I usher Andrew and my inner circle of mates into a vacant classroom and close the door. “What’s up, Tommy?”
“Guys, as you know, it’s Halloween three days from now.”
Everybody in the room stiffens at the word Halloween. A tense, repressed aura of dread fills the room as I pause. The unsettling wave of gloom resides in me too by sending a slight chill up my spine. But, I can’t cower from talking about this. That’s what everybody does and it’s time that this changed. “Guys, I need your help. The Grim Reaper has haunted this town for long enough. At one time, I would’ve been scared to speak out against it, but he took Alex last year, and I’m not willing to stand by any longer and allow him to take the people close from us.”
Andrew’s deep in thought. He’s nodding slightly as he quietly reflects on this. “What do you need help with?”
I clear my throat with a nervous cough. “I know that this is a lot to ask, but, on Halloween, I’m not staying home. I’m going to roam quietly around the town, on the lookout for him. And I was thinking I could do with some back up.”
Andrew darts his widened eyes around in a circle, catching eye contact with all our friends. “Did I just hear right? You want us to stand out alone in the middle of Eventide, while a murderous psychopath is walking the streets with a scythe in his hand? Thomas, are you nuts?”
I flinch slightly at Andrew’s use of my full name. He never calls me Thomas, unless he’s extremely vexed or concerned. “Look, guys, I know it sounds crazy, but if we don--”
With his jaw clenched, Andrew drops from the table on which he had been slouched and plants his feet to the carpeted floor. “Thomas, there’s no way that this is happening. Guys, back me up, isn’t this crazy?”
Evan nods. “I’m sorry, Tommy. But, I’m with Andrew on this.”
I nod. That’s what I thought. “Okay, guys. I’m not going to try force you, but I’m still going to do this, with or without you.” Andrew’s cheeks are visibly flushing, exasperation written all over his face. “You’re fucking crazy, Thomas. It’s your funeral.”
I wince slightly at his response. I couldn’t have expected him to be keen on the idea, but I guess I thought. that he’d at least try be supportive about it. Andrew is making his way towards the door, seemingly agitated by the whole thing. “Andrew, come on mate. Calm down.”
“Calm down?” he retorts. “Calm down? That fucking psychopath murdered Alex last year, one of my best friends. And now, another one of my best friends is just making himself a target and basically volunteering himself to the bastard. You’ve got a death wish.”
He’s stalking towards the door. “Andrew--”
He snaps his head back in my direction. “See you, Thomas. Try make the most of your last few days alive.”
I frown as he slams the door closed. I inhale sharply and look to Evan. “I’m sorry guys, but I’ve got to at least try.” I hop from the desk and venture out onto the corridor.
“Tommy, we need to talk,” Lucy tells me.
I turn to face her, a smile spread across my face from merely hearing her voice. “You okay, babe?”
She smiles weakly and gently takes hold of my hand, her warm fingers intertwining with mine. “I was talking to Andrew,” she whispers. I let out a sigh and frown slightly. “Luc, I need--”
“Please Tommy, please don’t put yourself out there for him as a target. I love you, Thomas. And I want you to be safe.”
I bit on my lip slightly. A nervous habit of mine that Mum could never get me to break. “Luc, I just want to--”
“I know, you want to stop him. You want to avenge what happened to Alex. I get it. But, Tommy, Alex is gone. You are alive, and we all want you to stay that way. I’d rather you were here than died some kind of hero. Please don’t do this. For Evan, Andrew. For your mum, dad, Annabelle. For me.”
I blink away tears as I look to her. Her eyes are watering too. She looks me in the eye, continuing to plead silently with me. My eye contact wavers and I look down. “I’m sorry Luc, I have to. I love you too.”
I place my arms gently around Lucy and pull her closer to me. My hand pushing her silky hair from her beautiful, petite face, I press my lips to hers, her skin gently brushing against mine. “Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I’m going to take him down.”
Lucy’s lip is wobbling slightly. “Tommy,” she says. I see where this is going. A final plea to me to abandon my intentions and tell her I’ll be staying home on Halloween. I know that I’m still going to stick by my plan, so there’s no point in letting her finish. I could tell her that she’s convinced me, to spare her feelings. But, I can’t lie to her. Not Lucy. I place my thumb to her face and graze it against her tear stained cheek, wiping it dry. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I’ve got to go.”
I flash one last smile at her, a weak one, and proceed to hurry down the corridor, towards my biology class as the bell rings through my ears.
“Thomas Burton, please report to the principal’s office now.”
My teacher nods at me with a look of approval. I quickly unzip my schoolbag and toss my books inside. My chair scrapes along the classroom floor as I bring myself to my feet. I stroll out of the room and close the door behind me.
As I hover outside the Mr Blanchard's office, he beckons me inside. “Thomas, your father called. He wishes to speak to you urgently. Wait outside the school gate, a taxi is on its way to bring you to his office.”
“Oh,” I gulp. “Did he say what he wanted to speak to me about?”
He shakes his head. “My orders were simply to have you wait outside for him.”
I nod. “Thank you, sir.” I exit the office and come to a stop at the gate. There’s already a taxi parked out on the curb. The driver gestures with a quick wave and I shuffle towards the car. I can feel a wrack of nerves rising from the cavity of my chest. I wonder what my dad so urgently wants to discuss with me, so much so that he’d do it during his work hours and secondly, have me dismissed from school for it. Something doesn’t seem right about this and I’m kind of dreading it. I open the door and hop inside.
As I pull the door open, I can see someone from the corner of my eye in the near distance. He’s staring at me. I narrow my eyes and bring my head closer to the windscreen. As I peer at him, he shuffles backwards and turns down a side street of Eventide. I raise my eyebrows for a second.
“You okay?” the driver asks, fixing an expression of scrutiny on me.
I look to him and give a shrug of the shoulders. “Yeah, fine.” As he pulls put onto the street, I look out to the road ahead, forgetting about the man I had just seen. Maybe he wasn’t even staring at me. It might’ve just been coincidence that I caught his eye.
“Thomas, I assume you’re aware that there’s a very specific reason that I called you from school to talk to you.”
“Yeah, Dad, I--”
Dad scrutinizes me and I stumble over my words. “Sorry,” I say. “Yes, sir."
He gives a nod of satisfaction. “But,” I continue. “I’m not exactly sure what it is you want to discuss with me.”
Dad leans across his desk, planting his palms right in front of me. His head lowered slightly, he catches my eye as I sit opposite him. “Three words,” he says. “The Grim Reaper.”
I break eye contact. He knows about my plan, I’m sure of it. “Who told you about that? Was it Andrew?”
“Irrelevant,” he states. “Thomas, you’re here because you’re going to promise to abandon your ridiculous little plan.”
“With all due respect, sir,” I reply. “I don’t think it’s ridiculous. Something needs to be done about this problem and--”
“It is not your problem to solve,” Dad barks.
“Then help me,” I say. “Using your position as Mayor, do something to catch him.”
“Do you not think I’ve tried, Thomas?”
Dad’s face is leaned too close to mine for comfort. “I didn’t say that,” I quiver. He dismisses me with a jerking hand gesture. “As my son, you will obey one simple order. You will forget about this personal issue you are having. You will forget about this ridiculous idea you’ve gotten into your head. You will say put at home this Halloween and every Halloween from here on in. You will not make yourself, or anyone in this family a target. You will not put us in any extra danger. Is that understood?”
I can feel my heart palpitating. “I-- I.”
Dad pounds his fist off the desk. “Is that understood?” he roars.
“Yes,” I mumble.
A vein in his head is pulsing. “Yes, what?”
I swallow and bring my bowed head to face him. “Yes, sir.”
Dad jerks away from the desk and his anger seems to be fading instantaneously. “Good,” he smiles. “Now, leave me be. I have some calls to make. The taxi driver will drop you home.”
I nod and scramble from his office.