Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold: Portrait Of A Deadly Bond

One was a leader, the other a follower. One prone to fits of venomous temper, the other shy and awkward. TIME investigates what led Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to turn Columbine High School into a killing spree

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You're not going to believe who's turning out to be a nice guy at school," Brooks Brown told his parents one evening in mid-April. They were at the dinner table in their ranch-style house in Columbine Knolls, a modest subdivision in Littleton, Colo., and the tall, angular 18-year-old knew the comment would stir up some dust. His mother and father, Judy and Randy Brown, leaned forward and asked, "Who?"

"Eric Harris."

Randy almost choked on his fork. "I can't believe you're even talking to him after what he did." Judy put a hand to her heart. "You could say any other name at that high school and it would be O.K.," she said. "But not that one."

Last year, Eric Harris had thrown a chunk of ice at Brooks' car, cracking its windshield. Soon after, the Browns had discovered the spewings on Harris' website, geysers of hate like the one saying Harris longed to "blow up and shoot everything I can. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame...I don't care if I live or die in the shootout, all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you [expletive] as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks Brown." Harris claimed to have the weaponry to carry out his threat against Brown. His website offered bomb-building instructions and boasted that he and a friend, code-named "VoDka," had made four pipe bombs and detonated one ("Flipping thing was heart-pounding gut-wrenching brain-twitching ground-moving insanely cool!"). And if all that weren't enough, Brooks knew that "VoDka" was his old best friend, Dylan Klebold, who had become Harris' new best friend but had tipped Brooks to the hateful website. Terrified, the Browns searched their property for bombs and filed complaints with the sheriff's department and America Online, which was host of the site. They say they got no response from either. (The sheriff's department says it didn't pursue Harris because no crime had been committed and the Browns wished to remain anonymous.) But in April 1998, Harris took his site offline, and life in the neighborhood seemed to quiet down.

Now, a year later, Brown was sitting at dinner telling his mother and father that Harris was a good guy after all. Brown was taking philosophy and creative-writing classes with Harris and Klebold, and the three hung out together--bright, maladjusted kids united in their intelligence and disdain for the jock culture of Columbine High. "At dinner I made a big case for Eric," Brown told TIME last week. "I said he had grown up. He was a real scary kid last year; everyone was afraid of him. But six months ago we buried the hatchet, and I really thought he had changed. I thought he was a new Eric."

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