Death in the Air by: Lisa

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Part 7 of ?

Distribution: A-OK with me, just let me know where it is.

Author's Note: Again, mucho thanks to Kilby. What would I do without you, girl?

* * *

Unmask the Murderer Sweepstakes: After all the entries came in and I sifted through them, I decided...why pick just one? It would be SO much more fun to write everyone in. However, there is a limit to what I can do. Therefore, in my opinion, the best answers got the biggest parts. I couldn't give everyone four pages of dialogue. There are also way too many to put in this part, so I'm going to scatter the winners throughout the rest of the series.

Instead of putting ALL the winning answers below, I'll just put my two favorites:

Lesley: Nellie is the killer. The lack of oxygen to her brain short circuited her thinking. Since her dad owns the movie store she knows lots of movies. Also, since she's not creative enough to come up with her own way of killing people, she becomes a copycat killer. But why the I Know What You Did Last Summer?...Like in the movie, IKWYDLS, it involves a car accident. That night they all got drunk, Dawson was driving home. They hit a person, which happened to be Nellie. They thought she was dead, so they tossed her into the creek and drove off. However she wasn't dead, just physically mutilated. Since her appearance is the only thing that matters to her, she went nuts. The lack of oxygen to her brain led to the idea of killing them all. She's after Dawson, because he was the driver, Jen, because she never liked Jen (Nellie had a thing for Cliff, but he was only interested in Jen), Pacey because he wasn't intimidated by her, and made all those "under the breath one-liners" like "wet brain" and Joey, because it was Joey's idea to get rid of the body.

Alex: I think Dawson did it. Sending notes to himself is a way to castoff suspicion and he likes making movies, so he can act and is capable of recreating the horror movies. Why else is he so suspicious of Jen's intentions? And why didn't he want to go to the viewing? It's the least obvious, that's the way he planned it............ driven insane by his actions with Joey, he couldn't bring himself to kill her (yet), but instead found this look alike to take out his aggressions on and make Pacey suffer. Isn't it convenient that he just got into town when she was hacked up? Huh? Huh? And who has a Scream mask in their room......... where is it now? HUH?

Well, enjoy looking for the winners in this and the subsequent parts of the series. I had a blast writing them in (and I'm sure I'll have just as much fun killing them all!)

* * *

Death in the Air

1:39 that day

Jen slowly rotated in front of the mirror on her dresser, checking her reflection carefully. After struggling to find a balance between appropriate mourning clothing and something that would catch Dawson's eye, she had finally settled on a long black skirt with a rather tight gray shirt. Intriguing, but not all that desperate, she noted. Not bad, Jen.

"Jennifer!" Mrs. Ryan called from the bottom of the stairs. Since her job at the Icehouse paid barely over minimum wage, even with tips, Jen was still living with her grandmother. She hated how it limited her freedom, but there really wasn't much choice.

"What?" she called back, still staring at her reflection in the mirror. She ran a quick hand through her short hair and nodded in approval.

"I'm going to the viewing of that girl that was murdered. Would you like to come?"

"Dawson's bringing me; I guess I forgot to tell you," she replied, grabbing her purse and running downstairs. Mrs. Ryan glared up at her and Jen knew she was in trouble.

"You're wearing that?" her grandmother said, casting a disdainful eye on Jen's choice of clothing.

"What's wrong with it?" she shot back. Mrs. Ryan blinked hard. "Well, it just doesn't seem...appropriate...for going to a viewing, that's all. I've seen you wear the same outfit to a party, Jennifer. Why don't you go change and show some more respect for the dead?" Jen rolled her eyes.

"I don't have anything more appropriate."

"Maybe I should find you something more appropriate," Mrs. Ryan said coldly, preparing to search Jen's closet. She had begun ascending the stairs when the unmistakable honk of Dawson's car horn echoed throughout the house.

Saved by Dawson! Jen thought with relief. "I'll have to take you up on that offer some other time, Grams. Dawson's here; I have to go," she said as she raced out the door.

* * *

2:05 that day, in the Capeside Funeral Parlor

Pacey nervously walked back and forth in front of the door to the small room where Kristen's casket was on display. He couldn't go in. He absolutely and positively could not make himself open that door and walk in there. It had been twenty five minutes since he arrived at the funeral parlor and fifteen since he had gotten up the courage to get out of his car. And he still couldn't walk within five feet of the door.

"You're going to wear a hole in that carpet," a small voice said behind him. He whirled around, shocked at the presence of another person. In front of him stood a gorgeous blonde girl with dark blue eyes that bore a striking resemblance to Meg Ryan. She smiled at him as if she knew him, but he hadn't the slightest idea who she was. He racked his brain, but couldn't come up with anything.

"I'm Lesley," she said in a slight southern accent, as if that explained everything. She extended her hand and Pacey grabbed it warily. She giggled. "I don't bite!"

Pacey smiled back. "Pacey Witter."

"I know." He looked at her questioningly. "How? I don't think I've ever seen you before."

"I've seen you. You're the guy that drives that big red truck to the marina and always takes up half my parking space." Pacey looked at her blankly. She rolled her eyes. "You really don't pay a lot of attention, do you? I'm the girl with the beat up Beetle that works inside the marina? The one that gives you your paycheck every two weeks? The one that leaves notes on your windshield and begs you to watch where you park once in a while so I'm not relegated to the street every day?" she explained, still holding his hand.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, suddenly realizing who this girl was. "Oh...sorry about that. I'm usually in such a rush when I pull in that I don't even bother to look where I'm parking."

"Don't worry about it. It's not a big deal or anything. It gives me a little extra exercise. I just thought that little fact might jog your memory. That certainly would help a lot more than telling you I graduated from Capeside High two years ago, considering you would be the type of person that can't remember what you ate for breakfast this morning."

"True!" he laughed, realizing this girl was right on target. They stared at each other in silence for a few minutes. Pacey finally realized that he was still holding her hand. He quickly dropped it and cleared his throat.

"So, why aren't you inside yet?" Lesley asked, changing the subject. Pacey shrugged.

"I'm not ready to go in yet," he said simply.

"Waiting for someone?"

"You could say that," he answered cryptically. He was not in the mood to explain how entering that door would be like finally admitting Kristen was gone forever. That was something he wasn't ready to do yet. She raised her eyebrows at him but didn't say anything.

"Well, I'm going to go inside. Don't stay out here too long, or they'll make you pay to replace that carpet," she said as she walked to the door.

"I won't. It was nice meeting you, Lesley."

"Same here," she smiled as she entered the room.

The quiet sounds of sniffling could be heard in the brief moments that the door was open. Pacey quickly turned away from the room and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block it out.

* * *

2:13 p.m. that day, at The Capeside Florist

"These look nice," Dawson said, fingering a small bouquet of forget-me-nots. Jen looked them over critically.

"Too pedestrian," Jen said, dismissing them with a small wave of her hand. She moved on to the extravagant bouquets in the window display. Dawson rolled his eyes and locked eyes with Karen, who was sitting in a wicker chair in the corner. She rolled her eyes at Jen, obviously disgusted with her. Dawson smiled slightly; he understood what she was feeling.

"Jen, we've been here for good twenty five minutes already. Let's just pick a bouquet and go. I don't think anyone at the funeral home will be that fussy." Jen stared at him.

"Dawson, this isn't like buying a loaf of bread. You don't say, heck, this one looks decent. This girl is dead and Pacey asked us to buy a nice flower arrangement. I, for one, am going to heed his request," she said. She milled around the shop for a few minutes more while Dawson grew more and more exasperated. Karen groaned and walked over to Dawson.

"We are never going to get out of here if she keeps doing this! Hurry her up!" she ordered. Dawson nodded and cleared his throat.

"Jen!" he called. "How about I ask for some help? I'm sure the owner or a salesperson would be glad to help us pick out a nice arrangement," he suggested, more to get out of there than to buy a nice flower bouquet. Jen nodded absentmindedly while Dawson walked up to the counter and rang the bell. After a few seconds, when no one came to the counter, he did it again. And again. And again.

"Hey, is anyone there?" he called. "Hello?...Jen, I don't think-"

"Hold your horses there, bud," a voice muttered from the ground behind the counter. Dawson leaned over but couldn't see anything.

"Hello?" he repeated.

"I said hang on," the voice repeated. Dawson raised his eyebrows in shock. Talk about your unfriendly salespeople.

"Whatever happened to 'the customer is always right'?" he said under his breath.

"People like you that think you can just waltz in and make me drop everything to wait on you and your two little girlfriends changed that," the voice replied. Dawson obviously hadn't said it quietly enough. "...There!" the voice said triumphantly. "Finished!" She popped up from behind the counter and faced Dawson squarely. "I had to finish painting my toes," she explained. He stared at her in shock. The girl noticed. She rolled her eyes and pulled a nail file out of her pocket. She began to file the ragged edge on her left index finger. Small pieces of glitter fell out of her hair as she furiously evened out the nail.

"Can I get some help?" Dawson asked tentatively, almost frightened of the green-haired, glitter-clad creature standing in front of him. Her name tag read "Taylor Louise", but he was positive that was a typo. This girl was definitely not a Taylor Louise. Then again, what he thought her name should be was probably unprintable.

"I don't know, can you?" she replied, imitating his wavering voice and imperfect grammar.

"Who do you think you are, an English teacher?" he shot back. He gaped; he couldn't believe he just snapped at a total stranger. A total stranger with green hair, a nose ring, two visible tattoos, and an attitude, but a stranger nonetheless. She stopped filing and gave him a hard stare. Dawson recoiled in pure terror as she leaned across the counter and grabbed his tie.

"Listen, little boy, I am not working here because I want to sit here and tell you whether or not those tulips would go well with the tile in your aunt's kitchen. I work here because I need the money for new amps for my band. That is it. Remember that. And don't ask me to do anything for you, either," she said, yanking hard on his tie. She pushed him backwards slightly and he nearly fell into a display of vases.

"Yes ma'am," he said meekly. Taylor Louise returned to her nail.

"Dawson! I think these are perfect, come take a look!" Jen called from the other end of the florist. Karen mouthed a silent thank you to the flower gods while Dawson looked at the salesgirl again. She stuck out her tongue at him and he practically ran to Jen's side. "What do you think?" she said, pointing to an arrangement that looked exactly like the other dozen he had pointed out and she had rejected.

"It's perfect," he said, trying to brush off the glitter that Taylor Louise had left on his tie. He didn't know it was possibly for a human being to wear that much glitter. I'm surprised she doesn't blind herself when she looks in the mirror, he thought wryly.

"Great. I'll go pay for it; you and Karen go start up the car," she ordered, carefully bringing the flowers up to the register.

"Watch out for Oscar the Grouch," he warned, earning a quizzical look from Jen, a blank stare from Karen, and an obscene gesture from Taylor Louise.

* * *

2:25 p.m. that day

"Pacey, what are you doing out here?" Pacey's eyes flew open at the sound of Jen's voice. She, Karen, and Dawson were standing in front of him, concerned. Well, Jen and Dawson appeared concerned; Karen just looked bored.

"I just didn't feel like going in yet," he mumbled, rubbing his eyes and checking his watch. He didn't realize that he had been standing outside of the room for that long with his eyes shut.

"Come on, Pacey," Jen said firmly, passing the bouquet she was holding to Dawson. He handed it off to Karen, who gave Dawson a dirty look. Jen took Pacey by the hands and placed a friendly arm around him. "We're going in." Dawson and Karen led the way as the four of them walked into the room. Joey was sitting in the middle and she waved slightly to them. They waved back and headed toward the empty row she was in.

"I didn't think you were ever coming," she whispered to him. "I was the first one in here; I've been waiting for almost forty minutes for you guys." Pacey slid in next to her.

"I didn't think I was, either, until Jen dragged me in," he whispered back. A quizzical smile crossed her lips, but Pacey didn't think it was appropriate to explain yet. Dawson, Jen, and Karen filed in on the other side of Joey. Pacey stared blankly at the casket for several minutes until a tap on the arm broke his thoughts.

"Hi, again," Lesley whispered. She placed a hand on his shoulder and gently squeezed it.

"Hi," he replied. "Want to sit down?" She smiled at a wary Joey, who was wondering who the heck this girl was and how she met Pacey. Pacey could tell she was jealous and, for some reason, that made him feel a little better.

"No, thanks, I'm going to talk to Kristen's parents in a bit. I met them before they moved to Maine; it's only appropriate." Pacey nodded in understanding.

"Lesley!" Dawson hissed. The girl turned to face him and her face lit up.

"Dawson Leery! How are you?" she said as loudly as was appropriate for a funeral home, rushing over to give him a long hug.

"Besides the fact we're here, just fine," he grinned, returning the embrace.

"How's it going with you? Still harassing film teachers at Capeside?"

"Nope, I gave up on that when I graduated last year," he said in a low voice.

"Really? That's a shame. Film Class must be a bore without you now."

"I'd like to think that!" he laughed softly. "Well, I'll let you go talk to the McGill family now. It was nice seeing you again, Lesley."

"Likewise, Dawson. See you around, Pacey." She waved to both of them as sashayed over to the McGill family.

"Who was that?" Joey asked the two of them.

"Yeah, spill," Jen ordered.

"Now." Joey added. Pacey looked at them in confusion. Since when was who he talked to any of her business? It's not like they were friends anymore; he should be able to talk to anyone he wanted without being questioned about it.

"An old friend from Film Class in high school," Dawson answered. Jen looked at him doubtfully.

"Not that it's any business of yours, but she's someone that I work with," he said, growing angry. Joey raised her eyebrows at the tone of his voice.

"I was just curious, especially considering that a gang of gorgeous blondes don't approach you two everyday, much less at funerals. We were just wondering who she was."

"What? You don't think I'm capable of choosing who to socialize with? Of course not, Pacey could never do anything for himself, right? I've got news for you, Joey. I can take care of myself. I have for almost a year."

"Pacey, you're blowing this out of proportion. It was an innocent question. If some guy came up to me, you'd ask the same thing," she rationalized. "Calm down," she said, taking his hand in hers. Pacey quickly withdrew it.

"No, I wouldn't ask you the same thing, Joey. You have your own life now and I have mine. We aren't dating anymore. There is no reason why it should concern you who I talk to or why." He stood up. "I'm going to talk to Kristen's family." Before any of them could respond, he stalked away.

* * *

Immediately following the above

"Well, he's certainly a fun guy to hang around with," Karen said sarcastically, after witnessing the scene between Joey and Pacey. "Gee, Joey, I can see why you're in love with him."

"I am not in love with him!" Joey protested.

"Yeah, and I'm the Dalai Lama," Karen responded, rolling her eyes. "Save us all some turmoil and get back together with him."

"I don't want to!" Joey protested, raising her voice a bit too much. Several people turned around to stare at her. "I don't want to," she repeated, much softer this time.

"You are such a liar."

"Hey, girls, settle down. Respect for the dead and all, you know?" Dawson hissed, trying to intervene.

"Forget it. I don't need to sit here and be insulted by her. I'm going to the bathroom," Joey said. She stood up and fled to the restroom.

"What is she going to accomplish by going to the bathroom? Or is this one of those weird Capeside rituals? Forget it, I don't want to know."

"Ever consider it might be to get away from you? Karen, please!" Dawson pleaded. "Do you need to alienate everyone you come in contact with?"

"Why not? Hey, if it gets me through the day," she joked.

"Sorry to interrupt, guys," Jen said. "But Grams is in the back there staring at us. She doesn't look happy." The three of them looked back at Mrs. Ryan and realized what Jen was talking about. "I'm going to go back there and try to talk to her before I get grounded."

"So, just the two of us, huh?" Karen said after a few minutes of silence between her and Dawson. "Wasn't that a song?"

"Yeah, but that doesn't apply to us," Dawson said.

"You're no fun. I've gotta hit the ladies' room. While I'm there, I'll make sure Joey didn't drown."

"Karen..." Dawson said warningly. "You better behave."

"Don't I always?" she teased.

* * *

Taking place at the same time as the above scene

"Hi, Mr. McGill. I'm Pacey Witter. I was a friend of Kristen's," he explained, shaking the hand of the man he assumed to be Kristen's father.

"Hi, Pacey. Nice to meet you," the man replied. His eyes were red-rimmed and he looked exhausted; it was obvious that her death had been hard on this family. "This is my wife, Marie, and Erin and Lisa, our daughters," he said, gesturing to his equally distraught wife and children.

"Hello, Pacey," Mrs. McGill said, shaking his hand. He smiled at her, then moved on to the first of the two girls.

"Erin, is it?" he asked the older one. She appeared to be about sixteen and, if she hadn't been crying for what appeared like days, he would have pegged her as the quintessential perky cheerleader. She nodded in the affirmative. "I'm sorry about Kristen," he said lamely. I never knew what to say at these things, he thought. "I'm sorry" makes it sound like I broke a plate or something.

"Thank you," she whispered. "It means a lot." He smiled slightly at her, then moved to the youngest sister, who was about fourteen.

"I'm sorry about your sister," he told Lisa. She wiped the tears that were flowing freely from her green eyes.

"It wasn't your fault; don't be sorry," she told him. "I hate it when people say that they're sorry that someone died. Like it's the same thing as spilling a glass of milk." He smiled slightly at her and opened his mouth to reply but, before he could, an ear-piercing shriek shattered the silence of the room.

Everyone turned to look at Karen, who came running out of the bathroom covered in blood. "What the-" Pacey said aloud. He locked eyes with Dawson, who had the same perplexed and shocked look that Pacey was certain was on his own face. That looked like a little too much blood on Karen for a gash or a scratch, but what else could it be?

"Blood...Dead...bathroom...Joey," Karen gasped. She leaned over, trying to catch her breath. Several of the other people in the room murmured in confusion.

Pacey raced over to Karen the instant the word "Joey" came out of her mouth. "What was that about Joey?" he demanded, his voice wavering. "Please tell me she's okay," he begged. Karen shook her head sadly.

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