I can hear the creaking open of a door and Lucy’s footsteps. She comes to a standstill before me and takes my hand in hers. She strides backwards and I take a step forward as she guides me further into the room we’re standing in. The door is swung and clicks shut. “Okay,” she says. “You can take the scarf off now.”
I flick my hood back and bring my hands to the back of my head. I untie the tight knot in the old scarf. It falls off my face and drapes itself over my shoulder. I blink a couple of times and look around the room. There’s two bunk beds facing each other from opposite sides of the room and a sofa in the centre, which sits opposite one of those old box televisions. There’s a linoleum counter top built in along the side wall with a kettle and toaster resting on its surface. Lucy smiles at me and gestures to a door adjacent to one of the bunks. “The bathroom’s there. We’ve got everything here we need.”
I turn to face her. “How did you find this place?”
She purses her lips. “I have connections. And don’t worry. The Reaper won’t find us here.”
I nod. I hope she’s right. “Right,” she says. “You and Cole are going to stay here, while Lenny and I go get us some food. We’ll see you in a while.”
I smile and place my arms around her. “Okay. We’ll see you in a while.”
She nods and turns to Lenny. She twists the doorknob, steps outside with Lenny, closes it over and leaves Cole and I confined to the four walls of this room, wherever it is.
I toss my rucksack on one of the lower bunks and take a seat on the sofa beside Cole, who’s already sinking into it. “You okay?” Cole says. “We didn’t really get a chance to ask about it earlier, but what happened with you and Lucy when you went to Castlerock?”
I sigh. “Let’s just say we walked right into a trap and Lucy got us out of it. But, she’s really pissed the Reaper off. I think she’s going to be a target next. And I don’t think she should be going out, while he’s still out there.”
“Don’t worry,” Cole says. “From what I’ve seen, Thomas, she’s able to hold her own.”
I nod. “Yeah,” I sigh. “I know. She is. She’s strong. She’s stronger than I am, but I’m still so scared that maybe something might happen where she won’t be able to defend herself against--”
I blink down tears. “I just worry. About everyone. I really want to just go back home and see if my family are okay, but I can’t go home, or I’ll become housebound with Mum and Dad keeping me under lock and key. They won’t let me keep hunting the Reaper. But, someone has to. He has to be taken down.”
Cole nods. “Which is what Lucy, Lenny and I are going to,” he says. “We’ll stop him before he can get to you.”
I shake my head. “Cole, he’s not after me. If he had wanted me dead, he would’ve done it by now. He’s had chances. No, he’s after everyone I care about. He wants revenge on my family. On my dad. And his revenge means targeting his son, and everyone his son cares about. He’s not going to stop until he kills everyone or he dies in the process.”
Bingo, Thomas, I can hear a voice echoing through my head. His voice. And I’ll start with Lenny, then Cole, followed by Mr Mayor, your mum, Annabelle, then that bitch of a girlfriend of yours. I’ll save her for last and I’ll take my time with her.
I jolt upwards from the sofa. Inside my head I shout back at him. If you lay one finger on my family, or my friends, or--
You’ll do what? he asks. I’ll tell you what. You get that bastard of a father of yours to resign from his post, give up his businesses, and come clean to the entire population of Eventide and then maybe I’ll consider lessening your family’s punishment.
Isn’t it punishment enough, what you did to me? That, eventually, I’m going to become the new Reaper? You told your brother that “this ends within our family”. So, what, you’re passing it over to ours? Isn’t it enough that I’m going to be forced to take on the Reaper’s soul? That it’ll gradually take me over, until I’m not even me anymore?
His cackling rings through my ears. No, he says. Your family have had long enough to try make amends, so, now, you, the next of kin, are going to bear the brunt of the hatred that has built up in our family for yours over the generations.
That’s not fair, I cry. I didn’t do any--
He cuts me off. As far as I’m concerned, your family’s problems are yours too. Their debts are yours. And you will pay them. But, now, Lucy has stuck her nose far too much into this, so, in my eyes, she’s demonstrated her allegiance to your filthy clan and she’s marked.
His voice rings out and I look to Cole. “Thomas, what happened?”
I make a frantic grab for Lucy’s backpack and pull out the notebook. I yank the lid off the pen inside and start scribbling down what I can remember of our conversation.
The door swings open and Lucy steps inside, her and Lenny clutching a pizza box each. I continue to jot down notes and Lucy darts her eyes to Cole. She drops the box onto the table. “Did you have another vision?”
I shake my head. “No,” I gulp. “It’s the Reaper, he was communicating with me.”
“What did he say?” she asks, throwing herself down beside me.
I take a bite from a slice of the pizza. Lucy watches me. “Tommy, it’s going to be okay. We’ll--”
“No, it’s not okay. I have to do something, Luc. I have to make my dad quit and come--”
She blinks away a tear. “Thomas, do you seriously believe he’s going to stop, even if you do as he says?”
“I don’t know. But I don’t want to risk it.”
“Thomas, I am “marked” now, whatever that means. So, I’m a target regardless.”
I clench my fists and lurch forward, a blinding pain emanating from my core through my body. “Thomas,” Lucy says.
“That you are,” I hiss. “It took me an hour to get that pepper spray out of my eyes, and you are my prime target. But, as I said to Tommy, I’ll save you til last. I’m going to have my fun with you.”
The bitch looks me in the eye and scoots closer to me. “Thomas,” she says. “My name is not Thomas,” I spout. “I am the Reaper, not your pathetic ass boyfriend, Luc. This may be his body, but I control it, and if I can’t track you down myself, I’ll use his hands to squeeze every last breath from your body.”
“Thomas,” she cries. “Come on, I know you’re in there. Come back to me. Please.”
I lunge forward and grab her arm. I twist it until I’m towering over her face, which contorts as she tries not to squeal out. “I’m not Thomas,” I repeat. “Want to escape my grasp? Then take out that pepper spray again, which it took me an hour to cleat from my eyes. Go on, I dare you.”
She swallows. “I’m not going to fight you, Thomas.”
“How sweet?” I spit. I wrench her wrist around and she leans forward, crying with the pain. “Thomas, stop,” Lenny orders. He and his other friend, Cole, I think, each place a firm hand on my shoulder and try pull me away from Lucy.
“Get your filthy hands off me,” I yell. I jolt upwards and grab the first of their hands in reach. It happens to be Lenny’s. I pull him closer to me and pummel his nose with a loud thumping noise. He winces. “Thomas,” Cole gasps, as a thick river of blood begins to flow down his face.
“How many times?” I snap. “I am not Thomas.”
Lucy scrambles towards Lenny, as Cole approaches. “Thomas, come on, mate. Fight this. Come back.” He places a hand to his shoulder, which I shrug off. I dive for him and ball the collar of his shirt between my clenched fists. Lucy screams at me to stop as I slam him into the wall. “I told Thomas what’d happen if he allowed anyone to continue to interfere. So, here’s the beginning. You’re first.”
“What, Tho--” he chokes as I place my hands to his throat and tighten my grasp. I pin him to the peeling paint of the wall and still clutching his neck, I slowly raise him upwards, until he’s suspended from the floor, his trainers several inches from touching the carpet. “Please, I can’t breath,” he splutters.
I crack a wide smile. “Good.” He grasps my wrist and squeezes it tightly as his face begins to redden. I unfold my fingers and dig my fingernails to his flesh. “Please--”
As he begins to bow his head, I can hear that bitch sticking her nose in again. “Get off him.”
I chuckle at her. “I’m not in the habit of doing what people tell me, in case you haven’t noticed. Especially not stupid, little schoolgirls.”
Cole’s face is turning crimson. I turn back to him and tighten my grasp again. “I said, get off him,” she shouts.
I smirk and turn to face her. “Lucy, I--”
Cole falls from my grasp as she swings at my legs with the stool in her hand at full force. I grimace as I crash to the floor. “I’m sorry Thomas,” she states. Without warning, I see her lunging at me. She dives to the floor, rolling me over on my stomach. She pins my hands to my back. She is surprisingly strong. Now, she’s clambering onto my back and keeping my hands pinned. “Lenny, there’s some rope in my bag, Get it.” He nods as I continue to squirm from under her. Lenny comes with the rope and hands it to her. She slowly wraps it around my wrists. “You bitch,” I yelp.
She leans closer to my ear and begins to hiss. As she speaks, I can just imagine her with a smug smile painted all over her face. “You really need to come up with a better word if you want to insult me,” she whispers. “Here’s a lesson for you, Mr Reaper. Don’t underestimate me. I’m stronger than you think, and smarter too, even if I am just a little schoolgirl.”
“Lenny, the chair,” she says. He nods and makes a grab for the chair tucked in under the counter top. He brings it to a stop at my face. “Get ready to grab him.”
He grabs my shoulders as Lucy rises. He pulls and holds me to the chair, as Lucy goes about restraining me to it by wrapping another string of rope around my waist.
Still spluttering, Cole rises slowly from the floor. “You okay?” Lucy and Lenny ask simultaneously.
“Yeah,” he croaks, placing his hand to his neck and rubbing it. “Let me help.” He takes a piece of rope from the floor and grabs one of my ankles. I try thrashing out of the chair as he binds my left leg to the metal, but it’s useless.
“I’m so sorry, Thomas,” Lucy says. “But until you come back, we can’t let you go.”