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 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25
Weed didn’t say anything the rest of the ride home, and neither did I. We just listened to Def Leppard sing about heartbreak, which was a little too fitting. Maybe I freaked him out a little, I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I’d freaked myself out a lot. I wanted it to all be over because not knowing the identity of my next assignment was Hell, but I’m sure that was part of Lucifer’s game.
“Okay,” Weed said as we pulled into his driveway, “let’s think this through.”
“That really doesn’t sound like you.”
“I’m serious,” he replied, “it’s not like you really have many friends, so…”
“I really don’t want to do this.”
“I don;t want to think about this anymore. It’s all I ever think about…who’s next and what could they have possibly done. I was hoping tonight would help me get away from those thoughts, and it did for a while, but then it made it worse.”
“I’m sorry,” Weed said. I think that was the first time he had ever apologized. Even when he convinced me to sled down Black Bear Hill because he was sure I could stop before hitting the Miller’s electric fence, and he was wrong, all he did was laugh. I wasn’t sure I liked this new repentant Weed.
“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. “You had know way of knowing what would happen. I didn’t even know it would happen.
“Still, I shouldn’t have pressured you to go out.”
“Maybe you’re right about that, but I know how you can make it up to me.
“Let’s take the Monster Box upstairs and see if we can help me forget everything.”
“It’s a deal.”
Twenty minutes later we were comfortably numb up in Weed’s room watching Bio-Dome. It really was a terrible movie but we couldn’t stop from laughing through the whole thing. When it ended, we put in Airheads and continued laughing until I fell asleep with a perfect sense of peace. I don’t have a clue what time that was, but I know exactly what time I woke the next morning; 7:30 AM. I know this, because all six radio alarm clocks positioned around my head were flashing that exact time as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blasted from their speakers.
I jumped up, immediately slamming my head into the pots and pans Weed had tied from the ceiling directly above me.
“Seriously?” I asked, as I fell back onto the couch.
Weed was laughing his ass off from across the room.
“Now why’d you think it was me?”
He was trying hard to look innocent, but it wasn’t working.
“And that last song goes out to Nate, from his best friend Weed…” the Dj announced way too loudly from the radios. It really was a nice touch.
“7:30 on a Sunday morning?” I asked, as he tried to stop laughing. “I thought that would go against everything you stood for.”
“After everything you’ve done to me? I owed you, big time. And sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good.”
“Pranking me is part of the greater good?”
“Well yeah, a little bit, but that’s not what I’m talking about.”
I just stared at him.
“I figured if we got up at a decent time, today will be the day we finish Pamela,” he explained.
It suddenly made sense. The only thing that could get him out of bed that early on a Sunday was a car…or a hot cheerleader. But since I made us bail on the girls I had a feeling it would be a little while before he had a chance with a cheerleader again.
“You want me to make you some of my special juice?”
“No…I don’t think I’ll ever want that again. I just need a little regular kick in the pants. You got any Jolt?”
“Of course,” he replied, pulling one from the case under his bed.
I definitely preferred it cold, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I chugged the can as we made our way down the stairs and out to the garage to finish my car.
We took our time, just enjoying ourselves, but by four that afternoon we had changed spark plugs, plug wires, air filter, serpentine belt, thermostat, and distributor cap. We jetted the carburetor, adjusted the timing and even changed the oil; basically we’d done a complete tune-up.
“You ready for this?” Weed asked as I slid into the driver’s seat.
“Oh yeah,” I replied, but then I hesitated. Working on Pamela had been a perfect distraction from all the other shit I had going on with Lucifer, and with Shawna. Without the car to work on, I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d cope.
“Well come on,” Weed said. “We need to get her out of her so we can start on the Weed Wagon.”
And there were the words I needed to hear. After Pamela we would work on the Weed Wagon. Then the KZ would need more power. Then Weed would need a bike, or another car, or an airplane. I really didn’t know what he would come up with after that, all I really knew was that as long as Weed was around, I’d have everything I needed to get by.
“So are you going to sit there playing with yourself or start her up?”
I barely turned the key and Pamela fired right up, purring like a kitten while I just sat there grinning; grinning at Weed doing his happy dance, grinning at the car running better than she ever had, grinning because one project was completed and my deal was just about to be done. From where I was sitting, life actually looked pretty good. I loved riding the KZ, but I could picture Shawna riding next to me in the car. I could see us at the drive-in, or taking a picnic lunch to the park, or even just laying out on the hood while we stared up at the stars
I shook my head, to clear Shawna from my thoughts, then hollered for Weed.
“Are you going to get your ass in here or am I going to take the test drive without you?”
He stopped mid-splits, with a look of panic and pain on his face. For a minute I thought I was going to have to help him get back up but he managed to fall backwards before jumping up to his feet again and rushing to the passenger side door. Two minutes later we were within sight of the city limit sign. I looked down the road as far as I could see, then checked the rearview mirror; there wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen. I looked over at Weed, then floored it, throwing both of us back against the seets.
The speedometer just kept rising for almost half a mile, and so did the smiles on our faces. Pamela had more acceleration and top end speed than ever, but at the same time, the new tires and suspension made her ride and handle like a brand new car. I kept the gas pedal pinned to the floor until I saw the glint of sun reflecting off another car coming the opposite way. Sheriffs and State Highway patrol liked to cruise the backroads near us occasionally, and I wasn’t ready to lose my license, especially not right after I got my car back, so I let her drop back down to the posted speed limit.
“See,” Weed said, “Better than new, just like I told you.”
“You’re right,” I replied, without turning to look at him. “Thanks for that, and you know, for everything.”
“You don’t need to thank me. That’s just what friends do.”
After that, we just sat in silence, cruising the backroads until the sun started to set. I could have just kept driving all night but I didn’t want to give mom any reason to worry, so I headed back much sooner than I would have liked.
“It’s really nice having things back to normal,” Weed said as we pulled into his driveway.
“Almost,” I replied.
“You’re in the home stretch, though.”
“That’s if I can bring myself to do the last one.”
“We know it’s not me, and there’s no way Shawna has done anything remotely bad in her whole life, so it can’t be anyone really important, now, can it?”
I almost laughed at that.
“I mean sure, it would suck to have to off some hottie you just hooked up with, but I’m sure there will be others.”
That time I had to laugh, but then I remembered the box in the garage. I didn’t want to bring down our good time, but having told Weed everything else I figured I couldn’t stop now.
“There is another possibility,” I said.
“You couldn’t get lucky enough for it to be vice-principal Miller.”
“What I wouldn’t give for it to be him.”
“So if not him, then who?”
So that’s when I told him about the box and the restraining order. I felt a little bad, sharing mom’s secret, but I needed Weed to understand my thought process.
“Okay, he said, “so your dad apparently had some issues but you’ve never known the guy right? So it would almost be your easiest one. To you he’d just be another bad guy.”
“So do you think you could off your dad?”
Weed was in the same boat as me. He’d never known his dad either. We had talked about it a couple of times as kids, joked about which celebrity might be our father, but it had been years since either of us had even mentioned the men who didn’t want anything to do with us. I almost felt bad for asking him. But he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“In a heartbeat,” he said without blinking.
“Yeah. He never did anything for me, so I’d see it as his way of making amends, even if he didn’t have a choice.”
“I’m still not so sure I would be able to, but that’s not what I’m most worried about.”
“Maybe I’m just a little jaded from seeing what these other people have done, but, I mean, even Ms. Reader offed her husband…”
“You mean…your mom?
“I’m just saying that if my dad did something horrible enough for my mom to get a restraining order, if he was that bad of a person, and she feared for her life, what would she have done if the restraining order didn’t work?”
“No….” he said. “There’s no way.”
“Finkenbine said Lucifer likes to play these games and make the last one the hardest. And you said it yourself, I’m really not close to very many people. Even Finkenbine suggested it might be a possibility”
“But your mom? I mean, Finkenbine never even met her, so he’d have no way of knowing…and there’s no way Lucifer would do that to you…I mean, he wouldn’t…would he?
“I really don’t know.”
He just stood there for a second until the shocked look was replaced with a matter-of-fact look.
“There’s one way to find out,” he said.
“Wait for him to tell me who it is?”
“Okay, I guess that’s one way, but I was going to say you could just ask your mom what happened to your dad.”
“I don’t know…”
“Or like you said, you could just wait around, wondering but not actually knowing.”
He was right, but I wasn’t sure I could actually ask my mom about my dad.
“Speaking of my mom,” I said, “I really should head home.”
“Is that your way of kicking me out of your car after all the work I put into helping you fix her?”
“You’re such an ass.”
“But you love me anyways.”
“I just can’t say no to your pretty face.”
“Okay now you’re just getting creepy,” I said, shoving him out the half open door.
“See you in the AM,” he replied with a laugh and a wave.
The short drive home didn’t give me a chance to clear my head, or make a decision about talking to mom. I figured I was going to play it by ear once I got inside, I just wasn’t expecting her to step out the back door as soon as I pulled into the driveway. My first thought was “what did I do wrong now?”
“You got her done?” She said with a smile, before I’d even shut off the ignition.
“Yeah, and she’s running better than ever.”
“Well I’m glad to hear it, but you can’t park there.”
I just stared for a second, not quite sure how to respond.
“I guess I could park out front.”
“Or you could just pull in there,” she said, raising the second garage door.
The grin on my face was only matched by the grin on hers.
“You did such a great job on the garage, that I figured I could do a little more so you could fit her inside.”
The whole place looked great, so I knew mom must have spent hours out there, but it looked even better with Pamela parked in it.
“Thanks mom,” I said, as we walked inside the house, but I really couldn’t thank her enough. I also knew I couldn’t bring up the subject of my dad or the restraining order.