Friday, September 18, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 24

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The Federation search team is outside the door to Zav’s apartment.

Michelle and I hurried down the hall toward Mark’s room. Just as we reached the door, Cassie dashed out of her room.

“They’re already here? Why didn’t you wake me up?” Before anyone could respond, she caught Michelle’s hand. “If anything happens to us, you can find help in the loading bay on deck eighty-four.”

Surprised, Michelle only managed a quick nod to Cassie before I bustled her through Mark’s door and into his closet. She caught Cassie’s gaze just before I pulled the closet door shut and whispered, “I love you, Cassie.”

Zav opened the door as I hurried to hide Michelle among the smelly clothes littering the closet floor. I feared Zav would try to stall the search team and get himself hurt in the process. Fortunately, he was much smarter than that.

“Is this everyone who lives here?” an officious voice demanded loudly enough to carry through walls and doors easily.

“Yes, sir.” Zav’s much quieter voice barely made it to us. “Do you want us all to stay out here in the living room?”

The officious voice backed off a bit when he realized Zav was cooperating. “Yes, please. How many rooms are there besides this one?”

“Five, sir,” Mark piped up, his voice perky and helpful. “That doesn’t include the bathroom, but you probably don’t want to look in there.”

“Why not?” The voice held simple curiosity rather than the suspicion such a comment might normally arouse. Mark was obviously using his psychic ability to charm the team and, I hoped, dull any zeal they might have for the search.

“We’ve got girls using it and they’ve got so much stuff it’s ridiculous! It’s gross and it smells!”

“It smells all right,” Kristin sounded just like she was having a snit fit, “but that’s because you and Gene stink!”

With Michelle finally hidden in a corner, I stood before her and cleared my mind. It took a lot of effort, but I shut out the voices from the living room and carefully drew forth feelings of isolation and the desire to be left alone.

Distantly, I heard many feet coming down the hallway as the team spread out to perform their search. One pair of feet veered into Mark’s room and I threw all of my concentration into projecting my ‘go away and leave me alone’ feelings.

I can’t say how long I stood in the corner of the closet before the door opened. It couldn’t have been very long, but keeping my full concentration on projecting emotions really screwed up my time sense. A man close to my own age stared into the closet, his eyes sweeping over the piles of clothes. His nose wrinkled as the smell of Mark’s socks hit him.

“Damn, the girl really was right about the smell,” he muttered, kicking at the clothes closest to the door. His gaze swept around the closet, passing right over me before concentrating on the floor. Waving his hand in front of his nose, the man backed out of the closet and shut the door.

I carefully checked the surge of elation I felt as darkness closed over us again and kept projecting emotions as the man poked around for a little longer.

“Hey Sarge?” a voice called from one of the other rooms. “Come look at this.”

A set of heavy footsteps marched down the hall. The man searching Mark’s room headed toward the voice, as well. A low-voiced conversation took place, then the whole search team returned to the living room.

“Sir, could you explain this?” The sergeant’s tone was officious once again.

A few seconds passed, then Zav said, “It’s just a drawing my youngest did. She’s quite good, don’t you think?”

“Real good,” the sergeant agreed. “Would you care to tell me why she’s drawn herself holding hands with the two people we’re searching for?”

Oh, hell! How had we missed one of Cassie’s drawings of Michelle and me? We cleared the walls entirely, but we only cleared the walls. Where else would Cassie have a drawing, though? Then it hit me—we never looked in her sketchbook!

“Cassie, can you answer the man’s question?” Zav asked.

Cassie replied, sounding on the verge of tears. “I… I j-just saw their pictures on the vid and they looked so nice and all…”

“There you have it, Sergeant,” Zav said. “It can’t be too surprising that an artistically inclined girl took her inspiration from the images you’ve been broadcasting.”

“If that’s the case, sir,” the Sergeant responded, his voice stern, “why didn’t she draw them in the clothing they were wearing in those images?”

For the first time, Zav’s voice took on an edge of exasperation. “Do you have any experience with females, Sergeant? Many of them, especially ones Cassie’s age, are quite fascinated with clothes. So what if she drew different clothing?”

“That’s a pretty good argument, sir,” the Sergeant replied. “But station security found a brief image of the couple as they passed through one of the shopping districts. Can you explain how your girl just happened to draw them in the clothes they were wearing at the time?”

“Perhaps she saw them in the shopping district and subconsciously remembered what they were wearing,” Zav suggested.

“That could be,” the sergeant allowed, “but until we can get to the bottom of this I’m going to have to take all of you to station security.”

“I must protest, Sergeant!” Zav said with vehemence. “We have rights, damn you!”

“Not with the station under martial law, you don’t,” the sergeant snarled. “Now, are you going to come along quietly or will you force my men to be rough?”

“We’ll go quietly,” Zav sighed, defeat evident in his tone. “Come along, children.”

I heard the apartment door slide open and, several seconds later, slide shut again.

Clothing stirred as Michelle sat up. “Dear God, Matt, if station security follows normal intake procedure, it won’t take long for them to discover who Zav and the kids really are!”

“I know.” I pulled Michelle to her feet and opened the door. “This must be what Cassie saw in her dreams.”

“So we wait for the search to end and then go to the loading bay on deck eighty-four?” Michelle asked.

“I don’t have a better idea right now,” I said. “Besides, we’re going to need all the help we can get if we’re going to rescue Zav and the kids!”

What will Matt and Michelle find at the loading bay on deck eighty-four? Find out in Chapter 25, coming Monday!