I had always believed that I could handle anything that happened to me. That any disaster coming at me I could take with a strong face and pull through. I was stupid…so stupid. I remembered everything before right down to the T; the only problem is I didn’t remember anything after it…
Christmas Eve, 2015
“Chase hurry up, we aren’t getting any younger down here!” I groaned as I heard my step-mother call me from my sleep. I pulled the covers back from covering my head and turned to glance at my nightstand and my clock showing ten-thirty in the morning,
“Ugh…it’s too early.” I mumbled to myself; I wasn't that much of a morning person. With great adversity I got out of my bed and walked; like a slug, to the bathroom door which connects my room to my step-sister, Liz's room.
I grabbed the door and tried to turn it…locked, I damned Liz silently as I let out a low sigh. She must have already gotten in. I knocked, “Give me a minute!” Yeah, she was in, 'I don’t have time for this.' I thought to myself after I had taken a deep sigh. I headed down stairs to see if Brandon would let me use his. “Well, look who decided to grace the day with his presence.” I take another deep sigh after hearing the French-accented English of my step-mother.
“G’mornin’ Lori.” I said as I pretended not to be annoyed by her comment.
“What’s that?” She asked suddenly in a worried tone.
“What?” I asked, she pointed at my torso. 'Shit.' I wasn't wearing a shirt and I had a feeling I knew what she was looking at. I looked at what she’s pointing at and noticed a large bruise on my left side.
“Don’t what me Chase,” She said trying to sound stern, “what is that!?” I needed a quick one,
“It’s fine Lori.” I said, “I got a call from Sifu last night wanting me to to help him and some of the others down at the kwoon last night,” I explained, “We moved some things and when we finished Sifu had us spar a little bit, we kind of lost control and this happened, it’s no big, don’t worry.” I put in a smile to reassure her as she looked at me sternly for a moment then finally shook her head.
“I just wish you would be more careful.” She said turning away from me. 'Wait, she bought that? Even I thought that was a terrible excuse.' I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Don’t worry.” I said smiling.
Behind Lori, I looked and saw my youngest brother; Brandon, the little ass was smirking at the exchange between Lori and I. “Hey B, mind if I use your bathroom?” He opened his mouth to object but I beat him to it by saying, “Lizzie.” He didn’t want to, but the brown-eyed punk knew he had no choice.
I did my deed and stepped back out, and made my way back to the kitchen; where Brandon and Lori still were. “Wash your hands?” Lori asked,
“Of course,” I replied, 'note to self…' “anything on tap for today?”
“Well, your father and I need to get some last minute shopping done so we’re going
to the mall.” She said.
“Last minute shopping?” She nodded and Brandon smirked while he shook his head, “I suppose the fact that Michael had gotten a job down there has nothing to do with it?”
“No.” She said,
My brother; Michael, always had a hard time keeping a job, but dad going to his new one didn't seem like the thing to help to me, especially during Christmas time.
“Go get ready.” Lori’s voice snapped me from my thoughts.
“Alright, alright.” I said going back to the stairs,
“And please hurry Chase.”
“Hey! I don’t need to take any lip from a French midget.” I sped up the stairs to avoid her berating tone which I heard faintly from upstairs.
I got back to my room and started going through my drawers looking for clothes to wear. After I found some jeans, I heard my cell go off. I picked it up to check my caller I.D. Sifu, I thought to myself, 'Wonder what’s up?' “Ni hao Sifu.” I said as I answered my cell.
“Ni hao Chase me if you can.” I heard the so lightly accented English of my teacher that you would think there wasn't one if it was never pointed out to you. 'I really need to show him some different movies sometimes.' I thought,
“Something the matter Sifu?”
“No, I’m just callin’ to make sure you’re fine.” He replied, “Everything’s fine right?” I looked down to the bruise I had received.
“I’m still breathing,” I told him, “so I guess I’m fine.”
“You guess?” He asked,
“May have to get something because of a job I handled last night.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just got a little cocky and paid for it Sifu.” I replied with a laugh.
“I’m sure.” He said returning my chuckle with one of his, “Right, well I’ll see you later Chase.”
“Saigen.” And he hung up, leaving me with the dial tone.
I laughed as I began looking through my cell and saw a message from my mother asking me to call her later. I placed the phone back down on the drawer beside me while I grabbed for the shirt I had placed down on my bed while I was talking to Sifu.
My phone went off again. 'Hmm?' I checked the I.D. once again and it showed nothing and the sign was for a blocked number. 'Blocked number?' I left it to ring a few more times before I decided to answer. “Hello?”
“We gave you the chance to play ball boy,” Someone on the other line said, the voice was low, rough, “too late now.”
“Wait, what?” I asked, nothing was said. “Who is this?” The dial tone was the only reply I had received. Most normal people would’ve dismissed that call as a crank, but given my history and to those who know me, I doubt anyone would really call me normal.
“Chase!” That time it was my father who called me down. I rushed down the stairs in jeans, sneakers, a black tee and hoodie with a back-pack I had grabbed as I made my way out of my room. “Took long enough?” He looked me up and down; his eyes fell upon a back pack I had slung on my left shoulder, “What’s in that?”
“Just some things to keep me from getting bored while we’re down there.” I told him.
“Really?” I nodded, “Leave it.” He said,
“I said leave it Chase.” I couldn’t argue with him, my father was the Chief of Detectives for Stonehurst and he didn't get the position by being soft on people, least of all his children. I placed the bag on the table next to us, “Are you riding with us?” He asked, I shook my head,
“I think I’m just gonna follow you guys on my bike.” I replied as I walked by and grabbed a jacket from a closet; it got cold...really cold, he shook his head; the shake was in disapproval, because he always hated my bike. Mostly because I was the one who rode it. Always thought it would kill me as if anything else I’ve done wouldn’t have achieved the same effect.
It took me a few minutes to catch up to them, my bike was kind of slow to start, but once it started to go, it went like the devil himself was behind it.
Before we left, dad said we were heading to the Stone Crest Mall. Mike had told us that he had gotten a job there before. I was right in figuring my dad would judge Mike’s new job by the number of people there were in it this time of year. Kind of a flawed system but I never told him.
We all walked into the mall together once we all made sure we were all there, but after one foot was stepped in we all got separated; it reminded me why I hated holiday shopping. 'I think someone just grabbed my butt…' I thought, 'I don't know if I should find that awesome or creepy.' We all regrouped at the food court, more or less everyone was okay, at least from the way they looked. “Everyone okay?” Pops asked, we all nodded, “Good, now listen, Lori and I are going to finish the shopping we need, so we’re going to trust you all to behave understood?” Of course Brandon had something to say,
“Wow dad, establishing rules already.” He was trying to joke but dad never liked Brandon’s humor.
“Don’t start Brandon.” Pops said as he sternly locked eyes with Brandon.
“Pops, I’m just-!” I covered his mouth with my hand.
“You can trust us pops, don’t worry.” I said quickly. Dad didn’t take his eyes off of Brandon for a minute then nodded,
“Right, I’ll hold you to that Chase.” I nodded in agreement. 'Okay, out of eyesight.' I thought,
“OWW!” I yelled as I yanked my hand from Brandon’s mouth, a few people looked at us but that didn't change anything. “Why did you bite!?”
“Shut the hell up,” He said waving off my frustration, “you know what happens when you touch me. So quit’cha bitchin’.” He said smirking, I pushed him lightly,
“Get over yourself dipshit.” I turned to Liz who had been smiling at Brandon and I, “You have your phone?”
“I knew I forgot something.” She spoke like it was nothing. I shook my head,
“Why do I even ask anymore?” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell. “Here, take this and you’ll get a call from Brandon for you when it’s time to go okay?” She sighed and took it. 'Little ingrate.' I thought as she took off. I turned to see Brandon shaking his head,
“You’re stupid.” He said to me,
“Up yours, you look like a mop.” I replied, “Let’s go see Mike.”
“That’s why pops is really here for.” I stated
“How do you know?”
“They’ve already finished the shopping a long time ago.” I said as I began to walk off with him following me.
“Really?” He quickly caught up to me. I nodded, “Did I-?”
“Yes, you got the shoes.” He tried to hide the smile he had,
“That’s what’s up.” He said as he followed my lead.
It took a few minutes to find Mike’s work; all I knew was that the name had the word exotic in it. We found a place with the store name, James’s Exotic Pets. It was a weird hole in the wall of a place. From what I could tell it looked like a regular pet shop, just with a bit too many fish. “Mike works here?” Brandon asked pointing to the entrance.
“Only one way to find out.” I replied walking in, Brandon followed straight after.
'Decent sized crowd,' I thought, 'might look good when dad comes in.' We walked up to the register where a man in his late forties, early fifties with a friggin’ ponytail stood. “Can I help you boys?” He asked in a deep and somehow at the same time grating voice. I took this one,
“Yes, we’re actually looking for a present for the family,” I told him, “You think we could get some help?”
“Here I’ll have someone come over right now.” He looked past us around the place before he started calling someone over, “Marquez, get over here. Need you to give some people a hand.” Someone came up behind us and Brandon and I began to smile,
“What do you need boss?”
“Could you assist these two please?” We both turned around and saw Mike. He wore a bright orange smock over his white polo shirt and beige khakis. He cut his black hair a bit shorter and took out his ear piercings, which I was glad about personally they looked so stupid. What set us off was the tag on his smock with a little cartoon puppy that said, “Sorry, I’m a pup.” He went bug-eyed when he saw us,
“Could you, help us please?” I asked with a faux-innocent tone in my voice,
“Yeah, we're leaving ourselves in your capable hands 'pup'.” Brandon added with a toothy smile, Brandon and I could barely contain our smirks and our desire to laugh wildly at our brother's position. 'We’ll probably get it later but this is totally worth it.' I thought.
Mike told us he was going to try and pull an early lunch break, but had some stuff to finish first. He told Brandon and I to wait outside which we had no problem with. I leaned against a wall while Brandon paced back and forth here and there, “Daaamn.” Brandon said. I looked up and saw that he was looking at a group of girls who had walked by, I had only seen their backs but given Brandon's reaction I'm sure they looked good. “You see that Chase?” He asked, I just shook my head and chuckled before I began to look around. Brandon shook his head this time, “What’s wrong with you man?” He asked,
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t talk to any girls, never had a girlfriend, hell you don’t even look at any girls!” Brandon explained.
“That’s not true.” I said, “Remember Camilla?”
“One: you guys didn’t even go out for a day, two: She was crazy.” He said, I just shook my head, “Why don’t you try to get with any girls man?”
“Hey, let’s just get off this topic okay man?”
“I don’t want to bust you chops Chase but-“
“Then don’t.” I snapped.
“Just tell me one thing.” He said, “Are you gay?” I just looked at him and wondered where he would possibly get that idea. “Okay, okay fine, then why?”
“I’m in college, I’m working, living out of the house, and I just don’t have the time.”
Two more girls walked by and he turned his head to watch them. “You should make time.” He said turning back to me. I wanted to rebut but I was stopped by the sudden feeling of chills which ran down my back. I began to look around quickly, and Brandon quirked his eye brow at this. “What’s up Chase?” He asked. 'That call…?' I wondered to myself. “Chase.” Brandon said slightly louder, I turned quickly,
“Huh?! Oh, sorry man.” I tried to relax,
“What's wrong man?” Brandon asked. I just shook my head,
B, look there’s Mike.” I said pointing to Mike as he stepped out
of the store sans smock. Brandon and I walked over to him and we all
“So dad came down here to check on me huh?” Mike asked,
“That’s what Chase said.” Brandon answered, “More than likely Lori's idea.” He added, “Right Chase?” He asked, “…Chase?” I wasn’t paying attention to what Brandon was saying, that damn chill came was bothering me.
“Chase!” This time Mike called my name out, I jumped slightly,
“Huh? What?” I asked
“Damn Chase,” Mike said, “What’s goin’ on with you?”
“Yeah, you’re acting weird,” Brandon said, “even by your standards.” he added.
“Oh, yeah…guess I’m just tired.” I answered,
“From what?” Brandon asked, “You’re in bed before any of us.”
“Who says I’m actually sleeping though?” 'CRAP!' “How’s Terry doin’ Mikey?” I asked too quickly but I had to change the subject before anyone could ask any questions about the last thing I said.
“He’s good,” He replied, “Getting testy here and there but I’m sure it will pass.” As he said that, anyone who heard that would find it easy to tell that Mike was a relatively new father. His son; Terry, had just turned two. Cute kid, but has nasty temper. Definitely a Marquez, despite how his mother kept trying to change that.
We walked around for a bit, just lookin’ around and talking about anything we can think of; well they do anyway. The chill kept getting worse. “Ain’t Cam supposed to come down this year?” Brandon asked,
“Last I heard.” I replied. Cam was our French step-brother, his real name was Cameron. Lived with his father in France during the year, but came down every other year or so. The only reason he does though is for the friggin’ jail bait he paraded around as his girlfriend that he met during the summer a while back. It was even more stupid than people thought, but no one said anything about it. His mother had a nasty habit of being a mama-bear when it came to her kids.
“I just hope he doesn’t do anything stupid.” Mike and Brandon looked at me like I had said Satan was married to Big-Foot, “What, there’s always hope ain’t there?”
“Not for that friggin’ boy.” Brandon laughed, “Friggin’ Frenchies.” We all chuckled a bit at that.
“So level with me Chase,” Mike said after Brandon had left for the bathroom, “you look like someone who just saw a ghost man.” I shook my head,
“I’m fine Mike.” I was lying of course. “Just…a little on edge I guess.”
“Well try and tell me.” He said, “What’s going on?” I hesitated, I honestly don't know what I could've told him.
“Well…” I said, “I just got this weird feeling like…I'm standing on some edge you know?” He looked at me strangely, I couldn’t blame him. I knew that sounded crazy. I didn't even think anyone had ever said that before but I just let it out.
He and I were quiet, and he just looked at me as I leaned forward on the railing. I wanted to avoid his eyes so I turned and leaned backwards. 'Maybe I talk too much,' I thought to myself, 'maybe…'
'What the hell?!' People began to scream. “Was that what I think it was?” I asked Mike looking to where the sound came from,
“I hope not.” He said, I felt his hand on my shoulder, but it didn't last long. I bolted towards the sound, “Chase?!” He yelled after me, but I didn’t stop, I couldn’t have stopped then.
I basically followed the way people were running from. 'This is why I hate stores during the holidays.' I thought frustrated. I ran until I saw a small group of people, they were all surrounding something. From up there I could see it was a woman on the ground…blood had pooled on the ground.
'Why did this-?' I didn't finish my thought; I didn’t have to think too hard about what was going on and honestly hoped I was wrong. Without thinking I ran down to the ground floor. I needed to be down there. I got down there and stopped possibly a dozen yards away from the body; a decorative fountain was in front of me, it worried me that a group of people surrounded the body. 'Where are you?' I thought; there were too many people. If the shooter was stupid enough to still be in there, he was, at least, smart enough to hide himself well.
“Chase!” I was spun around by someone who grabbed my shoulder, it was Mike, “What the hell’s wrong with you?!” He yelled,
“Mike, I can’t explain right now.” I said turning back around to see if I could find the shooter.
“Forget explaining,” He said, “we need to get the hell out of here now Chase!” He told me as he grabbed at my shoulder again.
“Listen Mike, I…” I said as I pushed his hand off my shoulder, 'What can I say?' “You have your phone right?”
“Call dad, don’t ask questions,” I told him, “just call dad.” He opened his mouth to object,
“GET DOWN!” I yelled pushing him to the ground and ducking to the side myself.
I hid behind one of the ends of the decorative fountain; I had pushed Mike before myself to land on the other side. The panic started again and they ran by, I looked at Mike quickly, he’s frightened…so was I. 'DAMNIT! WHY DIDN’T I BRING THE BAG!?' I began feeling around myself in a vain effort to find something I hoped I could have used. 'I know I have something…somewhere…' I thought to myself, 'C'MON!'
“Chase!” Mike yelled from his place on the other side of the fountain, “C’mon we got to go!” I didn’t listen.
'Too many people,' I thought, 'I didn’t even bring my spares, stupid!'
Mike was still yelling that we had to go, but I didn't pay any attention. I peeked my head over the base of the fountain, the crowd had gotten smaller, some had ran and others hit the floor in hopes that they weren't the next one to catch a bullet. There was one that didn't run though…it was a man from the size of him, he didn’t run, he didn’t even seem phased by the event happening around us. He looked directly at me. 'HIM!'
'This isn't a random shooting.' I said to myself, 'This guy was waiting for me, he shot at me, he shot that woman to get me in the open…why?' I didn’t have the time to focus on that, “Aviator shades, right handed, revolver? Why would he…?” I silently made notes on the shooter, “He is…not looking at me anymore?”
“Chase!” 'BRANDON!?' I turned my head and saw Brandon running towards me.
“BRANDON, GET AWAY FROM HERE!” I yelled, he never listened to me,
“BRANDON HE’S RIGHT THERE!” He didn’t hear me, there was another bang and it drowned me out…
Brandon stopped running and fell to the ground, 'Please god....NO!' he brought his head up to look at his chest, I turned back to see the shooter, he was already making a break for it and I had a choice to make.
Brandon was on the ground and I ran to his side with Mike hot on my heels. “NO, NO, NO! MIKE, GET DAD NOW!” I didn’t have to tell him twice. “Brandon, you’re okay, okay?” I held my hands onto the wound and applied pressure. “You’ll be fine, dad’s on his way.” I said,
“C’mon, keep quiet, you’ll be fine.” I said to him fighting back the tears.
'Please god no…'
“Chase…I-I’m cold man…”
“How?” I ask biting myself to fight back the tears, “You’re wearing more than one shirt…with a hoodie no less.” I said to him as I tried desperately to fight back what was no doubt the inevitable, keeping pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding…
“Chase…What's little Saigon man?” He asked,
“Wh-what are you talking about?” 'Where'd you hear about that?'
“I-I love you g-.” He stops talking, I shook him hard,
“Brandon? No, Brandon c’mon.” I said, “No, don’t do this to me B…Don’t do this.” I felt it too at that point, the cold he felt… “BRANDON, YOU SON OF A BITCH! DON’T DO THIS TO ME!”