Matt is rolling about the floor of his room, his blood gushing out onto the wooden floorboards. He holds a hand to his wound as his assailant steps closer. “Please, please don’t.”
He slowly comes to his knees, and pulls Matt close to him, balling his t-shirt in his fist. Matt bows his head as he plunges the blade into his stomach. He rips it from the fresh wound and slowly penetrates his chest with it.
Matt slumps to the floor as the Reaper ascends and stands tall. He turns and walks towards the door.
“Matt,” I gasp, pulling the covers off myself. Sweat soaking through my t-shirt, I dart out onto the hallway and bash at the door. “Matt,” I shout.
The door slowly swings open. Matt squints at me. “Thomas, what are you doing? It’s seven thirty in the morning.”
I think Cole must’ve heard the pounding noise I was making, because he’s stepping out beside me. “Thomas, what’s going on? Are you okay? You’re really pale.”
“I--I--” I tremble. “I had another vision.”
Matt and Cole look to each other with widened eyes. I don’t feel too good. I bow my head.
“Thomas?” Matt says.
I close my eyes.
I feel a hand gently squeezing mine. I open my eyes to face her. “Hey, Luc,” I smile.
“What happened?” she asks.
I sit up in the bed and look to Cole, Matt and Lenny, who are looking at me with concern. I bring my head back to face her. “Luc, I had another vision. It involves you, Matt.”
Cole and Lenny turn to him and he fixes his gaze on me. “The Reaper, he, he attacked you. He stabbed you, and then you, you--”
He nods as though to dismiss me from speaking. “I’m sorry guys, and Matt, don’t worry, I’m going to figure out who he is before that can happen. I’m going to go grill my dad now.”
“Thomas, maybe you should wait a while before you go. You did just faint.”
I shake my head and reach down for my trainers. I look up to him and I pull my left shoe on my foot and lace it up. “This guy’s playing cat and mouse with me, I have to stop him before it’s too late. There’s no time to waste.”
I lace up my other trainer and rise from the bed. “I’m coming with you,” Lucy says.
“Lucy, no, stay here. If my dad sees you with me, he’ll know you know where I am and he’ll start grilling you about--”
“I’m not that stupid Thomas,” she sighs. “I meant, go with you to Eventide. And while your with your dad, I’ll stop by my house to spend some time with my parents. My dad is getting suspicious of me for always being away from the house.”
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s go.”
She nods and takes hold of her crop denim jacket, draping it over her arm. I grab my jumper and rise from the bed with her. “I’ll be there, one second,” I say. She smiles and proceeds to stand in the doorway, waiting for me. “Cole,” I say. I take hold of his arm and guide him to the other side of the bedroom. “Just in case, please stay with Matt at all times, until I get back with more information.”
“No problem,” he says. “See you later.”
I nod and venture out into the hall, and taking hold of Lucy’s hand, we head towards the stairs.
I push open the door to Dad’s office and approach his desk. He looks me in the eye and I continue to walk towards him, without batting an eyelid. He doesn’t utter a word until I sink into the chair opposite him. “This isn’t a social call. I’m here for one thing and one thing only. Answers.”
He nods. “I figured,” he mutters. He reaches into his drawer and pulls out a manila folder. He tosses it onto the desk. “Here’s a pile of letters from the Grim Reaper you can read after I tell you what I’m about to tell. Before I tell you and you start judging me Thomas, I need you to know that, no matter how bad it looks, I did everything I did for the benefit of my family.”
“So, this has got something to do with our family after all,” I say. “Just like I thought.”
I look to the folder and slowly take it in my hands. I scatter the documents from it out onto the desk. Before me are a heap of notes just like the one the Grim Reaper sent me. “How many letters did you get from him?”
“Too many to count,” he says. “But please let me explain.”
I nod and fall silent as he continues. “Obviously, Thomas, you know that we’ve got a lot of family businesses here in Eventide. These businesses were established by my great grandfather and a friend of his many years ago. After a couple of years of hard work, it picked up quite well and they were both benefiting from huge profits. I’m not proud of this, Thomas, but, one day, my great grandfather decided he didn’t want to share the profits anymore. He wanted his business partner out of the picture so he could benefit from all the profits. So, he ran for mayor one of the years and won the election. He was in a position of power and to the people, it looked like he was for the common good of everybody. So, when he made his next move, he figured that nobody would suspect him. And they didn’t.”
My throat is turning dry. I’ve already got a strong idea as to what’s coming next in this story. I just hope my hunch is wrong. “And, what was his next move exactly?”
Dad swallows. “One year, he hosted a Halloween party, a smokescreen to put his plan into action and divert any suspicion from himself. While his business partner wasn’t looking, he slipped something into his drink. Poison.”
I bow my head. My instincts were right. My great great grandfather was a murderer.
“And then what happened?” I ask.
“My great grandfather took over his dead partner’s share of the business. And his family got nothing. The partner’s son had his suspicions and I think he knew it was him who was behind his father’s death. But, he was the mayor, and he had no proof, so he couldn’t accuse him. Things got worse for the family,” he swallows. “They had no money. They were struggling big time. Eventually, they were forced to leave their home, because they couldn’t keep it any more. And they left Eventide for another town.”
“Which town?” I demand.
“Castlerock,” he sighs.
I whip my head upwards to face him. My face has shock and horror. “That’s where Matt lives.”
I shake my head. “Never mind,” I gulp. “So, after that, taking into account everything I know, was the Reaper my great great grandfather’s business partner’s son, coming back to exact revenge on your great grandfather by targeting the people of Eventide?”
“Pretty much,” he mumbles. “And he chose Halloween because it was the night that his father was killed in this town. My great grandfather was starting to get weighed down by it, he’d get these kind of threats saying that if he didn’t come clean, then the Reaper would continue. He panicked and he wanted to do the right thing, and give back half the business to its rightful owner, but by then, a recession had happened and he was struggling to keep the business afloat as it was. He had a family to support and he was afraid of what this man would do to his family if he were to come clean. So, he ignored the notes, the letters, waiting until he’d stop. Hoping he would. He figured that it was a better for Eventide to lose one or two residents each year rather than losing his family.”
“So, he just allowed him to keep killing our townspeople?”
I stand up and hold my hands to the tensing muscles in my neck. I pace around my dad’s office. “Thomas--”
“How come you never told me that, Dad? And, what, did you just continue to walk in his footsteps? In his murderous, scheming footsteps?”
“Thomas,” he swallows. “I had no choice.”
I bite my lip and swallow my tears. “You always have a choice,” I declare. “I can’t believe this.”
“Thomas, if I had another choice, I would’ve taken it. The business was passed to my grandfather, then to my father and then to me. I had to take it, Thomas. Do you know how many limited opportunities there are in a town like Eventide? I was handed an opportunity on a plate, I couldn’t not take it.”
“Only on the back of a greed driven murder,” I spit. “And you could’ve moved. You could’ve left Eventide and gone somewhere else. Started anew.”
“At the time I was offered the business, your mother had only recently fallen pregnant with you. We were expecting a family, a family that I needed to provide for. And, at the time, it was the only option, Thomas.”
“Then, why didn’t you do something to put it right? Stop the killings? Ease the Reaper?”
“Thomas, he’s a terrorist hell bent on revenge. If I gave in, and admitted to what happened generations ago, we’d be publicly shunned. I’d lose support. I’d lose my job as mayor. And people would likely refuse to buy from us. We’d have nothing, Thomas. And everyone would hate us. We’d have to leave this town. Would you want that?”
“This isn’t about me, Dad,” I snap. “This is about how nobody in this family has ever done anything right. And the Reaper has had enough too, which is why he decided to stop targeting the residents so randomly. Because you didn’t anything, he decided to target someone closer to you. He killed Alex, my best friend, because of you. My best friend’s dead because of you.”
I look down and let out the build up of tears. “You killed him and you let the Reaper take me and he made me choose a victim. Mr Blanchard died because he made me choose because of our family and now he’s targeting me and my friends and everyone I care--”
Dad grabs me and pulls me closer to him. He wraps his arms around me. “Thomas, I’m so sorry. After Alex, I was absolutely horrified, more so than any of the other years and and then a few days before Halloween this year, the note you found was delivered to me. But, I got to read it at the same time that he took you and held you captive. Don’t you see? He didn’t want to give me a chance to save you. He wanted to psychologically torture me because of what my great grandfather did. He’s not interested in having any of the business. All he wants is revenge.”
“Then we have to tell somebody, this is a grudge being carried down through the different generations of a family. Just tell me the name of the family, please.”
“I don’t know the name of the family. My father never told me. At your age, I was like you. A stubborn, defiant hard head who always wanted to do the right thing. But, I was the only son, so they were adamant about me carrying on with their family business and they thought that the less I knew and the more I was kept in the dark, the less complications I could cause. If I could, I would’ve given them back what was theirs, but as I said, this isn’t about the business any more. It’s about much more than that. We’ve also got no evidence that doesn’t incriminate us, so we can’t report this.”
“You can’t. I mean, you don’t want to,” I say. “But, I’m sorry Dad, I know now, so I have to tell the police. I can’t keep this to myself.”
Dad grabs my arm. “Think of your mum and Belle. They’re innocent. Think of how they’ll suffer if this comes out.”
I rub my face with my hands and throw them to my sides in frustration. “I know. But it’s okay for all the other innocent people in this town to suffer instead?”
“Thomas,” he says, bowing his head.
“Fine dad,” I say. “But if we’re not going to report this, we need to take the Reaper down. We need to stop him, Dad, I don’t know how, but he’s somehow fragmented his soul in me, and I’m becoming worse by the day. If we don’t do something, Dad, I’m going to become him. So, we’re either going to take him down or come clean about this.”
“Thomas,” he pleads.
I nod. “Fine, Dad. Don’t do anything. But I will.”
I grab hold of the manila folder and stalk out of his office.
“So, want to talk about it?” Lucy probes. “What did you find out from your dad?”
I swallow. “A lot of messed up things, Luc. And I don’t want to have to explain it more than once, so I’d rather wait until we arrive back at the hostel so I can tell you, Lenny, Cole and Matt together.”
“Okay,” she says, resting her head on my shoulder as the bus jolts upwards. I gaze out the window as the bus approaches our stop. We stand up and grab hold of a bar as the bus pulls in. We head down the aisle and step out onto the street. Hand in hand, we enter the hostel. As we step onto the corridor, a man rushes towards us. A balaclava concealing his face, he pushes us to the wall, pointing a shiny blade at us. Lucy lets out a scream. “Get out of the way,” he orders.
Lucy’s eyes wide, she trembles as we head towards my room. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she trembles. “It’s just not every day someone points a knife at you.”
I nod and pull her into a tight hug. “Thomas,” I can hear Cole calling. He sounds frantic. He’s shouting from Matt’s room. I rush towards the room, gripping Lucy’s hand. I push open the door and gasp at the sight befalling us.
I kneel down at Matt’s side, a splatter of his blood soaking into the fabric of my jeans. He’s got three wounds saturating his t-shirt with crimson floods. He’s focusing as hard as he can to keep his eyes open.
“What happened?” I gulp, as I rip my jacket from my back and press it to his stomach.
“It was him, Thomas. The Reaper. He stormed in and held a knife to his throat, telling us to back away,” Lenny trembles.
“He threw him to the ground and kept stabbing him, and then he left.”
“When did this happen?” I demand.
“Two minutes ago.”
I dart my eyes toward Lucy who’s watching on in terror. “Was he wearing a balaclava?”
Cole nods fervently. I nod and look down to Matt. “Mate, you’re going to be okay, Cole, Lenny keep putting pressure on his wounds. Lucy, call an ambulance.”
She nods and pulls out her phone as Cole takes my place beside Matt. “I’m going to kill him,” I announce. I rush toward the door.
“Thomas, no,” Lucy screams. “He’s got a knife.”
“Call an ambulance,” I reiterate as I bolt down the stairs of the hostel and sprint back out onto the lit up street.