Prologue The Crime April 1964
Shadows dappled the hallway; ambient light streamed in from adjacent rooms. Rayland Nichols paced, his mind raced as he searched for possible solutions. He would not take the fall for this; it was not his fault. The whole mess was out of his control. If anyone was to blame it was her, she didn’t follow the rules. Anger boiled in him. Where the hell was that idiot? He looked around for Lester.
“There you are what the—?”
“I had to take a whiz,” Lester appeared around the corner zipping up his pants. “Where is she?”
“I told you to guard—oh never mind.” Rayland bit off the remark, why criticize him now? It didn’t matter anymore. “There was a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
Rayland didn’t answer. First, he wanted to find the right words.
“What happened? Is she okay?”
“Les, calm down and listen to me.”
Rayland held Lester with a grip on each arm. He could smell the cigarettes on his breath and team jacket. He waited for his friend to focus on him. “There was a—well an accident. She forced me to defend myself—stupid bitch. It’s not as if I planned to hurt her, but she tried to knee me.” Rayland’s eyes slid away.
“So, she went home mad?” Lester’s face showed disappointment.
“No, dumb ass, she did not go home mad,” Rayland scoffed. “She’s still in there.”
Lester tore out of Rayland’s grip and charged to the end of the hallway. Rayland watched as he flung open the door, turned on the light and stepped into the small closet under the stairs. “Julene? No. No No! This is not happening. Wake up Julene. Please, open your eyes.”
Rayland followed and stood in the doorway. Lester on his knees pulled the limp girl against his chest. Her head dangled, lifeless.
Lester’s shoulders slumped when he comprehended she was dead. He looked up at Rayland there was no mistaking the accusation and rage in his expression. “Why? You said she’d be mine.”
“I told you it was an accident.” Rayland frowned at him, torn between self-preservation and sympathy for his friend. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I just reacted and pushed her. Her head slammed against the wall. I’ll find you another girl. Haven’t I always taken care of you? Come on buddy, help me move her now.”
“We have to take her home.” Lester’s eyes pooled, the tears creased his cheeks.
Surprised at the depth of feeling Lester showed for the girl, Rayland softened his tone. “Les, you need to listen to what I’m saying, now.”
Lester raised his head and looked at Rayland. A flash of menace in his expression before his eyes deadened.
“You can’t carry her limp body through the school. Think about it. We’ll both end up in jail. She’s gone, we need to save ourselves. Please, Les, help me put her in the tunnel.”
“Huh? —No Rayland, it’s dark, and we won’t be able to get to her after they lock the doors. I will not leave her there.”
“She won’t care. We need to hide her. It’s temporary, I promise, we’ll come back for her later tonight. I know where there’s another entrance.”