The Watchers in the Shadows

Mina Glanz, age 12
The Watchers in the Shadows When Mina is not writing, she enjoys procrastinating and not doing her homework.

Will slammed the locker door. My head felt like hot iron rods were searing into my brain.
“Will,” I groaned. “Do you have to be so loud?”
He grinned and he ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s not my fault that you’re hungover. You know we aren’t supposed to drink when we are on a mission.”
I massaged my temples. “It’s been five months. That’s like five years of intense agony for even a high functioning alcoholic like me.” My stomach lurched as I reached for my hairbrush. I ran toward the trash can and started puking my insides out. My throat was covered in what felt like liquid fire.

Chapter Three of The Watchers in the Shadows

Will slammed the locker door. My head felt like hot iron rods were searing into my brain. 

“Will,” I groaned. “Do you have to be so loud?” 

He grinned and he ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s not my fault that you’re hungover. You know we aren’t supposed to drink when we are on a mission.” 

I massaged my temples. “It’s been five months. That’s like five years of intense agony for even a high functioning alcoholic like me.” My stomach lurched as I reached for my hairbrush. I ran toward the trash can and started puking my insides out. My throat was covered in what felt like liquid fire. 

“Good, get all that poison out of your body before our shift starts,” Will called out from the lockers. “Nova, you know this is a good lesson for you. It’s better just to not drink at all than feel horrible in the morning.” 

I wiped my mouth and rolled my eyes. “Well, not everyone is a goody two-shoes like you. Just because you are allergic to fun doesn’t mean everyone else is.” 

Will grasped his heart, pretending to be hurt. “I have fun. Like work is fun, the kids are fun… I have fun!” 

I snorted. “That doesn’t count. Plus, you really think this is fun? We have been on standby for months now. Everyone else gets fun assignments, and we are stuck babysitting a cold case.” 

I buttoned my uniform and reached into my locker for my gun. 

“Maybe, if you followed the rules more, then we would get a cooler assignment,” Will replied, tying his boots. 

I raised an eyebrow. “Following the rules is boring. Plus, you do it all the time and you still got this crummy assignment.” 

Will sighed. “Yeah, I guess that’s true, but they wouldn’t have given us this mission if it wasn’t important.” 

I checked my watch, 12:31 A.M. “Hurry up. Our shift started a minute ago.” Will stood next to the door. 

“I’m waiting for you, not the other way around.” Will grinned as I playfully punched him. 

“Come on, loser. Let’s get to work”. 

We walked out of the locker room and made a beeline for the entry corridor. The sounds of our footsteps echo off the smooth white walls. Before we even turn the corner, I could smell the distinct scent of her watermelon bubble gum. Great, it’s Kair and Reynolds. 

Will shot me a quick grin. I frowned and mentally prepared myself for our shift. If there was one thing I couldn’t stand, it was those two. 

As we turned the corner, Reynolds grinned, her bubbly pink hair ending in spikes. “Hiya! It’s been too long since we’ve had a shift together. Aren’t you pumped?” 

“Not long enough,” I muttered under my breath. 

Reynolds tilted her head toward me. “Didn’t catch that but I’m sure you’re as excited as I am!” 

I winced. Her high pitched voice was hell on my hangover. Kair stood in the corner, one fist clenched and the other right above his holster. 

“Will you shut up for once in your life, Reynolds?” Kair snapped. His permanent frown deepened.  

Reynolds let out a high pitched giggle. “Sorry about him,” she pointed at Kair. “Someone didn’t get their morning coffee.” 

False. They were always like this. Reynolds’s high energy levels matched with her bubbly personality was a bad match with Kair’s anger issues and introverted personality. How these two ever became partners was a miracle to me.

Kair slammed the wall. “I told you to SHUT UP!” 

Reynolds looked concerned. “Are you okay, Kair? It looks like you need a hug.” She reached her arms around him, and then he smacked them away. 

Will laughed. How he could find this entertaining was beside me. It was just plain annoying.  

“AHem.” I turned around to see The Lady standing there. Her face stretched out thin, like paper. She tapped her clipboard with her pencil. “Kair, Corrin; and Reynolds, Nemphis, your break is over, prepare for your second shift.” She turned her gaze toward me and Will. “Thorn, Nova; and Porter, Will, your first shift starts now.” She then proceeded to stiffly walk down the same hallway, her high heels tapping softly. 

Reynolds rested her arm around my shoulders. “Yay! Time to work!” Her voice was tinged with that signature excitement of hers. Her bubble gum scent was even stronger now. The artificial, sweet watermelon was starting to give me a headache. 

 I peeled her arm off of me. “Alright, let’s not do that again.” 

She grinned. “‘Kay!” She skipped off into the front. 

We walked off to the staff door in a group. Our footsteps and Reynolds’s constant streams of excitement echoed through the normally eerie quiet. My headache soon died down to a constant, numb pain, and finally, I could think clearly. Time to get to work.

“Uh, hey, Reynolds, did they ever figure out what happened to that redhead girl?” I slipped in casually, keeping the tone nonchalant. 

She stopped for a second to think. “Hmm. I don’t think so. Oh god, I haven’t thought of her in a while. Hope she’s okay! Oh, and you can call me Nemphis! No need to be formal all the time.” She flashed me a quick thumbs up and went ahead, skipping down the hallway. 

Will shot me a nasty glare, and shook his head slightly. I opened my mouth to argue. Will pointed his chin slightly toward Kair. He looked more aware than usual, his eyes though, still pointed toward the ground. 

I clenched my jaw. We would finish this conversation later. 

We reached the staff door, a large hulking slab of grated metal. Reynolds was waiting patiently; well, that was an overstatement. More like she was doing this awkward little jiggle. Better than her usual racket, but still as annoying as ever. I looked over my shoulder at the others. 

“So um, who has the key?” I asked. Reynolds popped her gum loudly. Will twirled the keychain around his finger. “I do, cause unlike someone, I remember my responsibilities,” Will replied. 

I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes. “Oh whatever, just open the door.” 

He walked over and the door opened with a click. We walked through the doorway and entered a long hallway. 

“So, who wants the southside and the northside?” Reynolds asked, her big, doll-like, blue eyes sparkling with excitement. 

Will’s eyes met mine. “Uh, we’ll take the southside, if that’s okay with you guys,” I spoke up. 

Kair shrugged and Reynolds gave me a toothy smile. She clapped her hands with excitement. “Excellent! We’ll meet you after dinner. Have a nice day!” She then proceeded to skip down the hallway. Kair slouched and followed her. 

I massaged my temples. God, those two were insufferable. 

Will chuckled. “Those two are great.” 

My left eye twitched. “Are you kidding me? Those two are the most annoying human beings to ever exist.” 

Will laughed. “They truly are the best.” 

We turned the corner. This was one of the new hallways. 3sw, if I wasn’t mistaken. 

“So how many renovations do you think there’s going to be? I mean, it’s been at least three in the past week,” I asked.

Will turned to face me. “I’m not sure, but I think they’re planning something big.” 

“Why’s that?” Odd of Will to do this type of thinking. He was more one for thinking in the moment. 

Will raised an eyebrow. “There’ve been 16 big renovations in the last month, 32 minor renovations, fewer and fewer kids are being brought in. How could something big not be coming?” 

I shrugged. He wasn’t wrong, of course, but it was just hard to believe that something around here was actually going to happen. 

We turned the next corner. Oh, it’s her. In front of us stood the girl. Her blond locks were as pristine as ever. Those cold, dead, blue eyes seemed to stare into my soul. 

She quickly tucked something into her blazer as she saw us approach. She smiled, not an actual one. It didn’t reach her eyes, the type that only she could pull off. 

“Hello there, can I help you?” Her motions were stiff, as if her joints and bones were made out of metal. Creepy. 

Will cleared his throat with a sudden cough. “No need, we are just passing through. Carry on.” 

 She relaxed her smile, a look of relief washing over before she could contain it. She walked swiftly past us, her shiny blonde curls bouncing behind her. 

I shivered. Something was off about that girl. She may look normal to the glance, but that was just an act. She lacked qualities that made someone human. Her eyes dead-looking, her motions always calculated, never reactive, and, of course, never a hair out of place. A husk of a person. 

Will shook my shoulder. “Hey, come on, let’s get out of here.” 

I snapped back into reality. “Oh… yeah. It’s just that girl… there’s just something off about her,” I stuttered. 

Will snorted. “You know you say this every time you see her. Every single damn time. And I’ll tell you again, the same thing I tell you every time. Stop it. You’re freaking me out.”

I relaxed as a tightness left my chest. I squeezed my palms. “Alright, let’s go. But I’m seriously considering investigating that girl. 

Will muttered under his breath, “Every single damn time.”

I elbowed him. 

He laughed.  

Approximately three minutes later, we reached our destination. I locked the door as we walked into the common room. I leaned against the door as Will cleared the cabinets. 

“Weird. The books aren’t in the same order as I left them.” Will pointed to a stack of books in the corner. 

“One of the kids probably shuffled it up when they were looking for some light reading,” I responded. Will gets like this sometimes. His detective mood, as I like to call it. He gets overly cautious or suspicious over the smallest of details. Never leads to anything, but it is entertaining at the very least. 

“That’s what I thought too, but none of the books are missing.” Will scratched his cheek, deep in thought. 

I shrugged. “So? Maybe they just didn’t find anything good to read.” 

“Hmm. I guess so,” Will mumbled. He didn’t look convinced. I tugged his sleeve to get him back on track. 

“Hurry up before someone wonders what we’re doing here.” He nodded quickly, and started to carefully remove the rest of the clutter. 

There it was, glued to the cabinet panel. The shining yellow button, right out of grandma’s sewing kit. Will pressed down on it, and with a click, the trapdoor opened. 

Below the keypad, the screen displayed today’s motto: Only the strongest prevail. 

I winced. Why this one?

Will clenched his jaw. His face stiffened and cast hard shadows. He quickly typed in the answer: Auckerman.  

Should I talk to him about it? No, we had more important things to worry about right now. 

Will crawled through and leaped down into the tunnel below. I followed after him. We walked in silence, our footsteps echoing through the dark tunnel. I twiddled my fingers nervously. Will looked okay, for the most part. He wasn’t talking or anything, but he wasn’t having a meltdown either. 

We turned the corner and I reached for the metal wall. 

Will grabbed my wrist. “Wait, someone’s been here.” He pointed at a scrap of paper on the floor. Will reached for the slip of paper, and read its contents. 

“Meet me in the attic, 12:00 P.M. Don’t be late.” He crumbled it up and slipped it into his pocket. 

Wait, what? Why would someone make contact now? Especially now? More importantly, who? 

Will looked equally as shell shocked as I was. Five months. That was how long it took for this assignment to get interesting. If this were a mountain, this would be the peak. And well, it would only go downhill from here. 

Will looked deep in thought, his eyes glazed over as he muttered something unintelligible under his breath. 

I waved my hand in front of his face. “Hey, snap out of it. Let’s get into the lab first, before you start doing any deep thinking.” 

He nodded in response and stepped back. 

I took a deep breath and focused. A deep tingling shot through my left arm, and my right arm numbed. I bent my left arm’s fingers to test it out. Power coursed through my veins. Excellent! I dug my hand underneath the metal plate, the pads of my fingertips pushed against the width of the metal. I flexed my fingers, the metal slab driving effortlessly into the groove above. 

I flashed a smile at Will. “After you.” I gestured to the now revealed room. 

Will mocked a bow. “Of course my lady,” he said with fake graciousness. He walked into the room.

 I giggled. Will could be fun when he wanted to be. I shook the tingles from my left arm, my right one regaining movement. 

I walked into the lab. Various handbooks were stacked in the corner, and two well-worn swivel chairs were placed in front of a long desk and monitors, some relaying information, others just displaying camera feeds. A lit lantern hung from the ceiling, and our gear was piled in a corner. 

Will sat down on his chair, his eyes glued to the communications monitor. 

“Something wrong?” I asked. Will usually wasn’t this attached to communications, mostly because he didn’t really have any friends, at least none that he was particularly close to. 

“Uh, no. But that’s just the thing. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing about this new message sender,” Will replied, he sounded utterly confused. 

“Should we tell HQ about the message?” I said. I mean, I had no idea what to do. Surely, HQ would have answers.  

Will paused for a second, thinking. “No, I don’t think so, if this was an enemy then why wouldn’t they just stake it out and ambush us. But it also doesn’t make sense that HQ didn’t tell us about it either,” he said thoughtfully.

“Maybe,” I started dramatically, “someone’s gone rogue.” 

“Actually, that would make sense. I mean, it’s simply obscure for someone who doesn’t already know about this place to find it. Plus, there’s the passcode at the trapdoor. They obviously either couldn’t open the last door, or didn’t know there was more,” Will replied, taking my response seriously. 

I checked my watch, 12:30 We would have to hurry up here before someone noticed we were missing.

“Hey.” I nudged Will’s foot. He looked up from the monitor. I tapped my watch. “Dude. hurry up, we gotta go do our job.” He nodded, and quickly sent a message. 

“What did you send?” I asked. 

“Just asked HQ to send a message to make sure our receiving systems are working. Just to confirm this mysterious note leaver isn’t working on HQ’s orders.” 

  “Oh, okay,” I replied. “Are you ready to go?” He nodded again. 

We walked out of the room, and with a gentle nudge, the metal wall came crashing down. 

I inspected it for a moment, looking for any signs of strain or cracks. As perfect as ever. I flashed a thumbs-up to Will. He turned away, and started walking back up the tunnel. 

I grabbed his shoulder. “Hey, wait, we never finished talking about what happened back there with Kair.” 

He looked disgruntled. “You already know why I reacted that way. Do I really have to elaborate?” 

I balled up my fist and gritted my teeth. “Actually yes, do tell me why what I did was so wrong.” 

Will opened his mouth, “One, this is a reconnaissance type two mission, we aren’t permitted to investigate. Second, we are to report any unusual activities, which we did. HQ didn’t permit us to move forward with anything. Third, I’m in charge, not you. Fourth, on top of breaking the rules, you jeopardized our position by asking such blunt questions. If it was anyone but Reynolds we’d probably be captured, found out, or worse.” Will raised an eyebrow. “Explain to me how your actions weren’t wrong.”  

“But… but I just know there’s something deeper to this! I don’t care what HQ said, this is important,” I replied in protest. 

I mean, how could he just let an opportunity like this slide? A girl mysteriously disappeared from a virtually inescapable house. Any sane person would want to know what happened to her. Even if it did break some stupid rules. 

“Hey!” Will raised his voice, the tone angry. “We were given orders and we will follow them. Even if it goes against your hunch. Understood?” 

I looked at my feet. “Understood.” 

We walked in silence through the tunnel. The rest of the day passed at a snail’s pace. My nerves increased the closer it grew to 12. 

11:00. 

11:30. 

11:40

11:45 

I looked over my shoulder at Will. He was standing in the corner fiddling with his gun. I tapped my watch slowly. 

He looked up at me. “You know there’s no use obsessing over the time. All we can do is wait.” 

“Well, we could get a headstart, scout out the attic, maybe a little bit of investigating. What’s the point of just sitting here, let’s put our time to use, even if at the end of all of this it turns out to be pointless,” I suggested. 

Will shook his head. “No, if this mystery person was smart enough to find the tunnel, they wouldn’t be careless enough to leave anything to chance,” he replied, deep in thought. 

“Alright, if you say so.” I wasn’t convinced, but I trusted Will’s judgment. It has saved me plenty of times before, and I’ll count on it again. 

11:50

I tapped my watch again. Will was walking down the hallway before I could say a word. 

I speed-walked after him. “Hey, at least give me some warning next time,” I whispered into his ear. 

“Oh, um, yeah, sorry about that. Just had a thought though,” Will started. “Well, what if this mystery person slipped in recently? That would explain why we haven’t had any contact before. And, well, do you remember what Reynolds said at lunch today?” 

I blanked. “Uh, no. I tend to tune out whenever she starts talking.” 

Will ignored my comment. “Well, she mentioned this new kid, about 17. He was brought in earlier in the morning, before our shift.” 

It started to click in my head. “Wait… isn’t fieldwork permitted at 16? It could make sense that he would be the mystery person we are looking for.”

Will grinned. “That’s what I’m thinking! It didn’t click until now, but when Reynolds told me his name, I thought it sounded familiar.” 

“What’s his name?” I asked. 

Will smiled again. 

“Braylon Kramer.”

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