I can’t move.
And I won’t move.
And I won’t.
I cannot tell if my ears are ringing or if I am screaming.
It was just one crack. One. And now the man’s been dead for at least two minutes.
But I can’t move. And I won’t move.
Violet seems to have put herself on pause for once in her life, I can feel her eyes glued onto my quaking hands as I watched Darius Blecker’s body bleed out and cool, transforming into a stone.
What have I done? How could I move? I have taken someone’s life. I have played God. Chosen when someone else dies. For Violet Wren.
The single crack of the gun still remains in my ears, an echo or a memory, and tears stream from my eyes uncontrollably. I still don’t understand why I’m crying for him.
He deserved to die.
So, am I crying for myself?
The gun clatters from my hands to the floor, the crash echoing through the first floor of the house. The only light is given by the brilliant moon from out of Darius’ screen door to his backyard. It shines on his blood, streaming from his side. I aimed for his chest: that would’ve made it fast, a relief for both of us. But he was a rapist and a killer. I supposed he deserved a slow and painful death. Of course, my hands were too shaky to agree with my attempt, sticking a single bullet in the bottom right of his torso. And he didn’t die instantly. The sound of his gags to live were terrible and sickening, I remember as I watch his statue, and I had to hear what I’ve done as well as see it.
Darius and I both deserved what we were given.
He had the torturous death. I had to hear it.
I can’t move. And I won’t move.
A ghost-white hand with long fingers strokes my shoulder, and I swat it away automatically. “I hate you. I hate you. I fucking hate you,” I whisper over my sobs, not having to take my eyes of off Darius’ empty, dead open eyes to know who’s behind me.
Violet Perfect Wren.
Perfect. The fact that I even used to think of her that way makes me gag.
I kneel and my head tilts down, an ugly sound forcing itself up my throat. Hopelessly, I vomit the very little food I’ve eaten today until my throat stings, smelling the rusty scent of the blood shooting off of Darius’ body. His glassy eyes remain at the wooden floor where the moonlight first hits his living room.
“Hayden, pull yourself together. You need to help me clean up this mess,” Violet hisses in my ear with the same voice that used to hypnotize everyone who heard it. Now it was the sound of death in my ears. A few strands of her blonde hair hang wavy in my eyes. Her eyes flick to my vomit in front of me disgustedly. “You take care of that. I’ll start wiping down everything that might have our prints on it.”
I look at my pale, bony fingers in front of me, practically feeling all of the DNA crawling on me, promising a lifetime in jail, if not ten years or so and a lifetime of dead-weight guilt.
“Pull myself together,” I repeat sickly. “You’re crazy. I swear to God, you’re crazy. I just--I just killed somebody. Do you not understand that? I just killed somebody. I just killed somebody. Get your hands off of me. Don’t touch me.” I have been unaware of my ability to cuss as much as I have tonight, the words just sliding off my tongue over and over again. My skin is burning with rage and shock, exposed to what I am truly capable of.
Violet’s hand slides off my shoulder to her hip. “He deserved to die,” she reminds me, rising and patting her knees.
“How are you taking care of all this blood?” I blurt, my eyes falling on the red pool across from me. “There’s so much blood. Too much blood. What do we do? What do we do, Violet? Do we just leave him here? How the hell do you pull off a murder? I don’t know what to do!”
The human body contains so much more blood than you probably think.
She strides in front of my face, grasps my chin and tilts it, forcing me to look at her ugly beautiful face. “Listen to me,” she insists through gritted teeth. “He deserved to die. Darius Blecker deserved to die. You just did Dana, Samara, and the rest of the world a favor. He deserved to die. Say it with me. Darius Blecker deserved to die.”
My lip quivers as I gaze at the way her mouth moves when she says those words. “D-Darius Blecker d-deserved to die,” I copy her. We say it together. “Darius B-Blecker deserved to die.”
She nods her head, her eyes suddenly gentle. “Darius Blecker deserved to die.”
“Darius Blecker deserved to die.” I take one last glance at the cold body across from me, examining his glassy eyes glinting moonlight.
Darius Blecker deserved to die.
Yes, I’ve always agreed with Violet. Darius Blecker deserved to die.
Violet’s reminder has visited my head daily since then. He deserved to die. And I do not deserve to be behind bars. I know that.
“Darius Blecker court trial 2014.”
I know the basics of Dana’s case, or at least what Violet told me. Even so, my fingertips tingle with power as I wait. See if Darius’ attorney would even be willing to defend me. Picking up a few strategies, at least, would be useful.
I click on the first article listed.
The Baltimore Sun, 11/09/14 at 5:56 pm.
Dana Farr Case Concludes with No Convictions Against Darius Blecker.
Last Friday, forty-two-year-old Darius Blecker, accused in the rape and murder of twelve-year-old Dana Farr, had all charges against him dropped. Believe it or not, one of the highest-profile criminal cases in the history of Baltimore with no convictions has ended....
I shut the laptop immediately, my back straightening enthusiastically. My eyes dart to my slightly ajar door and my mother stands in the opening. She’s wearing her two-hundred-something-dollar Bonsoir Silk pajamas my father had gifted her last April for their anniversary, which practically makes me groan. I’m still in my band camp t-shirt and gym shorts I wore to bed last night, and she makes me feel under-dressed in my own home at eight in the morning.
“Hi, er, Mom,“--still not sure about that “parental titles” thing, especially for her.
She looks unusual without her make-up on, her normally shiny red lips faded into a pale pink, her eyelashes about half the length they are when she goes to work. Her dark hair, however, still bounces with yesterday’s curling iron job, a few strands askew here and there. She purses her lips and crosses her arms, raising her thin eyebrows. “What’s on your computer?”
“Nothing,” I answer immediately, knowing that my poker face completely disappeared since last night. I move my arm subtly onto the cover of the laptop, hoping I will scratch any inspiration she may have to open it.
“Really, then why did you slam it shut as soon as I walked in the room? Why are you all jumpy?” she tests, perching her foot against the opposite leg as she leans against the door frame.
I stretch my arms. “No reason. You just scared me, that’s all.”
Go ahead, ask me how the questioning went.
She narrows her eyes for a moment, then breaks eye contact. A habit of hers lately. “Right. Hey, do you still talk to that boy in band, the one who took you to the freshman dance last year? What’s his name? Charlie?”
“Chris,” I sigh, thankful for her desire for casual conversation.
Mom has spent the summer thus far grilling me with the same routine questions that included “Do you still talk to Chris? Why don’t you see if he’ll go see a movie with you?” and “When’s the last time you went to the mall with Lauren and Erin?” or even once, “So that’s it. Samara’s dead and so you can’t have friends anymore?”
I wish it was like that. I wish I could pick up everything where it left off before I got that text from a number that wasn’t in my contacts, telling me to be in my driveway by eleven at night. I just don’t belong with Lauren’s crowd anymore. I shouldn’t even try asking Chris out, I haven’t thought about him in that context since late May, before I met Blake. I used to be a teenager who fit in with the loud band crowd. I used to be a kid who played flute in the second chair from the conductor with grades only a step behind Tyler’s. Now I don’t belong there.
Calling Chris or Lauren, it would be a joke. And my mother knows that. She only likes to think that since the first week of June, I haven’t been seen by everyone as some weird emotional freak who’s too attached to a girl I “didn’t even know.” She likes to pretend I won’t be a psycho murderer to them once they find out I was called in for questioning last night.
Even so, her eyes light up, like she had been convinced I can’t bear to say the names of the people I’ve dropped since I discovered the wonderful world of Violet Wren. “Ah, him. Yes. You haven’t left the house since school ended. Do you still talk to Chris?”
I almost snicker at the question. “No.”
“Why not?” she asks innocently.
I roll my eyes, hugging a knee to my chest. “Mom, seriously? Have you forgotten where I was last night? I can’t talk to anyone right now.”
Her mouth straightens into a cool frown and her arms tighten. “No one needs to know about that. No one will know about that. Your father’s...taking care of it. You didn’t kill Darius Blecker, we both know that. It will disappear right before your very eyes. And once it’s gone, you’ll need friends to continue high school, right? This is a minor setback. You’ll be back where you were in no time.”
Main difference between my mom and dad: my mom isn’t afraid to answer the million-dollar question for me, let alone ask it.
But I know it’d be a bad idea to protest if I want to make any “eye contact” progress at all, so all I say is a generic “Maybe next week.”
If I’m not on trial by then.
But I won’t add that.
Mom finally works up the nerve to glance at me again, and her teeth are almost clenched. “Hayden. You’re not even trying to make this work for us.”
I shake my head. “I-I’m not doing this right now. I have summer reading to do.”
Just like I had “summer reading” to “get ahead” before school even ended the week Darius Blecker was shot.
I hope she doesn’t notice my shudder.
She glares at me for a moment before leaving the doorway striding into my room. “What’s on your computer?” she asks again, her brows raising impatiently. She inches closer to me, her arms crossed.
“Nothing,” I repeat, my eyes shifting off to the side. “Nothing. I was, er, looking up SAT requirements for...Columbia.” My arm slides further on the top of the computer, my legs stretched out in front of me.
Mom pushes her curls behind her ears and squints at my computer, a bit more confident when she walks behind me, kneeling over my shoulder. “Let me see. I went to Cornell, which has the highest acceptance rate of all the Ivy Leagues. Not my proudest achievement, but maybe if you bring your average up about ten points, you’ll have a shot at Columbia. I didn’t know you liked New York City. Maybe I can help you get in.”
Her voice sways secretively, like she knows I haven’t given a crap about college since Samara died.
I gulp and nod my head. I haven’t been to New York in years, and I have no idea if that’s where I’ll fit in. Tyler toured Columbia when he was about sixteen, I was dragged along on that trip, and it looked like freaking Hogwarts smack-dab in the middle of the slum of Manhattan.
Me, a student at Columbia. Ha!
Carefully, I unfold the laptop, flinching when the article on Darius Blecker flashes onto the screen. I bend my knees a little, blocking her view of the monitor as much as I can, thankful for the sun, brilliant through the unclouded window behind me and brightening the screen annoyingly.
It doesn’t do the trick.
“Dana Farr? What’s that?” she peers at The Baltimore Sun article almost instantly. Her long fingers grasp the computer from my lap before I can push her away. Hopelessly, I catch the first few words of the next paragraph.
Baltimore State Attorney, Pa
My eyes follow the screen as the laptop’s moved to Mom’s lap, but the glow of the sun blazes against the screen and I can’t see it. I narrow my eyes, pulling it back from her. “Wait!”
She only snatches it further away, ignoring my pleads. “Darius Blecker? Hayden, the police can look at your internet search history if they get a warrant. You need to show little interest in the man! Don’t you listen to your father at all? Samara, in the police’s eyes, was nothing to you. Same with this Dana. You need to keep it that way.” My mother kicks up from her position and comes to a stand clutching my laptop, and I finally look her in the eyes. I hardly recognize her. Her eyes are furious, her brows are scrunched together, her curly hair makes her look mad.
I choke up my words still perched on the floor and reaching for the laptop desperately. “M-Mom, it’s not--”
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
“No, Hayden. I’m not dealing with this. I’m not letting you make a stupid mistake so you can land yourself in...oh God, I don’t even want to say it.” When she steals one last distressed glare at the article, I hop up and attempt to snatch it from her, despite her being about five inches taller than me. Her eyes bug out as they skim through the words, and she slams the laptop closed and scowls at me, wide-eyed. Her voice is suddenly a tight-lipped hiss. “What did you read of this?”
I try to return the intensity of her gaze, fail. “Nothing! Just the first paragraph!”
She focuses on the screen once more and her bottom lip slides out, her eyebrows sloping inwards with anger. She grasps the laptop firmly until her knuckles turn pale. Suddenly, she flings the laptop so the cover swings open, offering me one last blurry glimpse at Darius Blecker’s 2014 court trial. My computer smashes into my dresser, keys flying in every direction.
My mother then attempts to straighten her back, but leaves a slight bend in her long spine. Her breath is long and anguished, but I just wobble beside her, dumbfounded.
The article dissolves into a plain blue screen, and my laptop is shattered on my bedroom floor.
* * *
It’s just before ten when there’s a knock at the door.
My father is doing paperwork in his office room across the hall, and my mother has gone to bed after her day of “stress.”
Tyler has withstood being in the same room as me for the past hour, his long body stretched out on the living room couch as he flips through A Murder Is Announced, one of the required books on my reading list that I haven’t done so much as study the cover of. He barely twitches at the pound, while my legs spring off the couch and I slam Hate List beside me on the coffee table, hurrying to the entrance of my house.
It can’t be Blake again, I remind myself. Violet wouldn’t be caught dead at my house out of fear of the investigation.
Before I can inch closer to the door, my father stands confident behind it, still in his work attire. He achieves only a nod in my direction before he pulls the door open carefully.
I stand behind him and use him as a shield.
Romano and Garcia are on the other side of the door, a pair handcuffs secure in Garcia’s steady hands. Red and blue lights flash behind him in my driveway. Romano’s dark features lower at the sight of my father, and he lets out a small breath before speaking. He peeks further in the doorway, catching my eye.
I flinch, almost falling backward.
My father only takes a glimpse at me, needless of the duo having to explain themselves to him. He gestures me forward, and I stumble in front of him.
Garcia’s voice is heavy, dark bags lingering below his eyes. “Hayden Otley.” He invites himself in the doorway, and I turn around automatically, watching my sight fog against tears.
He shoves my hands behind my back, pinching handcuffs around my wrists. I blanch.
“You’re under arrest for the murder of Darius Blecker. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the state.”