**This is a slightly revised version from the previously posted story.  I needed to change the spelling of a name.  In the mean time I noticed a few areas that I felt like needed to be “tweaked.” **

 

 

This is a sequel to my second attempt at writing fan-fiction.  I would almost recommend you read the previous episode to be up to speed on this one.  

I am rating this with an adult rating and am strongly cautioning you before you read.  I assure you, the rating is NOT based on anything gratuitous.  

 

 

A Little RISK With Friends

 

The brisk December air stung Trixie’s nose as she scurried from her psychology class to the student center.  She was supposed to meet Honey at the post office.  From there, they would grab an early dinner at the cafeteria.

 

The warmth of the student center was a welcome relief as she crossed the foyer on her way to the post office boxes. “I can’t believe how cold it is,” Trixie complained as she put her hands to her frozen face.  “I swear I saw snow flurries.”

 

Honey laughed at Trixie’s cranky weather report.  “Come on,” she encouraged, “let’s freeze ourselves one more time.  I think Dan’s going to eat with us tonight.  He’s got this evening off since he’s working the pep rally Friday night.” She glanced beyond Trixie.  “Where’s Mike?  You two usually walk back from class together.”

 

Trixie motioned behind herself with her thumb.  “He had to stop off at the gym to sign up for a spot in the weight room tomorrow afternoon.”  Their friend Mike was on the Jr. College’s wrestling team. His short stature required that he build up more muscle mass in order to be competitive in his classification.

 

Once in the cafeteria they were joined by Mike and Dan. “We crossed paths on the walk over here.  It looks like our timing was perfect,” Mike grinned.

 

The foursome found a table near one of the cafeteria’s windows.  A light snow had begun to fall outside.

 

Honey shivered.  “This isn’t nearly as cold as it was weekend before last.  That last overnight biology field study was like camping in the Arctic.”

 

“I thought I was going to die of hypothermia,” Trixie quipped.

 

Mike folded his arms and reminded the girls, “I offered to keep you two warm that night, but you turned me down.”

 

A loud clatter interrupted the conversation.  Dan’s spoon was lying in the middle of his tray where he dropped it.  He began to rise from his seat.  “What do you mean by ‘keep them warm’?”

 

Mike suddenly realized the implications of what he had just said.  “No, I didn’t mean that I was going to keep them warm personally.  I had an extra blanket that I offered them.”  A slight pink had begun to tinge his cheeks.

 

The girls stifled a giggle at Dan’s suspicious nature.  Since arriving at the college Dan had assumed the role of protective big brother.  At least he gives us some breathing room, Trixie thought.

 

Honey nonchalantly took Dan’s arm and pulled him back into his chair.  “I’m just glad that the biology department worked together on those field studies.  Otherwise, my class with Professor Prophet would not have been able to join with yours.”

 

Trixie agreed.  “I am just thankful that we had enough classes in common to help each other study.  I don’t know what I would have done without you two.” 

 

“Maybe we can coordinate our schedules next semester,” Honey suggested to her fellow freshmen. “The three of us should still be taking some of the same courses.” 

 

Dan, now calm from the misunderstanding, raised a hand. “And if you need any advice on instructors, you have me.”

 

Mike commented. “I’m sure that we will need plenty of advice on how to study for finals.  They are coming up in just a couple of weeks.” 

 

“Finals,” groaned Trixie. “How soon do we need to start studying?”

 

“I’m certain we will do fine, all four of us,” Honey assured her roommate. “Until then,” she began to tick off on her fingers, “we have the Sugar Bear’s pep rally Friday night, their big game Saturday, at least one more ‘pizza and a movie’ night, and don’t forget our usual Risk game with the guys.” 

 

Trixie’s mood lightened.  “I suppose we will find some time to study.”

 

“I don’t think this would be cheating to tell you two.  Your Self-Defense class test is fifty percent written and fifty percent demonstration.”  Dan confessed, “I kind of got a sneak peak at it the other day while on duty.  You two are going to do fine.”

 

Mike began laughing. “You’re telling me.  They decided to use me as a guinea pig the other night.  I thought my background in wrestling would help.  These girls don’t fight fair.”

 

“We just used what we were taught in class.  Perpetrators of crime do not fight fair,” Trixie sniffed.

 

Dan pointed at himself.  “You’re not the only one that they have practiced on.  Why do you think they asked you?  I refused to help them after they practically dislocated my shoulder.”

 

“But we have to make our moves as real as possible,” protested Honey.  “You never know when we will actually have to defend ourselves.”

 

Trixie peered through the window.  “It looks like the snow has stopped. Now might be a good time to leave.”

 

They put away their trays and said goodbye to Mike before the girls and Dan headed back to their dorm, Wingo Hall.

 

It had snowed just enough to cover the grass.  “Good.” Dan reached down and scooped some of the frozen precipitation. “As long as this is all we are going to get the bonfire will still be on for Friday night.

 

“The entire campus is really pumped up for this game.”  Trixie pointed at the banner that was hanging from the light pole outside their dorm.

 

“It’s an important game,” Dan reminded them, as he held the door open to allow the ladies to pass through.  “They are nationally ranked in the Junior College division.  River Valley Tech is not only their rival school, but they are also ranked.  It should be a terrific match up.”

 

They ascended the stairs to their rooms.  Before turning at their floor Trixie asked, “Are you planning on going to any of the activities this weekend?”

 

“I’m looking forward to it.  I purposefully signed up to be on duty Friday night. That way I’ll be able to go to the game as a fan and not as an officer.” Thanks to the work-study program, Dan was able to land a job with campus security. As he turned and continued up the stairs to his floor, he had to pause briefly to allow Robert to pass on his way down, both men giving each other a nod as they passed.

 

Trixie and Honey smiled a greeting at Robert as they entered their hall and started toward their room. They noticed that there had been some additions to the normal décor.

 

Lining the hall were banners, signs and balloons.  The greatest concentration was located across from their room where four of the Sugar Bears lived.

 

“Wow,” exclaimed Trixie. “If this keeps up, we won’t be able to find our way to our room.”

 

As Honey began unlocking their door, the door opposite of theirs flung open. 

 

A very annoyed Shemeka looked out.  “Oh good, it’s you two.  I was afraid it was another fan.”

 

Trixie motioned the ball player into their room.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“The fans and media won’t leave us alone,” Shemeka explained as she sank into the dish chair.  “We are having a hard enough time preparing for this game. We appreciate the attention, but it’s impossible to concentrate on anything with all the hoopla that’s being made”

 

 “I’m sure they just want to wish you good luck.  They just don’t realize that you need some privacy,” reasoned Honey.

 

Shemeka snorted. “Used to they would have ignored us.  Women’s basketball is not that popular, unless you’re the women’s team at Tennessee or Duke.”

 

“Let us know if there is anything we can do,” offered Trixie

 

“Thanks,” Shemeka grinned. “It was good just to come over here and blow off some steam.”

 

She stood to leave.  “You know, all this exposure does have a positive side.  We’re all getting calls and letters from larger universities.  I even got one from Arkansas.”  She made a face.  “I just don’t know if I want to play for a team that has a pig for a mascot.”

 

“We were in Arkansas this summer,” Honey informed her.  “It is a lovely state.”

 

Trixie added, “Dan met someone while we were there too.  However, I don’t think she’s a Razorback fan.”

 

Remembering the scene Amber had made when she was asked if she went to the University of Arkansas, Honey began laughing.  “No, I don’t think she’s a fan at all.”

 

Shemeka checked the hall before crossing over to her room.  She pointed at a newly placed poster and rolled here eyes.  “It’s only a couple of more days until the game.  I guess we can live with this.”

 

Honey shut the door and turned to notice Trixie was digging through her book bag.

 

“It looks like now would be a good time to start organizing for finals.”  She said as she took the last book out.

 

“Relax.  You’ll do fine on the exams.  Your grades are good, and you’ve been keeping up.”  She raised an eyebrow.  “What you need to concentrate on is finally spending some quality time with Jim.”

 

Trixie scowled.  “Thanksgiving break was a bust.  Who knew Aunt Alicia would stay for the entire holiday?”  She crossed her eyes.  “Then, Moms decided I should stick close to the farm so I could help out with the open house and not be rude and ignore Aunt Alicia.”

 

“Jim was disappointed.  At least you were able to spend some time together.  With the extended Christmas break coming up, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding some ‘alone time’.”   Honey bit her bottom lip.  “I don’t know if I should tell you this.  He emailed me a couple of days ago to run it past me, but I think my big brother has special plans for the two of you.  It’s supposed to be a late Christmas present for you both.”

 

“What kind of ‘present’?”  Trixie asked suspiciously.

 

“Let’s just say it includes a secluded cabin and a hot tub.” 

 

“Please tell me that you are just teasing me.” 

 

Honey took a deep breath and let it out. “Trixie, you and Jim..,” She paused. “We’ve been over this before, and I’ve tried to keep out of your relationship.  Even when you were upset with me for getting information on birth control at the health fair, I guarded my comments.  I can remember how shocked I was this summer when I found out you had started on the pill.  It may be for medical reasons, but you are aware that there are other uses for it?”

 

By now Trixie’s face was bright crimson and she buried her face in the crook of her arm, as it rest on the desk. She raised her head to answer.

 

“Yes, I am well aware of the intended use, but that is something that has yet to come up.  That is to say it has come up; we’ve just decided to wait.  He and I still have a lot of obstacles to overcome in our relationship. For one, we live hours apart.  We hardly ever see each other.   And he and Brian still don’t know about our co-ed dorm.  How we have managed to avoid having them come here to visit is a miracle.” 

 

Remembering their parents’ first visit, she reminded Honey, “It took some convincing, but I’m glad our parents didn’t force us to move.   They weren’t comfortable until after they talked to the head residence, our RA, Annette and Dan.”  Trixie paused and smiled.  “Good old Dan to the rescue.” 

 

Honey agreed.  “We are so lucky he’s been here for us.”

 

“I’m just glad they promised to not let on to Jim and Brian, as long as we assured them we would eventually tell them the truth.   How Bobby has managed to keep it a seecrud is a miracle.”

 

“I think we can break the news to both of them at Christmas.  Although I have a feeling Brian will be a little more understanding than Jim.  I know my brother’s temper and the emphasis he places on being honest.”

 

“We are in for a big row, aren’t we?”  Trixie wondered as she picked up Jim’s framed picture from her side of the desk.

 

Honey twirled a lock of hair between her fingers.  “We will just have to butter them up first, before we drop the bomb.” 

 

Trixie traced Jim’s outline on his picture.  “With what you are telling me about Jim’s surprise, I guess that means he’s gotten over some of his ‘issues’ he had at the end of summer.”  She placed the picture back on the desk.  “The old saying must be true.  Absence must make the heart grown fonder.”

 

Honey wanted to continue to pry and find out just what Jim’s ‘issues’ were.  Keeping in mind Trixie’s embarrassment just moments before and the reluctance for either of them to openly discuss their feelings; she decided to back off for now.  “Just try to act surprised. He is planning on taking you there when you two leave Times Square just after the New Year’s ball drop.”  She noticed Trixie’s expression.  “It looks like I gave away that part too.  We are all supposed to go to the city for New Years. Jim was going to sneak away from the crowd, get his car and you two would end up at the cabin.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Trixie assured her best friend. “I’ll be surprised if it actually happens.  You know my luck.  I’ll be kidnapped by gunrunners or fall into a sinkhole before then.”

 

Honey giggled at Trixie’s comment.  “Don’t be so pessimistic.  The worse that could happen is Jim’s famous temper will explode, after he finds out about our living arrangements.  I’m sure you will be able to take his mind off of it.”

 

Trixie began to turn pink. 

 

“Sorry, I forgot.”  Honey tactfully shifted the mood by suggesting that they see what was on television.

 

Trixie half watched Nick at Night while checking her email.  Hallie sent news.  She managed to achieve enough high school credits to get her diploma early.  Next semester she was going to continue to take courses at the local community college.  She had already been taking them as part of her advanced placement classes.  “By spring, I will have enough credits to be qualified as a sophomore,” her cousin informed.  “I’m still eager to attend college out east.  But for now, I’m going to get all the credits that I can.”  She finished with, “Give my love to the family.  Say hello to the rest of the Bob-Whites.  Tell Dan he owes me an email.”

 

Trixie relayed to Honey what Hallie had said in her message. 

 

“Sounds like poor Dan may have one too many females to email,” Honey teased.

 

Trixie shook her head.  “He and Hallie are just friends.  Although if she ever moves closer, who knows what might develop.”

 

“Maybe we can introduce her to Mike.” 

 

Trixie perked up at the idea. “That might be an option.   That is, if he’s still available.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve seen the way the other girls look at him.” 

 

Remembering a line from “Beverly Hillbillies” Trixie quoted. “Like a hungry hound looking through the butcher’s window.”  She began giggling and motioned in the direction of their neighbors’ room.  “Do you know what Delmonica calls him?”

 

Honey thought for a moment and recalled Delmonica’s comments at their first meeting.  “No, what does she call him?”

 

Trixie recovered her composure.  “She calls him ‘Mighty Mouse’.”

 

She and Trixie had attended several of his matches.  She also remembered that their Sugar Bear neighbors, especially Delmonica, had also been in attendance at some of the meets.

 

Picturing the image of Mike in his red and yellow singlet, Honey sighed and smiled. She then became concerned.  “I know he’s sensitive about his height.  I hope he hasn’t heard her call him that.” 

 

“Oh I’m fairly certain he’s aware of it.”  

 

 “What are you trying to say?”

 

“I do know they’ve been out a few times. I also asked Delmonica to not tell me how she came up with that name.”

 

Honey quirked an eyebrow, “That must be some sight, a six foot six female dating a five-three male.  And I agree with you.  I don’t think I want to know how she came up with that name.”

 

 

****************

 

 

The next morning, during their history class, the girls were given an outline of what few classes were left, leading to the final.  “We may as well just memorize the book,” Trixie commented after being handed the study guide.

 

As they left the social science building, Honey turned to the direction of her next class, psychology.  “I think the entire class is counting down to the last class with ‘Dr. Freeze.’”

 

“Good luck,” Trixie waved.

 

Trixie grabbed a light lunch and met Mike as he was walking into Biology.

 

“Hey,” he greeted her. 

 

Trixie smiled and returned his greeting as they took their assigned seats.  Dr. Kirkwood began a very lengthy lecture on species classifications.  At the conclusion of the class, Mike waited for her by the exit door.

 

“I have some time to kill before my last class and my weight room session.  Do you want to go to the student center and join me for a mocha?  My treat.” 

 

“That sounds like a perfect idea, thanks.” 

 

Once in the student center, they checked their mailboxes and found a table.  Mike went to the coffee bar to place their order.  Trixie stayed to hold their spot and was reading a letter from Aunt Alicia when someone sat down across from her.

 

“Another letter from your brother?” 

 

Robert’s sudden appearance caused Trixie to jump.  She regained her composure and answered. “No, this isn’t from my younger brother.  It’s from an aunt, my mom’s sister.”

 

“Oh?”  Robert said as he began stroking his newly grown beard. “I hope everything is alright.”

 

“She’s explaining that she won’t be able to spend Christmas at our family farm.  She’s going to Gatlinburg with a group of ladies from her church.”

 

“And you’re going home for Christmas.”  It sounded more like a statement than a question.

 

Before Trixie could respond, Mike was back with their order.  He cleared his throat. “If I had known you were going to be joining us, I would have offered to buy you one,” he said as he placed Trixie’s drink in front of her. 

 

“No…sorry, I wasn’t planning on joining you two.  In fact, I didn’t know she was with anyone.  I need to get to class anyway,” he explained hurriedly.  He excused himself and left the table.

 

Mike watched his hasty retreat.  “I get the feeling he’s interested in you.  Does he know about Jim?”

 

“I know Honey and I have mentioned having boyfriends,” Trixie answered as she took a sip of her mocha.  “Of course that topic doesn’t come up much.  Game nights we mostly eat while we watch Honey as she conquers the world.  The way she dominates the Risk board I can see her managing a corporation.   She could actually end up controlling the world like she does in the game.”

 

Since arriving at the college, Trixie and Honey made several new friends.  Of which included CW, a musician.  His roommate Jimmy, a member of the college’s ROTC, as well as New York’s state National Guard. They had also met their suite-mate, Robert.  Several Friday nights had been spent in the guys’ suite playing the strategy game, Risk.

 

“It sounds like she picked up the game of Risk fast.  I need to join you some night.  Now that my wrestling practices are on hiatus until after Christmas break, I’ll have the next few weekends free.  Lucky for me Coach Borden was understanding when it came to our biology field studies.”

 

Trixie gave him a reassuring pat on the hand. “Don’t worry.  I’m sure there will be another game night soon.”

 

 

**************

 

 

Trixie hadn’t been in the room long before she heard a key turning the latch.  Honey entered looking pale.

 

Noticing her roommate’s pallor, she immediately became alarmed. “What happened?” 

 

“It was our biology class…  We got to witness a… cat dissection… courtesy of the nursing department,” she responded between gulps of air. “It was the only time she could get the class in as a group. I did ok during class and held it together until I got to the dorm.  It just suddenly hit me… that poor kitty.”

 

Trixie reached into the refrigerator and handed her nauseous roommate a ginger ale.  “Here, this should settle your stomach.”

 

Honey sipped the soda. “Thanks, I’m starting to feel better now.”  Her color was beginning to return to normal.

 

“I take that you’re not up to eating?” 

 

“Maybe, but I don’t think that I could eat much.”  Honey answered carefully, as if she was trying to decide if she had fully recovered.

 

Trixie made a face.  “I hope Dr. Kirkwood’s not planning on us watching anything like that tomorrow for our lab class.”

 

“I’m certain you’ll handle it better than I did.”  Honey assured her.

 

Trixie went to their cupboard to inspect their food supply.  “It looks like we can eat in.  We still have several cans of soup, crackers and plenty of drinks.”

 

Honey considered the suggestion for a moment.  “What are they serving in the cafeteria tonight?”

 

“I believe it’s their infamous knockwurst and kraut.”

 

“Ugh,” Honey wrinkled her nose. “My stomach definitely can’t handle that right now.”

 

“It’s unanimous.  We’ll be having soup and crackers tonight,” Trixie said as she turned her attention to the computer.   A look of annoyance came across her face.  “The web cam was left on again.”

 

Honey walked over to where Trixie was sitting.  “I promise.  I turned it off the last time I used it.”

 

“I’ve not used it in a while,” Trixie declared as she turned off the device.  “We need to have someone look at this crazy computer.”

 

“It is new.” Honey reminded her.  “There are a lot of features that we haven’t figured out yet.  My parents went all out and had it loaded with all the bells and whistles. I’m sure that there are some things that we aren’t doing right.”

 

Trixie opened her account to check her messages before suggesting, “Maybe we should completely shut it down from now on.”  Her suggestion fell as deaf ears as Honey had left the room to wash-up.

 

The girls heated their soup and ate while watching Fox News.  Promptly at 8:00 they settled back to watch the latest episode of Survivor. 

 

Honey quickly turned the channel when CSI came on.  “I’ve had enough dissecting for one day.”

 

She was still going through the channels when a knock came from their bathroom door.  “Is anyone home?” called Nancy’s voice.

 

Trixie opened the door and beyond it stood both Nancy and Patti.  They held up pizza boxes and drinks.

 

“We went to Eureka Pizza and got their buy one, get two free special.  We thought we would share,” explained Patti.

 

Honey began clearing off their small table to make room.  “I didn’t feel like eating much before, but pizza sounds so good right now.”

 

“We had some soup earlier, but that really didn’t fill me up,” confessed Trixie.

 

As they ate, the conversation turned to what they usually discussed, boys.  “So,” Nancy asked trying to sound nonchalant, “is Dan still emailing that girl from Arkansas?”

 

“As far as we know, he is,” Trixie answered.  She was trying not to giggle.  She was well aware that both their suite-mates had a thing for Dan.

 

Honey saw the look of disappointment on their faces and was going to comfort them by explaining that she didn’t think they were serious, when her cell phone chirped.  A smile spread across her face as she noticed who the caller was.

 

“Excuse me,” she said as she took the phone into the bathroom. 

 

 “It must be my brother,” Trixie predicted.  “I wonder what he wants.  He usually doesn’t call on Thursday nights.”

 

“Are you going to the pep rally tomorrow evening?”  Patti asked.  “It sounds like it’s going to be fun.”

 

“I hope we can get a seat at the game Saturday.  The gym doesn’t hold that many fans,” Nancy interjected. 

 

Before Trixie could comment to either girl, Patti blurted, “Do you know if Dan’s going?”  She began rubbing her shin, thanks to a swift kick under the table from Nancy.

 

Trixie, amused by their one-track mind, assured them, “I’m positive that Dan will be at the pep rally.  He’s on duty tomorrow night, and he’s already told us that he is planning on going to the game.  He and I have been to practically all their home games this year.”

 

The bathroom door opened, and Honey reentered the room with a slight smile on her face.   Trixie cocked her head to ask what was up.  “I’ll tell you later,” Honey said under her breath.

 

“We better head back to our side,” Nancy announced.  “We both have early classes tomorrow.”

 

Patti nodded in agreement as she picked up the remaining pizza boxes.  “I guess we will see you two tomorrow night.” 

 

Honey bit her lip and looked at Trixie, but she was busy brushing crumbs off the table, “Oh, yeah…tomorrow night,” Honey mumbled.  

 

After their friends left, Trixie yawned and stretched.  “It sounds like this weekend is going to be exciting.  But for now, I need some sleep.  I can hardly keep my eyes open.”

 

Honey started to say something in reply, but stopped.  I’ll have to break the news to her tomorrow.  I hope she’s not too disappointed.  “I need to send a quick email to Brian,” she announced.   “There’s something I forgot to tell him while we were on the phone.” Like having to explain my change of plans to his sister, she thought.  

 

***********

 

 

“TGIF!”  Trixie exclaimed as they began getting dressed for their Friday classes.

 

Honey peeked into the hall to check on the Sugar Bears’ side of the hall.  “Oh my, you should see the hall.  There are even more balloons and signs out there than there were last night.”

 

Trixie leaned her head momentarily into the hall to grab a quick look. “The pep rally is tonight.  The game is tomorrow.  Hopefully after that the girls will have some peace.”   

 

Within minutes they were sitting in their English class.  Since the beginning of the semester they had mastered the fine art of rolling out of bed, quickly dressing, and making it in time for classes.  Most of the time, they didn’t even bother with makeup. A pony tale and sweats were their preferred choice of attire.  Breakfast was usually a pop tart or cereal bar.

 

Dr. Hudson discussed what he planned to cover in what little time was left in the semester. He concluded with what would be required of them for their final.  They would have to write an essay.  He distributed a list of prompts from which they would be able to choose from during class.  “I’m going to let you decide what prompt you wish to write on,” he explained.  “I don’t have a problem with you planning or pre-writing in advance.  However, your final product must be written in here.”

 

After they left class, the girls decided to eat in the student center.  It was still too early for the cafeteria to be open for lunch.

 

Honey checked her watch.  It looks like you still have a couple of hours to kill before your lab class.  I’m going back to the dorm and do some laundry.”  A guilty look spread across her face as she bit her bottom lip.  “I suppose I can tell you this now.  I’m seeing Brian this weekend.  I’ll be leaving this afternoon.  We’re meeting halfway.  There’s a Comfort Inn just off the interstate.  It’s the same one we’ve stayed at before.  That’s why he called last night.”

 

“Oh? I guess you can tell him ‘hi’ for me.” Trixie attempted to hide the disappointment; only she was doing a very poor job of it.  “It looks like I’ll be going to the Sugar Bears’ activities by myself.  I assumed that you would be here this weekend.”

 

Honey tried to cheer up her disappointed best friend by reminding her, “You have an entire dorm full of friends.  You know for sure that Nancy and Patti are going.  There’s always Dan.  Isn’t Mike going to be free?” 

 

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty about leaving me,” she apologized.   “And, I guess I’m still not used to your and Brian’s...um…relationship.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Honey raised an eyebrow and gave her a slow smile. “Your time will come soon.”

 

Trixie responded by avoiding the subject and wishing Honey a safe trip. 

 

“I’ll be back Sunday afternoon,” Honey promised.

 

 

***********

 

 

Trixie’s biology lab, much to her relief, did not involve a cat.  She and Mike, along with their lab partners Brenda and Elise, spent the better part of the lab classifying organisms.

 

At one point Trixie had to suppress a giggle. She remembered Bobby’s attempt to look up ‘organisms’ on the Internet earlier in the school year.  Mike shot her a curious look.  “I’ll have to explain some other time,” she whispered.

 

Each table had several glass jars with specimens.   They were to fill in the missing information on a flowchart in order to classify each one.

 

Brenda held a jar up for inspection.  “I will never eat calamari again,” she said in disgust as she classified the squid floating in the preservation solution.

 

After the lab Trixie and Mike headed to their next class, psychology.  “We are here way early,” he informed her.

 

“That’s fine by me.  I would rather be inside than walking all the way to the dorm and back.”

 

As they approached the room, they noticed a sheet of paper had been taped to the door.

 

Trixie read it aloud.  “All of Dr. Morrow’s classes will be cancelled Friday, December… Hey, that’s today.”

 

“Great, we have the rest of the afternoon free.  How about wandering over to the cafeteria?” he suggested.  “They usually have sandwiches and the salad bar set up for the late lunch crowd.”

 

Trixie apologized, “I’ve already eaten.”  She saw the disappointment on his face, and remembering how she felt earlier in the day over Honey’s sudden departure, she changed her mind.  “Sure, why not.”

 

The cafeteria’s sandwich and salad bar was well stocked.  After selecting a sandwich and building their salads, Trixie noticed that Robert was also there.  He was sitting alone.

 

“Come on,” she encouraged Mike.  “Let’s sit with Robert.” 

 

Mike forced a smile and followed her lead. 

 

“May we sit here?” she asked.

 

Robert looked up.  “Of course,” he answered, his steel grey eyes riveted on Trixie.  “I was hoping to run into you.”

 

They engaged in small talk as they ate.  Soon the conversation turned to the evening plans.  “I had planned on going to the pep rally,” Trixie informed her dining companions.  “But Honey’s out of town, plus it’s going to be chilly.  I may change my mind.”

 

Robert sat for a few moments, as if collecting his thoughts.  “The reason why I wanted to see you earlier is that there’s going to be a Risk game tonight.  You’re welcome to come.  There’ll be snacks.  And it will be a lot warmer there than outdoors at the pep rally.”

 

Trixie pursed her lips as she weighed her options.   The pep rally is to honor my neighbors.  It is going to be frigid tonight, although the bonfire should keep things a little warmer.  Honey isn’t going to be there.  I haven’t talked to Dan about it in a couple of days.   Patti and Nancy will be there, but I don’t want to spend the evening watching them drool over Dan.

 

“Well, I really hadn’t made any definite plans.” She thought for a moment longer.  “Sure, why not.”

 

She nudged Mike with her shoulder, “Here’s you chance.  You can join us.  You all don’t mind if Mike comes, do you?  There should be a space available since Honey’s gone.”

 

Mike looked a little sheepish over Trixie’s sudden invitation.  “I was thinking about going to the pep rally.  I didn’t have any other plans, but if you think you will have room, I wouldn’t mind joining in.”

 

Trixie missed the brief wave of panic that washed over Robert’s face.  “That will be fine.  The more the merrier,” he chuckled. His face turned serious.  “Mike, what dorm do you live in?  The room number?  Just in case something comes up,” he explained.

 

Mike relayed the information, as Robert wrote it on a napkin.  He added, “I have several things to do before then, but I should be there on time.  Coach wants us to drop off our holiday workout plans before we leave for break.  I thought I would drop mine off after I leave here.” 

 

Robert began gathering his trash on his tray, preparing to leave. “I should head to the dorm and set up for tonight.”  Placing a hand on Trixie’s shoulder he reminded her, “I’ll see you tonight at 7:00.” 

 

He was walking away when Mike tried to get his attention.  “What room do you meet in?”

 

“Trixie can fill you in,” he called over his shoulder.

 

“Didn’t you want to go to the pep rally?”  Mike wondered, confused.

 

“Really I did,” she admitted.  “With Honey cancelling at the last minute, I hadn’t had time to make plans to go with anyone else.”

 

“I wanted to show my support to Del…. the team by going the rally too,” Mike confessed. But I’ve missed out on your game nights all semester.  I’m excited to finally join in.”

 

Trixie was torn between the two activities.  “We can skip the game tonight.  I’m sure that there will be another one.  If you would rather go to the pep rally, we could go together.   There should be a lot of people there.  The bonfire will provide some heat.”

 

Mike thought for a moment and made a decision.  “I’ll meet you at your room at 7:00.  We’ll go join the others in the game.   If things change, we can always go to the rally. 

 

As they left the cafeteria, Trixie stopped.  “I forgot to tell you the room number, just in case.  We meet in CW and Jimmy’s room, 503.”

 

“Got it, that shouldn’t be too hard to remember.  I’ll see you later,” he promised as he hurried off in the direction of the gym.

 

**********

 

 

Trixie opened the door to the room and found it empty.  It was evident that Honey had already left.  A note on her bulletin board confirmed it. She had received an email from Brian earlier in the day, confirming their plans.  She left the name and number of the hotel, in case of an emergency.   At least I know how to get in touch with her, not that I’ll be calling her cell phone and interrupt anything.

 

Trixie put away the laundry that Honey had thoughtfully folded before she left.  She spent several minutes skimming the prompt topics that Dr. Hudson had given them earlier that morning.  She decided to wait until later before making her final decision. 

 

Next, she went over her notes from that day’s lab.  Thank goodness there weren’t any feline autopsies today.

 

She decided she needed to change before going upstairs to the game.  I need something comfortable. She reminded herself.  With as much as we eat sometimes, I need to wear something loose.   She took out an older pair of sweat pants and one of Jim’s T-shirts, zipping a hoodie on top.  There, if I get hot, I can always either unzip this or take it off altogether. 

 

She logged on the computer and smiled as she read an email from Di.  Oh boy, I wonder how soon until we start hearing wedding bells? The only other email was from Jim.  He was planning to call her the next day.    I’ve got to remember to play it cool, in case he brings up the ‘surprise’,” she thought as she answered his email. She promised that she would leave her cell phone on to take his call.

 

She was online looking for Christmas presents when a knock came from her door.  She opened it to find Robert on the other side.  “Am I late?” she asked as she checked her watch.

 

“No, not at all. If fact, I’m early.  I came down to see if you were ready.” 

 

Trixie walked back into the room to log off the computer and get her keys.  “I suppose I’m ready.  It’s a good thing I gave Mike the room number.  Otherwise he might not be able to find us.”

 

 “Yeah, it’s a good thing you did that,” he commented as he waited for her to lock her door before leading her up the stairs.

 

 

************

 

 

Mike had just arrived at his dorm, when he noticed that he had two messages left for him, stuck to the dorm’s message board in the lobby.

 

“Call your mother.”  I’ll do that as soon as I get to the room, he told himself.  “I changed my mind.  I’ll meet you at the pep rally-Trixie.”  That girl, she’s so impetuous.  Looks like I’m going to the pep rally after all.

 

He took both messages and headed to his room.

 

 

**************

 

 

Robert and Trixie arrived at the fifth floor, but they stopped at a door that Trixie was not accustomed to.  “Don’t we usually meet in CW and Jimmy’s room?” She felt a hint uneasiness.  Something doesn’t feel right.

 

“They aren’t back yet.  I don’t have a key to their room,” he explained.  “We can go through the bathroom to their side.”  He paused.  “They may be a little late.  They said something about picking up some more snacks.”

 

He opened the door, allowing her to enter first.

 

This explanation made sense to Trixie.   She began to relax.  She glanced around his room.  There’s an awful lot of computer stuff for one person.

 

Robert led her through the bathroom passage and into the familiar room of the tardy suitemates.  On the coffee table was the game.   The board had been set up and the pieces were ready.

 

A few snack items had also been set out.  “See, we didn’t have much to snack on tonight.”  Robert pointed out the few snacks that were there.  “There are chips with salsa and roasted and salted peanuts.  I did manage to snag your favorite drink though.” He motioned to a small ice chest.  In it were sodas, including several of Trixie’s favorite.

 

“Strawberry pop, how sweet of you,” Trixie gushed as she sat on the futon couch.

 

A proud smile tugged at his lips.  “I made sure to have them on hand.  If you don’t mind though, I’m going to stick with Dr. Pepper.”

 

She scooped some of the salsa on a chip and immediately discovered it was very spicy.  She quickly reached for and opened one of the pops.  She took a long drink.  “I’m thankful you had these ready.  Wow, that’s some hot salsa.”

 

He took a seat and apologized.  “I hope it’s not too hot for you.”  He reached and scooped an even larger portion for himself.

 

She shook her head.  “No, I like spicy. Between that and these salty peanuts, I’ll probably go through all of these drinks in one night.”

 

“I’m lucky I have enough then,” he responded with a faint smirk.

 

“How soon will the others be back?”

 

“It shouldn’t be too much longer.” He answered as he leaned back on the couch.

 

“What about Mike?” She furrowed her brow.  “Can we open the door?  I’m worried that Mike might not find the room.”

 

“Sure, we can open the door.”  He got up and opened the door to the hall.

 

Trixie smiled appreciatively. “Thanks. I don’t suppose it’s a good idea for me to be here, alone, with the door shut anyway.”

 

“You don’t trust me?” There was a mixture of hurt and worry in his voice.

 

“Oh no, it’s not that.  It’s just that it doesn’t look good, I guess.” Trixie explained. 

 

 

***********

 

 

Mike grabbed his coat and slipped it on.  I hope I can find Trixie in the crowd.

 

As he approached the area, the pep rally was just getting started.  The crowd had formed a large circle.   Seated on a platform was the Sugar Bear team and their coaches.  On the ground below were the school mascot and cheerleaders.  The band had assembled on the opposite side and was playing the school’s fight song.  In the middle was the unlit pyramid of wood for the bonfire.

 

He wandered around for a while, working his way through the throng.  It would help if I knew what she was wearing.  He stopped when the Sugar Bears stepped off the platform to start the blaze.  As they passed in front of him, he smiled when he remembered overhearing Delmonica’s comment about him at their first meeting.  I don’t believe she thinks that any more, he thought as she gave him a wink.

 

The crowd broke into laughter.  Moments after the Sugar Bears held their torches to the kindling, the fire erupted into an inferno.  The onlookers had to make a path for the ballplayers as they beat a hasty retreat from the flames.

 

 

*************

 

 

They finished off the peanuts, and Robert scraped what was left out of the salsa bowl.  Trixie drained her second pop when she noticed the time.  “Shouldn’t they be back by now?”

 

“They probably got held up in traffic.  Most of the campus is at the rally.  I think a lot of the city’s fans were going to be there too.”

 

He refilled the salsa and handed her another pop, not before politely taking the cap off for her, first.

 

“At least we have the salsa and chips,” she commented and she thanked him for the drink.

 

 

***************

 

 

“Finally!”  Mike shouted over the noise of the crowd.  “I thought I would never find you.”

 

“I don’t think they expected that there would be this many people show up, especially on a butt-numbing, cold night like tonight,” Dan answered in astonishment.  

 

Just as the words left his mouth five barely dressed male students ran into the middle of the pep rally’s circle.

 

“The Rude Crew,” the two said almost simultaneously.

 

For the past several years an informal “pep squad”, dubbed the Rude Crew, had formed in support of the Sugar Bears. Composed mainly of male students, the Rude Crew attended all the home games.  The group sat along the baseline, between the basket and the visiting team’s bench, and was known for dressing in costumes and razzing the opposition with various cheers and chants.

 

Coach Sutherland turned to the sound of the disturbance that the well-wishers had caused.  He promptly buried his head in his hands.  “I hope they aren’t dressed like that tomorrow,” he groaned.

 

“I can’t see how they are dressed like that tonight.  They have got to be freezing,” his assistant, Coach Schaefer, shook his head in amazement.

 

The five men were dressed as caricatures of River Valley Tech’s mascot, the Cowgirls.  They wore short, fringy cowgirl skirts, cap pistols, red cowgirl boots, cow girl hats which were much too small for their heads, red Raggedy Ann style wigs and they had painted on the vests  On each of their backs was the name of one of the projected starting five.  Stick horses served as their mode of “transportation.”

 

“That’s not as bad as what they did when the girls played Central JC’s lady Commodores,” Mike said as he watched the five do their mock cheers.  “They made a commode out of cardboard.  One of them wore it while waving a plunger and wearing a toilet seat cover on his head.”

 

“That’s one of the few games I missed.” Dan turned his head sideways as if confused, “but I don’t get it. What did that have to do with the other team?”

 

“It was a slam on their name,” Mike explained.  “Instead of the Lady Commodores, they wrote ‘Lady Commode-adores’, as in commode or toilet, across the front of the cardboard.”

 

Dan chuckled.  “You have to give them credit.  They do come up with some fun stunts.”

 

Mike perked up, as if suddenly remembering.  “By the way, where’s Trixie?  We were supposed to join in a Risk game tonight, but she left a message at my dorm that she decided to not go and would meet me here.”

 

“Sorry, I haven’t seen her,” Dan apologized.  “Good luck finding her in this horde.”

 

“Oh well,” Mike sighed, “Maybe I can join the others next weekend.  This was going to be my first time to attend one of CW and Jimmy’s famous game nights.”  He hesitated before adding, “I almost felt like I was going to be intruding.  Robert really didn’t seem very enthused about me coming.”

 

Dan smiled understandingly.  “They are cut throat.  That’s why I’ve never joined in.  They take the game a little too seriously.”

 

Mike scanned the crowd.  “I’ll make another sweep of the crowd.  If you see Trixie, tell her I’m looking for her.”

 

Dan waved him off just as Patti and Nancy approached.  “Ladies,” he said as they stopped in front of him.

 

“Can you believe how cold it is?”  Nancy complained as she stomped her foot.  “I’ve lost all feeling in my feet.” 

 

Patti simply smiled as she stood beside Dan, staring at him with stars in her eyes.

 

Dan sighed inwardly as he politely talked to the girls.

 

********************

 

“It’s getting kind of warm in here,” Trixie declared.  She held up the nearly empty bottle.  “You would have thought that this cold pop would have cooled me off.” Shrugging out of her hoodie, she glanced at the open door.  “I hope nothing happened to Mike.  You don’t suppose his coach called a practice, do you?  He should have been here by now.”  She looked at her watch.  “The others surely should have made it back.”

 

At first Robert said nothing in response to her questions and worries.  Finally, he responded with a hushed, “Let’s give them a little more time.”

 

“Oh boy, I think I might be coming down with something.  It is warm in here to you?” she asked as she placed the bottle to her forehead.

 

“Here, let me crack a window,” Robert offered.  He got up from the opposite end of the futon couch and raised the window a couple of inches.  On his return trip, he closed the room’s door.

 

“I really wish you would leave that open.”  Trixie informed him.  Her speech was slurring.  She tried to hold out a hand in protest, but it felt like it weighed a ton.

 

Robert sat directly next to Trixie.  This was a little too close for her comfort.  As she tried to nudge him away she managed to say.  “I really…don’t feel comfortable…. with…you …sitting that… close” Speech was becoming more difficult.  It was hard for her to remain focused.  The room seemed like it was spinning.  She started to rise, but her body was not following the commands of her brain.

 

“I think I’m getting sick.”  She managed to say under her breath.  “I need to get back to my room.”

 

Robert took the back of his hand and felt her forehead.  “You don’t feel warm.  Let me check again.”  He rose up slightly and placed his lips on her forehead.

 

“No…don’t…please.”  Trixie whimpered.  She tried to push him away, but she now had no control over her body.  She was barely able to hold up her head.

 

He pulled away slightly and began stroking her face and chin with his right hand.  His left hand was supporting the back of her neck.  “Isn’t that how your mom checked your temperature when you were younger?” 

 

Trixie tried to answer, the only response were the tears that had began to form in her eyes and a barely audible “Please…”

 

“Shhh, don’t cry,” he whispered as he leaned forward and nuzzled her neck. “I could never hurt you.”  He grabbed her legs and pulled her into a reclining position, as he shifted his own position on the couch.  He was now practically straddling her. “That Jim could never love you like I do,” he promised her.  “I can top any plans he has for you for New Years.”

 

She was only able to mouth her silent protests as his hands wandered to her abdomen and slipped under her shirt. 

 

*******************

 

Dan breathed a sigh of relief.  That wasn’t too bad, he told himself.  Hopefully, they’ll find someone that’s available, and soon.

 

“I suppose I should have come over and rescued you,” ribbed Greg as he joined his suite-mate.  “But you looked like you were having a blast.”

 

Dan grimaced.  “They are really nice girls.  I’m just not interested,” he informed the dorm’s assistant head resident. 

 

“Slow night tonight?” 

 

“With the exception of an appearance of the Rude Crew, the crowd has been behaving itself.  There’s nothing else going on, on campus, even the Risk game was cancelled tonight.”

 

“I should say so,” Greg agreed. “Especially since both CW and Jimmy are out of town.  CW’s band is playing at a high school’s dance, and this is one of Jimmy’s National Guard weekends.  Neither one will be back until Sunday.”

 

“Oh?  I guess it wasn’t about Mike joining them after all,” Dan said almost absentmindedly.  Flashes of information stated running through the back of his mind.

 

“Mike?”

 

“Yeah, apparently Mike thought Robert didn’t want him joining the game tonight. Trixie left a message telling him to meet her here.  I guess she found out it wasn’t going to happen after all.”

 

“If I see Trixie, I’ll make sure she knows that it wasn’t called because of Mike,” Greg promised as he headed back into the crowd.

 

As Dan watched Greg walk away, the bits and pieces of information continued to run through his head.  He recalled filing campus incident reports for the security department last year.  There was a complaint.  A female student reported a possible date rape.  She had passed out during her dorm’s Christmas party.  When she woke up the next morning, she was in her dorm room.  She had no memory of the night before.  What she did know was that she had been violated.  The only details she could recall was that one of the males at the party had a beard and she thought that his name was either Roger or Robert. “Oh my God,” Dan gasped.

 

He began running through the crowd, searching.  He found Mike.  He grabbed him by both shoulders spinning away from the group he was talking to.  “Have you found Trixie yet?!”

 

“No.  But I’ve been kind of preoccupied,” he explained, glancing up at Delmonica.  He noticed the look of urgency on Dan’s face.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I have a bad feeling.  We need to get to the dorm.”  He raised the two-way radio to his mouth.  “This is Mangan.  I need someone to meet me at Wingo Hall, fifth floor.  There may be a problem.”

 

“Come on,” he urged Mike.  “We’ve got to hurry.”

 

They rushed through the crowd. They were able to pick up speed once they left the area.  As they raced toward the dorm, they slowed.  Greg was also headed their direction.  Dan paused long enough to shout, “Follow us.”

 

Greg, without asking, began running alongside the two.

 

As they ran, the worry began to build inside Dan, escalating into near panic.

 

Once they reached the dorm, Dan flung open the lobby doors, giving the dorm receptionist, Lindsay, a start.

 

“Call 911 now.” Dan barked at the confused student worker.

 

She looked at Greg as if asking permission.  He raised his hands in surrender and told her.  “Just do it.”

 

The threesome bounded up the stairs and down the hallway to the end of the hall.

 

“Key,” Dan held out his hand.  When he saw that Greg had to search for the passkey, he decided to take another approach.  He reared back and kicked the door in.

 

Empty.  The room was empty.  There was no sign of anyone in the room.

 

 

*****************

 

 

The sound of the crashing door in the next room caused Robert to turn slightly toward the noise.  Trixie on the other hand, was oblivious.  He glanced over his shoulder, to his side of the suite, with a satisfied sneer.  He then turned his attention back to Trixie. He began stroking her hair.  “It’ll be okay.  No one is going to ruin our night together.”

 

****************

 

Dan entered the room.  He spun around, as if looking for a place where someone could hide. He bent over to catch his breath.  He straightened up and looked at his two companions.  “I was afraid…” he began to say.  Then he looked at the bathroom door, the bathroom that connects to the other side of the suite.  With a renewed energy he jerked the door open and barged to the door on the other side and shook the handle. 

 

“I don’t have a master key for that door,” Greg apologized.  They backed out of the bathroom, to the hall and stood in front of CW and Jimmy’s door.  Wordlessly Greg produced the master key and turned the lock.

 

***************

 

The sound of the bathroom door rattling didn’t register with Robert.  His focus was completely on Trixie and his lecherous activity.  He also didn’t hear the sound of the key in the lock one minute later.

 

***************

 

As Greg opened the door, Dan saw what was happening.  He pushed past Greg and grabbed Robert, pulling him off of Trixie.  He physically threw him into the waiting arms of Mike, who immediately swept the taller man’s legs out from under him and put his head and neck into a viselike grip between his powerful arms.

 

Greg could only stare at the scene for a few seconds before he noticed the campus security officers at the head of the stairs. He motioned them to the room.

 

Inside Dan was covering Trixie’s nude torso with a blanket. Mike still had Robert in a headlock, with his head bent almost to his shoulder.  He was beginning to turn purple from the lack of oxygen. Mike averted his eyes away from Trixie, asked, “Is she okay?  Did he…”  He couldn’t bring himself to finish his question. 

 

“I don’t know,” Dan answered with tears in his eyes. Trixie opened her eyes briefly.  She didn’t appear to be aware of her surroundings.  She tried to speak, but all she could do was open and close her mouth.   Dan was stroking her head when a fellow officer put a hand on his shoulder.  “We’ll take it from here Daniel.”  It was his boss, Captain Sellers, the director of campus security.

 

Dan reluctantly backed away and saw what was happening in the rest of the room. 

 

The paramedics and local police had also arrived.  Having been stationed at the pep rally, they were practically moments away. 

 

Greg was attempting to explain what little he knew about the incident.  It was then that he noticed Mike.  A city officer was trying to convince him to release Robert from his hold.

 

“Just let me twist his neck, just a fraction of an inch more,” he said between gritted teeth.

 

“Come on,” Dan encouraged the young wrestler.  “As much as I would like to see it happen, he’s not worth it.”

 

Mike’s countenance did not change. He had his game face on.  He looked as if he were ready to snap Robert’s head completely off his body.  Mike’s shoulders finally relaxed his face as well, as he loosened his grip.  He finally let go, and Robert’s partially undressed body fell in a heap on the floor.  He had passed out, cold.

 

“Gentlemen, follow me.  I need to sort out what’s been going on in here.  I have a good idea, but I’ll still need your statements,” the security director informed them.

 

He led the trio into the lounge room near the stairs.  He asked them to recount what had happened that night.

 

Just as they were beginning, the gurney with Trixie was being wheeled past.  Dan started to get up, but he was stopped by the captain.  “I’ll take you immediately to the hospital when we are finished here.  I’m well aware of your friendship.  Don’t forget, she’s also one of my students.” Dan nodded obediently and began to outline what caused him to suspect Robert in the first place. 

 

A few moments later, the city police officer appeared. Robert was now fully dressed, alert and in handcuffs.  “The prisoner is requesting to be taken to the hospital to be checked out.  I’ve told him we had a very nice doctor on call at the city jail.  I’m taking him there now for booking.”

 

“I’ll give you their statements as soon as I drop them off at the hospital to check on their friend,” Captain Sellers informed the officer.

 

For over an hour all three gave their statements both verbally and in writing.  When they were finished the captain reassured them.  “I’m sure Trixie is going to be alright. I’ll take you to the hospital now.”

 

Greg stood and apologized, “I need to stay here and fill out a report for the head resident.”

 

Upon hearing that Dan gave a start.  He quickly reached for his cell phone.  “The Beldens,” he said as he searched through his phonebook.  “Lord help me.  I have to call her parents.”

 

 

*********************

 

 

It was a somber mood in the hospital waiting room.  The Beldens had been there since the pre-dawn hours.  The Wheelers were not far behind.  Both couples had taken seats on opposite couches.

 

Bobby sat by himself thumbing through an old issue of Sports Illustrated.  He hadn’t been filled in on the details, but he knew that something had happened to his sister. 

 

Brian and Honey had taken a seat near one of the windows.  They offered no explanation as to why they arrived together and so late.  Either their parents were ignoring that fact or they were too pre-occupied with the matter at hand to notice.

 

The sound of a throat clearing interrupted the silence.  Mart and Di had arrived.  Mrs. Belden smiled grimly as she stood to hug her second born.  She took Di’s hands into hers.  “I’m so glad you two were able to make it.”

 

“Do we know anything yet?”  Mart asked.

 

“Not much more than what Dan has already told us,” answered Peter his voice drained of energy.

 

Mart and Di squeezed in on the couch.  Mart placed a free arm around his mother.

 

There was a movement in the doorway.  It was Jim.  His emotional state was obvious.  His face was a mixture of concern and anger.  “How is she?” he demanded to know. 

 

“She’s still unconscious,” was the answer from across the room.  Dan left his chair and greeted Jim.  As much as he hated making that phone call, he had been the one to contact Jim. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you very many details over the phone.  I’m glad you were able to make it here in one piece.”

 

Jim took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  “All I want to know is…”  He paused in an attempt to calm himself.  “What was she doing in his dorm?  Better yet, what was she doing in his room!?”

 

You could now hear the preverbal pin drop.  Before Dan could voice his explanation, Peter interjected. 

 

“It happened in her dorm.  They live in the same dorm, along with Dan.   It’s coed.”  He finished just as Mrs. Wheeler crossed the room and put an arm around her distraught son.

 

She led him to the couch seating him between her and Matthew.  She attempted to explain. “I know this was not the right time for you to find out about their living arrangements.”  Motioning to the Beldens she added, “We all were aware of it and felt like the girls were going to be safe.”  Matt nodded his confirmation.

 

Jim scowled.  “Yet it’s obvious they weren’t safe.”  He glared at Honey.  “Where were you when she was being attacked?”  He noticed the pained expression on Brian’s face.  “I should have known where you were.”  He glared at Dan.  “I presume I’m to be relieved that you live in the same dorm.”  Dan did not respond. 

 

The rest of the room also offered no reply to Jim’s outburst.

 

Mike quietly got up from his seat in the corner of the room.  He had insisted that he not be in the way when the family arrived.  “I think I should go now.” 

 

Before he could leave, the city police officer entered the room.  A doctor accompanied him.  “The doctor has informed me that she can now receive visitors.  She’s become semi-conscious.  I tried to question her, but she has no clear recollection of what happened.”  The officer folded his notebook.  “I’ll come back later when she’s more cognizant.”  The doctor shook his hand and agreed to call if there was any change.

 

Just as he began walking off, the officer stopped and reopened his notebook.  “Is there a Michael Edwards in the room?”

 

Mike raised his hand hesitantly. “Here.”

 

The officer blew out a long breath.  “It appears that the defendant, Mr. Robert Stapleton, is preferring charges against you for unlawful restraint. He seems to think you were trying to kill him.”

 

“I would have too if you all hadn’t stopped me,” Mike said under his breath.

 

 “I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear that,” the office replied.  “I thought you should be aware of his accusations.”  He looked across the room as he added.  “Also, we suspect the substance he used to sedate her was Rohypnol or perhaps something even stronger.  Regardless, she shouldn’t remember much of anything.  We can still attempt to question her to see how much she can add.  The evidence we have against him should be enough.”  He yielded the floor to the doctor and quickly left down the corridor.

 

The doctor addressed the room. “The family can see her now.  In groups of two only, please.” 

 

Peter and Helen started to go.  Aware of Jim’s emotional state, Helen held Peter back and motioned to Jim to go ahead of them.

 

The doctor took a step closer to the Beldens.  Speaking in a low voice, he gave them additional news. 

 

“Thank God!” Helen responded. Peter forced a smile and thanked the doctor for the news.

 

The occupants of the room glanced at one other.  It was apparent that the news that the doctor given them was good. “He must not have gotten as far as we were afraid that he did with her.”  Honey whispered to Di. Understanding the Honey Speak, Di breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Honey encouraged to Mike to stay.  At first he was hesitant, but he relented and took a seat nearer to the group. 

 

 

********************

 

 

Jim stood in the doorway of the hospital room and paused, as if he were afraid to go in.  He watched as Trixie lay sleeping.

 

“Go on, she needs you.”  Dan had followed close behind. 

 

As Jim took a few steps in the direction of the bed, Trixie began shaking her head and mumbling.  “No...Please… don’t… help me... Dan.”

 

Jim stopped dead in his tracks.  Noticing his hesitation, Dan entered the room.  He grabbed Jim by the elbow and approached the bed, Jim in tow.  They stood on either side of the bed.

 

Trixie eyes fluttered open.  She looked from one face then to the other.  “Jim,” she squeaked.  “I’m so glad you’re here.”  He reached out and took her hand.

 

She looked to Dan.  “Danny, what happened?  The doctor won’t tell me.  There was a police officer here.  I told him I really couldn’t remember anything. It’s all a blur.”

 

Dan didn’t answer.  He took her hand, squeezed it before walking out of the room, fighting his emotions.

 

He arrived in the waiting room where the family had gathered chairs and were talking in hushed tones.  They were quizzing Mike about his account of the incident.

 

“Jim’s with her now,” Dan informed the concerned group. 

 

Before he could find a seat, Jim rejoined them.  “She’s drifted back off.  She couldn’t remember much.  She did say to tell Mike thank you.”

 

Honey took this as her cue to introduce the two.  “Thanks for being there for her,” Jim said as he shook his hand.  He turned to Dan.  “I assume I owe you an apology.”

 

“I understand how you feel.  She’s very special to you.  She means a lot to me too.  I just wish I had realized who Robert was before it was almost too late.”

 

Dan took this as his cue to explain how he had begun suspect that something wasn’t quite right.  His gut instinct about Robert made him feel uneasy.  His recollection of the reported attack last year came to mind.  The fact that Robert had recently grown a beard fit the description of the assailant from last year as did the name similarities. The miscommunication of game night had also set off a red flag.  “The facts started to come together, and everything seemed to just fit into place. I didn’t want to take any chances in case I was right.  I would rather have been wrong than later regret not acting on my hunch.”

 

Before the group broke up, Captain Sellers entered the room.  His face was grim. He introduced himself before beginning.

 

“We are working closely with the city’s police department with this investigation.  First off, we are fairly certain that he introduced the drug in a soda. That median is fairly typical of most sexual predators. The city’s forensics lab will be able to confirm our suspicions.”

 

“We’ve been going through Robert’s room for the past several hours.  His computer was loaded with video clips and photos of dozens of young women.  He also, apparently, has been able to hack a number of females’ computers, viewing their files.”  He turned to Honey and gently added the last bit of news “There’s evidence that he had access to your computer and was able to control your web camera.” 

 

“He would have to have access to the other computers in order to do that.”  Mart announced.

 

Honey’s face paled as she thought for a few moments.  “I do remember he used our computer once.  He was in our room for one of our movie nights.”  She closed her eyes to bring back the memory.  “He asked to check his email… Shortly after that he left.”  She opened her eyes in revelation.  “I did notice later that he had turned off the monitor but had left the hard drive running.”  She shook her head. “And here I thought he was being nice by only turning off the monitor.  That’s how we usually left it.”

 

“That’s probably how he gained access to your computer.  He was able to turn off your firewall long enough to go to his room and give his computer permission to access yours,” Mart informed her.

 

The captain took a notepad from his pocket and made a note of what Honey and Mart just said.  “Then what the investigators have come up with makes sense.   They seem to think he did most of his downloads and file searches, especially of your email, late at night.  That’s probably why you didn’t notice anything.  You were asleep, but your hard drive wasn’t.  Your web camera, I suppose, is a different story.”

 

 He grimaced before continuing.  “We’ve also discovered items of intimate clothing that we suspect belong to his female victims.”

 

“Oh my ….” was all that Mrs. Wheeler could manage.

 

He turned to Helen and Peter.  “You daughter seems to be his primary target.  That, too, is damaging enough to keep him behind bars for a long time.  It also shows premeditation. And if he can be linked to the attack in Carmichael Hall last year, he will be put away for much longer.”

 

He removed his hat before finishing, “On a more personal note, she’s a student in my self-defense class.  She and Honey both attend. They are two of my top students.  For the record, there was nothing she could have possibly done to fight him off.” He shook hands with both the Beldens and Wheelers and announced that he was returning to the dorm to assist the city’s forensic team in gathering additional evidence.

 

They thanked the captain for coming to the hospital to report his findings.  After he left, Peter expressed his appreciation to the others.  “Thank you all for being here today.  It’s wonderful to know that we have such great friends.”  His voice cracked, and he was no longer able to continue. All Helen could do was to cling to her husband to show support.  Matt and Madeline joined the couple in a hug. 

 

As Bobby stood by, helplessly, Honey grabbed his hand to comfort the youngster.

 

“Come on,” Brian urged the Bob-Whites.  “Let’s go to the cafeteria and let our folks be alone for now.” 

 

As they waited on the elevator, Honey patted Mike on the shoulder.  “You’re invited to come too.”

 

Di smiled in agreement.  “It’s about time I get to meet… what it is Trixie said was your nickname? …. ‘Mighty Mouse’?”

 

Mike began turning bright crimson, and much to his relief, was rescued by Honey from having to explain.  She quickly diverted the conversation.

 

“Bobby, this is Trixie’s and my friend Mike.  He’s on the college’s wrestling team.”

 

Mike shook the youngest Belden’s hand.  “It’s nice to finally meet you.  Your sister has told me so much about you.”

 

 

****************

 

 

Jim watched as Dan and Mike guided Bobby through the serving line of the cafeteria.

 

“We were fortunate to have someone there to rescue her, this time,” Jim said under his breath. 

 

Honey, overhearing what he had said, stopped along side him.  “You can’t be there to protect her every minute.   You need to trust that she can take care of herself.  And if you can’t be there, you need to let go and let someone else take on that responsibility,” she chastised.  She went on to add.  “And if you do care that much, you need to tell her and not be afraid to say so.”

 

Jim turned his head, to avoid his sister’s stare.  “I know,” he answered quietly.  “It’s going to take time to let go, in more ways than one.”

 

*******************

 

Before Trixie returned, the dorm held a special meeting to let the other residents know what had happened.  Few details had been given, but enough rumors had circulated that most knew what had occurred.

 

She was released from the hospital after three days.  The doctors wanted to be certain she suffered no ill effects from the drug used to sedate her.  She took two additional days from classes to allow time to gather herself. Her memory was still fuzzy.  She was actually thankful that she couldn’t remember much of what happened.

 

Honey was relieved that their suite-mates, Patti and Nancy, along the Sugar Bears helped to divert any unwelcome visitors to their dorm room.  Even the ones that were sincerely concerned were bothersome.  Delmonica’s presence stationed outside their room was enough to deter most. 

 

Dan made a special effort to make sure Trixie was comfortable with being back in the dorm.  He went through their computer, scanning it for viruses and spy-ware while downloading a stronger firewall and other anti-hacking programs. 

 

It was nearing time for finals.  The professors were very understanding and were allowing Trixie ample time to prepare.  Honey and Mike were able to keep her up to speed with the few classes that she missed.

 

That Friday night, the Sugar Bears invited her and Honey to their belated victory celebration.  They had beaten River Valley Tech in triple overtime.  At one point in the game the opposing coach demanded that the Rude Crew be ejected for “un-necessary distracting” and the “derogatory way” his team’s players were being portrayed.

 

Saturday Jim came to visit. He was able to squeeze in a brief weekend trip around his own finals schedule.  Dan offered the extra bed in his dorm room.  Unfortunately, he was going to be busy most of the weekend working.  He missed several of his work-study hours visiting Trixie in the hospital and attending to her when she got back to the dorm.

 

That night Jim and Trixie were in her room when Honey excused herself.  “I’ll be back later,” she informed them.  “The girls said something about ‘forking a yard’.  It sounds like fun.  They promised that it’s not going to end like our Milk Crate experience.”  Before she left she leaned over and whispered in Jim’s ear.  “Tell her. She won’t bite.  I have a feeling she feels the same way.”

 

As the door shut behind her, Jim turned to face Trixie.   He took her hand and drew a deep breath, excelling.  “Trixie, we need to talk.”

 

 

******************************************

 

PLEASE READ

Special thanks, recognitions and comments

 

Once again, a special thanks to all my AIMing friends. Your support and encouragement mean the world to me.

 

A big THANK YOU to Lindsay for inspiring me for the title!!!  Moon-Spinner, your suggestions in helping narrow it down are also very much appreciated.

 

I offer a huge amount of gratitude and appreciation to my editors, Moon-Spinner and Amber.  Thanks for putting up with your obsessive, neurotic friend.   Apriliz, thanks for helping with those bothersome three parts.

 

ALSO a big thank you to Leslie for pointing out a couple of small glitches.  THANKS

 

Practically every person mentioned that the girls meet while in college are based on real people.  You’ll have to read the preceding story for those comments.  There are also references to my very first attempt at fan-fiction.  Both can be found at my web page http://www.geocities.com/ozarksportsgal/index.html  or you can find them linked at Zap’s.

 

Robert, although fictional, is based on a couple of guys that I did go out with a few times while at UCA. 

 

Once again, Mike is also fiction.  His body is patterned after a guy I had a class with while in college.

 

I am totally ignorant of wrestling (Arkansas is one of the few states that does not widely offer that sport.)  Please overlook any and all errors I have made in its “season” and/or any other wrestling information.

 

I never gave the campus security captain a name in the previous story.  (I don’t think I did anyway.)  Captain Sellers is based on a real Conway police officer that I knew while I was doing my post-graduate degree.  Lynn was a good friend.  He got me out of a major jam.

 

There is (or was) a real “Rude Crew”.  It is a group of supporters (mostly male) who attend all the home Lady Razorback basketball games.  Steve and I haven’t been to any of their games for over a year, so I don’t know if they still show up.  They did many of the stunts (and much more) mentioned in the story.  They were very entertaining. 

 

There is also a brief nod to a former Arkansas Lady Razorback assistant coach.  Coach Schaefer is an assistant at Texas A&M with another former LadyBack head coach (Coach Gary Blair)

 

I was told by a coworker that the computer hacking/accessing method “Robert” used is somewhat possible.  Indulge me please if I’m wrong.

 

I realize that I rated this adult, in spite of the fact that there was no harsh language or gratuitous adult situations.   I am way too conservative to go that route.  (Although I have had a bit of yellow star rating in my previous stories, I was reluctant/embarrassed to include even that much)  My decision to rate as such was based on the incident with Trixie.  I realized that it may evoke strong feels and (possibly) bad memories from some readers.

 

This was not an easy story for me to write.  Although I never personally experienced what Trixie went through, I am familiar with the topic.

 

Don’t forget. At any social gathering, trust no one with your drink.  The best plan is to take your own and never take your eyes off of it.

 

PS

I don’t own the rights to Trixie and her friends.  Please don’t sue me if you do.

 

FYI:  I think this comes to just over 12,000 words. 

 

**If you are still reading this, any glitches in the story are probably as a result of my attempt to “fix” the problems I ran across as I corrected the spelling errors in the name/s.   (How is that for Honey Speak?) **