Lenny, Matt and I bound up the stairs of the hostel to our rooms. The carrier bag in my hand containing the couple of new outfits I’ve just bought, I press down on the handle of my door. “See you in a few minutes, just need to change.”
Cole, Matt and Lenny enter Lenny’s room as I close my door over. I peel the denim jacket off my back and throw the bag onto the bed. I take a seat on the bed to untie my trainers and my eyes dart to the opposite wall. It’s not the peeling dreary grey paint that’s caught my attention, but the message smeared across it.
Thomas, it reads. You’re playing a dangerous game here. And for reasons you’re probably still confused over, yes, I am targeting your father, and your filthy bloodline. Don’t involve anyone else in this matter, or they will get hurt. Luc included. And I know just much you care for her, I bore witness to your heated discussion last night. I am watching you and will be on the lookout until you make your next move. Make your decisions wisely Thomas. I’m sure you don’t want to lose another person you care about. And I’ve seen you with those new friends of yours. I’ve seen you with them in Castlerock and when you escaped. It’s clear that you care for them. Tread carefully.
I dash out onto the corridor and pound on Lenny’s door. Cole opens the door slowly. “Guys, it’s the reaper, he’s been watching us. He knows where we are.”
“Did he write you a message too?” I can hear Lenny trembling from somewhere behind the door.
Cole gestures to the other side of the room and I rush inside, coming to a standstill before Lenny’s wall.
Lenny. How are you holding up? How have you been over the last six years? I hope I didn’t cause you too much lasting damage. I want you to know that I will finish what I started, but I should warn you, that the more you hunt me alongside Thomas, the further you walk towards your destiny. You know what I’m capable of, so don’t take this warning lightly.
I turn back around and sit down beside Lenny. “Lenny, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe this.”
“Me neither,” he quivers. “How does he know where we are? And why is he doing this? What does he want?”
I whip my head around the room and eye Cole warily. “Where’s Matt?”
“Right here,” he answers, stepping into the room.
“Lenny, I don’t know. I think, because he knows us both, he’s trying to mess with us.”
“Then how do you explain my message, Thomas?” Matt asks.
My eyes widen and I look to Lenny, who watches on in terror as I leap from the bed and dart into Matt’s room with him. His is short in comparison to mine, but lays out a very clear and cutting message.
Matt, you’re next if Thomas decides to ignore me. G.R.
I storm out of the room with tears in my eyes and begin to pace up and down the corridor. “Thomas,” Cole says. “Come in here. Calm down.”
“Calm down?” I retort. “There is a psychopath who has been stalking me and now he’s threatening my friends as well. I’m sorry guys, but I have to take this deadly seriously. I can’t have you guys help me. Okay, I’m not letting anybody get hurt for me.”
Cole guides me into the room. “Thomas, I understand where you’re coming from, but you’re going to need some help. And I am with you. I understand your concern for Lenny and Matt, but I didn’t get a message. I’m the only one who didn’t.”
I look at him in bewilderment. “But, how can that be?” I deliberate. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it didn’t, but this guy isn’t just some random lunatic. He’s a psychopathic killer who calculates everything carefully before he makes a move. There has to be a reason that he left Lenny, Matt and I messages and not you.”
“Give me your phone,” I say. Cole tosses his phone to me and I open his camera. I take a snapshot of Lenny’s threatening message and dart across the hallway to mine. Zooming in on the message, I take a photo of mine. I proceed to Matt’s room and take one last picture before stalking back into Lenny’s room, where I sink to the floor. “I’m going to figure this out with you guys and then you’re going to leave. You’re going to go elsewhere, somewhere where you’re away from me. The Reaper has made it clear, that whatever game he’s set up, he wants me to be the only one to play it.”
“No way Thomas,” Lenny declares. He kneels down beside me and Cole and Matt emulate him. “I’m already involved. He wants to finish me off, and if he’s going to do it, he’s going to do while I help you take him down.”
Matt looks me in the eye. “Me too, he’s threatened me, Thomas, and I’m not cowering to him.”
“And I want to help,” Cole states. “You’ve helped us all, and we’re helping you in return.”
I toss the phone to Cole. “Not where your lives are concerned, guys. It’s too dangerous, and I can’t ask you to put your lives on the-”
“You’re not asking us,” Lenny utters. “We’re volunteering, and we’re not taking no for an answer. Thomas, there’s no way you’re going to take him by yourself. You’re going to need us.”
“Okay,” I concede. “But, nobody is unnecessarily to put themselves in danger, agreed?”
“Agreed,” they all mutter.
“Okay,” I say. “I did tell Lucy I wouldn’t do anything without her, but this can’t wait. We’ve got to piece together what we already know about this guy.”
I grab for a pad of paper on Lenny’s bedside locker, a pen and begin scribbling down a series of words that are swirling through my mind. Anything that relates to the Grim Reaper.
I look to the mess of a mind map in the center our circle. I scan my eyes over it, trying with a sense of desperation to piece some of my knowledge together. My mind goes to the note Lenny and I found in Dad’s office. “Lenny,” I say. “I’ve just had a crazy idea.”
“Yeah? What is it?”
I rip out a fresh piece of paper and go about writing down some points and joining them together with lines on the page. “But, it’s not that crazy. It kind of makes sense, if you think about it.”
Cole leans across and narrows his eyes at my illegible jottings. “Thomas, just tell us.”
“There’s something that’s been puzzling me for a while now, but if what I think is true, it could be possible. Lenny, when we talked about it, you said the Reaper had brown eyes. When I met the Reaper, or who I thought to be the Reaper, he had blue eyes. So, what if, we’re not searching for a killer, but killers?”
The three of them think for a moment and I proceed to back up my idea. “Think about it, in the note the Reaper left my dad, he said something about hating our family and wanting our family to pay for what they did to ‘us’. What if, by ′us′, the Reaper meant his family? What if, my family did something to the Reaper’s? What if my dad did something that he wants to cover up and that’s why he doesn’t want me to find out who the Reaper is?”
“That makes sense, I suppose,” Matt says.
Lenny nods in agreement. “If that is true, then that’d explain why he sent me to Castlerock. If he didn’t want whatever secret he’s hiding to come out, then he wouldn’t want the Reaper to spill it. And if the Reaper was identified, he may well have spilled it. As I was alive, I may have been able to identify him should I have come face to face with him.”
I look around the circle. “It makes sense, guys. Now, I just need to figure out what it is that my dad did that he doesn’t want to admit. Meaning, I need to pay the mayor’s office another visit.”