Simone never did anything without a reason.
There’s only way to find out what that was. I need to get on a computer. And I know just where to find one. In Ms. Matthews office.
When Ms. Matthews pops in for room check, I pretend to be deathly ill. Getting this lady to believe me isn’t as hard. My fake gagging sounds cleared the room really fast.
After everyone heads to their first activity, I sneak down to the lunchroom and snag the lunch lady’s security card from her register. After some time observing, I know the center uses a standard swipe system, so hopefully this card will gain me access.
I inch down the back hall and stop a few doors down from Ms. Matthews’ office. As soon as the security camera swings away, I run to the door and swipe the card. When the panel beeps, I push open the door and close it behind me. I lean back and breath. So far, so good. I roll the interior blinds shut so no one can see in and eye the bookshelves.
That modem light told me there was a computer in here somewhere.
I just have to find out where Ms. Matthews hides it.
Trolling around the cramped space, I’m careful not to shift anything out of place. Some paranoid people set traps. A moved garbage can, a misplaced pen, or a wrinkled cushion can all shows signs of an intruder. I’d bet all my typing fingers that Ms. Matthews keeps this office extra dusty, hoping to snag a fingerprint or two.
I nose around her desk, looking for a clue, and tug on the top drawer. It’s locked but easily crackable. Using a letter opener, I jimmy the latch until it opens, careful not to leave a scratch. I sift through a few ancient photos of Ms. Matthews and a boy who I assume is her son Patrick, an old pack of hairy gum, and a letter from the bank about some missed payments. I also come across a book of deposit slips. The carbon copies recorded huge amounts. Wow, this place brings in some serious dough. Seattle has way too many computer addicts. I jot down the bank routing number and the account number in my notebook before replacing the slips.
Sitting in her chair, I twirl, taking in the view from every angle. When I spot the paneled wall, I stand and knock. Sounds hollow. The perfect place to hide a computer.
Or a body.
There’s no door handle, but there is a keypad. The kind that usually has an open button for convenience or in case of forgotten codes. I go back to the desk and slide my hand around the drawer past broken pencils, dust bunnies, and lonely paper clips. In the very back, my finger grazes a small lever. The paneled wall slides back, revealing a hidden room.
I pull on the light cord and step into the damp space reeking of mothballs and mold. I squint in the dim light. Filing cabinets and stacks of cardboard boxes labeled with black marker crowd the tiny room. Jim. Sandi. Michelle. No names I recognize.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no order to this lady’s stacking madness. I rummage through some old files until one folder catches my eye: CONSTRUCTION PLANS. There, I discover archives of the mansion’s floor plans, including past building additions and blueprints. The schematics show me the enormity of this old place.
I shove a few in my back pocket. I case they come in handy later.
Something hums a familiar song, grabbing my attention. I spin around and spot an old school desk in the corner. Sitting on top is the prettiest sight I’ve seen since checking out of reality and into CrazyLand.
And not just any machine. A state-of-the-art HP PC injected with a speedy processor. Matthews may pretend to live in the 1800s, but she’s more tech-savvy than she lets on. Not to mention, a total hypocrite.
“Hello, beautiful,” I whisper. The stress of the last few days dissipates.
The Dark Angel is back.