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Something Wicked 2.0 - STORY THREAD


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Roach waved a hand at her laptop.


"Calm down, Space Ranger. That's what we're finding out."


With a quick look around, Rochelle spotted a free chair and dragged it over to plop down in. The image searches finished quickly, but the challenge was always moderating the results. Each one came up with a lot of false positives, since Google's visual recognition algorithms were good but not great. That and the source images were kind of third-hand, of course.


Within the next few minutes, a few trends jumped out at Roach though, and she kicked up a spreadsheet to put some datapoints in while the searches were running. Articles from the local paper came up, and...yes some links to the school yearbook which was online, at least in part. Some old messageboard posts. Links to now-inactive social media feeds.


"Huh," she said as she paged through some of the results, looking for the numbers to put into her growing spreadsheet. "You know what's weird? I think I remember a couple of these people. Like this kid here? Says his name's James but we all called him Jimmy. He was in my class back in grade school, like...fourth grade? Fifth?" Roach shook her head. "Something like that. I actually remember when he stopped showing up and everyone thought he was sick...and then he just never came in anymore."


Roach frowned. "What's weird is that they never did an announcement or anything, I don't think. After awhile Mrs Dursley just stopped calling his name, and we all stopped talking about him and the whole thing just kinda slipped away. Like Marcy."


She skimmed a few other results pages, eyes narrow.


"Like...pretty much everyone here. Check it out. There's a lot of 'local man goes missing' articles, but not a single 'local man found after harrowing experience' or obituary."


The spreadsheet was pretty well fleshed out by then, so Roach ran the formula over it and sat back in her borrowed chair, rubbing her chin.

Edited by SalmonMax
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Keith had been watching and listening, and shaking his head rolled off the bed. "You guys and y'all's games, freaking nerds." And exited the room. A few minutes later Jo's mom stuck her head in the door and said, "Jo, it's getting late." Which was her way of saying "Hank, Roach time to go home," without actually telling them to go home.


Roach packed her stuff up and she and Hank said good night to Jo and as the left the house, Roach said, "Bring that book to school tomorrow I think I can open it we can meet up at breakfast.


The next morning Roach checked her program and put together her findings. Interesting.


They met at the school lunch room which was full of students, mostly younger middle-school kids who shared the lunchroom with them thought their lunch time were different than the high-schoolers so they only mixed at breakfast time.


Ben was not present so far.


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Hank sighed as he'd gone home,  they only ended up with even more questions than before.  Ben hadn't ridden with him to school, so he came alone to meet Jo and Roach, sitting down with the book in his backpack.   He looked at Roach and smiled.  "So how did your search go?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Through the swinging doors of the cafeteria doors, Hank caught sight of Jo laughing and talking animatedly with a boy, a junior he thought. The guy looked to be as broad as Jo across the shoulders, if still at least half a foot shorter than the super-sized sophomore. They finished whatever they were talking about then went their separate ways, waving good-bye.


Jo strode into the cafeteria, moving through the press of bodies like a bulldozer through dandelions. Still pumped after her morning run, work-out, and shot put practice, and sharing the cafeteria mostly with students that hadn't had their first big growth spurt yet - or were only just starting them - the giant blonde looked particularly big and imposing in her snug, frayed jeans and tight red top.


She sat down heavily next to Hank, her gallon jug of water and half gallon smoothie bottle slamming down on the table with a pair of thumps, ice cubes clunking in the water. With a quickly muttered, "Hey!", she unscrewed the cap off her smoothie, brought the bottle to her lips, and chugged half of the thick, perilously dark green liquid full of mixed vegetables, fruits, and protein in one pull. A bit bitter, a bit sweet, the crushed ice keeping it cold and refreshing. "Ahh!"

Maybe it had been the eeriness of the old Clairburn place, the unknown whatever bothering Ben, or something else, but Jo had a nightmare last one, a somewhat frequent one of when she had started growing explosively around when she was fourteen. She hadn't told her friends, nor her family, really, but while she was thrilled with the size and strength that had come with the growth, it had been scary too. She had hurt all the time to some degree, a painful pressure as though her skin was too small or bones too big, and she'd been constantly ravenous, like she was always starving no matter how much she ate. 

The nightmare cranked those feelings up to twelve and exaggerated everything. She'd woken up with pale hair damp with night sweat and thrown herself into her morning exercise routine to chase the nightmares back to the darkest corners of her mind. But finding that Ben wasn't at school again made her frown, the weirdness of yesterday creeping back.

"No Ben again?" Jo growled at his obvious lack at the table. She took a more tempered sip of her obnoxiously healthy smoothie. "He, and you lot, should come runnin' with me in the morning. Get some cardio, get healthier, and yah won't get sick so often, nor woulda hit yah so hard."

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MC plops down at the end of their table and proceeds to open up a greasy paper bag and take out an enormous bacon and egg cheeseburger from the Hole in the Wall diner here in town. "Nope but his moms car was at Dr Fraser's early this morning. I saw him and her through the window when I was getting breakfast." She said this, holding up the grease dripping sandwich then taking a very big unlady like bite.


"He looked annoyed, she looked worried."



MC  x06z85mudny41.thumb.jpg.0f8c58a8180a8e716402373488d01fad.jpg


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"Okay, but you saw him, so he didn't vanish," Roach said with a nod, then grinned. "Not like all those other kids."


She waggled her eyebrows at Hank, then opened her laptop.


"So I took the data from yesterday, plus a bit more, did some math, and figured a few things out. First of all, every face on that site that has any kind of online history has disappeared mysteriously. And by mysteriously I don't just mean the case was never solved...I mean the cases were just kind of...poof." She made little 'splody' gestures with her fingers. "...forgotten about. No follow-up articles, no obits...nothing. They weren't even declared legally dead."


"The ages of the people who disappear are kinda all over the place and I haven't found any obvious patterns or anything, but...they always go about six years apart. Last one was Marcy...who is the top face on the list. So we're gettin' on due for another one."


Then there was a pizza break in her narrative as Roach took a big bite, chewed it, and swallowed.


"Anyway, I may not be the one to ASK the question, but I am sure as fuck gonna be the one to answer it, whaaaaaaaat?"

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Roach is momentarily taken off guard, and looks at her screen. "Mmmmmminecraft," she says, grasping at the first straw that comes to mind.


"We're playing Minecraft. And in Minecraft, there's a bunch of missing people who disappeared and it's like...a quest."


MC's skeptical look didn't budge, and Roach couldn't keep it up.


"Okay, there's a weird dark website I found that has a bunch of pictures of people that disappeared and it's super creepy and cool like a serial killer's shrine or something and I found it and I worked it out," she blurted. Then added with a grin. "In Minecraft."

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Jo wondered how MC wasn't fat when she ate something like that for breakfast and she never saw her on any sports field or in the weight room or anything. Finishing her smoothie, she also frowned, wondering why MC was glomming onto them the last few days, as though trying to pretend they'd always hung out. They never hung out before. She didn't even live on Walsh Road.

Her pale brows furrowed at Roach talked and 'explained' about that weird site she'd been talking about.

"What's Minecraft? Ah thought you were talkin' 'bout somethin' online, not 'bout miners."

When MC looked at her questioningly, Jo looked at her in kind, jerking her chin at the tiny remnant of the giant, greasy burger that was left between the other girl's fingers. "Why ain'tcha fat?"

Edited by Asarasa
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"Fuck's sake, Jo," Roach grumbled. "It's just, like, a code. This is wild shit. It's wild. So, so we don't sound crazy, we can say we're talking about it happening in Minecraft, and instantly..." She claps her hands. "No one will care. Because Minecraft is boring, and no one wants to hear anyone talking about it. Boom."


She looked at MC and shrugged.


"Anyway, yeah. I got a spooky email, tracked it to a spooky website, and it's got all these pictures of people that disappeared every 6 years from around here."

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Only Jo 'fucking she-hulk' would say something like that to MC, but before MC could retort Roach chimed in with her explanation. MC dropped the retort and ignoring Jo further, put her half eaten burger down and slide three chairs over to where she was right next to Roach, Leaning over toward the laptop, "Show me."



To Roach. MC slid very close to her, they are almost touching. MC smells of roases and cloves... it not strong but Noticable to Roacj.


oh and greasy burger can forget the greasy burger.



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The screen was already pointing the right way, more or less. Rochelle turned it a little to keep up with MC's powerslide.


She showed the site first, with its succession of faces. Then she replaced that with the spreadsheet she'd cobbled together that collected her various search results.


"Basically, every six years, give or take, someone disappears. There's usually an article or column about it, and then...that's it. Case goes unsolved, no one follows up, life just goes on. Like everyone's in on it and they just agree not to make it a big deal."


With MC so close and leaning down to look at the laptop intently, Roach's face was right about even with her hair. She didn't, as a rule, go around sniffing people's heads, but it was right there. And...she'd been expecting the smell of pot or cig smoke, but instead there was like...something floral? Which was kind of surprising, and kind of...nice.


Then she realized MC had glanced up at her, and her cheeks reddened. She quickly reached down to the laptop and went back to the website. "Anyway, the, uh, email self-destructed but it basically just said 'you won't ask the question' or something like that. I thought it was an ARG at first, but if that's what it is, it's a pretty twisted one."

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Hank listened as the three girls went back and forth, and after the last bit, he nodded.  "I also received a package at home, that nobody knows how it got inside the house.   None of my parents or siblings remember bringing it in, and I certainly didn't.  It had an old book in it which has only given us more questions."

Hank wasn't known as a prankster, in fact he was known to be quite honest and Earnest in pretty much every regard, a regular Boy Scout, which fit since he actually was.   "Alot of really strange stuff going on.  

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Thick biceps bulged as Jo folded her arms, an irritated look on her face as her eyes danced from Hank to Roach. She wasn't the only girl among the Walsh Road Kids. And while she'd always been the most athletic, she hadn't been the most popular... until she gone from mere girl to an overgrown, fully developed young woman seemingly overnight.


Jo might not fully realize it, but she took it for granted that she was usually the center of attention, expected it even. So it bothered her in a way she couldn't explain, couldn't express, that MC had just sort of inserted herself into her closest circle of friends. And that Hank and Roach were going along with it, telling her about their business, about the weird stuff, as if she were one of them, as though she were involved. She wasn't about the tell the girl cozying up to close to Roach about her own weirdness, about the strange trail, and that... person (?), and the violin that might or might not have been the wind after all.

"Why y'all tellin' her 'bout this?" Jo asked her friends, her deep, womanly voice annoyed. She shifted her deep blue eyes towards MC with a hint of suspicion. "Thanks fer tellin' us 'bout Ben. But all this ain't got nothin' to do with you."

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"Wow. Okay," MC pulled away from the laptop and Roach, and looked into Jo's eyes, "I get it, apparently this," she mad a circular motion with her hand over the table, "is the Jo club. Pardon me for tryin to be sociable."


MC scrapped her chair back and stood then with a glance at Roach and Hank, shook her head, "Later," she said as she turned away from the then over her back, "by the way, in case anyone at this table cares, someone broke into Ben's locker yesterday while we were in last period."


Then she started away toward the diningroom door.

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Rochelle rolled her eyes and closed her laptop.


"Jesus, Jo, I'm supposed to be the sociopath in the gang. Gonna need you to stick to your party role, no matter how jealous you get."


Then she scooped up her computer, gave Jo an exaggerated wink, and went after MC.


"Hey. Sorry about Jo, she gets all cranky when she misses a steroid dose. Listen, I'm gonna head over to Ben's locker to check it out. If you're heading that way too...we could...talk more?"


She faltered towards the end as she ventured into unknown conversational waters. People, as a rule, did not seek to talk to her more. This was at least partially by design on her part. Offering the option to do so felt alien and weird.

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  • 2 weeks later...

MC gave Roach a sideways look but led her into he main hallway and toward where Ben's locker was when the arrived she pointed at the twisted lock. "Thats gonna cost a bit to fix."


Roach narrowed her eyes, "How did you know this was Ben's locker?"


MC smirked and just turned and opened the locker next to Ben's using the combination. "It wasn't busted before last period, I saw the lock like that when i was putting my books up after we got out, so it had to happen while we were in class. I'm surprised no one heard anything." Sh looks around then pulls alittle plastic box out of her locker, the kind that dental floss comes in. She shows it to Roach, "We got about twenty minutes, you wanna?"

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Rochelle cracked a grin at that and said, "Okay, just one second though. This is crazy what happened right here."


She stepped in close to Ben's locker and leaned down to get a closer look at the lock. It didn't look cut, which was what you'd normally think would happen with a break in. You'd get some heavy bolt-cutters and, well, cut the bolts. That made a distinctive 'pinched' shear though, and...this wasn't that.


Then Roach looked into the locker itself. She had no idea what Ben had in there most of the time, but she definitely didn't think there was anything in there anyone else should want badly enough to break into it. MC was right though, the break-in would have made noise. That might mean that whoever did it was nervous, feeling rushed. Nervous, rushed people made mistakes. Left things behind, maybe.


Gingerly she pushed whatever books and papers that were left in the locker around, looking for any kind of clue about who did this and what they were after.


Wonder if this happened to any of those other people that disappeared. Home break-ins maybe. Might be something I can check on.


Then she nodded and looked back at MC.


"Dunno if we still have time. After class?"

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The rest of the day went by fast. Roach hadn't found anything in Ben's locker to explain anything or had she. When they had left for class, MC had walked away toward the Music room where she had a class and as Roach had turned to head to the next hall and her locker she had noticed something in the wreckage of the twisted lock... a hair had snagged on the jagged metal where the shackle had twisted and broken. She had pulled it off and folded it into a sheet of paper from her notebook then wnet to her locker and on to class.


English was one of her better subject and Miss Blum was one of the better teachers in school, everyone agreed. Jo was in class with her but was being bitchy so Roach ignored her and took out the paper with the hair. The single strand was strange. Roach didn't know a lot about hair, at least not yet, but this seemed weird. The strand was almost three inches long and was very coarse and thick, about twice as thick as her own hair. It was also reddish brown.

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Roach was not an expert on hair. On the contrary, she and hair had a relationship defined by a kind of detente. It could be as difficult and finicky to manage as it wanted, with the understanding that she'd just cut as much off as she could get away with, without looking like someone on chemo, to keep those demands in check. An uneasy but lasting peace. So far.


This though. This was weird. The thickness was weird. Not all hair was the same thickness, but this thick? And straight? Anywhere on the human body that had hair like this would look like freaking porcupine had set up shop on it. So, ruling out the potential of a fiendish porcupine-furry behind this whole deal, what did that leave? Rochelle figured that either something had happened to the hair after it had been shed, changing something about it...or it wasn't a human hair at all.


The first option seemed unlikely. So it wasn't a human hair. And not a porcupine quill. But it wasn't lost on her that her train of thought might have been inadvertently correct. No animal would have broken into Ben's locker...but what about a human in an animal costume? She was pretty sure there wasn't a 'furry club' or anything on campus...


...but there was a mascot. Roach wasn't sure where the suit was kept though. If only there was some athlete ready at hand who might know something like that and be on speaking terms with her?


She glanced over at Jo, then at the clock. Right then.


Once the bell had rung and students started piling out of the classroom, Roach went over to Jo and said, "Hey, do you know where they keep the school mascot suit? Is it in the gym somewhere? Locker rooms?"

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The She-Hulkian teen carefully extricated herself from the too small desk with the fixed seat. Plucking her bag from the back of the seat, Jo shoved her books roughly in it, pale brows furrowing as she peered down at Roach in edged suspicion.

"They keep it locked up in one of the equipment rooms," Jo admitted slowly. "Seems like some folk use it fer pranks and the like. Ah can't imagine who." She rolled her deep blue eyes in exasperation, very well imagining who. "Why? Ah ain't gonna help yah swipe it or such."

"No no, don't 'roid out, I'm going all CSI here. Got a hair I need to match," Roach assured the overgrown blonde, grin widening as Jo tensed in annoyance at the steroid comment, heavy muscles flexing. She was an athlete and steroids were no joke to her. So, of course it was to Roach.

Jo wasn't entirely convinced. Folding her thick arms below her taut breasts, she frowned dubiously down at the much shorter, slighter girl. "A hair."

"In the lock of Ben's busted open locker."

"Let's see it."

Roach retrieved the hair from the folded up paper, and pinching it between thumb and forefinger, reached up and waggled right in front of Jo's nose. Okay, more like under it, trying to tickle her with wiry strand.

"Stop that!" Jo growled, shackling Roach's wrist in one of her big, strong hands, holding it still so she could get a better look. Satisfied, she let Roach go with a snort, and stretched her shoulders as she straightened up. "It's reddish-brown."


"Roach... the school mascot is a black panther." Jo had worn it plenty on her gym clothes and team uniforms.

Roach frowned at that, trying to fit the new facts to the paradigm without splitting it open. She said, "Well...it's still worth checking out. Hair isn't just one color, even on a costume."

"It looks the same colour as that black bear Ah saw," Jo offered.

"Black bear?"

"Didn't Ah say? Came across one when Ah got lost on mah run when Banner took off down a side trail Ah don't remember seein' 'fore last night. Black bears, they ain't all black, leastwise, not always. Lots, they are dark brown with reddish-brown markings. But Ah don't see how a bear got in the school, let alone why it'd bust open Ben's locker."

Edited by Asarasa
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Roach and Jo, caught up with Hank as he was putting his books in his locker. They quickly explained that they were going to miss the bus and would need a ride, but they needed to do something first.


“I can’t today, unless y’all want to come with me while I take the twins to the dentist. Sorry.”


They watched as a slump shouldered Hank went to collect his sisters for a great afternoon of babysitting.


Jo looked at Roach, “ Maybe we can check it out tomorrow before school?”


“No way,” replied Roach, taking Jo by the elbow, “MC has a car she’ll give us a ride.”


“MC? Again?” Jo groaned as Roach led her to the next hall where Ben’s locker was located, and of course where MC’s locker was as well.


The blond was leaning up against her locker book bag at her feet, looking as if she were waiting for someone. Her face usually in a perpetual scowl deepen into a large frown. “Was beginning to think you had chickened out.” MC said to Roach, casting a glare toward Jo, “What’s with the Glamazon?”

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"We're going to find a bear," Roach explained. "We need a ride out to where it was last seen."


Then she nodded at Jo. "The Glamazon is coming along so she can pin it down while you and me get some of it's hair."


Rochelle held out the captured strand for MC's perusal.


"This was stuck in Ben's lock. It's too thick to be human head hair, and apparently the school mascot is a black panther...so...bear."


She waggled her eyebrows.


"Wanna come and find a bear who raided Ben's locker with us?"

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Jo returned MC's glare with a sour look, including Roach for good measure, crossing her muscular arms below her breasts. Being called a 'Glamazon' didn't bother her, really. It wasn't the first time. And while she didn't think of herself as glamorous ever, like a celebrity or movie star or nothing, she was proud of how she looked. Other people seemed to like it too, going by her Instagram too.

MC just rankled her. Maybe it wasn't her fault. And it wasn't her place to say who Roach could or couldn't be friends with. Jo uncrossed her arms, shrugging her heavy shoulders and giving MC a nod.

"Ah'm sorry for before. Stuff's been mighty strange of late, and, well... didn't need no more rumours goin' round," Jo said by way of grudging apology and explanation. "Yer were tryin' to help and Ah weren't seein' it."

She turned her deep blue eyes down on Roach. "But Ah ain't wrastlin' no bear. Ah can show you where Ah saw it." She was pretty sure she could find the spot again. She wasn't sure about bringing Banner again though, considering last time. "Ah reckon we can find some fur caught on some trees or bushes thereabouts to match up."

Jo might have massed more than the two girls combined, but the bear had to weigh in at least half again as much. Not to mention having teeth and claws and whatnot. It was a bear. And while she might have played big fighters and barbarians with even bigger swords and axes in Ben's games, this wasn't a game, this was real life.

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