For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12
The work on Pamela seemed to be taking forever, but I could begin to see the progress we were making. And while we were fixing the damage from the accident, we were also fixing some of the other less pressing issues I’d put off; the passenger window crank that kept sticking, the weather seal on the trunk that leaked if it rained too hard; little things like that. Weed even suggested replacing the radio with one that actually worked but I hesitated. Only, I don’t know why. I had no problem replacing the broken parts with ones from the junkyard but Finkenbine didn’t have an original radio so I’d have to put in a modern one and I wasn’t quite ready to do that.
“That’s probably a good stopping point,” Weed said, tightening the bleeder valve on the last brake caliper. We’d completely replaced every brake line, with Weed doing most of the bending and flaring. I tried bending a couple pieces and wasted twice as much as we actually used so he took over from there. I just had to crawl underneath the car and install the new lines while trying to keep the rust from the old lines from falling into my eyes and mouth.
Glancing at the clock, I saw it was almost 9:30 pm, which gave me just enough time to make it home and into the shower before heading to bed. Then it dawned on me; I’d completely forgotten about dinner with Shawna and mom. How the Hell had I forgotten?
“I’ve got to go,” I yelled to Weed as I grabbed my helmet and ran to the KZ.
He just stared as I fired up the bike and literally burned rubber as I pulled from his driveway.
I made it home in no time, but even as I pulled up I knew I was way too late. The house was pitch black, which I should have expected. Mom had to work and Shawna would have been completely pissed at me, and rightfully so. I don’t know how I let it slip my mind so completely. I’m sure the thought of my next assignment had something to do with it but I couldn’t use that as an excuse with her.
Making my way into the house, I flipped on the kitchen light and saw a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the table, but no note. Part of me would have prefered if mom or Shawna had left a little note telling me how upset or disappointed they were with me. Not having one just seemed to make it worse. I thought about tossing the plate in the microwave but I didn’t have the appetite and instead headed towards my room. Crawling under the car for several hours had taken its toll on me and I was sure I’d be able to sleep like a baby once I climbed into bed. I contemplated waiting to shower until the morning. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the hallway mirror on my way upstairs. Bits of rust and dirt were scattered throughout my hair, and there was enough grease on my face to lube an entire chassis, so shower it was. Only as I reached my room, I knew the shower would have to wait.
“I’m sorry,” I said to Shawna. She was sitting on my bed, not ten feet away but she didn’t even turn to face me. Instead, she just kept staring forward as she spoke.
“Your mom left you a plate on the table.”
“Yeah, I saw it. Was she pissed?”
“We had a nice time talking, catching up while we waited for you to show up. Eventually she had to head to work.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I don’t know how…”
“I wanted to come over, to know that things were still okay between us. I think I got my answer.”
“That’s not fair. I’m not the one who changed things between us.”
She finally looked at me, and that look said it all.
“Staying here to talk to you was a mistake,” she said, pushing past me.
“Wait,” I said, instinctively grabbing her arm as she pushed past me.
“Don’t touch me,” she yelled as she pulled her arm away. That’s when I saw the bruises.
“What are those?”
“Nothing,” she said, moving to the staircase.
“Did Matt do that to you?”
She just kept going. And I just kept standing there like an idiot, unsure what to do. Unsure what she wanted me to do. I was angry at myself for forgetting dinner, at her for blaming me for the way things were between us, and at Matt, for whatever he did to her. I wanted to do something to convince her she was wrong about me and wrong about Matt but I was sure going after her would only make things worse. The sound of the front door closing brought me back around and I remembered how filthy and tired I really was.
Letting my exhaustion win out over my anger, I stripped off my grime covered clothes and hopped into the shower. The hot water did nothing to keep me awake either, so as soon as I towelled off I was ready to fall into bed but as I stepped from the bathroom and saw the television glowing I knew that wasn’t going to happen right away.
“Come on, not tonight,” I said before I even made my way around to the front of the set.
“You can do it whenever you like,” Lucifer’s voice boomed from the TV.
“I’m exhausted and I’d never make it to wherever I need to go.”
“It’s probably best that you wait until tomorrow anyway, seeing how you’ll both be at school all day.”
My exhaustion faded a little as my interest piqued.
“You want me to get rid of someone at school?”
“Again, you can do it wherever and however you like,” he said, and I could hear the grin on his face even if I couldn’t see it.
A hundred possibilities rushed through my mind but I couldn’t even venture a guess who it might be. The soccer coach who only seemed to like his star players and detested any other students? The assistant principal who seemed to enjoy finding any reason to punish anyone? Or maybe even the lunch ladies who looked like they’d rather be serving prisoners in the state pen? It could have been any of them.
“So who is it this time?” I asked, before immediately knowing I’d regret it. But I couldn’t not know, so I braced myself as I moved around the television. The face that appeared on the screen was probably the last one I would have expected.
“Mrs. Reader?” I asked. “There’s no way.”
“I told you I’d only assign you the killers, rapists and child molesters so you know how it goes, you touch her and you’ll see exactly what she’s guilty of.”
Lucifer’s voice coming from the Special Ed teacher’s face was one of the most disturbing things I could have imagined.
“ You send her on and you’re one step closer to being done. Or if you’d prefer we can just forget about the deal. I’ll even let you say goodbye to your mom…”
“Enough. You’ve made your point.”
“Good. So our deal stands.”
“Yeah, but I just…I just can’t believe she’s done something to deserve that. I almost don’t want to know what she’s done.”
“Well tomorrow you will and you’ll send her on just like the others.”
The screen went black and I was left in darkness, with only a sliver of moonlight peeking through the window to see by. I thought about turning on a lamp but I made my way to the bed without it, even though I knew I was no longer ready to sleep. For some reason staying in the darkness felt a little better as I laid there with a thousand thoughts running through my head. What could she have done to deserve to die? And if it was really that bad, how was I going to send her on? Could I make it easy on her? Did she deserve something worse? But even if she had done something that bad, could I really do that to her? It had been hard enough to take care of Sowers, even though he was trying to kill me.
I really didn’t know Mrs. Reader personally but everyone at the school, hell, everyone in town and possibly in the state, knew everything she’d done for the kids she was in charge of. She was almost like a local hero, and I was going to have to put an end to everything she had done. The thoughts of her and what I was going to have to do kept running through my head until thoughts of Shawna took over, causing another round of restlessness. Eventually my mind gave in to my body, letting me sleep a little though it was anything but peaceful.
When morning came around I was no better off than I’d been the day before. I thought about asking Weed for some more of his energy potion but decided the chance of death wasn’t worth it. Worst case, I might have to use a couple classes to catch up on my sleep.
Two cups of instant coffee gave me enough energy to leave the house but I took my time getting to school. I don’t know who I was avoiding more, Weed, Shawna or Mrs. Reader. All I knew was that I was in no hurry to stop riding and by the time I pulled into the last available parking spot the final bell had already sounded.
Mr. Baker, the American History teacher, was writing a bunch of useless facts on the whiteboard and had his back to class as I entered the room and slipped into my seat. Somehow luck was on my side, or so I thought, until he started talking to me without even turning around.
“Nice of you to join my class Mr. Holden,” he said. “Maybe next time you can try to do so before the bell rings.”
Several comments jumped to mind but I bit my tongue, pretty sure pissing him off wouldn’t make me feel any better. Instead I nodded silently.
“No excuse or at least a snide remark?” He said, finishing his writing and finally turning to face me.
“No sir,” I replied, though I could feel my face starting to turn red.
“I was hoping for something good; maybe “I was abducted by aliens” or at least “I had a flat tire”, but nothing?”
I don’t know why, maybe it was the lack of sleep, or everything with Shawna, or even the whole Grim Reaper thing, but I just wasn’t in the mood to put up with some teacher who thought his class was the only thing that mattered. Grabbing my bookbag, I stood up and threw it over my shoulder, then turned and headed to the door.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mr Baker asked as I turned the handle.
“This,” I said, flipping him the bird as I walked out of his class.
I heard him start to yell something but the laughter of the entire class drowned out whatever he was saying as I kept walking. I made it back out to the parking lot and even managed to get my helmet on without seeing another person but just as I kicked the KZ to life I saw the assistant principal rush out the doors. He was too late though, only reaching the bottom of the concrete stairs as I took off. I didn’t know where I was going, or even why, I just knew that I wanted to go, so I did.