After much delay, here’s the latest chapter of Sadie Hawkins – we find ourselves back in 1997, following Sadie’s teenage persona, Viola, take her first steps toward outing the Calydon High rapist. Meanwhile, another mystery makes its first appearance – and its one that will follow Sadie through to the modern age of 2012.
Keep an eye out for the next Battle and a few more posts that are in the pipeline – and that will hopefully be coming out of that thar pipeline sooner rather than later. Also, this chapter’s illustration is imminent and should be up soon.
But, for now, here is the next chapter in the adventures of the teen detective Viola Hawkins…
There were no bells yet. It was Monday morning, the inevitable conclusion to a weekend of smooching with Nick at Veterans Park and watching bad television with Vidisha, Mohini, and Jen. Saturday had ever so briefly been interrupted by helping her mom reorganize her office filing system, which she seemed to do every other week. But, otherwise, things had been downright dull.
Beyond the nagging fear that Viola might have helped an almost-friend get raped.
Vi was standing in the hallway at school, having come in early to meet Z for their first official tutoring session, after they’d both forgotten about their meeting on Friday of last week. She was reading over her old Algebra I textbook, going over the same story problem about dueling locomotives again and again, but her mind was elsewhere. All weekend long, ever since she’d talked to Tina last Thursday really, Viola had been going through the events of that July night. She’d told Nick that she and Vidisha had gone to meet Marty Finch, and that was partly true. They had indeed arrived early on, briefly meeting up with Moonie, Jen, and their other friend Sara, a tough girl with a wicked sense of humor. After Moonie and the girls left, Vid had quickly and quietly ducked out with the few pot-smoking ska kids, though, while Vi suffered through an evening of Star Trek jokes (Shut up Wesley!) and discussion of the latest X-Files season with Nick’s friends Pat and Angelo. She’d had plenty to say about both – Leo Hawkins had given his children a steady diet of sci-fi since birth, but she’d been paying more attention to her then crush – Toshiro “Tosh” Kurosawa.
Even as she pondered her former crush, she glanced around, self-conscious, and continued to let her mind wander. Toshiro had been at another, private school in junior high, so he had been one of very few new people in Vi’s freshmen class. Add in his love for Japanese noir film and urban legends, as well as his ever-so-slight resemblance to Toshiro Mifune, along with raging teenage hormones, and Viola had easily developed a fairly strong, year-long crush. She’d watched him from afar all that night, as he played Mario Cart with his friends and then drank one too many wine coolers. But she’d only asked him out a week later – and even then, they’d only dated briefly. All that fuss – over what, she asked herself, some stupid, self-conscious boy?
Not that Tosh was awful, Viola thought, pursing her lips to feign involvement in the story problem before her. She and Tosh had made out and had a few great conversations about storytelling. But she’d so often find him starting at her breasts, which were really not all that much to look at. Not compared to Lacey’s often over-emphasized C-cups or Mandy Tomkin’s D-cups. And then he’d ripped her shirt one night while they were making out – nothing terrible had happened but he hadn’t heard her say no. Hadn’t realized how his forceful hands had scared her, pumping adrenaline into her system – fight or flight. Made her feel how vulnerable she was – alone with a boy, 5 foot 9 inches and mostly gangly, but still stronger than her.
Still privileged, still somehow…better? Because he’d been born a dude.
And for that, for the awkwardness that had resulted, for the strange way he still looked at her like she had been cruel for shouting at him, Vi might have let a friend get raped that summer night, while she was busy trying to woo her could-have-been boyfriend. Viola imagined Tina in the bedroom, as she had been imagining all day last Friday and over the entire weekend. Tina, having drunk a bit too much, about to fall asleep in Christian’s parent’s bedroom – happy, safe. Vulnerable.
Viola tried to turn her attention back to the problem that was literally at hand, shaking her head and focusing again on the story problem that she’d put off doing last night. She could hardly understand the language, and reading it over and over again didn’t seem to be helping. So she slammed the book shut, finally, and allowed her mind to wander, to return to the worry that had been nibbling at her mind for so many days. The image was a vivid one. She could see the man, or boy, or rapist, sneak in, softly, calmly, like he belonged there in Tina’s haven of a moment. Like he deserved her or anything else that he, a man, could desire. Like he could take it. Her.
In the midst of her thoughts, a hand grabbed Viola from behind. She jumped in shock and turned around in the hallway only to find Z staring at her, apparently concerned. She looked into his pale blue eyes for a millisecond before replying.
“Fuck off,” she said, without even thinking about what she’d said or why.
“Jesus – fine, whatever, Hawkins,” he replied, raising his hands in the air as he backed away, as if to say, ‘I’m harmless, dude!’ But she suspected differently. For as long as she’d been worrying over her latest case, she’d been convinced that this Halfling of a man was suspect #1. After another beat, Z turned around and walked over to his own locker, muttering, but leaving Vi to ponder her case. She began grabbing the necessary materials for tutoring her arch-enemy from her locker and wondered for not the first time how she’d let herself get pulled into this.
She wondered for a moment, carefully considering the facts as she knew them – ‘did he do it?’ She considered his long-term behavior, from their friendship in elementary school to his sudden but somehow expected betrayal in sixth grade. She remembered little of young Joseph, only that he’d loved bright colors, collecting leaves, and learning about natural history. In considering him as a suspect, she had recalled over the weekend that part of their falling out had been their classmates’ deciding that boys and girls could not be friends – singing about Joey and Viola K-I-S-S-I-N-G. After that, Zielinski had gone all quiet and solitary in junior high, only coming out of his shell once, in 8th grade, when Ninja Frogs and his possession of their action figures had become momentarily cool.
And then, all at once, this post-larval high school Z had emerged – assholicus pubescenti – all attitude, sarcasm, and spastic jackassery. He remained fairly solitary, with only a few real friends, namely Christian and some otherwise forgettable kid with blue hair. Maybe some of the upperclass guys on the soccer team. But, as Argo High guys went, Z was fairly tame in the ladies department. He barely dated or went to dances, and when he did, the gals were generally classy. In fact, he seemed to treat them with a strange mixture of respect and awe – something that had gained him a rather positive reputation amongst the upperclass Argo girls. Of course, they were rarely the subject of one of Christian and Z’s bullying efforts.
Still, his lonesomeness could easily be a symptom of being a sociopath – but Viola wasn’t sure, didn’t really know enough about human psychology. She grabbed her planner, with a photo of her parents alongside one of Nick and Vid in the front slip-cover, and made a note to find out more about sociopaths.
But, above that note, was a more important list – and the reason she’d come in well early enough to bump into Z before their tutoring session. She was looking at a list of people who likely knew something about Tina’s rape, with some details about each one. She shut her locker, she continuing to review the list as she headed for her destination that morning:
- Tina’s one friend with the dreads: name? – left early – ride there
- Lacey: T’s friend – seen outside the bedroom door – jerk
- Trevon _____ ?: T’s old ex – stalker – at party? – criminal past
- Theo: T’s recent ex – friend – ride home
- Christian: dating T – drinking w/Z – trashed? – asshat
- Joey/Z: knew T? – drinking w/C – trashed? – sociopath(?)
She’d spent some time this weekend coming up with questions to ask each of them – and talking with Tina on the phone about each of the potential suspects. First off, she needed to establish a timeline of events, starting with Tina’s arrival at the party. At the same time, she also needed to tease out the details of Tina’s history with each suspect – which would not be easy. Her almost-friend was not much interested in sharing too much personal information, as she’d made clear when they’d spoken oh-so-briefly on the phone that past Sunday.
In any case, Vi’s goal this morning was the name with a circle around it – Trevon. She didn’t have to walk very far to get to his assigned locker, number 106, where she leaned now in anticipation. She hoped that he hadn’t done a trade with a friend for a better location, as she and Moonie had the year before – but in any case, she was bound to run into him, as, according to Tina, Trey had regular service hours in the office in the morning as punishment for potential involvement in tagging the gymnasium that summer.
The problem, of course, was that Viola would not know Trevon from Adam, as her mother might say – but Tina was fairly certain she’d seen him at the party that night. And Tina’s bestie, Serbrina, had told Viola that she and him had actually made out earlier in the evening, before people had started passing out. Apparently, Tina was not the only person to have drunk too much that night. Viola, herself, might have been gone by then – it was so long ago, now, that she honestly could not clearly remember what had happened as the evening went on.
She did not know Trevon, but she did know of him. Trey was one of the rougher kids in their school – possibly the roughest. Not that that was saying much – Calydon High’s version of rough-around-the-edges was many people’s notion of fine and dandy. From what Vi had heard, though, Trey was into the worst things a Calydon high schooler could be – drugs, sex, truancy, and whatever counted for gangs in their relatively small town.
Vi was considering the best sources for information on Trey’s checkered past (Her mom’s friend Juan in the police department? Her contact in public records? Viola’s ex-bestie Amy Jo who had a work study in the Guidance Office?) when the boy in question walked up behind her.
“There a reason you standin’ in fronta my locker, girlie?” he said, leaning on the locker behind her and putting his left hand on her shoulders.
Viola grabbed his hand at the wrist with her two and then spun around to face him, twisting his arm slightly as she did so. She could have taken the move all the way through and bent his arm the wrong way, like she’d been taught in her Martial Arts class. But she didn’t – she knew better. From the grimace on Trey’s face, he was already out of his depth.
“Bitch, what – !” he half-shouted.
“Oh come on, this is far more of a dick move, don’t you think? Or can’t we use a non-gender-specific expletive?” Viola said, trying a bit too hard to puff herself up. The only other people around were Z and some freshmen much further down the hall, so she wanted to show Trey right off that she was tough. Even if she wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. Still, she didn’t want to cause any more of a scene, so she let go of his arm and continued, “Now, can you tell me what you remember of July 14th this past summer? You know – the night you crashed the party at Christian’s house and had that blow-out fight with Sean.”
“The hell, man? What are you talking about?” Trevon replied, his bright eyes darting at her and then around the hall. Vi had gotten the lowdown on Sean and Trey’s fight from Video, who’d heard about it from Patrick. Apparently, the two of them had been best friends and partners in crime until that night, and, though she doubted it, getting to the bottom of their fight might shed some light on what had happened to Tina. She moved in close to Trey, threatening him with the lack of space, but he only looked to his left, toward the opposite wall of lockers.
She stepped back a bit, reconsidering her initial impression of Trey. He was one of only a few African American kids at Calydon High, though she’d heard that his family was actually more Dominican than anything, but here she was, making assumptions based on teenage rumors. Was he the brigand that her peers had made him out to be? Or perhaps a more complicated person than she’d thought? She decided to test the waters.
“Fair enough, it is a bit early in the morning for karate. Here’s the deal, Trevon – I know you ransacked the guys’ locker room last spring, and am more than happy to share that information with the principal,” she said, using the only weapon she had acquired from the less-than-willing Tina. She continued, smiling as perkily as she could manage, all the better to freak the guy out, “Or you can tell me what you did at Christian LeBeau’s annual Bastille party this past summer? It’s up to you.” Trey only gave her a moment’s eye contact, as he crossed his arms and remained standing rigid before her, looking off to the side as if debating whether to tell her anything. Then, suddenly, he broke, and Trevon turned to her with a sour look on his face.
“Who are you?” Trey said, giving Viola a moment to take in her current suspect. He was wearing a black pullover hoodie with an image of a car exploding on the front and the words “No Authority.” He was standing with his arms crossed before her, even as Sami-I’m-So-Annoying arrived at her locker a few yards behind him. He had strong facial features, almond eyes, and the beginnings of scruffy facial hair already coming in. Trey’s hair was beautifully coiffed, and she suddenly understood the air of nostalgia in Tina’s voice when she’d described their relationship. The boy was hot shit – though the disgusted and annoyed look on his face made him look exactly his age and gender in that moment.
“Who are you?” he asked again, taking her pause as a cue that she’d misheard him. She hadn’t; she just wasn’t sure what to tell a potentially violent suspect. Viola tried to keep up the confident and unnervingly chipper attitude, but underneath the façade, she was worried about the caliber of her interrogation skills. All of her previous cases had involved people she knew relatively well, so she’d had plenty of background material and dirt on them. With Trevon, someone she hardly knew at all, she had little more beyond the locker event – especially since the rest of the info she had on him was mainly semi-xenophobic gossip spread around by the wealthier, whiter members of the Argo student body.
“I’m Viola, and I’m investigating a case that involves you and the night of July 14th, 1997. Got an alibi you want to share?” Vi asked, relaxing her posture, realizing that she had probably come on a bit strong. Although she was getting better and better at reading people, her teenage hormones definitely tended to make it difficult to maintain a measured and friendly demeanor. So, she reminded herself, she should try to counterbalance without seeming bipolar. Stay tough and perky, she told herself, but give the boy some room to breathe. “Tell me where you were, and I might just leave you in peace.”
Trey eyed her a moment longer and then flashed a flirtatious smile – one that she recognized as a weapon intended to distract. Viola smiled back, using her own, far more precise weapon – and then she leaned in, ready for whatever bullshit he had prepared.
“So someone is finally going to take down the Argo High rapist, eh?” Trey asked, catching Viola off guard, but not enough for her to show it. Tina had implied that there were others like her – but who had yet to receive any blackmail letters. It unnerved her, but Viola accepted this truth, recognized the attempt to distract. She smiled on, holding eye contact, and only reacting by putting her hands on her hips, proud.
“Indeed, someone is – but have I found my prime suspect, a mere accomplice, or an innocent but informed bystander?” she asked, feeling herself attracted to the young man before her. She steeled herself to the attraction and felt it pass. Today, in this moment, Viola was trying to help a friend, to make her high school, her world, just a smidge safer. That was what mattered.
“I’d like to say I’m a knight in shining armor – I’m the one who stopped the guy. You’re working for Tina, right? I tried to get her to prosecute, but she refused,” Trey continued, his smile falling away, revealing some mixture of honest concern and evasion. His eye contact drifted away, as if he’d recognized her strength, her control of the situation. “I was with my grandma at the hospital until 11 pm – I only got to the party around midnight, and even then, I was crashing it. I went looking for Tina, found her with a guy putting her clothes back on, and chased him out a window. Then that racist homophobe Christian kicked me and her out a few minutes later. So, I got her home that night, but she didn’t believe me about the guy. Or the girl either.”
“What girl?” Vi asked, her adrenaline rushing with the arrival of a detailed and potentially reliable account of that night.
“It’s weird,” Trevon started, looking at Viola with a mix of apprehension and curiosity in his eyes, “but I swear there was a girl in the bathroom. I only saw the back of her as she slammed the door, but I could hear her crying as I walked into that bedroom.”
“Any witnesses? Collaborators? Imaginary friends?” Viola asked, suspecting that his story was likely documentable. Something about the way he talked belied an earnest and tense anger, a frustration that she knew well. It was something she felt every day at Argo High – watching rich kids get whatever they wanted and do what they pleased. She was constantly getting in political arguments, only to end by everyone but her deciding that politics didn’t matter – because she could tear holes through their egotism and ignorance. Still, Vi would not let empathy deter her suspicions or Tina’s – she had to confirm Trey’s alibi.
“You can talk to my grandma – she’s in hospice but can talk. Just bring her some flowers, eh? Lady could use more visitors. And you can ask Theo Johnson – he followed me up the stairs but didn’t see the guy. And he drove the car,” Trey said, turning now to open his locker, seemingly done with her. “But I gotta get going, so you got time to ask me one more question, girl detective.”
“Okay,” Vi said, taking down the new information in her mind, even though she had to be suspicious of it, “Can you tell me anything about the guy you caught? Height, eye color, skin color? Anything at all?”
“He was white,” Trey responded without looking up from his backpack, where he was pulling books out of the locker and putting others in, “as if that’s a surprise.” He turned back to her and their eyes met again. Viola’s eyes were weak for a moment – those damn hormones – but she checked herself and kept her poise and eye contact, adding a raised eyebrow. “You know,” Trey started, leaning in closer, “If you need any help in the office or if you need, like backup, you just let me know, yeah? I’m not super tough, and half of what the rich kids say is bullshit, but I can stand my ground, you know?”
“You mean, more than a girl like me?” Viola asked, feeling a rush of anger and strength. Sometimes, she hated being a woman, but she did cherish her strength. And she loved to throw it in boys’ faces, to surprise them.
But Trey didn’t even flinch or seem surprised. He only responded, “Nah – probably less. But hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, okay? I hate this guy – boys who rape should be destroyed, or at least forced to do public service alongside CEOs and the uber rich, you know?” he turned away then and slammed his locker shut, his bag packed. He looked back to her briefly as he slung the brown, be-patched jansport onto his back, saying “Well, adios – and like I said, let me know if you need any help.”
“Thanks,” Viola said, still trying to look stronger than she often felt as he walked away. She was truly grateful for the offer, but she didn’t quite trust Trevon. She couldn’t put her finger on why – but mainly she didn’t want to turn to one of her suspects for help in catching the guy who was most likely the rapist of Argo High. Sullenly, she returned to her locker – Vi was glad for the information but disappointed to discover that her suspicion, that she was dealing with a larger problem than just Tina’s, was well-founded.
“Hey, Zielinski,” she half-shouted, coming up behind him. He turned to look at her, somewhere between vaguely annoyed and half-asleep. “Time for the maths! Are you ready to get algebraic with me?” she said, trying to entertain herself more than Z. He did crack a smile, which Viola was glad of. They didn’t really get along, but they’d be working together fairly regularly for at least the next few months. If she was careful and he was less than a total egotist, they could get through the experience without wanting to kill each other all the time.
“Sure – just avoid the caffeine next time, captain perkiness,” he said, following Viola as she walked past his closed locker and up the stairs. More than anything, she wanted to turn around and punch Z, but, instead, she smiled madly and sighed, walking as quickly as she could toward the guidance office where she’d had Ms. Wise set aside a table for them. Vi gritted her teeth and prepared for the very worst.
* * * *
She needn’t have worried. When it came to algebra, Z was actually more like the Joey that she remembered from elementary school: focused, direct, and almost, dare she think it, friendly. The hour had gone by quickly, such that the first bell had caught them both off guard. They’d managed to finish up the lesson they’d been working on, and they’d decided to meet again on Wednesday, with a fairly regular schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. She’d expected there to be a fight over scheduling, but Z had apparently dropped out of his other obligations to focus on school work. She’d tried to get him to say more, but he’d gone quiet and simply started reading a story problem about calculating interest.
Viola walked from the guidance office to her locker, rushed but not overly late. She had plenty of time to get to her first class, History. Or she would have, if Nick hadn’t rushed up behind her, out of breath, red-eyed with bags under his eyes.
“Vi, I need your help,” he said, sounding exhausted and a bit wired at the same time. He followed Viola to her locker, where she shoved her algebra book onto the top shelf and grabbed the bland grey textbook for her first period class and the related, black notebook. She’d color-coded all of her classes with Video after the first day of school, over a discussion of the merits of the character of Kate Monday on PBS’s Mathnet.
“With what, babe?” she asked, trying to pay attention to her boyfriend while calculating what she needed for her first class and how much time she had before she’d need to run to avoid being tardy. She grabbed a pencil from the magnetic box on her locker door and shut it, wincing as she heard the box and other writing utensils tumble for not the first time.
“I found it,” he began, leaning with his arm on the lockers beside Viola’s, where thankfully, Trisha Hardy had already departed for her first-hour Gym class. “I found my family – in a newspaper from France. And I think my sister – I think I have a sister – I mean, fuck!” Nick said, all in a rush. He seemed on the verge of exploding with emotion, and if what he said was true, with good reason. Nick had never been able to get the full story out of his Uncle Mike, who had told young Nick that his family had all died in a car accident. “Look, just look at this article,” he said, handing her a printout from a microfiche machine. “There – it wasn’t just a car accident. I mean, sure they went to some kind of festival, got into a fight with some uber-conservative, and then had a car accident. Suspicious, right?” he explained, not giving her time to respond or do anything but hold the article and stare at a photograph of a family of four who all looked just a bit like the Nick Howell who stood in front of her.
“So, anyway, my dad died in the crash, see there,” he added, pointing out a particular point in the article that was in French and thus incomprehensible to her. “But my mom and my sister’s ambulance never made it to the hospital. After a few weeks, there was another article about the mysterious disappearance that blamed it all on weird cultural shit – total ethnocentric bullshit. But the point is – the points – they never found, Vi. They were never seen again. You know what that means, right?”
“Wait –what?” she said, astounded. She hadn’t even known that Nick was even researching his family. She’d just always assumed that if he’d wanted to know more, that his uncle Mike would tell him, or show him photographs, or help him find out more. “When? Where? Give me the lowdown for gosh sakes.”
“Here,” Nick said, handing her a photocopy of another newspaper article in a language that she did not recognize or understand. It was the same family – Nick’s family. A young woman with dark black hair stood next to a man with a fantastic mustache, both wearing some kind of ethnic costumes, with a little girl and an older boy who looked unnervingly like Nick standing beside them. “That’s my family – and that’s me,” Nick said, pointing to the boy. “They didn’t die in a car accident – my mom and sister could be alive, and I, apparently, disappeared. I think – look, I really need your help with this, Vi.”
“I dunno Nick,” she replied, comparing the photographs in each photocopy he’d handed her. They were almost definitely the same people, but the images were blurry. Plus, the names were all wrong. For one, Nick himself was listed as Iskender Say, alongside his parents, Erkan and Kader, and his sister, Azra. His father was a mirror image of Nick’s uncle Mike, but Vi was suspicious. The articles were so random, and she had no idea how her boyfriend had found them, where he’d searched, and who might have tampered with the results. Not that it seemed like anyone should care about Nick’s parentage, but to have so much information suddenly come out of nowhere certainly seemed strange. She knew for a fact that he’d looked into it before through the University of Michigan library and found nothing. “I just don’t know,” she said, looking up to find her boyfriend and best friend crying.
Viola reached out and hugged him, still holding the photocopy. When she pulled back, he wiped his eyes and blinked repeatedly, trying to pull himself together. “Nick,” she said, “I know this is important to you, but I’m working on the blackmail situation I told you about, and this,” she started, pausing, “this is a cold case. They’re infinitely harder to work out, and I’d probably have to get my mom involved. Much less the fact that it’s an international thing – I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I mean, you’ve got a great start, but where did you get these? It seems like you might be better at finding out more than I ever would be.” She looked up to find Nick glaring hard at her, his face flush, but she continued. “I know you’ll be mad, but could we just put this on the backburner until I figure out what’s up with my current case?”
“You have gotta be fucking kidding me,” Nick said, and Vi understood that she had said the wrong thing. She should have been supportive but vague – kept her words reassuring even if she had no intention or ability to live up to promises to find his family. It was, very simply, out of her expertise, far, far afield of her abilities. There was no way that a teenage girl in Calydon, Michigan, with a very limited amount of savings, could hope to solve a case of international adoption, or kidnapping, or murder, or whatever else Nick might believe had happened. And the sad truth was, even as Nick glared silently, fuming, at her, it was probably just him getting worked up. His uncle was most likely telling the truth about what had happened, just that the details were a bit off to make things simpler, easier for an adopted son to take in.
“I understand if you’re upset, and I’m sorry,” Vi said, recognizing the second bell before her first class, the one that shouted ‘tardy!’ but not paying attention. She’d take tardiness over emotional drama and hurting her friend and lover’s feelings like this, so she stayed calm and ignored the profile of Ms. Thompson, the Spanish teacher who had hall duty in the morning, as she came closer and closer behind Nick. “I will do what I can, okay?”
“Whatever,” Nick said, “I’ll get Patrick to help me – he had the guts to go to the U of M library with me on Saturday while you were too busy organizing your mom’s files. But for the record,” he said, clearly pausing for dramatic effect as he began to back away from her, “you’re not a detective, you’re a scared little girl playing with fire.” With that, he continued fuming and walked away, even as Vi felt her face blush furiously. She blinked, shocked at the anger and bile, and felt a tear well and begin to fall down her cheek. Viola shook her head, feeling the shadow of Ms. Thompson as the third, and final, bell rang, wiping her tear away casually. She turned to face the woman, pulling her History book up to her chest as she breathed in deeply, gathering her wits.
“Ms. Hawkins,” the Spanish teacher, one of her favorites in fact, began, but Viola interrupted her.
“Going! And I know, I know – I’ll see you tomorrow in detention!” she said, calling back to the teacher as she rushed off to learn about the early days of the United States. As she did so, Vi found her thoughts lingering less on the details of either Tina’s blackmail or Nick’s family mystery, and more on Trey’s swashbuckling smile. She made a mental note to picture him naked later, or perhaps as a pirate traveling the seven seas with her, his Captain Vile. That would get her through Ms. Renier’s English lecture, which generally consisted of either male-bashing or talking about her growing marital problems. Ah – high school – Viola could not wait to get the fuck on with her life.