Ashley was in art history class, her first class after lunch. There were about thirty students in all. Schoolwork wasn’t always so easy to concentrate on with her aunt being gone only a couple of months. She did her best, though sometimes she felt like she was a robot, mechanically going through the motions in which life programmed her to go through.
The teacher was drawing an outline on the chalkboard when the assistant principal entered the room. The teacher abruptly stopped what he was doing and focused on the assistant as she made her way towards him to whisper something in his ear.
Ashley noted that the teacher’s gaze held hers as he listened intently to whatever the assistant was saying. Judging by the expression on his face, it wasn’t good.
The assistant stepped away and the teacher stood up straight. “Ashley, will you please go with Mrs. Berry?” he said.
Ashley felt herself begin to tremble as she gathered up her books and papers. Now what was wrong?
“Sure,” she said shakily.
The assistant principal headed back towards the door as the other students’ eyes followed Ashley’s movements as she made her way through the rows of desks and over to where the assistant stood waiting.
Once they were in the hall with the classroom door closed behind them, Ashley asked what she wanted to see her for.
“There’s been a very unfortunate matter at the house you’re in. A couple of detectives are here to talk to you about it.”
“Oh, my God!” Ashley exclaimed as her thoughts went immediately to Katelyn. “Not Katelyn. Katelyn Reed, is she okay?”
“As far as I know she is,” said the assistant.
Ashley released a heavy sigh of relief.
When they reached the office where the same pair of detectives stood, Mr. Sad Eyes rose from his seat. “Hello there, Ashley.”
Without returning the greeting, Ashley asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Well, how about if we have a seat at the table here?”
Ashley and the detectives took a seat as the assistant principal left the room. She gazed at the sad-looking detective to his serious-looking blond partner.
“To get right to the point,” Sad Eyes began, “your roommate, Miss Dalene Wilson, was found strangled to death in her bedroom by your other roommate, Nicolette Carey, when Miss Carey went to the house for lunch.”
“Oh, that’s horrible,” said Ashley. She never cared for her, but she never hated her enough to want to see her dead either.
“Were you close to Miss Wilson in any way?” asked Miss Serious.
“No, I wasn’t. In fact, I never really liked her very much, to be honest.”
“Why is that?”
“She just seemed a bit inconsiderate of others. Still, I never disliked her enough to want to see her killed.”
“I understand,” Sad Eyes said. “Do you think there’s anyone else who would like to see her dead?”
Ashley thought about it. “No, not that I can think of. Most of us simply tried to avoid her. She was out a lot anyway, and I don’t know much about her friends.”
“Any new people come to the house to see her lately?”
Ashley shook her head. “Not that I knew of. She always went to them.”
“And who were they?”
“I don’t know. She’d usually mention only first names. The last guy she mentioned being with was someone she called Johnny.”
“When was the last time you were at the house?”
“This morning before my first class which began at 8:30.”
“You didn’t go home for lunch?”
“No, Katelyn and I had lunch together at the pizza place nearby. Katelyn Reed. She lives with us, too.”
“Would you happen to know where your other roommate, Miss Rose Andreas, may be?”
“Isn’t she in class somewhere?”
“No,” said Miss Serious, “apparently she’s been absent today.”
Ashley looked thoughtful, remembering Rose’s strange late-night behavior.
“Something wrong, Miss Severson?”
“Well…” Ashley said hesitantly.
“Go on, it’s okay. Whatever you tell us will stay in this room.”
“I hate to say anything in case it doesn’t mean anything, but I did see something rather odd late last night.”
“And that was?” Sad Eyes prompted.
“A strange noise woke me up last night at around two. After a minute I realized it was someone unlocking the front door. I then heard them enter the house and close and lock the door, but due to how late it was I didn’t get up right away. After a few more minutes, I became curious and so I got up and saw that someone was in the bathroom between Dalene and Nicolette’s rooms. Because Rose’s door was the only one open, I figured it was her.”
“Any way it could’ve been Miss Reed?”
“No,” said Ashley, “I fell asleep in her room after we studied together for a few hours.”
The detectives glanced at each other a moment.
“Was Miss Reed awakened by the noise or did she remain asleep?” asked Miss Serious.
“She stayed asleep.”
“What happened next?”
“I could hear the sound of something being scrubbed in the sink. I was tempted to knock on the door to see what was up, but I was afraid to.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know,” said Ashley with a shake of her head. “It’s like instinct or something told me not to. Instead, I hid in the shadows of my own room until she came out carrying a plastic bag and left the house with it.”
“She left the house with it?”
Ashley nodded. “Went out the back door.”
“Did she return?”
“Yes, a few minutes later.”
“And what did she do then?”
“She went into her room and shut the door. This is when I went back to bed.”
“Tell me about Miss Andreas. Anything in particular stand out to you?”
“No, not really. Just that she’s never home. Even Dalene’s home - was home - more than she is.”
“Does she have a steady boyfriend or any girlfriends that she sees regularly?”
“No, that’s just it. I’ve tried to strike up some small talk with her because she always seemed so shy and as if she felt embarrassingly out of place. Yet she never would tell me much about her.”
After being asked a few more questions, Ashley was assured that security would increase tenfold. Also, so as to preserve the crime scene, the four remaining occupants of the house would be moved to other houses that had empty rooms available. Ashley was pleased to hear this for she couldn’t stomach the idea of living where someone had been brutally murdered.
On the flipside, Ashley was suddenly alarmed at the possibility of being separated from Katelyn. She didn’t feel it was appropriate to mention these worries in light of the situation, so she remained silent. Instead, she turned to head back to the dorm to pack her belongings as she was instructed to.
On her way out of the meeting room, she found Rose waiting just outside the door, leaning up against the wall. She appeared solemn as she stared at the floor.
The assistant principal rushed up at the sound of the door opening. “Detectives,” she said, “I’ve located Miss Andreas for you.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Now Miss Severson, if you would please wait until we’ve had a chance to speak to Miss Andreas, an escort will take you both back to the house at that time.”
“Okay,” said Ashley, taking a seat on a vinyl chair in a small waiting area.
She hoped that Rose hadn’t heard her voice her suspicions to the detectives.