1

To:Joe_Dawson

Date: September, 29, 2019 1:16 am

Subject: Not gonna believe what happened

Hey, Joe.

I know it's weird sending you an email rather than text, but this is going to be long. Not sure who else to write to with this but I saw someone get murdered tonight at the homecoming dance. Yeah, a great way to make friends at my new school by calling the cops, but I had to do it. You probably heard all that stuff about violent video games and music desensitizing us, but let me tell you, that's all bullshit. I'm still shaking right now, and I puked when I saw it happen. Just between us, I might have crapped myself a little too.

Okay, so, to start at the beginning. Things have been a little tense between Erin and me. I thought the dance was going to be the thing that fixed our relationship, but we were arguing during the dance. I ran outside for some air and a smoke. Yeah, yeah, I know I need to quit. Anyway, I was leaning against the building in the shadows when I saw a girl named Izzy and her date Liam leave the gym and head for the football field. I figured they just wanted some alone time; either way, it wasn't any of my business. Since they couldn't see me in the shadow of the building, I didn't want to scare them by walking out to leave. So, I was going to wait until they were well onto the grass. I couldn't really hear what they were saying, but I swear that I heard Izzy call Liam, 'Noah.'

Now, from what I heard; Noah was the name of Izzy's best friend. Erin told me that Izzy and Noah were friends from like the first grade, and Liam had been their worst enemy that entire time. Izzy and Noah were both weird, and I'm sure you can guess the kind of guy Liam was; a self-absorbed prick. The kind of guy who was taught that his self-worth was all about how much of an asshole he was. Well, here's something that's gonna make you sit up straight. Liam and Izzy came to the dance together, like, as a couple. It gets even more messed up. Last year, there was some big incident that no one talks about, and whatever happened put Liam into a coma for a few months. When he woke up, he was a completely different person.

I watched Izzy and Liam walk out onto the football field. Then I saw another girl walk onto the field. Her name was Oliva. I know I'm throwing a lot of names at you, but try to keep it straight.

I'm sure you know the kind of person Olivia is too; sits by herself at lunch, wears black hoodies with the hood up all the time, staring at everyone like she's afraid they're going to knife her when she's not looking, but no one else really pays any attention to her. In fact, they kind of avoid her. I tried to talk to her one day, but she just kept staring at me until I walked away.

So, back to the dance. I guess tonight was the night Olivia decided to be somewhat social, in a really messed up way. She started screaming at Izzy and Liam. I didn't hear everything, but what I can remember was Olivia, at least, I think it was Olivia, screaming that Noah was stalking her and that she had to stop him. I don't know what that had to do with Liam and Izzy, but then I heard screams. I turned back around and watched Olivia run past me.

I looked back into the field and saw Liam lying on the ground. Izzy dropped a second later. I ran over and saw Izzy bleeding from a giant cut in her chest and Liam was just lying there, but he wouldn't answer me. A knife or something was lying on the ground next to them.

I was just…like…I couldn't believe it. Was this a murder/suicide thing or did Olivia do it? Why would she do it? Why would Liam and Izzy do it? I snapped out of it and ran back into the gym to tell everyone.

I spent most of the night in the police station talking to Officer Barbera, who seemed to just be pissed off at all teenagers. I get the feeling he was a 'little' nicer to me since I wasn't a suspect. They took Liam and Izzy to the hospital. They're pretty sure Izzy'll be fine, but not so sure about Liam. They arrested Olivia too.

Sorry to cut this short, but I'm about to crash as it is, so I'll talk to you tomorrow.


2

To:Joe_Dawson

Date: September 29, 2019 6: 42 pm

Subject: Re: Re: Not gonna believe what happened

Hey Joe.

So, things just keep getting more messed up around here.

It was a really late night last night, so I didn't get up until noon. Dad was still at the table, reading his paper, while Mom was using her phone, trying to convince herself that she knows how to text.

She dropped her phone and rushed over to me as soon as I walked into the kitchen and wanted to know what happened last night.

"Nothing," I said.

She held up her phone. "Not a big deal? I find out on Facebook that there was a murder at the dance? And that you spent most of the night in a police station?"

Dad just shuffled his paper.

Mom hugged me again. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"Nothing!" I said again. I tried to wiggle out of her arms. She's so damn clingy and annoying. It's so freaking embarrassing. If anyone of my friends saw it my social life'd be over.

I managed to push out of her arms. "I'm fine." I grabbed the cheerios and a bowl, "It wasn't a big deal."

"Fine! I'll just read it online." Then she threw up her hands and grabbed her phone like she was over-acting in a movie or something.

Dad didn't say anything. He could try to be a little more interested. Oh, like I'd tell him either. They were both so damn nosy. Why couldn't they just get off my back?

Then Matt came rushing into the kitchen. Even at ten, he still acted like he was five. "Mark! You're finally awake. I got the Mario Party ready."

Yeah, I had promised I'd play with him today. I pretty much only did it to prove to Mom and Dad that I wouldn't be hungover since they gave me such a hard time about drinking after the dance. I mean, we were gonna sneak booze inside but got scared when chaperones were standing at the front door. Thirty bucks of Scotch and we poured it down the sewer drain.

I cringed at the thought of playing the damn game with him acting like a two-year-old. "Sorry. I've got to meet Erin and the others."

I saw the tears right away and his lip quivered. He ran into Mom's lap like a freaking baby. "You're going out again?" she asked, "After what happened last night?"

"It wasn't a big deal!" I said for the thousandth time, "Why are you on my back all the time?"

She just sighed. "Whatever, but you promised your little brother."

"I'll play with you when I get home, all right?"

Matt nodded, while Mom opened her mouth again but Dad folded his paper. "Just let him be. He's a teenager. His priorities are his friends. He'll realize how important we are one day."

I guess I should have listened to what he said but I was too pissed that he talked about me like I wasn't there. I just marched out of the house. Damn it, why are parents and little brothers so freaking annoying?

Sorry, I know that's not what you want to hear but thanks for letting me blow off some steam.

While I walked to the Starbucks, I checked the local news app on my phone. The reporters from the local station must have tailed the police or something because they were at Olivia's house when the police arrested her. It was really pretty messed up; she hadn't even changed out of her homecoming dress yet when the officers led her into the cop car. She wasn't resisting or anything. In fact, it looked like she wasn't even there. The news anchor said that when the police found her, she was just sitting on the couch, staring off into space.

Shit! What the hell is going on here?

I don't know if I told you about my friends, well, my friends here. Aside from Erin, there's James, who's pretty smart but not in a nerdy way, and Vinnie, who's one of those conspiracy nuts, but the way he explains it makes sense.

They were already at the Starbucks when I got there. Erin rushed over and hugged me as soon as I stepped through the door. "Hey, honey! How are you doing?"

I shrugged as I sat down at the table. "I was so worried," she said, "I never thought Olivia would try to kill someone." She frowned, "It's so sad what happened to her."

"What happened to her?" I asked.

They got quiet and stared at each other before Erin said, "All right. Um, Olivia used to be my best friend."

That was a surprise. "What?"

She nodded. "Yeah. She was even on the cheerleading team."

I had a hard time believing that.

Erin continued, "Last year, Olivia was throwing a party when her parents were on vacation. She invited us, with Liam and the football team like usual, but about a day before the party, she invited Noah, Izzy, Jaiden, and Brandon, just out of the blue."

I knew Jaiden from a few classes but I never heard of Brandon. Erin seemed to read my mind because she said, "Brandon moved away before school started," she explained, "Anyway, all four of them were pretty much all losers then too. So, they showed up at the party that Saturday, and Olivia couldn't keep her hands off of Noah. She acted like they'd been dating for years but that wasn't the weirdest thing. The police showed up but they weren't alone."

I blinked. "What?"

Erin looked at James. "They came with the CDC and FBI. They said we were all exposed to radiation sickness."

I shivered. "Seriously? How?"

James shrugged. "They never told us, but they made us go through a decontamination process right there on Olivia's front yard. When the cops made us line up outside, we watched Noah and Liam drive off in Liam's car. The police went after them." He frowned, "We found out the next day that Noah was killed and Liam went into a coma. He didn't wake up until a month ago."

"Why did they run?" I asked.

"Liam claimed he didn't remember," Erin answered, "But everyone thinks that Noah stole a chunk of uranium or something. Both Izzy and Olivia had to stay in the hospital for a week."

She was quiet for a moment and then said, "After that, Olivia was different. She came back to school right away but was really freaked out at everything. She had a major breakdown in the locker room one day. She had to go into a mental hospital for a while. When she came back, she was…well, the person you know. I tried to talk to her but she didn't talk back. She's so paranoid that she doesn't trust anyone. All she does is avoid everyone and stare into her tablet."

Erin looked me in the eyes. "And get this, she really got into computers. I mean, she used them, of course, but her mother told me that she was afraid Olivia was hacking into websites."

"Why would she say that?"

"Because the only people she does even come close to hanging out with are some college kids. You know, the kind that you just know are hacking into bank accounts and stuff like that."

Erin stared at her lunch. "All she does is mess with her computer all day. I'm surprised she hasn't gained a hundred pounds."

I was having a real hard time imagining that goth as a preppy cheerleader.

That's when we got a text alert from the principal. School would be closed for the next few days due to the incident. Some good news, I guess.

When I got home that night, Mark was waiting for me in our game room. After another argument with him and my parents, I stomped upstairs to my room. I started searching the online version of the Anne Falls Gazette and found Noah's obituary.

Noah Isaac Davison passed away Sunday morning, May 9 in the year 2019. He was sixteen years old and we mourn the life taken so early. He was an avid skateboarder and a winner of numerous young scientist awards. He is survived by his father, Henry, mother Mary, step-mother Jessica, step-brother Peter and younger sister Megan. A viewing will be Wednesday, May 12 at 10am and 3pm. Funeral services will be Thursday, May 13 at 10am. Both services will be held at the Thomas Beckett Church.

Short and sweet and to the point, right?

Another result of my Google search was a web page from some true-crime podcast. Here's a transcript.

Anne Falls sits along the banks of the Knave River and is an average American city; an urban center, businesses, schools, and a hospital. Surrounding the center is a typical suburb: houses, parks, and even the Kingland Forest, a large, protected park. Yet, on May 9, 2019, something happened in this American city that was far from average. The characters in our story are seventeen-year-olds Noah Davison, Olivia Johnson, and Liam O'Brien and sixteen-year-old Isabella 'Izzy' Ortiz.

Olivia was hosting a party, as teenagers are want to do, and invited

the normal people you would expect; football captain Liam O'Brien and other 'popular' kids. However, she also invited four kids you wouldn't expect, the so-called 'losers, among them Noah Davison. No one seemed to know why she would invite them, but the evening continued as expected. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Until the CDC arrived, that is.

They barged into the house, stating that everyone had been exposed to a high level of dangerous radiation. They forced everyone to undergo emergency decontamination right there on Olivia's front lawn, everyone except for Noah and Liam. For reasons unknown to everyone, Liam and Noah took off in Liam's car. The police gave chase but the two teenagers lost control of the vehicle and spun out before flipping over. Liam was knocked unconscious and Noah, unfortunately, lost his life.

Almost all of the teens that went through the decontamination process were determined to be clear of radiation that night, and none developed any symptoms in the coming weeks. None had symptoms before that night, so take that with a grain of salt. However, Izzy and Olivia had higher than normal levels. They remained in hospital for the next couple of weeks but both made a full recovery. Izzy had arrived with Noah and from all accounts, they had been friends for several years. Olivia had invited Noah and was seen hanging out with him for most of the night.

While it's unknown if any of the teens were exposed to radiation since the negative results from subsequent testing can be claimed to be a result of the decontamination, the biggest mystery seems to be why Liam and Noah fled. There is still a question about who was driving but regardless, Officer Pat Sculley followed until it became clear they were heading for the onramp to I-58. He radioed ahead and Officer Martin Rhett positioned himself at the entrance. When the car sped past, he deployed spike strips that took out all four tires. The car lost control and flipped an estimate of six times before coming to a rest in the middle of the highway. Officer Rhett's radar estimated that the teens were going close to ninety miles an hour. Liam suffered numerous injuries and went into a coma but Noah was killed instantly.

Liam showed amounts of radiation similar to Izzy and Olivia but Noah had an incredibly high amount. This led many to surmise that he was the source, but where had he been contaminated? And by what? His immediate family also showed trace amounts of radiation but nothing in his apartment indicated a source. Another question soon arose: if Noah was the source of the radiation, how long had he been contaminated? He showed no signs of illness, and yet if the source was close to him, why was his family almost clean of radiation while Izzy, Olivia, and Liam had elevated levels?

The CDC and the FBI would not comment on the case, only to save that the radiation had been dealt with and the source removed. The police were left to figure out why Noah and Liam had fled that night.

Police began combing through Noah's friends and family for an answer. He had never been in trouble with the law before, never been in trouble at school before. He was not a popular teenager and by all accounts, this was his first high school party, which led people to wonder if he ran because he had stolen, or at least, possessed illegally, the source of the radiation. As police questioned Noah's friends and family, it became clear that Noah had a dark side.

Yeah, dark side.

Noah Davison was born July 17, 2004, to Henry and Mary, a young couple who married right out of high school. Due to Henry's military position, the family moved around the country frequently. The extended family said this started to affect Mary and caused tension between the couple. Despite this, when Noah was seven, Mary gave birth to a girl, Megan. Though everyone said Mary loved her children, she left three years later, under suspicion of child abuse. They divorced the next year.

Henry struggled for the next few years but managed to raise his two children as a single parent. Around ten years, Noah started to act out in school, not uncommon for the type of divorce his parents went through and was sent to a psychiatrist for several years. He seemed to have adjusted by the time they moved to Anne Falls.

This seems to have been only a short respite. When Noah was fifteen, Henry married a woman named Jessica, who had a son in his early twenties named James. From reports, Noah did not get along with his step-family. Neighbors reported shouting and arguing shortly after the new family moved in together, there were arguments reported at family functions, vacations, etc. Police had been called to the residence more than once but no charges were filed.

As Izzy and Olivia claimed to have no idea what Noah could have that would call such radiation levels, the investigation seems to have stalled. That is, until, a month after the accident, Liam woke up from his coma.

So I just got another text from the principal. Liam just died from his wounds. I didn't really know the guy, but that really sucks.

All right, this email's too long as it is. I'll talk to you later.


3

To:Joe_Dawson

Date: September 30, 2019, 5: 24 pm

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not gonna believe what happened

Hey. I thought about sending this in multiple parts, but I just typed up the main bulk of it in a word document and attached it. Read the rest of the email first before you open it.

So to keep you up to date with everything…

First off, the police released a statement. They talked with Izzy yesterday and concluded that, since Liam had no signs of trauma, he died of a heart attack. Apparently, he wasn't in the best physical health since he woke from his coma, but Izzy confirmed that, yes, Olivia stabbed her.

So, about Olivia. A court psychiatrist determined that she had a breakdown, with an almost complete break from reality. She doesn't even realize she's been arrested. This entire thing is so f-ed up.

School's going to be closed for a while because of what happened over the weekend, but I snuck out of the house before anyone else was awake. Erin was at the coffee shop, eating a bagel at one of the tables with another guy. "Hi, honey," she smiled as she hugged me.

"Yeah, hey," I said, not taking my eyes off the other boy. He was kind of short with curly brown hair and thick glasses.

Erin waved to him. "Mark, this is Brandon."

"Hey…?"

Brandon studied me and then nodded. "Hey. Um, Erin told me that you're the one that saw Izzy the other night."

I turned back to Erin and she gave me a weak smile. "I'll go get you a coffee, okay?"

She left and I slowly slid into the chair. "Um, Erin told me a bit about you," Brandon said.

"Really?" I asked, "'Cause she hasn't mentioned you."

Brandon stared back and me and we didn't say anything for a few minutes. Finally, he said, "Look, I'll get right to it. You want to know about Izzy and Noah, right? You want to know what happened the other night?"

Wait a second. "You knew something was gonna happen, didn't you?"

Instead of answering, he said, "Why do you want to know so badly? From what Erin's said, you never even said two words to Izzy before."

I opened my mouth to answer but nothing came out. Why couldn't I answer? "I…I want to know what I saw. I want to know what happened with Noah. I read some stuff online but…"

"Yeah, yeah, all right," he said. He rubbed his eyes. "If it wasn't for Erin vouching for you, I wouldn't even be here, but I guess you have a right to know what you saw." He studied me again and I guess I passed whatever test was in his mind because he nodded. "All right, where should I start?"

I figured he was asking himself, so I stayed quiet. I just wish he'd get started.

"Just to warn you," he said, "It's going to sound strange and so messed up you'll probably think I'm screwing with you, but everything I'm gonna tell you is true."

"Fine, fine, whatever," I said, "Just get to it."

He put a tablet onto the table. "I was writing a journal at the time, so most of what happened is in here. I looked over it again last night and moved some entries around, but this is gonna help."

He took a breath and said. "All right. So this started about a year ago."