Authors: Matt Juhl
THE STRAIGHT CRIMES
Copyright © 201
3 Matt Juhl
All rights reserved.
As the unrelenting waves crash through the violent storm,
I’ll be the one reaching for you.
Follow my soft, st
eady glow, shining
hrough the blackness—guiding you to shore.
It will always bring you home.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Andrea Perrin, my amazing friend, for your insight and encouragement along the way.
My graphic designer, Angie Zambrano, for front and back cover design.
Pacina Moreland, my editor and friend, for your hard work and enthusiasm. It’s reassuring to know there are people like you in the world.
My mom, dad, and siblings for always supporting my creative endeavors—no matter how ambitious they are.
And my husband, Art, for patiently waiting by my side through this journey and always believing in me. We can breathe—it’s finally complete!
ik Roberts knew he was going to die. The premonitions plagued his mind like some sadistic torture. Whether he was lying down to sleep at night or merely going through the motions of his bleak existence, he couldn't shake the perpetual torment.
Before he woke that morning, he was revisited by the same recurring nightmare…
A maniacal force was hot on his trail with the fury of a thousand men. Fear coursed through his blood as he dashed for his life. He was short of breath, racing through the blackness and a ravishing storm.
Each time before he woke, he was gunned down by cold steel and left for dead. Even in his dreamlike state, Nik could feel the cold, harsh winds scrape across his frozen flesh. He could hear the winter storm howling and declaring victory over his tormented soul.
And just before he drew his last breath of life, Nik would wake up or snap out of the dream—
just like he had at that very moment.
He wasn't sure if these were normal dreams for an eighteen year old guy. Then again, he was anything but normal…
Nik rubbed his bright green eyes and anxiously peered around the classroom, certain that his olive-toned skin had grown inexplicably pale. The nightmares were truly beginning to devour his reality.
It was highly unusual for him to lose focus in English class, mainly because his only passion was writing. However, it happened to be the very last day of his junior year, and he’d already been targeted for an attack.
At that very moment, he felt the heated glare of his tormentor, Ricky Wiley, scorching through his skin like a laser beam. Nervous sweat collected in Nik’s armpits and dripped down his flawless face.
As carefully as he could, Nik glanced in Ricky’s direction—curious if he was still hovering like a hawk.
Sure enough, the bully’s yellow eyes flashed malevolence. He was a tenacious beast, waiting to pounce at his target.
Nik hadn’t known much about Ricky, aside from the fact that he had a volcanic temper and took sadistic pleasure in causing misery. No one ever stood up to him, mainly because they couldn’t. He towered over everyone like a giant.
For Nik, that was reason enough not to challenge the guy. He’d already been living in fear of Ricky for months, since they had a minor scuffle. After that, he learned never to roll his eyes at the monster. Although the marks and scrapes faded, the emotional fear scarred him. Its intensity was reminiscent of his broken home life.
Between Ricky’s ferocious temper and his dad’s fists—Nik didn’t stand a chance anywhere.
Although he couldn’t escape his family, Nik had done exceptionally well at evading Ricky’s path, until that very morning when he had accidently bumped into the bully. Apparently, such a small incident was unforgivable in Ricky’s eyes, which for Nik meant one thing—Ricky would be waiting for him, like a starving vulture, behind the dumpster when school ended. It was his signature attack.
Nik tried to regulate his breathing. The beads of perspiration swelled at his temples while he wiped his cheeks and smoothed back his short, black hair. The dampness ran down his back, and his stomach churned in agony.
Meanwhile, Ms. Glore messed with her ratty white hair and continued to babble on about their final essays. Her dulcet tone dragged down the entire mood of the students, the same way her sagging breasts had succumbed to the laws of gravity. The woman was well-intentioned, but incredibly old fashioned, and by most standards—a total mess.
Suddenly, a thundering knock blasted on the door and startled the entire class.
“Who could that be?” Ms. Glore excused herself and stepped into the hall.
Then Ricky leaned in Nik’s direction.
Judging by the aggressive position of his body, Nik wasn’t sure if the guy was going to tackle him or kiss him. Either way, the advances were unsolicited.
Ms. Glore’s lanky body glided back into the room.
Trailing behind the withered teacher was a young, ravishing beauty. She was a stranger, but caught everyone’s attention—especially Nik’s. He was instantly captivated.
Her reddish-blonde hair glistened in the dull, afternoon sun, bringing a breath of fresh air into the room.
"It appears we have a new student joining our class.”
"What kind of loser starts school on the last day?” Daisy Holloway, one of the other bullies, howled from the back of the room. She sat back in satisfaction while sharpening her cherry-colored claws.
Daisy was the ice princess of Silver Shores High: popular, tightly toned, and seemingly perfect. She was the kind of girl that everyone loved, hated, or feared.
Nik couldn’t afford a second adversary. Instead of expressing his contempt for her, he secretly wished for the day that the world would turn cold on Daisy, cursing her with love handles and a spouse who’d leave her for someone better.
"That's enough, Miss Holloway." Ms. Glore glared down as she pushed her glasses back. "Everyone, this is Harper Jones.”
Most of the class let out an unenthusiastic welcome in a low, checked-out murmur.
"I must admit it’s slightly unorthodox for a student to join so late in the year, but please, tell us a little about you."
The stranger straightened her back and nervously sighed. “Y'all know my name's Harper. I was born here in Silver Shores, but we left when I was real young. I’ve been livin’ in Fire Brush, Louisiana with Mama ever since. We just moved back a couple days ago, but I’m real glad to be back in Michigan.”
“I smell a redneck,” Daisy muttered.
The entire class erupted in laughter, except Nik.
Daisy was unforgivably smug. She smacked her bubble gum across her sparkling hot pink lips and tossed her chestnut hair over her exposed shoulders, looking around and soaking up the attention.
Harper glared at Daisy.
“Miss Holloway, one more outburst and I’ll give you detention.”
“On the last day of class?”
The teacher folded her arms. “Absolutely, do you think all these books are gonna make their way to the library on their own?”
Daisy sneered at Harper.
However, her glacial green stare didn’t intimidate the new girl.
"We’re certainly glad to have you, even if it's only for today." Ms. Glore pointed forward. “Please, have a seat.”
Harper sashayed to her desk directly beside Nik.
Daisy leaned over to her friend, Mal, and whispered, "I see why they put her dumbass in English. She talks like a hillbilly.”
Daisy’s words didn’t shake her. Throughout her life, Harper had been the subject of bullying. During her youth, she was teased for her impoverished appearance and late adolescent development. As she grew older, the insults were inspired by the less than virtuous life choices of Harper’s junkie mom, Mindi.
Harper folded her arms and flashed fake smile at Daisy, which quickly faded into a scowl. "I’m real sorry you don't like the way I talk, but if I was you, honey, I’d keep my mouth shut. You can’t take me.”
“Guess you couldn’t understand the way I talk. Maybe I should try speakin’ your language. Shut your mouth, ‘cause I'm real good at takin’ down nasty bitches like you.”
Daisy scowled. “You don’t know who you’re messing with, Redneck.”
“You should quit while you’re ahead. I could wreck you.”
"That’s enough girls." Displeased, Ms. Glore turned her attention back to the board.
Everyone’s stunned faces gazed at Harper in astonishment. No one ever spoke back to Daisy Holloway.
Nik couldn’t fight a smile. He was impressed that someone of such small stature was so brave and sharp-tongued.
Harper pulled her hair into a side pony tail and began twirling it around with her pencil. She continued exchanging glares with Daisy, who happened to be sitting directly in front of Nik.
The thick tension between the girls emanated incredible heat, making it feel like they were trapped inside a raging inferno.
However, that wasn’t what caught Nik’s attention. For some reason, he was inexplicably drawn to Harper. He couldn’t stop staring at her.
Her eyes were almost as green as his, sparkling as the sun reflected against them. Her alabaster skin was lightly dusted with freckles, and unlike Nik’s classmates, wasn’t covered in pounds of make-up. Harper was absolutely gorgeous.
For Nik, it was the first time a girl was able to capture his attention with such intensity.
"You got a problem with me too?" Harper snapped at him.
"No, sorry." He quickly glanced away
Damn, there goes that idea—he thought. Still, it was probably for the best. Being a straight teenager was confusing enough. Keeping it a secret was just safer.
The last fifteen minutes of class felt like the longest moments of Nik’s life. He was awkwardly positioned between someone that wanted to kick the snot out of him and an alluring stranger, whose mystery kept pulling him in her direction like a taunting siren.
His stomach rumbled as he stared at the old fashioned clock, watching the red, second hand slowly make its way around. Each click served as a reminder that he was about to endure an uncertain amount of pain. However, he hoped that the countdown would stop, or the school would blow up—anything to keep Ricky at bay.
Before he knew it, the school bell screamed and excitement erupted across the room. Students leapt from their seats and anxiously sprinted for their summertime freedom: swimming in the lake, hanging out at the boardwalk, and lounging on the beach.
Through the raucous banter, Ms. Glore cried, "Mr. Roberts, not so fast."
Nik stopped dead in his tracks at the side of her desk. As he waited for her to continue speaking, he watched Ricky slowly saunter out of the classroom.
For a brief moment, he thought he was off the hook, until the bully reached the door, turned around, and flashed a taunting grin.
"You wanted to see me, Ms. Glore?"
"I'm missing your narrative."
"That's impossible. I passed it forward. Look, there’s my folder.”
"No, sweetie, I didn't see any paper inside, just this.” Ms. Glore handed him the paper.
His heart rate skyrocketed. He immediately recognized his sketch of a curvaceous, naked woman he had penciled the night before.
Nik quickly snatched the artwork from her arthritic hand and crumbled it up into his bag. Then he dropped to the floor and began digging through his purple backpack.
"Sorry, here you go.” He relinquished his assignment.
"We should talk about your artwork."
"Ms. Glore, please, I apologize. I assure you, it was an accident."
"I’m slightly concerned for you.”
"Please, just let it go.” Nik frowned, unsure how to read the disapproval in her expression. Then he continued on his way.
Although Nik was embarrassed, he understood the teacher’s concern. It wasn’t every day that a student submitted a nude drawing in English class, especially of the opposite sex.
He was so distracted he’d almost forgotten that Ricky was waiting for him. He cautiously peered around the door frame as if he was a soldier on a battle field, invading the enemy territory with the front line infantry. Any step in the wrong direction meant certain death.
Nik held his breath and moved with absolute precision. All he heard was the tiny tapping of his shoes echo off the empty walls and the very distant sound of teachers in the classrooms behind him.
Then he bolted through the rusted door, immediately blinded by the beaming sun. After his eyes adjusted, he saw students race away in their cars and on their bikes. How he envied their untroubled existences.
"Hey, Queer, did you think I forgot about ya?" Ricky Wiley called as he stood with his back against the brick wall.
Before he answered, Nik quickly ran in the opposite direction.
It was reminiscent of the many times he’d raced away from his dad’s lashing belt. The leather would strike the ground like lightning in the middle of a violent storm, desperate for a taste of Nik’s flesh.
And by the looks of it, Ricky was hungry for a couple bites too.
The tyrant darted after him, knocking down kids as if he was a wrecking ball. “Get the hell back here!”
Nik’s heartbeat pounded in his ears. He hadn't made it more than a few yards before he was tackled into the dirt.
Ricky pinned him down and squeezed his hands above his head.
He quivered, desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the bully.
"What's the problem, you don't like being touched? Maybe you should watch where you’re going next time.”
"I told you, Ricky, it was an accident."
"I talk—you don't.” He smacked Nik in the side of the head.
"Please don’t,” Nik pleaded.
“This morning wasn’t an accident. You wanted to touch me.”