Part Two: Suspicions
“Oh, my God,” Khue walked into the band room and haphazardly dropped her binder onto the floor, along with her backpack. “I seriously need to stop staying up late, the insomnia kills…”
Tina looked up in surprise. “Khue! Why weren’t you in geometry today?”
“’Cause I did something stupid and it took me half an hour to come up with an argument for going to school,” she said wryly.
“Something stupid? Like what?” Nick asked half-heartedly, fiddling his bow on his cello with immense concentration.
“Try a wooden bookshelf with really sharp corners, and a really, really badly timed kick by dad, and then add my shoulder. Absolutely lovely, isn’t it?”
“As long as you don’t do anything else stupid, go crazy.”
“I’m still playing basketball at lunch, though.” Khue swore under her breath as she reached for a cello with her left arm. “Or not…”
Nick finally looked up. “Oh, hell no, Rosinator. You play with that arm and I’ll knock you out during lunch myself to save us both the trouble.”
Khue raised an eyebrow at him as she laid a cello down beside the chair, before moving to grab a bow. “Okay, two things – one, how the hell are you going to explain that to Mr. McFall, and two, it’s not that bad.”
“Khue, do you have your rosin with you?” Tina asked, scrutinizing her bow.
“Yeah, in my backpack – I’ll grab it in a sec.”
“All right then, I have two responses to that. One, if I knock you out, you’ll probably wake up in about two minutes anyways to kick my ass, and two, if it’s not that bad, then why the hell is there blood seeping through your jacket?”
“What? Oh, crap.”
“Hard to believe a bookshelf did that much damage, you know,” he added in a low voice.
Khue’s eyes glinted at him. “Just what are you suggesting?”
“Nothing. Just, you know… if you’re not careful, you could get hurt. Or worse.”
“That’s not funny, Nick,” Khue retorted, shaking her head. “I know it was stupid, but who cares? Doesn’t mean you need to go all horror-movie on me to keep me from doing it again.”
He lazed back in his chair, barely missing elbowing Rick in the arm. “I know. It’s just fun messing with people’s minds.” He smiled, not at all reassuringly.
He leaned in closer. “Does this have anything to do with the… you know.”
She nodded, almost imperceptibly.
“Gavotte in G Major!” Mr. Woodruff called out. As the sound of pages flipping ruffled the air, Nick took the opportunity to keep up the quiet conversation.
“Have you told Kim yet?”
“Of course not,” she shot back. “Me, running around a city with my ‘powers’? Yeah, right.”
“So what really happened?” Nick asked, setting his bow on the D-string.
“Tell you later,” Khue said, as the violins’ pickup note sang out.
Unnoticeably behind them, Tina had stiffened. Powers? Did Khue just…no, no way…she would never…
Even so, somewhere in the back of her mind, she couldn’t forget the thought. Khue’s laughter, light-hearted and unabashed, suddenly turned sinister, darker, echoing off walls painted with red, hands decorated in blood –
“What – oh, sorry,” she said sheepishly. Forcing a laugh, she turned to the next page.
Khue shot an amused glance at her from the front row. “Distracted, Tina?”
“Yeah, a little bit,” she replied easily. But the simple idea kept nipping at her mind, refusing to be forgotten. Was she talking to a murderer? Did the mind of a killer lurk from behind those eyes?
It was a sobering notion, and nowhere near laughable. Anything was possible. She stared into a vacant spot on the wall, trying to hide her sudden anxiety, when a cold chill stole through her, the kind that left you empty and weak, terrified. It seemed to bite at her insides, sending tremors through her spine.
She did not look, would not look, as foggy tendrils seemed to lazily latch onto her cello out of the corners of her eye, reaching, begging. Her heart pounded, so hard she feared all could hear it.
She could take it no longer, and she sharply whipped her head back to face the floor.
Nothing but minute patches of grey, cast by the lights in the room. Nothing dark and evil there. Heaving a sigh of relief, she looked up without thinking, and met Nick’s eyes, glaring back at her like endless tunnels, chilling her to the core, desolate, empty –
He blinked, and it was gone. Instead, he was staring at her quizzically. Maybe the long nights were just getting to her.
“Tina, what are you looking at? Oh, I know, I know, the hair’s sexy and all, but -“
“Shut up, Nick.” The three syllables came out frostier than she normally allowed them to, and felt slightly guilty when Nick’s mouth quirked in apprehension, and turned back to the front of the room. Khue sent him a discreet look of question, but he waved it off with a shake of his head.
Still, Tina did not forget. That face – a teenager, a kid, like her, and yet anything but. Tina was no killer, not so utterly mad to indiscriminately kill in desperation to quench a never-ending thirst.
She’d seen the bodies, seen the blood, everything. Severed limbs, disemboweled bodies; some messily torn apart, others dissected with frightening precision. Sometimes bits of entrails were splattered for all the world to see – and still other times, there’d be almost no traces.
Some had gone in peace, their visages mimicking sleep, now serene death masks. Others had mouths gaping in horror, eyes empty and horrified, their last moments imprinted in time.
And now, she had to hunt them down. Some of them had been mere children, others parents, who had surely left behind young children. And others…
Others could have been her friends. Others looked like them, were too close to being them.
The killer had to be stopped.
And if it turned out to be her friend…
So be it.