Intervention Part I
A Luminations story
Start at the beginning of the Luminations series
I can't do this anymore. I've taken the rest of the entries offline. I'll give this a day or two so people have a chance to see it, then I'm deleting this blog.
To everyone who's read this and been a friend, I'm sorry.
And to everyone who came here from juicycampus or wherever to watch the train wreck, fuck you. I'd say more, but that's all you're worth.
They were all waiting for me in the 6A lounge: My dormmates, Greg, even Jan, who'd moved out halfway through the semester.
My immediate reaction was relief. We were almost out of time. Back in January, something had been posted on my blog, something I'd come to think of as the Prophesy. It hinted at a violent incident on campus, possibly a mass shooting. And it had a date attached: December first, 2007. We were two days away, and I'd been trying to get my friends to sit down and talk about the situation all week. Actually I'd been trying for months.
They were finally going to face this thing. We were going to face it together.
"Sit down, Katy. We need to talk."
I nodded and sat on the couch next to Steph, not bothering to take off my jacket. "Yeah, there isn't much time left. We need a plan."
"We have a plan." The voice came from the hall, and I didn't recognize it at first. Not until Kim stepped out into the light.
"Kim!" I jumped into the arms of the former RA for our floor. For a moment, it felt so good having the crew from last year all together again.
Then I remembered.
"Wait a minute. Kim, what are you doing here? You can't be here now! It's not safe!" I turned toward Greg. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"Katy, I wanted all of us to be here to talk to you." Greg was keeping his voice flat and level.
"Damn it, Greg! That was the last inconsistency in the Prophesy. Kim wasn't here! And now you go and bring her here? We're two days away. She needs to be away from here!"
Steph reached up and gently took hold of my hand. "Sit down and let's talk this over, Katy. There's still time."
"Wait. What did you mean? About wanting everyone here to talk to me?" I asked.
Stares and silence.
I sat back down.
"Show her." Greg was speaking to Steph.
She shook her head. "This isn't what we agreed to. You said only if…"
"Show her, Steph."
I started to ask what was going on, but Steph just reached down beside the couch and picked up a bundle wrapped in a towel. She placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch with exquisite care, and a sort of revulsion. She was handling something toxic.
Greg reached over and peeled back the towel to reveal Chess Hall's 9 mm pistol, the one that had sat in the bottom desk drawer in my dorm room all since that first weekend of the fall semester.
I looked from one face to another, waiting for someone to speak against this betrayal. No one did.
"You went into my desk." The words came out softer than I wanted them to.
"Katy, having a gun at school is a pretty serious…"
"Violating my privacy is pretty serious!" I shouted over Greg. Everyone else just looked at each other uncomfortably.
"And it's something friends don't do to each other." I had tears in my eyes and that just made me angrier. I wasn't going to back down from this. I was standing, glaring up at Greg.
I felt an arm around my shoulder. Kelsie.
"It's okay. We're going to stop what's happening. Greg figured it out. Please, listen."
I turned to meet Kelsie's eyes. She was weeping openly. I think she'd been crying when I first came into the room, when I'd been too focused on everyone else to notice.
I sat back down, not defeated, but suddenly exhausted and confused.
"We're going to get off campus. All of us." Greg said. "We're going to go somewhere where your prophecy can't touch us. Where nothing will happen to any of us. And we're going to wait this thing out."
"What about the campus?"
"Greg has an idea about that too." Kelsie looked over to Greg, nodding for him to continue with his plan.
"It isn’t perfect, but without knowing exactly what is going to happen, it's the best I can do. We'll put in an anonymous warning to Public Safety. We're just a little over six months out from Virginia Tech. They'll take it seriously. And I can use the network to mask the identities of the senders."
I thought about for a second. It made sense. It's impossible to fight something when you have no idea who is going to do it or how. Our only chance was to make sure people had some kind of warning. And after that it was a matter of protecting each other. It might be enough to raise the alarm. The shooter might get cold feet.
But that assumed that there was no way to find anything else out. I was still searching for any kind of clue or sign. I hadn't uncovered much, but there was still time. But I wouldn't be able to act if I was away in hiding somewhere. The solution was obvious.
"I'm staying." I said.
Kelsie hung her head. Everyone else's eyes went back to Greg, who just stood there.
"Look, it makes sense. I have a chance of uncovering this thing. I'm in a position to stop it. I've got the training. I've got the best idea of what's going on, and I've spent the last few months working on figuring it out. I still have time. And the Prophecy won't apply if I'm the only one still here."
Greg shook his head slowly.
"That's not an option, Katy."
I didn't like what I was hearing in his tone.
"Because we have to face this together." Steph offered.
I didn't buy it.
"We want you to be safe, Katy." But that wasn't what Greg really meant.
Kelsie tried. "We don't know what is going to happen, Katy. But you're somehow connected to this, and you'll be safer…"
I stood up. Kelsie was reaching to put her arm around my shoulder and I ended up shoving her back down onto the couch pretty hard.
"I'll be safer? Or you'll all feel safer if you can keep an eye on me? Well? Which is it? Greg? Kim?"
Greg looked at his shoes for a second, then slowly lifted his eyes to meet mine.
"I've been over the network records every way I know how. I've used levels of access I'm not supposed to have. And, Katy, that hacked blog entry? The Prophecy? The thing that started this whole mess? I just can't see any way that anyone could have posted that, Katy. Except you."
They all believed him. I could see it. Each one of them.
Everything happened at once.
"You need help, Katy." Greg reached out for my arm and I pulled away hard. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of Steph reaching to take the gun off the coffee table. I swung down. My fist smashed into her hand and the class tabletop shattered. My blood mixed with hers and dripped onto the carpet, but Steph had gotten the worst of it, and she pulled back cradling the hand and leaving a trail of blood drops on the floor and the couch.
I grabbed the gun. People screamed. They backed away.
I wanted to scream too. I wanted to scream at them all for being such fools. I wasn't the one they should be afraid of. For a second I thought about slamming down the gun just to prove to them that I wasn't going to hurt any of them. They didn't give me the chance to do it.
Steph straightened up, willing away the pain, closing her fists, dropping into a fighting stance. I could see Greg trying to slip behind me. They were done talking.
I ran for the fire door, slammed it behind me. It hit someone. Their cry echoed in the stairwell as I raced down, skipping steps. I burst out of Alexander Hall and into the cold air. The pain in my hand was throbbing dull, but I ignored it. The parking lot had been full when I'd gotten in from Bedford a little after dinner, and I'd parked up in the visitors lot.
They wouldn't know to look for me there. I shoved the pistol into my jacket pocket and cut through the woods by the side of Alexander Hall and circled back toward where I'd left my car.
Their words played in my head over and over.
"I do not need help!" I snarled to myself as I stumbled out of the woods.
I stopped and tried to clear my head. I needed to get away. Where could I go? To Worcester and Nancy? To Joshua in Amherst? They were still on my side. Or were they? I didn't know anymore.
The cold was starting to bother me now that I'd stopped moving. It dulled the pain in my hand, though. I opened the hand slowly, exposing it to the chill wind. It felt good to focus on sensations. It kept me distracted. I slowly made a fist, then opened it up again, concentrating on feeling every twitch and sensation.
I was starting to shiver. The jacket I'd been wearing wasn't really meant for cold weather, and the night was raw and wintery. I repeated the opening and closing of my injured hand as I walked to my car. It was something to keep my mind occupied.
They were waiting for me in a van. I never got a good look at it. I was distracted. There was the click of a lock, the scrape of a door sliding open, and boots hitting the asphalt, and it all may as well have been happening across campus instead of right next to me.
The grip on the collar of my jacket was strong enough to pull me off balance. I almost left my feet completely. I stumbled backward into a body that was solid and big.
The guy spun me around. I was still not reacting. He had his hand in my face, trying to cover my mouth. That was when I started fighting.
It was also when I realize there were three of them. Two big guys, and Wayne DeLucas from Granite Lodge.
I got punched in the ribs hard. They weren't screwing around. I got in a lucky shot with an elbow that caught the guy trying to grab me in the throat and backed him up enough that I managed to twist free and make a run for it.
At the corner of the parking lot was the blue light of one of the campus emergency phones and I was running for it because I didn't know what else to do. They were catching up to me, right on me when I stumbled over a pothole in the asphalt. I caught myself from falling and I could hear the guy breathing hard behind me so I spun around and put everything I had into one punch aimed at his head.
Pain exploded up my arm. I'd hit him with my injured hand. The pain overwhelmed me. I went to my knees. The guy I'd hit looked a little shaken, but his buddy hauled me up and gripped my arms behind my back. DeLucas arrived then, out of breath from the short chase.
They twisted something around my wrists and stuffed something in my mouth and dragged me back to their van.
DeLucas had the two big guys hold me. He took a long look and then backhanded me in the cheek. My head snapped back and I stared him down. The beating had brought clarity. I suddenly remembered who the enemy was, and I was looking at it. I think my reaction startled him because instead of hitting me again, he snarled for his goons to get my cell phone and started to head for the driver's side of the van.
"Jesus Christ! Wayne, she was fuckin' carryin'!"
"What?" DeLucas stopped and turned to see the gun that they'd just taken from me. The gun I'd never even thought to reach for during the fight.
"Stupid bitch! You could've fuckin' killed someone! Fuckin' psycho!"
The guy who'd found the gun punched me full force in the stomach and his pal slammed his fist down on the back of my head. I could barely see or breathe. The both started in on me then. Sometime before they finsihed, they threw me into the van. And sometime before they finished, I lost consciousness.
I woke all at once. If I'd been in bed I would have jumped awake. Instead, the ropes they'd tied me with bit into my wrists and my ankles. If there was any part of my consciousness that was still lagging, that jolt of pain brought instant awareness. I bit down hard, clenching my teeth to keep from crying out.
I noticed the cold, then the clammy dampness that plastered my clothes to my skin. There was a thick stillness that hung in the air, interrupted only by a rhythmic drip of water from somewhere over my left shoulder. I was bound to a stiff-backed wooden chair. I thought I was in total darkness at first, but my eyes were adjusting. There was pale light coming from behind me; not much, but enough that I was beginning to make out the features of my surroundings. And even before I could discern the outlines of walls and dark hallways, I knew where I was.
I was where it had all started with the Granite Lodge Society: The drainage tunnels that flowed under the library.
They'd left me on high ground, but the little bit of light that filtered in from one of the tunnels reflected off still water around me. The altar-table was gone. I twisted as best I could to see behind me. The ropes had no give to them. They were wet, relentlessly tight. Straining my back and neck I could just make out a small end table, the kind of thing you could find in hundreds of antique stores in dozens of little towns all around Durham.
The light was coming from the display screen of an iPod sitting on the table.
It was almost a relief. Now I knew how it was going to end. I wondered if I could fight it. Kelsey believed she'd fought off the influence of the cursed sound file. Her faith had pulled her through.
All of the faith I ever had was faith in my friends. That was gone.
But I was still going to fight. Whatever they wanted to do to me, I wouldn't make it easy for them. I promised myself that, focusing on it, trying to make it into some kind of mantra to keep from giving in to hopelessness.
I saw the bobbing lights of their flashlights before I heard them. It was Hennessey and a couple of his thugs. One of them was sporting a pretty nasty split lip, and I guessed he was the one I'd punched when they jumped me.
I kept quiet, but they knew I was listening.
"Yeah," Henessey said. "You're awake, aren't you, darlin'? Ready for your listening party?"
"Someone is going to commit murder, maybe mass murder, on campus on December first. I don’t know how long we have until then. I can stop them if you let me go."
He leaned in close. "You expect me to believe that?"
I shook my head. "No. But you needed to hear it. I know what you came to do. Get it over with. Go ahead and play the goddamned thing."
He started to reach for the iPod on the table behind me when another light blinked on.
Christina Kenney stood in the corner of the room, in a place where the water was almost up to her knees. Her thick body melded with the shadows as the light shone up, bathing her face in a sickly yellow. I hadn't heard her enter. I had no idea how long she'd been standing there.
"Don't," She ordered.
I shuddered. There was no comfort in her demand. Instead a familiar dread washed over me. Ever since I took the job with Chester Hall and started learning detective work, there had been moments like this. Moments when I knew I had missed some crucial detail.
She gave a smug smile and shifted the light to point at Henessey as she sloshed across the water.
"The Tuckerman13 audio file won't have any effect on Miss Katy McCormick." She stepped up onto the bit of dry floor, dripping as she drew close to me. I tried to pull back, fighting a panicked and useless battle against my bonds, suddenly desperate. Not desperate to escape from Christina, but desperate to not hear what she was about to tell them.
"Why not?" Henessey sounded genuinely confused. Christina had gone off the script, at least as he understood it.
Christina smiled sweetly. Her hand touched my cheek, icy wet. And she told them exactly what I suddenly realized that I'd know all along.
"Because Katy has already listened to it. She listened to it in January when we sent her the audio file. Then she deleted it and forgot all about it. Just like we told her to do."
Christina turned to Henessey and shone her flashlight straight into my eyes.
"Katy McCormick has been doing our work for most of a year. And now, we enter the final month. And it's time for her to finish her task."
TO BE CONTINUED
Story and image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2008