Grade in Red| Chapter 6

Chapter Six

I was asked to wait outside in front of the school while the paramedics and police were inside securing the crime scene. I couldn’t believe it, Bridgett Nickel was dead, actually dead. I knew there were many times as a teenager that I wished she would disappear, but I never wished her any physical harm. 

What had happened? There was no way that was an accident, someone actually meant her harm. I remembered from Biology class that there was an artery in the neck. That had to have been where the pen entered, there was too much blood otherwise. I just couldn’t get the image of her lying there, blood congealing on the floor. She had to have been there for quite some time. hat is what they say on the show, Crime Scene Investigation, right?

I was shivering and shaking. The lights from the ambulance and police cars were playfully dancing in the grass in front of me. I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder and I jumped. “What?!” I yelped. 

“Hey! Mags, I know that you’re in shock, but I need to ask you a couple of questions. We can do that here or we can go down to the station, whichever one works for you.” Jake was talking to me in a low and soft voice. 

I could tell that he was trying not to make me go further into shock or freak out anymore then I was at the moment. The way he was acting now, so kind and considerate reminded me of how was when we used to hang out. 

“Sure, what do you need to ask me? Anything I can do to help catch this killer.” I was starting to get angry over this whole event. Someone came into our town and decided to kill one of our own. Just because I didn’t like her didn’t mean that I didn’t value life. 

“Now Mags, we do not know that there was a killer. We cannot assume anything. However, I need to know when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake asked as he flipped out his notepad and started jotting down notes. 

“What do you mean we can’t assume there was a killer? There was a pen sticking out of her neck!” I started breathing heavily and my hands clenched in frustration. 

“Maggie, we can’t assume anything. We have to weigh out all other possibilities. The medical examiner needs to officially determine the cause of death. We need to question the victim’s last day. There is a lot to think about and consider. Now, when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake’s eyes were piercing into mine with an intensity I wasn’t comfortable with. 

“Umm, last night at Murphy’s. She was wasted and stumbling everywhere.” I started shivering. It had to be at least 90 degrees outside and I was cold. 

“Did you two have an altercation last night at the pub?” Jake continued looking at his notepad. I felt like this was a rhetorical question because by the tone of his voice he already knew the answer, but I told him what happened anyway. I didn’t need the grapevine to be the one telling the police about the argument Bridgett and I had. 

“She ran into the back of my chair and spilled her drink down my back. I was shocked, turned around and saw that she was intoxicated. She claimed that I had ruined her drink and demanded that I buy her a new one. If you don’t believe me, you can ask anyone in the bar. Vic was there and so was Cindy.” I knew that I was getting defensive, but it had turned into a long night and all I wanted to do was go home and wash off the night. 

“Listen Maggie, I don’t need you to get a tone with me. I have to ask these questions. I need to corroborate your last moves and Bridgett’s. Now do you have an alibi for approximately 3:00 pm today?” Jake’s eye were boring into mine. I could feel them penetrating my own looking for the truth. 

“I was at home, unpacking, listening to music, getting my lesson plans ready for the school year.” I said in a deadpan voice. 

“You have no one to backup your alibi? You were at home by yourself?” He asked, completely serious. There wasn’t a hint of the  playful glint in his eyes that I had seen not only two hours before. 

“No, my dad was at work and my mom was called to do a consult in Tulsa for the day. I was home alone.”  I felt dread entering my body. I knew at that moment that I was a suspect. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. 

Or was there?

Graded in Red| Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“Hey! Do you need any help with that?!” Someone across the street yelled as I was heroically carrying three boxes from the moving truck. 

“No! I’m good! You know women’s rights and feminism and all that!” I hollered back struggling against the weight of the boxes I was carrying. Who in the sane world owns this many books? I mean seriously, Maggie read them once, donate them, sell them, move on!’, is what a sane person would tell herself. And yet, here I am, moving across the state, with more boxes full of books then basic materials to live. 

Hearing an exasperated sigh from behind me, I knew that I was about to get a talking to from whoever was behind me. The hair rose on the back of my neck as the person spoke. 

“Seriously I don’t mind helping, really! I promise, I will still look at you as the womanly woman that I think you are behind those boxes. You know, the kind of woman that doesn’t mind asking for help. Unless you’re cool with tripping over that next step, face planting, and then being a toothless feministic female who carries heavy boxes by herself.” 

I tried to move forward but was blocked by an unmoving object. I was pretty sure it was the frustrating floating voice becoming a solid form and blocking my way into my parent’s basement apartment. 

I tried moving around the foreign object, moving left, and then right, but it kept impeding my advancements and I felt the load in my arms lighten and the brightness of the sun penetrate my once shadowed face as this stranger lifted one of the boxes from my arms. 

“Listen, I get it. You are a gentleman and you wanted to help the lady across the street. But I specifically said I did not need any help. Now, I have pepper spray in my pocket and I’m not afraid to use it. Put the box down and step away slowly. No one will get hurt.” I said as my eyes adjusted to the light that was forced upon them. 

I was however bluffing, after I moved back home from the city, I didn’t feel the need to carry my pepper spray and cat keyring with me 24/7. But this guy didn’t need to know that specific piece of information. I could front with the best of them. 

As my eyes focused on the person in front of me, I could not believe who I was seeing. Jake, the neighborhood terror and once a close friend, was standing in front of me carrying my box of books. The mischievous look in his eyes knew that I recognized him and showed that he was having a grand old time messing with me. 

“Margaret Turee, looks like you are still as stubborn as ever at letting people help you.” Jake said in a playful yet obnoxious way. 

“Jake Peterson, looks like you are still as pushy, overbearing, and still don’t understand the words ‘No, Thank You!’. And its Maggie, it has always been Maggie” I snapped as I pushed pass Jake and walked down the stairs, while not so gracefully tripping over the lifted up edge of the threshold as I entered the kitchenette and set my boxes down on the counter. 

Jake, obviously still ignoring everyone else’s wishes came down the stairs, missing the warped edge of the entryway, and set the other box of books on my counter. 

“Maggie, Mags, when are you going to get over what happened? That was 10 years ago. I came to help you out, I’m not the same person I was when I was 18. Are you?” 

I blew the hair out of my eyes and looked up at Jake. I wasn’t short for a woman at 5’7’’. I also wasn’t tiny, I liked to eat real people food. I weighed in at a solid 160lbs, and wore a size 10. 

But when I say that Jake grew into his body. I wasn’t kidding. The tall, gangly boy I remembered from high school was nowhere to be seen. The man standing in front of me was not only take-your-breath-away gorgeous but looked like he could easily lift a hundred boxes of heavy books with his massive biceps and still not break a sweat. It looked like he finally grew out his chestnut colored hair from the military cut his dad always forced on him when he was younger. Being the son of the police chief was something that Jake had hated, growing up, but he seemed to have accepted it, as shown by the badge on his hip.  

“Of course I’m not the same person as I was when I was 18. Would you have seen me move back home?” I snapped as sweat dripped down my face and threatened to fall and sting my eyes. 

The heat of Oklahoma never seemed to waver in July. Not only was the temperature hot, but the humidity was at 90% today. You got out of an air conditioned car and you were hit with a wall of wet fire. 

“Maggie, my dear!” A voice hollered down the basement staircase. 

“Yes mom! What is it?” I shouted back. Jake squinted and covered his ears at my response. In my family, we don’t merely walk to the other side of the house to have a regular conversation. This is what normal people in normal families do. Nope, in my family, we scream at the top of our lungs. Even if there isn’t a thing going on in the house, we scream. It’s just the way I was raised. 

“I just made a fresh batch of sweet tea, would you like one? It is hot as a whore in church out there. I am afraid that you are going to overheat!” My mother continued screaming down the stairs. 

You see, my mom, Heather, was what you would call a special woman. She did not care about what others thought, spoke her mind, and cussed like a sailor. This to my dad was a redeeming quality, since it was exactly the opposite of himself. I guess the saying opposites attract really rungs true when it came to my parents. 

Mom is loud and boisterous and has never met a stranger. Whereas my dad, Paul, was shy, rarely spoke out, and had the best sense of humor you could possibly imagine. I found my love of puns through him. 

Walking to the end of the stairs, I could see my mom peeking out of the door at the top, “I’m good mom. I don’t need anything, thank you though!” I hollered up the stairs and shooed her away with my hand. 

“Oh! You want me to leave?! Who’s down there with you? A boy!? Paul! Maggie has a boy in her room!” My mom  shrieked into the living room, where I knew my dad was sitting in his recliner watching a sports ball game of some sort. 

“I’ll come on down and see who is here!” My mom said as she waddled down the steep stairs into the apartment. “Oh! Jake! It’s so good to see you! Were you coming by to see me? I need my front yard mowed and our gutters need cleaning out!” My mom started digging through her pockets in her jeans shirt and jean shorts coming up with a wrinkled $20 bill. 

“I’m sure this will cover both of those chores, now come on up for a nice cold glass of tea. If Maggie-Poo here wants to die of dehydration like a cowboy chasing a floozy mirage in the Sahara Desert that is her choice, but I want to make sure you don’t keel over while tending to the yard.” Mom said as she walked away and Jake trailed after her looking helpless. 

I had a tiny urge to rescue him from my mom, but then I remembered what happened 10 years ago, and I decided that this was his punishment. My mom could make paint peel talking it to death. I love her, but you can only listen to the same story so many times before your eyes start to roll. 

It was time to start unpacking. This was the beginning of a new chapter for me. I was going to meet with Victoria this evening to talk to her about my new job at the high school and what to expect. I needed to rinse off really quick, change into some shorts and a tank top, and head on over to the pub on Main Street.