Chapter 11: Patient Zero
Ian and Roderick were both sitting at the kitchen table in silence, thinking.
Roderick had already filled his brother in on some of the things that had happened while he and Jordyn had been… happy, and now the two of them were thinking about what to do next. He felt bad that Roderick had to go through something so difficult without him, but he was glad that Brian and Joey had been able to be there for him. In fact, hearing about how Joey had talked some sense into his little brother made him forgive her a little for the disturbing information he was getting about her.
Even though some of these things came as surprising, she had saved their butts more times than he could count, so he decided to let Jordyn handle it and not worry about it. Besides, they had to figure this out…
“Hey Ian.” Roderick said suddenly.
“Smile for me.”
Ian raised a brow.
“Just do it.”
“I refuse to smile on command. You have to earn it.” Roderick rolled his eyes as Ian sat back and folded his arms expectantly.
“Ok. I’ll give you a math problem.”
“What? Why do you-.”
“The thought of doing math always makes you giddy.”
“No it doesn’t!” Ian smiled.
“See! There!” Roderick exclaimed, pointing at Ian’s face and making him jump. “Your smile is different.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your ‘Serenity Hill’ smile looked weird and unnatural. I think it’s the eyes actually. Whenever I see someone smiling unnaturally here, it’s like their eyes are opened too wide or something.”
“Hmmm… So what do you propose?” Ian asked. Roderick took a moment to think.
“There’s a photo place here in town you know.” Jordyn said without any warning, causing the two brothers to jump. She was standing there in a t-shirt and pajama shorts, a bowl of cereal in her hands. She smirked as she saw that she scared them.
“Geez. Calm down ya weirdos. It’s only me. I can’t believe you guys didn’t see me come in. I’ve been standing here listening to you guys jabber away while eating my Lucky Charms for like the last five minutes.” At this, Ian crinkled his nose.
“Lucky charms are disgusting. It would be better without the marshmallows.” he said distastefully.
Jordyn stopped chewing.
“WHAT.” she said with a disgusted look on her face, her mouth still full. Roderick turned around in his chair to look at her.
“Trust me Jordyn. It’s the perfect set up. I give him all my cereal pieces, and I get all his marshmallows.”
Jordyn took a moment to think about this, and then nodded in approval. Ian rolled his eyes.
“Anyways. About this picture place Jordyn? What is it?” he asked. Jordyn took her finished cereal bowl over to the sink to wash it.
“It’s a picture studio. Everyone here in town goes there for their family photos. I’m sure they have records of that stuff there.”
Ian and Roderick looked at each other and then nodded.
“Well let’s go see some pictures.”
The five of them did their best to keep happy smiling faces as they walked up to the photo studio, unsure of what they would find there. It was along the main street downtown, and business seemed to be booming. Roderick was sure he had never seen any photo place so busy before-because everyone just took pictures on phones and stuff nowadays.
Showing his nervous smile, he watched as a happy family strolled out of the building set against the main street. Their smiles caused his stomach to churn a little bit.
Once inside, they were not surprised to be greeted by a woman with big curly blonde hair at a counter who had a huge creepy smile on her face.
“Oh! Hello! Are you all here for a group picture?”
Roderick was about to open his mouth and ask to see the pictures of everyone for police business or something, when Jordyn beat him to it. But not in the way he was expecting.
“Sure-why not?” she said with a smile, much to the astonishment of those with her.
“You… want a group picture? With all of us?” Ian asked hesitantly. Jordyn smirked.
“Don’t worry. I can always photoshop you out of it later.”
Ian struggled to keep his smile, but his eye started to twitch.
“Alright! Right this way!” the woman exclaimed, turning on her heel.
“How is this supposed to get us a look at the rest of the pictures?” Joey whispered to the detective.
“It’s not. It just might be nice for you to have a picture of your friends though just in case some other jerk says something to you again.” Jordyn said nonchalantly.
Joey seemed incredibly touched by this, and switched her fake smile for a genuine one.
“Besides. It’ll give me pure joy to see how awkward Ian will be with this-which is something I need in this town.” the detective added. Joey laughed, which caused Ian to turn around and look at them suspiciously.
A moment later, they were all standing in front of a backdrop getting ready to take a picture together. They stood there a little awkwardly, realizing that the only two times the five of them had gotten together was to save some town from ghosts and evil spirits and stuff, but they smiled nonetheless. Roderick put his arm around his brother, who was still trying to figure out if he considered these people his friends yet.
As they all smiled, they couldn’t help but feel how ironic this all was.
“Hey uh-while we’re here, do you mind if we look at the other pictures you’ve done?” Ian asked.
“Uh-yeah! We’re doing an art project with the uh-people in this town, so… if we could get those printed as well, that would be great!” Brian added as the others gave him warning looks.
“Why sure thing hon!” the woman exclaimed. “It’ll take a few minutes, but I’ll get those out for ya as well as your other picture!” And with that, she left them alone in the waiting room.
“Dude. Don’t push our luck Brian.” Roderick whispered.
“Well we want copies don’t we? And the genie already knows we’re on to him-so why not?” Brian retorted, sitting down in a bright red chair. “But I mean-come to think of it-why is he so cool with everything? It doesn’t feel right. Why hasn’t he done something to us?”
The others silently thought about this for a moment, and then slowly sat down.
“I… didn’t really think about that…” Jordyn mumbled.
“That is a little concerning…” Roderick agreed. Ian sat there thinking hard.
“Then… he must have something else planned… Something that he doesn’t think we’d affect. Why else would he be so cocky?” he reasoned.
Joey didn’t say anything-her mind far away on a different matter. Silently, she pulled out the old sketchbook she had gotten from the bookstore and started to flip through it.
Roderick coughed, feeling like there was something stuck in the back of his throat as Jordyn, Brian and Ian continued to discuss their concerns.
Crap. Roderick thought to himself, knowing what this probably was. He tried to hold back the tickles, but that only made him cough more, until everyone stopped talking as he went into a coughing fit. After a moment, Ian sighed, and then silently went over to him and clapped him hard on the back. Roderick then hunched over and coughed up some black goop. Wordlessly, Ian handed him a tissue. The two of them looked up to find Jordyn and Brian staring.
Jordyn seemed about ready to ask something, when Brian interrupted her.
“HeyRoderickIhaveajokeforyoudowantohearit?” he blurted, his words running together. Roderick gave another little cough, and then nodded.
“I have my Granny on speed dial. I call it Instagram.”
Ian and Jordyn groaned while Roderick laughed.
At that moment, the lady came back in with their pictures. They were handed a large bag with all the pictures of the town, and then a little folder with their group pictures.
“Perfect…” Jordyn grinned devilishly as she eyed the awkward smile of Ian in the picture. Joey gave a little chuckle, looking the picture over.
The five of them were standing in front of a backdrop of a beach sunset-as cheesy as that was. There was Ian, smiling awkwardly and standing there stiffly, with Roderick’s arm around him in a neat argyle sweater with a button up shirt underneath. Roderick had a huge smile on his face in the picture, his hair messy like always, wearing the same ole worn brown jacket that he liked. Next to him, was Brian, who had his hands on his hips and looking somewhere off camera-almost like he was trying to pose like a superhero. Joey was standing next to him, and she realized that out of all of them, she was the shortest, but it was hard to tell because her hair was so crazy and curly that it made her look a few inches taller. Standing next to her was Jordyn, her arms folded with her usual smirk.
Joey smiled and carefully tucked the picture into the moleskin pouch she always kept with her.
Back at the house, pictures were everywhere. They covered the coffee table, the floor, ,the couch, and now it seemed there was hardly a place to sit down unless you surrounded yourself with hundreds of pictures. They had been at it for about an hour, looking through picture after picture with no luck. Jordyn carefully stepped around the many pictures, looking around.
“So what exactly are we looking for again?” she asked.
“We are looking for a natural smile.” Roderick explained, putting a couple of pictures in a ‘maybe’ pile. I’m sure we’ll know it when we see it… Hopefully…”
“What about this one?” Brian asked, holding up a picture of a husband and wife with their hands on each other’s shoulders. The others grimaced.
“Nope. Still creepy.” Roderick said, crinkling his nose. Dejected, Brian put the picture in the ‘no’ pile.
Joey scanned the pictures, her eyes grazing over seemingly happy family and friends. Suddenly, one seemed to catch her eye.
“Guys-wait-I think I found it.” she told them, her eyes wide. The others looked over excitedly as she held up a picture of a family of three who looked vaguely familiar. Roderick and Brian suddenly gasped.
“Hey-is-is that the family from the bakery? The ones that were super gross with their PDA?!” Brian asked.
“Yeah-what was the kid’s name? Gavin? David? I can’t remember.” Roderick asked.
“I think it was Devin.” Joey said, eyeing the picture. “But look at him in comparison with his parents. His parents have that same weird wide eyed smile as everybody else. But Devin’s looks genuine doesn’t it?”
“So… do you think it’s him?” Jordyn asked, swiping some of the pictures away. “Do you think he’s patient zero?” Joey nodded.
“We need to go find him and talk to him. Once we find out what he wished for, we can start working on reversing it.”
The others nodded in agreement.