Traces, Part Eight

I was right. This is definitely not going well.

“You mean, a guy in a hat, eye mask, and a cloth around his mouth…attacked both you and Samantha Day?” one of the cops asks, a blonde woman who looks at me as though I’m chewed gum underneath her shoe. The other cop is a guy with thick brown hair who looks younger than me. Y’know, the classic good cop/bad cop formula. It’s sadly cliché.

I don’t allow her dismissive attitude to get to me though. That would mean she won. “Yes, yes, I have already told you this,” I say, trying not to sound snappy. It’s hard; how many times must I repeat this? My mother, who’s sitting next to me, gently tightens her grip on my hand. One of the perks of being under the age of eighteen is that you legally have to have your parent with you when you get interrogated by cops.

The guy leans forward. “Miss Wu, I understand that you’ve been through a lot in an incredibly short amount of time. We’re just trying to help you.”

I decide to feign giving in for a moment, it might help them get on my side if they think I’m breaking down. “If you’re trying to help me, then why won’t you believe me?” I ask weakly. I even allow my eyes to glitter with unshed tears. I hope this isn’t overboard. If possible, my mother squeezes my hand even harder. I try my best not to wince.

The woman sighs. “It’s hard to believe. I mean, put all those things together and it’s basically a mask, yeah? This isn’t a B teen slasher movie.”

Mom glances up at her. “Miss, I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak to my daughter in that tone. She was attacked. Her best friend was murderer, practically in front of her eyes. Please, Ella isn’t weak…but this is a lot to take in.” That’s an understatement.

The female cop looks over at the guy, as if she’s saying, all yours. The guy coughs before speaking. “Okay, let me get the story straight. You and Sammy were investigating the recent suicides at your school. But if I were in your shoes, my first guess wouldn’t be that the suicides were actually murders. I wouldn’t assume I was in “A Study in Scarlet” or “Heathers”’.

If this guy is trying to use pop culture references (that I’m sadly aware of…Sammy pressured me to watch both a few years ago) it’s not going to work. I sigh before I say, “I didn’t assume that. I thought this was just a high risk area for anxiety and depression. But Sammy…she’s…she is…was,” I cough, “Very bored, I think. She’d do just about anything for an adventure of a sort.”

He nods. “Okay. Anyway, so you and Samantha investigated. You discovered that all the kids who had died at your school had siblings at the community college. Those siblings also were connected to…Iris Parker, right?” I nod. “So you talked to her twin brother, Ryan.” I nod again. “And so you thought…what? That a serial killer was targeting the siblings of people who were mean to this Iris?”

“I know it sounds stupid!” I cry suddenly. It’s getting harder and harder to keep my cool. I feel as though I’m about to shatter. “I thought it was stupid too, Sammy’s imagination just running away from her. That’s why we set the trap,” I breathe.

He nods. “So when the lights began to flicker, you came down from the attic. But before going to the kitchen, you searched for a weapon, especially after hearing a scream.”

“Of course!” I sputter. “What idiot would go someplace they suspect is dangerous without a weapon, eh?”

My mother begins to whisper soothing words to me, but I don’t hear them.

“And you confronted the attacker.”

“Yes!”

“And he was wearing-“

“A hat, eye mask, and cloth over his face! Yes!”

He sighs and closes his eyes. “Thank you for the information, Miss Wu. We’ll be speaking to you in the near future, all right?”

My heart is hammering against my chest. “Sure. Okay. Fine,” I whisper as they leave my hospital room.

My mom turns to me almost as soon as the police leave. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me any of this!” she cries.

I’m too tired to have this conversation right now. “Mom, not now,” I say.

My mom crosses her arms. “Ella, this was dangerous. So dangerous!”

“I didn’t know that,” I snap. “I thought it was stupid. If I thought it was real, even for a moment, I never would’ve done it, okay?”

“I hope so,” mom says as she sits back down in her chair. “Oh, Ella. What’re we gonna do?” she asks.

I wish I had an answer.

There’s a gathering on the Friday night I am released for al the kids at my school have died. It seems that the police have thankfully taken Sammy!/ death and my account at least somewhat seriously…the other deaths are now looked at as “suspicious”. Not quite “murders”, but at least they are now circumspect.

I hate the way people are looking at me. It’s awkward. I guess in my fight, I did something to my foot; I bruised some bone in there. That’s the only reason I’m on crutches. But I know that even if I wasn’t, people would still be looking at me; I still have heavy bandages on my face and arm.

There aren’t that many people at the gathering, mainly the friends and family of the deceased. I guess this is normal; during all of the suicide announcements that happened the morning after a death, it would always be in passing; a small announcement that a fellow student has died. Nothing dramatic, like no offers for counseling or comments about hearts breaking or how the students were such good people. It wasn’t like the movies, in other words.

It didn’t used to bother me. Now it does.

However, now everyone says all those cliche things from the movies, about how the students were brilliant people with potential, that they were not just smart, but had good hearts, that they would be missed, etc. I’m not sure what’s better; death announcements made briefly, spoken in less than a minute, or huge speeches that have words used a thousand times before that you can tell the speaker barely means.

After the gathering, I’m about to go to Sammy’s family and offer my own condolences when I’m stopped. I recognize Ryan Parker pretty quickly, and after a moment, I recognize Lindy Stark as well. I suppose you’d call her one of the popular kids. “Hello?” I ask confusedly.

They glance at each momentarily before Ryan speaks. “You and Sammy asked me questions about my sister, Iris,” he says.

I narrow my eyes. “I am perfectly aware of that,” I reply.

Lindy coughs and tucks a strand of blonde hair behind her ears. “We would…like to tell you some more stuff,” she says.

“About what?” I demand. I really want to talk to Sammy’s family, and I don’t want to think about murder tonight.

Lindy purses her lips. “Um…we think we may know who did this to you. And Sammy, and all the other kids. D’you want to talk?”

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