The Testers

The Testers

A Chapter by Mitchell Goth
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David Marshall and friends never had easy lives; their high school life has been full of hate from everyone. One day the trio decides they want to “test” their peers to see if they’re worthy of life.

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1

 

            David Marshall was awakened by his alarm clock on yet another sunny May morning. He was surprised that he actually slept long enough for his alarm to matter. His curtainless windows were usually the culprits of his rude awakening. He rose in a slight disorientation. Once he regained his composure he stood up and slowly made his way downstairs.

As he arrived downstairs he was greeted by the large mess of homework on the coffee table that he chose not to do, and the smell of burning coming from the kitchen. As he entered his kitchen he found the source of the smell, the toaster was on and smoke was billowing out from it. His mother was standing across the room over the sink, which was filled to the brim with dirty dishes from days before that no one had bothered to clean. She turned slowly to him, cigarette clenched in her teeth,  “I made you breakfast” she slurred, pointing towards the toaster just as its contents popped up. Two pieces of toast, burnt darker than the night sky. She seemed to pay no attention to the burnt toast, and slowly turned back away from him to continue doing what it was she was doing, standing idly around. It seemed that’s what she’d always done after she drank heavily. David was surprised she wasn’t passed out on the couch like she was most mornings. He was actually happy that she’d at least tried to make him breakfast while she was up. This drunkard of a woman, who can’t even keep her attention span long enough to cook toast, was a sweet relief from the norm. An unconscious mess who could do nothing but snore loudly throughout the day, it seemed it was either that or be buried in the dark booths of one of the local bars.

Although David was grateful on the inside that she was at least up and moving around a little, he didn’t show it. He peered down at the toast, there was no part of it that was still a nice brown and each piece was engulfed in blackness and smelled of only smoke. He grimaced at the sight and smell of the crisped toast. He looked back up at his mother, who had already turned away from him and was facing the sink again.

He remembered his mother how she used to be when he was young. She was well groomed and respectable. But one day when he was young it all turned, one day they awoke and her husband, his father, was nowhere to be found. He’d left a note on the kitchen table,  he’d been seeing someone throughout their entire marriage, and it was then he decided to leave the family for her. He snuck away in the middle of the night, and left no clues to where he and his new lover went. This news devastated David’s mother and she fell apart, she never had a job, or bothered to try to get one after David’s father left, they began to survive on welfare. She’d never touched alcohol in her life either, but almost everyday since, she’s spent most of her days hidden away in bars. The face that used to brighten up a room became horrid with age and abuse, her smooth black hair had built up a strong grey tint and became scraggly and neglected, much like everything around them had.

Their family had never been much in society, David’s dad was a line worker at the local automotive plant, as were a lot of people in the neighborhood. Their home was dated and worn, but his mother always tried to keep it tidy when she was sober, she took great pride in how their home looked. But with the only worker in the family gone, the Marshall’s fell into the bottoms of society, living off the government and trying to stay afloat. The home that once stood out from the rest, began to fall into disarray, the bright paint that had coated it became weathered and cracked, no one bothered to repaint it. The flowers in the garden died, the shrubs in the front yard became sickly and unpleasant. The interior suffered worse. The clean floors were now stained with a cocktail of different things,  the carpets became torn and discolored. Clothes went unwashed for days, or in some cases weeks, and seemed to become strewn all about the house. The couches began to stink, the beds slowly lost all their covers and became simply mattresses on frames, for a while David had a sleeping bag he could put atop the bare bed to use as covers, but soon that became as broken down as the rest of the house and was discarded.

A stench of poverty seemed to emanate from the home and out onto the streets. Everyday when David returned from school he could smell his house from the front yard, and in the inside it was worse, the pungent odor of unwashed clothes and rotting food that nobody bothered to throw out. David was ashamed of his home, the beautiful exterior had faded away into a dull and decrepit look. The inside that was once presentable to strangers, now resembled more of a landfill than a living space. The home was a stain on their block for a long time.

All that changed when something monumental hit the town. The large factory that David’s father had worked at, he along with almost two thousand others, decided to close up shop. Hundreds of families in the neighborhood lost control of their homes much like David’s family had. Houses began to mimic his, the plant life died out,  the homes became dull and broken down structures. Many families packed up and left, the happy people who used to walk the streets together after a long day, were now long gone. The children he’d grown up with, whom he’d come to know all left with their parents. Very few factory families remained, and the vacant homes were filled by people much like who the Marshall’s were now, the dregs of society, living off the government or living off illegitimate money. In David’s short lifetime, he’d watched his neighborhood go from a middle class paradise to a seedy ghetto, where drugs were peddled and sirens were common. No longer did children roam, and people who walked the streets had to look over their shoulder the whole way. Everyone had a care for something they all had something to worry about, David included. He had to worry if he would be able to eat that day, or if today would be the day the electric company shuts down their home.

Now, David Marshall stands in what has become a poor excuse for a kitchen, staring at his mother, picturing how she used to look instead of viewing the empty shell that she is now. He turned away and made his way into the bathroom, not bothering to try the light switch, the bulb had burnt out days before, and either way the window let in enough light during the day. He stood and observed himself in the dirty mirror above the dripping sink. His life had not aged him as it had his mother, his long brown hair was still brown, although it did resemble her hair in the way that it looked very much disheveled after a long night’s sleep. To fix that he simply ran his fingers through his hair a few times and straightened it out as well as flattened it down a good amount. After several moments of that he looked again, it still looked uncombed, but it looked presentable for school, so he walked out of the bathroom satisfied with his look.

Once he left the bathroom he returned upstairs and got dressed in what ever clothes he came across first on the floor, he tried to keep a mental status on what day he wore what outfit from the limited choices he had, but he commonly forgot. After finding what he figured to be presentable he made his way back down the stairs and collected all the unfinished homework on the coffee table, he placed it all in a single pile in a single folder in his backpack and made his way out the door. Once outside he tossed his backpack aside and sat down on the cracked concrete of his stoop. He looked around his neighborhood, pictured what it once was like, like he’d done before with his mother. This was a common ritual for him it made him think that if the past had been beautiful maybe the future will bring that beauty back around again, but after seventeen years of life, and all his high school career spent viewing this poverty around him, his patience was growing very thin.

 

-

 

Marcus Price was awakened not by any alarm clock or ray of light, he was greeted, as he was every morning, by something far less pleasant, the monotone creaking that emanated throughout the whole house at the same time every morning. It was the creaking of a bed, not his bed, but the bed across the hall in the room occupied by his sister and her boyfriend. Their bedroom banter ran at the same time almost everyday like clockwork, it used to disgust him, but after several long years of being awakened by it, Marcus got used to it, which disgusted him even more.

He slowly got out of bed and sifted through his clothes pile in his closet to find something decent to put on. He found a pair of tattered jeans and a shirt with only a minute stain on it, which pleased him. After getting dressed he slowly wandered out of his room and down the hall, as he passed his sisters room he grimaced slightly at the thought of what was occurring right on the other side of the thin door.

Once he arrived in the kitchen he immediately began to sift through the fridge to find something to eat. He came across a bunch of apples and he snatched one with a smile. But that smile disappeared when he came out of the fridge again. He gazed at his backpack, lying on the kitchen table, untouched since he set it down. He had work to do for almost every class, of that he did none. He remembered setting it down on the table in an attempt to remember to do it, but as soon as he got home he was instructed by his sister to clean up the house, which he was instructed to do at least once a week. His sister barely did anything ever, the one thing she did commonly is what she was doing as Marcus stood in the kitchen. Her boyfriend worked, which was a good thing. Marcus hated him with a passion, but was happy that he had someone in the group who held a steady job. Both Marcus’s parents died in a car accident before he was old enough to have memories of them. After that his grandparents moved into their house took care of both him and his sister until his sister could legally adopt him, which was something he didn’t want, but by that time his grandparents were senile and their times were ticking down, so he accepted it anyway, and soon after, both his grandparents died.

He and his sister lived off inheritance until she met her now boyfriend, Marcus didn’t like him from the moment he met him, he always carried a weapon of some kind around, and he got his sister hooked on drugs with him. At least twice a week they’d go out together and come how with new drag marks. Marcus was mortified by their behavior, and he knew if he spoke up about it, they would not hesitate to throw him out on the street, something they threatened to do a lot, and he knew nobody could stop them from doing it, so he kept to himself.

As he stood there alone in the kitchen, glaring at his backpack, he was interrupted by a small tug on his pant leg. He looked down to find Darcy, the household pug, clawing at his leg. Marcus figured she wanted food, so he walked over to the dish, but found it still full up from yesterday.

“You really should eat”,   he instructed Darcy, but she just cocked her head at him and stared.

Not seeing any movement from Darcy, he just sighed, grabbed his backpack, and headed for the door. As he did he caught a look at himself on an old mirror on the wall, his straight blonde hair was a tangled mess on one side, he just patted the mess of hair down and shrugged it off before leaving. As he exited his home he was met by the same sight as David, a mess of near derelict houses and dismal, empty streets. He lived in the same neighborhood as David he was one of the few kids who didn’t leave after the plant closed down, his family never worked at the plant, so it didn’t really affect him that much, although it brought crime and drugs into the area, drugs that his sister now depended on.

Marcus made his way to his car, it was a rusty old thing, he got it from his grandfather after his death. He got in and started it up, although the frame was rusted and it wasn’t the nicest thing to look at, the engine was very well kept, and the sound of that healthy engine always made Marcus smile. He then pulled away from his house and began the short drive to David’s house down the street.

By the time Marcus stopped in front of David’s house, David was already opening the door and getting in. As David sat down and tossed his backpack in the backseat along with Marcus’, a loud car roared past them, getting his attention. It was the overly loud sports car of a George Mansfield, a schoolmate that David had the misfortune of having several classes with, George was very prominent in his class, one of the star athletes, a jock, if you will.

“I wish I could live his life”,  Marcus sighed.

“No.” David corrected. “You should wish to live his lifestyle, not his life. His lifestyle is that of someone happy with his surroundings, no matter how materialistic his surroundings may be, he is happy, he lives a carefree life, something I envy as well. But his personality is filled with pride and ignorance,  he covers up a life of sin with his privilege.” David never went to church, but somehow he always spoke with a religious and philosophical tone.

“I get the point, Pastor David.” Marcus joked, much as he always did when David went on one of his rants about sins and ignorance. Although he joked often, Marcus understood David, and believed his philosophies. Marcus followed David’s word as if David actually was a pastor, even if he didn’t show it.

“Good, now let’s go get Ben, we don’t want to make him wait, do we?” David said. Marcus obeyed and began to drive away.

 

-

 

Ben Klemond didn’t live in the same area as David and Marcus, he lived on the north side, closer to the school. It seemed the rule in their little city ever since the auto plant closed is the further away from downtown you were, the luckier you are. But despite Ben’s better off lifestyle, neither David nor Marcus would wish their lives like his.

Ben’s father was a foreman for a local construction site, everyone at his work loved him, but at home it was a different story. Ben’s father was always pissed off about something at home, when he was a kid he always did as he was told right when he was told, and now it’s the same story at his job, except he was the one giving the orders. But at home that wasn’t how it worked, and that made him mad, and his poor anger management skills didn’t help at all. Ben was not one to follow the strict rules laid down by his father, he ran on his own schedule, and to his father that was rebellion and he would not stand for it. So now he’d commonly show up in public with a new set of bruises, and whenever anyone asked he didn’t even answer them, he just walked on past, he didn’t want their help, he didn’t feel like they understood his situation, no matter who they were. And his mother was of no support to him either, she’d commonly just hide herself away whenever Ben’s father began to throw fists, she hardly spoke at all anymore, sometimes Ben just forgot about her altogether. The only people Ben ever opened up to about the abuse, or even talked to for that matter, were David and Marcus, because they were the only two who ever tried to talk to him, other people did, but mostly it was either yelling from his father or ridicule from his classmates, David and Marcus were the only two who ever actually tried to have a conversation with him.

Despite the difference in distance between their neighborhoods, Ben always seemed to be around there. It was closer to the school than home, and he tried to avoid home at all cost, he would come home late, after his parents went to bed, and try and sneak away as quick as he could in the mornings. Some nights when the abuse was the worst of the worst he would show up at one of the other two’s house, looking for a place to stay. One time he spent over a week at David’s house, but eventually the police came and returned him to his home. He arrived in school a few days later with his arm in a cast, he claimed to everyone that he’d been fallen off of his house trying to fix the roof, but he disclosed to David and Marcus that his father had thrown him down the basement stairs in a fit of rage after the police returned him to the home.

When Ben first began to hang around the other two, he was timid and rarely spoke, but with rehabilitation from his friends, he fit in perfectly with them and became very social around them, but remained his closed off self around everybody else.

By the time David and Marcus arrived at Ben’s house he was already standing in the front yard, waiting for them. When they pulled up he quickly hopped in the back and tossed his backpack in the pile beside him.

“Hey guys.” He said quietly, turned away from them.

David looked at him, concerned. He knew something was amiss.

“What’s the problem, Ben?” David asked him.

“No problem.” Ben dismissed quickly.

“Ben.” David continued. “Look at me.”

Ben turned to his friend finally to reveal a large bruise across his right cheek.

“Son of a b***h.” Marcus said in surprise when he caught a glimpse of the wound.

“How are you going to hide this one Ben?” David wondered, still looking at the large bruise.

“I guess I’m not, I’ll just make up an excuse, and most of the people at that school don’t even look at me anyway.” Ben replied. That was one thing Ben could count on, no one at the school ever really did care to look at him, and so he didn’t have to try hard to hide his marks. Those who did look at him were either David or Marcus, or kids who couldn’t care less about what bruises were already on him, because they were too fixated on what bruises they wanted to make.

Marcus quickly stopped looking over at Ben and began to pull away and make trip towards school.

“What was his excuse this time?” David asked, still facing Ben.

“I forgot to put the dishes away.” Ben replied slowly.

“That a*****e never ceases to mortify me.” David scoffed.

“You’re not the only one.” Ben agreed. “And what do I get to look forward to everyday? I get to go to a backwards hellhole of a society filled with people to ignorant to see that what makes them the popular crowd at this age will inevitably be their downfall later in life.”

“I have taught you well.” David said with a smile, as Ben mimicked David’s way of thinking.

“What runs their minds, really?” Ben went on. “What possesses them to think that the lives they live right now are really good, and that what ever it is that they do makes them somehow better than us?”

“Television, and basically all other forms of teen-aimed media, they enrich the stereotype of the high school hierarchy.” Marcus replied from the drivers seat.

“That’s because they’re making that stereotype true, they’re building ignorance and a backwards society for the rest of us.” Ben replied, now bitter from the conversation.

“Well what are we going to do about that?” David asked the both of them.

“We could always kill them.” Marcus suggested.

“I’m all for that.” Ben approved.

“Well that’s all fine and good,” David said, “but how’ll we get to where all those television companies are?”

The other two just let out annoyed groans.

“Why do you always have to poke holes, David?” Marcus said.

“Yeah, can’t you just let us dream?” Ben added.

“No,” David replied, “because I want you guys thinking productive things, not all of these impossible dreams.”

“Oh, so you’ve never dreamt of anything?” Marcus inquired.

“I dream of things, but only things that I see as possible.” David replied. “And you know what? They come true.”

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be you.” Ben chuckled.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be you.” David replied.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be either of you.” Marcus put in.

“And we can’t imagine what it’s like to be you.” David said. “It’s a never ending circle of not imagining things.”

At with that, the trio shared a hearty laugh. But the laughs quickly ceased when they came in viewing distance of the high school. Their smiles turned to scowls and all the happiness left. The cities Danville High School was an expansive brick structure. Only covering a single story and a basement, it managed to house the cities teen youth. But to the trio, the hellish nightmare that was the city of Danville had its epicenter at the high school.

Danville was a mid-sized city of about fifty thousand lodged in the heart of Wisconsin. The city prided itself on its history, they used to have a low crime rate on that list, but once the factory went bye-bye, they can’t truthfully say that anymore. Ever since the auto plant left, most of the southern half of the city, excluding the area of downtown surrounding the courthouse, fell into ruin. Shops began to close up, buildings began to lay abandon along with the plant, residential streets became paved with crime and poverty, and the cities economy plummeted. The city masked its problems with faux smiling faces, and bright pictures of the sliver of the historical downtown area that was untouched by the rampant decline. The city also used the clean looking, well kept high school as a commonly used photo op. They get nice picture of the smiling children and happily teaching instructors, being very careful to avoid the people like David and Marcus. The exact people they were trying to mask away with these photos. In Ben’s case, nobody wants a picture of a kid who’s obviously being abused as a poster child of a happy city. The city looked down on them, much like the populous of the school did, and anyone who wouldn’t look down at them, would never get a chance to even know they existed, the city made sure of that.

The school was no different,  they prided themselves on their sports teams and their beautiful people, while hiding people like David, Marcus, and Ben away from the public eye. The school focused on what would win them big trophies to put in their fancy cases,  they focused on their image.

Now, as the trio approached the building, they knew that it was the only place in the entire world that would treat them worse than their own homes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

Marcus parked his car in the same area of the junior lot as he had everyday. The junior lot was on one side of the school, but the three of them never took the side entrance, they always walked back around to the front doors. It was just a short prolonging of their time on the outside before they had to enter the school for the day.

As they walked through the parking lot and to the narrow street that encircled the school, David and Marcus stopped to look before crossing, but Ben never broke his gate. As Ben crossed a car that was speeding down the road slammed on its breaks, making a roaring squeal.  “Hey!” The driver called out from his window, enraged, but good old Ben didn’t even acknowledge the car’s presents, much less the driver, and for good reason. The driver’s name was Ryan Teller, he was a kid similar to George, star athlete, one of those kids who wore their metals on their letterman jackets to heighten their ego, to show off their “accomplishments” to the school. He was also basically Ben’s school version of his father, whatever injuries didn’t come from his father, came from Ryan, and no one ever did a thing about it, just another way school was like home for Ben.

After Ryan realized Ben was paying him no mind he sped off in a fit, even faster than before. And once David and Marcus saw it safe, they caught up to their friend. “What the hell was that? You could’ve died.” Marcus said, out of breath from both the situation, and jogging to catch up to Ben.  Ben didn’t respond to him. David knew Ben wouldn’t, that’s why he didn’t say anything. David had begun to notice a change in Ben over the last few months, he was angrier than usual, he took more risks, like the one with the car just a moment before, David was worried, but he didn’t show it.

The three then walked silently after that up the shallow incline towards the front doors. People were looking at them, wondering what had just happened, but nobody bothered to speak up, they cared enough to look, but not enough to speak, never enough to speak.

As they entered the door the same sight they’d seen everyday before greeted them. Kids were strewn unevenly about the foyer and the halls, all collected in their own separate cliques, the two old attendance ladies were bickering about in the small office near the door, all the while kids were lined up in front of them waiting for assistance, and the school cop was standing idly by, watching everything intently, he took his job very seriously despite being a rent-a-cop.

It was there every morning that the trio broke up for the beginning of the day. Ben walked off down the large main hallway that went straight through down to the other end of the building, he was off to the library to study for the first hour of the day, then he was off to his favorite class of the day, the only one he actually excelled at, his computer classes. Ben always loved computers, he could do just about anything with one.

Marcus went off down the thin hall to the left, he was off to his science class, a class he despised, he only seemed to like the classes at the end of the day, they were all shop classes, manufacturing, welding, construction, he always liked those over conventional classes.

David’s day ran almost the same way, he turned off to the right, to his electronics class, which he loved, except for one thing, it was one of the classes he shared with George Mansfield. David tried to stay as far back in the room as he could, but George always found him, which made the only class that he actually like into a living hell, and it was just the beginning of several other classes George and David share.  David arrived in his class just moments before the bell rang and took a seat in the far back corner, as far back as he could. The class began as it had every other day, the class began a new project about a week earlier and everyone was tasked with building a small portable radio out of a kit everyone had to pay money for. David could barely afford to get the first kit for the radio so he was working tediously to make sure nothing happened to it, but George wasn’t making anything any easier. David was actually surprised that George hadn’t at least made an attempt to destroy the half finished radio yet, David was grateful, but knew it was still very possible.

The teacher was always up and alert at the beginning of the class, always paying attention to everyone, but right around when the class gets half done with, he begins to get distracted, and commonly goes to the adjoining room next door to carry on a conversation with the teacher over there. And that was when George commonly takes his advantage. But so far, the class had already gone passed the half way mark and the teacher was still in the room, still sitting, not quite so alert, but he was still in the room, so David breathed a small sigh of relief and went on with working on the radio.

In the beginning, the small radio was a jumbled mess of small and even smaller parts waiting to be put together. David saw that the kit came with directions, but he never used them, he knew where everything went and what parts went with others, he hadn’t ever built a radio before but he had memorized a lot of electronic components and their functions in his spare time, so he could slap together a working radio just based on memory of what each little part does and what it goes along with. By this time in the project, many of the people were beginning to work on the first circuit board of the two that needed to be assembled, but David was already half way through with the second board. Many people had already broken or in another way messed up their kit and had to buy a replacement, but David was very careful, and he took pride in his attention to detail, even if nobody noticed.

As David continued constructing the radio, he was too into it to notice the teacher make his way out of the room, and with only a handful of minutes left, George was more than happy to make his move.  David didn’t notice George approaching him. George quickly snuck up on him, swung his hand up, and knocked the small soldiering iron from his hand.  “What the f**k do you want George?” David asked with a tone mixed with irritation and nervousness. David never really knew for sure why George picked him for torture all the time, but David didn’t care much about that at this point, and he didn’t think George did either.

“I’m just here wondering how your mother’s doin’.” George replied casually.

“Just f**k off George.” David said in disgust.

“Well I’m just wondering.” George went on. “Cause she came to me lookin’ for booze the other day, and when I gave her some she got down and started blowin’ me man, so I’m wondering, has she done it before cause she does it good.”  George smiled with a sick delight.

“I said f**k off!” David shoved George away in fury. George quickly responded with a hard punch to the side of David’s head, sending him to the floor. As David began to gather himself again, George approached his desk and looked down at the unfinished radio.  “What’s this?” He continued with his casual tone. He picked it up and looked at it for a moment, before throwing it back down onto the desk, shattering it into pieces. After that he strolled off back to his seat to continue with his radio.  David got up slowly and began to pick up the shattered pieces of the radio he had worked on, the radio that he’d been so careful not to mess up. So now there he sat, in the furthest corner of the room, throbbing head, and broken radio, his head down in a quiet solitude.

Marcus went into his science class and sat down at his table that, much to his dismay, was in the front row. Marcus never knew science very well, but for some reason the teacher continued making him the center of attention, and the center of ridicule, and nobody put more emphasis on the ridicule more than Julie Parker.

Julie was one of the intellectuals in the room, she knew the answer to every question that Marcus fumbled over, and to him she was a sadist. Any time that was spent not showing him up, was spent taunting Marcus over his home life, trying to get a response out of him, and his fuse was burning down fast. She seemed to feed on the grief of others she saw as less smart, or less important, and it seemed Marcus fit that bill of hers perfectly, he didn’t even have to do anything, she would just go ahead and torment him anyway.

As the rest of the crowd shuffled in the teacher was nowhere to be seen, as was usual. And then, Julie walked in and, to Marcus’s distain but not surprise, immediately walked up to him. As she stopped herself in front of him he just looked down and away.  “You know,” she began snobbishly, as she’d seemed to do almost everyday before the teacher showed up “I’ve heard some rumors around here that might explain why you’re such a retard.”  Marcus didn’t respond, he was focusing all his energy in not responding to the taunting, not doing what he really wanted to do.  “I heard that you’re just some adopted kid that was left on a doorstep by parents that didn’t want you.” She went on,  “Just some drugged up people who had you by accident. And then your parent’s who adopted you were so depressed that they had to come home to some retarded excuse for a son that they just drove their car into a tree, and I don’t blame them. Look at you, who would want you.” She cackled arrogantly.

It was then that, at long last, Marcus finally snapped, his fuse had officially burned down. As she cackled away he shot up from his chair and without even thinking for a moment, swung the back of his hand up with all the force his body could dish out in one swing, and he struck her on the side of her face, sending her falling backwards onto a counter a few feet away. Her look of devilish happiness was washed away by a horrific surprise, and an ever-growing hint of pain.  As Marcus stood in a fury over Julie, he could feel the tension that had quickly built up in the room, all he heard was the rapid beat of his heart. All was still for what seemed like an eternity. But soon that stillness was interrupted when the teacher walked in.

“What’s going on in here?” She called out angrily.

“He hit her!” A kid called out from the back of the room.

“Get down to the office now!” The teacher was furious. Marcus went quietly.

 

-

 

Ben had gotten a book from the shelf and had begun reading almost immediately, as he did everyday. Most days he would just read whatever book he pulled off the shelf, he never checked one out though, he knew if he had late fees that his father would go off on one of his fits. But today he grabbed one specific type, a book on computers and the internet he was studying, something he hadn’t done in years.

He sat at one of the tables and read, he was so deep into his book that when Ryan began to walk up to him he was unaware of his presence. Ben only took notice when the clinking from Ryan’s jumble of metals on his jacket became distracting for him and he lost his train of thought.

Ben looked up from his book just in time for Ryan’s fist to slam into his stomach, sending Ben reeling in his chair.  “Hey, f****t.” He said bitterly. “You almost made me wreck my f****n’ car.” He then grabbed Ben by the arm and ripped him out of the chair and onto the floor. “I should just kill you right here.” Ben still sat there just holding his stomach. But Ryan just laughed. “You’d think that a kid who’s father beats the s**t out of him could take a punch better than you, but I suppose you’re just a puss, huh?” Ryan mocked. After letting out another short laugh he snorted phlegm out from his throat and spit on the keeled over Ben before walking off.

Ben looked up from his position to see the three librarians just a few feet away at the front desk, they were standing in plain view of that spectacle, and Ben knew that they all saw it plain as day, and yet none of them lifted a finger to help him. Nobody wants to sully the good name of one of the school’s greatest athletes just because he beat up some nobody kid.   As Ben got up he saw that nobody was looking, nobody even cared to look anymore. They were all products of a backwards-schooling system, careless drones that will do nothing to help anyone outside their little groups. And if they were the product of that system, Ben was glad to be the byproduct instead.


3

 

After their separate experiences in the first half of the day, the trio all met at lunch with scowls etched in their faces.

“My day f****n’ sucks.” Ben exclaimed, sitting down at the table with the other two. “I got the s**t beaten out of me and I got spat on in the library, and nobody gave a s**t.”

“My electronics project is ruined.” David said.

“I got ripped a new one by that damn principal.” Marcus added, they all spoke with obvious spite.

“What’d you do?” Ben wondered.

“You didn’t hear?” David asked.

“No I didn’t,” Ben replied, “what?”

“Julie was talkin’ s**t again, and I just went off.” Marcus explained.

“What’d you do?” Ben asked, his curiosity growing.

“I slapped her right across the face.” Marcus grew a big smile as the words left his mouth. “And it was the greatest feeling ever.”

“I wish I could do that.” David said with envy.

“Why don’t you?” Marcus replied. “It only takes a swing of a hand.”

“Because George Mansfield is a lot bigger than I am.” David said, seeming depressed at the thought of his helplessness.  “See that’s the advantage of my adversary being a preppy girl, she won’t fight back.” Marcus said.  “Yeah but she’s a girl, which kinda gives her an invisible barrier.” Ben pointed out.

“I don’t give a f**k.” Marcus simply shrugged off that idea.

“But judging on how you beat George’s girlfriend, I’m gonna guess you’re gonna have a new adversary in your court soon.” Ben said.  “They’re dating?” Marcus looked surprised, and somewhat vexed by the idea of George Mansfield coming after him. “How long?”

“What the f**k difference does it make how long?” David interrupted.

“I was just wondering.” Marcus said defensively.

“I think the only thing you should be wondering about is where George is and when he’s gonna beat the hell outta you.” David spoke with frustration.

“It seems that every damn day just gets worse for us around here.” Ben said, noticing his and the other’s current situations. “I mean, I thought yesterday that my life could not possibly get any worse, but God has gone ahead and proved me wrong again.”

“Don’t blame God for all this.” David corrected.

“Who the hell are we supposed to blame then, David?” Marcus was showing signs of aggravation.

“Blame God’s creation, they’re the ones who’ve gone awry.” David explained. “People have built a kingdom of sin on earth, we are abominations of God. Humans are God’s only mistakes, all we have to do is not rub it in his face too much, and yet everyday I come in here and see exactly that happening. So don’t blame God, blame people, they were built in God’s image, but have long ago mutilated themselves into what they want to be, rather than what God needs them to be.”

“That actually makes sense.” Ben said surprised.

“You’re damn right it makes sense.” David asserted to his friend.

“So if people are to blame for all of this, what the hell are we supposed to do.” Marcus held a sort of distress in his voice.

“I don’t know.” David shook his head. “I don’t know, yet.”

“Well something has to be done, I can’t take this s**t much longer.” Ben’s head sagged into his hands.  “Well who’s supposed to do something?” Marcus asked irritably. “It’s painfully obvious to all of us that the faculty doesn’t give a s**t about us, so who’s supposed to do something?”

“I think that only leaves us.” David pointed out.

“And what the hell are we supposed to do?” Marcus’s voice was rising with his growing anger.

It was right at that moment that the same thought struck each of their minds. Their separate emotions were washed away with the same feeling, the same thought, a thought that would sink a normal person’s heart. They each exchanged wide-eyed glances, almost speaking to each other with just their gazes. They couldn’t believe that they were thinking that, they’d thought about it after bad days, but nothing this seriously before, their thoughts were so serious it almost sent them into panic.

“I have to go.” Marcus said quickly before getting up and almost running away.

“Me too.” David said, and left just as swiftly.

Ben, now alone, sat there pondering the thought for a few more moments before getting up and walking away himself.

Although they were apart for the rest of the school day, they could not get the thought out of their minds. No matter how hard they tried it would not leave. They buried themselves in their schoolwork but the idea that had sprouted at lunch still festered in the backs of their minds. Ben and Marcus worked throughout the day to keep that idea from growing any larger in their heads, but David ran the opposite direction. In the beginning he tried to suppress it like the other two, but soon he let that little idea grow and engulf his mindset. By the end of the day that was all he was thinking about, he was obsessing over it, every tiny detail of it, and quickly it was no longer a dangerous thought to him, it became intriguing, it became something that he wanted to do, something he could see himself accomplishing. Although the other two suppressed the idea, they knew it the same as David did, it would be something they’d have to do in order to free themselves from their lives. David was open and happy with that idea, but the other two frantically tried to find other options, but their attempts were in vain, and soon they came to realize that even if they didn’t like it, it would be all they could do to save themselves from anymore time spent living in the hell of their lives.


4

 

It had been an after school ritual for years that after the three of them left school they would head to David’s house and hang around in the basement, but this day was different for several reasons. For one, Marcus had to serve a detention for striking Julie earlier, so the other two waited at his car for him until he got out. And second, the awkward thought that had been brought up at lunch still lingered in each of their minds.

They were all quiet for the car ride to David’s house, and that silence remained even as the trio situated themselves at the small card table in the musty but suiting basement. For a few minutes they just sat in their usual seats trying not to look at each other.

“Alright.” David stood up and broke the silence. “I think we need to talk about what happened at lunch.”

“No, no, no, no, no!” Marcus protested.

“Why not, I know we all thought the same thing, and I think we need to at least talk about it.”

“Absolutely not!” Marcus asserted. “There’s nothing that needs to be said. Ben!” He turned to Ben from across the table, looking for back up.

“I don’t know.” Ben said uncertainly. “I’ve been thinking about alternatives to that since it happened, and I can’t think of any.”

“Damn it, it’s not happening, we just need to let it go!” Marcus was starting to get aggravated.

“Why not?” David asked calmly. “I know you’re probably the one who wants to do it more than any of us, are you scared? Are you scared to come to a realization like that, something that awful? You’ve been taught that even thinking of things like that is dangerous, but what happens when we run out of options?”

“Not this!” Marcus insisted.

“What is ‘this’ Marcus?” David wondered.

“You know what it is!”

“I know, we all know what it is.” David replied, approaching Marcus casually. “But I want you to say it, I want you to voice that realization, I want you to say it!”

“No!”

“Say it!” As David reached the Marcus’s feet, Marcus looked down and away. “Come on Marcus.”

“School shooting.” Marcus mumbled.

“What was that?” David leaned down and cupped his ear with his hand.

“School shooting.” Marcus announced louder.

“That’s my boy!” David turned away in happiness. “Now it’s not wrong to talk about it, especially considering our situations.”

“Ben, are you hearing this?” Marcus searched for back up once again.

“Yeah.” Ben said softly.

“And?” Marcus prodded at him.

“And nothing.” Ben ended.

“So wait, you’re on his side, this is insane.”

“Stop pretending Marcus!” David turned back to him. “We did, now it’s your turn, stop pretending and let out what your true feelings are, I remember when we were kids you always used to kill squirrels, how’s this any different?”

“Because they’re people!” Marcus stated, almost rising out of his chair.

“And how does that make them different? Squirrels are filthy scavengers, as are people, they fight each other, as do people, they risk being struck by a car just so they can fetch a nut, people are just as selfish.” David ranted. “There’s only one difference between people and squirrels.”

“And what might that be?” Marcus looked intrigued.

“Squirrels have fur.” David said with a smile. That even brought a smile from Marcus.

“Ok then,” Marcus began, still smiling, “pastor David, the guy who talks more about God than any other person I know, is actually thinking about killing someone?”

“See there’s a problem right there.” David agreed, turning away again and walking toward a small workbench in the corner of the basement. “We want this to happen, but we don’t want to go to hell. But we can get around that.”

“And how might we do that?” Marcus inquired.

“It’s very simple my friend.” David began sifting through a couple of boxes stacked on the bench. “We will not kill, but rather perform God’s will.”

“Ok,” Marcus paused, “how the hell do we know what God’s will is?”

“What is one thing only God can influence, that humans are powerless to manipulate?”

“I have no idea.” Marcus said, looking over at Ben.

“Me neither.” Ben agreed.

“Chance my friends.” David turned back to them. “Only God can influence chance.” He then revealed what he’d been digging for. He clutched a like new revolver in one of his hands.

“What the hell is that thing?” Marcus was taken off guard by the large pistol.

“It was my father’s gun.” David explained, admiring it. “A Smith & Wesson Model 19 .357 Magnum.” He stood for a few seconds silently admiring the gun some more before continuing. “And you see, with a revolver, we can play a little Russian roulette.” David then revealed his other hand, which contained a handful of bullets. He slowly loaded five of the chambers, and left one empty. “If God really wanted someone to live, when I spun this cylinder he would make it land on the one empty barrel, if not then it would land on any of the others.”

“But that’s only one gun, and we can’t keep spinning the barrel for every single person.” Ben pointed out.

“That’s true, and that’s why we need to plan this.” David explained. “We can’t just run in there with guns blazing, we need to have a plan.”

“I’m open to ideas.” Ben replied.

“I still can’t believe this.” Marcus sighed.

“Well believe it Marcus, better yet, embrace it.” David said, sitting back down.

“I think we should make a list of people, people we want to kill.” Ben suggested.

“Don’t say kill, Ben.” David scolded him. “We won’t be killers, we’ll be more like…testers. We’ll just be testing to see if God thinks the same way we do about people or not.”

“Alright.” Ben corrected himself. “I think we should make a list of all the people we want to test.”

“That is a good idea, there should be some pencil and paper around here somewhere.” David said, scanning the room from his seat.

“I’ll find some.” Ben got up and began looking around.

“Now then.” David turned to Marcus. “While we’re brainstorming ideas, I figured I’d throw one at you.”

“What’d you come up with?” Marcus asked, he seemed to be more into the idea than before.

“You’re good with like metal working and manufacturing, right?”

“One of the best.” Marcus replied with a cocky smile.

“Good, because I need you to build a bomb.”

“What?” Marcus was caught off guard again.

“You’re the only one who knows how, and we need leverage should any police arrive.” David explained.

“And where am I supposed to find the parts?” Marcus asked.

“The school supplies you don’t they?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m just supposed to walk into my shop class and start building a bomb.”

“No, just some of its parts, and anything they can’t give you can probably be found in that broken down car I’ve got in my garage. So you take those parts and weld them together, then assemble the whole thing.”

“And how do I do that, that’ll still require me to walk into my shop class with the parts to a bomb and put it together there.”

“Can’t you put it together at your house?”

“I don’t have a welder at my house!”

“But you have a lot of tools there, so just make it so it can be assembled without welding, with nuts and bolts.”

“I don’t think you’re understanding how hard that would be, I’d have to figure out how to make explosives.” Marcus was starting to get agitated again.

“Have you ever heard of the internet? They can teach you anything if you ask them. Now how long will it take you to get that bomb put together, explosives and all?”

“Two weeks if I work hard, but still probably three.”

“I want it done in two. Then I need to build some electronic components to set up detonators.”

“Can’t we just do one of those string pull thingies?”

“We could, but I want better planning than that, I want something that’s completely water tight, something that nobody can work around.”

“You know,” Ben said, returning to the table with a pencil and a tattered notebook, “if you really want a fool proof plan you’d have to get into the school security, lock the whole place down, it’d make the whole thing easier to manage.”

“Could you do that?” David wondered.

“Probably, when are we planning on doing this?” Ben replied.

“Well Marcus won’t finish the bomb for a few weeks.”

“Then I can probably do it, every security system, especially newer ones, have bugs hackers dream for.”

“Why the new ones?” David was leaning over in interest.

“The new ones claim they’re harder to hack or get around, but they have bugs that the developers never thought of, and ironically enough, the actual security systems aren’t that secure when they’re that new. And it just so happens the school got a new security system just about a month ago.”

“Yeah,” David recalled, “I remember them installing all those new surveillance cameras.”

“Exactly, that should make things easier.” Ben said, a grin growing on his face.

“So I think now we know all our jobs.” David said.  “Marcus will make the bomb, I will build the detonators, and Ben will figure out a way to bypass that security system.” They all nodded in agreement.

“Now it’s time to make the list.” Ben said eagerly, opening up the book to a blank page.

“Well I think we all know who should go on the very top.” Marcus stated.

“Of course.” Ben agreed.

“Julie.” Marcus said.

“George.” David added.

“Ryan.” Ben wrote down the three names on the sheet of paper.

“You know what I just thought of?” David thought out loud.

“What?” Marcus wondered.

“Maybe we should make a separate list for people that we want to test before we get there, cause like Ben said, we don’t want to be spinning that cylinder for everybody, especially not at the beginning.” David suggested.

“Ok, how do we do that?” Marcus asked.

“Simple.” David pulled a quarter out of his pocket. “Just another game of chance, heads for life, tales for death.”

“Should we put Julie, Ryan, and George on that list?” Ben wondered.

“No.” David replied swiftly. “I don’t think we wanna miss the splendor of testing them in person.” Ben nodded in agreement.

“So who should we put on there?” Marcus inquired.

“Definitely that rent-a-cop who guards the place.” Ben said.

“Ok.” David said, he then picked up the coin and spun it on the table. The coin spun for a few seconds before rattling to a halt on the table, the silver eagle of tails gleamed in the light from the bare bulb above them.

“That seems easy enough.” Marcus said.

“Yep,” David agreed. “Now who else?”

“What about those assistant principals who just stand in the hallway and watch people?” Ben suggested.

David spun the coin again, but this time when it stopped, it stopped on heads.

“Alright so they are lucky, what about the actual principal?” Ben continued.

“No!” Marcus stopped him. “That’s someone I wanna see tested right in front of me.”

“Still angry from the Julie incident?” David wondered.

“Damn right.” Marcus answered.

“Ok, so the principal stays on the other list.” David said, Ben nodded and put him on the first list.

“Who else?” Ben asked, still looking down at the page, now split into two columns by a pencil mark.

“What about those two ladies at the front office?” Marcus proposed.

“Why them?” David wondered, slightly surprised by Marcus’s recommendation.

“I never like them.” Marcus said with a scowl.

“I think we should save the list for people we really want tested.” David said.

“Actually it’s not a bad idea.” Ben agreed with Marcus. “I might need to use that computer that they’ve got back there, that’s where they run most of the security.”

“Alright then.” David picked up the coin again. “This one’s for both of them.”

“I was unaware God’s judgment ran in pairs.” Ben responded slyly.

“The way I see it, if we flip it for more than one person, and it comes out tails, they all failed their tests. But if it comes out heads, at least one passed, which means that you then need to test them individually to see which passed and which failed. It’s just me tryin’ to be efficient.” David explained.

“Alright, go ahead.” Ben gestured for him to continue.

David flipped the coin for the two attendance office ladies and they all watched as it came down onto the table’s surface. After bouncing for a moment it came to a slow stop, it read tails.

“Ok,” Ben jotted their names down, “now who?”

After several more minutes of jotting down a good list of names in either column on the page of the dirty notebook, David broke the conversation.

“I think we need to stop and think for a moment.” David said, this immediately got the other two’s attention. “If we’re going to test these people for purity in God’s eyes, shouldn’t we test ourselves?”

“What the hell does that mean?” Marcus asked with a mixture of intrigue and slight nervousness.

“I’ll show you.” David spun the cylinder of the revolver and put it up to his head.

“Whoa David, what the f**k.” Ben lifted his hand to try and stop him.

“What are you doing?” Marcus asked, panic stricken.

“I don’t want to be a hypocrite.” David said calmly, and then pulled the trigger. The gun let out only an empty click, he’d hit the empty cartridge.

Without skipping a beat David took the gun from his head and spun the cylinder again before pointing it at Marcus.

“Damn it David, put that thing down!” Marcus commanded, not moving from his seat.

“It has to be done, hypocrisy is a sin my friend, and isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid?” David pulled the trigger, again only a click.

“God damn it, f**k!” Marcus was heavily shaken.

“Your turn.” David spun the cylinder and pointed the gun at Ben.

“David.” Ben coaxed softly. But David didn’t even think, he pulled the trigger once more, and for a third time no bullet was fired.

“Well what are the chances of that?” David looked curiously at the firearm.

“I don’t know, not very good.” Ben was now as shaken as Marcus.

“Yeah, what does that say about this whole idea?” David wondered, still looking at the gun.

“That it’s more solid than we originally thought.” Ben stuttered.

“Or maybe none of the bullets work.” David thought. He then pointed the gun down and away and tested his hypothesis. He pulled the trigger again and a bullet shot down into the concrete floor, sending little pieces of the floor everywhere, as well as making a magnificent boom

“Holy f**k!” Marcus called out, both ears covered. “You probably just woke your mother with that.

“Nah,” David dismissed, “she’s in one of her many alcohol comas, she’ll sleep just fine. And hey, I proved the bullets work.”

“Alright, but let’s not do that again.” Ben said, also covering his ears.

“Agreed.” David said. “But now I think it’d be wise to find a place to do this.”

“The school.” Marcus said comically.

“I know that.” David replied. “I mean a place in the school.”

“Well we’ll probably want a place with no windows, and where a lot of people are.” Ben stated.

“So where’s that?” Marcus wondered. At that, they all sat and thought for a moment.

“What about the library?” Ben thought aloud. The other two sat and thought for a few more seconds about Ben’s proposal.

“It’s perfect.” David announced. “Windowless, and it’s full of people rushing to get work done at the beginning of the day.”

“Well how many entrances are there?” Marcus wondered. “We don’t want a place with very many exits.  I know the two sets of doors in the front, but are there any more?”

“Well there’s that door into the office areas in the way back of the library, and I think through there is a door to the hallway.” Ben exclaimed. “But that’s cut off from the rest by a door that’s almost always locked.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that door.” David said. “Is that the big one with the huge window?”

“Yeah.” Ben replied. “But in a time like a shooting, I doubt anyone will try and break it.”

“So is that settled then?” David wondered.

“I think so.” Ben replied.

“Yep.” Marcus agreed.

“Now there’s one other thing that’s on my mind.” David began. “We’ll need some weapons for you guys, because three people can’t really operate one gun all that well.”

“My sister’s boyfriend always goes down to a house a few blocks from my place and comes back with some kind of weapon.” Marcus said.

“What kind of weapons?” David inquired.

“Anything from switchblades to assault rifles, but he hasn’t brought home many of those since he got on parole.” Marcus explained.

“Do you know where it is?” Ben asked.

“I know exactly where it is.” Marcus replied.

“Well then,” David said, “I think we need to make a stop over there, don’t we?”


5

 

The next day after school was over, David and Ben met Marcus at his house, to find that he couldn’t avoid George Mansfield for very long.

“Good God!” Ben looked mortified at the sight of Marcus’s bruised face when he answered the door.

“I told you to watch out for him.” David said.

“Yeah, that guy’s a dick.” Marcus sighed, coming out onto his porch from the door.

“Welcome to my world.” David said with a humorless laugh.

“Well come on, let’s get going.” Marcus ushered them off the porch and they began strolling down the sidewalk. “So you guys got your own stuff to pay the guy?”

“Yep.” Ben replied. David just nodded.

“So what are we going to get from this guy anyway?” David wondered.

“Well we’ll need something with stopping power for sure, and something really intimidating.” Marcus replied.

“What about a machine gun?” Ben suggested.

“Why would we need a machine gun?” Marcus asked.

“I don’t know.” Ben said with a shrug. “Haven’t you ever wanted to fire a machine gun?”

“Well I think we need to focus on what we need, not what we want.” David said.

“We should probably get small guns, like pistols or something, so each of us can carry one.” Marcus proposed.

“Not a bad idea.” David agreed.

“So we need three pistols, something with stopping power, something with the intimidation factor, and if budget permits, a machine gun.” Ben listed.

“And remember, all these have to be concealable somewhere.” David pointed out.

“I’ve got a guitar case in my basement that we can use to carry long guns.” Marcus said. “And our backpacks can probably carry the rest.”

“Maybe we should try and get something for long range too.” Ben recommended. “You never know how far away someone will be.”

“Another good idea.” David replied. “We’ll probably need something like that to see the front doors from the library.”

“You think we’ll need another revolver?” Ben wondered.

“No.” David shook his head. “I think one’s enough.”

“So have any of us ever shot a gun before?” Marcus wondered. “Besides David, who shot to floor yesterday.”

“I’ve never even held one.” Ben said. “What about you?”

“I used to use a twenty-two to shoot at squirrels, but nothin’ any bigger than that.” Marcus exclaimed.

“A twenty-two is hardly stopping power.” David said.

“So we’ll need to learn how to fire our guns, not a big deal.” Marcus said. “That’s what God gave us the woods for, a solitary place to fire guns at trees.” The three of them shared a laugh.

“Ok, so we will find a nice patch of woods and figure out how to handle our guns.” David said, still laughing a little.

“Wait, wait.” Marcus broke the conversation. “There it is.” He pointed toward a tall house across the street. It stood out a little as being more broken down than the houses around it, definitely a crime house.

“Are you sure that’s the one?” Ben wondered.

“I’m positive.” Marcus assured.

“Ok, let’s go over then.” Ben stared to walk, but David stopped him.

“Hold on.” David said, bringing Ben back to the group. “Are we sure we want to do this?”

“Oh, what, does Pastor David have cold feet?” Marcus mocked.

“I don’t, I just want to make sure you guys don’t either.” David explained.

“Look, if I didn’t want to do this, would I have led you to this guy’s house.” Marcus said. Satisfied with his answer, David turned towards Ben.

“At first I wasn’t sure.” Ben began. “But when I got to thinking, I’m tired of this life, I don’t want to always be scared, I don’t want to look over my shoulder all the time. I’m tired of living in fear of everyone.”

“You just want to live carefree.” David deduced.

“That’s all I wanted.” Ben agreed.

“And if we can’t have that, we can at least try and ensure a life like that for someone in the future.” David went on.

“Exactly.” Ben looked surprised that David was on the same page.

“Welcome to the club.” David said.

After that they all just looked at each other and crossed the street.

“So, you’ve met this guy before?” David asked as they reached the other end.

“No, I haven’t even seen him, all I know is that he lives here.” Marcus explained.

“Well then, this should be fun.” David sighed as they approached the door.

As they got up the few broken stairs of the stoop, Marcus reached over slowly and pushed the doorbell. They heard a faint ding-dong from the inside. It was a long minute before the door opened.

As the door creaked open it revealed a tall, muscular man, standing before them.

“Whatta you kids want?” He spoke deeply, his voice was almost as foreboding as his stature.

“We’re looking for weapons.” Marcus spokes softly and slowly.

“How’d you find me?” The man questioned.

“We’re friends of Jake White.” Marcus explained.

“How do you know Jake?” The man continued.

“He’s nailing my sister.” Marcus said bluntly.

“Alright.” The man opened the door further and gestured for them to enter. “Come on in.” The trio slowly entered.

The front room was dank, dirty, and smelled something awful. The tall man led them into the living room and instructed them to sit on the couch, which they did. He then walked off into the kitchen.

“I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.” Ben whispered to his friends.

“Don’t worry it’ll be fine.” David assured him.

The man quickly returned with two large duffle bags in each hand. He sat down on the couch across from them and sat the bags by their feet.

“So what kinda stuff you lookin’ for?” He wondered.

“We need something with stopping power, something that’s very intimidating, something with a long range, three pistols for the each of us, and maybe a machine gun.” Marcus recited their list.

“Well,” The man began sifting through one of the bags, “I’ve got something with stopping power and an intimidation factor.” He pulled out a large shotgun and set it on the coffee table between them. “This is a Mossberg five-hundred pump-action twelve gauge shotgun.” He exclaimed. “Then you say you want pistols.” He began sifting again. “Now I could give you some nine millimeters, but those aren’t good for stopping power, so I’ve got some good M1911 forty-fives for ya.” He pulled out three large pistols and set them on the table as well. “And this is great for distance.” He revealed a long hunting rifle with a large scope atop it. “This is a Remington seven-hundred bolt-action rifle.” He lifted it up and looked down the scope before setting it down with the rest. “And when you say machine gun, what kind do you want?”

“Something concealable.” Marcus muttered, his mind taken away by the sight of all the guns.

“Alright, that’s doable.” The man began sifting again. “This should work.” He pulled out a large submachine gun and set it down on the now crowded coffee table. “A Mac-10 submachine gun, good for a lot of things if you can handle it well.” He looked back at the three of them. “And all of this can come with all the ammo you’ll need if the price is right.”

“How much?” Marcus asked.

“Whatta ya got?” The man replied. Marcus leaned forward and pulled a necklace from his pocket.

“My mother’s old pearl necklace.” Marcus set it down on the table. Then man nodded slightly before looking up at them again. Next David leaned forward and pulled something from his pocket.

“My mother and father’s wedding rings.” He exclaimed, setting the two glimmering rings on the table. “Each with fourteen carat diamonds and constructed with platinum.”

Ben was the last to go, he pulled a large watch from his pocket and set it down.

“My father’s Rolex watch, never worn, he just sat and stared at it.” Ben exclaimed.

Then man reached over and examined each of the pieces of jewelry closely. The trio’s tension built as he continued looking each piece over, they wondered if it would be enough.

“Ok.” The man stated after a long wait. “Lemme go get you guys some magazines and a duffle to put it all in.” The man walked off again, and the three kids let out big sighs.

He returned a short time later with a duffle bag.

“Alright, lets get you guys packed up.” He began putting all the guns on the table into the bag, he then sifted through the other bags again and pulled out several boxes of ammunition for each gun, as well as replacement clips for each as well.

“You got any three fifty-seven magnum rounds in there?” David wondered. The man looked up at him for a moment.

“Yeah, I suppose you earned that.” He nodded and pulled out a box of the .357 rounds and tossed them in the bag before zipping it up. “Here you go guys.” He handed them the bag. Marcus quickly snatched it and they got up and made a swift go for the door. “Oh, just one more thing.” The man stopped them short of the door. “Whatta you gonna use all them guns for?” He wondered.

“I suppose you’ll see.” David replied.

“Just let me say there’ll be hell to pay if what ever you’re doin’ comes back to me.” The man said sternly.

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.” David assured, and ushered the other two out the door.

 

-

 

Over the next few weeks the trio spent their time preparing for the shooting. The scoped out the library, as well as found and mapped all the security cameras. Marcus began building the bomb in discreet pieces in his welding class, and he even got extra credit for staying after school to work on it, he told the teacher it was for his friend’s car. When he wasn’t there, he was at home building homemade plastic explosives and reading up on the recipe in the Internet. David spent a lot of his after school time down at the workbench in his basement, building electrical components for the bomb and constructing detonators. Despite that, Marcus still built a string pull mechanism for the bomb, just in case. Ben spent a lot of his time at the cities library, searching up on the school’s new security system, and ways to hack it. And all the while they made time to go out in the woods and figure out how to shoot their guns, and after a few times, they were satisfied with their abilities. They spent more time refining their list, adding new people, and even taking a few people off. And throughout it all, they remained their same old selves at school, nobody suspected anything.

 


6

 

Another ray of the bright May sun awoke David Marshall, but this time, when he woke he was note weary, he was immediately alert and focused, today was the day. He was up and dressed in a flash, he ran down the stairs to find his mother passed out on the couch, and his unfinished homework on the coffee table. But instead of sighing in melancholy as usual, he just broke out in uproarious laughter. By the end he was almost tearing up, but he quickly regained his composure and grabbed his backpack, heavy and stretched by its contents.

He was about to go out the door when he stopped himself, dropped his backpack, and turned back to his sleeping mother. He approached her, as he reached the edge of the couch he could smell the alcohol on her breath.

“I remember what you used to be.” He whispered to her. “I remember what we used to be, I would give anything to go back to that.” He stood over her for a few more minutes, reflecting on his life, remembering the day his father left, and when everything fell apart. He remembered his first day of high school, and how it all went down hill from there for he and his friends. To all those memories he just let out a long sigh, and walked back towards the door. He picked up his backpack again and left his home, knowing that would be the last time he’d probably ever see it.

When he got outside the sun was almost blinding, but he could see Marcus’s car already sitting at the curb. He made his way over to it and got in. Unlike all other days he didn’t throw his backpack carelessly to the back seat, he sat it on his lap and held it tight.

“You got everything?” He asked Marcus.

“My backpack’s in the backseat, and my guitar case is still in the trunk.” Marcus explained, and began to drive off. “Do you ever think we’d be doing this a month ago?” He wondered.

“No.” David replied. “But I wished it.”

“Well then, look’s like your wish came true.” Marcus said.

“Yep.” David nodded.

“Is it everything you thought it’d be?”

“No, it’s better.”

“I don’t know about you, but my hands are shaking man. I never thought I’d be doing this.” Marcus let out a nervous chuckle

“I know what you mean, my hearts beating out of my chest. But our of excitement, not nervousness.”

“Send some of that my way man, I don’t like being nervous, it makes me nervous.” After than they shared a short bout of quiet laughter, and most of the ride to Ben’s house was quiet after that. They just sat, staring out at the people around them. Marcus wondered what would happen if they got caught, if it didn’t work out. David was just watching the people and wondering if they had any idea what was about to happen to their small town, a town that took so much pride in itself. Too bad the town didn’t realize pride was a sin.

As Marcus stopped for Ben, it ran almost the same as any other day, Ben was waiting for him, at the curb, and he hopped in before Marcus even had time to stop, and before anyone knew it, they were on the road again. Ben was clutching his backpack much like David was.

“We still doin’ this, right?” Ben stuttered nervously.

“Yes we are, don’t worry.” David assured him.

“Alright,” Ben felt somewhat relieved, “do we have everything.”

“Yes, everything is either in our backpacks or in the guitar case in the trunk.” David told him what Marcus has said earlier.

“Just making sure.” Ben continued to carry a think tone of nervousness despite no longer stuttering his words.

“It’ll be fine Ben, don’t you worry.” Marcus tried to comfort him. “You’ll feel a lot better once this whole thing starts.”

“Don’t think of it as a shooting, think of it as a religious mission, we’re testing people for religious purity.” David added.

“You make it sound like a genocide.” Ben said with a laugh.

“Alright then, think of it like just a religious mission then.” David revised his statement.

“Alright, religious mission.” Ben said with a smile.

Despite the smiling faces, nervousness still tensed up the feelings in the car, worry lingered in the air. That tension was heightened near breaking when the school came into view. They all took nervous breaths, even David.

As they pulled into the parking lot they passed groups of kids walking and talking. The trio watched them and wondered if those kids who didn’t have a care in the world right now, would be the ones they’d be killing later.

The tires screeched as Marcus swung his car lopsided into a parking space. They each grabbed their backpacks and hopped out of the car, Marcus popped the truck and snatched the guitar case.

“Ok, we all know the plan, right?” David asked as they walked through the parking lot.

“I’ve got it.” Marcus replied.

“Crystal clear.” Ben agreed.

“Alright, we’re going to need to be on our top game today, we can’t have any f**k ups.” David said sternly.

“We know.” Marcus said.

“We’ve practiced it a million times.” Ben added.

“Ok, just making sure we’ve got it all down.” David felt reassured.

As they began walking down the stretch toward to front doors. David began to open his ears and listen to the conversations around him. He heard groups talking about who did or didn’t go to prom, what people would be doing over their summers and how they would miss their friends over that long break. It was only a few weeks away, and to David, that just made the whole situation that much more fun for him. He tried not to laugh as he eavesdropped on the kids around him. They had no idea what was about to happen to them, they had no idea how close they might come to death today. Their bliss found in ignorance brought a humorous smile to David’s face. They don’t know how dangerous ignorance is, but he was certain they’d find out by the end of the day. As they got closer and closer David noticed a couple of kids sitting atop a large rock right outside of the doors. He looked at them and that made him smile as well. Because, unknown to them, if they sat there much longer, it would probably be the smartest thing they ever did.

David continued to people watch until the reached the cement walkway that led up to the main doors. David quickly focused and as he looked up at the front doors and saw dark silhouettes of people walking around and people standing and talking to friends, but this time he didn’t laugh, or even smile. He just scowled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


7

 

            The time on David’s watch read 7:42 as the trio walked nonchalantly into the main foyer of their school. The area was packed with kids, every one of them seemed to be part of separate little groups strewn about the large area. The three of them were each packing their own pieces to the deadly puzzle. David had his Model 19 hidden in the deep pocket of his coat, as well as the bomb hidden in backpack. Marcus had the Remington and the Mossberg hidden away in the guitar case he had by his side, his backpack held the Mac 10 and some of the ammo. Ben’s backpack carried the rest of the ammo and the bombs detonators. Each of them also carried one of the .45 pistols with them in addition to the other weapons. As Marcus and David wandered down towards the library entrance Ben positioned himself behind the pillar where to school officer was positioned, watching over the crowds by the front doors, he also got into a good vantage point of the front office.

            David got to the entrance doors of the library and saw just what he wanted to see, the library was packed with kids, some reading, and others working on computers, all of them ridiculers and sinners in his eyes. As Marcus got in front of the exit doors of the library, David looked down the hall at Ben, who he was still able to see despite all the people moving about the hallway. As he saw Ben began to turn to look back at him a tall kid wearing a letterman jacket covered with several medals pushed past him and entered the library. David followed him with his eyes as he watched him snake through the library and into one of the computer labs. He then turned his sight back at Ben, who was now meeting his gaze, he gave Ben a slight nod and he turned towards Marcus, to whom he gave the same nod. In response, Marcus unhooked one of the locks on the guitar case. They both looked at each other again, and took deep breaths. As Marcus reached his hand into the slightly opened case, David slid his hand into the deep pocket of his coat. They both laid still until they heard the pops from Ben’s way down the hall.

            Once Ben got the nod from down the way, he turned around to face the back of the officer. As the officer began engaging a student in a conversation Ben didn’t care to listen to for even a second, he reached into his coat and twisted his fingers around the grip of his .45, and he held it tight. He looked around to see that nobody had noticed the odd position he was in having to grab the gun from his side coat pocket, like some kind of mobster from the movies. He took a long breath, and the air seemed to flutter out of him as he exhaled, the butterflies in his stomach were welling up. He slowly began drawing his pistol from its resting place, his had was beginning to shake at the thought of what he was actually about to do. Many thoughts began to race: What if this guy turns around? What if the other two are just trying to get me put away for killing someone? What if this is some kind of conspiracy against me? As these thoughts entered and exited he was pulling the gun slower and slower out of the pocket. He closed his eyes for a moment and cleared his head, he now knew his friends were waiting for him to start this bloody chain reaction. He quickly took a very deep breath in, opened his eyes, which were now fixed at the back of the officers head, he drew his gun so fast he almost thought it would fly from his hands and go flying across the foyer, and before he had any time to think, he squeezed the trigger and the gun let out a burst of fire. The following bang seemed to stop the world for a moment, all conversion between the cliques stopped, and Ben just stood frozen as he watched the body of the school cop fall stiffly to the ground. He looked at the kid the cop was talking to just moments before, it was a young girl, couldn’t have been more than just a freshman, and now she was frozen still, mouth agape, and covered in the blood of the officer. All Ben could hear was the beating of his own heart sending pulses through his eardrum, all felt silent. This silence was broken when someone out of his sight let out a blood-curdling scream. This broke his hypnosis and he finally let out his breath, and turned his sights on the two secretaries working the small front office. As he spun to face the office, he heard the loud crack and boom of the Mossberg from down the hall, and that’s when he knew this was not some elaborate conspiracy, this was real, this was his future, his only future now. By the time he had the front of his gun directed at the office, the two secretaries were up and it looked as if they would roll right out the larger teller windows to try and escape. He let out a hail of shots into the small office. He watched the glass from the big windows shatter and fall, as well as the two secretaries, no more than bystanders in this, twist and coil in pain, as bullet wounds seemed to just appear on them. Once he had stopped shooting he could no longer see the secretaries, they had fallen out of sight behind the half wall of the front office.

 He began acting quickly now, darting from his vantage point towards the office as scream people ran in every which way to try and avoid an untimely death. When he got to the office he immediately lumped over the wall through an opening when a pane of glass used to sit, he stumbled and almost fell as he landed, he had landed on the unsteady surface that just happened to be the two corpses that he had left on the floor after his first spree of shooting. He quickly regained his balance and got onto the computer. From there he was able to get onto the security main frame, he searched through all the selections until he found the ones he was looking for, he ran both the lockdown procedures, which shut all the security gates, limiting access in or out of certain places, including the front doors, as well as the nightly locking procedure, which locks all the main entry doors to the building, further limiting any access.  Once the gates were down and the doors were sealed he began to get up, when he noticed a large key-ring on the table, he picked it up and the first one he saw bared the label “front door” and as he looked through the ring he also found keys to every door and every gate on the grounds. Seeing no need for the computer system anymore, he pumped a bullet through the monitor before leaping over the wall again, when he got back out into the foyer he saw nobody was left in the hallway, there were papers, and supplies that were dropped by people, but other than that the halls were bare. He did a quick turn around to face the front doors, he saw out through the glass cars passing by, the drivers had no idea what just happened, he saw the homes across the street and wondered if they even knew what was happening. He only stood there for a moment before strolling down the empty hallway towards the library.

Once the popping sound from Ben’s gun began to channel down the hallway David and Marcus sprung into action, Marcus went in first, through the exit door. As one of the librarians at the front desk rose to scold him for entering the wrong door, Marcus dropped the guitar case, the Remington spilled out while he had a firm grip on the Mossberg, and he quickly raised it and fired a shell into the librarian’s chest. David rushed in through the opposite door, .45 in hand, he quickly turned to the right, raised the gun and fired two shots into the other librarian at the front desk. He then spun around to find the last librarian standing in a small nook of bookshelves adjacent from the desk, as he raised his gun he saw she had a book in her hands, almost as if she were using it as a shield, he fired a shot through the book and the librarian fell back into the wall of books and crumpled to the floor.

As David searched around the area, he saw people running and screaming, but he didn’t do anything, he and Marcus were blocking the only two exits. He turned to look at Marcus, who was coaxing a kid out from behind a reference desk with the shotgun. Once the kid was around the desk Marcus pushed him past a couple of couches set up as a reading area in the center of the library. People were still running, but David could not think of where, there were not many places to hide, there were three small computer labs and an AV room connected to the library but not much else, there were the office areas in the very back, but the door to there was locked tight, as always. There was no escape, but people continued running about anyway. David stood in front of the couches, the crowd still managed to keep their distance. David peered over to Marcus, who was standing quietly just as he was, he gave him a slight nod and took a few steps back as Marcus raised the shotgun, he shot a hole through one of the computers that was against a dividing wall between the library and one of the computer labs. Everybody went to the floor and it became deathly silent, after a few moments some of the students and faculty raised enough courage to lift their heads slightly to look at David and Marcus. David heard the door open behind him, he spun around to see that Ben had made his way down the hall and joined the two of them at the library. David then turned back, cocked his head at the frightened crowd and addressed them.

“Good day students and faculty alike, my name is David, if you don’t already know, and these are my colleagues Marcus and Ben.” He gestured to them both respectively, “We will be your teachers for today,” he said with a little smile “now there are only three rules in our class, rule number one: no talking unless first spoken to by one of us, rule number two: no walking around unless given an order to do so by one of us, and rule number three: no phones, if I see you with a phone I will grab that shotgun and blow off both your hands. Any questions?” He scanned the room, no movement, no noises, no nothing. “Well I see we’re all smart enough not to break any of the rules so far. Also, for a future reference, this is the get shot line,” He waved his hand down at the ground gesturing at an imaginary line on the floor.  “I don’t want anyone beyond this line unless we say so, and I don’t think I have to tell you what will happen.” He waited, still no movement, “One last thing,” David put his backpack onto a coffee table in the reading area and un-zipped it, revealing the large, ugly structure that was its contents. This bomb was a lot of metal and wires seeming to go every which way, with the addition of a couple of gallon jugs filled with a cocktail of flammable fluids, all built into a thick skeleton frame and small enough to fit into a backpack. “I know some of you might be inclined to try and be heroes, I know that story all too well, so let me just tell you, before you go and do anything stupid, this bomb is capable of melting the skin off of everyone’s bones, and shattering whatever is left into dust. He displayed the device like a giddy game show without the big grin. And this can all be set off with just the pull of a string,” He lifted a small piece of twine that was hanging from the bomb to show the crowd. “or by these.” He lifted his arm and pulled down his sleeve to reveal the pulse band he had around it, Marcus and Ben did the same to showcase their bands. “These are pulse bands that we have that are wired to that bomb, so if any of our hearts were to stop for any reason, the bomb will detonate. So the moral of this whole rant is, don’t be a hero, because all that will happen is that all your little schoolmates will be turned into pink mist.” He finished his speech and retreated back to where the other two were behind the main desk. He was surprised when he didn’t have to step over any bodies. “Where did the bodies go?” He asked.

“While you were giving your little rant, me and Ben tossed them behind the reference desk in the corner so they’d be out of the way.” Marcus explained. Both he and Ben were sitting at the computer, enthralled in something, David bent down to see what was up.

“What are we looking at here?” He asked as he stared at the monitor. Ben turned away from it to address David.

“We’re trying to get through to the security cameras through this computer.” He explained

“And how is it going?” David asked, curiously.

“We should have it running in a couple minutes or so.” Ben replied, now back to working intently on the computer.

“Beautiful.” David said as he leaned back up to look at the crowd again, a few of them had taken the opportunity to move against the walls while they were all down looking at the screen, but he didn’t care all that much. He then looked around to see Marcus had gone away, he turned again and saw him peering out the door through the hallway towards the front doors, Remington in hand. “What is it?” David approached the doors.

“Looks like we might have some company here” Marcus stated, and moved so David could catch a look. He saw what looked like two police officers, clad in black, walking up to the doors. He saw them stop and he realized they had just noticed the corpse of the school cop still in the foyer. He saw one of them move as if to talk into the radio on his shoulder, while the other one pulled his weapon from his waist. David pulled back into the library.

“Fire at them, but be careful not to kill them.” He told Marcus.

“Can they get in?” Marcus asked.

“No, the gate is locked at the front door.” Ben exclaimed from the computer.

Marcus got down into position with the rifle and poked the barrel around the wall and got a clear view of the officers at the doors. He aimed for the legs of one, steadied his aim, and took the shot. The glass from the two sets of doors shattered. The report echoed through the long hallway, and one of the cops went down, a great shot to the thigh. The other officer quickly took cover behind one of the two large pillars supporting the awning at the front entrance.

“Can you get another clear shot?” David asked.

“I’m not sure, I can’t see very much of either of them, the other one crawled away already.” Marcus replied.

“Well as soon as you can get one, take it, just don’t kill them remember.” David reminded him before walking all the way back into the library.

“What difference does it make?” A voice called out from the crowd of hostages, swiftly drawing David’s attention. A kid emerged from behind one of the shelves. “You have no problem shooting some nobody school rent-a-cop but when it comes to the real deal you can gather the guts to kill them, but what difference does it make, really?” The kid had inched up to the get shot line, and David was just feet away from him, meeting his gaze.

“I only kill those who deserve their deaths in the eyes of God my friend.” David explained, “Those librarians, the secretaries, and that damn rent-a-cop all failed their tests.”

“How do you test someone for that, do you just walk around and for every three people you see one of them just gets the unlucky pick and dies?” The kid inquired.

“You know, it takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing here,” David began, “and I have to say I do respect you for doing it, but I won’t reward it with any different punishment than anybody else here. So you want to know how I test these people, I’ll show you, the only difference is that their tests were done before hand.”

“You’re insane.” The kid sneered at him.

“Not insane, I’m just a tester, I’m God’s trigger finger.” David explained, unfazed by the kid’s remark. “Do you want to play a game, because I want to play a game.” David asked with a smile, reaching into his coat pocket to retrieve the Model 19. “Well actually, this is a game to me, but to you it’s your test, of whether or not God thinks the way I do about you.” David pulled the revolver out of his coat pocket, drawing some noise from the crowd. “You see, if I had it my way, you’d be dead already, but I’m here to see if God thinks the way I do, so I’ll go ahead and spin this revolver and see if what you have shot at you is an empty cartridge, or a live round, if God sees it my way, you’re gonna have a bullet in you, but if not, you get to live. Either way it will be God’s will, because only God can influence chance.”

“You’re insane.” The kid repeated.

“But there is just one problem right now,” David ignored the kid’s comment again, “I have all six bullets still in here, and we need to lose one to play the game, and I really don’t want to throw away a perfectly good bullet.” David explained with a smile, then pointed the revolver at the kid, causing him to take a half step back before returning to his balance.

“I thought you couldn’t just up and kill me?” The kid wondered.

“That’s right,” David replied, “But why not do everything but?” David then moved the revolver from straight ahead to downward, at the kid’s feet, and pulled the trigger. Then gun went off and sent a bullet through one of the kid’s feet, sending him to the ground with yelps of pain. “There we go,” David yelled over the kid’s screams, “Now we can play.”

David grabbed the kid by the hair and drug him past the get shot line and tossed him into the empty space between the front desk and the couches. As he continued to roll around in pain David swung his leg and kicked him in the stomach, abruptly ending the screaming, for a few moments. David then knelt down by him and began to rifle through his pockets, eventually turning up his cell phone, which he promptly began to look through. When he found what he was looking for he got back up and put the phone up to his ear. He stood for a moment listening to the rings before someone answered.

“Hello?” An upbeat voice answered.

“Hello miss” David said, mimicking her upbeat tone. “I believe I have your son here down at the high school.

“Oh, what did that boy do now?” She asked, now more serious.

“It’s not a matter of what he did now, it’s a matter of what he’s done in his past.” David explained. The kid began to yell again, but he was silenced again by another kick to the stomach.

“What?” The woman sounded confused.

“Has your son ever sinned?” David asked.

“What’s all this about?” She replied.

“Just answer the question, it is a matter of life and death for your son.” David said.

“Who is this?” She asked, with worry in her voice.

Rather than answer her question he simply turned the phone towards the kid and extended his arm down towards him.

“He’s got a gun.” The kid choked, “He shot me.” The kid’s voice was weak, but David had a feeling she heard it.

“Please don’t hurt him.” She pleaded, “Why are you doing this, what has he done to you?”

“He has done nothing to me, but everyone does some bad deeds in their life, so you tell me, what has he done?” David wondered.

“Nothing, nothing, I swear, just let him go, don’t hurt him!” She was now beginning to sob, but this did nothing to sway David.

“I’m afraid I have no say in that decision, it’s in God’s hands now, so lets spin the barrels and see what happens.” David said.

“No, wait, you don’t have to do…” Her voices trailed away as David took the phone from his ear so he could use his hand to spin to barrel of the revolver. As the barrel spun he used his foot to turn the kid onto his back. The barrel came to a stop and he lifted the gun, not even he knew what was in store for this kid. He could faintly hear the kid’s mother continue on pleading through the phone, the kid was now only partially conscious as he steadied the gun and slowly began squeezing the trigger. It was only a few moments before the hammer went forward and the gun fired a round, the kid was no more. He heard the sobs from the phone turn to wails of agony, but he quickly hit the red button and cut her off. He then tossed the phone onto the main desk and turned back to the crowd. He looked at a group of kids sitting closest to him, he lifted his gun and gestured at two of them.

“You and you, carry this body back there.” He then pointed the gun toward one of the small closets in one of the computer labs. As they got into action he went back behind the desk to check on Ben’s progress.

“So who’d you kill?” Ben asked.

“How the hell am I supposed to know, just some kid who want to look brave.” David replied.

“You’re a monster.” Another voice called out from the crowd. David looked up quickly and scanned the room, he found that only one girl near the front of the group was looking at him, everyone else was turned away.

“You people just can’t follow the rules can you?” David began strolling around the desk towards the girl in the crowd. He stopped a few inches in front of her and loomed there for a moment. “I’m only doing what God sees as right.” He said softly.

“How can you just end someone’s life, take them away from their loved ones forever and not even care to know their name?” She asked, appalled at him.

“My job here is to take lives, not names.” David replied simply before turning and walking back to the desk.  He expected to girl to continue fighting him, but she did not, she did not say another word.

He returned to the desk and saw that Ben had gotten the security cameras under his watch, he was currently watching from the one stationed on the main entrance.

“Oh, damn, when did more get here?” David noticed that there were now several police cars parked on the front road, and even a news van parked further in the distance.

“About five or so minutes ago, about the time you shot the kid in the foot. But Marcus has got them covered pretty good.” Ben explained.

“Are there any others at any other entrances?” David asked.

“Not yet, all the main entrances have been locked down, but there are still fire exits that are made to be only lockable manually.” Ben replied

“Well how are we going to lock those, will one of us have to go out there and lock them?” David inquired.

“I’m afraid so, and with the thousand other people holed up in every nook and cranny of this place, I don’t think that can happen, it will be to dangerous for one of us to go out, and we can’t have two go because one of us has to watch the cops while another has to watch the hostages.” Ben explained worriedly.

“But look on the bright side, we made to local news.” David pointed to the van in the back of the screen.

“Oh, please, with seven people already dead, and probably a lot still left to die, we’ll make CNN by tomorrow, and in time we’ll probably get our own Wikipedia page.” Ben said with a little chuckle.

“Right.” David said quietly with a little nod. “So how are we gonna get all the other people out of here?”

“We’ll get the negotiator to help us out.” Ben said.

“How do we know a negotiator will come, the police don’t even know we have a bomb yet.” David wondered.

“Trust me, one will come.” Ben replied optimistically.

Marcus let out another shot from the rifle and Ben and David turned to get a look at the screen. A group of officers armed with assault rifles had tried to open the doors, and Marcus shot at them, he missed them but they were backing out down the walkway. One of the officers stood back up and quickly lifted his gun.

“Oh, no” Ben whispered. Just then, shots rang down the hallway and Marcus quickly spun around for cover behind the wall as bullets pummeled it, the tile covering was shattering and pieces were flying. Marcus loaded another round into the chamber. After a few seconds the shooting stopped and Marcus flung around the wall, quickly took as much aim as he could, and fired. The bullet missed and Marcus went back for cover as the officer began shooting again, this time he was less accurate, shots were hitting the floor and even the wall of lockers adjacent from the library. Once the shooting ceased, Marcus once again spun around from the wall and took a shot down the hall. David and Ben watched as the bullet struck the officer square in the chest, knocking him down.

“Miraculous shot.” Ben marveled.

“Is he dead?” David asked.

“No, cops wear vests, it’ll hurt like hell, but he wont die.” Ben explained.

They watched as the officer got back into a couched position, clutching the wound on his chest, and moved back toward the line of cars. Just as he returned two large SUV’s pulled up, along with a large police van.

“What’s with the van?” David asked.

“That would be our negotiator.” Ben responded.

‘We why isn’t the phone ringing off the hook right now?” David wondered.

“Well the negotiator still has to go through a lot of stuff, he’s gotta be briefed on the whole situation first, it will be a little bit.” Ben said.

“Does this at least mean they’ll stop shooting at us?” David asked.

“I hope so.” Be turned away from the screen to face David. “So what’ll we do now?”

“While we’re waiting for our negotiator, why don’t you find our people on the list.” David said, handing him the folded piece of paper. “These people need to take their tests.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

Clarence Barnes leaped out of the sliding door of the police van before it was even able to stop, he immediately made a b-line for the front row of police cars. Where he met sergeant Bill Downs, the person who seemed to lead the current operation.

 Barnes was a slender, aging man who, in a town as small as this, was more used to being behind a desk, which made him stick far out in this situation. In comparison, Downs was a heavily built macho-type, with no signs of age striking him yet. Barnes approached him quickly, but still with some hesitation, as of this moment he had no idea what was going on and what places were safe and what places were not.

“What the hell is going on here?” He asked Downs as he reached him.

“We got some whacked out kid in there with hostages takin’ potshots at us.” Downs replied.

“Is it just the one, or are there more?” Barnes was semi-ducking behind one of he SUV’s.

“We’re not sure yet, and you can out from there, we’re clear from fire here.” Downs said, coaxing him out from behind the truck.

“How many people are dead?” Barnes asked.

“We don’t have an exact number, we’re told that the school cop is dead, and possibly others.” Downs responded. He then turned and gestured over another officer. “Get those people further back.” He commanded, pointing to a small group of pedestrians gathering across the street. “I want a perimeter built around this place fast.”

“Yes, sir.” The officer replied before rushing off.

“Can I get in contact with whoever is in that building, see what they want, if anything.” Barnes wondered.

“We’re trying to find a connection through to the library area, it will be just a matter of minutes.” Downs was bringing over yet another officer. “How close are we to making contact with whoever is in there?” He asked the officer.

“We will be getting it fast, just a matter of moments.” The officer responded.

As the officer ran back towards the van, Downs turned to address Barnes.

“So what would motivate a person to do something like this?” He asked, slightly bewildered by the thought.

“Well it can vary, some people want money, others just want some attention, but most attention seekers don’t start right on killing. There are some who are mostly just angry at the life they live and are at the end of their ropes.” Barnes listed all the possibilities.

“Well what do you think this is?” Downs was intrigued.

“I would guess its would be the latter of that chain, most school shootings are like that, just some kid who was pushed over the edge. But it could be worse.” Barnes explained.

“How?” Downs was getting further into the explanation.

“Well when negotiators deal with people like school shooters, they are very easy to sway and we can easily turn their thoughts against them. Like lead them to realize the whole of what their doing, and that really brings them down. But some people you can’t do that with, like cult leaders, they brainwash everyone, even themselves into a belief of their own greatness, they build themselves up to be seemingly a part of God himself. And you just can’t bring those people down. So more often than not, these religious whack-jobs end up killing a lot of people because we don’t have the power to stop them with anything besides bullets.” Barnes exclaimed.

“Thank God we’re not dealing with any cultists then, huh?” Downs sounded relived at the situation.

“Well until we can get into contact with this person or persons, we can’t say anything on what their motives are, so for all we know we could be dealing with some weirded out Jonestown survivors who are out to slaughter all non-believers.” Barnes said with a small chuckle.

“My only question now is that where do kids so young and at this day in age get that kind of fire power?” Downs wondered, recalling the snipe rifle the kid was using to keep the officers away.

“Oh, please,” Barnes replied, “in today’s world I’m surprised that kid doesn’t have a rocket launcher.”

“Well it’s comforting to know gun control is working.” Downs said sarcastically.

Just then, the officer from before that Downs had told to find a phone line into the library came scurrying back to them.

“Good news.” He said, “We just got a word in from the call center, they say they just got an emergency call from a hysterical woman, said her kid had been killed by a lunatic at the school.”

“How is that good news?” Downs asked.

“Just wait, I’m getting there.” The officer replied, “The woman says she was called from her son’s cell phone by the shooter.”

“Which means that phone could be out line in.” Barnes added.

“Exactly.” The officer said triumphantly.

“Well, what’s the number?” Downs inquired impatiently.

“We’ve got the responder on the phone who’s got it, I’ll go get it.” The officer said before scurrying away again back to the van.

“So what happens once we get the phone number? Downs asked.

“Well, we call it and hope someone answers it so maybe we can get this over with with as little death and destruction as possible.” Barnes replied with a half smile on his face.

Just then, Downs pointed towards the van, Barnes looked to see the officer flagging them over, phone to his ear. They ran up to the sliding door of the van where the officer was stationed, once there Barnes picked up one of the phones in the van and got his fingers ready to dial. The officer sat and listened for a second, then turned the phone away and read the numbers to Barnes.

“Six-zero-six,” he started, and Barnes began to dial, “seven-eight-eight.” Barnes dialed again “four-nine-five-zero” Barnes punched in the last few numbers slowly and took a deep breath as the phone began its monotone ring in his ear, he knew this was the first step to a long and painful journey that could very well end in many innocent people dead if he didn’t make the right moves at exactly the right time. The phone rang a few more times, and Barnes heart ran faster, if this didn’t work, and no one answered, they’d be back to square one again, not knowing what was happening or where to turn next. He took another long deep breath, and as all others around him waited in eager and nervous anticipation, as did he. 


9

 

Once all the officers had retreated Marcus came back into the library to join David as Ben scanned through the whole crowd to find people that they had marked on their list, those who were first in line to take their tests. Ben had already rounded up three of them, who were now sitting on the floor in front of the desk, at which David and Marcus sat. They were George Mansfield, Ryan Teller, and Julie Parker, the three students that were each member of the trio’s separate tormentor. So the three of them marked these kids as the first to take the test of God forgiving power, will God choose to save the sinful? Or will they be more of the devil’s products of pleasure?

“You’re not gonna believe this one!” Ben said from inside one of the computer labs.

“What?” Marcus replied curiously.

Ben didn’t answer, but rather showed them what he meant, as he pushed a man, short and pudgy, with bright white hair, which they had all come to know as the principal of their school, out from his hiding place in the lab.

“Well, look who we were lucky enough to take hostage and not even know it.” David said, looking at the scared principal. “Pull him up a chair right in from of he here.” David told Ben as they approached. Ben pulled a chair up just a few feet from the front desk, and the principal sat down.

“Principal Anders, how nice to see that you’ve joined us here.” David said.

“What do you want?” Anders asked nervously.

“Well from you, I just want to ask a few questions.” David replied calmly.

“What do you want from us?” George cut in. To this David promptly stood up, almost knocking over his chair, turned toward the scared trio Ben had collected, and fired a shot from the revolver, just skimming Georges ear, and bringing a series of quick screams from the crowd.

“You shut the f**k up!” David yelled. “Speak when spoken to, if I hear your voice again your test will come early, even now I can’t wait to put the barrel of this gun against your head, so I suggest you not make things worse for yourself.” David then calmly sat back down and began pulling the used rounds out of the revolver and filling it with new cartridges. Once all the barrels had been filled he spun it slowly, then took one out and set it on the table before shutting it once more. He then turned back to the principal, now sunk deep into the chair. “Now where were we,” David wondered. “Oh, right, questions. Do you think you know everything that goes on in this school?”

“Well, no person can ever know everything that happens.” Anders replied hastily.

“How many student are currently in enrolled in this school?” David continued.

“Right around eight-hundred, I think.” Anders stuttered.

“You sound nervous, why should you be nervous?” David went on.

“Well…um…” Anders hesitated.

“Come on, answer me, and don’t give me some bullshit answer either, I want truly the reason why you are nervous.” David was noticeably agitated now.

“Because you have a gun.” Anders said softly.

“Why would me having a gun bother you?” David wondered, now fidgeting with the revolver.

“Because I don’t want to die.” Anders said, looking at the ground.

“There’s the answer I wanted. Now was that so hard?” David was smiling at Anders visible anguish. “Now do you think I have a good reason to want to kill you?” Anders hesitated and just continued staring silently at the ground. David set the revolver down on the desk, and sat back silently for a moment, just staring at the frightened old man. He put a feeling of what was almost empathy on his face for a few seconds as he stared at Anders. Then that look vanished, he reached across the desk and retrieved the Mossberg, turned it on the still oblivious principal and shot a large gash into his arm. Anders grabbed his arm and folded over in pain on the chair before letting out a series of cries. “Answer me!” David commanded, standing still with the shotgun trained on the injured principal.

“No!” Anders yelled through his cries of pain.

“Look at me Anders.” David said in a slightly calmer tone. The principal didn’t look up. David loaded another round as loudly as possible and that sent the principal back up in his chair. “Good.” David said, lowering the shotgun and sitting back down. “Now, why would you say no to that?”

“Because I don’t know why you would want to kill me, I was just doing my job.” He replied, still visibly stricken with pain, although no longer screaming.

“So would you say you know all the students names in this place?” David asked, fully calmed down.

“Yes” Anders choked out.

“So, name the three kids right there.” David, pointed to George, Ryan, and Julie.

“George Mansfield, Ryan Teller, and Julie Parker.” He spoke slowly.

“Alright good.” David seemed unimpressed. “Now what’s my name?”

“David.” He answered quickly.

“And how did you know that?” David wondered.

“Because I know you.” Anders was on the verge of letting out cries again.

“Don’t lie to me, lying will only get you bad things. So if you know me, than what’s my last name?” David asked him, and patiently awaited a reply.

There was a long pause.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. I just know your name because you said it earlier.” Anders came clean to him before bursting into tears.

“Now I’m going to ask you again. Do I have good reason to kill you? You know the names of the sinful, and not of those who save.” David said. Anders just sat holding his arm as blood rushed down to his hand. David just looked at him in disgust, and spun the barrel of the revolver. He slowly raised it to the cowering pudgy man, with bright white hair.

“Please,” Anders pleaded. “I have a family.”

“I don’t care.” David replied, shaking his head. He pulled the trigger once, and a bullet punched through the chest of Anders, and went through the back of the chair, throwing feathers out from the inside. He fired again, another shot in the chest, and again, another shot. He fired again, just a click, he lowed the gun as Anders’ body slumped over in the chair. “You two,” David pointed at George and Ryan, “Carry this thing to the back closet with the other body, and get back here. The two quickly acted as David sat back in the chair and unloaded the empty cartridges from the revolver and filled up five of the slots again. Soon after, something caught his eye, a light turned on from the side of the desk, he turned to look just as it began vibrating, he saw that it was the phone he had taken from the kid earlier, it was ringing. He quickly got up and moved to it, in a matter of moments the trio was around the ringing phone, it didn’t say a name, just a number.

“The negotiator?” David asked Ben.

“Possibly.” Ben replied, unsure. David picked it up and looked at it for a moment before slowly hitting the talk button and raising it to his ear.

“Suicide hotline.” He answered with a smile.

“Who is this?” The voice on the other end asked.

“Who is this?” David asked the voice back.

“My name is officer Barnes, I am a negotiator with the Danville police department.” The voice replied sternly.  “Now whom am I speaking to?”

            “Just a foot soldier doing God’s work.” David replied.

            “Look kid, I don’t know what you think you’re doing right now, but this isn’t the way to go about doing things.” Barnes explained.

            “Oh, really, what would you suggest?” David asked angrily.

            “There are people out there who can help people like you.” Barnes responded.

            “Therapists can’t do s**t. All of humanity is full of liars and cheaters and sinners, no human can help us.” David said. “Now there are eight people who are already dead, and unless you don’t want that number to go up again, I suggest you get down to business fast.” David was now pacing about while talking to Barnes.

            “Ok, alright, what do you want from us, money, a plane or helicopter, what?” Barnes asked quickly.

            “You naïve b*****d.” David spat back.

            “What?” Barnes was surprised by David’s reaction.

            “You think we want to escape this,” David ranted,  “you honestly believe that we think this will end with us just riding away in the sunset. We know full goddamn well that that’s not going to happen, we have all come to terms with our fates, this is our lot in life, and we’re to far in to change now. We are going to die here today, but we will die doing the will of God.”

            “What are you talking about, and what do you mean we? How many of you guys are there? And what the hell do you mean ‘the will of God’?” Barnes questioned.

“Why should I give that information to you, officer Barnes?” David asked.

“Well that’s how negotiation works, we each do things for each other, we need to work together here.” Barnes explained.

“Here’s some negotiation for you,” David snatched George by the collar and dragged him out into the hall. “You do what I say and I don’t blow this kids brains all over the floor.”

 

-

 

Back outside Barnes was struggling to lookup through the doors and down the hall due to the walkway incline.  He turned to the officer who gave him the number, read his name badge “H. Davis”

“Davis.” He whispered, covering the receiver with his hand. “Get up on the van, see if you can’t get a look at this guy.” He handed him some binoculars as he went for the ladder on the back of the van. Davis got to the roof and looked down the large hallway.

“What do you see?” Barnes asked.

“He’s got some kid, and what looks like a pistol.” Davis explained.

“Get s a sharpshooter over here to take him out.” Downs commanded. “Barnes, stall him.” Barnes uncovered the receiver and got back on line with David.

“Ok, what is it that you want from us?” He asked.

“What I want is very simple.” David began. As Barnes listened he put his hand back over the receiver and addressed Downs.

“No, that’s a bad idea.” He told him as the sharpshooter arrived.

“Why? We can end this right here.” Downs asked angrily. Barnes just held up him pointer finger and turned his attention back to David’s dictation.

“We want all the people in this building who are not under our supervision here in the library up and out within the next half hour. Now we can open up the doors and agree not to kill anyone leaving, but if any of your people so much as breathe too heavily we will start killing people. Do we understand each other?” David voice was shrill and commanding.

“Yes, yes, we can hold our people back, just tell us when you’re ready to do it.” Barnes replied, now turning his attention back to the sharpshooter, who was now climbing up the latter on the back of the van and getting a vantage point. “I said no!” Barnes whispered loudly at Downs while covering up the phone again.

“And I asked why.” Downs replied.

“Because he has other people in there that will probably start killing people if we kill him.” Barnes explained, annoyed.

“That’s just a bluff.” Downs responded harshly, before turning his attention back to the sharpshooter, “Take him out as soon as you get a chance.”

“Oh, Barnes,” David said, “I would very much suggest your sniper out there not take a shot at me.”

Barnes was very confused.

“How the hell do you know that?” He asked.

“Security camera’s are on you right now, I can see every move you make, I take it you’re the one sitting in the van holding the phone.” David replied. “Now before mr. trigger-happy out there starts blazing his rifle you might want to know the implications of his actions.” David pulled his sleeve down again to reveal the pulse meter that was strapped to his wrist. “I know you can’t see this, but the man behind the rifle can, so you best explain what he’s seeing to him.”

            Barnes leaned out of the van and addressed the sniper.

            “Hold your fire!” He commanded.

            “Good boy.” He heard David reply.

            “Damn it Barnes, stand down, we have a chance to end this right here right now!” Downs snapped at him.

            “Maybe you should explain this to that guy too.” David said.

            Barnes then turned his attention back to the sniper.

            “Right now he’s holding up his wrist showing you something, right?” He asked. The sniper just looked at him in disbelief at first.

            “Yeah.” The sniper replied, bewildered.

            “What’s on his arm?” Barnes wondered.

            “I don’t know, looks like some black colored band, or something.” The sniper said, observing through his scope.

            “Ok, what is that thing on your wrist?” Barnes asked David.

            “This is a pulse reader, it is made to read my pulse, of course. And it is wired to a large improvised explosive I’ve got sitting in this library that’s strong enough to level half the school. So if I am to meet my untimely death and this pulse meter were to detect no pulse, that bomb would detonate. Each of us has one on us, so there will be no killing of any of us, are we clear?” David asked.

            “Crystal.” Barnes was frightfully amazed by what he was hearing.

            “Well?” The sniper wondered, “What is that thing.”

            “It’s a pulse meter.” Barnes replied, still not believing what he’d just heard. “If you kill him a bomb in there will go off.”

            “It’s to risky to shoot him.” The sniper started back down the ladder.

            “He could be lying.” Downs stated.

            “He could be telling the truth too.” The sniper replied, before walking off.

            “Now I can understand you being skeptical of a kid being able to do this, so why don’t I give you an example.” David said.

            “Wait, what?” Barnes asked frantically.

            “Now I know you probably can’t see me right now, but I’m standing here with my good friend and accomplice Ben, say high Ben.” David said.

            “Hello.” Ben spoke to Barnes.

            “I don’t need any convincing, I believe you.” Barnes said nervously.

            “I know you do, but maybe I should put on a show for the news van waiting patiently for something news worthy to happen.” David responded. “Now Ben is wearing two of these pulse meters, one is for the bomb I’ve got here, and one is for another somewhere else, but don’t worry, it’s still close by.”

            “Where?” Barnes asked quietly.

            “In time, my friend, in time.” David said simply. “Now Ben, remove one and lets hope you didn’t mix them up.” There was a few seconds of silence, and then Barnes heard a faint, high pitch tone coming through. “Let’s see some fireworks.”

            After a few moments the pitch stopped and all was quite. Then, all of a sudden, Barnes was shook by a huge explosion coming from one of parking lots, followed by a huge cloud of smoke rising from around one side of the building.

            “Holy s**t.” Barnes was shaken out of breath.

            “Don’t worry too much, it was just our car. But hey, we proved a point didn’t we, and I bet those new people are scrambling to get their camera’s and s**t over there.” David predicted.

            Barnes looked over his shoulder and that’s exactly what they were doing. Just then, his view was blocked by the body of Downs, who was looking toward the explosion, in disbelief.

            “Ok, I get your point now, Barnes.” He said, also blown out of breath by the shock.

            “You call me back in twenty minutes, and we’ll empty this building.” David said, before hanging up the phone.

            “Now do you see what these kids are capable of?” Barnes asked.

            “These aren’t kids, these are terrorists.” Downs still wore that look of disbelief.


10

 

Barnes checked his watch as he and Downs ran towards the site of the explosion, 8:50. As they turned around the corner of the school they saw a large group of officers frantically trying to put out the fire that was raging in the middle of the parking lot.

“What the hell was that?” Downs wondered.

“It was their car.” Barnes answered.

“They blew up their own car, why?” Downs asked, puzzled.

“To prove a point.” Barnes replied with a sigh. “And I have a feeling that’s not the craziest thing we will be seeing them do today.”

Just then, a fire truck and an ambulance sped into the parking lot, sirens blazing. Downs and Barnes turned and went back to the van to await the next point at which they had to call the library. When they arrived they found Davis awaiting them.

“Hey, I’m just wondering if I should get those news guys outta here?” He said as the two sat down on the floor of the open van.

“Get them back, but don’t shoo them all the way outta here, that’ll probably cause too much stir.” Downs replied. As he watched Davis walk off he noticed Barnes staring off into space. “Penny for your thoughts.” He asked him.

“Oh, sorry,” Barnes said, coming back to earth, “I was just thinking what drives a kid with such obvious genius, enough to build a pulse driven bomb anyway, to this point in life.”

“Why don’t you ask him?” Downs questioned.

“I’m afraid.” Barnes spoke softly.

“Of what?”

“The answer.”

“Well he’ll probably find that obvious genius part kind of flattering.” Downs said with a little laugh.

“That’s true,” Barnes replied with no humor. “Right now I just wish I could see him. It would be easier if I could get close enough to see what the hell he was up to, but that hill is killing me, I can’t see ten feet down that hall, much less the at least hundred feet to the library.”

Downs didn’t reply to him immediately, he just took a look back, then returned to looking at Barnes with a look that showed a feeling of intrigue and slight confusion.

“I think I have an idea.” He said, and got up and walked toward the news van, leaving Barnes to sit alone with his thoughts.

 

-

 

David dragged George back into the library and tossed him back to the other two huddled together. He then tossed the cell phone back where it sat previously on the front desk.

“Well weren’t you the hard bargainer.” Marcus complimented.

“You think they got our present we left in the car?” Ben asked, smiling.

“I could feel the ground shake, as well as hear it, along with that negotiators reaction through the phone, I’m sure they got it.” David replied, sitting back down behind the desk.

“I wonder what they’re doing right now?” Marcus wondered aloud, looking up at the ceiling.

“Probably shittin’ it their pants and wondering what else is gonna blow.” Ben said, and the two shared a laugh.

“Well what else we got?” David asked.

“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, don’t you worry, that’s not the end of this fire show.” Marcus replied.

“Like what?” Ben questioned.

“In time you will see.” Marcus answered before looking back up at the ceiling, he had now rolled up a piece of paper and was tossing it up to himself.

“Did you even get that guys name?” Ben asked, turning his gaze to David, who was watching the screen.

“Yeah,” He replied, not looking away from the screen. “he calls himself officer Barnes, I didn’t get his first name though.”

“Does he know what he’s in for?” Ben sat down next to David to watch the screen with him.

“No way in hell he has any idea, whatsoever.” David said confidently.

“Do you think he’ll play ball with us.” Ben asked, visibly concerned.

“Probably, and if he doesn’t, we’ve got all the leverage out there.” David waved his gun at the crowd. “So we do just I like I told him, if he doesn’t follow the rules, we won’t hesitate to kill these people.”

“Does he know that’s not how it works with us?” Ben inquired.

“Not yet, but I figure I have to tell him sometime, maybe I will when he calls back, you know, when all those other people are outta here.” David said. “Now once all those people are out, I want you to go around and lock all the doors that aren’t already locked.” He continued.

“You want me to go alone?” Ben asked, surprised.

“Yes I do, it’ll be a lot less dangerous without all the people.” David explained.

“But what if someone stays behind to try and be some dumbass hero?” Ben retorted, pessimistic of David’s plan.

“That won’t happen.” David assured him.

“But what if it does?” Ben continued.

“That’s what that is for.” David pointed to the Mac 10 sitting on the far side of the desk. “Anyone gives you heat, kill them.”

“But that’s now how we work.” Ben stated.

“I know that, but it’s obvious that God wants some of these people dead, otherwise nobody would be, I am correct?” David responded.

“Yes.” Ben answered, slightly puzzled.

“So anyone trying to stop us would be going against God’s will, does that make sense?” David explained further.

“Only a little.” Ben replied, now more puzzled than before.

“A little is better than nothing.” David said, and patted Ben on the back.

 

-

 

As the three shooters sat around the front desk, far in the back of the library, just a reach from the locked door that leads to the back offices with entrance to the hallway, sat another trio of kids, conversing in secrecy.

“We have to get outta here, or we’re all gonna die.” Nick Radford stated, Radford was at one point a star of track and field for the school, now he was just another bystander, and his medals and letterman coat put him together with the group that are now top targets for his captors.

“You know it doesn’t pay well to think that way.” Rachel Franks, a very intelligent, straight A student, not to mention Nicks current girlfriend, replied.

“Actually I agree with him pretty full heartedly.” Bryan Franks, Rachel’s brother and notorious pessimist, added.

“You know you’re not helping at all.” Rachel snapped.

“I’m sorry, I am, but this is far from what would be described as an optimistic situation in most people’s eyes.” Bryan shot back.

“Most people’s eyes, or just yours?” Rachel asked, he tone ripe with frustration.

“Well, seeing as a whole mess of innocent people are dead, and these lunatics seem to have a huge upper hand against our inept police force, I’m gonna go ahead and group just about ninety-eight percent of the world population in with me, I suppose it’s my bad that I’m unlucky enough to be talking to one of those rare people in the two percent about this right now.” Bryan ranted.

“I’m sorry that you think that, Bryan.” Rachel snapped quickly, now visibly angered. “But I don’t want to be surrounded with bitching sad-sacks such as yourself, so if you’d mind just trying to look on what very little bright side there is to this situation that would make my life so much easier, it really would. Like, for instance, unlike most crazed gunmen, these people seem to have some kind of system going, now mind you, this is, by far, the most insane system I’ve ever seen, it is a system nonetheless. Another thing, and I know I’m wrong for saying this, there are a lot of people closer to them than us right now, so they’ll have to mow down a whole damn army to get to us, unless for some reason we’re on that stupid Schindler’s List from hell they’ve got for us, and I don’t see how I could be, I don’t even know them, and I’m pretty damn sure neither you or Nick know them either, so don’t worry about that stupid scared s**t right now.” Rachel ranted back at him. Bryan didn’t respond, he just sat back on one of the bookshelves and looked away from them. Rachel’s face was quickly changed from that of an angered optimist, to an empathetic sister. “Bryan, I’m sorry I was like that.” She began, her tone had now changed to one of true and deep empathy. “Like you said, this isn’t the most optimistic situation, and me being the optimist, I just feel out of place is all.” She apologized.

“I’m sorry too,” He replied, now looking back at her. “this whole thing is just stressing me out.”

“Oh, really, you guys, you’re stressed, because this is my happy place right here.” Nick added, sarcastically.

“Do I have to go through this whole thing again with you?” Rachel asked, annoyed. “Because I really don’t want to, but I will if I have to. If you weren’t here for that nice little talk me and Bryan had just a few seconds ago I think I can get him happily to join back in for reenacting it for you, if you need it.” She looked at him to see that he wasn’t even looking at her. But even more striking was the intense fear he had plastered over his eyes. Was she really that scary when she was mad?

“If he’s not up for reenacting that little speech, I’d be happy to give it a try.” Rachel spun around quickly to see David Marshall looming over her, with a big, haunting grin smeared on his face. She was immediately stricken with the same look of great fear that she saw in Nick, she gulped silently. “I know I missed it, but I’m sure I can improv it if you give me a few pointers.” David continued happily. Rachel just continued staring, and trying not to breath. He then got down and knelt in front of her. “You know, nobody in this room seems to be able follow rules. I mean, I just lay down a few simple guidelines for you to follow and you can’t even do that right. Is it human nature to want to break the rules? Because I certainly don’t think so. Rules are what keep this world tied together, they keep this delicate system of checks and balances in check, you know? And rules wouldn’t exist at all with out consequences, that’s really what makes them rules, really.” He had now taken out the revolver and was slowly spinning the cylinder with is pointer and middle finger. “Now, I know, you’re not on that list. But you broke my rules, so that puts you on the top of my list, you and your friends here.” He waved the revolver in the direction of Nick and Bryan. “So, I guess it’s your turn to be tested now, isn’t it?” She just sat there, she could feel her heart beating almost out of her chest. “But before I begin, I can’t help but remember that tongue lashing I got for not knowing that other kid’s name, so now I’m forced to ask, what’s your name?” He smiled at her.

“What’s it to you?” Nick interjected.

“You shut your f****n’ mouth.” David commanded, pointing the revolver at Nick, Nick fell back. “Now come on.” David addressed Rachel, brushing her hair from her face with the nose of the revolver. 

“Rachel.” She mumbled, basically to herself.

“Hmm…what was that?” He asked, leaning in a little more.

“My name is Rachel.” She said louder.

“Well that is a nice name, Rachel, it suits you well.” He grinned that haunting grin once more. As they stared at each other, David cocked the hammer of the revolver all the way back.

Just then, Bryan stood up.

“Hey a*****e, leave her alone.” He commanded. His look was stern, but both Rachel and David could still see his fear painted onto his eyes. David stood back up and faced him.

“That is quite strong talk.” David began, “Now who are you to be tossing talk like that around?”

“I’m her brother.” Bryan stated.

“Her brother, that’s nice, you two do look the same, I’m actually surprised I didn’t see it before.” David smiled again as he spoke with Bryan, he was also discretely slipping the revolver behind his back.

“Back off of her, she didn’t do anything to you.” Bryan stood his ground.

“I do respect your bravery, but all things come with some consequence.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” Bryan responded.

“Bryan, please don’t.” Rachel pleaded. David looked down at her, cocked is head slightly, and stayed still for a few moments. He then lifted up his hand and slapped her across the face, sending her all the way to the ground. He noticed Bryan move in at him, he quickly lifted the revolver, stopping him in his tracks. As Nick got up to help her, he was met with a swift and hard kick to the chest, sending him, breathless, to the floor. He then turned back to Bryan, now showing more signs of fear. He let the revolver retreat behind his back once more.

“So, you’re not afraid?” David asked.

“No.” Bryan almost stuttered.

“Well then, lets get on with the test then.” David just stood for a moment, the quickly lifted his hand from behind his back. Bryan quickly gasped loudly and took a big step backwards. But all that was revealed was David’s hand, made into the shape of a gun. “Pow,” he said softly, then bringing his thumb down to his pointer finger. Then he lifted his finger up to his mouth and blew the imaginary barrel, before smiling and turning away. As David began walking, Bryan let out a small sigh, but as David turned the corner of the bookshelf, Marcus spun out from behind it, revolver raised, aimed it at Bryan and fired, a bullet went straight through Bryan’s heart, he was dead before he hit the ground. Split moments after the shot rang out, Rachel leaped up at her brother, only to be caught by Nick before she made it very far. She struggled and wailed as Bryan’s lifeless body hit the floor. Marcus turned towards two kids sitting near the opposite end of the bookshelf, he gestured the revolver at them, then at the body. They quickly picked it up and moved it to the closet, they knew the drill. As the two kids began to move the body Marcus turned to Rachel and Nick. Rachel had slowed her struggle, but was still crying away. Marcus lifted the revolver, Rachel stopped her grieving and quickly turned away from Marcus and the gun. Marcus squeezed the trigger, but the gun let off only a click. This drew the whole room to a dead still, nobody dared to moved. Marcus chuckled a little bit, took a look at the gun, opened the cylinder and pulled out the bullet, but what he saw stopped his smile dead. This was no empty cartridge, this had a bullet in it, ready to fire. He knew this was the bullet that was hit by the pin, this was the one that was supposed to fire. He quickly looked for the empty cartridge, he found it a short time later at the bottom of the cylinder, far away from the barrel. Marcus, in disbelief, loaded the bullet again, and fired again, just a click, he reset the cylinder and took the shot again, just a click, yet again. He then turned away, still in disbelief.

“Six barrels, one empty cartridge, and the damn thing lands on a dud, what are the chances of that?” Ben wondered, looking at the bullet that was now sitting on the front desk.

“I don’t know, but they’re not very good.” David replied, also in disbelief.

Rachel was still crying in the back corner, Nick trying his best to consol her.

“Should I go shut her up?” Marcus asked.

“No, no Marcus, let her grieve for her lost brother.” David replied softly.

“Well look at mr. emotion over here, when did you start caring for anybodies feelings.” Marcus asked mockingly.

“Come on, Marcus we just killed her sibling, did you honestly expect this not to happen.” David asked him.

Before Marcus could answer their conversation was interrupted by something. The phone had started to ring again.

 

 

11

 

            “Hello.” David answered the phone quietly.

            “It’s Barnes.” The voice replied.

“I figured.” David said.

“We’re ready, start sending people out.” Barnes stated.

“Your people know not to move, and that I’m watching them, yes?” David inquired.

“Yes they do.” Barnes answered.

“Stand by.” David said, putting down the phone and getting up. “Attention, people!” He called out to the crowd. “We need faculty members to tell the rest of this place to get the hell out, because they definitely won’t listen to us. So, who wants the honors?” He scanned the masses for any movement, and after a long wait, two teachers reluctantly raised their hands to volunteer to take part in it.

The teachers were Mr. Ronaldson, and Ms. Ferry, two teachers that were not at all acquainted with the trio of shooters. As the two approached the desk, David took the desk phone off the hook and punched the intercom button before handing it first to Ms. Ferry. She slowly brought it up to hear head.

“This is Ms. Ferry, calling an all clear.” She said, almost stuttering. She then handed it off to Mr. Ronaldson.

“This is Mr. Ronaldson, calling the last all clear.” He said, more nervously. “Please proceed out of your classrooms and out of the building in an orderly fashion.” He continued. After a few moments David took the phone back and hung it up. He then turned to the cell phone.

“Did it work?” He asked. “Are people coming out?”

“Not that I can see.” Barnes said. “Just give it a moment.”

The trio just sat still and waited, as did the two teachers, and the rest of the crowd, waiting to see of the population fell for it. All of a sudden, an interesting sound came billowing down through the halls, it was the sound of clamoring feet, hundreds of them, all moving quickly about. Ben checked the cameras and sure enough, students and teachers were all out of their hiding places and making b-lines for any doors that they could see.

“Oh, s**t.” Ben said, gaining a look of surprise and semi-dread while looking at the screen.

“What?” David asked, moving towards the screen.

“I forgot to unlock the doors.” Ben replied, pointing to the screen, which showed piles of students and teachers clotting at all the doors, pushing and shoving, and beginning to panic. David quickly lifted the desk phone again and hit the intercom button, then held it back to Mr. Ronaldson.

“Tell them something.” He whispered.

“What?” Ronaldson asked.

“I don’t give a s**t, just tell them anything that will keep them from rioting.” David whispered loudly, being careful not to send sound through the intercom. Ronaldson took the phone and placed it up to his ear.

“Sorry for the inconvenience students and staff,” He began, “we will have the doors unlocked momentarily.”

This seemed to curb the panic a little, and keep people by the doors. David quickly turned back to Ben.

“What can we do?” He asked frantically.

“I’m trying to get back into the security system like I did with the computer at the front office.” Ben explained.

“Can you do it fast?” David hurried.

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” Ben replied, just as frantically. “We can only hope that the entry code isn’t different for this computer.” He said, typing in the only code he knew into the computer and waiting. For a moment it did nothing, then the security mainframe popped up. “Yes!” He exclaimed happily before getting back to working. He quickly brought up the security measures, and turned off both the lockdown procedure and the nightly lock-up procedure. Soon after, all the doors were open and all the gates were raised, and students began to pour out of the building like water bursting through a broken dam.

“Now keep a close eye on those damn cops, we don’t want them getting in here.” David said, watching the screen. They both watched all the cameras, switching to a new one every few moments, watching the officers’ movements. All the while, Marcus was watching out the front windows of the library, watching the kids all go by. A few noticed the situation, and began sprinting away, but most were to occupied by their own situations to pay any mind to the crowd of frightened hostages a few feet away from them.

The school emptied quickly, and soon the hoards of students had turned to slower trickles. A few minutes after that, no students or faculty appeared on any camera except for the one watching the library.

“Ok, Barnes, looks like you’ve held up well, now it’s time to lock up again.” David said, walking out the doors to check the hall himself to watch for anyone who may be hiding in a camera blind spot.

“Alright, kid.” Barnes said, and then paused for a moment. “Say kid, what’s your name, anyway?” He wondered.

“I don’t see how that’s in any way important, why do you care?” David wondered.

“I’m just trying to make an acquaintance is all.” Barnes replied.

“Yeah, well, I think its kind of hard to make any kind of bond whatsoever if you can’t even see me right now, I can’t even see you very well through these cheap a*s, e-bay bought surveillance cameras.” David explained.

“Actually there’s something wrong with that statement, kid.” Barnes said.

“Oh, and what might that be?” David asked, already skeptical of whatever the negotiator would say.

“I can see you, very well actually, thank the news crew for that.” Barnes explained, seeming happy while saying it.

This statement sent all of David’s skepticism away, he knew that Barnes probably wasn’t lying, and he darted back into the library and out of site, not willing to attempt to call Barnes’ possible bluff.

“You think you’re funny?” David asked angrily.

“I admit it, I have my moments.” Barnes replied blissfully.

“Oh, really?” David replied. He pulled out his.45 and fired a shot into the ceiling, which brought out many screams from the hostages. “Because I think that’s pretty funny, how about you?” David questioned.

“Ok, lets not get carried away.” Barnes was now speaking nervously.

“Ok, Barnes, here’s what’s going to happen: We are going to lock this building back down and comb the area for any stragglers, and, like before, if your guys get too close to this place, I will start killing people.” David explained.

“That is understood.” Barnes said, now much more serious than before.

“Great,” David said with a fake glee in his voice, “I’m hanging up now.”

“No, hey, wai-” David hung up before Barnes could finish his sentence. He then turned his attention toward Ben.

“Here,” He said, tossing him the large key ring, “go around and look for anyone who’s left behind, as well as lock all those damn fire doors up.”

“What if there’s a fire?” Marcus asked.

“We’ll burn to death.” David replied quickly before turning back to Ben.

“What if there is someone out there still?” Ben wondered worriedly.

“Take that, then.” David pointed to the Mac 10 machine gun sitting on Ben’s end of the desk. Ben picked it up and swung it over his shoulder.

“But where’s the chance in that?” Marcus asked.

“That is very simple.” David stated, “Do you have a quarter?” He addressed Ben.

“Yeah, why?” Ben asked.

“Flip if, heads, they live, tales, you blow them away.” David explained.

“Sounds easy enough.” Ben said.

“Now be on your way, before those cops find out there’s a way in.” David directed. “And when you walk out, face away from the front doors, they’re watching us now.”

Ben went out the doors swiftly and did as was directed, he didn’t look towards the front doors. At least, until his curiosity got the best of him about halfway down the hall, and he turned his head and stared down at the front doors, just as the gates were beginning to close. He turned back after just a few moments figuring there wasn’t really much to see. He soon made it to the first gate, found the key to unlock it, and made his way through the classrooms down the first hallway. The checks were not very thorough, just a swing open of the door and a few second walk around the room before moving on. Ben found this to be the quickest way to go about looking through the sprawling grid that was his high school.

Back at the library all was quiet, David was watching intently on the cameras to watch out for cops, as well as watch Ben’s progress throughout the clearing process. Marcus, however, was tasked to keep an eye on the hostages. Julie, George, and Ryan were still huddled in theirs separate little area, Nick was still consoling a melancholy Rachel. And everyone else was just cowering in his or her own little spaces. As he sat there, watching this still crowd, he began to drift off and away. He thought of his sister and her boyfriend, he wondered if anyone of his neighbors had heard the shots earlier that morning, or if for some other reason someone had found them yet. He came to realize that his only family left died by his own hand. And then an even stranger realization yet came over him, that despite the last remnants of his bloodline, not to mention people he was in some way inclined to say he had loved, or at least not hated, at some point in his life had been swiftly shot and killed by him, he didn’t care, he barely felt anything at all for them, no remorse, no sadness, but most strange to him, is that it brought on no happiness.

 


12

 

Back outside, Downs was able to set up a TV set by the van that was attached to a live feed camera that they had set-up on the roof of the van to get a clear look through the doors. With that they had gotten a small, but clear picture of both David’s and Ben’s faces, Davis was off working with facial analysts to try and determine their identities. Now it was just Downs and Barnes, just watching the screen, waiting for something to happen.

“You know what bothers me?” Downs questioned Barnes.

“What?” Barnes replied.

“If there were any students, or teachers, or anyone left behind, which seems in probable, couldn’t they just kill them if they showed up?” Downs wondered.

“Well maybe they don’t want to risk it is all.” Barnes suggested.

“It just doesn’t seem like enough motive to have one of you guys go out and risk their lives.” Downs continued.

“Well what are you, a detective?” Barnes responded, doubtfully.

“No, it’s just a hunch is all.” Downs explained.

“Well if it’s bothering you, why not roll with it and get it outta your mind?” Barnes said. Before Down’s could respond again, Davis came wandering up again.

“We checked the database for anyone matching either of the kids description.” He explained.

“And?” Downs awaited a continuation.

“No matches.” Davis replied in disappointment.

“Well look somewhere else.” Downs commanded.

“Where?” Davis asked. Downs sat for a moment wondering to himself where Davis should look.

“You two do realize that the school system probably saves these students’ pictures in their own database for school ID’s.” Barnes said, almost humored by their lack of knowledge. Downs quickly looked up and shot a look at Davis, sending him scurrying off again to do their work for them while they sat and waited in front of this still TV screen.

“I just wish we knew who these damn kids were, at least.” Downs sighed.

“Well I’m sure if we look ourselves we can find the answer. Was their anyone missing from the class role calls after the evacuation?” Barnes pondered.

“Yeah, forty plus hostages.” Downs said lowly.

“Damn,” Barnes said in disappointment, “well what about concerned family members?”

“Come on Barnes.” Downs looked at him with a humorous surprise. “Look behind the van.” Barnes followed Downs’ direction and got up to look behind the van, what he saw amazed him in the fact that he didn’t notice before. Hundreds of people across the street from the school, most of them being onlookers, but every few feet he saw a crying, worried looking group of people. All of them worried family, each for someone different. Barnes went and sat back down in a huff.

“I guess we’ll just have to wait for Davis to return, hopefully with some good news.” Barnes said, defeated.

They both sat in the open doorsill of the van for a few minutes, each were hoping the other was coming up with better ideas that they were. After a while, Downs began to simply watch blankly at the TV screen, praying something would happen soon.

“Hey, guys.” An officer on a computer inside the van broke the silence, causing each of them the jump a little. They both turned to face him. “Jumpy are we?” He said with a smile.

“What do you want, Lewis?” Downs asked, annoyed.

“I’ve got something you’ll defiantly want to see.” Lewis replied. The both of them got up and entered the van in anticipation.

“What do we have?” Barnes wondered, looking at the screen.

“Well, I checked up on that new security system that the school installed. And I figured out that those kids ran the night lock-up routine, as well as the lockdown routine.” Lewis explained, with a big grin.

“Yeah, so?” Downs asked impatiently.

“So, after looking in further detail about this procedures, I noticed something, that these procedures don’t lock any of the fire doors. As a matter of fact, no procedure in that system locks the fire escapes, those only have manual locks on them.” The grin on Lewis grew ear-to-ear. Barnes and Downs just looked at each other in pure exuberance.

“Well that sounds like a better motive to leave the library than to check for leftover people.” Downs said excitedly. “We need people to check those doors before they get locked.”

“Hold on, hold on.” Barnes stopped him as they both got out of the van. “You need to think this through a little more, if we kill them, that bomb they have explodes. And if they see us getting near to that building, they’ll start shooting hostages.” This stopped Downs dead in his tracks.

“Luckily for you two, I figured out a possible solution to that problem.” Lewis said.

“A solution?” Barnes wondered at him, visibly skeptical.

“Well, there is an outdoor camera, down by the shop rooms around the other side of the school, that is directed at a very awkward angle, and to make things better, none of the security cameras move, leaving you a huge blind spot to move people through to that door.” Lewis explained, smiling again.

“That’s perfect.” Downs explained, with a smile as big as Lewis’.

“Just one more problem.” Barnes said, stopping Downs yet again. “Fire doors make noise when you open them, so we would announce our entrance through there for sure.”

“Do you have an answer for that too Lewis?” Downs hoped.

“Actually maybe,” Lewis replied, bringing Downs’ smile back to him, “normally, when the lockdown procedure is ran, there is an alarm to signal it. But no reports of an alarm ever happened. And there are no selective alarm removals in this security system, its all or nothing, which means the full out fire alarms shouldn’t trip if you open the door, however, each door has it’s own built in alarm for when the door opens, which I very loud. But, thanks to it being the shop rooms, all the rooms are virtually soundproof to avoid distracting other rooms with the noise from the machines.” Downs’ worries went instantly away again.

“Hold on.” Barnes stopped. “Why would they put a fire door in a room where only the people in that room could hear the alarm?”

“I don’t know.” Lewis replied. “Bad building planning is my guess, not every building is perfect.” Barnes just turned away with an annoyed sigh back to Downs.

“This just keeps on getting better, you know.” Downs said cheerfully. His statement brought out another sigh from Barnes.

“Well it’s about to get even better, yet.” They both turned to see Davis had returned, this time with papers in hand. “We’ve got a positive ID. At that, Barnes and Downs rushed over to look at the paper. “His name is David Marshall, seventeen, far from the most popular kid in school.” Davis explained as the two read.

“How the hell do you know how popular he is?” Barnes looked up.

“We asked some students in his grade what they knew about him, that’s what we came up with.” Davis replied. “Also, he’s got a hard home life, drunken mother, we tried to contact her, but judging on the amount of DUI’s she’s got, she’s probably at a bar. As well as a father who left the family a long time ago to be with his mistress.”

“Being tormented at school, and having to come home to a hell like that. I can see why he’s so fucked up.” Downs said, sickened by the story.

“And what about the other kid we saw?” Barnes wondered.

“We didn’t get that good a look at him, so we’re still working on him, but from the interviews that we did with his peers we got some possible names. He’s only seen talking to two other people, Marcus Price and Ben Klemond, each of whom were unaccounted for in the role calls.” Davis explained.

“Yeah,” Barnes recalled, “I remember him saying one of his accomplices name’s was Ben.”

“Well,” Downs began, handing the paper back to Davis, “lets round up an army and go get these weirded out a******s.”

“I have a feeling you don’t have quite enough time for that.” The two turned back to see Lewis, looking at the TV and pointing at the picture. Downs, Barnes, and Davis rushed over to see Ben coming back down the hall.

“Where the hell did he come from?” Downs asked.

“He came up from those doors at the very end of the hall.” Lewis explained, pointing towards the portion of the hall that lead to the cafeteria, that was separated by doors, which were now being locked by Ben.

“Well where’s he going off to next?” Davis questioned.

“I’m sure we’ll find out in just a few moments.” Lewis responded, fixed on the screen. They all watched as Ben locked up the doors leading to the cafeteria, then moving further down the hall into the cross-hall area just a few feet from the now locked doors. He turned to one gate, leaned down and unlocked it, slipped under, and relocked it again.

“Oh, s**t.’ Barnes whispered.

“What, what?” Downs asked, anxious.

“That hallway leads to the shop rooms.” Barnes replied, now just as anxious.

“You don’t think?” Lewis asked.

“I think so.” Barnes said.

“But that door is our only hope.” Lewis said in despair.

“I guess that means we have to move quick.” Downs said, moving quickly away from the screen and approaching two near by officers. “You and you, load your pistols with rubber bullets and come back to me, I’ve got a very important job for you” The two officers quickly ran off to find the non-lethal rounds.

“No, Downs.” Barnes protested. “This requires a lot of planning. If we rush this it will screw up for sure.”

“This door is all we’ve got as a hope to stop this. I don’t want anymore innocent people dead.” Downs replied angrily.

“I know, but if we go in with just these two officers, it won’t be enough, how do you expect it to work this way?” Barnes was now just as angry.

“Once they see that the other kid hasn’t come back, another will go out looking, and we’ll get him, then we can take the last one before he can react.” Downs explained as best he could.

“And what about the indoor video cameras, did you think about that Downs!” Barnes yelled. “I’m telling you this needs more planning than you’re giving it, this situation is not a simple fix!” Barnes was heated with anger.

Before Downs could respond, the two officers returned, their guns filled with rubber rounds. And Downs signaled for them both to follow him, and they walked off from Barnes.

“I suppose we’ll see who’s right soon won’t we?” Downs said confidently as he and the two officers walked off.

“Downs!” Barnes yelled louder than he had before. “If you do this people will die, I know you, you don’t want blood of some kid on your hands! Downs, listen to me!” Downs just continued on his way, no looking back to acknowledge Barnes at all.

“Do you really think Downs’ plan will end that way?” Davis asked, worried.

“To be truthful,” Barnes began, “I think Downs will cause a slaughter.”


13

 

Ben had cleared most of the hallways, and now found himself back at the cross-hall. He stood for only a moment before beginning down the hall towards the cafeteria, as well as the rest of the basement.

The cafeteria was large, and more modern looking than the rest of the building, its ceiling covered the whole two stories (basement, and main floor) and was covered in large windows, letting natural light in from every direction of its dome-like shape. Ben entered the huge, open area with much reluctance at first, not knowing what he might find, there were many ways in, including four sets of doors leading outside, as well as two more leading to stairwells to the upstairs of the building, not to mention the huge rows of massive windows. As he inched out and saw no one was there he began to walk about normally again. He strolled into the kitchen, which was really just a glorified vending machine, it was full of shelves covered in cans and bags of processed foods of every kind, and the large opening to the cafeteria was dotted with cashier stands, he thought for a moment about busting open the cash registers and taking some of the money, he knew that it would really mean nothing to him at this point, but as he thought of that he quickly broke his own train of thought and got right back to searching. He scanned through the shelves before come back out and shutting the gates to the kitchen, locking what ever he may have missed, if anything, inside. He then walked across the length of the large area to lock up doors to a hallway, which leads to the buildings only elevator, as well as back around towards the kitchen. Once he had locked all those doors up, he locked the stairwell doors opposite the ones he had used to enter the area, and then returned to the other side.

He had only one thing left to lock up, the gate leading to the rest of the basement area, he had locked up all other ways in or out of that area. All other doors he hadn’t gotten to were locked by the security system. As he got closer to the large, open hallway he stopped for a moment, something was amiss in his mind. He stood for a moment, all was silent and still, the only noise in the large area was the several small ceiling fans two stories above him releasing a low wurring. He looked around for a moment before turning his attention back towards the hallway, the only thing occupying the hall was a group of garbage cans. He pulled the Mac-10 off of his back and strolled slowly towards the gate, he was forced to put it back on his shoulder as he went up to grab the gate. As he grasped in a tall blur came rushing out from a hiding place among the large trashcans and plunged into him. He toppled over, and as he regained his composure he pulled the Mac-10 back off of his shoulder once more. His eyes darted all around, he had still no idea what had just happened. He pointed the machine gun everywhere that he looked, he saw nothing, until, the blur returned, this time grabbing at his gun. He swung it up above him but that did no good, the blur, which now was revealed to be just some kid who stayed back trying to be a hero. They both wrestled each other around pulling and tugging on the gun. As the gun faced up, the kid twisted around and Ben’s finger squeezed the trigger, the gun let off a stream of bullets into the ceiling.

Just then, in the wrestling and commotion, someone hit the magazine release and the metal sheath dropped to the floor. The pulling about continued and the kid kicked the magazine across the room, and gotten his own fingers around the trigger, firing off the last bullet it had in the chamber. It was now just an empty gun.

Ben and the kid fought for a few more seconds before the gun left each of their grasps and it flew in its own direction. The kid quickly through a punch, which Ben barely dodged and took the open opportunity to throw an elbow directly into the kid’s cheek. This sent him falling back onto one of the tables spread about the room. Before the kid could move Ben was back at him, he through the kid across the table and he landed on a group of chairs, which promptly fell over, spilling him onto the floor. As Ben made his way around the table he pulled the .45 out of his pocket. He still had his arms by his side as he made it to the end at which the kid had fallen. The kid was still seemingly disoriented in the pile of chairs when Ben approached. Ben raised the gun slowly, but before he could get it very far the kid sprung into action and kicked it out of Ben’s grasp, he was hardly disoriented. He then pushed himself up a few feet into the air with his hands, pulled back his legs, and sent them right into Ben’s chest, sending him back and giving the kid a chance to get up. Once the kid was up he rushed at Ben, he swung a left hook which hit Ben dead on and sent him further backward, as did the following right hook. Another left sent him to the ground, the kid was quickly on top of him sending as many punches as he could throw at him.

Once Ben had hit the ground he noticed something sitting on the floor within arms reach, and as the kid began to pummel him he reached out for it. It was the Mac-10, and seconds later he had his hands on it. He swung it up at the kid and the but of the gun struck him right in the forehead, pushing him off of Ben. As Ben slowly got up, he saw that this blow had left the kid genuinely disoriented. Ben took saw his opportunity and acted on it, Ben got on top of the kid, much like the kid had done earlier, he brought the gun up above him, and brought the stock of the gun down into the kid’s face, he swung it again, and struck him again. In a matter of seconds Ben was in a fury, crushing the kid’s face in with every heavy blow, streams of blood flew off of the stock every time he brought the gun back up. After many, many swings the kid seemed almost unrecognizable, and the stock of the Mac-10 was thickly caked in blood. As Ben got back up and went to retrieve his .45 and the Mac-10’s magazine he felt his face begin to ache and swell. The kid had got him good, but he had gotten the kid much worse, and that brought a smile to his beaten face. The first thing he came to was the .45, he picked it up, turned back towards the kid’s body, still lying there, he pulled out his quarter and he flipped it. As it came down he snatched it out of the air and quickly opened his hand to look at it, Washington’s face was looking back at him. Ben let out a single, quiet laugh before putting it back into his pocket. He wandered back to where the magazine was, and as he picked it up and loaded it back into the gun his head began to throb.

He arrived back at the cross hall with a swelled face and a throbbing head, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he was there to do. He slowly shut and locked the doors that led down towards the cafeteria, that entire area was now sealed off from the rest of the building. He then made his way to one of the gated hallways, he fidgeted with the keys until he found the right one, then he opened the gate and started down the hallway, he was heading to the only hall that he had not checked, the shop hall.

The first room Ben came to in the shop hall was a small classroom that was attached to the large automotive workshop. He went into the shop to find it devoid of all life. That shop had a large garage door with big windows on it, Ben peered out of one and saw no one, this helped put his mind at ease, if only a little. There was only one fire door left to lock, and that was the one attached to the woodshop. Ben walked into the small classroom that led into the woodshop to find it just like the others…empty. He entered the woodshop and made his way to the fire escape, which was on the far end of the large, open room. About half way towards the door Ben had to go around a large grainer machine, as he did the fire door swung open, and before the alarm could let out a full ring, a hand had reached up and pulled the cord from the alarm box. After that it seemed everything ran in slow motion, a police officer appeared from behind the door, gun in hand, and another one was making his way inside. Ben raised the Mac-10 as fast as he could, but the one officer already had his gun trained on him. The officer fired two shots into Ben’s chest and as he went down he pulled the trigger to his own gun and sent bullets flying, one bullet hit the officers arm and sent him running out the door, along with the other officer. Ben acted quickly, and was up of the ground almost before he landed, the thought crossed his mind “Why am I not dead?” Then pain began to pulse through his body from his chest. By the time he reached the door he was panting and clutching his chest, he kicked a few times at the lock on the floor before getting it, and as he reached up to push in the top door lock the pain became worse than ever. He quickly locked that lock before collapsing to the ground, the pain almost making him pass out. He sat there for a moment thinking that he had actually been shot and was going to die. But soon he came to realize that they were just fake rounds, and although the still hurt, he was relived they were not real bullets.

After another minute or two, he slowly got back up to his feet and made his way to the door back to the classroom even slower. By the time he was out in the hallway he had to lean on a wall to support himself. Through the last few minutes, Ben had his face beaten to a pulp, and has been shot twice in the chest with rubber bullets. And now all he wanted was to get back to the library, but he knew that it was still a long walk away.

 

-

 

It was almost ten more minutes before Ben made his way back to the library. Once he arrived he tossed himself against the door, not finding the strength to open it. Luckily that made enough noise to alert his friends, Marcus quickly got him back in and he sat right on the floor, resting up against the small reference desk a few feet away from the main desk.

“What the hell happened to you?” Marcus asked, staring in fear and disgust and his disfigured friend.

“Found a sonofa b***h, down it the cafeteria.” Ben said quickly, in between long breaths. “He got me bad, but you should see him.” He said with a little smile, showing them the horribly bloody end of the Mac-10. “Then some f****n’ cops tried coming in through that fire door in the shop hall, the got me with one of them non deadly bullets. But I warded them off with a few of my real ones.”

“Cops?” David asked, furious. “Cops tried to get in here?”

“Yeah, they got about five feet.” Ben said, humorously.

“How did they get past us?” David wondered in disbelief, searching through the security camera footage on the computer.

“Those sons of a b*****s are gonna pay, don’t you worry.” Marcus assured.

“You bet your a*s they are!” David asserted. He opened his mouth to say more but was cut off by a familiar sound, the sound of a vibrating phone.


14

 

“You son of a b***h.” David said in disgust into the phone. “Did you really think that dumb a*s plan would work?”

“Actually me personally, no, but some others thought it would.” Barnes replied.

“Well let me be the first to say, those who thought that way are going to have blood on their hands now.” David was quiet, but furiously assertive.

“Don’t let this go too far, David.” Barnes said. David let out about half of a word before he stopped and reflected on what was just said.

“What the hell did you just say?” David asked, with an angry curiosity flooding his voice.

“I said that you shouldn’t let this go too far, David.” Barnes repeated.

“How the hell do you know my name?” David’s anger was beginning to outweigh the curiosity now.

“A school database can tell a person a lot of things.” Barnes explained. “Are Marcus Price and Ben Klemond there as well?”

“Ok, you know our names, now I’m sure you feel more powerful in these negotiations, don’t you?” David predicted.

“Well having more information about you definitely will help me in these negotiations.” Barnes explained.

“Well I shouldn’t have to remind you how I negotiate.” David was walking around the desk and approaching George, Ryan, and Julie, who were still huddled together. “And in my way names don’t mean s**t.” David grabbed Julie by the hair and threw her out the doors and into the hallway.

“Whoa, whoa, David, what are you doing?” Barnes asked.

“I’m negotiating, my way.” David explained, walking out into the hall. “So I’m gonna guess you can see me? You’ve got your cameras trained on me right now, huh? Well see this then!” David pulled his Model 19 out of his pocket and pointed it down at the cowering Julie.

“David, please just wait a minute, can’t we talk.” Barnes showed a large amount of worry in his voice, which brought out a dark laugh from David.

“Talking time is over, Barnes.” David said. “You need to pay for what your foot soldiers did to my friend.”

“Please don’t hurt me.” Julie pleaded.

“Shut the f**k up!” David yelled at her, bringing her to a full sob.

“This girl probably has a family David.” Barnes explained.

“I don’t care, Barnes.” David replied. “I never had any family, so why should she get one, how’s that fair?”

“I’m sorry for what happened to your friend, trust me I am.” Barnes was almost stuttering with nervousness.

“What did I tell you, Barnes? You bring your people near this building people will die, so now that’s what’s going to happen.” David replied, he cocked the hammer of he revolver back. “Do you want to play a game with me Barnes?”

“What?” Barnes asked in surprise.

“Do you want to play a little game? Because I’m not for just straight up killing whoever I see fit, I have rules, you know?” David explained.

“Rules? What rules?” Barnes was still surprised, as well as now confused.

“You see Barnes,” David began. “The way I see it, every single one of those people in that library, including myself and my friends, deserve to die. But I’m not here based on what I think, I here based on what God thinks.”

“How do you know what God thinks of these people?” Barnes wondered.

“It’s very simple,” David was now walking circles around the crying girl beneath him. “You see, only God can influence chance, so we play little games of chance here, just to see what God thinks. In this instance, I’ve got a revolver with six barrels, five have live rounds, and one has an empty cartridge. Simply spin the barrel, and if God wanted this girl to live he’d make the empty cartridge land at the firing pin, if he wanted her dead, he’d make the cylinder stop on one of the live ones. So, lets get started.” David spun the cylinder.

“No, now wait a minute, can’t you stop and think for just a few seconds?” Barnes raised his voice.

“I did all my thinking before I got here.” David pointed the gun at her head.

“Please,” She pleaded again, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” David asked quietly.

“For everything I’ve done, not just to you, but to everyone.” Julie sobbed.

“Interesting, and all it took was having you come face-to-face with your own mortality.” David pointed out. “Too bad I’m not a confessional.”

“Please, don’t, I’m sorry.” She continued to sob as David aimed the revolver. He closed one eye and began to squeeze the trigger. Julie was now curled up on the floor, facing down towards the ground. He squeezed the trigger a little more and the hammer flew forward, sending a bullet out of the gun in a flash of fire. And, in an instant, the crying stopped.

“Jesus f*****g Christ.” Barnes was mortified.

“I don’t think God would appreciate his son’s name being used that way.” David stated calmly.

“I don’t think he’d appreciate you killing innocent people either.” Barnes replied, still shocked by what had just happened.

“These people are not innocent, I’ve witnessed their sins, now they must stand the test of God.” David explained.

“If everyone has to take their tests, how come you haven’t? Maybe you should try pointing that gun at yourself before you point it at another poor bystander.” Barnes spoke almost angrily.

“I have taken my test, me and both my friend took the gun to each other before we came here, to make sure we were worthy of God, as to not be hypocrites.” David replied.

“If you’ve already passed your test, than you shouldn’t be afraid to point that gun at yourself again, should you?” Barnes was trying to confuse David and mess up his thought process, basically Barnes’ best weapon to stopping a standoff.

“I can’t do that.” David said simply.

“Why not?” Barnes replied, feeling as if he was getting closer to full confusion.

“Because turning a gun on myself would be suicide. Which would be a sin.” David said. David didn’t seem to be budging, which made Barnes increasingly frustrated.

“Then what do you have to worry about, if you’ve already passed your test, then you shouldn’t have to worry about that at all, should you?” Barnes knew now that David only had two options, admit fault in his thought process or point that revolver at himself. No one ever went for the latter option in Barnes’ day.

“Ok, if it will prove a point.” David spun the cylinders and put the revolver up to his head.

“Wait, what?” Barnes was astonished. And it was then that it reappeared in his head that if the kid did kill himself, everyone in there would die.

“If it will prove a point to you, I will show you that God doesn’t want me dead.” David explained. Before Barnes had time to reply David pulled the trigger on himself, the gun produced only a click. “There, you’re a witness, I am doing God’s work here.”

“Are you insane?” Barnes yelled. He was very relieved that he was not the one responsible for the kid killing himself and in exchange blowing up everyone else.

“You know, I don’t like that word to much.” David said. “Maybe you’re insane for doubting me in the first place.”

“Don’t try and turn this around on me, everyone does that and it never works.” Barnes said, seemingly unfazed by David’s comment.

“You know the funny thing about the work never,” David began, “is that it only applies to what has happened in the past for sure. When someone says the word never in reference to the future that’s nothing more than a prediction, and a far fetched one more often than not. So when you say that never works, what you’re really saying is that it hasn’t worked yet.”

“Don’t even try it kid, you’re wasting your time.” Barnes said.

“You know what I just realized, you just encouraged me to kill not just my self, but every hostage in here.” David said in an almost surprised tone.

“You just realized that, you didn’t think about that before you pulled that trigger.” Barnes raised his voice again. “You could have instantly killed not just all those other people, but your friends too.”

“I don’t give a s**t about any of those hostages, and my friends and I have all come to the conclusion that each of us have done our shares of sins, so we are not afraid to kill each other.” David explained. “Now you were brought here to negotiate, and all you’ve been doing is sitting here trying to mess with my head.”

“Well it’s kind of hard to negotiate when you don’t want anything.” Barnes pointed out.

“Alright, here’s something,” David began, “I want you to come in here.”

“What, why?” Barnes wondered.

“So I can look you in the eye, then kill you.” David answered.

“Tempting offer,” Barnes said sarcastically, “but I’m gonna pass on it. Even then, you just said you don’t just walk around killing whoever you want, you have rules.”

“Well then you can come in here to take your test, see what God thinks.” David replied.

“The only reason I’d come in there would be to rip that little bracelet off your arm and kill you, with a smile on my face.” Barnes said with a dark happiness.

“You should never sin with a smiling face, it adds insult to injury.” David said, walking back into the library and out of Barnes’s sight.

“I don’t care about that, what I care about is keeping you from killing everyone in there.” Barnes explained angrily.

“You’re not talking much like a good negotiator right now.” David responded, sitting back down behind the front desk.

“What’s not good about not wanting you to keep killing?” Barnes questioned.

“I guess most negotiators, I would think, wouldn’t tell the criminal what they want, it opens up weakness.” David answered. “Like you said you don’t want me to kill anyone anymore, so now I know what’ll get you.” David grabbed his .45, aimed it at the two boys who remained in the separate little group in front of him, and he fired, putting a bullet right through Ryan’s right knee. Ryan screamed in pain an keeled over, clutching his wounded knee.

“No, please don’t.” Barnes pleaded.

“See, I now know your weak point here, I know what I can use against you.” David said with a big grin. “That’s me messing with your head, now you can’t say it never happened anymore.”

 

-

 

As David continued on talking with Barnes, and Marcus went on taking care of Ben, far in the back of the library, Rachel was calmed down. Nick still held her in his arms, they had both been quiet since their confrontation with David.

“You were right.” Rachel whispered, just barely loud enough for Nick to hear.

“What?” He whispered back, Just as quiet.

“We need to get out of here.” She said.

“Oh, come on Rachel, that was just me being me, don’t take it seriously.” Nick tried to talk sense into her.

“We need to leave here or we’ll end up like Bryan.” She finished her thought quickly to avoid choking up over Bryan.

“And how do you suppose we do that?” Nick asked.

“I don’t know, but we need to think of something, I can’t stand staying here.” She said, seeming more and more distraught by the situation.

“I don’t know what you want me to do.” Nick was confused and scared.

“Please, we just need to think.” She looked up at him, and he could see the desperation in her eyes.

“Alright, I will try and think, but what you need to do is straighten out your thoughts, cause I don’t think you’re thinking straight at all, so I’ll ask you again later if you still want to do this.” Nick replied.

“I know this is what I want, I don’t want to sit here and do nothing I want to try and get out of here, I don’t want to be here, I want to be with my family.” Rachel had to stop quickly to avoid a sob yet again.

“I know,” Nick said, cradling her again. “I want to see my family too. Hell, I’d settle for seeing your mom even though she hates me.” This brought a smile to Rachel’s face, which brought one up in Nick’s as well.

“I’d give anything to see them again.” Rachel said with a mournful sigh.

“I’d give the whole world twice over.” Nick agreed.

“Nick.” Rachel addressed.

“Yeah.” He answered.

“What do you think heaven is like?” She asked.

“Now stop thinking those thoughts, Rachel, everything will be fine.” He replied.

“I guess pessimism runs in the family.” Rachel said. Looking down at the bloodstain left by Bryan’s body.

“Hey,” Nick said softly, lifting her head up with his finger, away from the bloodspot and towards him, “I know this isn’t the brightest situation we’ve been in, but it doesn’t pay well to think like that.” Nick repeated what she’d said earlier to him. She seemed to take it well, and she sat back and they both were quiet. Rachel did what Nick said and pondered whether or not she really wanted to risk escaping from there, she only thought for a few minutes before her mind drifted to memories of Bryan, and the rest of her family, and how much she wanted to see them again. And Nick did what Rachel said and tried to think of ways they could get out of the library. But, like Rachel, his mind began to drift to thoughts of his own family. So they both sat quietly in each other’s arms, remembering the lives they lived and the people they loved.


15

 

“Say, Barnes, do you want to play another game?” David asked, playing at Barnes’ newly revealed weak point.

“No, for the love of God.” Barnes replied quickly and nervously.

“Oh, come on, look on the bright side, thanks to that corpse in the hallway now there’s two empty barrels, I’ve bettered your odds.” David said, smiling as he gazed at the revolver sitting on the desktop in front of him.

“This is absolutely insane.” Barnes stressfully sighed.

“Now, Barnes, I told you I don’t like that word.” David corrected.

“I’m sorry.” Barnes replied. “Would you like it better if I called you f*****g psychotic?” Barnes replied, frustrated.

“I don’t really care what you’d call me to replace the “I” word, but I just don’t like it.” David responded, uncaring of Barnes’ increasing anger.

“What is your problem with that word, anyhow?” Barnes inquired.

“The definition of that word, the definition that I always hear anyway, is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ and that just isn’t me.” David explained. “Sure, I’ve played this little revolver game more than once, but I didn’t expect any different results. Sometimes I got them, but I never expected them. Get it?”

“Only a little.” Barnes replied.

“You know you’re the second person to say that to me today.” David said, looking over at Ben, who still looked like hell, but was now back up behind the desk watching the computer. Ben looked back and gave him what looked like a smile. “Am I really that hard to talk to?”

“You’re not the easiest, I’ll tell you that.” Barnes replied.

“Your attitude is not helping this situation.” David told him.

“Yeah, well, neither is yours.” Barnes responded sharply.

“What’s wrong with my attitude?” David inquired.

“Your attitude is pointed towards killing people which, believe it or not, is what I’m here to stop, that’s basically the only reason I’m here. So it’s not helping my situation” Barnes became more aggravated.

“Well it’s helping my situation, less people to deal with.” David replied, still showing no care for Barnes’ growing annoyance.

“And what about your friends, did you stop and think how it effects them?” Barnes questioned.

David them turned away from the phone to address his friends.

“Hey guys,” they both looked, “does killing these people help our situation?” David asked them.

“Yeah.” Ben said after a few seconds thought.

“Damn, straight.” Marcus said.

“See,” David said, turning back to the phone, “mutual agreement.”

“Well did you ever stop to think about the people you’re hurting, who maybe you didn’t want to hurt?” Barnes wondered.

“I don’t follow.” David said, confused.

“What about your families?” Barnes explained. “I’m sure they’re crying over what’s happening right now.”

“Oh, yeah, they care so much.” David began. “That’s why they’re here now talking through one of them police megaphones you’ve got, trying to talk us all out of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t even know about any of this yet.”

“I’m sure they’re at least a little saddened by this.” Barnes assured.

“Alright, that’s it.” David got up, turned toward the other two, hit the speakerphone button on the phone and tossed it atop the desk. “You two try and explain this to him.” Marcus and Ben approached the phone.
            “David, what are you doing?” Barnes asked.

“I put you on speakerphone.” David explained. “Now tell my friends what you were saying about not hurting who we don’t mean to and bla-bla-bla.”

“Have you ever thought about what you’re families are thinking about this, how saddened they are?” Barnes asked them.

“No, my mother barely knows my name, and the only reason my father would be sad is because now there’s no one to beat but my mom.” Ben stated.

“And that’s a definite no for me, because I killed mine before I got here.” Marcus added.

“Whoa, wait, what?” Barnes was caught off guard by this, as were the other two.

“Yeah, I’m with him, what the hell are you talking about?” David asked, equally surprised.

“When I got up this morning my sister and he jackass boyfriend, I don’t remember his name, were f*****g each other. So before my friends got there I grabbed that a*****e’s gun off the kitchen table, went up there, and blew ‘em both to pieces. Then I got in my car to go pick up Ben and David. If you don’t believe me just go find my house. It probably stinks like hell now.” Marcus explained, grimacing at the thought of the smell of rotting bodies.

“When were you gonna tell us that you offed your sister?” David asked.

“I was really planning on never, didn’t seem important.” Marcus replied.

“How could you kill your own family member like that?” Barnes wondered in horror.

“At this point she didn’t seem like family, she never treated me like a brother, why should I treat her like a sister.” Marcus replied, almost angrily.

“Ok, its obvious you’re more mentally unstable than the other two, so let’s move on to David’s family.” Barnes said.

“Hey, maybe you’re the one who’s unstable.” Marcus responded, this time angrily. Barnes just ignored him and continued on.

“So, David,” He addressed, “How’s your family life.” Barnes had learned about it earlier, but he just wanted to hear it from David’s point of view.

“My mother is probably drinking her life away at some bar right now. She probably has no idea that any of this is happening.” David exclaimed.

“What if we found her and told her?” Barnes asked.

“She’d be too drunk to care. She’d probably be too drunk to even understand what you were telling her any how.” David replied bitterly.

“And what about your father?” Barnes continued.

“Never had one.” David said simply.

“Well you had to have had a father.” Barnes replied.

“Never had one I knew. I thought I knew him, but one day he just packed up and left the family for some other woman. I never knew who he truly was, just who he pretended to be.” David corrected, annoyed.

“Well it has become very obvious that you guys haven’t had the great home lives, so how were your lives at school?” Barnes inquired.

“What the hell are you, a therapist?” Marcus snapped.

“Well I have a psychology degree.” Barnes said, almost smugly.

“Alright,” Marcus began, “we were the most popular kid’s in the whole place, everyone looked up to us, and that’s why we built a suitcase nuke and came in here guns blazing.”

“That’s another thing,” Barnes continued, “where’d you get all that stuff?”

“The gun’s were bought from my sister’s boyfriend’s friend, guy who’s been fencing illegal weapons for years. We don’t even know his name, but apparently he sells good guns.” Marcus answered. Just then, David leaned forward and covered the phone with his hand.

“Marcus!” He spoke loudly, but was still careful to not alert Barnes of the conversation.

“What?” Marcus looked confused.

“Don’t tell him that!” David commanded.

“Why, are you afraid we’ll get in trouble?” Marcus asked sarcastically.

“No, he just doesn’t need to know everything.” David explained.

“How do we know he doesn’t already know everything? He found out our names, how do we know he hasn’t figured the rest of our s**t out?” Marcus wondered. David just gave him a glare and released his hand from over the phone.

“So, Barnes, where were we?” He asked.

“I was wondering where you got all the weapons.” Barnes replied. “So you got the guns from a black market dealer, what about the bomb?”

“I built that big guy.” Marcus announced proudly.

“And who are you?” Barnes asked, not knowing Marcus by his voice.

“Marcus.” Marcus answered.

“And those fancy little bracelets?” Barnes went on questioning.

“This is David, and those were of my design.” David said.

“Alright, so what was the other one in charge of?” Barnes wondered.

“My name is Ben, not ‘the other one’ and I was the one who hacked into the computer security system.” Ben replied, angry with Barnes.

“Well it seems you all have your own little parts to play, and you do it like a well oiled machine.” Barnes complimented.

“Is there a point to any of this?” Marcus asked, tired of talking with Barnes.

“I just wanted to know how my adversaries worked, that’s all.” Barnes said. Then, David covered up the phone again.

“You see!” He glared at Marcus again. “He’s gonna use that information against all of us.”

“He’s bluffing, uncover the phone.” Marcus responded, shooing David’s hand away.

“See, now I’ve gotten into your head.” Barnes said boastfully.

“Well you may have gotten into my associates’ heads’ but not into mine.” David replied.

“Hey, excuse me?” A voice came from behind them. The trio turned to find it was George Mansfield who was addressing them.

“Do you interrupt your parents’ when they’re on the phone?” David asked.

“No.” George replied nervously.

“Who is that?” Barnes wondered.

“Shut up, Barnes.” David snapped. Then he went back to addressing George. “So you don’t interrupt your parents when they’re on the phone?”

“No.” George repeated.

“Well then,” David raised his .45, “I don’t think you’d find it wise to interrupt us when we’re on the phone.”

“But Ryan looks like he’s going into shock.” George explained. David looked at Ryan, who was still partially keeled over. His face was a ghostly white and if it weren’t for his loud breathing, David would have suspected him dead.

“Well at least he quieter now.” David said before turning back to the phone.

“But he could die.” George continued, worriedly. David quickly turned back to him, lifted the .45 again, and fired at George. The bullet grazed his ear, sending him cowering to the floor.

“I don’t care!” David yelled in anger. George cowered on the floor holding his now bloodied ear.

David and friends quickly turned back towards the phone.

“D-David?” Barnes stuttered.

“What Barnes?” David was annoyed.

“Did you just kill someone?” Barnes reluctantly asked.

“No, but just and inch or so to the right and that answer would have been different.” David replied.

“Why must you keep doing these things to me David?” Barnes sighed.

“Because I’m not here to be nice to some nobody police negotiator who’s last chance at actual field work was when a convenient store robber held the cashier hostage with the inch long blade of a dollar store knife.” David ranted.

“I understand your anger, David.” Barnes said. “But maybe I’m not the one you should be lashing out at.”

“You know what?” David replied. “You’re right.” He conceded. He then reached across the desk, picked up the revolver and spun the barrel again. He then turned to Ryan, who was still in an almost catatonic state. He raised the gun and pulled the trigger. A bullet whizzed out of the gun and struck Ryan in the chest. Ryan then fell over on his back from the fetal position in which he was. “How’s that?” David asked at the phone. “That time I did kill someone, but he was on the edge of death anyway.” David picked up the phone and turned it off speakerphone, then put it back up to his ear. As he did he looked at Marcus and Ben. “Could you get that?” He gestured to Ryan’s corpse, they nodded and proceeded to take his body to the back closet with the others. As they moved the body David turned his attention back to the phone. “Barnes, did you hear me?”

“Yes, yes, I heard you.” Barnes assured in a tone that painted a clear picture of the horror he was feeling.

“That’s great, because I don’t like repeating myself.” David said, sitting back down behind the desk. David then rolled the chair over to the computer to check on the crowd in the front of the building. There were many more police vehicles and police officers, as well as a massive crowd of onlookers across the street, and many more news vans. “Say, Barnes, how many of those news crews are out there now?”
            “You just took a person’s life, and your concerned about the amount of media attention you’re getting?” Barnes’ horrified feeling was heightened.

“Yes, yes I am, now I suggest you answer the question before we play another round of my favorite game.” David extorted.

“Six news vans and a helicopter.” Barnes replied swiftly.

“See Barnes, we can work with each other, we don’t always have to be fighting. Maybe some day we can be friends.” David said with a little laugh.

“I don’t see that happening.” Barnes replied sternly.

“Well why not?” David asked, knowing full well what the answer was going to be.

“Because you’re a killer and I’m a cop, that just doesn’t work. And as for working together, I give you things but you have yet to give me anything at all in return.” Barnes explained.

“Oh, come on, that’s not fair, I’ve given you some things.” David retorted.

“Oh, really, because I have yet to see a single hostage of yours out here on the streets after you released him as a reward for me doing something for you. If that doesn’t happen, this whole thing can’t possibly work any other way.” Barnes exclaimed.

“Well, yes I haven’t given you any hostages back, but that’s because you let me learn your weakness was having hostages killed, and your weakness is my leverage. So why on earth would I give up what is basically my only leverage in this whole negotiation besides this gigantic bomb I’ve got sitting in front of me.” David replied.

“So you’re saying it’s my fault for you not letting any of these forty some hostages go?” Barnes asked, bitterly.

“No,” David began to explain, “I’m saying it’s your fault for letting me get into your head and letting me learn your weakness and giving me all the weight on this scale.”

“Well, alright, besides hostages, what else have you given me in return for what I’ve done for you?” Barnes inquired.

“I got you out from behind your meaningless desk job for something far more fun.” David said.

“Fun?” Barnes was furious. “You think this whole thing is actually fun for me! I get to come here and watch some innocent kids’ die in the hands of some raving psychopath while all I can do is sit around and do nothing but watch some empty car get blown halfway to hell!”

“Well when you say it like that you make is sound bad.” David responded.

“Because it is bad!” Barnes yelled. “If it’s not bad, why don’t you say it in a way that makes it sound good?” Barnes was confident that he had finally tricked David into admitting some kind of fault.

“I get to channel away all my anger and all my angst. With every bullet I feel a little better inside, this is kind of therapeutic for me.” David said with a happy sigh.

“You do realize that if you get out of this alive they’re sending you straight to the nut house with all the other crazies and psychos, so you should feel right at home.” Barnes wondered.

“Yes, I was able to figure that out.” David replied. “But the way I see it, it is way better than any prison they would send me to. And may I remind you that you said ‘if you get out of this alive’ and I have no intentions to leave this place alive, but I’ve come to terms with that.”

“I do recall you calling me a ‘naïve b*****d’ for thinking differently than that not too long ago.” Barnes remembered.

“Oh, yes, good times, good times.” David also recalled that conversation. “We’ve come a long way since then.”

“How do you figure?” Barnes asked.

“Well I think we’ve developed a little bit more of a rapport since then, don’t you agree?” David explained.

“Well if we have developed a better relationship don’t you think you’d have started sending out hostages already. I mean, you have at least forty hostages I’m guessing, plenty of leverage to go around, so why don’t you share it.” Barnes responded.

“Well I’m glad to see that you’re actually doing your job again, trying to negotiate with me.” David complimented.

“I’ve been trying.” Barnes replied.

“Could you hold on for just a moment, Barnes?” David asked.

“Sure.” Barnes was a little confused.

David set the phone down on the desk, grabbed the .45 and walked around towards George. As George looked up at him he lifted the .45 to George’s head.

“Give me your coat.” He commanded, referring to the school letterman jacked he had on.  

“What?” George looked confused. David quickly cocked the hammer of the .45 back, causing George to lean away in fear. But David’s hand just followed him and pressed the barrel back up against his head.

“Give me your coat or you die right now, I’m tired of f*****g around with you.” David commanded, pressing the barrel harder against George’s skull.

“Ok, alright.” George said, taking off his letterman jacket and holding it towards David.

“Now was that so hard?” David asked him, snatching the coat away before walking away from him. David then approached Marcus, who, after helping move the body of Ryan, was now sitting on the floor in front of the main desk, watching the crowd with the shotgun. As David approached he got up and set down the gun. “You know what to do with this, right?” David asked, handing him the letterman jacket.

“Yeah, I know.” Marcus replied.

“How long will you need?” David inquired.

“About a half hour.” Marcus answered.

“Great, get to it.” David ordered. Marcus then turned away, grabbed one of the backpacks and walked with it into the small AV room and shut the door.

“We’re doing that now?” Ben asked as he grabbed the shotgun and hopped over the desk to fill in Marcus’s spot watching the crowd.

“Seems like as good a time as any, I think I’ve got that damn cop’s trust now. Might as well use it against him.” David explained, he was careful not to speak loud enough for Barnes to hear through the phone.

“Alright, should be fun.” Ben stated, sitting down on the floor slowly.

George was still sitting in the corner, fearfully curious to what was happening to his jacket, but he didn’t dare speak a word.

David went back to the phone and picked it up.

“You still there, friend?” David asked.

“Yeah, I’m still here.” Barnes answered.

“Good, cause, seeing as you’ve been so good lately, I’ve had a change of heart.” David explained.

“What?” Barnes was confused again.

“I’ve decided to send you a hostage.” David said, looking over the desk at George, who paid him no mind.

“What?” Barnes was astonished. “Alright, just tell me when.”

“Call me back in a half hour, we’ll finish up talking then.” David said.

“Alright, will do.” Barnes obeyed. David hung up and looked at his watch. It read 10:26.


16

 

Barnes hung up the phone and sat for a moment, with a big smile.

“What?” Downs asked him eagerly.

“He’s gonna send us a hostage.” Barnes replied, his grin widening.

“How the hell did you manage that one?” Downs wondered.

“There’s a reason you guys called me in, and this is it.” Barnes gloated.

“So we’re getting one hostage, after hours of negotiating, we get one out of almost fifty.” Lewis added, pessimistically.

“Its better than none, isn’t it?” Davis called out to Lewis from his position, leaning against a police car adjacent the van.

“Well I’m just saying.” Lewis explained.

“Don’t be such a downer Lewis, this is a great occasion.” Barnes told him. “I have a feeling more hostages will follow after this.”

“And what makes you think that?” Lewis asked.

“That kid talked about us beginning to develop a better relationship.” Barnes explained.

“And how do you know his not lying?” Lewis wondered.

“Don’t be so pessimistic, Lewis.” Downs said sternly.

“I’m not being pessimistic, just cautious.” Lewis replied before turning back to him computer. Downs ignored him and turned back to Barnes and Davis.

“So when did he say to call you back?” He asked.

“In a half hour, and that was about five minutes ago.” Barnes answered.

“Well what’ll we do until then, did he tell you anything?” Davis inquired.

“No, just to call him back in a half hour.” Barnes replied.

“So what? We just sit here and wait for the next twenty-five minutes?” Davis was angered by the wait.

“Yep, that’s basically it.” Barnes said.

“Did he say who he was gonna send?” Downs inquired.

“Nope, he literally just told me that he was going to send me a hostage, then hung up.” Barnes explained.

“Should we tell the press?” Davis asked.

“No!” Barnes and Downs replied simultaneously.

“We don’t tell those leeches anything until we get the kid out safe.” Downs added.

“I agree.” Barnes began. “We don’t want to give anyone any kind of false hope.”

“Now who’s being pessimistic?” Lewis put in.

“That’s not helping, Lewis.” Barnes said. Lewis then turned back to the computer again.

Just then, a man carrying a large camera approached the three of them sitting outside the van, and he was quickly followed by an overly spray-tanned news reporter.

“Do you three have anything to say to the people, any kind of update on the situation?” The spray-tanned man asked them. The three of them just shot glances at each other for a few seconds, and then turned back to the reporter.

“No!” They all replied intensely.

“Oh, come on.” The reporter pleaded. “All you cops are killing me here, this is a huge story and I can’t find out s**t from anyone.”

“I take it your cameras not on?” Downs asked.

“No, it isn’t we’re saving film for actual interviews.” The reporter replied.

“Well if you want info on this whole thing, I can point you to a guy who knows a lot.” Davis said. Barnes and Downs looked at him, confused.

“Oh, great, who?” The reporter was excited.

“Well, just go up to those doors.” Davis pointed to the front doors of the school. “Then walk down that hallway there, and there should be a large group of people somewhere down the way, and they guys with the big a*s guns should know a good amount on this situation.” Davis was now laughing.

“You know, you guys are b******s.” The reporter walked away in a huff, the cameraman quickly followed.

“That sounds like something Downs would say.” Barnes said, now laughing as well.

“Well I have taught him well.” Downs boasted. Then they all shared a laugh.

“Hey, guys.” Lewis had turned back away from his computer to face them.

“What?” Downs asked, instantly agitated.

“I don’t mean to burst your happy bubble, but I just got word that the ATF will be showing up within the next hour to help gain control of this situation.” Lewis explained.

“The ATF? What the hell are they gonna do to help this situation?” Downs was now more aggravated.

“Well the word is if this doesn’t start going well they’ll send in the FBI HRT to finish up this thing.” Lewis explained further.

“Do they know that if they kill these kids everyone will die?” Barnes asked.

“Probably not.” Lewis replied.

“Do they know those kids have control of the security system and if they see anyone come near the building they’ll start killing people.” Barnes continued.

“Probably not.” Lewis repeated.

“Well who’s gonna explain all this s**t to them?” Downs interjected.

“You.” Lewis said.

“Of course we do, it’s not like they should do any work at all.” Downs was now more annoyed than ever.

“I’ll talk to them for you.” Davis offered.

“Yes, thank you.” Downs was noticeably relieved.

“It can’t be that hard to tell them all this.” Davis said confidently.

“Have you ever talked with the ATF?” Barnes wondered.

“No, why?” Davis was intrigued.

“When they’re set on a plan, it’s kind of difficult to tell them that it won’t work.” Barnes explained.

“Well it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do right now.” Davis replied.

“That’s true.” Barnes said. “None of us do really.”

“That HRT is just going to f**k everything up.” Downs said with a sigh.

“And that’s why we need to tell the ATF not to let those guys in.” Barnes explained.

“How long till you’ve gotta call that kid back?” Lewis asked. Barnes looked at his watch, 10:41.

“About fifteen more minutes.” Barnes replied.

“Keep an eye on that watch, we don’t want to call in late and have them change their minds.” Lewis ordered.

“There he goes with the pessimism again.” Downs exclaimed.

“I told you before, I’m not a pessimist, I’m just someone who likes to be cautious, that’s all.” Lewis explained.

“Well maybe you’re a bit overly cautious.” Barnes put in.

“Maybe, but I think a time like this calls for that kind of caution.” Lewis replied.

“Yeah, we’re all just as cautious as you, but unlike you, we don’t voice it.” Barnes explained.

Just then, a ruckus from around the van got all they’re attention. Barnes, Downs, Davis, and even Lewis all went around to see what was happening. A distraught woman from the large crowd was trying to fight past the police line to reach the school, she was quickly caught by several close by officers. But she was still fighting and making a large amount of noise.

“We should probably tell them something, to calm them all down a bit.” Davis suggested.

“No, we don’t tell them a thing.” Downs dismissed the idea and went back to sitting by the van.

“If we keep on keeping this whole thing under wraps then that little happening might escalate throughout the whole crowd out there.” Davis attempted to explain, taking his old spot on the police car again.

“I think he may be right, Downs.” Barnes said, sitting back down next to him again.

“Yeah, the last thing we want is a riot.” Lewis added as he squeezed by them to get back into his seat in the van.

“A riot isn’t going to happen.” Downs assured.

“Maybe not, but more of those outbursts will happen.” Barnes responded.

“We don’t have to go into very much detail, but they want answers.” Davis said.

“I don’t care what they want, they can have answers when all this is over.” Downs dismissed the idea again.

“Attitudes like that are how conspiracy theories get started.” Lewis said.

“Well these people can conspire all they want, I don’t give a s**t.” Downs responded bitterly.

“I’m sure your mind will change by the time this little fiasco happens a few more times.” Davis said positively.

“This thing was an isolated incident I assure you.” Downs replied stubbornly. “So as long as nobody incites them , they should stay calm.”

“Well it just so happens we’ve got three people in that building in front of us that just love inciting things like that. Why do you think they blew up that car?” Barnes pointed out.

“They blew up the car to prove that they had bombs.” Downs denounced the theory.

“So then why’d they kill that girl in plain view?” Barnes questioned.

“To incite your fears, not the whole crowds.” Downs explained.

“But that’s my point.” Barnes began. “If they like to incite my fears, I’m sure they’d love to incite the fears of a huge crowd who’s numbers are probably in the thousands by now.”

“And how do you suppose they’d do that?” Downs wondered.

“I don’t know, but don’t underestimate their abilities.” Barnes warned.

“I’m not.” Downs explained, “I’m just asking how?”

“Well I don’t know how, all I know is that they probably will some how. I’m sure they’re figuring something out right now.” Barnes predicted.

“Maybe that’s just your imagination running wild again.” Downs said. “So I don’t think we need to inform the public.”

“But what if it isn’t?” Barnes speculated.

“Ok, if it happens again, and these psychos incite that whole crowd, we’ll tell them something, until then, nothing.” Downs stated.

“Sounds like a fair agreement to me.” Barnes replied.

“Agreed.” Davis added.

“Now soon you’ll see that whole thing is just your imagination, Barnes.” Downs assured confidently.

“I hope I do Downs, I really do.” Barnes said worriedly.

“I hope you do too, cause then I won’t have to talk to the damn press.” Downs pointed towards the spray-tanned man standing in the distance giving a report into the camera.

“And the thought of if I’m wrong nobody will die didn’t cross your mind?” Barnes looked surprised.

“No it did,” Downs explained, “I’m just kinda focused on the press right now.”

“So despite the fact that a girl just got killed, you’re fixated with the news crews around here?” Davis was just as surprised.

“Yes, because I’m not used the this much media coverage.” Downs tried to explain.

“I’m not used to this much death.” Davis retorted.

“Neither am I, but with all this talk about the talking to the press, my mind is kind of on that right now.” Down continued trying.

“So you can only think about one thing at a time?” Davis went on pestering Downs.

“You obviously don’t get it, so I’m just gonna stop talking.” Downs said before turning away.

“Yeah, I obviously don’t.” Davis conceded. He turned towards Barnes to see him checking his watch. “How long we got?”

“Not long,” Barnes replied, still looking down at the watch, “about three minutes.” Barnes then reached back into the van and picked up the phone.

“Are you ready for this?” Davis asked.

“Yeah, but there’s something I need you to do.” Barnes said.

“What?” Davis wondered

“Go to as many officers as you can and tell them that they’ll release a hostage, we don’t want anyone mistakenly shooting at them.” Barnes explained.

“I’m on it.” Davis replied obediently before jogging off to spread the news.

“Careful not to tell the press!” Downs called to him as he left.

“What is your deal with the press anyway?” Lewis asked him.

“I just don’t like them, I never have.” Downs explained.

“But they tell us all the things we need to know.” Lewis replied.

“I don’t care, I don’t like them.” Downs asserted.

“Yeah, but-” Lewis began, but Barnes cut him off.

“Wait,” Barnes held his up hand towards Lewis, “It’s time.” He then began to dial the phone.


17

 

David picked up the cell phone and looked at his watch.

“You’re one minute early, it’s ten fifty-five.” He explained.

“Why so nit-picky?” Barnes wondered.

“Because I can be.” David explained. “Now are your guys ready for me to send this little b*****d out to you.” David took another look at George, who was still in the same position as he was a half-hour earlier.

“Yes, are you ready?” Barnes replied.

“Hold for a moment.” David said, setting down the phone and walking towards the AV room where Marcus was still hidden away. He opened the door just as Marcus was pulling the needle up again. “Are you almost done?” He asked.

“You can’t rush perfection.” Marcus turned to him.

“Well are you?” David continued.

“Yes, just a few more stitches and the coat will be all sewn up.” Marcus explained.

“How’s it look?” David inquired.

“Better than it was before.” Marcus replied confidently. He then finished up the last stitch and tossed David the coat for him to look over.

“You are a master at this.” David marveled at the coats new stitching.

“Even the darkest secret can be concealed with a few well laid stitches.” Marcus said, emerging from the AV room with David.

“You know what its time for?” David asked him.

“What?” Marcus wondered.

“A game.” David held up a quarter he had in his pocket. He then turned to George, who didn’t look up. David flipped it and caught it before it even began to come back down, he looked at it…tails. “How convenient.” He said with a mischievous grin.

“I’m not a big fan of the coin tests, really.” Marcus stated.

“Why not?” David said, going around the desk to pick up the phone.

“If gives the person a better chance.” Marcus said with his own mischievous grin. David let out a little chuckle and picked up the phone.

“You still there, Barnes?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m here.” Barnes responded.

“Good, just a few more moments, then I’ll send him out.” David said.

“Alright, I’ll wait.” Barnes replied. Then David sat the phone back down. He then went back around the desk and tossed the coat at George.

“Put that on.” He commanded. George just looked up at him silently. “Put it on!” He yelled violently, pulling out his .45 and aiming it at him. George pulled away for a moment at the sight of the gun, then he slowly put his letterman jacket back on, he seemed unaware of the changes made. “Now stand up!” David instructed, still pointing the gun down on him. George slowly got up and looked David in the eye. “Hey, Ben?” David called out, ignoring George almost entirely.

“What?” Ben called out his position in front of the desk.

“Can you get just the front door gate open?” David asked.

“I can probably get it unlocked from here, but with all the bullet damage it’ll probably just unlock rather than go all the way up.” Ben explained, hopping back onto the computer..

“That’s fine,” David turned back to George, “This kid has enough strength to lift it, I’m sure.” David met Georges gaze once more. As they stood facing each other David could hear Ben typing away on the computer.

“That should do it.” He called out again.

“Now then,” David addressed George, “what I want you to do is simple. I want you to leave this room, go down that hallway, lift the front door gate, walk through the doors, shut the gate again, and walk slowly out of this building so those cops don’t shoot you. Do you understand?”

“You’re just letting me go?” George asked in a quiet bewilderment.

“That’s not an answer to a question.” David raised the gun up to George’s head again. “Do you understand?” David repeated slowly.

“Yes.” George replied softly.

“Good, now go.” David commanded, shoving him out the door and picking the phone back up. “He’s coming to ya.” David said, watching George slowly wander down the hall.

“Alright, great, we’re all ready.” Barnes replied in anticipation.

“Good.” As David spoke he gestured at Marcus. Marcus understood his instruction and grabbed the sniper rifle, he then walked out into the hallway and got down into the position he was in earlier when shooting at the police. Marcus sat for a moment and got George in the crosshairs, watching him intently. “You should see him in just a few seconds.” David explained.

“We’re all ready.” Barnes repeated.

“Good, good.” David’s grin appeared on his face once more.

Marcus continued keeping George in the crosshairs as he reached the front doors, lifted the gate up, went through one of the shot out panes of glass on one of the doors and slowly pulled the gate back down. As he walked through the breezeway towards the last row of door he put his hands above his head. As he walked through another shot out pain of glass he began to walk slower, until he stopped a few feet outside the doors, hands still raised. It was now that Marcus put the trio’s plan into action, he aimed the rifle, and fired. A bullet struck George’s left leg and he crumpled to the ground.

“What the hell?” Barnes asked in horrified surprise.

“You might wanna go get him before he bleeds to death.” David said before hanging up the phone.

 

-

 

After the kid fell, near anarchy roared from the crowd. Barnes quickly hung up the phone once he realized that David had. He and Down quickly darted towards the school, but were stopped by Davis.

“You guys just can’t go running up there.” Davis pointed out, having to hold each one of them back with his arms.

We can and we will!” Downs yelled and pushed Davis away. “You just go get an ambulance, we’ll get the kid away from there.” He commanded before running off. Other officers tried to stop them, but the duo just ran right through. They rushed past the line of police cars and up the incline to the where the kid laid.

 Barnes thought for sure as soon as he got up to the kid, he would be shot by the sniper. But Marcus didn’t fire at either of them, he let them drag the kid back, it was all part of the plan.

As they got the kid back behind the police cars, they found that Davis had already scrambled a team of paramedics and an ambulance stationed in the teacher parking lot close to the van. As they got close enough the paramedics quickly got him onto a gurney.

“How’d you get these guys so fast?” Downs asked him.

“They were already here from car explosion and the cop shootings.” Davis explained.

“Well now I’ve got a new job for you.” Downs explained. “Get in there with the medics and when they get him back to the hospital and stable, I want you to question him about what he saw in there.”

“Got it.” Davis quickly got into the back of the ambulance as they loaded the kid’s gurney in. He gave them both a small wave, which they returned, before the paramedics shut the doors and began to drive off.

 

-

 

Back in the library the trio were back together watching the computer screen, which still showed the view of the front. They watched as the paramedics loaded George into a gurney. David held the last piece of the plan in his hand, a small box with a light switch and a transparent TV remote power button attached to it. As the paramedics loaded George into the back, he flipped the light switch, and a small light under the power button lit up, turning the button a bright red.

“Did they take the jacket off of him?” Ben asked eagerly.

“I don’t think so,” David replied, “but I suppose we’ll find out.” He put his finger over the button. The continued watching in silence as the ambulance rolled away, lights flashing, and they could only presume sirens wailing as well. The ambulance pulled out of the parking lot and began speeding down the street, and that’s when David pushed the power button, and the little light under it shut off again. At first there was nothing, then it happened.

 

-

 

Barnes and Downs watched the ambulance speed through the parking lot and turn onto the street. As it was about to disappear from sight behind a house, it burst into flames and exploded. A huge shock wave hit them both, knocking them off balance, they both just looked onward, mortified by what they’d just seen. The ambulance’s flaming frame hit the ground after a few moments, fire pouring out of every crevasse.

“Davis.” Downs whispered in horror. Just then, Lewis came rushing out from the van to see what had happened.

“Jesus.” He whispered in just as much horror.

Downs began stumbling backwards and fell onto the side of a police car. As he slumped to the ground, he continued staring in frightened disbelief at the fiery wreckage of the ambulance. He sat still as the others rushed toward the inferno to try and help all they could, and firefighters scrambled to get the fire out. All the while Downs just sat still and watch the fire burn. 


18

 

It was a good ten minutes before the firefighters put out the fire and everything got back under control. By the time the fire was extinguished the ambulance was only a charred and empty frame, there’d been four paramedics on board as well as Davis, and another officer outside was killed by flying debris when the vehicle exploded. Once the fire was put out Barnes and Lewis returned to find Downs sitting in the open door of the van like he was before, blank faced. Lewis got back into the van and sat back into his chair, while Barnes sat beside Downs.

“It’s my fault.” Downs said guiltily.

“Don’t think like that, Downs, it wasn’t your fault.” Barnes assured him, patting his comrade on the back.

“I could’ve sent anyone of these people on that ambulance, I had to send Davis.” Downs continued blaming himself.

“You sent Davis because he was right there and ready to act, you had to decide quickly who to send.” Barnes tried talking sense into Downs.

“I could’ve sent him in a separate car.” Downs went on.

“But you didn’t have time to think about that, that kid need medical attention, don’t blame yourself, blame the situation.” Barnes explained.

“We should’ve checked that kid for wires, we had time to do that, I could of done it in a matter of seconds.” Downs blank face was changing to a look of guilt that matched his tone.

“For all we know those weirded out kids have got someone out here who wired the ambulance when we weren’t looking.” Lewis added.

“You do know how dumb that sounds?” Barnes asked him spitefully.

“Just thought I put it out there.” Lewis said defensively.

“Davis was my friend,” Downs began, “hell he was everyone’s friend around here. He showed a lot of promise, I could’ve seen him being a damn captain, if not the chief of police.” Downs shook his head in despair. “He had a fiancée too, he was gonna start a family…” Downs paused, “and I let that maniac blow him sky high.”

“You didn’t do a damn thing wrong Downs.” Lewis interjected. “The only people who are at fault are those lunatics with guns that are hiding out in that school right now, no one here is at fault, its all them. You should be angry at them, not at yourself.”

“Son of a b***h.” Downs said in disgust, looking out and away from the van, seeming as if he’d not heard a word Lewis had said.

“What?” Lewis asked, not seeing what he was looking at.

“Look who decided to show up and wreck everyone’s day.” Barnes said, pointing out in the direction Downs was looking. Lewis poked his head out of the van and saw immediately what they were looking at.

With the backdrop of a large truck that looked more like a delivery van than a law enforcement vehicle, clad with the letter ATF in bright yellow paint. A very fat man attempted to stroll their direction, but it looked more like a waddle to them. His hairline was almost non-existent, he had more hair above his upper lip than on his head. He wore a dull suit that almost didn’t fit. He had one hand occupied with a cigarette, and the other was in his sport coat pocket. As he reached them his face turned into a light grimace.

“Which one of you is the negotiator here?” He asked bitterly.

“I am.” Barnes replied. “And who are you?”

“Lieutenant Dan Coppery of the ATF, and I’m taking control of this situation.” The fat man answered.

“On whose orders?” Downs asked angrily.

“The higher ups,” Coppery explained, “they figured since you people only accomplished to get an a*s load of people killed and an ambulance blown up, that I should take the reigns.” He took a drag from his cigarette.

“And what are you supposed to do that we can’t?” Barnes wondered.

“We’re going to go in there and get rid of those little b******s and keep more people from dying.” Coppery explained.

“Oh, yeah, because we obviously didn’t try that already captain Waco. And it definitely worked the first time, so why don’t we try it again.” Lewis responded sarcastically.

“Well that’s because your guys are afraid to shoot, our FBI HRT guys won’t have that problem.” Coppery replied slyly.

“Did you inform them what’ll happen if you kill these kids?” Downs asked.

“Yes, the kid’s will die. They understand that.” Coppery replied.

“And?” Downs waited.

“And nothing.” Coppery said.

“Oh my God.” Downs put his head in his hands.

“What?” Coppery looked confused.

“Those kids have pulse meters on, if you kill them, a bomb that’s hooked up to those pulse meters will explode, killing all the hostages.” Barnes explained, annoyed.

“How do we know they’re not bluffing?” Coppery asked.

“They’re not!” The trio yelled back at him simultaneously.

“Sorry if we ruined your party Lieutenant Dan.” Lewis imitated Forrest Gump to mock him.

“Well we’ll just use non lethal rounds.” Coppery explained.

“We already tried that!” The trio orchestrated together.

“Well I noticed you went in through a side door with only two cops.” Coppery pointed out.

“That was the only entrance left, now there’s no getting in without being spotted.” Downs tried to explain.

“Actually, we know of one more, and we’re gonna use it.” Coppery said.

“That’s it.” Downs stood up. “I’m not going to sit here and listen to you babble about a plan that won’t work, I’m going to get a cup of coffee.” He stormed off.

“What the hell is his problem?” Coppery asked snottily.

Our problem,” Barnes stood up to address the fat man, “is that this triumvirate that you saw before you saw before you used to have a fourth player. Who, thanks to that ambulance incident, is no longer with us, and now that we have to deal with that devastating loss, your presents is just that much worse.”

“Well, I’m sorry for your loss, I am.” Coppery seemed somewhat sympathetic. “But I’m just here to make sure things like that don’t happen again.”

“We’re here for the same reason, and so far we’ve made no headway.” Lewis put in.

“Well our plan will work.” Coppery assured.

“What exactly is your plan?” Barnes asked skeptically.

“There’s an opening through the auditorium through the roof, we send out guys through there and we quickly subdue the shooters and save the hostages.” Coppery explained happily.

“Did anyone mention that these kids have control of the security system?” Barnes wondered.

“So?” Coppery asked.

“That means they have locked all the hallways from the auditorium to the library with the security gates, and they also have control of the security cameras, which means as soon as you get in, they’ll see you, and start killing hostages.” Barnes explained, now more annoyed than ever.

“What you may not have known, is that there is an office type area that’s connected to the library that also has a door leading into the hallway of the auditorium.” Coppery replied.

“And what about the fact that they’ll see your guys with the cameras?” Barnes questioned.

“Our men are trained to stay hidden, they’ll get by.” Coppery affirmed.

“No they won’t.” Lewis said with a scoff.

“Trust us on this,” Barnes agreed, “if you send people in, the shooters will see them, and people will die.”

“We can find a way around that.” Coppery reassured.

“No you will not.” Barnes stated sternly.

“Alright, I want to talk to this shooter, that’s what I came here for, so get him.” Coppery changed the subject, not wanting to argue.

“He won’t want to talk to you.” Barnes said.

“What makes you so sure of that?” Coppery wondered.

“Well he barely wants to talk to me, and I don’t want to talk to you, so he definitely won’t want to talk to you.” Barnes replied.

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we. Get him on the phone!” Coppery ordered.

Barnes followed the order, not wanting to talk with Coppery any further, he picked up the phone and began to dial.

 

-

 

“So, Barnes, did you get our little present?” David answered from the library.

“This isn’t Barnes, and yes, we got it.” An unknown voice responded.

“Who the f**k is this, put Barnes back on the phone.” David asked, confused and angered.

“This is Lieutenant Dan Coppery of the ATF, Barnes is no longer leading the negotiations.” Coppery explained.

“Well I’m saying that he does, and I’m the one who makes the rules here, not you.” David responded hatefully. “And until Barnes is back on the phone, hostages will die just as fast as I can spin the barrel on my Model 19 revolver.” David then picked up the revolver and spun the cylinder.

“Hold on, can’t we at least talk?” Coppery asked nervously.

“No.” David said simply before lifting the gun towards the crowd. As they all cowered and yelped in fear, he picked out a target, some nameless faculty member who got the unlucky gift of being the person the sight landed on first, David squeezed the trigger and the gun went off, killing the teacher instantly.

“What the hell did you do?” Coppery asked in disbelief.

“That’s one dead because of you, and unless you want that number to go up, you put Barnes back on the phone now!” David commanded.

“Ok, ok, alright.” Coppery caved, only now realizing David’s instability. He quickly handed the phone off to Barnes.

“Hello.” Barnes answered.

“Who is that a*****e?” David asked.

“He’s a guy from the ATF, he and his guys have taken control of the situation.” Barnes replied.

“What are their plans?” David asked.

“I can’t tell you that.” Barnes asserted.

“Oh, alright, maybe I can just kill a few more hostages, then you tell me.” David began. “Or maybe I should blow up another ambulance, what about that, huh?” David waited for a response, but Barnes did not deliver. “What’s the matter Barnes-y?” He asked after a few moments. “Cat got your tongue?”

“That explosion killed one of my friends.” Barnes said softly.

“Oh, are you going to cry for me Barnes?” David incited.

“What?” Barnes wondered, a little confused and surprised at the same time.

“Are you going to weep for the loss of your friend, Barnes?” David continued. “Just think of it this way, there won’t be an open casket funeral for him, probably no casket at all, he’s been pre-cremated for your convenience.” David let out a little cackle.

“How was that chance?” Barnes spoke with anger, intending once more to topple the thoughts of his adversary. “How was that explosion chance? You killed six people, David.”

“I flipped a coin for the life of the kid, he lost.” David explained.

“And what about the five others you killed.” Barnes asked, the anger beginning to show more and more in his voice.

“They were part of that flip too,” David began, “if I had flipped, and the kid won, I wouldn’t have sent him out with those bombs, and all those who died would have been spared. But he didn’t win, and with that one flip, not only did one person lose, they all did.”

“You f*****g lunatic.” Barnes was now furious. “You f*****g lunatic!” He screamed into the phone. “This isn’t the work of any God, these are just your thoughts, twisted and mangled to make it so you feel as if you hold no responsibility for your actions. But you do David, you do, all those people who have been killed have been by your hand, not by any God’s, and you can believe all you want that it is God’s choice, but that doesn’t make it true. You are not a saint doing God’s work, you are a gun-toting murderer who kills for his own pleasure. You kill because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, not because these people are God’s sinners that he wants gone, they’re just people who have hurt you, or people you’ve led yourself to believe hurt you, people you and your friends want gone, so you can let God deal with them so you don’t have to anymore.”

“What a nice soliloquy, really.” David replied in the same tone, his emotions untouched by Barnes’ speech. “But if we can get back to the matter at hand, what is the f****n’ ATF a*****e planning?”

“I’m not going to tell you that!” Barnes asserted once more, and much more spitefully.

“You tell me or ten people die right now!” David commanded, now equaling Barnes’s frustration level. “I’ll even take them down to the front doors for those news crews to watch.”

“Fine.” Barnes said bitterly. “Just give me a few minutes.”

“How many is a few?” David inquired.

“Fifteen.” Barnes answered.

“Fine, you call back in fifteen minutes, or I’ll add five more to that number.” David said, and hung up the phone. He looked at the clock on the wall, 11:29.

 

-

 

Once Barnes hung up the phone he got up and faced Coppery, who was leaning up against the front fender of the van.

“Do it.” Barnes stated.

“What?” Coppery was unsure what he meant.

“Go through with your plan, I want this over with, I want you to do it.”

“Alright.” Coppery said, standing back up.

“How long will it take you to get it ready?” Barnes asked.

“We’ve got a lot of it ready already, so about twenty minutes or so.” Coppery replied.

“Well then get to it.” Barnes ordered. And Coppery turned and walked back towards the large ATF van. Barnes watched him got for a moment, then turned to Lewis. Lewis greeted his gaze with a headshake of frightened disagreement, Barnes quickly looked back at Coppery.

Hey guys.” Lewis and Barnes both looked to see Downs standing behind them, with a small cup of coffee. Barnes and Lewis still wore their respective looks, Lewis’s of fright, and Barnes’s of frustration and intent. “What?” Downs looked at them, puzzled by their gazes.


19

 

“You did what!” Downs paced furiously in front of Barnes, once he had been informed on what had just happened.

“I want this whole thing over with.” Barnes replied, his voice still stained with his anger.

“You do realize this idiot’s plan is going to get people killed right?” Downs continued, seeming to get more furious by the second.

“How do you know that?” Barnes wondered.

“You let that maniac get inside your head, Barnes!” Downs went on. “You let him manipulate you, now he’s gonna make you sit back and watch as this mistake comes back to bite you on the a*s. I know you Barnes, you’re not gonna be able to take it when this lunatic kills a mess of people because that fat b******s plan gets uncovered.”

“At least I’m trying something!” Barnes began yelling as well.

“I tried something earlier, if you don’t remember, and it got some innocent girl killed!” Downs snapped. “Now this is not a time for trying things, this is a time for negotiation!”

“Negotiation won’t work!” Barnes insisted. “I’ve been trying it since eight o’clock this morning, I all I got out of it was a kid wired with bombs!”

“Yeah well all I got out of trying to go in there was a dead kid and blood on my hands!” Downs retorted.

“So what the hell are we supposed to do then?” Barnes asked in anger and semi-desperation.

“I don’t know, I don’t know.” Downs’s voice had also changed to desperation as well.

“Well I can tell you something.” Lewis interrupted.

“Yeah, what?” Barnes wondered snottily.

“Well, seeing as you already set Lieutenant Dan in motion, I’m gonna guess that his plan is what’s going to happen, for better or for worse.” Lewis explained.

“Oh, s**t.” Barnes said with a disappointed sigh.

“Do you see now?” Downs asked, feeling victorious.

“Downs, now is not the time for an ‘I told you so’ moment.” Lewis stopped him.

“I’ve just killed some innocent kid, or kids.” Barnes was falling into a depression.

“Look, its not your fault, I thought we went over this.” Lewis comforted him. “Its all that psycho’s fault, that damn kid with the gun in there, he is responsible for all of this.”

“He’s right Barnes.” Downs agreed. “None of what’s happened is because of us, we didn’t pull that trigger, it was all them…all them.”

“That fat b*****d is gonna get his own men killed if they go in there.” Barnes said, seeming to be slightly lifted from his depression.

“Is it possible to stop him still?” Lewis wondered.

“I don’t know,” Downs replied, “but I’m gonna go see.” He then walked off towards the ATF truck.

 

-

“Coppery! Coppery!” Downs found the fat Lieutenant on the other side of the ATF truck instructing a group of men.

“What do you want?” Coppery replied, annoyed by Downs’ presents.

“I want you to stop what you’re doing.” Downs replied.

“Stop?” Coppery looked surprised. “This is our only chance to get this maniacs out of commission and save the hostages that are left.”

“Your plan won’t work.” Downs asserted.

“Downs, the people we’re sending are trained just for things like this, they are the best.” Coppery assured the visually stressed sergeant.

“This won’t work.” Downs continued. “Those kids in there will hear that helicopter you’ve got, and know something’s up.”

“That is a simple fix.” Coppery said. “Just tell them that it’s that thing.” He pointed towards the news helicopter still hovering above the scene.

“What if they don’t believe that?” Downs wondered.

“They will, trust me, I’ve seen enough of these to know what these people will fall for.” Coppery put down Downs’s worries.

“Your people will be seen by the camera’s they’ve got in there.” Downs said confidently.

“That’s where your friend on the phone comes in.” Coppery explained. “You get him to keep them busy, and we’ll get them in there faster than they can lift their guns.”

“How will he keep all three of them busy?” Downs wondered.

“That’s left to his imagination, but if they get spotted, it’s all on him.” Coppery answered.

“We all over there know this won’t work. So no, this isn’t on him, this is on you. When this f***s up, it’ll be you who’s accountable, not any of us. We will have no part in this plan.” Downs was starting to get irritated.

“Yes you will.” Coppery stood up, now indignant as well. “Your little negotiator will do this, or I will make sure none of you ever work in law enforcement again!”

“Alright, even if we help you, this still won’t work.” Downs went on.

“Why do you think that?” Coppery inquired.

“That news chopper will be all over this whole thing, and if they’re watching in there, you’ll be uncovered.” Downs pointed out.

“Oh don’t worry, the ATF is on top of that.” Coppery assured him.

“That’s what you guys said about Waco, and look what happened.” Downs replied slyly.

“That was a one time slip up there, now we’ve just gotten a bad reputation from that one little thing.” Coppery was annoyed once more.

“A little thing?” Downs was mortified. “You killed like eighty people.”

“It was a little thing because it was a one time thing, it won’t happen ever again.” Coppery tried to explain.

“If you go through with your plan it’ll happen again here.” Downs exclaimed. “Now if this screws up who’ll they trust, their trustworthy local police force, or some faceless government organization who has fucked up big time in the past?” Coppery just stood with a solid glare at him for a while.

“I will make sure you don’t work for the force again do you understand!” Coppery finally spoke up, now enraged.

“You know what.” Downs face grew a smile. “After this, I don’t give a s**t what you do, fire us all, I’m ready to turn my badge in right now.” He then turned and walked back towards Barnes and Lewis at the police van.

“Fine, walk away!” Coppery called out. “Consider this moment your pink slip you son of a b***h! I’ll have your badge!” He was ready to continue, but he quickly noticed that Downs wasn’t listening to him, which frustrated him further.

When Downs arrived back at the van, Lewis was still sitting in the van at the computer, and Barnes was still sitting in his regular spot, just staring off into the sky and into space.

“Well I went and talked to our ATF friends.” Downs said, bringing Barnes back to earth.

“And what happened?” Barnes wondered.

“I told him we would have no part in it, he wanted you to stay on the phone to distract those kids in there away from the security camera so his guys could get in, he also wanted you to explain to them that the chopper sound they’ll inevitably hear is that of a news chopper.” Downs explained.

“And you said no?” Lewis was now poking his head out from the van to join the conversation.

“Yep.” Downs’s smile was beginning to grow on him again.

“So what’d he say?” Lewis looked a little concerned.

“He said we’d never work in law enforcement again.” Downs explained, his smile growing wider.

“I don’t care, after today I really don’t want to.” Barnes said, depression still lingering lightly in his voice.

“That’s what I said.” Downs replied.

“I don’t want to get fired.” Lewis’s face now showed much more worry.

“Well if you want to keep your job, we’ll stand behind you.” Downs said. He then peered down at Barnes for agreement.

“Yeah, we will, don’t worry.” Barnes added. Then Lewis’s worry began to fade, and he pulled his head back into the van and out of sight. Barnes then took a look at his watch.

“It’s time to call again.” He sighed, and picked up the phone.

 

-

 

As David, Marcus, and Ben sat nervously in the front of the library waiting for the negotiator to call them back, Nick and Rachel sat together quietly in the far back, still off in their own worlds.

“Did you think of anything?” Rachel whispered, breaking their long silence.

“Huh?” Nick wondered.

“Did you think of a way out of here?” Rachel explained.

“That depends.” Nick began. “Did you take time to think whether or not you actually want to go through with this?”

“Yes, I want to try and get out of here, I’m sure of it.” She replied.

“Alright,” Nick said. “I came up with only one thing.”

“What?” She asked eagerly.

“Well,” Nick began, “I figure I might be able to use a bobby pin that you’ve got in your hair to pick the lock in this door.” Nick gestured to the door a few feet away that led into the back offices of the library. “Then we make our way through the back room and there should be a door at the far end of that room that leads out into the hall, from there we should be able to get out.”

“What if that door’s locked?” She wondered.

“We’ve gotta pray that it isn’t.” He replied.

“That’s all you could come up with.” Rachel looked worried.

“That’s our only hope.” Nick explained. “Are you sure you still want to do this?” Rachel sat and looked at him for a moment.

“Yes,” she replied, “I just want to get out of here, whatever the cost.”

“Alright, but we have to find the right time to do it.” Nick said. “If we do it now they’ll catch us, we have to wait until they’re distracted with something else.”

“I hope they get distracted soon,” Rachel replied softly, “because I don’t want to stay here any longer.”

“I don’t think anybody that’s here wants to be here.” Nick said.

After that the two sat silently for a while longer, back to just staring off into space again. But then, Nick pulled his wallet out, he opened it up and peered into it for a few moments, then he started to silently chuckle.

“What?” Rachel looked confused. Nick turned his wallet so she could see, it was a photo of the two of them together at the high school prom, no more than two weeks earlier. Once she saw it she began a little chuckle as well. “I wish we were back there.”

“I do to, I don’t think we had any care in the world.” Nick agreed. “I find it amazing, in a matter of days we can go from a happy high school couple, to two people in the midst of chaos, facing death head on. After this, I don’t think we can ever feel like we did then.”

“Yeah.” That thought seemed to sadden Rachel. “A time like this will keep you thinking differently for the rest of your life.”

“What do you think life will look like after today?” Nick wondered.

“I think we need to focus on getting past today before thinking about life tomorrow.” Rachel replied.

“I know, but it’s nice to think about something other than now.” Nick said.

“I suppose you’re right about that.” Rachel conceded, now staring at the picture once more. Soon Nick also joined in at looking at their prom picture. He thought of how good that night was, and if he could ever have that care free feeling again, or if the day had robbed him of ever feeling that feeling again. He remembered their dance that night, he remembered how great it had made him feel about the life he was living, how great it felt to dance with the girl he loved, and how badly he wanted to be back, at that moment again, if only for a few seconds. It was then that he wanted to get out of there just as much as Rachel did, he became hell bent on survival, he would give anything for a night like that to happen again, and since he couldn’t bring himself back to the past, he was going to make sure that they had a chance in the future.

 

 

 

 

20

 

David picked the small cell phone off the desk and answered it before it had finished ringing even once.

“Well, are you going to tell me what I want to know?” He wondered.

“I’ve done a little thinking.” Barnes replied slowly.

“And what did your thinking come up with?” David asked. “Need I remind you how many lives hang in the balance of your answer?”

“I went and talked to that ATF guy.” Barnes began.

“And?” David asked eagerly.

“He wasn’t going to tell me what he was planning.” Barnes continued.

“That’s bullshit Barnes.” David became frustrated. “Now you tell me what you know or I’ll put a bullet in some other kids head!”

“I told you what I know…nothing.” Barnes asserted.

“I know for a fact you have to be in the loop on these things, so tell me what that guy is up to, you have ten seconds.” David laid down an ultimatum.

“I’ve already told you.” Barnes said.

“One.” David began the count.

“I don’t know anything.”

“Two.”

“Those damn ATF guys won’t let me in.”

“Three.” David picked up the revolver again.

“They’re under government rule, they don’t have to tell me s**t, and they didn’t.” Barnes was trying harder and harder to sell the lie.

“Four.”

“Can’t we talk about this?”

“Five.”

“David, be reasonable.”

“I tried that and you didn’t tell me anything…six.”

“That’s because I don’t know anything!”

“Seven.” David ignored Barnes’ pleas and spun the cylinder of the gun again.

“If we can talk a little more I’m sure we can work something out.”

“Eight.” David stood up and faced the crowd.

“David, please!”

“Nine.” David aimed the gun at the girl front and center in the crowd, he recognized her as the girl who had stood up to him earlier in the day, right after he killed the first kid. Even now she still stood her ground, while the others cowered she stood her ground.

“He didn’t say anything to me, he only talks to the other ATF officers!” Barnes’s voice was turning to yelling as the tension of the moment grew in the air.

“Ten.” David pulled the trigger, fully expecting to see the girl’s stern as stone gaze disappear with death, but the gun only let out a hollow click. David stood frozen for a moment, not believing what had just happened. He then opened up the cylinder and pulled out the cartridge that was supposed to fire, only and empty shell. She’d beaten the odds that all the others had lost to. He peered around the room, it was filled with amazed gazes that matched his, everyone in the crowd, and even Ben and Marcus wore the looks. After a few more moments of silence he turned his attention back to Barnes. “Look’s like you got lucky Barnes, this girl has past her test.”

“Really?” Barnes was just as amazed.

“Yes, really.” David explained. “But I doubt you’ll get lucky twice.” He spun the cylinder once more and aimed it at a new person in the crowd, Mr. Ronaldson.

“Wait, hold on, can’t we talk.”

“Talking time is over Barnes…one.” David began counting again.

“David don’t.”

“Two.”

“David I can’t tell you anything because I don’t know anything!” Barnes’ voice was escalating again.

“Three.”

“They keep all their plans to themselves.”

“Then bring me one of them…four.”

“They won’t tell you.”

“I’m sure they will considering the situation…five.”

“No, it is their job as government operatives to not give in to terrorists.”

“I’m no terrorist, like you said, I’m a gun-toting murderer who kills for his own pleasure…six.”

“They won’t talk to anyone, they’re not negotiators.”

“They proved that at Waco. Now that is why I want to know their plans, because often they go awry, so if they’re gonna fill this place with tear gas then light me on fire, I think I have a right to know. Oh and by the way…seven.”

“Their tear gas guns can’t shoot that far into that place, and they know if they bring in one of those huge tank things you’ll kill people till it goes away.”

“So you do know something about their plans.” David stopped counting momentarily.

“That is just an educated speculation.” Barnes tried to explain.

“And that’s a good excuse.” David retorted.

“It is no excuse.”

“So they’re not gonna use tear gas, so what are they gonna use?”

“I don’t know anything.”

“Stop denying it, it’s obvious that you do, so just give up some details and nobody has to die.”

“I don’t know anything, I promise.”

“If I’ve learned anything its that promises are just words, and don’t mean s**t.”

“What will it take for you to believe me?” Barnes was beginning to get desperate.

“You’re about to find out…eight.” David began counting once more.

“Wait, David!”

“I know you wouldn’t with hold any information after people start to die again, so if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes…nine.”

“Just wait!”

“There’s no time for that Barnes.” David let out a fake chuckle. “Te-”

“They’re going in through the shop hall.” Barnes spat out a fabrication as soon as he heard the last number begin to be uttered.

“Oh, so you were lying to me before?”

“Yes, but I can’t lie and let some innocent person die.” Barnes explained.

“Well then, give me more info.”  David demanded.

“They’re gonna break down the fire door from earlier, and go in through there.” Barnes continued to improvise a story. “They were planning a route through the back offices of the library and they were gonna sneak through on you.”

“Well thank you for sharing that with me, Barnes.” David thanked the stressed negotiator.

“Yeah well, I at least want a clean conscious at the end of all this.” Barnes sighed.

“Don’t we all.” David agreed. “All people want is to be able to sleep good at night.”

“Is that the reason why you devised your whole ‘God’s hitman’ thing?” Barnes wondered.

“No, I would’ve had a clean conscious anyway, but with this system I only kill who he sees fit.” David replied.

“Now that’s a good excuse.” Barnes said.

“No excuses here, just a long overdue washing of humanity.”

“Like a cleansing you might say.” Barnes suggested.

“You could probably get away with calling it that.” David agreed.

“So you’re cleansing humanity?”

“Not all of it, just a small portion. But look at it this way, there are many people out there doing similar stuff, just on a little bit larger scale.” David explained. “Think like this, you clear your car just a small part at a time, like one day you do a tire, then the next day you do another tire, then the day after that you wash the hood. Humanity cleanses humanity like that, one small piece at a time. And the thing about that is, by the time the car is completely washed the tire you started out on is dirty again, so the cycle repeats. That way, people like me will always stay busy. Others try and stop the cycle, keeping parts of our past alive so people won’t forget, they build museums and memorials, hoping the cycle won’t repeat, but their efforts will always fall in vain. There is nothing that can stop this cycle…nothing.”

“That’s an interesting way to explain your situation.” Barnes replied.

“What’s so interesting about it?” David wondered.

“Well you’re basically lumping yourself in with the likes of Hitler and Pol Pot.” Barnes explained.

“There is one difference between me and them.” David stated. “They killed for their own reasons, a religion they didn’t like, or severe anti-western ideals. I kill not for me, but for God.”

“So you’re more like Jim Jones?”

“No. I’d say the person I’d compare myself to the most would be David Marshall.”

“That mastermind of the Danville High School massacre?” Barnes played along.

“Yep, that’s the one.” David grew a little smile.

“So you’re saying you’re in a breed of mass murderer all your own?”

“Yes, I would be hesitant to even call me a murderer, more of an unconventional pastor.” David replied. “I will wash away the sin from this planet!” David began to imitate one of the TV mega church preachers. “With every bullet I fire and every life that is taken, sin is washed away from the earth.”

“You know, I do see the pastor side of you now.” Barnes said. “Although most preachers use a Bible rather than a revolver.”

“And that’s the unconventional side.” David added.

“But still, I don’t see you going down in history as a preacher, I see you going down as a killer.” Barnes said.

“See that’s the problem with people these days.” David began. “They always seem to see the wrong side of things, the bad side you know?”

“I think that’s mostly the media that does that, and then spreads it throughout the population.” Barnes explained.

“Well then, judging by how long the news crews have been here, I think my fate as a killer is already solidified in history.” David said.

“Most likely yes.” Barnes agreed.

“Well if you don’t mind I think I might need to go down to the shop hall to stop our ATF friends from getting in and ruining the fun, so thank you for telling me that.” David changed the subject.

“Thank you for not killing that person.” Barnes responded.

“You should probably call back again when their plan is foiled.” David said.

“That sounds like a good enough plan for me, just as long as their plan doesn’t get you.” Barnes replied.

“I don’t think we need to worry about that, we’ve got everything covered in here.” David said with a cheerful sigh.

“Well alright then.” Barnes said simply.

David then hung up the phone, stood up, stretched his arms for a moment and turned towards Mr. Ronaldson, who was now still cowering slightly. David then picked up the revolver again, raised it up, and before Ronaldson could even think of moving he pulled the trigger, sending a bullet into the teacher’s chest and sending him, lifeless, to the floor.

“Whoa, what the hell was that?” Marcus was taken off guard by the shot.

“That b*****d lied to me about the ATF’s plans, I know it.” David explained. “They’re stupid, but not that much, they know we have a clear view of the hallways.”

“Well at least we don’t have to go back to the shop halls yet.” Ben said.

“So what’s their plan then?” Marcus wondered.

“I don’t know, but we need to keep a close eye on all those security cameras, so hopefully we can catch them before their plan goes too far.” David replied.

“What do you think I’ve been doing this whole time?” Ben questioned.

“Watching the monitor, but just watch harder than you have before, the last thing we want are some ATF operatives slithering around this place.” David said.

“Well we’ve got the outside covered, and most of the inside covered as well, how could they get past our vision?” Marcus wondered.

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling that our slightest slip up will be their chance, so we have to be very careful here.” David exclaimed.

“Well what rooms do we have vision of, besides the hallways?” Marcus inquired.

“We’ve got mostly the large places.” Ben stated. “The cafeteria, the gym and field house, and the auditorium.”

“Well can they get in through any of the classrooms?” Marcus asked.

“Unlikely, a lot of them don’t even have windows, and if they did get in, once they went into the hallways their cover would be blown.” Ben explained.

“Well what about the roof?” David put in.

“What?” Ben turned to him.

“The roof, could they get in from there?” David exclaimed.

“Not directly into here, but I’d have to check in where there are roof accesses near this area.” Ben said, beginning to work on the computer.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.” Marcus said.

“Don’t you worry Marcus, these guys can’t possibly sneak up on us, and if they do get in there is a simple fix.” David spoke with a large amount of confidence. “We just test the hostages continuously until they leave.”

“Yeah but it’s the ATF, they don’t give a s**t about hostages.” Marcus replied, still down about the situation.

“You’re right, they don’t.” David agreed. “But nowadays they have to look like they do, which is good news for us.”

“So that plan of ours will work after all.” Marcus’s spirits began to lift up.

“Yes it will, the people out there care to much to win this fight, they can never be as uncaring as us, and that’s the flaw that will inevitably kill all these people in here.” David exclaimed.

“So in reality, their emotion towards these people, their desire to keep them alive, will do the exact opposite.” Marcus pieced together.

“Precisely.” David concurred.

“I wonder if anyone besides us will ever realize that.” Marcus thought aloud.

“Maybe if we tell them.” David replied.

“And why would we do that?” Marcus said with a short laugh.

“We wouldn’t, so they probably never will.” David let out a laugh as well.

“That’s a shame, the ignorance of the people never ceases to appall me.” Marcus said, speaking seriously now.

“To them ignorance is bliss, but we know better.” David replied. “To us, our bliss is when they realize the folly of their ignorance, but have waited too long to see it, and can’t stop the consequences of their actions.”

“Is that what we’re doing here?” Marcus wondered. “I thought we were seeing what God truly thinks of these people, not showing the public the folly of their ignorance.”

“We’re here for a lot of reasons.” David explained. “The God thing is just the main one.”

“Hey guys.” Ben cut in. “I found the possible entrances.”

“Alright, where?” David replied.

“There’s only one main door to the roof, and that’s in the auditorium, up on the catwalks behind the stage.” Ben pointed out.

“So that’s where they’ll be coming in.” David said.

“Not necessarily.” Ben stopped him. “There are also several large air ducts they could work their way through.”

“They won’t use those.” David stated.

“How do you know that they won’t use the ducts?” Ben inquired.

“Because they probably had an hour, maybe, to put together this plan. In which case, they would be in no way as informed about this building as we are, they’re all government g-men from Washington, they’ve never seen this school, they don’t know the layout.” David explained.

“Well how do we know they didn’t find it somewhere?” Ben continued questioning.

“They probably did, but like I said, they probably had an hour to put the plan together. And rushed means not thorough, and if they weren’t thorough than they probably just chose the easiest way in.” David went on explaining his theory.

“And what if you’re wrong?” Ben asked worriedly.

“Then they’ll end up trapped in a duct somewhere not know where the hell they are going.” David’s tone of confidence was back again.

“What makes you so sure about that?” David’s confidence wasn’t rubbing off on Ben.

“Trust me on this, they’ll come through that door.” David continued trying to assure his stressed friend.

“They’re trained just for getting hostages out of a situation like this.” Ben’s worry was unscathed by David’s optimism.

“No, they’re trained to get hostages out of situations where there’s a few unorganized guys with a bottle of gas and a pea shooter, not three fully organized kids with military grade explosives and pulse detonators, not to mention armed to the teeth with today’s finest guns and ammo.” David began to sound more like a pitchman than a gunman.

“You lost me at the word kids.” Ben said, unfazed.

“Are you doubting our abilities to stop these guys?” David was almost offended.

“Well how long do you think this could go on, really?” Ben replied.

“I thought we’d all come to terms with our fates before we went through with this, don’t you remember?” David recollected their oath.

“I have come to terms with my fate, I’m just saying that this thing has to come to an end soon enough, it can’t last forever.” Ben responded.

“And it won’t, we all know that. But when we go, it won’t be in cuffs in the hands of some ATF soldier, it’ll be by our own terms, when we say.” David continued trying to reassure Ben.

“Well when do we say?” Ben wondered.

Before David had a chance to answer Ben’s question, something took the whole room’s attention. There came a low whirring sound that resonated throughout the room. Everyone looked every which way to find the source, but they could not.

“What the hell is that?” Marcus whispered to his friends in bewilderment.

“It sounds to me like our friends are landing on the roof.” David replied, staring up at the ceiling.

“How do you know that?” Ben questioned. “For all we know it could be the news helicopter.”

“No, no, that’s what they want you to think.” David replied, walking towards the computer while still staring at the ceiling. “And besides, why would any news helicopter want to get this close? It’s gotta be the ATF coming in here.”

“Alright, let’s see then.” Ben replied, pulling up the security camera feed for the auditorium on the screen. The large room’s lights were off, and although the camera had night vision, the stage was nothing more than a thin outline on the screen.

“Damn, I can’t see anything.” David said, squinting at the screen to try and get more detail out of the dark picture.

“I guess that might be another reason to take the auditorium entrance, it’ll be really hard to see them moving through here.” Ben said, now also squinting at the screen.

“Well that hallway outside the auditorium is well lit, can we get a view of that too?” David asked.

“Sure.” Ben began working on the computer once more and quickly pulled up the view of the auditorium hallway as well as the interior of the large theater.

“Now they can wander around that dark place all they want, but as soon as they step foot outside it, they’re busted.” David grew a devilish smile as he spoke.

“Huh, I guess you were right.” Ben conceded. “These guys aren’t trained for the likes of us.”

“How do we know those guys won’t come through another entrance?” Marcus wondered, he was now the last of them to still be staring a hole through the ceiling as the whirring continued.

“Why would they?” David asked, not taking his eyes off the computer.

“I don’t know, I just think that-” Marcus began.

“Shh!” David cut him off, then he peered back up at the ceiling. The whirring was dying off, it was getting softer and softer, and after a few more moments, it died away all together. David just sat for another moment before quickly darting back to look at the computer screen

“I can’t see anyone yet.” Ben said.

“Neither can I.” David agreed as the two scanned the dark room on the screen watching for the slightest movement.

“Wait there!” Ben jumped a little in his seat, and pointed to a small light in the back of the stage.

“What, where?” David was just as excited as Ben now.

“I just saw something block out that light right there, something moved past it!” Ben exclaimed.

“Just keep watching.” David’s excitement died down quickly. The two kept watching, the light wasn’t blocked out again, but they both kept watching it closer than any other part of the room.

“Look, there!” Ben expressed his excitement once more and pointed to another part of the screen, this time to the area of the theater where the open area for the stage meets a walkway in between the rows of chairs. David looking in closer and, sure enough, he saw several human shaped masses moving around swiftly and slowly making their way up the walkway.

“I’ll be damned, f****n’ idiots can’t even dodge a blind camera in a dark room.” David laughed.

“Well what should we do?” Ben wondered, still watching the figures move about the auditorium.

“Well first we should at least applaud them for actually getting in here.” David laughed again. “But seriously, can you get me on the loud speaker?”

“Sure.” Ben quickly picked up the phone next to the computer, punched a single button, and handed the phone off to David.

“Couldn’t you just have explained this to me?” David wondered, taking the phone.

“Probably.” Ben replied with a smile.

“Will this broadcast throughout the entire school?” David asked.

“Yep.” Ben was back to watching the screen.

“You couldn’t have patched me through to just the theater?”

“I could have, but this was much easier.” Ben’s eyes moved around with the figures on the screen as he spoke. David let out a sigh and lifted the phone to his head.

“Attention.” David heard his voice echo through the intercom in the library. He also saw the figures on the screen all stop dead simultaneously. “This is to the people in the auditorium, your plan has failed, I’m now ordering you to leave this building. You have exactly one minute to comply before I begin killing hostages.” The figures began to slowly back off on the screen, then Ben replaced the feed from the hallway on the screen with that of the front exterior. Everyone out front was standing still, listening to David’s voice command the government agents. David stood and watched as the figures disappeared back into the darkness of the stage. “Thirty seconds. And I’d better hear the helicopter coming back to pick you up.”

 

-

 

Back outside, Barnes, Downs and Lewis all sat completely still and listened to the voice of David Marshall resonated throughout the area. As they listened, Coppery approached them in a rage.

“You son of a b***h, what the hell did you tell him!” He snapped at Barnes.

“I didn’t tell them anything that was true, they found all this out on their own.” Barnes replied calmly.

“That’s bullshit Barnes, you sold us out and lost us our only shot at ending this!” Coppery continued, his face bright red.

“I concocted a lie, and obviously they didn’t buy into it, and they found out your plan.” Barnes went on, not looking at Coppery.

“They found out my plan with your help, you sold me out to save some nameless hostage!” Coppery was semi-careful not to say that too loud.

“I did no such thing. And I’ve got two reliable witnesses right here that can vouch for me.” Barnes gestured to Lewis and Downs.

“Yep. He didn’t tell them anything that was true.” Lewis added.

“I will make sure you all get fired for this.” Coppery sneered.

“Yeah, yeah,” Downs threw a lazy wave at him, “pink slips, badges, we know the whole story. Now if you’re done huffing and puffing can you please go blow some other house down, we’re very busy.”

At that, Coppery turned and stormed off with an annoyed grunt.

“Where do you think he’s off too?” Lewis wondered.

“Who cares?” Downs wondered back. Lewis just shrugged in agreement.

“Well, I think we all know what has to happen now.” Barnes said, still just looks straight ahead at the school.

“Yeah.” Lewis said.

“We have to call him back.” Downs added in displeasure.

“Yep.” Barnes equaled his displeasure as he picked up the phone once more and began to dial.

 

-

 

David handed the desk phone off to Ben and picked the cell phone up and answered it again.

“Well, do you want to explain yourself?” He wondered.

“It wasn’t my idea.” Barnes replied.

“I know that, but I know that you knew, and you lied to me.” David said bitterly.

“I had to, to keep that hostage alive.” Barnes explained.

“Well I knew you were lying from the beginning, so after you hung up, I tested that old guy, and he scored low.” David’s tone began to change from a seemingly minute frustration to full-fledged anger and hatred.

“What?” Barnes was horrified.

“Yep. And we didn’t even bother to clean up this body, we just left it there for all to see.” David began explaining the moment in morbid detail. “The son of a b***h was almost crying by the time the countdown got to the end, and I’m sure he would have had I drawn out the shooting a little more. But I wanted it to go quickly, so just as quick as I could aim I fired, and he took a bullet straight to the chest. He flopped to the ground like a dead fish, and now he just smells like death. And nobodies bothered to close his eyes, he’s just staring blanking into the ceiling, you can tell he’s dead just from his eyes. The shine is gone, they just look empty.” David was looking over the desk at the corpse, seeing that indeed his eyes were still wide open, the blue that they were had now turned to what looked like a pale gray.

“Please stop.” Barnes pleaded.

“Alright, but only because there’s more pressing matters at hand right now.” David replied. “I want all the people who were in that theater taken away with that helicopter, and if that isn’t done, I’ll know, and they’ll be consequences.”

“That’s already happening right now.” Barnes exclaimed.

“What? I wouldn’t expect them to give up that easily.” David was surprised.

“They weren’t planning to, but Coppery thinks I sold out his plan to you, so he’s pulling them all back.” Barnes said.

“That’s they guy I talked to before, right?” David asked.

“Yes.”

“Well when can we expect the chopper to be back to get them?”

“You should be hearing the chopper any second now.”

“Now wait.” David stopped. “You lied to me about the ATF’s plans, so how do I know you’re not lying now?”

“Please, lying to you would be idiotic, the last time I lied you killed someone, so why would I do it again?” Barnes responded.

“Well, Barnes, thanks to that one incident you can no longer be trusted, there for everything you say will be basically worthless to me.”

“But I’m not lying.” Barnes insisted.

“Like I haven’t heard that before.”

“I promise you this is the truth.” Barnes was pleading.

“I thought we covered promises already.” David recalled. “But now I think it’s time to cover something else I’m pretty sure we covered already as well. I thought I told you what would happen if I saw your men get close to this building, and they got inside, which makes this much worse for you.”

“It wasn’t my idea, the situation got out of control.” Barnes tried to explain.

“Well I guess I’m gonna have to teach whoever’s in control now what happens.”

“David, please don’t do this, I can talk to Coppery.”

“You can talk to him sure, but that won’t do any good. And you know it.”

“David, whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it, we can talk this out, like reasonable people.”

“I can’t talk with you Barnes, because I can’t trust you anymore. So what else is there to do?”

“David, you can trust me now, please, lets just talk.”

“You know, if everybody trusted everybody, do you know how much chaos the world would be in? Too much trust leads to bad things, and you’ve already outweighed my trust scale. Now if you don’t mind, I think it’s time to put on a show for the media.”

“David wai-” Barnes tried to speak, but David hung up the phone before he could get any point across. As David got up and walked around the desk, he stopped and listened, the whirring had returned.


21

 

“Stand up.” David commanded a student who was crouched on the floor. The student got up slowly and faced David with a look of fear greater than any he’d seen throughout the day.

“What’s your name kid?” David asked.

“Troy.” The kid stuttered.

“Well Troy,” David reached each of his hands into a separate pocket of his coat. “Do you believe in God?” He pulled his .45 from one pocked, and he had his fist clenched around something taken from the other.

“Yes.” Troy could barely speak the word.

“Do you believe that he forgives you for all the sins you’ve committed in your life?” David continued.

“Yes.” Troy’s stutter was getting slowly heavier.

 It was now that David unclenched his hand to reveal a quarter he’d pulled from his pocket. He looked at it for a moment and flipped it. He snatched it from the air as he’d done before and looked at the outcome in his palm.

“Then why has he let you die?” David revealed the coin to Troy, it came out tails. When Troy saw this his face lost all expression, and his legs buckled. As he fell to his knees, David grabbed him by the hair and tossed him over to Marcus, who was now standing a few feet away.

Once Troy had fallen to the ground at Marcus’s feet, Marcus wasted no time and quickly lifted the Mac-10 he had on his shoulder.

“Don’t you even think about moving.” Marcus had the gun trained on the cowering kid at his feet.

As Marcus kept Troy under supervision, David made his way to the kid who was sitting next to Troy. This time he didn’t ask the kid’s name or even ask him to stand up, he simply looked down at him, and flipped the coin. He looked at it as he’d done before, this time around he’d flipped heads, so David left the kid in whatever peace the kid could muster and went on.

David was careful to only pick out students for this, he didn’t want any faculty members. The next student he came to was a boy, who looked just as scared as Troy had. He was clutching the hand of a girl sitting beside him. David didn’t know if they were siblings, or a couple, and he didn’t care. What he did know is that these two would probably make more of a fuss, but he went on with it anyway. He started out with the boy, he flipped the coin and snatched it once more, this time it came out tails.

He grabbed him by his hair as he’d done with Troy, but as he began to toss him to Marcus, the girl he was embraced with began to pull back on him and she began to scream and wail. David quickly silenced her with a swift strike to the face with the butt of his .45, which sent her tumbling to the floor, and abruptly stopped the screaming. David then tossed the boy towards Marcus and turned back to the girl, who was beginning to get back up from the floor. He flipped and grabbed once again, and it came out tails once more. He grabbed her by the arm and tossed her in the group forming in front of Marcus.

She landed next to the boy and the quickly embraced. But it didn’t last long, Marcus struck the boy over the head with the Mac-10 and tossed him aside. The girl looked as if she might begin to cry again, but Marcus aiming the machine gun on her quickly quieted her.

David continued this coin flipping process until he’d amassed a group of ten students whose flips came out tails at Marcus’s feet. Once that was completed he returned to the front desk and addressed Ben.

“We’re going to entertain the cameras, are you gonna be alright here by yourself?” He asked.

“I won’t be alone.” Ben replied. “I’ll have him here to help me out.” Ben grabbed the shotgun and showed it off with a smile.

“Alright, keep a very close eye on them, and don’t shoot to kill, shoot to incapacitate and cause as much pain as possible.” David explained.

“Got it.” Ben said before hopping over the desk with the shotgun and aiming it at the crowd. “Everybody shut up!” He commanded. “I see any movement, you’ll be losing what ever part of ya you couldn’t control!”

“Alright.” David addressed Marcus. “Let’s get moving.”

To this, Marcus gave a slight nod before turning his attention to the group of ten.

“Stand up!” He commanded. They all promptly did.

“Ok,” David spoke to the ten, “when we go out you take a left towards the front doors. If any of you make any sudden move, we will shoot you.”

“Why should we?” Troy called out from the crowd. David quickly approached him.

“Because.” He began. “If you don’t do what we tell you, I will make the last moments of your life a living hell. I will twist off your fingers with a pair of pliers, I will cut out your tongue with a dull blade. By the time we’re done, you’ll be begging for your death, your sweet relief. Or you can just do as we tell you.” Troy’s look of fright returned, and he looked down towards the floor in defeat.

“Let’s move it!” Marcus commanded the group. With him leading the way they left the library and headed down the long, empty, hallway towards the front doors. David stopped for just a moment to listen for the helicopter whir, he heard nothing. All of the ten students walked with their heads down now, not just Troy, the couple managed to find each other again and now grasped each other’s hand like they had done back in the library.

Once they’d reached the front doors, Marcus began lining them all up in front of the gate, in full view of the police and news crews. David looked out at what looked like chaos outside. A crowd of thousands and a few cops trying to contain it. The officers at the front line who were beginning to notice him. News crews trying to get the  cameramen close enough to see what is transpiring at the front doors. He saw the police van where Barnes was stationed.

“Everybody down on your knees!” Marcus’s voice called out the students, who were now lined up in front of the doors so each could be displayed to the people outside.

David turned back just as they were all following the instruction. He walked past them and away from the doors. Just as he did, a familiar voice drew his attention.

“David, this is Barnes.” The voice called out through a megaphone.

David turned back, eager to see the face of the person whom he’d been talking to throughout the day. But as he did, Marcus rushed ahead of him and fired a spray of bullets from the Mac-10 down on the police cars that made up the front line.

“Marcus, what the hell?” David was taken off guard by his friend’s actions.

“I was trying to keep them away.” Marcus tried to explain himself.

“They were not trying to come in, that was the negotiator.” David said, leading Marcus back away from the doors and behind the line of students. “And besides, you need all the bullets.”

The two turned to the line of kneeling students before them, many of them were now whimpering quietly in fear.

“Cry, cry like children.” Marcus fed on their anguish. “Make a big show for those cameras out there.”

“Marcus!” David called him back to his side. “Don’t seem so blood thirst.”

“Please don’t kill me.” A voice from the line cut into their conversation.

“What was that?” David called out, still not sure whom it came from.

“Please.” The voice replied, this time he pin pointed it, it came from a girl, no older than he was, near the left end of the line. He approached her, gun drawn, and knelt beside her.

“What’s with this?” He questioned her as she wept.

“Please, I have a family.” She sobbed.

“You have a family. I bet they love you, don’t they?” David replied, seemingly sympathetic. His question was met by only more sobs from the girl. “You know, I never had a family like that, I never had anyone to love me, ever. So why is it that you can go home to a family who loves you and I can’t?”

“Please.” She continued sobbing.

“You tell me!” He was now displaying the rage in his voice. “How is that fair!”

“Life isn’t fair!” Another voice from down the line called out, this time David knew exactly where this voice came from. He got up and walked down the line to the couple from before, they were both still clutching each other’s hand. He knelt down next to the boy.

“What?” He asked.

“Life isn’t fair, deal with it.” The boy repeated.

In pure anger, David stood up and raised his gun a few inches from the boy’s head, he was about to pull the trigger when he stopped himself. He peered down and saw he was still holding the girls hand.  He cocked his head for a moment and thought.

After the moment of though he quickly turned his gun over to the girl, and this time he did not hesitate, he pulled the trigger and she went limp to the floor. The boy sat motionless for a moment, then began to keel over and sob. Before he could get far David grabbed him by his hair once more and lifted him back up.

“Life isn’t fair, deal with it.” He whispered spitefully into the boy’s ear before letting him go back down to wallow in grief. David quickly strode back to Marcus’s side and gave him a gesturing nod. Marcus then, in full view of several news crew cameramen, lifted the machine gun and opened fire on the line up of students. As he went down the line they all twisted in pain as bullets drove through their backs. And quickly after they all fell forward, one after the other, like dominoes. In a matter of seconds, all the whimpers and cries ceased, and the boy joined the girl, limp on the floor of the foyer.

After the gun’s report’s ceased all was quite, all was still. They bodies sat motionless in ever growing pools of dark crimson, all those outside stood still, trying to take in what they’d just seen happen right before them. David looked on with what could have been past off as the root of a grin growing on his lips. And Marcus just stood still, Mac-10 still at his hip, aimed out at the police and public, he stood like a rock as the gun let out a thin line of smoke from the barrel. They both looked at the carnage they had created. The air was now thick with the smell of blood and gunpowder.

“Well,” David finally spoke up, still looking down at the line of corpses, “shall we go?”

“I think it’s about that time now.” Marcus agreed, lifting the gun from his hip and throwing it over his shoulder. “And I’m sure Ben would appreciate us getting back to help him with the crowd.”

At that, the two turned silently and swiftly away and began to stroll back down the hall to the library.

When the two returned they saw Ben, still standing exactly where he was when they left, shotgun still raised. David knocked softly on the door, Ben turned to look and gestured with one hand for them to enter, while still holding up the shotgun with the other.

“You can put the shotgun down now, Ben.” David said, walking back around the desk. Ben just nodded obediently and put the shotgun back in its place on the desk before hopping back over it to sit down in front of the computer again.

“So how’d it go?” He wondered, pulling a chair up to the computer.

“I think we gave the people out there something to think about.” David replied.

“Did the camera’s catch it?”

“I like to think they did, but they were kept a good distance away by the police.”

“And what about all the kids, are they all dead?”

“As far as I know they are.” David pulled another chair up to the computer so he could sit and watch the chaos outside.

“But you didn’t make sure.” Ben was somewhat surprised that David only assumed they’d died.

“I didn’t have to.” David began. “All those kid’s got at least two shots to the back, and even if they survived that nobody can go up there to help them without getting shot at by us. So any survivors will surely bleed to death.”

“I don’t know, I’ve heard of crazy instances where people get shot and bleed for days without dying.” Ben exclaimed.

“Where did you hear that?” David inquired. “Did you start reading tabloids?”

“No but I’m just saying, sometimes that happens.” Ben replied defensively.

“Maybe once in ten million instances.” David went on.

“I’m just saying it can happen.” Ben said.

“It won’t.” David asserted.

“It could.” Ben asserted his point.

“But it won’t.”

“But it could.”

Before David could continue bickering with Ben, he was interrupted by a familiar sound, the sound of the cell phone vibrating. He stood and looked down at it and watched it ring for a moment. Then he looked up at Marcus across the desk, Marcus returned the look with a confused shrug. He then turned to be, who gave a similar shrug. After that, he finally picked up the phone and answered it.

“Barnes?” He voiced into it slowly.

“What have you done?” Barnes’s mortified voice came through the phone.

“We gave the press what they wanted.” David returned, his original confidence from past conversations with the distraught negotiator had come back to him.

“You publicly executed a group of kids!” Barnes’s tone of horror had turned to anger.

“We all know that’s what the media was really hanging around for.” David replied.

“The police and ATF will not let this go on any longer, they’re all pissed, and are ready to do anything to end this!” Barnes anger was quickly turning to full fury.

“I hope their ready to kill all these hostages, because if they act on those thoughts of theirs, that is what will happen.” David kept his composure.

“Some of them are considering that.” Barnes responded, seeming calmer now.

“Well then,” David began, “That could pose quite a big problem for just about everyone now, couldn’t it?”

“Everyone except the leaders of this operation out here, if only half the hostages died while taking you and your friends out, they’d pop champagne.” Barnes explained.

“They’re more blood thirsty than me.” David said, with a half sincere chuckle.

“Yes, and they’re just as willing as you are when it comes to acting to decisions like this.”

“Well what are we gonna do now?” David shook his head in discontent.

“After what you just did I’m going to sit back and watch you fall to the police force. I don’t know what you’re gonna do.” Barnes stated, somewhat happy by David’s obvious depression.

“I can understand that you’re not very happy with me, but in case you didn’t get the memo, I’m the one who controls things around here, and what ever is my problem is your problem.”  David said sternly.

“Not for very long, you’re losing your grip on this situation fast, these people are done with your games, it’s over for you now.” Barnes retorted.

“You may think this it’s going to end, but this never truly ends. Our round may be finishing up, but this little game will continue forever. It’s the washing of the car Barnes, it’s the cleansing of humanity, and it never ends.” David said wickedly.

“I disagree, you may think that humanity will forever continued trying to exterminate itself. But the way I see it, for every ‘washing’ that occurs, the cycle slows, and soon enough it will stop.” Barnes responded more optimistically.

“I doubt that,” David sneered, “And something I doubt even more is that you’ll live to see that day, if it ever comes at all.”

“Probably not,” Barnes agreed, “but, then again, you won’t either.”

“What makes you so sure of that?” David was intrigued.

“For everything you’ve done, they’ll give you the chair.” Barnes explained.

“This state doesn’t go for capital punishment, and like you said earlier, I’ll go off to the loony bin for sure.” David responded with his regular confidence.

“I will see to it that that doesn’t happen, do you hear me, you will rot in prison where you belong.” Barnes spat.

“I won’t rot in any prison, I will assure you of that.” David’s confidence was failing and falling once again into hatred.

“You can wish all you want, but that’ll just be time wasted on your part.” Barnes was showing anger once again as well.

“You know what I don’t get?” David tried to change the subject.

“What is that?” Barnes asked with a faux sense of wonderment.

“So many people build so many charities and make people think they care about others. They build homes for the homeless, they send cheap toys to kids with cancer, but where were they for me?” David answered with spite plaguing every word. “I had no family, home was a living hell, and I had to come here everyday and be mentally tortured by the soulless people around me. My peers’ spat at me, my teachers ignored me, I was the one everyone walked across and thought nothing of it. My God was a sadist, he fed on my anguish, and he was by no means a forgiver. He has forsaken me. And where was my charity, where was my make a wish foundation. I was driven to this, I was driven to kill, and nobody even bothered to stop and look at what they were making me into. Nobody realized that they were sealing their own fate, they were truly begging for me to do this, they were begging for me to kill them. With every insult, with every piece of ignorance and hate speech, they convinced me further that they truly wanted to die. Why else would they have continued to feed the fire in my mind, knowing full well what it could lead to, what the implications of their actions were, yet just went on with it. They knew all about Columbine, they knew about Virginia Tech, and why they happened. But they never ceased, they never slowed down. I was the product of this environment, this ever-running factory of hate produces people like me everyday. And what does the public do? They do nothing, they pay no mind, and they are too busy pretending to give a s**t about some kid dying in a hospital then to care for me. But now they pay for their neglect, their children pay in their place. And alas, those who did not lose anything here, will care for a few weeks, but then just go on living, go on not caring for people like me, and then act surprised and mortified when, surprise surprise, his cycle repeats itself again.”

“I’m sorry for what your life is, I am.” Barnes became sympathetic of David’s situation. “I can’t imagine what it must feel like to not be accepted anywhere, to be treated like the bottom person in school, then you have to go home to family like yours, a person being pushed around, a person with no support to keep him from falling.”

“Yeah, it must be awful.” David mocked Barnes’s sympathy. “You’re no better than who I was just describing, you pretend to care, but soon you’ll be just some other frightened person in the crowd who is horrified when this horrid cycle repeats.”

“No I’m not.” Barnes tried to explain. “I really am sorry, and I will never forget this day, I will never forget the life that led you to this.”

“You say things, but how can I trust that you mean them?” David’s anger was showing once more.

“I know you’re trust is lost in me, but if you can ever learn to trust anything I say, trust me saying that I will never forget you’re sadness and hate, and the life you led before this. The public will only remember the killer inside you, but I will always know what reasons led you to this, and I will try my hardest to bring the public’s attention to the problem.” Barnes continued on trying to sympathies.

“And what will the public do, push the schools to enact new laws against harassment that they won’t enforce?” Barnes’s feeble attempts to connect with him just increasingly frustrated David.

“Your plight will make a difference.” Barnes replied.

“No it won’t,” David protested, “it’ll just make the public look at me like some kind of psychopath and not care what led me to become one. My plight will mean nothing to the people, I’m not doing this for the public to realize my bad past and feel bad for me. I want them to feel bad at themselves, by the end I want them to be wallowing in their own self-hate for their ignorant and selfish lives they live. I want them to see that God does not forgive sins to the degree they think, that he looks down upon them in horror watching as his children go against him, and mock him incessantly with every act of hate and indiscretion.”

“Maybe this wasn’t the best way to do that.” Barnes exclaimed slowly, wondering what to say to David, knowing that he knew that this was near the end for their plan.

“Maybe not,” David conceded, “but I regret none of it. To someone like me with limited ways for the people to see what this backwards system has led me to, this seemed like the most effective tool for the job.”

“Look David, we can still end this on a good note, you and your friends can come out here and surrender yourselves, and this will all be easier.” Barnes started once more to try and end the situation peacefully.

“We came here knowing our fates were to die, and we have no intention of seeing that change.” David showed Barnes that his attempts were in vain.

“But it doesn’t have to end that way, you can live through this.” Barnes went on.

“But we want it to end this way, we don’t want to live out our days in a cell, we want to end it here, in the free world, with our own sense of valor held in tact.” David shot him down once more.

“I don’t want to see it end like this, David.” Barnes was almost pleading with him again.

“I’m sure none of you do, but we want to have it ended like this, we want it done on our own terms.” David continued insisting.

“Is there anyway, any possible way, I can keep your from doing this?” Barnes persisted.

“No.” David replied with a dark sternness, and hung up the phone. He tossed it back to its spot on the desk once again, stared downward, and thought deeply for a moment.

“You know,” Marcus cut off David’s thought quickly, “I want to at least attempt not dying here.”

“Me too, I don’t want to end it here, now.” Ben agreed.

For a second David just looked at them in a look of disgust, fatigue, and slight melancholy, but then spoke up.

“To be truthful, I never planned to either, that’s why I’ve got a plan.” David exclaimed.

“You devilish b*****d, you hid it from us.” Marcus replied with a look of fervor and happiness.

“Yes, yes I did. We’ll be making one shot to try and get away from this.” David exclaimed further, reaching Marcus’s level of exuberance.

“How?” Ben wondered, not excited quite yet.

“You sit here and watch the crowd, and you let me worry about that.” David said with a grin. He then grabbed the Remington rifle from where it sat by the door, and went outside the library and got into shooting position. He aimed for almost a minute down the main hallway towards the front doors before pulling the trigger. The gun let out an echoing blast, and David just sat there for a few moments before slowly standing back up and entering the library once more. He walked back to where he was previously standing and set down the rifle, his grin had grown seemingly exponentially.

“What was that for?” Ben wondered, starting in bewilderment at his friend’s larger smile.

“I just took out that damn camera that’s been watching us.” He replied, his regular confident tone bubbling up in him again. He then reached over and grabbed the ring of keys from its place next to Ben’s computer.

“Where are you off to?” Marcus wondered.

“I’m off to get everything ready.” David replied and swung open the door with an almost playful laugh and strolled down the hall, spinning the large ring of keys as best he could around his finger.


22

 

As Marcus watched the silent crowd, shotgun in hand, Ben giggling from behind the desk quickly sidetracked him.

“What the hell are you so happy for?” He wondered.

“I’m just watching all these people run around is complete disarray out in front.” Ben said, still giggling.

“Still from the execution earlier?” Marcus was intrigued, and slowly made his way around the desk to see for himself.

“Yep, the cops and the crowd are all going crazy, its funny to watch a couple of cops try and hold back a thousand strong mob.” Ben’s giggling had slowed, but had not yet ceased. Marcus pulled up a chair to sit and observe the chaos on the screen, his eyes were quickly glued. And soon, the two lost all care for the large group of hostages, and just began to giggle together at the chaos ensuing just a few hundred yards away. 

 

-

 

“I think now’s a good time.” Nick exclaimed quietly to Rachel as the sat together.

“What?” She was caught off guard by his vocalization.

“The one is gone, and the other two are watching the computer behind that big desk, now would be the best time as any to unlock this door.” Nick explained.

Rachel looked over for herself and sure enough, Nick spoke the truth.

“Ok, let’s do it.” She began almost reluctantly. “But what about everyone else stuck here?” She peered around, not very many people were sitting near them, and those who were close were sitting in corners and other dark areas, consoling themselves, not paying any attention to Nick and Rachel.

“Right now we just need to think about us, ok.” Nick explained. “We need to focus on our own escape, not everyone else’s.”

Rachel took another slow survey of all the people in the room before turning back to Nick.

“Ok.” She agreed.

Nick took another look over to the front desk, still nobody. He turned back to Rachel.

“Alright, I need a bobby pin from your hair.” He said.

She too looked over at the desk for reassuring, then pulled one of the pins in her hair out and handed it to him. Nick quickly snatched it and spun around and was about to make a go at picking the lock, when he turned back to her slowly.

“Before we do this,” he began, setting the bobby pin down and grasping both her hands in his, “I want you to know something.” He stared deeply into her eyes.

“What?” Her eyes began to water as she met his deep gaze.

“No matter what, no matter what happens here, I’m not going to let them hurt you.” He explained slowly but sternly. “I’m not going to let you go, do you understand, I won’t let you go.”

Rachel began to shed tears, she only nodded to avoid choking up by trying to talk. She fell into him, kissed him,  and the shared a warm embrace. They sat for long moment in each other’s arms, gripping tightly to one another, knowing that this could be the last time they get a chance to do this.

After almost a full minute past, she pulled away gently and took another look at the front desk.

“We have to do this now.” She said, still seeing nobody.

“Alright, keep a look out for me.” He replied, picking up the bobby pin and getting to work on the door. He peered over his shoulder quickly at the desk before finally working the small pin into the thin key-slot. As he began to shift and twist the pin as quietly as he could he started through the large glass pane that made up most of the door, seeing the empty space there, and seeing the top of the door that led to the hallway, he was just a half-inch of glass away from making it to that door, and hopefully to freedom, to a place far away from the hell he and Rachel had been put in. As he pushed and twisted on the pin he could all of a sudden feel a tumbler go into place, he began to work quicker and more eagerly. He quickly turned over his shoulder, he still saw no one and went back to working the lock. He pushed and twisted and he could feel the fragile pin start to bend, luckily he also felt the second tumbler fall into its place. He was so close, he could smell the air of freedom, he could picture the two of them sprinting out the doors and into the arms of their families. He could feel the embrace of his family, he could picture them crying tears of joy together, and now the only thing that separated him from all that now was a glass door he couldn’t break. The third tumbler went. He went for another quick look around his shoulder, he thought he may have seen some movement but he turned back before he could figure it out, and he wasn’t turning back now. He worked the lock harder, pushed the pin deeper and he felt it bend more, he knew if it broke their chances at getting to freedom were done, he slowed down but still worked furiously. He felt the fourth tumbler reach its spot, but then it quickly fell away again. He tried it again, and it quickly fell back into its place, and fell out again. Nick let out a soft grunt of frustration as he continued attempting to hit that fourth tumbler. He shifted the pin and the tumbler went in and stayed in. He had no time to be relieved and quickly went on to the final tumbler. He gently touched his hand against the glass, he was so close, and he couldn’t lose it now. He felt the pin bend further, it was close to breaking point, and his hands began to sweat, the pin was now slippery in his grasp. He pushed and twisted and repeated over and over, he could feel that last tumbler move, but it didn’t go into place. A look of frustration and anguish washed over his face as he tried and tried with no luck it get the tumbler into place. Just as he and the pin were reaching their point of breakage, it happened, the tumbler went into place, he quickly reached up and twisted the handle, and it fell downward easily. He let out a huge sigh of relief.

He then looked over his shoulder again, he still saw no one, his mind must have played a trick on him earlier. He then looked over to Rachel, who looked just as relieved and overjoyed as he felt. He looked around and saw no one else was paying attention to them, he slowly pulled the door open, he slowly pulled out the pin and let the handle go back up once the door had left the frame. It opened quietly, much to their delight. He got it halfway open and gestured Rachel to pass through, as she did he peered over his shoulder again, once again no signs of movement. Once Rachel was clear of the door he turned and went through the open space backwards, watching out for the kids behind the desk.

Once he too had cleared the frame he began to shut the door slowly, he pulled down on the inside handle and let the door slip back into place, he let up on the handle, and to door was locked up again.

Once they heard the door click the moved as fast as the could and stayed as low as they could until they spun into the cover of a short cubicle wall a few feet from the door, they were now out if sight from the shooters, but Nick knew he wouldn’t feel safe until he was in his families arms again. Rachel felt the same way. Once they disappeared behind the cubicle, they both slid to the floor and let out large sighs of relief. They both turned to each other and their eyes met.

“I love you.” Rachel sighed.

“I love you too.” Nick sighed back.

The two both sat there for a few minutes getting lost in each other’s gazes, the held hands and for the first time since the whole ordeal started, they felt in the least bit calm, they felt at peace.

They would’ve sat together longer, but an unknown noise coming from the direction of the library prompted them to get moving again. The both got up and move towards the last door they needed to pass through, a large, solid wood door, a door that would lead them to the hallway and out of this ordeal.

The both sat back down against the door and looked at each other once more. With looks of nervous anticipation on both of them, Nick slowly reached up and grasped the cold, metal handle. He took a breath and he pulled down, the handle moved with ease and the door slid quietly open.


23

 

Once David made his way down the hall and unlocked the first gate and gotten through, he was delightfully whistling as well as twirling the key ring around his finger. He strolled up to a second gate, unlocked it and whistled a tune all the way through. From there he made his way down the shop hallway, he moved past an automotive room, and past a welding room next, a manufacturing classroom, a electronics room, and finally he reached his destination, just feet from a pair of large metal and glass door leading to the outside, he could see police cars lined up in the parking lot. He entered the dark classroom and flipped on the lights, he then quickly moved through a second pair of doors into the actual shop area, and flipped on those lights as well. The room smelled normally smelled of fresh wood and the occasional burnt piece of wood, but now it smelled of gunpowder, from Ben’s earlier encounter with the police.

David saw the fire door where they’d come in, he even saw blood spatter from where Ben shot the officer in the arm. But he was not interested in that, what he was interested in was right in front of him. It was a large garage door, which led out into the only fenced in parking lot in the school, that which held the shop teachers cars. David strolled over to a large electrical box next to the door, scanned through the buttons until he came to the one marked “garage” which he swiftly flipped.

The sound of the opening door rumbled through the large room, the sound of the lift machine working, and the sound of the door shifting around in its track. Once the door had opened David hesitated to go through it and out into the parking lot, he was almost sure someone had heard the racket caused by the door opening. He poked his head out into the small area, and then slowly walked out. All was quiet, nobody had heard it.

He quickly approached the first car he saw, a large, red pick-up truck, with a big yellow snowplow mounted on the front, which struck David as odd as it was almost summer. But that didn’t stop him for very long, he pulled out his .45 and used the butt end to break open the drivers side window. No alarm triggered, which didn’t surprise David at all, no one saw the need to turn on their car alarm in a small, fenced in, private parking lot.

He opened the door from the inside and quickly got to work. He brushed away the glass from the floor beneath the steering column and laid down on the now mostly glass free floor. He swiftly broke open the consol and grabbed a fistful of wires. He sifted through them and found the ones he was looking for. He then proceeded to hotwire the truck, and after a few minutes of screwing with the wiring, the engine turned over.

David got up again and quickly looked around once more before getting into the truck. Slowly he pulled the bed of the truck into the inside of the open construction room. He turned around and saw the truck was now facing the gate that led out into the open roadway that circled the entire school.

While the truck continued to run he hopped out and walked back into the small classroom connected to the actual shop room. Once there he approached one of the tables in the back of the room and emptied his pockets onto it. There was his .45 caliber pistol, the Model 19 revolver, a fistful of rounds for it, a quarter, a small knife, his wallet, and other than that just lint.

He looked down at all these things and thought about everything he’d used them for in the past. He remembered when he first got the wallet in middle school, he remembered trying to take up whittling with the pocketknife. He also remembered everything that had transpired earlier with everything else, testing people with the Model 19, firing off rounds to scare the crowd, as well as Barnes, with the .45, and flipping the coin to choose people for execution. He looked down at all these things before him with a small smile, some things represented the life he had, and others were tokens to the life he had now. An intermingling of what was and what is, and as for what will be, David didn’t know, and David didn’t care, just so long as there will be something.

His thoughts were soon interrupted by noises coming from down the hallway. His smile evaporated into a scowl, he picked up the revolver and went for the hallway, spinning the cylinder as he strode.

He strolled out into the hallway to see two familiar faces sprinting his direction, Nick and Rachel, both looking over their shoulders, did not notice David Marshall blocking their way to the doors behind him. He raised his gun at them and as he did, Rachel turned her head back forward. She let out a short but loud yelp and stopped dead in her tracks, prompting Nick to turn and see David as well.

Before they could more David pulled the trigger of the revolver, and sent a bullet into Rachel’s stomach, sending her keeling to the floor. Nick watched her fall in horror, not letting go of her hand. He then looked back at David, who still had the gun trained on him.

“Don’t you move.” David commanded as he approached the frozen Nick. As he casually walked around them, Rachel let out a small cough, and managed to raise herself slightly with her elbows.

Nick let go of her hand finally and raised both of his up.

“Can’t you just let us leave?” He begged.

“But then how’s that fair to all the others?” David wondered.

“What have we done?” Nick’s look of fright matched that of Troy’s

“Well for one you escaped somehow.” David pointed out.

Nick responded with just a few small fragments of voice, his mind frozen with fear.

“You know they always say the bad guy never wins.” David began. “But I don’ think that’s true, I think its just another work of our friend Hollywood. Or maybe, I’m the good guy here, and I’m beating the bad guy down right now.”

“You’re just a f*****g psycho!” Nick spoke up in fury. “You’re f*****g insane!”

“You know, I don’t like that word.” David said calmly, spinning the cylinder again and pulled the trigger, sending a bullet into Nick’s chest. He waited a moment, and fired again, another bullet rammed into Nick’s chest, he fired another, and another, and then came the hollow click of the empty cartridge.

Four bullets had hit Nick, and had sent him reeling back into a wall of lockers. Shortly after, he slid down to his knees, leaving a trail of blood down the lockers. He sat still for a moment, before falling forward onto the ground, a pool of red quickly formed under him.

David slowly lowered his gun and looked down at Nick’s body in disgust. He then turned his attention toward Rachel. She was still wearily holding herself a few inches from the ground.

“A dud.” David pulled out of his pocket that something he hadn’t before, the dud round that Marcus had hit earlier. “What were the chances?” He admired the bullet in his hand.

Rachel just let out another light cough.

“You are a very lucky girl.” David set the bullet down in front of her. “Don’t ever forget how lucky you are. God gave you this chance, don’t waist it.” He then turned away and walked back towards the construction room.

As David’s footsteps echoed away, Rachel slowly lifted her head. Her eye’s first came to the bullet, standing up about a foot in front of her. Her eye’s then wandered and watched David Marshall stroll back down the hall, turn into the construction room and out if sight. She turned to the left, but quickly jerked her head away, she’d seen the Nick, lying in an ever-growing pool of his own blood. She put her head back down and began to sob.

She was sobbing for many reasons. She cried for Bryan, all the times they had, and all the times they could’ve had. She cried for Nick, the person who swore to her that he would not let her get hurt, who’d died trying to keep that promise. She cried for his family, a family who loved him, a family who would never see him again. She cried for her own family, she wondered if she would see their faces again, or if she’d die right there on the cold tile floor of the school hallway. She cried for the whole situation, all the other’s who’d died that day, all the innocent bystanders who were gunned down in games of chance. And finally she cried for herself, for the horrors she’d seen, for what her future might hold after this, if there was even one at all, and for the open wound in her stomach, all the while she cried, it shed it’s own tears, and with every tear she felt weaker.

Not a long while later her arms grew tired, and she was unable to hold herself up any longer, she collapsed onto the floor. She stared blankly at the wall, and watched everything grow hints of darkness. The pain went deeper, and she got weaker, and the darkness continued to grow, until that’s all she saw.

 

-

 

David walked back into the classroom, quickly gathered his things and put them back into his pockets. He then made his way into the shop room once more, and he noticed a new smell. The smell of exhaust had filled the room as the truck was left to sit.

He got into the driver’s seat, pulled out his .45 and set it on the seat next to him. As he gripped the wheel and got ready to leave, he stopped for a moment, pulled up his sleeve and looked at the pulse bracelet that he’d fashioned out of hardware store electronics just days earlier.

He quickly broke his own train of thought, shifted into drive and pushed the pedal down until it could go no more. The tires wailed and he rocketed out of the open garage door. In an instant he collided with the tall gate of the fence, the large truck tore through it like a stone through wet paper, and he was out into the slim street that circled the school.

He took a swift right and headed for the nearest exit, a two lane opening that led out onto one of the busiest streets in the city, now devoid of cars due to a police blockade a few blocks down. David roared towards the opening, now cut off by two small police cars. As the truck rumbled towards them, David pulled up his sleeve again and removed the pulse bracelet, tossing it out the broken window and into the grass.

He smashed head on into the cars, sending them mostly out of his way, and with another punch of the accelerator he was out into the streets, free from the blockade. He peered in his rearview mirror just in time for the ground to rumble and a tall billow of smoke shoot upwards into the sky, sending debris and dust everywhere.

 


24

 

Barnes, Downs and Lewis all sat quietly until the blast shook the world around them. The earth shook so violently Barnes almost thought the van would tip over, and the boom was near deafening.

Still not sure what was happening, Barnes hit the ground, as did everyone else in the area. Still in shock, his ears ringing, Barnes slowly began to rise once again. As he got up pieces of stone began to fall upon the crowd. As he lifted himself to see above the police car in front of him, he finally caught sight of it, a several hundred foot tall cloud of black smoke and pulverized stone pumping out of a gaping hole over the library.

“Oh my God.” Barnes stared in utter horror at what was before him. Every person whom he’d tried to save, died in that explosion.

As the ringing in his ears began to subside, he heard a voice calling out quietly in what seemed like the distance. He turned as saw Downs, yelling orders every which way he could, he was so close, yet his voice was so far.

“Get paramedics and the fire squads in there now!” He screamed to whoever was listening, he waved his hands violently telling people where to go. As Barnes looked around him, seeing everyone trying to do something, the dust began to fall, and everything around him garnered a look of grey, some things in the distance even faded away all together. Just then, a hand tugged him around.

“We need to get in there!” It was Downs, trying to give orders while trying to regain his composure as Barnes was.

Barnes just stood and looked at him for a second, but Downs didn’t stand with him, he turned away and continued sending orders about.

Barnes turned away himself just in time to see Coppery stumble up to him.

“What’s happened?” He asked in a daze.

“It’s over.” Barnes replied in discontent.

After that the two just stood and watch the smoke billow for a few seconds. Dows approached the to bark orders, but Lewis arrived with different plans.

“Hey guys!” He leaped out of the van and moved towards them.

“What?” Downs called back, they were all yelling over each other because everyone was in some way deaf, and everyone else was screaming, which just exacerbated the situation.

“We just got word that a red truck came out of one of the parking lots in back and plowed through one of the blockades right before the explosion.” Lewis explained.

“Son of a b***h!” Downs got right into action, hopping over the hood of the police car in front of them, “Barnes, get in!” He commanded.

The two quickly got into the car. As the did, another officer ran towards them.

“Hey what are you doing in my squad car?” He asked, confused and somewhat angry.

“Do you have the keys?” Downs replied.

“What?”

“Give them to me.” Downs held out his hand.

“What, why?” The officer still looked confused.

“Just give them to me!” Downs screamed in rage. The officer quickly handed them over. Downs snatched them and started the car. But before he could speed off a knock came from Barnes’s window, it was Lewis and Coppery. Barnes rolled down the window.

“What is it?” He wondered to them.

“What the hell do we do?” Lewis answered.

“You.” Downs pointed at Coppery. “Get your ATF guys to follow us.  Coppery quickly ran off to do as he was told. “And you.” He pointed at Lewis. “Where’s the truck heading?”

“It’s heading west, we’ve got a chopper on it’s tail, and two units.” Lewis replied.

“What are the unit numbers?” Downs asked quickly.

“Three-o-seven and three-o-nine.” Lewis replied.

“Alright, now get as many units who aren’t heading inside to follow that truck too!” Downs ordered.

“Roger that.” Lewis obeyed and ran off.

“Alright, let get those sons of a b*****s.” Downs said and sped off. He cut across the parking lot and jumped the curb to get on the street. “Barnes.” He called to his passenger.

“What?” Barnes asked, holding onto whatever he could to keep from violently shifting around in the uneasy ride.

“Get on the radio and get in touch with the unit’s that are already on em’.” He commanded. As Barnes picked up the radio, Downs looked at him with a laugh. “You haven’t been in any police chases have you?”

“Not in a long time,” Barnes replied. “I think the last one I was on was almost ten years ago, and the guy we were chasing was on a bicycle.” This got another singular laugh out of Downs before he turned back to the road.

“Three-o-seven?” Barnes called out into the radio.

“This is three-o-seven.” A voice called back.

“We understand you are in pursuit of the red truck that left the school earlier, where are you heading?” Barnes wondered.

“What’s your squad number, officer?” The voice called back.

Barnes just looked confused at Downs. Downs, without even looking away from the road, pointed to a small plastic plate on the dashboard that read “two-sixteen” in bright numbers.

“This is squad two-sixteen.” Barnes replied.

“Alright two-sixteen we just turned and are heading south on Rolls Street.” The voice exclaimed.

Before Barnes could even attempt to give directions to Downs, he swung the wheel and took a hard left down a residential street. Sending Barnes against the door.

“I know a short cut there, we might be able to cut him off.” Downs explained his actions.

“Couldn’t you’ve given me a heads up?” Barnes wondered, pushing himself up and away from the door.

“No time for a heads up, you’ve just gotta be ready for whatever happens.” Downs said, still not taking his eyes off the road.

“How far away are we from Rolls Street?” Barnes asked.

“With this cut less than a minute.” Downs replied, jerking the wheel right and sending Barnes tumbling again. “Still not taking well to turns I see.” He mocked Barnes.

“Well not what you call turns anyway.” Barnes lifted himself up again. Once back up he got back on the radio.

“Three-o-seven,” He addressed, “how many assailants do you see in the truck?”

“So far only one,” The familiar voice replied, “It’s only a two seater truck, and I haven’t seen any movement in the passenger seat at all.”

Barnes shot Downs a confused look, which Downs shot right back.

“Where the hell are the other two?” Downs wondered.

“I was just thinkin’ the same thing.” Barnes said, puzzled.

“You don’t think he killed them, do you?” Downs inquired.

“Well after talking with David throughout this day, and getting to know his mental status, I wouldn’t rule that out as a factor.” Barnes replied.

“Hang on.” Downs warned before turning sharply to the left once more.

“At least you gave me a heads up first.” Barnes said.

“Yep.” Downs said with a smile. He then took another hard right.

“Where was the warning for that?” Barnes asked angrily.

“I didn’t tell you to stop hanging on.” Downs said with a smile.

“I shouldn’t assume anything with you should I?” Barnes asked, sitting back up again.

“Nope. Hang on.” Downs took a hard left that brought them onto Rolls Street and in clear view of the chase, now less than one hundred yards away. Downs sped up.

“Well welcome to the party two-sixteen.” The voice from three-o-seven greeted through the radio.

“Yeah, we’re finally here.” Barnes replied. “Now what’s the plan to stop this kid?”

“We’ve got a roadblock set-up on the other end of the Rolls Street Bridge.” The voice explained.

“That’s it?” Barnes was surprised at how little they had.

“That’s all we had time to set up, even then, he hasn’t made any attempts yet to turn off this road.” The voice stated.

“Have you tried to pit him?”

“Yeah, but he’s doing a damn good job of getting away from us.”

“He’s a kid, how hard can he be to catch?” Barnes was starting to get frustrated.

“Look’s like we have company.” Downs put in, pointing at the rearview mirror.

Barnes turned and looked out the back. What he saw put a smile back on his face. Seven more police cars, and the ATF van, all barreling towards them.

“We’ve got back up.” He said exuberantly into the radio.

“I can see that, and we’d need it if we we’re so close to the bridge right now.” The voice replied.

Barnes looked back ahead of him and saw the Rolls Street Bridge was just a few blocks away, he could make out the large blockade set up at the other end.

“He’ll turn away from that bridge.” Barnes predicted.

“Well he hasn’t gone for any of the other chances, and he’s only got a few left, there’s one more turn off about a hundred yards up, then there’s one right before the bridge.”

“Trust me, he will.” Barnes insisted.

Just then, they past the first of the last turn offs, the truck didn’t even pretend to slow down.

“He’s probably gonna turn hard at the last second and have us all pile up trying to turn with him.” Downs predicted

“Be ready to turn.” Barnes said into the radio. He got no response but had a feeling three-o-seven followed the order.

Downs leaned forward and gripped the wheel tightly as the last turn quickly approached. Barnes peered out the back window once again and saw the cruisers and the truck were almost at their tail.

“Here it comes.” Downs said in anticipation.

Barnes turned to watch. The truck’s brake light’s didn’t come on, it didn’t slow down what so ever, which only made Barnes nervous.

“Maybe he wants to end it there, on that bridge.” Barnes suggested.

Downs looked as if he was pondering that thought for a moment, but quickly got off that task.

“This is it!” He said, almost hopping out of his seat.

The truck kept speeding as it approached, and roared right past the last turn and went flying up the bridge. Immediately Downs gunned the engine.

“You got a gun on you Barnes?” Downs asked as the rocketed past the turn as well and began the assent up the angled bridge.

“Yeah, I’ve got my side arm.” Barnes replied.

“Get it ready.” Downs pointed out the windshield. Barnes looked and saw what he meant, the truck had come to a halt, and David was getting out.

“Son of a b***h.” Barnes pulled his pistol out of its holster.

The helicopter was the first in the area, but it quickly buzzed past and had to circle back around. Then, as Downs, Barnes, and the other two cars that led up the front skidded to a halt next to the truck, David made his way to the short guard rail on the edge of the bridge, and was looking down at the dark water below.

As Downs and Barnes got out the rest of the convoy showed up, all the police cars screeched their brakes, and Copper and Lewis (along with a mess of ATF and FBI officers) hopped out of the large utility truck.

Barnes and Downs quickly rushed around the truck, guns raised, to find David standing above them on the middle rung of the guard rail, still looking down at the rushing water, revolver in hand.

“David!” Barnes called out.

David looked back at him with a blank face.

“Barnes?” He asked curiously.

“Yes, I’m the one you’ve been talking to.” Barnes replied nervously. “Now come down off the ledge.”

“Why?” David replied. “So you and your g-men friend can beat me down in front of the cameras and toss me in some dank prison cell, I don’t think so.” David looked around at all the officers now surrounding him, some with pistols, some with shotguns, and the FBI operatives had what looked like assault rifles.

“David, jumping off a bridge is no way to solve this.” Barnes was gesturing him to come down.

“It was my plan, except when this all began I planned to have all three of us go into the water, but sometimes things have to change.” David said, looking back down at the water.

“You killed your friends in that explosion?” Barnes asked, only somewhat surprised.

“They broke the rules we made.” David exclaimed.

“Rules? What rules?” Barnes wondered.

“All killings must be done in way of chance, God’s way, or suffer the punishment of death. Marcus gunned down his sister and her boyfriend in cold blood, he broke the rules. Ben beat a kid to death in the cafeteria, he didn’t think anyone saw him, but we did, he broke the rules.” David explained.

“And what about all the other’s you killed in the process, what about all the hostages?” Barnes inquired.

“The rule was that if you broke the rule, you were dead, and responsible for the deaths of those around you when the punishment was carried out. We all agreed.” David stated.

“So you just made up rules so no matter what you wouldn’t be liable, and you could survive.” Barnes held a morbid surprise.

“I never planned to survive, none of us did. But I didn’t plan to have to kill my friends. But I do not regret it, the only thing I regret is that we didn’t get the chance to test very many people on the list we made.” David said, almost saddened by the thought. 

“Well you said it yourself, sometimes things have to change, which means you can change this, you don’t have to jump David.” Barnes pointed out.

“You know Barnes-” David began, but stopped himself and thought for a moment. “You know Barnes, after all this, throughout this entire day, I never learned your first name.” David said, with a near silent laugh to himself.

“My name is Clarence, Clarence Barnes.” Barnes began to ease his grip on his gun.

“Well then, Clarence Barnes,” David began, “It was nice to meet you today.”

“I can’t say the feeling is mutual.” Clarence replied.

“I didn’t really expect it to be, but I wanted you to know that anyway.” David replied. “You know, throughout all of this, I really only wanted to live carefree.” David took the step up to the top rung of the rail.

“No, David, don’t!” Barnes rushed at him, but David began to fall before Barnes even got a chance to react, and by the time he reached the rail, David was halfway to the river.

“Son of a b***h!” He quickly darted across the street to the other side, and leaned over, he was joined by Lewis. “Do you see anything?” Barnes looked frantically for any sign of David.

“It’s the South River, I don’t think anyone can see past the surface.” Lewis replied.

“Damn it!” Barnes turned away and walked back to the rest of the group.

“Ok, listen up!” Downs began to give orders again. “I want a scuba team scanning that river bottom, and I want dogs sniffing at the shores, and is there any place we might be able to see the body from the surface?”

“The dam downtown has a waterfall.” Lewis called out. “We might be able to see it there.

“Alright,” Downs went on, “me, Barnes, and the rest of the local police force here will head to the dam. Lewis, you and Coppery’s men go round up K-9 units and divers. And get the message to the chopper, I don’t care how murky the water is I want them searching for the body.”

“How do we know we’re looking for a body?” A voice from the crowd asked.

“Only one in a million people could survive a fall like that without any broken bones. And I shouldn’t have to tell you that you can’t swim worth a damn with a broken limb.” Downs answered. “Now lets move!” At that, everyone scrambled to complete their jobs, Lewis and Coppery went off to scramble the K-9’s and the divers, and Barnes, Downs, and the rest of the Danville police force at the scene rushed towards the dam.


25

 

David awoke a while later in a daze. He found himself halfway on shore, blanketed by leaves and weeds. He pushed them away and pulled himself onto land. His sight was fuzzy and just about every bone in his body ached in someway. But somehow he was able to stand up, he hadn’t broken any bones that he could feel, but he still hurt as if he had. He was able to stumble a few steps into the small patch of woods that surrounded him, but soon he collapsed again. He took that time to look around, the patch of woods was the lengthy span of trees that spread most of the way down the shore until downtown. He looked further inland and spotted a large building not a far distance away, it was the local hospital, he knew he probably needed a doctor, but he also knew he couldn’t go there. He turned his head again and saw the outline of the Rolls Street Bridge in the distance, he knew he hadn’t drifted far, and if he stayed there they would find him.

He attempted to stand once more, with better success, with the help of a tree he got up straight. He began to walk again, careful with every step as to not lose his delicate balance. It took him a great amount of strength to climb the incline up towards the hospital. By the time he’d reached the end of the tree line his breathing was heavy, he keeled over and had a severe fit of coughing, expelling much of the water he’d swallowed out onto the dry summer dirt. He felt as if he would fall over once more, but grabbed another tree branch for support. He balanced himself as much as he could, and slowly began to stumble along again. He made his way out of the wooded area and out to the train tracks that ran behind the hospital, he had to work to lift his feet enough to make it over the tracks.

Once he’d cleared the tracks he collapsed a third time into a shallow ditch filled with untidy shrubs and litter. It was here where he stayed and thought for a long time. Staring up at the sky, he took time for a remembrance of what life was like before this. Living day by day, trying to get by, never living what others called a carefree life. He remembered his high school life the year before, they were never any better, he remembered sitting in class, and he wondered if it had ever crossed his mind that a year later he’d be sitting in the ditch outside the hospital, the whole cities police force tracking him. He wondered if they would catch him lying there, in the ditch, lost in his thoughts. Or maybe, if they’d even catch him at all, maybe he could hitchhike his way out of the city, fall off the grid, and disappear. That seemed laughable to him.

After a while he reached into his pockets, the only thing that remained was the quarter, all his guns, the bullets, the knife, everything else was gone. All that remained was the lone quarter, and he was actually surprised that anything made it through his trip in the river. He gave it a good look around, smiled, and put it back in the pocket of his jacket.

He could see some discolored clouds pass him by in the sky, and then he realized it was smoke from the explosion at the school, almost half the town away. This brought a longer lasting smile to his face, he wondered how thick the cloud must be at the site, rather than half a city away from it. As he watched the smoke go past he heard the familiar sound of a helicopter whirring about. He looked around and could not see it, he could only hear it come, and slowly fade away. He wondered how long they’d be looking for him until they found him in this ditch, would he be caught in five minutes, or would they come around with flashlights when the cover of darkness sets in.

As he continued thinking, an odd feeling came over him, it was as if the ground were slowly vibrating. He sat, confused, as the vibration got more and more noticeable, he thought he might finally be losing his mind, and then he heard the low rumble from down in the distance. He pushed himself slightly back out of the ditch and saw that he wasn’t crazy. A slow moving train was making it’s way towards him, carry what seemed like a never-ending length of cars behind it. As it got closer he ducked out of sight once more, and as the driver’s car past, he saw that it was all freight cars, and he came out of hiding again.

He slowly got up again and approached the train, it was moving only about jogging speed. He reached out and touched one of the freight cars, his fingers bumping over the rusty and uneven surface. Almost every car was tattooed with graffiti.

 As more and more cars past him by, he saw one that made him raise an eyebrow. This car looked like something off the back of a beer truck, it was a large and long car, with two rows of smaller compartments, and he saw that one had a door that was left slightly ajar.

He approached the car and walked at its pace to examine the compartment. The door resembled a tiny garage door with uniform slits from top to bottom. David lifted the compartment door and saw small boxes stacked up in it. David looked up and saw an open area with a clear view from the street, and he was approaching it quickly. He reached in and ripped the boxes out and they tumbled around on the ground.

With the compartment now vacant, David hopped inside and pulled the door back down again. David had to curl up tight to fit into the thin area sitting down, and pulling down the door made it more cramped. He was careful not to pull it all the way down and lock himself inside. He scooted himself as far back away from the door as possible to avoid being seen. The slits in the door left an odd pattern of light throughout the cramped space, and also provided a place for David to look out and observe the unsuspecting public.

It wasn’t long after he shut himself away in the compartment that the car reached the open area and he could see street. There were cars streaming down the street, and people waiting patiently at the bus stop at the corner. The street was sandwiched between the large hospital and the local retirement home. He could see some of the old folks sitting on the porches enjoying the summer air.

The train quickly shifted and began moving through a small portion of downtown. Cars were lined down the streets waiting for the train to pass. And people walked around, enjoying the historic feel of the downtown area.

As David continued to people watch as the train rumbled along, he began to feel tired, his eyes became heavier. And before the train left the town, David Marshall was fast asleep in a small compartment of one of the freight cars.


26

 

David was awakened by a sudden jolt. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep for, but the sun was brighter than when he’d fallen asleep. He heard the sounds of other trains squealing to a halt. He slowly pulled open the compartment door and stuck his head out. He was in the middle of a train depot. He looked around and saw no one in the area, so he slid out and fell out onto the gravel. As he got back up he noticed that his body had stopped hurting, he was now only stiff from the long, cramped trip in the freight car of a train. He stretched for a moment and looked around again, still nobody.

He began to move quickly through the zigzags of rail cars occupying the depot. As he got further down he spotted the main building. He worked around several more train cars and reached the exterior of the building. He did not enter, but rather slowly snaked around into the front, and began to venture down the street into this mysterious town he found himself in.

 It was a mild trek before he actually made it to the actual town. It was a very tiny place, all the roads were thin, and he only actually saw a handful of cars driving around, the rest were parked on the sides of the streets. The roads were lined on each side with either quaint houses for simple families, or mom and pop stores. David felt as if he’d walked back fifty years. The only thing that told him otherwise were the new model cars that dotted the roads. He saw a few people walking the streets together, none of whom paid him any mind.

He soon came across a small newspaper dispenser and he approached it. The copy inside was something called The Iowa Inquirer and he turned his attention not to the stories, but to the city name stamped on the top, it read Des Moines, IA and he immediately went on his way, he knew this town he found himself in was not Des Moines by any means.

He strolled further down the street, trying to look as if he weren’t lost. He soon came across an old man on a bench, reading a newspaper of his own. David approached the man reluctantly.

“Excuse me.” He began nervously.

“Yes?” The old man answered, looking up from his newspaper.

“What paper is that?’ David wondered.

“It’s the Harford Press.” The old man answered with a smile.

“Do you mind if I take a look at it for just a second?”

“Not at all young man.” The old man handed David the newspaper. This time, David found what he was looking for. The little city name stated Harford, IA.

“Harford?” David whispered to himself in confusion. He’d never heard of it.

“It’s just the local stuff you know.” The old man said. “If you want anything dealing outside of this old town, you’re gonna have to try another paper.”

“Thanks.” David replied, handing the paper back to the old man.

“You have a good day.” The old man called as David walked off.

David had never heard of any place called Harford, Iowa. He had no idea where he was. He looked around in confusion until something stopped him. He caught his reflection in the display window of a local antique shop. He knew he couldn’t go onward look like David Marshall, he had to change his look.

He rushed to the local general store and burst inside. He looked around quickly, nobody was at the front counter. It seemed nobody was there at all. Then he saw a restroom sign and made his way in that direction, stopping at the cosmetics shelf first. He scanned through everything, make up, lipsticks, and then there it was. The hair dye sat on the floor shelf, David bent down and grabbed a box of jet-black color and made his way into the bathroom.

The bathroom simply looked like an everyday bathroom rather than a public toilet. David locked the door behind him at approached the sink. Above it there stood a large, two paneled mirror, showing signs of wear and tear. David stared at his reflection for a few moments. He then pulled the sleeve of his jacket over one of his hands. David looked back at himself with a blank stare for another second or two, and then punched the mirror with his covered fist. The glass broke, but no shards fell off into the sink. He pulled one of the shards about knife sized out of the mirror, then turned his attention to the other, unbroken panel of the mirror, and used the glass shard to begin cutting away his hair.

He pulled tight on clumps of the dirty, river water stained mess and began to slice away as best as he could with the small piece of glass. Many times he would cut through most of the hair, then just yank and pull until the remaining hair was pulled. By the end, the sink was full of David’s hair, and his long, thick head of hair had transformed into something thin and short. His hair was scraggly, unbrushed, and cut noticeably unevenly. But David didn’t care, just as long as he looked different than before.

After a long moment of him looking at his makeshift haircut in the mirror, David began removing the hair from the sink and getting the dye ready. He turned the sink on and gave his hair a quick rinse. He turned back to the door to make sure the door was locked before proceeding. David spent over a half hour attempting to dye his hair, he kept finding spots he missed, kept getting dye into his eyes and having to wash them out. But after the long ordeal he took a good look at himself, as a kid with now short, black hair, he found himself looking completely different. His old hair covered his forehead, but now with it exposed, he had what seemed like multiple new facial features about him, he knew now that someone would have to take at least a double take to see that he even remotely resembled David Marshall, and that was more than he was going to give anyone anyhow.

Now fully satisfied with his new look, David tossed the remaining trash into the bin, unlocked himself from the bathroom, and returned out into the general store again. When he returned, the cashier was standing behind the register. David planned to make his way around the counter and straight out the door. But as he made his way closer to the counter, he past a short cooler with a sign that caught his eye, enough so to make him stop and look again. “Cold Coke, 25 cents” The cooler read. He’d never bought a Coke that cheap before, he just stared down at the machine, puzzled.

“Are these really only twenty five cents?” David addressed.

“Yep.” The man behind the counter replied.

After a few more moments of puzzlement, David just shrugged and grabbed a bottle out of the cooler. David approached the counter and set down the bottle of soda. He then pulled out the quarter, the only thing that survived the ride through the river, the thing he used to choose who live and who died, the coin that made God’s choices clear. Without hesitation he handed the small coin to the cashier.

“You know, I haven’t seen you around here before, you just move it?” The cashier asked, putting the quarter among the others in the register.

“Yeah, just a few says back.” David replied, grabbing the soda from off the counter.

“You’re family get the old Garrison place?” The man behind the counter asked.

“Yeah.” David said with a nod. Then began to walk towards the door.

“Say, what’s your name son?” The man asked right before David reached the door.

David thought quickly for a moment, and then turned back to the man.

“Barnes, sir.” He said. “Clarence Barnes.”

“Well Clarence, I hope to see ya around.” The man sent a small wave his way, a wave David returned before finally leaving the shop.

David walked a few blocks and sat down on a bench at the local bus stop and drank his ice-cold soda in peace. He looked at what surrounded him. Little stores, happy people, he finally felt like he’d found a place where he could have some kind of support, where he could live his life happily, and know what it means to live life carefree. But he knew he couldn’t stay in the small town. He’d have to always be moving from place to place in order to avoid the law. And it was this thought that just made him want to leave Harford even more. It was a paradise, but it was a paradise that he knew he couldn’t have, and that made it torture to be there.

He turned and watch a train rumble down the tracks that crossed through the city about a block down the road, it rolled slowly, much like the one that brought him to the town. He wondered if he should go over and hop on it, just ride trains for the rest of his life. He could be just another drifter who stows away on a freight car and shows up in some random town. He could make his way south, hide away in the swamps of Louisiana, or he could head west and find an old Wild West town to settle in in Arizona, or he could make a run for the Mexican border, and live the rest of his days out in Zihuatanejo.

“Hey kid.” A voice called out to David, but he was to deep in his thoughts to pay any mind. “Hey kid!” The voice called out louder, this time getting David’s attention.

David looked toward the voice and saw a bus sitting in front of him, door open, and the bus driver was looking dow at him.

“Yeah?” David replied.

“You getting on or not?” The bus driver asked.

“No.” David shook his head. The bus driver just shrugged and turned away from him and shut the door. Soon after, the hydraulics hissed and the bus rolled away, David watching it go the whole way.

After the bus disappeared from sight David looked down at the Coke bottle in his hand, there was not a drop left in it. He sighed, sat the bottle downs on the sidewalk, stood up and walked off towards the train tracks. Once he reached them he stopped for a moment and looked to his left down once way. It was a long stretch of track surrounded by mostly buildings and streets the whole way down. And he could even see the depot way in the distance. At that sight, he scoffed, and looked right. Down that end of the track tall tree’s blanketed most of the way, it extended a long ways and crurved off into the Iowa country side. The train he had seen going by earlier had alread disappeard down that curve and behind the blanket of tall pine trees, which swayed listlesstly in the light breeze of which summer in that are was acustomed.

At this sight of beautiful and seemingly endless nature before him, David grew a smile. He stood looking down the tracks for quite a while.

After finally breaking free of his hypnosis, David looked around the streets. Nobody was there, his only company was the empty cars parked on the curb. Happy at this sight, he turned towards the tracks again, and began to walk down them in the direction of the country side. He had nothing to hold, nothing in his pockets, the river even blew the lint away, nothing in his name what so ever. It was just David Marshall, strolling his way down a long strech of railroad track, alone, but peaceful, and as he walked and left the small town society behind him for the open county, he could feel a weight lift from his shoulders, he could feel the feeling, the feeling he had only dreamt about. At long last, David Marshall, was living a carefree life. 

 

 




© 2011 Mitchell Goth


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Author's Note

Mitchell Goth
look over the lack of indents, that was the computers doing, not mine.

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I suggest you divide it into different chapters it seems like you have way more than a few chapters in one chapters. I read the first one it seemed good but then when I realized how much there was I got a bit overwhelmed...

Posted 8 Years Ago


Whooooaa!
You should divide this up into a lot of smaller chapters.
But it seems interesting, just like the description.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on October 25, 2011
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Mitchell Goth
Mitchell Goth

Janesville, WI



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I'm a newer writer. I've been writing as a hobby for years, but more recently I've been looking to publish my novels. I am currently working on a paranormal fiction project as my top priority, with se.. more..

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