College students tend to stay out late.
Whether they’re partying, making out, or studying at the library, it’s not uncommon for them to keep late hours.
So Charlie wasn’t worried when she went to bed one night and Lindsey still wasn’t in their room. Lindsey’s late night walks sometimes kept her out into the early hours of the morning, so Charlie didn’t think anything of it. She turned their floor lamp on low, so Lindsey wouldn’t be stumbling into a dark room, and she went to sleep.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when she woke to find the lamp still on, that Charlie started to worry.
She checked Lindsey’s bed.
She tried to think of all the things that could keep Lindsey out all night. Without a boyfriend, a sleep-over with him was off the list. Could she have spent the night at another friend’s place? Maybe she had gone to someone to talk and had ended up staying over. That seemed likely.
Charlie had started making a mental list of all their friends Lindsey might have gone to when someone knocked on her door. A look through the peephole told her it was two police officers and her RA.
Charlie’s heart rate had gone up immediately.
This had to be a misunderstanding.
Maybe they just wanted to ask her some questions. Maybe it had nothing to do with her.
She took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Charlie Wang?” said one of the police officers.
Charlie had nodded. She had snuck a look at her RA. Her eyes were red and swollen and she had looked back at Charlie with pity. That had only confused Charlie more.
“May we come in? It would be better if we could have this discussion in private.”
“Oooooooookay.” Charlie had taken a step back and opened the door for the three of them to enter, then she had closed the door behind them.
It wasn’t a large room, and there were only three chairs, plus the beds, but the police officers had remained standing.
“You should probably sit down,” said the officer who had not yet spoken. He had pulled out Charlie’s desk chair and she had sat down, not wanting to be “uncooperative.”
“When was the last time you saw your roommate?”
Charlie had been caught completely unawares by the question. “Lindsey?”
The officer nodded.
Charlie had struggled to remember. Why wouldn’t her brain cooperate? “Yesterday afternoon. I got back from class and she was listening to music on her headphones. I went to the library to get some studying done, and when I got back she was gone.”
“She didn’t come back all night?” It had been phrased as a question, but the officer had acted like he already knew the answer.
Charlie had glanced at the lamp, still illuminated, and said, “No. Whoever goes to bed first always leaves the lamp on for the other, so they don’t have to stumble home in the dark. It was still on when I got up.”
“Had she been having any problems lately? Trouble with classes? Feeling overwhelmed perhaps?”
Charlie had been taken aback by the question. How did they know? “Her boyfriend just broke up with her. She’s taking it really hard.”
One of the police officers had squatted down so he was at Charlie’s level. Charlie remembered vaguely wondering why he didn’t just sit on Lindsey’s chair.
“Ms. Wang, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it: Lindsey’s body was found next to the train tracks, a couple miles north of here.”
Charlie had felt the breath leave her body. She couldn’t get it back. She tried to suck in air, but her lungs had abandoned her. She had just stared at the police officer, hoping to find a reasonable explanation there.
His gentle brown eyes had never wavered as he looked back at her.
Still meeting his gaze, Charlie had shaken her head wordlessly.
He had nodded in return. He had laid his hand over hers and somehow that had woken her up.
“No!” she cried, having finally gotten her breath back.
“I’m afraid it’s been confirmed by-“
Charlie had looked at her RA, but she had just looked back at Charlie with fresh tears in her eyes.
That had made Charlie start to cry and it had seemed like a very long time before she stopped.
To be continued …