~ June 13, 5:00 PM, Hickfield Clinic ~
"You sure you want us to head back out there?" Maya said.
"Don't y'all worry about a thing!" Lotta replied. "Cody and I will keep Nix company! Besides, y’all are better at this investigatin’ stuff anyhow."
"Besides," I added, reaching for the glass on the fold-out table, "I need all the information you can find at that crime scene!"
I leaned back in my designated hospital bed. It had only been an hour since that bookcase fell on me, and while everyone was trying to get me through and into a room, I was thinking over possible people to do this to me. But who could? Most of them were in prison for their previous crimes against us.
Marshall crossed his arms. "This should be quite the interesting case, pardner. You know of anyone who'd want to do this to ya?"
"None that I know that are out and about at the moment anyway," I answered. "Most of them are still serving out prison sentences."
Larry, who had somehow been quiet through this conversation, shot a side glance towards Miles. "Who were you just talking to there, Edgey?"
Miles looked over as he flipped his phone shut. "That was Mia. Apparently they may have caught something that Gumshoe and I didn't see on our earlier scanning." This kind of thing used to make him mad or insecure, and throw him out of sorts. But these days, he's gotten used to it.
"We'd better get back over there, then!" Gumshoe said. "We'll be back to see you before you know it, pal!"
I chuckled. "And I'll be waiting.”
Within a few moments it was only me, Lotta, and Cody in the room. The two of them had been sent over by Mia to watch me while she texted Miles to bring the others back. Lotta was standing by my bed, and Cody was sittng in a waitiing chair a few feet away.
“Hey!” he called out suddenly, and we looked to face him. “Do you think there’s any of the Samurai shows running today?”
“Only one way to find out!” Lotta said, and tossed the TV remote to Cody. “Check it out!”
Cody flipped through all the channels diligently, as if he knew what channel number to look for. He probably did, that kid. When he got to it, he made a face.
“Hey, what is this!?” he exclaimed. “Did they get a new show and I just didn’t notice?!”
I was surprised at the show in front of our eyes, since it had stopped airing years ago.
”That’s Signal Samurai,” I said quietly, and Lotta and Cody whipped their heads around in shock.
“You know this show, Nix?!” she said.
“No way!” he said. “He never finds out the new shows before me and Maya!”
I chuckled. “It’s not new. It’s actually quite old. They stopped airing it years ago.”
Cody was in shock. “What?! Why is it airing then!?”
“I don’t know,” I said, tapping my chin in thought as I stared at the childhood memory adorned on the screen. “But I guess it wouldn’t hurt to stroll back down Memory Lane.”
~ June 13, 5:43 PM, Story Glory Public Library ~
Lana held up a sheet of paper, folded many times and half crushed. “Look at this.”
“Now how on earth did we miss that?!” Gumshoe said, turning to me.
I shrugged. Then I asked Lana, “where did you find it?”
She pointed at the bookshelf opposite the one that had fallen, on the bottom shelf where there had been no books. “I would assume it had been used to hold the bookcase up. Look here.” Lana pointed along the bottom of the fallen case. “See here? It’s ever-so-slightly off-balance.”
All of us peeked our heads over to see. Sure enough, the bottom went up at a very, very slight incline just so. She was right. But now there was a question raised.
Was the paper meant to steady the bookshelf... or make it easier to topple?
I didn’t get to think on it long, as my thoughts were interrupted by a loud siren. Everyone turned toward the direction where the noise was.
“Hey! What the heck is that noise, man?!” Larry demanded.
“Turn that siren off!” crowed Ms. Oldbag from her desk behind us. ”I thought I told you not to bring that thing in here!”
”It’s fine, Wendy,” called a voice that Lana, Ema and I recognized at once. “Meeky here can’t help it sometimes! I’ll just tell him to keep it silent, alright?”
There was a small pause before she spoke up again. “Okay, whatever you say!” Jesus. She was putting on that enamored voice yet again. She takes that tone with me every time she sees me. Every. Time.
Mike Meekins and Damon Gant walked up to our area and stood on the other side of the fallen bookcase. For a moment, we all just stared. We all had our own thoughts about him. I couldn’t believe they released him from prison. It’s probably hypocritical that I thought this about former Chief Gant and not Marshall, but the latter was no murderer. He left the force a while ago, trying to find something better out of life.
He glanced down at the bookcase in silence for a moment before finally speaking up. “So what’s the status report on this whole thing, Worthy?”
I startled a bit, partly from remembering that he would call me that, but mostly from being startled out of my thinking spell. Despite this, I found myself looking down and around. I imagined that Gumshoe would have been about the same if he were asked, but perhaps a bit more apprehensive. Even though he was a detective once more, Gant had thrown him off the force back then for helping Ema and Phoenix sneak into his office.
Marshall, of course, kept his cool and calm demeanor, but there was more of an icy feel to it. It couldn’t be helped. After all, it had been Gant himself that murdered his younger brother, and tried to make it look like Ema was taking the fall for it. He had also been the one to demote him to a mere patrolman after SL-9. In the eyes of the Skye sisters I could see old hints of anger and fear mixed up. Maya and Mia didn’t know what to make of this, nor did Larry, as they were only told about him. They hadn’t been around while this case was unfolding.
Bailiff Meekins had been keeping much quieter than usual. He was once an officer, but I always found him too excitable and quite incompetent to be one. Gumshoe and I had found out that he lost his case files four times within three days. He also lost his badge. I don’t know how or why they held onto him for that long.
I realized that Gant was still expecting an answer. I looked up to face him. “If you must know, no one’s found any clues yet.” I didn’t want to say anything about the paper.
“What’s it to you, Damon?” Lana said, her voice shaking slightly even as she glared at her former partner. Ema held onto her older sister’s arm, as if protecting her. Gant threw his arms up in surrender.
“No need to try and kill me, little Ema,” he said. “Same goes to you, Lana. I just wanted to know how Wrighto’s holding up, what with that left leg and all.”
“He’s holding up just fine,” I said stiffly. I felt that there had to be more to his visit than this.
Gumshoe excused himself to go talk to Ms. Oldbag (“Maybe she can help. She did try to chase that person down, didn’t she?” he had said.) Maya answered, “Nick is fine. But’s he probably going to need a cast for a few weeks.”
“Good to hear,” said Gant. “Well, I suppose we’ll leave you to it, won’t we, Meeky?”
Meekins nodded shortly and didn’t say anything else as Gant steered them to another section of the library, out of our sight. Gumshoe ran back over towards us.
“Guys!” he shouted. He held up a piece of paper attached to a clipboard. “Look at this!”
I scanned over it. On it was a list of names, at least 10, with a time and a book title beside it.
“What are you doing with the book check out sheet?” Lana asked, waving the book in her hand in the direction of it.
“Ms. Oldbag says we could use this as a clue,” Gumshoe explained. “You see, everyone that passed through here - except for most of us, of course - checked out a book and wrote their name on the list. We can narrow down a suspect list this way!”
Ema beams. ”Good thinking!” She looks over the list again and frowns. “Hmm, I don’t recognize most of these names apart from Meekins and Gant. Do you guys?”
“Penny Nichols is on the list,” Maya said. “As is Angel Starr, Sal Manella, and Dee Vasquez... I wonder what kind of things they check out.”
“The mafia lady is out?!” Gumshoe asked.
“It would appear so,” I said. “She did strike back in self-defense, after all. And her lackey didn’t really do anything.”
“Even the Judge is on here,” said Mia. “Rats. I was hoping he would have written his name out, but it simply says ‘Judge’.”
I snickered at that, as I continued to scan the list. I saw one of the names and froze up. He was here?! Who let him out?! No one else noticed the name except Maya, who shot a worried glance my way.
“Who should we question first?” asked Lana.
"Hey! Why is my name on there?!" Larry suddenly shouted, pointing at the list. "I didn't check out any books today!"
"Aha! Get him, guys!"
It all happened so fast.
I was thrown to the floor by the rushing bodies of the police that suddenly flooded the room.
"Hey! What's going on?!" shouted Ms. Oldbag, still at her desk area somewhere.
The sea of police parted. I rubbed my head after hitting it on the floor. Mia and Gumshoe were on either side of me, and Lana, Ema, and Maya were in front of us.
Someone was missing!
"Hey! Make them let go of me!"
We looked up.
Larry was being held hostage between the police.
"Wait!" Ema cried. "What are you doing with him?!"
The police looked at her like she was crazy. "We're taking him in, isn't that obvious?!"
"Why?!" Ema shouted back.
They didn't answer. They simply dragged him away.
We all stared at one another.
What the heck had just happened here?!