Chapter 24 - Misheard Whispers (Part 2)
"So? We're innocent - they'll listen to our story and they'll believe us."
I slid my hands through my hair, contemplating how everything would look from an outside perspective. "You don't understand... I phoned to report a murder - Surge is saying that there was a murder on board, they've got us on CCTV and we've been here before..."
"What are you talking about?!"
"The incident at the Cerulean Manor that the reporter just mentioned - April and I were there."
"It was an undercover Team Rocket base; they were kidnapping people and stealing their Pokémon to try and get information out of them. April and I accidently found out and freed two people and the Pokémon they had captive. But the Rockets blew up the whole Manor and escaped in a helicopter before the police arrived - there was no evidence left to prove they were ever there.
I was unconscious but apparently they suspected us of stealing the Pokémon for a few days but thanks to the two people we rescued they had no evidence to actually hold us on. But if the police come now and find out that that" I pointed to the TV, "is us, then they'll put all this together for sure!"
Naoko's eyes shifted in different directions as she thought on what I had just told her. Her eyes settled as she reached a decision and she picked up her purple bag from the floor. "I'm out of here." She said with raised eyebrows as she headed for the door.
"Wait - you can't leave without us!" I cried, chasing her across the foyer.
"Why not? You saw how grainy that CCTV was - if I'm not with you then they'll never know it was me."
"You owe April." I said, grabbing the girl's arm to try and make her stop and listen.
Naoko turned to me, enraged. "My friend is dead - I don't owe her anything." She said, pushing my hand away from her using more force than she needed to, marching to the exit.
"She saved your life!" I bellowed as she walked out of the doors and out of our lives.
Just like that, she was gone. Disappearing into the ever-moving streets of human traffic.
To my left I noticed that Ditto and Chinchou had stopped playing and were staring at me, their eyes full of concern.
"Don't worry guys, everything's fine." I said before withdrawing them into their pokeballs, lying through my teeth.
As I began pacing up and down the room nervously, wondering what we could possibly do to escape the situation, a steady stream of people began emerging from their rooms. Which led me to the conclusion - we could just walk out.
I had phoned the police on my mobile - they didn't see my face so we could just act like we were any other trainers and they would be nonethewiser. The only problem was that they would start asking questions about the phone call which would make Joy and Tim point us out as the most likely suspects - we still had to leave.
The back of the Pokémon Centre looked alot more like a hospital than the reception, aside from the number of Chanseys that were strolling in and out of various rooms performing their rounds. The floors and walls all shone a marvellous white and the smell of disinfectant lingered in the air.
Walking down the corridor, I briefly glanced through the glass panes in each door trying and find the room April was being treated in. I stopped when I spotted Tim's spiky brown hair through a window pane crouching down next to a familiar brown-haired girl who was sat upright on a surgical bed.
Lifting my fist up to knock on the door I stopped myself and thought for a moment.
"Swablu?" I asked, holding my right arm out to the side of me in a rigid L shape.
The cotton bird uncurled herself from my head and gently flapped down onto my arm, creating a small breeze that wisped through my hair in the process. She stood to attention and tilted her little blue head inquisitively.
"I need you to keep watch at the entrance and come and find me as soon as you see any police arriving, okay?"
Swablu chirped in agreement and took off, gracefully flying back down the hallway.
I knocked at the door but didn't receive an invitation to enter. Tim glanced over to me and then said something to April before standing up and coming out of the room to greet me. Shutting the door behind him, he gestured me slightly to the right, out of view of the window.
"Your friend April-"
"-Is she okay?" I asked abruptly.
"She'll be fine, luckily the lacerations weren't as deep as they looked and the electric burns are only minor, so all she needs to do is to take it easy for a while and let her body heal. What concerns me is that neither April nor Naoko would explain to me just how they came upon these injuries. If it's a question of confidentiality then I can assure you, we are more than strict on our oaths. But if it's something else... then maybe you'd feel more comfortable talking to the police?"
My heart skipped a beat.
"No, no you don't need to do that... We just ran into a bad batch of Pokémon really, and April took the brunt of it. I think she's just a bit shaken up - I know I would be."
Tim raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly with his arms folded. "If you're sure?"
"Positive." I replied, relieved that he had believed the lie. "But she'll be okay?"
"Absolutely. Just... take it easy for a couple of days." He said with a smile, patting my arm and then continuing down the corridor.
Wasting no time, as soon as Tim disappeared around a corner, I took the opportunity to go inside the nearby room and saw that April was still sat upright on the surgical bed. She'd put on a new set of clothes and looked like her old self again, but was sat gazing out of the window to her right, not even acknowledging me entering the room.
"April?" I asked, slowly advancing towards her.
As I neared in closer I could see that the colour had drained from April's eyes; her irises had diluted into a plain white and she was staring blankly... at nothing. Stunned, I looked closely at her and waved my palm across her line of sight but still there was nothing - not even a single blink.
I crouched down in front of her and gently turned her head to face me. April blinked heavily and suddenly her ocean-blue irises were back again.
"...Alex?" She asked groggily, as if she had just woken up from a dream.
"April, listen to me..." I began, holding her hands which she immediately pulled away to cover her ears.
"Ah, the Voice! It's so loud!" April cried, shutting her eyes to try and block out whatever she was hearing.
"Voice? ...April there's no one here!"
"I can hear them... In my head..." She said, rocking herself back and forth where she sat - something was clearly going on inside of her head but unfortunately I wouldn't have time to figure out what as Swablu flew into the room through the gap in the doorframe chirping hysterically.
Realising what this meant, I thanked Swablu for her help and withdrew her into her pokeball before turning back to April.
"I'm sorry April, but we need to leave - now."
"Leave?" She asked, trying to concentrate on what I was saying. "Why?"
"I don't have time to explain; there's cctv and a murder, but basically - we need to hide from the police." I said, trying prise to open the room's only window. "Argh!" I cried out in frustration as I kicked the wall, knowing we couldn't force our way out. We had to sneak away unnoticed so as not to arouse suspicion but in the state April was in there was no way we could manage that.
All of a sudden a flash of white appeared from inside April's bag that lay open on the floor and Slowking appeared in front of us. Looking about the room as if to determine the source, he proclaimed; "I hear it too."
"Make it stop!" April cried, still clutching her head, rocking herself back and forth atop the bed.
"Sorry." He replied, seeming shocked that he hadn't done anything sooner. The regal Pokémon slowly raised his left arm to his forehead and shut his eyes to concentrate as a small deep blue aura began to encase him. He clearly began to struggle as his eyelids clenched tighter together and his arm began to tremble, but nonetheless he still stood his ground and kept trying until a white halo appeared above his trainer's head. The halo lowered itself until it began to absorb into April's forehead almost immediately spreading an expression of relief across her face.
I rushed to her side as she took a deep sigh, enjoying the calmness in her own head.
"Need to get away... hurry, it's strong." Slowking muttered, clutching his forehead.
"Away?" I asked, darting my head back and forth between the Pokémon and the human, feeling like there was something they both weren't telling me.
"From the Voice. But Alex, listen - it was-" April began, interrupted mid-sentence by a voice from down the hall.
"I think the people you're looking for are down here, but just to warn you the girl seems a bit shaken up." It was Joy. And she was leading the police straight to us!
Instinctively I grabbed April's hand and scooped Slowking up in the other arm whilst heading for the door. The corridor was alot busier than it had been a few minutes ago with Trainers walking up and down all eager to pick up their Pokémon to set off into the new day. Looking to my right I could see about 4 or 5 navy blue police caps advancing towards us from the back of the small crowd, so we took a sharp left turn out of the doorway. Making sure to walk at a relatively slow pace so we could blend in with the others, we continued down the corridor coming to a T junction with an operating theatre and prep rooms to the right and other, smaller rooms to the left. April quickly glanced behind us, before we made another left turn.
"Two of them are coming this way." She whispered across to me.
"We need a place to hide." I replied, trying not to let my panic show.
Each room was occupied by another person as we walked by - there was nowhere to hide! Panicking even more I turned around to find that April had disappeared too! Startled, I began to think she had been found by the police so I crept up to the corner and began to peer around it when I was suddenly pulled backwards into a dark, confined space.
It was a janitor's closet.
As I balanced myself I grabbed onto the nearest possible thing to steady myself, but that thing happened to be a woman's chest. "...April?" I whispered.
"That would be me." She replied.
"Oh... sorry." I said, feeling myself blushing in the darkness. Releasing my grip, I quickly backstepped away onto someone else's foot.
"Ow?" A familiar voice said rather sarcastically.
"Shh!!" The two girls hissed, followed by a sharp elbow to my stomach from Naoko.
She pointed to a small vent in the door where outside a young policeman walked past, not quite sure what he was scouting for but on the lookout for anything suspicious nonetheless. We all held our breath as he strolled full circle around this end of the pokecentre, until finally disappearing back around the corner. We all exhaled heavily, trying to regain our normal breathing patterns.
"Do you need to elbow me? I asked sharply, actually more annoyed at her leaving us earlier than the throbbing pain in my stomach.
"Yes. Otherwise you would've gotten us caught, and I wasn't about to let that happen."
"Ugh, why are there so many of them?"
"You phoned to report a murder. If you're prone to killing people then they're not exactly going to just send one officer down to come and collect you are they?"
"Quickly..." Slowking muttered, sounding more and more like he was losing his grip on keeping the Voice at bay.
"Hey, I only asked a question, you don't need to be -"
"-Would you two stop it? We need to figure out how we're going to get out of here!" She whispered sharply, cutting me off.
"Let us handle this." Naoko scoffed, releasing her Minun from her pokeball as she knelt to the floor. "Okay Meena, just how we practiced."
The cream and blue Minus pokemon nodded and shifted closer to the door. Her trainer opened it only a fraction of an inch, just enough for her pokemon to squeeze through and then shut it immediately after. For a few seconds there was silence, April and I looked at each other questioningly, each of us having no idea what we were waiting for. Naoko raised her index finger to signal for us to listen closely and within a few seconds there was a small series of knocks from outside, quick bursts followed by two slow pounds.
"It's clear." Naoko said, opening the door and walking out into the corridor without a second glance.
We chased after her into what was, in fact, an empty corridor where she was heading for a nearby fire-exit. Again she knelt to the floor and began fiddling with a small wire that lead away from the door and along the wall beside it. "April, can you keep watch on the corner?" She asked, not even looking up from her work.
April contemplated this for a moment before nodding. "Sure." She said, carefully sneaking along the clean white walls.
Meena now held up the wire for Naoko as she rummaged about under her bandana, pulling out a small pair of wire cutters and set to work on whatever she was doing.
"...What made you come back?" I asked, taking advantage of April not being within listening distance.
"You were right." She said, concentrating on the wire. "I do owe her... And I'm sorry for the way I acted."
"You came back." I smiled. "That's all that matters."
An echo of shoes running across the tiled floor reached our ears. "They know we're not in our rooms and we haven't checked out - we don't have long!" April cried.
I looked down to Naoko who was still fiddling with the wire. "Any chance you can hurry that up?" Accidentally sounding more impatient than worried.
Naoko twisted two cables together and stood back up, Meena at her side. "Done."
"So that switched off the fire alarm?" I assumed.
"Only one way to find out." She said, pushing the door lever downwards and opening it.
A smug look of satisfaction spread across her face as an almost blinding ray or morning sunshine poured through the opening; a look that was quickly wiped off as a doctor with short, spiky brown hair came out of a nearby room - it was Tim. He looked across to us strangely and contemplated what he should do next.
"-There's Tim, maybe he's seen them." Came the sound of Joy's voice from around the corner.
The doctor remained calm and collected and looked towards us, gesturing his head backwards to the fire exit. Naoko didn't need telling twice and hot-footed it out the door, grabbing April's arm as she went. I stood there for a further second, shocked at what this doctor was doing for us - potentially risking imprisonment for people he didn't know. Tim smiled at me and I silently mouthed 'thank you' before following the girls out the door.
Outside, I rushed down a small set of stone steps into a back alley lined with dumpsters, just in time to find April releasing Manetric from a pokeball.
"When did that happen?!" I exclaimed.
"Nevermind that now, let's just get out of here." Naoko said, climbing up onto the giant wolf Pokémon.
April and I followed her example and we set off through the backstreets. Slowking, still held in my arms, began to shake quite violently as he lost his hold on whatever was inside his head. April turned to try and help her Pokémon but instead became pale and emotionless as Slowking's mental barrier had faded, letting the Voice take over.
"April!" I cried, watching her irises fade to white.
Trying to snap her out of it as I did before, I placed my hand onto the soft skin of her cheek and gently called her name.
...But it didn't work.
Panicking, I tried speaking to her normally. "April, the Voice is back isn't it? ...What is it saying? Just let me hear."
For a few seconds she remained in the zombie-like state; motionless and cold. That was until she opened her mouth and spoke two words; two words in a voice that was strained and that did not belong to her.