untitled teen/murder story - 4
Posted May 6th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: wow so this chapter kind of just poured out of me i haven't even read it yet.
i just wrote and now im here posting.
It takes fifteen minutes to decide who’s going to go looking for Jess and Rose.
“I’m going,” Lane states.
“No, babe, you can’t,” Dean whines.
“I promise you that I can.”
“But what if…what if something happens to you?”
Lane rolls his eyes. “Then I’ll be dead.”
Dean dramatically caresses the side of Lane’s face. “I wouldn’t be able to deal with the pain. If you’re going then I’m going with you.”
“No,” I interrupt. “I’m not staying in this car anymore. I can’t.”
“Fair enough,” Lane says.
I bite back a smile.
“What about me?” Emma asks.
“You’d be happier sitting in here anyway,” I say.
“You’re right,” Emma says, reverting back to her book, squinting at the lines to try to make out words in the darkness.
“So what, you and Lane are going to go?” Dean asks.
Lane and I exchange a knowing glance. I turn back to Dean and shrug. “Yeah.”
Dean’s glare is so sharp I think I’m bleeding when I climb out of the van, my legs groaning and aching. Too long sitting in that van.
Lane claps my shoulder. “Ready to go?”
I peer up the dirt road and the grass fields, clustered with darkness and buzzing with insects. At the pale moon climbing the stars.
It feels like longer than ten miles, and I can still see the van parked way down on the road—a little scarlet speck, barely visible in the dark. If it weren’t for the full moon’s light, I probably wouldn’t be able to see it at all.
“How far have we walked?” I ask, trying to keep my voice as far away from being a groan as possible.
“Not far enough,” Lane huffs.
Now I groan. Loud.
“Shut up,” Lane smirks. “It’s not that bad.”
He runs a hand over his hair and looks up the road, his eyes catching twinkles of starlight.
“They said it was a straight shot back, right?” Lane asks.
“I don’t see it,” he says.
I follow his line of sight, squinting against the night. The land is completely flat, just the road and fields, and trees far, far in the distance.
“Maybe it’s around a turn or something,” I suggest.
Lane bites his lip. “Maybe. I was so zoned out when I was driving.”
I analyze his face, the round curve of his nose and pout of his lips, his big brown eyes. “That’s dangerous, you know?”
He turns to me, our faces close enough for me to feel his breath when he says, “What is?”
I look away, unable to take it any longer. “Not paying attention when you’re driving.”
I start into a walk again, pushing my hands into my pockets. “I just figured you would be more of a responsible driver than that.”
“Well I am most the time. You know that.”
“It’s just with…” Lane pauses. He looks around and drops his voice to a low, gravelly whisper. “With Denver Jackson out somewhere murdering people, it’s a little scary. A little distracting.”
“I get it.”
Lane sighs, his shoulders easing, as if all he sought was my understanding.
We walk in silence for a little while, our shoes scuffing on the orange dirt. Lane’s white converse and tee shirt are blanketed with the dust that swirls in the air every time a hot, humid breeze passes through.
“I fucking hate South Carolina,” I say.
“It’s just…it’s worse than Georgia.”
Lane side-eyes me. “I don’t know about that.”
“You’re right,” I say, elbowing him. “Georgia has more homophobes.”
He cracks a wide smile just for me, something he doesn’t always show.
I want to just come out and say it, tell him how cute he is when he smiles like that or when he twirls bits of his hair in between his fingers or when he straightens his shirt so that it doesn’t have huge folds in it. When he shakes off his jacket and carefully folds it over one arm. All of those things bring me just along the edge of telling him.
But I can’t go over the edge.
I could never.
It would break whatever silent, eternal agreement our friendship is built on. Me and Lane. We’ve been through so much, we could never put our feelings into words. It would break all the rules, all the boundaries we’d spent years setting up. This morning was too close—too much. I can’t let it get that far again, let that happen or else…or else our friendships will all shatter.
It’s two hours before we see the red glow of the gas station sign shooting into the air like a flare signal.
A bright, flickering neon sign that says Jenny’s and underneath OPEN.
“Brilliant,” I say, smiling. My feet are too tired to jog, so I continue my lazy walk to the door. A little bell chimes when I enter, Lane on my heels.
Why isn’t he smiling, too? Why isn’t he excited?
Then I realize.
We’re already at the gas station. If that’s how long it took, we should have run into Rose and Jess on the way up the road.
“Anything I can help you with?” A man says from behind the counter.
I turn to him, my lips raising in a strained smile.
All my mind can think is Rose and Jess, Rose and Jess, Rose and Jess, Rose and Jess—
The man’s face is a big question mark as he leans over the counter, raising his eyebrows at us.
“Um…” I hesitate. Should I ask him about Rose and Jess? There’s a little TV on the counter, but it’s off. Maybe I should ask him to turn it on, to see the news, to check and see if there’s a new report saying that teenage boy and girl were found dead in a ditch somewhere, mutilated by Denver Jackson.
There’s a woman behind him, with a supple body and a tank top, thin straps hung over her coat-hanger thin shoulders. She has ratty brown hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in weeks, and she’s making…
Yes, she’s making biscuits at night.
I want to ask why, but decide not to. It’s better to avoid talking to anyone, if I can help it.
“We’re good, thank you,” Lane says. He wraps a finger through my belt loop and drags me to the back of the store, where he clinks through the glass Coke bottles.
“Shit, shit, shit,” I breathe, pressing my hand against the cold drink cooler, condensation thick and foggy on the other side of the glass.
“We should get some gas while we’re here,” Lane says calmly, six sweaty Cokes babied in his arm. “And food. I’m starving.”
I watch him move through the gas station, picking up an assortment of snacks as he goes, with my mouth wide open. How is he being so calm? How can he be so calm? I know he cares, Rose and Jess are as close to us as siblings, so why doesn’t he seem like he cares?
I’m still standing by the drinks when I catch the man at the cash register staring at me.
He has slick black hair and pale skin, and he’s resting with his chin balanced on his fist.
But it’s his eyes that snag my attention and heart and make it freeze.
They’re still and dark and cold. Full of hate and sorrow.
And pinned right on me.
I want to move, want to run out of there, but I can’t. I can’t do anything, not while he has those eyes on me.
“Give me a hand, babe?” the woman in the back asks.
“Right after I help this gentleman check out,” he says.
Just like that, he seems like a normal person again. Smiling gently as Lane piles all of our food and drinks on the counter.
The man rings it up one thing at a time, slowly picking each item up and turning it over until he hears that little beep.
He scans each individual glass soda bottle.
My eyes drift around the store, to the woman over his shoulder, impatiently waiting at the counter she was making the biscuits at. There’s a little desk back there, too, with an office chair behind it that looks like it just got picked up off the side of the road. Dust coats it, like it hasn’t been touched in a decade.
Except for one startling detail.
I suck in my breath and look away, look down, look anywhere but that man.
I need to get Lane’s attention.
But he’s focused watching the sum of all our items add up, making sure that its all in there correctly.
Damn it, Lane, just look at me.
Look at me or look at the leather jacket slung over the back of that office chair, identical to the one Jess has been wearing for the entire road trip.
I can’t stand being here anymore. Chills are all over my body, my neck hair raised and heart racing, threatening to beat out of my chest and thump-thump on the counter.
Don’t fucking get on his nerves, Lane, or else we’ll both end up dead.
I inch my fingers toward Lane’s hand. At first, when our skin grazes, he pulls away a little, but I get a sliver of skin between my two fingers and pinch lightly. Enough to get his attention.
He whirls on me.
“What was that for?”
Too obvious. Shit, shit, shit. Way too obvious.
The beeping stops.
I look up at the man, but his eyes are glued on mine and Lane’s hands, where they’re barely touching.
It’s like he’s frozen.
Then he breaks free from whatever spell he went under, putting the rest of the food in bags. I’m not even sure if he scanned them yet, he just piles it in.
Lane and I both grab a bag, the thin plastic too elastic to carry so much stuff.
We walk to the door when I remember that we need a gas can.
I turn around at the same time as Lane does, but he says, “Can we get another bag to put this—”
His voice drops off.
The man behind the counter has a handgun pointed at us.
He walks around the counter on slow, careful feet. I back up into the door, pushing against it with all my weight, trying to force it open.
Somehow my fingers fine Lane’s and our sweaty hands clamp together.
I can feel his pulse pounding in his wrist.
I can hear my own heartbeat roaring in my ears as the man takes cool, calculated steps toward us. Feet away. That gun feet away.
I squeeze my eyes shut, tears now in my eyes, rolling down my cheeks.
I can’t believe this is how I’m going to die.
Never able to say goodbye to my family or my friends. Lane is the only person with me in my last moment, and I am the only person with him.
God, please help us.
I feel the tip of the gun on my forehead, cold and ominous.
Ironically, the pressure eases a headache I’ve had for the past few hours.
I think of how stupid a last thought that would be when I hear a click.
For a second, I think God really was answering my last prayer.
Then he laughs.
A loud, cackling laughter.
I pry open my eye, my hand like iron around Lane’s.
The man is bent over cackling in the middle of the gas station, the empty gun limp in his fingers.
I don’t move.
Not as he straightens up, wiping comical tears from his eyes, and goes back behind the counter. Not as he shuts the gun in a drawer and says, “You wanted another bag?”
Neither of us move.
The gun was empty.
But the doors are still locked.
This is still a trap.
I swallow. Lane somehow tightens his already stone-hard grip on me.
Then a gunshot goes off.
We both duck, throwing our arms over each other.
But seconds later, with the noise still ringing like a struck bell in our ears, when we stand, the man behind the counter is standing still, staring at something in the back room.
As my hearing clears even more, I notice the quiet sniffling of a crying woman.
“You little shit,” the man says. “Get back in there.”
“No,” says a familiar, deep voice. Jess. “Not until you let us go, you prick.”
“Drop that gun.”
“I’ll shoot you.”
“You just shot my girlfriend, so please drop it. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”
Jess laughs his deep, throaty laugh.
Lane and I creep around the store until we are in Jess’s line of sight where he stands in the back room with the desk, jacket-less, with a revolver pointed at the man behind the counter’s head. He has a dark, determined look in his eyes, something we’ve only seen him get when he’s about to whoop some ass in a sport.
Jess is careful not to let his eyes linger on us, but I know he knows we’re there. I know he’s aware.
“Do you want to die?” Jess asks.
“I’m going to eventually. Why not tonight?”
I’m not ready to die, to let go of the life I’ve barely begun.
“Just let us go. Please.” Jess’s voice cracks.
The man pauses, deep in thought. “Hm…no.”
Then that horrible laugh again.
He thrums his fingers on the counter. “Why couldn’t you just cooperate like your little friend and eat the food Tonya makes for you?”
“I’m not fucking hungry.”
“Hey,” he says, holding up a hand. “Watch your language around here.” He gestures over his shoulder, as if he could sense us behind him. “There are children here.”
Jess’s shoulder sag, his heartbreak shining in his eyes.
That’s when I realize we’re all dying tonight.
“Drop the gun, sweetheart,” he says.
Jess’s jaw twitches. “Like hell.”
Then his finger twitches and he shoots again, the bang shattering through the store in a loud shock wave of sound. I cover my ears just in time to avoid the brunt of the effect, but I can still feel it ringing in my head. And it’s not until I come back to my senses that I realize Lane has his arms wrapped around me, ready to take a bullet for me if it misfired.
I want to squeeze him and embrace him but it’s not the time or place for that.
I mentally slap myself back into reality.
A trail of smoke rises from the cash register. Dollar bills drift around the store, and pennies and dimes shimmer across the floor.
“Missed,” the man says. I can hear the bone-chilling smile pulling apart his lips.
He runs a bony hand through his flimsy hair and starts walking toward Jess.
Jess pulls the trigger again.
“No, no, no,” he says, shaking the gun and raising it again, pulling the trigger again, swearing again when it failed.
“Out of bullets?” the man purrs, closing in.
Lane leaps forward, sprinting across the store, sliding over the counter.
I barely have time to process what’s happening, much less to follow him, before he tackles the man to the ground.
I run around the counter, my shoes slick against the coins scattered across the floor, and watch the fight unfold.
Lane wraps his arms around the man’s skinny throat, pulling hard, trying to strangle him.
But he rises and slams Lane between him and the wall.
Jess swings his fist at the man’s face—it soars around through the air, and—
He catches Jess’s closed fist and twists his arm.
Jess yelps, jumping back, holding his arm and crying out.
I stand still.
What can I do?
The man slams Lane against the wall again, both of them grimacing at the rattling impact.
And that woman shuddering behind the counter, looking up at me with trembling eyes, a gunshot in her leg seeping blood on the white tile.
I want to throw up.
I rake a hand through my hair and bend over, trying to find cool air to breath in, but it’s all hot and it’s all making me dizzy. Making the nausea in my throat rise and my vision blacken.
I can’t do this.
I can’t…I can’t…
Lane is crying as the man finally lets him go, his body slumping against the wall.
Jess is holding his twisted arm.
I am trying not to vomit all over the floor.
Tonya, I’m assuming, is bleeding out.
And Denver Jackson is standing over all of us with a gleeful smile on his face.
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