Posts Tagged ‘The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee’

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Seven – Part 1

She was so used to this process that she didn’t even have to think about it. First she rolled her posters and collected the sticky tack into a ball so she could hang them in their next place.

Their next place. She couldn’t help but think about Cindy. Was she going to leave without even saying goodbye? Maybe she could ask Dad if she could take just a minute before they left town.

She started to choke up again and focused on dividing the room into take and leave. Everything by the window, she’d leave behind, everything by the desk she’d keep. Dad gave her limited space for her stuff and she’d collected a surprising number of things lately. She’d have to consider carefully.

They didn’t have time to donate her things to the thrift store. Hopefully the landlord wouldn’t be too angry at having to clean up her stuff.

She dug out the boxes from under her bed. The spyglass rolled out against her knee. Would she be able to bring that?

Alice called up to Dad, “Honey, I have to run to the store to get a few more boxes.”

Dad paused before he called down, “Okay, but be quick.”

“It shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes.” Alice sounded chipper, like they were just taking a vacation. “You need anything, Miranda?”

Miranda didn’t answer.

A minute later, The front door closed. The stairs squeaked as Dad moved downstairs. Miranda heard him go in the garage.

Alice was gone. She didn’t have to worry about protecting Dad while she was gone. That meant she had twenty five minutes to say goodbye to Cindy.


It was easier than she’d imagined to climb out on the roof and down onto the lawn. If Dad came out of the garage, he’d assume she was still packing up in her room.

There was some chance that Dad would go upstairs to ask her something, but … this was a new feeling, Miranda didn’t care.

What would Dad do? He’d yell, but he couldn’t do anything. A rush of power welled in her. She’d never felt so free. Dad would be lucky if she came back at all.

She walked quickly across the lawn and street, looking to see if anyone was looking. She was sure why it mattered if anyone saw her. Maybe Dad’s paranoia was starting to leak into her.

There were some lights on in Cindy’s house, in the living room and her room. The gauzy curtains were drawn, but Miranda could just see the outline of the dresser. It didn’t look like anyone was in there.
As she crossed Cindy’s lawn she realized how little she really knew about Cindy. A half hour ago, she felt like she was losing her best friend, but really who was she losing?

She knew Cindy had a weird past, that Cindy was a little infuriating in how little bothered her. And that she felt a little jealous of how few things bothered Cindy.

Without even thinking about it, she changed course away from Cindy’s front door, around the house to the back. The back gate was open and she poked her head in.

The backyard was dark. Just like in the photo Cindy had shown her the other day, there wasn’t much of anything back there.

She knew in the back of her mind that she was being disrespectful sneaking around in their yard, but a good investigator collect all the data they could. She glanced at her watch. She still had twenty-two minutes before she needed to worry about Alice. Good.

She stepped onto the concrete slab around the back door.

The curtains on the sliding glass door were open a little. Inside, the house looked dark except for the kitchen light and light from the TV in the living room.

In the flickering light, Cindy sat on the the huge modular couch with dads around her. They must be watching a movie. Cindy looked so content, it stuck a pin in Miranda’s heart. When was the last time Dad and she had watched a movie together?

That birdcage was up on the counter. There was paper around it, like they’d been cleaning it.

Did the dads poop in the cage when they were in there? Did they still think like people or were did they only have bird brains when they were …

Miranda realized she’d completely given up on trying to think of any logical answer for what she saw three days ago. The school was changing, Cindy had five dads, they sometimes turned into birds. Somewhere along the line she’d just switched over to believing in magic. Now she found herself trying to figure out the rules for how magic worked. Dad would be horrified.

She leaned on the door and it unexpectedly zipped sideways. Miranda was caught off balance and fell forward. The door slammed open with a loud crack and she fell to the floor inside.

When she looked up, she saw none of them had moved. They sat on the couch, staring at her.

Cindy looked like she’d just had a scare in a horror movie. “Miranda, what are you doing?”

Miranda pushed herself up form the floor. Her palms hurt from the fall. “I … I was just …” Just motioned stupidly at the back door, like that would explain anything.

“Are you okay?” Tom-Dad rushed over.

Bill-Dad wasn’t far behind. Cindy stood by the couch with her arms crossed.

She took Bill-Dad’s hand. “I’m sorry. I should go.”

He pulled her to her feet. She wasn’t used to adults being so concerned about her.

“Were you spying on us?” Cindy still hadn’t moved. Her arms were still crossed.

“Cindy!” Bill-dad looked as if he couldn’t imagine anything like that ever happening. He looked at Miranda’s guilty face for a moment and his expression changed. “Miranda, is that true?”

“I …” She looked from Cindy to Bill-dad to Tom-dad. Another dad came out of the living room. John-dad, maybe.

If she was going to be a spy, she should have at least come up with a plausible story. She swallowed. The Bauteils had never been anything but kind to her. Why was she thinking about lying at all? Why was she spying on them?

She sighed and the truth fell out of her mouth. “I was just curious.”

Bill-dad face had already relaxed. “About what?”

The silence dragged on while Miranda tried to come up with an answer that wouldn’t break Cindy’s confidence, wouldn’t give away all of Dad’s secrets. She couldn’t think of anything.

Cindy glared, but she uncrossed her arms and came over. “Dad, I think Miranda and I need to to talk in my room for a minute.”

Tom-dad looked at Bill-dad. Bill-dad nodded and John-dad said, “Okay, hon. Let us know if you need anything.”

The dads parted and Miranda followed Cindy into her room.

She’d just shut the door when Cindy rounded on her. “Just what did you think you were doing?”

Where did she start? She’d just come over to say goodbye, why had she turned that into sneaking around. Sometimes Miranda didn’t know her own mind.

She put her hands up. “I just wanted to see what a normal day was like for you.”

That was true.

Cindy crossed her arms again.

Sometimes the truth didn’t help. Miranda tried again, “I don’t know you that well, I wanted to learn more about you.”

“You could have just asked.”

Miranda started to say, “I …” but she stopped. She could have just asked. Why hadn’t that occurred to her?

Cindy’s face was red. She looked like she was about to pop. Instead threw her hands up. “I wish you’d just say you don’t trust me.”

When had Miranda ever said she didn’t trust Cindy? “What are you talking about?”

“You … You never share anything. I can tell when something upsets you, but you never actually say anything. You always smile and pretend everything is okay, but it’s obvious that you’re sad and upset all the time.”

A little trickle of sweat ran down the back of her Miranda’s neck. Her face was obviously red. She didn’t say anything.

Cindy poked her finger into Miranda’s clavicle. “I’ll tell you why. You don’t trust anyone. You certainly don’t trust me. I’ve spent the last three days being nothing but a friend to you and all you ever do is observe. You don’t interact, you just watch.”

Was that true? Miranda took a deep breath.

“My dads and I aren’t a science experiment. I came to you for help.” Cindy looked like she was about to cry.

Miranda desperately wanted to hug Cindy, but she didn’t know how to go from being yelled at to being … a friend. “I didn’t mean to. I only came over to tell you …” For the last few minutes she’d forgotten whey she came over. She felt her own eyes go hot.

Cindy looked behind herself, like she wasn’t interested. “Yeah?”

Miranda felt like she was about to cry. Should she run away? She’d never cried in front of another person before.

The tears were warm against her cheeks. She didn’t feel the headache or the hitching from before, just sort of a numb feeling in her chest. “I have to leave.”

Cindy didn’t even pause, she just dragged Miranda into a hug. That was about all it took to get Miranda properly crying. She heaved a hitching breath and sobbed into Cindy’s shoulder.

First the story of being on the run came out. Always running. She didn’t know if she was making any sense, but she sputtered about how she’d never known her mom.

“There’s so many secrets in my past. I’m not sure who I am.”

When the words ran out she just sobbed some more. The next time she came up from Cindy’s shoulder, she realized someone was hugging her from behind too. Bill-dad was couched down with his arms around both of them. Tom-dad stood with his hand on her shoulder. John-dad walked in around them and squeezed Cindy’s shoulder.

Miranda hadn’t just told Cindy, she’d told her whole family. Dad would be furious. Miranda wondered if she should worry, but she didn’t have the energy.

When she moved, the dads stepped back. Miranda wiped her nose. “I think I got snot on your dress.”

I little laugh fell out of Cindy. She shrugged.

Miranda was surprised to find that her head didn’t hurt at all. Maybe it was trying so hard not to cry that gave her headaches. Maybe crying wasn’t the worse thing in the world.

Cindy’s dads waited nearby. They didn’t look awkward that Miranda had sobbed. They didn’t look like they minded at all. In that moment, it seemed like Cindy had a pretty ideal family.

Tom-dad said, “Bob is making tea.”

Oh, that was the name of the forth dad. Now she only needed the fifth. She wished she had her notebook.

“I’m sorry I never asked before. But I know Tom and Bill and John, and now Bob, but what’s the name of your fifth dad?”

Cindy looked confused.

Miranda looked behind her to Tom-dad, who looked mystified too. “Uh.”

Cindy crossed her arms again. “What are you talking about? I only have four dads.”

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Six – Part 3

Dad hadn’t sent her to her room, but she stayed up there anyway.

There was something about being in trouble that shook her to her core. It didn’t even matter that she hadn’t done anything wrong, that the school had changed around her. She just hated being in trouble.

The first thing she did was check the school rule book. It had changed too. It was dog-eared and even had her highlighter marks, but now new things were highlighted, even Infraction 12.

She got out her investigation notebook. She should have taken better notes about the changes in town. She had some notes about the floors and lockers, but she should have been also observing the teachers.

Before the school notes section was her most recent notes about Dad and Alice.

  • 1.) Dad is running from the mob.
  • 2.) Dad is an international spy.
  • 3.) Dad committed a horrible crime.

She’d thought she was slipping into fantasy thinking Dad was a spy. With the stuff that was happening in town, she might have to expand her possibilities. She added:

  • 4.) Dad running from alien invasion.
  • 5.) Dad is Job from the bible.
  • 6.) Dad running from evil wizards.

Despite herself, she smiled. The more she thought about it, her four mysteries might bear looking at together. Alice, the changes in town, Dad, Cindy, maybe they were all connected somehow.

If the town could change, could people change? Could people be created?

The real question was, who was changing things?

She started a new section in her notebook titled EVERYTHING.

Alice called up, “Miranda, dinner!”


They ate in silence. Dad didn’t even seem angry, but she knew something was coming.

It took until they were running over calculus proofs for him to finally say it. He nearly whispered. “We’re going to have to leave Aught.”

She wouldn’t let him see her reaction. She folded her calculus paper carefully and stuck it in her Mathematics folder. There was no point in yelling. Dad would shout her down and she’d fall apart. She started to shake.

Dad put his hand on her shoulder. She startled. He so rarely touched her. Her brain jumped to the new school rule book. Section five, subsection thirty-seven: Teachers weren’t allowed to touch students unless they were disciplining them.

“We can’t leave.” Miranda tried to keep her voice level, but she didn’t think she was able.

Dad took his hand back. “I know you’re upset–“

“I could go to school. I could have friends.” Cindy’s face to mind. Who would help her with her mystery?

The sound of Alice cleaning came from the kitchen. She was always cleaning.

Dad said, “This is the exact kind of thing we can’t have. We have to do what we have to do to keep you safe.”

She leaped up from the couch. “Did you listen to anything I said? The school is changing!”

“We can’t talk about that.” Dad actually backed up, like he was scared.

Her hands balled into fists. She hit the sides of her legs. “What can we talk about. What’s happening is amazing. It’s scary, but nothing in there.” She jabbed her finger at the calculus book. “That says anything like this could possibly happen.”

Dad looked at her, his face set. He looked so sad.

“I’m not crazy! Cindy confirmed–“

The book hit the opposite wall. She hadn’t even seen him hit it.

His face was tight. “You brought that girl into this?”

It was ridiculous, she felt guilty again. “It, we, she noticed! She sees the same things I see.”

Dad got up from the couch. “That settles it. We have to leave tonight.”

She followed him. “What?”

He called into the kitchen. “Alice, start packing.”

Alice called back, “Okay, dear.”

Her folder hit the wall near where Dad had batted the book. “This is insane!”

He started up the stairs. When he turned back to her, he had tears on his face. “I’m so sorry. I wish I could tell you why. I really really do.” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I would if I could. It’s just not safe.”

All the yelling went out of her. “Safe from what?”

He took a step upstairs before he looked back. For just a second, he looked like he would tell her. Somehow she knew the whole flood was just on the back of his tongue. “I’m sorry.”

And that was it. She lost the will to fight. She sat on the floor and grabbed a few of her papers that were nearby. “Where will we go?”

Dad didn’t answer at first. The sounds of Alice packing up their few personal items came from the kitchen.

He started back up the stairs. “I’ll have to consult my book.” His book was a little notebook that seemed to have all the answers to why he did everything. He kept it on himself at all times. “It depends on the time of year and when we leave.” His eyes were dry again and he’d gone back to being cagey.

“So there’s a pattern to where we move?”

“Miranda.” The tense edge was back in his voice.

“I’m just curious.”

“Curious is good, be curious about calculus right now.”

She got up and picked up papers.

She thought he was gone, but he said, “You’re … Someone once told me that the more you know about how the world around you works, the less likely it is to knock you over.” She watched his face blush. Sadness crossed it.

Before she could think, she blurted out, “Did mom tell you that?”

“Miranda.” Dad’s voice pitched up in that way that meant not to push it.

She picked up the calculus book.

“Get to your room soon. Make sure to pack up everything you don’t want to leave behind.”

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Six – Part 2

The receptionist, Mrs. Grieves, glared as Miranda walked in the office, like she’d committed a crime just by being there. “Ms. McGee, why aren’t you in class?”

“It’s lunch break.”

“Don’t speak back to me!”

Miranda stood still. Tears welled on the edges of her eyes. What could she say to not get in even more trouble.

There were no other students in the office, which was strange, usually someone was copying something or using the phone. Now the office had a long uncomfortable-looking bench by the front door.

She almost forgot herself and asked Mrs. Grieves how she was feeling today, but Mrs. Grieves looked so tense that Miranda just handed her the note.

“Sit, Ms. McGee.”

She sat on the bench and stared at the floor.

Mrs. Grieves let her sit there for a full ten minutes before saying, “Ms. McGee, you may approach the counter now.”

Why had she made Miranda wait just to acknowledge the note?

Miranda sprung up and stopped at the counter, still too frazzled to look Mrs. Grieves’ in the eye. “I’ve apparently … committed an infraction twelve.”

Mrs. Grieves looked down at the paper and let out a little gasp. “Sit.”

She rushed into Mr. Wodzinski’s office.

The office was strangely empty and quiet while she was gone. Miranda wondered if they were calling her dad. Had Dad changed too?

She shook her head. If things were different, she needed to collect information.

The office looked more or less the same. There were still posters on the wall. They’d been reading and anti-drug posters before. Now they had no writing on them, each was just an idealized drawing of a child. Each child had perfect hair and wore modest clothes. As far as Miranda remembered, no one in the whole school dressed that way.

She waited another two minutes before Mrs. Grieves came out. Looking like she was summoning Miranda to an execution, she motioned to the office.


Mr. Wodzinski normally looked pretty dour, so that hadn’t changed. Miranda waited in the doorway for him to tell her to sit, but he just stared at her till she fidgeted in place.

Finally he said, “Ms. McGee. I had been expecting you to be a source of great honor for our school. Mr. Hanson was going to recommend you for the early college program.”

Had? “Mr. Hanson still supports me. He just–“

Mr. Wodzinski went red. He vibrated.

He jumped up from his chair. “You will not speak until spoken to!”

Everyone was crazy.

“Wait, stop. I don’t understand.” Miranda put her hands out.

Principal Wodzinski slammed his hands flat on the desk. “Ms. McGee. You of all people know the rules of this school.”

She was about to speak, but she finally caught herself. She held her mouth shut and stared at the floor. She shook a little bit, afraid he’d yell again.

After a moment he sat. A long moment after that, he said, “You may speak.”

She let out the breath she’d been holding. “I’ve always followed the rules. I memorized the rules.”

If she had the guidebook, she’d show him. She’d read it twice and carried it in her bag for another three months. She could visualize it filed next to her science books on the shelf next to her desk in her bedroom.

Principal Wodzinski slid his hands back from the desk, his face unreadable, like the police officers on television shows. She shivered again.

“Sit down, Ms. McGee.” He opened the center drawer of his desk and pulled out a worn and weathered copy of the exact booklet she had at home. She quickly sat in the chair.

He stuck a finger in the center of the booklet, like he knew each page. Miranda herself knew the middle pages were concerning dress code and conduct. There were many students who dressed on the edge of the code, but she’d always made sure she was well within the rules.

She was about to say so, when Principal Wodzinski opened the book flat and turned it around to her.

Just from the font and the layout, the page was obviously different than what she remembered.

The text was harder to read, smaller and broken into two columns. There was a title at the top of the left page that read Communication Guidelines. She bent in closer and read the first lines, but couldn’t make sense of them.

“You say you memorized this booklet.”

She said, “This is different…”

Within the tight blocks of text below were subheaders. One read Infraction 11.

Principal Wodzinski leaned back. “We’re very clear here Miranda, students are not allowed to have private relationships with our teachers.”

“I … didn’t. I ….” She shut up and waiting to be yelled at for speaking without being spoken to.

But Principal Wodzinski didn’t yell. He got a condescending look on his face. “I know it’s hard to be a teen these days.” He reached across the desk and patted her hand. “I had my own infractions when I was your age, but the rules are for your own protection, Ms. McGee.”

It was confusing. She wasn’t allowed to talk to teachers one on one, but Principal Wodzinski could pat her hand? Maybe that’s why his office door was open. Her mind flew a million miles per hour. What were the new rules and how had everything changed so quickly?

She raised her hand. He looked at it, confused. “Yes, Ms. McGee?”

“May I ask a question?”

“Don’t get sarcastic with me, young lady.”

She took a breath. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be sarcastic. I’m just confused.”

He waved his hand. “Go on.”

She tried to order her thoughts. “I’m, sorry I broke a rule. I … I wasn’t allowed to speak to Mr. Hanson because that’s having a person relationship with a teacher, even when there were other teachers there?”

“You broke three rules.” Principal Wodzinski stuck out a finger as he listed them. “You disturbed the teacher’s sacred space.”

Sacred space?

“You initiated a relationship.” He touched his last finger. “And most importantly, you spoke without being spoken to.”

She still wanted to argue, but the look on Principal Wodzinski’s face made her stop. Without anything else she could say, she said, “I’m sorry.”

Principal Wodzinski leaned back in his chair. He rolled his shoulders. “You’ve always been a perfect student, Ms. McGee. Normally this many infractions would be an automatic expulsion.”

Miranda gasped. She bit her tongue to keep herself from speaking.

“But I’m going to let you off. This will, of course, go in your record.”

Miranda breathed. That didn’t sound so bad. “I … may I speak?”

Principal Wodzinski nodded.

“Thank you. I’m very sorry.”

“You are welcome.” He called out the door, “Ms. Grieves, get Ms. McGee’s father on the phone. She’s suspended for two days?”

Miranda just stopped herself from yelling, “What is happening?”

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Six – Part 1

Miranda rubbed her eyes. Just the day before, the linoleum in school was a sort of pinky-grey vomit color. It was the same linoleum in every hallway, every classroom. Just like every day since the school had been built.

Today it was a light blue.

Honestly, the new color looked nicer. Now it matched the grey walls.

Miranda tried to convince herself that the school had changed the floors over night, maybe Mr. Brown had worked all night with a team of floor layers. But it obviously wasn’t new linoleum; it looked just as worn as the old pink stuff. She walked to her lockers through milling kids. The cracks around her locker were in the same pattern as every day. She’d studied them.

Except now the floor was blue.

She closed one eye, then the other, trying to see if her color perception had changed. Maybe some sort of oxygen loss was changing her perceptions? She wished she had a color vision deficiency test.

As far as she could tell, all the colors in the school looked exactly the same as yesterday, except for the floor.

Also the lockers were half an inch deeper.

Her books weren’t as close to the locker door as yesterday. She examined her math textbook. It could have shrunk, but it was still about an inch longer than the span of her hand. Maybe her hand had shrank too?

Madness was at the end of this line of thinking. She shook her head.

People stared at her. She was obviously being weird again, spending too much time staring at her locker and the floor. She couldn’t fathom why no one else noticed the changes, but she was sick of being stared at, even more than usual, so she closed her locker and walked on.

Cindy stood looking aimless outside Mr. Walter’s history class–even though she needed to be at first period English soon, way on the other side of school.

Cindy continued to stare at the lockers as Miranda walked up to her.

Without looking away from the lockers, Cindy said, “Something’s changed.”

Miranda wanted to hug her. “I didn’t think anyone noticed!” She wanted to hug Cindy. She looked around furtively and lowered her voice. “The floor’s different too.”

Cindy’s dress was subdued, muted blue. Definitely less frilly than usual. Her clothes made Miranda feel self-conscious about her jeans and red tee-shirt. “Your dress looks nice.”

Cindy blushed and looked back at the lockers.

Miranda waited for Cindy to look back. They should be talking about how to test for other changes, but maybe Cindy’s eyes would glaze over like everyone else’s. If Miranda couldn’t keep this conversation going with Cindy, she had no chance of keeping anyone interested. Was the conversation already flagging?

So she said, “About your …” She brought her voice down to a whisper, “problem.” More of a stage whisper. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the two.

Cindy looked left and right. Honestly, kids were passing constantly, but no one seemed to care what they were talking about. “I asked Dad this morning when he drove me to school.”

So, probably Bill-Dad.

“I asked where my birth certificate was.” Cindy twisted the hair above her ear. “He just looked confused. I told him I needed it for school.”

Miranda frowned. “Didn’t you need it to get into school in the first place?”

“I don’t know.” Cindy shrugged. “I’ve been trying to remember back when I was younger.” She looked a little lost and scared.

Miranda wanted to put a hand on her shoulder, but she felt shy. She didn’t know what to say, so she said, “I sort of remember everything, all the way back to being born, but I’m weird like that.”

Cindy frowned again. “I don’t remember moving to town. I hadn’t thought about that till now.”

The first period bell rang. Miranda shifted back and forth and then finally settled on squeezing Cindy’s shoulder again. “It’s going to be okay.” She hoped that sounded confident.

The second bell rang and she ran into history class to keep herself from squeezing Cindy’s shoulder again.


It had been two days since she’d made herself available for tutoring in the office and she felt guilty. Honestly not a lot of people asked her for help, but she wanted to be responsible. After history she used her forty-five minute break to ask Mr. Hanson if anyone had asked. He’d definitely be in the teachers’ lounge till next period.

The first thing that made her stop was the door. The wood was darker, Walnut or Cherry. The translucent window had been replaced with stained glass, dark blue panes surrounded by light blue and orange stars. Under the window had been an old laminated pink sign that read Students please knock before entering. Now there was a brass plaque that read Teachers Only. She stood there unable to decide how to react.

The school was changing. She wished she had Cindy here to confirm that she wasn’t going crazy.

She wanted to touch the door, to make sure it was real. She might as well knock. Mr. Hanson had once said that she could come and go. He’d grinned. “Since you’re almost a teacher anyway.” A senior passed, looked at her and the door and moved on. Miranda took the last step and knocked.

There was a long pause before someone came. The stained window darkened and Mr. Hanson’s face appeared in the crack.

Surprise crossed his face and then anger. “What is it? You may speak.”

She shifted. His face looked set, almost like he didn’t recognize her. “I …” Were people changing too? “It’s me, Miranda.”

His face set. “I know who you are, Ms. McGee.”

This new attitude was unsettling. Miranda knew she should just apologize, turn and leave, but a part of her refused to believe Mr. Hanson was so different.

She said, “Can I just come in for a minute?”

Mr. Hanson froze. The shock on his face wiped away the anger.

She plowed on, “I just need to look at the tutoring records.”

He said, “What did you say?”

“I just need to see if anyone’s come in … for tutoring.” She leaned back.


Mr. Hanson twisted around to the teachers behind him. They were looking, seeing a student at their door, frowning.

His face was red with anger. “You presume?” He was nearly shouting.

“What?” Miranda felt like she should just run away. She thought of the changed lockers and the floor. Maybe she should just go home and hide in her bed and wait for everything to go back to normal.

Mr. Hanson looked back down at her. “You’ve already broken the speaking rule. I could have let you off with a mark on your record, but you’re suggesting you be allowed to enter teacher space?”

Miranda couldn’t help herself, “What’s the ‘speaking rule?'”

“You presume!” Mr. Hanson roared.

He took her by shoulder and violently turned her around. “Ms. McGee, when the receptionist acknowledges you, you will tell her you’ve committed infraction twelve.” He pushed her and she stumbled forward.

Her arm slowly went from numb to aching from where he’d grabbed her. Still the belligerent part of her brain wanted to ask Mr. Hanson for details. What was infraction twelve?

She turned to ask, but the door slammed behind her.

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Five – Part 4

Out on the street, Cindy leaned against one of the towns old green-painted street lights. The kind with curly cues carved at the top. Miranda smiled, but Cindy didn’t smile back.

Cindy crossed her arms. “Were you making fun of my family?”

“No, of course not! But you know your family isn’t … usual, and this town is totally conservative. They don’t like things that are different.

Cindy wasn’t getting it.

“Isn’t it weird that they don’t think your family is … weird?”

Cindy looked at the ground. “I guess so.”

Miranda scratched the last of her notes out on her pad. “We should do some other tests, to make sure no one in the town feels differently.”

Cindy looked up the street. “Why doesn’t anyone notice these things?” In the distance was the water tower and below that was city hall.

“I don’t know yet. Come on.” Miranda headed toward city hall.

The town’s hall of records was really just a computer in a room in the basement of the court building. There wasn’t even an official clerk.

Mrs. Murphy, the courthouse stenographer and secretary sat behind the giant wood desk / counter that separated the courthouse from the records hall. Really it was just placed in front of the door to the basement.

Mrs. Murphy said, “Don’t break anything and don’t save anything.” She handed Miranda a key and smiled at Cindy. “How are those good-looking dads of yours.”

“Fine, thank you.” Cindy smiled at Miranda.

Once they’d navigated the slippery concrete stairs to the basement, they had to search along the wall to find a light switch. Miranda was sure she’d find a spiders nest.

It took five minutes for the new florescent lights to warm up enough to see well. The room had some file cabinets and one wall was lined with glass cabinets. As they got closer Miranda saw inside, bits of carved rock and some feathers. Maybe this room had been a museum back in the day? She made a note in her journal.

The back wall was cropped in by shelves, but wedged between them was an old folding table with a fairly new-looking computer centered on it. Miranda sat in the creaking wooden chair while Cindy looked for another chair. The computer made a wheezing whirring sound. No surprise, it was probably sucking in all the dust of this basement. It had a sign taped to its front, “Server. Do not turn off.”

When Miranda wiggled the mouse, she expected the monitor to light up, but when it didn’t she hit the power button on the back of it.

Cindy rolled up with a chair just like Miranda’s. “What are we looking for? Man, that’s an old monitor.”

The system password screen slowly fade up. Mrs. Murphy hadn’t mentioned a password. Miranda tried just hitting enter.

And there was all the town’s records. A neat grid of folders marked by year. The top left folder was dated 1936. They must have digitized their old paper records.

Miranda moused over the rightmost two folders. “You moved here three months ago?”

Cindy squinted into the screen. “I think so.”

Miranda clicked on this year’s folder. “Ok.”

The window was full of folders labeled things like “Fire” “Sewer” and “Deaths.” There was probably a better way to organize this information, but she appreciated the clean grid.

“No, really. What are we looking for?”

Miranda scrolled down in the folder. “This.” She clicked a folder labeled “Real Estate.”

If her hypothesis (not theory. Theories couldn’t be speculative) was that there’d be no record of Cindy’s Dad’s renting their house. She was a little scared to prove this to Cindy. If there was no record of Cindy moving to town, what did that mean?

The folder was organized by name, which was good since Cindy didn’t know the exact dates they’d moved in. “And you’re sure you’re not renting the house?”

“No, Dad said they bought it.”

Miranda kept herself from asking, “Which dad?”

She kept scrolling down to B. “Did he say who they bought the house from?”

“I don’t think so.”

Bauteil. There they were. So much for that theory … hypothesis. She clicked on the folder. There were five files in it, each with numerical titles so long the computer cut them off. She moused over them till she found one that included Transfer of Deed in the title.

She clicked on that one, but it took the computer a while to open it.

Miranda looked around her. The shelves mostly held thin grey boxes, the kind that probably held a bound official book. Next to the boxes, the shelves were packed with bead necklaces and rusted farm tools.


Cindy gasped. Miranda craned her neck to look at her. Cindy was staring at the screen, so Miranda looked too. The document looked official, pretty much what she imagined a house deed would look like, but the writing in the entry blanks were thick red and smudged. Miranda scrolled down. The red writing seemed to not just be in the blanks, there was writing in the margins and eventually whole pages were covered in drawings: flowers, puppies and lightening bolts.

She rolled it back to the top and squinted. The owner line seemed to be filled in with “Bauteil.”

Cindy touched the screen, like she could scratch at the digitized paper. “Is that crayon?”


Mrs. Murphy barely looked up from her magazine when she took the key. She waved at a line of sunlight gleaming off the shiny paper, as if it were a fly. Miranda waited for her to look up again, but eventually had to clear her throat.

“What you need sweetie.” Mrs. Murphy flipped a page.

The light gleamed in Miranda’s eyes. She looked at Cindy. Cindy nodded, which made Miranda feel a little more brave. “Do you know fills out the mortgage paperwork?”

Mrs. Murphy frowned and looked up at the ceiling for a moment. She looked back to the magazine before she answered. “Mr. Bradly’s the only real-estate agent in town, then they’re always notarized by Mr. Perkins at the bank.”

It really was a small town. Miranda thought for a moment. She’d never met Mr. Bradly before. Mr. Perkins was a nice, quiet man. Once she’d had to convert some rolls of pennies and he seemed very patient.

“Do, you know … Mr. Bradly, he’s not crazy is he?”

An inhale of breath came from Cindy behind her.

The magazine made a thwomp sound as it hit the desk. Mrs. Murphy stared at Miranda for a whole minute.

“What?” The expression on Mrs. Murphy’s face looked as if Miranda had turned purple or something.

Cindy shifted from foot to foot. “What she means is–“

Miranda pushed on. “Does he use a pen?”

“Honey, what in the heavens are you talking about?”

She could feel herself shaking with embarrassment. She wanted to grab Cindy’s hand for support. Cindy would probably let her too, but she didn’t think people did that in public, at least not in Aught.

“It’s just that we looked up the deed on my house and there’s … ” Cindy waved vaguely down to the basement. “Something weird about it and we were worried about the … legalness of it.”

Mrs. Murphy smiled in that way that adults did when they were about to tell you how stupid you were. “Now hon, I’m sure the paperwork is in order.” She looked from one of them to the other and let out a little snort. “How would you know the difference anyway?”

Miranda’s face was hot. “That’s why we asked about the pen–“

Cindy blurted out. “Will you at least come down and look at it with us?”

Mrs. Murphy looked affronted. “I can’t leave my post, hon.” She picked up her magazine again.