Elect II—10 Green People, part 1 of 3

Sunday evening, Julie Tam, the Chief Medical Examiner stood at the head of the room.  She had slides.  Lisa and Ashish sat in the front row with Emily and Priestess Sara.  Lisa and Sara were getting along great, though Lisa was ten years older.  Melissa, Maria, officer Rob Parker and officer Millsaps sat in the second row.  Millsaps said he was protecting the coffee and donuts.  Mindy, Amina, Jessica and Heinrich Schultz sat in the third row.  Mitzy from the police desk was behind them but just to take notes.  Latasha came in late, two girls in tow, grabbed a coffee and donut and sat in the fourth row beside Mitzy.

Jessica whispered to Heinrich.  “I usually sit back in the third row in class.  The ones up front get called on.”  Heinrich nodded, but hushed her as Julie saw Latasha come in and immediately got everyone’s attention.  When Mitzy got the lights turned off, Julie put up the first slide.

ac-julie1It was a row of bodies in the morgue, all young men and all pale.  “There is no blood in them,” Julie said without emotion.  “But I found traces of what for a time I thought was arsenic, the same as I thought killed our Janet.”  Julie acknowledged Latasha who looked stoic about it.  “Then I found this.”  She went through three more slides and all showed a two-fanged bite mark on the bodies.

“Vampires?”  Melissa asked softly, her voice trembling.

“Not vampires,” Emily and Lisa spoke together.

“It looks to me like a spider bite,” Julie said as she took a ruler to the white wall.  She put it up as if to measure between the fangs.  “But my measurements suggest that if it is a spider it is bigger than any on earth.  The poison imitates arsenic.  It is quick and final, and then my guess is the spider has lunch on the victim’s blood.”

“Go back to the first slide.”  Lisa waved at Julie.  She clearly saw something.

Julie nodded and when she arrived, Lisa pointed.  “Carl Weathers and Leon Johnson.  They are all drug dealers, and local.”

Ashish spoke up.  “If we can get all the names, we might narrow down the exact area.”

“I know all of them,” Latasha whispered.  Ashish heard and nodded in her direction.

ac-julie-2Julie understood that they would get the information from Latasha later and prepared to move on to the next topic.  She looked grim.  “This next slide is gruesome,” she warned them and flipped forward again to the correct slide.  It was a living room, but one covered in blood, and the blood was splattered everywhere, most noticeably on the walls and around the fireplace.  Julie took her ruler and pointed out several things as she spoke.  “A leg bone, part of a skull from a six-year-old, and the chewed bone from a forearm.  This creature or these creatures do not appear to be interested in blood one way or the other.  In the first house we found almost nothing but blood.  This is the third, and they all appear to have happened after Thanksgiving.  In the first house, the turkey was still on the table, untouched.”

Julie went to the next slide.  It was hair samples, coarse and golden.  “Whatever kind of animal this is; it does not appear to match any animal known on earth.”  Heinrich sat up straight and put his hand out as if trying to touch the hair through the slide before he spoke.

“I have heard of this kind of thing only once.”  Heinrich pulled his hand back.  “Night creatures.  But I was not involved and I have no clear idea how it ended.  I might be able to confirm it if I can see the samples.”  He turned to Mindy.  “Set animals.”

Mindy nodded.  “Big surprise they are not a myth.”

Lisa turned around to Mindy.  “Can you get me pictures?”

Mindy nodded again.  “And whatever information I can surmise.  That should not take long.  There is not much information.”

ac-julie-8Meanwhile, Julie was at the computer getting into a different program.  “This last is most disturbing of all,” she said as she played the video.  “Recorded by a pedestrian on his phone.  This just came in yesterday.”  It was a half-dozen boys and three girls all bouncing around the base of a tree by the little woods that grew at the back of the parade ground.  The photographer was standing on the parallel street.

One boy began to climb the tree, and the others followed.  “The man said they were all screeching and howling like a bunch of animals.”  Julie talked over top.  “He said he knew college kids could sometimes act strange, but this seemed extraordinary.  None of the kids ever spoke a coherent word.”  At the top of the tree, two young men began to fight, like it was some contest to see who could touch the very top first.  There were no punches or such things.  It looked through the poor quality video like they were slapping and scratching each other.  Then they fell.  One went straight to the ground and hit hard.  The other appeared to crack his back on a big branch before he slid off and finished the journey.  The video cut off and Julie paused the recording.

“The man called 9-1-1,” Julie said.  “The one who hit the branch died.  The one who hit the ground spent all of yesterday in the hospital, strapped down.  I did an autopsy on the one that died.  I found his brain, all but the cerebellum, the lower, animal portion, was atrophied.  My suspicion is ab-slide-nerv-systma virus, possibly some new kind of plague.  The staff and I were careful not to touch the brain unprotected.  None of us have shown any symptoms.  My guess is the disease, if that is what it is, cannot be caught through the air.  How it came to infect these students is beyond me.”

“The brain atrophied?”  Maria asked.

“Yes.  Completely non-functional.  All centers of memory, logic, thinking if you will, were useless.  The man is for all practical purposes no more than an animal.”  Julie turned the video back on, and it was a much better recording of the young man in a hospital bed, growling, howling, yanking and tugging on his straps.  “The man bloodied himself trying to escape.  Two nurses were touched by the blood.  They are in isolation, quarantine just to be safe.  Meanwhile, all they have been able to do for the poor young man is keep him sedated.  We might have to keep him in a cage eventually, for his own protection as well as ours.”

Jessica had her hand up.  “I saw three students like that,” she said, and everyone turned to her.  “I came out of environmental science and three of them were screeching and bouncing around a small fire made with twigs.  I thought they were playing caveman or some stupid college thing, but when I came up close, they ran off.”

ac-jessica-3“Why didn’t you say anything?”  Maria asked.

Jessica shrugged.  “College kids do act strange sometimes.  But then one of them should have been in Maynard’s class.  I told her she missed class, but she just shrieked at me.”  Jessica shrugged.  “Maynard makes me shriek sometimes, too.”

“There is a connection there.”  Amina said as the video finished and Mitzy turned the lights back on.

“I feel it too,” Emily said quietly, and thought about her encounter with the pajama man. Maria spoke to Julie.

“Professor Orlov is teaching anatomy and physiology.  Do you have some notes we could share with him?”

Julie smiled as she got the copies of her notes.  She came prepared.

“Latasha?”  Lisa spoke up.

“If there is a giant spider terrorizing my neighborhood, I am going spider hunting.”  She turned to look at her friends.  They did not seem too keen about that idea.ac-lisa-2

“I have the night creatures,” Lisa said, but she assumed as much before the meeting began.  “Latasha, if you find the spider, don’t go it alone.  Get back-up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Maybe I could help you track it,” Jessica offered.  “Being a hunter has to be good for something.”  Everyone talked about the spirit of Artemis in her, like it was some special power or something, but Jessica could not see it.  This would be a test, a private test for Jessica to see if that spirit of Artemis meant anything or not.

The Elect 4, part 3 of 4: More Questions

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.ac julie7

“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.

ab donut boxEmily 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.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” Emily admittedac latasha 7

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.

ac rotc emily 1Karyn and Carl had been getting along great for a while. Emily accused Karyn of fraternizing, but Karyn said when they went out she was not in uniform so it was not a problem.

“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.

“Hand to hand,” Captain Driver began, and Emily started to get up. “Sit down, Hudson,” the captain surprised her. “We can’t afford to lose out tight end at this point in the season.”ac rotc williams 2

“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 ac rotc fight 1Carl 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. ac swensons office 2Fascinating 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 ab backhoepresent, 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.

The Elect 2, part 3 of 4: From the Bleachers

Jessica dragged the girls to the bleachers that overlooked the football practice field. She had been keeping tabs on Tom since the frat house. The fall had closed in. It was getting chilly, but still plenty warm in the afternoon sun for the girls in their coats.

“I still can’t believe those three geeks could cause all that damage,” Jessica complained while she shaded her eyes for a good look at the field.

“I got the report,” Maria said. “They were pumped full of juice, as Owen calls it.”a bleachers 1

“And beer,” Emily said grumpily. “And it still leaves us little or nothing to go on.”

“Hey!” Jessica shouted her complaint about whatever happened on the football practice field. She turned her head. “Sorry. Coach Rayford is a slave driver.”

Maria ignored the interruption. “Professor Hilde confirmed the beer, not just alcohol. The man is a regular genius.”

Karyn was still bruised, cut and bandaged in several places from the frat house fight. She looked at Emily and added her own complaint to the mix. “It isn’t fair, you know. That cut on your cheek was deeper than anything I got and I can’t even remember what cheek it was on.” Emily was completely healed.

“The way of the queen,” Amina said, without further explanation.

“Sorry,” Emily responded. “Rifle range tomorrow,” she changed the subject before she banged her hands on the bench. “Swenson, Zimmer and Hilde. One of them has to be involved.”

ac maria 9 “Oh, but Professor Hilde is so nice. He must be at the bottom of the list,” Maria said, but Emily shook her head.

“Bio-chemistry puts him at the top of the list.” She thought hard about it, but all of them felt guilty to her, somehow. She felt frustrated by the lack of clear evidence and imagined Lisa was feeling the same way. She threw her hands up. “We are getting nowhere.” She looked at Amina but Amina simply shook her head. She did not know, either.

“I wonder if that medical examiner is telling us everything she knows,” Jessica said, without turning her head from the football players. “Oh, practice is over.” She stood and ambled down to the field. The others followed for no particular reason, but when they got to the bottom of the bleachers they found several players waiting for them, Lieutenant Williams out front.

“Ladies.” He sneered. “May I present Anthony, our free safety and Marcus, our middle linebacker. These gentlemen wanted to meet the bitches from hell.” He snickered and the others grinned.ac football 1

“I hear you beat up three nerds,” Anthony laughed.

Marcus reached out and touched Karyn on the shoulder with his finger. “Ooo, Amazon hotties.”

Amina looked thoughtful. Maria and Karyn did not know what to do besides stand there with their mouths open, but Emily was not buying. “Permission to speak freely, sir.”

“Go ahead.” The men paused in their laughter, though they never lost their grins.

“You’re a flaming asshole, sir.” That made the men laugh again, louder than before. Emily pushed the others ahead of her to get them moving away from there. Since she came last in line, she could not resist shoving Anthony out of the way. It was a hard enough shove to knock him to the ground. He got ac amina 1up mad. While Marcus laughed harder than ever, Terrence had the good sense to stop Anthony before he did something stupid. The team needed its free safety.

“Those men. I see no good. Soon, “Amina whispered to Emily who took one last look back.

The Elect, the beginning, post 8 of 8: Eyes and Ears

After the initial shock, Emily found a broom and used it to turn the body to its back. It was a woman, but they could not tell how old. It appeared shriveled and mummified, a dehydrated corpse, like it lost all of its moisture.

“Gross,” Maria said. Jessica could not look at all, but she called 9-1-1 on her cell and then thought to call the campus police. Emily decided to get her things in the dryer before the police came and cordoned off the whole room with yellow tape. Maria forced open the back basement door and found a brick to prop it so it stayed open. No discernible smell came from the corpse—no smell at all in that room apart from one too many dryer sheets.

After a moment, Emily remembered to call Detective Schromer. She left a mesac bernie 2sage in the woman’s voicemail and then they waited, but not for long. Bernie the campus cop arrived, took one look, and had to run back out for some fresh air. The girls imagined he got sick, but tried not to think too hard about that image. The mummy was bad enough. When Bernie returned, just before the police arrived, he looked straight at Emily.

“What is it about you?” he asked. Emily could only shrug.

When the police came, the girls got hustled outside while the police roped off the area with plenty of yellow tape, just as Emily surmised.

“Hey, my clothes,” Jessica complained, but it seemed a feeble complaint.

Some Asian looking woman arrived. The girls guessed she might be a police woman since they let her straight in, but detectives Schromer and Mousad arrived a moment later and corrected their thinking. “Doctor Julie Tam, Medical Examiner,” Detective Schromer explained.

“That is what I really want to do,” Maria admitted and craned her neck to try to peek inside.ac police tape

“Gross,” Jessica said and Detective Mousad looked like he agreed.

“Can we talk?” Detective Schromer asked Emily. Emily shrugged and stepped aside with the detective. “You must tell me what you found out.”

“What?” Emily was not sure what the detective was asking. She thought about holding a flag for a long time. She considered the meditative trance that required. She thought about Pierce and the professors Swenson, Zimmer and Hilde. She thought she was not doing well in biology. “Nothing.”

Detective Schromer closed her eyes and considered. “I need you to be my eyes and ears on campus,” she said. “There is something serious going on and I need to find out and stop it before it goes any further.”

ac emily 5“Me?”

“You are the elect.” Detective Schromer stopped short of saying it was Emily’s job. She said instead, “I trust you.”

“But, what is going on? What are we talking about?” Emily asked, and thought that she was only a freshman. Everything seemed new, odd and strange to her. How would she know if something might be unusual or out of place?

“Excuse me.” Julie Tam walked up. She gathered Detective Mousad and sought to take Detective Schromer aside for a private talk. Detective Schromer did not move. She pointed at Emily.

“Emily is under cover. My eyes and ears on campus. We need to fill her in on what information we have so she knows what to look for.”

The medical examiner looked at Emily like this might not be normal procedure, but she spoke. “Like the other ones. About twenty. We can assume a student. Completely drained of liquid with no discernible point of entry. Mummified, but probably no more than a day dead.  I’ll know more when I get her back to the lab.”

Two men came out with the corpse in a bag. They set it on the stretcher they had set up on the walkway and wheeled it to the ambulance.ab trenton ambulance

“The others?” Emily asked right away. She had not missed the word.

“Our third since the semester started.”  Detective Mousad spoke right up. “We don’t know why the bodies are being drained. We do not know how they are being drained, but the important thing is we do not know for what purpose.” He shivered.

“Ashish thinks it is a mythical monster having lunch.” Detective Schromer smiled.

“That is as good a theory as any for all we know,” the medical examiner said as she started back to her car.

“You don’t mean…” Emily hardly knew what to ask or say.

“No,” Detective Schromer responded flatly, suggesting it was ridiculous to think such a thing, but when she looked at Emily, she appeared to change her mind. “Not in this case. I would have been contacted.”

ac girl n1Emily gulped.

“Just keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. There is power in a woman’s intuition, even in one who is not elect. For you, your intuition should be magnified many times over in the face of danger,”

Emily nodded and several pictures flashed through her mind. She thought of Morgan Granger, Doctor Zimmer, Captain Driver and Terrence Williams, but she dismissed those thoughts. They were people she did not like, but that just meant they were jerks, not nefarious. “I’ll look around.”

“You be careful,” Detective Mousad said kindly, and Emily nodded.

“Just two questions,” she said before the detectives could leave. “One, can I ask my friends for help in case they notice something suspicious I can check out?”

“What are we talking about?” Detective Schromer needed specifics.

“Maria and Jessica, Tom and Owen go with them, and probably Karyn in ROTC.” She thought of Pierce but shook her head. “That’s it.”

“Can they keep their tongues from wagging?”ac lisa 1

That leaves Jessica out, Emily thought, but she said otherwise. “Yes.” The detective nodded. They began to turn away.

“Oh, and Detective Schromer.” They paused again. “Second, could you tell your people that we would like to finish doing our laundry and get back to our rooms some time tonight?”

The detective nodded and spoke around Emily’s shoulder. “Millsaps. They have laundry to finish. Let them.” She did not make it a suggestion and the police officer nodded with a “yes,” and a sloppy salute. Detective Schromer turned again to Emily. “And it is Lisa, not Detective Schromer. I am like your sister, not your mother.”

Emily smiled. She felt good about that even if she could not quite mouth the word, “Lisa.” She turned to her friends as the detectives walked off.

ac jessica 2“Well?” Jessica needed to know.

“When we get back upstairs,” Emily said with one last glance at the detectives. “Too many ears here.”

“Oh goody.” Maria grinned and rubbed her hands. “I like a mystery.”

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Be sure and return next Monday (T, W, and Th) for the first chapter/episode in the novel/ season. If you miss a post, you can always find it on the side of the blog under the heading “recent posts”. In fact, you can wait until Thursday (F, Sat, or Sun) if you like, and select one post at a time from the recent posts to read all 4 posts in one sitting. It is up to you.

If you are starting late, you can always click on the archives button and select November 2015. You will find the beginning episode and you can work forward from there to the present post.

After the beginning episode, all 22 of the regular episodes (chapters in this serialized novel) will be posted in 4 posts (M, T, W and Th) over a single week. Again, you are welcome to wait until Thursday (F, Sat, or Sun) if you want to read the entire chapter/episode (all 4 posts) in one sitting.

Thus far, Emily has been told she is an elect and show some signs of unnatural abilities, but she is not exactly sure what being an elect means. She has to puzzle out what she can. She may not have much time. She and her friends have already found one body, and Detective Lisa has assured them that there have been others. Someone is killing co-eds, and in a most unusual way….