Carmeyn Ryans stepped carefully, watching what her tennis-shoed foot stepped on. She knew a bloody crime scene when she saw one, and she saw one now. It's not as though there was a sign by the door reading crime scene here, please watch your step. But intuition itself screamed A murderer did his dirty work here! bloody footprints were major hint. From where she stood in the living room, Carmeyn could see part of the corpse. What really stood out other than all the blood, the dead body, and her missing friend, was that the victim was nude.

However, Carmeyn couldn't tell if it was how the killer found him, or that the killer stripped him. Stepping carefully closer, she could see more clearly what she thought she had seen from the larger distance. The Y shaped incision on the victim, only heard of when concerning autopsies. The victim's internal organs laid bare to all who cared to look. The problem was, Carmeyn didn't care to look, yet she had to find out where her missing friend was and if he was hurt.

Carmeyn's hand flew to her mouth and she swallowed hard as she took yet another step closer to the bedroom, where the victim lay. She noted the victim's eyes were wide, in a look of complete terror. Carmeyn exhaled rapidly and inhaled faster as she realized what the killer had done: the killer had removed his victim's genitals. What sort of monster is running loose? Carmeyn wondered silently.

Carmeyn knew full well that she had absolutely no business at a crime scene. However this was her friend's house. Yet the dead victim was not Marleno Thompson. She wasn't truly sure on whose corpse it was but she did know he was very, very dead.

Entry had been forced and someone else had been next to that victim in the bed. Carmeyn back-stepped circumspectly, edging out of the house. She turned back for a moment, just to make sure she'd left everything, as she'd found them. Carmeyn left the door about three inches ajar. She walked to the end of Thompson's driveway. Carmeyn reached in her slacks pocket and pulled out her cell phone. She flipped it open and punched in nine-one-one.

"Please state your emergency,"

"Um…I'm at the house on the corner of East Allen and Willow street, in Lincoln there's a man in the house I… I think he's dead," Carmeyn finished, trying to sound like an innocent bystander – not the idiot college student that had just almost tampered with a crime scene.

"Miss? Did you touch anything?"

"No, I don't think so,"

"The police are on their way, please remain there, but do not touch anything. Miss? May I have your name?"

"Carmeyn Ryans," with that Carmen disconnected.

It took the police ten minutes to arrive and ten seconds to set up. Before her stood on of the detectives, he'd been questioning her for the past five minutes, rapid-fire. He told her to remain in the city in case of further questioning.

She started back to her Suburban. A man approached her, dark haired, chiseled from his short hair to his big, black shoes. Michael – Marilyn – Ferriday.

"Ryans," Carmeyn watched for others, but saw only the backs of techs doing what they do best.

"Mari…" – he shot her a warning look – "Michael,"

"Call me around ten sometime, you still remember my number?"

"Like we remember our graveyard shift."

"Good," Michael murmured as he turned and re-entered the house.

Carmeyn slipped into her Suburban and drove the fifteen miles back to campus. When Carmeyn Ryans returned to Saint Elizabeth's College, she found her ex-boyfriend waiting for her. Brain Mathis, her art professor's brother: same sandy hair, same green eyes, same butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth grin. She resignedly got out of her car.

Sure, sometimes they wound up at the same party, sometimes they exchanged more than six words, but he wasn't over her and she was more than over him.

"Hey beautiful," Brian called, walking over to her car, further evidence that he had not let go of the past.

"What now?" Carmeyn asked, knowing full well Mathis was a scandalmonger and he and his boys desperately needed to fill their hours with talk of someone else's trauma.

"Why do you always say that? I mean it's like you don't want to be seen with me,"

"Has the possibility ever struck you that I don't want to be seen with the talking to the campus-wide gossip? Then people come up to me between classes and are all 'Oh are you two back together?' or 'So what's the scoop, get a girlfriend?' then they are all pissy when I bite their heads off."

"Oh now you're prejudiced," Mathis accused.

"Just answer the damn question," Carmeyn said, as she strode toward her dorm. Brian grabbed her elbow and yanked her back to his side.

"I can't answer your damn question if you keep storm off,"

"Fine. I'm here, not going anywhere; now what do you want this time?"

"Nothing from you personally, Carmen, but something from your roommate," Mathis said. Finally, maybe, he's moved on, Carmeyn thought.

"From Alexa? What pray tell could I tell you of her that you couldn't ask of her yourself?"

"Umm…if she's going to my house's party tonight?"

"She's not,"

"Damn…couldn't you drag her, you know coax her into it."

"First off, you used two very different verbs there. Secondly, Brian I'm not going tonight. Besides, you have a party every other night." Carmeyn said as she started away.

"Try…please?" Brian pleaded, catching up with her. The plea struck her, she'd never heard him plea with anyone.

"She's really got your goat, doesn't she? I'll try it but I'm not promising anything Brian."

"Thanks Carmeyn," Brian said softly, but he went off toward his own house. Carmeyn continued her own short walk to her dorm. She pondered the crime scene, pondered why anyone would want to kill like that, or kill at all. She still was deeply engrossed in her thoughts as she slipped into her dorm room. The room was fairly organized, not to a neat-nick's standard, by any means, but they knew where everything was.

Alexa was nowhere to be found. Her bed was unmade, still holding the sleeping-body impressions. Carmeyn looked a little closer, make that bodies. She wondered as to the gender of Alexa's fling. Hmm…who's the flavor of the week? Carmeyn thought with a grin. A slightly more pressing question hit her: would the weekend end with tears or a shrug? Carmeyn really didn't care about her friend's sexual habits, nor there affects on others. She knew it was a slightly selfish way to think, but she figured they're the ones that signed up for it, not her. One of the only things about Alexa's chosen lifestyle that bothered Carmeyn was something she never could figure out: why give up a part of yourself when you know, if you do, the next night somebody else will be in the same place you are. The other: the after-affects in which Carmeyn usually got stuck with the honors of. When someone didn't get that it was over between them and Alexa, Carmeyn usually got the joy of hurting that person and breaking it to them that they really didn't mean much to Alexa.

Carmeyn paused in her thoughts of her roommate to notice the fuchsia Post-It note on Carmeyn's closed laptop. In Alexa's signature scrawl: Be a dear and do some laundry. Carmeyn choked back a snicker. For the past two and half weeks, they'd been leaving each other the same plea. However, it was starting to get to Carmeyn because neither on of them had much to wear anymore. Begrudgedly, Carmeyn began the preparations for a trip to the laundry-mat.

Carmeyn moved to her closet and removed two collapsible laundry hampers, a gallon of detergent, and a box of dryer sheets. Carmeyn walked to the mountain of dirty clothes, that they had barely had time to wash anymore. When both baskets were full, the remaining much smaller pile of clothes screamed not to be left unwashed. So Carmeyn filled yet another collapsible hamper, then laid in the detergent and box of dryer sheets. Memo to me: thank mom for the making me take these dorky things. Carmeyn had to grin as she balanced the three hampers.

She walked out to her Suburban, almost without incident. Then three foot from her car: Alexa's thong fell out of the top of the hamper, onto the sidewalk, just as three guys piled into somebody's truck. They didn't start the truck or anything; they just sat and watched as Alexa's roommate bent to retrieve the lost item. However Carmeyn dumped an entire hamper of her own clothes in the process. Growing agitated, Carmeyn set down the two other hampers and stuffed the clothes back into the empty hamper. She made two trips to the back of her black Suburban and shut the back door. She drove toward the laundry-mat, irritated that she'd let a thong make her drop an entire basket of clothes.

Twenty minutes further down the road, Carmeyn pulled into the laundry-mat parking lot. Sensing the possibility of an encore performance of the thong-incident, she decided against taking all three in at once. So she took in two hampers and then went out for the remaining one. Closing the laundry-mat door behind her, Carmeyn proceeded to through the laborious process known only to those that wash a mountain of dirty clothes at one time: sorting the clothes into darks and lights and sticking the clothes into washers and starting them. The only upside that Carmeyn could find in this situation was the fact that the clothes finally got washed.

Once four loads were started, Carmeyn relaxed into a chair, and inhaled the laundry-mat specific smell: detergent, dryer sheets, with a dusting of Clorox. Since she'd been going from point A to point B to point C in rapid succession, Carmeyn finally took note of her surroundings. Carmeyn eyed the laundry-mat, for the first time seeing the pair of people, besides her, in the place. A mother and her maybe sixteen-year-old son. Now with nothing to do, Carmeyn's mind drifted back to the crime scene. What did Michael want from her? Should she call him or wait for him to call her?

Carmeyn pulled out her cell phone and punched in Michael's number.

"Ferriday,"

"Michael?"

"Ryans?"

"Okay I have a first name too, and if you can't remember it, just ask,"

"Meow…Carmeyn what do you want?"

"I'm asking you the same question."

"Umm…what do I want from Carmeyn Ryans?"

"Please don't phrase it like that, take into consideration I'm a woman not a man," Michael laughed.

"I can't say what I want slash need from you on the phone,"

"Did you just say slash?"

"So?"

"See ya Michael, I gotta finish mine and Alexa's laundry,"

"Aww Ryans the slave girl…you going to Leo's party?"

"You're a cop Michael, and no or I'll have to drag Alexa,"

"Too bad…I'll see you then…" Michael disconnected with that. Carmeyn felt like smacking him throughout the process of pulling her laundry from the washers and stuffing the clean, wet clothes into the big dryers. Carmeyn worked quickly and effective. Once the switch was made she returned to her chair. For the next thirty-two minutes Carmeyn twiddled her thumbs and thought about nothing. However about mid-way through, the parent and teen left with their fresh laundry and Carmeyn commenced meditation. It was the only thing that kept her sane during everyday living.

She had anxiety attacks as a small child and had a therapist suggest to daily take a time out. Not to think or worry but just to be one with the universe. Carmeyn didn't cross her legs and put her elbows on her knees and place her forefingers on her thumbs. She just sat comfortably in a chair and closed her eyes. She cleared her mind of her problems, of her friends, and of her family. She let go of her thoughts of dinner and whether or not she still wanted to be a high school teacher. She let go and just was. After what seemed like moments, Carmen opened her eyes and walked to her now done dryers.

Folding her and Alexa's clothes proved difficult to an extent. Neither one of them knew the difference anymore. Both had come to Saint Elizabeth's with a separate wardrobe, however upon the sixth week of college, one was left. It wasn't that they wore the same type of clothes or that neither was very possessive, but the fact they both wore the same size.

Strangers thought they were sisters. Even thought Alexa was an athletic blond and Carmeyn was an anorexic red. Alexa thought the confusion was due to the fact they're total opposites, smoothing off the rough edges of each other.

Carmeyn gave up trying to sort whose clothes were whose and just folded one piece after another into the hamper. Carmeyn finished her task, laid the detergent in the top of a hamper along with the dryer sheets. She made two trips out to her Suburban and left the laundry-mat.

The trip had been uneventful except a short conversation with an old friend, but it was a rock in Carmeyn Ryan's pond of rigid structure. Carmeyn hadn't thought about what it could do to upset her normal balance but she did the task to prevent other ripples. However she missed her Pagan-group meeting. Yet the leader of the group would not let her forget it. Then Alexa would calmly restrain her roommate from smacking Trisha Lutz.

College had been a major upheaval for Carmeyn. New, new, different was about the sum total. Carmeyn strived for control in every situation. Lutz had not made the transition any easier. Trisha had to have it her way, all the time. Perhaps that came from being a junior at a well-respected Catholic college. Even though all Pagan-group activities and meetings were held off-campus, Trisha always went to a group member in front of as many professors as possible and talk about the next meeting or upcoming Pagan holiday. This always achieved its goal: it drove the professors – most of which were devoted Catholics – nuts. It brought out the you-are-damned-forever-for-your-sins side of every Catholic.

Carmeyn was raised Catholic but turned Pagan at about age twelve. Alexa still was a Catholic, well as Catholic as a bisexual can get. Most of the students that attended Saint Elizabeth's weren't Catholic, even thought it was a clearly Catholic college. Public displays of affection were always an issue considering the campus was largely religious; however all sexual orientations displays of affection usually were as discreet as possible.

Carmeyn stopped at a gas station and filled the tank as well as buying a carton of cigarettes. Yah smoking was cliché but Carmeyn figured she needed something to do to pass the time and something to calm her nerves. So Carmeyn took up smoking. Carmeyn lit up before she started the Suburban. Taking a deep drag, Carmeyn relaxed further. Continuing to smoke Carmeyn started the Suburban and drove back to campus. She was thankful it was a Saturday.

In contrast to the bloody cadaver that was found the same day, the sun was out and shining down. Carmeyn parked in her usual spot and removed two hampers of clothes from her Suburban. She carried them back to her dorm room. She went back and grabbed the remaining basket and mad a final trip into her dorm room.

Still on a let's-get-this-shit-over-and-done-with buzz, Carmeyn began hanging the clothes in the twin closets. Hanging three hampers worth of clothes was a tedious process. But after thirty minutes, she finished and collapsed on her bed.

At about moment of total relaxation, Carmeyn's mind began debating the best way to persuade Alexa to go to the damned party. Threaten, coax, or bribe? And of course if none her not-yet-figure-out-plan was a flop she'd need a plan B. what would she do if Alexa absolutely would not go, what would she say to her ex-boyfriend? No, the old-fashioned "she's sick" wouldn't work since half the people at the party were going to be sick. Hell if Carmeyn even smelled the beer she'd be sick.

So worrying about plan B was out, especially until she had a plan A figured out. Okay, plan A is…what? If I try to coax her into it she'll know something is up. If I threaten her she might go but if she goes or doesn't go, she'll be pissy with me. If I bribe it'll be even more obvious that something is going on than if I try to coax her into it. Screw this…I'm just gonna be straight with her and demand if I must suffer so shall she. There was a knock at the door. Who the hell knocks anymore? Carmeyn got off the bed and opened the door to behold Inferno. Without a word Carmeyn allowed Inferno entrance and shut the door behind her. She turned and faced Demetra Inferno, one of the only other people at Saint Elizabeth's that was known as 'that Goth'. Everybody, including the professors, called her Inferno. Not just because of her clear passions but for Dante, everyone thought she was pure hellion. Everybody except Carmeyn, the only person who had felt Demetra's gentleness.

Demetra held Carmeyn's gaze, looking through her long, dark hair. The pair almost never spoke when they were alone. They understood one another. Demetra slipped her pale hand onto Carmeyn's cheek. Carmeyn felt the potion of emotions wash over her as they always did when her lover touched her. Carmeyn slipped her arms around Demetra and pulled her closer. Demetra dropped her hand and her head. Her head rested on Carmeyn's shoulder as Carmeyn held her.

"Darling?"

"That damn boy's at it again." The boy Demetra spoke of was the jock from Saint Elizabeth that had almost raped Demetra. At it again just meant he intentionally brushed Demetra, wiggled his eyebrows up and down, and licked his lips slowly while watching Demetra's reactions. Demetra tried never to give him one. But the hardened, dark, violent volcano that was Demetra only showed her hurt, innocent, frightened side to her lover. Carmeyn did what she could to protect Demetra and comfort her when her protective measures didn't succeed.

She kissed Demetra's forehead and lightly rubbed her back. Demetra blinked out her tears but raised her head.

"He's not worth your tears baby." Demetra kissed her lover lightly on the lips.

"What will she do when she finds us here like this?"

"Nothing. Probably scream: 'I knew it!' though. And like what? It's not like we're naked in bed together or something scandalous." Carmeyn said in a mocking voice.

"Nudity and a bed doesn't equate a scandal dear."

"Oh but it doesn't, especially when it's me and you," Carmeyn teased. Demetra just chuckled and kissed Carmeyn's mouth again. The door opened behind them. The door shut soon after. Carmeyn broke the kiss, dropped her arms, and looked at the intruder.

"Wow the clothes got washed. Or did you hide them under the bed?"

"Funny Alexa, they got washed."

"Whose that?"

"Umm…Demetra this is my roommate, Alexa. Alexa meet Demetra,"

"Tisk, tisk don't you know when introducing a lover you wish to keep a secret you introduce the newcomer first then the lover. "

"Don't tell anyone." Carmeyn said.

"Why not, it's not a big shock and besides she's hot."

"Hands off of my woman, Alexa." Carmeyn warned.

"Yah, yah. You keep yours off my victims and I'll keep mine off yours."

"What do you mean it's not a big surprise?"

"Come on Carmeyn, the dyke spike was a big clue."

"It's not a dyke spike."

"Hmm…really? Let's see…lifts weights, total bitch, doesn't own a razor, sexist, violent, um yah dyke."

"I'm not a total bitch."

"You try."

"Yah so?" All the while Demetra had remained silent.

"Umm…I hate to pause the song in the middle of Love Train but I have two things you really need to know, Carmeyn." Demetra said dryly.

"Yes?"

"First, you are a dyke, second our little trick, um worked." Demetra said, lowering her gaze from Carmeyn's.

"Trick?" Alexa asked.

"Are you serious?" Carmeyn asked, overjoyed. Demetra nodded, she finally looked up. "You still want it, right?"

"Yes, just I was worried you wouldn't,"

"Of course I want it."

"But everyone's gonna know."

"So blame it on Chris."

"I can't, I want them to know. I hate hiding like this, my family knows, yours does. Who cares what everyone else thinks?"

"Okay fine. I'm game just how far along are you?"

"About eight weeks."

"Are you insane? Why didn't you tell me before?" Carmeyn looked at Demetra's face and gathered her wife back into her arms. Demetra's eyes shined and dropped tears on her pale cheeks and Carmeyn became oblivious to her roommate. Carmeyn kissed away Demetra's tears and held her closed. Carmeyn kissed her lover warmly. When Demetra broke the soft kiss they looked at each other for a moment.

"You two need a room." Alexa paused and said finally, "Talk about Love Train. Try something more Aerosmith. Alright ladies break up the love procession before I puke." Alexa said sharply. The pair shot her a venomous look and parted.