This week was not as productive as I had hoped, so still no new cover. But to make up for that, and the fact that Chapter 10 is pretty short, I’m including a bonus chapter this week.
Mom was already up, showered and working on dinner by the time I got home, which meant she probably had a rough night at work and didn’t sleep well.
“Are you making progress at Weed’s?” She asked as soon as I walked in the door.
“Yeah, it’s coming along nicely,” I lied a little.
“That’s good,” she replied, “I’ll feel better when you’re back to driving a car instead of the bike so much.”
“I’m very cautious,” I lied a little more, “maybe even more so on the bike.” That part was true.
“It’s not necessarily you I’m most worried about,” she said, continuing to stir the spaghetti sauce. “Other drivers aren’t always so careful and it’s easy for them to overlook someone on a motorcycle.”
She wasn’t wrong, and I knew nothing I said would change her mind, so I decided to change the subject instead.
“So while I was at Weed’s I heard that Mr. Dinkle, the librarian, died last year. I’m a little surprised I didn’t hear about it back then.”
“Why were you talking about Mr. Dinkle?”
“I’ve got an assignment so I’ll probably go to the library a little later when you head to work. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I thought I would have at least heard about Mr. Dinkle.”
“I’m glad to hear that you’re taking school seriously,” she said, once again steering the conversation away from Mr. Dinkle’s death. “I know it can be easy to slack off in the final stretch.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” I replied, “but why are you avoiding talking about Mr. Dinkle?”
She stopped stirring the sauce, but still didn’t turn from the stove. Instead, she sighed, grabbed another pot and began filling it with water before answering.
“Well, he was getting up there in age and had a few health issues, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue. And he wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids of his own, so there wasn’t a large funeral service or anything.”
“The same things could be said about that beautician, Ms. Wilson. She was old and alone but half the town still showed up for her viewing. I mean, I wasn’t a huge fan of Mr. Dinkle, but I thought I would have at least heard something.”
“With Mr. Dinkle there were certain circumstances that some people felt would be best to keep quiet so they could fade away quicker.”
Again she paused, then moved back to stirring the sauce while still not facing me.
“Do you know what autoerotic asphyxiation is?” She asked. It was a question I’d never expected to hear from her.
“I’ve heard of it,” I replied, feeling my cheeks blush a little. That really wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have with my mom.
“That was the official cause of death for him.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. I mean, how else do you respond to something like that?
“And some of the pictures found near him were very disturbing, especially to mothers of young boys.”
I got what she was saying, but it didn’t add up with what I’d been told in the garage.
“But he’s dead,” she continued, “and most of those who know about how he died want it to stay buried with him.”
“I won’t say anything,” I said, but I wasn’t sure I meant it. If Dinkle was the pedophile, then maybe Mr. Sowers wasn’t guilty. And if Lucifer lied about Sowers, then what about the biker? But then I remembered the visions I saw when I touched the biker, and I knew he was guilty. And though I couldn’t touch Dinkle to see what he had done, I would be able to see what Sowers was guilty of. It would only take one touch, and then I’d know.
“So it’s my turn to make you uncomfortable,” mom said, clearly ending that conversation, “How’s Shawna doing? And why haven’t I seen her since she’s been back?”
I think I preferred the other discussion.
“You know how it is with school just starting and everything,” I said, trying to keep it vague.
“Surely she can find a few minutes to swing by,” she replied, not letting it go. “You two used to do homework together every night, you were practically inseparable.”
“That wouldn’t be a good idea; we’re in completely different classes this year.”
“Well I’m sure…”
“And she has a new boyfriend.”
“Oh,” she said, going back to the sauce.
“Well there are plenty of girls…”
“Mom,” I said, a little more harshly than I meant to. “I’m fine. We’re fine. And I’m sure she’ll be over sometime soon. Right now it’s just a matter of priorities.”
“There’s a cute new CNA at the hospital. She just graduated from Southview last year. I could…”
“I really need a shower,” I said heading up the stairs before she could begin to rope me into anything. I wanted to take a long hot shower but mom would be heading to work shortly and I had to get to the library before the doors closed.
Dinner was ready by the time I got out of the shower and made my way back downstairs. Mom had made her soft breadsticks and I could smell them before I even reached the kitchen. It was times like that that made me feel everything was going right; but then she had to go work herself like crazy and I had my own job I had to finish. But at least I saw an end for what I had to do. She, on the other hand, had been working herself to death since before I could remember. The only way it was going to end was if I could do something to help her out. In order to do that, I had to finish my next assignments as quickly as possible. That thought made heading to the library a little easier.
The sun was already pretty low by the time I pulled into the library parking lot. There wasn’t a single car in any of the spaces, but glancing at my watch I could see that it was still a few minutes before eight, so I hung my helmet on the handlebars and hurried towards the building. Back when I knew him, Mr. Sowers didn’t drive; he rode a mountain bike everywhere. As I reached the front doors I was actually thankful to see his bike chained up to the bike rack but when I pulled on the door handle, it refused to open.
“Damnit,” I mumbled, as I plopped back against the door, pissed that I’d missed my opportunity. Sure, there’d be other chances, but psyching myself up to do what I had to do was tiring, especially when it was for nothing.
A knock on the door behind me shook me from my thoughts, and as I turned around, I could feel a smile forming on my face. Mr. Sowers was standing there unlocking the front door.
“Sorry about that,” he said, without fully making eye contact with me. “It’s just been me here for the past hour so I thought I’d close up a few minutes early.”
“No problem,” I said, trying to act casual. “I just need a book for a report I forgot was due.”
“School just started and you already forgot about a report? That’s really not a good way to start the school year.”
“Yeah, uh, that’s why I rushed over here.”
“So what kind of book do you need?” He asked with a smile, that might have been genuine, but with everything Lucifer told me, it just looked creepy as Hell. That made it even harder to come up with a good lie.
“Uh, Napoleon,” I said, blurting out the first thing remotely scholastic that came to mind.
“Those books are back here,” he said, leading me towards a slightly darkened corner packed with history books. I stared at the books, moving from one title to the next while not really paying attention to them as I tried to think of some way to touch his arm casually. I needed to see that he was the one guilty of what I’d been told, but before I could come up with anything, he grabbed me, spun me around and shoved me against the shelves of books.
“What are you really doing here?” he asked, the gentle face now looking terrifying.
“I just need a book for a report,” I stammered.
“Napoleon is taught in freshman history, and no reports are assigned about him until the second semester. So I’m going to ask you again, what are you really doing here?”
When I didn’t answer right away, his giant hands moved from my shoulders to my neck, slowly gripping tighter. I grabbed hold of his wrists, trying to break free and that’s when I was flooded with images. I saw him with several different boys, all young, all innocent. Then I saw what he did to them. What started gently, timidly at first turned more violent when they started to cry, begging him to stop.
I yanked my hands off his so the images would stop, but then he started squeezing my throat even harder. I could feel myself getting lightheaded and knew I had to pull his hands off of me, but convincing myself to touch him again was harder than I would have imagined. The thought of just going to sleep was much more appealing than having to see those images again, but once I was asleep there was no telling what he might do, or even if I’d wake up again.
Grabbing his hands once again, more images flooded my mind, this time I saw a boy I kind of recognized, possibly from the park, or supermarket. Sowers had him in a small storage room, showing him pictures of other boys, the ones from the earlier visions. He must have taken them, either as trophies, or even just to convince other boys it was okay because others had done it. But then Mr. Dinkle burst into the room. I could see the anger in his eyes and feel the shame and horror Sowers felt at being caught. But then the shame turned to fear, and fear turned to rage. Jumping to his feet I saw through his eyes how he grabbed Mr. Dinkle’s throat, just as he had mine, and how he had choked the man to death with his bare hands.
The kid screamed, and started crying so Sowers did the same thing to him, only requiring one hand to stop the noise. I could feel the relief and pleasure he felt at the silence before looking at both bodies. It was then that I could feel the tears start flowing. But then his tears turned to fear of getting caught, and once again the fear turned to anger, so he took off Mr. Dinkle’s belt and wrapped one end around his neck and the other around the storage room door handle. Leaving his prized pictures beside Mr. Dinkle, Sowers grabbed the boy’s body and shoved it into the contractor sized trash bag and took it out back to the dumpster.
It was only then that I realized where I’d seen the boy before. His face was on missing person posters. A year ago they’d been all over the area and even featured on the local news. But over the passing months, they’d all just kind of faded away. With the timing of the boys’ disappearance and Mr. Dinkle’s death, along with Dinkle’s assumed guilt for all of Sowers’ other acts, everyone probably just assumed the kid was one more of his victims too.
Sowers’ hands squeezed a little tighter, and the visions of what he’d done were replaced by a swirling sensation and I knew I was about to pass out. With every ounce of strength I had left, I pictured him having a massive heart attack right in front of me. I felt the same energy pass through me that I had that night at the bar, and instantly Sowers froze, his grip loosening enough for me to get a breath. The ice cold burning sensation finished coursing through me as the swirling sensation started to fade, I felt his hands leave my neck completely. His eyes glossed over as he grabbed at his chest and dropped to the floor.
I stared at him for a moment before the overwhelming warmth flooded my body, just as it had the night before, intoxicating me with its energy. I just wanted to stay there and enjoy the moment, but I knew I needed to get out of there. I mean, there’s no way I could have been blamed for Sowers’ heart attack, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Rushing out of the front door I couldn’t shake the image of his face; it was the first time I’d witnessed anyone die in front of me, and knowing I was responsible for it made the whole thing worse. Immediately my stomach tightened and flopped. I leaned into the nearest bush lining the sidewalk from the parking lot to the building and started heaving. It refused to stop until I’d gotten rid of every ounce of the wonderful dinner mom had fixed for me.
It took me a minute after I was completely empty to stop shaking and to gather myself enough to stand back up and finish making my way to the bike. It took another minute of sitting on the bike before I convinced myself I was good enough to ride. The vibrations of the engine beneath me did nothing to help my stomach, and I seemed to hit every pothole on the way home but somehow I made it back without having to pull over. Once home though, I rushed into the nearest bathroom and started dry heaving until my body was satisfied there was nothing left to get rid of. That’s when I sat with my back against the wall and let the tears fall.