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Textbook Perfect

Short story By: M97
Mystery and crime



Zoey is just like any other teenager. Or at least that is what she thinks, until her teacher is found dead. As detectives unravel the mystery Zoey finds herself in a dangerous and life-threatening situation.


Submitted:Feb 21, 2014    Reads: 153    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


I never imagined finding myself in this place. My soft silk shirt, ripped apart from its seams clinging to my cold body in sticky blood. The new pair of shoes I bought on sale last Saturday, now lying in a corner, light bouncing off their beautiful silver detailing in the dark room. I used to think that math tests and English papers were horrible. I would give anything to sit in a classroom right now. In fact, only 7 hours ago I was sleeping away through biology class. At least then I wasn't bleeding to death.

3 Days 1 hour 31 minutes Left

"Oh come on Zoey! Just one more shot!" Reina begged as she hung around her best friend's neck.

"I think you've had enough," Zoey replied with a giggle as she struggled to escape her friend's tight grip.

"I think you need one more Zoe! You're just as strict as Ms. Harris! Look at your mouth; you are making exactly the same sour grin!"

Reina tried her best to keep her freshly manicured finger pointing at Zoey's mouth. The girls were sitting on Hailey's brown leather couch with Eminem and Rihanna spewing out of the Cerwin Vega speakers. The room was full of half-drunk teenagers, some who happened to be overestimating their dance skills. The annual party at Hailey Woods' house was a must for anyone who wanted to be someone in high school. Zoey Reynolds and Reina Jackson had been invited, VIP.

"Fine. One more shot and then we go talk to those boys over there."

Zoey nodded to a group of guys playing darts in the corner while she reached out for a green Jello shot sitting on the glass table.

"We don't need those boys, we can dance instead! Come on Zoe, it's my favorite song!"

Zoey finished her shot and stood up on her tall designer shoes she had borrowed from Reina, not knowing whose eyes were following her every movement.

2 Days 12 Hours 4 Minutes Left

Zoey's sneakers made an uneven squeaking rhythm on the hard school floors. She still had a bit of a hangover from last night's party. The school halls were empty and the dark blue lockers reflected little light from the dim ceiling lights. The hallway was narrow and long, with doors to different classrooms on each side. It was in the middle of first period, yet Zoey had no plans of joining her morning biology class. Her long blonde hair fell down in front of her green eyes as she walked. She was wearing her favorite skinny jeans paired with a cream designer blouse that she had borrowed from Reina. As she reached the end of the cold corridor, she turned left, walking into the glass lounge. The large glass windows covering the west-facing wall gazed out towards the empty courtyard, which drowned in grey light from the unstable clouds. In the distance there was a hint of thunder, and the thought made Zoey shiver. She sat down on one of the wooden benches and dropped her bag with a sigh. Her head felt like it was exploding. As if thousands of tiny people inside her mind were trying to get out. She put her head in her hands and took a deep breath.

"Zoey? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in class," Said a soft voice.

Zoey quickly looked up to see Ms. West standing in the dim light of the hallway, carrying a pile of papers. She was a sweet teacher, but a complete pushover. She wouldn't yell at you, even if you slapped her with your exam and demanded a better grade. More likely, she would give it to you.

"I was excused," Zoey said in a quick voice.

Ms. West gave her a questioning look. She was about to ask for the reason when she heard a loud thump and screams of laughter down the hall.

"I better get to my class," Ms. West said before she walked away.

Zoey was left alone in the lounge and the roaring thunder was all that could be heard; at least for now.

*

Reina Jackson was walking confidently down the hallway towards the girl's bathrooms. She had just finished double history and was surprisingly cheerful. As she walked down the crowded hallway she took out her phone. Eagerly she glanced at the message icon gleaming with the notification of a new message. She pressed softly against the iPhone's screen and waited for it to open. In that moment Hank Tucker crashed into her with a heavy load of two cappuccinos.

"You idiot! What the hell do you think you are doing?" Reina gazed down at her iPhone lying on the floor, soaked in coffee.

"You are so buying me a new one you little rat!" Reina's eyes were on fire as they danced back and forth trying to stare into both of Hank's innocent brown eyes.

"I am so sorry. I didn't mean to ---" Hank started in a nervous voice.

His light brown hair danced in front of his eyes and his t-shirt showed a cheesy pickup line involving the chemical elements.

"Didn't mean to what? Exist?" Reina snapped.

Hank was left standing speechless by Reina's hurtful words. Reina picked up her soaked iPhone in a rush and walked away, desperately wishing Hank would vanish from the Earth's surface.

*

When Reina opened the door to the bathrooms she stopped for a moment, gently she reached out for a paper towel and started wiping her phone.

"There you are Zoe! I have been looking all over for you," Reina lighted up.

Zoey was standing over the sink leaning forward on the cold porcelain, her phone clinched to her hand.

"You wouldn't believe what Hank just did to my phone!" Reina complained.

"I mean, it's not like my parents can just buy me a new one. I had to work for this myself at that dreadful dog salon. Dogs are cute, but cleaning up their hair is just gross."

Zoey remains quiet and lifts her head slowly, looking into the mirror on the wall. Her eyes fixed in one position.

"Are you alright? You look terrible. Do you want to talk?"

Zoey casts a judging look in the direction of Reina who remains standing by the door.

"You are not my friend anymore," Zoey stated in a cold voice.

As she passed Reina on her way out the door she stops for a moment.

"Not after what you did yesterday. Admit it; you were planning on leaving me there."

*

Hank Tucker collected his math books in a daunting pile on his desk. He was the last one to leave the room after a math club meeting. Still baffled by parabolic curves and algebra he locked the door behind him. If he hurried he might have time to finish his yearbook editing before lunch. He smiled at the thought of finally having lunch plans with someone who wasn't in the math club.

He walked down the crowded hallway trying to avoid a similar accident as earlier that morning. He didn't like Reina that much. She was way too obsessed with her image. He preferred the more quiet types, like Zoey. He could picture her smile perfectly. The thought that he would finally see that smile more often was amazing. He could almost not believe it was true; this Sunday Zoey had asked him to eat lunch with her.

As Hank rounded the corner of the brick wall he found Zoey walking at a brisk pace towards him. She had her phone in her hand and looked anxiously behind her as she walked.

"Hey! I've been looking for you. Are we still meeting at lunch?" Hank smiled a crooked smile.

"Hank. I'm sorry. I can't do this anymore," Zoey said in a low voice.

"That's fine. We can totally reschedule. I have this idea that on Friday we could go to that restaurant outside town that you love so much, Rosella's was it? And afterwards we could go watch the stars; I heard it's gonna be a good view of the sky that day - and lots of shooting stars, and - "

"Hank. Stop. I didn't mean that I couldn't meet you in lunch. I can't meet you at all," Zoey looked to the ground with shame.

"Oh," The life in Hank's brown eyes drained as fast as turning off a light bulb.

"You see, I don't really like you. I mean, you're a great guy and everything, but you are just not my type," Zoey started to explain.

She looked into Hank's eyes, but only for a moment. It was like breaking up with a puppy.

"But - why did you ask to have lunch with me then?" Hank's eyes stared sadly towards the ground.

"I have to go. I'm sorry," Zoey turned around and started walking, clinching her fists together tightly.

"Zoey!" Hank's voice was about to crack, "I have to know. Is there someone else?"

Zoey turned around and ran up the school staircase, desperately trying to hold back the black hole that was eating her insides. She didn't want to answer the question.

*

Mr. Anderson was sitting at his oak desk grading papers on glacial landscaping while listening to The Who on his iPod classic. His office had a thick smell of pinewood and was cramped with pictures of mountains and landscapes. Most were from the time he lived in Japan and a good portion of them were taken in a free fall during one of his many skydiving adventures. Josh Anderson was only 25 years old and had a mystical and wild haircut making his brown hair fall in different directions which complimented his intense green eyes. He had only just started substituting for the class in March, but got the position as the new humanities teacher when the previous teacher Ms. Swire broke her back in a skiing accident.

Just when he was about to write a C- on the paper with his favorite red pen, there was a knock on his door. He put down his pen and leaned back in his old wooden chair which made a rustic creaking noise.

"Come in," He said with a tired voice.

The door opened and a pair of heels walked slowly into the dim room.

"Oh, it's you!" His eyes lit up as he recognized the familiar figure.

"I hoped you would come. Remember to lock the door behind you," Mr. Anderson said as he walked over and kissed her gently.

*

My mouth is dry and my cracked lips can barely open. I try to scream but my voice is too weak, like it is lost somewhere inside me. I try to move but my body is too heavy and my weak arms can barely lift away from the floor. The room is cold, wet and smells of mold. I can hear footsteps from the other side of the door. My heart is pounding with what is left of its strength. Desperately I reach for a broom, left only inches away from my hands, leaning on the dark walls. Light streams out of a small hole in the ceiling and it hurts my eyes to look. I reach out with my bare hands. The footsteps are coming closer every second. My hand is only inches away from the cold wood when the sound of a key turning breaks my anticipation. Something wet drips down my cheeks; I can't quite tell whether it's blood or tears. Then the door is opened.

6 Hours 2 Minutes Left

The door to Mr. Anderson's office stood silently at the end of the long hallway, decorated with a quote outside the window with shut blinds, "You only start living once you are outside your comfort zone". The colorful quote stood out from the other plain doors in the hallway. It was Wednesday and Reina was rushing past the gleeful students in the hallway, already discussing their week-end plans. At the end of the corridor she stopped in front of the glaring quote. Her hand felt cold against the wooden frame of the door. Reina knocked firmly a couple of times, and then more gently. She could hear the buzzing from the air-conditioning and the distant voices of students laughing. But nothing else.

"A - Are you looking for Mr. Anderson?" A voice asked energetically.

Ms. Waters stood next to her office door and held onto a large bag of basketballs and an ancient CD-player.

"Yes, I just need to drop off some books. Have you seen him?" Reina asked kindly as she judged the yellow track-suit Ms. Waters was soaking with sweat.

"No. Sorry. But here - take my keys. You can just drop them off at my office later."

Ms. Waters headed down the hallway, halfway jogging. Reina stood silently with the keys in her hand. The key chain had a basketball charm hooked onto it and several keys to various rooms. The keys were all marked alphabetically and it was easy to find "Anderson, J Office". She looked down the hallway as students made their way to their classes. When the last person had ran to catch up, she turned the key firmly.

*

The police sirens rang loudly outside in the school courtyard. Zoey was leaning against the window of her biology classroom. The teacher had stepped outside minutes ago and now the class was beginning to become impatient.

"Oh my god! Look, a police car!" A student shouted, and shortly everyone was cramped against the windows.

"They are probably going to arrest you Jimmy," One person teased.

The police car had parked and stood silently on the wet ground. Zoey straightened up to get a better look out the window. What were the police doing here? The door to the classroom was opened and the teacher walked in, with fright lighting up his eyes.

"Everybody, get back in your seats. Nobody leaves this room," he said loudly with a touch of fear in his voice.

A whisper spread across the room and excited yet scared students made their way to their seats. Zoey remained quiet. A part of her wanted Reina to be there so they could discuss what could have happened together. She felt a stab of betrayal punch her heart. Zoey didn't want to miss her, but she did.

The door to the classroom was opened and posing in the wooden frame stood a seemingly fresh detective in a dark blue suit which was a size too big. His hand clinched hard to the door handle as he tried to lean over elegantly. In his right hand he held a clipboard and his striped tie was hanging forward as he leaned his head into the classroom. Staring down at the clipboard he straightened up and cleared his voice.

"I need a Zoey Reynolds," His eyes searched the room in sequences.

The biology teacher, who was sitting uncomfortably on the edge of his desk biting his nails, stood up in a rush. With stiff steps he crossed the wooden floor over to the detective.

"Could someone please tell me what's going on? Have they heard anything more about… You know-?"

His whisper shook with fright and the students began to sense the tension.

"Why don't you go outside and talk with the principal? Right now I just need Zoey."

"Zoey, get over here. Leave your things. Come on, hurry!" The teacher called in a stressed tone as he went out of the cold room.

A rush of fear and guilt filled Zoey's head with thoughts as she slowly stood up from her desk and walked towards the door, ignoring the staring faces.

The hallways were frigid and a weak cry filled the walls with pain. Zoey's hands felt numb and her heart pounded fast. She followed the footsteps of the detective, staring at the back of his short blonde hair. All the teachers were gathered in the outside courtyard and the crying sound was coming from Ms. West. Zoey hated when people cried.

"Do you know why I called you out of the classroom, Zoey?" The detective stopped.

He had just introduced himself as detective Palmer, but he didn't look like a Palmer at all. He seemed more like a lost rock and roll star, his blonde hair running across his blue eyes. He couldn't be more than 27 years of age.

"No," Her mouth felt dry.

Palmer stopped and turned around so his tie danced around the seams of his coat.

"We need you to talk to your friend, Reina Jackson," His voice sounded serious.

"You must not tell anyone, but she has just found your teacher, Mr. Anderson, dead."

Zoey felt light headed and dizzy. It was like someone was holding her brain and shaking it.

"If you could please follow me. It is quite urgent," His voice sounded distant.

"Of course," Zoey responded in a faint voice.

*

Reina could no longer feel her legs. Her stockings had spots of blood on them and her hands were frozen in a fixed position. She was staring down at her hands which had been holding on to her dead teacher only minutes ago. There were two women around her, treating her like a fragile baby; wrapping her in blankets and giving her tea. She had two blankets wrapped around her, yet she felt cold, like she would never reheat. The bench she was sitting on was hard, yet it was better than the floor in Mr. Anderson's office in many ways. For one she didn't have to look at his cold, dead eyes.

"Oh my god. Reina, are you okay?" Zoey ran over to the bench and sat down beside her.

She didn't want to answer. No words could possibly describe how she felt.

"It will be okay. I promise," Zoey's words sounded false.

Reina wanted to believe Zoey's words, hoping that if she did things might go back to normal. For once she wished that Zoey would be there for her, after all she had done for her.

Detective Palmer soon returned but now he had company; an older detective with grey hair and bushy eyebrows.

"Hello girls; my name is detective Worthland. If you could please follow me, I need to ask you some questions," His deep voice sounded safe.

"Come on Reina, it will all be okay," Zoey tried to help her up.

"Don't," Reina's voice was sharp as she pushed Zoey's helping hands away.

Reina stood up and gave her friend a hateful look before she followed the detectives down the hallway. Zoey followed quietly in a safe distance behind them. The hallway began to empty as the detectives went down another corridor to the principal's office. Zoey was just passing the boy's bathroom when a hand grasped her arm and pulled her in. She gasped with surprise.

"Oh, it's only you. You scared me for a second."

3 Hours 2 Minutes Left

His body laid face down and his right hand was softly curled up by his face. The powerful shine of his green eyes still transformed the room, yet his warm smile was substituted for a concerned look. There was dried up blood on the back of his head forming small dark red rivers in his wildly landscaped hair. The room still smelled of old wood, but the scent was distorted by an odd smell. He had been lying there all night.

*

The principal's office was dark and the air felt tight in Reina's lungs. She was sitting on a wooden chair and listened closely as the detectives whispered by the door.

"Where is the other one?" Detective Worthland asked calmly.

"She was right behind me - I mean, just there." Palmer sounded worried and defensive.

"I didn't know I was supposed to herd her into the room."

"Just go and find her. Everyone in this building is a suspect, remember?" Worthland struggled not to raise his whisper.

As Palmer disappeared out the door detective Worthland sat down in the principal's chair. His big oak desk separated the space between them.

"Are you ready to talk?" The detective leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs, his hands resting on the chair.

Reina nodded silently.

"Okay then. Let's start."

*

Detective Palmer's black shoes clicked loudly against the floor. He was halfway running down the hall back to the bench by the glass lounge, where he had last seen Zoey. In an attempt to remain professional he straightened his tie, slowing his pace. He was not about to mess up another case.

"Zoey are you here?" His voice echoed off the empty lounge walls.

"Damn it," He ran his hand over his freshly shaved jaw.

A sound of squeaking sneakers made him turn around.

"Hello?" Palmer walked slowly towards the hallway were the sound was coming from.

As he rounded the corner he saw a young boy in jeans and a red t-shirt carrying a brown backpack.

"You shouldn't be here, what's your name?" Palmer straightened up.

"Hank, sir. Hank Tucker," The boy responded.

"Why are you out of your classroom?"

"I just came now, sir; from the dentist near Woodland's cross. I have a late slip if you want to see it? What's going on here, why are there police cars outside?" Hank's voice sounded curious.

Palmer reached out and took Hank's white piece of paper. He glanced at the time of arrival on the late slip. 10:40. Only 2 minutes ago.

"Oh - ok. Come on; follow me, "Palmer commanded as he walked back to the principal's office.

*

"So you were dropping off your book to his office when you found him?" Detective Worthland asked in a calm tone.

"Yes, my humanities book. I needed to return it - I mean, hand it in," Reina started to tear up.

"Your P.E teacher claims she let you in at around nine this morning. Is that true?"

"I guess."

"So you stayed in the room for about half an hour before you went for help?"

Reina turned nervously.

"I don't know… maybe."

"Did you have a close relationship with Mr. Anderson?" Worthland shifted his position.

"No. I mean - He was my teacher. That's all," Reina stared nervously out the window.

"I know this might be hard for you, but I need you to look at this note that we found in his office."

Detective Worthland fished a pink note wrapped in a plastic bag out of his pocket and laid it out on the desk. Reina leaned hesitantly forward to glance at the note.

"Did you write this?" The detective paid close attention to Reina's eyes as she stared at the note.

After reading the first sentence Reina broke into tears. She could no longer hold it in.

"All right," The detective put the note back in his pocket.

"Were you in a relationship with Josh Anderson, Reina?"

Reina looked down and continued to sulk. Then she nodded slowly.

*

Hank struggled to keep up with the stressed steps of detective Palmer. The corridors were empty but by the door to the principal's office stood two police officers.

"Detective Worthland?" The blonde police woman asked as Palmer approached.

"No, he is questioning a suspect. I am his assistant, detective Palmer. If there is any new information I can pass it on," Palmer looked back at Hank before he discretely took a couple of steps away along with the police officers.

"Forensics has found an indication of the murder weapon; a rectangular object, possibly a book, sir. The victim sustained several blows to his skull, which is the momentary cause of death."

"Right."

Detective Palmer stood up straight, feeling immensely powerful.

"There is more, sir," The police officer said in a low voice.

"The victim was killed between 4pm and 8pm last night. We also have a witness sir, claiming she saw someone going into his office between those hours. She is in the office over there," She pointed to a door down the hallway.

"Thank you."

Detective Palmer walked back to where Hank was standing and checking his watch every so often.

"If you could wait out here with the police officers, I just need to go do something. I will need to question you later too."

Hank was left standing against the wall by the police officers as Palmer walked away. Hank no longer thought this had to do with theft as his original suspicions intended. He now knew that it was something more serious.

*

"Was he breaking up with you Reina?" The detective's voice sounded superior.

"Yes," Reina's voice was cold and numb.

"So you were angry?"

"I guess. Well - He was going to leave me, he didn't think it was safe anymore. I thought he was using it as an excuse, that he was bored of me or something."

Reina stared out the window and saw a bird land softly on a branch.

"So you went to talk to him? Set him straight?"

"I just wanted to show him how I felt; that he couldn't leave me," Her voice cracked.

"So you wrote him this note?"

Reina nodded. The bird was now in company of another bird, and they seemed to like each other; both singing light and airy tunes that seethed through the window cracks.

"Did you go to see him yesterday?" The detective shifted his position slowly.

"Three times," Reina didn't shift her stare.

*

The oak smell which filled his office welcomed Reina.

"Oh, it's you!" His eyes lit up as he recognized her.

"I hoped you would come. Remember to lock the door behind you," Mr. Anderson's voice was soft with a touch of edge to it.

Reina closed the door behind her slowly and accepted the gentle kiss of her teacher. She stroked her soft hands over his face as she gazed into his magical eyes. A warm feeling spread inside her and she desperately wanted to freeze the moment and stay there forever.

"I missed you," She said lovingly as she walked over to his desk.

"We saw each other just before class started, not so long ago, remember?" Mr. Anderson smiled as he followed her movements with his eyes.

"It feels like ages," Reina smiled as her hands brushed across the large oak desk.

"What's this? C- for Zoey? Let's make that a C+ shall we?" Reina sat down on the edge of his desk and reached out for his red pen.

"You know I can't let you do that," Mr. Anderson laughed slightly and walked over to where Reina was sitting. With his warm hands he stroked her hair.

"It was worth a shot, wasn't it?" She responded teasingly as she leaned in to kiss him.

*

"When was the first time you met yesterday?" the detective asked, leaning over the desk.

"I don't know… sometime before class?" Reina started crying silently at the thought of his memory.

"What about the last time you saw him, Reina?" The detective handed her a tissue.

Reina just sat in the same position, ignoring the outreached hand of the detective.

*

The corridors were crowded with people, none of them paying any attention to the end of the hallway were Reina was standing outside Mr. Anderson's door. She looked around before she opened the creaking door.

"Hey, sorry I'm late," She lit up as she saw him sitting by his desk nervously fiddling with his pen.

"Hey," His dark soft voice sounded rusty and his eyes didn't have the same glow.

"What's up?" Reina walked over to his desk and sat down on some test papers.

"We need to talk," He didn't look up.

"Sure, we can talk. What about?" Reina started swinging her feet softly back and forth.

"I don't think we should do this anymore," Mr. Anderson stood up from his chair and walked over to his window.

"What? Why?" Reina followed him impatiently.

"It's not safe - I mean what if someone walks in that door at the wrong moment? I could go to jail!" His voice was shaking and louder than usual.

"What! We have been seeing each other for what - 2 months? And now is the time you start being concerned about the safety of this? It hasn't troubled you much before. Why start now?" Reina turned around with frustration.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped - I just don't think it's safe anymore. I think someone knows about us," Mr. Anderson walked slowly over to Reina and tried to calm Reina down.

"Like who?" Reina lowered her tone and looked for clues in his expression.

*

"So he didn't say?" Detective Worthland had a curious expression.

Reina shook her head sadly.

The room was filled with silence and the birds on the outside branch had now flown. It made Reina even sadder, but she had no more tears.

"Right," Worthland's dark voice broke the peaceful silence.

"So after that, what happened?"

"We broke up."

*

"Like who?" Reina's voice sounded desperate.

"I - I don't know, I just don't think this feels right anymore," Mr. Anderson nervously tapped his finger on the window-sill.

"I can't believe it," Reina rushed around with despair.

"Look, it's not like this could go on forever. It had to end someday," His warm hand took hold of Reina's.

"But - I love you," The corner of her eyes filled with tears.

"It's better this way."

He stroked Reina's hair one last time before he leaned in to kiss her. With tears rolling down her face Reina kissed him back.

*

"You weren't angry with him?"

"Afterwards. I mean - I loved him. He broke it off. Just like that, like throwing away an old toy."

"Okay Reina, thank you. We will take a break now," The detective rose slowly but loudly out of the old chair.

He went out of the room and into the hallway. As he opened the door he let out a big sigh and looked around. To his surprise two police officers were standing by a boy, sitting on the bench nearby.

"He shouldn't be here."

The detective walked over with firm steps.

"He is to be taken in for questioning, sir."

"Yes, of course, well - everyone here is; how come he is sitting here and not inside a classroom?"

"He came late, sir."

"I see. Well, get my assistant to question him, I need to go talk with forensics."

Worthland walked away from the officers, not paying much attention to the kid.

"Wait, sir! Your assistant went to talk to another witness."

"What witness?"

"I don't know, sir. Some girl. They are in that room over there."

The police woman pointed down the hallway as detective Worthland walked down to the door, trying desperately to keep hold of his control.

1 Hour 18 Minutes 25 Seconds Left

"Could you please state your name?"

"Hailey Woods."

Detective Palmer was writing down notes on his clipboard and cautiously looked up every now and then to analyze his witness. He tried to remember how to correctly question a witness. The girl had long brown hair and calm yet fearless eyes. She was dressed in black jeans and a white Metallica t-shirt with a flannel shirt, wrapping around her as she crossed her arms.

"Tell me what you saw yesterday outside Mr. Anderson's office," Palmer glanced at the tape recorder he had remembered to set up.

"Well, I was walking down the hallway on my way to detention when I saw that the door to Mr. Anderson's office was open. Inside I heard someone yelling, but not loudly, like a whisper. A girl was saying something about how she was going to tell if he didn't keep the secret. He kept saying how it was over. Then there was a loud noise, like someone slammed something. Not that I was eavesdropping or anything."

"Of course." Detective Palmer kept taking notes.

"Do you know who she was?"

"Zoey Reynolds. I saw her just a moment later come out of his office."

"Was she carrying anything?"

"I don't know… her books maybe?"

There was silence for a moment and Palmer struggled to keep up with the interview.

"Do you have any idea what they were arguing about?"

"I have no idea, but she sounded really angry. But, like I said, I wasn't eavesdropping."

*

Detective Worthland opened the door loudly, interrupting the silence during one of Palmer's note-taking breaks.

"Palmer. A word please."

"Excuse me for one second Hailey," Palmer put down his pen and nervously stepped outside the office door.

"What do you think you are doing?" Worthland's voice sounded furious as he closed the door behind them.

"I was just questioning a witness," Palmer pointed anxiously at the office door.

"Yes, a witness that I didn't know about. Apparently, a primary witness is not the only crucial information I don't have. I just spoke with the officer over there, by the student, who for all we know could be our killer, yet he has not been questioned or put in a classroom!"

"He arrived late sir, I spoke to him and -"

"Of course you did! You seem to have been running the show out here perfectly by yourself."

"I only - "

"Save it Palmer. You know very well that I can place you back down to writing reports by your desk. Do not make the same mistake twice."

"Sorry," Palmer's eyes faded.

"Now, did you find that missing girl, Zoey?"

"No sir."

"God damn it! I asked you to do one simple thing, and instead you wandered off talking to some girl."

"She's a witness too sir."

"So might some of the 400 other students here be! That's why we decided to talk to every single one of them in order, not by random interest. Understood?"

"Yes… and sir? The witness, she said she heard Zoey arguing with the teacher after school yesterday. Apparently there was a loud thump."

"I see. All the more reason to find her… Now, go finish your interview and start questioning that boy over there. I will get the officers to search the premises. Don't do anything stupid, okay?"

"Yes… and sir?"

"What Palmer?"

"The forensics said that we are looking for a hard rectangular murder weapon, possibly a book."

"Great. That's just great… hunting down a book in a school, classic," Worthland mumbled as he walked back to the principal's office.

*

Reina was staring intensely out the window. She was tired of the questions, tired of the answers. Every time she tried to remember him, she felt sick. A hopeless hole of emptiness inside left her wondering if it was all just a dream.

The door to the office was opened again and the detective walked back to his seat. Reina didn't like the look on his face, it pointed out how pathetic she was for falling in love with her teacher.

"Reina; do you have any idea of where Zoey Reynolds would go if she didn't want to be found?"

The question puzzled Reina.

"Why? Has she run away?"

"Please answer the question."

"No! Not until you tell me what's going on."

"Your friend seems to have disappeared while we were walking back."

Reina felt a panic inside her.

"How can she have disappeared? I mean - she was right behind us the entire time."

"The police are searching the school, but we need to know if there are any other places she might have gone."

"I - I don't know. We used to go together her tree house all the time."

"Were you two good friends?"

"Best-friends. We used to hang out all the time when we were kids."

"Has there been anything bothering your friend lately?"

Reina looked restlessly around the room, nervously cracking her fingers. In that moment she froze.

"The drugs," She whispered.

*

The loud music surrounded Reina as she moved out on the dance floor.

"We don't need those boys, we can dance instead! Come on Zoe, it's my favorite song!"

She could see her best friend was disappointed by the decision, yet willingly went along. They stood for a moment, on their tall heels dancing in rhythm with the music. Across the room Reina saw Hailey approaching giving her a wave to come over. Hailey loudly articulated the word "Zoey" and pointed beside Reina. When the two made it over to the front door, Hailey whispered to Zoey in a superior half-drunk voice.

"Get rid of your pathetic boyfriend, Zoey."

"I don't have a boyfriend," Zoey answered puzzled.

"Oops," Hailey laughed as she walked over to a guy standing by the staircase.

Reina followed as Zoey opened the front door. Outside, on the stone steps stood Hank, holding a red rose.

"Hank, what are you doing here?"

Reina watched as Zoey stepped outside.

"I heard you were coming to this party, and I thought that we could hang out."

Hank presented the rose to Zoey.

"It's for you."

"Hank, that's really sweet of you, but I don't know if I can take it. I don't think Hailey will let you in. I am sorry."

Zoey looked over her shoulder to see Reina standing in the door by another girl. Reina could see how much it hurt Zoey to turn him down.

"You better leave," Zoey turned and walked back to Reina leaving Hank with the rose in his hand.

"Did you dump your little boyfriend?"

Hailey laughed in Zoey's face whilst hanging around some guy's neck.

"He isn't my boyfriend," Zoey responded in a cool tone.

"Ooh, but it would be fun if he was; wouldn't it?"

Zoey looked surprised.

"Let's say, if you pretend you are in love with him for… I don't know; let's say, two days? And then I will get you into that party next weekend at Tessa's place. What do you say? Are you willing to break his sorry heart?" Hailey's drunken words spewed out on Zoey who had a forced expression.

"Sure. Whatever… It's not like it's a big deal. I mean; he's such a nerd."

Reina took hold of Zoey and dragged her outside to the backyard. By the door, they passed two wasted girls. Reina forced herself past their giggling chaos before they finally reached fresh air. Past the grill there was a tight group of people smoking what appeared to be something more than just normal cigarettes.

"Are you ok?" Reina turned to Zoey.

"I'm fine."

"I'm sorry. I know how Hailey can be sometimes," Reina started.

"Can we please just not talk about it? I need a drink."

Reina watched as Zoey got herself a can of beer. For a second she thought she could see her crying. Then she was sure it was just the light.

"Police! The police are here!" Reina heard a voice scream.

"Shit," Reina panicked and tried to grab hold of Zoey, who looked as if she was going to be sick.

Reina hurried and pulled up her phone, while looking around at the people who had been smoking a few seconds ago, but were now in full panic.

"Please pick up… Please!"

"Hey! I need you to pick me up; it's an emergency. Meet me down Hackerby street, by the blue house."

The smokers were now approaching and Reina walked away, passing Zoey.

"Go home Zoey!"

"What? How?"

Reina saw the panic and fear in Zoey's eyes.

"Here, take a cab," Reina stuffed a $50 note in Zoey's dress.

"Reina wait!"

Reina knew there was only a question of time before the party was busted, and ran off. Behind her she could hear the smokers approaching Zoey.

"Take this and dump it!"

"What? I - I don't know what to do with - "Zoey's voice was helpless as she stood with a small bag of weed in her hands.

"You'll be fine! Be cool Zoe. Come on!"

Reina watched as Zoey was left holding the plastic bag in her hand. Then, she ran away.

*

"Did you say something?" Detective Worthland shot a questioning look at Reina.

"No. Nevermind."

*

"So… Hank. Was that your name?"

Palmer looked up at Hank who was sitting calmly in the chair across from him. The classroom was empty, leaving the two in silence.

"Uh - yes. Hank Tucker."

"Alright Hank. When was the last time you saw Mr. Anderson?"

"Yesterday during lunch. I came in to talk to him about our new assignment. He is… was always very helpful."

Hank looked up at Palmer, who was taking notes.

"How did he seem to you?" Palmer questioned in a calm voice.

"Normal, I guess. Although he seemed a bit troubled, he wasn't really listening to me."

Hank's eyes looked away for a moment before he quietly added.

"Is he really dead?"

Palmer looked up to see that Hank was on the edge of crying.

"I'm afraid so. Do you need a moment?"

Palmer felt uncomfortable; he didn't really know how to act.

"No no. I'm fine, I'm fine," Hank straightened up in attempt to regain his control.

"Actually, can I go see Zoey?"

Hank looked towards the door.

"I'm afraid she is missing."

"What?" Hank's voice weakened.

"Don't worry, we have the police looking for her."

Hank looked down at his hands, searching for words.

"Where are you searching? Are you going to check her house?"

Palmer looked at Hank, who had now turned his head rapidly towards the door.

"As I said, don't worry. I'm sure we will find her soon."

*

The buzz in my ears has now distorted every sound in the room. At one point I think I can hear water. Now I am sure it's something else. I'm afraid to open my eyes. I don't quite know how long I have been out for, but the fact that I can't feel my limbs worries me. I try to swallow, but my throat is dry and hurts. My eyes struggle as I try to open them. At first its pitch black, and I question whether my eyes really are open. Then I see a distant light. The light shines across the floor in a thin patch. It moves slightly from side to side. I struggle to listen and with the ringing in my ears I am sure I am dreaming. Then I become sure. There are footsteps outside the door.

38 Minutes 13 Seconds Left

"Are you sure you didn't say something about drugs, Reina? Must I remind you that it is a criminal offence to withhold information in a murder investigation?"

Worthland's voice was deep and he sounded tired. Reina tried to remember how long she had been in here; must have been hours. She felt a cold chill through her spine, making her shiver slightly. She was defeated and tired. One part of her never wanted to move again; and the other wanted to run away as far as she could.

"Reina!"

Reina again looked up and stopped for a moment, completely apathetic.

"Just this last question, and you'll have a break… Now, what drugs?"

Reina considered silence for a moment. Then she remembered Zoey, and her sweet eyes. Reina felt guilty inside as she considered what might have happened to her if she hadn't decided to go back for her. Slowly she explained what had happened at the party.

"Was she threatened in any way? Did she get into any sort of trouble?"

"Not really, he took care of it."

"Who's he?"

Reina's throat thickened. Her eyes felt soar and red. For a moment she thought she might start crying again, but the corners of her eyes disagreed.

"It was Josh."

"So Mr. Anderson picked the two of you up at this party then?

"Yeah. I called him; but Zoey didn't know. She thought it was just a coincident that he drove by."

"So you told him about the drugs?"

"Zoey dropped it as she entered the car. After he found out he took care of it."

"Then what happened?" Worthland sounded curious.

"I thought you said that was the last question," Reina looked at him with a cold stare.

"Answer the question," Worthland commanded.

Reina hesitated for a moment. Then she continued.

"He dropped Zoey off at her house first, and then he me drove home. The next day Zoey wanted to talk about the whole thing. I tried to tell her to keep her mouth shut about it, but she didn't take the hint."

"Did she talk with Mr. Anderson after that?"

"I don't know. But she was very nervous about him keeping the whole thing a secret. Of course she never knew that we were together…"

Reina paused for a moment.

"He said he would protect us for me."

*

Hank was sitting nervously, guarding the door to the classroom with his eyes. The detective's reassurances did not help much to lighten his mood. The fact that Zoey was not here worried him.

"How do you know Zoey?" Palmer broke the silence.

"Well, she is in my history class."

"Are you two friends?"

"I thought we were," Hank sat with his hands in his lap.

"Oh?" Palmer jotted a few words down on his notepad.

"She asked me out once. Turned out it was all a misunderstanding."

"How come?"

"It turned out she didn't really like me. Apparently there was someone else."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Don't be. There are not many girls that like me anyways. You get used to it you know."

Hank smiled lightly at the detective.

*

I can feel my heart slow down. The sound of my blood rushing through my body. Underneath me there is something wet and soft. I have gone over all the possibilities now. However it is hard to think clearly when you constantly float away. I try to tell whether the light I can see is coming closer or not. Then I start doubting whether my eyes are open or not. I try to think back on my life. It's funny how I thought life was so difficult. All the choices one has to make. Now that I am left with none, life seems too simple. Too empty. I constantly convince myself that these things only happen in books and in TV shows. Then I wonder if anyone will every write a book about me.

24 Minutes 47 Seconds Left

"That's all I need for now, Reina."

Detective Worthland walked over to the door before he paused.

"Are you sure there weren't any other people at that party or at school that would want to hurt your teacher?"

"No. Everybody liked him."

*

Palmer stepped outside the door to the classroom, nervously pacing back and forth on the hard floors. Detective Worthland would be here any minute; and he would have nothing to tell him. He looked down the corridor towards the lounge, where all the teachers now stood collectively. As he saw detective Worthland step out of the principal's office he cursed silently. He prepared himself for Worthland's harsh words.

"What do you mean you have no news?" Worthland's angry voice shook the silence out of the hallway.

"The boy is just a dead end, sir."

"That's it? That's all you can tell me?"

"Well, he knew Zoey. Apparently they were dating, but then it turned out there was someone else or something."

Worthland started to get agitated.

"Any useful information?"

"He came late."

"Well, yes I know that!"

Worthland stopped for a moment and turned away in frustration. He paused before he continued.

"What time?"

"It's 14:47 sir"

"Not the time, you idiot! What time did he get here?"

Palmer searched his pockets for the late slip.

"10:40, sir."

Worthland looked closely at the slip.

"Why is this line written in a different shade of blue than the rest?" He mumbled.

"Sir?"

"Take this to the receptionist. I think someone has been lying."

*

Palmer followed the corridor down to the lounge, where all the teachers now sat together quietly mumbling; some crying.

"Excuse me?" Palmer interrupted the quiet mourning.

"I am looking for the receptionist."

A woman dressed in a pink blouse stood up from the back of the room. When she had followed the detective down the corridor, Palmer showed her the slip.

"Oh, I remember. This is Hank's slip. He had a dentist's appointment."

Her red hair framed her face, lighting up her prominent cheekbones.

"But, the time is wrong."

"How so?" Palmer asked curiously.

"He came in at 10:10. I remember because I leave for break at that time."

Palmer looked at the receptionist with a questioning look.

"I remember it had just started."

*

Worthland felt a rush of adrenalin as his suspicions about the slip were confirmed by Palmer. Even better was the fact that the murder weapon had turned up.

"Who found it?"

Worthland gazed down on the bright turquoise advanced algebra textbook lying in a plastic bag on the cold pavement. One of the edges was worn down and was covered in blood. Spots of blood had covered the "Prentice Hall" publishing title; wiping out the first two letters.

"The police found it in that dumpster over there."

Palmer pointed to a dumpster only a couple of feet away.

"Our murderer must be pretty new at this, dumping it here," Palmer added.

Lights flashed as forensics took pictures of the scene.

"Algebra… Do you think we are looking for a student, sir?

"Perhaps; or a teacher might have taken it. Any name inside the book?"

Palmer shook his head.

6 Minutes 53 Seconds Left

Hank sat restlessly on the chair in the empty classroom. Through the window on the door he could see the back of a police officer. He clinched his fists together, impatiently checking his watch. It had been far too long.

His thoughts were interrupted as a man in a grey suit entered the room. Loudly, the man walked over the floor to where Hank was sitting.

"Is your name Hank?"

His voice was deep and clear. Hank looked at the door in confusion.

"Yes. Hank Tucker"

"Does this belong to you?"

The man held the late slip in his hand.

"Excuse me, but who are you? Where is the detective?"

Hank avoided eye-contact with the man, trying to see if the detective was on his way.

"I am detective Worthland. Please answer the question Hank."

Hank fell silent for a moment. Looking closely at the man he recognized him from the hallway.

"Sorry. Yes, it's mine."

"Why is the time wrong on the slip, Hank?"

A rush of ice hit Hank as he starred at the slip. He didn't know how to answer.

"We talked with the receptionist. She claims that she let you in at 10:10, not 10:40, as the slip states."

Hank stared at the white paper slip, biting his lip to keep silent.

"Where were you during those 30 minutes Hank?"

There was a long pause. Hank knew that every second made him look guiltier.

"There must have been a mistake."

Hank's voice was weak and he struggled to keep his hands calm as he clinched his fists harder and harder.

"This has clearly been tempered with Hank! Look at those lines! The number one has been changed to make it look like a four… It was even done with a different colored pen, Hank!"

Detective Worthland's voice rose with anger. Still clinching his fists Hank started shaking. Tears rolled down his face as he stared at the paper in front of him.

"Why did you lie Hank?"

Worthland had calmed down, seeing how Hank was now crying.

"I-I… I just needed some time to… to think."

"Think about what Hank?"

"I- I tried to talk to Zoey… She wouldn't listen!"

Hank's voice ached with frustration and pain.

"You talked with Zoey? When was this?"

"Just after I came… I - I wanted to ask her…"

"Ask her what?" Worthland asked desperately.

"If she could be with me now that he was dead…"

*

Reina was walking down the hallway with an officer as the detective approached her. Looking down at the floor she first noticed his dark polished shoes.

"Reina," Detective Palmer stopped in the middle of the hallway just in front of her.

Reina looked up silently as she came to a halt, avoiding eye contact with the detective.

"I'm sorry… "

She didn't answer.

"Um… So, we have called your parents and they will meet you at the hospital."

"The hospital?"

Her voice was weak.

"Yes. So you can talk with someone. You know; a professional."

Palmer felt uncomfortable as he shifted his weight onto the other leg.

"This officer will take you there."

The police officer pushed Reina gently past the detective. Passing the door to one of the classrooms she saw Hank crying as another police officer reached for a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket.

"Why are they hand-cuffing him?"

Reina stopped and walked up to door.

"Why? Did he… is he the one?"

A rush of anger spread through Reina as she opened the door to the classroom.

*

"Hank! Did you or did you not kill Mr. Anderson?"

Worthland's voice was strict as he bent over Hank, who was loudly weeping.

"I… No! I - I didn't…"

Hank gasped for air as tears rolled down his face. Looking down at the floor he held his head in his hands as he shook his head.

"I didn't mean to!" Hank shouted as he cried out desperately.

Worthland signaled for the police officer to come over with the handcuffs. In that moment the door was opened and Reina walked in.

"You!"

Her voice was deep and furious, but most of all filled with pain.

"You killed him! You killed Josh!"

Hank was taken by surprise as Reina pushed him of the chair and onto the floor. The police officers rushed over to hold Reina, who was desperately trying to get to Hank.

"You monster!" Reina screamed as the officers dragged her out.

Hank remained on the floor as Worthland put the handcuffs on him. He remained silent, lying on the cold floor without moving.

"Where is Zoey?" Worthland leaned over to Hank's ear.

"She's in the basement. In the closet by the water pumps," A tear rolled down Hank's face.

"I swear I never meant to hurt her. I just… She wouldn't come with me…"

23 Seconds

I can hear it now. I can hear him calling me. There is nothing left in this world for me to do but to go. A soft hand strokes my cheek as I fade away. He is shouting. It's a whisper. He only wishes for me to wake up. I want to wake up now. Nobody will know who I am in this new world. I can be whoever I want to be. I don't have to be Zoey Reynolds any more…

*

"She was dead when we came here, sir." The police officer gazed down at the body.

"A hard blow to the head, sir. There is also a tear in her abdomen; possibly from dragging her down here."

Detective Worthland looked down at the concrete floors. Her body laid peacefully in a corner. In her left hand she held a red rose; drenched in her own blood. The detective turned around and walked out of the cold room, swearing quietly.

*

Hank sat quietly on the wooden chair; the handcuffs straining his wrists; his head leaning forwards in defeat. With eyes sore from crying he tried to account for his actions to the detectives.

"I went to his office after school. I had seen the way he looked at her. How they had secret meetings; whispering in the halls."

"Whispering with whom?" Palmer shot in.

"Zoey. When she rejected me I understood that there must have been someone else."

"So you thought Zoey was having an affair with Mr. Anderson? That's why you killed him?" Worthland's deep voice sounded angry, but remained in control.

"I was only going to talk to him at first. Confront him."

*

Hank knocked on the door to Mr. Anderson's office as he held his hands around his algebra book. His school bag rested heavily on his shoulder as he opened the door with a soft creaking sound.

"Yes?" Mr. Anderson's voice filled the room.

"We need to talk." Hank walked over to the big oak desk where Mr. Anderson was grading papers.

"What's up, Hank?"

"I know about your affair."

Mr. Anderson's face turned white as he slowly stood up from his chair.

"What affair?"

"You know very well what I am talking about."

Mr. Anderson came closer to Hank.

"That is over. I broke it off today."

"You should have done that earlier," Hank's voice turned angry.

"You took her from me."

"Look, it's over now Hank. You're not going to tell anyone are you?"

Mr. Anderson spoke nervously as he walked around the room.

"I love her," Hank whispered as he clinched his fist with anger.

"I beg you. Please don't tell anyone about this. I swear it's over. You know how girls are… I swear I never did anything she didn't want to do!"

In a rage Hank took the math book and lifted it up in the air. Aiming at Mr. Anderson's head he swung it as hard as he could, not stopping before his white shirt was covered in blood.

"I loved her!" Hank whispered.

*

"Now, what happened after you killed him?"

Worthland spoke impatiently as he walked over to the window, staring out on the parking lot. The silence continued before Hank replied in a weak voice.

"Um… I - I took his keys; and… I locked his door, so nobody would see. Then I dumped the book and I went home."

"What happened this morning Hank?"

Hank began crying again as he thought back.

*

10:09. The clock on the wal





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