Chapter Five

Chapter Five

A Chapter by Jooolie
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Flowers in the Park

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        Aimee pulled her coat closer to her, nudging the strap of her camera bag as she did so. The wind became more chilled as she stood huddled under a street lamp. She looked up at the early morning sky; its fading stars shined along with the bright lights that adorned the tops of the city skyscrapers. She smiled at the sight until another sudden gust blew through the air, shaking the long poles of the lamp posts, and Aimee’s teeth chattered in the breeze.
Ellizabeth’s phone call had stirred her from another light sleep at her desk and, while still coming out of her drowsiness, Aimee had agreed to accompany her on an early morning photo shoot. She was grateful that the cold walk had managed to wake her up, but as Aimee waited for Ellizabeth to return from a nearby convenience store, she still could not shake away the disappointment she felt in her failed story.
She let out a sigh as she lowered herself to a bench, her eyes aimlessly scanning the skyline in front of her. Aimee’s gaze stopped on a small, dark-haired girl across the street, who stared back with a glare that pierced Aimee even from a distance. Afraid to look at the girl a second time, Aimee fixed her stare further down the road. As she drilled her fingertips across the metal of her seat, she noticed a shadow approaching the sidewalk across from her. Aimee held back a laugh as she watched the figure shuffling slowly down the street.
“Cold, huh?” she shouted as Darwin looked up, startled, from the ground. She moved to one side of the bench as a flicker of a shy smile crossed his face, and he hustled across the road to sit down beside her.
“What are you doing out at this hour?” he replied, rubbing his hands together from the cold as a cloud of breath exited his mouth.
“I suppose I could ask you the same question,” she joked. “I was just on a walk, that’s all. Elli ran a few blocks over for a drink a minute ago, she should be back soon.” They both turned to look down the row of brick buildings next to them, only visible from the small signs shining from the roofs of their stoops. Aimee motioned her head toward the dark-haired girl that stood leaning against the Central Park gate across the street, her entire body unmoving except for an occasional foot tap. “She’s been the only one around to keep me company.”
Darwin chuckled. “Did you get that article done?”
“That would be the reason for the walk.”
“I take that as a ‘no’?”
“Good answer. I didn’t know you were a photographer.” Aimee nodded her head toward the camera bag at Darwin’s feet.
“Oh this?” he replied, pulling the camera closer. He gulped and rubbed the back of his neck with a nervous hand as he began to explain himself. “I’m usually not into this. It’s sort of a dumb idea actually, I just thought...well, if this disease thing does keep up for a while...some footage would be nice.”  
Aimee smiled at him as she noticed his nerves obviously kicking in as he spoke. She was suddenly startled by a high-pitched laugh that echoed along the street.
“Hey, Dar! Aimee didn’t say you were meeting us!” Ellizabeth beamed as she dashed up the sidewalk with a soda contained in a large, plastic cup that required both her hands. When she reached Darwin, she awkwardly attempted a handshake before surrendering to a simple, acknowledging nod.
“Anyway, you were saying?” Aimee turned back to Darwin.
“Saying what?” Ellizabeth asked, her blue eyes gazing up at Darwin as she sipped loudly from her straw.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Darwin replied quietly as he timidly shifted in his seat and looked from one girl to the other. “Nothing really.” Aimee’s green eyes studied him, unconvinced, as he slung his camera bag around his shoulder, hiding it from any further conversation.
“Nothing, huh?” Ellizabeth muttered, shrugging it off as her bright yellow Converse slowly took a few steps toward the road. “I think I want to take a walk through the park. Whatd’ya think? You guys coming?”
Aimee turned to Darwin for an answer and the two shrugged at each other as they rose to their feet and followed Ellizabeth across the pavement. 

***

The three walked silently along the cement walkways, the surrounding trees somewhat blocking the chill from the breeze. 
“It’s cold,” Aimee mumbled quietly, attempting to spark conversation. Ellizabeth ran ahead, the sparse light from the lamps shining on her colored hair while the rest of her became barely visible as she left the two behind. Aimee laughed quietly at the sight. “She’s been begging me to take her here for a few days.”
“And she chooses to visit when it’s dark,” Darwin
grinned.
“Hurry up! I hear it’s pretty easy to get lost in here if you don’t stay with a group!” Ellizabeth’s voice called as she jogged back towards Aimee and Darwin. “You know, if you walk faster, the wind doesn’t seem as bad.”
“You know, if you walk faster, you can’t see the park as well,” Aimee retorted with a smile as she scanned the surrounding hills. The water from the Reservoir glimmered in the distance as it picked up the small amount of sun that was rising in the sky. Her eyes suddenly froze on a closer sight, its outline illuminated by the white lights of the nearby tennis courts. “Hey, look over there,” she pulled on Darwin’s jacket sleeve to get his attention and slowly pointed toward the figure that sat frozen and hunched over on the ground.
Ellizabeth abruptly stopped her walking and peeked her head in between Darwin and Aimee. She squinted in the direction of Aimee’s target. “It’s a guy, so what?” she shrugged before taking another large and noisy slurp from her drink. 
“What’s he doing?” Aimee asked quietly as she began to gradually inch closer to the stranger.
“Who cares?” Ellizabeth groaned impatiently. “Maybe a drug deal?”
“He’s not dealing drugs,” Aimee replied sharply.
Darwin took a few steps from the paved walk to get a better look. He placed a hand on Aimee’s shoulder as he joined in on her spying. “He’s kneeling by something,” he whispered as he adjusted his glasses.
“Well let’s not just stand here and watch him,” Aimee whispered harshly in response. She was beginning to feel anxious standing out in the open. She quickly scanned the area for a hiding place and beckoned for Darwin and Ellizabeth to follow her lead as she ducked down behind a bush. 
Darwin nodded, lowering himself to the ground, and pulled his camera out from its bag. “I think I can get him from here,” he muttered, turning on his camera and settling it into a bare patch of leaves as he focused the lens. From the glare of the screen, Aimee watched the negative image of the man, who continued to kneel only feet away from the group. Her mouth slightly twisted in concentration. “Awfully late to be smelling the flowers. And an awfully creepy way to do it, too,” she murmured as she observed the image on the small screen.
“How can you see anything?” Ellizabeth moaned as she plopped down on the ground behind the two. “We’re hiding behind a shrub!” She looked around slyly before placing her drink down and sneaking in front of Aimee and Darwin. “I’m gonna go get a better look.”
“Ellizabeth, what are you doing? Get back here!” Darwin attempted to whisper as he moved to grab her arm, and missed. He glanced in fear at Aimee, who sat frozen as she continued to stare into the camera.
“Darwin, look,” she quietly choked out, pointing slowly forward.
Darwin looked through the lens to see the man propping himself up on one knee as he turned toward the three. Darwin’s hands began to sweat as he struggled for words. “Do you think he sees us?” he managed to say.
“What do you mean ‘do you think he sees us?’ He’s staring right at us! Elli, get out of there!” Aimee replied quickly. She closed her eyes as she gulped, and found herself clinging to Darwin’s arm as she braced herself for the worst from the stranger. 
“Maybe we should just talk to him,“ Darwin whispered as he glanced at Aimee. Taking a breath, he slowly rose from the ground and pointed the camera lens at the man. “Smile for the camera?” he laughed nervously.
“I already am,” the man brightly shouted back at the group, pivoting his feet as he gave a slight wave to the camera. “I’m flattered that you’re spying on me, really. I never thought I was that interesting.”
“Really, we weren’t initially spying,” Ellizabeth laughed nervously as she rose from the ground in front of Darwin and Aimee and inched closer to the man. “Well I mean, we are...right now, technically. But not before. We just, uh, noticed you here.” As the other two joined her, she stared down at a small rose bush beneath the man’s knee. “Do you...like flowers?”
“Are you aware there are dangerous people out at this hour? It would be unfortunate if any of you got hurt and were unable to investigate shady characters in parks any longer,” the man responded with a wide grin that made his blue eyes sparkle in the small amount of light. “Why are you three out so early?”
“Talking,” Darwin responded quickly. He was initially shocked by the man’s face. A scar covered the majority of its right side as the man struggled to hide the mark behind his pea coat and shaggy black hair. “Just talking. Across the street. And then we saw you and we thought we should, you know, make sure you weren’t-”
“A killer?” the man finished as he lifted one dark eyebrow and carefully scanned the scrawny group. “By the looks of you three, it’s a good thing I’m not one,” he said sarcastically. “Well, there’s no point in looking in on me, I’m not too exciting. You should take a seat,” he motioned for them to sit next to him.
“Right then...I’m sorry, I never got your name,” Darwin replied quietly as he slowly lowered himself to the ground.
“Cresig.”
“Cresig? That’s your real name?”
“I don’t believe I ever got yours.”
“Darwin.”
Cresig shrugged casually. “About as believable as mine.” His gaze became uncomfortable as the group began to sit near the flowered plot of ground. “Move to your right a foot or so, please,” he added, smiling politely at the group as they shifted cooperatively.
Darwin stared in confusion as he dragged himself across the grass at Cresig’s command. “Right, these are my friends, Aimee and Ellizabeth.”
“Were they just talking too?” Cresig smirked.
Ellizabeth plopped down on the ground with a sudden thud as she began to speak. “What are you doing out this late?” she pried.
“I decided to come out and see an old friend,” Cresig replied as he watched Ellizabeth settle in a spot on the ground, “whose arm I believe you just sat on.”
Aimee and Darwin stared down at the patch of grass in shock as Ellizabeth jumped up with a high-pitched shriek. 
“So...there’s someone in the ground...down there?” 
Aimee mumbled, wide-eyed as she slowly pointed a finger at the plot below her.
“Indeed,” Cresig replied blankly. “I’m sure it’s illegal to bury anything in the park, but I couldn’t leave my brother somewhere he didn’t like.” He patiently waited for a response from the three, who stared nervously back at him. “He hated cemeteries,” he elaborated, hoping to make them more comfortable; the gesture was of no help.
Aimee sat silent for a moment, then cleared her throat. “Well then,” she added brightly, in an effort to lighten the mood, “as far as burial places go, I’d say Central Park is fairly top notch.” She glanced up to see Cresig’s blank face remain unchanged. “I mean, it’s peaceful.”
“You’re what? Early twenties?” Cresig asked questioningly as his eyes remained locked on the three. “Most people around here in that age group go to college.”
“NYU,” Darwin answered. “We live in Greenwich.”
“I see,” Cresig nodded as he leaned back on one arm. “Then at this time, shouldn’t you be studying, I’m sorry, whatever it is you’re here for?”
“Law,” Darwin responded quickly.
Cresig shrugged his shoulders and absent-mindedly began to pull a blade of grass from the ground. “I don’t like lawyers much myself,” he muttered. He immediately shook away the comment with an apologetic glance toward Darwin. “I suppose that’s not fair, though. I guess when you can’t afford a good one, your problems aren’t too high on the list.”
“You all right?” a voice came from behind the group. As she turned, Aimee recognized the dark-haired girl from the gate. “I saw these guys following you.”
“We’re fine, Lora. Go back to the gate,” Cresig replied as she gave him a concerned glance. He placed one hand up in reassurance. “I’m fine, really. Go.”
Lora closely studied Darwin and Aimee, her dark eyes glaring from on to the other. “Hey, I’ve seen you before. On campus.”
“Lora is my assistant,” Cresig added quickly. “She’s a botany student that’s been helping me.”
“Helping you with what?” Ellizabeth inquired as she stared carefully at the girl, a seemingly small figure beneath her large flannel jacket.
Cresig nodded and settled himself on the grass as he prepared his explanation. “What would it mean to you if I said the carbon dioxide poisoning is much more important than we are giving it credit for?”
“The entire city has been talking about it, what could we possibly be leaving out?” Darwin replied sharply.
“The part where our great Senator is far from searching for a cure,” Cresig answered simply.
“Senator Slayter? James Slayter?” Aimee found herself asking quickly.
“One and only,” Lora butted in as she crossed her thin arms.
Cresig nodded. “They’re saying this poison is being caused by the trees dying. Slayter’s been holding off a press conference for weeks now, but I’ve managed to find out about a little plan of his.”
“What is he planning to do? Disprove the whole thing?” Darwin shrugged plainly. “That’s not a plan, that’s just ending the rumor. I’d say more power to him.”
“He’s not disproving anything, he’s planning on making it worse.” Lora growled in frustration as she took a step toward the group.
“How could Slayter possibly make any of this worse?” Darwin snapped back, also taking one step forward as he rose to his feet.
“By tearing up Central Park,” Cresig replied blankly from the ground, the news erasing any upcoming conflict between Lora and Darwin.
Darwin studied Cresig’s face for a moment. “Excuse me?”
“It’s a proposition of his that hasn’t been released yet,” Cresig answered calmly. “But a source of mine found the approval application. It’s not Lora, that part’s irrelevant,” he rolled his eyes as he noticed the three immediately turn to his assistant in suspicion. “He wants to make a new chemical lab in the city, but it would require a large amount of space, large enough to safely test dangerous compounds without killing anyone. And New York is obviously lacking in open space, except for this park. The building would deal with new state-of-the-art compositions, right in the middle of Manhattan. If the lab could learn how to control the chemicals’ reactions, the country could use them in the future and make sure that the United States remains on top; I’m talking nuclear weapons, bombs, you name it. When that happens, Slayter could look like a hero, a genius; and that’s exactly the kind of power he wants. But he’ll have to deny the carbon dioxide scandal first, otherwise no one would allow him to tear down any more trees in the area. And everyone around here knows, Slayter’s biggest fear is losing any of his public support. He’ll tell them whatever they want to hear, and whatever he has to say to get his plan through. That’s where Lora comes in. If she can prove this poison is very much real, we can take it to the papers so this chemical business never happens.”
“And you intend to bring down James Slayter with two people?” Darwin questioned in disbelief.
“Two people and evidence of the demise of the human race. I’d say the odds are fairly even,” Lora snapped back, her dark eyes flashing into a glare directed at Darwin.
“He’ll never admit his plan to the press, you know that,” Aimee added in quietly from beside Darwin.
“That’s why we get the public on our side first,” Cresig followed. “Who supports the press? If we can warn everyone in time, it won’t matter what Slayter says. They’ll know the truth.”
A moment of silence passed as Darwin, Aimee, and Ellizabeth took in the information. Ellizabeth slowly nodded. “Somehow, I believe you,” she finally said in little more than a whisper.
“I’ve read the application,” Lora said proudly, a small grin showing on her pale face as she stared at the students. “He’s been saying in his appeal that one of the chemical compounds could eventually be used for ‘bettering the city, making it cleaner.’ It’s supposed to protect us from any chance of a natural disaster like this in the future. ”
“But one man can’t just decide to break ground on a national landmark!” Darwin interrupted.
“He can if the people have enough fear and he offers to take away that fear,” Lora continued. “I have to admit, the man’s a genius. He’ll hire some big-name scientist to make a public statement against this disease and act like he’ll try to never let the problem come up again if he goes through with his plan. But Slayter doesn’t care about any of this, it’s all just one big public image opportunity to him. He wants to be remembered as a powerful politician, and creating these compounds is his way to do it. This won’t be an easy man to bring down on our part. With an idea like that, he could have plenty of people on his side.”
Aimee nodded slowly, her face blank from the thoughts swirling nonstop in her head. “If he gets enough power, he’ll be unstoppable.”
“Which is why we need to find proof of the disease, and fast,” Lora replied. She stopped suddenly, her mouth opened into a small smile and her eyes brightened as she came to a realization. “And you’re going to help me,” she said slowly as the idea became clearer in her head.
“Excuse me?” Darwin blurted out. “We’re talking about bringing down one of the most powerful men in the city. James Slayter is the government! Who said we were with you?”
“You’ve heard too much by coming here. I can’t trust the three of you to not let anything slip,” Lora answered simply. “I can keep my eye on you, but that’s not enough.” She grinned. “And besides, classmates need to stick together, right?”
“I’m in,” Ellizabeth suddenly dashed over to Lora’s side. “What else can we do?” she cut in immediately as she saw Aimee prepare to argue. “They’re right not to trust us. And we can’t leave the two of them alone to fight this.”
Cresig rose and took his place beside the two girls and turned to Aimee and Darwin, a look of surprise and excitement spread across his face. “Well then, what do you say?”
Aimee glanced at Darwin and then two Ellizabeth, who looked back at her with pleading eyes. She shook her head before following Ellizabeth’s steps. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but all right. I’m in too.”
As Aimee joined the group, Cresig patted her on the shoulder. “Darwin?” he asked as the team waited for an answer.
Darwin look up at Ellizabeth and Aimee. The two stared down at him, frozen in anticipation of his response. He sighed and pulled himself up from the ground. He took a moment to stare Cresig in the eyes before slowly moving to stand next to Aimee. “We’re in.”

***

James Slayter was a busy man. Naturally, he thought, as the Senate seat was no walk in the park. His campaign for re-election was kicking off, and he dreaded the large stream of press conferences and meetings approaching. He had much to do, and he sighed heavily as he stretched his hands, now aching from arthritis, over his graying head. He knew he had no time to rest, he reminded himself. Slayter pulled himself from his leather chair and gazed out his large office window that faced uptown Manhattan, its buildings now lightly covered with the evening’s freshly-fallen snow. He stood in place for a few moments, pondering the rash and distracting criminal actions that were likely happening on the New York City streets below him. 
It was now December, and the news of carbon dioxide had been a familiar addition to daily life for the past three months. He would not let it become an excuse for a rise in city crime. It was all ridiculous, foolish, scaremongering; and it needed to be stopped. He had the power to do it too, he smiled to himself, a comfort to him in moments of such paranoia.
He turned away from the window, hands clasped behind his back, and paced over to his wooden desk. He grinned as he ran one finger across the polished, Brazilian-imported piece of furniture. He shook his head at the thought of fatal poisoning from such a worthless object; it would certainly not do. He knew if the news became too carried-away, there would be riots and panic. It would not sit well on his record, particularly now when the chemical lab was so close to bringing him more power. He lightly traced the intricate carved patterns on the desk with his wandering finger. Senator Slayter would be remembered for the new technology he gave to the world, not for allowing environmental rubbish to ruin his chances for power.
Slayter slowly rose his eyes to look out the window again. He had to end the scandal once and for all; and he had to end it now. He let out a quiet, dark chuckle and straightened his maroon tie around his neck. 
“Liz!” he called into the adjoining room. “Find a place in my schedule for a press conference. And make sure it’s soon!” This would all be over shortly, Slayter thought as he pulled his suit coat over his shoulders and grabbed his briefcase before heading toward the door. And he would be the one to end it.


© 2010 Jooolie


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Reviews

Great chapter, once again sorry it's been so long. lol
I like the introduction of Cresig and Slayter. Story is really picking up now and the mystery keeps dragging me further into the story. I also loved the ambiance of this chapter. Made me feel like I was right there with Darwin and company in the park.

Posted 11 Years Ago


Awesome chapter, I once again see not a single fault with it. I feel like each word makes the story more intesting, and now there is the added feeling of haste, which is just fantastic.

Posted 13 Years Ago



Brings a good feel for the plot. Lots of words...sometimes more precision would be helpful.
Characters are strong; might mention the bite of a wind or the sting of cold steel...something brighter always seems to help.
Good work though...you are a troubadour of prose.

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on September 19, 2010
Last Updated on November 28, 2010


Author

Jooolie
Jooolie

The city with the water tower, IA



About
I'm a sophomore in Journalism/Mass Communication and in the process of some sweet novel-writing. I thoroughly enjoy show tunes and I don't care who knows. I really like reading short stories an.. more..

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