“Of course Bonnie’s upset,” Alaric said. “This is her first real boyfriend. But the three of you have been through a lot together.
She’l come back to you, and she’l listen to you, once she gets a chance to cool down.” His voice was deep and loving, and Meredith squeezed her eyes shut and held the phone more tightly to her ear, picturing his grad-student apartment with the cozy brown couch and the milk-crate bookshelves. She had never wished so hard that she was there.
“What if something happens to her, though?” Meredith said. “I can’t wait around for Bonnie to get over being mad at me if she’s in danger.”
Alaric made a thinking noise into the phone, and Meredith could picture his forehead scrunching in that cute way it did when he was analyzing a problem from different angles.
“Well,” he said at last, “Bonnie’s been spending a lot of time with Zander, right? A lot of time alone? And she’s been fine thus far. I think we can conclude that, even if Zander is the one behind the attacks on campus, he’s not planning to hurt Bonnie.”
“I think your reasoning is sort of specious there,” Meredith said, feeling oddly comforted by his words nevertheless.
Alaric gave a smal huff of surprised laughter. “Don’t cal my bluff,” he said. “I have a reputation for being logical.” Meredith heard the creak of Alaric’s desk chair on the other end of the line and imagined him leaning back, phone tucked into his shoulder, hands behind his head. “I’m so sorry about Samantha,” he said, voice sobering.
Meredith nestled farther into her bed, pressing her face against the pil ow. “I can’t talk about it yet,” she said, closing her eyes. “I just have to figure out who kil ed her.”
“I don’t know if this is going to be useful,” Alaric said,
“but I’ve been doing some research on the history of Dalcrest.”
“Like the ghosts and weird mysteries around campus Elena’s professor was talking about in class?”
“Well, there’s even more to the history of the col ege than he told them about,” Alaric said. Meredith could hear him shuffling papers, probably flicking through the pages of one of his research notebooks. “Dalcrest appears to be something of a paranormal hotspot. There have been incidents that sound like vampire and werewolf attacks throughout its history, and this isn’t the first time there’s been a string of mysterious disappearances on campus.”
“Real y?” Meredith sat up. “How can the col ege stay open if people disappear al the time?”
“It’s not al the time,” Alaric replied. “The last major wave of disappearances was during the Second World War.
There was a lot of population mobility at the time, and, although the missing students left worried friends and family behind, the police assumed that the young men who disappeared had run off to enlist and the young women to marry soldiers or to work in munitions factories. The fact that the students never turned up again seems to have been disregarded, and the cases weren’t viewed as related.”
“Super work on the police department’s part,” Meredith said acidly.
“There’s a lot of weird behavior on campus, too,” Alaric said. “Sororities in the seventies practicing black magic, that kind of thing.”
“Any of those sororities stil around?” Meredith asked.
“Not those specific ones,” Alaric said, “but it’s something to keep in mind. There might be something about the campus that makes people more likely to experiment with the supernatural.”
“And what is that?” Meredith asked, flopping down on her back again. “What’s your theory, Professor?”
“Well, it’s not my theory,” Alaric said, “but I found someone online who suggested that Dalcrest may be somewhere with a huge concentration of crossing ley lines, the same way that Fel ‘s Church is. This whole part of Virginia has a lot of supernatural power, but some parts even more than others.”
Meredith frowned. Ley lines, the strong lines of Power running beneath the surface of the earth, shone like beacons to the supernatural world.
“And some people theorize that, where there are ley lines, the barriers between our world and the Dark Dimensions are thinner,” Alaric continued. Wincing, Meredith remembered the creatures she, Bonnie, and Elena had faced in the Dark Dimension. If they were able to cross over, to come to Dalcrest as the kitsune had come to Fel ‘s Church, everyone was in danger.
“We don’t have any proof of that, though,” Alaric said reassuringly, hurrying to fil up the silence between them.
“Al we know is that Dalcrest has a history of supernatural activity. We don’t even know for sure if that’s what we’re facing now.”
An image of Samantha’s blank dead eyes fil ed Meredith’s mind. There had been a smear of blood across her cheek below her right eye. The murder scene had been so gruesome, and Samantha had been kil ed so horrifical y.
Meredith believed in her heart of hearts that Alaric’s theories must be correct: there was no way Samantha had been murdered by a human being.