And on the eighth day of junior year, a swarm of grief counselors descended upon Rocky Creek High School. Not that it was going to do any good. What we needed was answers. An explanation.
Two hundred and thirty four seniors don’t just die.
But that’s exactly what happened. No one can explain what prompted the entire senior class – made up of cliques and loners, teammates and enemies – to head down to Lawson’s Quarry together two days before school started. In the middle of the night. Doctors keep suggesting that there was some sort of gas leak, and that the kids had been throwing a party.
But no one who remembers high school would believe that. An entire class showing up to the same party? No one excluded? Exclusion was one of the things teenagers do best. There was no evidence of kegs, cups, or anything remotely dangerous.
Tish and Grey were waiting for me under the bleachers when I approached, tucked into my hoodie. Ever since That Night – which was how everyone in town referred to it – the sky had been overcast and the temperature plummeted. We were constantly on the brink of snow, but it never fell.
Tish’s iron eyes gleamed a reflection of her iPhone, but she never even looked up. Grey raised his hand to wave and then hesitated. They were a motley pair – Tish was leather jacket attitude, and Grey was tall, birdlike, and bathed in awkward.
“Did you hear the latest, Bri?” he asked, flipping over a file we’ve read through two dozen times. Grey’s dad was the Sheriff – although in a police department that only employed two officers full time, that wasn’t saying much – and he’d swiped a copy of the file days ago. It was only the notes on the initial investigation – thankfully without any of the photos from the scene. Grey was too squeamish to steal a copy of those.
I nodded. “Faulty vaccines? My mom tried to make it sound plausible over breakfast.” My mom was the pediatrician for Rocky Creek. It was obvious she didn’t even believe the vaccine excuse, but she wanted to.
“Still doesn’t explain me,” Tish said, finally looking up. “I got the same shots Aly had.” We were all grieving, but it was especially hard for Tish. Her sister had been a senior. As far as we could figure it, the only reason Tish was still here was because she’d been held back in kindergarten, forever splitting up the twins.
“Tell Brian about the school,” Grey said, nudging her.
Tish glared at him, raising a fist. Grey backed away quickly, and she turned to me. “Those FBI agents? They’re sticking around. And they’re setting up shop in the school.”
Twenty-four hours after the bodies had been found, the town was swarming with Feds. Within days, most of us realized that something wasn’t right. The adults clung to any excuse they could find, desperately seeking closure. But we wanted answers. And it wasn’t just the three of us – all over town, tempers were flaring up over That Night.
Tish had been organizing them, creating an army of out underclassmen. We shadowed the police, secretly watching those who thought they were watching us.
“You know they still haven’t buried all of them?” I added, contributing my own bit of knowledge to the group. A new cemetery had to be created to handle the overflow of two hundred bodies. “Justin and I went out last night to count all the graves. Three rows haven’t even been filled in yet. They just dug the graves and left them.”
“Do we know who’s missing?” Tish asked. Her eyes had gone flinty, and I could tell she was working up to something, but before either of us could follow up, we were interrupted.
“Miss Kinney. Mr. Abrams. Mr. Ruth.” Principal Swift called out, coming across the football field joined by a dark skinned woman in a suit. One of the FBI agents.
“We still have ten minutes before school starts,” Grey whispered under his breath. His skin was already flushing red, and any second he’d erupt into an awkward one-sided conversation.
Tish stepped forward, sliding her phone into her back pocket. “What?” But her surly retort slid off the principal’s back.
“You three are being sent to the group discussion led by Dr. Rao,” he said, indicating the woman to his left. “She was very interested in meeting you.”
The doctor stepped forward, adjusting the dark rimmed glasses she was wearing. It was a trick of the light, or really great contacts, but her eyes were a brilliant violet. “I’m sure our conversation will be most illuminating.” She cocked her head to one side, and her eyes honed in on Tish’s. “Especially if want to know what really happened to your sister.”