The ceiling crackled and vibrated. A woman’s voice erupted out of the loud speaker embedded in the overhead panels of the girls’ washroom:
KAYLEE CONNELLY, PLEASE REPORT TO THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY. KAYLEE CONNELLY – REPORT TO THE OFFICE.
Crammed inside the tight stall beside the toilet, Kaylee’s elbow jammed into her redheaded, freckled friend, Sarah. “Sorry,” she whispered, as she slipped her backpack off her shoulders. She reached a hand inside and rummaged around, her eyes narrowed and her jaw set tight.
“Aren’t you going to the office?” Sarah asked, watching her with raised eyebrows. “Don’t worry about this,” she added, her eyes fixed on the graffiti scrawled on the stall’s weathered wall that read: JOHNNY BUMSTEAD KNOCKED UP KAYLEE CONNELLY. “It’s nothing. It won’t be long before everyone figures out you’re not really pregnant.”
“Yeah, about three months before they realize I’m not showing!” Kaylee spluttered. “I don’t think so.” She pulled a thick black marker from her backpack.
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “What are you doing?”
“What do you think?” Kaylee said, twisting the cap off the marker and placing its felt tip to the wall.
Sarah’s eyes widened. “But that’s vandalism!”
Kaylee rolled her eyes. “So I’m going to vandalize some vandalism. Big deal.” She started scribbling large circles over the slanderous sentence.
Sarah watched as a fog of black ink slowly engulfed the words. “Who do you think wrote that anyway?”
Kaylee threw her a reproving glare over one shoulder, a strand of long brown hair clinging to her face. “Who do you think?”
Sarah raised a finger to her bottom lip. “Scarlet Sommerville?”
“But how can you be sure?”
Kaylee stopped marking up the wall and leaned back to inspect her work. “She’s had it in for me ever since I transferred here,” she muttered. “Haven’t you noticed?”
Just then, a sweet voice spoke from outside the stall’s walls.
“Someone’s not talking about me behind my back, are they?”
Kaylee froze, immediately recognizing Scarlet’s voice. She stared at Sarah, a surge of anger zipping through the pit of her stomach. Throwing the stall door open, she stepped out to see blonde haired Scarlet in her designer clothes applying mascara to her long lashes in the mirror, like a model preparing for the catwalk. Her back was facing Kaylee. Two other girls looking like faded replicas of Scarlet stood at her sides.
“You wrote this, didn’t you?” Kaylee shrieked, throwing up both hands.
Scarlet gazed at her through the mirror. “Well, if it isn’t the little whore.”
The two other girls giggled.
“I did not get knocked up by Johnny Bumstead!” Kaylee shouted, placing her hands on her hips.
Scarlet shrugged. “Well, the whole school seems to think differently.”
“Yeah, because of you!” Kaylee spat, motioning a hand inside the stall where Sarah stood biting her lower lip. “Because you wrote that!”
Scarlet laughed. “Prove it.”
“You’re just jealous ‘cause Kirk keeps chasing after me,” said Kaylee, folding her arms. “But guess what – I’m not weak … like you, Scarlet. I don’t need a guy to complete me. And I certainly don’t need the all-star jock to be my boyfriend just so my friends will look up to me.” She eyed the two other girls, then looked Scarlet dead in the eye. “I get along fine all by myself, which is more than you can say.”
Scarlet whirled around and glared at her. “Nice clothes. Where’d you get them – the thrift store?” She turned up her nose.
Kaylee looked down. She was wearing a tight yellow T-shirt with a black happy face inked on the front, frayed navy blue jeans with ragged holes at the knees, and a pair of red Converse All-Stars.
“You stuff your bra with Keenex too, don’t you?” Scarlet snorted. “You’re way to skinny for those.” Her gaze pierced Kaylee’s chest.
The two other girls shook with laughter.
“Is somebody still jealous?” said Kaylee, shrugging. “That’s cute.”
Scarlet screwed up her face, then she smiled sweetly and stepped forward into Kaylee’s space. “At least my mom doesn’t dig around in the dirt for a living. I hear she abandoned you to do it too, and you’re stuck living with your senile old grandma. It must suck knowing your own mother thinks dirt is more important than you. That must really suck, Kaylee.”
Kaylee flinched. Her gaze drifted over to her own ocean blue eyes in the mirror behind Scarlet. She resembled a deer in head lights. Scarlet was quick to take note of this.
“Aw, my mom takes me shopping to all the high end stores and buys me all the clothes I want,” she went on, twirling a lock of hair around a finger. “We get our nails and hair done together. We go out to movies and dinners every weekend. We do things together all the time – just the two us, together.” She crossed her arms and something twinkled in her eye. “You wanna know why, Kaylee? Because she knows how important I am!” She then drew her face within inches of Kaylee’s and jabbed an index finger into her shoulder, jolting it backwards. “But you, Kaylee Connelly … you are nothing but dirt – less than dirt. You hear me, you dumb little slut?”
The words echoed inside Kaylee’s head, bouncing back and forth like a ball let loose in a pinball machine: You’re nothing but dirt ... even your own mother thinks so. Her eyes instantly plunged to the floor.
“Enjoy your day, Dirt Girl – everyone thinking that loser knocked you up,” Scarlet snickered. “And stay away from Kirk. He’s mine.” Then she marched out of the washroom, her clones trailing behind her.
“What a bitch!” Sarah hissed, stepping out of the stall. “Who does she think she is?”
Kaylee remained silent.
“But I don’t get it … what did she mean?” Sarah asked, scratching her head. “All that stuff about your mom digging in the dirt?”
“My mom’s an archaeologist,” Kaylee murmured in monotone. “She’s always off on some expedition or another.”
“But that’s awesome!” exclaimed Sarah, wide-eyed. “I wish my parents did something exciting. My dad’s an accountant.” She stuck a finger in her mouth. “Blah!” Then she lowered her eyebrows. “What does your dad do?”
Kaylee looked at her feet and whispered sheepishly, “He’s dead – he died when I was just a baby.”
Sarah clamped a hand over her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, placing her free hand on Kaylee’s arm. “I had no idea.”
Kaylee opened her mouth to speak, but the intercom above them suddenly buzzed again, and a voice broke out more urgently than before:
KAYLEE CONNELLY, REPORT TO THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY! KAYLEE CONNELLY! REPORT TO THE OFFICE!
“You should probably go,” Sarah said. “If they’ve called you twice in five minutes, it must be important.”
Kaylee nodded, and she and Sarah crept out of the washroom and stepped out into the now deserted hallway.
“Mind if I tag along?” Sarah asked.
Kaylee nodded and they walked down the halls to the office door. Turning into the room, a white-haired woman sitting behind a counter came into view. She was talking on the phone pinned between her ear and shoulder. Kaylee went up to the counter and rested her hands on its surface. Sarah came and stood beside her. The secretary looked up at them and raised a finger. “Uh huh, that’s right,” she said into the receiver. “You can pick it up at the office.” There was a pause. “You’re very welcome. Have a nice day now.” She hung up the phone and looked at Kaylee. “Yes, can I help you?”
“I’m Kaylee Connelly. There was an announcement on the intercom telling me to come to the office.”
“Yes, of course,” the secretary said, raising a hand to adjust her hair as she cleared her throat. “The principal wants to see you.”
Kaylee lowered her brow. “Am I in some kind of trouble?”
“It’s not my place to say,” replied the secretary, turning to arrange some papers on her desk. “Please have a seat, and he’ll be out to see you shortly.”
A short time later, a door at the back of the office opened, and Kaylee noticed a fat, balding man wearing glasses step out. He waddled up to where she and Sarah were seated and looked from one to the other.
“Is one of you Kaylee Connelly?” he asked kindly.
“I’m Mr. Chamberland, the school principal,” said the man with a nod. “Please follow me.” He then turned his elephant frame toward his office door as he waved a hand through the air. Kaylee looked at Sarah for a moment, then turned and stood up. The principal crossed the floor and escorted Kaylee into a small office. Pictures of chubby children, all of them smiling, hung on the walls. A cluttered desk sat in the center of the room, which the principal was now rounding.
“Please, have a seat,” he said, signaling a hand at an empty chair positioned on the other side of the desk, as he settled himself into his own.
Kaylee wandered over to the chair and sat down. Then nothing followed but silence. Kaylee watched the principal attentively in anticipation, waiting for him to say something. His thoughts seemed to be elsewhere. But finally, he sighed and spoke up.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, Kaylee.”
Kaylee frowned. “What’s the matter?”
“We just got a call from your grandmother,” said the principal, his eyes softening. “She told us that your mother was admitted into the hospital early this morning.”
Kaylee’s stomach lurched forward. It had been months since she’d seen her mom. She recalled their last dinner together and the argument that ensued. But that wasn’t important now. “What’s happened to her?” she asked at once.
The principal sighed heavily. “I’m sorry … but she’s in a coma.”
The blood drained out of Kaylee’s face and she felt dizzy, as if the room was spinning. “A-a-a coma?”
The principal nodded, accentuating his double chin.
“I-i-is she going to be alright?” stammered Kaylee. She was going to see her mom next month, and had really been looking forward to it.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
“What’s happened to her?” Kaylee choked.
“I’m sorry, Kaylee – I have no further information,” said the principal, as he scanned his desk, then lifted a small piece of paper and held it out to Kaylee, who reached for it with a shaky hand.
“What’s this?” she murmured, trying to keep her voice level.
“Have a look,” said the principal. “It’s the address of the hospital and your mother’s room number. You’re excused from class, of course. You may go to her right away if you’d like. I hope you get the answers. And I hope your mother comes out okay.”
Kaylee clenched the paper in her hand as she shot out of her chair and made a dash for the door, slinging her backpack over one shoulder.
Sarah looked startled when Kaylee burst back into the office where she was seated. “What’s the matter?” she asked immediately, as she jumped up to meet Kaylee halfway. “You look very pale.”
In a flurry of words and with marked anxiety, Kaylee told her what the principal had said. “But I gotta get to the hospital right away!” she cried.
“Want me to come with?”
Kaylee thought a moment, then nodded. And in a flash, she bolted for the door. Sarah quickly trailed after her. When they entered the vacant hallway, Kaylee broke out into a sprint, her backpack starting to bounce up and down against her spine. Sarah fought and struggled to keep up. They raced past walls decorated with pictures of former graduates, then whizzed through the doors out into the bright sunlight. A sea of cars faced them across a green lawn. They crossed the lawn and started weaving in and out of lines of cars until Kaylee stopped at the driver’s side of a little white Honda. Watching her unlock the door, Sarah whipped around to the passenger’s side. After Kaylee swung the door open, she threw herself into the seat, hastily pressing the button to unlock Sarah’s door. As Sarah climbed in, Kaylee flung her backpack into the backseat and then brought the engine to life with a turn of the key. She jammed the stick into gear and stamped on the gas. The car burst into motion, plastering Sarah’s head into the headrest.
“Oh, I hope she doesn’t die or something!” Kaylee wailed, gripping the steering wheel. Her knuckles quickly turned white.
“That’s not gonna happen, Kaylee.”
“We were supposed to go to Europe this summer, backpacking – just the two of us, hitch-hiking across the countryside and staying in hostels for the thrill of it. It was going to be a real adventure. I’ve never left Vancouver before.” Kaylee frowned. “I’ve never been anywhere,” she moaned.
Sarah placed a hand on her arm. “People come out of comas all the time and they live long, happy lives afterwards.”
“But sometimes it takes years before they wake-up,” Kaylee retorted, starting to sob now. “And sometimes they’re in a coma so long that the doctor eventually pulls them off life-support and they die!”
“I’m sure that’s not gonna happen to your mom,” said Sarah, giving Kaylee’s arm a small squeeze.
“First my dad,” croaked Kaylee, spinning the steering wheel to the right and cruising down another street as a lone tear rolled down her cheek, “and now my mom!” She sniffled, rubbing at her watering eyes with a few knuckles. “I can’t bear the thought of losing her too.”
“Because you’d feel all alone?”
“No!” Kaylee snapped bitterly, sitting bolt upright. “I would not feel all alone. I get along just fine!” Her mind raced to find an excuse. “I just don’t want to miss my vacation, is all. I’ve been looking forward to it all year. Europe. Imagine.”
Sarah frowned. “Well, you’ll always have me, Kaylee. I know we’ve only known each other for a few weeks, but I like to think we’re getting pretty close. I’m here for you.”
The car suddenly screeched to a halt before a stoplight that had just turned red. Sarah’s hands shot out in a flash to grip the dashboard and prevent her head from slamming into the windshield.
“Maybe I should drive,” she suggested, pulling the seatbelt across her chest and clicking it into place.
But Kaylee didn’t answer. Her attention was riveted on a young couple who had stepped off the curb onto the crosswalk in front of them. Between the pair, a cute little girl skipped along happily; one hand holding her mother’s, and the other her father’s. She had an angelic smile on her face and her eyes shone brightly.
Kaylee’s insides began to boil and bubble. She let loose a string of curse words, all at the top of her lungs, as she banged her hands on the steering wheel and thrashed her head about in a frenzy.
Sarah gaped at her in disbelief. “What is it – what’s the matter?”
Kaylee swore loudly again, slamming her head backwards against the headrest several times in rapid succession. “Look at that!” she yelled, her eyes glued to the couple and their child who were now mounting the curb on the other side of the street. “Look at them!”
Sarah stitched her eyebrows together. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t!” spat Kaylee, tearing her face away from Sarah’s shocked gaze. “You grew up with both parents,” she added almost inaudibly, remembering those big dirty hands on her what seemed like a lifetime ago. Her heart pounded at the thought.
Sarah bit her lower lip, and then let a moment of silence pass. Finally, she said, “I’m sure your mom will be fine, Kaylee.”
The stoplight turned green, and Kaylee floored it. Squeals echoed off the walls of the surrounding buildings and a few passersby startled and turned their heads sharply in their direction. Sarah didn’t understand. But how could she? Kaylee had never told her, and probably never would.
“It’s right around that corner,” Sarah said, pointing a finger ahead.
“I know that!” Kaylee snapped, still running movies through her head of those dreadful hands. “Who’s driving here?” Her eyes itched to see the hospital. “Let her be fine … let her be fine,” she whispered under her breath, crossing two fingers. “Jesus, if you let her live, I’ll never touch another boy again. I swear it.” She crossed her heart with a finger.
Sarah looked at her funny, but didn’t say anything.
They turned the corner and a towering white building swung into Kaylee’s sights. It looked like a gigantic hotel. As they drew nearer, a van pulled out of its spot out front just as they were arriving, leaving them a parking stall. Kaylee guided the car in. She killed the engine, opened the door and threw a foot out onto the pavement. Within moments, the two girls had approached the entrance and were entering the building.
Kaylee darted up to the reception desk. Before the secretary could open her mouth to greet her, Kaylee barked: “Which way to room 204?”
The secretary looked perturbed, but she put on a small polite smile. She waved a hand to her right. “Take the elevator up to the second floor, then turn left.”
Kaylee made a mad dash for the elevator entrance. Sarah thanked the secretary and then came and stood beside Kaylee, who was hammering the up button over and over. At last, the doors parted, revealing an empty chamber. They jumped inside and Kaylee hit the second floor button while the doors shut. Moments later, they parted again. A long corridor lined with doors greeted them, stretching out to the right and to the left. To the left, a butch looking woman in a police uniform stood erect at one closed door several yards down. They started down the corridor, Kaylee’s eyes scanning each room number as they sped past. It was getting close now. But then she came to the sudden realization that her mom’s room was the one the police officer was guarding.
Kaylee came to an abrupt stop in front of her. Sarah almost bashed into Kaylee from behind. Looking annoyed, the officer leered down at them.
“My mom’s in here!” Kaylee panted. “I want to see her!”
“You Kaylee Connelly?” the officer asked, cocking her head to the side, causing the fat around her neck to roll over her collar.
Kaylee nodded emphatically. “Yes, Dorothy Connelly – she’s my mom.” She continued to pant.
The officer looked up and whistled. A man with a thin moustache seated in a waiting area cut out into the wall looked up from his newspaper. The officer pointed at Kaylee with her eyes and bugged them out a little. In an instant, the man was on his feet and striding over to them.
“It’s her,” whispered the officer to the man when he arrived.
He stepped forward. “I’m Inspector Nash,” he said, looking at Kaylee. “Follow me.” He looked at Sarah. “You – stay here.” Then he turned and started down the corridor.
Kaylee looked up at the officer, and she bobbed her head in the inspector’s direction. “We can arrest you if we have to,” she said with a cold smirk. “Would you like that?”
“I just want to see my mom.”
“Then get a move on,” grunted the officer, motioning her head in the inspector’s direction yet again.
Kaylee looked at Sarah, and shrugged. Then she followed after the inspector.
The inspector waved Kaylee into a dim, vacant room housing a table and two chairs sitting opposite each other. He motioned at one of them. “Sit down,” he commanded, flipping the light switch on.
“Yes, sir! Right away, sir!” Kaylee grunted, giving him a picturesque salute. Then, like a soldier, she marched past him and sat down.
The inspector ignored this. He closed the door, turned around, and spoke in a level voice. “Where were you between six and seven this morning?”
“What’s happened to my mom?”
“We’ll get to that,” said the inspector, taking the seat opposite Kaylee. “Where were you between six and seven this morning?”
Kaylee remembered the way he felt inside her, as his hands explored her breasts. But she immediately changed her thoughts. “Bah,” she said, batting a hand through the air, “I was burning stuff down, of course – what else?”
“This is serious,” hissed the inspector, looking her dead in the eye and leaning closer. “Answer the question!”
“Tell me what’s happened to my mom!”
The inspector placed both hands on the table and rested his weigh forwards. “After you answer the question.”
Kaylee’s imagination kicked in. She went for the obvious answer. “I was sleeping – duh!” She stared at him now. “Now tell me what’s happened to my mom.”
“Can anyone verify your whereabouts?”
“You got me!” exclaimed Kaylee, jumping forwards in her seat. “I have no alibi. It was me, officer. I did it. I robbed the bank and I buried the money in the backyard. I confess.”
The inspector slammed a fist on the table, causing Kaylee to startle. “This is no laughing matter, Miss Connelly! This is about attempted murder!”
The word flashed on the screen of Kaylee’s mind like the lights in Vegas. It took her no time to put the pieces together. “Someone tried to kill my mom, didn’t they?” She leaned forward. “That’s what’s happened – isn’t it?” Her tone was suddenly dead serious.
“Yes, and where were you between six and seven this morning?”
Kaylee’s mouth fell open. “Wait a minute – you actually think I did it?” she asked, placing a hand on her chest.
“Are you aware that your mother’s net worth is over two million dollars?”
“No kidding,” said Kaylee, raising an eyebrow. “Mom, you’ve been holding out on me.”
“Is that a yes – or a no?”
Kaylee put on a goofy face. “Yes, officer, I stabbed my mom to get two million dollars in inheritance money.” She bowed her head. “That’s how much a mother’s love is worth. I’m guilty.”
The inspector lowered his brow. “Stabbed?”
Kaylee averted her eyes. “Whatever.”
“Your mother was shot with a poison dart – not stabbed.”
“Someone poisoned her?” said Kaylee, shooting him a sharp glance. “Is she going to be okay?”
The inspector leaned back and crossed his arms. “Don’t know yet.” Then he brought a finger to his chin and started studying her in silence.
Kaylee broke eye contact and looked at the ceiling. “Okay, like that isn’t annoying.”
“Or are you just pretending you didn’t know she was poisoned to conceal your guilt?”
Kaylee let her head fall into a hand. “You actually made inspector? Wow, that’s impressive. Must have been like winning the lottery, huh?”
The inspector ignored her comments. He stood up and rested his fists on the table, towering over her. “You weren’t home early this morning … at the time of the poisoning. We checked with your grandma.” He glared intensely. “Where were you?”
Kaylee bit her lower lip, thinking of his lips sucking and nibbling on her nipples. Then, after a pause, she said in a small voice: “Not poisoning my mom.”
“Do you have an alibi?”
“Give me their name and number,” ordered the inspector, standing up straight as he withdrew a pen and notebook from his pocket. He licked the ballpoint and then placed it to the paper, as he looked up at Kaylee.
“Kirk Vanderbelt – 604-344-4545.”
“A friend from school?” the inspector asked, jotting in his notebook.
Kaylee smirked. “Something like that.”
Kaylee felt her chest swell. “One of them,” she said, beaming at him.
“One of them?” said the inspector, jerking his head backwards. “How many do you have?”
“Oh, ninety-two,” Kaylee said, counting on her fingers. “No, wait – three. Ninety-three.”
The inspector grunted. “Funny girl, huh?”
Kaylee just smiled at him.
The inspector stared back for a moment, then finally broke the silence, pulling at the tie around his neck. “This Kirk –” he gulped, glancing down at his notebook and pulling his chin sideways, “– Vanderbelt – he can verify you were with him?”
Kaylee’s thoughts once again raced back to memories of the morning. Kirk had still been a virgin then. But oh, how much had already changed today.
Just then, the door swung open and the officer who had been guarding the door to Kaylee’s mom’s room entered. She sauntered over to the inspector and started whispering something in his ear, a hand held up to hide her moving lips. The tone of the inspector’s expression started to soften.
“Is that right?” he said, raising an eyebrow. “I see.”
The officer went on whispering some more. The inspector punctuated the message with a few nods here and there. Kaylee narrowed her eyes, trying to make out the words, but she couldn’t. Finally, the officer straightened up, made for the door, and disappeared.
The inspector sat in silence and studied Kaylee some more.
Kaylee leered at him. “Well…?”
The inspector dropped his pen. It fell to the table. “Your mother’s awake.”
The built up tension melted from Kaylee’s body. “I want to see her,” she demanded at once, shooting to her feet.
“Hold on,” said the inspector, raising a calming hand. “Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Robert Harsh?”
Kaylee shook her head. “Who’s he?”
“The man your mother says poisoned her.”
Kaylee’s eyebrows pulled together. “What was his motive?”
The inspector suddenly leaned back abruptly, and his policeman’s persona returned. “That’s official police business, Miss.” He closed his notebook, picked up his pen and returned them to his pocket.
“Well, I think we’re done here then,” said Kaylee. “Now, let me see my mom.”
“Right this way, Miss Connelly,” the inspector replied, smiling for the first time, as he rose to his feet and gestured a hand at the door. “She’s insisted on talking to you.”
The officer opened the door and stepped back.
Kaylee peered around the corner of the doorframe leading into the hospital room. A strong smell of disinfectant reached her nostrils, as her gaze swept past the unmade empty bed to a short slender woman with cropped brown hair. Her mom was pacing rapidly back and forth in front of the window, muttering to herself. Her worn but pretty face looked a little green. Then she noticed Kaylee staring at her. Immediately, she smiled. “Kaylee!” she exclaimed, beckoning Kaylee forward with a hand. “Come on in – it’s great to see you.”
Kaylee remained rooted where she stood. She put her hands on her hips. “They tell me you’ve been poisoned.”
“Quickly – close the door!”
Kaylee stepped through the threshold into the room, but didn’t reach for the doorknob. “Oh Mom, you’re not going to die, are you?” Her heart seemed to skip a beat.
“Never mind that now,” her mother said, swatting a hand through the air. “I have something I need to tell you – in private.” She zipped across the floor and slammed the door shut, scooting Kaylee further into the center of the room near the bed. Her mother edged up to her. “You must do something for me right away.”
“Mom, I just got here … to be with you … to see if you’re okay.”
Her mom reached down the front of her blue gown and pulled out a key that was fastened to a chain around her neck. She took it off and extended it to Kaylee. “Take this key and bring it to a man named Eric Fletcher. I’m his doctorate advisor at the university. He can be trusted.”
“Why?” asked Kaylee, watching the key dangle before her eyes.
“Because it’s probably the only thing that can save my life now.”
Kaylee’s mouth fell open. “So you a-a-are d-d-dying then?”
Her mom nodded. “It’s a slow acting poison – but, yes, it is lethal.”
Kaylee’s legs got a little shaky. “How long do you have?”
“A few days … maybe.”
“And there’s no antidote?”
“There is something,” said her mom, hoisting the key in front of Kaylee’s face once again. “That’s why I need you to bring this key to Eric Fletcher … immediately.”
Kaylee eyed the dangling key again. She raised an eyebrow. “What’s it for?”
“A safety deposit box at Vancity Credit Union,” her mom replied. “Here, take it. Give it to Eric. He’ll know what to do with it.”
Kaylee eyed the key some more, but didn’t reach for it. “And what’s inside the box?”
Kaylee’s mom’s eyes lit up. “Perhaps the greatest discovery in all history!” she exclaimed, forming her hands into fists of triumph. “And I found it! People scoffed at me for searching for it, but I always knew it existed. I had faith. And I found it! And it’s going to change the world forever.” She narrowed her eyes. “Well, aren’t you going to take it?” she concluded, thrusting the key in Kaylee’s direction.
Kaylee intercepted her hand and pushed it away. “No – I hate your damn career, Mom, and I won’t be a part of it!” she hissed, crossing her arms.
“So you’re just going to let me die then?”
Kaylee nibbled on her bottom lip for a moment. She knew that pout all too well. It always got her to conform. Not much else worked, though.
“Fine!” she snapped at last, as she snatched the key out of her mom’s hand and then lowered the chain around her neck before tucking it snuggly underneath her T-shirt. “How do I get in touch with this Eric Fletcher guy?”
Kaylee’s mom reached into her breast pocket and withdrew a card, which she then handed to Kaylee. “His phone number’s on here. Call him, tell him you’re my daughter, and that you have something to give him. Oh, and be sure you tell him it’s in box number 108 at the bank.”
“What exactly did you find, Mom?”
“Something a lot of people would kill for,” replied her mom, grimacing. “And that’s why I can’t tell you more about it. It would put you in too much danger.”
“And that’s why you got poisoned, isn’t it – because of what you found.”
Kaylee’s mom nodded. “My last dig was in Israel. We found the – um – artifact in a hidden cave. Only my team knew about it. We watched our backs and covered our tracks. But somebody must have talked. Chet, maybe. That’s my suspicion. But anyway … when I returned to Vancouver, I immediately put the – um – relic in a safe deposit box downtown. A short time later, I was approached by a man well known to organized crime who –”
Kaylee’s mom nodded again. “That’s right – he’s a nasty little bugger of a man,” she said, wrinkling up her nose. “He confronted me and I stood my ground. Drew quite the crowd too. Before he shot me with the poison dart, he said, ‘You’ll help us get it, whether you want to or not. We’ll see to that.’ Immediately, I felt a painful sting in my neck, and shortly afterwards everything went blurry and then black. When I woke-up here, the nurse told me that a by-stander stood up for me while I was unconscious and chased Harsh away before calling 911.”
“And this – this artifact – it will save your life?”
“Eric will know how to use it,” said Kaylee’s mom, placing her hands on Kaylee’s shoulders. “I would go myself, but I have to stay here for observation. The doctor said he’d never encountered a poison like his in his entire career. So he doesn’t know what other effects it could have.”
Kaylee frowned. But it would all be okay, wouldn’t it? Just get the key to Eric and he would bring the artifact to save Mom. But how could some old dusty object do that?