"Agent Mark Jeffries, ID 582934. Interview 12 concerning the incident at Hope Town Community School on September 8th, 2022."
"Before we begin, state your first and last name, age, and occupation for the record, please."
"Penelope Waters, 27, and...to be honest I don't know what my official title was, but I worked as a sort of assistant in the school library. Kind of did a bit of everything, whatever they needed done. Shelving books, checking the kids books out, shelf reading, that sort of stuff. Did some like...I guess you could say art projects for the teachers too sometimes, if they needed posters or signs or something and didn't have the time to do it themselves. Classrooms get busy."
"Right. How long have you worked for the school?"
"Well, um...I started the September after I graduated college, so that would have been...five years ago, about. Didn't work during the summers though, obviously."
"So you were in the library most of the day."
"Mhm, that's right. Sometimes I'd get pulled out to assist elsewhere in the school if we were short or something, but usually I was in the library."
"And you were in the library on September 8th?"
"You just said I'm your 12th interview, agent. I imagine you know enough about what happened that day to know why I would say being there was unfortunate."
"I suppose you are right in that, Miss Waters. Starting from the beginning, what happened?"
"The beginning of the day, or the real beginning?"
"Whichever you think is more important."
"Well, in my opinion, the beginning was I'd say about a year prior. That poor boy, Isaac, his family moved up from Louisiana right before winter break. I think he was there two or three days before we left for the break, and even just that bit I could tell he was going to be miserable there."
"Why do you say that?"
"The other kids were awful to him. For no good reason either, as far as I could tell. Not that there is a good reason, I just mean usually you can tell why certain kids are picked on. Like there's something different about the way they look or act or something. Isaac seemed perfectly normal to me, he should have fit in just fine. He didn't even have an accent really, coming from Louisiana to Minnesota, not that I could tell anyway. But his class came in the Thursday before break to exchange books and even in the fifteen minutes they were there those kids were downright *awful* to him. The teacher didn't even do anything about it. Mrs. Jensen, she was my teacher in 3rd grade, and I never knew her to be anything but the sweetest to everyone around her no matter how they acted, and even she seemed to dislike the kid. It was like there was just something about him that made anyone that spent time around him hate him or something."
"Me? No, but no one that wasn't around him much seemed to mind him. It was just the people that dealt with him daily, like his classmates, that didn't like him."
"Did the other children ever seem to warm up to him?"
"No. In fact it seemed like it just got worse. They were never physically violent or anything, I think they were too scared, but they said the most awful things and refused to ever let him do anything with them or even come near them. I supervised recess one time and he just sat off by himself on a bench, reading a book. It broke my heart, but the weird thing was he never seemed to mind."
"He didn't seem upset?"
"No, not that I saw. He never tried to join the other kids, he never complained. In fact I'm not sure I ever heard him talk really. He seemed perfectly content on his own."
"And the rest of the year was like that?"
"It was. I tried to talk to him a couple times in the library, but..."
"...You know that feeling you get? Right before something bad happens, like something just isn't right? Every time I'd get near him, I got that feeling. When I was a kid, I found a kitten in our backyard. I was, I don't know, about eight? Loved cats, begged my mom practically every day for a kitten. But that kitten...something wasn't right about it. It looked perfectly fine, but I wouldn't go near it. Like there was something in my brain that recognized something wasn't right even though there was no reason to feel like that. My parents called animal control and they said it had some virus or parasite or something. Isaac reminded me of that kitten."
"So you never talked to him?"
"A couple times, but not if I could help it. Just normal stuff, like asking if he'd found his books when I was checking the class out. I never tried to start a conversation with him. I wanted to, I felt so bad for him, but he just...didn't feel right."
"What happened on September 8th?"
"We were a little behind that day. The first class that day came in a little late, and it set back all the other classes. So when Mrs. Jensen brought her class in, I was eating lunch. Normally I'm out there because they come in before I go on break, but with the delay they came in pretty late."
"Where were you eating?"
"In the break room. We have our own break room, it's just off the library, so we don't have to go all the way down to one of the main break rooms. I had the door closed, and my headphones in watching a video, that's why I didn't...hear anything."
"When did you come back to the library?"
"11:30, when my break was done."
"And what did you see?"
"Take your time Miss Waters."
"I don't know what I saw, Agent."
"You don't know? Do you not remember?"
"No, I...I remember. At least I think I do. But I can't see it. The memory is there, but I can't get to it. It's been weeks and I haven't been able to remember anything, not until..."
"Would you like some water?"
"No, thank you. I walked out of the break room, and then I was sitting on the sidewalk outside, wrapped in a blanket. There was a cop sitting next to me, and she was talking to me, but I couldn't hear her, it was like trying to listen through water. Everything was too bright, and I couldn't figure out how I'd gotten there. There were reporters and cops and paramedics everywhere, I didn't know we had so many cops in the town. Maybe they brought some over from Clearwaters. And I thought we only had the one ambulance, but there were at least ten, I don't know maybe more. And...and there..."
"...Children are so small. So much smaller than adults. And I could tell that there was two adult sized lumps in body bags on the ground about twenty feet away, and a bunch of child sized lumps in bags laid out next to them. In neat little rows. Like they were lined up and ready to go to recess."
"Thank you, agent. I'm sorry, it just..."
"You don't need to apologize, Miss Waters. You've been through something terrible."
"That's the thing. Everyone keeps telling me that, but no one will tell me what I've been through. I can't remember, all I remember is the child-sized body bags and Isaac sitting on the curb a little ways down from me in handcuffs with about five cops pointing *guns* at him. Guns, at a nine year old. And I wasn't horrified by that at all. I remember thinking it was good they were watching him, after what he did, and then I realized I didn't know what he did. Just that he'd done something horrible and those bodies on the ground were his teacher and the librarian and his classmates and he'd killed them but I didn't know how. How does a little boy kill thirty people?"
"...We don't know, Miss Waters. That's what we're trying to find out."
"You don't know, or you won't tell me?"
"We don't know. No one has been able to tell us. Even the cameras went dark. For thirty minutes no one knows what happened in that library. We hoped you would since you were the one that found the bodies."
"But I can't remember."
"Exactly. We'd think it was you, but there's a camera in the break room, and it shows you in there for the whole thirty minutes. And none of the hall cameras show anyone going in or out."
"So it had to have been Isaac."
"...What's going to happen to him?"
"I wish I could tell you, Miss Waters."
"Is the school going to open back up?"
"I don't think so. Not for a long time at least."