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“Sometimes, the most obvious answers are cleverly concealed within the rest of the mystery.” –Sherlock Holmes
It was a particularly blustery fall afternoon when the Wolves were beating the Naples Lions in Bryant High’s homecoming game, 28-27. The stands were filled with teenagers going wild with energy, enough to power the town, at least. Hidden amongst these raucous fans was Blake, who was setting up victory decorations to shoot onto the field once the Wolves won the game (which, according to several students, was highly expected). Several more touchdowns were scored, and accordingly, the crowd cheered and booed. At the final moment of the game, the team’s lead player, Jim McCaffrey, was one field goal from breaking the new tie and winning the game. Blake was armed and ready to fire the cannon, but one of his classmates, pulling a prank, tripped him and, subsequently, the cannons shot off too early. McCaffrey was distracted, and punted wide. The Wolves lost the game. The crowd was furious. And Blake was punished.
The next Saturday morning, Blake arrived to school to serve a detention, coughing because of the heavy, ominous fog that surrounded the building. He stepped into the building, signed his name on the attendance record, and entered room 200. Blake was soon sitting in a cramped desk amongst the lowest of the school’s population. Some of his new roommates had been punished for robbery, while others had been busted for dealing contraband between classes in the hallways. Either way, Blake clearly did not belong amongst these degenerates, and he began to sweat heavily when suddenly, a tall, pale figure stepped into the room and quieted the noise with a simple presence. He was Mr. Backman, head of the 11th grade science department and a volunteer for the local police department. Blake was petrified.
“Good morning, everyone,” said Mr. Backman in a monotonously low toned voice.
“Good morning, Mr. Backman,” said the room of degenerates in a sarcastic unison.
“Now, I trust you all got here safely despite the fog,” said Mr. Backman, “and hopefully without any trouble. Now, for those of you who have not been here before, you are to stay in the room, silently, until exactly 12:30 PM, at which point you may take out the packed lunches you brought, and consume them, silently again, until 12:45 PM. At that time, you will sit still, once more, until 4:00 PM, at which point you are free to go. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Mr. Backman,” said the students.
At that point, Mr. Backman slowly left the room, leaving the door cracked open so he could hear noises. For a few minutes, all was silent. The students stared at the whiteboard, stiff as robots, for about fifteen minutes. Then, one brave student slowly closed the door (so Mr. Backman couldn’t hear it being shut), and on went an iPod speaker. At that moment, students brought out “cupcakes” and “cookies” that they brought from home. As soon as each of the contraband users found their respective girlfriends in the sea of 60 people in the room, peace was restored in the mayhem. At the same time, Blake pulled out his English workbook, and started reading the last section of his assignment. Clyde, a curiously obnoxious young man of 15, knocked his books over on purpose. Clyde had not skipped detention since the ninth week of freshman year, so, clearly, he was one of the most popular buffoons of the bunch. He had four tattoos on his body; one on his neck, one on his back (which he happily showed off), and one on either leg.
“Hey kid, you’re new, right?” asked Clyde.
“Well, to detention, yeah,”. replied Blake.
“You gotta get in the routine, like you’re not gonna really waste your Saturday here, are ya?”
“Look, I don’t belong here… I’m not one of you. I don’t break the rules. I don’t make people angry, OK?”
“Well, if we were to by virtually any other student here…”
“It makes me angry.”
“You’ll fit right in here. Just stay quiet and no one’ll give a hell what you do.”
“You think so?”
“Just follow Charlie. He’s the best at what he does.”
At that moment, Charlie stood up from his seat with a curiously sly look on his face. He crept out of the room with a small bucket of ice cubes and dropped them on the floor. Mr. Backman was snoozing on a chair in the hallway with a ripped magazine on his lap. Charlie left the ice cubes to melt, and walked back into the room to a round of boos from his fellow buffoons.
“How old is Backman?” asked Blake.
“Somewhere near 65, I think. He’s retiring next year,” said Clyde.
“Then why would you mess with him?”
“Cause he’s the one that got us all into this mess in the first place.”
“Everybody here got in trouble by Mr. Backman at some point, except for you of course. He hates all of us. And by the way, just cause he’s 65 doesn’t mean he’s not alert. He’s probably more alert than all of us combined.”
“But he literally fell asleep with you guys.”
“That’s cause he doesn’t really care THAT much. I mean, if he really wanted to get us in trouble, he would walk in right now and do it. But we don’t care that much, so it doesn’t matter to him.”
Blake knew he had to find a way out. He thought that if he was an advocate and reported to Mr. Backman, he might be able to leave early. Naïve as ever, he walked outside to an angry (and alert) Mr. Backman, with a wet back. He began to reprimand Blake, who stood down and entered the room.
“Now, I trust that none of you will try to pull any more shenanigans, because the next one gets everyone else in this room three more detentions,” said Mr. Backman angrily. “Does everybody understand?”
Everyone replied with a groan, and Mr. Backman left the room. He left the door to the classroom open, just in case someone wanted to leave.
A few seconds later, Mr. Backman was blasted by an unseen force, and presumably was knocked unconscious after a blow to the wall. At first, everyone thought this was just another one of Clyde’s pranks, but after an unresponsive few minutes, all the students knew something else happened.
“Is it a ghost?” asked Charlie.
“No, you dummy, ghosts don’t exist,” said Clyde. “And even if they did, who would want Mr. Backman’s soul?”
“We just need to survey the situation,” said Blake, feeling the need to take action. “Does anyone know how to measure a pulse?” Everybody remained silent. “OK, let me see what we can do.”
Blake walked outside to the hallway, where Mr. Backman was lying on the floor with a few visible bruises on his head and arms. Blake checked Mr. Backman’s wrist, and he felt a pulse. He proceeded to the chest, where he could feel a heart beating. To Blake’s relief, Mr. Backman was still alive. But then Blake saw Charlie exit the room.
“Where are you going?” asked Blake.
“To pee,” said Charlie with a look of annoyance and confusion. “Duh.”
“Fine, but be aware of anything suspicious.”
Charlie walked over to a hallway at a perpendicular angle, and walked to the end. Blake then saw another body fly across the school, landing on the wall. And Charlie slammed into the concrete just a few feet from Blake.
Back in the room, Clyde and Blake were arguing over what to do. Everybody knew that something suspicious was happening in the school, and they felt inclined to take action. One student suggested that everybody inspect the school for strange activity. Another student said that everybody needed to leave the school because they were all about to die. And one person even blamed Blake, as he was the only person out of the room besides the victims. In the end, it was decided that Blake was to investigate the school to determine the cause of Charlie’s injuries. Armed with a cell phone and a degenerate student’s lighter, Blake cautiously proceeded out of the room.
Meanwhile, Cpt. Sam Speck of the Collier County Police Department was remotely notified of a dramatically lowered heartbeat rate of a Mr. Stewart Backman, who, as a volunteer police officer, had been given a heart rate monitor that can notify the department of any disturbance in one’s body. Almost immediately, the Captain and two other police cars proceeded north to Bryant High, fully anticipating a serious incident had taken place. Armed with guns and multiple rounds of ammunition, the Captain proceeded into the school’s driveway.
Blake emerged from a dark, murky stairwell when he descended into the unlit cafeteria. He suddenly heard voices and tiny giggles, as if a spirit was surrounding him. Scared, Blake tried to hide and ran to the storage closet. He felt things shift underneath him, and when pressed his hand on the side of the door, he felt a cold, hard, limp body. He opened his lighter, and saw little, tiny pieces of ash and matches that had been used up. Mr. Backman and Charlie’s bodies were found on the side of the closet. And when he finally found the light switch, he found the three students that had framed him with the confetti cannon they had ruined, about to fire a puff of air at Blake to send him flying out the closet and into the wall. The biggest of the group started to strangle Blake, and within seconds, he was unable to breathe. It seemed as though all hope was lost. Blake was…
BANG! BANG! BANG! Three rapid shots zipped through the doorway, and when Speck kicked it open, he immediately recognized the students and grabbed them out of the doorway. Blake, on the other hand, ran back upstairs to find the students silently sitting in their chairs. They heard the gunshots… and they were petrified.
Outside, the three students were handcuffed and arrested for multiple crimes, while Blake and the rest of the students were packing up, getting ready to leave school. The officer assured them that there were no ghosts in the school, and that they should all have a good rest tonight to get the memories of the day out of their heads. They thanked the officers and went on their way.
“Hey, Captain!” yelled another officer.
“Did we leave the paperwork for the case inside the school?”
“Oh, right, we did. Looks like you gotta run in there.”
“Come on, Chief. I always gotta do the running!”
“When you’re 50 and married, then you’ll tell me to run inside.”
The rookie officer walked inside the school, grabbed the paperwork, and walked back outside. Along the way, he passed by the confetti cannon, which was locked up as evidence and non-operational.
As he walked outside, the officer was picked up by an unseen force and slammed into the concrete wall outside of the school.