Narrator: Betty Hewes
"I'm not a fan of missing class, Mrs. Hewes. And you already know how terribly fond of slander I am... not much," Cameron told me as he took the seat beside Joshua.
I had a piece of paper in front of me, with Joshua's story and Crystal's story in point form. I suspected that Joshua had skirted between truth and lies, giving ambiguous answers wherever possible. And his list of guests had less names on it than Crystal's list; which wasn't a good sign considering Joshua was the host.
"Brent Westner to the Guidance Office, Brent Westner to the Guidance Office."
I was so glad that that young woman had alerted me to Mrs. Abrams's preconceptions; that woman is due for retirement in a semester and a half. However, it means I'll have to place her psychology co-op job with someone else, until the actual school therapist arrives back from her mother's funeral next week. If none of the other councilors are willing, there's always that Grade 12 course that's more or less psychology. I doubt the Grade 11 Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology course is even finished Anthropology so far.
I was satisfied to assume that Crystal was telling the truth, given how detailed and shameless her account had been. And none of these young men had any idea that she was even here, already having divulged a very full story. However, she spared everything that wasn't relevant to The Rogue's article. Made sure to avoid mentioning personal details of herself or anyone else. Somehow, I doubted these boys would censor such things.
Brent arrived quite quickly, probably having just left the cafeteria as there was a sandwich in his hand.
"Take a seat beside CJ," I told him.
"CJ, you finished talking already?"
"He hasn't spoken a word yet, because I haven't asked him anything," I said crisply. "However, I have three accounts of the party so far."
Joshua raised his eyebrows, "Three?"
"Two, if you choose to assume that The Rogue is a work of fiction," I said, without telling them who else had spoken. Hopefully, though, it would spare them from telling some lies. "Brent, I expect you to lie to me as usual. That's why CJ's here. He can barely lie to save anyone but himself, and so his duty is to correct you."
"I witnessed nothing. I spent a good three quarters of the party playing video games. All I can tell you is that I didn't spike the punch, or have sexual intercore while at the party."
"Intercourse?" I suggested.
"That's the word!"
"They aren't concerned with our personal lives, so long as they aren't criminal. Everyone there was over the age of 14, and thus any sexual acts don't need to be mentioned," Cameron provided. "However, date-rape is criminal."
"I didn't date-rape anybody," Brent said with a crooked grin.
"All right. That's all you can tell me about the party, is it, Brent?"
"Except what I've heard by word of mouth."
"Which is suspect fiction," I said. "Cameron, care to tell me your side of the story?"
"I came to the party with my sixteen year old neighbour and what I thought was a date, neither of which go to this school and neither of which were mentioned in The Rogue."
I frowned, "Crystal came with you to the party?"
"No, ma'am. Someone else. A close friend that I umm... have -- err... had, had strong feelings for. Except I had no idea she wasn't straight. But that tale of woe's got nothing to do with what you want me to tell you about."
"Not unless you did anything to her."
"I wouldn't know how to obtain chloroform, ecstasy, ketamine or anything of the like even if my life depended on it, ma'am. Nor have I ever forced myself on a woman."
"Chloroform." I chuckled, and saw both Joshua and Cameron smiling back at me. "No, I imagine not. Did you witness any drug use at the party?"
"My neighbour emptied a flask into the punch. I warned Joshua, and some of my friends, and avoided it myself until the second batch of punch was out."
"And, afterwards, did you--"
"Mrs. Hewes, I'm not done," said Cameron.
I watched Joshua mouth the words 'oh shit'. Brent just looked on with boredom.
"My neighbour pressured Brent's girlfriend, Leslie, into toking up with him," Cameron told us. Brent didn't look surprised. "As far as I know, those are the only two instances of drug use at the party, as I took my anti-depressants before I came."
I laughed at his comic timing, but I was growing impatient.
"Mrs. Hewes, I do regret having invited my neighbour."
"Does he have a name?" I asked him.
"Adam!" blurted Brent.
"That's not his actual name," said Cameron. "And I don't see how it matters. The Rogue is slandering us, not him. What he did is out of your jurisdiction, and too trivial an incident for the police to even want to get involved with."
"Then the question remains," I said delicately, "How did the rest of your evening proceed?"
"You mean after I convinced Leslie to leave the hot-boxed room while breathing under my shirt?"
That news shocked me, "Played the hero, did we?"
"There's more to that, but it is irrelevant," said Cameron.
"You got Crystal to distract me," put in Brent. "So that you could play the hero?"
"No," he said quickly. "So that I could make sure he wasn't taking advantage of her."
"And was he?" I asked.
"No, not that it matters. Marijuana isn't a date-rape drug, and he certainly didn't have to apply much pressure on her."
"Was this before or after she got the news of her step-father's passing?"
"I went in partly to give her the news. I probably couldn't have gotten her to leave the room if it wasn't for that unfortunate message I delivered."
"And this chaperon?" I asked, turning to Joshua.
He answered me quickly, "Won't be depended upon for such purposes by me ever again. He was very negligent of his duties."
"Why didn't you mention him earlier? Seems that he takes a lot of the blame off you."
"Because that chaperon," Cameron put in, "behaved worse than any of your students. But that is none of your concern, and more or less escaped The Rogue."
"Yes, they do seem to be a rather liberal mouthpiece," I said, hinting ever so slightly at my trivial suspicions. I evoked a foreboding look on Joshua's face. "Now, Cameron, did you or did you not rape Crystal Jennings, regardless of drug use?"
"No. And if I am not mistaken, that is all you need to know."
"Are you in a relationship with Crystal Jennings?"
"I don't see how that's relevant."
"It is relevant to a different situation," I said delicately.
"Oh?" he raised his eyebrows. "I don't know."
"You don't know if you're in a relationship with her?"
"I don't know if I still am."
"Very well. Brent, you may go."
"Wait," said Brent. "I think we've been set up."
"I am aware of that possibility," I told him. "Let the administration handle things, please."
"Please hear him out," said Cameron. "He knows something you should know."
"Henry Barlow called me on the weekend, Saturday or Sunday, and asked me for dirt on Joshua and CJ, specifically anything about the party, but also anything else I could think of. I came up relatively blank, at the time of his call, and so he threatened me."
"Care to tell me why I recognize that name?" I asked, glancing at the other two.
"He was a student here two years ago," said Brent. "And he lived across the hall from Crystal's dormitory, last time I went with our friend Ashley to visit her."
"Curious," I said, glancing at Cameron speculatively. "Does he have a connection to any of the other Barlows at this school?"
"He has two twin brothers, in Joshua and CJ's year."
"Byron and Bastien Barlow," I deduced. "If anything comes to pass from this information, I will let the three of you know. However, it may be paranoid to think that you were targeted on purpose."
"Bastien sits with me at lunch," said Cameron. "I doubt he's involved."
"If any of you learn anything more, not that I want you to go snooping, please let me know. Now, all of you, back to class. I will write you each a note for your teachers."
Brent returned to the cafeteria. And after scribbling down a note for Joshua on the pink pad of late-notes, Cameron Archvale was the only student left in my office.
I looked up at him, "Your story matches Crystal's precisely."
His eyes widened.
"So, I won't have to take Mr. Cartier away from the class he's helping to teach."
"Gregory Cartier is a teaching assistant here?"
"Yeah, it's a two-month college placement. He'll be in your computer science class this afternoon, fourth period."
"Kieth Penningway, Gregory Cartier, Ashley Foreman... and the other alumni... were they at the party?"
"Have you done anything to annoy any of the Barlows lately? You bore the brunt of their scathingly libelous article."
"Well, as I said, I'm friends with -- wait, you think they have a connection to The Rogue?"
"I doubt Henry has a connection. However, both Bastien and Byron have top marks in the kinds of criteria I imagine that The Rogue looks for. Then again, so do you."
"I refused their offer last May," Cameron said. "But that didn't seem to annoy anybody."
"They're missing a fiction-writer. Isn't that right up your alley?"
"By the looks of things, they've been writing plenty of fiction. Are you asking me to snoop?"
"Here's your late slip, Cameron. Have a nice time in what's left of Politics. You may leave my office now."
He looked at me dubiously as he slung his bag over one shoulder, and walked, thankfully, towards the door that headed straight into the hall, rather than into the guidance office lobby. That lessened the chance of him coming face to face with Mrs. Jennings, who probably had her ear against my door.