Whew — this one took awhile. It was mostly because I spent 90% of all my time making some sort of tool to write my story easier, something like a plain–text to HTML converter. But hey, it’s finally here, and I hope you will like this chapter.
This page works correctly and looks good on all browsers. However, due to the differences in font rendering engines, Macs (and Safari on Windows) will inevitably look prettier. I truly can’t help it. Comments and criticisms desired at:
Enjoy the 4th chapter of this series.
I felt his nose crumpling in as my fist disappeared into his face. He howled and held his nose for a moment before coming after me with a hard blow on my stomach. I would have dodged it, but I was bruised in so many places I could barely move.
I felt my back hit the steel lockers behind me before doubling over from the pain. But I refused to let him have the last punch, so I straightened up threw my fist at his face again, trying my best to ignore the pain. I felt it connect and this time he stumbled back and fell on his side.
“Gary!” yelled a woman as she pushed her way between the crowd.
I looked around me and noticed that students have gathered around us to spectate our fight. How classy. Instead of pulling us apart they rather see us kill each other. That’s Green High for you.
Principal Reynolds finally pushed her way past the crowd and glared at us. “Gary, Jared, in my office, now.” You can tell from the tone of her voice she was one step away from expelling us. Funny that the crowd who had nothing to do with the fight seemed to be more affected by it than I was.
“All I did was bump into him, I swear,” said Jared as soon as we entered Principal Reynolds’ office.
“Is that true, Gary?” she asked as she handed Jared a box of tissue. “Use the napkin.” Maybe I had hit him too hard — his nose was bleeding pretty badly.
It was only when I couldn’t find the answer to her question I realised that even I wasn’t sure why we fought. It was almost as if I had been on auto–pilot. Yes, I did remember Jared bumping into me. But I wasn’t sure why I shoved him into the lockers.
“Gary, don’t you have anything to say anything in your defence?” the principal raised her eyebrows.
“He intentionally bumped into me,” I said the first thing I could think of. Jared was one of the bullies in my school, maybe he was trying to make me his next victim. Maybe that was why I reacted the way I did.
“It was an accident, I swear,” he insisted. “I even tried to apologise to him before he went nuts on me!”
“How did you know he intentionally bumped into you?” she asked.
I hesitated a little. “I’m not sure,” I said finally. Did I really go nuts on him on a simple bump?
She stared at me for a moment before dismissing us. “Jared, get yourself to the infirmary before you bleed yourself to death. Gary, you stay here.”
Jared nodded and quickly left the office. I guess he was glad he wasn’t going to get into trouble for this. I suddenly found myself wondering how would Sam react when he finds out I was being expelled. He was going to be so disappointed in me, I painfully thought.
“So, why did you really do that?” she asked after Jared had left.
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
She leaned back on her chair and stared curiously at me. “Are you seeing anyone for the incident?”
“Like a shrink?”
“My brother set me up with one. I’m seeing him right after school.”
She nodded in approval. “That’s good. I want you to tell your therapist about what happened today,” she said as she stood up. “Well then, make sure you stop by at the infirmary before heading to your classes.”
I looked up at her. “I’m not going to get into trouble for this?”
“I give everyone exactly one chance, Gary,” she said seriously. “Mess up this one up, you will get into trouble.” Then she dismissed me from her office.
I wasn’t planning on going to the infirmary as she had asked, but as I was getting my stuff from my locker, I suddenly yelped in pain and dropped my books. When I looked down, I noticed that my book covers had blood on it. It was then I realised that I must have ripped opened the wound on my right hand during the fight. Suddenly aware of the throbbing pain, I wondered how I could have not noticed it earlier until I smeared blood all over my books.
Cursing myself, I wiped my books with my good hand and dumped them back into my locker. Then, slowly and carefully, I unwrapped the bandage on my right hand to reveal an open cut in the middle of my palm. The wound had come from the tip of the ribcage that I had clutched too tightly before we turned it into a blade.
“You are going to get that treated, aren’t you?”
I jumped at the voice. “Julie, shit, don’t sneak up on me.”
She had a frown on her face. “What’s gotten into you? I’ve never seen you in a fight before.”
I shrugged. “Had a bad day. Can we talk later? I don’t like dripping blood all over school.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sure, see you at lunch break. Glad I didn’t have to carry you to the doctor.”
With that we separated. Julie, or Juliana, was a runner — like me — and she was damn good at it too. We don’t usually mix men and women’s running, but Julie and I practise together all the time. That was how good she was. I used to tease her that it had something to do with her African American genes, and she’d just beam and say ‘so you admit we’re superior’.
But she was right about one thing: I don’t remember ever getting into fights. I really did have a bad day though. Last night I asked my brother if he could use his legal connections to get the list of the victims’ names. When I told him it was because I wanted to figure out the reason why Pat and I were picked by those sick bastards, he flipped out and told me to leave that to the cops.
It had hurt a little that Sam didn’t understand my need to do this myself, but I went on anyway with the three names I already knew; Pat, Riley and me. Unfortunately, it didn’t get me beyond what I already knew — that the three of us were athletes or jocks from the same school, among the hundred other common things we share. I needed more names to narrow things down a little. It was frustrating because I had nothing to go with in finding those bastards. I owed this to Pat.
I wondered if Riley knew the name of the other guy he had seen before I was brought in.
When I arrived at the infirmary, the nurse looked at me disapprovingly. “You must be one who caved the other guy’s nose in.”
Instead of answering, I showed her the wound on my hand. She flinched when she saw it, and immediately ushered me in. Inside I was greeted by a very young woman in a doctor’s coat.
“Hi, I’m Helena,” she introduced herself almost shyly as she sat me down on the chair to inspect my wound.
I smiled. She was so Pat’s type, sweet and adorable. I wondered if she really was a doctor. She was so different from the other doctor we had, whom we had thought had control issues.
“You didn’t get this from the fight, did you?”
I shook my head. “No, I got this on Monday, while I was climbing some stupid fence,” I lied.
“That got to hurt. I’m surprised you can throw punches in this condition. It looks like it’s already cleaned, but we’ll do it again anyway and bandage your wound.”
“It’s okay, I had the bandage on before I came here. You only need to re–bandage it.”
“Who’s the doctor, you or me?” she said and smile. “What’s your name? The nurse needs to get your file.”
“Painter? Never heard of that one before, it’s pretty nice.”
“Thanks.” I hadn’t liked my name that much, but everyone else seemed to like it.
After a moment, the nurse tapped on the doctor’s shoulder. “Where are patient records again?” she asked.
The doctor tried to explain it to her, but sighed after a failed attempt. “It’s okay, I’ll get it,” she said as she handed the nurse the cotton and the bandage.
The nurse wasn’t too bad–looking herself. Pat would be so disappointed if he knew what he was missing, I smiled at that thought. He used to hate going to the infirmary so much. He was so terrified of needles I almost find it cute — I remembered the time he walked out of the infirmary with the colour drained from his face while clutching the inside of his elbow. It was like he had seen a ghost.
“The other doctor never had nurses,” I said as the nurse was dressing my wound.
“The one before Dr Helena? I guess some physicians don’t need us.”
I chuckled at that. “Trust me, he needed a nurse. If he had one, my friend would not end up so bitter towards doctors.”
The nurse only smiled as she finished dressing my wound. I made a mental note to not punch anyone again until my wound is fully healed. I doubt I can even hold a pen for awhile.
It was then the doctor came back and inspected the nurse’s dressing. “You’re ready to go,” she said approvingly. “Well, looks I’ll be seeing you often.”
“I don’t get into fights often,” I said defensively.
“I know — but says here in your file you get quite a bit of sports injuries.”
I relaxed a bit. “They were only minor injuries.”
“True. You never needed treatment for anything more than a sprained ankle. But if you don’t take care of yourself, one day you’ll need treatment for a fractured one.”
I rolled my eyes. She may be sweet and adorable, but she can also sometimes sound like a mother.
“If you want, you can rest here a bit. I’m walking out for a minute.”
“Thanks. I only need five minutes, then I’ll leave.”
She nodded and smiled sweetly before walking to the door. I could hear her shyly asking someone for the staff toilet as the door was closing. I smiled to myself. Definitely Pat’s type. She was just too adorable.
It was then I noticed a nagging feeling in the back of my head, as if something was amiss.
“What can you tell me about him?” I heard someone say in the background. Turning to the voice, I saw two men and a student just outside the entrance of the swimming pool.
“Patrick? He’s a great swimmer, but that’s all I know, why?” the student tentatively replied.
Were they talking about Pat? There was something about the whole scene making me nervous. I was actually on my way to lunch, but now I’m too curious to keep walking.
“Do you know who we could talk to about him?” asked one of the older men. It was then it hit me. They were police detectives.
“I’m not sure,” he put a hand on his chin. “Wait, there was one guy who was always around him.”
Then, as if my timing could not be any worse, the student turned and saw me. Shit. I quickly walked away from the three men and headed to the cafeteria. The police were looking for information on Pat — I wasn’t sure why I felt so nervous about it. I should be happy to help them with their investigation, especially if it meant making those bastards pay.
I took a deep breath to clear my thoughts before I entered the cafeteria. Julie spotted me from her table and gestured at an empty seat between her and Bass, one of my other closer friend. I smiled appreciatively as I walked to the counter to get my food. At least I didn’t have to sit alone and spend my lunch time thinking about Pat.
Shit. I realised I haven’t told them about Pat.
“Where have you been man,” asked Bass as he punched my shoulder after I set my tray down.
“My apartment had a bad leak on Monday — we spent the entire day saving our furniture,” I told them the lie I had used on the principal (or tried to).
“Well after getting the pipes fixed we can’t just leave the furniture outside, can we?”
“That’s true,” said Archie, an olive–skinned swimmer with shockingly green eyes. He was one of Pat’s closer swimming buddies. “So I heard you beat the shit out of Jared this morning.”
“You beat Jared up?” Bass looked at me, surprised. “He’s shitting me, isn’t he?”
If I could lie my way out of this one, I would. But half the school was witness to that fight. “He isn’t,” I admitted reluctantly. “I was just really tired and worn out this morning. He pissed me off a little when he bumped into me.”
Bass raised his eyebrow as if he didn’t believe a word I was saying. “I’ve known you for awhile man. You’re not that type.”
“That was exactly what I thought until I actually saw him throw the punch,” said Julie.
Bass stared at me questioningly.
“Hey, don’t judge me, you get into fights all the time,” I told him.
After Pat, Bass and Julie had been my closest friends. The three of us were in the track team, and Bass was also in the cycling team with me. The curly–haired guy may not be as good a runner as Julie and me, but he was a hell of a cyclist; possibly the best in our state.
“Where’s Pat?” Archie asked suddenly. “I wonder what he’ll say when he finds out what you did.”
I felt my insides twist a little.
“Yeah, I haven’t seen him since last week,” said Julie, and they all looked at me expectantly.
“Wait a minute, why do you all just assume I know where he is?”
“Because the two of you are stuck like glue,” the green–eyed swimmer said quite seriously. Were we really like that?
I hesitated a little. “Pat moved to Canada on Monday.”
“What?” “To Canada?” “Really?” all three of them said at once.
Archie didn’t look convinced. “His mum called me on Sunday,” he said. “She didn’t know where he was. What was that about?”
Damn, I had forgotten about that — of course Mrs Herrington would have called Archie. He was Pat’s second best friend. “Pat was upset at his mum about moving, so he stayed over and he didn’t want me to tell his mum.”
“And he just left to Canada without telling me?”
“He did try to call, but you were already in school. He told me to tell you that he tried though.”
“What a fucking asshole,” Archie muttered.
“So that’s the real reason why you hadn’t been in school the last two days,” my curly–haired friend looked at me and said.
“My apartment really did have a leak. Ask Sam.”
“So where in Canada did he move to?” Julie asked this time.
My mind was reeling with hurt, guilt and confusion all at once. I can’t believe I was lying to my friends like that. I didn’t know if I could take much more of this.
“Hey,” I suddenly heard a familiar voice. “Mind if we join?” It was Riley and his pretty blonde girlfriend at his side.
My friends were surprised; Julie turned to Riley and answered. “I’m not sure if it’s—”
“Sure, take a seat,” I quickly said, cutting her off.
Julie looked at me strangely. And she wasn’t the only one — Bass and Archie were looking at me questioningly as well. I knew why they did that — I was the one who was constantly bad–mouthing the quarterback in our group. But fortunately for me, my friends being as adaptable as they are, shuffled around so that Riley and Ruth can sit with us.
“I’m Riley, and this is Ruth, my girlfriend,” he introduced as they were sitting.
Archie assumed the responsibility of introducing our group to the pair. When he was done, Riley turned to my curly–haired friend. “Bass? Like the bass guitar?”
“Yeah,” he answered.
“It’s actually Basilius,” Julie offered cheekily.
“Shut up,” he coloured a little. Bass always had a problem with his name, which I could relate to. I mean, what parent in their right mind would name their son ‘Gerard’ in this day and age? After primary school I started introducing myself as ‘Gary’ instead.
“I think it’s a cool name. Is it European?” asked Ruth.
Bass smiled a little at that. “It’s Greek. My parents are from Athens.”
Riley laughed. “Well your name sure beats the hell out of the boring names the rest of us have.”
“Actually, she’s Juliana, he’s Gerard, and I’m Achmed,” said Archie. “We have no boring names in this table,” he grinned.
“So you really are from the middle east?” Ruth looked at the green–eyed swimmer and asked. The pretty blonde wasn’t asking in a rude way, fortunately for her.
“My grandparents lived in Palestine — but my parents and I are as American as you are.”
Riley laughed and looked at me. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think Gary discriminates against white people,” he told us and we all laughed.
“Well at least I have you and Ruth around today — I won’t have to feel like the minority,” I said.
“Tough luck, Gary. I’m actually half–Latino, half–Italian,” Riley grinned.
I cussed loudly at that and we all cracked in laughter. When no one was looking, I took the opportunity to smile appreciatively at the quarterback. I was glad we weren’t talking about Pat anymore, and I had him to thank for.
It was then I spotted the police detectives I had seen earlier, talking to one of the students in the other end of the cafeteria. I felt my heart beat faster and I tried to ignore them. But again, as if my timing couldn’t be worse, one of the detectives turned and caught me looking. I could see the recognition in his eyes, but to my relief and confusion, he only nodded at me and looked away.
“Don’t like the chicken, Gary?” I heard Juliana ask.
I looked down on my plate and realised that I had eaten the peas and the potatoes, but I hadn’t touched the chicken. “It wasn’t that good today,” I told her.
“Thanks for what you did earlier today,” I told Riley at the end of our last class — he was in my Chemistry lab.
“It’s no big deal. You looked like you needed saving back there, so I thought I’d save your ass for once.”
I smiled. “Did your football buddies mind that you’re not sitting with them?”
“Of course not. I told them Ruth wanted to sit with you guys,” he grinned cockily.
“And they bought that?” I said and laughed.
“Well, it is true. Ruth didn’t really like my football buddies, and she always loved foreign movies.”
“Foreign movies? Are you saying that she wanted to join our table because it’s multi–coloured?”
Riley laughed at that. “I somehow don’t think that’s how she’d put it, but pretty much.”
I suddenly found myself liking Ruth a little more. I guess she wasn’t one of those dumb blondes. I nodded approvingly. “She has great taste, because my friends are the best kind of people you’ll ever meet.”
“You’d be surprised at some of the other things she’s into. They called her the Math genius in her last school, and she knows more about computers than I do!”
I laughed at his enthusiasm. “I guess intelligence turns you on,” I said and grinned at him.
Our eyes met and Riley quickly turned away and swallowed. “You have no idea,” he muttered. I thought his face went a little red.
“Gerard Painter?” I heard a voice behind us.
I felt my chest tighten when I saw that it was one of the police detectives.
“We would like to have a word with you,” he said as he and his partner showed me their badges.
“Gary, they’re okay,” Riley assured me and squeezed my shoulder. “Officers,” he greeted them before walking away, leaving me alone with them.
“We apologise for coming to you like this, but we thought you’d prefer this than for us to approach you in the cafeteria.”
“My friends don’t know about me or Pat,” I quickly said.
The younger detective nodded. “We understand. We will not reveal your connection to the incident, but you have to understand we still have to talk to your friends about Patrick. It is likely they will figure out what happened to him.”
I flinched a little at that. “When?” I asked.
“Tomorrow at the cafeteria. But we won’t reveal your involvement, don’t worry.”
My friends are going to be pissed at me for lying to them about Pat. I wondered if I should skip lunch tomorrow.
“But right now, we hope you won’t mind answering a few questions about Patrick and yourself,” said the older detective.
I nodded. “I will do it, but I want something in return.”
The detectives were surprised when I said that. The younger detective was the first to recover. “What do you want?”
“Everything you have on all of the victims,” I said hopefully.
The detectives frowned. “We can’t give that to you — it’s privileged information,” said the older one to my disappointment. “ Why would you want such a thing?”
When I didn’t answer, the younger one asked curiously. “Are you doing what we’re doing?”
I hesitated a little before nodding. “I want to know why we were picked by those sick bastards.”
“You don’t believe that we’re able to figure this out on our own?” he asked with a little annoyance.
“It’s not that!” I snapped up and looked into his eyes. “I was the one who was caged in that basement and had to listen to his best friend scream to his death. I was the one who had to see what’s left of his best friend with his own two eyes after they were done with him,” I felt my hands trembling. “I earned the right to do whatever I bloody want to find those bastards!” I locked my gaze stubbornly on him as I fought back the moisture in my eyes.
The younger detective was silent for a moment as he looked at me with an expression I don’t recognise. Then he pulled out a notebook and a pen. “Look, I can’t give you anything that is privileged,” he scribbled something into the notebook. “But there is a list of names we want you to identify in a second, and if you want to write those names down, we can’t stop you.”
He ripped the page off the notebook and handed it to me. I reached out to take it, but before I could, he snatched it back again.
“This is my contact number. You have to promise me two things before you take this.”
I waited for him to continue.
“You will not give this number to anyone else. This is my private cellphone number.”
He waited for me to nod before he continued.
“Secondly, you will call me if you come across anything that could help us. In return, I will call you whenever there is an update on the case, and you can call me anytime you need information. As long as it isn’t privileged, you’ll know what I know.”
I thought for a moment, then I nodded. “It’s a deal.” The older detective looked like he disapproved what we were doing, but I was not about to let that stop us.
“I’m Eric,” he smiled as he let me take his phone number. “Weren’t you getting your notebook?”
“Oh, right,” I dug my bag for my notebook and pen. “I’m ready.”
“Sam, I’m home,” I yelled in between breaths as I opened the door. I had to hurry home on my bicycle so I wouldn’t be late for my shrink appointment.
When no one answered, I walked over to the kitchen and found a note on the refrigerator.
I’ve got some chores in the city. You’ll have to meet me at the therapist’s. Directions are on the reverse side. Don’t be late, and take the bike.
I flipped the note and looked at the directions. Damn, it’s further than I thought. I sighed at the prospect of jumping back on my bike before I even had the chance to catch my breath. At least the coach will be happy that I’m doing extra cycling.
After I left the apartment, I thought about the detectives today and the questions they were asking. They wanted to know how close Pat and I were, and the things that we would do together. I was pretty sure I was blushing furiously as my mind wandered to that morning Pat and I had sex. I didn’t say a word about that — I didn’t think it was relevant to the case — but I was pretty sure the detectives noticed my blushing. They didn’t push the topic, but I wondered if they knew.
From the questions they were asking, I figured the detectives were as clueless about the case as I was. They only asked very broad questions, and never anything specific. They asked about Riley as well. Then they showed me a list of names and a couple pictures and asked me if I recognised any of them, which I did for about a third of the photos. However, with the exception of Pat and Riley, I don’t actually know any of them in person.
Then my mind wandered to the young detective, Eric. I wondered why he had been so kind. He hadn’t needed to offer a deal like that. That deal benefited me a lot more than it did him.
When I finally arrived at the place in my brother’s directions, I locked my bike onto a pole and walked reluctantly into the building. I did promise Sam that I would do this after all. I told the receptionist my name, and she brought me to the front of the shrink’s room. She told me to knock and went back to her desk.
Just as I wondered where Sam was, I heard his voice behind the door.
“He’s become aggressive and paranoid, he hasn’t been sleeping well and he lies about it, and he’s officially vegetarian even though he hasn’t realise it yet.”
I flinched at what my brother said. He knew about my nightmares? Why the hell did he bother asking me if I slept well when he already knew the answer? And I’m not vegetarian, I thought angrily.
“Why would you say he’s aggressive or paranoid?” I heard another voice, which had to be my shrink’s voice.
“He got into a fight today over nothing and he nearly clubbed me two nights ago because he thought I was following him.”
I pushed the door open angrily and glared at my brother. “That’s because you couldn’t have been any more suspicious that night!”
“Ahh, you must be Gerard,” said a middle–aged man as he stood up.
“It’s Gary,” I scoffed as I kept my glare on Sam.
My brother only sighed as he stood up. “I guess I’ll leave now. I’ll be back in an hour, Ger.”
“Wait, I’m not finished—”
“Ger!” he admonished me suddenly. “We’ll talk later, okay?” He didn’t wait for my reply and shut the door behind him.
I was taken aback. It had been awhile since Sam used that tone on me. I suddenly wondered if Sam ever wished he never had a brother. His life would have been so much better if I never existed.
“Gary, I’m Dr Lars, but you can call me George.”
I reluctantly nodded at him and sat on one of the sofas in the room. At least the seats were comfortable.
“Don’t be mad at him. He wasn’t bad–mouthing you — he was only explaining the situation to me.”
“Then why did you react the way you did?”
“Because I don’t want Sam to worry.”
“Is that why you haven’t told him about your sleeping issues?”
I opened my mouth to snap at him, but I decided against it, closed my mouth and nodded instead.
“It’s already quite obvious that your brother knows you more than you think. He will always worry about you no matter what you say or do. It’s not something you can control.”
He only nodded at that. “Well then. In that case, we should begin. Is there anything in particular you want to talk about?”
I shook my head.
“Let’s talk about Patrick then.”
“What do you want to know about him?”
The shrink chuckled a little. “This isn’t an interrogation, Gary. You’re supposed to do most of the talking.”
I hesitated a little. “Pat is my best friend. I’ve known him since primary school.”
Then I saw the shrink scribbling something down on his notepad. Shit. I can’t believe I’m really doing this. He motioned for me to continue.
“Can you not do that?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“Write notes while I’m talking.”
He thought for a moment, then he set the pen down. “If you prefer.”
I smiled at him appreciatively and continued to tell him about my best friend.
“So how was it?” asked my brother as we were cycling home. The way home was a lot more relaxing because it was mostly downhill and breezy.
“It was okay. We talked about Pat, but that’s it.”
“So how about next Wednesday?”
I knew what he was asking. “I don’t think I need it, Sam. All we did was talk, and I can talk with anyone I want.” He wanted to schedule my next shrink appointment.
“I want you to,” Sam said in that tone he knew I rarely say no to.
“You’ve already tried that one on me, and I’ve already given in once.”
“I’ve paid—watch that car—I’ve paid him ten weeks in advanced, Ger.”
I pulled my bike onto the sidewalk to avoid some crazy jerk who was driving a little too close to us. “Why would you do that? You didn’t even ask me!” I raised my voice a little.
“I’m sorry that I’m not letting you opt out of therapy, Ger. So choose — Monday, Wednesday or Thursday.”
“Get a bloody refund!”
Just as I said that, I heard a loud snap underneath me and my bike pedal became weightless. I pulled over to the side to inspect the chain.
“Shit!” I cussed loudly. The damned chain snapped. No, it didn’t come loose. It fucking snapped. How the bloody hell did that happen?
“Don’t fret it, I’ll help you fix—”
“God—fucking—dammit!” I screamed as I lifted my bike and smashed it into the ground.
Nobody moved or said anything for awhile. Then I realised that my bike’s frame was twisted beyond repair. I felt my chest tighten. Sam got me that bike for my 14th birthday.
“Fuck,” I muttered as I cried silently.
“I’ll schedule your next appointment on Monday.”