I sat in an armchair, warm enough in the two pairs of sweatpants and sweatshirts I had on, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, watching them, the people that I allowed in my house, get warmed up.
Roger, the older man, was clicking his tongue and looking out the window, waiting for the storm to slow down. I don’t think there was really a chance of that happening. Not anytime soon.
Walter, the kid my age, was actually twitching. He kept looking around the room and slitting his eyes at the doorways as if he expected the abominable Snowman or something to burst into the house and start eating the dying plant Mom had left near the door, or something equally heinous.
Pepper was flipping through channels, trying to find a good channel. However, the signals were rapidly diminishing, making watching T.V. like watching a slideshow that has serious problems.
“So how long you been here, Helena?” She asked, finally abandoning her quest.
“A little under three weeks, as you should know.” I said, sipping the chocolate.
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“Pepper, stop it, you know what your aunt said about this.” Roger scolded her before brightening. “Hey, the weather’s beginning to clear!”
One glance at the window informed me this was not the case, whatever delusion he was attaching himself to. Probably just wishful thinking.
“So you the only one here?” She persisted. I hitched an eyebrow.
“Of course. My parents went to get breakfast and won’t be back until they can get out of the shopping mall.”
“Pepper.” Roger began again. Pepper swiftly cut him off.
“Do you like school?”
“Uh…just as much as the next teen?”
“Okay, that’s enough. Pepper, you’re having paranoid delusions. Helena, ignore her, she’s having paranoid delusions.” Roger directed. “Look!”
We all looked at the window, where a small speck of sunlight got through the giant cloud.
“The storm is clearing, I’m going to go check on the Hamil Family, they’re only a couple blocks from here.”
“But what if it starts up again?” I asked.
“I’ll stay with them until there’s another break. You guys stick here. Helena, can I borrow…?” He gestured the blankets he was wrapped him. I nodded and walked him to the door. “Don’t let Pepper get to you, she watches way too many government conspiracy movies. I’ll see if I can’t grab some food from the corner store on the way back to give you, electricity may go out, even if the storm’s resting.” He opened the door only as far as it took to squeeze through, then shut it hurriedly, before the snow piled outside could get in.
I rubbed my temple with one finger. Great. A conspiracies theorist and her sidekick. This, Pepper, is probably why you don’t have many friends.
Hey. Got a minute? Come to the kitchen.
I walked into the kitchen, calling that I needed more chocolate, and got a call from Walter that he’d like some more.
I fixed the chocolate, and stepped back from the counter into a spot I knew couldn’t be seen in the Living Room.
“What?” I whispered.
“I am getting the weirdest vibes off of the boy, and Pepper was playing with the marble. You need to get it away from her; I won’t be able to get back in if she’s holding it.” He whispered from somewhere behind me.
“Okay. Find anything?”
“No. But when you were in here before Roger said something about a man named Croder, how he was the last one to survive a blizzard like this.”
“How does that help me?” I muttered, watching the Hot Cocoa starting to boil.
“Don’t know. Just throwing it into the intelligence pool.”
I stepped forward and made sure the hot cocoa was pulled off the heat and let it cool for a couple minutes, then brought it back out, handing Walter a new mug and cradling my new drink.
“Soo…“Pepper began as I sat down in my previous spot in the chair. “Now that we got the older element out of the house, I suppose you’d feel more comfortable talking with us about the problem outside.”
“Excuse me?” I sighed, once again rubbing my temple. This was getting beyond annoying.
“Admit it, I have you pinned.” She said smugly. “Right Wally?”
‘Wally’ said nothing and kept looking at the kitchen.
“Sure. Wanna tell me what I’m admitting to, Nancy Drew?” I said, unable to keep back a smile. This was absolutely ludicrous, and I might as well have a little bit of fun with it.
“You’ve caused a snowstorm to blanket all of Lakegate.” She said, so sure of herself. “But all I want to know, is why? I have several theories.”
“Well, you impart them and I’ll tell you how close you are.” I said, trying not to laugh.
“One: You are new here, a teenager, and probably not that great at school, and you want to make several snow days in a row in order to keep up on your work!”
“Seems like a lot of work for just a little bit of homework.” I said over the rim of my mug.
“Yes, that’s why I came up with this one—”
Here we go, this oughta be good…
“—You once lived here, and have decided to take revenge for whatever sadistic reason!”
“Sadistic, that’s good word usage.”
“Thank you. We also came up with the theory that ‘this’,” she held up my choker, “Is a priceless artifact and you want to use the storm to hide your escape with millions in stolen treasure!”
“What other place would gather less attention?”
“It seems to be catching quite a bit right now.”
“But you’re using that to your ends!”
“Sorry, I forgot.” I grinned into the lip of my cup.
“And lastly, we have come to the theory that you, having just moved here and not having been here before, must be terribly homesick and have used the snowstorm to force your parents to take you back.” She said, grinning.
I stared at her. The mug was still at my lips, which was good, because I couldn’t have hidden a laugh even if I tried. “So,” I said, biting back laughter. “How exactly did I do this?”
“That’s where Wally comes in. He’s a powerful psychic, capable of rendering a man unconscious in seconds and picking up the power of unnatural beings from miles away.” She said smugly.
“Oh? If he’s that powerful, can he tell what I’m thinking right now?” I asked, finally putting down the mug.
“It doesn’t work that way.” Wally had the grace to blush.
“Shut-up! Don’t tell the enemy valuable information!” Pepper hissed.
I can’t believe I was nervous about these people, they’re complete idiots! Boston muttered as I seethed a little at being called the enemy.
Wally actually jerked and began looking around the room.
“Are you some sort of Spaz?” I asked a little unkindly. It was far too much of a coincidence that he did that after Boston started talking.
“Never mind this! Anyway, Where was I? Oh! You are using the power of a supernatural being or power of your own, if you happen to be some sort of Wiccan or sorceress, to set this storm upon our town.”
“Sure I didn’t whip out my sub zero rays and shot them into a cloud? I’m sure that could do the trick too.” I said sarcastically.
“Don’t get sarcastic on us, we know your secrets now.”
“I’m sure you do. First and foremost, I finish my homework every night and I don’t procrastinate. If I procrastinate then I don’t have time to do the things I like to do. Like sleep.” I took another sip. “Secondly, I’ve never lived here before, and I don’t hold a grudge. Thirdly, that choker was given to me by my Mother in honor of my first day of school. I’d appreciate it if you’d fork it over, it’s the only piece of jewelry I have that matches everything. Fourthly and Lastly, I haven’t had a ‘home’ home in about five years. So, for that last theory to work, I’d have had to freeze over twenty towns.”
She looked a little chagrined for a moment, then she hardened her resolve. “I know you are hiding something, and I will figure out what it is. Wally wouldn’t have pointed this house out if there wasn’t something going on!”
I looked over at Wally, who was quickly looking elsewhere. “Yeah, I can see how his word could be taken at the drop of a hat.”
“What do you mean?” She asked defensively.
“Well, first of all, he’s been twitching ever since he got in, and I know for a fact the things you attribute to him aren’t true. He can’t make men unconscious. He can’t spot monsters from miles away. That was just your way of getting an edge through intimidation.”
“How do you know that?” She spluttered, obviously not realizing she’d be taken off guard.
“Because he’s not looking me in the eye. You are an accomplished liar, and he isn’t, that’s why he won’t look at me. Besides that, judging by the way he twitches, I’d say that he lacks self confidence, because he wants to be ready for something that doesn’t exist, but unfortunately, doesn’t have the guts to face it, and that’s why he twitches. With the abilities you listed, he should have been more confident, which he is not.”
I can’t believe I spouted off that load of crap. Some of it is at least half true, but the rest I was a blind person fishing in a lake with no fish.
“You’re right.” He looked entirely surprised.
Heh, caught a fish.
“Okay.” She said sulkily. “That doesn’t explain why Wally sensed a presence here though.”
“I suppose it doesn’t.” I said smiling.
“But I’m not letting you off the hook.”
Oh goodness, we’re caught by a girl whose conspiracies don’t hold theories? I’m scared to think of what will happen. Boston commented dryly.
“There is something here, Pepper.” Wally said suddenly. I looked on with interest. “I can hear them whisper.”
“Aha!” She said triumphantly. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. If all he could hear were whispers, I don’t think I’m in that much trouble. On the other hand, if he acts so dramatic over ‘whispers’ I’d hate to see his reaction if Boston decided to show himself. He’d probably keel over.
I almost stopped myself. Since when were ‘whispers’ no big thing to me anymore? Boston’s company has made me incredibly laid back. I didn’t think it was possible to get me any calmer than I was then. Ah well, this calmness will serve me one day, like when I get drafted into the secret service to become Double-oh forty-two.
“Look, I’m sure—” My sharp retort, though witty and incredibly amusing, I’m sure, was cut off suddenly by the ringing phone. I frowned slightly. The phone lines around here must be incredibly tough to take that kind of a weather beating and still ring.
“Gee.” I said as I got up. “That’s probably for me.”
I caught Pepper giving me a ‘you think?’ look as I passed her to pick up the phone.
There was no answer. I glanced down at the phone, which in digital numbers identified the caller as Mom.
“Mom? You there?”
Still nothing. I shrugged and put the phone down. Either she had wanted to check up on me, or wanted to say she was coming home with Dad in tow.
She’d call back if it was important.
“Maybe old man Croder is to blame!” Pepper whispered excitedly to Wally, not realizing that I could hear her every word. Or realizing, but not caring. Apparently, she had given up on me being the culprit, though I’m concerned that she left off questioning me so fast. Maybe I answered all the right questions? But wouldn’t that make me more suspect, for knowing all of the answers?
I shrugged and wandered back to my seat.
“So who’s old man Croder?” I asked. That’s twice I’ve heard his name, and I think a little intelligence gathering wouldn’t go awry.
“He survived a blizzard like this. They say he was trapped in his house for over two weeks, living on canned foods.” Pepper said, obviously over me. “And they say he’s insane. Guy’s about seventy and he’s been living in the same house for over thirty years. They say he hates everybody. He’s a prime suspect! He’s going to wipe the entire town off the face of the map! We have to go tell my Aunt, she’s part of neighborhood watch.” She got up. “Can I take your blankets? I promise to return them!”
I was a bit lost for words so I only nodded. She dragged Wally off, who was still looking for the source of the ‘whisper’, or so I assume: He could be looking for the rest of his sanity. I can only guess it takes less than the normal amount to go traipsing around in the snow with a person named Pepper who believes in farfetched conspiracies.
“Oh! And remember, Helena! I’m watching you!” Pepper said as I followed them out of the Living room and to the door.
“Okay.” I said, waving. And I’ll be waiting for that restraining order I can put you under, I added silently.
They both ran out into the snow, which was still pretty light. Roger hadn’t come back, I can only assume he got to his house and had to stay there, or is purposefully staying out of sight.
I shut the door with some trouble, and locked it.
“Well, that was interesting.” I walked back into the room to retrieve my mug.
“Should we let them wander?” Boston asked from his perch above.
“What choice do we have? I can’t force them to stay, I wouldn’t want to. Besides, they were pissing me off, better they leave.” I began to dig through the blankets Pepper and Wally hadn’t taken. I frowned. “Where is the choker?”
“It isn’t down there?”
“No it’s…Hell. She took it with her.” I threw down a blanket. “Paranoid little Schizoid. She took the marble with her!”
Boston looked distinctly uneasy when I looked up at him.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t want to be seen.” His ears were all the way down and he looked upset, but not afraid. “If I’m discovered…as long as I’m with you, I won’t be seen, at least not if they don’t look right at me, they’ll only see a shadow, but if I have no way to disappear completely, it would be, how shall we say this? Bad.”
“I’m sorry Boston. I didn’t know. Alright, we’ll go after them.”
“But then she’ll jump to a conclusion.”
“Let her. Every conclusion she’s come up with was crap. The only thing they have to go on is the whispers of a psychic, and I’m not even sure he knows what the hell he’s doing. We can take them. Let me get dressed.” I got halfway up the first flight, when I turned.
“Look up Croder. Get the address and the directions.”