The doors of the light rail train opened, and Nicole Edmonds and her younger brother stepped out into the chilly West Baltimore night, headed for a nearby bus stop. Four other passengers got off and followed.
The siblings, who had just finished the late shift at a Wendy's restaurant in Linthicum early yesterday, were still in their uniforms. They never made it to their bus.
Two of the men who followed them jumped Edmonds' 16-year-old brother and pinned him to the ground near the train stop, near the Interstate 83 overpass. Nicole Edmonds, 17, ran, and the other two - a man and a woman - chased her down and stabbed her.
As the attackers fled, her brother ran to her and found her lying motionless on the ground, her Wendy's hat nearby. Police and paramedics arrived about 12:30 a.m. and took Nicole to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where police said she died a half-hour later.
Quentin Edmonds, an older brother, said yesterday that his family was trying to deal with the shock of his sister's violent death. He described her as someone who loved to cook in her spare time, and sang and danced at an East Baltimore church where their father was pastor.
"My parents have eight kids and this is the first one that they've lost," said Edmonds, who is 24. "I've got to keep it together. Right now, I'm the rock. Right now, we're making funeral arrangements. I need to stay focused.
"We're coming together," he said. "We're coping the best we can."
Their parents had taken Nicole and her younger brother out of Frederick Douglass High School last year because they feared for their safety inside one of the city's more troubled schools, Quentin Edmonds said. She was being home-schooled and had gotten a job at the Wendy's in Anne Arundel County about three months ago.
The teenagers applied to other jobs closer to home in the city, but the suburban Wendy's was the only one that got back to them with an offer.
Quentin said his younger brother recalls the assailants talking quietly and telling each other that they were alone on the light rail. "From what I understand, they kept saying to each other, `We're the only ones left,'" he said.
Matt Jablow, a city police spokesman, said the attackers were young adults or teenagers, and that Nicole Edmonds was a "completely innocent victim." Police were still trying to determine a motive in the attack.
"This is a terrible tragedy, and we will do everything in our power to find the people responsible for her death," Jablow said.
Nicole Edmonds and her brother started working at the Wendy's during the summer. Melanie Gamble, the manager, said workers there were stunned at the news of her death.
Gamble said the girl was a pleasant, quiet worker on the night shift. She and her brother worked as cashiers or in other positions, she said. "She was quiet, real quiet," Gamble said. "The only person she really talked to at work was her brother. She worked at night all the time because they do home-school."
"We're just real, real, real shocked," she said. "It's crazy."
Quentin Edmonds said his parents pulled his sister and brother out of Frederick Douglass last year because it was "getting too risky."
The high school, the alma mater of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the entertainer Cab Calloway, was once a center of pride for West Baltimore, but it has deteriorated significantly over the past several years.
Last academic year, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele visited Douglass and told its students they had been failed, proposing that management of the school be turned over to neighboring Coppin State University. The school was also one of 11 in the city targeted by the state last spring for outside takeovers. City school system officials say they are spending this school year making plans to overhaul Douglass.
Last month, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the back on school grounds during halftime at a football game.
Nicole Edmonds was the city's 235th homicide victim this year. During the same period last year, the city had 234 homicide victims, according to police figures.
"I just want her life to mean something, I want her death to mean something," said Quentin Edmonds in a telephone interview, as friends and family paid visits to their West Baltimore home last night.
"If we can just stop this foolishness, stop the violence. ... I just want the youth of Baltimore City just to wake up," he said. "There's too much hurt, there's too much pain. She's got seven brothers and sisters who are mourning. It's just senseless. Everybody who knows Nicky knows she wouldn't hurt nobody.
"She was one of the best young people in Baltimore."
Sun reporter Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.