Guilty

By Jessica McKenzie All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Chapter 6

Before.

We were moving so fast.

The dashboard told us Gavin was pushing ninety-five. I wasn’t sure if this was much of a norm to Violet and the others, but the only teen driving I’d ever been allowed to experience was Tyler’s in his shiny Volvo back and forth to school and he would start panicking if we were in a forty-five-mile-per-hour zone and going fifty.

Violet added the radio to the pace of the car, turning on some sort of urban contemporary station, spinning the dial so that the volume was deafening. All of the windows had been slid down, the music slipping into the humid June night.

She never buckled her seat belt. Neither did I.

Unnoticed between Ashley’s disapproving complaints about me and Gavin’s constant chuckling over the comedy of it, I dared to steal a glance at the boy on the other side of Ashley. Blake was too focused on Violet ahead of him: her hair swept with the wind out the window in front of me, filling my nose with the scent of apple.

He was completely unaware that he might as well hand me a pair of binoculars. The sky of his eyes seemed to rebound against the glow of the dashboard, exceeding the dark and branching off into their own world. Of course he’d never notice me the way I noticed him; he’d rather be up front with his girlfriend (?). Alas, he was stuck with the wide-eyed freshman.

That was something unique about the dark. Studying of the unbelievably attractive boy across from me could slide heedlessly, and while I found the opportunity to invisibly observe him, he found the opportunity to invisibly observe Violet. Violet observed nothing, including him, or at least pretended not to. She just went too fast. Too fast for that kind of thing, at least.

“Violet, I swear to God, you will regret this. I don’t know if you, like, went insane over that Samara girl, but you cannot involve Tyler’s little sister in this just because she used to be friends with her. If she committed suicide, she committed suicide. Don’t you think if Darius Blecker had anything to do with it, the cops would’ve known?” Ashley shouted over the loud, frightening rap through the radio. The unfamiliar rhythm vibrated the car, and every chord change would cause both of us to leap out of our seats.

Darius Blecker?

The image of him suddenly flashed into my mind, the only times I’ve seen him: at the supermarket or the park or some beautifully innocent place in town. The last time I’d seen him probably had to have been last year--tagging along with my father to get some groceries. My father had ordered me to his side immediately and charged into a different aisle, like he himself was afraid of him. It was only a glimpse of him I had gotten: a bald man with green eyes that stuck out against his slightly wrinkled hazelnut skin. A strange, jagged scar rippled across the side of his face. Despite his reputation, his features were almost captivating.

We were soon zooming through and past the village of King.

Violet didn’t bother to check back at Ashley, keeping her glistening focus on the only light in the night ahead of us--Gavin’s headlights. The speedometer continued to hover over ninety-five. She spat a laugh. “No, you see, that’s the captivating thing about suicide. It’s not like other deaths. If some John Doe dies in a car accident, boo-hoo, it’s sad. R.I.P. John Doe. But then if John Doe commits suicide, it’s so much more than that. Then it’s like, ‘What the hell happened to John Doe?’”

Ashley inhaled over a string of cuss words. “Holy shit, are you high?”

I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek against the cool window lightly, using my elbow to steady my chin.

Violet simply smirked at the question, pushing her curls off her shoulders. “You wish.”

She was right. Everyone in the car might’ve been what’s called “privileged,” but Samara’s death forced me to wake up, I thought. And it had been a rude awakening.

When I was thirteen, I had lost my grandfather, my mother’s father, and that was the first and only loss I’d ever had. But I suppose my grandfather’s death was what you would call “expected.” He’d been put in hospice care after a ten-year battle against congestive heart failure, and Mom had plenty of time to explain to both Tyler and me that our grandfather would soon pass. And it was hard when he did. It was hard for both of us to grasp that our generous and caring grandfather had died.

But then Samara’s death happened.

The “cause of death” in a suicide case can be looked at in two ways: simply, the person caused their own death, and that’s it, but that was for literal minds. Second way: it wasn’t the person’s fault, but something inside them forced them to do it. That “something” being the “cause of death.” That “something” being a secret inside the person’s head that everyone else would never pinpoint.

Violet understood the concept--surprisingly.

I cleared my throat, and hopelessly gazed up at our leader, careful not to let my eyes wander over to Blake again. My voice was awkward and dettachedin the dark. “Um, Violet, where are we going? You, uh, never told me.”

As soon as I spoke, Gavin’s joyful chortle exploded from his mouth and the car skidded into the empty lane next to us.

The rest of us gasped so suddenly they were almost screams.

“GAVIN PATTERSON! WHAT THE HELL!” Ashley shrieked, shattering my eardrum. She squeezed her Coach bag for comfort.

The car straightened onto the lane, but Gavin couldn’t help but continue his titter.

For me, Violet glanced back at the backseats, her smirk still excited. “Trust me, you’re fine. We’re just running...an errand.” Her eyes moved to the right, she shrugged, and whirled back around.

Moved to the right.

Trust me, you’re fine.

She was lying.

The first thing I’ve ever heard Blake Lynch say is “This isn’t a joke, Vi.”

I glanced at the speedometer. We were down to seventy-five.

Violet paused and reached behind her to snap the radio off. Suddenly, all that was audible was the whoosh of the breeze out the window. But soon the windows had been slid up, as well.

As much as I hated to admit it, when the only sound was the smooth, quiet purr of the engine, everything floated when their gazes finally met, like she was trying to decide something. He was trying to convince her of one thing, she wanted to do another. Ashley had silenced her arguments. Gavin had slowed the car to a legal speed limit, and...stroked Violet’s shoulder.

What was I missing?

Violet had to have known Samara somehow. Having me sneak out late at night was probably her way of asking me to join the club of guilt.

And...Darius Blecker?

She gave Blake a quick nod, giving in to whatever mental disagreement they were having.

Then her eyes cut through me, making me flinch.

“Hayden,” she began, leaning forward so that one of her long curls tickled my arm, “I think Darius Blecker is the reason Samara committed suicide. There’s a lot that a lot of people don’t know about him--he’s very good at hiding, he always has been.”

I’d only ever known my father’s two-word description on him: “stay away.”

“Darius Blecker used to live in Baltimore near his father, who was in a nursing home. In 2015, he moved to King.” Violet stopped, glaring at Blake for guidance. He just waited for her to continue, nodding. She swallowed, adding, “The main reason Darius Blecker is considered a pervert and stalker is because of what happened right before he moved here.”

I narrowed my eyes and nodded slowly, my heart slowing in sync with the truck.

“Um, he, like, started talking to this girl, uh, Dana Farr, online and pretended he was her age, flirting with her and making her feel special. She went to middle school in Baltimore, and liked to be...rebellious, I guess. So, I mean, they say that she thought she could take on meeting a boy she met on the Internet. But he wasn’t...a boy, he was Darius. When they met, Darius...raped her. Killed her. There was struggle, and she sliced the side of his face with a shard of glass.”

Violet waited for a reaction.

“How do you know this?” I blurted.

Her eyes rested on mine then ticked on Blake suddenly. She shook her head, looking at me again. “Well, um, I moved from Baltimore to King with my family when I was fourteen. And we got this letter in the mail the first week we were there that the town was required to send after he was accused, after we bought the house, of course. It was basically three paragraphs telling my family that Darius lived two neighborhoods up the road from us to keep an eye out for me if I went outside with a nice signature at the end. It was as though he followed us to King.”

I could feel my face twisting in disgust. The thought of Samara having any link to that monster made me cringe. “Why...didn’t Darius go to jail after he killed Dana, then?”

If he’d gone to jail and stayed there, Samara might still be alive, I thought bitterly.

Violet shrugged, seeming to loosen up a bit. “I guess he had a kick-ass lawyer that had a better explanation for whatever evidence there was. Got lucky as hell. But, like I said, my family used to live in Baltimore before Darius’ trial, and they never believed he was innocent. My family gets really mad if you start talking about Dana, it just never stopped bothering us that Darius was never punished for what he did and I agree. We don’t think he changed, he did similar with Samara. And this is an opportunity to send him to jail.”

I looked down at my knees, resisting the urge look at Blake for reassurance. “Oh.”

My parents had never informed me as to why Darius Blecker had “danger” written all over him, it was just a fact. Now I knew.

Why would he only target two girls, though? What was his trigger?

I supposed Violet couldn’t answer that, the only one who could answer that was Darius himself.

I would never let myself get within conversational distance with him, though.

That still didn’t answer the “where are we going” but the constant turns of my stomach took my full voice away.

Violet lied today, acting like Samara meant nothing to her.

But there was silence after that. Gavin had kicked the speed up to eighty just to lighten the mood, I guessed, and Ashley added on a few pesters to bend Violet’s ear about what an idiot she was.

“Just running an errand.” I supposed I’d accept that, my brain was too stretched out not to. She’d pointed her finger of accusation at Darius Blecker before I could say “suicide.” I’d had enough.

About a half hour outside of King, Gavin began driving through a windy, woodsy road. Violet began murmuring directions in his ear the further we came. The pit in my stomach only grew wider.

The pick-up came to a stop in front of a worn-down shed not long after we began venturing through a woods-surrounded road. Violet was the first of us willing to move, flinging open the glove compartment and grabbing a flashlight from it. She swung the door open and hopped out of the truck. In the night, she was barely visible between her black leggings and dark blue sweatshirt, despite the perfectly clear night. The stars seemed to disperse like a million crystals throughout the sky, a view that was rare in King because we were so close to the city.

The next to get out of the truck was Gavin. I noticed that he, too, was wearing dark clothing--that they all were. He and Blake had similar black gym shorts--and Ashley was wearing a dark green blouse. Suddenly aware of what I was wearing, I glanced down at my red sweatshirt that displayed the logo high school’s football team, the King’s Knights.

Ugh.

A shed in the middle of the woods.

The horror movie paintings in my head were instant, and I forced myself to bite my tongue and stay as close to the truck as I could. My eyes began surfing around the area for some loose branches I could rip off old trees if it came to it.

I twirled my bracelet.

Idiot, idiot, idiot.

I put myself in this position. What could they do? Attack me in the woods? Beat me to death?

“Looks like the weather’ll be nice tomorrow.”

My concentration snapped off of the sky to the voice beside me. Blake. “What?” I asked breathlessly.

He looked at me, offering a side smile and shoving his hands into his pockets. His gaze went to the sky again. “The sky’s clear. That means the sky will be clear tomorrow, as well. It’ll be a nice day.”

“Oh,” I breathed, forcing a grin and following his lead. “Yeah. That’s great. We’ve had a lot of rainy days lately.”

The cute guy is talking to you. And now you’re talking about the weather. Seriously.

I puffed my cheeks out and glanced to Violet, who was now about ten feet in front of me, at the door of the shed, crouched down to the mat outside of it. Her curls hung below her right shoulder, and she pushed them behind her back. She flipped the mat up, snatching a small silver key from beneath it.

“Thank God it’s still here,” I heard her mumble.

I allowed myself to wander over to her, Gavin and Ashley to observe her unlocking the shed. Blake stood behind her. She kicked the door open and flicked on the flashlight, illuminating the abandoned shed.

“Ah,” she exclaimed, moving the flashlight to study the dirt and leaf-covered ground, tools hanging from the walls. She looked at Blake, her beam growing, then back into the shed.

“This, my friends, is Darius Blecker’s shed. Our job now is to find his murder weapon.”

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