Cal, Oscar, and Angel sat on the curb watching Deputy Curtis searched Oscar’s car.
“They can’t do this,” Angel said. She’d been fuming since Curtis made them all get out of the car.
“Yes, they can,” Oscar replied. “Well, they can if they have probable cause.”
“What’s their probable cause?” Angel asked.
“I don’t know,” Oscar said, “but I don’t really want to push things right now. I just want to get out of here and get to school before we get in any more trouble.”
“Yeah,” Cal said. “I could use a few normal days to get back onto Mr. Palino’s good side.”
“What classes are you guys missing?” Cal asked.
“A quiz in European History,” Oscar said. He was staring at his car.
“Art,” Angel replied, making little quote signs with her fingers. “I think we’re putting a second glaze coat on our mugs today. Hooray.”
Curtis crawled out of Oscars car, adjusted his belt, and put his hat back on.
“Don’t say anything to him,” Oscar said as Curtis made his way around the car towards the kids.
Curtis stood in front of the three of them, scribbling into his notebook.
“So I’m going to write you up for speeding and an unsafe lane change,” he said.
“For five miles over the speed limit?” Angel asked. “Or just because you didn’t find anything exciting in the car and want to write us a ticket anyways?”
Curtis stopped writing in his notepad and glared at Angel. Oscar hung his head.
“You’re the guy that found Walsh’s body, right?” Cal asked before Curtis could say anything to Angel.
The anger in Curtis’ eyes died down, his professional demeanor dropped slightly.
“Yeah,” he said to Cal.
Curtis shot a glance back at Angel.
“I’ve heard he killed himself,” Cal said, drawing Curtis’ attention back. “Is that true?”
“Yeah,” Curtis said. “It was pretty clear.”
“Can you tell me some more about it?” Cal asked. “How did he do it?”
Curtis took in a breath and blew it out. He looked down at the three kids.
“I don’t think you want the details,” he said.
“We’re doing a school report,” Angel said.
“On Walsh?” Curtis asked with a confused look.
“On suicide prevention,” she said. “It’s a big problem with teens in our city. We’d love to get our hands on whatever details you can share about the case. The more horrific, the better.”
Cal worked hard not to smile.
Curtis looked at them, considering something.
C’mon, Cal thought, urging the deputy with his thoughts.
Curtis looked back down to his notepad, scribbling and nodding. He tore off a ticket and handed it to Oscar.
“Thanks,” Oscar said.
“We get a lot of reports from the neighbors in the area of you kids tearing through here after school and at lunch time,” Curtis said. “You need to pay attention to the posted speed limits and traffic laws.”
“Yes, sir,” Oscar said.
Curtis looked back to Cal.
“My niece tried to kill herself a few years back,” Curtis said. “I’ll get you anything I can. I think what you kids are doing is great, though you guys need to take it easy.”
“What do you mean?” Cal said.
“You’re in a lot of trouble right now,” Curtis said. “You three,” he nodded towards Angel, “should really just keep your noses clean for a while. You won’t be on the hit list for long. Especially not once The Lemolos come back through.”
The Lemolos again.
“They’re not here now?” Cal asked. He tried to think if he’d seen fewer Harley’s on the road recently.
“A lot of them aren’t,” Curtis said. “There’s some big thing down south every year. They’ll start coming back in the next week or so. It always gets real interesting when they get back.”
“So,” Curtis continued. “How do you want the suicide details? You guys have an email address I could send it to?”
Cal gave him his. Curtis wrote it down on his notepad.
“Okay,” Curtis said. “I’ll get it to you tonight. You kids stay out of trouble.”
“Thank you, sir,” Oscar said.
Curtis turned to go back to his car and the three kids stood up.
“Wait,” Angel called to Curtis.
“In the interest of us keeping out of trouble,” she said, her voice much kinder now. “Can you call our school and tell them why we missed our afternoon classes?”
Curtis thought for a bit.
“Yeah,” he said. “Aberdeen high, right?”
“Okay,” Curtis said. “I’ll call it in now.”
He got into his car.
“What the hell?” Oscar said as he pulled out into traffic slowly and properly. “I said don’t talk to him. That’s the first rule when you interact with them. Don’t give them anything to use.”
“Hey,” Angel said from the back seat. “I’m the one that got us out of school for the afternoon. If it was up to you, we’d be looking at at least one unexcused absence.”
“She’s got a point,” Cal said.
Oscar drove without saying anything.
“Where are we going?” Angel asked.
“Back to school, I guess?” Oscar said.
“Back to school?” Angel asked. “Didn’t you hear me? We don’t have to go back.”
“I don’t want to miss Chemistry,” Oscar said.
“Why?” Angel asked. “It’s just review for next week’s test.”
“I know,” Oscar said. “I need the review. I’m totally lost.”
“Lost?” Angel asked. “How can you be lost? I just went over everything in lab yesterday.”
Oscar didn’t say anything.
“Were you listening to me, or just copying my notes again?” Angel asked.
“I just want to go to the review,” Oscar said. “Besides, what would we do anyways? We’ve only got an hour before we have to be home. And you heard the deputy. We’re on the ‘hit-list’. We’d probably get pulled over by somebody else for being truant or something.”
Angel sighed and slumped back into her seat. She muttered something, but Cal didn’t hear it.
* * *
Cal went home straight from school to start his first official day of his honor grounding. He made himself a snack, then went down into his room.
Sitting down at his desk, he immersed himself in his Precalculus homework. He battled through it for an hour then decided to take a break. It really wasn’t as scary as he thought, just not very intuitive.
Flipping open his laptop, he saw that he had new email messages. There were some updates from a comic convention list, and a reminder from his school about their Tsunami alert test coming up next week.
There was one that was odd. The sender wasn’t familiar, but when he looked at it, he realized it was from the Sheriff’s office, and it had an attachment.
He downloaded the attachment and opened it. It was full of different suicide cases, some going back ten years. The files weren’t indexed in any way, so Cal had to go through them manually, sifting through the gritty details and grizzly photos until he found Walsh’s file.
He read through it slowly. Walsh hung himself in a tree using jumper cables from his car. He didn’t leave a note. No other tracks were found at the scene, and mud from Walsh’s shoes was found on the tree and the branch he hung himself from. Apparently he climbed up and threw himself off.
Cal looked over the details, but found nothing that stood out to suggest anything besides Walsh killing himself.
At the end of the report were scanned pages of notes that Walsh had taken about his work in progress. It was all about The Lemolos, and Bigby was mentioned several times.
Cal frowned and re-read a section. It didn’t make any sense. Bigby, it stated, was not the cheif of The Lemolos. He was in actuality an undercover FBI agent. Walsh suspected Bigby’s cover was blown and Bigby was killed as he had been missing for over a year.
Cal sat back in his chair. The man who killed his dad was an undercover FBI agent? How could that be?
Cal checked several times, but there was no mention of his dad in Walsh’s notes. According to the notes at least, Walsh hadn’t connected those dots yet.
The old pain of his dad’s murder welled up in Cal. Did this mean that an FBI agent had killed his dad? Or maybe the person who killed his dad is still out there?
A chill ran down his spine, thinking of Agent X. Or maybe Bigby wasn’t a real FBI agent at all. Could Bigby be Agent X?
He laid down on his bed, trying to make sense of it.
He woke up six hours later, groggy and disoriented. He looked around the room, but everything was the way he left it, only he seemed to feel the passage of time.
He panicked, remembering that he was supposed to meet Oscar and Angel. He looked at the clock. He was going to be late. He changed clothes into something dark, and headed out of the house. He felt a slight pang of guilt over betraying his mother’s trust, but it was for an important cause.
* * *
Cal didn’t even see Angel as he approached the ditch. She was wearing all black, which wasn’t all that odd, Cal thought, though she didn’t have the heavy cowl she wore last time. He slid down into the ditch to join her.
“No Oscar?” he asked.
“Not yet,” she replied, her voice a whisper.
“You been here long?”
“About five minutes.”
“Good,” Cal said. “Sorry I’m late. I got the file from Curtis.”
“Nothing really from the scene itself,” Cal said. “Looks like it was a suicide. The evidence is pretty solid.”
Angel made a noncommittal sound.
“But, there’s some stuff in there that showed what he was working on. It has The Lemolos all over it.”
“See, I told you,” Angel said.
“But the really weird thing is that they guy who supposedly killed my dad, Cesear Bigby? He was supposed to be the big chief. Walsh found out somehow that not only was Bigby not the big chief, but he was also an undercover FBI agent.”
“I know. Walsh suspects Bigby’s cover was blown and he got killed. He disappeared.”
They sat in silence for a bit. The wind rustled the trees around them. There was a high-pitched trickle from the small creek at the bottom of the ditch.
“So what’s that mean?” Angel asked.
“It means that I have to go talk to The Lemolos.” Cal replied, thinking as he spoke.
“What?” Angel hissed. “How does it mean that?”
“From the notes in the file, Walsh didn’t put it together that Bigby supposedly killed my father and was an FBI agent.”
“So, nobody’s looking at that. I need to talk to The Lemolos and figure out what happened.”
“Nobody’s going to listen to us, Angel,” Cal said. “If I want to know what happened, I’m going to have to talk to them myself.”
“But why would they talk to you?” she asked. “Why would they tell you anything, forgetting the fact that they’d be admitting to a murder.”
“Because I’m just a kid,” he said. “And now a ‘troubled’ kid. I can’t do anything to them, I just want information.”
“Since Oscar’s not here, I guess I need to fill in for him. That’s a stupid idea, Cal.”
“Don’t tell Oscar about it,” he said.
“This is my thing. I don’t want to get him involved with The Lemolos. I don’t want you to come with me either.”
“More evidence that it’s a stupid idea,” Angel said. “If you don’t want your friends doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
“That’s pretty weird advice coming from a drug dealer,” Cal said.
Angel punched him.
“Ow,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. “Those rings hurt. What happened to ‘girls don’t fight physically’ anyways?”
“I was being nice,” she replied. “You don’t want to be on the receiving end of my girl-fight ninja moves.”
They sat in the ditch in silence. Cal watched the clouds blot out the stars with a dopey smile on his face.
“Beth is a nice name,” he said.
“Ugh,” she said. “I hate that name.”
“You shouldn’t. It’s pretty. Just like y-”
Sudden footsteps and a scramble at the edge of the ditch made Cal jump back. Oscar dropped in between them.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said. “My mom stayed up later than normal.”
“Dammit, Oscar,” Cal said, struggling to quiet his heart and regain his breath. “You scared the crap out of me. Again.”
“Sorry,” Oscar said. “Should we go in?”
“No,” Angel said. “I’ve got a better idea.”