Selma stumbled out of the library and into the cool November air. Finding herself near her old neighbourhood Selma bought a bag full of sugary food from the corner shop. She didn’t smile at the cashier’s joke about the warm weather and sat out on a bench eating the food.
To finish off her sugar high Selma took another healthy sip from Jenny’s miracle drink. She tried to ignore the dregs of plant matter floating to the top of the plastic bottle. Selma took deep slow breaths staring long and hard at the shop’s brick wall. She closed her eyes and tried to ‘think’ herself awake.
Liam appeared in front of her with his arms crossed his lips were pressed into a firm line. He pressed the palm of his hand to Selma’s forehead and said, ‘You’re really tiered, all you want is for this to end. You just need to take a nap. You just need to relax. Don’t fight me!” Liam sighed and looked at Selma curiously as he pulled something out his pocket.
“No wonder Will likes you so much. You could survive in my world better then anyone.” He said as he opened her drink and dropped in a yellow pill. “I’m sorry no one should have to go there.” He whispered.
Liam bent forward into Selma’s face and gently brushed a strand of hair out of her face before he disappeared.
Suddenly Selma’s hands stopped shaking. She opened her eyes and looked around again, Selma smiled she must of built up a tolerance to whatever drug she’d been injected with.
She stood up and froze something she couldn’t put her finger on was different, every fibre in her body screamed danger. Suddenly Selma felt eyes on her but she couldn’t tell who was watching. Everyone looked suspicious.
Selma picked up her drink and walked away, looking for the eyes she knew were watching her.
The cashier from inside the shop waited until Selma had jogged away before he took the phone out from under the cash register. He held the receiver to his ear using his shoulder while he dialled a number he read off a business card.
“Yeah, she was here. She just left.” The cashier said tossing the business card. “I think she’s headed to her Aunt’s house or their clubhouse. Same direction” Then checking his watch he answered, “Yup, I’ll be here.” and hung up the phone.
“Can I help you?” He asked turning to the customer who’d been standing next to the drink refrigerator for the last ten minutes. He looked about sixteen and was deciding between an orange cola and a cherry cola. If the cashier hadn’t been so preoccupied with watching Selma jog away he would have asked him sooner.
“Yes, actually I think you can.” Liam said turning around he placed both drinks on the counter. For some reason the boy looked familiar to the cashier but he just couldn’t place him to a name or a place.
It annoyed the cashier that the boy had left the refrigerator open and that his hat cast a shadow that hid most of his face. He liked to see whom he was talking to; he resisted the urge to knock his hat off.
“The girl you just sold out is very important to me—for a plan and it would help me if the Center found her after we finish. I’d like you to forget she was ever here. You have no idea who Selma is and you have never seen her before and most importantly you don’t know about the clubhouse”
“Sell out? Who are you to speak to me this way?” The cashier growled.
“You won’t remember this, so there really is no point in telling you. But your subconscious might hold on to something so just try to keep onto the idea that I’m an ally of Selma’s and she doesn’t deserve to be locked up. She can’t do her part without me helping her a bit.”
“Selma is a very sick girl. I’ve just called her doctor. He’ll be here any minute.” The middle-aged man said picking up the receiver again. He looked down to dial the number but suddenly stopped.
“Who was I about to call?” He said looking up he finds himself alone in his shop. The counter was clear and the refrigerator was closed. He looked out the window of his shop and shrugged his shoulders putting down the phone’s receiver.
The cashier had the sudden craving for soda, but he just couldn’t decide if he wanted cherry or orange. He took both out taking a bill from his wallet he put the two cans behind the counter without opening them.
Selma jogged past familiar roads, houses and trees with her head down until she found an empty lot snuggled between two tidy looking houses.
Selma took a deep breath before she stepped into the lot and pushed through the thick underbrush that consumed the back half of the lot. Selma found the wooden fence that bordered her Aunt’s unsold house and followed it to a gate that led to a large shed dozens of feet from the house.
It was practically invisible from the house and few people knew where to look. Selma unlatched the small gate and went directly to what the neighbourhood called the clubhouse. It’s where she and her friends had played growing up.
This was her secret hide away, her own personal fortress of solitude. This was home. The clubhouse was a brown structure that sat at the back edge of untouched park property. It had one window and large barn doors that made up most of the wall. Selma and her friends had long ago graffiti the walls.
She could still see the names they’d written in permanent marker on one of the doors. She skipped her own name tracing the names of the four friends who knew the truth:
Will Mikael Kendra Ashley.
Ashley and Mikael, were the only ones who were left. The Center had made sure of that.
Liam appeared beside her as Selma touched the names on the door. He frowned when Selma’s hand hesitated above Will’s name and disappeared when Selma turned in his direction.
Selma took out a key from her bag opening the lock that protected the shed from animals and thieves and pulled one of the large doors open. The door opened slowly with a familiar groan.
Selma took out the note she’d prepared, the one she’d mail to Ashley when she left Alliance. She tucked it into her journal and sighed crouching next to the leather couch. She felt along the bottom of the couch until she found a tear in the fabric.
The tear created a pocket on the underside of the couch so Selma put the journal there in the bottom of the old leather couch to keep it safe in case the Center found her before Jenny did.
Selma felt around the hole for a second letter just to make sure it was still there. It was
She uncapped the bottle and finally took the ruinous sip from it. It was a few minutes before Selma felt a wave of exhaustion that nearly knocked her down.
The middle-aged cashier shakes his head. “I don’t know who Selma is. I’ve never seen her before.” He puts down the photograph confidently.
“Mr. Bennet on the phone you said she was outside your shop, and that she was headed to her Aunt’s house.” A skinny man in a brown suit says reading from a notebook.
“We have it on tape.” He leans forward in his seat and slides the tape player across a large table to the cashier.
“You can press play if you want to hear your voice again but I think we’ve been over it enough times for you not to bother denying.”
Mr. Bennet shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t know anything about this girl or a clubhouse or anything you’ve asked me.”
The man in the brown suit shakes his head slowly and watches Mr.Bennet as though his answer would change if he waited long enough. A tall heavy man standing next to the interrogation room’s door stares at Mr. Bennet with an intensity that makes Mr. Bennet uncomfortable.
They sat for several minutes without saying anything until Bennet suddenly breaks the silence, as the man in the brown suit knew he would.
“Who are you guys? You aren’t doctors.” Mr. Bennet asks eyeing the man who stood beside the door but he only smiled coldly. Mr. Bennet rubs his sore arms remembering how he was brought in.
The man in the brown suit took a deep breath before speaking. “Normally I sit around observing and recording things at this Health Center, they don’t call me by name they call me by my title the Observer. Kind of creepy don’t you think?” The man says smiling faintly.
Mr. Bennet frowned and the man continued. “I guess it doesn’t help that I keep my name confidential for legal reasons. Just between you and me, it doesn’t get me any favours with the people who use their names. It’s a trust thing, I guess. I’m the odd one out here but it’s been like that since I was kid. But with us, you know the people on the sidelines that get to know all the secrets that people let slip.” The Observer pauses expectantly.
“You have to believe me. I’m telling you the truth.” Mr. Bennet exclaims. The Observer’s face immediately hardens. “But you don’t care about what I normally do, do you? What you need to know is today I’m an investigator, assigned to find Selma by any means necessary. And him” the Observer says jerking his thumb at the man in the dark suit. “We call him Guy and he’s—a doctor of a sort who specializes with people who have Selma’s condition. But I hear he has many skills.”
Guy snickers bleakly and Mr. Bennet gulps, “I don’t know anything.” He mutters looking at Selma’s photo again.
It was eerie; her face gave Bennet’s mind an itch he could not reach. There was something about her face. He could almost remember her in his shop. But that was impossible; he’d never seen her before.
“We’ve checked her Aunt’s house and not only is she not there but it looks like no ones been there for weeks. You mentioned a clubhouse, I need to know where it is.”
“What clubhouse?” Bennet asks exasperated, he couldn’t understand how or why this was happening to him.
The Observer stood up from the stool he sat on revealing himself to be fairly short. He checked his watch; he’d been interrogating for over three hours and was getting nowhere.
Selma had been missing for a little over four hours.
“Mr. Bennett, this is foolhardy. It’s not like we won’t find her; we always find our runaways. You see if I fail to find her, I forfeit a lot more then a finder’s fee, a career or bodily fluid and so will you if you keep lying to me.” He said glancing at the bruise that had begun to spread across Bennet’s cheek.
“What I can’t understand is why you would send us on a wild goose chase. I mean it would make us look one way while she ran another, I get that but why are you helping her? I know they can’t be offering you more then we are. At most whatever Selma and who ever is helping her could give you is a half-baked fortune telling.” The Observer walks over to Mr. Bennet and sits on the wide desk in front of him. He glares into Mr. Bennet’s eyes holding his uncomfortable gaze.
“Tsk, tsk. We would’ve paid you well, Bennet.” He says putting his hand on the other man’s shoulder and squeezes hard. Mr. Bennet nervously glances at the Observer’s hand but the Observer pulls his face forward with his index finger.
“Playing dumb won’t work for very long. We will find her no matter how far or how fast she runs. It’ll be a lot less painful for you if tell us what you know right now.”
“But I don’t know anything.” Mr. Bennet says pleading with his eyes. ‘He wouldn’t take to physical violence well,’ the Observer noted. He shrugged ‘he should have just told us what he knows.’
The Observer sighed, patting Bennet on the cheek roughly. He stood up and straightened his tie. He gave Guy a nod and walked out of the room. He could hear Mr. Bennet scream as the door closed behind him. He had tried to warn the man but some people don’t know what’s good for them.