I read the daily planner last night, but there wasn't much that interested me. Mostly, Aunt Dot had written due dates for homework, and days to have tests and quizzes prepared by. I did see that there was a meeting scheduled weekly for the Five Petals, though, and it was on every Sunday at 5 PM. I realised that this has never changed--Mom and Dad had always gone to Five Petals meetings at that time every week, too.
I also noticed that one of the meetings, particularly the meeting of April 17th, was circled, and that there was no meeting scheduled for the 24th. For a moment, this struck me as odd, but then I realised that the 24th was the day before yesterday, and the 17th was the week before. I leafed through the months to come and saw that nothing was filled in at all. That sent up a warning flag, but I tucked it in the back of my mind for now.
After my meager breakfast this morning (dry cereal and an egg), I searched the house.
I went up to my aunt and uncle's master bedroom first. I didn't want to snoop too much, but being that it's the place they go to sleep at night, I thought I might find something interesting. At first, I didn't. The bedroom boasted a nicely-made bed and a bouquet of wilting Easter lilies in the window, but was fairly minimalistic aside from that. The writing desk at the wall didn't yield any interesting papers, either. I was about to give up, but I decided to check the closet before moving on. Painted on the wall in there was the Five Petals symbol, but it was different. Instead of the middle of the flower, there was an eye. Right in the pupil of the eye was a small hook, just big enough to hold a key. In fact, there was a key dangling from it then. I snatched it up and took a close look at it, and, noting the "basement" tag that was attached, made my way to the basement to see what was hidden there.
I've never seen a Five Petals symbol like that before. I've grown up in this community, surrounded by Five Petals members and seeing the symbol everywhere, but never that version. The eye was unsettling. Though all it held was a hook with a key, I still had the distinct feeling that it was watching me. Maybe that was the point.
I made my way downstairs but, looking at the basement door lock compared to the key, I noted it didn't fit. The door swung open easily, though, so I decided to look around nonetheless. I pocketed the key, just in case.
Years of being away from home and away from my family have led me to forget just how big my aunt and uncle's basement is. It takes up a full bottom storey and is sectioned off into three rooms, one of them very large. I left that one for the last.
The two smaller rooms were immediately to my right, separated inwardly by a wall. The first contained a variety of tools, particularly for downstairs use, and a workbench. I also spied the hedge trimmer--they must have brought it in for the winter so it wouldn't rust. The salt in the air from the nearby deposits can be harmful to machinery, after all. Right next to the hedge trimmer I spied a red plastic can. A gas can! I picked it up to find it heavy with gas. What luck! I took it and moved on to the next room.
The second small room had a number of labeled boxes. Christmas decorations, ornaments, and some Halloween things as well. There was sure to be nothing of interest there, so I moved on.
The large room was dedicated to my Uncle Eric's hobby fighting dojo. He has always been interested in weapons and various martial arts, and he used to hire private tutors to come down and teach him things. It dawned on me that I will probably need a weapon of some kind. I don't have any other way of defending myself, currently. I browsed through the stores to find all kinds of flashy weapons, probably intended for different arts. Then, I saw a few daggers on a block. Facing directly across was a target shaped like a person, made out of old plywood. It was peppered with knife nicks and marks, telling any onlooker that Uncle Eric used this quite often. The more recent notches seem to have hit vital area on the target's body, hinting that Eric has probably improved significantly.
I grabbed one of the knives and examined it. Interestingly, the hilt had a fairly ornate carving of the Five Petals symbol in it. I've never seen anything like this, either. As far as I knew, weapons weren't anything at all to do with the Five Petals' edict. Regardless, the familiarity of the symbol (and, perhaps, the lack of the eye in the center) gave me some comfort. I took it, and tried throwing it a few times. I wasn't very good, though it's nothing I've tried before. Instead, I thought to hide it somewhere I could access it easily, in case I need it for hand-to-hand combat. Hopefully I never have to use it, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
I left the basement and went back upstairs, slightly defeated. I was hoping to find more here, but nothing came to me. Instead, I got some gas and a weapon. At least now I'm armed, and I can drive again. I went to leave, but I took another glance in the living room to notice that the light on the answering machine was blinking. They still have an old fashioned machine. I went over and pushed the button.
"One unheard message," came the mechanical female voice from the other end. The message played.
"You need to listen to me, and I will call a dozen more times if I have to," came a breathless, crazed voice from the other end. I couldn't place it, but she sounded familiar. "You need to come see me, now. No one can find out about this. Everyone else has grown too wild to be trusted with it, not that they would understand anyway. They're like outsiders in our own families! Imagine what the mothers would think!"
For some reason, the message gave me an uneasy feeling right in the pit of my stomach. I was suddenly aware that I wasn't in a good location now, and I had to leave. So I did.
I walked down Cue and turned back onto Academy, heading for Garden Street. Right at the bottom of the street, I found the Lotus Blossom Cafe and Craft Shop. I almost didn't bother trying the front door--it would have been better not to, because it was locked. I went around back to find that door locked, too, but the window was open. I pushed it the rest of the way open and slipped in.
The smell of coffee still lingered, even though it probably hadn't been brewed for days. Cafes like this always seem to have that scent imbued in them. I love coffee, so the smell was comforting. In fact, I decided to make myself some, and in payment to the absent owner I left a five dollar bill on the counter.
I needed to take some time to compose my thoughts, so I sat down for a minute to think. Some paintings of the town hang from the wall above me, so right now I'm gazing at them as I write. My coffee's almost gone so I'll have to leave soon. Maybe I should take a hint from the paintings about where to go next...?