“Did he know you were recording it?” Bryce asked from the floor of Madison’s room, as she ended playback of the interview on her phone.
“Yeah, I got permission, and my phone was right there on his desk the whole time. I don’t think he expected the interview to go that way,” she said with a little smile.
“Understatement of the year!” Bryce said with a laugh. “So I’m not sure I completely follow what happened. Explain it to me.”
“Okay, so Principal Anderson started trying to get a recycling program going a couple years ago, but the superintendent’s office shut that down.”
“Why?” Bryce asked.
“No idea. I still need to figure that out. But whatever the reason, they did.”
“Okay, and then?”
“So my guess, which I absolutely cannot prove, is that he called his sister-in-law and asked her to organize a mob to pressure the school board to make it happen.”
“Which is kind of an end-run around his boss, the superintendent,” Bryce said.
“Could that get him fired?” Bryce asked.
“I don’t know. I hope not. I actually like him. But Mr. P. says you follow the story wherever it goes. Stay impartial and just report the facts as you find them.”
“So why didn’t the superintendent want a recycling program? Who doesn’t like recycling?” Bryce asked.
“I can’t figure that out. I searched the minutes of their meeting for the past couple of years—”
“Because of course you did,” Bryce interrupted.
“Because of course I did. And I only found it mentioned one time, about a year ago. And in that case, they immediately went in to executive session.”
“What’s executive session?”
“I don’t know. The minutes just said that the board voted to go into executive session to discuss labor issues. It was totally out of the blue.”
“And there are no minutes of that?” he asked.
“Not that I could find. I could do a FOIA, but that takes months.”
Madison laughed. “No. A FOIA, a Freedom of Information Act request. I don’t get what recycling would have to do with labor issues.”
“Madison! Garbage! Now!” Jenny called from downstairs.
“She sounds mad,” Bryce said.
“Coming!” Madison shouted back. “Oh shit. I told her I’d do it in a few minutes, and then you came over and I totally forgot.” Madison went to her door. “Oh my god! That’s it!”
“What’s it?” Bryce asked.
“I’ll explain when I get back.” Madison jogged down the stairs and collected the trash from the kitchen and bathroom, and replaced the bags. Then she headed outside in bare feet and loaded the bags into the bins by the garage. She dragged the bins to the curb, wishing the whole time she had put on shoes. Turning to go back inside, she noticed a car parked halfway down the block. There was someone in it. She squinted and tried to make out his face. “Oh my God!” she said quietly.
Madison walked back to her house until she was out of the line of sight of the driver, and then she ran inside, up the stairs, and into her room. “Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!” she repeated as she pulled the school’s Nikon from her backpack and fumbled to get it out of the case and attach the telephoto lens.
“What’s going on?” Bryce asked.
Madison rushed to the window and looked through the camera toward the car. She saw nothing. “Lens cap!” Bryce yelled from behind her.
“Oh!” Madison removed the lens cap and tried to zoom and focus on the vehicle. Her hands were shaking which made it impossible to see anything. She took a deep breath through her mouth and let it out slowly through her nose. Then she took a second deep breath and held it. She looked through the camera again and was able to snap a couple pictures.
She closed the curtains and ran to her door to switch off the light. Then she sat on the floor next to Bryce to show him the picture on the display on the back of the camera. “It’s him. The guy. From the place.”
“The guy? From the place?” Bryce asked. “Outside your house? Right now?”
He jumped to the window and looked out in the direction Madison had been facing. “He’s leaving.”
Bryce sat back down next to Madison and took the camera from her for a closer look. “Are you sure this is him? I don’t recognize him.”
“It’s definitely him. First the warehouse. Then the mall. Now he’s sitting outside my house.”
“That’s so creepy! What are you going to do?” Bryce asked.
Madison took the camera back and pressed a button. A close-up of a license plate appeared on the screen. “I got his tag,” she said. “There must be a way to find out who drives that car, right?”
“On TV, the PI always has a ‘friend at the station’ that runs the plate for them,” Bryce offered. “Do you have a friend at the station?”
Madison pursed her lips and thought. Bryce waited. Eventually she offered, “Charlie?”
“The SRO?” Bryce asked.
“He’s a cop, right? Maybe he’ll do it for me?”
“Do you even know him?” Bryce asked. “Mostly he just talks to the problem kids.”
“I don’t. But he seems nice. Maybe he’ll help me,” Madison said.
“I’m not sure breaking police procedural rules for a cute girl you don’t even know is part of the student resource officer mission statement,” Bryce deadpanned.
“I can be very convincing,” Madison said.