Oxford is Murder

Cassandra Porter is still haunted by the death of her boyfriend and his father; when her best friend dies in similarly mysterious circumstances, Cassandra should be keeping her eyes ahead of her instead of in her mind. And, when she becomes the next victim, Lewis and Hathaway find that Cassandra has more of a troubled past than she had previously revealed.

“Get your hands away from my sister, you creep!”

“James, I honestly have no idea what you insinuate. If you would just-”

She walked down the bare corridor, trying to catch a glimpse at him, but every footstep she took was one that pushed him further away. Eventually, he turned and ran.

“Mr. Stevens, what happened?”

“Hi! I was just talking to James about playing for you at the Mass.”

“Aren’t you going to be playing?”

“I’m afraid I can’t be there, family business and all, but I’m sure Ricky will tell me all about it.”

“No…”

*

Cassandra Porter woke to find her pillow wet with tears again. How one could cry in one’s sleep, she didn’t know, but she had devised a variety of hypotheses to present at her tute when the opportunity next arose. The thing was: it never did. Psychology would be great if only Ivan would not steal everyone’s attention. Sure, he had stunning scientific skills, but he forever missed the bigger picture.

Grumbling still, Cassandra half considered going back to sleep before her eyes caught the swish of hands on the clock beside her bed. A quarter past eight. Cassandra sighed, knowing what was coming.

A brisk knock on the door brought Cassandra to attention.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, Savannah. You know that. Cass, I’m just checking that you’re up. Don’t wan’a repeat of last week…”

“I am up,” said Cassandra, throwing aside her covers and reaching for her cardigan a metre away. Due to the essay for her tutorial that afternoon, Cassandra had stayed up the previous night until her eyes could not withstand the melatonin onslaught any more. At the time, it had seemed the most sensible thing to crawl into bed in her clothes. Now it seemed ridiculous, if not useful.

“I must really be a student now,” Cassandra told herself under her breath. After a year of sleeping well, Cassandra was starting to think that Oxford wasn’t treating her correctly.

As Savannah entered the small student room, Cassandra picked a hole in the pink fluff. Why did it have to be so scruffy for a best cardigan? She found herself marching over to the dresser where a hairbrush lay waiting. By the time Savannah had reached her friend, it looked like Cassandra had been up for more than a minute.

“Are you ready? We’ll almost miss the breakfast serving unless we leave now.”

“I know!” Cassandra cried. She ran a hand though her hair as she combed it, as if the knots were going to come out that way.

“Come on!”

“I am! Hang on, Savannah!”

She finished brushing her hair as best as she could, and grabbed her shoes from the door, shoving them on both feet at the same time. She couldn’t afford a rush like this, not with the concert tonight already playing on her brain.

The sound of Savannah tapping her foot began to annoy Cassandra. It wasn’t rhythmical enough to inspire productivity.

“All right!” she said, wrenching her key from the sideboard and bustling her best friend out of her room.

“Finally,” savannah cheered. “And Cass?”

“Yeah?”

“You got your pass-card?”

“Oh.”

She’d lose her head if it weren’t screwed on. That’s what her boyfriend had said. Still, he had never minded Cassandra’s absenteeism; as long as she was there in time for the college choir practise, he used to put up with everything else.

Cassandra’s fingers fumbled with both the lock and the pass-card discarded on her window-sill. She could see the whole of St. John’s innermost quadrangle from the top-floor room in the newly-refurbished quad, but none of it made her happy anymore. Three months, four days - Cassandra’s eyes drooped to the wall-clock that she had cellotaped onto one of her lowest cupboards, doing two quick calculations – a hundred and thirty-six minutes.

“Come on, Cass,” Savannah said more gently. Cassandra felt her friend grasp her hand and pull her away from the sight, a beautiful outside with a harrowing inside. “There’s no use dwelling in the past.”

“No,” Cassandra said, perking up a little, “there’s every use.”

The End

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