In the dorm room, the two girls eyed the now sleeping Ciaran skeptically. She laid there sleeping fitfully, fingers twitching and body shuddering every few minutes.
“Wonder what made her flip out,” muttered Doran thoughtfully.
Nolan looked at Ciaran with a worried frown forming between her dark brows. “Guess we should check her stuff.” She paused. “I don’t think she does drugs, but it sure seemed like she was on something.”
Carefully, Nolan removed Ciaran’s fanny pouch and handed it over to Doran. “You look through that. I’m gonna go through her pockets.”
Doran nodded. “Alright.”
The two girls were silent, one going through the pouch, the other gingerly going through the sleeping girl’s pockets. “Hm,” muttered Nolan. “Now what’s this?” In one hand she gingerly held the tweezers and Ziploc bag that contained the tissue sample from the mutilated dog. In her other hand was a small glass bottle.
Doran’s green eyes narrowed. “That isn’t like anything she owns.” She glanced at the growing pile of technological gadgets next to the fanny pouch.
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.” Nolan studied the almost opaque amber-colored bottle carefully. “The thing is, if this is what made her hallucinate, we don’t want to mess with it.” She looked over at Doran. “I guess we could test it down at the half pipe?”
Doran looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Well, there’s some guys down there that will try anything for a thrill. They don’t care.” She paused, still worried. “We could let one of them take a sniff?”
Doran shrugged uneasily. “Sure, whatever.”
“Alright.” Nolan slipped the bottle into her pocket, and walked over to the door where her skateboard laid. “Let’s go.”
They moved silently down the hall, clashing music booming loudly through several closed doors. In the elevator, Nolan looked over at Doran, who was looking down at her own sticker-covered skateboard. Nolan sighed. What happened tonight? she wondered briefly.
Once outside, Nolan took a deep breath of the night air and gladly tossed her board to the ground and hopped on it. They glided smoothly across the campus grounds to the skate park. Neither girl spoke or did any stunts, both preoccupied with their own thoughts.
At the park, they hopped off their boards and looked around. “Hey, there’s Drew,” said Nolan. They both knew him, though not very well as he moved in slightly different circles. He was off to the side sitting in the shadows, staring with half-shut bleary eyes at the guys that were pulling stunts on the half pipe and nearby concrete.
“Him, then?” asked Nolan.
Doran grimaced. “Sure.”
They walked over to him. Surprised, he looked at the two girls. “Hey, Doran. Hi, Nolan. What’s up?” he asked slowly. His brown eyes were a little vacant as he smiled slightly and straightened his shirt.
“Hey Drew,” smiled Nolan. “Mind if we sit?”
“Naw! Have a seat!” he grinned.
They sat and chatted for a little while, when finally Nolan pulled out the amber bottle. She held it in her hand carelessly, then handed it to Doran, who took it gingerly. His eyes sharpened a little. “Whazzat?”
“I dunno,” Doran shrugged, not meeting his eyes. “We found it lying around somewhere. Wanna see it?”
“Yeah!” He reached over and took it from Doran’s fingers. He pulled the cork stopper out and ran the bottle under his nose, sniffing curiously. “What a funky sme….” his eyes abruptly glazed over and he sat very, very still.
Nolan reached over and picked the amber bottle and cork stopper carefully from his now slack fingers and looked over at Doran. She slid the bottle back into her cargo pocket. “We probably ought to bail…”
Doran was staring at Drew with wide, worried eyes. “Yeah…” She stood up slowly and backed away. “Yeah, we should get out of here.”
Nolan joined her. Just as they started walking away, they heard a loud shriek of pure terror from behind them. They spun around as one. Drew stood staring across the empty park towards the forest beyond with wide eyes and mouth agape. His hair, usually messy anyway, was standing on end as his fingers pulled it up and gripped it tightly.
He let out another terror-filled shriek, spun around towards the half pipe and started running. All the guys had already stopped skating and were staring in shock. One swore loudly, dropped his board and ran after Drew.
Nolan looked at Doran, who stared back. Nolan swore under her breath, and Doran nodded.
“Yeah,” muttered Doran. “Let’s not tell anyone about this.”
“No doubt,” replied Nolan.
Nolan awoke with a jerk at the persistent buzzing of the alarm. She sat up, bleary-eyed, and looked around the room. Doran lay curled on the floor in Nolan’s sleeping bag, and Ciaran slept quietly in her bed. Nolan hopped out of bed and shut the alarm off with a snap.
“Mph,” moaned Doran, rolling over and sliding deeper into the sleeping bag. Only the spiky ends of her crayon-red hair poked out.
Nolan crept to Ciaran’s bed very quietly and gently checked her pulse. It was steady, but a little fast. But average, especially for a ped. Good, thought Nolan. Temperature seems normal, too. She took her hand away from Ciaran’s forehead and turned to Doran.
“Hey, Doran,” she hissed as she walked quietly to the sleeping girl.
“Mph,” was the reply. She didn’t shift this time.
Nolan knelt by the sleeping bag. “Let’s eat and head over to the shop,” she whispered as she poked at the still shape beneath the heavy fabric.
Doran’s pixie face appeared at the edge of the bag, green eyes bleary. “Food?” Her voice was still husky with sleep, but her tone was interested.
Nolan chuckled. “Yeah. You can use Ciaran’s food card. I don’t think she’ll need it.” She paused. “I’m gonna shower – you can borrow my shampoo and stuff after I’m done.”
“Kay,” Doran replied, snuggling back into the sleeping bag, eyes already closed. “Wake me up when you’re done.”
“Sure,” replied Nolan quietly, already well awake and ready to get moving. “I won’t be long.”
After their showers and breakfast in the dorm cafeteria, they headed out on their skateboards in the brisk morning air. They glided easily through the campus and arrived at the shops that lined Campus Drive. Doran came to a sudden halt, causing Nolan to stop and look back at her.
“What’s up?” Nolan asked. Doran was staring at the shops, eyes narrowed and posture ready to move quickly. Nolan shrugged, and turned to look at the shops. Her eyes widened.
“Uh,” she muttered, “what are the cops doing here?”
A squad car was parked in front of the Dancing Moon, its lights and engine off. The whole store was taped off with the yellow police tape.
Rhiannon was standing on the opposite side of the street, watching. Her arms were pulled in tight across her body, her shoulders hunched. She was very still, the only motion coming from her chestnut hair and long, dark green crinkled cotton skirt, stirring in the soft breeze. Dragen stood next to her, hands on her hips, leather jacket and helmet resting on the bike in front of her.
“There’s Dragen and Rhiannon,” Nolan said quietly. “Let’s go see if they know anything.”
Doran nodded, eyes still fixed on the squad car. They glided up to the silent girls, who turned to face them, both with still, somber faces.
“Hey, guys,” Rhiannon greeted the two girls as they hopped off their boards. Dragen nodded at them, and turned back to watch the store. There was no visible movement.
Doran reached down and picked up her board, while Nolan absentmindedly kicked hers up and caught it with her left hand. Nolan glanced over at the shop, then back at Rhiannon. “Do you know what’s going on?” she asked.
Rhiannon shook her head, clearly worried.
“That’s not a normal squad car,” said Doran suddenly. “It’s Homicide.”
All three girls stared at her in shock.
“Homicide?” Rhiannon’s voice was a distressed gasp.
Dragen’s brows were drawn down in an intense frown. “Let’s go to the coffee shop and figure something out.” She picked up her leather jacket and walked purposefully to the cafe. Rhiannon and Doran followed quietly.
Nolan looked around and saw the red newspaper dispenser, walked over and put her quarters in the machine. “Yeah. Today’s paper,” she muttered under her breath as she pulled it out. She hooked her board on her backpack, and walked over to the cafe to join the girls, newspaper tucked under her arm.
She walked in, and the cafe was empty except for the clerk and the girls, who had chosen a table in the far corner. Nolan walked to them and sat down after a quick, concerned look at the girls.
“So what do you think is going on?” Dragen asked.
Rhiannon shook her head. “I don’t know. I think I should call Gwynneth.”
Nolan carefully unfolded the newspaper, turning to the crime section. She scanned the pages carefully while the other girls talked in low voices. A headline caught her attention, and she let out a low curse.
“Local Woman Killed,” she read aloud. “A middle-aged woman was discovered dead at her place of business early this morning. The police have yet to give a statement, so cause of death and exact identity of the woman are not publicly known at this time.”
Doran, Dragen and Rhiannon were staring at her in dismay. “Do you think they are talking about Gwynneth? Or maybe it was Ms. Williams?” asked Rhiannon.
“How about you call them?” asked Dragen. “We’ll wait here.”
Rhiannon nodded and stood up shakily. “I’ll go find a payphone.” She paused and looked down at the girls, then patted her jacket pockets. “No, I’ll use my cell. Forgot about it.” Her voice was low and disjointed. She turned away and walked quietly out the door.
Nolan watched her through the window, all three girls silent at the table. She shrugged and stood up. “You guys want anything?”
Dragen shook her head, watching Rhiannon with concern. Doran looked up. “Sure. A cappuccino maybe?” Nolan nodded and went to the counter. When she went back to the table, Rhiannon had already returned and the girls were sitting, staring at each other in silence.
“So…,” began Nolan, “What happened?”
Rhiannon looked up, dark green eyes blood-shot from crying. She was holding a wadded paper napkin from the cafe. “Neither of them answered their phones,” she said, voice cracking with worry.
“I think we ought to go in the shop,” said Dragen in a low voice. Her eyes flicked to the cafe clerk, who was sitting on his stool flipping through a magazine. “Maybe we can find out what is going on.”
Nolan was already shaking her blue head emphatically after Dragen’s first statement. “No way. It’s a crime scene. They’re gonna be all over that place like white on rice.”
“It’s like a federal offence to mess with it, too,” added Doran.
“I want to go in,” whispered Rhiannon. “I have to know what is going on.”
Nolan shrugged. “I’ll wait outside in the alley for you, but no way am I going in there while the cops are around.”
Dragen nodded and waited while Nolan and Doran finished their coffee. They stood up and filed out of the cafe, and walked quietly around to the back of the shop. The back door was taped off, too, but Rhiannon pulled out her key and unlocked the door. Dragen reached over and pulled the tape off one side and let it trail to the ground. Rhiannon pushed the door open and she and Dragen stepped quietly inside.
Nolan looked over at Doran, who stood shifting uneasily from foot to foot.
“If anything goes wrong,” muttered Nolan quietly, “you go that way, and I’ll head the other way. We can meet up at the skate park.”
“Kay,” replied Doran.
“Oh, just a sec,” said Nolan. She shuffled around in her backpack and pulled out a black wool hat and a ball cap of an indeterminable gray. “Here,” she whispered, tossing the ball cap to Doran. “Cover your hair. And if we have to skat, run on your two feet until you’re out of sight, then switch to your board.”
Doran nodded and put on the cap while Nolan stuffed her blue hair into the wool hat. The two girls stood tensely, clutching their skateboards, waiting for Rhiannon and Dragen.
After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, Rhiannon and Dragen erupted out of the back door and started running. Doran and Nolan immediately burst into a dead run in opposite directions, not waiting for explanations or questions.
Running, Nolan was in her element. Her years of training as a player during soccer season and a long distance runner during off season took over, and her breath came strong and even as she dodged down the alley, around the corner, and into the nearby park. She spared a glance over her shoulder and knew no one was following her, so she slowed down to the less obvious pace of an even jog.