Tahoma Hall Auditorium, Mount Rainier State University-Puyallup Campus
11:38 AM, Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
Spring Quarter, 2008. Mount Rainier State University was only two-quarters old now.
It used to be a private college: Wilton University, a for-profit school run by Wilton Records, an infamous record label run out of Olympia. But after Wilton went under in 2005, they put it up for sale, and it eventually became a state school.
Starting a university was probably a bad decision at the start of the Great Recession, but somehow, they managed to get a good leg up.
On the Wednesday before Spring Quarter of the ‘07-‘08 year started, a seminar was being held in the Auditorium at Tahoma Hall. At this point, the music department hadn’t started up yet, but they had finally gotten the staff ready in time for a fall opening. The Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Dr. William Hannah, introduced the Music Department staff. He had finally gotten to the last professor: Vocal coach and Choir Director-
“Dr. Isabelle Morton,” Hannah finished.
He stepped aside as Dr. Morton, then 29 years old, walked up to the podium with a nervous smile on her face. The audience clapped politely.
“Um, hello everyone,” she chirped as the applause subsided. “I know, at 29, I’m pretty young to head up a college choir, but I assure you, I am prepared for this. During my years at Wilton University, as well as my years working for Wilton records, I have worked with numerous artists as both a songwriter and a singer. Of course, I’m nervous taking this position. Who wouldn’t be? But I assure you, I will do my best to impress you.”
A cough is heard from the audience, but otherwise, the room is full of blank expressions.
“Dr. Hannah,” she said. “Would it be okay for me to sing one of the songs I wrote?”
“I don’t see why not,” he said. “We have plenty of time.”
Dr. Morton took the microphone off the holder on the podium and walked to the front of center stage, clearing her throat. Then, despite the beads of sweat forming on her head and the shakiness in her knees, she began.
Yellow rose, under a tree of pine.
River blue, over a rocky line.
The audience was amazed. Dr. Morton sang beautifully. Her lyrics rolled off her tongue in a symphonic parade.
But no one was more enchanted than Dr. Hannah. He had never heard such beautiful sounds before. He had to hide behind a curtain as a blush overtook his face.
He glanced at Dr. Morton. She continued singing as the crowd lay agape at her song.
Dr. Hannah hid his face in his hands.
Please God, no, he thought. I can’t think like that. I’m her boss… and married… and there’s no way she’d go for a forty-year-old like me.
After the Seminar ended, it was time for the College of Fine Arts to have lunch.
The department had set up a buffet for the staff in the Puyallup Hall sound and lighting booth, a large room that overlooked the Puyallup Hall Theater. Dr. Morton was joking around with some of her colleagues while Dr. Hannah stood at the dessert table.
His Associate Dean, Dr. Jules Hyatt, slapped him on the shoulder, jolting him upwards.
“Yo, Willy,” Dr. Hyatt said. “Got your eye on something good?”
“Please stop talking to me like that. I’m your boss and I’m nine years older than you.”
Dr. Hyatt ignored him and looked at Dr. Morton.
“Oh, I see,” Dr. Hyatt teased. “You’ve got your eye on…”
“I’m going to stop you right there, because I know whatever you were about to say is disgusting and sexist.”
“Fine, Doctor! I’ll let you be in your little fantasy land. But you can’t stop me from taking you out- for your birthday, may I remind you- to that new club downtown. What was it called again? Oh yes! The Aqua Room!”
“It’s your birthday?”
The two male doctors spun around to see Dr. Morton suddenly in front of them.
“Um… yes,” Dr. Hannah eeked out.
“Well, happy birthday! Are you having a party or anything tonight?”
“Yes,” Dr. Hyatt said. “Me and some of the other profs are taking him to ‘The Aqua Room.’ You should come with us!”
Dr. Hannah shot Hyatt a death glare, but Morton smiled.
“Sure,” she replied. “But what’s ‘The Aqua Room?’ Because I’m changing my answer if it’s some sort of sleazy strip club.”
“It’s actually a jazz venue. ‘Aqua’ refers to the club’s gigantic fountain.”
“Well, count me in. I love jazz!”
“Me, too,” said Dr. Hannah.
“It’s a date,” said Dr. Morton. “Well not- you know what I mean.”
“We’re heading there around seven. Should we pick you up?”
“Actually, I’ll be here all day. Getting everything ready for the choir, and all my vocal classes, you know how it is. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
“Very well. See you then.”
Dr. Morton walked over to talk to some other colleagues while Dr. Hyatt spun around to face Dr. Hannah.
“You’re welcome,” the younger man said before walking off to the dessert table.
6:08 AM, Thursday, April 10th, 2008.
A brick house in the suburbs. Light flowing into the kitchen ever so gently.
But William sat at the table, ignoring this. His face rested in his palms over a now cold cup of coffee.
What have I done? he wondered to himself.
Isabelle, pulling on her shirt, ran downstairs, quickly putting her shoes on.
“This was a mistake,” he scolded. “What the hell is wrong with the both of us?!”
William looked up. “Isabelle, please.”
“You don’t get to talk to me. From here on out, we are colleagues, an nothing else. No more inviting each other to events, no more drinks after hours, and especially… UGH!”
She had every right to be disgusted. He was a married man, and she was a first-time professor, barely out of grad school for three years.
“Screw you!” She screamed as she slammed the back door.
William looked up at a picture on the wall: himself, his wife, his son, and his two daughters. He then looked at the picture next to it: himself, as a grad student, being awarded for his work.
“You disgust me.”
He threw the mug of coffee at the picture, sending shards of glass and sprays of coffee across the room.
Tacoma-Puyallup Road, Unincorporated Pierce County
12:07 AM, Thursday, October 31st, 2019
Dr. Morton, now aged forty-one, drove alongside the empty road.
“Damn night concerts,” she cursed under her breath.
She didn’t notice the car behind. It was at a distance right now, but it was gaining speed fast.
“We had to do this in Tacoma. No way in hell they can just give Puyallup Hall up for one night, God forbid the Visual Arts reschedule their gallery.”
Suddenly, a pair of headlights came into view in Morton’s rearview. She took no notice. She fiddled with the radio, trying to find a station that wasn’t playing Top 40.
All of a sudden, she found a station playing one of the songs she wrote and sang herself.
“Oh my God.” she whispered to herself.
The headlights suddenly grew nearer. Morton noticed them now.
“What the hell?! GO AROUND!”
She honk her horn twice, but to no avail.
The tailgater bumped her twice.
“HEY!” Morton screamed as she sped up.
But the tailgater was ahead of her: ramming into her and pushing the car into the iron fence lining the side of the road.
Morton managed to steer off and zipped down the road in the opposite direction. The tailgater was relentless, following her.
Morton steered hard off the road and onto a side street in an attempt to lose her pursuer but ended up finding a pothole instead. She heard the tire blow. Nevertheless, she persisted, slamming the gas pedal down onto the floor.
The tailgater now had the upper hand, however, and rammed Morton’s car off the street and down the hill.
Not even a minute later, a loud gunshot could be heard across the woods.
After that, nothing… nothing but the faint sound of Dr. Isabelle Morton’s song, playing its last few notes before crackling out.
As of 2029, this case has remained cold. But now, something sinister is afoot. Sinister and supernatural, beyond human abilities. That’s where Angela comes in.