Guilty

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Chapter 8

Before.

Murder? Did she just say ” his murder weapon”? I wanted to whisper over to Blake, who stood next to me behind Violet, but his face looked just as puzzled as I felt in the darkness. Gavin’s Adam’s Apple bounced as he caught his breath, Ashley linked onto his arm, her face faded into a fearful child’s.

I studied every tool that hung on the wall of the shed, my jaw slightly dropped. Leaf rakes, an axe, a chainsaw, hammers, shovels.... On the opposite wall were shadows of what looked like a collection of impressive guns, including a rifle that looked longer than me. I began twirling my bracelet around on my wrist, the neon calming me as it was somewhat visible in the dark. The string was starting to fray.

So Darius Blecker loved to hunt.

Gazing at the blackness of the ground, I may as well have had my eyes closed.

Ashley’s breath was distinctive against ours, panicked. “Get me out of here. Get me out of here now.” Her hand swung to meet Violet’s arm, the slap echoing in the small shed.

Violet retaliated quickly, snatching her arm away and gritting her teeth. “What are you doing, Ashley?”

“No, what are you doing? Vi, take us home, please. I want to go home. Forget this. We can have a sleepover at my house instead. We can watch movies or whatever. Or we can just go to bed. Please. It’s too late at night, you aren’t thinking clearly.” Ashley latched onto Gavin once more, gazing up at him hopelessly with a frenzied tone. “Did you know about this?” she questioned suddenly.

He flinched and blabbered, “I-I-I didn’t know why she wanted to come here, I swear, Ash.”

Violet snickered peevishly, shaking her head at both of them. “Gav, grow a pair and quit lying or you’re out.”

I wished I could lock arms with Blake but I just froze, craving the warmth of someone I already felt attached to.

Gavin’s face crumbled as he glanced at Violet, anger streaking in his expression. “I--”

Ashley, who couldn’t have been less than a foot shorter than her boyfriend, pouted up at him. “What’s she talking about, Gav? Why are you keeping secrets from me? Is it Violet? You’d rather have her, wouldn’t you?”

Violet cackled bitterly, clutching her flashlight as the light beam hung aimless toward the ground. “Shut up, Ash. Totally not what this is about.”

“It is what it’s about, isn’t it? God, I thought you were my friend, Vi.”

By my terror, Blake caught my next eye roll and gave me a look in the side of the flashlight that said, You’re better than this.

It hadn’t even been a day since I’d learned about Samara’s death. But it felt like it had been years.

He stepped between Violet and Ashley like he was certain they were about to start pulling each other’s hair and screaming. “Guys! Focus! Vi, what are you talking about?” He sighed, placing his arm around her waist, marking his territory in case Ashley was right.

How could he touch her after all that had come out of her mouth?

Violet stiffened when he touched her. She glued her gaze on Ashley, her hair had fallen into her face and she spoke in a hiss. “Darius Blecker killed Samara Galen. She’s not the first girl he’s murdered. He’s not getting away with it this time. If he killed Samara Galen, the main piece of evidence would be the murder weapon, right? I say we find it, or at least something that can be planted as the murder weapon.”

In the instant, there was commotion. Ashley began crying and Gavin blasting in arguments against Violet’s pleads. Blake was still.

Out of respect for the Galen family, I will not go into detail....

I closed my eyes and tripped forward, joining them in the madness. “Wait!” my shadow begged theirs in the dark. “Wait! WAIT!”

My voice was only gasoline to the fire.

“WE DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW SAMARA DID IT!” I shrieked. Their voices fell silent and eyes fell on me. I paused to breathe. “Okay. Violet, listen. You need to consider something. Remember the announcement this morning? We never got word on how or why Samara killed herself. She could’ve drowned herself...or taken pills,“--the image of my former best friend stuffing pills down her own throat made me wince. “That’s not a murder. The reports haven’t been released. So, sure, if you can take one of these guns somehow plant it to make it look like Darius shot Samara, what happens when the autopsy comes back as an overdose?”

Dad, I recalled, would do anything to make his client look innocent. Or someone else look guilty.

Blake released Violet and inched closer to me, for a moment his shadow made it look like he was holding his breath. “She’s right.”

Disgust cut across Violet’s face. She narrowed her hateful eyes into mine. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she snapped. “I know that he--”

“Not to mention it’s illegal to tamper with evidence. You should’ve done your homework before you dragged us all to the middle of the woods to break into a shed.” I raised my eyebrows, suddenly reminded of how she treated both me and Samara this afternoon.

Violet was smaller than me for once. It felt good.

She glared at me and scoffed. “Go to hell.”

I wasn’t sure how I was confident enough to speak, but I smirked. “See you there.”

She sprang forward and reached for my throat. The flashlight clattered to the ground and I tripped backward.

Before she could reach me, Gavin held her arms and dragged her back. She toppled onto him as I balanced out. I glanced at Blake, who had his hand an inch or two from my back to make sure I didn’t fall backward. “Are you okay?” he whispered.

I gulped and nodded, watching the gleam in Violet’s wild eyes stick on mine as Gavin pulled her to a stand.

Ashley stepped forward, her eyes flickering over at me. “This is insane. I’m not going to be a part of this. I’m sorry, Vi, but Gavin and I are going home. If we have to, we’ll leave you all here take the truck. Right, Gav?” She checked over at her boyfriend as he wrestled Violet’s hands behind her back.

He peered at her. “Er, yeah.”

I caught my breath.

“All of you just...shut up,” Violet growled, struggling to break her arms out of Gavin’s grasp. “SHUT UP!” she screamed, snapping all eyes on her. Gavin’s hands released. ”Listen! Nobody’s going anywhere, understand?” She kicked up and snatched the flashlight from the ground, focusing the light beam on the wall of guns.

She walked toward them and picked a handgun from a shelf below the rifles, a sick smile spreading across her face. She whirled around in circles, tossing the gun from her hand again and again, catching the grip each time she did. She was giggling as she mumbled, “Piece of trash.”

It was like the handgun being off the shelf cast a spell on Blake, Gavin, Ashley and I--we didn’t move a muscle. I didn’t know I had held my breath until I developed a small headache, and even then I gave my exhales sparingly, whenever Violet turned around.

Maybe if I was quiet enough, she would forget I was even there.

“...Violet...,” Blake whispered carefully, the four of us now formed a line watching her. “Violet, is that thing loaded?” He was calm and gentle, like he was talking to a five-year-old. His dark hair fell in his eyes, but he only pushed it away with caution, when Violet wasn’t looking at him.

I didn’t take my eyes off the gun: every time it was tossed into the air, every time Violet’s fingers twisted to catch it, every time she almost didn’t and her hands quaked, every time it seemed to fall perfectly in her hands even though guns were supposed to be significantly heavy. I had never touched one and I never planned on it.

I heard her snicker between throws. “Beats me.”

Blake eyed the gun, reaching out a trembling hand. “I’ll help you find the murder weapon. Give me the gun. That might be it, you don’t want your fingerprints on it, do you?”

I whirled my bracelet on my wrist, my eyes moving with the gun.

“Well, Hayden and Ashley seem to think Samara actually committed suicide. Darius is innocent in their minds.” Violet shrugged.

“I never said that,” I insisted automatically. I swallowed in the blackness, noticing Blake glaring at me. “I believe you. Even if you’re wrong, he deserves to go to jail for what he did to Dana.”

Violet held the grip of the gun and paused, staring at the ground. “He deserves to die because of what he did to Dana,” she corrected me. But she didn’t toss the gun again.

My heart stopped, and I prayed she’d never touch the safety.

She wasn’t wrong, especially if he did somewhat of a copycat to Samara.

“Right.” I ignored the lump in my throat. “You’re right, I was just trying to tell you that you should be careful when...dealing with that stuff. You wouldn’t want to get, er, involved.”

I was unsure if I was lying out of fear or not.

(Don’t touch the safety!)

“Did you, uh, know Dana, then?” I asked carefully, curious of her motive here. The gun still hadn’t moved from her hand.

“No,” Violet confirmed simply, her hair covering the side of her face. “I told you. She was--”

“--Killed when you lived in Baltimore, I know.” My feet searched for balance, but I couldn’t concentrate. “I just...thought you’d’ve known her or something. And you never spoke to Samara?”

"No,” she pressed.

I closed my eyes, channeling Blake’s patience. “Okay, well, I’ll tell you what. Just so we’re as accurate as we can get about Darius, we should wait until we know how Samara died to start looking for weapons. And we’re not even sure if Samara interacted with him, at all. That’s just a rumor.”

Violet shut her eyes, her knuckles whitening around the grip. “I know he killed her.”

Gotta go home, my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to speak to psychos.

I inhaled and turned to Ashley, hoping she could read the helplessness in my eyes offered by the dimness of the flashlight. Her gaze only sank into my mine.

Whirled back around and started to beg. “Violet, this isn’t a good id--”

“Who’s in there?!” A bark from outside.

My heart drove in and out of my chest. In the moment, the gun plummeted out of Violet’s hands and to her feet, clashing to the ground. Ashley let out a squeak and soon began to whimper, and Gavin clapped his hand over her mouth. Blake knelt to flicker the flashlight off.

And it was pitch black.

I covered my own mouth with my hand, feeling my hot breath against my palm.

A flashlight.

Different one from Violet’s, brighter and narrower, that seemed to swim in thin air from outside the single dirty window of the shed. It skimmed past our bodies slowly, examining.

I froze, squeezing my eyes shut as though if the flashlight were to float past me, it would make me disappear.

God oh God what did I do I’m done what if it’s--what if it’s really Da--

Squeak.

Without thinking, I dropped to the ground and tucked into a ball, watching the open door expose the slightest bit of light from the millions of stars in the sky.

Another shadow was added to our festivities, shining the flashlight to each one of our faces.

Gavin first, and his breath exposed his shudder.

Ashley second, and she began weeping as soon as she noticed it.

Me next, I realized, forgetting to exhale. Me next.

I’ll die right here, the thought burst into my head. I’ll die here.

The blinding light beam slipped down to glow into my eyes, as I was the only one of us who’d attempted to hide. I peeked at the man behind it.

It was him.

It was Darius Blecker.

His green eyes seemed to burst against his brown skin, and his thick brows furrowed as he studied each of us. Surprisingly, he was built--in shape for a pervert, at least. He wore a dark green t-shirt and paint-splattered jeans. He was bald, and his face was covered in dark spikes of heavy stubble.

He was a killer. I just knew it.

I coughed twice, trying to keep myself from gagging.

The flashlight turned away from me faster than I could blink, onto Blake, who stood next to me with a fearful-but-furious expression to offer the spotlight.

And then to Violet.

She stared blankly at Darius.

And he paused to look at her.

His voice was sudden and thunderous, his flashlight lingering on her as he screamed. “GET OUT OR I’LL CALL THE POLICE.”

Gavin zoomed out first and Ashley trampled behind her with Blake inches behind.

I leaped to my feet, unsure if Violet was in front or behind me, ashamed of myself for not caring. Darius Blecker remained behind us. I tumbled forward, scraping my arm on an unknown object in an open toolbox and feeling something sharp dig through my skin. I dragged it through my skin the faster I went, but it caught when it reached my wrist, halting my steps.

It had my bracelet.

I ripped my wrist forward, my bracelet tore and fell to the ground.

I ignored it, figuring a few strands of string were not worth it.

Relief fluttered through me when I soared out of the shed and caught up with Gavin, Ashley, and Blake in the truck.

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