Chapter 10 – Flowers and a Funeral
Sam opened her eyes. She found herself on the filthy floor of a dark, dank abandoned ware-house. She tried to stand up, but couldn’t. She could feel the hard steel of the two pairs of hand-cuffs, one pair latching her hands behind her back, the other constricting her feet by the ankles.
She looked across the room to where a bit of light shined down from a broken window to the ground. There lay Mandy. She looked as beautiful as ever with her long, shiny black hair, deep purple eyes, and pale, cute face. Upon closer inspection, though, Sam could see those purple eyes were surrounded by equally dark purple bruises. Seeing Mandy like this hurt her deeply. Sam tried to crawl along the floor to get closer to her, but it was hard due to the shackles. When Mandy saw her moving towards her, she started frantically screaming for Sam, but her screams were muffled by the piece of duct-tape covering her lips. She tried moving forward too, but was also constrained by hand-cuffs.
With much effort, she inched closer to Mandy, but then a black heeled boot suddenly swiped down and kicked her in the face viciously, breaking her nose and spraying her blood every where. Sam looked up as blood gushed down her chin and saw the Black Widow’s eerie, blank face. The Widow then took the huge knife she was holding and put it close to Mandy’s face. Mandy tried to scowl and shoot obscenities at the Widow, but the duct-tape made that difficult.
She then moved the knife to point it at the duct-tape. “I had to shut her up,” the metallic voice said. “This girl is just too damn annoying. How could you ever love some one like this?”
“You leave Mandy alone! I don’t care if she’s annoying! She’s a good person, I know it! She doesn’t deserve this!”
“I don’t think your friend’s Alex and Clover would agree or anyone else. In fact, I think I’ll do them all a favor and just kill her right now.”
“Don’t you touch her!” Sam shouted. “Don’t you dare touch her, you bitch!”
“So you want to save this girl, right?”
“Yes, I do!”
“You can’t stop her from dying. How could you? You’d have to stop me.” She then took the large carving knife and ran it down the front of her mask. As the knife moved down her featureless, disguised face, it left a blue streak of light. There was a bright flash and suddenly the mask was gone.
Sam was utterly shocked and horrified at who it was. She saw her own green eyes, her own red hair, and her own face. It was herself.
“You can’t stop yourself, Sam!” Her doppelganger then laughed maniacally, and Sam screamed.
She was still screaming as she felt two hands grabbing her arms. “It’s ok, Sam. You’re safe now,” a kind, familiar voice told her. “It’s over.”
She stopped screaming and reluctantly opened one of her eyes. She was no longer in the dank ware house, and Mandy and the Black Widow were no where to be seen. Instead, she was lying under the covers in a warm bed in a brightly lit hospital room. She then saw Clover and Alex’s loving faces looking down at her from either side of the bed, and Jerry, looking very much like a concerned father, standing at the end of the bed.
“It was just a dream,” Sam said, wiping the sweat from her brow.
“Yeah, you’re with us now, Sammy,” Alex said. “The bad-guy isn’t after you anymore.” Alex and Clover then both leaned down and hugged the girl, telling her they loved her and that they were glad she was ok.
“Thanks guys. I love you too, but why am I in a hospital?”
Jerry finally spoke up,”Because you were badly injured last night. The dart you were shot with only contained a non-lethal tranquilizer that caused you slip into unconsciousness. Also, the injuries to your throat were thankfully only surface cuts. Our best WOOHP plastic surgeons were able to repair these cuts easily, leaving no signs of any scars.” Sam felt her throat and was amazed to see it was smooth and undamaged, just as if that sharp knife had never been pressed against it in Arnold’s backyard.
Jerry went on, “However, the injuries to your mid-section, from what I assume were some very viscous stomps with a heeled boot, were much more severe. The lining of your stomach was ruptured, and if you had not made it to one of WOOHP’s medical facilities sooner, you would’ve surely died. Fortunately, Britney had noticed someone suspicious sneaking around your neighborhood and called Clover for back-up. Both of them converged on Arnold Jackson’s home and found you unconscious. Clover reported your injuries to me right away, and I was able to dispatch emergency medical care immediately.”
“Thank you for saving my life, Clover.”
Clover looked down at her friend affectionately. “Don’t mention it, Sam. Like you haven’t done the same for me hundreds of times,” she said, grasping her hand and holding it tight.
“Since the injuries to your stomach were pretty severe, you’re going to have to stay in bed for a few days to heal,” Jerry told her. “For cover, we’ve told your school and parents you contracted appendicitis and had your appendix removed. Your parents will be flying back from Europe and will come visit you some time later this evening.”
“Thanks, Jerry, for everything.” Sam then turned to Alex who was smiling warmly at her. “So did you break out of jail, Alex?” she asked teasingly.
“No. It was all thanks to you, Sam.”
“Alex is correct. Since you engaged in combat with the villain and Alex was still being held in the WOOHP Prisoner Holding Facility, she was cleared as a suspect,” Jerry said.
“Thank you for getting me my freedom back, Sammy. Mwah!” she said, planting a really wet, big kiss on Sam’s cheek.
“Jeez, Alex,” Sam said, blushing. Everyone in the room laughed hardily.
“Sorry, Sam, we were just all really worried about you. I’m so glad you’re going to be ok.”
“So, Jerry, since Alex is back, does this mean Britney is off the case and can go back home?” Sam asked, sounding a little bit too interested in seeing her leave.
“No. Since the perpetrator is still on the loose, and he or she has been proven to be very dangerous, I’ve decided in this case four heads will be better than three. All four of you will work on the case together.”
“Where is Britney, anyways?” Sam asked.
“She just called. She’s on the way here,” Clover explained.
“Even though I’m very happy to see you’re going to recover well, Sam,” Jerry said, “we do have some business matters we must discuss.”
Sam shook her head up and down.
“WOOHP agents have inspected Mr. Jackson’s property, and from his backyard, we were able to recover that mysterious green-gemmed ring of Arnold’s that resembles the one that previously gave him super strength and agility. It is being analyzed for any clues as we speak. However, there was another strange lapse in our surveillance footage, and we weren’t able to find any other evidence besides some obvious signs of a struggle in the grass. So, we can’t tell exactly what happened. I will be expecting a full report on the incident between you and the villain, of course, but would you mind filling us in on some preliminary information about him or her as well as on the disappearance of Arnold Jackson?”
“Well, it’s a definitely a she that kidnapped Arnold. I have no idea who or why though. She wore this black spy-suit with a mask and disguised her voice. She seemed to be in very good shape and young, maybe around my age or a little older. I’d say she was about the same height too. She called herself the Black Widow.” Alex, Clover, and Jerry all looked a bit uneasy hearing that creepy name.
“Is there anything else you can remember?” Jerry asked.
“Yeah, something really weird. She had this weapon. It looked like a knife from a kitchen somewhere, but she used it to cut through space as she moved it in the air. It made some kind of portal of light, like out of a science-fiction movie. She knocked out Arnold with a dart-gun and then threw him into it. She looked like she was going to do the same to me, but then she just jumped through it. The door-way disappeared in a flash. I don’t remember much after that.”
“I saw that flash!” Clover exclaimed. “It was really strange. I didn’t know what it was.”
“Hmmm…” Jerry cupped his chin in his hand, looking very serious, and briefly gave Alex a suspicious glance. “The weapon you describe is GAWD”
“God?” all three girls asked.
“Yes, GAWD. It stands for Ginsu Automatic Wormhole Dispenser. It’s another WOOHP gadget by Agent Hung we’ve had in development. It was designed to give a WOOHP agent an exit to another preprogrammed location when no other means of escape is available.”
“Why would anyone make a portal thingy into a knife?” Alex asked.
“Why, so you can slice prime rib or roast duck, of course. We do have a number of agents in the culinary field. They can’t all be young, delicious high-school girls, unfortunately.”
Sam, Clover, and Alex all gave Jerry really disturbed looks. Realizing he had unwittingly said more than he should have, he made his goodbyes brief. “Well, I must investigate this matter immediately. Enjoy your hospital food, Sam. If you wish to contact me, you can press a button on the panel on the right safety-rail of your bed. It’s next to Call Nurse.” He then pressed a button on his watch, and a small whirlwind spun out of the bedpan on the ground and engulfed him. It then sucked Jerry down into the tiny toilet receptacle and into apparent nothingness.
Alex picked up the bedpan and examined it curiously, wondering how that was even possible.
“Eww, put that back down, Alex,” Clover told her.
The door to Sam’s hospital room then opened and in walked a certain sexy, infamous dark-haired girl.
“Mandy, you came to see me?” Sam asked, both sounding shocked and utterly delighted.
“Well, yeah. I came with Britneykins.” Britney then entered through the door behind her, and Sam, without thinking, shot her a nasty glare. Even though she knew she should be grateful to her for the part she played in her rescue, the pain she received from the incident in the movie theater was still very raw. In fact, it was sharper than any pain emanating from her injuries.
“Hi, Sam. Hope you’re feeling better after your surgery.”
Britney then gave Mandy a nudge with her elbow, signaling her to speak. “I still think you’re a loser, Sammy, but I don’t like you being sick. Having your appendix out, that must be really lame. Please get better.”
“I’m glad you care, Mandy,” Sam said, beaming. “That means a lot to me.” Despite what she had spied on yesterday, Sam couldn’t help but be filled with happiness hearing those words from her.
“We also brought you flowers,” Britney said. Sam had barely even noticed the small pot of flowers Britney was holding, probably because she was busy staring at Mandy while virtually ignoring Britney’s presence. “Mandy picked them out.” Suddenly Sam’s attention was on the flowers.
“You did?” Sam asked with big eyes.
“Britney wanted to get some cheap carnations, how cliché. Everyone knows African Violets are the most beautiful flower.”
“You just like them because they’re purple,” Britney digressed.
Mandy quirked an eye-brow. “And what exactly is wrong with purple?”
“I love them!” Sam exclaimed. Britney handed her the pot, and Sam proceeded to hold it in her arms like a newborn baby.
Mandy snickered. “Told ya.” Britney sighed.
“Thank you so much Mandy… and Britney.”
All the girls chatted for some time. Sam had noticed that Mandy and Clover didn’t seem as antagonistic towards each other as usual. They still took a few swipes at each other, of course, but there seemed to be much less malice behind them than usual. It had seemed concern for Sam’s health had temporarily put their rivalry at rest. Sam very much enjoyed having Alex, Clover, and Mandy together with her in this congenial setting, and being able to chat with Mandy on friendly terms was real treat indeed.
The only person she wished wasn’t there was Britney. The girl’s mere presence infuriated her inside, but the joy of seeing her friends and Mandy after a brush with death was enough to dull that anger. About an hour later, the girls left to travel to a football game that Mandy, Clover, and Britney were cheerleading at and Alex was actually playing in, being Bev High’s only female kicker.
Sam was left alone, but she didn’t feel lonely at all. She looked down at the pot of flowers that she was still cradling in her arms and gazed at the violets’ pretty purple pedals admiringly. They reminded her so much of Mandy. She then brought her nose down and took in their aroma. It may have been the pain medication affecting her senses, but somehow the fragrance of the flowers matched the intoxicating scent of Mandy’s favorite perfume. She then wondered if this was what it would smell like to have Mandy in bed with her, and she saw a vision of the raven-haired beauty snuggled up in her arms under the covers. Sam was glad no one else was in her room now. Just the thought had made her so flushed anyone else would’ve surely noticed.
Finally, she put the flower pot on the table next to her bed. She couldn’t believe that Mandy was the Black Widow. Even though Mandy could seemingly act completely cold and ruthless on petty social matters, she knew deep down in her heart she was a good person. On the other hand, Tara, the other remaining suspect, she wasn’t so sure about.
Sam pressed the button with the “W” shaped WOOHP symbol on the side panel of her hospital bed. Suddenly, her tv switched on, and she could see her aging British boss on the screen. “Why, hello, Samantha. You rang?”
“Yes. Hi, Jerry. I’m going to write my report soon, but I also want to do some research on the case while I sit here in bed. You think you could send me all the files you have on Tara Respighi, especially any information on those obsessive personality disorders you mentioned before?”
“Why certainly. I’ll have GLADIS send them to you right away.” Jerry and Sam gave their goodbyes, and the tv switched back off. The side panel then stated printing out pages of paper, until they formed a short stack on Sam’s lap.
She started reading through them. Most of it was mundane personal information. Finally, she reached a section entitled “Record of the Mental Illness.” It started off by telling the story of a Tara and a best friend named Chloe Clayborn. They first met at pre-school in a small suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. Even at first encounter, something clicked between the two girls instantly. They quickly became playmates and soon best friends, doing everything together and becoming utterly inseparable. As the years passed, the bond between the girls intensified more and more. Then finally, in the last year of junior high-school, their relationship passed the last boundary, and they became romantically intimate. They kept the relationship discreet. However, Chloe’s nosy father eventually caught the two girls kissing in a certain spot in the park where they thought they would be alone.
Chloe’s parents being strict Baptists did not approve to say the least. Chloe was told to separate from Tara forever. However, they still managed to meet with each other in secret, even after Chloe was transferred to a private school. Knowing he was being undermined, Chloe’s father finally made the drastic decision to send his daughter to a Christian “camp” whose main objective was to reprogram homosexuals into abandoning their sexual-orientation for “God.” Tired of endless arguing with her parents, Chloe reluctantly boarded the bus headed for the camp.
As chance would have it, the bus turned onto a highway on which a sleep-deprived truck-driver was hauling potatoes in the opposite direction. He fell asleep at the wheel and collided with the bus. Miraculously, there was only one fatality: Chloe Clayborn.
“How terrible,” Sam said, literally becoming sick to her stomach and removing a few tears from the corner of her eye. She read on.
Both Tara and Chloe’s parents were extremely distraught over the loss. Chloe’s parents blamed divine retribution, while Tara blamed them for forcing her to get on that bus in the first place.
Then came the day of Chloe’s wake. After arriving at the funeral home, Tara had discovered Chloe’s parents had assigned people to wait outside to prevent her from entering the building to see her loved one. This infuriated her to the point that it is believed to have created a schism in her psyche. She broke through the men at the door and attacked Chloe’s father while screaming, “You did it! You killed her!” After badly clawing his face and severely beating his testicles with a Bible, she went into complete hysteria and had to be pinned to the ground by several people until law enforcement arrived. She was never convicted of any crime, however, but was instead sent to Smith’s Grove mental institution for recovery from a serious mental breakdown.
During the first several weeks of her institutionalization, she was lost in a total state of psychosis completely centered on her loss. At times, she had denied Chloe was dead, while at other times she thought she was Chloe. However, due to intensive treatment, the assistance of medication, and the love of her understanding parents, she was able to make a full recovery and was declared sane six months later.
Her parents then moved to California, wishing to give their daughter a new start. She enrolled as a freshman at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California. She seemed to be doing quite well at school. However, she experienced a partial relapse after six weeks. This occurred after she became the “personal assistant” of one Clover Ewing, the undercover Super Spy of distinguished merit and of course Sam and Alex’s best friend. Tara was quickly taken by Clover’s beauty and charm. However, as her assistant she was treated more as some kind of indentured servant paid with fashion knowledge as opposed to the love she had probably hoped for. She didn’t object to the slave-like treatment, though. Instead she became completely obsessed with Clover and began dressing, styling her hair, talking, and acting like Clover to a considerable degree of mimicry.
Before this relapse could intensify further, her parents caught on to what was going on. She was temporary pulled out of a school for several weeks. After some new treatment and a change in medication, she was deemed mentally fit to attend school again and was reinstated in Beverly Hills High School. No further bouts with mental illness had been recorded. However, the report mentioned that she had recently been named a suspect in the disappearances of two students, one teacher, and one undercover WOOHP Super Spy.
Sam then looked at some of the color photographs that printed with the files. One photo in particular caught her attention immediately. It was labeled “Tara Respighi and Chloe Clayborn, ages twelve and thirteen.” There was a younger and still very cute version of Tara, still with her unruly maroon hair and still decked out in her slightly punkish garb. She also had that huge, warm smile on her face. It was a smile she had only seen on her when she was with Clover. However, that’s not what alarmed Sam. It was Chloe, the girl Tara held her arm over lovingly. She had a skinny, petite, yet athletic frame and delicate white skin. Beyond that, she had charming blue eyes that matched her blue sun-dress and blonde hair of a very bright shade matching most closely that of a dandelion. Furthermore, her hair was cut in a way that it ended near the base of her neck and was styled so it stretched out to either side of her head, forming the shape of a fan.
“Oh my god!” Sam was shocked. Chloe’s uncanny resemblance to Clover in that photograph was almost terrifying.
To Be Continued