Thursday, July 24, 2014

Part 17

First I knew I needed to get to the Sheriff's office to see if I could get my backpack.  It wasn't easy but it should have been a lot harder than it was.  The school had an amazing number of entrances and exits and not all of them were being watched.  Oh sure, they had boarded them over but come on ... after a year in the city salvaging to survive there weren't too many places that I couldn't break into thanks to the ... er ... enlightening education I received from some of our less law abiding members.

Dad would have had a fit at what all I had learned.  I'm learning to accept that.  I spent a year being ashamed of what I had to do, wondering what my parents would think of me.  I thought I would be able to put all of that behind me.  I was obviously living on a different plane of reality.  So, I've decided to stop worrying about it.  There isn't anyone left that is responsible for me or who I might embarrass, that means I have to be responsible for myself and after all that I've been through I've given up being embarrassed for myself.

I used one of the basement windows on the original section of the school to get into the area of the basement where the ancient and defunct boiler was located before the new heating system was installed.  I knew that the pot heads used to use the area to toke up during school from listening to Dad talk to some of the other deputies at departmental BBQs and stuff like that.  It is amazing what you will learn by keeping your mouth shut, your ears open, and your eyes innocently directed away from the voices you are listening to.

I also knew from listening to the janitors complaining about the occasional rat problem the school had that if you crawled behind the old boiler and up the old air blower vent pipes that you could get all the way to the third floor of the school in the empty spaces left behind when the duct work was dismantled.  There was a fourth and fifth floor but those had been closed off years ago and were used for storage when the two new wings had been built onto the high school.

I didn't need to go to the third floor, only the second where the sheriff's office was located. And when I had been in there spinning in his chair I had seen that the old grate was still right where it had always been when the room had been Mrs. Kirkpatrick's AV class.  It was going to be a tight squeeze but I'd climbed in tighter ones.  The problem was going to be getting out but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.

Once I finally maneuvered my way through and into the Sheriff's office it took me a while to get the vent cover off.  In frustration I almost punched it off until I realized two of the screws were stripped and could be pushed out.  It meant stripping a third screw and bending one corner of the vent cover to get out but I wasn't worried about that.  It didn't matter whether the Sheriff noticed because I was going to leave him a clue anyway.

I stood up and cracked my back from being in such a tight space for too long.  Then I headed right to the closet and opened it up.  Sure enough the pack was where I left it but much to my disgust so was a couple of terse notes.  One from the Sheriff and one from Sgt. Watson.  No more telling secrets to anyone, not even people I wanted to trust.

Both notes said basically if I ran off they were going to make it so that sitting was going to be a painful exercise for a while.  Well, that didn't exactly scare me because I'd seen real bad guys, lived with them, and there was no doubt that those two men could growl really well but I knew they'd never actually lay a hand on me.  I opened my pack to check things over and found another note.  This one from Sgt. Watson.

Don't know why but I have a feeling you are going to ignore good sense and run anyway regardless of what I have to say about it.  Can't say I blame you but you better not get dead or infected Kid or you aren't going to like what I have to say about it.  And that junk food is not going to carry you far.  More than likely will make you sick as a dog if that is all you are counting on for food.  This isn't much but they're better than what you've got.  Don't know why I even care.  You've been a pain in the backside from the word go.

Brief and to the point.  It choked me up some and I took the note and folded it into the bag that I around my neck; stuck the other two notes in there also.  Sarge had given me some high calorie food bars.  Right on the package it said "tastes like shortbread" which told me they probably tasted like cardboard or worse but beggars couldn't be choosey.

Now for the getting out unseen part.

Instead of going down I went up.  It was easy.  Apparently people here think if you get passed security on the first floor you must be OK.  And after hours no one was on the second or third floor anyway so what was the sense in having a security guard stationed up there.  And if you go all the way to the fourth or fifth floor, well golly gee whillikers, there's absolutely nothing up there.

Strangely enough there really wasn't except for a lot of empty cots.  I realized they must have used the area to house refugees in until they pushed them out into the community.  Briefly I wondered where they had put all the stuff that used to be stored up there but I didn't give it much thought time because it didn't matter.  What I was after was the old fire exit.

And there it was at the end of the hallway on the fifth floor.  The way Mom told me there used to be a really long, enclosed slide that kids were supposed to be able to use in case of fire.  She said her mother, who had also attended the school, had told her about how the boys always looked forward to fire drills because it was as good as getting to go on a ride at the fair when it came through.  The girls hated it because their skirts would fly up.  The girls all went down first while female teachers waited at the bottom to help them.  Then the boys came down next.  They said it was to teach the boys the lesson of "women and children first."  My mom said it was so the boys wouldn't see the girls' underwear.  Guess boys have always been the same.

Only there wasn't a slide there anymore; but there was a sort of escape hatch.  There was a metal ladder bolted to the side of the old brick building.  You wouldn't notice it unless you purposefully went looking for it because when they renovated the school and added the two new wings they built a kind of chase around the ladder because it was "unsightly" but fire codes had still required it.  The chase was quite large, or so it seemed to me.  It was big enough for a large man to go down so it was big enough for me to go down with the backpack on.

I had one bad moment when I came down at the same time that two guards were passing.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"I thought I heard something."

"Probably that cat we keep running out of here."

"I don't think so.  It sounded bigger than a cat."

"That cat is pretty damn big.  Stop freaking out already.  @#$%.  You've been listening to stories about that girl haven't you?  There are no Infecteds here.  They are all in the city, they are going to stay in the city until they all starve."

"Are you sure?  I mean ..."

"Shut the @#$% up.  It was just the cat if it was anything at all.  Now move it.  I got a date and I'm not going to be late because we have to file some kind of report."

They started walking back the way they had come but continued to argue.  I didn't want to make people argue, it was a waste of time.  But they need to start thinking.  Maybe the one guy was thinking.  Maybe he'd think enough that he wouldn't get chomped.  That was good enough for me.  Those that refuse to think for whatever reason will wind up getting what they deserve though they won't feel that way.

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