The door swung outwards in conjunction with the soft exclamation that slipped through Leo Hardy’s blue, trembling lips. It took the dozens of students milling in the hall between classes, absorbed in their conversations, a moment to notice the peculiar sight of Hardy looking ill and unsteady on his feet in the doorway. Only one or two students noticed him cough a violent streak of blood down the front of his overalls, his eyes bugging out of their sockets and sweat beading his greening face in conjunction with the wet, bleating sound of him shitting himself where he tottered. It was only when he’d stumbled out among them with a gasp and one hand clutched on his ample belly and the other to his throat to promptly collapse face-first onto the dirty tiles that the students jamming the hallway ceased their jabbering and gaped at his immense spasming form.
Into the stunned silence Hardy’s killer followed.
The girl, a homely tenth-grader whose name was unknown by those students at the scene, drifted through the yawning doorway and casually dropped the emptied pair of syringes onto the writhing man as she went past. She shot the stunned students a challenging glance before unhurriedly walking the length of the hallway and exiting the building to unlock her bicycle from the metal rack to the rear of the school.
A moment later a crowd of students and faculty crowded the doorway and watched her pedalling casually westbound, across the soccer field toward the wilds of the woods that fringed the school grounds, her usual refuge when she needed to keep the world at bay.
* * *
Mary Close was convicted of first degree murder. Due to the severe and premeditated nature of her crime she was tried as an adult and sentenced to prison for life.
Her victim, Leonardo William Hardy, had known Mary from school: he’d been the janitor at Riverdale High School for twenty-one years. It was learned that Mary gained access to both several ampoules of cyanide and arsenic, as well as the syringes with which she’d injected the toxic substances into Hardy, from the chemistry laboratory. The lethality of the toxics, the purity of the dose with which Hardy was injected, and the place where the needles entered his body – his throat, with direct entry into the carotid artery – all combined to kill him within minutes.
When asked for any final comment before being sent back to the juvenile detainment centre to await removal to prison, Mary Close, as reticent in the courtroom as she’d always been in school, muttered only the following cryptic and chilling words to those convened in the judge’s chambers:
For what I did, you’re all welcome. You can thank me in Heaven some day.
* * *
Mary Close committed suicide on her final day in juvenile incarceration. She hanged herself in the bathroom, using her tightly-wound scrub bottoms as a makeshift noose fastened around a ventilation grille in the ceiling. She left no suicide note. Her few friends who lived through the tragic events of that school year claimed she hadn’t needed to because everyone knew her final thoughts anyways, though they themselves refused to comment on what those thoughts might have been.
* * *
In the months following Mary Close’s passing, an epidemic of suicides plagued Riverdale High. Six students, all girls between ninth and eleventh grade, killed themselves between January and June.
Of the six students, only one left a note, found tucked partway beneath her pillow on the bed in which she’d eaten the bottle of Tylenol-3 and went to sleep forever.
Amy Villaire’s final words both offered some insight into the reason behind the tragedy of Riverdale High that year, while deepening the mystery surrounding it:
Fuck you evil Lions of the world
on your way to Hell.
On my way somewhere now too
Thank you Mary Close
We’ll all be together soon
* * *
An anonymous hand had spray-painted something like an epitaph on one of the school’s outside walls, on the siding directly above the doorway of the janitor’s tool shed at the rear of the building. Despite the school’s strict intolerance of graffiti the words were allowed to remain there until graduation at the end of the school year:
MARY IN HEAVEN