Strange things have been brewing around the office lately. Must be a full moon.
The boys still haven’t managed to sleep off their hangovers. In fact, they’re all about as frightened and sickly-looking as the day they first came back. And Zandes won’t even so much as touch his computer now. He just sits there, staring at his monitor.
"The Archbishop won't like it if you're slacking off," I reminded him, directing a playful snap of my fingers Zandes' way. But it was as if I was all but invisible to him. He didn't even turn his head.
I wondered what he was thinking about.
Strange things indeed.
It seemed as if the Archbishop started to take notice of all this as well, since she began calling the boys into her office one by one. One guy — a Priest by the name of Tell — grew real scared as he realized what was going on and ran straight out from the office.
I couldn’t hear what the Archbishop was saying to each of the boys through the walls, but they all returned with their heads hung low and desperate fear clouded over their eyes.
“What is it?” I asked Zandes as he lifelessly sat down in his seat next to mine. "What's going on? Get chewed out for your drinking?"
Finally, after days of zero response, Zandes looked at me. He moved as if his body was on strings. Purplish bags hung around his eyes. He hadn't slept in days.
“It's nothing,” he mumbled. There was a pause. He shook his head. He wanted to say more. "It sounds like... some people went looking around at something they shouldn't have the other day. A restricted area," he finally admitted. “But... That's all. I don't know anything about it..."
"I see..." I sighed as I nodded my head. I could feel the eyes of Zandes' friends peering at me from beyond their monitors, listening in to our conversation with concern
"I don't know anything about it," Zandes repeated.
But of course he knew. I knew that he knew. And frankly, he probably knew I knew as well.
But I wasn't about to say anything. I feared that might break him.
I gave poor Zandes a moment, a chance to settle down all the matters bubbling around his head. I could feel the desperation emanating off his whey-faced skin.
"I haven't heard anything either," I replied quietly.
I felt his eyes glance over my person for a moment. They were damp with tears.
"Thank you, Bishop Mandalay," Zandes responded quietly after a moment. "Thanks..."
He is just a kid after all. So young. When I was his age, the U.S. was a far different institution. Not as secretive. Sure, there were things us footsoldiers hadn't the privilege of knowing — but one's curiosity never resulted in punishment. Now, learn too much and your very livelihood could be on the line.
I don't want Zandes or anyone else getting in trouble for harmless shenanigans.
Of course, I want to know what happened. Perhaps I could help him that way, brainstorm something he could do to get the Archbishop off of his back.
But our office isn't the right place for it. I know that much. It isn't a safe place for casual chatter.