"Yeh, mum and dad have been saving for this for years. I'm the first to go, the first in my entire family. That's a big deal to them you know."
"You'll write, Skype....email?"
"Sure. I don't want to lose touch eh? You owe me a favour remember, I might need to call you on it one of these days."
They hug as the stationmaster blows his whistle, a quaint tradition in this age of electronic messages and announcements.
"You getting on young lady?"
The tears begin to well as she hugs him hard and fast. They've never been romantically involved. He's a 'bad boy' been in trouble with the law, in and out of juvie all his young life. A misfit, he never belonged to anyone other than her. But they're close and he embraces her like he'll never let her go.
"Mikey I have to go...." she pulls away, her hand sliding down his outstretched arms and drags her belongings onto the train. "I'll be in touch..." she blows a kiss but he's already turned away. Too macho to let her see the look of love lost, upon his face.
Wrapped in plastic takes on new meaning. And duct tape....well there's plenty of that. The 'sex toys', kind of a surprise.
Oh he's seen it before but usually it's a prank, a haze, a kid struggling in a ditch with duct tape and embarrassment. Wriggling like a worm on the end of a hook. But this time, it's different. They're all naked. They're all bound. They're all dead.
Det. Alex Ringwold has been in the force long enough to see enough. Too long. Things rarely surprise him but this? Five Sorority queens, wrapped in plastic, gaffered to the max, breasts exposed, buttocks bruised, mouths hands and legs bound, each with a dildo barely protruding from their bloodied vaginas. And five young men. Each facing their Sorority sisters in a grisly embrace. Wrapped in plastic. Taped with silver gaffer tape from mouth to groin. Nylon rope beneath the knees to their ankles. Each with a sharpie protruding from their anuses. All lined up like ducks in a row. A quasi-erotic death dance where nobody moves. Hog-tied and arranged carefully on the canvas of the college wrestling ring. And just a day before they're due to travel home for Thanksgiving. days before Thanksgiving.
"Sick fucks. Jesus Mitch, what the fuck do you think happened here?"
His offsider, Mitchell Ryan is a rookie to homicide, and busy throwing up in a waste paper bin.
Unfazed by his new partner's dilemma Alex prattles on unaffected.
"Looks like hazing gone horribly wrong!" The only problem being, Hell Week and the Rush are long over, it's well into the varsity year.
The veteran knows it's a hazing prank but not an accident. This is a deliberate act. Bodies positioned carefully, the symmetry of their abuse evident. The timing of their demise synchronised. The placing of the corpses designed with precision. This isn't just a homicide, this is a message. This is planned retribution on a grand scale.
An embarrassed and revolted caretaker turns on the lights. The soft yellow glow of nightlights flash into the blue tungsten that reveals the heinous demise of ten students.
"Christ, when I went to college I had to skull a yard glass of slops, or do the elephant walk. This is over the top. Bit extreme don't you think sir?" Mitch is still wiping the bile from his mouth and becoming mesmerised with the precision of the arrangement of cadavers within his sights.
"Freshmen?" Ringwold looks at the caretaker.
"No...third years," the ghoulish man in grey overalls reveals.
"You know them?"
"Seen 'em around. They're the king pins of the most popular Fraternity and Sorority houses here. They're couples. Boyfriend and girlfriend. That there's Jake Freeman and Cecile LeNevez." A bony hand points shakily to the first couple in their mortal embrace. "And that's Cindy Cowan and her boyfriend Tim Bilberry. Good wrestler he was, and she was on the Cheerleading team."
He points to each proffering their names and describing their varsity success in terms of sports achievement, cheerleading bullying of new recruits. None by their academic achievement. All by their apparent popularity and ability to control their peers.
"Alright boys, bag 'em and tag 'em" We'll come back tomorrow and begin the interviews.
Continued in Part 2