Karyn’s body stayed in the morgue Thursday night and flew home to Texas first thing Friday morning. Jessica’s father paid for an afternoon flight for Jessica, Maria, Amina and Emily so Jessica and Emily would not miss freshman English. Her father also paid for two nights in a motel, and a rental car on the condition that Jessica not be allowed to drive the car under any circumstances.
Emily never imagined she would meet Karyn’s parents this way. The hardest part was she could not explain what happened other than to call it a terrible accident. To be sure, there were too many tears that weekend for much conversation. They flew back to New Jersey State quiet, but somewhat released.
When they got to the hospital and went to Carl’s room, he also stayed quiet. Jessica did most of the talking and showed surprising compassion about it. Carl would never walk well again, but at least he was alive. Nothing was wrong with his tear ducts, however, and the girls cried with him until the nurse shooed them out.
Emily did not feel quite sure how to handle Monday morning. Captain Driver had returned overnight from Washington and got the story. Several of the freshmen actually died along with Karyn. As it turned out, only one police officer died, but a second remained in critical condition. The rest of the freshmen either dropped out of school altogether or were desperately trying to transfer to a different school, preferably one out of state. That left Emily in a class of one.
“Come in Hudson.” Captain Driver sat at his desk.
“Informal in here. I need to hear what you have to say. I understand you were there.”
“Yes, sir. The men were all drugged. It was some combination of adrenaline, growth hormone and several other ingredients. They had no control over what they were doing.” She paused to see if the captain had a more specific question. He only said one word.
“And Terrence was free of the drug and pushing them to kill, sir.”
“You know he did not like you.”
“So you broke his back?”
“Only the shoulder to prevent his escape. He stabbed Carl and was headed out the back door.”
Captain Driver nodded. “And you broke his arm because?”
“I was wrong, sir.” Emily dropped her eyes. “I had no reason to do that.”
“No matter. In your position that is probably the least I would have done.” The captain drew up his notebook and looked at it briefly. “Your current grade in this class is 98.7. That is as good as I have seen for a freshman. It is remarkable, considering everything else you have been involved in. I am giving you an “A” for the semester, and I have two requests.”
Captain Driver put his hand to his lips before he spoke. “I understand you are thinking of nursing.” Emily nodded. She did not feel surprised that he knew. He probably made it a point to learn whatever he could about his charges, especially the women. “Let me just say, the army can always use good nurses, or anything else you might decide to do. I want you to continue. There will not be a formal spring semester freshman class, but I would like you to continue with your studies. I have already arranged with the registrar to teach you the course work as an independent study, and you can work out with the sophomore class.” He was not giving an order, but it was a strong suggestion. She decided that might work, and said so.
“And the other thing?”
“Next year. I would like you with the upper classmen—probably where you belong, and I would like you to take Carl’s position with the incoming freshmen.”
“Sir?” Emily stood up a little straighter.
“John Brinkman has agreed to take the lieutenant’s position, the one Carl would have moved into. Company sergeant is generally given to the top junior who has signed up for service after college, but there is no law that says it has to be that way.”
“The position carries a small stipend, more like a teaching assistant than a work study position.”
“Sir?” Emily’s intuition acted up and she wanted the full story.
Emily straightened. “Sir, yes sir. It will be an honor, sir.”
The man’s face visibly relaxed. “Dismissed, soldier. I will be in touch.”
Emily saluted and stepped out. Well, she thought. Won’t her family be impressed? Well, not her mother, perhaps. She could not even handle high school ROTC.
After that, Emily had nothing to do but go to the student center and celebrate by treating herself to a latte, which she was trying to learn to like.
Come Tuesday, the reality of classes and school set back in. All that had happened with the attempt on her life and on Swenson’s life, with the ROTC class and Karyn, and then Hilde and finally the quick trip to Texas had her in a fog. But by Tuesday, she was sufficiently out of the fog enough to wonder what might happen to freshman biology.
“I’ve already calculated your grade from what is up on the web. You have a solid “B” in lab and almost a “B” in the course. According to the syllabus, Granger can give you an “F” on the final if she dares and you should still pass the course.” Maria seemed to feel like talking. She had been that way on and off since she lost Owen.
“There are grades up on the web?” Emily felt lost again. There were probably plenty of things at the university she did not know anything about. She had been rather busy.
Maria nodded but said nothing. Ms Granger came in. The woman looked disheveled. Normally she had everything tucked in perfectly, every crease ironed and never a loose hair from her bun. Now, her top was wrinkled, not well tucked, and she had not even bothered to put her hair up. She coughed once and rifled through a mess of papers in her briefcase. Ms Granger’s papers were never a mess.
“Professor Singh, evolutionary biology for those who don’t know, has agreed to oversee the remainder of the semester. We will continue as before.” Emily shifted a little in her seat. Ms Granger’s eyes shot straight to her. “How could you,” she said in her most accusatory voice. “He was a good man, and I don’t care if you have the whole police department and the governor himself protecting you.” Ms Granger never said the word murder, but it was strongly implied. She walked out of the room and stayed gone for a good five minutes. When she came back, she went straight to the board and began to write down information while she talked. She never gave Emily another glance.
After class, Emily dressed in her ROTC uniform with the addition of corporal stripes, an honor usually reserved for the most promising sophomore and upper classmen. She got to meet the sophomores before Jessica and Maria came to fetch her. Jessica dragged Emily off in uniform. She prompted them to pay Carl a hospital visit, which they did. They hardly needed much prompting. Then she insisted they stop by the mall.
“Ulterior motive!” Maria teased.