Eric Harris wanted a prom date. Eric was a senior, about to leave Columbine High School forever. He was not about to be left out of the prime social event of his life. He really wanted a date. Dates were not generally a problem. Eric was a brain, but an uncommon subcategory: cool brain. He smoked, he drank, he dated. He got invited to parties. He got high. He worked his look hard: military chic hair-- short and spiked with plenty of product--plus black T-shirts and baggy cargo pants. He blasted hard-core German industrial rock from his Honda. He enjoyed firing off bottle rockets and road-tripping to Wyoming to replenish the stash. He broke the rules, tagged himself with the nickname Reb, but did his homework and earned himself a slew of A's. He shot cool videos and got them airplay on the closed-circuit system at school. And he got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks. On the ultimate high school scorecard, Eric outscored much of the football team. He was a little charmer. He walked right up to hotties at the mall. He won them over with quick wit, dazzling dimples, and a disarming smile. His Blackjack Pizza job offered a nice angle: stop in later and he would slip them a free slice. Often they did. Blackjack was a crummy econo-chain, one step down from Domino's. It had a tiny storefront in a strip mall just down the road from Eric's house. It was mostly a take-out and delivery business, but there were a handful of cabaret tables and a row of stools lined up along the counter for the sad cases with nowhere better to go. Eric and Dylan were called insiders, meaning anything but delivery--mostly making the pizzas, working the counter, cleaning up the mess. It was hard, sweaty work in the hot kitchen, and boring as hell. Eric looked striking head-on: prominent cheekbones, hollowed out underneath--all his features proportionate, clean-cut, and all-American. The profile presented a bit of a problem however; his long, pointy nose exaggerated a sloping forehead and a weak chin. The spiky hair worked against him aesthetically, elongating his angular profile--but it was edgy, and it played well with his swagger. The smile was his trump card, and he knew exactly how to play it: bashful and earnest, yet flirtatious. The chicks ate it up. He had made it to the homecoming dance as a freshman, and had scored with a twenty-three-year-old at seventeen. He was damn proud of that one. But prom had become a problem. For some reason-- bad luck or bad timing--he couldn't make it happen. He had gone nuts scrounging for a date. He'd asked one girl, but she already had a boyfriend. That was embarrassing. He'd tried another, shot down again. He wasn't ashamed to call his friends in. His buddies asked, the girls he hung with asked, he asked--nothing, nothing, nothing. His best friend, Dylan, had a date. How crazy was that? Dylan Klebold was meek, self-conscious, and authentically shy. He could barely speak in front of a stranger, especially a girl. He'd follow quietly after Eric on the mall conquests, attempting to appear invisible. Eric slathered chicks with compliments; Dylan passed them Chips Ahoy cookies in class to let them know he liked them. Dylan's friends said he had never been on a date; he may never have even asked a girl out--including the one he was taking to prom. Dylan Klebold was a brain, too, but not quite so cool. Certainly not in his own estimation. He tried so hard to emulate Eric--on some of their videos, he puffed up and acted like a tough guy, then glanced over at Eric for approval. Dylan was taller and even smarter than Eric, but considerably less handsome. Dylan hated the oversized features on his slightly lopsided face. His nose especially--he saw it as a giant blob. Dylan saw the worst version of himself. A shave would have helped. His beard was beginning to come in, but sporadically, in fuzzy little splotches along his chin. He seemed to take pride in his starter patches, oblivious to the actual effect. Dylan cut a more convincing figure as a rebel, though. Long, ratty curls dangled toward his shoulders. He towered over his peers. With a ways to go in puberty, he was up to six foot three already, 143 stretched pounds. He could have worn the stature proudly, casting aspersions down at his adversaries, but it scared the crap out of him, all exposed up there. So he slouched off an inch or two. Most of his friends were over six foot--Eric was the exception, at five-nine. His eyes lined up with Dylan's Adam's apple. Eric wasn't thrilled with his looks either, but he rarely let it show. He had undergone surgery in junior high to correct a congenital birth defect: pectus excavatum, an abnormally sunken sternum. Early on, it had undermined his confidence, but he'd overcome it by acting tough. Yet it was Dylan who'd scored the prom date. His tux was rented, the corsage purchased, and five other couples organized to share a limo. He was going with a sweet, brainy Christian girl who had helped acquire three of the four guns. She adored Dylan enough to believe Eric's story about using them to hunt. Robyn Anderson was a pretty, diminutive blonde who hid behind her long straight hair, which often covered a good portion of her face. She was active in her church's youth group. Right now she was in D.C. for a weeklong trip with them, due back barely in time for the prom. Robyn had gotten straight A's at Columbine and was a month away from graduating as valedictorian. She saw Dylan every day in calculus, strolled through the hallways and hung out with him any time she could. Dylan liked her and loved the adulation, but wasn't really into her as a girlfriend. Dylan was heavy into school stuff. Eric, too. They attended the football games, the dances, and the variety shows and worked together on video production for the Rebel News Network. School plays were big for Dylan. He would never want to face an audience, but backstage at the soundboard, that was great. Earlier in the year, he'd rescued Rachel Scott, the senior class sweetheart, when her tape jammed during the talent show. In a few days, Eric would kill her. Eric and Dylan were short on athletic ability but were big-time fans. They had both been Little Leaguers and soccer kids. Eric still played soccer, but for Dylan it was mostly spectator stuff now. Eric was a Rockies fan and found spring training exciting. Dylan rooted for the BoSox and wore their ball cap everywhere. He watched a whole lot of baseball, studied the box scores, and compiled his own stats. He was in first place in the fantasy league organized by a friend of his. Nobody could outanalyze Dylan Klebold, as he prepped for the March draft weeks in advance. His friends grew bored after the first major rounds, but Dylan was intent on securing a strong bench. In the final week, he notified the league commissioner that he was adding a rookie pitcher to his roster. And he would continue working a trade through the weekend, right up to Monday, his last night. "His life was baseball," one of his friends said. Eric fancied himself a nonconformist, but he craved approval and fumed over the slightest disrespect. His hand was always shooting up in class, and he always had the right answer. Eric wrote a poem for creative writing class that week about ending hate and loving the world. He enjoyed quoting Nietzsche and Shakespeare, but missed the irony of his own nickname, Reb: so rebellious he'd named himself after the school mascot. Dylan went by VoDKa, sometimes capitalizing his initials in the name of his favorite liquor. He was a heavy drinker and damn proud of it; supposedly he'd earned the name after downing an entire bottle. Eric preferred Jack Daniel's but scrupulously hid it from his parents. To adult eyes, Eric was the obedient one. Misbehavior had consequences, usually involving his father, usually curtailing his freedom. Eric was a little control freak. He gauged his moves and determined just how much he could get away with. He could suck up like crazy to make things go his way. The Blackjack Pizza store owner during most of their tenure was acquainted with Eric's wild side. After he closed the shop, Robert Kirgis would climb up to the roof sometimes, taking Eric and Dylan with him, and chugging brewskis while the boys shot bottle rockets over the strip mall. Kirgis was twenty-nine but enjoyed hanging with this pair. They were bright kids; they talked just like adults sometimes. Eric knew when to play, when to get serious. If a cop had ever showed up on that rooftop, everyone would have turned to Eric to do the talking. When customers stacked up at the counter and drivers rushed in for pickups, somebody needed to take control and Eric was your man. He was like a robot under pressure. Nothing could faze him, not when he cared about the outcome. Plus, he needed that job; he had an expensive hobby and he wasn't about to jeopardize it for short-term gratification. Kirgis put Eric in charge when he left. Nobody put Dylan in charge of anything. He was unreliable. He had been on and off the payroll in the past year. He'd applied for a better job at a computer store and presented a professional resume. The owner had been impressed, and Dylan had gotten the job. He'd never bothered to show. But nothing separated the boys' personalities like a run-in with authority. Dylan would be hyperventilating, Eric calmly calculating. Eric's cool head steered them clear of most trouble, but they had their share of schoolyard fights. They liked to pick on younger kids. Dylan had been caught scratching obscenities into a freshman's locker. When Dean Peter Horvath called him down, Dylan went ballistic. He cussed the dean out, bounced off the walls, acted like a nutcase. Eric could have talked his way out with apologies, evasions, or claims of innocence--whatever that subject was susceptible to. He read people quickly and tailored his responses. Eric was unflappable; Dylan erupted. He had no clue what Dean Horvath would respond to, nor did he care. He was pure emotion. When he learned his father was driving in to discuss the locker, Dylan dug himself in deeper. Logic was irrelevant. The boys were both gifted analytically, math whizzes and technology hounds. Gadgets, computers, video games--any new technology and they were mesmerized. They created Web sites, adapted games with their own characters and adventures, and shot loads of videos--brief little short subjects they wrote, directed, and starred in. Surprisingly, gangly shyboy Dylan made for the more engaging actor. Eric was so calm and even-tempered, he couldn't even fake intensity. In person, he came off charming, confident, and engaging; impersonating an emotional young man, he was dull and unconvincing, incapable of emoting. Dylan was a live wire. In life, he was timid and shy, but not always quiet: trip his anger and he erupted. On film, he unleashed the anger and he was that crazy man, disintegrating in front of the camera. His eyes bugged out and his cheeks pulled away from them, all the flesh bunched up at the extremities, deep crevices around the looming nose. Outwardly, Eric and Dylan looked like normal young boys about to graduate. They were testing authority, testing their sexual prowess--a little frustrated with the dumbasses they had to deal with, a little full of themselves. Nothing unusual for high school. ____ Rebel Hill slopes gradually, rising just forty feet above Columbine, which sits at its base. That's enough to dominate the immediate surroundings, but halfway up the hillside, the Rockies are suddenly spectacular. Each step forward lowers the mesa toward eye level, and the mountains leap up behind, a jagged brown wall rearing straight off the Great Plains. They stand two to three thousand feet above it--endless and apparently impenetrable, fading all the way over the northern horizon and just as far to the south. Locals call them the foothills. This Front Range towering over Columbine is taller than the highest peaks in all of Appalachia. Roads and regular habitation stop suddenly at the base of the foothills; even vegetation struggles to survive. Just three miles away, and it feels like the end of the world. Nothing much grows on Rebel Hill's mesa. It's covered in cracked reddish clay, broken by the occasional scraggly weed failing to make much of a foothold. Up ahead, in the middle distance, humanity finally returns in the form of subdivisions. On fat winding lanes and cul-de-sacs, comfortably spaced two-story houses pop up among the pines. Strip malls and soccer fields and churches, churches, churches. Columbine High School sits on a softly rolling meadow at the edge of a sprawling park, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It's a large, modern facility--250,000 square feet of solid no-frills construction. With a beige concrete exterior and few windows, the school looks like a factory from most angles. It's practical, like the people of south Jefferson County. Jeffco, as it's known locally, scrimped on architectural affectations but invested generously in chem labs, computers, video production facilities, and a first-rate teaching force. Friday morning, after the assembly, the corridors bustled with giddy teenage exuberance. Students poured out of the gym giggling, flirting, chasing, and jostling. Yet just outside the north entranceway, where the tips of the Rockies peeked around the edges of Rebel Hill, the clamor of two thousand boisterous teenagers faded to nothing. The two-story structure and the sports complex wrapped around it on two sides were the only indication of America's twentieth-largest metropolis. Downtown Denver lay just ten miles to the northeast, but a dense thicket of trees obscured the skyline. On warmer days, the sliding doors of the woodshop would gape open. Boys set their cutting tools into the spinning blocks of wood, and the sudden buzz of the lathe machines competed with the exhaust system. But a cold front had swept onto the high plains Wednesday, and the air was hovering around freezing as Mr. D told the students that he loved them. Cold didn't deter the smokers. Any day of the year, you could find them wandering near, but rarely in, the official smoking pit, a ten-by-eight grass rectangle cordoned off by telephone-pole logs just past the parking lot, just beyond school grounds. It was peaceful there. No teachers, no rules, no commotion, no stress. Eric and Dylan were fixtures in the smokers' gulley. They both smoked the same brand, Camel filtered. Eric picked it; Dylan followed. Lately, friends had noticed more cutting and missed assignments. Dylan kept getting in trouble for sleeping in class. Eric was frustrated and pissed, but also curiously unemotional. One day that year, a friend videotaped him hanging out at the lunch table with his buddies. They bantered about cams and valves, and a good price for a used Mazda. Eric appeared entranced with his cell phone, aimlessly spinning it in circles. He didn't seem to be listening, but he was taking it all in. A guy walked into the crowded cafeteria. "Fuck you!" one of Eric's buddies spat, well out of hearing range. "I hate that putrid cock!" Another friend agreed. Eric turned slowly and gazed over his shoulder with his trademark detachment. He studied the guy and turned back with less interest than he had shown toward the phone. "I hate almost everyone," he replied blankly. "Ah, yes. I wanna rip his head off and eat it." Eric's voice was flat. No malice, no anger, barely interested. His eyebrows rose at the Ah, yes--a mild congratulation for the clever line about to come. He went vacant again delivering it. No one found that reaction unusual. They were used to Eric. They moved on to reminiscing about a freshman they'd picked on. Eric impersonated a special ed kid struggling to talk. A busty girl walked by. Eric waved her over and they hit on her.