Disclaimer: This story contains sexual content of a homosexual nature between consenting teenagers. It is intended for mature audiences only. If you are under legal age, offended, or otherwise do not wish to view material of a frank and sexual nature do not read this story.

Author's Note: This is a work of fiction.  Many characters were inspired by real people.  I would gladly appreciate any feedback.  This includes constructive criticisms.  Please send to ube_licker@hotmail.com


Chapter 8 -- Murder in Paradise

Timmy Montega stood in front of the student council room. We waited patiently. After a few more whisperings with Celly, he was ready to address the representatives of the school. Sophie McKinnon stood by the corner of the room. Her face registered nervousness. The Gold members were getting restless. Timmy positioned himself in front of the podium.

"Good afternoon everyone. Let me make this brief. Kyle never committed suicide."

The whole room grew loud with whispering. Lucky snapped.

"Timmy. Get out. Get the fuck out."

Timmy didn't move.

"No. Not until you hear me out. Kyle didn't commit suicide because he was murdered. But that's not all."

The whispering grew louder. Lucky was quiet. He raised his hand to silence everyone.

"The woman standing in that corner there. She is not who she says she is. Miss Sophie McKinnon is not a social worker. She's an undercover cop. She was sent here to investigate Kyle's death... because one of us killed him..."

Yesterday

The game was going to start in an hour and I didn't want to be late. I sat in a small room with two bookshelves adjacent to each other, a window on one side and the exit on the other. There were two chairs in the middle of the room and they were facing each other. I sat on one of the chairs. Sophie wanted to talk to me before the game started. But she wasn't in the room. I was impatient because it was the first game of the year. I didn't want to screw up. Maybe I could meet up with Sophie another time. I heard the door creek open.

"Good afternoon Ethan. How are you feeling?" she asked as she closed the door behind her.

Sophie's short curly hair rested softly behind her.

"I'm just nervous about the game coming up."

She sat on the other chair facing me, crossing her legs.

"Don't worry. This won't take too long."

I looked at her and I wanted to trust her. But every fiber in my body knew exactly who she was. She was Lee's stalker. What was her motive in coming to Hawaii? And why this school?

"Why are you here Sophie? Not just in Oahu, but in this school specifically. Are you still after my brother?"

She put her hands by her lap.

"You know, I deserve a little bit of sympathy for the sins of my sordid past. I wanted to move as far away from home as I could. And when I found out that they needed a social worker at a school like this, I jumped at the opportunity."

I was still suspicious. I wanted to give her another chance. But there was so much doubt.

"I know what I did to your brother was wrong. And I do want to make it up to him, but you both have got to grow up and realize that I'm not the same person that I was. I was just a kid back then who didn't know jack about love or feelings. But I've changed Ethan. I'm here to help."

I nodded.

"So what is it that you wanted to see me about?"

"Kyle Pennington. Did you know him?"

I shook my head.

"Not really. I think we met once through Eric. Kyle was one of his Brown member friends."

She pulled out a pen and began to play with it.

"Can you explain to me about this student government color system?"

I scratched my neck.

"I really don't know much about it except that there are two different colors, Gold and Brown. The Gold members are the administrative hand of the student council while the Brown members are the `hands on' guys. They do all the leg work."

Sophie glanced at her watch.

"So there are three types of people in this school, Gold members, Brown members and No members. Where does that put you?"

I crossed my arms.

"I don't see it that way. I guess you can label the Gold and Brown as popularity statuses but there are other groups of people here. Like the athletes and the..."

"You didn't answer my question."

I was starting to get irritated. Coach Decker wanted us to meet up early to do some drills before the game started.

"I guess I'm not really part of their group because I don't have a label. I just hang out with them a lot. That's it."

She nodded.

"How do you feel about Kyle's death?"

I paused.

"I don't know Sophie. After my parents died I didn't think I would deal with the whole `death' thing again. I really didn't know Kyle. But I know that his death hurt a lot of people. And they're the people that I'm starting to care about."

"You mean like Damien?"

I raised my eyebrows.

"Yeah. And my other friends too."

She sighed.

"What is your relationship to Damien?"

I was getting annoyed.

"What does this have to do with anything? We're just friends."

She ran her fingers through the curls of her hair.

"That's not what I've heard. I've heard that Damien has been aggressively flirting with you and that you went to his place last night."

"Listen Sophie. I don't know what this has to do with anything, but Damien and I are just friends for now. I don't what we might become in the future but for now we're just friends."

She finally nodded.

"Did you know that Damien and Kyle used to date?"

I paused. Damien had told me that Kyle was his only plutonic friend.

"No."

"Mind you, I haven't interviewed Damien yet. But I've asked the others if Kyle ever dated anyone, and they've all said that Damien had last year."

He lied to me.

"I guess he did date Kyle then."

She waited for me to say more. But I didn't.

"So how do you feel about that?"

"Fine. People keep things to themselves all the time."

I cast my eyes down.

"Do you think Kyle knew about Damien's advances on you?"

"Damien only flirted with me once before the trip. So I wouldn't know."

She nodded.

"Ok. Well I think that's all we needed to talk about."

I grabbed my tattered bag from the floor.

"I'm sorry Ethan. You're like your brother, so I know that you're a good person. I didn't mean for this to come out, but I do need to work with students who were affected by Kyle's death. Prevention is very important."

I nodded. I didn't feel like talking anymore.

"I'm here for you whenever you need me. Its kind of what I'm paid for."

Coach Decker wasn't a patient man. By the time I got to the gym, I had already missed a major portion of preparation. The team was ready to take the bus to our first game, along with many of our supporters. The other schools were supportive of what Montega Academy aspired to do. It was through competitive sports that we were given the challenge to communicate with everyone else. We weren't expecting flags of peace and unity. What we wanted was acceptance, or at least tolerance. Maybe that's why I was surprised by the normalcy of our first basketball game. When the ball dropped I was ready. My hands were on my knees. My eyes were focused. Get the ball. Boo raced down the court. His baggy shorts swayed with his quick movement. I followed with the intense feeling of pressure. Follow the ball. There was never enough time in a game. I jumped. Grabbed. Dribbled. Passed. Scored.

The earth trembled with the sound of our rushing feet. Boo, our Vietnamese captain of the basketball team was having a discussion with Coach Decker while he was on bench. They were planning a defensive. We were losing. Not by much, but when the pressure lays thick, a single point could mean everything. There was a time in my life when I thought that basketball could get me through anything. It pushed me to my limits and showed me that life was more than just a passing glance. It was a rush of emotion, concentration, joy, disappointment and success. Even if you lost a game, you've gained something that you feel you would never forget. You've gained a glimpse of your ultimate potential in the few seconds when the ball is in your hand. Maybe I've gotten older or maybe I've been corrupted, but I don't think like that anymore. A game is now just a game. And the game just feels good. It makes me feel good for a little while. I try to pretend that I could feel that way forever. There are moments in your life where events take a bite out of you. It puts you down. And you have to fight harder to stand up again.

I remember when I was younger and Lee was first teaching me about sports. I didn't think I could handle football, but I liked basketball. My older brother told me never to let the commercialized version of sports influence my attitude about a game. `Remember to have fun Ettie. That's what a lot of grown ups forget.' When I grew older I started to forget those things he taught me. I stopped having fun. Sports became my distraction from reality. It took me a long time to reflect on everything that's happened in my life. I realized a little while ago that I had to let it all go. Just let go Ethan. My mom would have loved to see me in my high school jersey. I often picture her on the bleachers with a flag, screaming at the top of her lungs. And getting into a fight with some other mother on whose kid was better. I pictured myself getting embarrassed and apologizing for her behavior.

"Ethan. Snap out of it and take center."

I nodded. There wasn't that much time left in the game. I assumed my position. I waited. My eyes were on the ball. The millisecond it was in the air I jumped as high as I could and tapped it to one of my team members. Boo and I made a desperate dash to the other side of the court, leaving ourselves open. Time was running out. We needed to make a win now or we might as well forfeit the game. Suddenly Boo made a surprising sprint back to our teammate circled around him and got the ball. He dribbled and attempted to make a shot at the net. Blocked. The ball bounced to the ground. I leapt. The second it was in my hand, my reflexes automatically aimed at its target. The crowd cheered. We won.

Coach Decker ran and the man gave me a hug, "Victory party!"

Boo wrapped his arm around my shoulder, "I knew I could count on you."

We all congratulated each other. The coach instructed us to do the traditional shaking of hands with the opposing team. As we shook each and every one of their hands, I got the feeling of respect and comradery, which I thought would have been rare. The last player of that team held my hand for a longer time. His sinewy arms were long and his hands were big. He tried looking me in the eye.

"Great game man."

I smiled.

"You too."

He paused. He was still holding my hand.

"My name's Travis by the way."

"Hi. I'm Ethan."

I looked at our hands.

"Oh. Sorry Ethan. I'm new at this."

He started to sound nervous. His green eyes looked around.

"New at what?"

"Picking up guys."

My cheeks turned red. He put his hands away.

"I'm not being too forward am I?" he asked.

"No. It's just that..."

"Not everyone who doesn't go to your school is hetero you know."

I looked around. Our two basketball teams were watching us. The crowd had already begun to disperse.

"I know that. I'm just not used to this kind of attention."

"I'm sure. So anyway, are you seeing anyone?"

He stepped closer.

"I really don't know. There's this guy at school but..."

He moved his head so his green eyes could stare into my blue ones. There was a strand of sandy hair that fell over his eye.

"But you don't know for sure. So that still makes you available. Give me your number and I'll give that guy some healthy competition."

I laughed.

"Is it ok if we can just be friends?"

He snorted.

"If I can't convince with my charming personality, sure why not."

I smiled. He gave me a pen. I wrote my number on his palm. He turned to his friends and school, and it was like they had just won the game.

Boo was laughing hysterically at the incident. We were on the bus back home and he still couldn't stop talking about it.

"I can't believe that some cute guy just randomly asked you out. And this was outside of our school. I shouldn't be surprised though, but still. Damn."

I chuckled.

"It's not like I agreed to go out with him."

He put his hand on my shoulder.

"No. But I wonder what Damien's going to say when he finds out that you have another guy wrapped around your little finger."

I wasn't even sure what Damien wanted from me. I didn't think he'd even care. He's slept with so many guys. I was probably just another number that he wanted written on his wall. I remember when my mother would tell me about how she met my father. She told me that he was a lady's man and that he had dated a whole herd of women before he met my mom. My mom told me that she was nothing compared to the girls my dad dated. But my father fell for her. He loved her more than anything. She didn't see what he saw in her. My mother was special, and she didn't even know it.

The smell of sweat filled the air of the bus as we traveled towards our school. The orange sun rested against the purple sky. The palm trees swayed with the gentle island breeze. It had occurred to me that there hadn't been any rain in Hawaii since I first arrived. My boss had told me that it was bad omen when the weather wasn't balanced. `A dark and angry storm was waiting. And when it comes, it will bring trouble.' She seemed ominous about it. All I asking was for some Windex.

The basketball team of Montega Academy was loud with cheer and laughter. Boo had explained that the school wasn't big on winning sports competitions. I asked if the problem was about lack of athletes. It wasn't. There were many athletes in Montega. Boo was also angry about the stereotype of gay boys being too feminine for `manly' sports. The truth was that many students in the school were afraid of being openly criticized for being a homosexual athlete. There was a fear of humiliation and degradation for the first few years since the school opened. It took time for the fear to settle and for pride to take it's place.

"A person's sexuality doesn't define them. It's just merely a part of them."

Mr. Buchanan had said that during one of his long lectures. It doesn't define me. It wasn't the first time I heard it. My mother shared the same ideals. It's only a part of me. I sat against the seat of the bus, staring out through the window at the little houses on the mountain surrounded by the tropics. I wondered if anyone would care about me in that way. I wondered if a guy out there could finally see me. He wouldn't see a blond kid with curious blue eyes, with small wrists and small ankles. He would see someone worth holding.

The bus had stopped in front of the school. We got our gear together. I had stitched the holes in my bag earlier that morning. Why don't you buy a new one, Ethan? It's because someone else needs my money.

We all should have known. Boo had secretly organized a surprise party for our first game. Coach Decker told us to go through the gym to reach the change rooms because the school employees were cleaning fixing the other entrance. He was lying. Balloons and confetti rained on us when we entered the gymnasium. Most of the student population was crammed into the gym as disco lights and music rampaged our entrance.

"Montega rules!"

Lucky, the student president and leader of the Gold members stood on top of a table. He had a microphone on one hand and a lighter on the other.

"Congratulations guys. Boo called me on my cell phone the minute you guys won. Not that I didn't expect it, but it does give us reason to party much harder. The festivities will begin right after the football team returns from their own game. And yes, they too won their game. Congratulations to the boys of Montega!"

The music died down. The lights faded. Groups of boys dressed in different brands of the most expensive clothing began to go back to their places. Each of them had their own story, hopes and fears. They came in different shapes and sizes. Some had long hair, others had short. Some of them were large and suffered from obesity. Others were average in the way they looked, but dressed in high-class fashion. Then there was the awkward group of boys, the misfits who didn't seem like they belonged. There were the few trendsetters that always looked their best. And there were the even fewer boys who were the elite in both popularity and looks, who often overshadowed everyone else. I wondered why they all chose this school. Was this a haven for them? I started to wonder if segregating from the rest of society actually benefited us. Or did it increase the gap between them and us. We moved to the back of the gymnasium. I saw someone familiar from the corner of my eye.

"Snowy!" I called out.

He nervously turned around. He didn't like big crowds. He smiled when he saw me.

"I heard about the game. Congratulations."

He shook my hand. I laughed and then I hugged him.

The football team received the same kind of greeting when the entered through the doors of the gym. They too had one their game. Damien sat like a king on the shoulders of two of his teammates. He wore his football jacket with pride. For the rest of the afternoon I hanged with Snowy while the rest of the student body celebrated our success.

"So how was the movie you watched with Pierre and the others?" I asked.

Snowy stared at his cup.

"Not as good as I thought it would be. Eric's friends are a bunch of jerks anyway."

"Why what happened?"

"Nothing new. They still were able to somehow treat me like crap. I don't even know why I bother."

I nodded.

"At least you tried to be friendly. If they still can't accept that, then maybe they're not worth being your friends anyway."

He smiled.

"I guess."

We talked by the bleachers. I was eating a piece of cake that the chef had baked especially for today. I tried to get Damien's attention but he seemed occupied with his cheering fans. There was homework that I had to get started working on before I head over to bed. The mass of bodies made the air thick, and I needed to go to the restroom. I excused myself and headed out the gym. The atmosphere outside the gym was much lighter. Sweating. I needed to empty my bladder.

I washed my hands carefully. Warm water rushed through the soap from the tip of my fingers to the edge of wrists. My blue eyes stared at me through the mirror. I looked tired.

"Admiring your pretty face?"

I looked at the reflection of Damien behind me. He always seemed a lot bigger with his football jacket on.

"Just realizing how tired I am."

"Yeah. Me too."

I heard a flick and the lights went off. I was about to say something when I felt his large body mass near me.

"You still smell good," he whispered.

His large hand grabbed my waist.

"Did you and Kyle ever date?"

His hand slid up through my shirt, feeling the heat of my skin.

"No. We were just friends. I know what you're going to say. Maybe someone told you that we did, so I'll be honest with you. Kyle always wanted to be friends with the popular kids in school, and I owed him so much so I told everyone that we were going out. The school talked about it and he got what he wanted."

I nodded in the darkness.

"Thanks. Sorry I asked I know how much he meant to you."

"It's ok. Lighten up. We just both won our games."

I smiled. We spent sometime in the dark together. We just talked, while he rubbed my chest. I told him about work and gave him a brief history lesson on Lee and his relationship to Sophie. In return, Damien told me a little bit more about the island. Like the other islands, islets and shoals that make up the 1,600-mile Hawaiian Island chain, Oahu is believed to be the product of a single "hot spot" in the earth's mantle. Over the course of millions of years, the earth's crust drifted to the northwest across this hot spot, giving rise to each island. The bulk of Oahu was created nearly four million years ago, by two now-extinct shield volcanoes the remains of which are today visible as the Ko'olau and Wai'anae mountain ranges, running parallel to each other along the length of the island's eastern and western coasts, respectively. As with the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, these mountain ranges separate the wetter windward shore from the drier leeward side, forcing rain clouds blown in off the ocean to leave their water on the east side of the island before gaining passage to the west.

When we got back to the party, I said my goodnights and told everyone that I had some homework to do before I went to bed. The dormitory smelled of citrus when I got there. I realized that the school maintenance employees must have been cleaning the student rooms throughout the day. I took a shower and did my homework before I made a phone call.

"So did it feel good to win?" Lee asked.

"That sounds rhetorical. So I'd say, damn straight it feels good to win."

He laughed.

"I wish things here were that exciting. I've been doing paper work all day. I was just about to go to the gym before you called."

"I'm sure things there aren't that bad. Working out in the morning is the best way to go. How's Naomi and Alexis by the way?"

I placed my books in my tattered bag.

"I haven't seen her since Tuesday, but she sounded fine on the phone. Her folks are trying to find another place to live."

"That's cool. Anyways, I got to cut our conversation short. I need sleep."

"Alright Ettie, take care of yourself."

I hung up the phone. I eyes were heavy. My limbs were weak. I was tired. Sleepy.

After a few minutes I heard a loud thud. Voices were emanating from outside my bedroom door. One of the voices sounded like Pierre. The door was still partially open. I got up to close the door. The voices got louder and clear.

"Don't worry Bobby. You and Joe don't have to worry so much," I heard Pierre say.

"You don't understand. If my parents ever found out... they'd kill me."

Bobby's voice was shaky.

"No one else knows about this except for the Gold members. So you don't have to worry."

There was a bit of silence.

"Actually. Kyle knew about it."

"What?"

"Don't look at me like that Pierre. He was my roommate last year... and after what happened I just had to tell someone. I was freaked out about it."

Bobby DaCosta had always sounded tough. It was strange to hear him talk like this now.

"Who else knows about this?"

"No one Pierre. I swear. Kyle was the only who knew."

"No. I mean, who else knows that Kyle knew about this."

"I told Joe. The night before the trip..."

There was a pause.

"You told Joe? Did he get angry?"

"Yeah, he was pissed, like you wouldn't believe. I think he was afraid. At first I thought that he was scared about going to jail, which was kind of stupid. But I realized that he's more afraid of what his parents might say."

"When did you tell him?"

"The night before the trip."

"You mean, the night before Kyle died?"

There was a long stretch of silence.

Suddenly, "Did you hear something? I thought we were the only two in here."

I quickly rushed to the bed as quietly as I could.

My door opened. My eyes were closed.

"Shit. Ethan's here," Bobby squeaked.

"He's asleep. Probably really tired from the game."

"Let's hope he didn't hear anything."

I fell asleep right after they left. But I thought about the things they said hours after I woke up in the morning. What had happened to Bobby and Joe? My father always told me that all secrets had a way of creeping out.

I went to the gym early in the morning. Snowy was already jogging when I entered the weight room. I started off with the free weights. I then jogged with Snowy till he was tired. Damien was also there and he approached me.

"Do you want to be my partner for our project in Ethic's class?" he asked.

"Sure."

"Ok. Well there's a student council meeting today that I have to attend. Timmy apparently has something important to say. You can come to the meeting and then we'll leave from there."

"Sounds good."

"Ok. I'll meet up with you after your work out. Later. And you too Snowy."

Snowy and I did more laps before I decided to leave. When I got out of the change room, Damien was waiting for me in the hallway. On our way to the lecture room where the meeting was taking place, we talked about what we wanted to do for our project and presentation. We had to pick a philosopher and use their theories on present day political and social issues. We got to the lecture room and were greeted with all the Gold and Brown members. Max avoided eye contact. Pierre was in an aisle having a conversation with Joe and Bobby. Eric was in a circle of friends. I was surprised to see Sophie standing around. Lucky entered the door. He looked annoyed, but took his seat at the front. Timmy finally arrived with Celly by his side. There was something cynical about those two that I just couldn't place my finger on. Damien pulled my hand to sit down. Lucky raised a hand to silence everyone. The meeting was to begin.

Timmy Montega stood in front of the student council room. We waited patiently. After a few more whisperings with Celly, he was ready to address the representatives of the school. Sophie McKinnon stood by the corner of the room. Her face registered nervousness. The Gold members were getting restless. Timmy positioned himself in front of the podium.

"Good afternoon everyone. Let me make this brief. Kyle never committed suicide."

The whole room grew loud with whispering. Lucky snapped.

"Timmy. Get out. Get the fuck out."

Timmy didn't move.

"No. Not until you hear me out. Kyle didn't commit suicide because he was murdered. But that's not all."

The whispering grew louder. Lucky was quiet. He raised his hand to silence everyone.

"The woman standing in that corner there. She is not who she says she is. Miss Sophie McKinnon is not a social worker. She's an undercover cop. She was sent here to investigate Kyle's death... because one of us killed him..."

There was a look of horror on everyone's face. Sophie looked angry, her eyes focused on Timmy. Her cover was blown. Damien had a hand over his mouth. His eyes were bewildered. I wish I could make him feel better. But all I could think about was Bobby's conversation with Pierre the night before. Who killed Kyle Pennington?