Experiment #331

Near Enough Part 1

Samara’s body shook with the force of the electric pulse. The EMT pulled the defibrillator paddles away. The EMT’s partner felt for a pulse on Samara’s wrist.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Clear!” The EMT shouted and shocked Samara again. Her body contorted and convulsed. The second EMT tried for a pulse on Samara’s neck.

“Still nothing.”

The EMT turned up the voltage, shouted once more, and shocked Samara’s body, but Samara’s lips were turning blue.

Cara looked on from the sidewalk, her view of Samara obscured by the back of the EMT. The second EMT shook his head. The EMT pronounced the time of death.

Cara’s world drained of color. Silly plans for marrying hunky twin brothers and real plans for rooming together in college both burned to ash.

Cara stood there aghast.

Marissa sidled up to Cara and put her arm around Cara’s shoulders. “Come on, Cara. Time for us to go.”

Cara let Marissa guide her. Marissa walked her back into the house and sat Cara down in one of the overstuffed, comfy chairs. Cara’s mom had brought them back from a yard sale two towns over. Samara had always loved them. Marissa sat on the footstool. Cara slumped down.

Cara’s Mom came in carrying a tray with warm milk, cookies, and Benadryl laced pudding, “to help her get to sleep, the poor thing.” She set the tray on the end table nearest Cara. Cara shifted away from it.

Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to protest, but the doorbell rang. “Who’d come at this hour?” she mumbled as she walked toward the door. Cara and Marissa both knew.

“Ma’am, I’m Detective Chu. This is Detective Peters. May we speak to your daughter?”

“What’s this all about? I already spoke with an officer.”

“We’re with the N.D.I.P. unit, Ma’am.”

“You can’t think—”

“I’d like to be certain.”

“Well, I can tell you, she—”

“Pardon us, Ma’am,” Peters said, “but we’d like to hear it from her.”

Cara’s Mom backed up. Chu pushed past her into the house. Peters followed.

“Are you Cara Stevenson?” Chu asked.

Cara nodded.

Marissa had disappeared.

“We have a few questions we’d like to ask you.”

“Am I in trouble?”

Chu frowned. “Your friend Samara, she was in trouble.”

Cara looked away.

Peters put his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “Can you tell us what happened tonight?”

“We were watching a movie—”

“Who’s we?” Chu asked.

“Me and Samara,” Cara said.

Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again when everyone looked at her. “Nothing,” she said then mumbled to cover herself, “Grammar…”

“About what time did you start the movie?” Peters asked.

“I don’t know. Ten?”

“Kind of late start for a school night,” Chu said.

“We’re seniors.”

“So?”

“Tomorrow’s senior skip day and I don’t have gymnastics. We were going to sleep late and hang out or something.”

“Okay. About what time did things happen?”

“11:30,”

“What happened?”

“Samara choked on popcorn or something. I tried mouth to mouth, but—you know the rest.”

“So we won’t find any substances in her body?”

Experiment #332

Near Enough Part 2

“Why would you—” Cara’s Mom started, but Cara answered them.

“Nothing illegal.”

“Both Cara and Samara are… were 18.” Cara’s mom said.

“That may prevent possession charges, Ma’am,” Peters said. “But assisting in a death, even as a guide or an angel, is still against the law.”

“Will we find Ketamine?” Chu asked.

“Ketamine’s not illegal,” Cara snapped at him.

“Not by itself.”

Cara shrunk in the chair even while her face stayed resolute and defiant.

“What else was in the Ketamine?” Chu asked.

Cara shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Peters dropped to his haunches so that his eyes were level with Cara’s. “Look, if you talk, you can help us find the dealer and save more lives.”

Cara shook her head again.

“Suit yourself,” Chu said. “For ten years you kids have had access to every drug imaginable. Every negative side effect and addictive property removed. And you do this with your lives? Play Ketamine roulette? You kill yourselves for fun?”

Peters leaned over to his partner and whispered something.

“I can’tleave him out of this,” Chu said to Peters, then he swallowed his anger and spoke through clenched fists to Cara. “When we learn the truth, we’ll be back. And then you’ll get a nice orange jumpsuit and some pretty bracelets to wear. That sound fun?”

Chu stormed out, but Peters nodded at Cara and her mother. “Sorry.” Peters said, “He lost his son.” Then he followed his partner out.

#

Cara stayed in bed the next day. She’d woken up refreshed, but then swiped down on her sleeve interface to text Samara and… She pulled the covers over her head.

Her mother arrived at lunch time with avocado toast, a butterscotch sundae, and a peanut butter banana sandwich. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want, so I ordered a couple things from the food printer. Eat up now,” she said. She put the tray down and left. Two hours later when she came back to check on her daughter every bite of food was there, but her daughter wasn’t.

#

Plink, plink. Tiny stones bounced off the window. Marissa opened the window of her second-story bedroom. One rock shot into her mouth. She gasped and spat and waved Cara up. Cara climbed like a monkey and landed in the room like a cat. Years of gymnastics had honed every muscle.

“You could have texted instead of chipping the photoelectric paint with those rocks. My Dad’s gonna go volcanic when he sees them.”

“My mom’s checking my stream, or worse, those creepy detective guys from last night,” Cara said. “I couldn’t let them know. You’d go to the detention center for sure.”

Marissa smirked and turned away. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I just can’t get over Samara,” Cara said.

Marissa shrugged. “We all knew what could happen. By the smile on her face, it was the trip of a lifetime. It was one of the best I’ve ever had.”

“But Samara’s dead!”

“You and Samara’d been friends for a long time, but you never really knew her. The trip excited her. The possibility of leaving for good was half the point.”

“What?”

“You know her Dad.”

“Just cuz he’s kinda mean—”

“You really didn’t know, did you?”

“Know what?”

Marissa shook her head. “You were always on your gymnastics trips. You didn’t have to change her bandage or cover for her.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She never fell down the stairs, Cara. She was never in a car accident. And those welts on her back weren’t from something kinky with that schmuck Bradley. They were from her mouthing off at her Dad, or trying to protect her little brother from him. Her Mom wasn’t much better, yelling herself hoarse to keep Samara ‘in line’ so her father didn’t.”

“What?” Cara’s eyes widened.

“Oh, don’t even act like you never saw it, never thought there was something going on.”

Cara’s mouth hung open in answer.