They got Dr. Godfrey settled in his office with a cup of coffee Abby insisted on making for him over Gladys’s protests that she should be the one doing anything in the cafeteria. Fleur sat with him, smiling, patting his hand, and nodding whenever he made a cryptic pronouncement.
“He got so scared in the car,” the girl said about her volunteering to watch him.
Abby had stashed her suitcase in the cafeteria, and debated ripping off the bandage and just showing Parky the pumpkin. But he seemed so trigger-happy about the idea of the jack-o-lanterns, she didn’t want to risk him splattering the pumpkin before she could explain what was going on.
Claude was trying to tell them, but it seemed the others’ suspension of disbelief had a very low limit. Jack-o-lanterns invading and taking people over? That was okay. The invasion coming from the depths of Hell, and people merging with the pumpkins, ultimately being taken over by the souls of the damned? That raised an eyebrow, not to mention some healthy skepticism.
That Dr. Godfrey could have had anything to do with it? Parky, Dove, and Gladys flat-out refused to accept that, no matter what.
So for the moment, they played nice and polite, when all Abby really wanted to do was have Claude and Fleur pin Godfrey to a cafeteria table while she unzipped the suitcase and got this whole mess settled. She toyed with the idea of just leading a frontal charge on the employees, but Parky’s martial arts and Navy combat training meant he’d disassemble Abby and her group in seconds.
Play nice. Less than forty-five minutes to go, and we’re here playing nice.
Wish I could summon up some of that old anger.
Abby hadn’t had much time to think about anything , but that burning-out of her former easily-raised ire puzzled her. Her extinction-level tantrum at their prison-house still weighed on her, and while she could recall how furious she felt then, the big red button in her head that triggered said fury was not only broken, it seemed like her head had been re-wired so that it had never been there.
It worried her, and made her think about PTSD and what other psychological awfulness might be waiting for her on the other side of this deranged night.
The cafeteria was line-of-sight from where Claude held court with the employees, so they’d see her retrieving the suitcase. She’d already piqued their interest by taking it to the cafeteria and not bringing it back —
“What’s in the luggage?”
— however, she’d managed to deflect any interest for the moment. Fetching the suitcase again would draw their eye for sure.
And likewise, they’d see her and Fleur leading Dr. Godfrey into the cafeteria, and given the employees’ unwavering defense of him, that would likely set off their radar as well.
Should’ve just done it outside. But what if the pumpkin ran off?
She had an urge to knock Parky, Dove, and Gladys unconscious, and for a moment thought her anger was coming back, but realized the urge came from a cold, clinical understanding of the easiest way to solve the problem.
Cold obviously didn’t understand judo flips, and neither did Clinical.
So Abby put on her best smile and went to join the discussion.
“But if there are twenty thousand people coming up that hill, we can’t defend this place,” Claude was saying, and Abby smiled inwardly, as well. “We need to go now.”
Parky pooh-poohed the idea. “We fought them off here. That many people in Caliche? They stomped those pumpkins. There are going to be stragglers, pockets of resistance, and that’s what we’ll go get help for when the sun’s up.”
“Man, I am telling you that’s going to be too late! We were down there, in town! We saw what was going on. What do we have to gain by lying about it?”
Dove said, “You’ve got this weird grudge against Dr. Godfrey. Was it because he left on vacation, and wasn’t here to run group therapy?”
Abby interrupted. “If he was on vacation, why did we find him at home?”
Dove shrugged. “Vacation, stay-cation, what difference does it make?”
“We don’t have a grudge against him –” Claude said, but Gladys butted in.
“Good. He’s a sweet man. I won’t hear a bad word said against him.”
Claude paused to take a breath. “…How can we convince you that sunrise is too late? C’mon, let’s look outside, or go look from the roof. You’ll see them coming for us.”
Or maybe not, Abby thought. With the pumpkins combining with the people, they don’t glow anymore. We may not be able to see them storming up the hill.
How long to force down the barricades at the front door? How long until they swarm over us in a wave?
The sound of running footsteps stopped the argument, and they all looked up to see Fleur heading their way.
“Abby!” she shouted, but slowed as she noticed the others. “Um, Abby — it’s, um, I mean…it’s…” She blushed under the scrutiny of the group.
“What’s wrong?” Abby asked, but felt a dread growing inside her, coiling up the length of her spine.
“I…I have to go to the bathroom,” Fleur blurted out. “I’m scared!”
Abby stared at her for a second, then let out a breath. “Okay. All right, let’s go, then,” she said, but turned back to the group as she left. “We’re picking this up again when I get back.”
The two of them headed down the hall, and Abby hissed at Fleur, “Seriously? The bathroom? You just about scared me to death. I thought you were going to say –”
“Dr. Godfrey ran away,” Fleur whispered back. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t think of how to tell you, y’know, secretly, and…”
“Oh, God,” Abby said as they rounded the corner. The dread that had receded sprang right back into position, clenching her vertebrae, drilling into her skull. “How? How did it happen?”
“He was getting freaked out,” Fleur said. “He stood up, and I stood up to try to stop him, but he shoved me and I fell and the next thing I knew he was gone and I don’t know –”
Abby cut in. “Okay. We’ve just got to find him. I didn’t think he’d be able to go anywhere, though.”
Abby looked at Fleur. “Because that coffee I gave him was full of hydrocodone.” She wiggled her right foot, having gotten used to the lump under her arch that was no longer there. “He should’ve been zonked out by now.”
Fleur ducked her head. “He didn’t drink a lot of it. He said it was too bitter.”
“So much for the miracle of Splenda,” Abby groused. “Regardless, we don’t have time to go on a big hunt. We’ve got to find him, and find him fast.”
Just then, the air was split with a piercing siren, one Abby knew well:
The fire exit had been opened.
Today’s Words: 1179
Total Words: 34827
Notes: Two days left, and still on target to finish by the deadline!