If there's still interest, I'll post chapter 3 tomorrow. PS - While I self-edit, this hasn't been professionally edited. I really appreciate all the editors I've worked with. No matter how much I reread something, I usually find a mistake later. Be warned (g).
GOTH GIRL MYSTERY #2: REAPER
Jay slides down the rope he’s hooked to my balcony and offers to catch me if I fall. But I’m already climbing down, reminding him he’s not the only one with skills. He nods with what I think is respect.
“This way,” he whispers, gesturing for me to follow.
We cross through the backyard, staying close to bushes as we hurry away from the three-story ramshackle farm house my family recently moved into. Brittle leaves crackle on the road, shaken from skeletal autumn-dying trees, and a chilly breath of wind moans along the quiet country road. I love the eerie night in its cozy cloak of darkness. It’s no secret black is my favorite color, which some people think that’s a sign I’m into devil worship or other ridiculous assumptions, but black is the most interesting color; unable to reflect light, independent and mysterious; coloring the night when the world seems most alive.
And I’m feeling more alive than ever, aware of rough pavement beneath my feet, chilly air tingling my face and woodsy smell from burning fireplaces. We travel silently down a road dimly lit by orbs of street lights and a shine of moon through an overcast October sky. I stay close to Jay, my two steps matching each of his longer single strides.
When we reach a dark-brown sedan, more like something grandparents would drive than a car for a rich high school senior, Jay clicks a button on his key ring.
“Entrez s’il vous plait.” With a gentlemanly gesture, he opens the door for me.
As I duck inside the vehicle, his arm brushes my shoulder. Electricity sparks through my body. I glance sharply to read his expression, wondering if he’s jolted too, yet see not even a flicker of emotion. He climbs into the seat, clicking a seat belt and we’re off.
We drive west, away from the rural area of Nevada Bluff, toward brighter lights of the city. Questions slam my thoughts, about where we’re going and what will happen when we get there. Mostly, though, I wonder why Jay invited me tonight. Is it because he knows I can keep a secret and don’t scare easily? Or could it be something more personal? How does he really feel about me? But this is a question I can never ask.
Jay turns onto a street with rutted pavement, few working street lights, junk cars for lawn decorations and blocky single-story homes crowded close together.
I look around, curious. “Where are we going?”
“To catch a liar,” he says with a light smile but his dark eyes narrow.
“Anyone I know?” I ask.
I pause, testing the name through my memory, but I’m a newbie at NB High, only moving from California a few months ago. NB High is too conservative and cowboy for my gothtastic taste but it’s growing on me.
And so is Jay, I think, giving him a sideways look. No one ever discovered the Grin Reaper’s true identity until I ripped off his mask a few weeks ago. I’m up for revenge as long as Jay doesn’t play rough like when we first met and he shoved me and stole my backpack. Not exactly a “romantic” first meeting. Yet I smile at the memory now. Jay goes to extremes to right wrongs at school all for justice. It’s a coincidence his first name is Justice. Or maybe fate, as my psychic friend Sabine would say.
“..and then hide with the—Thorn! Are you listening?” Jay demands, glancing at me sharply.
“Not so much. I was thinking.”
“Good things about me?” he teases.
“You wish.” My tone is light but my cheeks burn. “So what did this Garth dude do to deserve a visit from the Grin Reaper?”
Jay grins—a sight his victims never see thought his trademark knitted mask that covers all but his black eyes. But he’s not wearing his mask now; half of his attention on driving, the other half on me. ”Did you hear about the honor student being expelled for having a knife in his locker?”
“Who hasn’t? Stupid move for someone who’s supposed to be smart. His future is screwed.”
“Screwed by Garth.”
“And you know this, how?” I arch my pierced brow.
“I never reveal my sources, but I have lots of friends who tell me things and know for a fact Garth did it. The honors kid—Newton Howell—was framed.”
Jay shrugs. “Don’t know. Garth is usually cool and a hell of a soccer player.”
“As if being good at soccer is a personality endorsement?”
“Clearly you’re not a soccer fan.”
“I’m not a fan of a jock on a power trip. Garth probably through it was a big laugh putting a knife in Newton’s locker, but in a zero tolerance school, possession of a weapon is serious.”
“Yeah,” Jay agrees, scowling. “I know Garth did it but I don’t know why. He used to be really tight with Newton—their parents are close friends. But now Garth only hangs out with his soccer pals.”
“And what about Newton?” I ask.
“He hangs with no one.”
“Sad,” I say softly, knowing what it’s like to feel alone.
Jay nods like he understands loneliness, too, although he’s never alone at school, strutting around like king of the campus with a group of followers nicknamed the Jay-Clones. But I’ve seen the other side of Jay; the do-gooder who tries to even the scales of justice because his father, a corrupt judge, is into payoffs and bribes.
The car slows into a left turn onto a street with a sign reading “dead end.” Jay parks the car behind a huge motor home then clicks his seat belt.
“Garth’s in there.” He leans across the street to point at a yellowy house across the street and his brushes against my cheek; soft with a sweet shampoo scent of lemon.
I suck in a Jay-scented breath, my body tingling in a strangely nice way. Being so close to him, I’m aware of his every move, and I long to be reach for his hand, pull him closer, to touch, to be touched….
Stop it, Thorn! I tell myself. Need to focus, not on Jay, but on the house he’s pointing to: a rectangular single-story with darkened windows and a yellow porch light shining on a motorcycle. In the driveway, a truck is propped up on blocks; minus tires.
“That truck’s not going anywhere soon,” I say lightly with a gesture to the wheel-less truck. “If we’re going to do damage to that truck, someone already beat us to it.”
Jay chuckles. “That’s not Garth’s truck. This isn’t his house either although he’s inside. His car is over there.” He points down a few houses to a silver compact Nissan parked on the street.
“Sounds like he has a secret,” I say slyly.
“Not for long. Take this,” Jay says, handing me his smart phone.
I hold the phone longingly; shiny black, hand-sized with a pop-out keyboard. “You want me to call someone?”
“No—use the video app.”
“I’m not familiar with the model.” Much cooler than admitting I can’t afford my own phone.
“Press here.” He touches a camera-shaped app. “When it flashes, you’re recording.”
“Got it,” I say.
“You need to be close enough for a clear image so find a hiding place near his car,” Jay adds, pointing.
I peer down the street. “I can squeeze behind that big bush.”
“That’ll work. Then start filming when I give this signal.’ He makes a rolling gesture with his hand. “Be careful, and do not let him see you.”
“Do I look stupid?” I retort.
“No, thank God,” he says with a chuckle. “That’s why I asked you to join me tonight.”
The only reason? I think with a jolt of disappointment.
“I’ll watch the house and you get into position. Garth should be coming out of the house soon. He’s with-” Jay stops abruptly, his gaze fixed across the street where the front door is opening.
A skinny kid shaved head kid in a cool leather jacket with a dragon emblem steps out of the house, lingering to kiss a brown-haired girl. I can’t see her face since it’s pressed against his but I recognize her anyway from my Spanish class. Teacher’s Pet, Druscilla Espenza. She giggles so much I’ve nicknamed her Dru-Silly.
“Nice,” I say in a tone that means the opposite, noting Garth’s hand has slipped to her butt. “They should get a room.”
“Already did. Hers.” Jay flicks his hand toward the house. “Like clockwork every Wednesday night. Garth stays till 12:30 then hops on his bike back home so his girlfriend has no clue.”
“His girlfriend? But isn’t Dru-Silly his girlfriend?”
“Nope. And blood will spill if his real girlfriend Missy Ann catches him cheating.” Jay reaches up to turn off an overhead light then opens his door and the car remains dark. Still I can see him reaching for his Reaper knit cap from his pocket and slither it over his face. “He’s done earlier than usual tonight. Damn. Think you can get behind that bush without him seeing you?”
“I’ll try,” I say.
“Hold the camera steady and make sure you get everything Garth says.”
“But what will you be doing?”
“Convincing Garth to bare his soul in confession.”
“Confession?” I snort. “As if he’s going to admit to anything.”
“Just watch,” Jay says then he leaps from the car. “And keep on filming --no matter what happens.”