The rest of breakfast was rather awkward, but otherwise it wasn’t noteworthy. I took Alex back to his mother’s home when we’d finished, and then began my drive back to the MRA base.
Once I was alone, my mind began working overtime to process everything that I’d been trying to ignore for the last several days. Things just weren’t adding up. Why hadn’t the mutey, if Sarah really was killed by a mutant, used their power to do her in? Why was she shot?
Where had the gun come from? If there was a registered firearm at the address we were going to, it would have been mentioned in the briefing. However, our commander mentioned no such gun to us, which meant that either the gun was an illegal one, of that it was one of ours.
“I’ll ask the commander about that,” I murmured, exiting the highway and making my way down the small road that led to the base. It was a lonely winding road, and I had often enjoyed the solitude as I drove on it.
It’s so nice to be alone sometimes, I thought, relaxing slightly and slowing to match the new speed limit. Suddenly something occurred to me, and I swerved to the side of the road violently.
Sarah was alone when I found her, I thought. She was alone, and I didn’t see anyone else on my way in. That’s not standard protocol. She should have been guarded by at least one person, even if the squad had split up.
With trembling hands I yanked my notebook out of my purse, and flipped through it. A loose sheet of paper fluttered out, and I fumbled with it as I caught it.
In Sarah’s messy scrawl were four solitary words. As I read them, I felt as though all of the blood had drained out of my body.
“Don’t trust Iron Silk.”
When we’d been assigned to our squadron, Sarah had taken it upon herself to nickname everyone, so she could talk about them without them knowing. I’d laughed at her, but then I’d learned the nicknames anyhow.
Iron Silk was her nickname for the commander. Sarah had explained her reasoning to me- “He’s from the South, and he’s been raised to be a gentleman,” she’d said. “Southern gentlemen are bred to be an iron fist in a silk glove.”
Why shouldn’t I trust him? I wondered, flipping to the page I had doodled on during the funeral. It occurred to me that Sarah liked to leave notes in sneaky ways, and I traded my pen in for a pencil.
Carefully I shaded the page, looking for anything. The indents from Sarah’s note appeared, and then at the bottom of the page was a single word.
I set the pad of paper aside and sat in my car, thinking. Did Sarah mean that our commander was a traitor? Was she referring to herself? Or maybe to me? But that made no sense.
What should I do? I wondered, resting my head against the headrest. Sarah told me not to trust the commander, and I can’t go any further above him without him finding out.
I studied the road ahead of me, feeling trapped and confused. The notes Sarah had left made no sense and I felt like the entire thing was beyond my comprehension, let alone control.
I need a plan, I thought, determined to change my current status of helplessness. What do I need to do? Find out who, and why, Sarah told me not to trust, and who she called a traitor. How can I do that?
My frustration was growing the longer I sat there. It was like I’d hit a dead end.
I won’t get any answers by sitting here, I thought, turning the car on. I’ll ask the commander about the gun thing. See how he reacts. Do a little digging. Play it by ear.
Quickly I pulled back onto the road and made my way back to base. A churning in my stomach that had nothing to do with my drinking the previous night had started, and I almost wanted to throw up again.
Don’t waste those pancakes, I thought determinedly. They tasted pretty good going down, and I can guarantee they won’t be anywhere near as good coming back up. Besides, they didn’t cost you anything. You can’t just waste a free breakfast.
I parked my car, and turned my keys in at the office, signing myself back onto the premises. The lady at the desk looked up at me oddly- with a mix between boredom, sympathy and curiosity written on her face.
“You went to the funeral, didn’t you?” she asked, staring at me, scrutinizing my face for any betrayal of emotion.
“Yeah,” I said.
“You going to be okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said again, forcing a grin this time. It felt odd on my face, like a leer, and I let it fade away.
“Good to hear it, sweetie,” she said, looking away. “I have a note here, telling you to report to Commanding Officer Murphy’s office ASAP.” I grimaced, and a slightly dry smile crossed her face.
“You sure you’re going to be okay?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What’s the worst that can happen to me?”
“You don’t want me to answer that,” she said, turning away from me, her swivel chair squeaking under her.
“No, I don’t suppose I do,” I said with a sigh as I left the office. And you don’t even know the half of it, I added silently.