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A violent crime spree in Somerset and Cambridge turns up suspects who have been dead and buried for a long time. Original.
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Christopher Golden is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, Of Saints and Shadows, and the Body of Evidence thriller series. He has cowritten a number of novels and comic books set in the worlds of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. There are more than eight million copies of his books in print. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Finals were still a few weeks away, but Jenna didn't think it was too soon to start completely freaking out. It was just after three o'clock, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and she was back at Somerset, in her room at Sparrow Hall. Though it was cold outside, she was pretty sure she could have come up with something better to do than study. She was in the middle of reading Comanche Moon, by Larry McMurtry, and had just discovered a wonderfully eccentric series of mystery novels by Don Winslow. She had lots of fun, recreational reading she could have been doing.
With a deep sigh, Jenna tore her gaze away from the cold blue sky and the swaying, skeletal branches of the leafless trees outside the window. One of her guilty pleasures -- pre-self-discovery Madonna -- grooved quietly on the CD player. It wasn't something she played loud. On the other hand, Amie-down-the-hall seemed content to blast Backstreet Boys, so Jenna didn't know why she bothered being ashamed.
She read several more pages in her biology text, finishing up a chapter she'd read twice earlier in the semester. Then she picked up her notebook and flipped to the pages from the corresponding class discussion. With relief, she realized that she'd taken better notes than she'd remembered. If she studied those, she thought she might not have to go back to the textbook after all.
"Very cool," she said softly, nodding.
With that small triumph, though she knew biology really required more time, she decided to move on to her European history notes. She wanted to familiarize herself with the big picture, as far as what they'd covered in class, so she could draw parallels between various events for the essay part of the final.
Jenna had never been quite so conscientious about such things, but she'd missed a number of classes this semester and didn't want to suffer for it.
She'd been leaning against a stack of pillows that were bunched up against her bed -- she had the lower bunk, while Yoshiko had the top -- but now she got up and stretched.
Just a little break, she told herself. Studying requires chocolate.
Oreos weren't exactly what she wanted, but they'd do. She went over to the cabinet where she and Yoshiko kept what little food they had in the room. Just as she reached in for the half-empty bag of cookies, there was a knock on the door.
Jenna glanced questioningly at the door, then back at the Oreos.
"Don't go away," she told the cookies.
She opened the door to find Hunter LaChance standing in the hallway, looking rumpled and tired. He hadn't really wanted to spend Thanksgiving weekend with his mother in Louisiana, but had felt obligated to go. Hunter's sister, Melody, who had been Jenna's best friend, had been murdered earlier in the semester, and his father had died years before. Hunter was all his mother had left.
"Hey!" Jenna said, genuinely happy to see him. And not just because it meant a break from studying.
With a grin, she gave Hunter a squeeze, and then let him into the room.
"Yoshiko's at the library," she told him. "But she'll be back soon. How was your flight?"
"It was okay," Hunter replied noncommittally. "Did you-all have a nice Thanksgiving?"
"Yeah," Jenna agreed. "My mom made her patented cinnamon squash, and your girlfriend ate cranberry sauce for the first time."
Hunter smiled. "They don't have cranberry sauce in Hawaii?"
"I don't know. Maybe she just wasn't brave enough to try it until she came to Cranberry Central. She also had pumpkin pie, which might have been another first."
"Sounds like quite a feast," Hunter said.
Suddenly, his smile seemed forced. There was a sadness in his voice that Jenna had been expecting, but dreading. She reached out and took his hand in hers.
"It was hard, huh?"
He looked up at her and nodded. "To quote you, it pretty much sucked."
"You want to talk about it?"
Hunter went and sat on her bed, and Jenna pulled out her desk chair to sit opposite him. He talked for a while about his mother, whom he loved when she wasn't drinking. There were other relatives, but they were distant -- what Melody had once called "holiday relatives." So Hunter had seen most of them on Thanksgiving, and spent the day responding to well-meaning but painful questions about Melody's murder.
"It was awful," he said softly. "But you know, it was worse when they left. With just my mother and me there, it was like the place was haunted. I have so many great memories, the best memories, of that house, but Melody's in every one. I wish my mother would sell it."
"Is she doing any better with it?" Jenna asked, her heart aching for her friend.
Hunter glanced away and swallowed. "She's more haunted than the house," he said quietly.
Jenna hugged him tightly. Hunter returned the embrace.
"I'm so glad to be back," he said, moving back from her slightly. "The weirdest thing is, this is where she died, but..." His words trailed off. He looked thoughtful a moment, then started again. "When I was home, everything seemed to remind me that she was dead, how much I miss her. But when I'm back here, everything -- you and Yoshiko and Somerset itself -- makes me feel like she's still around."
Jenna felt tears welling up and fought them off, wiping her eyes. "I know what you mean," she said. "I miss her so much. Maybe that's why I keep you around." Hunter looked up at her, shocked. But then Jenna grinned, and they both chuckled softly.
"Thanks," he said.
"Don't mention it." She hugged him again.
There came the sound of a key in the lock, and then Yoshiko opened the door to find the two of them sitting on the edge of the bed, holding each other close. "Hello?" she said, surprised. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything?"
"Nope," Jenna replied, leaving her arm around Hunter. "Just making time with your man."
"Hi, sweetheart," Hunter said, a bit sheepishly. He stood up and went to give Yoshiko a hug. "We were just talking about Melody. Sharing."
With one eyebrow raised, Yoshiko glared at him. "Well, just don't share too much, mister."
Hunter smiled. "No. That I save all for you."
"Can I just say eeeew and get out of here before this gets even more disgusting?" Jenna asked.
Yoshiko and Hunter shared a long kiss and stared into each other's eyes for a few moments, touching. Jenna stood and picked her books up off the floor.
"So!" Yoshiko said, cutting short her reunion interlude with her boyfriend. "Plans tonight?"
"I'm going out with Damon. Redbone's in Lafford Square. You guys are welcome to come along," Jenna offered.
The couple exchanged a glance, and Yoshiko nodded. "We're there."
Redbone's was great. Jenna had barbecued ribs and homemade root beer in a frosted mug. It wasn't the kind of place she'd usually go on a date -- ribs were too sloppy to eat in front of someone she wanted to impress -- but Damon was different. They were friends first. The date thing was something else entirely.
Which is good, she thought, watching him dig into his side of red beans and rice, and using what must have been her fiftieth napkin to wipe barbecue sauce off her mouth. 'Cause sloppy doesn't even begin to describe it.
Hunter and Yoshiko were engaged in a conversation all their own. Not that they hadn't participated in the whole group thing, but in the quiet moments, they were getting reacquainted. They'd been apart for four whole days, which, observing their behavior, Jenna realized, had seemed like forever to them. But right about now, she wasn't thinking much about them. Hunter and Yoshiko seemed to be doing just fine on their own. Jenna's focus was elsewhere.
"Okay, back up," she told Damon. "You're saying Olivia...our Olivia, slept with Brick?"
Damon grinned, obviously enjoying her astonishment. "Oh, yeah. And it wasn't any romantic interlude either. They had an SAAL party last weekend, and Brick was hitting on her something fierce, and Olivia got all crazy."
Jenna was a little dubious about that. Olivia Adams getting "all crazy" didn't seem very likely to her. She was a friend, but just barely. SAAL was the Somerset African-American League, and they could be pretty political. Jenna didn't usually even think about someone's race, and hadn't with Olivia, either. But as soon as Olivia learned that Jenna and Damon were interested in each other, Olivia's attitude toward Jenna had changed considerably. Apparently, she didn't think people should date outside their race.
Which Jenna thought was pretty stupid.
"I'll have to give her a wicked hard time about that," Jenna said, enjoying the gossip. "I mean, I know Anthony's probably a dog, too, but at least he's quiet about it."
"What isn't he quiet about?" Damon asked.
Anthony and Brick were his two best friends on campus, and Jenna liked them both. Brick was a wiseguy, though sweet. He was heavily into the Somerset theater scene, and seemed to have earned a reputation as kind of a dog. Ant, on the other hand, was on the football team, and was about as quiet and polite as guys ever came.
But to Jenna's mind, neither one of them held a candle to Damon Harris. This was round two in their flirtation with dating. The first one had come about mainly out of mutual attraction, and hadn't really gone anywhere. Then they'd become friends, and that led to another try at the romance thing.
Damon was from suburban New Jersey. He was a honey, no doubt, dark and handsome and very confident, which Jenna liked. But beyond that, he was smart and funny and relaxed around women in a way that most men just couldn't manage.
For a long time, she'd had a crush on a local cop named Danny Mariano. Still did. But until recently, she'd let that crush get in the way of her really paying attention to Damon. She was glad she'd finally been able to see past that, which consisted mainly of realizing that she and Danny were an impossible fantasy.
Damon, on the other hand, was very possible. As for fantasy...
Jenna blushed just looking at him.
"What?" he asked, making a face.
"Nothing," she replied, flustered by her train of thought. "I just...I can't believe Olivia, huh? God. What did you say to Brick?"
He looked at her like she was crazy. "What do you think I said? 'Well done, my friend.'"
Mouth open, Jenna stared at him. Then she started to laugh. "You really are all pigs, aren't you?"
Damon looked dubious. "This is news?"
Jenna just shook her head and went back to eating her ribs. "Sometimes I don't know about you, Mr. Harris. If I'm going to have a man in my life, I don't want him to be just one of the guys."
"Is that what I am?"
At first, Jenna pretended to ignore him. Then she gave him an evil grin. "Maybe," she said. "But I guess I'll find out as we go along."
She was just looking at him, but this time, he didn't say anything. Instead, Damon's eyes stayed with hers, searching. His smile began to recede as he grew serious. Then he leaned in, slowly, reaching out to slip his left hand around the nape of her neck and draw Jenna close to kiss her.
Jenna's heart beat faster, that indefinable energy between them almost crackling. Her smile became soft. Then she froze.
"Oh, wait -- " There was barbecue sauce smeared on her mouth from the ribs.
"Sorry to break the moment, but this is so gross." She reached for a napkin.
Chuckling softly, Damon moved in and kissed her anyway. Jenna went to stop him, but then she didn't want to. The humor died away from it, and the kiss went on.
It tasted of barbecue sauce.
Monday was a gray day, sky heavy with the threat of rain all morning. After her Spanish class let out, Jenna went down to her father's apartment for lunch. Frank Logan lived on the first floor of an old house at the edge of campus. It had been a week since they'd last gotten together, even though he was a professor at Somerset. He was working on the second draft of a criminology book that was overdue to the publisher, and had been hiding out again.
Jenna had asked him to come to her mother's house in Natick for Thanksgiving, but her father had passed. He'd spent it with his girlfriend, Shayna Emerson, a wispy English professor whom Jenna liked very much, even though the relationship meant she didn't get to see her father as much.
"Shayna's not here?" she asked as she walked into the apartment.
"Just you and me, kid," Frank told her, smiling.
Jenna frowned. She'd expected Shayna, and her father seemed anxious about something. He said nothing, though, and went right to the kitchen, where he set about making chicken-salad sandwiches with onions and celery while he asked Jenna about Thanksgiving at home, how her mother was doing, and if she was getting ready for finals.
He talked a lot. Much more, in fact, than she was used to from him.
"Dad?" she said, when he brought their plates to the table.
"Do you want pickles?" Frank asked, and turned back to open the refrigerator, rooting around for them before she even answered the question.
"I'm not really in a pickle mood," she replied. "What's wrong?"
He looked at her sheepishly, and then closed the refrigerator. With a little decisive nod, he came to sit across from her and met her gaze. Then he smiled a little nervously.
"I wanted to tell you first," he said.
"Tell me what?" she asked, a bit worried.
"I asked Shayna to marry me."
Jenna stared at him a moment, and then she let out a loud whoop and leaped from her chair. She practically threw herself into her father's arms and gave him a long hug.
"That is the best news!" she said. "Very cool."
"You didn't even ask if she said yes."
With a frown, Jenna punched him in the shoulder. "Of course she said yes!"
"Well, I'm glad it was obvious to you," he said. "But it would have taken some of the pressure off if you'd let me in on it."
Father and daughter hugged again, and then Jenna stood up.
"This is great," she said. "So when's the wedding?"
"Next fall," he said. "We haven't set an exact date yet."
Frank glanced away, gaze darting about the room again. Jenna noticed immediately, but couldn't imagine what could be bothering him now. Shayna was a good match for her dad, though they were opposites in so many ways; he always rumpled, she always perfectly coiffed, she so slim, and he...not quite so much.
He nodded. Took a breath. "I've signed a contract for another book with this publisher. With that, and the wedding coming up, and just being pretty burned out, Shayna and I are both taking a semester sabbatical."
Jenna was waiting for the axe to fall. "So? A few months without teaching. What's the problem?"
"In the south of France."
All through her International Relations class that afternoon, Jenna tried to fool herself into believing she wasn't both hurt and angry. She was genuinely ...
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