The Elect 19, part 2 of 4: Suspicions

Lisa and Ashish had to show their identification at the front door just to get into the building.  They had to show them again to the receptionist and a third time to the director’s secretary.  The last took an especially long time scrutinizing them before she said, “Since you don’t have an appointment, I’ll have to see if he is available.”  She was gone a long time.

Fortunately, the director was one who believed a friendly chat was better than a search warrant.ac libby 5  He welcomed them into his big office and made the call himself to fetch Ms Montrose.

“She has been here a long time and is one of our best.  I hope there isn’t anything wrong,” the man sought to cover himself.  He was permitting himself to be surprised and shocked in case there was something wrong.  When Elena Montrose came in, however, it was not what Lisa and Ashish expected.

“Have you come about my purse?” the woman said with a warm smile on her wrinkled, old face.  This Elena Montrose had gray hair, was short and frumpy and had colorless stubs for nails.  They looked like the nails of a woman who bit them regularly.

“Your purse?”  Ashish was the one who was able to speak.

“It was stolen, yes.  Let me see.  That was about a year ago now.”

“Your purse was stolen?”  Lisa asked.

“Uh-huh.”  The woman nodded.

ac mont CR2“Might I ask where?”

“Oh, at church.  I sing in the choir every Sunday.”  The woman looked at Lisa, but Lisa shook her head.

“Froggy voice.  You wouldn’t want to hear.”

“It was Sunday, and funny that mine was the only purse stolen.  We used to leave them in the choir room during the service.  Now we lock them up.”

“Wise,” Ashish said.

“Why was it funny?”  Lisa was curious now.

“Well, because I didn’t have anything with me, no money or credit cards.  All the thief got was some old lipstick, some tissues and my driver’s license, oh, and my I. D. for work, but no money.”

“Generally when a thief doesn’t find money or a credit card, they discard the purse some blocks ac mont CR1away in the nearest trash bin or dumpster,” Ashish explained.  “Odds are slim you will ever see that purse again, unless by chance it fell behind a bookcase or something at the church.”

“Oh, no.  The choir, that is, the men tore the room apart, looking.  It was definitely stolen.”

“I see,” Lisa said.  “So where do you go to church?”

###

Lisa fretted while Ashish drove.  “You look worried,” he said.

“I can’t help thinking we should be focused on finding that lab, not tracking down a social worker impersonator.”

“The girls are going to be just fine.”

ac lisa 1“I know that, but still.  There were a bunch around that dorm and they were all wired to do maximum damage.  That seems the real threat.  Imagine if they set one off in the mall or at some concert or sporting event.”

“I don’t know.  I’m wondering if this fake social worker is taking young children out of their homes, what is she doing with them?  She may be selling kids into slavery on the black market.  Maybe she is an ogre and eating them.”

Lisa turned her frown on Ashish, but his eyes were on the road.

“Besides,” he continued.  “I thought we were doing this for Libby.”

“We are,” she said.  “We are.”

Ashish stopped the car in front of a picturesque Tudor home with a white picket fence that looked to go all the way around the property.  There was a lovely garden out front.  Of course, nothing was growing just yet.  It was all still green, but Lisa identified some of the greenery and she could imagine the flowers well enough.  She knew it would be spectacular when she saw the woman out front toiling away in anticipation of spring.ab doberman 3

Lisa walked up to the gate, but waited while Ashish came around the car.  She reached for the latch, but Ashish caught her hand.  Two Dobermans came roaring around the corner of the house, barking and growling, and Lisa took an involuntary step back.  She did not like big dogs.

The woman in the garden looked, stood, squinted and yelled.  “Boys.  Boys, in the house.  Now.”  The Dobermans made a last look, bark and growl before they ran to their mistress, tongues wagging.  She held the door and they went straight in, after which she came to the gate.  As she walked, she pulled a pair of glasses out of a pocket and Lisa thought that this was the last choir member, the choir director and church organist herself, and if this was not the fake Elena Montrose, they had reached a dead end.  She did not remember Latasha’s mother mentioning anything about glasses, but she would see.  When the woman arrived, Lisa sighed.

Dorothy Guiness had red hair, what she had of it.  When the woman pulled off her hat, it was clear she was going bald.  True, she looked to be in her mid-fifties and had the red nails, but the nails were chipped, no doubt from the garden.  Besides, the woman’s eyes were blue, and a very light blue at that.  After they explained who they were, Dot invited them in.  Ashish went first.  Lisa followed with her eyes wide open.

“I remember Elena’s purse.  It was a little blue number.  I felt just awful when it disappeared.”

ac mont 5“All that money,” Lisa said.  She said that at every stop.  The regular choir members could not remember anything about the contents of the purse.

“No, it only had some lipstick and some tissues with Elena’s identification,” Dot said, and with a look at the detectives, she added, “At least that is what Elena told me.  Was there money?”

“Lovely garden,” Lisa changed the subject.  “I bet it is spectacular in bloom.”

Dot’s face filled with pride before she whispered her secret.  “It’s all in the fertilizer.  Only the best and freshest will do.”

“Wonderful.  I should try that on my lawn.  What do you use?”

“Dear, no.  It is my own special blend and a family secret.  But it would work wonders on your yard.  I grow vegetables out back in the summer, and if I am careful to preserve what I grow, I can eat from my garden all year long.”

“I bet your husband likes that idea,” Ashish suggested.

“Ed?”  Dot looked surprised.  “No, he had an accident and died years ago.  To be honest, he was never much for making money, but his insurance helped.  When we were young, I went many a time to the kitchen only to find the cupboard bare, but these days I get along just fine on S. S. I., the church and my garden.  Me and my boys.”

“Yes, well I think we better get going.”  Lisa did not need to be reminded of the boys.  She looked toward the house again and spied a big bone on the porch.  Dot saw, but said good-bye first. ab doberman 4

As Lisa and Ashish walked back toward the front gate, Dot picked up the bone and yelled.  “Boys.  What have I told you about your bones?”  She opened the front door, and the dogs raced out.  Ashish and Lisa had to run.  They got to the gate and got it closed before the Dobermans arrived, but it was close.  They left to the sound of Dot yelling, “Boys.  Boys, get back here.”

“Well, I guess that brings us back to square one.  Anyone could have walked off the street and taken that purse,” Ashish complained as he started the car.

“I’m not so sure,” Lisa said, but she said no more because she was honestly not sure what she was feeling.

The Elect 18, part 3 of 4: Social Work

Lisa sipped her tea and waited for Latasha’s mama to speak.  She thought of Libby Carter, how the woman went down fighting, and she vowed to follow through for her sake.

“I haven’t seen Ms Montrose since that day, or heard anything from social services.”

“Have you called them to inquire?”  Ashish asked.

Ms Barton looked at Ashish like he was stupid.  “I would never call attention to myself like that.ac lat mama 1  Yoo-hoo, remember me?  I’m the one with the two young children.  I mean really.”

Lisa took it as a joke and smiled.  “So, what can you tell me about her?  What made you think she was serious?”

Latasha’s mama thought about that before she spoke.  “I think she was just so dark.”

Lisa also thought before she spoke.  “So dark?”

Latasha’s mama worried her hands and then realized what she said.  “No.”  She laughed and pointed at her hands.  “I don’t mean dark like me.  I mean dark.  I mean she was very slim and had black hair and black eyes, but I mean she was dark, like serious.  Like everything she said was so serious, and she drummed her fingernails on the table when she listened.”

“Black hair, black eyes and nails more like claws than nails?”  Ashish asked.

ac ashish 2“Painted blood red.  Nice nails.”  Latasha’s mama looked at the man with a serious expression and then grinned all at once.  “Oh, mister Mousad.  You’re just funnin’”

“I wish,” Lisa said as she sipped her tea.

“I am glad you came by.  While I have the chance I want to say how grateful I am for all the help you are giving my Latasha.”

“Which reminds me, I meant to say how glad I was to hear about James.  I am sure he will do fine in the marines.”  Lisa sidestepped the thanks.  Latasha’s mama beamed with pride before she added her thoughts.

“I will worry about him, though.  Especially if he gets called to combat.”  She went back to her smile.  “But I am proud of him.”

John and Leah chose that moment to interrupt.  Leah yelled for her mama.  John followed with a plastic light saber in his hands.  It seemed he was hitting his sister on the head with it.ac lisa 7

“We need to go,” Lisa quickly stood.

Ashish did not have so far to go since he was simply leaning on the kitchen counter.  “Yes, thanks for the tea.”

“Now, we have company.”  Latasha’s mama scolded and the two young ones settled down immediately, even if it was only temporary.

“It was good to see you,” Lisa paused at the door.  “I’m sorry Libby Carter couldn’t be with us.”

“Me, too,” Latasha’s mama said in all sincerity.  “That woman was so full of life.  I hope I can be even half as active when I’m her age.”

“Don’t we all,” Lisa said and left.

As Ashish got in to drive, he asked a question.  “So, where to?”

a trenton police 5“Social services.  Maybe Elena Montrose can be persuaded to share information about any missing children from her caseload.”

“You know they can’t do that and won’t without a warrant.”

“That depends on how you phrase the questions.”

The Elect, Episode 12 part 3 of 4: Counseling

Latasha waited patiently.  She only tapped her foot, drummed with her fingers and swiveled her neck regularly to take in all the sights and all that was being said around her.  Anyone else might appear a bundle of nervous energy and be told to relax, but for Latasha, that was extremely patient.

“Latasha LeBaidu?”  A large African-American woman held open the door that was always locked ac latasha 8and led into the guidance offices.  Latasha jumped up and the woman smiled for her.  “I’m Jean Johnson, your freshman guidance counselor.  There is nothing wrong.  These appointments are just so I can get to know my students better.  Come on in.”  She said the last as she went into one of the little offices.  There was a computer desk with chair and with surprisingly few papers on the desk.  Ms Johnson sat behind the desk.  There were two chairs in front of the desk.  Latasha looked at the one by the little window, but took the one by the door in case she needed to make a quick getaway.

Latasha said nothing, so after a moment Ms Johnson began.

“I understand you live with your mother.”  Latasha nodded.  “And you have a brother who just graduated.  James?  Is he the oldest?”

Latasha shook her head.  “No.  Leon and Darren are older, but they didn’t finish high school.”  ac j john 3Latasha’s voice dropped so the woman prompted her again.

“And you have two younger siblings?”

“Yeah.  John and Leah.  They are twelve and nine, well, almost ten.”

Some thirty minutes later, Latasha staggered out of the guidance office with a note so she could get back into class.  Jean Johnson picked the paper off her desk.  It was a list of students, and they all had grades beside their names.  The woman found Latasha’s name and wrote A+, and after a moment added another plus.  She smiled a very satisfied smile, tapped her toe, drummed a bit with her fingers and swiveled her head to look every time someone walked past her office door.

Latasha felt drained and had no energy for English.  Fortunately, it was her last class of the day.  She felt a bit better on the bus, but the idea of doing homework made her turn up her nose.  All she wanted was to fade out in front of the mindless television and maybe go to bed early.  When she walked in the front door, she saw that was not going to happen and whined a bit.  The social worker, a slim, dark haired, dark eyed Ms Elena Montrose was there with her mother and John and Leah were sitting at the kitchen table as well, trying hard to be good.

“Latasha,” Mother called.  Latasha dropped her heavy book bag by the door and came to the table.ac montrose 2  She squeezed a chair between John and Leah to keep those two apart and sat to listen.

Ms Montrose started right in.  “Latasha, you are in the ninth grade?”  Latasha nodded.  She was not in the mood for another interview after the one she just had.  “And do you have any homework?”

“Yes, ma’am.”  That was all Latasha intended to say, but she saw that was not going to be enough, so she added, “English and math.”

“And how are your grades?”  Ms Montrose asked.  “Your little brother and sister are not doing well.”  Latasha looked at her mother, but her mother was afraid to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing.  Latasha was startled by that.  Normally her mother defended her children, and with volume.  It made Latasha wonder what Ms Montrose may have said before she arrived.

Latasha sat up a little straighter, tired as she was.  “My grades are improving.  I am working on Bs.  I am looking at the community college for law enforcement and going to the police academy.”  Latasha spoke with conviction and that made Ms Montrose take a double look.  It made her mother drop her jaw.  This was the first Latasha actually said anything about it.

“Wow, great,” John praised his big sister.

ac lat house 4“Yeah, great,” Leah echoed.

There was a knock on the door.  “I’ll get it,” John and Leah both shouted and raced to the door.  Clearly, they were looking for an excuse to get out of their chairs.  It was Libby Carter and they brought her in, each holding a hand.  It was not clear to anyone exactly what Libby Carter saw, but she saw something.  It showed on her face, and it sounded in her voice as she spoke without any prompting.

“Latasha, are you ready for your tutoring?  And don’t worry John and Leah, I’ll look at your homework too.”  John and Leah backed up.  This was a new idea.

Latasha’s mother stood and looked much relieved.  “Ms Carter.  This is Ms Montrose of social services.”

“Pleased to meet you.”  Ms Montrose stood as Libby looked up and smiled, innocently.

“Well, it is getting late.  Missus Barton, we can pick this up on another day.”  She gave Libby the broadest, most fake smile Latasha had ever seen.  It looked more like a grimace.  She stepped out the door with one last longing look at the two young ones.  John and Leah did not notice, but Latasha and Libby noticed and so did Latasha’s mother.

As soon as the door closed, Latasha’s mother collapsed into her chair and Libby went straight to her.  “She is threatening to take John and Leah,” Latasha’s mother confided in a whisper.

“That won’t happen,” Libby said with another glance at the door.  “But take them for what?  I ac libby 5sensed there was something wrong with that woman the minute I came in.”

Latasha also had her head turned to look at the door when she fainted and she became the first concern.  They helped her to the couch and as she came around almost immediately, she insisted she was fine.  Libby insisted equally hard that Latasha review her day, aloud.

“This is not normal?”  Latasha’s mother did not know.

“For an elect, never unless attacked,” Libby answered honestly.

“But nothing unusual happened today,” Latasha said.  She completely forgot about meeting her new guidance counselor.

“Ms Montrose?”  Latasha’s mother was curious now.

Libby shook her head.  “She did not want Latasha.  But I would watch your little ones.”

###

Emily sipped her chai-latte and tried to focus on her Earth Science book.  It was hard, and she said as much.  “It doesn’t matter what the book says.  Professor Maynard has her own interpretation of things which mostly has to do with blaming human beings for every ill on the planet.”  Amina and ac emily 1Maria looked up briefly, but only Maria spoke.

“So it should be an easy A.  Whatever the question, just figure out how to blame the human race.”

Emily shook her head.  “I can’t follow that much convoluted logic.  But I sometimes get the impression she thinks the Earth would be a lot better off if there were no human beings.”

“Huh.”  Amina sounded for a second like she was responding to Emily’s comment, but then she said, “Listen to this.  New Jersey State started as a graduate school in engineering and applied sciences.  They affiliated with a school of nursing when it began after the First World War.  According to this, the undergraduate college was not formed until nineteen fifty.”

“Nineteen fifty?”ac amina 6

“Three buildings are older, Gorgon Hall, what is now the science building and the library, thanks to the generosity of Dimitri Gorgon.  The college took the buildings after the war when it was founded, but during the war, the government used the buildings for various experiments.  Some of the early work on the Manhattan Project happened right here.”

“The Philadelphia Experiment?”

“It doesn’t say.  But listen.  The library had a second basement level dug out to house certain ancient artifacts, rare books, scrolls and fragments including some papyrus scrolls and clay tablets dating all the way back to Sumeria.  All that stuff came over here to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis.”

Maria looked up.  “I got the guided tour.  It is all temperature and humidity controlled down there.  Amazing stuff.  I think our friend Mindy works down there with Professor Papadopoulos.”

ac maria 4“Who?”

“Papadopoulos,” Amina repeated.  “Head of the Antiquities department.”

“No,” Emily shook her head.  “I mean our friend Mindy?  You mean Connie’s Mindy.”

“Yeah,” Maria said.  “I feel sorry for her.”

“I do too,” Amina said.  “She seems very nice.”

Emily looked at her Environmental science book.  “I thought you were reading for Heinrich’s class,” she complained.

“Huh?  No.”  Amina pulled up the pamphlet from inside her open book.  It was a history of the university, probably printed at some point for alumni and parents.  “But I should be.”

“Hard class?”  Maria asked.

Emily and Amina groaned together.  “It would be simpler if it was all just textbook, but he lived through it all,” Emily said.

“And he is frightening.”  Amina looked up at Emily.  “Don’t you find him frightening?”ac Jessica 1
Emily nodded slightly, but her eyes were elsewhere.  The others looked.  Jessica was in line with another boy.  She was laughing and pawing at the poor guy.

“New one?”

“How many does that make this semester?”

“I already lost count.”

They went back to their books and Emily took another sip of her drink.  She was not surprised that chai-latte was tea.  She really did not like coffee or espresso or whatever they wanted to call it, and vanilla or hazelnut did not make it any better.

“Hello Maria.  Emily.”  Emily looked up over her shoulder and was shocked.  It was Morgan Granger wearing something revealing, and she had more to reveal than Emily would have guessed.  Her hair was down and well cut, and she did not have her glasses anywhere in sight.  Maria had her mouth open, but managed to push her glasses up her nose.  Amina looked distressed.  Emily felt the sudden urge to get cocky.

ac granger 2“Friends of yours?” she asked in reference to the three hulking men that hovered around her shoulders.

“These drones?  These are just my playthings.”  Ms Ganger laughed softly and the only way to describe that laugh was sexy.  In fact, as Emily turned in her seat for a better look, she could not help thinking everything about this woman was sexy.  She exuded a kind of come-hither essence that turned every male eye in the place in her direction.  Emily did not get a good look, though as Ms Granger said, “Good to see you.  I hope to have you in class again,” and she moved on.

“What the hell was that?”  Emily was not sure if she said that aloud.

“That was wrong,” Amina said.  “That was very wrong.”

“Talk about your makeovers,” Maria was still staring in that direction as Pierce came up.

Emily introduced Amina.  They had not met before, but Pierce only had one thing on his mind.  “The Hive tonight?  The Undead are playing.”

Emily slammed her Earth Science book shut.  “My savior,” she said and stood.  They went off, arm in arm and Amina turned to Maria.

“There are many strange and unnatural ones on this campus, like Professor Schultz and that woman who was just here.  At least Pierce is nice.”