Chapter 2: An evil laugh, the disappearances, the message and the split up

That evening, the Level 3 cadets were doing drill practices under Garfield's supervision. They were instructed on how to perform rifle drill, with Garfield making clear on his emphasis in treating the practice rifles used in the drill as if they were loaded with ammunition.

"These rifles may be practice rifles used for practices and are not loaded, but it is very important to treat them as if they're real rifles loaded with ammunition." Garfield said in his demonstration with the cadets nodding in understanding. "That said, these practice rifles are not toys and must be treated as if they are real weapons at all times. No exceptions."

As he ordered the cadets to make a left turn, Flight Sergeant Larry Pendrick, who succeeded him as Flight 3's flight commander upon his promotion to WO2, walked towards him.

"Wu, do you have a moment?" Pendrick asked.

"Yes, just a minute." Garfield replied before turning back to the marching cadets and barked, "Squad, halt!"

Once the band of cadets stopped, Garfield turned to Pendrick and asked, "So what's up, Pendrick?"

"Have you or any of the seniors seen Squadron Leader Sanders around?" Pendrick asked.

Garfield frowned briefly in thought for a moment before shaking his head. "I haven't seen him. Why?"

"It's about tonight's senior's meeting during the break." Pendrick said. "Flight Lieutenant Merkley told us this past Tuesday that we were to meet with Squadron Leader Sanders in tonight's senior's meeting to discuss something important, and I thought that he should be around at the school or at least in his office by this point of the night if he were to prepare for the meeting."

"Good point." Garfield nodded thoughtfully. "He's not in his office?"

"The office looked like no one has entered it tonight." Pendrick shook his head.

"Alright." Garfield said. "Go find the other seniors and see if they have seen Squadron Leader Sanders."

"I just did, and no one has seen the CO." Pendrick said. "In addition, I haven't been able to find WO1 St. Laurent anywhere since the opening parade."

"Sheez." Garfield remarked. "Have you checked the other barracks? They might be there."

"I've already fetched someone to check the other barracks." Pendrick said. "Other than the other training classes, they came back reporting that they didn't spot the CO or WO1 St. Laurent in the barracks."

"Now that's funny." Garfield nodded thoughtfully as he spotted Flight Lieutenant David Merkley walking nearby, conferring with WO2 Meyers, the squadron warrant officer.

Before he could say something, though, the lights suddenly went out!

"Say, what happened to the lights?" Someone asked in the darkness.

Just then, there was some evil laughter and Pendrick asked, "What's so funny about this?"

"It's not from any of us, sir." One of the Corporals said.

"Someone get the lights!" Garfield said.

Some minutes went by before the lights returned, but when it did, Garfield and Pendrick's eyes both widened.

"Flight Lieutenant Merkley's gone!" Pendrick exclaimed. "And so is Warrant Officer Meyers!"

"And there's a message sprayed onto the barracks wall." Garfield added. "'NO ONE CAN STOP THE PHANTOM CADET!', it says."

"Phantom Cadet?" Pendrick asked. "I thought that was merely a legend, in which the Phantom Cadet is supposed to be a ghost of a cadet who was said to have disappeared at the Rockcliffe base years ago after he was disqualified from pilot training."

"As did I." Garfield nodded. "Either way, whoever sprayed the message and made Meyers and Flight Lieutenant Merkley disappear is someone we better not mess with."

"And we should probably assume that that someone is also responsible for St. Laurent and the other officers' disappearances." Pendrick interjected.

"Exactly what I'm thinking." Garfield nodded in agreement before turning to the squad of corporals.

In a swift decision, Garfield ordered the squad of 18 to put their rifles onto the ground before having them stand at ease.

"Alright, squad, change in plans." Garfield said after the squad all stood at ease. "What we're going to do now is that you all are going to split up into four groups of three and one group of six."

Eying the three cadets at the rightmost column, he continued, "Corporals Gilroy, Stewart and Anderson, you three go check on the Level 1 class and have everyone regroup here in the main barrack."

Turning to the three cadets at the second column, he continued, "Corporals Abbado, Kraus and LAC O'Mara, you three do the same for the Level 2 class."

Eying the three cadets at the third column, he continued, "Corporals Crabtree, Reilly and LAC Welker, you three do the same for the Level 4 class."

Turning to the six cadets at the fourth and fifth columns, he continued, "Corporals Lau, Chu, both Corporal Khans, LACs Mackay and Larson, you six search the premises and fetch any seniors you can find."

And finally, turning to the remaining three cadets, he added, "Corporals Archer, Jackson and Murdoch, you three stay with Flight Sergeant Pendrick and I and we'll go check on the two duty corporals."

Facing the whole squad again, he then added, "And remember to stick together, everyone. Last thing we all want is more cadets disappearing like the officers and WO1 St. Laurent did earlier."

"Is that understood?" Pendrick asked.

Immediately, the squad all stood at attention and barked, "Yes, sir!"

"Excellant." Garfield nodded in approval. "And also remember to keep your eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary. If you spot something unusual, please don't hesitate to let me or Flight Sergeant Pendrick know."

With the squad all nodding in agreement and understanding, Garfield dismissed the squad before they proceeded to split up.

A short while later, the rest of the squadron assembled in the main barrack with attendance being taken. Most of the level 1 cadets seemed shaken up by the sudden power outage, the evil laughter and the disappearances.

"So it's not just Flight Lieutenant Merkley and Warrant Officer Meyers that are missing." Garfield said after the three of the teams reported back to him. "St. Laurent, the CO and the training officers that were here are nowhere to be seen."

"That's right, sir." Reilly replied as the other teams nodded. "None of the team has seen Flight Sergeant Connolly and Flight Sergeant McLean either."

"Then, we're going to have to assume that whoever this Phantom Cadet was also managed to nab them." Pendrick interjected. "Of all the training nights for Flying Officer Lenny to be off."

"He told me that he's taking part in a police raid tonight, so he won't be here at the barracks." Garfield said.

Looking around, he then motioned the remaining seniors to gather around him with the sergeants keeping order among the junior cadets.

"So what should we do about this, Wu?" The drum major, Flight Sergeant Jean-Philippe Gauthier, asked.

"Judging from the volunteer work I've did at the Ottawa Police, in addition to my alerting Flying Officer Lenny on an illegal gambling ring at the Ottawa SuperEX this past summer, I say we should investigate." Garfield replied.

Before the other flight sergeants can reply, there was a knock on the main entrance door to the barrack.

"Better see who that is at the door." Garfield said. "Pendrick and Neeson, you guys come with me and answer the door. The rest of you, stay put and keep an eye on the cadets."

"Right." Gauthier nodded.

Staying together in a group, the trio of senior cadets made their way to the main entrance door and opened the door.

On the other side stood Under Officer 2nd Class Rachel Leclerc, who's the parade deputy commander of the local Canadian Girls Venture Corps Air Cadets squadron attached to 6th Wing Royal Canadian Air Cadets, along with Flight Sergeant Jessica Curry.

In the dim light provided by the nearby lamp, the trio can also see three bands of female air cadets standing behind them.

"Hello, Wu." Leclerc said in greeting.

"Let me guess: The Phantom Cadet nabbed your senior cadets and officers?" Garfield raised an eyebrow.

"That's right." Leclerc nodded. "Our suspicions were initially laid on your cadets pulling a prank on us."

"A rather elaborate one if you ask me." Neeson interjected. "It just so happened that we're having the same issue."

"Looks like we're on the same boat." Curry nodded.

"Anyways, mind if we bring our squadron into the barrack while this mess is cleared up?" Leclerc asked.

"Normally, I'll have to ask the officers on that." Garfield replied. "However, since all of our officers have went missing and I'm the sole Warrant Officer who hasn't been nabbed, I'm gonna make the judgement call to allow you girls in until this mess is sorted out."

"Besides, the main barrack has enough room for 200 people." Pendrick added.

"Perfect." Leclerc nodded before motioning the cadets into the barrack.

After the female cadets have settled in the barrack and a headcount is done, the senior cadets from the two squadrons huddled together for a meeting while the sergeants kept watch on the junior cadets.

"So as WO2 Wu was saying, we should investigate this ourselves." Neeson said.

"Shouldn't we contact the police?" Flight Sergeant Julia Atkinson asked.

"We've already sent two cadets to make the phonecall." Garfield replied. "However, they reported that the phone line has been cut."

"Same with our telephone." Leclerc added. "Of all the training nights for Flying Officer Lenny to take part in a police raid."

"I know, eh?" Flight Sergeant Mark Slorach nodded in agreement. "As WO2 Wu said, we should investigate this and see if we clear this up."

"But we're gonna have to stay together." Flight Sergeant Donna Bruun interjected. "Whoever is behind all of this managed to kidnap not just your WO1 and both of our officers, but also UO1 Lucille Dickens and UO2 Anita Dickinson, and we don't need any of us to be next."

"Right." Garfield nodded. "Now, our duty corporals reported that no one entered the barrack after the squadron split up for training, nor did they spot any vehicle entering, leaving or driving by through the window on the entrance doors."

"So are we looking at someone from our squadron who is actually responsible for this?" Slorach asked.

"Possibly." Garfield nodded. "Though how did that someone managed to snatch Flight Lieutenant Merkley and WO1 St. Laurent in the same time?"

"We may be looking at someone very strong." Atkinson said.

"As well as someone familiar with the air base." Neeson added.

"In that case, we ought to search around the area." Garfield said. "Whoever's responsible for this hasn't gone far, and he or she might still be in the area."

"Which also means we have to keep the cadets together and have the seniors keep an eye on them." Leclerc added. "May I suggest that we first search our barracks?"

"Works with me." Garfield shrugged. "Perhaps we can find a clue there."

"So with Wu and Leclerc going, who else wants to go?" Atkinson asked.

"I'll go." Pendrick quickly said.

"Same here." Slorach added.

"Count me in." The girls' drum major, Flight Sergeant Rene Ogden, added.

"And same here." Bruun said.

"And the rest of us will keep watch on the cadets." Gauthier added.

"Good thinking." Garfield nodded. "If any of the cadets spot anything unusual, do let us know when we return."

"No problem." Neeson said. "And we'll gather up the sergeants to help us keep watch on the cadets."

Everyone nodded before they proceeded to split up.

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