“Thomas,” Lenny sighs. “I’m not so sure about this. What if he catches us, and goes about sending us straight back to Castlerock?”
“He won’t,” I say. “I promise I won’t let that happen.”
He nods. “Come on then. If I don’t do this now, I never will.”
Standing just outside Dad’s office building, I take in a deep breath. “Let’s go.”
I stride closer and bound the steps to the doorway, pushing the door open, Lenny following closely. We shuffle towards the office door and I press my ear to the wood. It’s silent. i think Dad’s somewhere else in the building. I creak the door open and tip toe into the office.
“Okay, let’s search the drawers first.”
I pull open the bottom drawer of Dad’s desk and flick through the pile of documents inside. “What exactly are we looking for?” Lenny asks as he opens a drawer at the other side.
My eyes still focused on the stack of paperwork I’m rummaging through, I answer him. “Anything that shows my dad’s got some skeletons in his closet.”
He nods as I split the pile in the middle. There’s a piece of paper that’s caught my eye. A note. Composed in the same manner as the one I received from the Grim Reaper. Compiled with a range of magazine clippings. “Oh my God,” I gasp.
“What is it?” Lenny asks.
My eyes widened in shock, I look to him and begin to read it aloud. “Dear Mr Mayor. It’s nearly Halloween. You know what you have to do to conciliate me, to put an end to this bloodbath. I killed Alex last year, your son’s best friend. I’m tired of playing this game, and if targeting someone even closer to you this year is what’ll make you forfeit, then that’s what I’ll do. Don’t underestimate me. Consider yourself warned. Hope to hear from you soon, G.R.”
I raise my head from the note and look Lenny in the eye. He swipes the note from me and goes about reading it himself, as though he can’t quite believe it. I’m still struggling to believe it. I don’t know what it is the Grim Reaper was talking about that’ll appease him, but my dad was threatened to do it for the safety of everyone in our family, and he didn’t follow through. He doesn’t care about us in the way he should.
“What does that mean?” Lenny asks.
“It means that my dad allowed the Reaper to take me captive in his home and take whatever grudge he has for him out on me. My dad just let him, he let him--”
“I should’ve known there was a reason you broke out of Castlerock,” my Dad states. The note still clutched in my hand, I pull open the middle drawer and pull his handgun out. I point it at my father.
“Woah, Thomas, put the gun down,” Lenny gasps.
Dad’s eyes widen as I step from behind the desk. “If you want to make it to see tomorrow, close the door over and put your hands up.”
“Thomas,” Dad laughs. “You’re not serious. Come on, stop playing around with that as if it’s some kind of toy.”
“Shut the door,” I repeat. “I’m not treating this like a toy. Believe me, you have no idea how angry I am right now. And you really don’t want to push me right now, Dad.”
He swallows and pushes the door over. “It’s time for answers. What do you know about the Grim Reaper that you’re hiding from everyone? And don’t tell me nothing, I found the note. And I know about how you were running some kind of cover up when you admitted Lenny and I to Castlerock.”
“Thomas, I was just trying to protect--”
“Don’t tell me you were trying to protect me,” I bark. “You were trying to protect yourself and whatever secrets you’ve managed to hide for years. Tell me the truth.”
“Thomas, why don’t we just calm down? Put the gun down, come home with me, and I’ll explain everything to you. Just don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
My breaths are becoming increasingly unsteady. I can’t suppress the anger that’s pulsing through my body. I raise the gun again and step closer. “You see, Dad, that’s the thing. This is something I won’t regret. I’d gladly pull this trigger right now, but that’d be too easy. I want to know the truth.”
Dad bows his head. “Thomas, there’ll be a time for me to tell you, but it’s not now.”
I have my finger over the trigger. I want to pull it right now. I want to kill him right now. I want to punish him for the lives he’s destroyed. But I won’t, because that’d be an easy way out for him. No, he needs to suffer for what he and his family have done. Luke Burton needs to fess up and face the music for his and his family’s collective wrongdoings, or his son is going to suffer instead. And I don’t want that, because there’s something pure about Thomas, which is why I anointed him. So he won’t be corrupted by his bloodline. Instead, he’s going to take his family on the path to righteousness. He’s going to bring peace to Eventide. He’s going to solve the problems that family have caused us. I’ll make sure of it.
I lower the gun. A number of thoughts are swirling through my mind right now, but they’re not my inner thoughts. They’re someone else’s, but they feel like they’re mine. It’s like a secondary inner voice, telling me to do things I don’t want to do. But, maybe I do, deep down, even though I don’t want to admit it.
‘Do it,’ the voice tells me. ‘Shoot him.’
I look down to the gun in my hand. Tears are welling in my eyes. ‘No,’ I reply silently.
‘Go on,’ it taunts. It’s his voice. The voice of the man who captured me and mixed our blood together. The one who claimed to be The Grim Reaper. I look to my dad with tears in my eyes and place the gun down on the floor. I swipe it across the floor with my foot where it’s both out of my reach and my father’s. I had to do that, otherwise I may have ended up doing something I’d regret after. I’m scared.
Since the Reaper performed that ritual, I’ve been really messed up. It’s like I’m slowly becoming more evil and whatever goodness I had to my character is slowly fading and is replaced by the darker side of me I’ve always tried to conceal. I just wanted to kill my dad for a brief moment, but I didn’t. I know it sounds contradictory, but it’s like the Reaper’s desires are becoming mine. It’s like his soul did in fact manifest in me, and it’s expanding. Like I’m slowly turning into him. And I don’t know how to stop it. That thought terrifies me.
“If you won’t tell me what you know, I’m going to search for the truth myself.”
“Thomas, please, look, it’ll put you in grave danger. That’s why I sent you to Castlerock. I know you’re not crazy, Thomas, but it was the safest place for you.”
“Nowhere is safe Dad. Not until he’s caught. And if you’re not going to do anything about it, then I will. The Reaper was right about one thing, I’m not like you.”
“Thomas, please, okay, I’ll tell you everything if you just come home with me.”
“I wish I could, Dad,” I swallow. “But I don’t trust you. I’m going to stay somewhere else until I figure this out. Lenny, the safe, the code is zero, three, one, one.”
“Thomas, come on. Now you’re stealing from me?”
I look him in the eye. “You’re minted with all the businesses you have, you won’t miss the tiny fraction we’re going to take. And think of it as an exchange for silence for now. On Lenny’s part. He could go and announce to the entire town what you did to him, but we simply need some money while we figure this out. And we may need more at another time, so don’t be surprised if we come back again soon.”
Lenny grabs a handful of the cash. He throws it into the bag he brought with him. “Let’s go.”
We stalk towards the door and Dad grabs my shoulder. “Thomas, please don’t do this. Let me sort this out.”
I slam the note in his hand. “Judging by that note, you’ve had plenty of chances to sort it out and you’ve failed. Now it’s my turn.”
I shrug him off and rush down the steps with Lenny. We greet Matt and Cole on the pavement and head towards the bus stop.
“Nobody will think of looking for us here,” Cole says. “It’s on the outskirts of the town I lived in when I was younger before my parents decided to move to Castlerock.”
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s check in then.”
The four of us shuffle inside the entrance of the hostel and approach the reception desk. “Hi, there’s four of us in need of a bed.”
“All the shared rooms are full,” the receptionist states. “Single rooms are all we have available.”
“Okay,” I say. “Four rooms please.”
I slide the cash under the glass and she throws four keys in front of me. We all swipe for a key and head up the stairs.
Lenny sticks his head around my door. “Thomas, can we talk?”
I nod and throw myself down onto my bed. He approaches. “Can we discuss what happened back in dad’s office?”
I swallow. “Lenny, I--”
“You pointed a gun at your dad and looked at him like you were actually going to kill him. You totally lost it. I’ll admit, I was afraid you were actually going to shoot him.”
“I know,” I sigh. “It scared me too. I just got so angry and I don’t know why. That’s been happening a lot lately. When I hit you was an example of that. I never used to get that angry about things. And it’s like, ever since I encountered the Reaper, I’m turning into a bad person and it’s like I can’t control it, no matter what I do.”
“You’re not a bad person, Thomas,” he says. “If there’s one thing I can see that you are, it’s good.”
I look up to him, my eyebrow raised. “Even after I was a prick to you about your dad, you invited me to hang out with you, Cole and Matt. When Marc was being an asshole, you put him in his place. You didn’t have to get my punishment reduced alongside yours, but you did. You wanted to escape from Castlerock, but you refused to leave us behind. And when you saw Marc chasing after us, you made sure Matt and I were safely over the wall before you thought about yourself.”
“I suppose, but I--”
“No buts. You are not bad, Thomas. You believed I wasn’t crazy when everyone else did, so I want you to know that I believe you about the Reaper. And I want to help you catch him.”
“Me too,” Cole says. Matt steps inside the room with him. “I do too.”
I smile weakly. “Guys, that means a lot, and thank you, but this is something I’m going to have to do by myself. I can’t drag you into this too.”
“Nope,” Cole states. “Already involved. Whether you like it or not, we’re helping you. We’re not taking no for an answer.”
I nod. “Okay, thanks guys. We start tomorrow. But we need some rest now.”
Cole nods. “See you in the morning.”
“Bye,” I smile, as they all shuffle out of the room. I close the door over and collapse onto the bed. I swallow. I’m scared for their safety. I know I’ve only just met them, but I feel like I’ve been friends with them for years. Cole especially. He understands me, and I don’t want to out any of them in danger. But, I could really do with their help.
There’s someone pounding on my door. I sit up on the bed and dart my eyes to the door cautiously. “Cole?” I call. “Matt? Lenny?”
Whoever was knocking responds by continuing to rap on the wood. I’ve got a horrible feeling about this. What if it’s my dad and he followed us here? Or, if it’s Marc and he’s here to drag us back to Castlerock. I couldn’t bear that. I’m considering not answering, but it doesn’t seem like they’re going to stop anytime soon. I grasp the doorknob and turn it, slowly pulling the door open.
I look to the slim figure before me and an instant smile spreads across my face. “Luc?”
She beams at me and runs into me. I wrap my arms around her. “What are you doing here? How did you even know I was here?”
“I called the phone you used to ring me while you were in the hospital when I heard you’d escaped and your friend told me this is where you were.”
I look up abruptly. “How did you know I escaped?”
“Your mum told me.”
I guide her inside and slam the door over. “Does my mum or dad know where I am?”
“No, Tommy, I didn’t breathe a word, I promise. I learned my lesson last time. I’m with you, Thomas. This time, I’m on your side, one hundred percent. I’m not going to tell anybody, I promise.”
I smile at her and lean my face towards her. I press my lips to hers and she runs her fingers through my hair. I graze her cheek with my thumb as she fumbles for the buttons on my shirt. I lie back on my bed and pull her body close to mine.