Okinawa, Japan

 

A murder suicide pact was what they were calling it on the news. At least, that was what Detective Ichikawa had heard through the open window. He inclined his head from where it had been nursing a headache in the darkness of his hands, just enough to clearly observe the three school-age girls clustered around some piece of mobile technology one of them was holding, holding his own breath to strain to overhear the broadcast over his own pounding heartbeat. .

 

<<Students at Okinawa International High School were shocked and saddened today by the sensation caused by the deaths of Kimura Miwa and Fujimori Ai. Officers on the scene described the deaths of both girls, age 14 as a murder-suicide pact. Soon afterwards however, eyewitnesses reported police officers leaving the scene with newly arrested American foreign classroom exchange assistant Jasmine Leigh as the prime suspect in a double homicide…>>

 

Ichikawa put his head back into his hands, refusing to listen to any more of it. He despised sensationalist media, but shouting at young girls who were presently also grieving their classmates was not only useless, but the kind of reaction that he was too old, too seasoned at his job and too presently confused to allow to fuel this fire.

 

For were it not for a complete lack of evidence, motive and even a murder weapon, he too would have come to the same conclusion as whatever-her-name was out there was blaring at the trio of whispering young ladies and many, many more like them across the entirety of Okinawa and possibly all of Japan. Perhaps even in world-reporting news mediums.

 

Once again finding that he had to pull himself back from that particular train of thought, he opened the case file and fanned out the papers across his desk one more time, scanning them for some kind of lead or inspiration.

 

Resting right on top were the notes that officer Abe Naoki, a former participant in the same exchange-teaching program as Jasmine Leigh had been able to get off of her. He was hardly qualified to interrogate a witness, but he had been the only individual in the department who spoke enough conversational English to be able to translate the story from a native speaker.

 

Yes, they had been forced to keep the girl overnight as her hosts had been quite insistent that she not be allowed back into their home. Naturally the investigation team had done all they could to ensure the Suzaku family that she was not guilty of anything, but no one could have blamed them for their decision. Jasmine had no choice to stay overnight at the police station where they tried to make her comfortable and combed the department to find someone who could translate the moment she was being forced to relive over and over again.

 

        As a detective, Ichikawa had been to his share of coroner’s offices, crime scenes and interrogation rooms, but his heart had been in his throat as he had examined the bodies of the young girls.  He could see them slumped facing eachother, one from a gunshot wound to the head, one with a blade slash to the throat, long bled out. He would be seeing those open, empty eyes staring into the ether and hearing loud, foreign screaming blaring in his ears every time he was alone for years to come.

 

The upshot of it all was that there was no sword and no gun, and the only possible witness (or suspect) to the action had been found by one other teacher and her partner; the male half of their exchange pairing, barely minutes after excusing herself to go to the washroom during their lesson preparing and marking session.

 

The boy, Peter had claimed he heard no gun and he claimed that by the time he arrived on the scene Jasmine had broken down but had already placed the emergency call on her own phone. A simple scan of her phone confirmed the story and a thorough search of the school and grounds turned up only harmless wooden practice swords used by the Kendo club and the sharpest object available an epi-pen at the Nurse’s station.

 

Nonetheless, something in Jasmine Leigh’s face and something in the language the girl had used, in spite of having forgotten in her hysteria every word of Japanese she had learned, did not require a translation for a seasoned detective to know that she knew something that she was not telling them or letting on. This girl had seen something horrible and he wanted so badly to convince her to share, to tell her that her silence may be condemning other girls like the ones she had loved.

 

        In the end they had had to send her home to her parents and the care of a psych ward in her home state of Utah, United States of America.

 

        The only items left to commemorate the case as it stood now were the small trinkets the girls carried; various things most teenage girls could be expected to hold in their purses or pockets. There was also the one item, some bauble that was probably still in the evidence locker and would remain there long after he had quit the force and died an old man, the little charm that Jasmine had surrendered to them immediately after the police had arrived as willingly as if it had murdered the two girls itself.

        

 

        Oxford, England.

 

        The case of Llywela Morris is an unusual one. Llywela, described by her parents and former classmates as a popular and well-liked student, had come up with her parents from Cardiff, Wales on the advice of her teacher, Professor Neil Abbotsford to tour the Oxford University campus with her parents.

 

        “Yes, we always had a great deal of trouble with Llywela Morris, but not because she was a troublemaker. She was very bright. Not in all her subjects but exceptionally strong in her sciences and maths. The challenge was keeping her from being bored while devoting equal time to the other students.”

 

        “And that’s when you decided to pitch the idea of early University registration to her parents.”

 

        “That’s right. She was prime for the very best of schools. Naturally we sent her locally in Wales first of course. There would have been a multitude of scholarship opportunities out there for students like her and I am an educator first. Then again, we didn’t want to drag her away from her friends against her will either.”

 

“You wouldn’t say she suffered being a ‘science geek’ with her peers?”

 

“Oh no,  There were a few spats, usual teenage stuff though, fad production credits, so-and-so said this or that, but nothing that ever required more than a few words from anyone on staff. She seemed excited by the idea too.”

 

        The Morris family, used to the occasional evening without hearing from their daughter until her seldom missed curfew, a system they had put in place to reward continual adherence to their home rules, described her behaviour on the night of her death  as typical. She had listened to their guide, taken some photos and been offered the chance to accompany her parents to a movie, which she declined to go visit a landmark used in the Harry Potter movie filming.

 

        Her phone, found discarded at the edge of the Thames river yielded little more than snapshots from the landmark in question, a variety of photos with groups of girlfriends and a planned date to see the very movie her parents had decided to attend that night during the events of her death.

 

        Her boiled and burned body was discovered floating at the edge of the water by some young men leaving a local bar who had wandered over not for her sake but because one of them had spotted the phone.

 

        Clark Charles, the only one of the three coherent enough to talk to the officers explained they had gone to pick up the phone and turn it into the barkeep, though he admitted to trying to crack the password, ‘for fun’.

 

        “Listen mate, do I have to relive this?”

 

        “Of course not, Clark. Just tell us all you can.”

 

        “Fine. I was out at the pub with these two guys I know from class, we went outside for a fag and John sees something by the water. We all went over to pick it up and it’s some girl’s mobile phone.”

 

        “You knew it belonged to a  girl?”

 

        “Yeah, it had a pink case and one of those little strappy heart charm things on it okay?. That’s when we decided to try to crack the password to see if she had any selfies on it. So while we’re trying stuff out, Kent looks down and starts yelling his head off and um, we thought...he’d...had a bit too much. To drink...fine okay? They were a different kind of cigarette an’ he was kind of a lightweight. We um. Don’t do that anymore. I mean, who would? You wouldn’t want to do anything that would potentially make you relive a thing like that.”

 

        “That’s when you found the body of Llywela.”

 

        “Yeah that’s right. So I...give me a second….”

 

        Clark was unable to return, but his next actions had been to locate a pair of local officers walking their beat and bring them to the docks. Samples from the body indicated that the damage had been done from intense electrical shocks to water.but no such hazards were found, nor was there any indication there had been tampering to the water prior to the accident.

 

        Combing the riverbed produced no further clues save for a charm necklace belonging to the victim, which her mother had described as her purchasing with allowance money when she was about thirteen and wearing consistently ever since, calling it a ‘lucky charm’.

 

        Clark and his friends according to the pub servers had airtight alibis. The investigation of all other persons, many of whom were from out of town for the University tour session remains ongoing. The Oxford University Boat Club has been relocated to an indoor practice facility and remains so for the present while further tests are done on the safety of the usual practice spot.

        When we return, Unsolved Mysteries of Great Britain will continue, here on Channel Four.

 

Moasapeke Canada

 

The phrase ‘the tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife’ had never made a lot of sense to Haadiyah Farah until now. There was caution tape stretched across the broken windows and rubble strewn patches of what was once the town’s small but functional mosque. It was caution tape, not police tape however, and Haadiyah wasn’t sure at all how to feel about that.

 

In the kind of town where everyone knew everyone, it was impossible to believe that anyone was capable of a hate crime. Yet the windows were smashed in and great portions of the wall and signs had been knocked down. The space had been slated for a ‘commercial’ area before it had been purchased to repurpose into a site of worship, so whatever had happened had to have been done by force.

 

Someone brushed by her and she barely acknowledged the mumbled apology or the man’s fumbling overdose of sincerity when he recognized her hijab as a symbol of her faith. She didn’t really want that reaction to come out of this either. In fact, she could count on one hand the number of people who weren’t here to answer the call to help right now: The Mayor and his wife, who had broadcast themselves on an internet chat from Ottawa, working on getting a seat in Parliament and the elderly Mr. Lan who had been taken to the hospital a few weeks ago, leaving their son to have to come down from University for a few weeks to keep the local drug store and comic book shop open.

 

In fact, she had detached herself from her parents and whatever they and the adult population were commiserating about to locate...there. Her sister was unusually detached from the group, heads together with, or more accurately towering over with the intent of looking inconspicuous, a short white girl who Haadiyah thought she recognized.

 

She didn’t know too many kids outside of her own grade but she did know most of her sister’s friends, so maybe she was a movie star or something. It would be like Sabaahat to know a movie star if one went to her high school. Lots of people assumed that her older sister would wind up on television herself, depending on who you talked to. Even standing halfway across a road; it was impossible not to feel a little frumpy or plain or dull in comparison.

 

The short girl didn’t look like she felt any of those things though, looking up at her sister evenly.  Getting closer, Haadiyah decided she wasn’t really good looking for a tv star, all sort of thin and pale. Her hair was kind of ugly too, a bit like a brick and an old lady, like it should be rust coloured but had gone prematurely grey.

 

“Sabaahat?” She called out. Her sister didn’t look up, still talking urgently to the short girl whose arms were crossed in a pose that Haadiyah knew all too well. It was the same one her mother and father alike used when they were going to be strict about something.

 

Haadiyah was about to call out again, but she realized that she could overhear the conversation. She paused as the street was blocked anyway, looking around to see if anyone was watching her. That was funny. Her sister surely would have heard her. Sabaahat wasn’t the sister from the novels she read about girls who fought with their siblings constantly or ignored them because they were too mature.

 

“We have to tell someone! The ideas are getting bigger, Frank, you can see that! Everyone can see that!”

 

“We can’t tell someone. What would they think of us? My parents couldn’t afford it!”

 

“People think it’s a hate crime, Frank!”

 

Haadiyah sucked in her breath and felt a horrible tingle that ran her entire body. It was like someone had doused her in a bucket of cold ice water and jumped out from around a corner to scare her at the same time. She had to have heard the conversation wrong, There was no way her sister, her sister who never had secrets, always had the time to help her and who was going to be valedictorian and a doctor and a movie star and who she wanted to see do all those things would have anything to do with what had happened to their place of worship.

 

That settled it. The notion was so stupid, she had had to have heard wrong. Besides, hadn’t she also thought her sister had called that other girl ‘Frank;? As far as she knew, Frank was a common name for a boy, not a girl.

 

“No one is going to think that. I promise. Please put this out of your head.” the girl-whose-name-couldn’t-have-been-Frank uncrossed her arms and bent down to put on a pair of black patent pump heels.

 

“Okay. Fine. For now.” Sabaahat offered her arm to steady the other girl while she wobbled about as the thin spine of her shoe sank inches into the grass and soil. “And please stop doing that thing with the bunnies. It really creeps me out.”

 

Haadiyah knew by this point she had been silly to worry. The girl walked right by her, heels clacking on the pavement and acknowledging her with a brief smile as she continued with obvious determination towards wherever she now had to be. A moment too late, Haadiyah attempted to return it, feeling her mouth contort as she faked normalcy.

 

Haadiyah  tried waving at Sabaahat, fortunately with a much more relaxed and natural expression that lasted just until she spotted something in the bush out of the corner of her eye. The whole morning from the report and the town meeting at the site of the destruction to the bizarre conversation she’d just eavesdropped on had her on edge. Right there at the edge of the underbrush, two jet black rabbits sat.

 

Or she could have sworn there were. When she looked again, the rabbits were gone and her call to bring them to her sister’s attention died on her lips.

 

Sabaahat had spotted her this time however and trotted up to fuss and straighten her hijab. “Let’s get closer.” she said as Haadiyah ducked her fluttering hands and turned around. The girl from before was standing up at the podium now.

 

“Hey, who is she? I saw you talking earlier.”

 

“Oh yeah. That’s Francine DeMarchant, the mayor’s daughter. She’s speaking on his behalf. Her parents donated a generous amount to help the community restore the mosque.”

 

Haadiyah suddenly remembered where she’d seen the girl before and it hadn’t been from television. The DeMarchant family to the town of Moasapeke had been something like the Lodge family to the town of Riverdale from her Archie comics. Rather than corporate business, they had become entrenched in politics. As for their daughter, ‘Francine’, she had turned out a far cry from a pampered brat. She’d been sick with some awful disease or another and while her family could afford expensive treatment, it had still been nothing short of a miracle when she had made a full recovery.

 

Looking at her now, speaking on behalf of her absent parents, it was hard but not impossible to believe that she had been bedridden, hooked up to machines and shuttled in and out of hospitals for most of her young life.

 

“Whoever conceived of this atrocity, we are sure they are no longer among our number.”  She was looking out at the crowd, but her soft and fluttery voice clashed oddly with her confident gaze and words. “We will see to it that no damage of this sort ever happens to a holy building in this town again, and we thank the support of our community to have donated their time and their money to resolving this issue as one. We will have no sensationalist stories here, only one of harmony and strength on which this great nation was built.”

 

        She paused and the crowd burst into quite enthusiastic applause. Haadiyah clapped along with them, but there were worms gnawing at her brain beneath her hijab and her hair and her skull. Something about that soft-voiced girl was not gelling with everything she had witnessed in whatever was being communicated.

 

        She started clapping again when she felt Sabaahat’s eyes on her and noticed belatedly she had stopped with her hands clasped together. “Sorry.” She whispered and focussed on beating her hands together rhythmically with the crowd, even as her brain wandered off to places she didn’t want to even conceive of her sister going.

 

“And now, l’d like you all to welcome our local high school band as they lead us in our National Anthem.”

 

Sticking to her sister’s side like glue didn’t pose a problem. Most of the younger volunteers were together, helping to set up a lunch table and hand out water to the adults who were doing the heavy lifting.

 

Francine seemed to be caught doing mostly diplomatic duties of various kinds until around noon. No sooner had she talked to a boy from her class whose mother had brought him along about some homework due on Monday, than there was her sister talking with grey-rich girl-fluffhead again.

 

“Sorry, David. I can’t let you copy off me!” she said.

 

The boy looked incredibly alarmed, then angry. “Hey, I never even said anything about that!...oh my God I hate you!”

 

Haadiyah winced and ducked away as a tall, very fit woman with a long braid in track pants, a t-shirt and massive gardening gloves came striding towards them.

 

David quailed like a poked potato bug and Haadiyah used the opportunity to try to catch up to her sister.

 

“What was that all about?”

 

“Nothing. Bathroom.” she gasped, streaking around the edge of the building where she’d spotted an unmistakable wisp of flyaway hair whipping around the edge.

 

“Um...okay…”

 

Leaving her sister in the dust, Haadiyah streaked off towards the port-o-potties and then doubled back around the edge of the building. Whatever weird crap this Francine girl was involved with, she would find out what it was and protect her from it. Besides, the girl was still a former invalid. She couldn’t be all that fast.

 

She caught up to her, standing square in the middle of the children’s park behind the school. It wasn’t exactly run down, but it had fallen into disuse, mostly because most of the kids in the town were her own age and well beyond playing on the rocking horses or going down the slide.

 

Immediately her mind jumped to a thousand things. Here might be where she met to pay the people who destroyed the temple, or maybe where she was getting her drugs or alcohol to tempt her sister with. A large tree, thicker than her waist by a long shot provided more than adequate cover as the girl looked around suspiciously.

 

As she watched and waited, she barely noticed the strange, dull haze that crept over the area. By the time she had fully noticed, it was like she was looking through the world through a pane of yellow glass, the kind they put in the windows of the Principal’s office so you couldn’t see if anyone was inside when the door was closed.

 

Francine was standing up straighter too...and hadn’t she been wearing a button down shirt and heels just moments before? It was impossible, but she was dressed like she was going to a funeral from the 1920ies, and for that matter, even though she was all in black, she was the most colourful and vibrant thing in the place.

        

        That was when she saw the monster. There was nothing like it, not in a science book, not even on the creepiest pictures of ugly fish that inhabited the deepest oceans she’d seen on the internet. It looked like a cross between a centipede that had sometimes crawled up from her bathroom drain and a cow skeleton.

 

        It made a noise like nails on a chalkboard and Haadiyah did the only thing she could think of to do.

 

        “LOOK OUT!”

 

        Francine jumped a mile, apparently not because of the monster but because she hadn’t been expecting to be yelled at. This would have struck Haadiyah as impressive had she not been presently scared out of her mind.

 

        “Oh…” she said a word that would have earned her bed without supper. “Stay calm, stay hidden. You’ll even see something cool if you watch carefully.”

 

        Francine turned back towards the monster which was sniffing the air, despite having only a flattened skull for a nose. From her position in the shadows, Haadiyah muttered a quick prayer under her breath, all hostility gone towards the only person standing between her and a complete and utter nightmare.

 

        Francine stood there, watching the monster charge towards her. What was she going to see that was cool? A girl get eaten or crushed or trampled?

 

        Something brushed by her leg and she stifled a scream partly by shoving a knuckle into her mouth and partly because the thing was a rabbit. A small black rabbit. It was joined by a thousand more, in a swarm that was more reminiscent of rats. Rabbits with fangs and glowing yellow eyes with Francine in the centre of the mass like a conductor, pointing them at the creature.

 

        By sheer numbers it was overwhelmed in seconds by the wave of - there was no other word for it, killer bunnies. Monster killing bunnies.

 

        As the wave of fur and black dissipated and the bunnies blinked out of existence, the monster too had been destroyed.  One hopped away into the yellow haze that was also lifting, It seemed to watch her and wiggle its’ nose before it too was gone.

 

        “Frank!”

 

        “Sab! It was just a baby Idea, but um…”

 

        The reality of all that had just happened came crashing down on Haadiyah all at once. She turned towards the sound of her sister’s voice, but did not need to look up to know that Frank (short for Francine of course) had trailed off and was now pointing out her presence. Nor did she think she was prepared to face her sister or what she might see in her when she did.

 

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