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A Luminations story
Start at the beginning of the Luminations series
Two days to move-in!
(And sadly, one more evening of retail hell tonight. Josh won't even be there. He left for school yesterday).
So, I'll be back at UNH by around noon on Monday.
When's the party?
Things started going wrong in the Alexander Residence Hall parking lot. It's become too easy to see that. I've been second-guessing all week. All day, every day, over and over. What went wrong. What I could have done. What I should have done.
It's been worse at night. At night, I don't dwell on what I might have done. I see what happened.
Loading up the Prius took forever, between my lousy packing skills and Mom and Dad trying to get all sentimental on me. Didn't we do that enough when I left for Frosh year?
Then there was the truck. I got stuck behind this log truck for about ten miles on the Daniel Webster Highway.
So I arrived way behind schedule and I'd told everyone to go ahead to lunch if I wasn't there by one.
When I pulled into the dorm parking lot, Wayne DeLucas was waiting for me.
"Long time, no see, Katy. You've got time to chat, right?"
He turned and started walking, and I followed. The smug little prick knew exactly what buttons to push. I wasn't about to let him intimidate me.
So instead, I let him lead me around. Stupid. Fucking stupid.
I caught up to him, but he didn't say another word. We walked down through campus and past the Earth Science Program building where Kim used to spend her time cleaning mud off of sampling gear and hosing down seine nets.
We passed the campus power plant, and the path ahead crossed through a tunnel under the road. The electrical conduits ran in pipes through the tunnel. It was a hard, industrial spot in what is mostly a pretty New England campus. On the other side of the tunnel were the rink and the gym, and the soccer fields beyond that.
There was a bench halfway through the tunnel. DeLucas plopped himself down there and gestured broadly for me to have a seat.
"I'll stand, thanks." My right hand was in my purse, gripping a pepper spray canister, but none of DeLucas' Granite Lodge buddies were anywhere in sight. No one was in the tunnel at the moment, but there were enough people passing by at either end that I was sure to attract attention if I screamed. There was a mirror too. That was reassuring. I'd have a pretty good view of anyone approaching from either end as long as I paid attention. And I wasn't worried about DeLucas himself. I was pretty confident I could handle him.
In fact, he looked more out-of-shape than the last time I saw him. He looked hung over too. Maybe his fratboy buddies put him up to this at some party last night.
He grinned, looking up at me, and clapped his hands together slowly three times.
"I wanted to congratulate you, Katy. That little prank you pulled on us last Spring. Masterful."
Was that it? He just wanted me to admit I'd been behind the fake police raid on Granite Lodge?
"No idea what you're talking about, Wayne."
"Oh, of course not. Let me lay out the evidence."
He fumbled around in his jacket pocket. I realized he was a little overdressed for August. It was making him sweat. I tightened my grip on the pepper spray, suddenly aware that he could be armed.
He withdrew his hand from his pocket slowly, deliberately. He was just holding a phone. Slick new iPhone, same model as mine. I couldn't fault his taste in gadgets, which was fine because I could still fault him for pretty much everything else.
He played around with the phone. It took him a minute or two before he turned the screen my way. His evidence was set up like a slideshow, a little Powerpoint presentation on how he'd figured out that I'd set him and his buddies up. He had most of it right, but it looked to me like he was short on evidence.
"Cute story. Very imaginative of you, Wayne." I was determined not to give away anything.
He looked down at the screen, pausing, gathering his thoughts.
"You know, Katy, we were warned about you. Before you ever came to campus, although not before the admissions department accepted you. If we'd known then, we would have arranged for you to get the thin envelope and saved everyone a lot of grief. But we were warned. Foolish of us to underestimate you. Won't happen anymore."
"Story of my life, Wayne. What's your point?"
"My point is that… Well, when a person…"
I'd had enough. It was my first day back at UNH, my friends were waiting for me, and I wasn't about to let DeLucas ruin my day any more than he had. I grabbed him by the collar of his jacket with both hands and yanked. He's a pretty heavy guy, and it wasn't like I was going to pull him to his feet, but he stood on his own and faced me with his mouth in a silly grin.
"What the hell do you want?" I demanded.
"What I've already taken." He was still grinning. "Fifteen minutes of your time."
I let go of him and stepped back. My mind flashed a picture of something I hadn't noticed before, something that had been there when he'd showed me the little Powerpoint slides on his phone.
I let go of the pepper spray and pulled my own phone out of my purse. At the top of the screen was the same message that had been at the top of the screen when DeLucas had been showing me his evidence: NO SIGNAL.
I shoved him with both hands and turned and ran.
The path turned uphill by the library and I was feeling my heart pounding and my lungs aching as I dodged around students hauling luggage on the path. The sound of the tone for the missed text message was my first indication I'd gotten clear of the dead spot that DeLucas had picked for our conversation.
I stopped running, doubled over, sucking wind, fumbling with the touch screen, expecting something bad.
I still wasn't ready for what I saw.
[STEPH IN PORTSMOUTH HOSPITAL ICU. CAR WRECK.]
My car was loaded with all my gear, so I couldn't give anyone a ride. I told Cathryn they should get going without me. I'd catch up.
I switched over to hands-free in the car and called Cathryn back to try to find out more. Jan picked up. There wasn't much more to tell. Cathryn was driving with about a ten-minute head start on me. They had Rachael and Mellie in the car. Rachael was navigating. I was getting my directions from my GPS, which was the only voice that was managing to stay calm. At some point word came in that Kim was on her way down from Maine.
Jan met me in the parking lot. Hospital security were being dicks about their no cell phone policy, and she was coordinating communication. She was shaking her head when I ran up to the entrance.
"Something's wrong, Katy. They say she's not here."
"What? Hold on. Let me see." I ran past her and shoved my way through the revolving doors to the ER. The rest of the gang was there. This wasn't the reunion we'd been envisioning.
Trouble had already started. Rachael was in an argument with the woman behind the desk, and it had gotten heated enough to bring a security guard over.
"I'm sorry. We don't have a record of a patient by that…"
Jan came running in behind me holding up her phone, which earned her a warning from the guard that was roundly ignored.
"It's her! She's okay!"
Jan looked ready to cry and the rest of the group didn't seem to know whether to cheer or scream.
I was terrified.
"Outside. Now. Everyone." It got me some funny looks, but I headed for the door and they all followed.
I got out of the parking lot just in time to see Greg running toward the ER entrance.
"She's okay!" Jan yelled out to Greg. "She's on the phone with me now. She just got hung up in airport security at Logan."
"Oh thank God." Greg stood there breathing hard from the run from his car.
"Just some kind of mistake," Rachael was saying.
"No. Fuck no." That got everyone's attention. "We're being played."
"Wait, Katy." Mellie tried to make sense of what was happening. "Someone is hoaxing us? What kind of sick freak jokes with something like this?"
"Not a joke." I was figuring it out as I spoke. "A misdirection. Just like earlier. Someone wanted us away from campus. And they wanted it to happen fast. So we wouldn't have time to think or talk. Why?"
I looked at Greg.
"Greg. Where's Kelsie?"
"On her way here." Greg didn’t look sure about that.
His eyes met mine.
"I left a note," he said. "She doesn't have her phone. She left it in my bag at the Cape. But I left a note for her at the apartment. She should have been getting there… Oh, fuck."
"Yeah. Right around the time this all went down. Meet at the apartment. No one goes in till we're all there!" I started running for my car.
The music was loud. Techno music, Chemical Brothers or something like that. The kind of stuff Greg liked to listen to while he did coding for his programming classes. It was shaking the floors and walls.
I was standing next to Greg with the pepper spray out when he unlocked the door. The rest of the 6A crew was backing us up. I'd warned them as best I could on the way over about what we could be up against from Wayne DeLucas' Granite Lodge buddies. No one had backed down. No one had even hesitated.
Greg unlocked the outer door and moved up the stairs with the rest of us behind him. The downstairs apartment looked empty.
Greg turned the key in the apartment door and shoved the door in hard. The living room stood empty, the stereo by the window cranked up to maximum volume.
I checked the kitchen while Greg crossed the room to turn the music off.
"…for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest…"
"Kelsie!" Greg kicked in the door to the second bedroom, the room he used as his work area.
"Oh my God!" Cathryn was looking over my shoulder at the scene inside. Greg was trying to get Kelsie loose from the chair she'd been bound to.
She'd been tied with the cords from Greg's computer, her wrists secured to the arms of the desk chair, her legs tied at the base. She was repeating those bible verses, staring through us, looking into space through eyes that hid among blood and fresh purple bruises.
I barely saw any of that. I was fixated on one detail: Kelsie's Ipod sitting in her lap. The earbuds were secured to her ears with duct tape.
I grabbed for it, shoving Greg who was trying to get her loose. I pulled the device free from the earbud jack, and I knew what I was going to see before I looked. I looked anyway.
I stared at it while my friends tried to comfort Kelsie. She was responding now. I barely noticed. My eyes went to the computer screen.
She hadn't been able to resist.
Scrolling across the screen were the names of the ones she'd hurt and killed, a personal signature that she knew I'd recognize.
My friends hugged and comforted Kelsie and someone went into the bathroom to get a wet cloth to wash her face.
The names scrolled across the screen: Victoria Sanobel, Darren Voort, Melissa Mullins, Michael Scudder, Mattie Ives…
Greg was cursing at Granite Lodge and cursing at Wayne DeLucas. Kelsie was starting to try to tell what had happened to her. She had just hit the detail I'd already figured out: A woman had done it.
I grabbed Greg by the shoulder and spun him around.
"Granite Lodge was in on this, but they're hired help. I know who did this!"
"What? Katy? What the fuck are you talking about?"
I was done talking. "I know who did this. Don't worry about it. She's a dead woman."
I pulled away and shoved past Jan and Mellie, ignoring the calls for me to wait as I ran down the stairs and out.
I don’t know where Christina Kenney lives, but I spent a big piece of a year tracking her movements. I had a pretty good idea how to find her.
It took me an hour to get to Bedford. I shut my phone off a few minutes into the trip. My friends meant well, but I wasn't in the mood to talk. I didn't stay long at Chess Hall's office. Just enough to get what I needed and look up an address.
The thunderstorms started around sunset, alternating downpours with dry lightshows against the darkening sky.
It was drizzling and fully dark when I took shelter under the landing of a set of outdoor stairs at a little office building in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
The first name listed on the directory sign for the second floor offices was Craig Putnam of Putnam Realty. Craig Putnam was Christina Kenney's partner-in-crime. He was the one she went to when she needed things bought or sold, when she needed to make deals.
I'd used phone bugs, keystroke loggers, GPS trackers, and some old-fashioned dumpster diving to track Christina. And I knew that she always turned up here sooner or later.
I was ready to wait for a long time. I had coffee, and a couple of Hershey's dark chocolate bars. I had Chess Hall's fleece sweater to keep me warm.
And I had Chess Hall's Walther PPK 9mm semi-automatic tucked in the sweater pocket.
That and the image of Kelsie tied to that chair being forced to listen to that thing, whatever it was.
It doesn't kill people. It changes people. I kept hearing those words. I heard them from Abby Owens, desperate to make herself understood. I heard my own voice trying to warn Greg about it.
And I heard Kelsie's voice droning out that prayer… What was it? Psalm twenty-three. A nice Discordian number. I could see us sitting around the TV lounge in Alexander 6A joking about that.
Except that none of this was a joke anymore. I didn't know how Christina Kenney and Granite Lodge came to be connected. Maybe they'd been allies from the beginning. I'd seen a hell of a lot of stranger coincidences in the last year or two. Maybe Christina had decided that her enemy's enemies were her friends.
Either way, it had left the realm of frat-boy pranks and secret society games, and one of my friends had paid the price for that. I could only see one way this was going to end, and I was too pissed off for it to wait.
Headlights shone on the building.
It wasn't her. I knew that immediately.
Someone called my name. A woman's voice. For a second I wondered how my dorm-mates had tracked me down. There was no way they could know about this place.
But it wasn't them either.
It was Em, Nancy Mateo's roommate.
"Hey, Katy. Can we talk for a minute?"
I figured I should be outraged. How dare my friends try to stop me… Yeah. How dare my friends try to stop me from committing murder? They probably did have a point. The exhaustion hit me then. Serious emotional crash. I stood up, suddenly realizing I was aching all over, shivering from the dampness, and having to choke back tears.
I walked out to where Em stood in the headlights of her car.
"What are you doing here, Em?" I was genuinely curious as to her part in this.
"Your boyfriend. Your friends at UNH called him. He called Nancy."
"Josh? How did he get Nancy's number?" The dots were being particularly slow to connect.
Em took a step closer. "Katy, you gave him the number. You told him to call Nancy if you were ever in bad trouble. He called. He's on his way here from Amherst right now."
I vaguely remembered telling Josh something like that. It bothered me that it wasn't more clear in my head. A lot of things weren't clear in my head all of a sudden. I wondered how that could be. A few minutes ago it had all seemed so simple. Wait until Christina Kenney showed up. Blow her head off. Simple.
That wasn't the only thing that was bothering me.
"How did you find me?"
"We keep track of Christina Kenney too, as best we can. We didn't see this coming, Katy. If we'd known she was going after you, we would have done something, I swear. But you're not the only one with some detective skills. Nancy doesn't have all your toys, but she does okay. We've known about this place for a while. It was the first place I checked."
I thought about that, and then thought of something else.
"Wait. So Nancy sent you here to talk me out of this?"
Em nodded. "Josh is on his way here too. He's scared for you, Katy."
"Why didn't Nancy come herself?"
"Nancy is in the hospital, Katy."
All the rage came back. My hand tightened on the gun.
"What did that bitch do to Nancy?" I demanded.
Em shook her head. "No, Katy. It isn't like that. Nancy is in the hospital because she went into labor this morning."
Nancy was having her baby. Back at UNH, Kelsie was going through God knows what after listening to that damned sound clip for hours.
And I'd been standing out in the cold waiting for the chance to hurt someone while my friends needed me.
I fell into Em's arms and she held me until Josh got there.
Nancy Mateo gave birth to a healthy baby girl that she named Darla Elaine Mateo. I nearly got myself arrested that night for carrying a gun into Worcester General Hospital. I remembered it three steps from the door and ran back to the parking lot and stowed it in my purse in Josh's car.
Josh asked only the questions that needed to be asked and I told him what he needed to know.
When I finally made it home, everyone was sitting up in the Alexander 6A TV lounge, even Kelsie. They'd tried to get her to rest, but she insisted on waiting. She wanted to see that I was okay, just as much as I wanted to see that she was.
She gave a weak smile and a soft hug, and for at least a moment I believed that maybe we both were okay.
When I woke up the next morning in my dorm room I remembered that Chess Hall's pistol was still in my purse. I could hear Steph coming back from the shower, so I shoved the gun into my bottom desk drawer and covered it with some papers.
It's still there.
Story and image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2008