After spending the summer working ten-hour shifts, four days a week, I was used to waking early. Now that school had started, I didn’t have to be to work until eight o’clock. Plus, since Devon had to be up early in order to be at my folks place by five to start the day on the farm, I had more reasons to get up than to stay in bed. He had wanted me to sleep in, but I couldn’t let my new fiancé leave for work without saying goodbye. That particular Monday morning I sent Devon off to work and I was catching up on local happenings after having been out of town for almost two weeks.
The picture on the news bulletin was a surprise. Without reading a word, the face staring back at me caught my attention. I knew her, or I once had. Annette Bigler, Annie to her friends, had been in my class all the way through school. We hadn’t been best friends, but we’d been friendly. Since then, I’d seen her around town, enough to say hi now and then but I hadn’t spent any time with her since the summer we’d graduated, almost ten years earlier. She’d gone away to school, and though she’d returned, we’d never really rekindled our relationship. I scanned the headlines, trying to figure out why her picture was there.
“BODY OF LOCAL GIRL FOUND ON CAMPUS”
The headline shocked me. Today would to be my first day back to work after more than a week and I knew nothing about a body having been found on campus. Since I was the Dean of Student’s secretary, I should probably know something. I read further and found that she’d been discovered beaten and stabbed. She hadn’t been killed there, but her body had been dumped after she was already dead. The police had few leads.
Glancing at the clock, I picked up my Personal Communication Device, also known as a PCD, and dialed my brother. I hoped that as a police officer, he would be able to tell me more. I also knew anything he did tell me would be accurate, not rumors or twisted to be more sensational like often happened with the news.
“Hey, Sis. It’s awful early isn’t it?” Raine answered, his voice sounded tired.
“Sorry,” I hoped I hadn’t woken him. “I just found out about Annie. Can you tell me anything other than what was in the news?”
“Not much,” I heard him take a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know you knew her.” His voice was full of sympathy.
“We were friends in high school but we hadn’t seen much of each other since.”
“A student found her body on Central Campus yesterday afternoon. That area’s pretty deserted on the weekend. You know what it’s like. We don’t know exactly how long she was there before she was discovered, but not more than a few hours. We figure who ever dumped her, wanted her to be found, but probably not until this morning.”
I knew what he meant, the campus was long and narrow, a block wide but three long, each block was identified by location, there was North, Central and South campus.
“Any ideas who could have done it?” I wanted to know as much as he could tell me.
Noise rustled over the line and I assumed he was shaking his head.
“No. She was severely beaten and stabbed several times, but we haven’t found the primary scene and we don’t have any leads yet.” He sounded unhappy about it and I didn’t blame him.
Violent crimes weren’t common in the area. I mean, yeah, there were domestic disputes, and the occasional bar fight, but something like murder? The last murder I remembered in the valley was more than five years earlier. This was going to shake the entire community.
“I know there are things the department holds back, keeps from the public, things that will help you find and identify whoever is responsible, but is there anything else you can tell me?”
“Not that-” He stopped mid-sentence and changed what he was saying. “Wait. You know she’s one of you, right?”
“One of me?” I was confused.
“You know, like you and Devon.”
“Oh.” I suddenly realized what he was trying to say, without actually saying, that is. Annie was Kitsune. She was a shape-shifter like I am. “No, I didn’t know. There are still so many that I haven’t yet met.”
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a factor, but I have to keep it in mind, even if I can’t tell the rest of the force.” His voice was full of reluctance and doubt. I knew that having to hide something about the victim from the rest of the investigators was hard for him, but I didn’t see how it could be helped, at least not now.
“I understand.” My mind was already churning with possibilities. “I’ll keep my ears open and let you know if I hear anything that might help.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
“You sound tired.” I changed the subject.
“I am. I ended up pulling a double, investigating this. I just got home and I’m on my way to bed.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll let you get some sleep.” I felt bad for keeping him up. He had to be exhausted.
“No, I know she was your friend and you’ll hear a different side of her life than I will. You might be able to help me out here,” he sighed, “but not now, I’m exhausted. I need some sleep before I can process anymore.”
“Get some rest, I’ll talk to you later.” We hung up and I typed a quick message to Devon, telling him that there had been a body found on campus the day before and I might be late getting home. He’d told me he would be on a tractor most of the day and I knew he likely wouldn’t hear his PCD ring if I called, but this way the message would be waiting the next time he checked them.
Even though it was still a little early, I finished getting ready and went to my job. I knew there would be a pile of paperwork to catch up on, and because of the murder, even more.
Arriving at the office, I discovered the Dean, Mr. Willowby, was already in his office, engrossed in paperwork. I let him know I was there then got started on the stack that had built up on my desk while I was gone. I spent the day trying to get caught up with everything that had happened over the last two weeks, but it was difficult to concentrate with the constant calls from the media, as well as local people, wanting to know details about the body found on campus. When the first call came in, I checked with Mr. Willowby for the official response, and afterward told the callers the same thing.
“I’m sorry, Eastern Arizona College cannot comment on ongoing police investigations. Please contact the Safford-Thatcher Police Department for more information.”
A few reporters were persistent and tried to get me to say more, but I repeated myself until they gave up.
I’m not sure I’d ever been happier to see five o’clock arrive so that I could leave. I hadn’t made much progress on getting caught up and the constant ring of incoming calls had me down to my last nerve.