Chapter 16: The Pieces

Chapter 16 - Assemble the PiecesThe Slave Quarters
Chapter 16 – Assemble the Pieces
By Rock Kitaro

When I was a kid I used to hate coming to the Augusta Riverwalk. It’s been over a decade since my last visit. Looking at it now, I almost want to slap myself for having taking its beauty for granted. I now possess a greater form of respect, an acknowledgment of its history, its significance. The Augusta Riverwalk is Augusta, Georgia.

The terrain of this scenic park isn’t what you’d expect from most riverwalks. It’s better. A wide red brick promenade lines the edge of the river, winding half a mile from the Museum of History to the back entrance of the convention center. It’s at the base of a forty-foot high earthen levee of stones, grass, and giant oak trees covered in Spanish moss. A steep cement stairway connects the lower level to the upper level of this natural levee, a natural levee that more or less looks like a small hill or a bluff.

Looking down from the upper level gives you a breathtaking sensation of peering over a broad canyon in which the valley is mostly filled with freshwater. South Carolina is on the other side with waterfront townhomes.

It was common to indulge in a brisk Saturday morning jog while the kids exhausted themselves on the playground. Magnificent oaks with their outstretched branches separated the tiers, providing ample shade for all her visitors. Its natural beauty stimulates the imagination. Easy to lose yourself to the idea of a simpler life, one without car problems or taxes or moving up in the corporate world. The rich fragrance of healthy vegetation fills your lungs and suddenly you feel closer to God.

Also constructed on the upper level is a famous science museum called Fort Discovery. It was mostly catered to elementary students, children, and families looking for wholesome entertainment. The massive cream-colored building took up one fifth of the riverwalk. Many of its attractions, such as a helicopter, a human gyroscope, and a moonwalk replica, were parked right outside, free for passing pedestrians to observe.

Well…this was where Fort Discovery used to be. Due to a lack of funding and a drop in her attendance rate, the museum closed a couple of years back. The building itself remains but it’s completely empty. Its outdoor attractions are gone. Feels like I’ve come back to a childhood home to find all my toys sold or repossessed. A bit disheartening.

The upper level was also home to flags and monuments of the foreign nations that had a hand in shaping Augusta since its founding in 1735. It had plaques dedicated to the Creek, Yuchi, and Shawnee tribes that occupied the land long before the British. There was an Episcopal church with a small cemetery in the back. A towering Celtic cross keeps watch over this graveyard. Furthermore, erected stones with engraved messages educated visitors about historic battles and the city’s role in the Civil War.

Yes…this is why it used to give me the creeps.

The riverwalk was haunted by the souls of the dead, a river of animosity, a park of resentment. As a child, my mother would bring me here in a failed attempt to get me play with the other kids. And while she’d eventually wander off to make conversation with some single father, I’d spend hours slumped on the steps, curled in the fetal position. I’d pour out my eyes, crying on the most beautiful of days. Parents would pass by and wonder what’s wrong. They had no idea. The tears seemed unprovoked. They’d watch as I alternate between covering my ears and eyes as if I was hiding in the midst of a massacre. Needless to say, they kept their children away from me.

Who could I talk to? Who would believe me if I told them what I saw?

I’d hear the bellows of the dead, the racist slurs of lynch mobs and desperate pleas of mercy that fell on deaf ears. I’d hear the gargling sounds of men and women choking to death as they hung from strained ropes. The crackle of old rifles and blasting cannons echoed across the park and even the haunted oaks themselves whispered to me. I always assumed the whispers came from the souls of Native Americans speaking in tribal tongues. As the branches swayed in the wind with scraping leaves, the trees would whisper, “Look! Look! Look at the boy!”

The hollow whispers would get louder and louder as if the trees themselves were expanding to lean closer until abject horror compelled me to open my eyes.

What I saw was far worse than the horrid sounds. I saw an endless procession of dead scabby Confederate soldiers, the “Clinched Rifles,” trudging four men abreast on the promenade skirting the river. I’d cringe with nausea as I saw rotting flesh drop like globs of wet clay from the men’s disgruntled faces. Sometimes whole limbs would detach like brittle twigs left littering the walkway. I was the only one who could see it. People thought I was “retarded” the way I stepped over rotting forearms and toes that curled like maggots.

Worst of all, the soldiers would moan and groan and every once in a while, I’d get locked in a trance, honing in on one of them like a jack-in-a-box about to pop. My intense focus would zero in on a single soldier. And every time I honed in on that single soul, the Confederate soldier would lash like a snapping turtle and snarl at me with the vile, twisted grimace of a monster that wanted to eat the flesh from my face.

Slaves and Native Americans hung on the oaks like ornaments. Behind the Episcopal Church, there was always an orange glow of controlled fire like the burner from a stove that served as a perimeter around the entire cemetery. The Celtic cross itself blazed bright green, ever so often, erupting like a geyser. Within its emerald flames, I’d see a mask of agony lighting up the night sky. It was the death mask of a martyr burning at the stake.

Perhaps the only tolerable presence to a precocious child, such as I, were the soft orange wisps that floated about like tiny clouds of glowing smoke. I’d hear giggles in these dull orbs of light. The words they spoke were in a language I couldn’t understand but somehow I found them benevolent. As if they understood me. And isn’t that what all children want? To be understood?

It’s closing in on nine on a Wednesday night. As I stand atop the stairway overlooking the park that once terrified me to no ends, I can’t help but smirk. There’s no one here but me. I still see the hanging corpse with pain stretched across their convulsing cheeks. I still hear the gunshots, the cannons, and the curious whispers weaving between the majestic oaks. The parade of dejected Confederate soldiers still proceeds the promenade and the golden wisps still hover about, searching for some other petulant child to comfort. But it’s different from before. I’m not alone anymore. Standing by my side is a vicious Valkyrie ready to unleash hell on anyone who wants it.

Maggie…as always she’s wearing her black schoolgirl uniform, the pleated skirt, with her Bettie Paige bangs. Scorn and spite resides in her eyes as she takes in the scene. I can’t tell what she’s thinking, only that I find her silent interest in the riverwalk somewhat endearing. She’s staring at a lynched body. I can’t tell if she’s fascinated or vexed.

An icy breeze hits and sends shivers down my spine. Between this and getting laid out in grass the night before, I dread the thought of contracting a cold by the time I get home. The riverwalk is a perspective trip down memory lane but that’s not why I’ve come.

Before I left the hospital, I gave Miranda a call to enlist her help. She should be calling me back any minute now so I better get ready. With my laptop in my bag, a sling slung over my shoulders, I progress towards the Fort Discovery that once was. “For Sale” signs are plastered all over the walls like flyers for an upcoming concert.

The entrance of Fort Discovery is shaped like a wide crescent. There’s a section of the wall near the right hand corner with a giant tile map of Richmond, Burke, and Evan County. It’s the tri-county area that makes up the greater Augusta area. A layer of pollen covers the tiles but it’s still legible. It details all the roads, the waterways, and major establishments built before 2005.

Fort Discovery didn’t have any power but fortunately this map was directly under one of the seventy-five Victorian style streetlamps that illuminated the walkway.

Crouching beneath the light, I set down my bag and take out my laptop. I hear footsteps of someone approaching but I don’t turn to look. If I reacted to every strange moan, toppled trash can, and broken tree branch, I’d never get any work done. The spirits want to toy with me but I’m not a child anymore.

“Hey Maggie, you want to see some magic?”

“Solving your stupid little case isn’t magic!” She snaps as if we’ve been arguing about it for hours.

She glides and hovers like a balloon as the laptop powers on. I’m getting anxious. I’m getting excited. The sighting of KeNedra’s ghost alone doesn’t solve this case. It only points me in the right direction. Next is the tricky part. How do I set my trap?

I test out a marker on the wall. It collects pollen that I have to pinch off sporadically, but it writes well. And right on cue the phone rings. I answer immediately and put it on speaker before cranking the volume.

“What do you got?” I say, breathing warm air over my hands.

“Whelp!” she begins. “Hacking into the Halo-Star server wasn’t fun. Nor was tracking their GPS on a grid system I’m not familiar with. Let’s see here. The ambulance assigned to Jason Hicks and Calvin Chalmers is unit FR-119. They’ve had the same unit for the past two years. No accident reports. No traffic citations. No complaints and, to date, they’ve never had anyone die on their watch. So kudos there.”

“Mm-hmm. And their route? Tell me about their route, missy. Come on.” I urge, closing my eyes tight with anticipation.

“It’s weird, booboo. They work Monday through Friday, but every day it’s a different location. A different zone. For instance, every Monday they patrol the streets of Martinez around Wrightsboro Road northeast of Fort Gordon from 1pm-9pm. Tuesday, they’re further north around Evans from 12pm-8pm. Wednesday, they dip down closer to Hephzibah along the Burke County lines from 2pm-10pm. Thursday, they’re back up near the Masters golf course from 6pm-2am and on Fridays, they’re closer to the downtown area around Laney Walker Blvd. from 3am-11am.”

As she spells it out, I scribble corresponding dots on the tile map. Under the dots, I label the day of the week in which the ambulance should be present.

“Is this normal?” I ask. “Like, do they change it up every week? How long has this been their schedule?”

“Since April of 2014, more or less. That’s not including the holidays or the six-week training period. There’s an annual conference they have to attend in March. And I see some irregularities during the summer months. But I’m guessin’ that’s due to the spike in injuries. Overall, I’d say it’s consistent.” She says.

After taking a step back and examining the map, my eyes bounce to each of the five dots. Every day, a different location. Where’s the pattern? I don’t see it. Maybe there is no pattern. Wouldn’t it be easier for the paramedics to just stick to one location every day of the week? You’d think it’d be easier to learn the back alleys and side streets for a quicker ETA.

Anyways…Let’s focus on Wednesday. According to Miranda, Wednesday night was when Jason and Calvin patrolled the streets of south Augusta near Hephzibah and Burke County. The Waynesboro Plantation, KeNedra’s school, and her home are all in this general vicinity. It’s where she was abducted. But still, she was abducted on a Tuesday afternoon. Not Wednesday. I’m cringing as I rack my brain. Something’s not making sense.

“Say something, Cloud…” Miranda says, getting bored with the silence.

I hate talking out loud when I’m not sure, but I suppose I owe Miranda the courtesy. I pull up the case files on my laptop and narrate my conundrum.

“According to Agent Dixon’s case file, KeNedra was abducted in broad daylight on a Tuesday. Understand? She was abducted on a Tuesday afternoon and found by Jason and Calvin’s ambulance on a Friday morning when they were supposed to be twenty minutes away in downtown Augusta. Damn! How could I’ve been so stupid! We should’ve focused on this from the start! Had we asked the paramedics about being so far out of their patrol zone we could’ve snagged our man from the get-go with no riots, no protests, and no injured Jacories facing a ten year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon!”

“Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. That’s not like you, Cloud. You’ve got a lot going on.”

“That’s no excuse, Miranda. More importantly, there’s the chloroform. It should’ve been my first indication to look into someone from the medical field. You can’t just buy that shit at your local gas station. If she was abducted on a Tuesday but woke up to witness Tiquasia’s murder on a Thursday night, then that means she was out cold for well over twenty-four hours. It was staring me right in the face!”

“Cloud! What are you talking about?”

“Chloroform’s not like in the movies. You don’t get knocked out and wake up days later as if you’ve been sleeping in a peaceful bliss. Chloroform generally keeps you under for about ten to fifteen minutes depending on various factors like the individual’s weight or the solution strength. I’m betting she was kept unconscious from some other means, like a sedative. Another indication that our killer’s a medical practitioner.”

“Alright, then let’s get back on track. Where do we go from here?” she coaches.

“Okay…Let’s look at the facts. KeNedra Thompson was abducted on a Tuesday afternoon. They found her Friday morning. I know our perp has to either be Jason Hicks or Calvin Chalmers. Of that I have no doubt. KeNedra’s ghost is still in that ambulance. I’m betting that’s where I’ll find her silver barrette.”

“What about forensics?” Miranda asks. “Didn’t you say they had the ambulance dusted for clues?”

“I never said it was dusted for clues, only that it was impounded and searched. Why would it be dusted for prints? If the barrette fell between the cracks of a cabinet or pinned between the wheels of a gurney, I’m sure it’s easy to overlook. Either way, I know what I saw. The main question for me is if they’re both in on it? Or is it just one of the paramedics? And if it’s just one, how could the other not know?”

Then it hits me, an epiphany that brings about a cheesy inappropriate smile.

“You know, there might be something to this talking out loud crap. Alright, Miranda! Do this. The ambulances all have GPSs recording their movements, right? Only for the past three weeks, I need to know if that ambulance made any frequent stops or visits. Ignore the typical points of interests like gas stations, medical centers, schools or vacant lots. Focus on a residence or maybe a gym or some recreational building. Like the movies, a bar, or a strip club.”

“Ah! I gotcha.” Miranda says, enthused.

I stand up and clap my hands. My heart is kicking up a beat. I told Miranda that I saw a ghost in the back of the ambulance, but honestly, I can’t put all my chips on that. I’m not even sure if it was really KeNedra. I’m always seeing apparitions and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish reality from my own imagination. The chloroform results from the lab would’ve pointed me in the right direction eventually, but by then I would’ve been knee deep another case. It’s just pure luck that I have this breakthrough and I don’t intend on taking it for granted.

“Alright, Cloud. I got something for you.”

“Let’s hear it!”

“I’ve singled out two addresses. One is 1256 Beaver Drive, home to a Ms. Anita Russell. She’s a single mother to three, working as hairdresser at the mall. Has record for shoplifting when she was twenty-one. She was caught stealing baby products. They sentenced her to probation and community service. She was trying to provide for her children.” Miranda says with sympathy.

“Why would she need a paramedic?” I ask, frustrated that this isn’t painting the picture I hoped for.

“They didn’t put a reason their logbooks. I’m guessing their supervisor doesn’t give a damn as long as it’s no trouble. The payroll comes from the corporate offices based in Connecticut. So ain’t no skin off the manager’s wallet.”

I’m looking at Beaver Drive on the wall map. It’s within walking distance of Augusta mall and the ambulance is in the general vicinity of where it’s supposed to be for Mondays. If I had to take a wild guess, Anita Russell must know Jason or Calvin on a personal level and they’re just doing her a favor by providing free medical care to the children.

“The second location?” I ask.

“This second spot, I found a little funny because the ambulance stops by this house almost every day, sometimes more than once. It’s parked at the house for maybe two to five minutes tops. Then it leaves. It’s at 1896 Drew Street off of Windsor Spring Road in South Augusta. The deed is registered to a Nicole Parks. She’s a teacher’s assistant at Town and Country Elementary.”

Relief washes over as another inappropriate smirk curls from my lips. I put a star by the location on the map. “Quick question. How old is Nicole Parks?”

“Sixty-seven. But she has a daughter staying with her who goes to college. A 22-year-old Kyrah Parks.”

“And last Tuesday, did our happy little ambulance stop by the Parks residence?”

“Yep. From approximately 1:17pm to 1:19pm,” Miranda answers.

“Hmmm. That’s pretty brief for a quickie, right?”

Miranda starts laughing. “Boy, what chu talking about?”

“I’m talking about how we just solved this thing and now we have evidence. Armed with this knowledge, I know exactly what I’m going to say to find out which of these bastards is the Slave Quarter Killer. From the beginning, I suspected that this was the work of just one man. The killings are too heinous, too grisly, too messy. No two individuals on earth can keep a secret this fucked up, unless they’re bound by matrimony.”

“What!? Tell me, Cloud. Tell me everything!” Miranda says on the edge of her seat.

“Yes! Do tell,” Maggie screeches as she continues to levitate with her arms crossed.

“Ha! Now don’t tell me you haven’t figured it out yet. You said it yourself, Miranda. It’s not like these guys are going to get in trouble for lolly-gagging so long as they do their jobs. Of course, wouldn’t it be a shame if there was an actual emergency and one of these guys got caught with their pants down. Literally.”

“Wait. Don’t tell me…” Miranda gasps.

“That’s right. While one guy was indulging in some afternoon delight, the other was abducting innocent majorettes for his own sadistic pleasure. Even if one of them finished having his way with Kyrah Parks, they’d still have to wait for the other to come back with the ambulance and pick him up. I mean, what’s he gonna do? Complain to his superiors that the other guy was taking too long? No way. The Slave Quarter Killer took advantage of this and exercised due patience in stalking his victims, confident that his unsuspecting partner is basically stranded on an island with no way to find out about his macabre activities.”

“Wait a sec, Cloud. You got me buggin. So far all we have is conjecture and circumstance. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re trying to bend the facts to conform to your theory when it should be the other way around.”

I stand proud with my hand on my hips. “Oh, Miranda. I have more than conjecture and circumstance. All the pieces are in place and I have the full picture. Shall I paint it for you? It’s the least I can do.”

Miranda’s laughing on her end as she turns off the TV in the background. I look up at Maggie. She’s squinting with vindictive envy but I know she’s happy for me. Momma said I shouldn’t count the chicken before it hatches, but after such a day where I’ve been tag-teamed, disputed, and defeated in so many ways…it feels good to have this moment.

“Alright, detective. Hit me.”

“Let’s start from the beginning. Brace yourself. For you are about to hear a dark horrible tale, the likes of which I’ve never seen as I peer into the waters of past and present. On Tuesday afternoon our intrepid KeNedra Thompson just finished her majorette practice at Cedar Creek High School. Her mother, Amarah, said she usually walks home with her best friends Jacqui and Meghan who are also on the majorette team. For some reason they stayed behind and let KeNedra walk alone that day and that’s when she was abducted.”

“With what we just learned, two factors further cement the idea that it was a paramedic who abducted her. The first was what Meghan told me when Griffin and I questioned the team. We asked if they noticed anything strange when practice lets out and she said that they felt safe because there was always a cop car parked nearby. When I turned to the gas station she referenced, I saw a cop car, but I also saw a Halo-Star ambulance.”

“This isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s practical for an ambulance to be parked in a public setting for hours at a time. That way they’re in position to get to the neighboring subdivisions quicker than being anchored at a medical center miles away. That being said, I predict the Slave Quarter Killer used this method to stalk and select victims from not just the Cedar Creek majorette team, but the other teams as well. Sitting in the same place for hours at a time with nothing but young women shaking their asses in full view…well, I don’t want to go there but you get where I’m going.”

“KeNedra was abducted on her way home. I suspect she was just minding her own business when Jason or Calvin approached with the chloroform. And it makes sense. They’re paramedics. Even if the killer was caught red-handed carrying an unconscious woman, no one would raise any flags if she was immediately brought to the back of an ambulance. They’d probably thank him for his service.”

“That was on Tuesday. According to KeNedra’s statement with that bumbling detective, she didn’t wake up until Thursday night. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to chloroform but I do know a dosage lasting longer than an hour is likely to kill her. So our suspect probably used a sedative to keep her under. Of course, he didn’t count on KeNedra waking up so soon.”

“According to KeNedra, she wakes up to the sounds of Tiquasia screaming. Witnessing the rape and murder of a fellow majorette prompts KeNedra to take action. She liberates herself from chains, costing her two good wrists, and instead of running down Old Waynesboro Road, she takes off through the woods. According to Leanne, this was smart move. She said something about how it prevents the killer from having easy access to chasing the prey down.”

“Yep. I guess.” Miranda utters.

“With the killer being Jason or Calvin, it also makes sense that Tiquasia was manhandled so violently. You should have seen it. It was like watching a grizzly bear tear deer apart. Calvin and Jason are both natural born athletes and their profession requires them to move bodies around on a daily basis. Tiquasia didn’t stand a chance. KeNedra’s picked up half a mile away from the plantation on Peach Orchard Road. This is at 3:45 Friday morning.”

“Yup! Corresponds with their GPS tracker,” Miranda confirms.

“An hour later KeNedra’s in police custody. She’s trying to explain what happened but she has a lot of questions herself. She doesn’t know how she got to the slave quarters, who abducted her, or how long she’s been missing. I’m replaying the video now. Can you hear it?”

“Yeah, I hear it.” Miranda confirms.

The video plays from the interrogation room where KeNedra is speaking with the first lead detective assigned to the case, David Hornsby. KeNedra starts asking about Tiquasia, who she is, what’s her name. Hornsby cuts her off.

“KeNedra, right now. I need to ask about the man. That bad man. Did you recognize him? Have you seen him before?” the detective asked.

I pause the video and explain, “That’s when KeNedra’s face goes blank. She stands in the corner of the room with her back against the wall and stares at the detective as if her soul just fled. It’s a sad sight but I understand. Thinking about that “bad man” forces her to acknowledge that the killer still exists. He’s out there. And more importantly, here’s the kicker, I suspect it was at this moment that she probably recognized the killer when Jason and Calvin picked her up.”

Miranda gasps. “Is that why she killed herself?”

“I honestly don’t know, Miranda. I can think of a more painless way to go. Something tells me there’s more to it than that. I’m sure I’ll get answers when I catch the bad man.”

“So is it Jason or Calvin?” Miranda asks.

“I’m looking at their MeBook profiles now,” I say, squatting in front of the lit laptop screen.

“I’m thinking back to when I first questioned the two. Last night, the police chief held a press release damn-near announcing to the whole world that Jacory Godchaux was our killer. Jason or Calvin must have felt relieved. I’m sure they didn’t expect to see me showing up the way I did. When people are relieved they let their guard down. What’s there to be afraid of, right? And if that’s the case, then Jason’s my man. You should’ve seen the lip this dude was giving me.”

“Calvin was the most defensive, the more cautious of the two. I remember him saying how he didn’t want to administer medical treatment because KeNedra was already screaming about rape and sexual abuse. He was shrewd to back off. Kind of reminds me of myself to tell ya the truth. If I was in his position, I’d probably be thinking the same, considering the mob mentality of our culture these days.”

“So it’s Jason!” Miranda exclaims.

I squint my eyes. “Was it you, Jason? Are you the dirtbag who followed me out to the slave quarters last night? Come to think of it, I did mumble where I was planning to go before I left the two. So they knew I’d be out there. What was it that Mr. Wayne’s ghost told me? The killer drove a vehicle with lights. Ha! I assumed it was a squad car. I was so convinced it was a cop. So stupid.”

I rise to a stand and ball my fists.

“But still…it irks me to think Jason could inflict so much damage. You’d think with a mouth like his, he would’ve mocked me or called me a bitch or something. But my attacker was silent. Nobody can sneak up on me when I’m doing my thing but this asshole did. Bringing me back to Calvin. I remember the information I pulled before I met him. Apparently Calvin had some anger issues as a kid. His parents divorced and he was raised mostly by his older sister. I do think it’s odd that he was raised by his older sister, yet he’s living with his mother now. He’s a good-looking guy with a whole bunch of likes for almost all of his pictures but I didn’t see any indication of a girlfriend or children. Just his sister’s kids.”

“Sounds like a playa,” Miranda says.

“Herculean lover, I’m sure. The womanizing douche bags. And another thing! Miranda, I swear. In that fight, I was dishing out as good as I got. Unlike myself, both Calvin and Jason played sports in high school so that explains their higher tolerance for pain. Seriously though, I don’t remember a single grunt. And they had the gall to throw me out of a window and press a boot to my face.”

It gets me mad just thinking about it. I’m over here talking to a phone and an unfriendly ghost while Jason and Calvin are out there thinking they’re off the hook. I have all the confirmation I need.

“I think it’s time we put an end to all this.” I declare.

“Finally!” Maggie shouts before dropping in a superhero landing to stand by my side.

“So what?” Miranda asks. “You’re just going to go shoot a confession out them? Without hard evidence…”

“I got hard evidence, Miranda. You’re going to e-mail their patrol routes and I’ll…”

“Um…No I’m not. I got this information without a warrant. I ain’t about to go to jail over this. Be smart, Cloud. Don’t let that ass whooping cloud your senses!”

She’s mocking me but she’s right. Calvin or Jason. One of you is my killer. Fine, I’ll use guile. The poor fools. When I get finished messin’ with their minds they’re gonna wish I went ahead and fuckin’ shot em.

“Alright Miranda. I hear you. Thanks for all your…”

“No! No! Don’t do that, Cloud! Don’t cut me out just cause I’m telling you what you don’t want to hear.”

“I was just gonna tell you thanks and I need one more thing. Geez.”

“Hahaha! All right. What, boy?”

“I need the frequency so I can dispatch the ambulance from my phone as a PDA.”

“What are you gonna to do?” She asks.

“I’m going to grab them by the scruff of the neck and rub their faces in the mess they made. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Fifteen minutes later, I’m blasting fight music as my rental speeds down Mike Padgett Highway, heading south towards Hephzibah. Miranda sends me the frequency to patch into Calvin and Jason’s ambulance along with a text begging me to be careful. Using a mobile app, I type in the frequency and patch in but there’s a problem. I need to say something but I don’t know anything about ambulance protocols or what someone would usually say to get them to report to a scene. Turning down the music, a heavy pressure swells in the pit of gut as I take the phone and bring it up to my lips. It’s go time.

“Halo-Star FR-119, this is dispatch. Respond.” I say with a twitch in my cheeks.

There’s nothing but white noise, static.

“Halo-Star 119, respond! This is a 10-17!” I say more aggressively.

“HS 119, what’s your emergency?” Calvin asks.

I’m breathing hard. Nodding to myself.

“I need a RA unit out at the plantation on Old Waynesboro Road. Witnesses report seeing an injured girl, mid-teens, wandering down the side of the road. Backups on the way. Be advised, you may be the first responders.” I say as I cringe at my own performance.

There’s an awkward moment of silence. The white noise appears to get louder. Calvin and Jason were exchanging glances. I’m sure it must have sounded like it was my first day on the job.

“10-4. ETA less than three minutes out,” Calvin responds.

That’s perfect. I’ll be there in the next minute or so and I’ll want to hit em while my blood’s still pumping. Just then my phone receives a call and it lights up the interior. I’m on edge. It’s dark as hell out here and the brightness scares the bejesus out of me.

Hang on…that’s not my phone. My phone is still using the dispatch app. I reach into the backseat and pull at a white cardigan. It’s covering another smartphone belonging to none other than Leanne Donaldson. Of course…Apparently she’s been calling all night since she forgot to get it when I snatched the rental keys from her.

I’m not gonna answer it. I’ve played it their way. They had their chance. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and I’ve seen the way they handled Jacory. There’s no way to handle it but my way. This is for KeNedra. This is for all of the majorettes. This is for me. I admit it. Till the day I die, revenge will always be my guilty pleasure. Always.

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