Chapter One: Bodies

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Freddie Gellar hadn't meant to get half the student body of Robert Hughes Preparatory School arrested. It wasn't like she'd woken up that morning and thought, You know what? I feel like ruining lives at the rival high school today.

Not at all. The fact was that she'd heard shrieks coming from the woods, so she'd called the cops.

Like any normal human with a normal conscience would do.

"I mean, how was I supposed to know they were drinking in the woods?" Freddie stabbed her broom halfheartedly at a swarm of daddy longlegs who'd taken roost inside the smithy's hut. "I heard screams of distress, Divya, so I called the cops."

Divya sighed from her spot at the hut's entrance, where she leaned casually (and uselessly) against the doorjamb. Then Divya pursed her lips, and her eyes settled into a familiar Something does not add up here squint.

"Something does not add up here," she said.

"Hmph." Freddie stabbed a bit more forcefully at the longlegs—though not forcefully enough to knock any down. She didn't want them on her head, after all. With hair as wild and dark as hers, all those arachnids would get lost in a heartbeat.

"Surely you know what a bunch of rich kids drinking sounds like." Divya slunk into the shadows of the musty historical hut.

"I mean, not really," Freddie admitted. She paused mid-sweep to glance back at her best friend. "It's not like I've ever been to a party. Have you?"

This earned her a laser glare. "You know I haven't. Unless you count our Witchlands meet ups in Grayson county. Those do get rowdy sometimes."

"I guess," Freddie said, even though she was unconvinced. A drunken teenage party was not the same thing as an animated RPG campaign in Frida Richardson's basement.

Divya crossed two more steps, reaching the barrier that blocked the general public from the museum display. "Still, I think you should be able to tell if someone is screaming bloody murder or just screaming for more beer."

"Can I, though?" Freddie asked mournfully, turning back to the longlegs. "Because it sounded like bloody murder to me—and my gut thought so too."

"Your gut?" Divya tensed against the barrier. She, like everyone else, knew that Freddie's gut was foolproof. Freddie had sensed three tornadoes and a kitchen fire. Plus, she'd known Divya's cat was dying before anyone else had.

"But I guess..." Freddie sighed. "I guess my gut miscalculated this time."

"Maybe." Divya murmured, though she didn't sound like she really believed that.

Freddie had set out for City-on-the-Berm Colonial Village at 9:30 the night before. She'd left her scarf in the main office, and seeing as it was her favorite scarf (and very important to the completion of any fall outfit) she had grabbed her stepdad Steve's rickety bike after dinner and cycled down the shortcut that would take her straight through the forest and to the Village parking lot.

She never made it to the parking lot, though—or to the Village or to the main office. The trail had been dark, even with a headlamp, and there'd been an awful stench like dead animals in the air. It had given Freddie the wiggens before she'd even lost sight of her neighborhood's street lights.

So the instant she'd heard frantic shrieking coming from the woods, she had needed no urging whatsoever to turn around and pedal straight back home.

And once there, she'd called the cops.

Of course, instead of finding a Person in Distress being slowly dismembered in the old logging forests of City-on-the-Berm, Sheriff Bowman and her deputy had found an unauthorized bonfire and a lot of underage drinking.

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