Julie got in touch with Maria on Sunday morning. Lisa called Emily shortly after, so the two girls footed it down to the medical examiner’s office. Emily walked in silence, still in a fog, thinking about Pierce.
“One minute,” Julie made them wait when they arrived. She got on the phone. Another minute passed before Lisa came down the stairs and Julie took them all into the back. They found another body, the shriveled, mummified kind, not the cut to pieces kind, only this one was male.
“He died Thursday night or Friday morning.”
“Starting a new pattern?” Maria asked.
“I bet there are more bodies buried around the campus, only we haven’t found them,” Emily thought aloud. She wondered briefly if Amina could find them, but decided it would not be nice to ask the girl. It would probably be a hard and disturbing job.
“More than likely several buried bodies,” Lisa said as Ashish finally joined them with a tray full of coffee cups from the donut shop down the street. Emily declined, though she looked through the box of donuts. Maria partook. Lisa treated it like the elixir of life. Julie said thanks, but did not touch it. She still had her examination gloves on.
“So what’s the story?” Ashish asked.
“We don’t know yet. But I ran some tests this time that I did not run before.” She pointed at Maria. “I sent them to your Professor Hilde for verification.”
“Well?” Lisa turned to the girls as she sipped.
Emily hedged. “I could talk to Professor Swenson again.” Emily had no plans to see her advisor, if she could help it, but this was important. “She may have dug up something, or might if she had a little nudge.”
“Zimmer seems a dead end,” Maria said. “And I suppose it wouldn’t be worthwhile getting the gang to dig holes around the campus looking for bodies.”
“No.” Ashish agreed.
“You know,” Emily still hedged. “I can’t imagine these adrenaline freaks and zombies are happening outside the biology department. We have all thought and said that one or more of these professors has to be involved.”
“Maybe,” Lisa now hedged in return as she shook her head. “But we are watching them and they all checked out squeaky clean. I even had our sister in Washington dig as deep as she could and nothing.”
“You have a sister in Washington?” Maria asked.
“My sister, too,” Emily said and Maria understood.
“Mainly I just wanted you to see for yourselves so you start keeping your eyes and ears open again. We had a couple of quiet weeks, but something tells me things are heating up.”
The sound of yelling on the stairs grabbed their attention. Latasha burst into the room followed by an irate police officer. Latasha yelled. “Am I late? What did I miss? Oh, coffee!” She grabbed the last one.
The next couple of weeks stayed relatively quiet. Emily kept telling herself she had to keep an eye on Pierce, so she and Pierce had several dates. Though she never got over her suspicions, she never asked and she tried hard not to let it come between them. They went to a couple of movies, had dinner at the Hive—just the two of them. The Undead played again. They hung out at the library together, and Jessica even took Emily shopping and helped her buy a couple of new outfits. She got dresses and skirts of course, but Emily decided she did not mind as long as she dressed for Pierce. Pierce and Emily kissed plenty, and Emily noticed the more they kissed, the more he improved. They also began to explore each other through touching and holding and just being together. Emily was not one to jump into bed, but she already believed they would end up there, eventually.
Maria had a single room by then. Gloria had moved in with a couple of guys across town. Gloria was the jump into bed type, though Maria made no comment about it. She just felt glad to have the free space and some peace and quiet.
“But he is still your superior officer.”
“But we don’t wear uniforms so how would I know?”
“You sound like Jessica,” Emily concluded.
Tom and Jessica actually broke up for three days. Jessica called it fun when they got back together. Owen did not come around much, but that seemed fine. All the girls caught up in their classes and Ms Granger gave Emily a “B” on a paper. All felt right with the world for the first three weeks of October. After that, life started to get strange again.
Thursday afternoon ROTC got interesting. Captain Driver put everyone in sweats and brought them out into the gym where the mats had already been laid out. Emily saw Terrence waiting there, dressed and ready to rumble. He had his fingerless football gloves on to protect his hands. He stared at Emily with his meanest stare and once even made a fist and punched it softly into his other hand. Emily inwardly rolled her eyes at the cliché.
“Coach! I mean, Captain!” Terrence spouted in protest but Captain Driver ignored him
“Miss Wilson, will you step up here.”
Karyn stood but looked around and pointed at herself with serious questions on her face before she pulled herself together, stepped to the front and went to attention.
“She is not the smallest in the class, but I am sure some of you are thinking she’s just a girl.” A few eyes shot to Emily. They certainly knew better than to think of Emily that way. “But I am here to demonstrate that even being just a girl is no disadvantage if you know what you are doing.”
Karyn acquitted herself well. Emily felt proud of her. The class by then had been reduced to sixteen plus two, and Emily imagined they might lose a couple more before the second semester but most of the rest would stick it out for the year. After that, the class seemed relatively normal. Emily got Carl for a sparring partner. She tried not to hurt him and made sure he had some opportunities to show off as well. Terrence had to walk around and teach, but he could not help giving Emily a mean stare at every opportunity. Emily could see the steam come from the man’s ears. She smiled, but only on the inside.
After class, Karyn said she needed a long shower and a long rest. That left Maria and Emily to visit Professor Swenson, and Owen came this time to tag along. When they stood outside and knocked, Emily imagined Swenson might not be there since there no response came at first. Meanwhile, Doctor Zimmer stood outside his door and stared at them. Morgan Granger stood outside Professor Hilde’s door and stared from the other direction.
“Laser beams,” Owen mumbled as Professor Swenson opened her door and the three tumbled in.
“I thought my hair might catch on fire,” Emily agreed.
“What is that?” Professor Swenson asked as she sat at her desk, but she did not expect an answer as she went right in to the information. “When you called, I was reminded of something I read last year. If I recall, a freshman paper. You know, I don’t usually read freshman papers until the spring semester, but you got me curious.” She looked up at Emily. “I got the fax from Julie Tam. Fascinating case.” She looked back at her computer screen. “Unfortunately, I have nothing yet to tell you. I wish I did.” She looked up again. “Did Professor Hilde get the fax?”
“Yes,” Maria confirmed.
“Well, good. Maybe we can engage in a little old fashioned academic competition and see who comes up with the answers first.”
Emily stood, so the others stood.
“Emily. I have your number. I will call as soon as I find what I am looking for.” The professor got absorbed again in her computer and moved her hand to wave good-bye but never moved her eyes from the screen.
Emily opened the door slowly and looked first. The hall looked empty. When they stepped out and closed the door behind them, Maria complained. “Well that was a big fat nothing.”
“Hey, Emily.” Pierce came to the hall from the stairs. “Guys, I found something.” He waved to them so they followed.
“What is it?” Emily asked as they rushed down the stairs. Pierce did not respond. He simply took them out the back door to the construction site where they worked on extending the building. At present, it looked like just a big hole in the dirt. Pierce waved to the man in the backhoe. The man waved back and used the machine to remove the grating from a certain spot. They heard sirens in the distance. A very old woman had been buried in the dirt. The curious and slightly disturbing thing was her eyes were open, staring. Emily instinctively reached for the long knife, which she had removed from her thigh and stitched into a new pocket in her jacket. She still worried about the zombies. This old woman, however, never moved, and without movement, Emily decided it was safe to hold on to Pierce.
“I’m sorry. But I knew you would want to know.” He kissed her forehead. That made her forget all about the old woman and wonder where else he might be willing to kiss her.