Read Thirteen Online

Authors: Tom Hoyle

Thirteen (9 page)

BOOK: Thirteen
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Not only did Adam live, but he now had a gun.

Megan looked on, realizing that something strange and dark had happened.

Adam was light-headed as he turned to Leo and sighed.
I'm a thirteen-year-old boy killer with a gun
, he thought. Not that he knew how to use it; Adam imagined waving it, looking threatening. They wouldn't know he was frightened by its cold, noisy, flesh-tearing potential. Once he was home safely he would drop it in the river, or hide it in the rubbish.

Home. I'll be safe soon
, he thought.
They don't know who I am or where I live. It will all be over soon
.

Back on the platform, Cassie—Viper—watched the train amble away down the track to London. “You don't know who or what you're dealing with,” she muttered.

16
MONDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2013

“What! How?” Coron smashed his fist into his desk, then held his head in his hands. “The Master will make me suffer for this.” He paused. “Someone has to pay—someone will have to be sacrificed.”

Viper, Cobra and Asp stood in front of Coron. They were no longer three relaxed festival goers. “Cassie,” “Keenan” and “Sofia” were now terrified servants. They knew what Coron could do. Fear and love of him were woven together in their minds.

“Where is Python's body?” Coron murmured.

Cobra, suddenly looking younger than his fifteen years, spoke first. “Marcia collected it when she picked us up. It's in the trunk of the car. We carried it from the Hill of Sacrifice to the lane on the far side.”

“Sacrifice! Sacrifice? There will be sacrifice, believe me. Take the body downstairs,” said Coron coldly. “Python failed me—and he failed the Master. Leave his body for us all to see. And he may yet be more use in death than he was in life.” Coron looked at his hands, red from thumping the table. “How did this happen? Whose fault was it?”

“The Traitor appeared, Lord Coron.” Cobra knew this news would not calm the situation: the Traitor was hated almost as much as the Imposter. “He came out of the darkness.”

“What? I will have to deal with
him
myself!” Coron roared. “How could this happen? How?”

The room was silent again. Then a knock at the door. A figure half appeared.

Coron shouted: “I will kill anyone who interrupts me. Go!” Then he turned to the children. “I have been interrupted enough. Why have you failed me?”

The three looked at the floor.

“I want you to undo what you have done. Bring back Python, and kill . . .” Coron could hardly bring himself to say the name, “. . . kill
Adam
. The fact that he
again
escapes shows that he
is
the one.”

Madness coursed through Coron. His mind had no limits. Insanity energized him, freed him from petty logic. He continued. “Go on! Reverse time, and make it different.” The Master would make him suffer. Coron cultivated his madness so that he could hide inside it.

Asp, who was fifteen, but looked more than a year younger than the other two, decided to speak. “There was nothing we could do.”

“Nothing?
Nothing?
Nothing will come of nothing.” Coron laughed hysterically for about fifteen seconds. “Nothing? I want to know who was responsible.”

“I can tell you, my lord Coron,” Viper said. “It was
Asp
. She should have stayed with the girl, and I should have gone with Adam. It only went wrong when she got involved.”

Asp frowned and turned. “But you said—”

“I think that she is not truly . . . not truly one of
us
,” said Viper.

“My lord, I would do anything . . .” started Asp.

Coron raised his palm slowly and calmly. “Viper, what you say is a strange and dreadful thing. But I have long thought we had another traitor in the camp. A dog waiting to bite us. Someone who is not what they seem.” Ideas were quickly forming in his mind; unconnected links were fusing. Coron whispered, “It
is the
only
way to explain the failure. There must be another traitor.”

Yes
, he thought.
Another virus to be eliminated
.

Asp whimpered, “It isn't true. Look at my head. Look—I was hit.”

Cobra spoke now, clearly, authoritatively. “I too had my doubts about Asp. I feared the truth. I think she
enjoyed
the world out there.”

Coron put his hands together and pressed them to his chin. “Asp. Asp. If you confess, you will be shown mercy.”

Asp felt that she was in a cave—a damp, bare and isolated hole. She thought of her time at the festival. They had all enjoyed it, hadn't they? But she had done wrong. Coron would save her. He would show mercy. She looked at Coron. “Yes, I did take some enjoyment from the world.”

“I knew it,” said Coron. “How much?”

“Some.” She thought again. “More than a bit.”

“I see. And you worked with the Traitor?”

“No,” she said. “That isn't true. I didn't do that.”

“Asp, my dear, dear child—” he smiled slightly—“it will help if you confess. It will make things less . . . ugly.”

Asp thought hard. She was unsure what to say. The lie would help, surely. Coron was always right, but she had to help herself. Just this once.

She took a risk. “Yes,” she said, nervously and hopefully. “I sort of worked with him.”

Coron relaxed. “And you loved him?”

This is working
, Asp thought. “No. Not that. Not like I love you.”

“And you went to him?”

“No!”

Coron stood up and approached Asp. He stroked her hair, then held her face with both hands. He now saw only treachery. To Coron, her denials were proof of how twisted she was. “Beautiful and wicked Asp. Clever Asp. How you have disappointed
us.” He squeezed tighter; Asp found it hard to breathe. “Why? Why? Why? Why?” he repeated. She was desperate for breath now, but dared not reach out to Coron; to push him away would be a terrible thing.

Still gripping tight—
I need to breathe
, thought Asp—Coron told Cobra and Viper to take hold of her. Then he let go. Asp gulped in wonderful air.

“I want you to help me take Asp up to Dorm Thirteen,” Coron said. “Where she will stay. Permanently.”

“But . . .”—
NO!
—“You said there would be mercy,” she whispered.

Coron put his finger to her lips. “Shhh.” He paused. “
God
will show mercy when you meet him.” The hint of a laugh. “And I may offer you mercy too.”

Asp was dragged through corridors and up flights of stairs by the older two. She cried and begged; she struggled and shook.

Surely this is not going to happen
, she thought.

All too soon they arrived at a white door. The number thirteen was painted on it in coarse, blotchy black paint.

She had never seen inside.

Coron opened the door.

It is going to happen
, she realized.

The square room had no windows and was empty apart from a light sunk into the ceiling. Three small circular grilles were visible on each of the walls.

She knew what happened in Dorm Thirteen. She had heard from others.

Asp was thrown in.
Even now
, she thought,
Coron might change his mind
.

“A little mercy,” Coron said, and Asp's heart leaped. Coron pulled something from behind him, from his belt. “Here—for you.”

He threw a small gun to the far end of the room, beyond Asp.

“There is one bullet in the chamber. You may use it. Or you can stay here
permanently
.”

He shut the door.
Click
. It was locked.

As Coron, Viper and Cobra walked back down the stairs, they heard beating on the thick door and a faint, dreadful, desperate wail.

“Good,” said Coron. “Now we can turn our attention to Adam.”

Viper and Cobra nodded and smiled.

17
MONDAY, OCTOBER 28, TO TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013

Adam knelt by the side of his bed, curtains closed, door locked. Set out in front of him was a gun and £1,000 in notes—the contents of the case taken from the festival.

The death was imprinted on his every thought, like a water-mark running through everything in the world.
How did I get in this position? (I killed someone.) Why didn't I drop the knife? (I killed someone.) How will I tell the police? (I killed someone.) How will I tell my parents?

He poked the gun with his finger as if it was an animal that would bite. Then he picked it up. It was smaller than he imagined, not much more than seven inches by five, and lighter—it weighed about as much as a big block of cheese. It was also colder than he'd expected. Icy cold.

Now that he had it, he was reluctant to let it go. What if they knew where he lived? He might have to defend himself and his parents. But he had no idea how to use a gun. Did he just pull the trigger? He had heard the expression
safety catch
in films. Would it be loud? He didn't even know if it was loaded.

Adam saw the word
Walther
at the bottom of the handle, just below his little finger. It sounded vaguely familiar, probably from a film. Folding his duvet over gun and money, he pulled his laptop across from his desk.

He typed in some keywords. After a few minutes he understood.

“Oh my God,” whispered Adam. It held lots of bullets. In films and songs guns often had glamour, but Adam felt depressed and desperate. His natural inclination was still to tell his parents and go to the police. He had killed in self-defense, surely. Self-defense isn't murder, is it? He hadn't really decided to kill. Or had he?

His mum's voice came through the door. “Adam, I can see your light on. After the weekend you've had you need to get some sleep. I think I'll take your computer away.” She tried the locked door. “Adam, are you on Facebook again?”

Adam silently took the gun and money and put them under his bed, then went to the door, computer in hand. “Sorry, Mum.”

“Adam, is everything okay? You don't look your usual self.”

This was the moment. He could tell her now.

Adam let the moment slide away until it was out of reach. “I'm fine,” he said, his tone trying to give the smallest hint that he was not.

Before he climbed into bed, Adam hid the gun again, submerging it in a big tub of Legos that he hadn't opened in years. Then he pulled back the curtains for a glance at Megan's house.

He couldn't see clearly in the darkness, but Megan was looking at his house too. She knew that something strange had happened, and tomorrow would insist on understanding what it was. She grabbed her phone and quickly sent a text: “c u tomoz. Luv m.”

Less than a minute later her phone pinged: “Soz for way things are. C u. Love ad.”

She smiled. He had written
love
in full. How great.

The next morning, Adam was in the shed near the bushes at the bottom of his garden when Megan passed by. She saw a ghost-like figure through the dusty window: Adam.

“Here we go,” Adam muttered.

“What are you doing in
here
?” she asked, the door squeaking as she opened it.

“Um, looking for some nails.”

“Why?” Megan knew it was a lie. Nails? How ridiculous.

“Er, to mend the fence,” he said unconvincingly. If only he could lie better than this.

“Mend the fence?” she said, hands on hips. “Adam, what's going on?”

“Nothing.”

“Adam, what happened at the festival? I can't think of anything else; I want to know. Why was there red on your hands?” Megan avoided saying
blood
. “I know you were in a fight.”

“Nothing. Don't know.”

In frustration and with a sudden spike of anger, Megan raised her voice: “I've been grounded for not getting back on time at the festival, but I still came over here to look for you and now all you can do is lie. We've never had secrets before. What's changed?”

“I'm not lying.” Adam shrugged. He hated being like this, but wanted to protect her.

Then Megan stepped forward and slapped him, hard. His ear, neck and cheek stung. “You liar!” she shouted. “You bloody liar! Why won't you tell me?” She looked as if she was about to strike again.

“Meg. I can't. And don't shout,” Adam said, gesturing for her to keep quiet.

“Adam,” she said, more quietly, “who is your best friend?”

“Oh, Meg. Please don't do this to me. You know that it's you.”

“Then tell me what's going on.”

Adam was torn by indecision. He didn't want to tell Megan, but he had to tell someone. The secret burned within him like a fiery coal.

Adam reached up and pulled down a slightly rusty Quality Street tin from the shelf. He showed Megan what he had hidden
inside: £1,000. She was wide-eyed, then frowned. He whispered to her about the gun and the suitcase.

Megan went pale; her hands shook.

But a worse truth had to be told. Adam beckoned her to sit down on the dusty floor, below window height. Then he began whispering, coldly detached from the story, telling it as if it was a film he had seen, as if he was talking about someone else. He told it in order. At the very end he had to say the awful words: “He fell on the knife. He was trying to kill me. But I killed him.”

Megan stared.

“Meg, did you hear me? I've killed someone.”

They looked at one another.

“There's no doubt. There was blood, and he fell down. And the knife went right in. Meg—I didn't push it, honestly I didn't. I would do anything to take that moment back.”

Megan had not interrupted once. Now she said just two words: “Oh no.”

“Meg, I'm a murderer. My whole life is ruined.”

Adam then watched her cry for about half a minute. He desperately wanted to hug her. Surprisingly, she didn't criticize or ask questions; she didn't respond at all as an adult would. And as soon as her tears stopped, she was practical, sensible, serious: “You
have
to tell your parents and go to the police. It was self-defense. They were going to
kill
you. These people might come back. What are you going to do then? Shoot them all?”

BOOK: Thirteen
4.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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