After a much longer than expected break, here is the next chapter of Time Out! Chapter 23! There are only about 4 or 5 more chapters. I am hoping to be done by the end of August!
Friday, October 30, 1989
There were only 15 minutes left before Coach was going to allow the team to stop practicing so that they could break for Jake Spencer’s funeral. The entire team was watching the clock, but no one moreso than Jon. The events of the past week had exhausted him and he was ready and waiting for a break, even if that break was sitting in a funeral for two hours.
Jon got to the gym early to wait for Nicholas and the bookbag full of stolen files. Unfortunately, Coach was already there so Jon got an extra half hour of sit ups, since he had to pretend he was there early to do something. Nicholas showed up just a few minutes after Jon and cursed out the fact that Coach had beaten them that morning, of all mornings.
The day started with relays and drills. Jon felt amazingly comfortable doing them, if still winded from all of the situps he had done that morning. Then, Coach broke them into two-on-two teams for the last two hours of practice. Today, Hobbs and Bernard were against Nick and Jon. Stan could do nothing to help his friends as he saw them being berated and cheaply fouled throughout the morning. Not only that, but Stan’s court was on the opposite end of the gym.
Jon and Moss spurred each other on, but the contest was very heavily sided against them. Jason squared made sure that their cheap fouls only bruised Jon and Nick up, never drawing blood, knocking them down, or drawing blood.
The small hand of the clock ticked slowly, very slowly, toward 11. As the Coach’s whistle blew to end the humiliation and torture, Jon bent over to center himself and catch his breath. Moss sat down on the pulled out bench on the side of the gym. Stan came over and placed his hand on Jon’s bent back.
“You okay, good sir?” Stan asked.
Jon panted a few more times before standing up. “I will be. Just two more days, and then I hope to never see another basketball as long as I live.”
Stan smiled. “You’re doing great. Just keep it up. Hobbs and Bernard won’t be any problem to you a week from now.” Stan nodded his head at Moss; Moss nodded back. Jon noticed Coach walking out the side door. “I’m going to go get ready for the funeral. Need me to stick around for a second and help you guys? You need a ride at all?”
Jon shook his head. “I think we’ve got it. I’ll watch Nick’s back while he returns the files. Then, we will shower and head out. Kate is giving us a ride. We’ll probably only be about 20 minutes behind you.”
“All right. I’ll hang around the locker room until I am the only one in there. Then, when I leave, you two will be clear.”
“Thanks, Stan. I never would have made this without you.”
Stan looked at him quizzically. “You’re right. You would’ve been screwed.” Stan turned and headed into the locker room.
Jon slowly strolled over to sit by Moss. “We only have two more days of this, then it’s time for the game. What are you going to do after tomorrow?”
“Either way, I think I’m out of here. We either find out the issues behind the scenes and can prove it, or we won’t. Kate or Bender will probably “transfer” me to another school. They’ll pull me out of here and I’ll get sent on another assignment. Since I’m 23 anyway, it doesn’t matter.”
Jon was shocked. “You’re 23?”
Moss shrugged. “If Cameron Crowe can do it for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, don’t you think our government can do it as well?”
“So this really has been a long time undercover assignment for you, hasn’t it?”
“It’s up there. I was like you, though. I’ve been getting a nice paycheck for 7 years. The first little bit was strange, but you get used to it pretty quickly.”
There was a silence between the two. The first batch of athletes were leaving the locker room.
Moss continued. “I do like the change, though. Never knowing where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing is both really stressful and a lot of fun. Getting to know the country, different types of economic groups and areas… the food is the best part! Did you know that Salt Lake actually has some of the best burgers anywhere as a whole? You can always find one or two really good burgers anywhere you go, but Salt Lake has an amazing array of burgers!”
Jon smiled. “Do you ever miss a place? How do you let go of each area?”
Moss thought for a moment. “You never get too close to anywhere or anyone.”
“Will you miss me? Stan?”
“You’re an agent now, so it’s a bit different with you. It’s possible that we’ll team up later. Stan, though, I’ll be honest. I won’t miss him at all. I keep everyone at arm’s length. When you know you’ll be leaving, you don’t get too attached.” Moss could tell Jon was a little hurt for his friend. “Don’t get me wrong, though, Jon, Stan is a good guy. I like him. Since he knows what you are, keep him close. He’s helped a lot and he’s an amazing friend to you. I just won’t ‘miss’ him. There is a difference.”
“How well do you know Kate?”
“I met her when I came on this assignment.”
“Are all of the liaisons as hot as she is?”
“All? Nowhere near. There are a few, though…” Nick smiled. “She won’t be by your side all the time, though, Jon. Neither will Bender. Since you live here with your parents, they won’t move you around yet, so you’ll still have Kate and Walter with you for another year and a half. After that, though, you’ll jump from office to office and get to meet a lot of good people. A few assholes as well, but a lot of other good people.”
Another batch left the locker room.
“Where is your favorite place you’ve been?”
“I’ll be honest- I love DC. New Orleans was also a great place, even though I was there in the summer and felt like I was going to melt at all times.”
“I was on assignment in Winnemucca Nevada for a 3 month period. That was not too fun.”
“Can’t talk about the case, but it was really a bad area. Too hot, nothing to do on my downtime, and….”
“Got dumped by my girlfriend at the time right before I left for that assignment because I was never around. I was not in a good frame of mind.”
A few more athletes left the locker room and Stan trailed the last one. Stan waved to Moss and Mills as he walked out of the gym.
“Shall we?” Jon asked.
“Let’s do it.” Moss walked over and grabbed his bag full of files. “I’ll go and do a quick check and make sure that Stan didn’t miss anyone. I will turn off any showers that are still on. Then, I’ll put back the files, and go and turn on the showers again. That will be your cue to come back.”
“What if someone comes in the gym? What do you want me to do?”
“It’ll only be a minute- two minutes, tops. If someone does come in, just tell them that there is a hazing or something going on and they can’t go back. But, I don’t imagine that will happen. Keep your eyes forward. I need you to make sure that no one sees me putting away the files- I could be suspended for that and it would go on my permanent record!” Moss laughed. “I also couldn’t be at the game on Saturday and that would be a problem!”
“Got it.” The two of them stood, facing outward, in the small doorway which led to Coach’s office, which led to the long, thin hallway to the locker room and the showers.
“See you in a second.” Moss patted Jon’s shoulder and turned to walk down the hall to make sure they were alone.
The gym was empty. Beyond empty. There was not a ball on the courts, not a towel left on a bench. Only his own gym bag was left sitting by the bench where they had been sitting. Jon never felt comfortable in the gym, but this seemed eerily empty and quiet. Jon let loose a wolf whistle, just to hear it echo and reverberate in the cavernous gym.
“Hey-“ Moss said.
Jon visibly jumped. “Don’t do that!”
Nicolas laughed. “Little jittery are you? Maybe you should switch to decaf.”
“Maybe you should switch to hurry your ass up!”
“I am. I gave the sweep, everything is good. The files will be easy to replace, then I’ll turn on the showers. Listen for the showers and come on back.”
Moss left again. Jon scanned the empty gym again and then glanced behind him. He saw Nick slide into Coach’s office.
It shocked Jon that someplace could be so empty right now and then a mass of people in just over 48 hours. Why does sports bring out so many people? Why do they feel it is a thing to bond over?
It must be the same thing as movies and books and TV shows. It is a common thing that people experience together with a “good” side and a “bad” side, with yours always being the “good” team or the correct opinion, and create that human bond over. All of a sudden, sports seemed to click for Jon. It still all seemed alien and strange, but at least now it was a little more relatable.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw Moss leave the Coach’s office and head back to the locker room. He also saw the main gym door open at the same time and a high heeled shoe start to enter. Then, he heard an embarrassed laugh, and watched the foot retreat, and the door close again.
The shower water turned on.
Jon left his post and walked down to the main gym door. His footsteps echoed hollowly throughout the gym. He stood next to the door for a few moments and listened intently. He didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. He pushed the door open a crack and stuck his head out. No one was in the hallway. The girl with the high heels was exiting the school through the door by the auditorium on the other side of the building. He closed the door again and went back to the hallway to the locker room, footsteps echoing again.
Mills could hear the faint sound of the shower. The shower was going, but that’s all he heard, nothing else.
“Moss?” Jon yelled.
Two shots rang from the locker room. Jon jumped and then he began sprinting to the hallway. As he turned the corner, he was hit by someone running at locomotive speed. Jon spun and landed with a thud on the floor. It knocked the wind out of him (he could almost envision the comic book style ‘Oof’ rising from his lips) and he could feel the right side of his face flat against the ground.
Jon’s body writhed in pain on the floor, but it felt as though his face stayed still as he tried to take a breath. He opened his eyes and saw his gym bag on the other side of the gym. If he stayed here, there was nothing that would keep him from dying if there were 2 gunmen. Without being able to take a deep breath yet, Jon slowly started to work his way toward his bag.
The word ‘serpentine flashed through his mind, but he didn’t know why.
After an agonizing 6 foot progression, Jon felt the cool air chill his lungs again. He immediately brought his arms straight and his legs forward so he was in a kneeling position. He took a breath and waited for his mind to clear. After kneeling for 15 seconds, he stood, steadied himself on his feet, and then ran as fast as he could, it was actually more of a fast walk, to his bag. He bent down, wobbled for a moment, then unzipped his bag.
He pulled out his normal towel and threw it aside. He reached in and got his other towel, found the edge and quickly unrolled it. As he did so, his gun fell right in his hand. He reached in and grabbed a folded third towel and thrust his hand into the creases, returning with a magazine. He slid the magazine in, cocked the gun, spun on his heel and headed back for the hallway.
As he approached, he felt the humidity of the showers take effect. Mills decided to go back into the gym a bit so he could sidle against the wall for protection in case someone else came out. Reaching the doorway, he peered around the corner with his gun pointed ahead of him.
Nothing except the sound of water hitting the tile.
Jon rounded the corner and kept his body hugging the left side of the hallway. He would reach his long left leg as far down the wall as he could, plant his foot and scoot the rest of his body to catch up with it. Again, he could hear his own breath echo in his ears, just like at the sniper building several days earlier.
When Jon reached Coach’s office door, he snuck a peek inside. His first reaction was to look at the filing cabinets. All of the drawers were closed. Jon noticed, however, that a supply closet door was wide open.
Damn! That wasn’t Moss that I saw coming out of the Coach’s office- that was the killer!
Jon quickly continued moving along the hall, listening closely for any sounds. He only heard the water from the showers and a slight gurgling sound. He reached the end of the hallway, Mills brought the gun up, holding it in front of his face, ready to turn the corner….
Shitshitshitshitshitshit, Jon thought. He took a deep breath and…
…spun around the corner as he knelt, very Axel Foley-like.
Jon’s gun was pointed down the aisle separating the lockers from the showers. Nick’s locker was on the first row. Jon stood and walked down the first aisle of lockers. Moss’ locker was slightly open. Jon used the front of his gun to open it wider. Nothing special was inside, just Nick’s clothes and his gun medallion was hanging on the hook just inside the door.
Jon turned and walked back up the aisle. It was then that he saw Nick’s shoe for the first time. Sticking out from the showers. Jon holstered his gun and ran to his side.
Nick was face down in the water, breathing shallowly, dribbling water out of his mouth about every other breath to just keep from drowning. Bloody water trails were going to the drain from his stomach and shoulder areas. His hair was wet and fully forward. Nick hadn’t even changed clothes yet. Jon knelt beside him, rolled him over, and brought his head out of the water streams.
“Jon, Jon, Jon, “Nick panted.
“I’m here, pal, I’m here, who was it? What happened?
“Jon, Jon…. Okay? Youhokay?” he still panted his words.
Jon looked and saw a decidedly non-lethal shoulder shot, but a stomach wound that was gushing blood. “I’m okay. They hit me as they came out of the hallway, but they didn’t shoot. I think at that point they just wanted to leave. I’m okay. Let me go get Kate.”
Nicholas became very agitated. “No, no, nono…”
“Okay, okay. I’m here. I’m not going, I’m right here for you.”
“I know you’re 23. You’re too young. You’re going to be fine,” Jon started to feel tears stinging his eyes. “You’re going to be fine and playing well on Saturday night, “ Jon lied.
“23!” Nick’s clenched fist reached for Jon’s shirt. “23! Got it? 23! Twenty…”Nick’s clenched fist dropped to the tile floor with a light splash. Jon heard a low gurgle in Nick’s throat as his head flopped backward.
“Nick? Nick? Moss?” Jon raised his hand high in the air and brought it down hard against Moss’ cheek. “No! Fuck you! Don’t die! Don’t die! You can’t die! You can’t die, you son of a-“ Jon’s knees gave way and he crumbled to the wet tile floor as well, dropping Nick’s lifeless body onto the ground as well.
Jon closed his eyes and listened to the shower spray hit his head. He could feel his clothing slowly gain weight from the water and stick to his skin. He couldn’t tell which warm water from his face was from his tears or the shower. He silently cried under the water.
All of a sudden, he took a deep breath and began loudly sobbing. In between the sobs, he was muttering, “What am I doing, what am I doing?”
Kate drove up and took her normal parking space nearest the gym with the side door by the locker room entry. She was expecting her two young agents to be waiting for her. When they weren’t, she turned off the car, got out, and walked up to the door. It was locked. She tried the other door next to it and it was locked, too.
Kate walked around the building, looking for the next open door. She found one about halfway on the west side of the building. She opened it and was met with nothing but a flight of stairs going up- almost like a fire escape, but indoors. She walked up the stairs and opened the door at top.
She then walked down the long hallway past several music and drama classrooms. At the end of the hall was a flight of stairs going down.
At the bottom of the stairs, she saw a pair of wet footprints which led out a door to her right by the auditorium, and came from the gym, on her left. She went toward the gym.
As she reached the gym door, she slowly looked around and, upon not seeing anybody, she unholstered her gun. She opened the door and walked in.
The wet footprints led away from the locker room hallway. Kate pressed her back against the wall to her left upon entering and kept her gun ready. “Moss? Mills?” she repeated calling for them both as she made her way to the hallway.
As she entered the hallway, she started walked determinedly toward the locker room. “Moss? Mills?” she kept calling.
As she entered the locker room, she turned the corner with anxiety starting to grip her throat. Her immediate scan of the area showed a body face down in the showers. Kate quickly walked through the shower with her gun drawn, making sure there was no one else in the showers. Going to the body, she knew who it was as she kicked the body face up.
Kate next started the walk down the hallway which separated the showers from the lockers, her gun still drawn. Her pace became quicker as she got to the end of the rows. Kate ran down the last row and yelled, “Freeze!” as she turned the corner. No one. Again, she kept her back toward the wall of lockers as she did the row parallel to the row separating the showers and lockers and was running by the end. She darted up the row of lockers, which included Nick’s, and headed back down the hallway to the gym.
“Jon!” she yelled. “Jon! Where are you? It’s me! It’s Kate!”
Kate went out the side door as soon as she got out of the locker room hallway. The cool wind hit her as she scanned the entire field with her gun and saw nothing.