“How in the world did this happen?” Ms. Clark said with a defeated breath as she pinched the bridge of her nose with her index finger and thumb. “First the potted plant and now someone is stealing a girl’s underwear and covering it in cooking oil, and it’s only been an hour between the two.”
“You know pacing back and forth only makes you feel worse.” Mr. Rockwell told her when she kept pacing back and forth deep in thought from one end of the room to the other.
She stopped and sat back down. “You’re right, sorry. This is just a bit troubling, having too incidents like this within hours of each other and the principal breathing down my back…”
“The faculty can completely understand, the principal really doesn’t like things like bullying happening at his school.”
She cleared her throat. “On that, were you able to find anything from the students?”
Mr. Rockwell shook his head. “No, initially, I went to the room where the plant had fallen from, but the classroom was empty.”
Ms. Clark looked at her file. “Mr. Kumar’s class, he teaches philosophy to the third years. If I remember correctly he has a fondness for plants and keeps a number of them on his desk. It says that he had a class during that time.”
“Outside,” Mr. Rockwell added. “Since he began teaching here Kumar’s been known into taking his class outside to teach rather than being stuck inside on a nice day.”
“And the doors weren’t locked… not that they would be.” she put down the file. “And the students? Did they tell you anything?”
Once again Mr. Rockwell shook his head. “No, they hadn’t seen anyone; none of the students near that classroom heard anything strange. Or saw anyone ether, same goes with the second incident, the students claim they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary around the time of when it happened.”
Ms. Clark rested her chin on top of her hand as a frown creased her brow. That shouldn’t have been the case, someone should have seen something, or at least someone, unless it was someone who was trying hard at not being seen, and if that was the case…
Releasing another breath Ms. Clark looked to the teacher before her. “What about Charla and the others? Have they talked at all?”
The look of concern came to Mr. Rockwell’s face. “About that… the girls don’t really know what to say other than confirming that the underwear was originally Charla’s but as for the girl in question… she just won’t say anything, it’s like she’s completely shut down. She hasn’t left the school grounds but she won’t talk about what happened. No one can seem to get through to her at all. Not even her friends, whatever she went through before coming to this school, it must have been traumatic.”
A look of concern came over Ms. Clark as well as she let out a deep breath, her gaze then went to Charla’s file before sighing and looking to the teacher and offering a slight smile. “Thank you Mr. Rockwell, I will handle it from here. Although if you hear anything about this from the other students that sound creditable…”
“I’ll relay it right back to you,” he said finishing her sentence. “Don’t worry Max; I have your back for this. Though now I think it’d be best to get in contact with not only that girl’s guardian but her father as well. He’ll need to know.”
“Yes, I’m aware, thank you Mark, you can go now.” When Mr. Rockwell left Ms. Clark slumped back into her chair and let out a deep heavy sigh as her eyes looked to Charla’s file. What in the world happened to her? She shook her head, she needed to contact her legal guardian before her father, even though she would rather do it the other way around but since her father wasn’t here her uncle was the one to be contacted. Picking up the phone she dialed the number and waited. “Hello, is Isaac Liebert there? I need to speak with him. Yes, I’ll hold.”
Isaac looked to the phone when it rang, at first he thought it might be another tip from the recent events involving the illegal fight clubs but then saw the number for St. Helens and quickly answered the phone. “Detective Liebert speaking,” he said. “Who is this?”
“Isaac,” Ms. Clark spoke. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
He frowned wondering why she of all people was calling him so suddenly. “Maxine? Why are you calling at my work?”
“I’m calling to inform you about something, earlier today an incident took place with your niece and another student, no one was hurt. In fact it’s because of her that no one was hurt.”
His frown deepened. “What are you talking about?”
“A student tried to drop a potted plant in the head of a first year,” Ms. Clark said not mincing her words and causing Isaac to go still. “However Charla prevented the student from sustaining a serious injury.”
“Well…” he said after a moment from taking it in. “That’s good isn’t it? Unless Charla was hurt, was she hurt at all?”
“No, she’s physically fine.”
Isaac frowned once more. “Physically?”
“There’s more to it than that, what I told you was only the first part of it. Not long after that another incident happened only this time it was theft.”
Isaac waited to hear what else she had to say. “What was stolen exactly?”
She let out a tired breath. “Her underwear…”
“What?” Isaac snapped catching the attention of not only his partner but a number of other police force. “Was anything else taken?”
“No, just that but… not long after they were stolen it was nearly thrown at the girl Charla had helped before only…” she let out a sigh. “Only it was drenched in cooking oil. And after that, when Charla saw it she… she lit it on fire.”
Isaac froze as a look of shock blanketed his face as he tried to grasp any reasoning as to why Charla would do that. From all of the interactions he had with her Charla showed no signs of being an arsonist, or even damaging her cloths or self, so why would she do that?
“She hasn’t said anything as to why?”
“No, she merely shut down. She won’t talk to anyone, she won’t even respond to her friends. She just… it’s like a part of her just died. Isaac, would you have any understanding as to why this would happen? Did her father… did Johan; tell you anything about her mental condition before she arrived here in Sharlton?”
Isaac thought about it but couldn’t recall anything. “No,”
“Are you sure?” she pressed. “He’s your older brother, surly he must have told you something about his own child’s condition besides her blackouts.”
He fell silent, he had been told about it before, and even after talking with his brother, who practically reamed him for it, Isaac couldn’t remember. He always thought about work, and little else. He ran a hand over his face, how short-sighted was he to forget his own niece’s issues?
“You don’t remember,” Ms. Clark said drawing Isaac back to the conversation. “That’s fine Isaac; sometimes certain things don’t come up, or if they are there are other things on our minds when being told. It happens, you shouldn’t be too angry with yourself.”
“She’s my family Max,” he said with a sigh. “I should be better at this, better then how my old man treated you back then with Johan…”
“Your father and my old relationship with Johan isn’t important, right now your niece is. I’ll call Johan shortly after to inform him of these events as well. But as Charla’s legal guardian you have a job to do. Though I’m sure your brother will want to talk to you about this.”
“Knowing my older brother, he will. Thank you Maxine,” then he added. “Should I come to the school to take Charla home?”
“You can but she may be unresponsive to you just be warry of that fact when you try and talk to her.”
“I will,” when he hung up Isaac leaned back in his chair and let out a breath as he ran a hand over his face. What in the world was happening to his niece?
“What happened?” Claude asked as he looked at Isaac from over his desk. “Is everything alright with your family?”
“Something happened with Charla, she hadn’t done anything bad but… it’s up in the air right now.”
Claude glanced to a closed file with Charla’s name on it but refrained, now was not the best time to tell him. “If something comes up, let me know.”
“Yeah…” was all he said.
Ms. Clark leaned back in her chair as she stared up at the ceiling. All of this somehow just felt way too familiar to her, though these incidents in question were far from the things she had to deal with it was still something that could remind her of the past. Taking the phone she began to dial, only to stop and pause, was this a good idea? It was her job to inform a family member if something happened to their child but this was Johan Liebert, a man that if angered would be someone that no one should dare to cross. Maxine had seen it time and time again when they were attending this school, but it made her wonder and worry just how far he would go when it came to someone, anyone hurting his only child.
Shaking her head she dialed the number and waited to hear the other end pick up. “Hello Johan,” she said when he answered as old feelings began to resurface only to push them back. “This is the Student Councillor Maxine Clark, we… we need to talk.”
Mr. Rockwell had told the students to leave Charla alone, since she had become so closed off and shut down emotionally se wouldn’t even respond if someone tried to get a response out of her in which Mr. Rockwell or even Jack would snap at them and threaten detention. It seemed extreme but since those who said those things were so few in comparison to the others who actually worried if she was okay was a definite deep contrast.
Charla had gone to the inner courtyard where the plum blossom tree was and sat underneath it, the stray black cat Shadow then came over and nestled next to her giving at least some form of comfort.
It was a sad picture; the girl was just slowly coming out of her shell and now had forced herself back in refusing to move.
Mordecai looked at Charla, curled up into a ball with arms wrapped around legs and face buried atop her knees as the music from her headphones blared all too any forms of sound as the stray black cat was curled up at her side. No one could get through to her, after the event with her underwear, which was both spread with questions as to why and mixed with genuine concern, mockery and laughter. Charla wouldn’t talk, her voice completely gone, her eyes devoid of any signs of life.
Even Jack couldn’t seem to pull her out of it, and in the end he told the other students to leave her be until her legal guardian arrived.
He knelt down on one keen to try and get a better look at her, her breathing looked to normal, almost as if she was asleep.
Stretching out his hand he went to grasp her shoulder only to stop when Stacy shouted at him causing him to freeze.
“Mordecai what the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded. “Leave her be, she clearly doesn’t want anyone near her. I mean just look at her, overreacting from someone just stealing her underwear. It’s pathetic.”
“Would you stop?” he asked her. “You don’t know a thing about her, besides this isn’t your problem. Go back to class.”
But the girl didn’t. Stacy folded her arms across her chest and looked at him impatiently. “What’s with you? Why do you care so much about some… some freaky girl?”
“I said go back to class!” he snapped causing her to jump as he glared at her. “This doesn’t concern you Stacy, just do as I say for once and leave without causing a scene. No one needs that drama right now.”
Stacy became quite and left but not before casting a glare Charla’s way not that the girl would see it anyhow. “Whatever…”
When the girl was gone Mordecai looked back to Charla who still hadn’t moved, slowly he reached out but instead of touching her he slowly pulled her headphones off to have them rest on her shoulders to get to her listen to what he had to say.
“Charla?” he spoke softly. “Can you hear me?”
She didn’t give a response.
Mordecai merely looked at her before inching closer and then rested a hand on the top of her head causing her to flinch slightly. “You’re okay Charla…” he said as he continued to stroke her hair over and over. “You’ll be okay Charla, I promise you.”
Slowly Charla raised her head and looked at him, her eyes still void of emotion and life. “You don’t know that…”
He continued to stroke her hair. “And neither do you Charla.” He then moved his hand away from the top of her head and then offered her his hand. “Come with me, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”She merely stared at his hand. “Charla, please…”
She sighed and took his hand as he helped her stand up. But then vaguely noticed that he hadn’t let go of her hand, she merely followed him as he led her by the hand up to the music room. No one was there, Mordecai then slowly led her into the room before having her sit down on the piano’s bench as he then sat down next to Charla.
Looking at the white keys of the piano with a blank expression but then frowned when Mordecai tapped one of the ivory keys then asked. “Why did you bring me here?”
He tapped the key again letting the note drone out before speaking. “Remember when we spoke along the beach, I told you about my rival.” He glanced to Charla to see if she would say anything but when she remained quite he continued. “I had known him for a while, it wasn’t some big rivalry between us, it was just normal. Though even if we were I knew that his reasoning behind his inspiration to play was something very personal, something that not many seemed to realize whenever he would play with all his heart.”
With one hand he began to play repeated notes over and over again, but noticed how Charla was now watching his left hand almost intently. Almost as if she was memorizing the keystrokes before finally forcing herself to look away. when he saw her do that he stopped playing he asked her. “You know the song don’t you?”
Charla closed her eyes and turned away, she had known that song, it was one of the first songs that she and Carlin played, but how did he know it? “I’m leaving…” she said as she got up off of the bench and headed to the door only to stop when Mordecai spoke.
“I knew your brother,” he said as he now stood up from the piano. “I used to know Carlin.”