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Chapter 12

Joanna woke me up with coffee and I waited while she got ready for school. Once she was done we walked to my place and I got ready for school too. Inside I fizzed with impatience, I wanted to find bad guys not sit through Mr Clay’s droning accountancy lesson or Ms. Pillay’s confusing business economics class. But school was school and had to be endured. I knew if my grades slipped I would be in big trouble from my mom and aunt, it just was not worth the fight. Joanna and I trudged unwillingly into school and agreed to meet straight after school to start our investigation.

The day passed with its usual slowness but at last it was the end of the school day and I hurried to meet Joanna at the school gate. She was waiting for me and we rushed to her house. She had a computer and knew how to use it to find the information we needed.

When we arrived the house was quiet, Joanna’s mom was out and we were left to make our own lunch and hot chocolate. Once our stomach’s were satisfied we went upstairs to Joanna’s room. She sat at her computer and I sat on the sofa.

She started typing and all was quiet for awhile except for the click click of the mouse and keyboard. Her face was set in a frown of concentration. She was in the data zone and I knew better than to interrupt her when she got like this. I relaxed on the sofa and day dreamed of running through the forest in wolf form with Chase by my side. After about half an hour of intense searching she wheeled her chair back from the desk shook her head, stretched her fingers and hit the print button on her printer. A long sheet inched out of the printer and we waited in anticipation for the result. Finally the printer’s chatter grew silent and the paper slid out ready to be read. My clever friend had written a worm program that infiltrated all the local hotels reservations databases and searched for groups of more than ten people booking in together. There were a surprising number of them. Spring was a popular time of year for tourists despite the cold.

I scanned the list and said “Ok well Im pretty sure it’s not the seniors tour bus group, not the ladies quilting group either. The kyogi conference is all about printers and copiers so I guess they are too nerdy to be hunters.” I made my way slowly down the list and in the end there were 3 possible groups that looked suspicious. They were booked in at different hotels so we would have to visit each one and see them to determine likely suspects.

I called Chase and we agreed to meet at the first hotel on the list in half an hour’s time. The nice thing about living in a small town was that everywhere was in walking distance from everywhere else. The first hotel was a bed and breakfast lodge and seemed unlikely but we went inside anyway. Joanna stepped confidently up to the marble reception counter and spoke to the receptionist. After a few minutes she joined us and shook her head, “They are a team of ornithologists here to study the bird life in the sanctuary” Joanna said, “I highly doubt they are who we are looking for. “ we agreed, those people were pro life not anti it. We strolled down the road a few blocks to the next hotel on the list, Chase said, “I will do this one, My cousin Pete works here as a porter and knows everything that goes on.”

“Ok, go for it.” I said

He entered and we stood around in the cold not saying much just waiting impatiently for his return. After about ten minutes he came back, “Pete says no one around fitting our attackers and as he is a werewolf like me he reckons he would smell them if they were here.”

“Oh well on to the next place.” Joanna said brightly and started walking down the road. Chase and I followed.We were feeling a bit let down but Joanna’s spirit was undaunted. Unfortunately the next hotel proved to be a bust too and we trudged back to my place trying to think of anywhere else these mysterious people could be lodging.

We arrived at my house and I invited Chase in. He looked around at our lovely old house with its antique furniture and persian carpets and I could see envy in his eyes. It made me uncomfortable. I had lived like this all my life and took it for granted. The fact that my Aunt’s company was the biggest employer in the area had never bothered me before. I wondered if Chase’s dad had been let go from my family’s company, but I didn’t have the courage to open that can of worms with Chase.Being at his place the other night had been as much of a shock to me as my place was to him.

“It’s a family house, been in my family since the town started.” I justified to him and we climbed the stairs to my room.

My aunt was at work and my mom was out at one of her cooking classes. Because I had always been such a straight arrow I was allowed a fair amount of freedom and did not have my every move monitored. My mom and aunt trusted me. Sometimes I felt a bit neglected but today I was grateful for that freedom. I really didn’t want to have to explain Chase and what we were up to. I knew they would disapprove and order me to let the grown ups handle it. Problem was, grown ups were volatile and more inclined to fight than look for solutions. We sat in my room and I briefly wished i had cleaned up a little before letting the most gorgeous boy I knew into my bedroom. He didn’t seem to notice or care about the mess. Also we had more important things to worry about. “Ok now what?” I said

Chase replied, “my cousin mentioned he knew someone who had hired out their house for the season. Maybe that’s where they are hiding?”

Joanna replied, “yeah that’s possible. These guys are obviously professionals so renting a house may be a better way to stay under the radar so to speak.”

I thought about it and agreed, “Makes sense, but how do we find them? We can’t exactly do a house to house search you know.”

We sat in silence for a bit pondering what to do, it seemed we were well and truly stuck. Then Joanna got a bright idea, “we could phone the property agents in the area with some kind of story and see if they have rented to our group? There are only a few agencies here in town, surely one of them must know something?”

Chase answered, “Pete has an ear to the ground in this town he knows all the latest gossip. Maybe I should go speak to him see if he has heard of any unusual visitors.”

I nodded, “Right then this is what we will do. Chase you go see Pete. Joanna you print a list of agencies and start phoning them. Someone must know something!” I looked at my watch and exclaimed, “Oh damn, I’m late. I need to go to the library quickly to see Ms. Cunningham. She promised to make me a necklace to control my change and I need to go see if it’s ready. While I am there I will ask her if she has heard anything. As the town librarian she gets to hear stuff too.”

We fist bumped in agreement and went our separate ways. Joanna back to her beloved computer, Chase back to the hotel to see Pete and I hurried to the library.

It was quarter to five when I got there and almost closing time for the library, I rushed inside and was relieved to see Ms. Cunningham was still behind the reception counter. She looked up from the book she was reading, raised her eyebrows above her glasses and glanced pointedly at her watch. I was out of breath from running to the library and huffed, “I am sorry I am late I lost track of time.”

She gave a small smile at my out of breathness and said, “It is ok dear, come along.” She weaved her way efficiently through the stacks as before and I followed slowly catching my breath. We reached the door and she pressed the secret button as before. I was pretty sure the door was in a different place this time but thought it must be my imagination.

We entered the candle scented room and there on the table was a beautiful tear drop shaped pendant of Jasper. It was a brownish red stone veined with black and surrounded by silver clasps that looked like miniature claws. She had hung it on a sturdy piece of black necklace string. It was beautiful and my face must have shown my awe, because she looked pleased at the effect it had on me.

She walked to the table picked it up and handed it to me. “It contains powerful magic Clarissa, only wear it when necessary.” I clasped it reverently and studied it closely, it truly was a thing of beauty. A very faint glow seemed to emanate from it too, I could sense the magic it held within.

“Thank you so much Ms. Cunningham,” I said. “It is beautiful.” she looked pleased and we left the room carefully sealing the door behind us. I looked at my watch and said politely, “I’m sorry, I can’t stay I have a test tomorrow I need to study for. But thanks again.”

“I need to lock up anyway,” she replied looking at the nurses watch pinned to the lapel of her lavender tweed jacket “It’s a pleasure Clarissa, use it wisely.” she replied and as I left the library she started locking up in preparation for going home.

I walked quickly around the corner into an alley and stared at the beautiful pendant clutched in my hand. Curiosity got the better of me and I glanced around to be sure no one was around and slipped it over my head.

My mind was instantly assaulted by hundreds of “voices” all clamouring in my head at the same time. It seemed I could hear the thoughts of everyone in the world all at the same time, the noise was deafening, disorienting and painful. My head spun, I screamed, fell backwards, bashed my head on the paving stones of the alley and passed out.

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