My mother is setting the table when she looks up to me. “Oh, Ella! Glad to see you’re home.”
I blink. “Mom, I thought you were still at work.”
She smiles at me. “Oh, my boss let me off a little early. I picked up some takeout for dinner,” she says as she scoops out some orange chicken onto our plates.
I laugh as I sit down. “I can hear grandma rolling over in her grave,” I say. Grandma enjoyed Chinese takeout, but was irritated that my mom never made any homemade Chinese food.
My mother rolls her eyes. “Gah, don’t remind me,” she says, waving her hand.
It’s good to have my mom home for dinner. We laugh and talk, and there’s no morbid talk or anything about murder. It’s a good evening…until the lights flicker out.
I slam my fork against my plate angrily. “Argh! Just when I thought the electricity problems were getting better,” I snap. “I’m gonna check next door, see whether they’ve been affected too,” I say.
I think I can see my mother shuffle in her seat. “All right, Ella,” she says. However, it seems our neighbors have beat us to it; I hear a knock at our door. I get up to go answer it.
“Oh, hi Cynthia!”
Cynthia smiles, even though she can’t see me. “Hey, Ella. I was wondering if the electricity stopped working over here, too? I was listening to the TV, when it turned off.”
I answer, “Yeah, me and my mom were just eating dinner-” As if on cue, my mom walks up to us. “Ella? Who is this?”
Cynthia smiles. “Hi, Ms. Rainsford. I’m Cynthia, good to meet you,” she extends her hand, and my mother quickly shakes it. Mom smiles. “Just call me Winnie. It’s good to meet you too,” she says.
Cynthia taps her cane against the floor. “Garth told me something odd, Ella.”
“Mm? What’s that?”
“Mr. Black asked his dad to check on the wires and such in the basement again…you know how the electricity went out on all floors? Well, now it’s only affecting ours.”
My stomach twists uncomfortably. “Huh…that’s weird. Thanks for telling us, I guess?”
Cynthia just shrugs. “I just thought you’d like to know. Anyway, have a good night.” With that, she turns away from us and goes back to her apartment.
When I call Sammy with the news that a girl named Iris used to live in my apartment, and that she also killed herself, she gasps loudly. “I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore, Ella,” she says.
“Neither do I,” I say.
“Yeah…you said her last name was Parker, right?”
“I was looking through Nelson’s old yearbooks, and-”
I groan. “Sammy, you really are acting like a stalker!”
“I am not! Can I just tell you what I found out?”
I sigh. “Sure,” I finally answer, even though I’m almost positive about what Sammy found out.
“The girl at Cedar College was also named Iris Parker.” I close my eyes and sigh again. Knew it. And just when I thought it was impossible for my life to become even more fictional sounding…
“Sammy, what is this? I feel like we just walked into a crime show or something. This is getting almost ridiculous, but this is too scary to be ridiculous.”
She groans on the other line. “Ugh, tell me about it. Do you wanna drop out of this thing? I’m tempted, this is getting weird, even for me.”
I shake my head before remembering that she can’t see me. “No. We’ve already done this much investigating, we might as well see it all the way through.”
Sammy begins to laugh, and I realize that she wasn’t being serious when she made that offer. “Called it. Even you’re getting intrigued. Anyway, I also saw that Iris had a twin brother named Ryan. He’s a senior at Cedar, we could go and talk to him tomorrow.”
I laugh as well. “Sounds good to me.”
After we hang up, I decide to do some research on Iris Parker, so that we may have some leverage on Ryan. I turn on my computer and begin to investigate.
I don’t know how Sammy does it, but she managed to convince Ryan Parker to see us at a local coffee shop today. I guess Sammy can be pretty persuasive when she wants to be.
Ryan is drinking a cup of black coffee and talking to Sammy by the time I make it there. “Better late than never,” she smirks as she bites her chocolate muffin.
I groan and sit down. “Oh be quiet, Sammy. The electricity went out at my apartment. Again.”
Sammy squints at me. “This is getting weird, Ella. Why hasn’t Mr. Black gotten an electrician over there?”
“Yes, he has, and it gets better for a day or two before going out again! We’re thinking someone’s pranking us.”
“Jerk,” she spits.
Ryan coughs. “Erm, I’m still here,” he says quietly.
Sammy smiles sweetly at him. “I’m so sorry about that! This is Ella, my friend. She’s helping me investigate. But first, I want to clear the air a bit: Ryan, your sister, Iris Parker, did live in the Violet Bend apartment complex, in room 210, right?”
Ryan blinks a moment and takes a sip of coffee before answering. “Y-yeah. She did. Why are you asking?”
“And you know the siblings of Jack Barton, Angela Rexton, and Whitney Johnson, right?”
He nods. “Yeah, I know them. Those are the kids at your school who recently…erm, uh, passed away, yeah?”
She nods. “You can see why we don’t see this as a coincidence.”
Ryan’s hand tightens over his cup. “Yeah, I guess, but I don’t see how Iris…oh. I get it. It’s weird that a lot of my sister’s peers who were kinda mean to her, are losing a lot of their siblings.” He groans and closes his eyes. “What do you want?”
Sammy smiles and leans forward. “You just said they were all mean to your sister. Does this mean you think they may have played a role in her death?” He doesn’t say anything now, he only nods. “Please. I have a bad feeling about this. Could you tell us the names of other students you suspect hurt her in some way? I know this sounds crazy, but I’m scared this could be a matter of life and death. Please, Ryan, please help us. This could end up being way more important than you could imagine.”