Firstling Chapter Twelve: Poisoned Apple Juice

Trying not to panic, I moved quickly, first shutting off the water and grabbing a towel to cover Liana’s body for decency’s sake.  Then I shouted for Khit.

He came running, as did Stacy and Nia.  I heard my roommates’ collective gasp of horror as they took in the blood-streaked bathroom.

“One of you call 9-1-1,” Khit said, instantly taking charge.

Meanwhile, I was trying to lift Liana’s body from the shower, but she was too heavy for me.

“Let me,” Khit said.  He lifted me bodily aside, and then returned to Liana, easily lifting her up, but all the while, making sure she was shielded by the towel.  Not that it mattered at this point, but I thought Liana would have appreciated it.

Miraculously, I saw Faun respectively sit in a far corner, away from Khit.  She knew he was helping and wouldn’t attack him.  Good.  We couldn’t afford Khit’s fox tail to grow right now.

The ambulance came in a matter of minutes.  My roommates and I rode with Liana, while Khit followed in his car.  The short ride to the hospital felt longer than the ten-hour drive it took to get to my hometown.

And it felt even longer sitting in the waiting room, not being able to do anything but wait for the doctor to tell us what the hell had happened to Liana.  So I paced the corridor, back and forth, back and forth, a hundred thoughts tumbling in my head like a milkshake in a blender.

It just didn’t make any sense.  She’d been fine just a few days ago.  She was hardly ever sick.  So what had happened?  The worst thought of all popped into my head.  Had Liana been suffering from severe depression?  Had I been so involved in my own world that I hadn’t seen the signs?  Had it been…

“No, don’t even go there,” Khit said, breaking the silence.  He handed me a bottle of apple juice, newly purchased from the vending machine, while he slowly sipped on a can of soda.

I accepted the juice gratefully but avoided eye contact.  “How do you know what I was thinking?”

“I know you.”  Khit patted my head.  “Don’t jump to conclusions though.  We don’t know what happened.  And if it was…suicide,” he finally voiced the word, “You can’t go blaming yourself.”

I nodded, knowing he was right.  I just wished the last time I’d talked to Liana hadn’t ended in a fight.  “I didn’t see any cuts or anything though,” I said.

“That’s because it wasn’t cutting,” he told me.

My head shot up alertly.  “You know.”

“I shouldn’t say anything until the doctor confirms.”

“Tell me,” I pleaded.  “I have to know.”

Khit gave me a long, hard stare, and for a moment, I thought he wouldn’t give in, but then he sighed.  “It’s something she ingested.  The blood was from her nose and mouth.  I think she took an anticoagulant.”

The word made me pause for a second, as I thought about where I’d heard it before.  Definitely in Drug Interactions last winter.  “That’s a blood thinner, right?  Like Warfarin.  Used to prevent blood clotting.”  I pondered this with a confused frown.

Khit narrowed his eyes shrewdly, and I knew he already had everything figured out.  “Or rat poison.”

“Rat—” My eyes widened at the revelation.  I remembered the tiny blue pellets that Khit had found.  But before I had the chance to ask him to explain further, the doctor came out to greet us.

He basically confirmed what Khit had told me.  Liana had swallowed a good amount of rat poison.

An eerie silence filled the corridor as we watched the doctor’s retreating form.  And then Stacy suddenly broke down, and would have ended up in a heap on the floor if Nia hadn’t steadied her.  I would have cried too, but for some reason, the tears just wouldn’t come.  All I felt was shock.

We stayed in the hospital for half an hour longer before heading home.  The nurses told us that they were keeping Liana overnight to make sure she was all right.

It was around midnight by now, but instead of dropping us off at the apartment, Khit came inside, saying he’d forgotten something.  But I knew the look on his face.  He was in deep thinker mode.

Sure enough, as soon as Nia and Stacy went to bed, Khit waited a few extra seconds to make sure they did not re-emerge and then dived straight into the kitchen.

He opened the refrigerator and pulled out the apple juice.  “You like apple juice,” he said, then corrected himself.  “No, you love apple juice.”

I frowned, not quite sure what point he was trying to make.  “Glad you noticed?”

“When did you buy it?”

Shrugging, I said, “Monday.  Why?”

“But you didn’t drink from it.”

“I think I had a glass after I bought it.”

“You didn’t drink any this weekend though.”

Shaking my head, I wondered if maybe Khit was sleep-deprived.  It was getting late, after all.  “I’ve been eating out with you ever since Thursday night.”

“You barely touched this apple juice except for one glass on Monday.  And yet, half the carton is empty.  There’s barely anything else in the fridge.”

“Nobody’s gone shopping.  Everyone’s been too busy, so we’ve all been eating out this weekend.”

“So Nia and Stacy wouldn’t have come near the fridge these past few days.  They don’t drink apple juice.”

“They don’t drink anything non-caffeinated.”  Enough was enough.  He was driving me crazy with his cryptic comments.  “Just make your point already,” I demanded.

He shook the carton of apple juice like he was mad.  “This is the source of the poison.”

I stared at him, amazed.  “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m really not.”  His voice was a dead tone.  But if Khit was right, how had rat poison ended up in my apple juice?  And why had Liana ended up drinking it?  Nobody in my apartment drank juice…except me.

I gulped, looking to Khit in horror.  His expression was identical to mine, only more anger-filled, telling me we were thinking the same thing.  Someone had intentionally spiked my apple juice with poison…to get to me.  Only presumably, Liana had gotten to it first.

Marching out of the kitchen, I knocked on Stacy and Nia’s door.  A very sleepy-eyed Nia opened the door a crack.

“Sorry,” I said.  “I was just wondering if you saw Liana drink my apple juice today.”

To Nia’s credit, she didn’t give me a strange look or slam the door in my face.  Maybe she was just too tired to do anything besides answer the question.  “Not today.”  Her wide-rimmed glasses perched tentatively on her nice, looking as ready to fall to the ground as their owner.  Nia tried unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn, mumbling in the process.  “Ay-ee es-er-ay.”

“What?”

Nia tried again.  “I said, yesterday.  She came back last night to shower when you were out with the prof.  She opened the fridge and went off about how you always buy juice that no one drinks, and you never finish it and something about starving kids not being able to afford wasting food.  And then she chugged down about half of the juice directly from the carton.”

She suppressed another yawn, before asking, “Was the apple juice contaminated with poison?”

My, she was perceptive as always, even half asleep.  “Khit thinks so.  We’ll tell you our verdict in the morning.  Go to sleep.”

“I don’t need your verdict,” she said.  “It was the juice.  One would think the FDA could do a better job of keeping our food safe. If we end up with cockroach legs in our cereal, I believe rat poison is just as plausible.  We should sue.”

“All right, Nia, go to bed.”  I didn’t feel like explaining just now that we thought someone had intentionally dumped the poison into the juice.

When I walked back to the kitchen, Khit was still investigating the juice, sniffing it cautiously.  I told him about Nia’s confirmation that Liana had drank the juice last night, but he merely nodded, apparently not needing that extra affirmation.  That told me he’d already figured out another piece to our mystery.

“Rat poison’s odorless and colorless, so I can’t tell without some extra tests if it’s in here.  But I do know that whoever did this is an idiot.”

“As opposed to not knowing that before?”

“I meant he or she is not a very bright criminal,” Khit said.  “As I said, rat poison is almost impossible to detect with just the naked eye.  It would have been impossible for me to suspect anything if I hadn’t seen those rat pellets on the floor earlier.”  He shook his head distastefully.  “It was sloppy work.”

“So the question is who,” I said, frowning to puzzle it out.  “Maybe someone snuck in when everyone was out.”

“Maybe,” he replied, but his tone said he didn’t quite believe that theory.  “It had to be someone who knows your preferences, such as that nobody drinks apple juice in the apartment except you.”

“Do you still think it’s Rina?” I asked.  “I never told her I liked apple juice, but if she has super powers, maybe—”

“Let’s get some sleep,” he interrupted.  “It’s almost clicking, but we’re still missing a puzzle piece.  Maybe Liana knows something.  We’ll ask her tomorrow.”

“You’re staying tonight?”

“As though I could leave you knowing there’s a killer on the loose.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Get out the sleeping bags.  Since your mutt’s taking up the bedroom, we’ll have to hold our slumber party in the living room.”

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