The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 18

“Did you hear about what happened?”

I spotted Kyle on his bike near our home and I stopped him, literally blocking his way.

Kyle had to get off his bike. “Yeah,” he answered without looking at me.

“Do you know what I’m talking about?”

“Yeah.”

“What am I talking about?” I pressed.

Kyle breathed a sigh of irritation. “Jerry, right?”

“So? Aren’t you surprised? Shocked? Anything?” Living together with him for sixteen years, I was well aware he had no emotions, but I supposed I expected to see a little reaction to news like that. Was he shocked to have someone die so close to us? Or was he, in fact, happy Jerry was dead?

“Yeah. I am.” Kyle was ready to leave, obviously not wanting to continue the conversation.

“Yeah, you’re what?” I asked, growing irritated. “Are you going to the video game store again?”

He paused and looked at me, perhaps wondering why I was suddenly interested in his life. “Yeah,” he said before he left.

I entered the house to find my parents sitting at the kitchen table in mutual silence. Their eyes appeared catatonic, and they were both staring off into space.

Not that they knew Jerry very well—and certainly had no idea about him bullying Kyle—I supposed learning the news of the death of a student from our school must have impacted them a decent amount.

“I know… It was kind of a shock to me, too,” I said to them.

Their despondent eyes abruptly widened before turning to me.

“How did you find out about it?”

“Are you kidding? School is where you always get the first scoop.”

Mom’s eyes looked like those in horror movies. “What? Someone told you at school? W-W-Who? H-H-How many people know about it?” She paused, choking up.

That was strange. It frightened me just to look at her face. “A guy told us. I don’t know how many people know by now. I guess everybody does. Does it matter?”

“Of course it does!” Mom screamed.

I flinched at her sudden shriek. “Mom, what’s your problem?”

She took a deep breath, trying her best to compose herself. “Sorry… I didn’t mean to yell at you. It’s just… it’s very important for you to tell us everything you know. Or what they know.”

“All I know is he was shot. Media’s probably talking about it right now. Why don’t you turn on the local news?”

Suddenly, my parents’ faces went blank. They stared at me as if I were an alien visiting from outer space. I turned away from their gazes and turned on the local news. Surely, all the newscasts were talking about Jerry.

“What…?” Mom muttered. “The Chief Deputy Sheriff’s son from your school? He’s what? Dead…?” Their eyes remained glued to the TV, and their expressions were nothing less than baffled.

I looked at them, dumbfounded. “Huh? You said you knew about it. What’s going on here?” All the cranial nerves in my brain felt like they were entangled with each other, just like frizzy hair in the morning. I worried my brain would electrocute itself by short-circuiting.

After a while, their eyes shifted back to me. “Our money’s been stolen, Ella. We thought that was what you were talking about.”

“What do you mean? How? It’s all in the bank, right?”

“Someone hacked into our account and stole it,” said Dad.

What? How much?”

“A hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And they might keep on stealing it until we lose all of it. Or until we’re dead.” Mom’s voice quavered in horror.

“Honey, the detectives are on top of the case. None of that can happen again. Okay?” Dad caressed her back comfortingly.

Dad must have sensed Mom’s mental state—she was literally on the verge of losing her mind. His gut instinct must have prompted him to say whatever he needed to in order to calm her down.

“That’s why the picture frames were moved…” she mumbled. “They figured out where it was.”

I looked from one to the other, muddled. “Where what was?”

“I had a piece of paper that contained all the important information… Bank login info, our Social Security numbers, all those…” she muttered and her eyes dropped to the table.

“I know you’ve always written down those things. Do you keep them in the drawer near your bed?” I asked.

She looked up at me with a hint of suspicion.

What? Does she dare to think I stole the money?

“No. It was under the cloth. Underneath those photo frames,” she said as she kept her wary eyes on me.

“So what happened? Where did the money end up?”

“It was transferred to an unknown account,” said Dad. “In a small foreign bank.”

I was glad someone still had a somewhat normal expression. If Dad looked as paranoid as Mom, I would probably have suffered from an attack of dyspnea by then.

“Foreign bank?” I had to repeat it. Wow, it suddenly sounded like we were indeed the victims of a serious crime. It was, by any means, no surprise, that criminals lived everywhere in the world and were capable of accessing just about anyone’s information. I just never expected we would find ourselves in the very midst of it. “So did they catch the criminals already?”

“Not yet. But we’re safe now.” said Dad before directing a comforting look at Mom.

He sure was a good husband. Without him, I had no idea how Mom could have retained her sanity.

In any event, something was terribly wrong. Somebody actually stole a hundred and fifty thousand dollars from my parents’ account. Who could have possibly known about Mom’s winning ticket and obtained her bank account information, which, I, even as a beneficiary, didn’t have any access to?

All four of us had promised to keep it a secret, not say or do anything to arouse the suspicion of other people. I, for one, made damn sure to keep that promise.

“Why didn’t you tell Kyle about this?” I asked.

“We did.”

“And he decided to just mind his own business and go off to his geek store? Wasn’t he shocked at all?”

“What do you mean? He’s here. He’s in his room now.”

I furrowed my brow. “No, he’s not. I just bumped into him outside. You didn’t know he left?”

“What?” Mom’s face twisted into a grimace. “No! He went to his room.”

That was way beyond strange to me.

How could it be possible that they thought he was home? Were they so disturbed by what happened that they failed to notice someone walking out of the house? Did their four eyes and ears stop functioning? There was no way they couldn’t have noticed Kyle leave the house. That was, unless they were watching a movie with a loud sound system, or dancing to loud music, or heck, having loud sex. And there was less than zero chance that my parents were doing any of those activities.

Besides sneaking out of the house, it was also strange that Kyle continued his routine as if nothing happened. After two major incidents had just occurred, how could he not say a word about them when he saw me outside? Even to an apathetic guy like him, they should have affected him as a bit of a shock. However, he didn’t seem to react in the slightest. How was that possible? For a normal human being with a normal beating heart?

Then again, who said Kyle was a normal human being with a normal beating heart?

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