Guilty

By Jessica McKenzie All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Chapter 16

Before.

You should be worried about Tyler.

I checked the shadow of Darius’s gun sitting on a shelf in my closet once more before sprinting out of my room. In the dim hallway, my hand burned against the banister of the stairs as I skidded down three carpeted stairs at a time. I wasn’t sure who I was chasing: Violet or Tyler, just to make sure he was still where he was supposed to be. At his desk downstairs. Studying for his exit exams. Reading. Talking with our parents. Breathing. Oblivious to the fact that the girl he was unfortunately in love with was ever in this house. Or still was.

The front door closed softly just as my feet hit the ground. She had left.

I hurried into the kitchen, where Tyler was perched at the table snacking on a bowl of pretzels while scanning a history textbook. Braking, I pressed my hand on my heart. “Oh.”

He glanced up from the pages, marking his place in the middle of a paragraph with his finger and raising his brow. “You alright there, champ?”

“Yeah, yes. Are you alright?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

I shrugged, drawing out my breath. I peered out the window that to the driveway. There was no trace of Violet.

My brother ignored me and simply focused back to his textbook.

I scratched my leg. “Is Violet...alright? Like, with you?”

He rolled his eyes. “I already told you I haven’t talked to her. I think she’s alright. What’s the matter with you?”

A gasp burst from my throat. “Stay...stay away from her. I just have this feeling. If she talks to you, break it off. Just...please do it. Trust me.”

Tyler stared then slammed the textbook closed. The snap echoed through the spacious kitchen. “Yeah, Hayden, I’m not like that Blake guy. I’m not just going to cut her off. I know you have your issues with her but she really is an amazing girl.”

“Just...do it. Just...never mind.” I rubbed my face and headed for the front door. Almost certain I wasn’t going to be able to catch up with her, I thundered out of the house anyway, the June heat soaking into me, sweat already creeping over the back of my neck.

What am I doing. What am I doing. There’s a gun in my room. I just left a gun in my room. A stolen gun. And Darius Blecker saw me. He saw all of us. Darius Blecker, the accused rapist. Darius Blecker, who probably killed Violet’s sister but got off for it. Darius Blecker, who Violet thinks was the cause of Samara’s suicide. Darius Blecker, Darius Blecker. God, what am I doing.

I hurried down the driveway, gazing up and down the street under a completely blue sky. My school bus whizzed past the neighborhood but there was no sign of Violet. She could’ve sprinted right, that’s how she’d get to town, left would bring her to the neighborhood dock where old wealthy men liked to fish in the afternoons. I sprinted down the street to the right, preparing to chase her right on the main road.

“Violet!” Her name sawed through the peacefulness of Patapsco Ridge, which earned me a few nasty glares from neighbors who were mowing their lawns or lounging on their front porch. I scanned the other direction, feeling paralyzed though my legs continued to push one after the other. I’d seen a blonde streak out of the corner of my eye, I was certain.

It was like I was a child again, trying to chase an airplane as it drew across the sky, past every town surrounding Baltimore in a matter of seconds.

I came to the corner of my street and shouted her name once more before turning around, an occasional car soaring past the entrance of the neighborhood.

There was a hand around my wrist before I could take another step. I slapped it away and shrieked, losing my balance and landing on the dead grass on the side of the road. The hand tightened its grip and pulled me to my feet.

Blake Lynch’s long dark hair changed to an auburn against the sun. I gasped and adjusted my stance, reminded of how much his eyes looked like blue lightning, something Violet had caused me to forget lately. “Sorry,” I breathed, trying not to stare at his flawless arms when he chuckled. “I haven’t seen you in a couple of days. Did you come here with Violet?”

(Please God no. You can’t be in on this too. You. Just. Cannot.)

“No, actually.” He brushed dirt specks off his knees. “I actually...well, followed her here. With Gavin and Ashley. I know it’s weird. We just figured that, um, after Friday night, she would come here and talk to you about--well, I guess you know now. Assuming you were looking for her.”

I blinked. “Yeah, right. It’s kind of weird, huh? Violet moves, the whole world shifts in sync. Do you, uh, know where she went? We’d, uh, we’d better find her. After what happened Friday night, I mean.”

“We were thankfully able to catch up with her. She’s in the truck with them.” Blake backed away and pointed to Gavin’s pick-up that was parked in the grass of the marina entry. The direction I had decided not to look for Violet.

I squinted against the brightness and groaned. “Dammit. Well, I was going to talk to her, if that’s okay. Can I come with you guys for a few minutes?”

“Er, sure.” He started toward the truck and I shuffled behind him, debating how much I would give for him to look at me the way he looked so carefully at Violet, even after she acted so broken.

I scratched my head and told myself to concentrate, squinting into the truck.

Violet was in the back this time, and I could tell she’d been screaming at Ashley and Gavin by a few splotches of red on her face that were visible even from outside the window. Her arms waved wildly above Ashley. ”Let me go home!” her screech crackled through the truck, making me flinch. “God damn it! I will break the goddamn window!” Her yellow hair swayed wildly with every swat she attempted.

Blake’s feet shifted from the other side of the truck. “You sure you want to get in?”

I tried a flirty smile but switched it off, concluding that the whopping two years age difference was too much for me to handle and it wasn’t worth the humiliation. I stepped off the sidewalk without a word and thrust the door open, holding my breath as I climbed into the truck while Blake opened the door to Violet’s side.

“Oh my God, Hayden!” Ashley panted from the passenger seat. “Are you okay?”

I gave her a quick nod and settled in the backseat, her familiar, professional-seeming eyeliner job sent an ocean of relief washing away my tenseness Noticing Violet’s vicious glare from beside me, I took a deep breath before I said as confidently as I could: “What does my brother have anything to do with what you think Darius Blecker did to Samara?”

“SHUT UP! You guys are all completely insane!” Violet began swatting at Ashley again. I shielded my face and slid away until Gavin caught her hand in mid-slap.

"Don’t touch them! Tell the truth!” Gavin paused and suddenly I saw something on his face--empathy, maybe--that finally told me he had more inside his brain than football plays. “Who is Dana Farr? Was she your little sister, Violet?”

I glimpsed at Blake in the chaos of silence, who was glaring at the girl he was in love with from outside her open door.

She’d finally freed a rip of emotion from her throat and pressed on her head like she was holding a bomb in shaky hands. She hated crying in front of anyone, it was written on her face. She hated anyone knowing that there was a motives to any of her actions.

She would never create a spontaneous killer. And I don’t think anyone will.

Every animal-like sound she’d made cut through my spine and split through my ears, making me shiver. All of our faces shattered with hers and all I could do was look at Blake stared at her like her brokenness was physically causing him pain and he didn’t care. He wanted to comfort her somehow, I could almost see how his hand was itching to touch her shoulder. But something about her outburst told all of us not to touch her.

“I--want--” Violet bit her lip to hold back tears from beside me, brushing her hair behind her ears. “I--WANT--HIM--DEAD!” she shouted, smashing my eardrum and throwing punches at the seatback in front of her.

My shoulders raised with disturbance and I heard Ashley’s gasp from in front of us. I tried to speak through it. “You want who dead?” As if I didn’t already know.

I cringed when she looked at me. She knew that I knew perfectly well who she was talking about, and she hated me for it. I didn’t want to look as psycho as she did in front of Blake--she wanted him dead. Him. Darius Blecker. I guess the truth is that I did too. And she knew that about me better than I did.

Violet only took out her iPhone and tossed it in my direction; it flipped into my hands. Glowing on the screen were tiny blue and white text bubbles, and in the corner of the screen was Samara’s profile picture. Her Facebook inbox.

I shook my head. “I told you already--”

“Read them.”

Without anymore protest I gazed at the screen, noticing the blank profile that represented the white-bubbled messages in the conversation. Darius.

I’d always thought that touching things that had previously belonged to the dead was messed up. When my grandfather died years ago, my aunt had gone through her things and gave me one of his necklaces that he had received when he was in the military. When she had offered it to me, I was almost afraid to touch it. The pit in my stomach told me that if my skin came into contact with the tiny piece of metal for too long, it would fade to dust in my own hands. Reading messages to the dead was a thousand times worse.

The first message was dated May 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm.

Ryan Johnson: I like your profile. You have pretty eyes ;)

Me: Thank you!

Ryan Johnson: I go to school in Baltimore, but I saw you when I went to see King’s musical. When you took a bow with stage crew I thought you were beautiful :)

Me: Aw, that’s sweet. :) Have I seen you before??

Ryan Johnson: Probably not. I’m a senior.

Ryan Johnson?

I rubbed my eyes, unwilling to risk the tears.

Frustrated, I scrolled past the hundreds of messages of small talk.

May twenty-fifth, 2016, 3:32 pm

Me: Had a frustrating day today :/

Ryan Johnson: Aw. :( wanna talk about it?

Me: It’s my dad. He’s had a drinking problem since my mom passed away. Sometimes I just get so frustrated....

Me: ...I just realized you’re the only person I’ve ever told that to....

Ryan Johnson: I understand. My uncle died when I was twelve. He was like a father to me because my dad left when I was four :/ When did your mom pass away?

Me: Four months ago. Lung cancer.

Ryan Johnson: I would say “sorry for your loss” but you’re probably tired of hearing that, right?

Me: Finally someone who gets it. I’m SO tired of hearing that saying. Thanks Ryan:)

Ryan Johnson: No problem, really. I’m here if you need anything.

Me: You’re one of the only people in this world I trust and I haven’t even seen a picture of you.

Ryan Johnson: :) you too. This might sound weird, but would you ever like to meet me?

Me: Of course :D

I pressed my hand to my stomach, letting the tears loose to reject throwing up. I glanced up at Violet, who still had tiny tears in her eyes as she watched me.

God. God.

I turned back to the screen with nothing else to do. There weren’t many messages until the final conversation on June first.

The day before her suicide.

11:39 am.

Me: I know who you are.

I inhaled sharply.

Ryan Johnson: What ?

Me: I know who you are. We both know you lied to me.

Ryan Johnson: Are you okay Sam?

Me: Just stop. I’ll call the cops if you continue to message me.

Ryan Johnson: What are you talking about?

Ryan Johnson: ??

Ryan Johnson: Samara ??

Ryan Johnson: I’m not shitting around here

Ryan Johnson: Answer right now.

Ryan Johnson: Fucking answer me

1:04 pm

Me: I know about Dana Farr.

(Read, June 1st, 1:05 pm)

Attached to the message was a link to a Baltimore Sun article titled “King Man Cyber Stalks Thirteen-Year-Old Dana Farr Under False Name, Investigating More Girls in the Area.”

I scraped my finger against the screen, searching, but neither of them said more. That was the last message Samara had sent before she died.

I handed Violet back her phone, not bothering to read the article my past best friend had linked. It was all the same--problem, problem, no solution. Tell the public. Panic. I didn’t even care to know how Violet hacked into Samara’s account.

I leaned my elbows on my knees and exchanged looks with Violet, something I hadn’t been able to do in days. Suddenly though, I understood. “...Darius?”

Violet Wren wiped a tear and nodded.

I gulped, staring at her phone that sat beside me.

I saw it.

I could see Samara Galen in her bathroom, a night that her dad wasn’t home, combing the cabinet for any pills she could find, tears only electrifying her Uranus-blue eyes even more. Behind her was a man, Darius Blecker, with nothing but cruelty on his beautiful but frightening face. Clinging in his hands was the gun--the one that sat in my closet as I stayed in this truck--which he pointed to the back of her head as she probed frantically through the meds. She’d either have a bullet in her head or too many pills in her system--that’s what he must’ve told her, right? She’d chosen pills. It was the last morsel of her pride. But she knew that he’d never get to jail. Dana Farr, now her--and she was losing.

I scratched my head. I’d come eye to eye with that man only a few days ago.

“You want Darius dead,” I muttered.

Out of the corner of my eye Blake, Ashley and Gavin’s glares were poignant. I tried not to look directly at them, instead control the tremble of my hands and failing.

“He needs to die.”

I dared to look at her again. “With that gun? I-in my room.”

“Yes.”

“And Tyler...?”

“Will die if you don’t do this with me.”

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