Campus Games (final chapters 10-13)
Ashley and Katelyn meet when they find they are to share the same house on the campus of the college they attend in New Mexico. Ashley has hopes of becoming an artist while Katelyn dreams of becoming a prosecutor.
Then the murders start and even Ashley herself is attacked!
As the students live in fear, Ashley and Katelyn form a special bond. Can they survive long enough to find out just how strong that bond really is?
Ashley was in art history class, her first class after lunch. There were about thirty students in all. Schoolwork wasn’t always so easy to concentrate on with her aunt being gone only a couple of months. She did her best, though sometimes she felt like she was a robot, mechanically going through the motions in which life programmed her to go through.
The teacher was drawing an outline on the chalkboard when the assistant principal entered the room. The teacher abruptly stopped what he was doing and focused in on the assistant as she made her way towards him to whisper something in his ear.
Ashley noted that the teacher’s gaze held hers as he listened intently to whatever the assistant was saying. Judging by the expression on his face, it wasn’t good.
The assistant stepped away and the teacher stood up straight. “Ashley, will you please go with Mrs. Berry?” he said.
Ashley felt herself begin to tremble as she gathered up her books and papers. Now what was wrong?
“Sure,” she said shakily.
The assistant principal headed back towards the door as the other students’ eyes followed Ashley’s movements as she made her way through the rows of desks and over to where the assistant stood waiting.
Once they were in the hall with the classroom door closed behind them, Ashley asked what she wanted to see her for.
“There’s been a very unfortunate matter at the house you’re in. A couple of detectives are here to talk to you about it.”
“Oh, my God!” Ashley exclaimed as her thoughts went immediately to Katelyn. “Not Katelyn. Katelyn Reed, is she okay?”
“As far as I know she is,” said the assistant.
Ashley released a heavy sigh of relief.
When they reached the office where the same pair of detectives stood, Mr. Sad Eyes rose from his seat. “Hello there, Ashley.”
Without returning the greeting, Ashley asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Well, how about if we have a seat at the table here?”
Ashley and the detectives took a seat as the assistant principal left the room. She gazed at the sad looking detective to his serious looking blond partner.
“To get right to the point,” Sad Eyes began, “your roommate, Miss Dalene Wilson, was found strangled to death in her bedroom by your other roommate, Nicolette Carey, when Miss Carey went to the house for lunch.”
“Oh, that’s horrible,” said Ashley. She never cared for her, but she never hated her enough to want to see her dead either.
“Were you close to Miss Wilson in any way?” asked Miss Serious.
“No, I wasn’t. In fact, I never really liked her very much, to be honest.”
“Why is that?”
“She just seemed a bit inconsiderate of others. Still, I never disliked her enough to want to see her killed.”
“I understand,” Sad Eyes said. “Do you think there’s anyone else who would like to see her dead?”
Ashley thought about it. “No, not that I can think of. Most of us simply tried to avoid her. She was out a lot anyway, and I don’t know much about her friends.”
“Any new people come to the house to see her lately?”
Ashley shook her head. “Not that I knew of. She always went to them.”
“And who were they?”
“I don’t know. She’d usually mention only first names. The last guy she mentioned being with was someone she called Johnny.”
“When was the last time you were at the house?”
“This morning before my first class which began at 8:30.”
“You didn’t go home for lunch?”
“No, Katelyn and I had lunch together at the pizza place nearby. Katelyn Reed. She lives with us, too.”
“Would you happen to know where your other roommate, Miss Rose Andreas, may be?”
“Isn’t she in class somewhere?”
“No,” said Miss Serious, “apparently she’s been absent today.”
Ashley looked thoughtful, remembering Rose’s strange late-night behavior.
“Something wrong, Miss Severson?”
“Well…” Ashley said hesitantly.
“Go on, it’s okay. Whatever you tell us will stay in this room.”
“I hate to say anything in case it doesn’t mean anything, but I did see something rather odd late last night.”
“And that was?” Sad Eyes prompted.
“A strange noise woke me up last night at around two. After a minute I realized it was someone unlocking the front door. I then heard them enter the house and close and lock the door, but due to how late it was I didn’t get up right away. After a few more minutes, I became curious and so I got up and saw that someone was in the bathroom between Dalene and Nicolette’s rooms. Because Rose’s door was the only one open, I figured it was her.”
“Any way it could’ve been Miss Reed?”
“No,” said Ashley, “I fell asleep in her room after we studied together for a few hours.”
The detectives glanced at each other a moment.
“Was Miss Reed awakened by the noise or did she remain asleep?” asked Miss Serious.
“She stayed asleep.”
“What happened next?”
“I could hear the sound of something being scrubbed in the sink. I was tempted to knock on the door to see what was up, but I was afraid to.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know,” said Ashley with a shake of her head. “It’s like instinct or something told me not to. Instead, I hid in the shadows of my own room until she came out carrying a plastic bag and left the house with it.”
“She left the house with it?”
Ashley nodded. “Went out the back door.”
“Did she return?”
“Yes, a few minutes later.”
“And what did she do then?”
“She went into her room and shut the door. This is when I went back to bed.”
“Tell me about Miss Andreas. Anything in particular stand out to you?”
“No, not really. Just that she’s never home. Even Dalene’s home – was home – more than she is.”
“Does she have a steady boyfriend or any girlfriends that she sees regularly?”
“No, that’s just it. I’ve tried to strike up some small talk with her because she always seemed so shy and as if she felt embarrassingly out of place. Yet she never would tell me much about her.”
After being asked a few more questions, Ashley was assured that security would increase tenfold. Also, so as to preserve the crime scene, the four remaining occupants of the house would be moved to other houses that had empty rooms available. Ashley was pleased to hear this for she couldn’t stomach the idea of living where someone had been brutally murdered.
On the flipside, Ashley was suddenly alarmed at the possibility of being separated from Katelyn. She didn’t feel it was appropriate to mention these worries in light of the situation, so she remained silent. Instead, she turned to head back to the dorm to pack her belongings as she was instructed to.
On her way out of the meeting room, she found Rose waiting just outside the door, leaning up against the wall. She appeared solemn as she stared at the floor.
The assistant principal rushed up at the sound of the door opening. “Detectives,” she said, “I’ve located Miss Andreas for you.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Now Miss Severson, if you would please wait until we’ve had a chance to speak to Miss Andreas, an escort will take you both back to the house at that time.”
“Okay,” said Ashley, taking a seat on a vinyl chair in a small waiting area.
She hoped that Rose hadn’t heard her voice her suspicions to the detectives.
A middle-aged, plain-looking policewoman guarded the crime scene and oversaw the students as they packed their belongings.
Out of view of the others, Ashley and Katelyn embraced in Katelyn’s room. They clung to one another with fierce determination and desperateness.
“What are we going to do if we get separated?” Ashley said a moment later, on the verge of tears.
“Hey now, babe, don’t cry,” Katelyn said gently. “If we can’t be in the same house, just remember that it’s only for a few more months. Meanwhile, we can still see each other after school, and probably even spend the nights together. There’s no rule that I know of forbidding us to crash in each other’s houses. Now you be strong for me and I’ll see what I can do to keep us together, okay?”
Reluctantly, Ashley nodded. “I guess I better get packing. Oh, and I told the detectives about what Rose did last night.”
“What did Rose do last night?”
Ashley glanced nervously towards the door. “I’ll tell you later.” She went to pack, leaving a curious Katelyn behind.
Ashley was packing up the last of her belongings when she heard Rose enter the house. Her body tensed. She heard her speak briefly with the policewoman, then head down to her room to pack up her own things. She didn’t glance into Ashley’s room as she passed by.
The four girls loaded their belongings, along with themselves, into the back of a pickup used by the campus maintenance. They were then driven to the administration building.
Although Ashley and Katelyn expressed their desire to reside in the same house, it was not to be.
“I can’t do that,” said the motherly administrator. “I’m sorry, but there just aren’t any houses with two rooms available. I feel for you girls and the predicament you’re in, really I do. Just be grateful that you’re all alive.”
“Well, if there’s anything to be grateful for,” Katelyn told Ashley while they awaited their rides to their new houses a short while later, “it’s that our houses will be within walking distance from each other. According to these papers, I’m in F4 facing north and you’re in G5 facing south. I can easily cut across the backyards to get to you, but you’ve got to promise me, Ashley, that you won’t go out alone.”
“I promise,” Ashley assured her. “I definitely promise. Going out alone around here is the last thing on my mind at this point, trust me.”
Nicolette nodded knowingly.
Rose sat stiff as a statue.
Not long afterward, they were driven to their new houses. Ashley was dropped off before Katelyn. Katelyn told the maintenance man that she’d help her carry her things.
The house’s layout was identical to the other one. This time around, she ended up in the room that was Rose’s in the other house.
The four other occupants awaited Ashley’s arrival, welcoming her with smiles. It turned out that Katelyn knew one of the girls, a rather chubby, plain-looking African-American girl named Lacretta, who was also gay. In the living room, they met the other three as well – bubbly blond Amy, quiet Asian Tina, and freckle-faced Margot. Ashley didn’t expect to see much of them.
“This is my girl, so look out for her when I’m not around, okay?” Katelyn told Lacretta with a friendly smile.
“Consider it done,” Lacretta assured her, “consider it done.”
Once her belongings were deposited in her room, they embraced in a quick, tight hug.
“I’ll be seeing you,” Katelyn said with a wink as she began to back out the door with her thumb raised. “Count on it, girl.”
They blew each other kisses and then Katelyn was gone, leaving Ashley to wonder why she felt so depressed and as if they’d parted for what would be a great distance and a great length of time.
As she slowly began to unpack, the others came in to offer her some homemade cookies.
“That’s really nice of you guys,” Ashley told them, “but I think I’d rather just unpack and do some studying till Katelyn comes for me.”
“Is she coming tonight?”
“Don’t know for sure.”
After they let her know that they added her name to the rotating chore schedule and informed her that she should use the bathroom between the two corner rooms, the one that had been Nicolette and Dalene’s in the other house, they left her alone with her thoughts.
She unpacked and tried to lose herself in her studies. However, that was easier said than done, as her thoughts would constantly wander to Katelyn, wishing they could be in the same house together. She wondered how she was and how she liked her new room and housemates. She knew it was only for a few more months, but a few months could be an awfully long time in an unpleasant situation.
She thought of Katelyn’s young, hard body. Her sexy smile, twinkling dark eyes so full of life and longed so desperately to taste her, to smell her, to feel her. In her mind, she could hear the sound of her cheerful voice, a voice filled with peace and happiness.
She wondered if she wasn’t somewhat addicted to or obsessed with Katelyn, but the feeling was so wonderful that she didn’t care either way.
But Katelyn never came for her that night. She called instead. They spoke for a few minutes, agreeing to meet for lunch the next day.
“Meet me in the parking lot by the houses,” Katelyn told her. “That way we can walk together to the place of your choice.”
The place of her choice was the Chinese restaurant. Ashley could enjoy it now that she had Katelyn to keep the counterman from gawking at her. He respected her in Katelyn’s presence, for the short, wiry man knew she could break him in half if she wanted to. If anything, he was quite polite.
“No one’s tried to attack you again lately I hope,” he said with a smile that cool, cloudy afternoon.
“Fortunately not,” Ashley assured him as she and Katelyn placed their orders.
They settled in a secluded corner booth furthest from the counter and the other diners. The eatery was surprisingly dead, although Ashley and Katelyn appreciated this as they felt like they had a little more privacy that way.
Katelyn poured duck sauce over her chicken and rice as Ashley drove a fork into her shrimp and pork fried rice.
“I’m starving,” Katelyn said as she shoved a heaping forkful of food into her mouth.
“Me too,” Ashley agreed.
“Okay, so what did Rose do?”
“Something rather peculiar, that’s for sure.”
“And when was this, right before we moved?”
Ashley nodded. “At 2 AM the night before.” She then went on to tell her everything she heard and saw.
“How strange indeed,” Katelyn said with a thoughtful expression on her pretty face. She took a sip of her soda, and then set the cup down before saying, “You know, she sure is gone a lot.”
“Yes, she is.”
“And you have no idea where she goes?”
Ashley shook her head. “Nope. The few times I tried making conversation with the girl, she’d clam right up and give very vague answers to my questions.”
Katelyn chewed and swallowed a mouthful of food. “Think she was hiding anything?”
“I don’t know about that, but I definitely got the impression that she didn’t want to get into anything personal.”
The two ate in silence for a few minutes before Ashley spoke again. “At least we know Dalene’s not the killer now.”
Katelyn held her thoughtful expression. “And you said your attacker was heavy.”
Ashley dropped her fork and looked up at Katelyn. “No, it couldn’t be! I mean, Rose?”
“You never know.”
“But she seems so shy and so harmless.”
“So did Ted Bundy.”
Ashley digested the possibility of Rose being the killer as she chewed mechanically on her food. “So what do we do then?” she asked. “Tell the police we think she might be the killer?”
“You already told them what you saw, so if they have any common sense, they’ll focus on her a little more intently.”
“Let’s hope they have the common sense to do that then.”
“And be glad she’s not living with us anymore even if she wasn’t living with those who were killed before Dalene either,” Katelyn pointed out as her expression turned to that of a concerned one. “I can’t stress enough to you just how much I don’t want you to go out alone, Ash, and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it really could be Rose. She fits the profile. Just remember to never go out alone. Please. I’m begging you. Let me come and walk you over to my place.”
“You got it.”
“So how are you getting along with your roommates under the disturbing circumstances?” Katelyn asked, changing the subject.
“Okay, though I prefer to keep to myself. And you?”
“They’re okay. I’m with you, though, as far as keeping to myself. I did, however, tell them about you and I even described you too, so that if they see someone using the bathroom or getting a drink in the kitchen in the middle of the night, they’ll know who it is.”
“Is your place laid out the same, too?”
Katelyn nodded. “I’m in Nicolette’s room this time. Is your last class the same every day?”
Ashley nodded. “Expressive art. It’s a form of art therapy, I guess you could say.”
Katelyn smiled. “Where is it?”
“Okay, I know where that is. How about I pick you up after class each day, then we’ll stop by your place first to get whatever you need for the night?”
“Okay. I like that plan.”
Katelyn continued. “We’ll make that our routine. I’ll pick you up, we’ll go to your place for whatever you want to drop off or pick up, then you can spend the night with me. As soon as we get up, I’ll walk you to your place. It’ll only take a second since we’re so close. I can see your back door from mine what with the way the backs of our houses face one another.”
“Too bad we’re not in either your old room or Dalene’s. Then we could see each other from our windows.”
“Yeah, but it’s okay. This will work out well enough and we’ll spend so much time together that it won’t matter. Besides, we’ve got to remember and keep in mind the fact that it’s only temporary. Spring break will be here before you know it and so will graduation.”
“Spring break,” muttered Ashley, looking glumly at the few bites of food left on her plate. “I don’t even want to think about that.”
“Why’s that?” Katelyn asked curiously.
Ashley looked up at her. “Where am I going to go?”
“Don’t be silly, Ashley. You’ll go with me, of course. You think I’d leave you behind all alone in this place?” Katelyn asked incredulously.
Ashley smiled. “No, I guess you wouldn’t. I just hope I’m not imposing on you in any way.”
“You’re not. If anything, you’d be imposing on me if you didn’t go with me because I’d be so bummed out and worried about you.”
“In that case I’d be honored to go with you.”
“Then it’s settled,” Katelyn said with a smile.
“Do your parents know I’ll be going home with you?”
“Sure do. They even brought it up before I did. ‘You tell that sweet girl she’s welcome to come home with you, they told me.'”
Later, Ashley was moaning with delight, savoring the heavenly sensations Katelyn was creating as her tongue darted in and out of her wet pussy only to do a mad dash up and down her throbbing clit a moment later. Katelyn slipped her index and middle fingers inside Ashley and began to lick and suck at her demanding clit at the same time, aware that she was about to slip over the edge of ecstasy.
“Faster! Harder!” Ashley begged with desperation thick in her voice. A few minutes later, Ashley achieved the sweet, wonderful relief she so desperately craved.
“Mmm, yummy,” said Katelyn, licking Ashley’s juices as she pulled herself up into a sitting position. “What a wonderful twenty-fourth birthday present you’ve been. Just as wonderful as my Valentine’s present.”
“And it’s not over yet. You’ve got another present coming to you,” said Ashley, sitting up and pulling her sleep shirt down over her thighs.
“I do? And what would that be?” asked Katelyn as she stood up to pull down her own sleep shirt.
“This,” said Ashley, rising to her feet and reaching for the duffel bag that she used as part of their after-school routine to cart her books and clothes to and from Katelyn’s.
Katelyn watched curious-eyed as Ashley pulled out a large manila envelope and handed it to Katelyn.
Katelyn took hold of it and pulled from it a package of patchouli incense. A wide grin spread across her face. “Oh, patchouli! I love that scent. It’s a good one. Thanks, Ash.”
“You’re very welcome, but you’re missing something, sweet stuff. Look inside the envelope.”
Katelyn did as she was told and pulled out an overly thick piece of paper, almost as thick as cardboard. Shock and delight suddenly filled her features. “My God, how beautiful! It looks just like us. I’ll treasure it forever,” she said with a smile, leaning towards Ashley for a kiss.
Ashley had done a charcoal drawing of them embracing each other with very happy and loving expressions on their faces. Various flower designs made up the background.
“I’m glad you like it,” Ashley told her.
“Like it? I love it! Wait till mom and dad see this. They’ll want to get it framed right away. You have such a magnificent talent, Ashley. You really do.”
Ashley smiled, touched by Katelyn’s words. Then suddenly, her body stiffened. “What’s that?” she asked in a hushed whisper.
“Oh, it’s probably just Mallory. She’s the girl across the hall from me. She goes outside to smoke since there’s a rule against smoking inside the houses.”
“Oh,” said Ashley, releasing a breath of anxiety.
“Relax, babe, you’re with me.”
Katelyn pulled a stick of incense from the package and lit it. After placing it in the burner that sat atop the desk, she sat back down on the bed next to Ashley and gathered her into her arms. They held each other awhile, simply enjoying the closeness of one another.
“You smell good,” Katelyn said.
Ashley chuckled. “I think you’re smelling the patchouli, Katelyn.”
“That smells good, too.”
They fell asleep in each other’s arms, content, relaxed, and happy.
February turned into March. The afternoons quickly became warm, sometimes even hot. This was the desert, after all, where there wasn’t usually much of a spring or a fall.
Ashley and Katelyn had fallen into a routine. They took their classes, met at the end of the day and went to Ashley’s house, then over to Katelyn’s where Ashley would spend the night. In the morning, Ashley would quickly and quietly scurry through the backyards to her own house under the watchful, protective eye of Katelyn. Sometimes they ate at the strip mall, other times at one of the houses. Although Ashley had money, Katelyn always insisted on buying their lunch when they’d eat out.
When spring break finally came around, Ashley’s mother picked her up at her house with Katelyn in the backseat of the roomy car. Katelyn got out to put her small suitcase in the front passenger seat.
“I want to thank you so very much for letting me come and stay with you, Mrs. Reed,” Ashley told her.
“Nothing to thank me for, sweetie. Katelyn wouldn’t have had it any other way, and feel free to call me Celeste or mom like everyone else does.”
Katelyn took Ashley’s hand in hers and they smiled lovingly at one another.
In less than an hour, they were approaching the farm.
“Belen’s a lot closer than Las Cruces, isn’t it?” asked Katelyn with a smile.
“Sure is,” Ashley agreed.
The farm was a sprawling mass of flat desert with a scattering of sage, cactus, Palo Verde, and mesquite trees. They went down a long dirt driveway and parked in front of what they referred to as the main house. The two-story house was large and rustic-style. It was in good condition for being as old as it was.
“Ken and I really don’t need so much space, but it’s been in the family for so long. Might as well keep it that way,” said Katelyn’s mother.
“Why are we stopping here first, mom?” asked Katelyn.
“Because I have some things to give to you. Then you can drive over to the cottage.”
“Oh, okay,” Katelyn said, gesturing for Ashley to follow them once they exited the car.
The interior of the house was dark and cool.
“With the intense heat we get here, I keep the windows covered with heavy drapes,” Katelyn’s mom explained as if sensing her thoughts.
“You have a lovely home.”
“Yeah, but the cottage is cozier. Katelyn’s got it fixed up nice. You’ll love it when you see it.”
“I’m sure I will,” Ashley said with a smile.
“Ah, but I don’t have a knack for décor,” said Katelyn. “I’m sure, however, that Ashley here could use her keen artistic eye to do something about that.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if she could,” replied her mother. “After all, you are one sensational artist, young lady. The portrait of you and Katelyn is beautiful. I’m going to frame it and then Katelyn and I can argue over which place it’ll hang in.”
Ashley and Katelyn laughed, then Katelyn said, “Why don’t I keep the original and you keep a photocopy, mom? It was my birthday present after all.”
Katelyn’s mother chuckled. “You have a point there.” She then gave the girls some Tupperware containers of various foods. “There’s everything in there from real food to the sweetest junk food you can find, all baked by yours truly, though I do expect you’ll dine with us occasionally during your vacation.”
“Sure will,” said Katelyn, gathering the containers from the kitchen table.
“Come tonight at around 5:30 and bring the car back, if you can. Loretta and Ed will be here, too. We’ll be having a barbecue.”
“Okay, mom. We’re going to take off now and then we’ll see you in time for dinner. Want me to come early to help get prepared?”
Her mother shook her head. “Nothing to prepare. We’ll just throw the hotdogs and the burgers on the grill once everyone’s assembled.”
With Ashley and Katelyn now in her mother’s car, she adjusted the seat, pushing it further from the wheel to allow extra room for her long legs. “Always gotta adjust things when you’re this tall,” Katelyn said with a smile.
“Gotta do the same down here at my height at times,” said Ashley.
They drove the short distance to the cottage, parking in front of it. Ashley stepped out and gazed at the grazing cattle off in the distance. “I’ll grab what I can,” she said.
“Okay,” said Katelyn who only took one suitcase the first time around so she’d have a free hand to unlock the door with.
Ashley followed Katelyn inside and gazed around. It was a one-bedroom, one-bath cottage with a small kitchenette. The bath and bedroom branched off of the main room while the kitchen was on the other side of it. The room was sparsely furnished with just a couch, a chair, and an entertainment center. A large mauve-colored rug covered most of the room. Matching drapes hung in the windows.
The bedroom was simple as well, only this room was done in pastel pinks and blues. Its queen-size bed had a comforter that matched the drapes in the room’s only window. There was a nightstand on one side of the bed, as well as a large dresser at the foot of it.
“Wow, this really is cute and cozy,” said Ashley.
“It sure is. Especially if you’re going to be living in it with me,” Katelyn said with a wink that
made Ashley’s eyes twinkle with delight.
“Makes me wish graduation was tomorrow,” said Ashley.
“Yeah, I know how it is. I’ve been wishing the same thing. Especially with the killer still at large.”
“You really think it could be Rose?”
“I think anything’s a possibility, but we shouldn’t worry about that now. We’re safe here and we need a fun, relaxing vacation to enjoy.”
“That we do,” agreed Ashley, following Katelyn to unpack the rest of the car.
When they had things in order, Katelyn took Ashley by the hand and said, “Come. I’ll show you around.”
They stepped outside.
“My granddaddy planted these poplar trees long ago for shade,” Katelyn explained.
Ashley surveyed her surroundings. The main house was barely visible through the stand of trees. “They sure do a good job of shading as well as providing privacy.”
“Oh, they do. Both houses have ample shade and privacy from the neighboring properties, though there’s really nothing but other farms and government land surrounding us anyway.”
“Guess that means you could have the Brady Bunch for neighbors and never know it.”
“That’s true. Wouldn’t hear or see a thing. Ever been horseback riding?” Katelyn asked enthusiastically.
Ashley nodded with a smile.
“Come on. There’s not much to see with the cows and chickens, but you’ll love the horses.”
They headed a few hundred feet deeper onto the land and approached the stables. There were three horses in all. One was white, one was brown, and the other was black.
“Oh, wow!” Ashley exclaimed in delight. “What are their names?”
“Tom, Dick and Harry.”
Katelyn nodded. “My dad felt it was suitable for three old geldings. The white one’s Tom, the brown one’s Dick, and the black one’s Harry.”
“Which one you wanna ride, babe?”
“How about Harry?”
Katelyn saddled up the black horse and gently guided it out of its stall past Tom and Dick. “Yes, I know you two are jealous. Someone will ride you both soon, I promise.”
Out in the bright sunlight, the horse’s ebony mane shone brilliantly.
“He’s beautiful,” said Ashley.
“Sure is. Hop on up, sweetheart.”
Ashley placed a foot in the stirrup and hoisted herself up with Katelyn aiding by giving her behind a push. Then Katelyn swung herself up behind her and sat in the back of the saddle.
“You going to be okay without a saddle, Katelyn?”
“Sure, I’ll be fine,” she answered, taking hold of the reins and steering the horse out into the nearby field.
They started at a casual pace, then slowly picked up into a light trot.
“You okay?” Katelyn asked, raising her voice above the wind.
“Oh yes! Can we go faster?”
“Sure. I wouldn’t mind doing a little cantering.”
And so they did. In fact, they did many things during their vacation. They rode the horses, milked the cows, and fed the chickens. They laughed together, had pleasant chats under the evening stars, and made lots of love. They listened to music, watched TV, and went on walks.
Ashley met Loretta and her boyfriend, and in no time at all, began to feel like part of the family.
Both girls were less than eager to return to school once their vacation ended.
“We’ll just have to keep in mind the lifelong benefits our diplomas are going to bring us,” Katelyn said, trying to replace the gloomy atmosphere with hope and cheer.
“Yes, I suppose we should,” yawned a sleepy Ashley as they loaded up the car after an afternoon nap.
This time, Katelyn did the driving with Ashley next to her and her mother in the back.
They stopped at Ashley’s dorm first. After Katelyn helped Ashley bring her things in, Katelyn’s mother told her, “It was a delight having you, Ashley. You’re such a sweet young lady and I know your presence made Katelyn’s vacation much more enjoyable. We look very forward to having you back in a few months.”
Katelyn smiled, hands in the pockets of her overalls. She looked like a regular farm girl, though still every bit as beautiful.
Ashley smiled too, and thanked her mother who gave her a warm hug before getting back in the car to head over to Katelyn’s dorm.
“See you, sweets,” Katelyn said, getting behind the wheel once again.
“I’ll be waiting for your call,” Ashley told her.
When Katelyn’s call came, she waited by the back door with her duffel bag in hand. “Say hello to Tina and Margot for me when they get in,” she called out to Lacretta and Amy.
“We will,” Lacretta called back. “Have fun with your girl.”
“Count on it,” said Ashley as Katelyn came into view, “and lock up after me.”
The days turned into weeks. Ashley and Katelyn grew more and more excited the closer they got to graduation day. The only thing that concerned Ashley was the constant nagging feeling she had of being watched. At first, she hesitated to tell Katelyn of these feelings because she knew it would only worry her. One day, though, when they were having lunch, Ashley couldn’t seem to hide her anxieties.
“What’s wrong, babe?” asked Katelyn between bites of stir-fried vegetables.
“Oh, nothing much. Just thinking.”
“Come on now. You know you can’t fool me.”
“Yeah, I know. I just didn’t want to worry you.”
“Well, you’ll worry me for sure if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
“I’ve just been having this odd feeling,” Ashley began, biting into her egg roll.
“What kind of an odd feeling?”
“The kind you get when you feel like you’re being watched.”
“Oh,” Katelyn said, putting her fork down. “That’s not good. When did this start?”
“It seems like it’s been going on for a while now, but picking up with time.”
“Maybe you ought to tell the police.”
“I can’t tell the police about a mere feeling. You know that. This is New Mexico. Not Texas or Arizona where they take pretty much everything seriously.”
“That’s true.” Katelyn looked thoughtful a moment. “Well, like I always said, be extra careful and don’t go out alone. Don’t even stay in your house alone if you can help it. If no one else is there, get out. If they are there and then they leave, get out. If you can’t call me to come and get you, just get out, but go where there are people, okay?”
Ashley nodded. “I spend all my free time with you, so I doubt I’ll get stranded alone.”
Ashley enjoyed staying with Katelyn so much that she found herself awaiting the end of the school day with impatience.
They started meeting for lunch at Ashley’s place since it was closer to their meeting spot. Now that the mid-May heat had descended upon them, they didn’t want to walk the distance to the Chinese restaurant as often. They saved that for the weekends. It made it more special that way and saved them money as well.
Weekends were something they cherished and looked very forward to. After sleeping in late that Saturday, they decided to head over to the Chinese restaurant. It had been a while since they’d gone there.
“I miss my chow mien,” said Katelyn.
“I miss my glazed chicken,” Ashley added.
Once they got to the small restaurant, they were surprised to find that they were the only ones present.
“Awfully dead for a Saturday,” Katelyn commented.
“This place is dead a lot. Makes me wonder how they stay in business.”
“Well, it’s not quite lunchtime yet, so I suppose that’s part of why it’s so dead,” Katelyn said
after their orders were placed.
“Could be,” said Ashley, sitting down, then standing back up. “I want to use the bathroom before the food arrives.”
“Want me to go with you?”
“Nah, I’ll be okay. If you see anyone enter behind me, then you can come in to see that everything’s okay.”
“You got it,” Katelyn said with a nod.
Ashley entered the restroom and tried not to be spooked by the unpleasant memories it held. She locked herself in a stall and peed. As she was finishing up, she heard the restroom door squeak open.
Her heart began to flutter.
Whoever it was had walked into the room and locked themselves in the stall next to hers. She knew it wasn’t Katelyn because she would have said something.
She waited a minute, surprised Katelyn didn’t enter the restroom. She had been facing the restaurant’s entrance, so she’d have seen anyone coming in. Ashley then stood up and flushed the toilet. She decided not to bother with washing her hands. She would simply head straight for the door and leave.
But that wasn’t to be, for as soon as she was within inches of reaching the restroom door, the other booth’s door flung open behind her and a familiar voice spoke.
“Freeze or I’ll shoot!”
Ashley froze. Although her eyes swung toward the side, she didn’t dare turn around. “Rose?”
“Yeah, it’s me alright, you fucking moron. You can turn around now.”
Rose stood holding a small handgun.
Where was Katelyn?
“What have you done to Katelyn and why are you doing this?”
“I used the service entrance. That bitch that’s been courting you never even saw me,” she said, taking a step closer to Ashley who was trying her hardest to control her quivering. “As for why I’m doing this, take a guess, asshole.”
“Must be either a case of the cops having very big mouths or you overhearing me the other day in the meeting room.”
Rose nodded, eyes smoldering with hate and rage. “Oh, I heard you alright.”
“Gosh, Rose, it was just a suspicion I was voicing. I wasn’t making any accusations and I…”
“Just a suspicion!” Rose said incredulously, raising her voice.
Ashley hoped she’d raise it even louder and that Katelyn or someone would be able to hear it over the eatery’s damn music.
“You’ve ruined my life! The cops do nothing but badger me, all thanks to you, and I’ve been forced to get a restraining order against one of them in particular.”
“But if you didn’t do it, then you’ve got nothing to worry about!” Ashley screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Shut up!” Rose hissed, glancing nervously at the door. “Yell that loud again and I’ll pop you one and be gone forever.”
“Why risk getting caught over me? What, do you want to go to jail, Rose? And why did you kill the others?”
“I killed them for the same reason I’m going to kill you. Because it’s been fun playing games with you stupid people, and the world doesn’t need your kind in it anyway!”
“And what is my kind?” Ashley dared question, now more enraged than scared.
“You figure it out.”
“I’m stumped, Rose, but look, I got a lot planned this weekend and I’d like to forget we ever had this ridiculous little chat and get on with it, okay?”
Rose shook her head with an evil sneer. “See, that’s just it. All anyone wants to do is blow me off. Just dismiss me like I’m an annoying fly or something.”
“Hey, I tried to strike up conversations with you, but you pushed me away.”
“That’s because you were nosy.”
“I was simply trying to get to know you. It’s no one’s fault if you won’t let them penetrate the
wall you obviously have built up around you.”
Rose began to sniffle as her eyes began to water. The gun lowered a few inches and she even started to look away.
Ashley’s body tensed, snapping Rose back into focus. “Don’t even think about it, bitch!” she screamed louder than she herself had screamed a moment ago.
The door opened up and Rose quickly tucked the gun into her pants pocket. “So things are going well? That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you,” she said, suddenly becoming a whole different person, smiling brilliantly and sending chills throughout Ashley’s rigid body.
The sight of Katelyn flooded Ashley with relief, although Katelyn didn’t appear to realize she was in trouble.
“Oh, hi there, Katelyn,” Rose said with the same phony smile as she turned to face her.
“Howdy,” Katelyn said. In that same instant, she whipped a can of mace from her own pants pocket and sprayed Rose directly in the face.
Rose howled as soon as the spray made contact.
“Get out of here, Ashley!” Katelyn screamed.
Ashley dodged past a flailing Rose and out the door which Katelyn held open. Then Katelyn herself followed, holding the door shut to keep Rose trapped inside.
“Katelyn, no! She could shoot you through the door,” Ashley screamed.
“The cops are on their way!” they heard the counterman shout.
Sure enough, Rose began firing shots through the door, missing them by inches.
Ashley and Katelyn ran, followed by the counterman, his assistant, and his own gun. They ran outside, scaring a couple who saw the counterman’s gun and got the wrong idea. They wanted to get as far from the restaurant as possible, yet remain close enough to warn any potential new customers off.
“She probably got out the service entrance in the back,” said a breathless Ashley. “That’s how she said she got in.”
Just then, two squad cars came to a screeching halt in front of the restaurant, followed by the detectives in an unmarked car.
The counterman tucked his gun into his waistband and raised his hands to chest level to keep the officers from getting nervous.
Just then another shot rang out. It had clearly come from inside the restaurant.
“Oh, no!” the counterman moaned. “Not in my restaurant. I really hope she didn’t kill herself.
She’s just a kid, you know?”
Ashley hoped she did, though she didn’t voice this wish. It’s just that she’d rather that than for her to escape so she could go on killing.
A check of the restaurant’s bathroom proved that Ashley’s wish had come true. Rose had indeed killed herself.
In the days ahead, the students were sad to see such a young person so miserable that they would take their own life as well as the lives of others, yet for obvious reasons, a great sense of relief washed over the campus as well.
Two weeks later, Ashley and Katelyn graduated with honors and Ashley went to live with Katelyn, whom she loved even more after she risked her own life to save hers, on her family ranch in Belen after they retrieved her belongings from Iris’s house.
Katelyn then went on to become an ADA while Ashley went on to paint beautiful paintings that would sell in their local galleries and beyond.
They never did return to the Chinese restaurant.