Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ted Stories: Patterns (Part 4 of 5)

© 2011 by Henry Melton

Taking the pre-dawn bus as usual, he was at his second story perch as the students began to arrive.  When the red pickup appeared, he took special note of the blue tote bag Martha was carrying in addition to her school books.  It was likely her clothes for an overnight.  
Now, he had to decide.  While Martha was out of harm’s way, he could feed an anonymous tip about seeing a stolen red pickup to the police. If he were going to act, this way would be best.  If Sue Lister was emotionally vulnerable, then having her husband arrested might be less damaging than being abandoned again.
In any case, he didn't know Edgar's daytime schedule.  Sue would be working today at the Freshmart.  What did he do during the daytime?
He would have to make sure Sue wasn't arrested, leaving Martha with no parent.
After starting at the horizon for a while, the class bell rang.  He would make the decision later.  This thread was a little more substantial than the others.  The potential side effects could be worse than the problem to be cured.  Any police arrest could turn violent.
Louise Watson was late to first period.  He saw her dashing down the hallway. 
By the time computer class rolled around, he still hadn't decided to pull the plug on Edgar.  He set up some alerts so that any mention on the internet of the red pickup's license tag, Edgar's name, Martha's home address or several other key items, would trigger an email that would vibrate his cell phone.  He would wait for more information or an explicit request for help from Martha.
Louise was an interesting case, and looked to be much less serious than Martha.  School records were incomplete.  Sometimes Ms. Fletcher flagged her tardiness, and sometimes she didn't.  But all the incidents fit a Tuesday/Thursday pattern.  It wasn't the school's pattern, that art class started the same time every day of the week.  It had to be Louise's ride.
On a hunch, he checked school records for 'Watson' and discovered her brother, Jason, who had graduated two years ago.  Soon enough, he had the reason.  Jason attended the local city college and had a French class that started thirty minutes later than the high school class.  He must have been drafted as Louise's transportation, and did not care to get to his class early so she wouldn't be late.
So how to solve the problem?  Force the brother to be more considerate?  He suspected Louise was already working that issue, either by an appeal to the brother or to her parents.  It wasn't working.
Make the brother want to be at school early?  Was there a suitable girl he could get interested in that shared his class?  Since he didn't have any way to observe the people, it would be unlikely he could find the threads to pull there.  He should stick to what he could affect, rather than speculate about things he couldn't reach at this time.
Alter Louise's patterns?  She could take a bus like he did, couldn't she?  He checked her home address and identified the bus.  Number 12.  He would check who got off of it tomorrow morning.  He listed her classmates -- people who she knew well.  If one of them took the same bus, that might give her incentive to ride it as well.  More research was needed.
Lunchtime observations showed Sarah and Martha chatting more comfortably. They actually talked and looked at each other.  Ted could understand Martha's remaining hesitation.  Bruises would still be visible from the last known incident, but she was used to hiding them.  She could probably manage.
He noted everyone Louise associated with.  He memorized that list, along with the larger list of her classmates.
One table consisted of three girls in intense conversation.  It was the two girls he'd overheard before and Isis.  She pulled out a blue note and passed it around.  A second note came out, and they began comparing handwriting.  It was good that he had used a stylized block printing method for those notes different from how he wrote his class papers.  Until this blew over, he'd have to avoid that style entirely.  The cell phone texting would be useful, but he'd probably have to investigate other ways to leave anonymous messages.  Perhaps more email aliases, like Z.  He should start building them now, rather than wait until he needed them.
He spent Economics class creating life histories for imaginary Kent, Saul, and Jasmine.  Kent and Jasmine dated.  Saul lived in London.  He'd have to do a little research on British English speech patterns for him.
As he watched Sarah and Martha head off with Sarah's mother, he was reasonably satisfied with his descision to chicken out and fail to call the police on Edgar Lister. He had the thread and could pull it at any time, but it was Martha's life.  She had his number if she needed the help.  Maybe new friends would be sufficient.
As he walked the pasture, his head filled with the details of the lives of his imaginary friends, he wondered what he would have to do when Ms. Calvin insisted that he join the standard culture of school grades and academic plans.  If she had spent the time to become a school teacher, she would not be open to a child his age choosing an alternative career path. He had seen the patterns of American life.  There was the public school life he was faking, private school versions of the same and home schooling which required more effort from a parent than his father could give.
Until his growth spurt hit and he appeared more like an adult, he was constrained to this life, or to gamble on a runaway’s life that appeared considerably more dangerous than gym class.
He let his hands pass through the tall grass that grew in this unoccupied pasture.  If he’d grown up in another time, maybe he would have found something appealing about the patterns of land and cattle and crops.  But that wasn’t his fate.  The world of computers and finance had lots of potential in a few years, when he could sign his name  to a contract without committing fraud.
Until then, Hillside High School was his playground, and the students there his to care for.  

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