"I'm kinda trying not to think about the horrible murder right now."

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On Thursday, there's been a murder.

"Did you hear? There's been a murder!"

Apparently it's a Sherlock day today, judging from Zoe's black overcoat and blue scarf. Eli isn't sure whether the theming is appropriate, but it's subdued enough that maybe no one else will notice.

"I guess that's why Addi was out last night," Eli offers, hugging his books closer to his chest. Across the quad Lance makes the I'm-watching-you gesture, a big white gauze pad taped to his neck.

"They think it happened last week. Guy didn't turn up for his shift at the gas station just out of town. Sheriff found his body like five miles away in the woods, torn to shreds. Like it'd been mauled by an animal."

Eli tries not to think of sharp teeth and yellow eyes. Which is easier said than done, of course, when the only thing anyone talks about all morning is the murder. The stories get wilder as the periods drag on; a bear becomes a serial killer becomes a mob hit becomes a monster.

"It's Satanists," announces Morgan Lacroix, just before Spanish. "Human-sacrificing Satanists." Morgan is Arthur's little sister, and an equal tie for the Worst Person At Rosemont High, as far as Eli is concerned.

"Don't be retarded," is Mark Winger's, not-entirely-politically-correct opinion. "Satanists don't do that."

"How would you know," Morgan snaps. "Know many Satanists?"

"Uh, yes? My brother's in a metal band, duh."

"Besides," Morgan continues, ignoring Mark. "Mom was called out last night. Mom wouldn't have been called out if the Sheriff didn't suspect something."

Ms. Lacroix is some sort of police consultant, specializing in so-called "weird cases." Eli knows this because Aunt Addi knows it and, if prompted, will complain about both it in general and Ms. Lacroix, specifically.

"Elias, your aunt is a deputy, right? What does she say?"

It takes Eli a full three seconds to realize every eye in the class has focused on him. Including Morgan's; sapphire blue gems, glinting above peach-blush cheeks and beneath hair like spun gold.

Eli swallows thickly, and says:

"Uh. S-she wasn't home last night. And was asleep this morning. Um. S-sorry?"

The answer earns him a few derisive scoffs, though Morgan just looks contemplative. "See? It must be serious if they're keeping the Sheriff's people out there all night. They wouldn't do that for, like, an animal attack or whatever."

"It's still not Satanists," is Mark's opinion.

#

"It was probably just a bear."

"Uh huh." Eli nods, mostly because Jake looks so earnest.

Jake Smith is what, in Eli's opinion, would happen if an evil sorcerer turned a slice of supermarket white bread into a human. Not even a whole loaf; just a slice. Jake is somewhere between short and tall, thin and fat. With hair that can't decide whether it's blond or brunet, and eyes the color of a paint palette after an hour with a room of rowdy preschoolers. He's entirely un-memorable, so much so that Eli can't even remember if he's their friend or not. Sometimes he sits with them, sometimes he doesn't, and Eli barely notices either way.

"That sort of thing happens, you know," Jake continues. There's something hungry in the way he looks at Eli when he says it. Like he's drowning and Eli's the one with the boat. Or the helicopter.

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