This week is spring break, so I will probably have a chance to work on the cover some more, but for now it’s still the same.
My mom didn’t have a shift at the diner that night so she would be home for a bit before heading to the hospital and I’d already spent a good amount of time at Finkenbine’s, so as soon as we got the Hearse done I skipped going to Weed’s place and headed home instead. Starting back on Pamela would just have to wait another night. And part of me was actually glad to have an excuse to get away from Weed for a little while. I couldn’t be certain that I’d killed Finkenbine’s friend, but I was pretty sure I had. And Weed had to assume the same thing. How did he feel about that? How would I feel if my best friend just killed someone? I really wasn’t prepared to find out, so a night at home and spending a couple hours with my mom, would do me good.
Unfortunately, my mind was so preoccupied with what happened at Finkenbine’s that I completely forgot about hiding the bike from my mom. I realized that as I was walking up to the back door, pulling off my helmet.
“That’s new,” Mom said, before I’d even closed the back door. She was sitting at the circular dining table drinking a cup of coffee.
“Yeah,” I replied, trying to play it off, “I’ve got Pamela at Weed’s so we can do some more on her, and he had a bike laying around, so…”
“You know I don’t like those things,” she continued, but in a softer tone, “but you are about to be 18, at which point I can’t really control anything you do…”
“I’m just saying, if you’re going to be riding a motorcycle, be safe.”
With that, she tossed a pamphlet to me. It was for a local motorcycle shop who offered fee classes.
She just nodded as she took another sip of her coffee.
“I was going to tell you, I was just working up the courage. It happened so suddenly. I wasn’t planning on getting a bike, Weed just had it and…”
“You don’t have to explain it all to me,” she said, stopping me from blabbering on too much. “I just want you to know you can tell me anything. You don’t have to hide anything from me.”
I knew she meant it, or at least she thought she did. I also knew there was no way I could tell her what happened the night of the crash, or even what had happened last night, as much as I might have wanted to.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, trying to put on my best smile.
“At least you’re wearing a helmet,” she said. “But the skull on it?”
“Yeah, it’s not really my style either, but it was from Weed”
“He really is a good friend, isn’t he.”
“One of the best,” I said, hoping it was still true.
“Why don’t you go get cleaned up and I’ll see what I can put together for dinner.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Mom ended up fixing us pizza bagels and mozzarella sticks, probably because they’re my favorite. Then she put in Goonies which I’d seen a thousand times, and which I could have watched a thousand more, only I knew she really didn’t care for it. I couldn’t tell if she was setting me up to hit me with some bad news, or if she just really wanted me to have a great night. Regardless of her intentions, she never dropped a bomb on me and by the time she left for the hospital I was more relaxed than I’d been in a very long time. I’d almost completely forgotten about all the other crap I had going on.
“Don’t stay up late,” she said as she headed out the door.
“I won’t,” I replied, and I really meant it. I had no intention of being up late, but someone else had other ideas.
Once again I found myself being awakened in the middle of a perfectly good sleep. This time it wasn’t the TV that interrupted my sleep, but a thumping at the window.
“What the Hell?” I yelled to Weed as I unlatched the window. “Why didn’t you come up the stairs?”
“I didn’t know if your mom was working and I didn’t want to wake her.”
“But you’re cool with waking me?”
“I didn’t know how much sleeping you’d be doing, and I didn’t want to miss it if you got another assignment.”
“So you’re cool with it if I did do what we think I did?”
“What, rid the world of someone who even Finkenbine didn’t think should still be out there doing God-knows-what?
“I doesn’t bother you that I might have murdered someone?”
“Don’t think of it like that. You got rid of a bad guy. You’re like a superhero using your superpowers for good.”
“Not even close.”
“Well, however you want to think of it, you’re not a bad person. You’re just doing your job, and in the end, some little part of this world is better off for it.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling a little better knowing that Weed was on my side.
“Now that that’s taken care of,” he said, pulling out a baggie, “we could both probably use a little something to help us get some sleep.”
“We’ve got school in a couple hours,” I protested, though even I barely believed the words coming out of my mouth.
“Which is why we need a little rest, and this is just the bag to help us do it.”
Ten minutes later we were both silent. I couldn’t tell for sure if he was out at that point but a few minutes later I was enjoying peaceful dreamless sleep. There were no thoughts of car crashes or motorcycle accidents; no voices or smiling faces. It was perfect oblivion. Exactly what I needed.
The alarm woke me, the next morning though it didn’t even begin to faze Weed. He’d apparently fallen asleep in my recliner with a grin on his face. Thankfully the window had been left open enough that there was no residual smoke hanging around the room. And though I should have been at least a little groggy, I was actually more rested than I’d expected so I grabbed some clean clothes and headed to the bathroom, enjoying a longer than necessary shower before waking Weed up. I tried to think of a creative way to start his day but the best I could come up with was to plug in my guitar, crank the volume to 11 and do my best Jimi Hendrix Star Spangled Banner impression. It barely woke him.
“Why’d you stop?” he asked, with his eyes still closed.
“You look like you’re going to need something a little stronger than Jimi to get you going.”
“So you’ve got coffee ready?” He replied.
“Instant’s the best I can do.”
“We can’t be friends any more.”
“Tell you what, you get your ass up and I’ll try to figure out the coffee maker.”
“Counter proposal,” Weed said, slowly pushing himself up from the recliner, “We’ll take the KZ to my place where we’ll get a decent cup of coffee and a bowl of something sugary.”
“I’ll drop you off at your place,” I replied, “but I think I’ll pass on the coffee and diabetes.”
“You still going to try to smooth things over with her?”
“There’s no ‘We’ll see’,” Weed said, visibly frustrated, and rightfully so. Shawna had her Ken doll, and even if she didn’t, I had no idea what the hell was actually going on with me. I didn’t want to drag her into my mess, at least not until I’d made good on my end of the deal. But I also didn’t want her to leave my life completely.
“I just think a bit of a ride would do me good before school,” I said, trying to shrug off his implication and failing miserably.
“Just promise me you won’t go to her place. Nothing good can come from that.”
“Promise,” I said, “Now if we don’t get going we’ll be late.”
“Sure,” he replies, “just one more thing…”
“You’re riding bitch,” he said, grabbing the KZ keys and jumping halfway down the stairs before I could even catch what he’d said.
“Oh Hell no,” I yelled, rushing down the stairs after him, but it was already too late; he was on the bike before I was even out the back door.
“That’s not cool,” I said, as he kicked the bike to life. “I don’t want anyone to see me riding bitch on my own bike.”
“Then you should have called it first,” he grinned, “but at least my place isn’t that far.”
And he was right about his place not being too far, but in those few blocks I swear we saw half a dozen people I knew staring at us as we went by, me holding on to Weed’s waist, and him screaming the lyrics to U2’s “One” as we made our way down the street. I know he was going as slow as possible just to embarrass me as much as possible. Thankfully I had the helmet on, so no one could see how much it was working.
When we got to Weed’s house I didn’t stick around, opting instead to find an empty road to enjoy, once I was back at the front of the bike. There was something therapeutic about being on the bike, so much so that I completely lost track of time and almost ended up inadvertently playing hooky. By the time I pulled into the school parking lot, my head was almost completely clear. There were no thoughts of that biker, or what I’d done, or even Shawna. But the cherry red ‘vette commanding attention in front of the building changed all that. I just kept driving past it, pulling into the last open parking spot, right beside Weed’s Chevette.
“Say the word and I’ll help you key his car,” Weed said without even getting out of his car.
“No you wouldn’t, it’s much too nice for that.”
“True,” he replied, “but to be honest, I didn’t think you’d take me up on it; you’re not that type of guy.”
“I’m not,” I said, “but the thought was nice.”
“You want a puff before the bell rings?” He asked, holding out his silver bowl.
“Nah, I’m actually feeling pretty good, all things considered. Then again, I might just not be completely recovered from last night.”
“Maybe after school then.”
“I was hoping to get to work on Pamela after school.”
“Definitely; we’ll just save a little of this for when the work is done.”
“It’s a deal,” I said, just as the last bell rang, telling us we had to get our assess to class.
Weed spent most of each class trying,and failing, to stay awake. I tried actually concentrating on what was being taught but found my thoughts drifting to anything else. Hanging with Weed definitely helped me deal with all the shit going on in my life, but talking to Shawna would have probably helped too, not that she’d believe my story any easier than Weed had. But her perspective would have definitely been different than his. From his point of view I was the good guy who got rid of a bad guy, but the world isn’t that black and white. And killing is killing, isn’t it? I mean, even though I didn’t shove that guy in front of the train, I was still responsible, wasn’t I? Good, bad, Maybe it is all subjective, but that didn’t make it any easier.
Trapped in class after class, the philosophical debate went on in my head all day until finally the last bell mercifully rang. Only by then I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I didn’t budge from my seat.
“You ready to go get started on Pamela?” Weed asked, pulling me from my thoughts.
“Oh, yeah,” I replied, trying to shake off the haze that clouded everything. Unfortunately it wasn’t the fun kind of haze that Weed and I prefered.
“Cool. You head there while I pick up a couple things from Steve’s Tow shop. It shouldn’t take long.”
Weed took off and I headed towards his house, before taking a slight detour towards Shawna’s. I knew it wasn’t the best choice, and Weed would have killed me if he found out, but I just wanted to see her for a minute, to make sure things were still cool between us. Half a block away from her house I realized just how bad my choice had been. Before I even got close, I saw Matt’s Corvette sitting on the street in front of her house, right where I should have been parked. The two of them were still inside the car, their faces locked together, their hands doing only God-knows-what.
With a twist of the throttle, the bike took off, the exhaust roaring more than I’d anticipated. But once again I really didn’t care who heard me, I just wanted out of there as quickly as possible, and the bike obliged. I thought about keeping the throttle pinned and just seeing how far a tank of gas would take me but Pamela was waiting in Weed’s garage, and I knew he’d be back there shortly, so I let off the gas so the bike could return to a more acceptable speed, before I reached his place.
The driveway was still empty as I pulled up beside the garage, but the garage door was open and from there I could see Pamela waiting for me. Slipping off the helmet, I made my way around her, checking out the progress we’d made, along with all the work we had yet to do. She did look much better with the new headlight in and all the dirt and corn stalks off of her. Weed was grabbing some wheel ramps so we could check out the underside of her a little easier, but even if we didn’t find anything else, it was still probably going to be another week before she was road worthy. The thought was a little depressing, but at least I had the KZ to get me around until she was done.
“You did well,” the voice said. The light in the garage was dim enough that I could see the red glow from the stereo without even looking inside the car.
“Thanks? I guess?” I replied. I mean, how do you respond to that?
“So you’re ready for another one?”
“Another assignment; one step closer to completing your end of the deal.”
“I’m not sure.”
“I figured you’d be in a hurry to get them done and have everything return to normal.”
That was what I wanted, more than almost anything, but for some reason the way he said it made me a bit apprehensive. And I wasn’t sure I had really come to terms with what I had done the first time, let alone being ready to do it again.
“What’ve you got?” I asked, with as much confidence as I could muster. I mean, what did it hurt to at least know what the assignment was before making a decision.
“This one’s an easy one,” he replied, and I swear I could hear the grin on his face even if I couldn’t see it. “He’s a pedophile, working out in the open at the library. His job puts him in contact with a lot of young, trusting kids. You’ll be doing your community a great service.”
“My community, like this town?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around a pedophile working at the town library. It’d been a few years since I’d been there, but as a kid, mom used to take me there every Saturday to pick up enough books to keep me busy during the week. I had fond memories of some of the books I’d read. Those memories brought to mind one person.
“It’s Mr. Dinkle, isn’t it?”
Mr. Dinkle had been the head librarian for what seemed like forever. He was a small, slightly hunched man with a long hooked nose, who always seemed to be popping up suddenly anywhere and everywhere in the library. I can’t count the number of times he’d caught Weed and me goofing off on school trips there. He always gave me the creeps, appearing out of nowhere.
“Not even close,” the voice said with a chuckle. “Mr. Dinkle was actually the reason there weren’t more victims. He always suspected, and did his best to keep an eye on all the kids that came and went from there, but he died last year and the pedophile, your next assignment, has been a bit more free to pursue his desires.”
The thought of a predator hanging out at the library, searching for his next victim to do unspeakable things made my skin crawl. As conflicted as I had been about the first assignment, I knew I had to take this one out, but more than that, as I thought about what he might have done to those kids, I wanted to end him. Someone like that, I would almost consider pulling the trigger myself, but thankfully I didn’t have to. I just had to choose how he would go; it was that simple. The thought almost made me smile.
“I’ll do it,” I said.
“Don’t you want to know who it is first?” He asked.
“It doesn’t really matter. Someone like that needs to go.”
“That’s the spirit,” the voice called out. “But it needs to be done soon before he can find another victim.”
“Gladly,” I said, “so who is it?”
“His name is Glenn Sowers.”
“Sowers? Mr. Sowers the Janitor?”
“After Mr. Dinkle passed away he was promoted to a librarian position.”
“There’s no way. I mean, he always seemed so nice; quiet, but nice. He always had an extra stick of gum…”
“Always nice to little boys, offering them gum and candy. I see why it’s hard for you to believe he’s a pedophile.”
“No, what I mean is, he never even came close to trying anything with me.”
“You mean when Mr. Dinkle was keeping an eye on everything, sure to pop up anywhere and everywhere.”
He was right, and I didn’t like it.
“I get it, but it’s still hard to believe.”
“One touch and you’ll believe it, but remember what I said, you can’t unsee what he’s done.”
The red glow disappeared from the front seat of the car and I knew he was gone. He hadn’t told me where to find this assignment, but I knew where Mr. Sowers would be. The library was open until 8:00pm, which meant I still had plenty of time to decide how I was going to approach him, and how he was going to meet his end, but I still found it hard to wrap my head around. Sowers, as the janitor I knew, was a large man, at least six foot and 250 pounds but even with that size, he was never intimidating. And he always had a comic book in his back pocket to read when he wasn’t cleaning. And he always made time for us, keeping us up-to-date on the latest superhero exploits, and he was just as excited about them as we were. It was almost like he was one of us kids.
“I thought for sure you’d be at Shawna’s,” Weed said, his voice causing me to jump as he turned on the overhead lights. I’d been so lost in my own thoughts that I hadn’t even heard him pull in.
“Why would I want to see her, when I can be here staring at your pretty face instead?”
“Such a sweet talker,” he replied, with a grin, “but I know you’re only here because of Pamela.”
“Truer words have never been spoken. I get enough of your ugly mug in class.”
“Okay then, enough with the flirting. How about we make some progress on her.”
“Works for me,” I said, cranking up the old boombox on the corner of the workbench. Nirvana, doing an acoustic version of one of their songs, echoed off the garage walls. Kurt Cobain had died just a few months after that performance was recorded and for some reason hearing the dead man’s voice hit me a little harder than I would have expected. For a minute I just froze.
“You okay man?” Weed asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, shaking my head . “I’m good.”
“Good,” he said, “then let’s get started.”
I helped Weed get the ramps from his car. It took a bit to get Pamela onto them, but once she was up in the air it was much easier to see her underside. There was one brake line dripping some fluid, but other than that and the dried mud caked into every little crevice, she was in better shape than I expected. We spent a couple hours trying to clean out every bit of mud we could, and the menial work was just what I needed. By the time I left Weed’s place I was almost feeling normal so I headed home to spend a little time with Mom before she had to go to work. Once she was gone, I wanted to get on with my next assignment.