I’d barely slept a wink that night between the firestorm of thoughts scorching my brain and my dad’s constant hacking. Surprisingly, however, it didn’t matter much, as I felt wired and rearing to go in the morning. I needed to get some answers and that, in itself, kept my body chugging along.
I decided to contact Allison first since Number Nine indicated she might be in some sort of danger. For the life of me, I still couldn’t guess what it could be, but figured that type of warning wasn’t something to take lightly. Besides, Number Nine had provided me with a mysterious set of numbers that had shed considerable light on my birth-parents. The guy obviously had connections and knew something.
Even though I was suspended for a week, I got out of bed as usual and prepared myself like any other day. Before leaving I checked on my dad and for once, he was actually sleeping calmly. I was taken aback by this sudden change and gave him a close examination just to be sure he was still breathing. Much to my surprise, the old guy had a peaceful look spread ever so slightly across his face. Watching his chest rise and fall a few times provided some relief and I quietly stepped out of the house.
I knew I had to catch Allison before she left because one of the conditions of my suspension was that I wasn’t allowed to step foot on school property. Mr. Clayton was adamant about this and said if he caught me on school grounds it would only add to my punishment and maybe even go on my permanent record.
Fifteen minutes later I turned onto Allison’s street and watched Colonel Montgomery leave from behind a Linden tree a few doors down. I studied the area, made sure the coast was clear, and quickly crossed the street.
Mrs. Montgomery opened the door, shocked to see me. “Trenton!” she exclaimed, looking around suspiciously. “You shouldn’t be here. People are looking for you.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Really? Do you know who?”
“She didn’t leave her name, but then again, my husband was the one who talked to her.”
The only person I could think of was Ms. Petrovich, but why in the world would she be asking for me here? It just didn’t make sense.
“Well, I’m sure they’ll find me at home later,” I reassured her. “Is Allison home?”
“I’m sorry, Trenton, but she’s not.”
“Really ... she usually doesn’t leave for another ten minutes.”
“Mr. Locke, I don’t like your insinuation,” she snapped defensively.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I just really need to speak to her.”
Mrs. Montgomery appreciated respectable behavior and seemed to warm at my sudden attempt. “Trenton, I don’t like the way my husband has treated you, but after hearing about … about your...”
Her polished front wasn’t necessary. I finished her thought, “What? My father?”
“Well, frankly, yes, your father.”
“And what … you’ve changed your mind about me?”
“Listen, Trenton. If you love my Allison, you’ll leave her be.”
“At least let me talk to her one last time.”
“I’m sorry, but she’s not here.”
“Then where can I find her?”
“What do you mean? She’s got to be somewhere.”
“Her internship, as you know, will be taking up all of her time.”
“Of course it will,” I said sarcastically.
“Now, Trenton, that’s the second time you’ve insinuated – “
“You’re right,” I said. “I just thought you of all people would understand and at least–“
“I know how much you care for each other, but you have got to put her interests first, young man.”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”
She shifted her head slightly and studied me in a new light. It made me feel uneasy.
“It really is amazing how much you resemble him.”
I tilted my head, unsure if I had heard her correctly. “What do you mean? Resemble who?”
“You knew my father?”
After a moment of internal debate, she responded, “Yes, I did, but not very well.”
“I don’t get it, how?”
“He was a little older than Allison’s father, but they served together years ago.”
“He did? Are you sure?”
“Just looking at you and hearing his name leaves no doubt in my mind.” I struggled to find the words, but she continued, “Like I said, I didn’t know your father that well, but what I did know of him, I can tell you he was a good man and it was shocking to hear that dreadful news … well, you know?”
Yes, I did know.
“This is unbelievable,” I exclaimed.
She looked around again. “You should go now. And please think of Allison’s future. You need to set her free … for her sake.”
I had to hand it to the lady, she had a gentle way of delivering a rub.
“Mrs. Montgomery, could you at least tell me who she’s observing?”
“Trenton, I don’t know what privileged information Allison shares with you, but frankly, our conversation here is over. Now, good day!” she exclaimed ungraciously and closed the door.
I turned and headed down the porch steps, but before reaching the bottom, a voice called.
I froze ... Ms. Petrovich?
Fight or flight?
From the side of the house, Chelsea stuck her head out. I grinned and glanced at the door before joining her.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Don’t listen to my mom,” she whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“She means well, but I know how much Allison is totally into you. I think she would die if she couldn’t see you,” she explained with a devilish grin that I’m sure had already won over a thousand boys. She pinched my sleeve and pulled me out of view from the front porch.
“Do you know where she is?”
“Yeah, dummy, she’s at school, but not for long.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s starting that internship after lunch and will be gone for a week.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I hear everything that’s going on around here. My dad’s an amateur compared to me.” I found that funny and scary at the same time. “You know how much Allison loves Crimson James, right?” she said and my ears perked. “What would you say if I told you she’s been assigned to observe him?”
Chelsea quickly put a finger to her mouth signaling me to keep it down.
“You guys are weird, but I know how goofy you two are about each other and how much she’s in love with a guy who’s been dead for a million years, so I thought you’d like to know. Besides, I also know you guys supposedly broke up but I don’t believe it for one minute.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Now, Mr. Locke,” she joked, mimicking her mother.
“You’re okay, Chelsea. It’s not true what they say about you,” I quipped.
She raised an eyebrow and punched my shoulder.
“Funny, Trenton. Let’s just hope it’s not true what they say about you!” Chelsea’s bubbly nature had a caustic side at opportune moments. “Good luck and tell Augustus I said hi if you see him.”
She enjoyed delivering that last dagger and there was no doubt she was her father’s daughter.
“Thanks a lot, Chelsea. As always, it’s been fun.”
“Hah!” she snorted and disappeared inside.