Elect II—16 Night Creatures, part 2 of 3

The sun got ready to set.  Heinrich sat with his back to the oak that grew in the midst of the row of fir trees that acted like a fence between the yards.  He quietly gathered himself in anticipation of what was to come, when Sergeant Holmes came and sat beside him.

“You seem so calm,” she said.

“I learned long ago to conserve my strength before battle,” he answered.  “But surely you have learned such things in your years on the force.”

ab-nj-sergeant-2Margaret let out a slight smile.  “If that is your way of saying I am a bit old for police work, no offence taken.”

“That is not what I meant,” Heinrich excused himself.

Sergeant Holmes just let out a bit more of her smile.  “To tell the truth, I was destined for a desk a few years ago.”  She paused to rub her knee.  “Getting old is hard.  Captain Williams let me train a couple of rookies, but after Scott.”  She shrugged.  “I’ll probably be forced to sit down.”  She sighed.  “How about you?”

“At the university.  History professor,” he admitted.

“Oh? I thought you were a police officer.  I assumed.  So what are you doing here?  How did you get mixed up in all this?”

Heinrich put his finger in the air as if to say, wait, he would show her.  “Emily,” he called, “Your majesty.”  He added that designation on purpose as he stood and jumped thirty feet straight up to the top of the oak.

Emily stopped quietly talking to Officer Scott, trying to explain the inexplicable, when Heinrich called.  Sebastian’s jaw dropped seeing Heinrich’s jump to the top of the tree.  “Excuse me,” Emily said.  She could not make the treetop in one leap, but she could reach one big branch, and another, and meet Heinrich on the third jump.  She looked all around and said, “I see no sign of them yet.”

“No, and you won’t until dark.”  At that moment Ashish finished telling a joke and Millsaps, Mitzy and Rob Parker all laughed out loud.  “And I dare say we will never see them if this crowd does not become inconspicuous.”

ac-emily-b1Emily nodded.  “I will see what I can do, if anything, but meanwhile, how are you and Sergeant Holmes getting along?”  She could not help the tease.

“Not funny,” Heinrich responded and he jumped back to the ground.  Emily could follow him that distance down without too much trouble.

Officer Scott stepped over to sit beside his Sergeant.  She had nothing to say, either, but Emily took advantage of that to address them both.  “I don’t know if I can reach her, but if I can, no screaming.”  She turned, spoke up a bit and shook her finger at Ashish.  “No more jokes.  We need quiet from now on.”  She looked around to see that everyone was paying attention before she called, “Captain Riverbend.”

“Here, majesty.”  Riverbend appeared out of nowhere, or as Emily guessed, became visible beside her.  “But I have no such magic to make this many mortals inconspicuous.  I will have to call in the troops.”  It was a request.

Emily sighed.  Riverbend appeared in her jeans, that fancy winter cape and her glasses, but she knew the troop would not be disguised.  She turned again to the police officers around her and spoke firmly and frankly.  “A troop of elves will be disguising our presence here in some way.  I don’t want anyone freaking out, and no screaming.  Have you got that?”  Most nodded, but Emily wanted to be sure the State Troopers were prepared.  Millsaps, Rob Parker, Mitzy and certainly Ashish had seen things so they might not be so surprised.  When Emily felt they were all as prepared as possible, she spoke again to Riverbend.  “All right.”

ac-riv-troop-1Riverbend took out her little flute and played a tune.  Immediately the air beside her began to brighten until it became a hole between here and there.  A dozen elves burst from the hole, arrows at the ready.  Several people gasped, but at least no one screamed.  Riverbend explained and then invited everyone to stand by the oak tree.  The elves formed something like a line and began to dance in a circle around the people.  They danced with absolute grace through the trees and chanted in a sing-song kind of way.  It was both creepy and fascinating at the same time.  It did not take long, though, and the elves went back through the hole which promptly disappeared.

“Now keep quiet,” Heinrich concluded as Emily and Riverbend went to sit beside a fir tree.  It took a few minutes for Officer Scott to build up the courage to sit beside them.

“Captain Riverbend, elf.  Sebastian Scott, State Trooper.”  Emily whispered the introductions.

“Wonderful to meet you,” Riverbend stuck out her hand to shake and said an aside to Emily.  “I think I’m getting good at that.”

Emily shook her head.  “Keep practicing,” she whispered.

Sebastian withdrew his hand and looked at it for a moment before he verbalized what was on his mind.

“Majesty?”

ac-riverbend-a3“Amazon queen,” Riverbend poked her nose in.  Sebastian looked like he wanted to laugh but something told him he should know better.  “Certified by Zoe herself,” Riverbend concluded with a grin and a nod of her head.

“Zoe?” Sebastian asked.

“No need to go into that,” Emily shut down that conversation.  But Sebastian was curious.  He spoke again after a moment.

“Captain?”  He looked at Riverbend.  This time Emily butted in.

“Military.  And she leads an all-female troop.”

“Lady Alice says we can’t be real Amazons.  Only humans can be real Amazons,” Riverbend looked down at her hands where she worried her fingers.  Emily ignored her until Riverbend sighed.

“What?” Emily asked.

“I hope David has not forgotten me.”

“David?”  Sebastian asked.

ab-nj-scott-2“My brother,” Emily answered.  “Not a chance.” She spoke to Riverbend.  “I have talked to him twice since Christmas and all he talks about is you.”

Riverbend brightened, but only for a moment.  “I hope Lady Alice will make it so we can be together.”  Riverbend finished her thought.

“Lady Alice?”  Sebastian looked confused.

“Zoe,” Riverbend answered which did not help at all.

“Zoe?”

“No need to go into that,” Emily repeated.

Elect II—6 Secrets, part 3 of 3

Mindy spent a lot of time in the sub-basement beneath the Library where the archives were kept, and she searched through every tome that she, a mere undergraduate, was allowed to touch.  It took a long time because she kept stopping to read, bad as she felt her Greek and Latin were.  But it was all so fascinating.  Meanwhile, she found nothing about the tattoo of the circle with the three squiggly lines apart from some vague references about the search for immortality, and they might not even be accurate or related.

She also searched through the archive database where some of the scrolls and more ancient writings were scanned into the system.  Most of the materials had not yet been scanned.  It was a new program, and she was not allowed to touch the originals, but she had a friend working on that.  Bill was one of Papadopoulos’ graduate students and he was keeping his eyes open as he scanned his documents.  So far, though, he had not found anything.

ac-heinrich-6Mindy had not shown the symbol to Professor Papadopoulos, yet.  She was not exactly sure why, except the time was not right.  He was a busy man.  When she was first asked about it, by contrast she went straight to Professor Schultz.  Heinrich said he only recalled seeing the symbol once, carved on an old Roman column in front of a ruin, and knew nothing about it.  At a guess, he said the column was probably from the third or fourth century, but he did not think the ruin was there anymore so there was no way to check.  He imagined it fell victim to some war.  “Napoleon, probably,” he said.  “That man was an expert at accidentally blowing up ancient things with his cannon balls.”

It was late in the afternoon when Professor Papadopoulos came down into the basement.  He had a man with him that Mindy did not recognize, a man with a slight limp, but he made a point of stopping by her reading desk so Mindy got a good look at the man.

“I know it is getting on winter,” the professor said.  “But the sun is still out and the day is warm.  I am not one to discourage my students, but you really should spend some time in the sun lest you end up old and pale like me.”

“I’m trying to research something and having a hard time finding anything about it,” Mindy went straight to the subject.  She had drawn the symbol on paper to show because she imagined showing photographs of dead men’s arms was not the best approach.  “Have you seen this symbol?” She handed over the paper.  “A friend of mine says it is being used by some kind of secret society, like a fraternity or something, but she was wondering if I could find out what it stands for.  So far I haven’t had any luck.”

The Professor showed it to his friend and looked again at Mindy as he spoke.  “I’m sorry, I haven’t seen this before.”

“Probably some modern stylized version of a more ancient symbol,” the friend said, and he made a point of turning it upside down and right side up again.  “Some kind of fireball?”

“A shooting star?”  Professor Papadopoulos suggested.  “Possibly some modern cult?”

ac-mindy-7Mindy took back the paper and held her tongue.  She wanted to say she saw the symbol on a page of symbols in a book from the middle ages—unfortunately without a name or description of the symbol.  She wanted to tell them about the carving on the Roman column, but she said nothing about that.  “If you come across this symbol, would you let me know, please?”

“Of course,” Professor Papadopoulos smiled.  “But I am sure you have other homework, too.”  He touched his friend on the arm and walked back into the stacks.  The friend limped after him.  Curiously, the Professor never introduced the man, and he forgot all about encouraging Mindy to partake of the great outdoors.  Professors could be like that, and Professor Papadopoulos was especially the absent minded professor.

“No help?”  Bill came over after they left.

Mindy looked up at the man, but not for long.  She stood on her tip-toes and kissed him smack on the lips before she said, “Keep looking.”

“What?”  Bill was looking, but somewhere in outer space.

“A little encouragement,” Mindy said, and she thought if she was really going to be an Amazon there was no point in waiting for him to make the first move.  Scholars were slow by nature.  With Bill, she might wait forever.  She gathered her books and put her hand to Bill’s shoulder.  “Keep looking,” she repeated herself before she walked to the elevator.

“Right,” she heard him say that with conviction as the elevator doors opened, and it made her smile.

###

Lisa watched as the Cadillac pulled into the underground parking garage.  A half-dozen young men in their late teens and early twenties were there, standing around making noises at each other, pretending to be tough.  The Cadillac pulled into a parking space and two men got out.  One had a semi-automatic in his hands.  The other looked around and then walked to the back of the car to open the trunk.  The young men lined up like children in a lunch line.  The man at the trunk began to pull out brown paper packages tied with twine, and Lisa spoke into her microphone.

ac-lisa-7“Move in.”  Then she started to hum “These are a few of my favorite things.”  Ashish ignored her and brought the car in to block the exit.  The lower level of the parking garage was a wonderful place off the street, where few cars went, with few prying eyes, but it was a terrible place if the police were watching.  There were only so many ways out, and they could all be blocked.

Lisa and Ashish got out when everyone got in position.  A dozen officers came from the four exits and Lisa spoke up.  “Police.  You are surrounded.  Lower your weapons and put your hands up.”  The man at the back of the car, the driver and the one with the semi-automatic had no hesitation in complying, but one of the boys reached into his jacket pocket.  “Don’t be stupid,” Lisa shouted.  “Dead is forever.”  The young man did not listen.  He drew the gun, jumped away from the others, fired twice in the direction of the voice, hit nothing and ran in the opposite direction.  He caught at least three bullets in return fire and went down.

The police let the ambulance right in as they cuffed the others.  “Good thing the ambulance was waiting,” Ashish remarked.  “Why does one always have to be stupid?”

Lisa could only shrug.  She got out her phone now that they were out of the underground.  She wanted to call Latasha and let her know that Janet’s information was accurate but Bobby Thompson was not there, and she thought, neither was Carlos.

The Elect 7, part 4 of 4: Party

Emily spent Saturday tossing the football around the back yard with her brothers. She watched football with her father, and went shopping with her mother, which was not quite the torture she thought it would be. By suppertime, she needed a family break. She decided things at home were best taken in small doses.ab party 1

Saturday night, Susan had that party at her mansion of a house. Emily knew about half of the people there, and did her best to be friendly, but it was hard. The music pounded, and the drugs and drinking were everywhere. She got tired of explaining that New Jersey State was primarily a school for applied sciences like engineering and nursing, and things like architecture, archaeology and antiquities. The Institute of Technology was in Newark, and the University of New Jersey was in New Brunswick. It was called Rutgers. Maybe they heard of it? She met one young man who knew New Jersey State had an excellent engineering school, but he was so drunk he could not remember anything else about it.

Emily noticed Susan and her friends were at their mindless best that night. Susan’s parents were down the street at a party of their own and not expected back before one or two. That left Susan and her friends the run of the place, though Emily noticed they spent most of the time going in and out of the upstairs bedrooms with one boy or another. She hardly knew what to think about that.

ab party 4

“You’re not drinking,” It was Chuck, the high school quarterback who barely made the squad at Miami of Ohio. Emily felt embarrassed as Chuck handed her a tall glass. She remembered a time in the tenth grade when she went to bed at night wishing the boy would talk to her. “Drink up,” he encouraged her and stepped away. Red flags went up in Emily’s mind, but she stuffed them back down. She smelled the alcohol in the drink and put the glass on the coffee table. She was not interested in getting drunk, and instead walked out on to the deck for some fresh air.

It was a nice night and quiet on the deck. She checked her phone, but not a peep from Lisa, Jessica, Maria, Amina—no one, not even Pierce. She sighed and enjoyed the cool air for a time.

ab party 2Ten minutes later, Chuck returned, or rather, found her outside. “All drunk up?” He asked. Emily nodded. She certainly drank all she was going to drink. “Good,” Chuck smiled. “So let’s get to bed before you start getting it off right here.” He grabbed Emily’s hand. She grabbed his wrist hard enough to make him squint and was not moving.

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s okay, baby. I know what you are feeling and I promise to satisfy those feelings to the best of my ability.”

Emily did not need to have it spelled out for her. “What was in the drink?”

Chuck shrugged. “You didn’t drink it.” He was not slow either. “Peters brought it.”

“Peters?”

Chuck made a move to grab her, but Emily was faster. Her hand let go of Chuck’s wrist and caught ab phone callhim around the throat, and she squeezed just a little. “Don’t tempt me to rip your throat out.” Chuck put his hands up and tried to breathe while Emily got out her phone and dialed 9-1-1. She pulled her hand sharply from Chuck’s throat and he fell to his knees, hacking and coughing.

Emily gave the address, said the words “multiple rapes” and threatened if they did not send at least three cars, stat. Then she had to jump as Chuck decided to run. Emily caught his shirt and flung him into the bushes. When she extracted him from the broken branches, she said one word, “Peters.” She placed her hand on his shoulder as a reminder and she walked him back inside.

“I swear, I didn’t do anyone. You were the only one I was interested in. I swear.” Chuck was babbling when he pointed to Peters. Emily let go of Chuck and tackled the boy hard enough to slam his face on the floor. She felt afraid she might have broken whatever she expected to find, but in rifling through Peters’ jacket pockets, she found the vial. She pulled it out only to have her hand ab party 3kicked by one of the other boys. The vial flew. Emily flew after it and grabbed a metal nut dish on the way. She caught the vial in the dish. It cracked near the top, but she figured between what stayed in the vial and what seeped into the dish there would be plenty to analyze.

Then the boys were on her. She kicked the first in the stomach and sent him sprawling back over the couch. He took the couch with him. The second found his legs swept and he landed hard and hit his head on the hardwood floor. The third paused as Emily turned and growled at him. He backed up, and all that time Emily held the nut dish perfectly stable. Then she said something that got Chuck and the others moving in the right direction.

“If you don’t want to take the blame for this, you better hold Peters for the police.”

Emily spent several hours at the police station under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Reese Anthony. Emily could not believe that Lieutenant Anthony treated her like she was the one who did something wrong. She understood that she was not from the richy-rich side of town, but still. She just tried to help, and stop a horrendous crime. She learned a valuable lesson, what maybe Detective Lisa tried to tell her. Some police foolishly resented any “civilian” help, as if they are the ab columbus police 1only ones in the world worthy of upholding the law. Ordinary citizens are nothing but dirty vigilantes.  Calls to Trenton and to a woman named Miriam at the FBI settled most of the questions the police had for her, even if Emily was at a loss as to what the FBI might have said; but the whole police experience left a bad taste in her mouth.

As she walked out of the station with her mother, Emily saw Lieutenant Anthony pick up some papers and ignore her. She just could not stop her tongue. “Nice to meet you, jerk!” The man looked up briefly, though not in Emily’s direction, before he went right back to his papers. He pretended to be unfazed by Emily’s words, but Emily knew. Her mother knew, too. She scolded Emily all the way to the car.

ac anthony 1Emily had her mother drive by the hospital on the way home. There was little to report. Susan and the others were just coming out of it. Susan’s parents and the other parents had no idea what this was all about, being as clueless as their daughters. The victims had no memory of what happened, but by then there was plenty of evidence of rape and DNA evidence besides to pin to the boys involved.

Emily was sure the local police, lieutenant dipshit would lose her carefully saved samples of the drug and she was equally certain that the prosecutors would screw up and the rich boys would get off with a mere slap on the wrist, but she could not worry about that. She was tired and needed her sleep.

Come Sunday Emily was glad to be going back to her nice cooperative zombies.

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The Elect 5, part 3 of 4: Freshman Battle

Karyn felt her body changing, and screamed from the pain. A fire raged in her mind and in her lower parts. Her muscles expanded, like inflating balloons, but it was all mass and muscle, not air. Every ounce of fat was converted and her insides, her organs, began to shrink to be converted to muscle mass as well. Her clothes shredded. Her breasts disappeared into her massive chest. She soon had a forearm that was bigger than Jessica’s waist. She became a male body builder in size and shape, and grew the hair to go with it. Hair sprouted all over her arms, legs and face. She continued to scream from the pain, even when her voice dropped from a feminine timbre to a deep bass. She began to shrivel up on the inside and could not stop it.

. Carl watched, horrified. Terrence watched the change and laughed even when Karyn screamed the words, “Help me! Help me!” There was nothing Carl could do. Karyn lashed out with a fist. Terrence stopped laughing and sprawled back against the bench. He got back up, slowly. Meanwhile, Karyn found a name in the thick fog of pain that had replaced her mind. “Carl, help me!” But there was nothing he could do.ac Karyn end

Karyn’s body was not built for this, for these steroids and this testosterone. It would surely kill her. Her pelvis began to wiggle front to back as if looking for something that did not exist.

Emily ran in. She had to look away, even when Karyn spoke a word of clarity. “Emily, kill me.” Karyn immediately caught on fire, from the inside. She burst into flames and the screaming stopped all at once. They heard a moment of laughter as the body began to shrink again, turned black, and collapsed into a charred ruin.

“Too bad you weren’t here,” Terrence spoke to Emily. “We could have killed two birds with one stone.” Before Emily could pounce, Terrence yelled. “Soldiers, front and ready.” The freshman class came in, but this was not Emily’s freshman class. They were all hulking brutes and when she saw the glazed eyes, she knew they were also mindless. They had all been juiced. Every one of them had a weapon – a club or pipe or whatever blunt thing came to hand. A few had knives, but not many. ac ROTC freshmanEmily recalled that Captain Driver went to Washington and had locked up all the firearms before he left. It did not matter. These mindless brutes would surely kill her, but she was too angry to think about running away.

“Kill her,” Terence finished his thought even as Carl jumped him. Carl would likely lose that fight, but it would be close.

As Emily stood there waiting for the boys to charge, she found people at her back. Lisa, Latasha, Pierce and Tom were all there along with a good half-dozen police officers. Lisa surprised her when she instructed the police officers.

“You have to shoot them like rabid dogs,” she yelled as she pulled and fired her own weapon. A few of the police concurred and several of the hulking, mindless boys went down. But they charged and the two sides met in the middle.

Emily fought like a tigress, like a lioness, like a she-bear defending her cub. She would not let one of the boys near Karyn’s corpse. As the numbers on both sides diminished, Emily took a good look around. Four police officers were down along with Tom and Carl whom she guessed was dead. Carl had a knife in his chest. Terrence was headed for the back door. Rob Parker was on the floor, gasping, but got her attention. He wanted to toss her his gun, but she shook her head and ran. She caught Terrence with his hand on the doorknob and hit him hard enough in the back to crack his shoulder blade. When he spun around to face her, she grabbed his left arm. She bent that back the wrong way at the elbow. She crushed it against a pipe, and Terrence slid to the ground from the pain.ac terrance end

“Enough!” Lisa’s word came over her shoulder and it was sharp. “That is not how we do things!”

Emily said nothing. She just turned and cried into the woman’s shoulder and the woman offered all the comfort she could muster.

Maria and Amina arrived after it was all over. Amina came to hold Maria. Maria wept bitterly. Jessica came in and spied Tom shaking his head in the attempt to sit up. Tom had been knocked unconscious early on in the fight and Emily feared he might be dead. He almost certainly would have been killed if he had not been knocked out. Two of the police officers looked dead and the others groaned on the floor, including Rob Parker. By contrast, Pierce did not appear to have a scratch on him. He fought hard. Emily noticed at several points in the mêlée. She noticed out of fear for his life, but need not have worried. Emily felt glad for that, but hardly had time to ask how he escaped injury as Maria struggled to find her.

With Maria and Emily both in tears, Lisa had to ask Amina. Latasha came up with one of the police Billy clubs in her hand to wait. She looked very solemn.

“Owen,” Amina spoke. “He wrote the endocrine paper that started the research. Professor Hilde is the one.” With that told, Maria collapsed to the floor and wailed. Emily gladly went to the floor and ac amina 3wailed with her until Lisa forced her back to her feet. The ambulances were arriving and more police cars, including some state troopers. It was going to get messy and with Latasha in tow, they had some more work to do.

“His office,” Amina said one last word to the detective before she turned to comfort Maria. Lisa paused to stare at the girl. Emily had to get her moving again with the word, “Later.”

The women went out the back door, right past Terrence who had passed out from his pain. Pierce followed. They ignored him. Lisa only had to show her badge once to get them out of the closing circle of the law, and then she turned to Emily with a question.

“Where?” Lisa needed confirmation.

Emily had long since learned where all the professors lived, as had the detective of course, but that was not what she was being asked. “His office.” Emily did not doubt what Amina knew. Her own guts confirmed it. “He will probably be waiting for Terrence to report back on how his super soldiers made out.”

Lisa agreed and looked at Latasha. “Makes sense to me,” Latasha said, but when Lisa gave her a hard look Latasha paused before she amended her statement. “It feels right.”

The Elect 4, part 4 of 4: Gentlemen

Tuesday afternoon, Tom ran to fetch Emily. The Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house was being torn apart. Several of the girls got out before Emily and the others arrived, but the rest of the girls remained prisoners, inside. Jessica got trapped in there, locked in with the others. Owen stayed outside, and Emily spied Carl and Terrence coming from a distance.

“What is it?” Emily asked.

“Anthony and Marcus. They got juiced, but somehow it made them more, I don’t know, male?”

“Monsters,” Owen said, and with a direct look at Emily, he added, “Maria might be in there, too.”aa agd house 4

Emily started toward the door, but one of the girls yelled at her. “Wait. You’ll just get taken. They can’t help themselves.”

Emily did not know what the girl meant until she tore open the door. The testosterone hit her in the face like a brick, and something more. An aroma wafted everywhere, one which Emily could only describe as hot, steamy sex. She felt a strong urge to run inside, grab the men, and throw them down on the first bed she could find. It did not feel good. She had to step back to get several mouthfuls of untainted air to clear her head. She just looked as she breathed. Anthony and Marcus stood stark naked and the girls that pressed around them stood in various degrees of torn clothing and nakedness. The men turned when Emily came to the door and she saw a certain part of their anatomy had become grotesquely big. It would surely kill the girls. She looked in the boy’s eyes. She found mindless morons, little more than disfigured bodies.

On her knees, on the floor, half dressed, Jessica cried. “I’m just a pledge.”

Emily looked again at the boys and used Jessica’s term. “It’s unnatural.” They smiled at her and encouraged her to come all the way inside. Emily took a deep breath of relatively fresh air and ran forward, her arms open, her face smiling. They smiled more deeply and opened their arms and aa agd lounge 2legs to receive her. At the last second, Emily slid to her back and lifted both feet with enough force to lift both men a few inches off the ground. She imagined it produced a feeling they would not soon forget. After that, she needed to run back outside.

She got out, hacking and coughing, but the two men failed to follow. “Damn,” she said. She had hoped the outside would dissipate whatever scent they gave off which gave them so much power over the girls. “Owen, Tom. You need to follow me and get every window in the house open. Turn on the air conditioning if you can.

Carl and Terrence came up then and Carl shouted, “Right,” to show he had heard.

Emily stepped up to the door again. She thought her way through the house, but decided she really had only one option. Meanwhile, several of the girls touched and caressed their wounded warriors exactly where she had wounded them and the men growled and grunted like pigs.

“Hey!” she shouted. The two men turned. This time their faces were anything but inviting. “You want me? I’m in here.” She grabbed a breath and raced to the kitchen. The small kitchen had a rectangular, solid wood table she could put between them. When they arrived, their members bouncing up and down like softball bats, they first thought to push the table back to crush her against the stove. Emily threw her feet against the stove and stiffened her arms so the table could aa agd table 1not be moved. The boys decided to go around the table to grab her. They went around opposite ends so she could not escape. They might not be entirely mindless, Emily thought.

She waited. When they were nearly on her, ginning and drooling, Emily flipped over the table, raced out the door, and slammed it shut. She put her back to it but it did not take long before they slammed against the door hard enough to almost knocked the door off its hinges.

Tom, Carl and Owen, all inside by then, threw open windows as instructed. A couple of girls began to come out of it even as a couple that stood too close outside got tempted to come back inside and see what felt so attractive.

Pierce came to the door and Emily risked a breath. She had taken two so far, but honestly, she did not know if she was making it worse by holding it in or not. “Pierce, Help me hold the door.” They almost had it open, but Pierce rammed into the door and his added strength got it closed again. Emily had her back to it.

“Get them out of here,” she yelled. Tom immediately threw his shirt around Jessica’s shoulders and escorted her out.

She continued to cry, “But I’m only a pledge.”

aa agd loungeWhen Tom came back, he grabbed Carl and they put their shoulders to the door with Pierce while he spoke to Emily. “You need to get out of here, the fog is still too thick.”

Emily looked at Pierce. She did not want to go. She leaned over to kiss him and reached her hand down to touch him.

“They’re escaping out the back door!” Pierce yelled at her. Emily snapped to attention and ran outside and around the house. Of course, the mindless men did no such thing. Emily took a deep breath and tried to clear her head.

By the time Marcus and Anthony thought to punch holes in the wall, the police had arrived. Only men got allowed to go in, but four on one managed. The juice began to wear off and things got back to normal, literally.

Emily ran back to the front in time to hear the all clear. She saw Terrence just standing there next to Bernie the campus cop. He clearly enjoyed the view as a few of the girls only then came out of their mental fog and realized they were naked.a trenton police 3

“You could have helped,” Emily yelled at Terrence.

“Not my job.” Terrence sneered at her.

“Your football players,” she said and then she jumped Pierce as he came out. She knocked him to the ground, landed on top of him and kissed him like one possessed. She would not have minded if they made love right then and there, even in front of all those people. Fortunately, he stayed a perfect gentleman the whole time.

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 3, part 4 of 4: Practice

Emily went to bed Thursday night after fighting zombies that afternoon. Everything seemed surreal to her at the moment. She had no Friday classes after English in Gorgon Hall, the main classroom building at eight. She dropped her books at her room, took in the fresh, crisp, fall New Jersey air, and started to feel normal again, thinking zombies were just a bad dream.

The high school was easy to find, being right next to the campus. She got there by nine forty-five and wondered what she was supposed to do. She tried to stay on alert, at the attitude of attention, but even she could not keep that up for long when she got bored. Mostly she just sat and watched the cars go by.a high school 2

Once in a long while a car would pull into the main lot and she would look up only to see a woman in out-of-date slacks or a man in a button down shirt. They were probably teachers. They would run into the school with book-bags, briefcases or papers. Her intuition stayed on alert, she hoped, and she tried to use all her senses as well as she could. Lisa yelled at her about that and the woman was right. Zombies had no business sneaking up on her like that. But mostly, at the high school, there was nothing to sense.

The highlight of her day came at eleven when Pierce called. Their second phone call only lasted two minutes, but he wanted to be sure she had not forgotten about Saturday night and she thought that was so cute. She felt happy for an hour until a police officer pulled up, got out of his car, and asked her for some identification. Emily had her student ID, and the police officer held it for a good long time before he looked at her again. She ran her hand through her short hair several times while waiting.

“The fraternity house,” the police officer said at last. “Rob Parker. Good to see you again, but you better find another location. Jean Johnson in the guidance office noticed you, and they are pretty nervous. Principal Wearing called.”

“Thanks. Murder can make people nervous,” Emily said. “I’m just here as a favor for Detective Schromer. I will try to be more discreet.” Young Rob Parker looked like he wanted to say something a trenton police 5more, but Ashish showed up with lunch so he smiled and drove off.

“Anything?” Ashish asked.

Emily shook her head. “What did you bring me?” It was a turkey sub and a diet coke. Emily made a face. “No donuts?”

Ashish looked offended. “By the box-full,” he said, and held up a box.  “I bet you are just like Lisa. She can eat all the junk food in the world and never gain an ounce.”

“High metabolism,” Emily said. She only took one donut and moved to a different spot as Ashish left.

By two o’clock Emily felt certain nothing would happen that day. Some people would have been put off by that, but after the last couple of weeks Emily was glad to think nothing was going to happen. Of course, even as she considered her good fortune and thought about living one of those quiet lives, maybe as Missus Pierce Davis with a seven-year-old and ballet recitals, a car pulled up with three men and they all got out together. They parked on the street, but Emily was not fooled for a minute.

She watched them walk down the sidewalk like regular pedestrians, and she followed them around the corner, a pedestrian herself. When they ducked into a side door in the school, Emily followed discretely. She looked through the small window in the door first and did not go inside right away because the men waited and hid in the stairwell. No one came up or down those back stairs, so after a moment the men moved into the hall. Emily poked her head in and heard the muffled screams. They intercepted a girl on her way to the bathroom.a high school stairs 1

Emily came in the door as a string bean of an African-American girl raced down the stairs. They both entered the hall together to prevent the men from escaping out that same isolated side door. One of the men had one arm around the poor, frightened girl and his other hand up against her mouth to keep her from screaming. Whatever he whispered in the girl’s ear seemed effective to silence her.

“Stand back,” the skinny girl told Emily. “I was born for this fight. I can handle these three creeps.” Emily guessed it was Latasha, the inside help Lisa mentioned. She just grinned and let her have at it.

Latasha stepped forward and both of the men with their hands free jumped her, one from each side. Latasha did not know which way to turn, but to her credit, she managed to kick one pretty hard in the ribs and punch the other. The man with the possible broken rib backed up, but the one she punched tackled her. Latasha landed on her back and the man, return fist ready, landed on top of her.

Emily was right there. She grabbed the man by the collar and belt and tossed him, hard into the lockers. His head dented the metal. He would stay down. Emily spun and grabbed the knife she had strapped to her ankle. The man with the aching ribs started to draw a gun, but he dropped it when he found a knife in his chest.

ac latasha 3The one holding the girl shrieked, let go, and began to run in the opposite direction down the hall. “I’ll get him,” Latasha yelled, but she got tangled up in the girl.

Emily rolled, picked up the dropped gun and ran all out. To be sure, she had as much strength in her legs as in her arms. She could be unnaturally fast when she tried, and easily caught and tackled the man from behind. He tried to fight her off, but one punch changed his mind, and then he stilled when the gun got put to his head.

Principal Wearing heard the commotion and came running down the adjacent hall. Emily did not give the man time to think. “Hold this one here. Call 9-1-1.” Emily blew on the pistol barrel like in the old western movies and slipped it in her belt at the back, the way Lisa carried her gun. She dared not twirl it. She felt certain she would drop it. She turned and ran back to the man with her knife in his chest.

People raced to their classroom doors at the sound of the fight; but Emily came up to the man with her knife in his chest and yanked out the knife. That man let out such a horrific scream, most of the people went just as quickly back into their rooms. Emily tossed her phone to Latasha with a simple instruction. “Ambulance.” She began to tear the man’s shirt for a bandage and pressed to stop the bleeding. The wound did not look too deep, and nothing vital appeared to be penetrated, but it had to hurt like hell.

“Emily?” Latasha inched forward. Emily nodded as she had her teeth on the shirt at the moment to tear it. “Boy, have I got a lot to learn,” Latasha said.ac emily 2

“I have a feeling before this is all over, we will get plenty of practice.”

The Elect, the beginning, post 3 of 8: The Police Too

The ride to the police station did not take long and it was not entirely uncomfortable. The officers checked in with Mitzy, the woman at the front desk, before they took the girls to separate rooms. Emily had to wait and sit at a table with four chairs in an otherwise empty room. The room had a mirror, which had to be the obligatory see through glass from the other side. The room also had a window, but the blind was down and closed, and the sill looked so dirty she dared not look at the glass.

Emily ran her hand through her short hair more than once. She twice examined her poor excuse for nails. She drummed her fingers for a while. Finally, she retrieved her English book, the bag having been checked first, and she read until someone came.

A woman, maybe thirty-five, reddish-brown hair, green eyes, and as tall as Emily at maybe five-six stepped into the room. She wore a business suit, gray, with a blue top, and shoes that looked like practical nurse’s shoes, which were probably a necessity for a cop. The man who followed looked about the same age as the woman, but he was brown, like someone from the near east. The woman introduced him as Ashish Mousad and Emily tried not to stare, but the man kept looking at her dumbly, like Tom the football player, or maybe like someone trying to see her insides.ab interview room 2

“Family’s from Kashmir. I’m third generation,” the man said. Emily had no idea what that meant, but that was not why she returned the stare. Mister Mousad’s bulbous nose seemed far too big for the rest of his face, though not necessarily too big for his round middle. She turned her eyes away as the woman spoke, and Emily became aware that the woman had been watching her the whole time, even as she stared at the man.

“I’m Detective Lisa Schromer. Do you mind if I sit?” The man leaned his bulk against the dirty windowsill.

Emily shrugged and closed her book. She pointed to the seat opposite. “It’s your jail.”

The detective smiled, sat and shook her head. “You are not in jail and will not be going to jail. I came to talk. That’s all.” Emily said nothing. She might be willing to listen. It took her mind off of thinking about what she had done.

“You are Emily Hudson?” Emily nodded. “Freshman at the university? From Columbus Ohio?” Emily nodded again. They got that much from her driver’s license. “So tell me, when in high school did you realize you were too strong to be an ordinary girl?”

“What?”

Mister Mousad pulled a little notepad from a pocket and spoke up. “You knocked a big man to his back with one kick. You grabbed the second man and made him stab himself with his own knife. Then you walked to the first man and kicked him to get him to turn around so you could knock his lights out with one punch.”

Emily shook her head. “It wasn’t like that.” The woman detective raised an eyebrow. “I mean it was not as easy as you make it sound.”

ab interview room 3“So when in high school?”

“It was middle school.” Emily paused to think. Any number of high school incidents passed through her mind. They mostly had to do with athletics, and mostly surprised her as much as anyone, but she never did anything like this. “I was the homerun queen on the eighth grade softball team.”

The woman nodded. “Great speed, dexterity, coordination and agility. As strong as any man.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Emily started to interrupt but held her tongue when the woman gave her a hard look.

“An uncanny ability with whatever weapon comes to hand, but just as tough without weapons. Hard to injure or damage and quick to heal. Given to strategic and tactical thinking, always several steps ahead. Great energy, perseverance, stamina, courage…”

“Wait a minute. How do you know all that?” Emily’s tone of voice said she did not believe it, or did not want to believe it.

“You are one of the elect, called to defend the people and the community in time of need, the warrior woman. You are the one in a million.” The detective fell silent and Emily looked at her hands and poor excuse for nails. The man by the window put his notepad away and pulled out a handkerchief to honk that big nose of his.

“What does that mean?” Emily asked at last.

“Every time a girl is born there is a one in a million chance she will be elected. She must have a strong mind and a pure heart.”ab war wo 4

“Well, I haven’t got a pure heart.”

“Do you know what is right and wrong? Can you distinguish between good and evil?”

“Yes,” she reluctantly admitted. “But that does not mean I always do what is right.” Emily leaned back and felt a bit rebellious at that moment. She was not sure she wanted to be elected, whatever that was. “Besides, how do you know I got elected? I never voted for me.”

“Not that kind of election. Called to be a champion for the people might be a better way to put it.”

“Called by whom?” Emily backed off in her mind, but felt terribly curious at the same time.

“Do you know the concept of the woman warrior?” Emily nodded slowly. “Well, it isn’t a myth,” the detective finished the thought and let that sit in the air for a few seconds before she explained. “It begins sometime after the girl becomes a woman, though you won’t reach your full strength and potential until you are between eighteen and twenty-one.”

“I’m eighteen. Woman mature faster.” Emily meant it as a joke, but it came out as sarcasm and she immediately felt guilty about it. She knew this was serious business.

“The elect are only women,” the detective continued. “They say in the beginning, when the men went out on the hunt for days at a time, the ancient council of goddesses chose one woman and empowered her to protect and defend her home and community. You are simply the latest in a long line of warrior women dating back to the dawn of history. If you have read your mythology, you should know about Atalanta and Camilla. If you know your history, you should know about Queen Boudica and Zenobia of Palmyra. Surely you have heard of Joan of Arc. Of course, most of the elect have deliberately avoided fame, and Joan is a good example why. I understand Electra was glad to let her brother Orestes take all the credit. But the truth is, most women in history probably never knew they were elect. They were never needed, thank God.”

“How many elect are there?”

ab war wo 1“Well, one in a million, but that is apocryphal. It may be more like one in ten million people, but at a guess I would say some three thousand women around the world right now are called to champion their people.”

“And you?”

“I never voted for me, either.”

Emily paused to take a breath. “Looks like I won’t get the chance to be anonymous.”

“Looks like,” Detective Schromer agreed. “But listen, there is something happening on the campus and it is not good. We have only hints and rumors at this point, but I hope you will be willing to watch for me. You are sensitive to danger, especially sensitive to unnatural danger, and empowered to meet it head on. It is a gift. You are special.”

Emily found herself clutching and squeezing her own hands as she listened. She resonated with everything being said, like something deep down inside of her confirmed it all, but at the same time, she felt confused again. She did not know how to take what she had been told. Then she heard something that undeniably touched her.

“The two men you injured will both survive,” Ashish reported.

Emily wept.

Detective Schromer came around the table and helped Emily to her feet. She helped Emily put her book back in her book-bag, and comforted her as they walked to the door. All Emily wanted to do was cry, but when they got to the door, Emily stood up straight and wiped her eyes as well as she could. The woman detective got her attention once more.

“Take my card.” She put a business card in Emily’s book-bag. “There have been several incidents at ac Jessica 1the university, young as the school year is. Hopefully your action will put an end to it, but just in case, if something comes up, call me.”

Emily looked at the woman as if for the first time and saw something genuine and caring in those green eyes. She nodded, stepped out of the room and found Jessica waiting for her. Two young policemen hovered over the girl, shared a laugh, and Jessica had some coffee.

The Elect, the beginning, post 2 of 8: The Library Incident

“So, what’s his name?” Emily felt curious, but not really interested.

“Thomas.” Jessica looked back at the library table where the young man looked up and waved. She smiled.

“And he is in Freshman English?” Emily picked her book-bag up from the ground for the tenth time and tried once again to make the strap stay on her chair. The thought crossed her mind that one definition of insanity involved doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.

“No.” Jessica sat up but made no effort to open her book. “He’s a sophomore, and on the football team.”ab library at night 1

Emily looked up from her book. Apparently, Jessica went for football players. “I thought you had a boyfriend back home.”

“But I’m not at home,” Jessica said with a straight, albeit blonde face. “Besides, I want to enjoy the full college experience.” She tossed her hair back and snuck another look at Thomas.

Emily nodded and ran a hand through her short black locks. She had a boys’ cut, left over from ROTC summer camp. If she did not have a Mohawk red streak in it, she figured her hair would have no character at all. “But it has only been five days,” she said, and she thought living a whole year with this roommate would not be easy.

Jessica looked at her long nails before she slammed her hand down on her book. “First day of classes and we already have homework. It’s unnatural.”

Emily looked at the girl’s hand on the book and thought, at least that was a step in the right direction. Then she examined her own short, black painted nails and shook her head, sadly. “I’m going back.” She picked up her book-bag from the floor, slipped her English book into the bag, and stood. Jessica mirrored her, but with a glance to be sure Thomas watched her leave. Emily noticed and said quietly, “grumble, grumble.” She did not think she could put her feelings into words, exactly.

The library door closed softly behind them with the sound of a shush. The university campus spread out before them like a gray world punctuated by lamps here and there along the paths. Emily looked up once, but could not see the stars because of the library glare. She might be a foolish freshman to walk across campus in the dark, but she had Jessica for company, such as it was, and the dorm was not far. Trenton, New Jersey might not be the safest city in America, but New Jersey State University had a good safety reputation, as far as she knew.a n campus 3

“Coffee?” Jessica made the suggestion while she tugged on her too short skirt. Emily put her hand in the pocket of her black slacks, found the two dollars she needed for laundry and shook her head.

“I need to rest.” She honestly felt it important to stay on a good schedule, at least at first.

“Well, I can use some,” Jessica insisted.

Emily hesitated before she spoke. “Can’t. I’ll see you back at the room.”

Jessica also looked ready to say something more, but declined. She turned without a word and headed toward the student center. Emily watched for a moment before she turned to her own path. She took two whole steps before she heard a stifled scream come from Jessica’s direction. She did not hesitate. She ran toward the sound.

Two men had Jessica beside a tree. One had her from behind and had a hand over her mouth. The other threatened her with a knife. Emily dropped her book-bag and without a second thought, she leapt. Both feet struck the ribs of the man holding Jessica. He let go and crashed to the brick walkway. Jessica spun around twice at her sudden release. Emily landed upright on the brick walk. The man with the knife lashed out, but Emily caught his hand, turned around so the hand had to follow and that man found his own knife shoved deep into his own gut.ab mugging

Jessica screamed, more than once.

The one on the ground tried to rise, but Emily landed right there. She kicked him in the ribs again before he could stand. He spun around, red faced and spitting. Emily simply made a fist and hit the man in the jaw as hard as she could. His head spun and he fell back to hit his head hard on the bricks. He would not get up again for a while.

Emily rushed to Jessica. “Are you all right?” Jessica could hardly stop screaming as Thomas and his football friend ran up. Jessica immediately turned to the boy. Thomas stared and looked dumb before he slid his arms around the girl. The other young man examined the two disabled men. He gave Emily a curious look since Jessica seemed occupied. With that look, what Emily did suddenly caught up with her and she felt overwhelmed. Her only grace was that it all felt instinctive in a way, as if she did all that without having to think too hard. She had no idea how that might be.

“ROTC.” It was the only thing she could think to say.

“Lieutenant Terrance J. Williams,” the young man responded. “I’ll look forward to seeing you Thursday afternoon.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Emily responded, but her mind was not on her words. She looked at the man, bleeding terribly from the knife in his middle. He used the tree to hold himself to his knees. She felt sick.

“I called 9-1-1,” one of the newcomers reported.

“I called campus police.”

“I called the ambulance.”ac Bernie 1

The campus police arrived first. Just one older African-American man showed up, in a disheveled blue shirt, gray tie, police looking pants, and a jacket that had the University logo and University Police blazoned on it. “Everybody back away,” he yelled, and waved his arm like a traffic cop. “Nothing to see here. Go on about your business.” He took in the two men on the ground. “What the hell happened here?”

“Ask her, Bernie.” Lieutenant Williams pointed at Emily. Emily looked up and felt very confused right then about what exactly happened.

“Hey! Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” Bernie turned to the lieutenant. “Does Coach know you are still out this late?” The campus cop temporarily forgot about the ones on the ground.

“Library?” Lieutenant Williams pointed, as if that explained it all. “Come on Tom, if you can tear yourself away.” Tom let go of Jessica and moved. He followed the lieutenant toward the student center, and the campus cop had one more thing to say.

“Football!” He shrugged before he turned to Emily. “So what happened here?” The man on the walkway chose that moment to groan and put a hand to his jaw, and then to the back of his head where Emily feared the man might be bleeding. Emily tensed up, tried to make sense of what she did and began to cry. Jessica, already into a good cry, reached for Emily, now that Thomas had gone.

“She saved my life.” Jessica managed that much before the women hugged and cried on each other’s shoulders. Emily let her emotions flow, but she could not help the thoughts that came into her mind. She thought that Jessica was three inches taller to begin with, at maybe five-nine, and the pumps added another two inches. She was being soaked from above. The second thought was that Jessica had on too much makeup and now it was running all over her favorite purple shirt. It was going to be a bitch to get it out.ab police at night

To his credit, Bernie the campus cop did not press the issue. He went to the man who had somehow pulled out the knife and collapsed to his seat. The man still leaned heavily on the tree. “Hey! This man is bleeding,” Bernie noticed.

The regular police roared up on the nearby street and came running. Everyone backed up for real. The ambulance came right up the walkway from the student center, and Emily pulled herself together enough to pull Jessica out of the way. She had no illusion that she could simply melt into the crowd and go unnoticed, but she thought at least they could give the medical people some room to work.

Emily felt glad when she saw the man rise from the walkway, and with help, take a seat in the back of the ambulance. She felt grim when they carried the other one out on a stretcher, but by then there were too many police officers around and Emily knew she and Jessica would have to go for a ride and give a statement.

“Not the best way to stay on schedule,” she mumbled as Jessica backed up to wipe her eyes. “Maybe they have coffee at the police station—oh but Thomas won’t be there.” Jessica wiped the drip from her nose and let out the littlest laugh and smile. Clearly, that was exactly what Jessica had been thinking.