Chapter ELEVEN

The Club from Hell

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Chapter ELEVEN, by Ted Gross

“I see what you mean, a couple of damn drunks,” said Davis Barker, the Aullt Academy student behavior specialist. “You hungry, kid?”
“Of course, if you are, sir,” said Sam, who had barely had any appetite since the fateful “Sammie, it’s me!” call from his sister two weeks ago.

Barker hung a left out of Hack’s driveway and no one said anything until they were squared away in the corner booth of the Honeycomb Diner on Route 21.

“What I don’t get,” said Barker, wolfing down his chicken-fried steak and eggs, “is they claim they are in a waiting mode, but what are they waiting FOR?”

“Apparently, sir, according to Mum’s boyfriend Steve–”

“School’s out for Christmas vacation Sam, call me Barker. Everyone does.”

“Really? Thank you. Presumably they are waiting for Steve’s lawyers to get information from Facebook and Twitter that might pertain to my sister.  When I phoned Mr. Murray yesterday he confirmed that. He said they were sitting tight at the moment. As I mentioned to you, though, his speech seemed impaired.”

“Fuck that, sitting tight!” Barker’s head snapped forward as he said it, and an egg bit flew off his lip. “Goddamn rummies with their slippers on, watching Texas A&M and Oregon State in the Outback Bowl. The place smelled like a wretched doctor’s office.”

“Excuse me sir, what bowl?”

“Barker. Ah, dumb college football games. American football. About a hundred of them on TV between now and New Year’s. Hack’s probably even taught Angus the rules by now.”

“I did attend one of our matches in October but had trouble understanding much of it. My roommate was in the marching band.”

“Kid, you’re better off. I got a hundred on Oregon State to cover and I couldn’t help notice at Hack’s they were down.”

“Excuse me?”

“Not important. What about your trip back home?”

Sam picked at his uneaten blueberry muffin. The last ten days of the semester had been brutal. He had been sailing along, in many ways enjoying the most rewarding three months of his life, and then the call from Jessica right in the stretch run, smack in the middle of Holy Week.

Mr. Barker, along with Mr. Nowe, the headmaster, had met with Sam and suggested he consider withdrawing from school and finishing the semester on an independent-study basis when he felt ready. But Sam decided that staying busy was best, so he carried on despite this overwhelming distraction and handled his final exams and presentations surprisingly well, though he did blow his Latin final.

“I’m thinking this may not be the best circumstance in which to return to London,” Sam said.

“I hear you, kid, nothing to celebrate this Christmas, that’s for sure.”

“I thought instead I’d maybe go to New York, have a look around.”

Barker took his time with this one. The same thought had been unfortunately rattling around in his head for the past hour, that he, himself, should head down to the city. After all, he grew up in Woodside, Queens, and his own sister Nadine was married to a cop in Astoria, and just maybe someone could talk to someone who knew something.

It was the right thing to do, but it would screw up all his plans. He had begun dating a lovely long-legged auburn-haired woman named Vanessa, who was fresh out of college and had just completed her first term teaching English at the public high school. Barker and Vanessa were set to drive up to Stowe on Friday for a few days of skiing and whatever, to see where the relationship might go.

“Sam, New York’s a tricky place, not like here. Or anywhere. Let’s don’t be stupid.”

“I mean, after the lady interviewed me, I at least held onto a bit of hope. But it’s clearly gone nowhere!”

“Wait a minute, what lady?”

“The lady from the newspaper. Steve and Mr. Murray hired her to help with the investigation.”

“Jesus,” said Barker, looking out the window now, picturing the green streak in the blonde hair, and that first time with Bianca. “I didn’t know about that.”

“But no one’s DOING anything!” Sam said, and he began sobbing, one of the first real cries he allowed himself since Jessie’s disappearance all those months ago.

Barker let him go, and then said finally, “It’s okay, kid. I’m with you.”

TED GROSS was born and raised in San Francisco.
He is the publisher of Daily Squash Report.

Next Up: Chapter TWELVE by Mick Joint

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