Authors: Ryne Douglas Pearson
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Thrillers, #Suspense & Thrillers
All For One
Ryne Douglas Pearson
Published By Schmuck & Underwood
© 2010 Ryne Douglas Pearson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the author, except for brief passages used for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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This is a second novel that I wrote between others that were published in the nineties. Once again, it was ‘out of my genre’, and fell by the wayside as I wrote another novel with FBI agents and serial killers and shootouts for my publisher. As such, it has existed only on my hard drive.
The landscape you will notice is mid-nineties, with an appalling lack of cell phones and filled with strange things called ‘calling cards’. I could have updated the text and excised the past, filling the holes with pop culture references that would resonate today. But I don’t want to. This story exists in that time. And so it will stay there.
Ryne Douglas Pearson, September 2010
Table Of Contents
One Dead Bully
Joey Travers, president of Miss Austin’s sixth grade class at Windhaven Elementary School, stood from where he had knelt next to Guy Edmond. The blood-smeared bat was in his hands.
Four sets of eyes followed his rise, all but Elena Markworth’s, her usually reluctant gaze fixed fully upon the crimson pool spreading on the asphalt beneath her tormentor’s creviced head.
“If we stick to the story,” Joey began, fingers curling around the slick wood handle, tips pressing hard on the grain, “then no one will get into trouble. Everything will be all right. Just like it used to be.”
The stares did not doubt him. They wanted to believe him.
“You’re sure he didn’t see who it was?” Bryce Hool asked, his glasses sliding low on his nose. He pushed them up with a single finger.
“I’m sure,” Joey confirmed, and held the bat out to the class treasurer. “Here.”
“There’s blood on it,” Bryce protested.
“Only at the top,” Joey assured him, and Bryce took the bat and squeezed his hands where Joey had.
Michael Prentiss, the class sergeant at arms, watched Bryce turn toward him, bat held tip to the gray morning sky, in front as a knight might present his sword reverently to a king.
“Take it,” Joey prompted.
Michael did, grasping the Louisville Slugger as he did in little league, testing its heft, staring at the sweet spot stained the color of a cherry Slurpee. After a moment his eyes drifted down to the bully lying outside their classroom, and over the one visible hand which reached for the mouth unnaturally, as a baby might when trying to suck its fingers. He knew that hand, and the one he could not see, mostly as fists, and he remembered the black eye, and going to the principal’s office because he had fought back, and he thought how glad he was that Guy Edmond was not going to be able to use those fists this day, those sharp-knuckled pile drivers that belonged at Bidwell Junior High and not in Miss Austin’s class.
Guy deserved a lot. A whole lot, Michael truly believed. But something made him wonder if he deserved what had just been dealt him. He thought on that and flexed his fingers on the bat, the backward ‘S’ shape of Guy Edmond’s still and frightful form holding him rapt, and for a reason he did not quite understand his lower lip grew prominent and began to quiver. An uncomfortable warmth drained over his eyes.
“Here,” Michael said, shoving the bat at Paula Jean Allenton and turning away.
“All right,” Paula Jean, PJ to all but her mother, took the bat lest it be dropped in Michael’s haste to be rid of it, and added her own fingerprints to the handle. She studied it up and down, holding it far from her body as the early fall breeze picked up her loose brown hair and swept it across her face. “What about higher?”
“Higher where?” Joey asked as he tucked the loose tail of his shirt back into his pants.
“On the bat. Should we touch it where it gets fatter?”
Joey’s trim, gonna-be-a-lady-killer-someday face shook slightly. “Where you’ve got it is fine.”
PJ, the class vice-president, nodded and put force into her grip, like she did when her younger brother got stupid and needed a pinch to remind him who was the boss of the bedroom they shared. Then, like Michael, she looked at Guy Edmond’s motionless, lanky body, but she did not recoil, and she did not let emotion overwhelm her. No, she thought instead of how much she would like to lift the bat high in the air and bring it down onto Guy’s back, again and again, beating him until she could hear bones snap, until she felt like she’d gotten some payback for all that he’d done to her and her friends. He’d almost ruined everything in Miss Austin’s class, the best class PJ had ever been in. The best class any of them had ever been in.
But they weren’t going to let him ruin anything ever again.
“Chocolate chip,” PJ muttered quietly as her stare simmered on Guy. “Lemon pecan. Peanut but—”
“PJ?” Joey said.
Her eyes snapped up, her quiet mantra interrupted. “Yeah?”
“You’re okay, right?”
“I’m okay,” PJ answered, silently glad that he had asked. That meant he probably cared. Maybe even liked her. Maybe.
“Jeff, your turn,” Joey said.
Only one hand came up, the other held immobile against Jeff Bernstein’s chest in a cast of plaster and a blue sling. “My left hand still won’t open.”
“Just use your right,” Joey said, and looked up and down the walkway that ran between the bungalows and Windhaven’s ivy-covered back fence. There was still no one in sight, but that would change when the bell that ended recess rang. He looked at his watch, a birthday gift his dad had sent from Florida. They had ten minutes. “Hurry.”
Jeff, the class secretary, used all the strength of his off hand to take the bat from PJ, his face twisting into a grimace, pale fingers wrapping the handle. “It’s heavy.”
As the bat began to teeter in Jeff’s hand, Joey looked to Elena. “Take the bat.”
The shy brown eyes did not move, but one of Elena’s hands came up and wiped a moist spot from her cheek. She pulled the hand away, moving it into her seemingly frozen field of vision. A bright red streak cut a diagonal swath across her small palm.
“PJ, clean it off her,” Joey said, and his vice president spit on a piece of tissue retrieved from the pocket of her jeans and wiped Elena’s hands first, then her face.
“How’s that?” PJ asked.
“Good,” Joey said after a cursory look. “Dry her hands.”
PJ held both of Elena’s hands palms up and thought briefly, then guided them to the sides of the green skirt the nearly catatonic girl wore and rubbed them against the material until they were dry.
Minding the puddling blood, Joey moved to where Elena stood against the rough stucco wall of the bungalow. He was taller than her by at least four inches, and bent slightly forward to see past the hair framing her downcast face. “Elena?”
Short, erratic puffs of air tossed her chest out and pulled it back in a sob-like rhythm. But there were no tears. Her face was dry, as dry as her expression, as barren as her gaze.
“You’ve got to do this,” Joey said, trying to keep a calm voice. “You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to hold the bat.”
A visible bulge rolled slowly down Elena’s throat.
“Don’t let him mess everything up,” Joey urged her, gently, though the dwindling time might change that very soon.
“He picked on you more than any of us,” Bryce added.
The bat began to tilt precariously in Jeff’s hand. “Someone take it.”
Joey reached past Elena for the bat, but two hands clamped around its base before his. Two small hands suddenly filled with strength. When Joey let his grip go slack he swore he heard Elena’s knuckles cracking as her fingers kneaded the handle.
“Elena?” PJ said, watching the wide eyes come up from Guy and settle upon the glorified stick.
The quietness that walled Elena Markworth in normal times was reluctant to give back what it had seized in this very unusual time, but slowly she looked away from the bat to PJ and said, “Please don’t tell my father...”
With Michael still turned away, Joey exchanged worried glances with the others before gingerly taking the bat from Elena. Her expression melted as the cool wood left her hands, eyes going half closed, noncommittal mouth sagging at the corners, and breaths slowing. She turned her palms face up, examined them through glistening eyes, and pressed both against her face as real sobs racked her entire body. She took a half step toward PJ and collapsed into the bigger girl’s arms.
“Joey, she’s not going to hold up,” Jeff commented direly.
“Yes she is!” PJ snapped back. Her arms held Elena close, head tucked sideways into the crook of her neck.
“It’s all right,” PJ said, comforting Elena as the others watched, rubbing circles on her back, wondering if she was doing this right. It was what her mother did for her little brother when he scraped his knee, or got stung by a bee, or whenever he found some reason to bawl his eyes out over some silly little thing. But this was no silly little thing.
Elena’s eyes flicked open and stared through tears at the body. “He...he...he...”
The sputter of words collapsed into sobs once again before the revelation was complete, but they all knew what had happened. Knew without a doubt.
Now all they had to do was forget.
“Elena,” Joey said. “You’re going to do this, right?”
“Joey...” PJ challenged protectively.
“We’re running out of time,” Joey said.
Bryce looked at his watch. “Six minutes.”
With a swipe of his sleeve across his upper lip, Michael faced the group once again. “We gotta hurry.”
“Elena?” Joey said again.
“She can do it,” PJ answered for her.
A cheer rose from the ball field on the opposite side of the building. Someone had just scored in kickball.