As I was walking into the school, I realized I actually didn't get the combination from Tanya. In fact, I didn't even know where Ruth’s locker was! I wanted to ask Mr.Walich for permission, but that might be too risky. I considered my options, and there was no other way. I was going to have to ask him.
I cleared my throat, and took a big gulp, feeling a ball roll down my throat right into my stomach, where it rotated. The secretary was talking in a friendly high-pitched voice, which complemented her small frame. Her back was to me, as she continued her conversation with another bulkier, stunted woman. The ball was still rolling.
Maybe she didn't notice me? The counter was quite tall, and I was very short. I almost turned to leave the office, but I couldn't. I had to get into that locker. My siblings were waiting and I had to be quick. Finally, the ball shrunk enough to make room for words to come out, “Excuse me.”
“Yes? You look a little too young to be in high school, dear. Are you wanting to register?” Even though her voice was still perky, her face grew sour.
“No, actually. Would I be able to see Mr.Walich? I have something important to talk to him about.”
“Oh, I am sorry dear. He is in a meeting.” She lifted herself off her seat, and tilted so that she was a little closer to me, and started to whisper, “He is with the police -an urgent matter.”
“I see. Does it have to do with Ruth Murphy?” Her eyes widened, and she plopped back into her chair. We stood there staring at each other for a moment. She was growing suspicious. “Who are you, exactly?” Her voice now serious and hostile.
“I am sorry. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Murphy. I am Ruth's sister. I was there... there when... Well, I was there when it happened. I was with Mr.Walich. Please. I need to speak to him. I am in a rush.”
Her eyes grew sympathetic. She got up from her chair again, and placed her hand on mine, “Of course dear, I will try my best. If I can't get him, is there anything I can do to help?” Of course, she wanted to be the first to know if anything else happened. I realized the hand gesture was not out of empathy, but false sympathy and eagerness to get at the gossip. “No. Please, I just want to talk to Mr.Walich.”
She looked disappointed, but rushed over to Mr. Walich's office, and knocked on his door. “Who is it? I am busy. I asked to not be disturbed!” He was not in a good mood. “It is very important sir.” Her voice then lowered almost into a whisper, “Ruth's sister is here.”
“What?!” Mr. Walich asked, irritated, as he swung open his door. It looked as if he was about to give the secretary heck when he looked up and our eyes met. “Elizabeth! Oh please, come here. Actually, the police may want to ask you a few questions. Eleanor, why didn't you tell me it was one of Ruth's relatives?”
“Sir, I tri-”
He quickly turned his back to her, and walked closer to me. “Yes, yes. Come here, Liz.” I followed him into his office. There were two policemen there. One was very young, and handsome. He had deep blue eyes, light brown hair, and a lean, muscular build. The other was very tall, with grey hair, a giant nose and kind eyes. “Who is this young lady?” The older one asked.
“Oh this is Elizabeth, Ruth's younger sister. She is only in grade six, but she is smart enough to attend school here, right Liz?”
“Well, I am not sure about tha-”
“Don't be humble, Liz. I was actually talking with your teacher, and the principal at your school, and they were thinking of skipping you a couple of grades.”
“Really? I will get behind be-”
“Oh that isn't true. You will be fine. Besides, by the fall, you will be right up to speed, right?” He patted me on the back. I could tell he believed in me more than I believed in myself.
I was getting frustrated now. I didn't want to talk about school. I needed to get into Ruth’s locker. I raised my voice slightly, “Mr. Walich, I did actually come here for a specific reason.” They all waited with anticipation. “I need to get the number of Ruth's locker and the code, or some way of opening it. I would like to open it in private as well.”
“You have something to hide?” The older policeman asked in a deep, raspy voice.
“No, of course not. I would rather be alone in case… well... in case I get emotional. You know what I mean?”
They all looked at me with that “feel sorry for you” look on their face. “I understand Liz. I will get the secretary to look that up for you. While I am doing that, I do believe these nice policemen want to speak with you, if that is alright?”
“Actually Mr.Walich, I don't mean to be rude but my brother is waiting for me, in the car, and we have to get back to the house for family stuff.”
“Oh, I see. Okay, well men, if you want to set up another time with her, and find out when other family members are free, go ahead. I will get that information for you Elizabeth.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it, Mr.Walich.”
“Yes, of course.” He said in an annoyed tone, as he walked out of his office.
“So, Ms. Murphy, is there a more appropriate time when we can have a chat?” the older officer asked softly as he walked over to sit in the principal’s chair.
“Yes. Here I will give you my phone number, and that way you can call me or the rest of my family at any time.” I assured him while grabbing a pen from Mr.Walich’s desk.
“That sounds like a great idea, eh Jimmy?” The young one said, trying to smooth out the tension. I jotted it down quickly on a post-it. “Here you go. And, I hope to be in touch soon. I should see if Mr.Walich found that information. Take care guys.” I said quickly, and left the office, before they could respond. Guys? What was I thinking? These were police officers. Crap! I hope they aren't suspicious of me.
I looked around to see if Mr.Walich was there, but he wasn't. The secretary stood up from her seat and handed me a small piece of paper, “Here. Mr.Walich asked me to give this to you.”
“Thanks.” I said as I scurried out of there.
I opened the piece of paper. The numbers 346, 12, 45, and 3 were written on it. I figured the first had to be her locker number. I went around to the first floor first, but I could not find it. I noticed when I got to the second floor that all the locker numbers started with 2. I then thought her locker must be on the third floor. I dashed up the stairs, as quickly as a I could, as I knew my siblings must be getting restless by now. I hoped they wouldn’t come in here looking for me.
324, 325, 326-335, 336-344, 345, Ha! 346! Okay… Now how do you open these stupid things again? Even though we had lockers at my school, I rarely used mine. I tried the numbers, 12, 45, and 3. It didn't work. “Hmm.” I remembered that I had to spin it around past zero to the right a couple of times, then stop on zero, then go to the first number, but I couldn't remember if it was to the right or to the left? “Argh!”
“Excuse me? That is not your locker.” A tall, skinny, blond girl said as she approached me with her hands on her hips.
“I know. It was my sister's.”
“Oh! I am so sorry. I heard what happened, I can't believe it. That is such a tragedy!”
I interrupted her. I didn't have to time for this. “Yes it is. Now can you tell me how to do this? I need to get her stuff out of here.”
“Oh sure.” She took the piece of paper from me, and opened it like a skilled professional. She then handed the piece of paper back to me, and stood there staring. “I'm sorry, but I would really like to be alone.” I insisted.
“Yeah, right. Sorry. And, sorry for your loss again.” She slowly backed up, then left the hallway.
Finally she was gone. I stood there, leaving it open only a crack, peaking in. For some reason, I was scared. Scared of what though? Finding out the truth? There was no time to be scared. “Liz! What the heck are you doing? C'mon! I have been looking all over for you!” Matt called out at the other end of the hallway.
“I'm coming! I'll be there in just one second. I got to get this stuff in my bag.”
“Hurry it up!” He left and good thing, as I didn't want him to get a look at this. Her locker was covered in pictures. There wasn't even one tiny area where you could see the locker. It wasn't the presence of the pictures that shocked me but what the pictures were of. Each one was a different person. “These can't be all of her friends,” I thought aloud. She didn't even have any pictures of Tanya. I took a closer look, and most of them were males, but they weren't celebrities, and they all looked around her age or older. Actually, some were a lot older. I started to tear them down, and shove them in my backpack. I could get a closer look later. The rest of her stuff was papers scrunched up with what looked like poems scribbled on them. I took those too. I reached to the far back and searched the floor to make sure I didn't miss anything.
The only thing left was another necklace! It was like the one I found before, except it was lighter, less chunky, and, well, more feminine. Did I find her boyfriend's necklace on the beach and this was hers? I threw it in my bag, and made sure it was zipped up tightly. I hurried out of there.
As I approached the door, my siblings called out to me asking me why I took so long, and asked me what I found. “I am really sorry guys. Mr.Walich saw me and started talking to me about school and what not. I couldn't get him to leave me alone. Does he talk that much with all of his students?”
They laughed, then Christine said, “No, not usually, but when we have assemblies they last a looong time, right guys?” They all nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, I should have warned you about that. Sorry sis.” Matt said as he sped off.
“Let me see what you found.” Jordan pressed.
“Yeah, let us see too!” My sisters demanded loudly.
“Sorry to tell you guys, but I didn't find anything worth mentioning. I found some papers, school work, and that's about it.”
“Why is your backpack full then?” Sam asked warily.
“She had a lot of papers, and I didn't want to waste time going through all of them, so I am just going to go through them when we get home. I thought I saw some poetry in there. I didn't really want to throw that stuff out, or anything else she might have wanted to keep.”
“Yeah. That is true. Well, let us know if you find anything good, like love notes or something.” Christine suggested.
“Sure, of course.” I didn't want to tell them about the pictures. I knew my older brothers would assume too many things about these “guys”. They might want to find these “guys” too, but I knew I had to do that on my own. I needed to find out who they were, and what their connections were to Ruth.
When we got home, I went straight to my room, to look through the material I had collected from Ruth's locker. I looked through the papers first, assuming I would have to throw out most of it. It didn't take me a long time to go through everything, since a bunch of them were only scribbles of math work. I was beginning to think I should throw the rest out, but then I found a large neatly folded pink piece of paper. It was a long letter to someone named Daniel.
Last night was wonderful, but I am beginning to think it was a mistake. I am not sure if you feel the way about me that you said you did. I saw you in the hall talking to Nadene and it looked like you guys were flirting. I don't want to be suspicious, but it is hard not to be jealous when she is so tall, blonde and beautiful. Also, she is your age, and I am much younger. You have even said that I can be immature sometimes, and maybe I am being that now, but you make it difficult not to be suspicious.
I also wonder if this is going to work out when you can't even talk to me at school. I know you don't want to ruin your reputation, but I really love you, and want to be able to spend time with you even at school. I just want to announce to everyone that we are together. I don't understand. If you love me, then don't you want to do the same?
I'm really confused Daniel. I don't want to be a pain again, I know how you hate that, but I have to talk to you. Maybe we can go to our special place? And without the others. They will just ruin it. I heard Melanie already told someone about it. I don't want everyone to start going there you know? It`s OURS.
Also, we still have to make time to take more pictures. I know you like the ones I already took, but we need more. We have to finish what we started. Those people may not stay here in town. We have to search for them, and get what we deserve. So we can run away and live happily like you promised.
Again, I am sorry if I am inconveniencing you, but if you don't come out with the truth about us, I may have to back out on our deal and move on. I can't wait around for you forever. Or, I might just tell everyone. It has to be done, before someone catches us.
I love you with all my heart, but I can't keep going like this. I want to run away and be free with you! Please, I will do anything.
Your lover and friend always,
I sat there, staring at the words-last night-flirting-suspicious-immature-love-school-pain-special place-OURS-pictures-those people-search-run-truth-move-tell-love-run-lover-friend??? Who was this guy? And, why was he so important to her? What were they planning? Did they...make love? This guy sounded like a real douche-bag. It was obvious that he was using her. She couldn't have been that blind, or could she? I had to get to the bottom of this.
I started examining the pictures. On the back of each one there was some sort of code. It almost looked like an address.
11 Tunskin- 44W
67 Marigold- 44W
82 Grilson- 101E
113 Shephard- 12S
The codes continued. They have got to be addresses. It was the only thing that made sense, but what were the last numbers and letters? Then I noticed all the letters were either W, E, N, or S- West, East, North and South! They must be highways, coming from those directions. Maybe that was how you get to these addresses?
I wondered if I should check out some of these addresses first, or get hold of Daniel. No. Tanya. I needed to talk to her first. She might know this Daniel guy, and it might be who she was at dinner with. And, maybe Ruth told her something about this plan that she and Daniel had.
“Elizabeth Roseanna Murphy! Get your butt down here!” Uh, oh! It was the beast again. I then thought I should get down there and make some kind of an appearance. I opened the door to find Sam and Christine standing there. “Yes?”
“Well? Did you find anything?” I couldn't decide whether to tell them about the letter at first, but I decided that I would, but not yet. “Not yet. I will let you know.”
“Not yet? You have been in there awhile. Are you hiding something? Is there anything we should know?” asked Sam, while trying to poke her head around me, into my room.
“Of course not. I just started- I was cleaning up my room first.”
They looked at each other, then their eyes met mine. “It doesn't look very clean.” Christine insisted.
“Uh, oh. C'mon, we will talk about this later.” Sam said tugging at my arm.