“It’s Ru, Mrs. Jones,” she said as she raised her hand, not having more people butcher her name anymore on the first day at school as a sixth grader. Mrs. Jones, the Math teacher, took notice of her and nodded with a rather nervous, “Okay,” and a slightly scarlet face. Ru thought she might also feel overwhelmed with all the sixth graders she needed to roll-call on her first day as well. But she really doesn’t want her classmates to get free ideas in case they eventually decide to pick on her. It got pretty bad for Barney Jones (everyone erupted to the I Love You song in the hallway) in fourth grade, and Sunny Le (they just laughed every time she was on roll-call until a teacher noticed this halfway through the semester) last year. Their names were not even exactly taken from another language as hers.
From her peripheral vision, she can see one of her classmates mindlessly looking at the clock, another playing with his pen, and another one, whom she never saw around before, has been dunking his head on the table since second period. It is understandable though, Ru reckoned. It has been a whole day of nothing but roll calls and pep talk.
Just as her stomach is about to grumble, the school bell rings. Ru hoped she would make it in time for the lone seat near the window at the cafeteria, also that the remaining two periods wouldn’t be too long.
Ru hopped on her bicycle and dashed out of the school gates. Like any other day, she went past the stores in Gran’s Avenue, all the way through the one bookstore in town, Wan’s, took a right and cycled away from the residential areas of Linford. She headed to the shortcut through the urban forest and crossed the shallow creek, which her mother is never really pleased about because she still reckons it too slippery and dangerous. But it got her down the hill by at least 10 minutes faster, so her Mom relented to her stubbornness on the condition that Ru does not use that path when it’s the rainy season.
She can already see the tiny security cabin with its signature blue roof she always frequented after school. She was excited to visit again after the last two weeks of summer she spent with her Dad who lived in another town following her parents’ divorce. But as she turned towards it, she heard sirens screaming, and saw that they came from two police cars and an ambulance, parked in front of the security cabin. She quietly stopped and placed her bike nearby a tree, and saw a familiar face, handcuffed and escorted by two huge policemen out of the cabin. A brown-and-white Akita, which was primarily the reason why Ru visited the place, barks and follows the officers along as if trying to ask the officers to let his owner go. In a blind panic, she hastily makes her way through the crowd.
“Terry!” she called out, which alerted the officers and Terry himself, “what happened?” The dog, named Milo, barked and went down the stairs and made to Ru’s side. It let out a sad whining sound.
“Ru,” Terry began, “please go home. The guy on the next shift will watch over Milo.”
“Is this kid related to you, Sir?” the officer asked.
“No, no,” Terry quickly replied. “she just usually comes here after school to play with the dog. I’ve told you my sister’s contact.”
“In that case, you should go home, kid. This is a crime scene. Your Mom won’t like you playing around here. Not to mention it’s too close to a dumpster,” the officer warned Ru, who was perplexed and still trying to put the pieces together.
“Wait, what do you mean a crime scene?” she asked, fidgeting, “and Terry has something to do with it? No way!” Another office was trying to coax her to leave saying that the police will handle it and she’d best stay out of the place when they heard something dropped on the floor and a tentative, “Uncle Terry?”
The boy with the sleeveless yellow down jacket over a red hoodie looked even more in shock, and this is the most alert Ru has seen him while he was basically sleeping through the whole first day. He dropped what looked like to be a lunchbox, which was probably Terry’s had he not been arrested. The other policeman, who looks slightly younger but meaner than the other one, was just about to open the door and shove Terry inside the car as he got frustrated with the interruptions.
“Please, officer, that’s my nephew,” Terry called out, “Max, go home and tell your Mom I’m at the police station. It’s just for some questioning, I’ll be fine, okay?”
“Alright, you two, stay out of the landfill. Someone was found dead,” the older officer said as he nodded to the crew who just lifted a bag inside the ambulance. He pointed to Max, “And you, kid, tell your Mom we’ll call from the station about your uncle.”
“He didn’t do anything wrong, did he? Why was he in handcuffs?” Max frightfully asked.
“We’re going to find out since your uncle may notice something when he started his shift early this morning.” And with that, he left with the police car and the ambulance.
“I-I’ll bring Milo with me,” Ru broke the silence as she also tried to get a grip on herself, “I don’t think anyone is going to come soon to feed him. W-will you…”
As Ru was just about to ask if he’s going to be okay and offered him some help, Max grabbed the lunchbox he dropped earlier, rushed to his bike and went off the other side of the road. Ru was startled but then hurried herself to get Milo in the pet basket Terry had, detached it from his bike into hers. She cycled home as she hoped nothing bad will happen to Terry.