Eastfield: Episode Six: A Last Cruel Trick (pt. 2)
Posted February 12th, 2017 by Gracithe1andonly
in wardly searching
Russell picked at his tie as he leaned on his locker at the end of the school day. He had hoped to see Luanne here and casually ask her about Bernie (and request she not tell her father that the Durantels had kidnapped her,) but he hadn’t seen a hair of her. He grimaced as he pictured her blithely telling her father, “Russell Durantel offered me tea,” and Mr. Pederson’s severe face growing enraged. But if he was to keep young Bernie Willis in his realm of influence, he had to speak to her.
“Solemn salutations,” said a familiar and beloved voice behind him. Russell turned and smiled at his next brother, his metaphorical right arm.
“Hoy, Marcus,” he answered.
“You’ve been thinking,” the boy noticed, shifting his binder of music under his arm. “Is it about last night?”
In the morning, over breakfast, Russell had taken up the hard task of telling everyone in the house what had happened. Tad had flushed in deep embarrassment as everyone glowered at him. “I’m sorry,” he had said, “it was stupid, I know.”
“It’s about the newest addition to our ranks,” Russell confided. “I think I might have to bother the Pedersons.”
Marcus sighed. “Please don’t. You know what might happen.”
“I’ve got to at least speak to Luanne,” he said, “I’ll just have to text her, and hope she doesn’t get angry enough to tell her parents.”
“When Abby Montrose left,” he pointed out, “you didn’t go after her like that.”
“That’s because, A, the Morris family knows about it and the Pedersons, obviously, do not. B, Abby and her family didn’t particularly need or want our society. Bernie, I think, does,” Russell explained rapidly as he slung his homework over his shoulder and began walking quickly down the hall, his slightly shorter and much less energetic brother jogging to keep up with him. He carefully omitted the words “Ironskill” and “Fledgling” from his speech, as he usually did in public. It sparked needless confrontations to refer to the two polar societies by their true names where strangers could hear.
“I’m still pretty sure you don’t need to guard the kid,” Marcus said irritably as they exited together. “Anyone who can get out without your help can take care of themselves.”
“I cite Ozzie as evidence to the contrary,” Russell shrugged ruefully. “He needed a brother who understood, not a judgmental one who knew nothing.”
Marcus grunted noncommittally. “I guess I just want to keep you from getting arrested.”
“You know what the San Antonio people used to say about me,” Russell laughed, “I’m swift and I’m sly and I’m clever. I won’t get in trouble this time.”
Marcus rolled his eyes in exasperated fondness. “Forgive me if I’m not so sure.”
“Well, it’s up to me to decide what I will do,” Russell pointed out. “Let’s leave the discussion for later and go get Caleb.”
“I’m game,” Marcus clapped his older brother’s shoulder and strode towards the lower school. Russell, however, paused for a moment, slipped his battered phone from his pocket, and took a very short time to decide what to say.
Melanie Pederson was one of the few people in the world who insisted upon a siestawhenever possible and teatime at all costs. Luanne usually only took part in the first tradition on weekends and summers, but every day when she arrived home from school her mother had a pot of steaming water waiting for her. Amidst today’s chaos, her mother had needed a calming drink more than usual. Luanne watched Bernie slurp his tea down, his whole face expressing his wonder at the new drink. She smiled at him, reached for her biscotti, and was munching on it when her phone chimed cheerfully from where it was charging.
She didn’t give it highest priority, finishing off the cup and the biscotti before going to check her phone. At first, she didn’t recognize the number, but in a moment the events of the night before came back to her. She scowled. Russell had texted her.
“Yo, this the Pederson kid?”
She texted back out of spite and nothing else. “I have a name. Jerk.”
Shockingly fast, he responded. “I am hurt. I also have a name.”
Luanne decided to set her boundaries right then and there. “Do not text me unless it’s an emergency. I cannot believe I gave you my number.”
“It’s Russell,” he went on blithely, “boy Jerk.”
She stared at her screen in confusion for a moment before realizing the strange phrase was likely due to autocorrect. She laughed, half spiteful, half genuinely amused. “Well, at least you know what you are.”
“I MEANT TO TYPE NOT JERK,” he moaned.
“Duh,” Luanne responded. To her relief, he did not reply immediately; to her annoyance, just as she put her phone down, she received another text.
Luanne was confused. How did Russell know about Bernie? Then she recalled how Bernie had left her alone for a few minutes last night. They must have met then, or some time else.
“He’s fine,” she typed confusedly. “Why do you care?”
“He’s the reason I’m going to have to bother you,” Russell responded cryptically. Luanne shook her head and turned off her phone, resolved to ignore him henceforth. She had hoped to avoid being involved with Durantels or Fledglings at all, and she still held on to that hope.
“You’re sure there are absolutely no records, Pepper?” Luanne heard her father say over the phone as she entered the room to bid her parents good night. “Nothing at all?”
He listened carefully to the reply. Luanne’s mother sat next to him, her warm brown eyes anxious.
“Thank you so much for your help, Pepp,” the man thanked her. “It’s late, and you’ve donated most of your day to this, so let’s just go to bed and keep working in the morning.”
Another reply. “Pepper, you’re the greatest,” her father’s eyes twinkled as he replied warmly. “We’ll get to the bottom of the Tall Dark Men case, if it takes us our whole lives to do it! Good night.”
Luanne’s parents then noticed her and said in unison, “Hi.”
Luanne sat down on their bed. “What does it mean that there are no records?” she asked.
“There was a census taken in 2010,” he explained. “There are a few Bartholomew Willises, but none that have a wife named Maria. They simply don’t exist.”
“And if his parents don’t exist…” Luanne said slowly.
“Either the kid is lying, which I don’t think is probable, or they’ve been deleted.”
“You can’t be charged for the murder of someone who doesn’t exist,” Luanne pointed out, “can you?”
“No,” her father agreed with a nod of his head. “I guess that’s why the Tall Dark Men did it. Bernie and his sister don’t legally exist either. No birth certificates. No nothing. What I don’t know is the how. What kind of person can delete records like that?”
Luanne carried on some further conversation mindlessly, as the greater part of her intelligence was focused on the new paradox. “Ironskill doesn’t exist,” she muttered to herself as she walked to the stairs. “Ironskill doesn’t exist.”
She stopped on the first step and looked back at her phone. “Ironskill doesn’t exist,” she told herself again, but stepped off the step and made for her phone anyway. She had a bit of fun giving Russell the most annoying ringtone she could- Old Car Horn- but then sighed and stopped procrastinating.
“Why aren’t there any records of Bernie’s family?”she challenged Russell.
He read it almost immediately, but spent a long time composing his reply. “Ironskill tends to delete the records of everyone they take and kill. The world will never see them again, most of the time, and it’s easier if there are no records. Someone can’t be declared missing if they don’t exist, after all. It’s a last cruel trick. That’s why you can’t find anything of the Willises in the birth certificate records.”
Luanne read it, but made no attempt to reply. It was such a neat little explanation. It was lies and madness. It explained the whole situation perfectly. Why, oh why, had she felt the need to ask Russell, the madman?
“Ironskill doesn’t exist,” she told herself vehemently, then stomped upstairs to get ready for bed.
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