Chapter Six: Archives and Water Bottles

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The next day, after lunch, Freddie found herself once more at the county park.

Her duck boots clattered through dead leaves as she walked to the City-on-the-Berm Archives. Behind her, Divya trod more lightly—her high heeled boots, though absolutely gorgeous, were also absolutely impractical.

Her entire outfit was impractical, actually, for the October weather: pleather mini skirt, fitted blue sweater, and her trusty peacoat. But she looked (as always) amazing, so it was hard to fault her for her poor survival choices.

Especially since Freddie was a full-on scrub in her flannel button-up, bootcut jeans, and Berm High hoodie.

"Did you see the paper" Freddie asked, shoving aside a low pine branch that bisected the path. It smelled divine as she held it back so Divya could pass. "The Sentinel released the dead guy's name."

Divya nodded. "Dr. Fontana. He took care of my hamster once."

"Oh." Freddie's stomach sank. "I didn't know that. I'm sorry."

"It's alright," Divya said, even though Freddie could tell it wasn't. Not all the way, at least. And she understood why: it was one thing to find a faceless dead guy. It was quite another to find out you knew him.

"Oh thank goodness," Divya said. She cocked her chin ahead, to where the entrance to the Archives stood. "I'm freezing, and those walls will protect us against rabid wolves. Er...right?"

"Yeah," Freddie said in her brightest voice. "And wolves aren't out hunting right now anyway." Not that Freddie really thought wolves had killed that deer, but she wasn't about to tell Divya that.

After hosing down everyone's vehicles at Kyle's house, the prank squad had gathered in his basement to watch something funny and as un-dead-deer-creepy as they could possibly find. They'd settled on Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me, which Freddie had found delightfully distracting.

She'd also found Kyle delightfully distracting, particularly since he'd sat next to her during the movie and kept looking her way. The fact that she'd taken photographs of a mutilated animal carcass hadn't seemed to faze him at all.

And—thank goodness—Laina had finally relaxed into her usual self once more. She'd even cracked a self-deprecating joke when Will Ferrel's character had fallen down the hill and been "very badly injured."

"That's what I should have said in the woods," she'd muttered. "Perhaps you could throw me a bandaid or some antibacterial cream!"

Everyone had laughed; Divya loudest of all.

Once Freddie had gotten home again, though, there'd been no more ignoring what had happened. She'd fallen asleep mulling the dead deer and the flapping crows, mulling Laina's screams and that shape in the woods.

Most important of all, thought, Freddie had mulled about the bells. No, she might not believe in ghosts, but last night had definitely left her wondering. Especially since there was still the mystery of why Dr. Fontana had (or had not) killed himself.

Now here Freddie was, back in the county park woods—exactly where Sheriff Bowman had told her to stay away.

Ah, she was a rebel indeed.

Freddie tromped up to the Archives' stone hut. It's slate roof was only a few inches above Freddie's head, and the lone window—beside the narrow, iron front door—was too warped by time to even see through.

Freddie wriggled her keys from her hoodie pocket, and in moments, the door groaned open to reveal an empty stone room with an open hatch in the middle floor. A ladder slunk down into darkness.

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