Break the Silence – D.K. Hood

Music played so loud it vibrated in Chrissie Lowe’s teeth. Students crammed into every spare space talking so loud they sounded like a flock of angry geese. Giddy and uncoordinated, she pushed her way between two huge football players to reach the stairs. The dream date with Seth Lyons—star college quarterback—had faded like a rose in winter. The fruit punch he’d insisted she drink to “loosen up” had the effect of making the room go all misty around the edges. Surrounded by people she didn’t know didn’t help the wave of rising panic and uncertainty of being the only girl at the party. The niggly feeling something wasn’t quite right hit her the moment Seth had refused to give her a ride back to her dorm. His insistence she stay worried her, as did the strange, overly interested looks from his friends. Her legs had become Jell-O and she sagged against the wall. “I don’t feel so good. I want to go home.” “And I figured you were all grown up.” Seth grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her around. “Go upstairs. You can rest up in my room.

” Glad of a chance to get away from the thumping music keeping time to the throb in her temples, she glanced at the wavering stairs. “Up there?” “Yeah, go right to the end of the hallway.” Seth’s hand settled on the small of her back and he gave her an encouraging push toward the steps. A group of juniors she recognized as members of the football team leaned against the walls, drinking beer and watching with interest as she staggered up the stairs. When they grinned at her and made hooting noises like a bunch of deranged owls, her cheeks grew hot with embarrassment. Chrissie smacked away the hands trying to snag her and turned to Seth. “Are these your friends?” “Uh-huh. Don’t worry about those animals.” He snorted and high-fived his friends. “It will be just you ’n’ me.

” A wave of nausea hit her as his overpowering aftershave mingled with the smells of beer and barbecue. She just wanted to lie down and hoped the room would stop spinning. Using the wall for support, she eased her way through the packed hallway and opened the door. It was the usual-sized room but with two double beds, not like the singles in her dorm. “You’ve double beds?” “Yeah, us guys need a bit more space than you do.” Seth grinned at her. “Sit down. I’ll get you a couple of pills.” He headed for the open bathroom door. Warning lights flashed in her brain and the long talk her parents had given her about not drinking or taking drugs filled her swimming thoughts.

When she shook her head, her stomach rolled. “I don’t need any pills. I just need to lie down for a spell.” “Head all fuzzy?” Seth came out of the bathroom. “Feel like you’re gonna spew?” He handed her two pills then a glass of water. “These will make you feel better. You gotta trust me, Chrissie.” She peered at the pills. “Are they like Tums?” “I guess.” Seth sat down, making the bed dip.

“Come on, Chrissie. We can’t enjoy ourselves with you all messed up like this.” She peered at the pills. “I don’t take drugs.” “Do you think I would’ve asked you to come here if you did?” Seth touched her cheek. “I like you because you’re so sweet and innocent.” When he looked deep into her eyes, her stomach gave a little flip. She so wanted to please him but being drunk and alone with him in his bedroom was a big mistake. Swallowing hard, she wet her lips. “I think I should go.

” “You don’t trust me, do you?” Seth dashed a hand through his hair in an impatient gesture. “You know there are ten girls I know who would’ve jumped at the chance to be invited up to my room but I chose you—I can’t believe you’re turning out to be basic.” He stood and glared at her. “If you don’t trust me, forget it. I’ll give you a ride back to your dorm—but don’t expect to hear from me again any time soon.” Unable to take his condemnation a moment longer, Chrissie allowed her gaze to linger on his handsome face for just a moment then took the pills. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Seth gave her a brilliant smile, and sat down again. “Let me help you with your jacket.” He tossed it onto a chair then puffed up the pillows and eased her down on the bed. “Lie back and relax.

The pills will make you feel so good like you’re floating on a cloud.” He stood and stared down at her. “Close your eyes. Let me turn down the lights.” Head throbbing, she complied. The door opened and a blast of noise from the party filled the room for long moment before the door closed again, reducing the loud music to a tolerable buzz. Has he left me alone? Heaviness filled her limbs and she tried unsuccessfully to lift her arms. A strange numbing sensation had crept over her and she couldn’t move. It was as if the bed had turned into quicksand. Frightened, she tried to call for help but only a moan escaped her lips.

Whispered voices deep and masculine surrounded her but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. A dizzy, out-of-body feeling swamped her and it was an effort to keep her eyes open. She tried to focus on the faces grinning at her and then darkness closed in around her. Chrissie opened her eyes, disoriented and confused, and took in the damp lawn outside her dorm. The freshly cut grass prickled her cheek and the world seemed to be upside down. Stifling a moan, she rolled onto her back and stared into the stars, trying to make sense of what had happened. With effort, she sat up, pulled out her phone, and stared at the screen for some moments, not sure what to do. After sending a text, she stood on trembling legs, stumbled at the curb and her phone slipped from her hand. As it fell down a drain, she stared after it in dismay for a long moment before making her way slowly to the front door. Luckily, the glass door to the dorm lobby remained open on Saturday nights and her room was on the ground floor.

She found her key, safe in the zippered pocket of her jacket, and staggered into the building. Empty, well-lit passageways greeted her as she made her way to her room. She passed the noticeboard and, among the coupons for free pizza, she spotted a newspaper article about the Black Rock Falls College football team. Familiar faces grinned out at her from a team photograph. Leaning against the wall for support, she grabbed the pen hanging by a string, circled four of the faces, and then added a sad-faced emoji and her initials. Outside, the roar of a powerful engine caught her attention and she looked through the glass door as a car, cloaked in darkness, crawled by her building and then stopped. Panic froze her to the spot. She couldn’t breathe. The click as the car door shut sounded loud in the stillness, and moments later, a shadow crossed the lawn, coming fast. Chrissie fumbled for her key.

Once, twice she tried with trembling fingers to slide it into the lock. Her heart pounded in her chest as the front door whined opened. She dared not scream. No one must ever know. As the key slid into the lock, footsteps came down the hallway. She gasped in terror. I have to get away. ONE MONDAY Black Rock Falls in August was spectacular. An entire artist’s palette of colors painted the landscape, and from Sheriff Jenna Alton’s front porch, she could see for miles across the vast grasslands to the mountain ranges. Under a clear, brilliant blue sky, the black mountain peaks stood out like a wall of protection around the town, with the pines of Stanton Forest marching up to meet them in a mix of luxurious greens.

Wildflowers spilled over the lush grass surrounding her ranch, and from where she sat, she could see the horses frolicking in the corral. Jenna put her boots up on the railing, leaned back in her chair—coffee cup in hand—and sighed. “It’s good to be home.” She smiled at Dave Kane, her deputy and close friend. “I kind of missed this place but I sure needed a vacation.” “Me too.” Kane yawned. “I wouldn’t have minded a couple more weeks’ rest.” He rubbed the head of his bloodhound, Duke. “But Rowley was worried Duke had started to stress, so next time we’ll take him with us.

” “That sounds like a really good plan. Think about it—two or three weeks of baking in the sun on a beautiful beach, blue skies, white sand… ah, bliss.” She smiled at him. “It was nice to relax for a change, without the constant caseload.” “Maybe we’ll be able to catch another week a bit later, but I guess with the county fair and rodeo in town this week, things are gonna start getting crazy.” Kane leaned back and dark lashes closed over his eyes. “We might as well make the most of the lull.” Jenna hoped Deputy Jake Rowley would head out to work early as usual and open the office of the Black Rock Falls Sheriff’s Department. As far as she was aware, all was quiet in town and she really didn’t feel like rushing. She’d arrived in Black Rock Falls some years prior after giving evidence against an underworld kingpin and landing in witness protection.

After spending a year recovering from PTSD, she’d put her name forward in the elections and won the position of sheriff. She’d finally left undercover DEA Agent Avril Parker behind and slipped into her new life with enthusiasm. Dave Kane, an intimidating, six-foot-five sniper, had arrived a couple of years later, and she’d discovered he was an off-the-grid DC’s Special Forces Investigation Command agent with incredible profiling skills. He’d just lost his wife in a car bombing and gained a metal plate in his head. They had the same secrets: new identities and faces, not to mention security clearances that went right up to the office of POTUS. During their time together, they’d formed a special bond as close friends. When they had the chance to grab a couple of weeks’ vacation, it seemed natural to spend it together. The outer perimeter alarm sounded then cut out and Jenna jumped to her feet. With one hand on her weapon, she slid into the cover of the house. “It’s a white van.

” “It’s Wolfe.” Kane frowned. “Why didn’t he call first?” After spending a week of luxury vacationing in Santa Cruz with Kane, the last person Jenna expected to find on her doorstep was the medical examiner, Shane Wolfe. The Texan ex-marine, who resembled a blond Viking marauder, had been Kane’s controller during his time in DC’s Special Forces Investigation Command. When Wolfe had suddenly arrived in town with his three daughters, bulging with expertise in forensic science and technology, Jenna had snapped him up as a deputy, and now he carried the office of medical examiner for Black Rock Falls and the neighboring counties. Wolfe carried a device in his vehicle to allow access to Jenna’s ranch security, but it was unusual for him to arrive unannounced. As the van pulled to a halt, Jenna walked back onto the porch to greet him and glanced at Kane. “He doesn’t look happy.” “I’m glad you’re home.” Wolfe climbed out of the van and ran up the steps.

“We need to talk.” Jenna waved him inside and led the way to the kitchen, poured him a cup of coffee, and they all sat at the table. “What brings you all the way out here at the crack of dawn?” “I called both of you earlier but your cellphones gave me the same message: ‘I’m not available, call 911.’” Wolfe gave them an exasperated stare. “I knew you’d flown in last night and Rowley told me you’d been by for Duke. Did you forget to turn on your cells?” Jenna’s face grew hot. Yeah, she’d turned her cellphone to vibrate and it was sitting on the bench with her keys. “Seems so, I’m sorry to have worried you. Is something wrong with the girls?” “No, they’re fine.” Agitation rolled off Wolfe but he took a deep breath and smiled at Jenna.

“Emily is home to finish her degree in Black Rock Falls, so she’ll be working with us again.” Emily was Wolfe’s eldest daughter and as smart as a whip. “That’s wonderful. So, what’s up?” “A call came in on the 911 line yesterday morning from the college about a suicide. Livi Johnson found her roommate Chrissie Lowe, eighteen years old, dead in the shower around seven. Rowley was the first responder and called me.” Wolfe sipped his coffee then lifted his chin and looked at her. “I’m not so sure this is a suicide. I’ve reason to believe Chrissie Lowe was raped before her death but I’ll confirm after the post.” Horrified, Jenna swallowed the bile creeping up the back of her throat.

“Rowley didn’t mention he had an open case.” “He doesn’t know the facts as yet.” Wolfe leaned back in his chair. “I only did a quick visual examination, we processed the scene, and I removed the body. I’ve sealed the room as I can’t rule out homicide. I notified her parents and requested permission to perform an autopsy.” “What did you find?” Kane shifted in his chair, making the joints creak alarmingly. “Was it homicide?” “I’ve yet to make that determination. I haven’t performed the post yet. I knew you’d be back today so I waited.

” Wolfe narrowed his gaze. “As Webber has classes today, would you be able to attend the autopsy this morning?” Colt Webber, a badge-carrying deputy, worked as Wolfe’s assistant and was studying forensic science at college. He sometimes acted as Jenna’s representative at autopsies and backup when necessary. “Sure.” She frowned. “You smell a rat, don’t you?” “Definitely.” Wolfe waved his cup. “From my initial cursory examination, the method used to cut the veins was unusual. In most suicide attempts the cut is made across the wrist but the incisions in this case run from wrist to forearm. Although, we have established the pocketknife belonged to the victim.

” “So, if anyone found her, she’d likely bleed to death before they could help her. It’s a no-return move.” Kane frowned. “How would she know to do that? It’s not general knowledge.” “With all the information available on the internet, I can’t be sure.” Wolfe sipped his beverage. “Although, she does have a brother in the military—a Navy Seal.” He pushed a hand through his hair in an agitated manner. “She could’ve heard about the technique from him.” “I doubt a brother would discuss killing techniques with his sister.

” Jenna stood, collected the cups, and placed them in the dishwasher. “Was there anything else?” “Bruises.” Wolfe pushed to his feet. “This morning they are more apparent, and I can’t say for sure she wasn’t held down in the shower and sliced open to make it look like suicide.” He met her gaze. “I’ll know more after the post. Can you be at the morgue by eleven?” Mind whirling, Jenna nodded slowly. “Yeah, sure, we’ll be there.” She walked Wolfe to the door. “We’ll head into the office and see if Rowley has followed up on the case.

” “I’m sure he’ll have more information.” Wolfe smiled at her and headed for his van. “You’ve trained him well.” Jenna rubbed her temples and looked up into Kane’s concerned face. “See, we’re home for one night and mysterious things start happening in town.” She shuddered. “I’m starting to believe we attract crime.” TWO Main Street was awash with brightly colored bunting for the county fair and rodeo. The usually slow-moving town had turned into rush hour with a flurry of people from different committees dashing along the sidewalk to secure a good position for their stalls. Men clutching opposite ends of folded tables carried them from the town hall and set them up.

Moments later, a group of women dashed in to erect a sign claiming the spot. Others covered the benches and surrounds with tablecloths and signs. With the fair set to run from Tuesday through Sunday, the influx of tourists alone would keep them busy, but Kane’s stomach rumbled at the thought of all the homemade cakes and cookies he could purchase. He slowed his black, unmarked truck— affectionately known as “the beast”—to follow a horse trailer. “I can hear your stomach from here.” Jenna turned in her seat to look at him. “You’ve only just eaten breakfast. Are you hungry already?” Nonplussed, Kane smiled at her. “I’m always hungry. I burn up a lot of calories just driving to work.

” “Oh, that must be a pain.” She chuckled. “You know, I’ve never heard anyone complain about burning too many calories.” Kane flicked her a glance. “Next time I see someone over two hundred and fifty pounds and six-five, I’ll ask them, but I’d guess if they worked out every morning like we do, maybe they’d have the same problem as me.” He bit back a grin. “Jealous?” He pulled into a parking space reserved for the sheriff’s department. “More than you know.” Jenna sighed, gathered her things, and frowned. “I’m not looking forward to facing an autopsy on the first day back.

” Kane met her worried gaze. “Let’s hope it’s not a homicide, but if it was rape, we’ll still be hunting down the animal who raped her.” “Yeah.” Jenna slid from the seat. “The beginning of another perfect week.” She shook her head and headed for the office door. Kane stopped at the counter to give the receptionist, Magnolia Brewster—Maggie—a gift from Santa Cruz. “Thanks for holding down the fort and keeping Duke out of trouble during the day.” He allowed Duke to slide behind the counter, tail wagging. “Thank you so much.

That hound is always good company and no trouble at all, but I figure he missed you. Rowley was glad to leave him with me, said Duke bossed his dog around somethin’ wicked.” Maggie shook her head. “I’ve never seen the like here. He sat in his basket and snored most days.” Kane wondered why Rowley hadn’t mentioned the problem. “Duke’s mighty territorial; he refused to let Rowley’s dog into my cottage last winter.” “Oh, I know. I cared for Spike when Rowley was livin’ out at the sheriff’s ranch.” She looked at the package as if savoring it then turned it over in her hands and beamed at him.

“I’ll just have to make sure you take a vacation every year if you come back with gifts. Did you have a good time?” Kane chuckled. “Oh… yeah.” “Hmm, you’re not planning on giving out any details, right?” Rowley came up beside him and grinned. “Nope.” Kane smiled at them. “I’ve gotta go, Jenna’s waiting for us.” Not wanting to hang around for more questions, he waved Rowley toward Jenna’s office and following him took a seat. “So, what’s been happening, Jake? Wolfe dropped by this morning and mentioned a suicide?” Jenna opened her daybook then stared at Rowley. “Have you filed a report for me?” “Yes, ma’am, it’s in your files.

” Rowley scanned his iPad. “Apart from the suicide, it was the usual: traffic violations, another fight at the Triple Z Bar—seems the local college boys have got it into their heads to go there to drink. Then they clash with the cowboys drifting into town for the rodeo.” “If they’re over twenty-one, there’s not a lot we can do.” Jenna sighed. “I guess the owner could ban them but I figure he likes the passing trade.” She scanned her computer. “Now, about this apparent suicide.” Kane turned in his seat to look at Rowley. “What did you make of the scene?” “Chrissie Lowe was clothed and there wasn’t a whole lot of blood.

The shower was running. She looked pale, and because of the hot water running over her, Wolfe said it would be difficult to establish the time of death.” Rowley cleared his throat. “She had deep cuts up both arms and I found a pocketknife beside her.” “Did you speak to the person who discovered the body?” Jenna leaned forward on her desk. “It was her roommate, wasn’t it?” “Yeah, Livi Johnson.” Rowley rubbed a hand down his face. “She was hysterical, sobbing and shaking all over. It was difficult to get anything out of her. I figured I’d go back today and speak to her again.

” He sighed. “One of the other girls informed me Livi started screaming at around seven Sunday morning. She’d gone into the bathroom after waiting some time without any answer from Chrissie.” Kane frowned. “Did anyone contaminate the scene?” “Nope.” Rowley looked at him. “I was wearing gloves when I turned off the shower and checked for signs of life. Then I called Wolfe. We processed the scene, took photographs, collected prints. I locked the dorm door and took the key.

I collected the next of kin details from Rose Bishop, the dorm director, and Wolfe took over from there. He and Webber took the body to the morgue. He went to speak to the parents and obtained permission for an autopsy.” He frowned. “I feel real sorry for her family. They found out earlier in the week their son is MIA. Wolfe mentioned her father is terminal and her mom doesn’t look too well either.” Sadness fell over Kane as he exchanged a glance with Jenna. They both understood the pain of losing family. “Okay.

Did you secure the victim’s cellphone and media device?” “Wolfe took her laptop but we couldn’t find her cellphone.” Rowley frowned. “I figure from the third degree you’re giving me, this is more than a suicide.” “From Wolfe’s initial examination, he believes Chrissie was raped.” Jenna pushed the hair from her eyes. “We’re going to view the autopsy this morning. We’ll need to get a timeline of what she was doing in the hours before she died. Where did she go? Who did she speak to, and who was the last person to see her alive?” She stared at them across the desk. “Kane, I want you and Rowley to do some grunt work. Go and speak to her friends at the dorm and see what they have to say.

I’ll call the college and get a list of her classes on Friday. I’ll need to organize some help from Blackwater so we’re free to investigate. With the rodeo in town, we can’t leave the office unattended. Once we’ve attended the autopsy, we can work back from there.” Kane pushed to his feet. “Roger that.” He smiled at her. “I’ll be back before eleven for the autopsy.” As they headed for the college, Rowley glanced at Kane. “So, how was the vacation? Now Maggie’s not listening in, you can tell me.

” Kane snorted with laughter. “You mean how was it going on vacation with Jenna?” He grinned at him. “It was great.” “Uh-huh.” Rowley smiled at him. “Great is good.” “We’re just good friends, Jake. Don’t read anything into it.” Kane looked at him. “We enjoy each other’s company is all.

” “Okay.” Rowley held up both hands in mock surrender. “Good friends, I get it.” When they arrived at the freshmen dorm, they found flowers and a sign with the words “RIP Chrissie.” Kane frowned and moved through the girls on the lawn holding a vigil outside the front door. Inside, a woman in her thirties held up a hand like a sentry. “What do you want, deputies?” The woman frowned. “Haven’t these girls gone through enough without you questioning them at a time like this?” Kane stared at her in disbelief. “We need to interview them while events are still clear in their minds. Now, if you’ll step aside, we need to speak to Livi Johnson.

” “I’ll take you to her—poor thing, she hasn’t stopped shaking all day.” The woman gave him a contemptuous look. “The ME sealed the room and she’s not been able to collect her things. She can’t go to class in her PJs. How much longer before we’re allowed inside?” “I’ll find out, ma’am, but it won’t be for a while.” Kane followed her into a large room with wide windows overlooking a neat garden. Floral-patterned sofas surrounded a fireplace big enough to roast a pig. “I’ll probably be able to collect some things for her, but as it’s a potential crime scene, we can’t risk anyone going in and contaminating evidence.” “Contaminating evidence?” The woman had a hooked nose and red hair sticking up in all directions. She resembled a rooster the way she fluffed up and stared at him with beady, black eyes.

“Chrissie was in the shower with slashed wrists. It’s pretty plain to me what happened: she committed suicide. I’ve seen it before and it’s becoming an epidemic. The moment one thing goes wrong in their lives, they end it.” Surprised by her callous attitude, Kane lowered his voice. “I’m aware the suicide rate among young people has increased, but that doesn’t mean we become complacent. In any unnatural death, the ME will make a determination according to the evidence he finds. Right now, he’s reason to believe there’re a few mitigating circumstances surrounding Chrissie’s death.” “Really, how so?” “I can’t say.” Kane frowned and took out his notebook.

“May I have your name and what position you hold here?” “Rose Bishop.” She gave him a long stare. “I’m the student hall director.” Kane took down the details. “When is the curfew?” “Curfew? Do you mean when do I lock the lobby door? Eleven thirty every night but Saturdays. It’s left open or I’m up and down all night to open it.” She turned and headed for the door. “I’ll go get Livi.” She hustled away down the hallway. “She was here yesterday morning.

” Rowley stared after Bishop and frowned. “She spent her time waving her arms around.” He turned to Kane. “I tried to interview her but she refused to speak to me. She said the welfare of her girls took priority over anything I had to say to her.” Kane rubbed his chin, wondering if Rose Bishop had anything to hide. “Hmm, well I’m sure she’ll make time to speak with us today.” When Livi arrived wearing oversized sweatpants, pale and with eyes red from crying, Kane waved her to a seat. He stared down at Bishop, who’d returned with her. “Thanks, we can take it from here.

” “I’m not sure I should leave Livi alone with you.” Bishop lifted her chin and glared at him. Kane sat beside the girl on the sofa and Rowley leaned against the wall, arms folded over his chest. “We’d prefer to interview her alone.” Kane looked at Livi. “If that’s okay with you? Trust me, I understand what it’s like to find a body, and if you’re not up to talking to me today, that’s okay.” “I’m fine. Mrs. Bishop, I can do this.” Livi waited for Bishop to leave the room and looked up at Kane with big, sad brown eyes.

“I told the medical examiner everything I know. I woke up, heard the shower running in the bathroom. I waited for about half an hour and then called out. When she didn’t answer, I opened the door.” She dragged in a ragged breath. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened to her. I was asleep.” Kane opened his notebook and took out his pen. “You’re doing just fine but I need to ask you a few questions about the time before she died.” “Sure.

” Livi pulled up her knees and hugged them. “Ask away.” “When did you last see Chrissie?” “Around nine Saturday night; she was heading out to a party.” Livi frowned. “She’d met a guy on the football team.” Kane made notes then looked up at her. “Did she mention his name or where the party was being held?” “Yeah, it was Seth Lyons, the quarterback.” Livi gave a little sob of distress. “I told her not to go anywhere near the football team—they’ve a house off campus and the parties are wild. They do a ton of hazing and it’s not safe for a freshman girl to go there alone.” Kane’s mind was working at a million miles an hour. “Yet she still went alone?” “Yeah.” Livi frowned. “A few days before she met Seth, she got some bad news from home about her brother going missing. He’s a Navy Seal. She told me the waiting was driving her crazy and she needed a distraction.” Kane nodded. “Does she own a vehicle?” “Nope.” She shook her head. “She got a ride but it wasn’t Seth who came by. He drives a red Mustang and I saw her getting into a sedan way down the road like it was all secret or something.” “Did you notice the make or color?” Kane lifted his gaze from his notes. “I think it was silver, could have been light blue. I don’t know the make. They all look the same to me.” Livi looked at him. “We’ve made friends with tons of guys and any one of them could’ve given her a ride.” “Did she date any of them before meeting Seth?” “Yeah, a few from high school, not many, and the only other guy she knows is Phil Stein, he was at high school with us.” Livi wiped her nose with a tissue. “Some of the freshmen can be pests, so we’ve been hanging with a few of the juniors. It was a surprise when one of the seniors asked her out.” Kane frowned. From the get-go it was becoming obvious more than one person was involved. “Had she been seeing Seth for long?” “No, she hadn’t been seeing him at all. He came up to her in the cafeteria on Friday, waited until she was alone then moved in.” Agitated, Livi picked at her fingernails. “He had her up against the wall, sweet-talking her like she was special. She told me he said, ‘You’re so my type, come to a party with me on Saturday night. Wear something short to show off those fine legs. Don’t tell anyone—we don’t want anyone showing up to spoil our fun.’” She rolled her eyes. “Of course, Chrissie almost fainted with shock and came back to the table all starry-eyed and madly in love.” She choked back a sob. “She told me in confidence, straight away. In fact, she wouldn’t stop talking about him. She even drooled over his picture on Facebook and now look what’s happened to her.” After making notes, Kane observed her. She seemed to be angry and upset, which was a normal response. After the shock of finding the body of her friend, he was reluctant to push her any further, but he needed more answers and she seemed to be pulling herself together. “Did she speak to anyone else before she left for the party?” “Yeah, we talked to the other girls over dinner as usual, and she sent a text to break a date with Phil—Phillip Stein, he’s a sophomore.” Livi frowned. “I figure he was disappointed; he was all over her before Seth moved in. After dinner, we went to our room and just chatted while she had a shower and dressed for her date. I walked out with her when she left and she didn’t speak to anyone else at all.” Her face crumpled. “I should have gone with her. I asked her but she didn’t want me to come.” Kane made a note of the name then looked at her. The girl was becoming distressed again, and he wanted to wind up the interview as soon as possible. “No other phone calls? Texts, social media?” “No, I don’t think so.” Livi wiped her eyes with her fingers. “Is there anything else?” “Yeah, if you don’t mind?” Kane glanced down at his notes. “Do you remember what she was wearing when she left the dorm?” “Yeah, white crop top and pink skirt, silver sandals.” Livi gave him a blank stare as if thinking. “Her shoes were missing.” She blinked a few times then spoke almost like an automaton. “She was wearing her clothes in the shower but her new shoes were missing and her skirt was torn up one side. Her lip was cut too and she had a bruise on one cheek.” She drew a shuddering breath as if all the puzzle pieces had fit snugly into place. “Did Seth hurt her?” Kane cleared his throat. “I’m not sure. Could you identify her shoes?” “Yeah, I think so.” Tears streamed down the girl’s face as she gave a description of silver sandals with rhinestones. “I t-told her not to go.” “Thanks.” Kane waited a beat for the girl to settle down. “Could you give me a description of her cellphone—make, cover, or whatever you remember?” “It had a silver cover.” Livi wiped her eyes. “She’d stuck a yellow smiley emoji on the cover. She used them all the time; it was like her logo.” She let out a wail. “Look… ah…” Kane stood. He’d never been any good with tears. “That’s all I need for now. If you show me your room, I’ll go inside and collect some of your things.” “No, I can’t go back in there.” Livi shook her head. “My things are all on the right by the window. Chrissie had the cupboard and dresser on the left.” She gave him a long, sad stare. “You know, I came here because Black Rock Falls is one of the few campuses which have separate bathrooms in their dorms. Most have communal bathrooms. Now I wish I’d gone somewhere else, and then I wouldn’t have found her like that.” Kane nodded. “I’ll go get your things.” He signaled to Rowley to follow him and headed out the room. In the hallway, he went straight to Rose Bishop. “Where can we find Seth Lyons?” “The quarterback?” Bishop’s eyes opened wide. “Just a moment.” She walked to a noticeboard and scanned a list. “Yes, I thought so— Lyons and a few other members of the football team left early Sunday morning to complete a special coaching session; they’ll be back later tonight around nine.” “Okay, thanks.” Kane made a note and turned to Rowley. “Show me the crime scene.” He pulled latex gloves and booties from his pocket as he walked. “Did you go through hazing in your time here?” “Nope.” Rowley shrugged. “I didn’t live on campus, so they left me alone.” He glanced at him. “You?” “I was full grown at sixteen.” Kane flicked him a glance. “I was lucky, I guess. I’ve not met a man yet who’s able to intimidate me.” “How did I know you’d say that?” Rowley stopped at a door covered with crime scene tape and pulled out his cellphone. “I took some pictures of the scene. I don’t recall seeing any shoes near or in the shower.” He handed the cellphone to Kane. Kane scanned the photographs, zooming in on the position of the body, the pocketknife and an open makeup bag on the vanity. They’d found no note, no fingerprints on the knife. The incisions on her arms showed no hesitation. He glanced around and shook his head. What happened to you, Chrissie?

.

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