Chapter Ten

Lois physically wilted as she felt all the air leave her body. Just as drivers are riveted to horrific car accidents, Lois found herself staring at Maggie.

She was standing in front of several children with her finger wagging, bossing them to sit down. It was obvious that Maggie was close to her older sister by the way she talked about her, Lois reflected.

What would Maggie do when she discovered the latest news? Lois found herself wondering if she should even tell Maggie or let her mother inform her of her sister's condition. She assumed Maggie and Maya's mother had been contacted and was on her way to the school. Or maybe she was just going to meet Maya's ambulance at the hospital.

Lois looked at Chloe, who easily read Lois' unspoken question. Chloe threw her hands up and shrugged. "Don't look at me. I'm about as close to Super Nanny as you are." Both women looked back at Maggie. "I have no idea whether we should tell her or not."

The child in question turned, suddenly aware that the adults in the room were looking at her as if she had six eyes. She shot the women a confused look. "What?"

"Nothing," Lois said abruptly, before jumping into action.

She stiffly walked into Mrs. Matthew's closet, looking for a suitable video as she called over her shoulder and commanded the students to have a seat on the carpet. It took her a moment to find what she was looking for, but she finally found several children's cartoons stacked in the corner of a shelf. Lois grabbed the one on top and turned sharply, almost knocking Maggie to the ground.

Maggie backed up slightly and pulled on Lois' sleeve. "Ms. Cochran, I—"

"Maggie, go sit down," Lois cut her off.

"But, you forgot…"

Lois brushed past Maggie, avoiding her gaze. She knew if she looked Maggie in the eyes at this moment she would crumble. Lois didn't think she could bring herself to give Maggie the looming news, didn't think she could handle Maggie's crestfallen expression that would surely follow. For some reason that Lois didn't completely understand herself, she couldn't bear to let this small girl, with her knowing eyes, tell it like it is attitude, and crooked smile, down.

Maggie, not the least bit fazed, continued to follow Lois to the television in the corner of the room. "I just need to tell you…."

Lois was only half listening as she attempted to start the VCR; nodding as she tried to pry the tape out of the machine without completely destroying it. She put it in again and the whole system shut down causing the television to blare static as the VCR blinked on and off. Lois fought the swear word off the tip of her tongue.

"Thanks for sharing, Maggie," Lois said through gritted teeth as she hit the side of the VCR, and thankfully, it whirred to life. She sighed as she started the video, and all talking from the children ceased as they became absorbed in the movie. Lois shut off the light before gesturing to Chloe, who was still standing the doorway, to come sit with her at the table furthest from the children.

Huddled side by side and talking in hushed tones, the two of them tried to piece together the latest development.

"Okay. Start at the top. What happened?" Lois asked, completely tuning out Tom chasing Jerry in the background.

"I don't really know." Chloe bit her lip. "One minute I was trying to hack into some of the students' files and then the phone rang. It was Lindsay Bower. It took me several minutes to even understand what she was saying through the static." Chloe blinked her eyes and sighed. "Apparently, Maya just collapsed on her way to lunch. Lindsay said she was fine earlier this morning."

"There has to be something we're missing." Lois insisted.

Laughter erupted from several students, who were clearly amused by the scene playing out before them.

"Ms. Cochran." Kailey, ever the informant, tapped Lois on the shoulder.

"Maggie, just—"

Lois snapped, finally hitting her limit with this girl's tattling. "Kailey, I swear, if you finish that sentence you're going to find yourself locked in the closet for the rest of the afternoon!"

Kailey opened and shut her mouth, her eyes widening as she took in the look on Lois' face. She must have decided that Lois was serious, because she backed away and mutely sat on the carpet.

"Lois," Chloe's whisper was incredulous, "I don't think you can lock her in the closet, no matter how much she gets on your nerves."

"You haven't listened to Kailey's play-by-play for the last day and a half." Lois shot back. "Do you have any better suggestions?"

At Chloe's shaking head, Lois said, "No? Okay then. Let's go over the facts we have."

Lois rose to fetch a pad of paper off of Mrs. Matthew's desk and fingered the drawing Maggie had made her that morning before reaching over it to grab a pen.

She sat back next to Chloe and began listing everything they knew about Maya and the other four students that had fallen into comas.

"Ms. Cochran." Ashton was at her side. Lois, absorbed in her task, never heard him. He tried again, saying her name over and over as he poked the back of her shoulder.

"What?" Lois turned abruptly.

"Maggie's gone." Ashton pointed to the door.

Lois put down her pen and scanned the students looking for Maggie's distinctive sloppy ponytail. "What do you mean, Maggie's gone?"

Ashton looked as if to say, 'and just who is the teacher here?' "I mean, she's gone. She went out the door." He pointed to the closed entryway.

Lois rose just as the door opened and the girl of the moment entered the room, her mouth contorting slightly, as if she'd swallowed a bug.

"Maggie, where have you been?" Lois demanded.

Maggie placed her hands on her hips. "I told you I needed to take my bubblegum medicine."

Lois' eyes grew big. "You went to the office?"

"Yeah. You said I could," when Lois didn't respond right away Maggie added, "when you were starting the movie. Remember?"

Lois didn't, but she had been focused on starting the move, so she couldn't be sure. She gulped. "Was your mother with the nurse?"

Maggie now looked at Lois as if she had three heads. "Duh, Mom's at work." She shook her head as she wandered towards the carpet. "Why would Mom be at school?"

Lois released the breath she had been holding, thankful Maggie had not stumbled upon her unconscious sister. She told Ashton to go and sit back down before an idea hit her.

"Chloe, did Maya come to the office to get her medicine today?"

"I don't know. There was about half an hour this morning that I was in Mrs. Davis' office helping her with files. Why?"

"Didn't Katelin Winters fall into a comma after taking her ADD medication?"

"I think so." Chloe rose, catching on to Lois' line of thought. "I have the students' files in a bag behind my desk. I'll be right back."

Lois listed the other students. Katelin and Jaden both took medication for ADD and ADHD. Lois couldn't remember, but she thought one of the other students was an asthmatic. She tapped her pen against the pad of paper as she realized that the last student wasn't on any medication.

Maybe she was wrong…..but Lois couldn't squelch the feeling in the pit of her stomach that she was on to something.

Amy Hill seemed so nice…..

Lois scoffed at the thought. She'd met plenty of "nice" criminals over the years. Her dating record before Clark was proof enough of that fact. Nice, didn't necessarily mean anything.

Lois began to list all the things she knew about Amy Hill. She had her masters in bio-chem. Lois made a note to look into any other schooling Amy might have; it certainly appeared as if she might have the knowledge to do something like this.

But the next question was why? Why would Amy Hill, an elementary school nurse, want to put five kids into a coma?

She looked up as Chloe dropped into the tiny seat next to her and began flipping through the top file in the stack she'd brought with her. She looked over at Lois' notes.

"Neil has asthma." She supplied and Lois made another note next to his name.

"What about Christian?"

Chloe continued to flip through the chart, excited at the prospect of finally having a solid lead. She scanned the file. "What I wouldn't give for Clark's speed reading ability about now."

Lois nodded her agreement and continued to puzzle over Amy's motivation for committing such a crime.

Chloe sighed. "No dice. Christian wasn't on any medication."

Lois stared at the television, lost in thought. Jerry had just banged Tom over the head with a frying pan and laughter could again be heard around the room.

"Maybe he wasn't taking anything that would be listed in his permanent record. Maya wasn't taking any regular medication. What if he was sick with something like strep?" Lois turned towards the students, who were still glued to the television and called to Elianna. It took several tries before Lois got her attention.

She stood with her eyes still on the movie and walked to Lois' side.

"Yeah?" Elianna's eyes didn't leave the screen.

"Elianna," Lois tapped her on the shoulder, but the girl didn't budge. "Elianna," Lois tried again and gently tilted the girl's head so that she was looking Lois in the eyes. "I need to ask you something, and it's really important."

"Okay," Elianna said, as she turned her gaze back to the TV.

"Elianna, look at me." Lois again guided her back. "I need you to think." She paused, "Before your brother had to go to the hospital, was he sick with something?"

She now had Elianna's undivided attention. Her large brown eyes pooled. "Yes, he's sick. He's sleeping and he won't wake up."

Lois stroked the child's hair. "Yes, honey, I mean before that. Before he was sick with the sleeping, did he go to the doctor for something else? Did he have a stomach ache? A sore throat? Anything?" Lois tucked a stray hair behind the Elianna's tiny ear. "Take your time, sweetie. Think really hard."

Chloe watched the interaction and wondered where the sudden Mary Poppins instinct had come from.

Elianna climbed into Lois' lap and laid her head on her shoulder a few moments before looking Lois in the eyes. "I'm tired of my brother being sick." Lois slowly began to rock the little girl, hoping to keep her talking. "He went to the doctor a lot. Mommy says that he has to have his tonsils and his asteroids out."

"Asteroids?" Chloe echoed.

Lois looked at her over Elianna's head. "I bet she means adenoids." She rocked Elianna moment longer. "Thanks, Elianna. Do you want to go back and watch the movie now?"

Elianna nodded and hopped off of Lois lap. Lois watched her get settled before turning back to Chloe. "Bingo!" She picked up her pad of paper. "What do you want to bet, Christian was sick with tonsillitis or something like that before slipping into his coma?"

Chloe absentmindedly chewed the tip of her thumb. "Okay, say we're right. Let's say that somehow the medication plays a role in this. Are we sure that Amy's to blame? What does she have to gain by this?"

"That's the million dollar question." Lois tossed the notebook back onto the table.

Chloe picked up the notebook and reread Lois' notes as Lois filtered through the children's files looking for something they might have overlooked.

"Ms. Cochran," Maggie whined.

"Hmm?" Lois murmured without looking up. She picked up her pen and was poised to make notes in the margins.

"I don't feel so good." Maggie placed her hands on Lois shoulder and laid her head down, using her laced fingers as a pillow. "My stomach hurts."

Lois exchanged a look with Chloe and said cryptically, "Why don't you go and get a drink of water and I'll go see if the nurse has something for your stomach." Lois raised an eyebrow at Chloe, making sure she understood the message.

Lois was going to do some digging.

"Okay." Maggie headed for the door as Lois followed. "But the she's not there."

Lois froze. "What do you mean the nurse isn't there? You just saw her."

"No I didn't." Maggie said with her hand poised on the doorknob.

Lois eyed her carefully. "But you said you took your medicine."

Stomachache forgotten, Maggie placed her hands on her hips and sighed. "I did take my medicine. She still wasn't there."

Lois sighed; this was becoming a bad version of 'Who's on First.' She tried to keep the frustration out of her voice as she evenly asked, "How did you take your medicine if Mrs. Hill wasn't there?"

Maggie's answer mimicked Lois' previous tone, speaking very slowly as she sarcastically drew out each word. "I opened the cabinet and took my medicine."

All color drained from Lois' face and she crouched down in front of Maggie so that she could be eyelevel. "Are you sure you took your medicine?"

Chloe was now standing next to them and her question mixed with Lois'. "How much did you take?"

Maggie looked between the two women amused at their obvious concern. She again drew her words out, as if speaking more slowly would help them understand. "Yes I took my medicine. I can read my name you know. It starts with an M."

"So does, Maya." Lois said under her breath.

Maggie addressed Chloe's question next. "And I just took two drinks of it." She held up two fingers as she said this. "Mom says two tablespoons is all I get."

Lois rose and grabbed Maggie by the hand, leading her towards the office. "Watch the kids until Kim gets back," she called over her shoulder to Chloe.

Maggie muttered the whole way as Lois dragged her along. "I don't know what the big deal is. I just took my medicine like I always do."

"Right now I need you to zip it." Lois commanded in a tone that let Maggie know she meant business.

Maggie actually obeyed, without arguing for once in her life, and for that Lois was grateful.