The officer stepped toward the empty room, then paused at the door to wait for me.
But I glanced back toward my class.
“I have Ms. Atherton coming,” Principal Truss said. “And until she arrives, I’ll stay with them.”
I drew in a breath, brushed my dark hair from my face, and followed Officer Bond into the room.
After he shut the door behind us, he approached a nearby desk and placed his hand on a box labeled Helam City Police. Then he looked at me. “Do you know a Stella Fabrizio?”
“No.” My heart began to race. “Should I?”
“Her body was found this morning, five miles outside of town, in a pasture.”
“Oh dear.” My hand reached for my chest. “Did she go to our school?”
“The high school,” Officer Bond said. “She was a senior.”
From the box, he pulled out a photo in a sealed bag. The girl had dark hair, large brown eyes, olive skin, and was wearing a low-cut cream tank top.
“Her parents divorced two years ago,” he said, “which is when she and her mom moved here.”
“Just up north, near Salt Lake.”
I stared at the picture. “That’s why I didn’t have her as a student,” I said more to myself than to him.
“I know,” he said quietly. “Right now, no one knows how she’s connected to your class.”
I gave him a puzzled look and handed him back the photo. “My class?”
He studied my face for a moment. Then he said, “Do you recognize this?” From the box, he produced another sealed bag. This one contained a black vinyl drawstring pack with the green National Coalition for Families logo on the front. He flipped it so I could see the back logo: Let the Children Speak: Identities and Families with the current year 2004.
“It was found around her neck.”
The gasp slipped out before I could cover my mouth. Suddenly, I felt sick.
Our school, my class, these students were the only Utah recipients who had received these bags. This was tied in with our class’s special project, our final essays which would be a part of a temporary exhibit in Washington D. C. Almost a year before, I’d endured the grueling application process to then be awarded a special invite from this nonprofit organization, a group designated to help children and strengthen families. Yet now, I stared at the logo and the cheap welcoming bag which had been used to end another teenager’s life.
Officer Bond reached into the box again. “What about this?” He produced another sealed bag with a ripped sheet of paper inside. He handed it to me.
It only took a second for me to recognize my own words.
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