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Guilty of Innocence

By Jenna Cassie Herdz All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Chapter 1-Living Nightmare

“Mom! Where’s my skateboard?!”

“Check under your bed!”

Gray eyes scanned the darkness under the bed until they landed on what he was looking for and he grinned.

“Thanks, mom!” he called, pulling his board out and tucking it under his arm as he stood. He stepped to the closet, picked up his helmet, blowing a piece of blonde and dyed gray hair from his face as he did and sat the thing on his head.

The boy of fifteen trotted down the stairs from his room, skateboard still in hand, and rounded into the living room then into the kitchen and stopped at the threshold. Staring at the floor, all he saw was red, thick liquid flowing toward him, his eyes wide with terror.

“M-Mom?” he breathed and looked from the floor to the table across from the sink. He found the source of the flow there.

“D-Dad?” he called in another breathless whisper, tears pricking his eyes as he felt the blood leave his face.

A knife. A hand hanging over the table. Empty eyes. Blood. The crash of wood hitting tile sounded before the blood-curdling scream, which was followed by darkness.


Chad Stiles sat straight up in bed with a loud shout of terror and despair, a cold sweat covering his body, his breathing shallow and labored. Realizing where he was just by the darkness covering him, he sighed in exhaustion and ran a shaking hand through his half blonde half gray hair.

His attention shot to the door as it swung open to reveal a tall, male figure framed in the doorway. The light behind him only formed a dark silhouette, but Chad only sighed again, this time in exasperation as he slapped his hand on his leg.

“Another bad dream?” the silhouette asked with a deep voice.

Chad only nodded and flopped onto his back, throwing his blankets over his face. The figure reached up to the side of the door and the light above the bed came on to reveal a man with bed-head blonde hair and tired brown eyes filled with concern as he stepped toward the bed where the sixteen year old lay, unmoving.

“I was coming downstairs to go to school this time,” Chad’s muffled explanation began. “One minute, mom’s telling me where I left my skateboard, and the next…”

He trailed off and sighed as he sat up again and the man sat on the edge of the bed at his side.

“It’s been different every time,” he mumbled, his gaze glued to a spot on his sheets. “First, I was coming back from school, then I was just about to leave for the skate park, then out to the movies with Nicky…” He trailed off and sighed as he rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, murmuring, “I can’t get away from it until they catch him, Brandon.”

“They’re trying, Chad,” Brandon, assured him. “The police are doing all they can with what they have. The guy didn’t leave any fingerprints or the knife he used to—” He stopped short before resuming, “It’s gonna take some time.”

“It’s been a year,” Chad groaned, the heels of his hands still over his eyes. “It’s impossible for a guy to leave no evidence whatsoever with a mess like that!”

“Well, if the police can find the murder weapon, maybe they’ll finally get fingerprints and whatnot from it?” Brandon guessed, optimistically. “Then they’ll stop looking at you under the microscope.”

“They won’t stop looking at me unless I’m the next victim,” Chad muttered, lowering his hands and setting them on his knees with a sigh.

“If that was going to happen, it would have happened already,” Brandon replied.

“Which is why they still suspect me,” Chad snapped, flopping back again, but leave the covers gathered at his waist.

“Can you really blame them, Chad?” Brandon asked. “No one saw you at school or anywhere at the time…‘it’ happened and the only tracks, fingerprints and DNA they found at the scene were all yours. On top of that, you didn’t call the police until an hour after you found them and you were covered in their blood.”

“I told you why that was,” Chad growled. “They were my parents! What the hell would you have done in my situation?!” He shot up again and glared at the older man. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have tried to help them. Don’t tell me you would’ve called the police right away. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have freaked out!”

I might not have been,” Brandon argued, then added, “But I know that’s not like you. The police don’t know you like I do. I know you didn’t do it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Chad sighed, bowing his head. “They take me to trial, the jury’s gonna take one look at me and say I did it. I watch TV, Brandon. I know what’s gonna happen.”

“I watch TV too, Chad,” Brandon retorted. “It’s never real on TV. People are unpredictable. Life is unpredictable.”

“Don’t give me that,” Chad snapped again. “You’re not a lawyer!”

“And you are?” Brandon retorted. “You don’t know any more than I do, I’m sure.”

“Whatever,” the young man blurted and flopped onto his side, pulling the covers over himself as he did. “Shut the light off, will ya? I gotta get up early tomorrow.”

“What for?” Brandon scoffed, standing and heading to the door. “You’re not gonna go to school, I know that for a fact.”

“Nicky is,” Chad replied in a yawn. “I gotta convince her to ditch.”

“For you I’m sure she’ll do anything,” the older man smirked, shutting off the light then called into the darkness, “Good night, boy.”

“Good night, old man,” Chad yawned again then smirked as Brandon chuckled and shut the door.

Chad waited a minute, seeing the light in the hall shut off, then rolled onto his back to reach the nightstand to his left to grab his cell phone. He unplugged it from the charger, flipped it open, turned it on and waited impatiently for it to power up. Once it was on he quickly dialed a number and pressed the phone to his ear, hearing the ringback tone clearly.

Hello?” a raw, feminine voice answered, tiredly.

“Nicky?” Chad choked out before swallowing, feeling his panic, fear, sadness and anger bubble up into his voice.

Chad?” she asked back, her tone filled with worry, now instantly awake. “Are you ok?

“No,” he choked again, swallowing the lump forming in his throat. “I had another nightmare.”

Don’t tell me,” she requested, honestly. “Do you need me over there? Do you wanna come here?

“No,” he sighed, letting silent tears stream down his face. “I just wanted to talk to you. I know it’s late…”

It’s alright,” Nicky replied and he could hear the smile in her voice that made him smile as well. “What are friends for if not to wake up in the middle of the night because of a nightmare?

“Yeah,” Chad scoffed then sniffled, wiping away his tears. “I remember when you did that to me a couple of times.”

Well, I guess this is your payback, huh?” Nicky giggled.

“Heck, yes,” Chad smirked. She had always been the best distraction from his nightmares. “So what are you wearing?”

The lingerie you bought me for Christmas,” Nicky shot back, knowing he was teasing her.

“Ooh, baby,” he smirked. “You’re feisty tonight.”

I always am when I first wake up,” she replied. “Kinda like how you’re always grumpy when you wake up.”

“That ain’t grumpy. That’s just mad.”

Well, I have to agree with you there.”

“Smart ass,” Chad snapped playfully and Nicky giggled. “Hey, ditch school with me tomorrow.”

Chad Miller Stiles! We have Exit Exams tomorrow!” Nicky scolded.

“That’s not my name,” he retorted, playfully. “And Exit Exams are crap. We have another year to take those anyway. Ditch with me! We’ll go to your favorite skate site.”

Chad, we can’t do this every time you have a nightmare,” Nicky sighed. “The cops already suspect you, and you wanna ditch school again?

“Screw the cops,” Chad snapped. “They’re sitting on their asses stakin’ me out while the real killer is still out there, probably killing more people the way he did my—!”

He choked on the last word and sputtered, starting to tear up again at the memories flooding his mind. His hand shot over his mouth, trying to keep Nicky from hearing him cry. He hated that whenever he talked to her about his parents he fell apart. He wasn’t supposed to cry. Guys didn’t cry.

Chad,” she called soothingly, hearing him sputter and start to breathe heavily, sniffling herself. “I know you miss your parents, but don’t you think they’d want you to keep doing well instead of getting worse?

“Yeah,” he sighed, calming himself and wiping his face again. “But how can I do that when the cops wanna put me in jail for killing them?!”

You do it the best you can,” Nicky replied. “If I were you, I’d be playing the goody two-shoes.

“You know me better than that, Nicole Liza Verona,” he smirked, sniffling slightly. “I can’t be anybody else other than the Bad Boy you know and love.”

Know? Yes. Love? I dunno about that.”

“Oh, come on, Nicky. I know you dream about me.”

Careful,” she sang. “Your head gets too big you’ll need a new helmet.”

“You’re not denying it though,” he retorted with a smirk. “You love me. Admit it. You can’t live without me.”

Oh, yes, Chad. I fell head over heels for your weirdly dyed hair and your scrawny ass.”

“Masking your love with sarcasm. I see right through you, baby.” He paused for a moment then nearly whined, “Ditch with me tomorrow!”

Chad—!

“You can’t say ‘no’ to the Tunnel of Love,” he cut in. “You love that tunnel.”

It’s the Tunnel of Death, Chad. You know that,” she corrected before she fell silent and he waited until he heard a sigh of hopelessness and smirked. “Fine. I’ll ditch. But you better buy me something nice.”

“Should is be sparkly or should it smell nice?” Chad smirked, widely.

Can you afford something sparkly?” Nicky retorted.

“Probably not,” Chad shrugged. “But I can always get some money from Brandon.”

Don’t you dare steal any money from your uncle!” Nicky gasped.

“Don’t worry, babe,” Chad smirked. “I tell him I’m gonna buy something nice for the best girl I know, he’d crap money for me.”

There’s an image,” Nicky muttered, making Chad snicker. “Just don’t steal anything.”

“I won’t,” he promised. “You sound tired. Go back to sleep. I’m gonna whip that cute little rear of yours all over the tunnel tomorrow.”

You’re good, but you’re not that good,” Nicky retorted, a smirk in her tone. “You’re gonna eat those words, Blondie.”

“We’ll see,” he nodded. “Get to sleep.”

You too. Try to think of nice things before falling asleep, ok? It might help.”

“Thanks,” he smiled, warmly. “You’re sweet.”

Only to you,” she smiled back. “Night.”

“Night.”

Chad hung up the phone with a sigh and plugged it back into the charger. He laid on his back, staring at the dark ceiling, trying to think of good things, like Nicky had advised. But no matter how hard he tried thinking of the things he enjoyed, he was always taken back to the day that changed his life forever, and he wished it would just go away so he could get some sleep.

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