yesterday.”
“What about our investigation today, then?” I figured if we lost Nicole and Artie, it’d be hard for us to split the job evenly.
“Yuki’s gonna join Jeffry at Buck’s Way, while we go to where Elizabeth was found: Wesley Road,” Michael explained. “You managed to convince Anna not to join, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I’ll make sure she stays at home when I drop her off.”
“Okay, good. By the way, if nothing much happens tonight, I want to, um … I’d like to take you out for dinner tomorrow. Somewhere nice.”
I was caught off-guard. It was a nice thought of him, but I wondered why he’d want to go on a date with me while a murderer walked on the streets of our town.
“Are you sure this is the right time?” I asked him, but in my head, I had already said ‘yes’.
“Yes. I’m sure. Besides, if anything bad happens, I’ll cancel it. Okay?”
After a moment’s hesitation, I nodded.
Friday, the Liu household, 15:04
“Don’t leave the house tonight,” I told Anna, holding a stern finger at her.
She swatted my arm away. “All right, all right. I get it. You don’t have to keep saying it – you’re like a broken record, you know that?”
Great, now she’s pissed off. It hurt, really, but I had to do what was best for her. I’d be more worried about her safety than my own. At least with her safe at home, I could focus at the task at hand.
While I was waiting for her to get safely inside the house, I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. I took it out and read the new text message from Michael: Jeffry’s coming w/ us. Ncole n Art will join Yuki after detention. Btw, luv ya :P.
I couldn’t help laughing and I replied with: Ok. <3.
This was followed by several more texts, each more nauseous than the last. If anyone read my inbox, they’d have vomited.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 16:43
Michael asked me to pick him up – when I asked him why he didn’t want to use his own car, he told me that we should save the environment by not using more than one car if possible. Okay, Michael, as long as I get to stare at you while I drive … which may not be a very good idea.
I disliked coming over to this part of town. It was mostly where the rich people lived, mostly the families of those snobby kids up at Worthington Academy. It was a private school, a sister school to Mac Worthington, if you will. The two crowds of students from the schools generally didn’t mingle with each other. We were just too different.
Sands Avenue was a very long road – it stretched out as far as I could see and I wondered whether it was still the same road. The houses were all fancy, ranging from Victorian styles to more contemporary, minimalistic designs. They were all evenly spaced apart and had huge areas of grass in between them. Most of them were a lot larger than Michael’s, and even his house was pretty big. It felt so odd driving my modest little Ford into a street filled with Ferraris and Mercedes cars.
I parked my car in the loneliest part of the road. The road was already pretty deserted, and it seemed as if no one was living in the houses.
“Perfect place to commit a murder,” I said. “I guess it kinda makes sense that they’d choose a lonely bit of town.”
“Still kind of risky, I’d say,” Michael said, shrugging.
We waited for about five minutes and then I saw a car that I recognized as Jeffry’s pull up somewhere further up the road. I saw him give us a ‘thumbs up’ gesture.
“Will Yuki be all right alone?” I asked.
Michael chuckled. “Oh, don’t worry about her. Besides, Nicole and Artie’s gonna join her once they’re out of detention.”
Friday, Sands Avenue, 17:15
I was getting bored. Very serious, boredom is. I ended up in a text conversation with Nicole, which normally would have been interesting, but it was getting boring too.
Art & I r otw 2 meet up wt yuki. Hw r u guys?
We’re fine. How was detention?
Had 2 clean up toilets. Boys r dsgsting.
When Nicole started asking me whether I had performed fellatio on Michael yet, or vice versa, I knew I had to cut the banter short.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 17:32
Michael was getting restless. I could tell. Him trying to kissing my face all over was a telltale sign. I was about to return the favor when I noticed Jeffry playing around with his camera in the distance. Probably not a good idea to do this while there was a camera within a hundred feet of us.
I called home and my mom answered.
“Where are you?”
“Oh, just hanging out with my friends,” I replied, swatting away Michael’s hand as he tried to grope my crotch.
“What time are you going to be back? Dinner’s gonna be ready in about an hour!” my mom said.
I sighed. “Just save some for me. I’ll heat it up when I get home.”
“Be home before eight or no Internet this weekend,” she threatened. By no Internet, she usually meant beating me up with an umbrella or two.
“Is Anna there?”
“Yes, she’s watching TV. Why?”
“Okay, never mind. I’m going to hang up now –”
My mom was about to shriek out my name when I pressed that wonderful, big red button on my phone.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 18:04
It wasn’t dark yet. It’d probably be about an hour for us to be able to see the stars. I was holding Michael’s hand, only to stop it from wandering over to where it shouldn’t really be at this particular moment.
“This is gonna take forever,” I said.
“Want to go over to the backseat while we wait?” Michael asked, his voice slow and oozing with seduction.
“Not the right time, Mike,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
Michael bent forward and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “Okay. Sorry about that.”
“’s okay,” I said. I smiled back at him and added, “I don’t really mind it.”
“But I don’t want Jeffry catching us doing the nasty on tape.”
We both laughed and Michael punched me lightly on the shoulder. We then got back to watching the streets. It was a useless job – the road was practically empty. Anyone going up to us carrying a gun would be seen from a mile away.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 18:40
Michael had turned on the radio and then we were both listening to some R&B songs and then we got bored and switched to something that aired some adult contemporary. The word ‘bored’ could not describe the state we were in. It was getting pretty dark, but still no stars.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 19:11
I had fallen asleep and Michael was shaking me by the shoulder when I woke up. I started and looked around, frantically searching for the murderer.
“Huh? Where is he?”
“No one’s here, Ryan,” Michael said. “I just wanted to wake you up.”
“We gotta stay alert, buddy.”
I looked up at the darkening sky – a few stars here and there, but nothing too noticeable. In about ten minutes, it’ll be pitch dark, though, and the road had very few streetlights. Large trees with droopy foliage on the yards blocked out most of the sunlight, so it gave the effect that it was darker than it actually was.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 19:28
I was about to doze off again when Michael tapped me urgently on the shoulder.
“Ryan, don’t fall asleep again.”
“No, I won’t,” I mumbled. “Something wrong?” The tone of his voice was different.
“Jeffry just sent me a text. He said that he saw something – told us to follow him.”
Fumbling around for a few seconds in the dark, I managed to switch the engines on quickly. I drove up to Jeffry’s car and followed him. We made our way slowly, carefully, across the road. I wondered where we were going and why because we just reached the end of the road. Jeffry turned to the left into a smaller, darker street.
“Where’s he going?” I spoke aloud.
“I got another text. He said to turn off the engine.”
I did as I was told and I could feel this chilling sensation creeping into me. This was getting freaky and, I admit that I was really scared at that moment. Michael got out of the car and I quickly unfastened my seatbelt and did the same. Jeffry was already waiting for us by his car, fiddling with his camera again.
“What’s up?” Michael asked.
“I thought I saw someone, but they got away pretty quickly,” Jeffry informed us. “I saw them moving into this street.”
I put my hands in my pockets. It was getting quite cold out and I wished I had brought a jacket with me. “What should we do?”
“Let’s watch this street for a while,” Jeffry suggested. “I’m gonna set up a camera over by that tree – it could be useful.”
Jeffry disappeared into the darkness across the street, leaving Michael and I alone. I felt a cold breeze run against my cheek, so I turned my back against the direction of the wind. It was deathly quiet, and neither of us dared to speak in case the murderer was nearby and overheard us. I kept telling myself that ‘they are afraid of you more than you are afraid of them’, but that didn’t really help because they had firearms while we were only equipped with mobile phones.
Footsteps somewhere behind us made me almost jump in fright. Michael and I spun around and I was half-hoping to see Jeffry. But it wasn’t Jeffry. It wasn’t Victoria, it wasn’t Sheriff Elise. It wasn’t even the janitor, Gary Reed.
It was Ned.
“You!” Michael breathed out.
“What are you doing here?” Ned asked, his voice tiny and shrill, like always. It was dark and I couldn’t really see him, but he was definitely Ned Ross. He was wearing that giant feathery hat thing I had seen him wear the other day.
“Nothing,” Michael said. “What are you doing here?”
Ned bowed his head. “I-I don’t know what to do … she punished me for what I did,” he sobbed.
I stepped forward. “Punished? What the hell are you talking about?”
“I argued back, I almost hit her, so she punished me and told me to do her work,” Ned mumbled.
“Geez, can you get any weirder?” I remarked. “I think you should go back home.”
“I can’t,” Ned said.
“Because I have to kill you.”
And that’s when I noticed that dark object in his right hand. With one shaky movement, he lifted it up and pointed it straight at me.
I was paralyzed. With fear, with confusion, with questions. From the corner of my eye, I saw Michael hesitating, wondering whether he should do anything or nothing at all. My eyes never left the barrel of the semi-automatic in Ned’s trembling hands. I’ve never seen someone shaking that badly before. I then noticed that there were tears on his cheeks.
Ned whirled around to face Jeffry, who was walking over towards us, calm as you like. With a push of one button, the sudden flashes of light from his camera lit up the entire street. It was already dark, so you could guess for yourself the effect of having four or five sudden bursts of blinding light aimed straight at your eyes.
The light startled me as well and I turned my face away. I managed to see Michael quickly going in and knocking the gun out of Ned’s lowered hand with a quick kick. Letting out a cry of pain, Ned stumbled and fell with a loud thud. It was all over so quickly. I hadn’t noticed that my hands were slightly shaking.
I couldn’t believe it. I just stood there staring and gaping at the entirety of the situation. Ned was the killer? But it was impossible!
“It’s not my fault!” Ned was full out bawling now.
Michael turned to me as he grappled Ned’s arms so that the latter couldn’t move. “Ryan, call the police.”
It took a few seconds for the words to sink into my brain. I nodded and pulled out my phone.
Friday, Sands Avenue, 19:48
As expected, Sheriff Elise was the first officer to get here, but she was soon followed seconds later by other one other police car. I was sitting by the sidewalk next to Michael while Jeffry was explaining things to the Sheriff. Of course, it wasn’t long before she would question us.
“You two … again,” she said, shaking her head. “You should end this little game of yours. One of you could get hurt. Where are you getting this information from?”
Michael and I looked at each other. It was one of those awkward moments where we didn’t know which one of us should have started talking first.
“Michael, I don’t think your father would be happy to hear you’re getting yourself involved in these kinds of things,” the Sheriff said, turning to Michael.
“I’m not a little kid anymore,” Michael grunted.
“I’ll contact Dr. Hill later – Ryan, you’re not off the hook either,” the Sheriff told me. “I met your parents at Emma’s memorial service last week. They won’t be happy either.”
“We’re just trying to help,” I blurted out and immediately regretted saying it. “I mean –”
Sheriff Elise cut me short. “How exactly do you know when to be at the right place and time?” she asked, folding her arms. “At this rate, I might have to name you as suspects.”
I looked at Michael, but he looked determined to stay silent. Surely he understood the implication of us not telling her? I had to tell her. It was now or never – what harm could it have done? I wanted to get to the bottom of this.
Friday, the Police Station, 20:15
The Sheriff had us taken to the police station while her other officers took our cars. It felt so strange to walk into the place – I’ve never been here before – and the looks I got from some of the other people there made me feel uncomfortable. I guess we looked like teenagers who had just been caught drinking booze or speeding or both or something.
Jeffry was questioned first while Michael and I waited outside the Sheriff’s office. I stared blankly at the white plaster walls, mostly thinking of my eventual fate and whether my parents were going to find out.
When it was my turn, I begged the Sheriff not to tell my parents.
“Sorry, Ryan, I can’t do that,” she said, shaking her head firmly at me. “Sit down – I have to ask you a few questions.”
So I told her about our Dim Sum Club, which was probably going to be short-lived now. I left Anna completely out of the picture – technically, she had nothing to do with us. I told her about the text messages, about how we could deduce the location and time of the next murder. Throughout the whole time I was explaining things to her, the Sheriff would look at me intently, listening to every word I say. There was nothing I could do to hide things from her.
When she was done questioning me, and it was Michael’s turn, I quickly fled the room and joined Jeffry by the waiting room.
“What did you tell her?” he asked me straight away.
“About the text messages and stuff,” I replied glumly.
I shrugged. “I had to tell her about our Dim Sum Club.”
“What?” Jeffry sounded shocked. “You ratted the others out?”
“All of them except for Anna. Why?”
“I don’t think the others would be happy to hear that, y’know,” Jeffry told me matter-of-factly.
When Michael got out, Jeffry asked him the same question he had asked me.
“I just told her about the text messages – nothing else,” was his reply.
Jeffry rolled his eyes at me. I felt like crap.
“What’s wrong?” Michael asked, frowning.
“Ryan here told the Sheriff everything about us,” Jeffry said. I wanted to sock him in the mouth right now, just to get him to shut up. “He ratted Nicole and Artie and Yuki too, so …”
Michael looked at me. “Really?”
“I didn’t know what to say!” I told him, throwing my arms in the air in surrender. “I couldn’t just lie to the Sheriff, that’d be … wrong. Anyway, the Sheriff would have found out in time, right?”
I guess I must have sounded pretty pathetic. Michael didn’t say a word, but he sat down next to me and put his arm around my shoulder. Surely he understood, right?
Friday, the Liu household, 21:23
The Sheriff had called my parents to pick me up at the police station. I didn’t really want to see them right now, but it was inevitable, I guess. The Sheriff was talking to my mom and my dad and I wasn’t really listening anymore. I was just thinking about what they’d do to me once we got back home.
Utter silence dominated the ride back home. I sat in the backseat and avoided looking at my parents, or their reflections from the rearview mirror. I just sat back and closed my eyes, feigning sleep for the entire journey.
When we got back home and safely inside the walls of our house, my mom began the shouting. I’ve seen her really angry before, so it was something I’ve sort of become used to. We exchanged yells but I soon shut my mouth and let her do the talking. I wasn’t even listening anymore. But when my dad joined in, I was forced to pay attention. My dad rarely reprimanded me, and the times that he did, it was usually serious stuff. He didn’t shout, he didn’t scream, but the tone of his voice was dangerous.
“I cannot believe you would do something like this,” he told me. “For the next two weeks, either your mom or I will be dropping you off at school. You are not allowed to use your car. You are not allowed to go out on the weekends. No after-school ‘activities’.”
My mom shook her head at me. “I’m going to take your phone away as well. No phones after 6 pm.”
“What?” I wasn’t a little kid anymore! “Come on, that’s silly …”
“No arguing,” my mom said. She reached out her arm and lifted her palm upwards. “Give me your phone. Now.”
“Mom! I’m not someone who can’t control the urge to text,” I said desperately. “What can I do with a phone, anyway?”
She did not reply, but she kept on staring at me with that intense gaze. Eventually, I gave up and fished out my phone and gave it to her. I noticed that I had two unread text messages, but I guess I won’t be able to read them until tomorrow morning.
Once they left the room, I threw myself on the couch and let out a long sigh. This was only the beginning – I’m sure that over the next few days, they’d still be lecturing me about safety and all that shit. Somehow, I felt overly tired. Maybe my mom’s shouting seemed to have just blown away the energy I had. I quickly showered before heading off to my room. On the way, I checked into Anna’s room.
“Anna?” I said tentatively.
She was by her computer, posting on her blog or something. She turned around and gave me a blank look.
“Nothing,” I said. “Just wanted to make sure you’re safe.”
“Mom told me about what happened,” she said. She shook her head at me. “Are you going to tell me the whole story or not?”
I rubbed my forehead with one head. “Maybe tomorrow, Annie.”
Anna gave me a look that told me that she knew I was lying. I wasn’t exactly fine – I felt like shit. But I didn’t say another word and left the room, closing the door behind me. I needed some sleep.
Monday, Mac Worthington High School, 12:13
“Sorry,” I said. I hoped Nicole and Yuki wouldn’t be angry at me for letting the police know.
“Oh, they’d have found out anyway,” Nicole said with a smile.
“Easy for you to say, Nicole,” Yuki sighed. “My mom grounded me like, instantly, when the Sheriff called. No Internet except for weekends, would you believe that! The fan-fiction message board I’m moderating is gonna die …”
Yuki must have noticed my crestfallen face because she added quickly, “But I guess I can live without it for a while.”
“Hey, at least the murderer’s been caught,” Nicole said. “I can’t believe Ned’s the killer …”
“Not so fast!”
We were all startled when Jeffry appeared out of nowhere. He placed himself in between Yuki and I before looking around as if to make sure no one was watching him.
“Let’s not wrap up our investigation so quickly,” Jeffry said in a conspiratorial whisper. “We need to analyze things first.”
“With the Dim Sum Club practically disbanded by the school, I don’t think we can do much,” Yuki told him. “Wait – what’s that?”
Jeffry procured an envelope from inside his bag and placed it on the table. “Open it up.”
Nicole snatched the envelope, basically ripped it apart with her long nails and retrieved the photos inside.
“What’s … is this what I think it is?” Nicole gasped.
“Yeah,” Jeffry said, nodding. He turned to me. “Remember how I used the flash to blind that Ned?”
I remembered. It was pretty useful and it had probably saved my life.
“The Sheriff took the memory card for evidence, but I managed to copy the data onto my camera’s built-in memory,” Jeffry explained. “I think you’ll all be interested in the gun in particular.”
Yuki, Nicole and I huddled together and peered closely at a photo of the semi-automatic lying on the ground. There wasn’t anything particularly unusual about it.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.
“Come on, isn’t it obvious?” Jeffry exclaimed. “Look at it. Ned couldn’t have been the killer. He doesn’t even know how to use a gun.”
“Um, I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to use a gun, Jeff,” Nicole said. “Just pull the trigger, right?”
Jeffry folded his arms and grinned. “That’s if you don’t know anything about guns. My dad likes to go game hunting, so I know a little about firearms. Take a look at the manual safety switch on the gun. It’s still switched to safe mode.”
I took another glance at the photo of the gun and saw what Jeffry was talking about. It was a small lever and it was tilted towards a small printed ‘S’ on the gun. The letter ‘F’ was placed right above it.
“You’re right,” I said. It was kind of odd.
“And take a look at this photo of the kid holding the gun,” Jeffry said.
He showed us a photo of Ned, that silly feathery hat still adorning his head. He looked snotty and he was holding the gun at an awkward angle that I hadn’t noticed before. It was like he was trying to grope the gun or something.
Jeffry rested his chin against his hands. “That is not the correct way to use a gun. You’d think someone who could evade the police all this time and get pinpoint accuracy would be able to hold a gun properly.”
Yuki shook her head in confusion. “W-wait … are you saying that Ned isn’t the killer?”
Jeffry shrugged. “Well … he may have known something. But no, the one who’s been pulling the trigger all the time is probably still out there.”
Nicole was gaping. “No way! And here I thought we’d be done with all this!”
I let out a sigh. “Well, whatever. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore. You guys do whatever you want. I’m not joining ya.”
“Why not?” Jeffry asked me. “Don’t you want to get to the bottom of this?”
“I’m just gonna let the police handle it,” I told him. I had up my mind. I didn’t want to be a part of this anymore – it was too much of a hassle. And look where it got me. Grounded.
I left the cafeteria before any of them could say anymore. I was very curious about this new information, but I felt that it should be the police’s job. I was tired of all this running around. I passed by Michael on my way to my locker, but I didn’t say a word to him and he didn’t even look at me. Damn it, I should have talked to him. I really wanted to. But I just wanted things to get back to normal. I just want to study and do well in school, get my novel done and find an agent or something.
But something didn’t feel right. If Ned wasn’t the killer, then who was?
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