Stan knew that sound would stay with him for a long time as he watched his lifelong friend fall to the ground, blood pouring from the small hole in the centre of his forehead.
His breath came out in short sharp gasps, and his legs threatened to give way underneath him. He stared at the body of the boy he'd known all his life, then at Trent, who smiled triumphantly. He looked at his remaining friends, who all looked as shocked as he felt.
He shut his eyes and swallowed hard. He knew what he had to say, he knew what was expected of him, but it was so hard. He bowed his head and took a deep breath. The guy had been one of his best friends. It was the very least he deserved.
"Oh my God, he killed Kenny!"
Stan gripped Kyle's shaking shoulders and rested his head against his back. Despite the overwhelming feeling of anger and sadness inside him, there was a soothing balm of relief salving his soul. Sheer relief that it was not his closest friend he was grieving for right now.
Stan held on tighter to Kyle, and choked back tears. How could he think something so awful? One of his best friends had just died and he was relieved? How could he be so crass? Sure, Kenny was always resurrected at some point after every death, but that didn't stop his friends grieving for him.
"So what's your professional opinion now, doc?" Trent's drawl cut through their pain. "You still think I ain't capable of wastin' anyone?"
Kyle lifted his head and looked at him, tears streaming down his pale face. "Why? Why him and not me?"
Trent shrugged. "Cos I like messin' with you. Plus I need McCormick dead. I got plans for that freaky bastard."
Stan let go of Kyle, his arms dropping limply to his sides. He suddenly felt incredibly tired – not just in body, but of the whole goddamn situation. Let Trent do what he wanted. Maybe they deserved it.
"You see, this is what I'm always saying!" Cartman shouted. His voice made the others jump. "This is exactly what happens when you let Kyle make one of his gay little speeches!"
He waved a hand towards the lifeless Kenny as he spoke.
"What!" Stan yelled in disbelief. He stared at Cartman's chalk white face. His eyes were dark, furious pinpricks. "You can't blame Kyle for this!"
"The hell I can't!" Cartman roared back. He shot a ferocious look at Kyle.
"No, Stan, he's right," Kyle said quietly. "It's my fault. It's all my fault."
"Now, now, ladies," Trent said smugly. "Don't wear yourselves out. We've got the rest of the day together."
"Actually, we haven't," Stan replied. "Gregory knows we're still alive, Trent. He's probably on his way here with the cavalry right now."
"Really?" Trent asked. He stared at Stan, trying to ascertain if he was telling the truth. "Hmm. If that's true, I'm gonna have to move my timetable up." He pointed the rifle at them again. "Alright everybody. Back inside the warehouse."
Nobody moved. They stared at him defiantly.
"Come on now," Trent said, a note of urgency in his voice. He walked towards them. "Move it, unless you wanna join McCormick on the floor."
They looked at each other. Stan nodded. "Come on, guys. Let's just do what he wants."
Then maybe we've still got a chance. Maybe we can overpower him somehow.
"That's right," Trent said, watching them carefully as they trooped compliantly into the warehouse. "Nice and easy now."
He grinned at Cartman, who glared back.
Trent slammed the door shut behind him. "Alright then. We've got some unfinished business, boys."
Wendy lay on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Her mind was spinning. The discoveries she'd made about Stan and Gregory lay inside her like a dead weight. All she wanted to do was tell someone, anyone, what she knew, but who would believe her? It wasn't like she even had Gregory's phone anymore to back up her claims.
No, this had to be dealt with in a different way. She would have to box clever if she wanted to find out the truth.
She was alone in the room, having told Gregory earlier that she needed some time on her own. He had obviously sensed a change in the atmosphere between them because he had given her a strange look before reluctantly leaving. Wendy took a deep breath. She would have to be careful from now on if she was going to avoid arousing his suspicions.
She was so immersed in her thoughts; she almost didn't hear the knock on the door.
She sat up quickly. What if it was him? She looked around for something to grab, then chastised herself. Take it easy. Don't blow everything apart now.
She got up and walked to the door, her stomach one giant knot of tension. She opened the door and nearly fainted with relief.
Her best friend grinned as Wendy enveloped her in a hug.
"It is so good to see you!" Wendy exclaimed into Bebe's neck.
"Good. So are you going to let me in, then?"
"Oh yeah. Sorry."
Wendy stood aside as Bebe hobbled in, using crutches for support.
Bebe Stephens was tall, blonde and very beautiful. She and Wendy had been best friends since elementary school.
"So when did they let you out?" Wendy asked as they sat down on the bed.
"I discharged myself this morning," Bebe replied. "There's not much more they can do for a broken leg, is there? Besides there weren't even any good looking doctors!"
Wendy smiled sadly.
Bebe took her friend's hands. "Oh, Wendy, I'm so sorry. Red told me what happened. I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through right now. God, I'd die if anything like that happened to my boyfriend."
"Which one?" Wendy remarked caustically.
Both girls chuckled.
"Touché." Bebe sighed. "I'm really sorry I haven't been here for you, Wendy. I am glad you haven't been going through this on your own, though."
Wendy stared at her, confused. "What are you talking about?"
"That Gregory guy," Bebe replied. "Red said he's really been looking after you. She said he's been awesome – not that she thinks he's hot or anything." She rolled her eyes.
Wendy laughed humourlessly. "Gregory. Oh yeah, he's been a real rock," she said sarcastically.
Bebe raised her eyebrows, surprised at the sudden change of tone.
"What do you mean by that?" she asked. Her eyes widened in horror. "Oh my god! Has he hit on you?"
"No. Well not yet, anyway," Wendy said bitterly. "It's a lot worse than that, Bebe."
Bebe listened with increasing shock as Wendy filled her in on everything that had happened.
"So, why don't you just go to the cops?" she asked when Wendy had finished.
"Because without the phone I've got nothing," Wendy explained. "Gregory could delete the voicemail at any time. He could make me look like a mad woman."
"So what are we going to do?" Bebe asked.
Wendy didn't answer for a moment. A germ of an idea had begun to grow in her mind as she'd been talking to Bebe, but it was very risky. However, if it worked, there was every chance she'd be reunited with Stan. She nodded, her decision made.
"I do have one idea," she said slowly. "Bebe, I need your help."