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FROM: n.case

Tuesday, 3:11 pm

more crap from our bogus leaders

Hey Dave,

Usual crap at the meeting so you didn't miss anything. District heads are giving the go-ahead on that math program. Nobody saw that coming, right? Thirty kids to a classroom, no time to work with any of them individually, Career Ladders busywork in addition to grading classwork and putting together lesson plans and progress reports, and now first thing after Christmas Break we'll also have to organize songs and dance routines and plays and crafts that'll help teach our kids math. This job was so much fun in the eighties. What the hell happened?

And this Sandra Barnes crap on top of all that. Sixth grade is already short one teacher without George getting the boot, and all for giving a female student a congratulatory pat on the back, which I WITNESSED as a harmless gesture. Yes, Judy brought it up again, and the district jackasses were dodgier than last time. You, me, Judy and Al are probably the only ones in the district that know he didn't molest her. Not sure Sandra even knows anymore with how her parents carry on. But you'd think they'd listen to me at least! What the hell, I've only been here fifteen years. What do I know? Hear George's wife is divorcing him? She actually believes the allegations! I'd say "good riddance" if she wasn't taking the house with her.

His last day today, by the way. Throwing him a farewell party tonight at Judy's place. He'd be real happy if you came. He's in awful shape. Seen how pale he is now? He'll probably never teach again (by choice, I mean -- he's had it at this point, and I don't blame him). He's pretty short with a lot of people, especially Wright and Stratton. Seems to have it in for Babs Dunnewick, the new music teacher. Caught him tossing dirty looks her way in the lounge. Was she the one that fingered him?

Just another pleasant day at Aspenvale Elementary!

Saw yet another example of what a terrific sportsman Jerry is: Wesley sprained his ankle running for second base, and Jerry was first in line to help him hobble to the nurse. Always pats the other boys on the back after a game and congratulates them for their performances. See why George liked him so much. Thought he was just a timid eighth-grader that couldn't make eye contact. He transforms when he puts on a jersey.

Stop by my room when you got a minute and tell me about your class presentations. Colton was telling me all about his at recess.

Neal



FROM: j.tanita

Tuesday, 3:30 pm

greetings from grade 8!

looong day but worth it. you've GOT to see the sea critters little Eddie Sands drew for his biology report. i'm trying to convince him to submit it to the art contest. should've seen how he beamed when i told him how good it was. i think he's my favorite student this year. he's a favorite to a lot of teachers. such a sweet kid.

i'm staying late to get some work done. feel free to stop by and say hello. otherwise John and i will see you at the party. maybe party is a bad word for such a sullen occasion. i know for fact we'll be hurting for a baseball coach as good as George. he knew how to inspire the boys. he was like a mentor to poor Jerry Jacobs. Jerry's warming up to Neal as his replacement, though, so maybe it's not a total loss.

oh it's byob, fyi. we're on a budget.

J.



FROM: n.case

Wednesday, 1:18 pm

talk to george?

Hey Dave,

Been trying to get a hold of George but he's not talking to anybody. Acted strange at the party, all things considered. Looked like he hadn't been sleeping. Hands shook badly like he's got no nerves left. Judy thinks he was just suffering overexposure to the politics of Aspenvale. Can't blame him if that's all it was. Don't think that's all it was though. Seemed upset about things other than the Barnes disaster. Wouldn't say what.

Remembered it was Hanson that fingered him, not Dunnewick. Noticed Hanson doesn't talk much to a lot of us since George left. Pathetic how this whole thing has cleaved the faculty into little cliques. Good thing for Hanson, otherwise she wouldn't have any friends here. Never liked her. Too uptight and kind of mean to Miss Wiley and Miss Dunnewick, like her contempt for a person is equal to how friendly the person is. She must loathe Dunnewick.

Lunch almost over. See you at bus duty.

Neal



FROM: k.wiley

Thursday, 12:45 pm

FW:RE: art hilarity

lol I got you beat! Check the attachment for the inspired drawing that Sean turned in. We were drawing animals, too!

I actually haven't been to her room. But I can't blame the kids. A doll-faced thirty-year-old brunette who can sing like an angel and light up any room she walks into has a certain effect on people of all ages. She's a breath of fresh air after three years working up the hall from the Wicked Witch of the West (Mrs. Wright lol)


original message from m.preston

"i haf 2 dugs, the like to ressle"

Translation: "I have two dogs. They like to wrestle."

Student: Ritchie Sawyer

Assignment: draw a picture of your pets and describe them in three complete sentences

Picture: one dog vigorously humping another

Bonus Points: I saw his mom in conference today and got to share it with her. She went beet red. xD

Had to share that before class goes to music. Kids are getting restless. Always excited to play Dunnewick's games. Wish they'd listen to me like they listen to her.

She needs to throw her food trash away in the cafeteria though. Her room smells like oysters just a bit. D:



FROM: j.tanita

Friday, 1:31 pm

trouble

Jerry Jacobs is in the office again for fighting. he sent Corbin to the nurse with a bloody nose. so unlike him. any news how it happened?

J.



FROM: j.tanita

Friday, 1:59 pm

more trouble

Corbin had a concussion too! Jerry's going to be suspended. can you talk Sinclair out of it? he's really mad at Jerry but Jerry hasn't been himself. i think he's still angry about George being fired. he was crying about it yesterday.

J.



FROM: n.case

Friday, 3:25 pm

don't feel bad

Al Sinclair is a hard rock to move, especially where fighting is concerned. Frankly I think Jerry needs time away from school. Couldn't get much out of him.

"You have a little trouble with Corbin today?"

"Yeah."

"You guys have an argument?"

"No."

"Then what was the problem?"

"I dunno."

"You telling me you beat him up for nothing?"

"No."

"Then why'd you beat him up?"

"I dunno."

Not the first time I've had this one-sided talk with him. Got the same answers last time he sent a boy to the nurse. Seemed genuinely frustrated this time, like he really didn't know why he beat Corbin so badly (you should've seen them going at it: I didn't think it was Jerry at first). Little Debbie Walters saw it happen and she was more than a little shaken up. She's known Jerry since kindergarten as the nice boy who BREAKS UP fights. Some of the faculty are a little rattled too. Alison hasn't blinked since recess. Dunnewick looks pale and squeamish. You'd think they never saw a playground fight before.

Judy was right about Jerry's complexion. He looked sick and sleep-deprived and agitated. Had a twitch like his left cheek wanted to leave without him. Something else wrong with him but I couldn't place it. Anyway a week off from school will be good for him.

He did something strange before he left with his dad. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him I'd see him at practice in a week. The moment I touched him he flinched and shuddered just a little, as if my hand was made of cold wriggly worms! He left without making eye contact. Is that bizarre or what? Did he seem squeamish in Social Studies?

Worried about him. Remember Ethan Baker and the drug trouble from two years ago? You think Jerry would mess with any of that stuff?

Neal



FROM: j.tanita

Monday, 10:15 am

FW: scary update

this sort of rumor-mongering needs to stop. we're not in high school anymore.


original message from m.preston

Babs Dunnewick let it slip that George Keller was spying on her after school a week or so before he got the boot. She actually threatened him with her lawyer if he didn't stop. I even remember catching him peeking in her door once when nobody was around. D: Cree-pee! Anybody know anything about this?



FROM: n.case

Thursday, 3:11 pm

more gossip

Younger percentage of the faculty has a habit of suddenly remembering unsettling things about George. Judy's ready to talk to Al about stopping it. Getting out of hand.

Here's what Meg sent me today:

"I don't mean to be a rumor monger. George was a great guy. But this could change our perspective on the Barnes debacle. Dunnewick says George was always watching her after school and that's gross enough. But it doesn't end there. I told Alison about it (I know, I shouldn't have, but I was kind of laughing it off) and she went WHITE. She lives up the street from Dunnewick's place and swears on her mother's soul she saw George driving around the neighborhood not long before the Barnes debacle. George's house is in North Hill fifteen miles away! What if George really was stalking Dunnewick? Would he do something crazy if he couldn't get to her, like take it out on someone more accessible?"

The idea has no logic to it. Don't know what his beef was with other faculty members, if he had any, but I know for fact he didn't hurt Sandra Barnes. Anyone can know a person for years without really knowing them. But our rooms were connected! We chatted after class every day while grading papers! Sandra only came to his class after school to wait for her parents, and he always kept her busy the whole time cleaning and organizing! Even if he wanted to hurt her, he didn't have the opportunity -- I was always right there!

Still can't reach him. Doesn't answer his phone. Talked to him lately? Should be in Seattle by now.

Neal



FROM: a.sinclair

Friday, 7:45 am

email abuse

In the future anyone who uses the email network to gossip about George Keller, the Barnes Family, or the private affairs of faculty members will answer to me. This is an elementary school, not a public forum.

Thanks,

A. Sinclair



FROM: Neal

Texting from practice. jerry like old self again. healthy complexion, friendly attitude. patched things with corbin. will send him round to drop off copies you wanted.

MON. 4:00 PM



FROM: j.tanita

Tuesday, 8:15 am

babysitting ventures

hi Dave!

i need a great big favor. Alison has late conferences on friday and i'm babysitting her kids that evening, BUT they can't have dogs because their HOA is run by nazis. John has been working late at the office all week so my poor Dilbert will be home all alone, wondering where his mommy and daddy have gone. would you be willing to stop by the house and check on him? just say hello to him, check his food and water, and help yourself to the fridge if you like. i'll be heading straight to Alison's house after school friday morning so i can give you my key then. thanks in advance!

J.



FROM: j.tanita

Wednesday, 11:45 am

trouble again

nobody's hurt thankfully, but i'm frightened now. Jerry's become unnecessarily aggressive in class. the slightest mistake in his work makes him physically violent: i had to ask him twice to calm down, and on his third outburst he actually threw his textbook across the room. i told him to go stand outside and he practically hissed at me and gave me this look like he was thinking about taking a bite out of me! he looks exhausted and malnourished again, and his skin is very pale, and he smells AWFUL. i sent him to the office and had the nurse meet him en route.

he should still be there. can you ask Neal to go talk to him? what is wrong with that boy?

J.



FROM: Neal

Boys room in 6 grad hall. get here fast. jerry dead. need help keepin kids out til police arive.

THURS. 9:22 PM



Aspenvale Post Headline

"Tragedy at Aspenvale Elementary: 1 Dead, 1 Hospitalized"

Aspenvale Elementary School closed early Thursday afternoon when Jeremy Jacobs, age 12, was found dead in the boys' bathroom from self-inflicted injuries.

Jeremy violently attacked childhood friend Deborah Walters, age 11, in an apparent drug-induced mania prior to his suicide, police said. Deborah has been confined to Halcyon Peak Sanitarium, where doctors are helping her recover from her shock.

The coroner reported several crude injection wounds on Jeremy’s body, which yielded very faint traces of an unidentified chemical similar to flunitrazepam, known colloquially as the “roofie” drug. Deborah appeared to have the same marks, police said, but in her present state could not verify whether they were self-inflicted or the result of Jeremy's attack.

Police suspect Jeremy's drug use was not limited to this substance, and may have led to his violent behavior and ultimately to his suicide, though to date no paraphernalia has been found in the Jacobs house.

Flunitrazepam has often been used in teen suicides, but it is not yet known if Jeremy had suicide or recreation in mind on the day of his death, nor if the chemicals were produced by Jeremy himself or by an associate.

Chief Cuddy promises a thorough investigation of the Aspenvale neighborhoods to prevent further tragedies. No faculty members were available for comment.



FROM: j.tanita

Saturday, 12:40 am

why didn't you pick up?

George lied about going to Seattle! HE WAS HERE ON ALISON'S STREET! i was playing with the kids in the front yard and saw him cruise by in that clunker of his, looking up and down the sidewalks like he was house shopping, stony-faced like it was the most important part of his day. and that's not the weirdest part. we made eye contact: he froze with his mouth wide open like he'd seen a ghost in me, and then he tore up the street and vanished around the corner!

well i tried to call you about eight times. i didn't see him again, so i called Alison and told her what happened. she got worried about Miss Dunnewick and i thought i'd check on her and ask if George had been harassing her. the street ends in a cul de sac with four houses and i'm told Miss Dunnewick lives in the quaint little white one with the red roofing and the red birdhouse out front. i thought i saw her pale little face peeking out one of the windows when i walked up the driveway but nobody answered when i knocked. if she was home she was probably scared out of her wits.

i feel like i should've called the police, but i didn't know what to think. i still don't. Dave, i think George is genuinely disturbed! what can we do? there's got to be some way we can help him!

forward this to Neal will you please? i know the last thing he needs right now is more unnerving news but i feel like he ought to know about this. George was his friend after all.

J.



FROM: a.sinclair

Monday, 7:46 am

recent tragedy

We've all had a long weekend to gather our thoughts and pay our respects. The Jacobs' loss is felt by everyone here, so this morning I will make an announcement and ask for a moment of silence for Jerry. Mrs. Wakely is collecting donations for the Jacobs family and I encourage everyone to give what they can. Mrs. Tanita is additionally collecting donations for the Walters family to help Debbie through her illness. At present she is not receiving visitors.

The grief counselors will be available throughout this week to speak with any students who need them. The D.A.R.E. officers are due to arrive after second bell. The assembly will be at 1:00. Accompanying police officers will be inspecting the campus and asking questions and I expect everyone to give their full cooperation. I don't need to reiterate that the school email is not a bathroom wall for scribbling gossip. Please refrain from discussing anything unrelated to the curriculum.

Thanks,

A. Sinclair



FROM: j.tanita

Monday, 3:40 pm

neal

something's really bothering him. he acts like he's crawled inside a shell and won't come out, like a little boy who's woken from a dream too terrible to share. has he spoken to you or emailed you at all? please let me know.

i've asked Al to consider giving him a week off.

J.



FROM: j.tanita

Tuesday, 7:30 pm

FW: jerry

i've seen her. she's jittery and pale and has grocery bags under her eyes. keeping up her cheerful demeanor seems to wear her out. i wonder how much of it has to do with George. i'm afraid to ask.


original message from m.preston

I stopped by the Jacobs house to give my condolences. They hate how the police have handled this mess, especially the drug allegations. The investigations have accomplished nothing apart from hurting the school's reputation as well as Jerry's.

They tell me Jerry couldn't have been using drugs because he spent too much of his free time with videogames and after school stuff, like baseball practice and helping his teachers clean their rooms. He really liked Dunnewick and helped clean her room like clockwork after last bell. xD

She must miss him more than any of us! No wonder she's such a mess! She's got to be the sweetest woman on the planet!



FROM: n.case

Tuesday, 11:48 pm

confidential

This is for your eyes and Judy's eyes ONLY. Nobody else will appreciate it or even understand it. Frankly don't think you'll understand it either. Sorry I've been so distant but it's taken me a while to arrange my thoughts into something coherent, and I couldn't decide if I ought to tell anyone or keep my mouth shut. Maybe you can help me convince myself that the horror of it distorted my perception at the time or my memory post-trauma.

I lied to the police about Jerry. I lied because Debbie Walters was pumped full of meds and locked in a nuthouse for telling the truth.

Here's exactly what happened before I texted Dave. Second recess had been on for ten minutes. Was short on Rikki Tikki Tavi papers and heading to the office to print more. Was three steps into the Centrum when a long, shrill howl bowled out the 6th grade hall doors, Debbie Walters hot on its heels. Her face was chalk white, gleaming with sweat, straining itself to express confusion, horror, and disgust all at once. She crashed headlong into me and screamed again. Held onto her and tried to calm her down. Noticed a bloody welt on her neck and red stains on the collar of her blouse. She sobbed and hyperventilated and barely managed to say,

“There’s a monster in the girls’ room pretending to be Jerry!”

Her speech became incoherent. She nearly passed out from lack of breath trying to give details. Only understood a few words and phrases: gone to wash up, Jeremy followed looking sick, backed her into a corner, slimy eels pawing her, needles in her skin, light-headedness, running. Mid-way through her rambling she fell to the floor in a faint. Eddie Sands peeked out of the gathering crowd of children. Sent him to get the nurse and told the others to give Debbie breathing room. Ran to the 6th grade bathroom.

Know now what that inexplicable thing was about Jerry when I talked to him in the office two weeks ago: a sharp aquatic stench like clams or crayfish sitting in the sun. Nearly strangled me when I opened the bathroom door. Fought for consciousness and stumbled in. Mirror over the sink was shattered and Jerry was on his hands and knees, contorting as if fighting the urge to vomit, shirt torn to ribbons, a large glass sliver in his right hand. My brain told me to grab him and take the weapon before he hurt someone else. Horror froze my limbs and held me back.

I can't find words that do it justice. Jerry’s skin changed between hamburger gray and feverish white like an octopus unsure of its mood. Flesh on his arms and back rippled as if infested with thousands of angry worms. He sat up, glared at me through wet, pain-wracked eyes and drove the glass into his throat. He was dead in moments.

Went on autopilot. Called the police. Blocked the bathroom so the kids wouldn't go in and see it. Police got there and my safety brake finally gave and dropped me into darkness. They couldn't question me for at least an hour. I had nothing to give them they'd accept. Their assumption was that Jerry was already dead when I arrived, and I just nodded my head. What else could I tell them? "He had to do it, Officer, or else he would’ve turned into a worm-monster and been very unhappy."

Now Jerry's labeled a psychologically disturbed young man by adults and “the emo kid that killed himself in the bathroom” by his peers. Police scurrying around the neighborhood looking for adolescent drug labs. Is there some new ultra-violent worm drug on the market now?

Tell me I'm not crazy. Better yet tell me I AM crazy. Then I'll know what I saw wasn't real. I'm hoping the police do find something that explains it all. In any case thanks for listening. Come talk to me after last bell when you find the time. Again, I'd appreciate it if you'd both keep a lid on this, but if you feel the need to report it or avoid me like the plague, I'll understand.

Neal

P.S. Heard from George, meeting with him this week, sounded urgent.



FROM: j.tanita

Friday, 3:31 pm

greetings from grade 8!

it's surprising how quickly Aspenvale has recovered from Jerry's death. life goes on, i guess. everyone seems back to normal. Alison is neurotic, Miss Wiley is bubbly. Miss Dunnewick is as cheery and radiant as ever (and i guess she's got other boys willing to fill Jerry's shoes -- she's become quite popular). the boys on the baseball team are showing some of that Bluejay spirit we've missed so much. most importantly the gentle teddy bear we know as Neal has returned to us, though i don't know for how long. he's supposed to have that rendezvous with George today. they're meeting in a public place but the idea still worries me.

i am in the meantime a busy little bee arranging the science fair. hopefully we will have more variety this year (volcano models are off limits -- i put my foot down). Eddie Sands has a marvelous shark exhibit in the works. he's doing detailed drawings of shark anatomy, shark diets, and what all. he's got a pet shark that will make a very nice centerpiece. i admire his ambition and his diligence but i wish he'd take it a little more slowly. he's pale and a little irritable from lack of sleep. i encourage him nonetheless.

J.



FROM: Neal

At starbucks. george a no show. called and said something more important came up. he contact you?

FRI. 4:16 PM



FROM: n.case

Wednesday, 1:03 pm

latest headlines

Make no mistake: it was George. From what I gather, Babs Dunnewick and Alison Travis were talking about weekend guitar lessons for Alison's son Teddy. Alison was giving her a ride home. They got to the parking lot when George came out from behind Stratton's SUV and tried to pelt Dunnewick with a molotov cocktail, of all things. Apparently Alison's being in the kill zone fazed him not one bit. Alison wrestled him for the bomb until the janitor came and took it away. George was snarling and raving like an animal.

They got him up at the police station now, but it looks like he'll be going to Halcyon Peak instead of prison. He's damned lucky Dunnewick isn't pressing charges. He's double-damned lucky someone was there to stop him.

Going up there tomorrow to talk to him. You hear about extramarital affairs going bad and ending in violence. No secret George didn't get along with his wife, and Dunnewick is so secretive about her personal life. Will keep you and Judy updated.

Also need to borrow your stapler again.

Neal



FROM: j.tanita

Thursday, 12:21 pm

jerry all over again?

today in the office i overheard Al and the nurse discussing a raw welt on Eddie Sands's neck just below his shirt collar. he says he doesn't know where it came from and looks embarrassed and ashamed when asked about it. the nurse is convinced his dad is slapping him around at home. she thinks the welt is from a belt buckle biting into his skin.

it's just one abuse rumor after another at this school isn't it? Tom and Wendy Sands are good friends of mine. they have never hurt a child in their lives. they don't even believe in spanking! it's not abuse. it's the same as with Jerry, i know it. Eddie's gotten aggressive in class and snaps at his classmates like their every word is an attack on him. he destroyed a perfectly good shark drawing for not being perfect enough! and my goodness, he can't STAND when i touch him. i tried to take him by the hand and lead him outside to cool off and he LEAPT away from me in what i can only describe as squeamish terror, flattened himself against the wall and stared blank-eyed at me.

Eddie should still be at the office. i'd like Neal to see him and give his opinion. whatever Jerry was fooling around with, it's got Eddie too. i'm sure of it.

J.



FROM: n.case

Thursday, 6:49 pm

all sorts of weirdness

I saw George and Eddie today. Nothing makes sense. Or everything makes perfect sense in a logic pattern alien to me.

Last bell came and I went to the office to see Eddie. Eddie wasn't there. Carol said he'd gone to the music room to help Miss Dunnewick. Walked down to the music room and found it deserted, but with lights still on. Knew he'd been there because of Jerry's spoiled seafood musk (going by what Judy said). Eddie walks home from school so I assumed he went home already. Appeared Dunnewick was still on campus because her office was locked and dark, but I could hear a deep hum inside like she'd left the computer on. She'd probably be back any minute. Skipped my grading and drove up to the police station.

Station has a cold crypt of a basement with several holding cells. George was sitting patiently in the third one. They wouldn't let me in with him so I stood and talked through the bars at him. He wouldn't answer when I asked if he meant to kill anyone. Sympathized with his situation with females -- his wife treating him like a dog, the trouble with the Barnes family -- and it seemed to soften him a little. Asked him if he had been seeing Barbara secretly, and promised that I would understand if he had. He guffawed and pulled his lips into a mad, leering, sardonic grin.

"Only once. Saw her at night in all her naked glory. Beautiful pheromone-spewing beast no one can resist. But I'm not good enough for the succubus's tentacles! I'm not fresh enough for the lamprey's fangs!

"I can prove it! Hear much of the rifts, Neal? The rumors of chasms in space like a hole between apartments? Tears we're not yet evolved enough to see except at just the right angles? They exist! They exist, and some things find them and skip between apartments, you believe it! The police have all my things. I'll release them to you if you'll only read and believe.

"I don't care where they send me, prison or asylum. I'm not safe anywhere. I'll be skipping between apartments soon in my own way. I KNOW, you see, and am therefore a threat. Read the papers and you'll see. Read the papers and decide if you'll stop this madness or save yourself. I won't judge you. God damn this town."

Couldn't get anything useful out of him. All his replies from then on were, "God damn this town". Police gave me his personal effects (they filled a single cardboard box) and I drove back to school.

Saw Eddie in the hallway getting extra chairs out of Skip's supply closet. He nearly jumped out of his skin when I called him. Then it was my turn when I saw his pale hamburger-gray skin and caught a whiff of that seafood stink.

"Thought you'd be home by now," I said. Tried to smile but couldn't manage it in the stench.

"I'm still helpin' Miss Dunnewick," he almost mumbled.

"You feeling okay?"

He walked off with the chair like he didn't hear me.

Only looked through a little of George's stuff. He's been very busy. Looks as if he's been putting together a manuscript on completely random subjects. Will text or email any interesting bits I find.

Tell Judy I agree with her about Eddie.

Neal



FROM: Neal

Copy of dunnewick's employee profile when first hired by district. odd note scribbled in margin by george.

"teacher wanted, must love children."

george didnt print copy of her fingerprint clearance card. or it doesnt exist.

THURS. 7:17 PM



FROM: Neal

Old headlines about evergreen elementary in seattle.

may 1990 jeff ellis takes gun on campus but no one injured. doesnt explain why he did it or who he wanted dead. spent six months in juvenile hall and came out normal.

feb 1991 joey jones attacks 2 girls in p.e. locker room. girls make wild claims about joey not being human. one girl sent to nunnery by parents. joey unable or unwilling to remember incident.

march 1991 brent baugh shoots self with dad's gun in bedroom. had been suspended twice for violent behavior in class.

journalists note increasing violence on campus in each article. drugs also suspected in each. circular welts on all boys involved. sound familiar?

copy of last years yearbook in here. no signatures.

THURS. 8:40 PM



FROM: a.sinclair

Friday, 9:01 am

justice prevails

Aspenvale Police arrested a 30-year-old couple known for dealing drugs to minors. Both looking at very lengthy prison sentences. Campus drug abuse drawing to a close.

Rejoice!

A. Sinclair



FROM: Neal

2 addresses, seattle and aspenvale. notes on both houses histories. first abandoned in 1986, remained deserted til condemned 2001. second hasnt had occupants for last 10 years.

FRI. 1:10 PM



FROM: Neal

examined yearbook closely. seven boys circled in red ink. boys circled in grade 5 are darius tonachio, todd sears, ken galloway. in grade 7: gary yee, eric harms, eddie sands, jerry jacobs. x-out on jerrys picture. code next to each like 15m r1 m-f, 30m r2 t&th. 30 minutes, second recess, tuesday thursday? jerry and eddie marked TAKEOUT.

what was george doing with these kids? ask around and find out if george keller seen around these boys or if he contacted them in last few weeks.

FRI. 3:20 PM



FROM: j.tanita

Friday, 3:24 pm

creepy stuff

Neal is making inquiries on the stuff George left him. he asked me to send you a few of those newspaper clippings (attached) so you can read them in detail. don't show them to anyone else. he's got some weird idea in his head and he won't tell me what it is. i'm afraid he'll end up an obsessive lunatic like George. what reason could he possibly have to drive out to Aspenvale University?

hope your day has been pleasant and cheerful. i've got a headache and my stomach is unsettled. i went to get my class from the music room before the bell and the oyster-ish smell in there made me think of Jerry and i shuddered. i regret i was short with Miss Dunnewick when we left. i should apologize. it wasn't her fault.

there's more rumors going around, too, and they make sleep difficult. i see nothing terribly unusual about George's disappearance considering the living conditions at Halcyon Peak. my cousin had a room on the second floor for three years. i wouldn't want to be cooped up in that zoo either. but Meg won't shut up about how he screamed and how they turned the place inside-out and never found him.

just wait, i may retire this year. i've simply got to get out of this demented town.

J.



FROM: n.case

Sunday, 2:00 pm

AU interviews

Had to check up on some details. George did some serious digging into Barbara Dunnewick's background that leaves me simultaneously in awe and terror of him. The end result, even with my contributions, doesn't make an ounce of sense.

Turn the clock back to 1988. The Aspenvale University Department of Science hired a brand new research assistant, a stunning young brunette named Barbara Dunnewick. Her degrees were in biology and physics. Her hobbies were astronomy and art. She assisted the science professors in research for every scientific field. The professors I spoke to (those few who knew Babs back then and are still employed and alive) described her as a smart, creative woman with unbreakable optimism. She had no family and never spoke of her parents.

Move ahead to late 1990. Dunnewick adopted skittish, restless behavior. She did as she was told without so much as a word, losing herself in her work. She seemed desperate to escape the outside world for as long as she could. She skittered home at the end of the day like she was afraid of being seen and disappeared into her apartment until the next day, her teary eyes darting and bulging at the slightest movement within a hundred feet of her. She only spoke to the psych professor, and only once, about awful recurring dreams where the ghastly voices of nameless things whispered at her from across the cosmos -- voices that sometimes reached her while she was wide awake. He suggested all kinds of Freudian interpretations but she wasn't happy with any of them and skittered out.

Three weeks of this went by. Then she came into the lab one day, cheerful demeanor restored, and cheerfully quit the university to pursue other interests. Off she went to the west coast, settling in Seattle where she became a teacher. She just up and changed professions on a whim, and the universe played right along. Waltzed into her first teaching job without so much as a background check, much less a fingerprint clearance card. Easy as replying to a want-ad.

Teacher wanted, must love children.

Other oddities included her never owning another car after hers broke down; her reclusive streak limiting her friends to coworkers at school, who she rarely met with outside of school hours; her never dating or being married despite her youth, good looks, and obvious charm; and her sudden transfer from Evergreen Elementary in Washington to Aspenvale here in Colorado.

Have to be careful I don't fall into George's obsessive mentality.

Neal



FROM: j.tanita

Tuesday, 12:45 pm

FW: internal affairs

we spoke to Al about all this. he refused to do anything about it for fear of legal reprisals from Dunnewick! i guess there's nothing we really CAN do: no one had seen her exhibit inappropriate behavior with the children. anyway he says her sunny presence boosts the children’s interest in school and it would be a shame to lose her.

he's got a point though. whether or not she's a drug dealer and a child molester, the evidence is pretty circumstantial. i don't know how we can get the kids to talk about what they do in her room when nobody's around. just think of it! that part of the building is practically deserted during recess and after hours! George must have suspected her all this time! that makes his forced retirement all the more depressing!

all we can do is keep an eye on the boys. i'll try to reason with Al later. he should at least look into it.

J.


original message from n.case

All the boys circled in the yearbook exhibit Jerry's symptoms: sickly gray complexion, aggressive behavior, one or more circular welts at the nape of the neck or elsewhere on the torso. Alison, Meg, and others confirm all six boys are alone with Dunnewick at some point during the day for at least a quarter of an hour. That's what the codes mean: time spent "assisting" Dunnewick.

Talked to Evergreen principal long distance. He couldn't divulge much for legal reasons, but did state that Barbara Dunnewick was mixed up in the weird goings on throughout the 90's and that her decision to transfer was firmly "encouraged" by administrators. All the boys in those headlines were her after school helpers!

Any rational thoughts? Plenty are entering my head and to even suggest they might be true conflicts with all known laws of reality. Can't get George's babbling out of my head.

Asked Dunnewick about her previous job as a research assistant at the university when I picked up my class from music. She shot a quiet blizzard my way as though I'd asked what color underwear she had on.

Neal



FROM: Neal

Eddie gone again. music room deserted like last time. lights still on. office unlocked. smells awful.

have to find him. takeout. jesus i know what he meant. sick sick joke. she took jerry home. she took eddie home. find dunnewick. if she's still on campus keep her there.

TUES. 3:21 PM



FROM: Neal

At the cul de sac on alisons street. found the cute house with red birdhouse in front. dunnewick not here yet. call judy ask her whats keeping her. supposed to meet me here.

TUES. 3:39 PM



FROM: Neal

Cant see inside. blinds drawn all over. where the hell is judy?

TUES. 3:45 PM



FROM: Neal

Pale face in the window peeking thru blinds. not sure if it sees me. probably look like a prowler hiding out here even though still daylight.

TUES. 3:47 PM



FROM: Neal

I think its eddie sands!

TUES. 3:50 PM



FROM: Neal

Not waiting. going in.

TUES. 3:51 PM



FROM: Neal

Front door locked. climbing fence, going in back. tell judy to come in front. will unlock.

TUES. 3:56 PM



FROM: Neal

Something very wrong.

TUES. 4:08 PM



FROM: Neal

Abandoned. interior is shambles. theres nothing.

TUES. 4:09 PM



FROM: Neal

Cant be right. no wallpaper. no furniture. no lights. floor naked moldy concrete. two boxes in corner of largest room by dusty hearth. boxes full of trash and carpet shreds. cant be the right house. nothing lives here. nothing ever lived here.

stench is here. spoiled clams.

TUES. 4:15 PM



FROM: Neal

I think judys here now.

TUES. 4:17 PM



FROM: j.tanita

Sunday, 7:50 pm

idiots idiots idiots

we should've seen this coming. half-naked first grader rescued from the burning home of his music teacher. the Sandses and everyone from Al in the principal's chair to Skip on barf cleanup knows he had no business being there. what business Dunnewick had taking him there after school hours is just unthinkable! the police have questioned all the afflicted boys and they've got enough clues to Dunnewick's rotten doings to arrest her, if they ever find her.

so what's the verdict at the district office? here's an excerpt from their letter to Al (which i'm not supposed to have but to hell with them):

"However due to the transgressions of George Keller, who is also missing, we feel the district's reputation will not survive a second molestation scandal. Therefore we have resolved to keep the press out of this matter with the police's help. The boys' families have agreed that transferring Barbara Dunnewick to a stricter school district is the best course of action."

TRANSFER is the answer! are they so intent on pretending nothing is wrong that they'll let this disgusting monster go unpunished? or is the state just too embarrassed to admit that a sweet little music teacher outsmarted them and disappeared? how can they lie to themselves like this? how can they be so completely blind? why don't we give Dunnewick the Aspenvale Pride award while we're at it? so we deal swift justice to George and quietly sweep the real monster under the rug to keep the families and the funds coming.

Tom and Wendy are furious now but who knows what the district will offer their son to keep their mouths shut. the other parents are pathetic. they congratulate the boys she preyed upon for their experience! they’re given pats on the back for their trysts with Dunnewick as they assault their classmates on the playground and in the bathrooms! god only knows what horrid substances that whore was giving those boys.

worst of all is poor Neal in the hospital. the few times he's conscious he won't speak to anyone. the news must have hit him hard. there's no justice in this city.

well that's that i guess. school's back to normal tomorrow. John and i are on our way to take Neal home. he emailed me and said he was leaving whether the doctor likes it or not. i can't stand the thought of him being cooped up in there.

J.



FROM: n.case

Sunday, 8:01 pm

no subject

Got to get out of here. My god, Dave, a whole week gone! A whole week wasted lying here! A whole week in that closet holding my breath!

My god Dave, that house! The address george found! The star succubus lair! Nobody's name on the papers, no electricity, no gas, no water, nothing! She didn't need any of that! It was the little ones she needed. Ever notice how sick she got after Jerry died? A drug addict suffering withdrawal! Got to keep them away from her. Is that Eddie in the back room staring out the window? Why is his shirt off? What are all those marks on his back? Why is he staring staring staring out the window like a dog waiting for mommy to come home?

Can't text dave. No time. It's not Judy coming through the front door I haven't unlocked yet. Got to hide. The hall closet. Hide and wait. See what she's doing to the boy. Get the drop on her. Get him out.

Door closed and locked. Deep humming like the humming in her locked office. Awful pitch, ears ringing. Whale with a distortion pedal. My god what is it? Flooding like water from the front door, across the foyer, through the hall like an avalanche, past the closet but nothing flows under the door. The STENCH. Don't vomit, don't cough. Strangle yourself! Keep quiet! Don't let it hear you! How big? One couch. Two couches. Three. Should I peek when it's past? Poor Eddie alone in that back room!

Just a crack. Just a crack. Don't cough. Are those my hands shaking like leaves? Lungs crying, sobbing for air. Just a peek. Can't stay here forever. Just a peek. Eddie's not at the window. He's in the center of the room. Profile to the doorway. Right half of the room mercifully out of view. Walls alive with shadows of dancing whipping flagella floor to ceiling. Some whip in view, lick the boy's chest. Stop staring asshole! Get him out! Get him out! Move those concrete feet and get him out of there! George tried to use fire. How does he know if it hates fire? No time. Matchbook in my pocket, in my hand. Strike one. Fold it inside. Box ignites like a flare. Leap out the door, across the hall, into the putrid stinking room. Eddie's looking up at me and he looks frightened now. Flare leaves my hand and burns it. High pitched air raid siren throttles my skull as a burning patch bites into its putrid tarry flesh DON'T LOOK AT IT! DONT LOOK! WHY DID YOU LOOK?

Running down the hall. Eddie's in my arms and I'm running down a barren dirty hallway that stretches across the world. Splintering wood behind me. The siren again. It's flooding the corridor, it's lapping at my ankles. DON'T LOOK AGAIN DON'T LOOK AT IT

Can see the door is closed and locked. Run for the window. Duck head. Jump. Pray. Landed in a sea of black without Eddie. Spent a whole week either staring at a blurry white ceiling or suffering recurring dreams about drowning in rotting oceans while Roman pillars of tarry tentacles and biting bloodsucking child-perverting parasite mouths loom overhead. I woke up in a hospital.

Can't stay here Dave. She escaped through the rift and she's had a whole week to find a way back. She'll come and she'll drag me to whatever writhing tarry hell she saved for George. Or worse she'll do to me what her kind did to the real Barbara Dunnewick. What she did to the boys. What she tried to do to Jerry. I hear her at night rustling and scratching and tap-tap-tapping at the cosmic veil, looking for the weak spots. I HEAR HER AWFUL VOICE CALLING TO ME.

Judy's coming to help me run away. Hate to risk Judy and John being there when she finally comes. She's angry and she doesn't forget. Never interrupt her meals, Dave. She's not above adults, she just loves children best. If you ever catch a whiff of abnormality in this universe write it off as a dream and leave it alone no matter what.

Don't tell anyone what I've said. It's for your eyes only. Delete this and never come looking for me or George Keller or Barbara Dunnewick. Let the administrators have it their way. Their way is nice and safe and sane. I'm leaving and never coming back. If I come back, Dave, douse me and light me up because it won't be me.

Your friend always,

Neal Case




Written by Mike MacDee
Content is available under CC BY-NC

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