November Third


Raider Times photo / Jack Robertson / Word Painter

All Mr. Lewis did that night was step out of his ground-floor classroom for a quick water break when it happened. He saw something unusual, something or someone that should not have been there.

They found only a few drops of blood on the floor and on the lockers outside of his classroom. There was even a drop of blood trickling down the clipboard he had been using to grade his students’ conclusion paragraphs—just five minutes prior. This was the second murder, even though they promised they wouldn’t let it happen again.  

But it did. 

The police closed the school for three days, but soon everything went back to “normal.” There were no leads, no clues, nothing to go on. So, people began to forget. Unfortunately, someone wanted to remind them. 

Three months later, another teacher was killed. Same time, same place, same way. The police were baffled. But eventually, people forgot once again. 

“Can you believe it’s been one hundred years since the school opened?” asks Dustin Brown, head of the History Department at Watertown High School.

“Has it really?” murmurs Ms. Rivers, flipping through her papers.

“Oh, that’s right, you’re new here. Well, this town has quite a rich history,” says Mr. Brown enthusiastically, as the two climb the wide front steps of the school, a kaleidoscope of leaves crunching beneath their feet and a brisk October wind biting at their cheeks.

“Oh, that’s nice.” 

“Well, I’ve done a lot of research. Let me tell you about it!” 

“I’d love to hear about it, but I have a class to teach in five minutes… maybe another time?”

Ms. Rivers hurriedly walks into her classroom. She drops her papers on her desk with a smack and removes her coat, draping it over a hanger behind her door. She turns to the class. 

“Good morning students! Sorry I’m late! My cat, Lambchop, threw up all over your quizzes from Tuesday, so you don’t have to worry about those anymore! Now, I understand some of you haven’t been doing as well as you might have hoped this semester.” 

She swipes her hands together briskly and with a little clap. Ms. Rivers is a young woman with sleek, chestnut hair, warm brown eyes, and a playful, lopsided smile. She paces the front of the room while she speaks. “Because it’s still early in the semester, I’ve decided to offer an extra credit opportunity. If any of you are interested, see me after class.”

In the back of the classroom, Grayson raises his head in interest. His light brown scruffy hair falls haphazardly onto his forehead, and he has dark circles under his eyes. Normally, Grayson would pay no attention to extra work. But he’s failing U.S. History and it sounds easy enough.

“The assignment is to research a historical event from Watertown’s history. You will give a presentation on it—slides, a poster, a video—the medium is up to you. I want a description of the event, of course, but also any modern impact it might have. It’s due by the end of the term…. Any questions?” 

No one raises their hand or speaks up, so Ms. Rivers continues with the class. When the bell rings, Grayson approaches her.

“I’ll do the project,” Grayson says quickly, eager to go to lunch, eager to get out before his classmates see him talking to a teacher. 

Ms. Rivers smiles, “Sounds good! Let me know if you need any help.” She is glad Grayson chose to do the extra credit project. She can tell he’s a smart kid, but he just doesn’t try very hard. She’s seen too many kids struggle with their grades in her class, they just don’t care about learning. She didn’t want anyone else to fail the class.

Grayson walks into the crowded lunchroom. The students are yelling, throwing food, and acting like they’ve reverted to their terrible twos. 

The cafeteria smells like burnt cheese and feet. He makes his way to the table in the corner where he sees his best friend, Faye, waving to him. 

Grayson and Faye have been friends since before either of them can remember. Their moms grew up together, so it was a given they would grow up together, too. 

Faye has sparkly, mischievous, blue eyes, and straight, mahogany brown hair. She wears a gold necklace with a seashell charm every day, and cardigans make up most of her wardrobe. She is soft-spoken and sounds a little breathy, like Marilyn Monroe.

“What took you so long? I’m half dead from starvation, c’mon let’s get in line!” Faye implores, pulling Grayson’s sweatshirt. 

“Sorry, I was talking to Ms. Rivers and—don’t laugh, but…. Oh my God, I haven’t even said anything yet. Anyway…. I think I’m going to do that extra credit assignment.”

“Really? I can’t picture you doing research….What are you thinking of doing?”

“The Midnight Murders.’”

“The what murders?”

“The murders. From a hundred years ago. How do you not know this?” Grayson raises his eyebrow with a look of disbelief.

“Wait, what?” Faye asks, astounded that there had been murders she had never heard of. “Are you joking?”

“No…. In 1925, when the school first opened, there was a serial killer who killed three teachers. Right here in the high school. Because all the teachers were new to the school, they stayed late every night for about a week, planning for the week. Some teachers stayed as late as midnight. 

“On November fourth, Ms. Tonkin was found in the basement of the high school. She had been murdered the night before. At 11:59, to be exact. The killer had crept behind her and—”

“Stop, stop, I don’t want to hear that part.” Faye squirms. “Did this actually happen?”

“Yes,” Grayson says sternly. “It’s documented. But I’ll actually have to spend some time in the library. Or that records room off the rifle range.” Grayson’s shoulders slump at the thought of the library. And research. He knew about the murders—he thought everyone did. 

“OK, anyway, the police were grasping at straws. They had no suspects and there was really no evidence. So they kind of put it on the back burner and forgot about it. When it happened again, three months later, the police were shocked. They were desperate to find the killer. 

“Then, an English teacher named Mr. Lewis was murdered outside his classroom. He was killed the same way. And again, there were no clues. Finally, there was the third—and final—murder. It was May third when Mr. Blake was killed.” 

“Oh my God. That’s unbelievable. How does nobody know about this? This is so interesting. Wait, now I want to research the murders!”

“Why don’t you just do it with me? I don’t think Ms. Rivers would care. I’ll ask her. I think she was hoping other people would go for the extra credit. Especially because it’s basically the only work I will have done for the whole term.” 

Weeks pass and Grayson and Faye make a lot of headway with their project. They’ve looked at newspaper clippings, witness reports, Wikipedia, and old photographs. 

Most of the records from the school’s first years are kept in a small room off the old rifle range in the basement, and they hoped they could find some clues in the dusty cardboard boxes. 

Ms. Rivers somehow got a key to the musty room from Mr. Brown, and she let them borrow it. When Ms. Rivers asked them how their project was going, they told her they had become so invested, they decided to try and solve the case together. They told her all about what they had found so far, and she was excited to help them in any way she could.

The night before their presentation is due, Grayson and Faye set up in Faye’s living room to practice. They still haven’t figured out who the killer was, but they have to present the project anyway because the end of the term, November 5th, is just two days away, and they need to get in their extra credit.

“Hey. Grayson. Where’s the posterboard?” Faye asks accusingly.

“…Uh,” Grayson stares blankly at Faye, finally realizing he left it in the school library. Having no other option, the two grab their jackets and make their way to the high school.

As they approach the school, the night suddenly grows colder. The wind whistles around their hair and the moon shines brightly on their cheeks. 

“Can we make this quick? It’s already late and we have to present tomorrow,” Faye asks, shivering. She pulls her sleeves over her hands and stuffs them in her jacket pockets.

When the two approach the back door, Grayson pulls on the handle and the door glides open. They look at each other, confused—they expected gaining entrance to the school would be harder. But they shrug it off and tiptoe into the dark hallway. 

The school feels colder inside than outside, and it’s definitely darker. As they walk, the clicking of Faye’s shoes and slight squeak from Grayson’s sneakers are the only sounds heard until—BANG!

Faye jumps back, almost tripping over her own feet, and Grayson’s heart skips a beat. “What…was…that?” She asks breathlessly.

“It was probably the wind slamming a door shut. C’mon, let’s hurry up so we can get out of here.”

They quicken their pace, and as they near the library, Grayson realizes he didn’t leave the posterboard there. 

“Damn, I am so sorry. I just remembered I brought it to the locker room because I had gym last period.”

“Grayson, are you serious? Fine. Let’s go,” Faye states firmly, her frustration with Grayson growing by the minute. 

Although all the lights are off, there’s one lightbulb blinking rhythmically at the end of the hall. They rush their way downstairs to the basement. “Okay, it’s just in here,” Grayson whispers. 

When they push open the doors to the gym, they scream in horror.

Lying in front of them is Ms. Rivers. Her hair, once shiny and smooth, is now tangled with blood. 

“It’s happening again!”


(Published November 2022)