Hello once again. This time we have a more story-impact-ful chapter, I guess. Well, it also gives you just a bit more characterization of the antagonist, and just as I am planning this, this overarching story arc will come to haunt the main characters later. I still have 10 more chapters to go, and I still have two(?) story arcs I want to get through. 10 chapters is still a great deal of room for leeway, so I’ll get on it tomorrow. Word count: 39,497. Here you go, chapter 19 of “Home For The Unwanted. “
“Underground orphanage?” The young girl asked.
“Are there really any?”
“Of course. It’s a state problem. If you know anything, then please tell me.” The girl gave Amanda a strange look, indicating her ignorance about the subject at hand. Amanda traced her eyes and waited for a response, “Sorry.” The girl gave off a weak smile and scuttled away, seeming to be nervous about the situation. Amanda sighed and stared at her notepad. Scrawls and scratches were littered on it, which made the man beside her stare at her in confusion.
“Leads,” Amanda said.
“Right. And your leads….” James stammered near the end of his sentence, and felt small towards his superior. James was only recently assigned to the unit, but he had been given a multitude of assignments and was well worn.
“My leads are all we have, until you get results from your ground work,” Amanda closed the notepad and placed two fingers on the bridge of her nose to concentrate. Amanda knew for certain that an underground orphanage was located in the town. She had interrogated most of the well-known stores and had gathered enough information to know that it wasn’t an internal issue, but that the town was simply a guise for a larger external issue.
“I’ve traced the perimeter of the town, and I’ve even followed the riverbed,” James said.
“Right. And you’ve turned up nothing?”
“No stones unturned. I can ensure you that no stone would surprise me now,” Amanda was less than amused at James’ analogy, but knew that he had merit in his words. The town was dried of clues, and there was only one place left for Amanda to look. However, that area was far from Amanda’s jurisdiction, and once she stepped out, she knew she had no way to rule her authority. Although the government may have wanted to crack down on the problem as soon as possible, she knew that anything she said outside of the town wasn’t as valid anymore. Amanda needed more power, but without any results, she would never obtain that. Nevertheless, Amanda had to risk everything if she wanted to move with the case, and that was something she was willingly to risk. To Amanda, simply solving the case, and simply getting the right justice meted out was enough of a compromise.
“What about that guy? And the kid? The one with the bandages,” James meekly said. Amanda knew that if she wanted to track Ryan, she had to keep taps on every section of the town. Amanda simply did not have that kind of a network, and even if she did, it would raise too much attention towards the case. If Amanda’s guess that Ryan did know about the orphanage was true, than knowing that he was being tracked by her in that kind of fashion would not bode well with her.
“The problem is timing. He’s never around when I am. Neither is he around you, apparently,” Amanda gave off a sharp jab towards James, although James took it far more than she intended and shrank in his spot. Amanda sighed and brought out her notepad again.
“Not enough clues,” Amanda whispered to herself. Amanda wasn’t sure how Ryan could have slipped past James, who was on ground duty during the duration of the case. However, it was only recently that she learned of a few other profiles of kids that had seemingly appeared and disappeared from the town. Anything was possible, Amanda thought. Kids appearing, and kids disappearing, it all seemed like a fantasy to Amanda. The entire case was all a mist in her head, and the only thing she wanted was a night filled with sleep.
“Not enough clues,” Amanda repeated.
“Maybe, we’re just not tackling it in the right direction,“ James meekly added.
“Then how should we go about it?” Amanda asked blandly.
“We’re converging around the idea of networking and social stability.” James’s voice had gone deeper, and his posture and eyes had focused. Amanda had figured out that James became like this only after getting an idea, or when he’s passionate about a topic. Amanda knew that James was usually shy and bumbling, but when it came down to it, there was no one scarier than James.
“We want too much from too many, and we don’t have enough time.” Amanda didn’t interrupt James, for she knew that if she did, he would lose his flow in an instant.
“What we need to do is expand our repertoire. You know as much as I do what place we haven’t checked yet.”
“And you plan to do this despite our orders?”
“Do you see any other way?” Amanda knew that James was right, and that the only thing left for them to do is venture outside their boundary. Amanda had to take the chance, and even if she hadn’t gotten James’s output on the situation, is what she would have opted for anyway. It was the only obvious answer, however, that answer had no leads, and was left in the air. Amanda played by the rules, and she knew by procedure. Ground work was something she didn’t specialize in. Amanda was a speaker, and a thinker. Getting perimeter and digging graves was what she left for her partners to do. And there was no one better suited for the job than James, Amanda concluded.
“The first thing we need to do is stakeout the outskirts, and make sure we know all the movements that happen at the base of the forest.”
“Once we get a good understanding of whose entering and whose leaving, we can then dig deeper.”
“If anything, we can even catch one of the kids and follow them back to the orphanage–”
“James!” Amanda suddenly called out to stop James. Amanda knew well what her next steps were, and what she needed to do to finish the case. Amanda didn’t need James to tell it to her, but it was a good reassurance that James had known as well. The only problem that James failed to see, was that there were certain sanctions that fell under their operations. Someone like Amanda gravely worried about these sanctions, and at the same time, had to juggle that worry with her desire to solve the case. Amanda’s own personal take on the subject was that these orphanages posed too much of a potential threat, and that leaving them be did not send a great example. Amanda thought back to Lorna, and how she was able to integrate herself and still manage well long after she had left without the real need for such an institution. Although, Amanda did understand that Lorna was a special case, and that treating her as a norm was wrong in of itself. Amanda missed Lorna, and missed working with her. Amanda was happy that she was fine and had even agreed to help her with some of her investigative work, and that much was enough for Amanda. The kind of relationship Amanda had with Lorna was something she couldn’t easily break from. At least, that’s what Amanda had came to believe.
“Look. I agree. The only place left for us is to go is the forest. But I want you to know that whatever may happen afterwards is beyond my control.” Amanda paused. She thought back to Lorna, and how much trouble she used to get in when they had went beyond their boundaries and stepped into an area where they weren’t supposed to be. Amanda wanted to smile at the notion, but knew that the time wasn’t right, and that she had more pressing matters.
“We have orders. And those orders are final. My superiors will never let us hear the end of it if they figure out we broke those orders. Do you know what that entails?” James had shrunk in his place again. His bravado had broken, and his usual timid nature had surfaced. Unlike Amanda, James had just started his career. Amanda couldn’t stand to see a subordinate be punished alongside her own selfish desires, and wasn’t ready to accept such a responsibility. What made the situation worse for James was that Amanda naturally spoke in an authoritarian manner, and made it seem like a rash scolding than rational thinking.
“I know you just started your job. And I know you love your job. I did, and I still do–” Amanda paused, and sighed. She reached over towards her back pocket and took out a case of cigarettes. Amanda hadn’t smoked since her last case, and that one was frustrating, she thought. Amanda didn’t like to smoke, but it did calm her nerves, and it did get her mind off of things. Amanda pushed out a single cigarette from the pack, and simply looked at it before continuing.
“But know that disobeying, and that breaking rules isn’t the best way to get superiors to like you. I can’t always be there to bail you out in a tough situation, or to bend the rules. I’ve done things in my past–” Amanda paused, and took out the cigarette. She realized she didn’t have a lighter, but began circling the cigarette in her hands anyway.
“That I can’t really say I’m proud of. And despite where I am, my superiors want any chance they can get to nail me. It’s my own retribution, and I have to work knowing that.”
“Does it have to do with Lorna?” Amanda had told James about Lorna, and about her old division when he moved in. It was required of Amanda to disclose such information, but, Amanda personally wanted to tell him as well. It was something like a chip on her shoulder that she needed to get off. And even then, it still didn’t make her feel any better.
“I told you about the old division I was in, and the people in it, but I never did tell you about the things we did, and about the experiences we shared.”
“That much is your own, I would never dare to pry if you don’t want to.” James spoke with a certain familiarity with Amanda now. Although they were still on the job, James seemed comfortable speaking about things such as the past, and about Amanda’s affairs. For some reason, it made James warm and put him at ease.
“You’ve got your head in the right place, James. I can tell you that. And I would hate to see that head served to the court officials.”
“So we’re really aborting the plan? If we do, we’ve got no choice but to leave the case opened.” What Amanda wanted the least was to leave a case opened. That would be far worse than getting yelled at by a bunch of old men in suits, Amanda thought.
“No. We’re going through with it.”
“Even if we have to break rules?”
“Even if I have to break rules.” Amanda corrected.
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is that I should be the only one to go through with it.”
“I’m not taking you off of the case. You’re just not going to be held responsible for anything that happens in that forest.”
“I will be giving you the orders. I’ll be the one who had suggested everything, and I’ll be the one taking the blame.”
“Amanda…” James’s head sunk down, and Amanda knew that he was conflicted by her decision, so was Amanda. Amanda had decided long ago that she was done. She had served a good service, and she had done what she thought needed to be done. Amanda was a person who lived by her morals, acted upon her morals, and died with her morals. Amanda did well, and she’ll always know that. Despite what her superiors may say, Amanda will know that she did good. But she’s tired. Amanda was tired, and she was done. Much like her close colleagues, and her close friends who had served alongside her, Amanda was worn out. Her job meant losing people every day. She was prepared for that, but once it happened, it hit her more than she thought. Amanda can’t count how many people she’s already lost, and how many bonds she’s broken, but that feeling eats away at her. No matter how many times Amanda experiences it, it still feels brand new with each reiteration. Amanda is done with that. Maybe she’ll go and live with Lorna, she thought. Lorna was like a sister to Amanda.
“I’ll make sure that I’m the only one to blame. And besides, what more can they do to me? They’ve already got my head on their hit list. It’s fine. ”
“Are you sure?”
“James. You still have a future. My time has run and gone. I’m growing old, James. I need a break. From everything. After this case, I’ll take that break. So let’s go all out, and let’s solve this thing. Okay?” James couldn’t look at Amanda in the eyes, and simply nodded. In the short time that James had been Amanda’s partner, James learned many things. In the short time that James had known Amanda, James had grown fond of her. She was a good superior, James thought, a good person. Seeing her take the fall now, made James devastated.
“In that case. I’ll give you your first orders,” Amanda said with a bitter smile.
“Let’s solve this case. And let’s go home, okay?”
“Roger!” Amanda wanted to find Lorna, and Amanda wanted to be with Lorna again. Lorna was like a sister to Amanda. Perhaps, she still is. A sister. Although, only Lorna would never realize that.