Hey Guys! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and you're enjoying your travels so far into the new year. It was quite a push to get this chapter out on time, but I did it! And I'm so happy I did too! This chapter is much, much longer than originally anticipated and therefore might take you longer to read then you expected, but it all needed to stay in as it all means something (not to mention dividing this into 2 chapters would create more than 10 chapters – the maximum I always planned to have). Welcome back Fiction Press readers, Welcome back CBALMKers!

Enjoy the eagerly anticipated Chapter 3 of The 17th Victim!

The 17th Victim.

Chapter 3 – Prime Facie.

As Marcus looked up from the latest evidence that Robin and Mace had brought them he couldn't help but briefly lock-eyes with the woman who sat opposite him.

Marcus had known Leyla Winship for many years. In fact, they'd grown up together from a very young age. Many at Charles Pascal High had believed the rumour that the pair were romantically involved, and one could hardly blame them - or the instigator - as they were rarely seen apart.

They'd met at the tender age of 7. Their respective parents had decided on this fateful day to take a trip to the beach – or as Leyla's mother who was English called it - the sea-side. While there, unbeknown to each other at that stage, the pair sat back to back creating sandcastles for fun.

At one stage during the very well-thought out process Leyla felt someone bump into her. It was this sudden bump, that had her fall right on top of her sandcastle which crumbled underneath her.

20 minutes to build, 1 moment to crash, she couldn't help but think.

She turned to face the big bad ogre that had caused – in her overly intelligent mind – the crash of the Leyal's Kingdom and was surprised to see a boy about her own age on bended knee looking up at her apologetically.

"I am…so dreadfully sorry m'lady," he'd said, charming Leyla as she'd never been charmed before. "The Niles had but struck again and I was flown through the air at a million miles a- Anyway, please forgive me."

"Hmmm," Young Leyla had replied as she assessed the damage. "Well young man you are responsible for the loss of the palace…and indeed my carpenters will need to work day and night now until it's all finished. Hmmm. I think 50 of your best carpenters and…let's see…yes 50 of your best doctors and nurses to tend to the injured seems fair."

"Oh, right away m'lady," Young Marcus said bowing lowly.

But as he went to walk away, young Leyla stopped him, tugging at his elbow. As Marcus turned back to her he couldn't help but notice the kind smile she was giving him.

"It's Princess Leyla kind sir," she said softly.

"Oh!" the young boy replied. "Princess!"

"Now," the young girl said with a smile, to the boy who had gone into a low bow once more. "Kind sir, I believe a truce can be found between our kingdoms…with a little…swim - in the enchanted sea."

It was from then on, that the pair had something very rare among their peers. A close bond that saw a boy and a girl become very strong friends. Their parents had come to realise how inseparable they were and after realizing that nothing romantic was happening - and how much each relied on the other - Marcus's parents allowed him to transfer to Leyla's elementary school.

Looking back on it Marcus realised the connection had grown ever since.

So strong was the connection that Tracey Wilson could hardly be blamed for apologising to Marcus' proposal of a date with a polite question of:

'I'm sorry, but aren't you with Leyla?'

Tracey would come to find out however, that being with Marcus was very much like being with Leyla. Most of the time plans were cancelled owing to Marcus receiving an out-of-the-blue call from Leyla to come over and help her with something.

Tired of being the 3rd wheel, Tracey promptly dumped Marcus for a guy named Adam who – as she'd managed to inform Marcus – was 'much more available' then he ever was.

Leyla was asked out a lot less frequently – though this was because she was always busy with something – and yet, the same thing happened to her with Fernando.

Fernando Verzala was the first to really discover that dating Leyla meant also dating Marcus and was very quick to tell as many guys as he could to 'save their hearts'.

Finally, one day – in what Leyla recalled as the 'Oh, screw it' moment - the pair had shared their first kiss and did date.

For a week.

But Leyla felt the chemistry was just not there.

Marcus boiled the situation down to Disney and other Romantic Films. He was quick to advise his parents that these 'rotten excuses for films' had become the source of the pairs break-up and that they were now the bane of his very existence.

Therefore, it wasn't surprising to hear his reaction when Leyla questioned him.

"What are you looking at?" she asked.

"Huh?" he replied innocently. "Ah, nothing. Nothing."

"Well in that case get back to it Mr," Leyla said. "We want to get a solid lead by the end of the day."

"*"

Not too far away, Jason and Devon were making their way over to Leyla and Marcus with some more information they'd acquired.

Jason had spoken to some of the girls who had spent time with Toby – one of the victims - and all of them had nothing but praise for the man.

Francine Jordan, a freshman had told him all about her time with him in a way that sparked hope in the boy.

"He was always so kind off the field," he recalled her saying. "He was strong on field where it mattered of course, but I saw him a few times off the field and he was always taking time to talk to his fans and take photos and stuff. I once told him I wanted to try out for football, expecting him to laugh at me, but he actually told me I'd do well. Said I had the muscles for it."

Penelope Moppleberry, a cheerleader had agreed.

"He would stop by at some of our cheers and we often asked him to take notes," she recalled. "Not only did he give everyone feedback, but he was never mean about it. Even if the girls were terrible – which believe me, most of them were a lot of the time. He'd simply talk to them and be like 'Ok maybe if you put your arm like this and kick your leg that way it'd show you off a little better' or 'Don't forget you have a gorgeous smile, so use it to lighten up the room like you are me right now'. We loved him, he was…different, kind, patient, loving."

It was therefore a shock for him when he'd met up with Deven under the bleachers to discuss what they'd found out (which of course was code for having a make-out session away from the group).

"He's not so wonderful in real life," Deven had said. "Believe me, the girls only know half of what he was like."

Deven then proceeded to tell Jason what he had learned, and Jason was flawed by everything he heard.

It turned out, according to Matthew Alcot, Toby's best friend, that Toby had, had a tough upbringing.

"Apparently, he was always jealous of his little brother and he never got any real attention prior to coming here," Deven relayed. "He grew up basically living in the shadow of his brother, never really amounting to anything. Things changed of course when he made the football team, but he always seemed to despise everyone internally."

"But how can that be true?" Jason asked. "Or if it is, how could all those girls not have seen it?"

Deven looked deep into the eyes of the boy he was growing very fond of and smiled. Jason couldn't help but smile back. If the girls thought Toby's smile brightened a room then they hadn't met Deven. Every time Deven smiled, it made Jason feel a surge of joy inside of himself. Those brown eyes sparkled, and his perfect skin and bone-structure produced a swooning sensation he'd never felt before.

"Love is blind Jace," Deven eventually said. "We both know that."

But even as they kissed, Jason still felt slightly agitated at not knowing how these girls never knew who Toby really was.

It was then that Deven explained what he'd learned.

"So, I was talking to that Jack-Crack kid," he began.

Jack Stedwell, was better known by the nickname Jack-the-crack or just Jack-Crack ever since he found a way to outsmart Frendale Heights in the dying seconds of the football play-offs last year.

Everyone watching the game knew Frendale would win as their strategy was just so much better than the Charles Pascal Lions. But Jack-the-Crack, found a way round their superior skills to score a winning touchdown in the dying seconds.

The days that followed saw everyone talking about how Jack had 'cracked' the code on Frendale Heights and soon enough Jack-the-Crack was heard before everyone eventually stuck with Jack-Crack.

"Oooh he's hot," Jason remarked. "So, what'd you have to do to get him to talk to you?"

"Nothing at all," Deven said. "I mean the guy doesn't know me, right? So, I just played up this straight guy attitude and he was like putty in my hands."

And I bet you used your spellbinding-smile Jason thought privately to himself.

"So, what'd he say?" Jason asked as he tried to bury the thought of Deven smiling at another guy, a hot guy at that.

"Apparently, they knew each other ever since Toby came to the school," Deven replied. "It was actually Jack-Crack that told Toby to go out for football as he thought it would elevate his status."

"Well he wasn't wrong, was he?" Jason said. "Toby became the it guy of Charles Pasc-"

"Ok not the point, nor the time," Deven brushed-off. "Jack-Crack told me that Toby was very two-faced."

"Two-Faced?!" Toby spat not believing it for a moment.

"Yep," Deven said simply. "According to Jack-Crack he would basically be a charmer to everyone's face and then either talk or set things up behind their backs. Like Mindy Shawl."

"Who?!" Toby asked.

"Exactly," Deven said. "Mindy swooned after Toby for ages, he knew it and strung her along. Mindy was your nerdy-computer-I-love-science type and apparently was bad for his reputation among the jocks and the cheerleaders."

"So closed minded," Jason replied shaking his head.

"I know babe I know," Deven said. "But one-day Toby actually asked her out to prom. She was so excited and got all dressed up and everything-"

"Why do I feel like we're gonna have a Carrie reference popping up in here?" Jason asked a frown of concern appearing on his face.

Deven smiled.

"Well Toby did pick her up, they took a stretch to the prom and even drank some champagne on the ride over. It was all going well-"

"Until it wasn't," Jason chimed in.

"Right," Deven agreed. "They got out of the limo and Toby got a call on his cell. He told Mindy it was his sister and – being a cold night – told her to go in and get warm and that he'd be right there."

"And?" Jason asked fearing how dark the night actually went.

"And about 5 minutes later he did walk in alright. With Tiffany Horvath," Deven said.

"That…whore!" Jason spat.

"Yeah," Deven said. "It gets worse. When Mindy walked up to them, she didn't know Tiffany at the time and introduced herself nice and politely."

"Only to be told-" Jason began.

"Who the hell are you? by Toby," Deven finished. "Well his plan went off without a hitch. Koen Meijer said something like Hey look everybody Nerd-Girl showed up aloooone!"

"Asshole!" Jason screamed alarming an elderly couple that were passing them at that very moment. "Oh, not you guys," he said quickly, though the elderly pair turned their noses up at him and kept right on walking. "So, what happened then?"

"Well you know what Jocks and Cheerleaders are like," Deven replied. "A chant of loner nerd, loner nerd, loner nerd rang out through the hall and she fled. She raced outside and didn't notice the oil that some of Toby's team mates had put down on the floor, slid and fell dress-up onto the ashfelt."

Jason gasped.

"There were cheerleaders put in place to capture the moment and they all took pictures of her," Deven said. "Needless to say, she left the school after that."

"And naturally Westcott and Bullard did nothing about it right? Considering who he was," Jason assumed.

"Actually, according to Jack-Crack," Deven replied. "She killed herself a week later."

It was now that Jason stopped.

His body wouldn't allow him to move.

It was one thing to hear that Toby had treated Mindy like that, quite another to here that she'd killed herself over it.

Then – suddenly a thought forced its way into Jason's mind and like a bomb-exploding he couldn't help but reveal it to Deven.

"Dev?" he said softly.

Deven, not noticing that Jason had stopped turned around and upon seeing Jason's face grew worried very quickly.

"What Jason?" he asked concerned. "What is it?"

"Do you-" Jason began, finding it hard to say the words. "Do you think…the killer knew Toby was responsible for the death of Mindy Shawl?"

"*"

"What do you know about Faren Martinson?" Mason asked Sarah.

"Huh?" she questioned.

They were still at her place and Mason, despite the anguish of Robin had refused to leave her side until her parents returned home. This meant that Robin had been forced to be Team Stealth Numero-Uno and she was telling anyone who would listen her opinion on that whenever she could.

In the end Leyla had compromised and told Mason that the pair of them could handle anything new that Robin found as all the evidence they had was overwhelming enough and they'd been advised that Jason and Deven were on the way over with more.

"Faren Martinson," Mason repeated. "You know the 8th Victim?"

"Not a thing," Sarah replied. "I didn't really know any of them. At least not by name anyway."

"Oookay," Mason said. "What if I changed that question to What do you know about Hot-Boy-Faren?"

Sarah's eyes lit up and despite Mason's twinge of jealousy he knew that all the girls had various forms of infatuation with arguably the school's hottest guy.

Sarah noticed the slight wince from her boyfriend and shook her head as though it would clear-away any of the passionate thoughts in her mind.

"Ah not much other than that he seems to get away with pretty much anything owing to his-"

She paused.

"It's ok," Mace said. "You can say good looks."

"I wasn't gonna say it," Sarah said.

"Yeah, but you were thinking it," Mace replied.

Sarah bit her lip in concern. Being in a relationship like the one she had with Mason, was different to anything she'd experienced before. He may have had a dark side, but his love for her was so…real. The problem was she was too scared to question anything of him, about herself to him or about them in case he up and ended it all.

Had this thought about Hot-Guy-Faren done the unthinkable?

"Breathe babe," Mason said bringing her thoughts back to him and doing just that. "I don't care if you think he's good looking. I'm confident enough in my own sexuality to think the same thing."

"Oh really?" Sarah replied. "So the possibility of you two-"

"Babe he's dead," Mason said. "Remember?"

"…right," Sarah replied. "Right, right. Anyway, why did you want to know what I knew about him anyway?"

Though she was intrigued Sarah could easily admit to herself that that was only part of the reason why she'd asked. The other part was to give herself a chance to let the words Ménage à trois ala two-guys resinate in her mind a little longer.

Faren might've been dead, but that didn't mean they couldn't find another-

"Because Robin found some stuff on him that surprised me is all," Mason said halting the process.

"Oh yeah?" Sarah asked. "Like what?"

"Well like…this," Mason said handing Sarah a picture.

It was a black and white photo of Faren standing in the middle of 2 girls from the cheerleading squad.

"Ah, so he could've gone on ANTM so what?" Sarah asked, flinging the photo back at him. "So could've most of the other-"

Sarah gasped!

"What babe?!" Mason asked, sounding terrified. "What?"

"Was that the killer's motive?" she asked aloud. "Killing the most attractive people at the school?"

"Ah babe?" Mason said a look of scepticism replacing his earlier terror. "The killer killed Westcott and Bullard. I mean, you may have an older person fetish – no judgement from me. But objectively I wouldn't call them 'attractive'".

"No, I guess not," Sarah sighed.

She looked down at the photo as thoughts continued to flood her mind. Ever since Robin had found the letter that pointed the finger of accusation directly at her, most of Sarah's time was spent trying to work out the motive of the killer. It didn't help that she'd just gotten used to Philosophy club right before hand as each motive seemed as likely as the last she'd thought or the next.

But just when she was about to give up and go back to looking at the other stuff that Mason had brought over, Sarah's eyes grew wide and she snatched the picture back!

"Mason!" she cried. "Mason, look at this!"

"What?" Mason asked. "What?"

Sarah held the picture up for both of them.

"See how he's standing between these two women?" she asked.

"Ah – yeah babe," Mason replied. "I'm not blind."

Sarah rolled her eyes.

"Well zoom in and focus on Faren's eyes!" she cried.

"What?" Mason replied nonchalantly. "So they're sparkling. They always did-"

"Not how they sparkle!" Sarah snapped. "Look at his focus! His Gaze!"

"His Gays?" Mason replied. "Babe, as far as everyone knew Faren was a straight-up hetero."

"Not Gays. Gaze! Look at where his eyes are looking!"

Mason could tell that Sarah was excited, but he had no clue as to why.

"Babe," he said. "He's looking at the camera-"

"Or," she chimed in interrupting him. "Or he's looking, at the cameraman."

"Babe! Again! He was Str-" Mason began.

"Will you get over his sexuality!" Sarah cried. "Cameraman, Camerawoman whatever! The point is Faren whatever-his-surname-is, is standing in between 2 hot girls. You'd think hormones a raging and all, he'd be focused on them! But he's not – he's looking straight ahead. And!" She added stopping him from interrupting her again. "He's not simply looking at the person taking the picture. He's giving off a seductive look!"

"And this matters…because?" Mason asked.

Sarah pulled the picture out of their gaze and stared directly at her boyfriend.

"Babe, focus," she said putting the back of the picture against her chest. "Pretend he's alive and this is real and that you're taking the photo."

Mason did one better. He grabbed his cell and made out as though that was exactly the case.

"Ok focus the lens, you want to get a really good shot," Sarah instructed.

Mason did.

"Now, before you take the picture – look at Faren! What's he telling you with his eyes?!"

"Babe this is stupid," Mason objected.

"I know!" Sarah agreed. "It's so stupid it's brilliant! Tell me what he's telling you, the photographer, with his eyes!"

"He's…" Mason began.

But then he stopped. It was as though time had slowed down, because he too, now, could see it.

"He's saying I wanna sleep with you!" Mason cried.

"Exactly!" Sarah said. "Mason, what are the odds that the person that took this photo-"

"Is the killer?" Mason asked. "We gotta call Robin now! Good work babe!"

As Mason looked through his phone directory, Sarah allowed herself a smile. If they could track down whoever took the photo they might just be able to work out who the killer was.

"*"

By the time they reached the evening both Sarah and Mason were none the wiser on who had taken the photo. Robin had said she would look into it, but couldn't assure them an answer right away and that still seemed to be the case as Robin arrived that evening.

"Hey," she said noticing how exhausted Sarah was looking. "Sorry, no such luck as yet. I'll try to track down Rita and Melanie tomorrow."

"That's ok," Sarah replied. "You can only do what you can you know?"

Robin looked past Sarah and saw Mason outside chopping wood for a nice bon-fire they'd all planned to sit around that night.

"Yeah I mean if I had more then just me on the case then-" she whispered.

But it wasn't soft enough and Sarah caught every word.

"Well," she began smiling while putting her arms around the shorter girl to steer her outside. "That's why you're here tonight. Mason is going to swap places with you."

"Wait-" Robin questioned as Mason, noticing her walked back inside. "Why would he do that?"

"It's time I stood up to the plate," he responded for Sarah smoothing some long strands of hair back and off his face. "We can't have you do everything, it would be fair."

"I don't mind," Robin replied, despite the million objections that whirled around inside.

"Well, I do," Mason said matter-of-factly. "Why should you get all the fun? I want the chance to sleuth my way to some stuff too. With you staying here to look after Sarah, I'll be able to just just that."

With that he patted Robin lightly on the shoulder with a smile and then made his way over to Sarah to give her a quick kiss advising her he was just going to shower first.

Half an hour later, Jason and Deven had arrived with Deven sporting a particular mark on his neck that he waved off as being 'an old bruise', though Sarah and Robin just looked at each other and smile. Ten minutes after that Marcus and Leyla arrived with Marcus offering to cook up a barbeque for everyone.

Without wasting any time Leyla ploughed into what they'd discovered.

"So we were really working as hard as we could-" she began.

"Including nights?" Robin asked in a voice just above a whisper.

"Naturally," Leyla confirmed. "And every time I thought we'd gotten close to something, it slipped right though our fingers."

Sarah couldn't help but put her head in her hands. They were all seated around the bonfire, a black sky looming over head.

It just sucked that it was taking this long and to be perfectly honest she was getting sick of being baby-sat all the time. Yes, she knew what Mace meant when he'd said with you here looking after Sarah, but all the same it didn't change the fact that Sarah didn't want to be 'looked after'.

"Oh, don't get me wrong eventually we got a solid lead," Leyla went on. "But-"

This news made Sarah's head pop-up right away.

"Well that's great!" she cried, a little too enthusiastically. "What is it?"

"The 5th Victim," Deven whispered. "Toby Payton-"

Leyla took a photo out of her pocket and showed it to Sarah and Robin. Immediately Robin, who was seated next to Sarah, leant in to hear the rest.

"He…killed someone," Deven revealed.

"Wait?" Sarah asked. "He was a murderer?"

"Yep," Leyla said smiling and reaching into her bag for a manila envelope. "You wanted motive girl? Check this out."

Sarah flipped open the envelope and looked through what Leyla had done. Inside were pictures and documents as well as a small cassette.

"We gave Deven a wire," Leyla explained, pocketing the cassette.

"Good thing too!" Deven agreed. "…considering…"

He'd said the last in a whisper and Sarah's eyebrows knitted together.

"Why are we whispering?" she asked her voice also low.

"Isn't it obvious?!" Leyla said.

"Wh-" Sarah began, but she was interrupted by the sound of Marcus calling everyone over to the barbeque.

"Ok," he called out to everyone. "Hamburgers, Chicken, Lamb, Pork – help yourselves guys! Ah Sarah, do you have condiments?"

"Yeah of course," she replied. "I'll be right back."

Making sure that everyone was ensconced with the food, Sarah inconspicuously picked up the file Leyla had passed her a moment ago and rushed into the house. She had no idea how much time she could buy so she instantly opened the folder and read the first document.

Toby Payton & Faren Martinson.

0:20 – Deven asks about Toby as a child.

7:24 – Girl 1 remembers cheerleading practice.

10:16 – Deven asks great question about Toby and women.

16:13 – Girl 2 mentions Mindy - *she has no idea!*

It wasn't helping. Sarah closed the file and made her way to the cupboard to collect everything the needed, but on her way back outside she couldn't help but stop and look at the file again.

It was now that the names of the victims were reminding her of…something.

"Payton…and…Martinson…?" she questioned aloud. "Why do they sound so familiar?"

"Because," a voice from behind her said making her jump. "They're Marcus and Jason's brothers."

Sarah's eyes widened as Leyla stood there with her hands on her hips.

"*"

"What?" Sarah asked her eyes continuing to widen.

"I thought you knew," Leyla replied. "The rest of us had already clicked."

"Oh…my god," Sarah said, sinking into the chair right next to her.

"Toby was Marcus's older brother," Leyla went on taking a seat opposite Sarah and showing her a photo of the boy. "And Faren," she went on sliding a picture of the former hot-guy along the table. "Was 2 years older than Jason."

"I just…" Sarah said shaking. "I can't believe I didn't know. Those poor guys and me! I forced them to work with me on this case and-"

"And do you hear them complaining?" Leyla asked. "No. Because they love you and want to help you catch this…monster."

It was in that moment that Sarah realised just how right Leyla was and how much more she appreciated her friendship with the both of them.

"What do I do?" she asked suddenly.

"Do?" Leyla replied confused.

"Or say or whatever," Sarah said. "I mean…they lost their brothers. That's…massive!"

"Well," Layla replied taking hold of Sarah's hands across the table. "You tell them your sorry for their loss and that you're here for them if ever they need you."

Telling her friend she would do exactly that, Sarah accepted the offer of a hug from Leyla and then in an effort to mentally shake herself picked up whatever Leyla couldn't carry and made her way back out to her friends.

"*"

After dinner Sarah, Jason and Marcus shared a private moment around the bonfire. Deven had to get home, Leyla remembered something that no one seemed to understand as she was talking way too fast and Robin had offered to go and find Mason, who somehow had not as yet returned.

"It was tough," Marcus admitted staring into the slowly dying flames of the bonfire. "Especially for mom and dad. Mom of course found it tough loosing a son, but dad – regrettably – was more focused on all the money we'd loose."

"Money?" Jason questioned. "What money?"

"Toby was racking up sponsors left and right," Marcus explained. "Most told him that it was contingent on him making the finals this year, but others had already agreed to start funding him money with an early contract to be bound to them when he left school. Mom was wary about it, but dad – ever hungry 'Mr Payton' – practically forced him to sign any deal he could and then demanded that the money be directly sent to his account to – as he put it – make it easier on Toby."

"Why do I have the feeling Toby never saw a dime?" Sarah asked off-handily.

"Because you have great instincts," Marcus replied smiling briefly. "I don't know if Toby got anything but mom and I certainly didn't and yet dad has been stocked up with alcohol and cigars ever since."

"Do you miss him?" Jason asked quietly.

"Of course," Marcus replied. "All the time. Why?"

"Well… cause…" Jason muttered before turning to look at the pair with a serious expression on his face. "Ok don't tell anyone, especially Jason but – I don't miss Faren."

"That's just shock Jace," Marcus said, putting a protective arm around him. "You just need time for it to sink in. I mean not only do we deal with the death of our brothers, but then in a big-'ol f-you kinda-way, society just expects a funeral to be arranged within a week! I mean where's the time to gre-"

"No," Jason corrected. "That's just it. It's not about the funeral, not having time or anything like that. God only knows Deven's been all 'You poor thing', 'tell me about him', 'you must miss him', 'this must hurt so much'. No, it's more that – well – we didn't exactly see eye to eye. He lived in his world and I sorta lived in my own one."

When Sarah thought about it, she could understand where Jason was coming from. He was a reclusive introvert and Toby was just…not. Loud and proud, out there for all, charming all the girls, kissing most of them too.

"When's the funeral?" she eventually asked, hoping to change the topic.

"Friday," Marcus said.

"Saturday," Jason said at the same time.

"Can you come?" they both asked at once.

"Of course," Sarah replied, not because she wanted to, but she felt like it was a situation where she simply couldn't refuse. "I'm just happy they're on separate days."

"*"

The following day bright and early Leyla and Marcus were once again examining everything that had been given to them. Sarah had called only an hour before hand to say that though Mason was 'very nearly' caught, his delay was owing to hiding-out until he could safely leave the school.

Mason had more than made up for his lateness by providing Leyla and Marcus with evidence on Victim's 1 and 2 Quin Seymore and Kerrie Cho.

"So they were up for being valedictorians," Marcus said in a snide comment. "That doesn't prove anything. What, the killer was jealous?"

"Certainly looks that way," Leyla replied. "I mean it's Prima Facie anyway."

"Preema what eea?" Marcus asked, not used to Leyla's brilliance at knowing the law.

"Prima Facie," Leyla replied. "It draws a presumptive conclusion to something. We don't necessarily know that Quin and Kerrie were killed because the killer was jealous, but it's a start."

"Wow," Marcus said his eyes widening. "Prima Facie. Ok cool cool. Do we have any Prima whatever for killing Toby and Faren?"

"No we have something better than Prima Facie evidence for those two," Leyla said.

"Like what?" Marcus asked.

"Well, we know for a fact that Toby was not only two-faced, but is also most likely responsible for the death of that Mindy Shawl girl." Leyla replied.

"Yeah true," Marcus agreed. "Really gotta thank Dev and Jason on that one. They really came through for us. Guess they're not spending all their time making-out after all."

"I guess not," Leyla agreed with a smirk picking up what she had on the hot-guy. "Faren is harder to find anything on. I mean, we have stuff about his popularity, how he sat with the jocks at lunch and how Nileeka gave him a handy in the bathroom one time…"

"So in other words," Marcus said taking the evidence from her attempting to rip it up. "Nothing."

"No not nothing!" Leyla snapped, snatching the evidence back. "We know he's a charmer, right? Who's to say he didn't…I don't know, go too far?"

"And how does that help?" Marcus asked.

"It's called Circumstantial Evidence," Leyla replied. "Person A may not have committed the crime, but because he was there at the time he's still a suspect."

"Isn't that like framing someone?" Marcus asked chuckling.

"It's something to go off," Leyla replied standing up and putting what little they had on Faren away in a folder. "And for now, something is better than nothing."

Leyla took the folder and put it away in her filing cabinet. Sure, Faren's reason for dying was important – after all, he was Deven's brother – but not knowing much and continuing to look would only fuel her already over-analytical mind.

"Hey?" Marcus called out to her.

"Yeah," she answered snapping the cabinet shut.

"Did Robin ever find out who took that Photo?"

"Not yet," Leyla said. "She said she'd text me the moment she has a name. But till then. Nothing."

"That sucks," Marcus replied. "I mean it'd put an end run to this whole Shima Fakada stuff."

Leyla chuckled.

"Prima Facie," she giggled. "And don't knock it till you've tried it."

For the following hour, the pair delved into the rest of the stuff that Mason had delivered on Quin and Kerrie. Neither spoke for the entire hour as nothing seemed to connect to anything at all. Then suddenly Leyla heard Marcus's voice and nearly jumped, forgetting entirely that he was there.

"Were Quin and Kerrie lovers?" he asked.

"What makes you ask?" Leyla retorted.

Marcus handed her a picture of the pair. It was black and white and showed Kerrie in Quin's arms.

"They might've been," Leyla said after a quick glance and handing the picture back. "I mean, it must be lonely being at the top and having no actual supp-"

Out of nowhere Leyla stopped, turned around and raced over to the filing cabinet and pulled out a folder she'd labelled unidentified.

"Wait a minute!" she exclaimed. "Wait…a…minute."

Picking up a particularly off-white piece of paper decorated with sunflowers around the edges, Leyla scanned a note she'd read a few days ago.

"Puppy dog dress with tongues sticking out…" she said biting her lip. "Asian…long straight brown hair…".

Leyla raced back over to Marcus and snatched the photo out of his hands. All the while Marcus said there dumbfounded and yet a little excited.

"Oh my god!" she cried. "Oh…my..god."

"What?!" Marcus demanded. "Let me in Ley!"

"It's her! She's it – It's… well it's unbelievable is what it is, but of course who would ever suspect the supposedly sweet and innocent ones I mean look at Jo Ferugeer and-"

"Leyla!" Marcus demanded again, this time standing up to grab her flailing arms.

It was so typical of her to go on a rant like this, not to mention it was one of the many reasons he felt that a Philosophical Club would work wonders for her. But in moments like this where he knew this could go on for hours Marcus knew he had to reel her in.

"Think before you say each word!" he said as kindly as he could while still trying to get his point across.

Leyla took a breath.

"This photo," she began. "Connects with a letter I was reading the other day."

Leyla picked up the letter and thrust it into Marcus' hand.

Principal Westcott,

Would you be so kind to explain how my daughter came home from her first day at your school with scratches all down her arms?

"Ah mommy dearest," Marcus began rolling his eyes. "It's called cutting, what kind of a parent are you?"

"Keep reading!" Leyla screamed.

Marcus did.

I don't know how things roll here at Charles Pascal, but nowhere in the brochure did it mention the risk of harm to students! I expect this to be rectified immediately without the use of my daughter's name. Sally does not know the name of the person who did this to her, but she describes her as:

A girl wearing a puppy dog dress with tongues sticking out, of Asian descent with long brown hair.

I am also lead to believe there was a boy involved in this as well. Same height, short brown hair wearing a formal shirt and black jeans and also of Asian descent.

I understand that tolerance must be adhered to with minorities, but in my world that tolerance ends when it comes to violence.

Sort this out before I do Principal Westcott,

Fiona Smalls.

"*"

"I'm still confused," Leyla admitted moments later. "I mean obviously this is not good and I'm sure they got punished for it one way or another but-"

"Ah no actually," Marcus replied before racing back to his own pile. "I have the incident report here and guess what's stamped across it?"

Though she was shocked to hear that Marcus had come across such a vital piece of information and not only not shared it with her, but also dismissed it, Leyla kept her mouth shut and glanced at the paper he'd given her.

"NDA," she sighed. "Of course."

It was another dead end.

Leyla handed back the report to Marcus who took it and gave Leyla a hug. But whether she wanted the hug or not Leyla threw her arms out to push Marcus away.

"Of COURSE!" she cried.

"Ley, it was just a h-"

"Not the hug you Marcus, I actually appreciate the sentiment," she rushed. "No, the report! Oh my god! This is…this is…GOOD!"

Snatching up the photo, the letter and the report Leyla strode over to the front door of her home, looking back only to yell.

"Grab your coat! We're off to Jason's."

"*"

Not too much later everyone had gathered at Jason's place. Robin had finally tracked down the girls in the photo, but regretfully advised that they couldn't recall who'd taken the picture. Leyla delved right into telling everyone what they'd learned about the 4 victims so far and produced all 3 items of evidence she'd taken with her.

Sarah however, was still sceptical.

"I mean, good detective work and all," she began. "But I still don't see how this helps."

"That's because your all emotional right now," Leyla replied.

"Leyla!" Jason cried.

"Yeah, not cool Leyals," Mason agreed.

"Oh no, I'm not saying that to be mean," Leyla corrected. "I'm saying it because it only leaves you open to things at a surface level."

"Still sounds mean to me," Jason whispered to Deven.

Whether Leyla heard this or not, no one knew, but she continued on as though she hadn't.

"Look," she said. "What do we know about Faren so far?"

"He was a womaniser," Robin said flatly.

"Right," Leyla agreed. "And Toby?"

"That he indirectly killed a girl," Sarah said offhandedly.

"Right again," Leyla said. "And now, what do we know about Quin and Kerrie?"

"That they attacked some new girl," Jason said.

"Exactly!" Leyla said. "Every single ONE of these people victim's we've looked into so far did something terrible!"

Mace's eye-brows knitted together in confusion.

"What, so your saying the killer's some kind of Karmatic Provider or something?" Robin asked, thinking it a little far-fetched herself.

"Well yeah!" Marcus said enthusiastically.

Despite Leyla not having told him any of this on the way and therefore only hearing about it now, it made sense.

"It's called Schemer Pratier!" he said.

Everyone looked at him confused, before Leyla took the reins back from him.

"He means Prima Facie," she said. "Which it kind of is and it kind of isn't. Everyone's 'sins' can be accounted for. We have actual evidence of all of it."

"Except for Faren," Sarah chimed in.

"True," Leyla admitted. "But we have Prima Fac-"

Leyla stopped as Jason jumped up and raced out of the room. No one knew what to do, but they all realised what had caused it. Naturally he'd be upset talking about his brother and the more innocent he seemed the more it would hurt that he'd been taken from him.

"I'll go," Deven said. "You guys keep talking. It really feels like we're getting somewhere."

He smiled up at Leyla in particular before leaving the room.

Leyla smiled back, it was hard not to feel something with Deven and for the umpteenth time she cursed the fact that he was gay.

A moment later Jason's voice could be heard coming towards them.

"No Deven!" he cried. "No, I'm fine! Really, I'm fine! Let me through!"

Everyone looked around wondering what in the world was going on. Finally, it seemed that Jason had won as the next thing they all knew the sound of footsteps could be heard followed by Jason re-appearing with what looked like a homemade book in his hands.

"You want evidence that Faren did something bad?" he said simply. "Then take a look at this!"

Jason let the book fall onto the table and the sharp bang it made caused everyone to jump. Jason pushed the book so that it slid across the table to Leyla, who only just caught it in time.

Holding it up, Leyla scrunched her eyes up at the title.

"The Big Bro-Down Part 1?" she said aloud.

Everyone looked back at Jason, who now looked white as a sheet.

"I think I know what inspired the killer to killer my brother," he said.