In coming months, they accept their positions. She as a sorority sister in Sigma Mu, he as part of the wrestling team for frat house, Alpha Epsilon. She endures the 'makeover', joins the cheerleaders and plies her craft. She's for all intents and purposes 'one of them'. Interestingly, they never ask questions. Nothing about her background, her family, not even where she comes from. How can you have sorority with people so absorbed in themselves that they don't know the most basic things about each other? Her ability to question and listen has served her well as she identifies the most evil of the sorority sisters. And one in particular who's violation of her body would not go unpunished.
Seb immerses and rises to the fore. Locker room conversations about who will fuck who during the 'rush' which groupies are worthy, which are 'infected'. He's becoming a man's man, a bro without a ho but entrenched. Exploits in the ring bring accolades to his fraternity and he's elevated on shoulders, a prince among misogynists, a hero of the hour. A hero with a darkness in his heart.
"Death by mercury poisoning," the Coroner records her voice as she examines each once nubile body. Now grey and pale, their fingers and toes turning black from oxygen deprivation. "See here?" She draws her intern closer, lifting Cindy's now lacklustre hair, "Tiny incision at the base of the neck and into the cerebellum. Easily done with a diabetic needle. Toxicology has identified mercury. These guys weren't asphyxiated. They were killed via injection then bound, gagged and....well you've seen the pictures."
"Why go to the trouble of binding them and leaving them in the Wrestling arena?" Despite the TV depiction of public coroner's, they're examiners not detectives.
"Perhaps post mortem punishment? Send a message? Who knows?" The police will have to work that one out.
Ringwold's pacing the small room. A reverse mirror along one wall, where he stops and adjusts his collar before turning to the pretty brunette sitting pert and upright on a wooden chair, pulled close to the only small table in the room.
"Miss Morello? May I call you Corina?"
The petite blonde nods and smiles. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth which makes her even more likely as the prime suspect. He's seen innocence on the face of murderers before and is paying close attention to this one. Although she doesn't seem the type.
"Now I know you've had your differences during Hell week with a number of your classmates. I know it was a while a go and you're all settled into your new sorority life but...there's been an incident. I'm just wondering how close you are to those girls?"
She's reassuring and genuine as she tells Ringwold about the support she receives, the friends she's made. How the original 'incident' was really just one girl out of control. How she's over it and hoping to be nominated as queen bee sooner rather than later. How she can't remember the details any more. "It was just a prank!"
He's not convinced. But his observations of her over the past week have her pegged as a true sister. Involved, academic, friendly. Yet she has motive and he knows it.
"These murders..." he pauses a little too long as if considering his words but he's checking her body language. It's relaxed, calm. Her hands clasped loosely on top of the table, her legs crossed and her gaze attentive. "These murders..are so long after the pledging at Kappa Mu I'm beginning to wonder whether they're even related. Either that or someone held one helluva grudge for a very long time. You have every reason to hold a grudge. These girls damn near drowned you. Violated you and now....now... you're the best of friends?"
She deflects his reasoning at every turn and he has little alternative but to let her go. She unfolds her hands and uncrosses her legs as if posturing to leave, "One more minute young lady...."
"Where were you on the night of the 22nd, about 9pm?"
Her response is clear, calm, "With Sebastian Nicholls. We were at his parent's house for the Thanksgiving holidays. We only came back a couple of days ago. Why? Surely you don't think I'm capable of killing six people, let alone binding them up and lugging them across campus into the Wrestling ring? Look at me, I'm only 5'4 and 126 pounds dripping wet!"
Ringwold's gut knows she did it. The why is clear. The when dictated by science. The how? Now that's got his knickers in a knot.
She's right, her alibi checks out. She was out of town. He uneasily lets her leave.
Michael Nati is packing a night bag. It's not his habit to leave the underbelly of the city where he can remain anonymous, invisible. Nor is it his habit to work pro bono but, when the girl he loves, albeit unknown to her, wants a favour - he's honour bound to comply. Her yearbook photo in his wallet is his good luck charm. Kissed with warmth after every cold kill. Only once had he had a conversation with her about his occupation. "I remove filth," he'd said, hoping to shroud his real purpose in vagary.
"What do you mean?" she'd asked, innocent as a lamb.
"Corina, I'm a hit man. I kill for money."
She'd laughed as if she'd met some deluded comic book hero, "Sure... you? Why Mikey you wouldn't hurt a fly."
He'd left the conversation at that. Her disbelief adding credence to his subterfuge but he'd planted a seed. Deep down she knew he was shady, she knew he was capable of dreadful things but she knew he owed her, cared for her and would never let her down.
Her phone call had been the first since she left and he was compelled to act. He zips up the bag full of duct tape and syringes, thin rope and plastic wrap and discards the photograph. Nothing must link her to him, not now.
The memorial services take place over a week. Some joint funerals attended by each sorority and frat house. Some private but Sebastian and Corina attend all and look suitably morose. So does Ringwold but he's not watching the mourners. He knows these two are linked his gut feeling tells him that they did it but the trail's gone cold. Even the one link to a suspicious character from Corina's past came up with an alibi, not that he believed it but it checked out. For the first time Ringwold's not fazed. The things these kids and others had to put up with took him back to his own college days. The humiliation he'd endured being the main reason he'd left an academic future to join the force.
As the mourners leave the last memorial, Seb and Corina brush past the policeman and make eye contact. Ringwold tips his forehead with two fingers, "Good luck you two....case is closed." All Corina feels is the reassuring squeeze of Sebastian's hand in hers. It's over. It begins again.
Corina Morello sits in her dorm, fingering the keypad of her iPhone. She doesn't raise her head from the message she's sending to Sebastian.
"Hi, I'm Nicola..."
"Don't speak...just put your stuff over there," Corina waves to the new girl without looking. She doesn't see the disappointment in the new pledge's eyes as she begins to unpack her belongings onto a small bed, within a nook beneath a cape cod ceiling. Nor does she empathise with a new recruit who simply doesn't want to be there.
Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Coed Naked Armageddon"