The academy moving in se.., p.8

The Academy (Moving In Series Book 6), page 8

 

The Academy (Moving In Series Book 6)
 


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  “Yeah,” Brian said morosely. “I already figured that one out.”

  Chapter 27: Listening Well

  Detective Bethany Skillings had graduated from the Academy. The class of 1998. Other than a little traveling she had done in the summers of her college years, Beth was strictly a New England girl. And a Connecticut one at that.

  She stood in front of Adrienne Hall, where she had kissed a boy named Peter Jackson as a freshman, and thought, Why in the hell did this happen?

  The crime scene was what one would expect for a violent assault turned homicide. There was blood everywhere; all across the neatly planted boxwood bushes, the red brick and the white marble of the walls. It had even soaked into the ground. Aaron Dubois had been beaten to death by someone who knew their business. He had bled a great deal, the killer taking their time, making sure it lasted as long as possible.

  Usually, Beth was able to turn off the sympathetic part of her brain, but the scene had been a little too much. Dubois had literally looked like someone had put him through a meat-grinder. His lips had been flayed back, revealing cracked and broken teeth. The orbital sockets had been crushed. One eye was jellied, and the other lay on a swollen cheek, the optic nerve trailing back into the socket. The man’s nose had been splayed across his face, and his scalp had been torn backward, leaving a large patch of bone exposed.

  Even a few of the forensic techs had been forced to take breathers. Everyone had breathed a sigh of relief when the medical examiner had given the okay for the body to be removed.

  Now, all I have to do is figure out who killed him, Beth told herself. The electronic assets had proven to be a bust, but she was hopeful something in the man’s life might shed some light on the crime.

  If not, she sighed, it’ll be good old fashioned police work. That wonderful question of, ‘Did you see or hear anything out of the ordinary?’

  Beth turned away from the blood splatter and saw Dean Marks by the building’s stairs. Dean had been a forensic tech longer than she had been a cop.

  “Hey Dean,” she called.

  The man didn’t look at her. He stared straight ahead, eyes locked on the door to Adrienne Hall.

  “Dean?” she said again, moving a step closer to him.

  He still didn’t respond. His eyelids blinked, he smiled softly and nodded to himself. Without a word, he climbed the stairs.

  “Dean,” Beth said sharply as the man grabbed the doorknob and tried to let himself in.

  Several other techs stopped what they were doing. Everyone stared at Dean, a collective air of disbelief heavy in the atmosphere as he rattled the knob.

  Beth walked towards him, the door rattling on its hinges with the force of Dean’s efforts. She called his name again, and still he ignored her. When she reached him, Beth put out a hand, taking hold of his arm.

  He looked at her, his expression was one of mild surprise.

  “Dean,” Beth said. “Are you okay?”

  He smiled, shook her hand off and returned his attention to the door.

  As she reached out a second time for him, Dean stopped, tilting his head slightly to the right and a serious expression swept onto his thin face.

  “Yes,” he whispered, and slammed into the door with his shoulder.

  Beth watched in horror as Dean’s left clavicle broke, the bone piercing through his white coveralls. Blood instantly soaked the fabric, and Dean frowned as he glanced at his injury. With a sigh, he turned a little and drove his right shoulder into the door, which sagged in on broken hinges.

  Dean’s shoulder, however, shifted and popped out of its socket. The man didn’t notice. He tried to walk into the building, one arm hanging awkwardly and the bone protruding from above the other. Beth kept her grip on him, though. Dean turned to face her, frowning.

  “You need to let go, Beth,” he said, his voice curiously thick. “I have a job to do.”

  “Dean,” she said gently, forcing herself to shut off her horrified shock. “Come with me. You’re hurt.”

  “In a minute.” Dean turned away, and Beth let go of him, worried she might injure him more if she kept her grip.

  To the left of the door, there was a glow, as though someone had sprayed the wall with fluorescent paint.

  Was that there before? she asked herself, but then the question was forgotten as Dean walked forward.

  She followed him into the building, half a step behind. He paused, looked from left to right, and then nodded again.

  He’s listening to someone, Beth said. But who? What?

  Dean moved to the right, walking towards a closed door.

  Beth glanced over her shoulder and saw Sarah, one of the other forensic techs, had come up the stairs. “Get an ambulance here, Sarah, now!”

  Sarah nodded and took out her phone. While the young woman made the call, Beth continued after Dean, who had reached the far door.

  No, not again, Beth thought, worry flooding her as Dean slowly tried the knob.

  Thankfully, it was unlocked. When the door swung in, a light came on, and a tiny room was revealed. Tall, narrow bookcases, packed with paperbacks, occupied each wall.

  Dean twisted around to face her, a happy, almost innocent smile on his face.

  “It’s here,” he said cheerfully. “Here.”

  His eyes rolled back in his head, and he went limp, falling noisily to the floor. Beth ran into the small room, dropped down to her knees and rolled Dean onto his back. She winced at the sight of the bone and quickly put her fingers at his neck.

  Still alive, she thought, sighing with relief as she felt the steady thumping of his heart through his carotid artery. Distantly, she heard a siren. Sarah hurried back into the room, bringing water and a first aid kit.

  “There’s not much we can do,” Beth said. “We need to keep his head steady, and make sure he stays still.”

  Dean’s eyes snapped open, pain filling them as he let out an agonized scream. He tried to move, but Sarah kept his arms pinned down, the screams shifting to shrieks.

  “Dean!” Beth snapped, holding onto either side of his head and looking down at him.

  His frightened eyes locked onto her. “Oh Jesus Christ, Beth! What the hell is wrong with me?!”

  “Dean, look, focus on me,” she said, forcing him to continue looking at her. “We’ll talk about what happened later. Right now, you’re just going to look at me. The paramedics will be here soon. They’ll take care of you and fix you right up. You know that. Until they come in, it’s you, me and Sarah. Okay?”

  Dean nodded slightly.

  “Good,” Beth said.

  The sirens got closer, and Dean whispered, “What happened?”

  “I don’t know,” Beth replied. “I’m not sure what happened, but I do know you’re going to be okay.”

  As the last word left her mouth, she heard the squeal of brakes as the ambulance arrived, the siren cutting out in mid-wail. Behind her, Beth heard the familiar sounds of the paramedics approaching, the noises of the doors and the equipment.

  “We’ve got him, Detective,” a young man said, squeezing past her and taking control of his head.

  “Thanks,” Beth managed to say, and she exited the room quickly. She found herself standing next to Sarah as the paramedics worked on Dean.

  “What the hell happened to him?” Sarah asked in a low voice.

  “I don’t know,” Beth answered. “He’s not the first to do something weird, though.”

  Sarah looked at her, surprised. “I thought those were just rumors.”

  Beth shook her head. “We’ve got one suicide, another murder-suicide, a janitor who destroyed a display case with his head, a mysterious beat-down, and the murder last night.”

  “Think it’s got something to do with the pipes?” Sarah asked. “You know, methane coming up from the burst toilets?”

  “I don’t know,” Beth said. “But I think this place should be closed up tight while it’s figured out.”

  Sarah shook her head. “Students m
ight like that, but the parents will raise a stink.”

  “Yeah,” Beth agreed, looking over at the paramedics and Dean, “but what’s the alternative?”

  Chapter 28: Sneaking In

  Herman crouched down in a lilac bush and kept an eye on Adrienne Hall. An ambulance had left a few minutes before, and the main door had been closed over. Someone in a pair of white overalls had sealed it with yellow tape, and the last of the forensics’ people loaded up into a large black truck and left.

  Herman didn’t rush out. He wanted to make sure no one was around before he tried to sneak in. Herman didn’t know why school had been canceled again, or why the police had been there, but he didn’t want to get into any trouble.

  Yeah, he told himself, let’s stay out of trouble. Mom’s in a bad enough mood as it is. His father had never come home, and his mother, drunker than usual, had decided to yell at Herman for being out all day. Thankfully, she had focused more on her wine than on him, and soon her anger was forgotten. Herman pushed the memories away and returned his attention to Adrienne Hall.

  Another thirty minutes had passed before he felt comfortable enough to emerge from the lilacs. He adjusted the baseball hat he wore and hoped the cameras wouldn’t be able to make out his face. With his head tilted down slightly, Herman walked rapidly to the stairs, up to the door, and saw how it hung curiously on its hinges. Only a gentle nudge was required to let him in, and Herman managed to do it without any damage to the crime scene tape. He paused in the dim hallway, let his eyes adjust, and looked at the trophy case.

  It was huge, commanding nearly a quarter of the long hallway. Within its protective glass, there were trophies dating all the way back to the late 1800’s. They came in a huge array of shapes and sizes, and for everything from successful debates to target shooting.

  Which one does he want?

  “You’re Herman?” a deep voice asked, and Herman nearly jumped out of his shoes. His hat flew off his head, and he looked around frantically for the speaker.

  A short, squat man in a suit stood in a dark corner, barely visible in the light.

  “Mr. Weiss told me you’d be here,” the man continued. “I didn’t believe him. You’re a standup guy, kid. I like that.”

  “Thanks,” Herman said nervously.

  “My name’s Greg,” the stranger said. “You know what you’re supposed to do?”

  “No, sir,” Herman answered truthfully.

  Greg chuckled. “Just Greg, kid. Okay?”

  “Okay, Greg,” Herman said. It felt strange to call an adult by their first name. None of his parent’s friends let him.

  “Good. Over at the case, there’s an archery trophy. Got the name Melissa Keller on it. See it?”

  Herman moved closer to the trophies, spotted one with a female archer on it and saw the girl’s name on it.

  “Yes,” Herman said, nodding. “It’s right here.”

  “Good, good. Now listen, take it out of the case for me, would you?” Greg asked.

  “It’s locked,” Herman said, looking over at him. “I don’t have a key.”

  Greg muttered, snapped his fingers and a sharp crack rang out, causing Herman to jump.

  The man chuckled. “Relax, kid. Everything’s alright. Check the lock, would you?”

  “Sure,” Herman said. He reached out, took hold of the case’s large glass door, and pulled gently. It came open easily. “Oh, wow.”

  Herman took the trophy out of the case. “Now what?”

  “See the door at the end there?” Greg asked.

  Herman turned, saw a small room and nodded.

  “Okay, put the trophy just inside the door.”

  Holding the trophy, which was surprisingly light, he carried it to the room. Herman bent down and put the small award over the threshold and onto the worn wooden floor. A quick look showed him shelf upon shelf of books. Most were old and battered paperbacks, many of them with a room number written in fat, black letters on the edges of the pages.

  Required reading, Herman thought, shuddering. He still remembered how much he had despised I am the Cheese.

  He straightened up and turned around. “Anything else, Greg?”

  “One more thing, and that’s it.”

  “What is it?” Herman asked.

  “Face the room and say Melissa Keller, and then Charles Roy,” Greg said. “Got it?”

  “Sure,” Herman said. He changed position again, took a deep breath and voiced out the two names clearly.

  The air got colder, and a breeze blew back his hair.

  “Anything else?” Herman said.

  “No,” Greg said from the shadow, “but Mr. Weiss says thank you, and so do I, kid. You’re alright.”

  Herman turned around to reply, but Greg was gone. The man had vanished. Herman felt uneasy, but he shrugged it off.

  It’s only because of all the weird stuff going on, Herman told himself. And why didn’t Mr. Weiss come?

  Greg was nice enough, and it was always good to be complimented, but Herman had hoped to see the older man.

  Oh well, Herman thought, heading to the door. Maybe I’ll see him again soon.

  Chapter 29: Eddie Goes Back to School

  After a couple of drinks at the Indian Leap Café, Eddie went back to the Academy. He was a little drunk, and he was okay with it. Larry was in intensive care, and Marilyn was still dead.

  While Eddie had been knocking back shots of Southern Comfort, he had been doing some thinking. He had realized Larry’s vehicle was at school. Eddie didn’t know if Larry had taken the truck or the car into work, but he knew Larry wouldn’t have been able to drive it to the hospital. Which meant Larry’s vehicle was possibly unprotected. And Larry always left it unlocked. Larry trusted the kids at the Academy not to tamper with his stuff.

  I wouldn’t trust them to tie their own shoes, Eddie thought. He chuckled at the thought of the teens being supervised as they made bunny ears out of their laces, and bounced the front tire off a granite curb.

  He muttered under his breath, turned into the back lot and parked his car. Eddie didn’t bother to check his parking job, he wasn’t a good driver when sober, and he knew it didn’t change when he was drinking.

  Should I leave it running? he asked himself. He shook his head, turned off the engine and tucked the keys into the glovebox. Don’t want to lose those.

  Eddie managed to get out of his Camry without any major mishaps – he had fallen more than once getting out of the car while drunk – and tried to see Larry’s car.

  He couldn’t.

  Wait, Eddie thought, carefully turning around in a circle. Am I in the right spot?

  He was not. Eddie had driven to the back of Adrienne Hall, not the back of the Admin building. He scratched the back of his head, genuinely confused.

  I know I wanted to park at Admin. Why didn’t I?

  You have something to do for me, a voice said.

  Eddie straightened up. The voice was familiar, but he couldn’t place it. Then he remembered the movie Finding Nemo, which he had watched with his nephew, and he grinned.

  Are you my conscience? he asked, snickering.

  The stranger in his head laughed pleasantly. Far, far from it, my young, inebriated friend. Merely someone who needs your assistance.

  “What do you need?” Eddie asked. “I can do anything.”

  I’m positive you can, the voice replied. Now, listen closely.

  Eddie did so. In a short time, he knew what needed to be done. He used his key to get into Adrienne Hall. He turned on a hall light, staggered to the front, and discovered an open door. An archery trophy, which someone had left in the middle of the floor, nearly tripped him, but Eddie managed to catch himself.

  He hummed and chatted to the silence as he pawed through shelf after shelf of books until he found what was required, an old, well-read copy of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. The cover had been torn off and the cheap yellow paper that the book was printed on felt dry and brittle beneath his fi
ngers. Eddie held onto it as he picked up the trophy, exited the room, and traveled along the same hall back to the rear entrance. He made sure to turn the lights off before he started to walk towards his car.

  No, the voice said, bringing him up short. You need to bring those to the library for me.

  The library? Eddie asked. The one downtown?

  No, the stranger said, sighing. The Weiss Library. Here, on campus. Do you remember?

  “Yes,” Eddie said because he certainly did remember the Academy’s library.

  And then he remembered something else. The room with the secret panel. The cubby hole behind the wall where he had placed a picture.

  Oh, Eddie thought. You want these in there too.

  Well done, Eddie, the voice said. Yes, put them away for me, please. Hopefully, there will be more for you to place there tomorrow.

  Okie Dokie, Eddie thought, snorting out a laugh. With a spring in his step and his brain still dulled with Southern Comfort, Eddie walked to the library. He stumbled along merrily, and he sang a little song to himself as he went. He wondered, dimly, why the stranger’s voice was so familiar to him.

  Chapter 30: The Northfield Memorial Park

  Brian sat on a bench, lit a cigar he knew he shouldn’t be smoking, and looked across Washington Street at Northfield Free Academy. From Main Street, he heard the bell in the steeple on City Hall chime six. A few hours earlier, Mitchell had called him and told him the police had requested he close the school for the remainder of the week.

  Doubt it’ll happen, Brian thought, exhaling a cloud of smoke into the evening air. He hoped it would, especially since there were at least two spirits wandering around the grounds.

  He had seen Gregory Watson, the man who had come out of the letter in the Admin building. Brian had also caught sight of Nathaniel Weiss. The old man had been walking the paths between the buildings, pausing now and again to examine something.

  Weiss was back where Brian could see him, heading towards the library. The old man glided up the steps and passed through the door.

 
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