That night, at the dinner table, Katrina sat across from her uncle. On her left sat her cousin in his high chair. On her right, her (still weak) aunt was trying to coax Sammy to eat his "nummy, nummy veggie-bulls". The toddler evaded onslaught after onslaught of airplanes and choo-choos as his mother tried to trick him into opening his mouth. Katrina silently forked a Brussels sprout, eyes narrowed as thoughts buzzed in her skull. Uncle Jeremy gnawed quietly on a chicken leg and stared hard at the teenager. Finally, the police officer put his food down, or at least moved it away from his face.
"Katrina Fiore Silver, where were you between the hours of oh-four-hundred and oh-five-hundred?" Aunt Felicia looked up at her husband curiously. Katrina swallowed her food, quietly laying her fork on her plate.
"I was asleep," she answered blandly. Uncle Jeremy narrowed his eyes.
"You were asleep." Katrina nodded.
"Yes. Between four and five A.M. I was asleep upstairs." Aunt Felicia rolled her eyes and sighed. Uncle Jeremy thought it over.
"Fine. Why weren't you home this afternoon between the hours of four and five?" Katrina braced herself. She was determined not to lie.
"I was next door," she said nonchalantly. Her uncle made a strange noise, and his grip seemed to get tighter on the chicken leg he was still holding.
"Why… were you next door?" he asked slowly. Don't lie.
"DeeDee called. She asked if I could come and get Sammy." Aunt Felicia's head snapped up.
"Why was Sammy next door?" Katrina mentally cursed herself. Crap, crap, crap.
"You know how Sammy is. He loves DeeDee," Katrina said slowly. Technically not a lie. Jeremy Silver was never one to stray off topic, however.
"It doesn't take you an hour to drop off Sammy. What were you doing, Katrina?" Don't lie.
"If you must know, I was talking. To Dexter." Jeremy Silver's face contorted in a way that Katrina couldn't read, although Sammy found it highly amusing.
"About what, dear?" Aunt Felicia said, noting her husband's red complexion.
"…Science…" Felicia beamed that ever-so-annoying grin that every mother delights in wearing at the most inconvenient and inappropriate times. She clasped her hands together and held them to her chest.
"Oh, Katrina! Why do you never tell me about these things, sweetheart?" she cooed. Katrina's fork froze halfway to her mouth.
"What things?" Felicia rolled her eyes.
"Your first crush, sweetie!" Katrina's fork clattered to her plate and her mouth dropped open. Jeremy Silver snapped his chicken bone in half with one hand and choked on his sweet tea that he held in the other.
"He's not… I mean, I don't… but it was just… NO!" Katrina stuttered, face burning. She didn't know whether to hide or run. Both? Mr. Silver slammed his fist on the table, still grasping half of the chicken bone.
"Damn right 'no'! You're too young to have a boyfriend…" Mr. Silver paused as the weight of the word robbed him of his oxygen, "… let alone go over to its house and 'talk' with it for an hour!" Katrina could feel her eyes darken.
"He's not an 'it', Uncle Jeremy, and he's my friend. Just my friend," the teenager said pointedly to her aunt. Ooo, Sammy's voice trilled in her head, KayKay lied to Mama! Katrina clawed at the table. Shut up, shut up, shut up- Aunt Felicia waved her niece's insistent denials away, already calculating the cost of dinners and movies.
"I know what teenage boys are like! I've busted quite a few of 'em, and nine times outta ten there were at least three guys and one girl!" Mr. Silver snapped. Katrina sat rigid in her chair.
"Just because you caught a couple of college kids having a four-way doesn't mean that all teenage boys are like that. He's not like that," she said softly, keeping her temper in check as much as she could.
"How would you know? All teenage boys are into something. How old is he? Fifteen? Sixteen? At his age he's either after sex, in a gang, or on drugs," Mr. Silver finished, slightly shrugging as he did so. Katrina clenched her fist and punched her own leg to keep from shouting back at him.
"You don't know him. You've never spoken to him. You barely know his name. You don't know his hobbies, his interests, or anything about him. In fact, you only went by what your paranoid instincts tell you, and have dragged that poor boy's name through the mud in this house." There was a brief moment of silence. Uncle Jeremy ignored his niece, quietly eating his potato salad. He had made his point. The conversation was over. Not for Katrina. She folded her hands on the table, staring at him.
"Perhaps your investigative skills have become dull, seeing as you gathered no evidence, and you interrogated me without a lawyer present or probable cause." The 'lawyer' thing was just a bit of humor to soften the blow of her words. It wouldn't help much, but she didn't want to make her uncle feel as though she had nothing but contempt for him. She took a small sip of her sweet tea. Jeremy Silver slammed his fork onto the plate in front of him.
"Grounded. One month," he growled, a finger pointing at her. Katrina wiped her mouth with a napkin.
"I'm already grounded for a month," she pointed out. Uncle Jeremy held out a hand.
"No lab, no TV, no going next door, no after-school activities, and… and…" he wracked his brain for some other privilege to strip from her, "No iPod." Katrina Fiore Silver felt a lump in her throat. Not one of sorrow or depression, but one of a horrible temper about to burst through.
"Excuse me," she said hurriedly, and nearly sprinted up the stairs.
She took care not to slam the door, but inside her own room, Katrina through a Southern Hissy Fit for the ages. She had read online that iPods and other portable media were like drugs to adolescents. Katrina figured she was going through stages of withdrawal at this point. Mainly, her tantrum consisted of wailing on her furniture and bedding with determined fists. She felt like a trapped animal, and wanted more than anything to go outside. She opened her window and dangled her feet off of the edge. Jumping at this point would be a poor move, but the cool air was definitely helping. She fiddled with a flashlight she usually kept on her desk, holding it in her lap and turning it off and on repeatedly as Daniel Powter sang sadly in her head. She knew she must be insane. Didn't care, either.
Where is the moment we needed the most?
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to gray
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on
Katrina sighed. This was the closest she'd ever get to portable media for the next month.
You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile, with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carryin' on
Katrina realized that continuing the song would not be beneficial. She was driving herself crazy. And the saddest part was that she had let the iPod under her skin. It was her fault. If she didn't like music so much, if she hadn't shot her mouth off… A light flashed, brightening the trees for a second, then went off. Again, it came back on, and went off. It did this repeatedly, and it was a few seconds before Katrina realized it was Morse Code.
Because you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day… Did you have a bad day?
Katrina was mildly surprised, and more than a little pleased.
"How did you know?" she flashed the tool in her hand accordingly.
"You seem to have a problem keeping your thoughts focused. That, or you have an odd way of showing your love of Daniel Powter's music…" came the reply.
"You don't think it's kind of creepy of you to just so happen to be staring at my room?"
"I wasn't staring!" The reply was rushed, and rather sloppy.
"Of course not, you just read minds."
"How did Sammy's test turn out?" Katrina instantly turned to a different subject entirely.
"There's nothing wrong with him. Perhaps he was startled?"
"Startled my right foot, that boy was just about shaking."
"Is he okay now?"
"I don't know, I was sent to my room."
"I'm surprised! What did you do?"
"You're bad about that."
"You hypocritical little sidewinder! I don't want to hear it from you!" Katrina giggled under her breath as she clicked out her response on the flashlight.
"When have I ever mouthed off?"
"I don't know, why don't we ask those two boys from the bus? Maybe they can think of something."
"It wasn't mouthing off. It was clearly...chivalry."
Katrina made a skeptical face.
"Chivalry is dead."
"No, it isn't. There just hasn't been any need for it for awhile."
Katrina jumped as her door opened. Jeremy Silver looked down at her curiously. A flashing light from behind his niece caught his attention. He watched it for a moment, his expression changing from curious to anger.
"You're grounded, Katrina. That means no communication. Hand over the flashlight," he told her firmly. Katrina mentally kicked herself. The light from the basement next door could obviously be seen from the downstairs study, where Jeremy spent his nights reviewing case files. On top of that, he learned Morse Code in basic training. Katrina had been so flippant with her uncle she had forgotten that he was, in fact, a cop. She handed him the flashlight. With an angry look on his face, he clicked the light on and off, then left, flashlight in pocket. Katrina laid back, hands under her head.
"When did I become the problem child?" she wondered aloud. A tingling feeling crept into the base of her skull.
Wasn't there something I needed to do? she thought. She sat up and scrambled to the door, making a beeline for the study downstairs. She knocked on the door and opened it.
"Uncle Jeremy?" she asked uncertainly.
"You're not off the hook," a gruff voice informed her.
"I'm not looking to be. I have a question concerning a previous case."
Jeremy thought about it, taking his reading glasses off and tapping them on the desk. He motioned for her to come in.
"Two first-time felons convicted of smuggling drugs across state lines, including pot and crack. I want to know about the plants they smuggled," Katrina explained, standing in front of the desk. Her uncle folded his hands on the desk.
"Why?" he asked simply. Katrina thought, looking down.
"...You know what happened to your aunt, don't you?"
"I...I'm following a lead." Jeremy nodded, concern shining in his eyes. His paranoia clicked, and concern for his wife, son, and niece ate at his mind. He looked at Katrina, the daughter of his brother, the famous doctor. The smart one in the family, that was Sam.
"Was that why you were at that kid's house?"
"Yes." Katrina answered stiffly. Jeremy nodded.
"Alright. Three days. Find out what happened. If you don't, you let it go and leave the police work to me, alright?" he said, handing her a thick folder from the cabinet behind him. Katrina looked over it seriously, feeling the weight of the case in her hands. Three months of scrounging up evidence, a mistrial, two dirty cops, a related gang-rape, and over thirty grand in unprocessed drugs and plants.
"I understand," she said, never looking up from the case. Somewhere in here could be the key to the attack on her family. Jeremy dismissed her with a kiss on the forehead.
"Stay outta trouble, will ya?" he asked her. Katrina just nodded, walking away.
"Katrina." The girl's hand froze on the doorknob.
"...That McPhearson boy. You... you don't... I mean..."
"No," Katrina said firmly. She left. She quietly closed the door, standing in the darkened hallway.
"KayKay lied to Daddy," a little voice behind her yawned. Katrina forced herself to look her cousin in the eyes. The blue-eyed baby blinked as he yawned again. Katrina picked him up, with one arm and held the papers in the other. She heard her uncle's phone ring in the study.
"Hello?... No... Talk to Farlo. Listen, Mike, I've got a question. Those two junkies from awhile back, the ones from the smuggling bit? Yeah... Yeah that's them." Katrina pressed her ear to the door as Sammy dozed off on her shoulder. At least he's quiet, she thought.
"Hey, do ya have their recent wherabouts? Huh?... Whatdya mean, still incarcerated?" Katrina's heart leapt into her throat. Still... in prison?
"You're sure? Uh-huh... Yeah, thanks Mike." The phone clicked. Katrina left Sammy on his racecar bed in his room, and went back upstairs to her own.
The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Something was off. She slowly gazed over everything in her room. She walked carefully to the window, and closed it, never turning her back on anything. She changed into her pajamas, and crawled into bed. She stared vacantly at the file on her side table. That's when she saw it.
A family photo from two years ago. Her mother and father held her and her little sister still for a picture, trying to run away from a laughing Uncle Jeremy with a water gun. Aunt Felicia stood by with a sleeping baby Sammy in her arms. A summer picnic.
Of course, Katrina was just recalling the picture from memory. Now, the glass was so shattered it was impossible to see anything. Pieces of glass littered the table and carpet.
Katrina didn't sleep all night.