Updated: Oct 12, 2020
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The only saving grace was that I didn’t have adequate time to process my grief. If I had, it may have completely gotten the better of me. But in a matter of seconds, we were on the move. We put out the fires, covered the bodies, and went into the lobby to find Wolfgang standing there, waiting.
He looked us up and down and asked, “What happened?”
He tried to keep it covered with his jacket, but I noticed the gun in his waistband immediately.
“Where were you?!” Loren asked.
“I don’t know,” he lied.
A coughing fit got the better of Claire, she fell into the corner, trying to catch her breath. Instead of rushing to her sister’s side, Loren turned to me. I knew what was coming, and didn’t particularly care for it. “Save it,” I said. “I’m okay.”
Of course, I wasn’t okay, but time was of the essence, and the last thing I needed was to hear her reciting the same platitudes Tobias had given Wolfgang only minutes earlier, after his mother had died, when that sneaky little shit took advantage of our distraction and stole the gun. The words would have rang just as hollow now as they had then.
Wolfgang came to the bottom of the stairs, took a look at the damage in the room behind us, and asked, “Is there anyone else left?”
What he meant was, “Is there anyone else left alive? Anyone else to worry about stopping me?” He was too inexperienced to be subtle. Even without Claire’s ability amplifying my senses, I would have known. Nathaniel may have been dead, but as long as Wolfgang was armed, we weren’t out of the woods yet.
I went for the safe answer. “We don’t know. There’s probably more people here.”
He pointed at the destruction. “Who all was in there?”
I stepped closer. His hand gravitated uncomfortably close to the hidden weapon. “We don’t know,” I said.
Wolfgang cocked his head at me, no doubt wondering if I suspected him. But how could he ever have guessed that I knew exactly what he was thinking? I still didn’t understand it myself--these thoughts appearing randomly in my mind. It has been a while since I took my medicine…
“What are we going to do now?” he asked.
“I have a plan,” I answered. Then, on the fly, I made up a plan. “We need to split up. The girls will stay here and search for survivors. You and I will go get my car and bring it around.”
“I thought you said your car broke down.”
“It did. I have everything I need to fix it now.” That’s it. Tell him whatever you need to. Just get him away from the others.
Loren put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Jack.”
I turned to her. “This is the best idea.” Then, I looked past her, to Claire. “Isn’t that right?”
Claire nodded in agreement. That was enough for Loren. Be careful, Claire said without moving her lips or using her voice.
I turned back to Wolfgang. “Let’s go. We don’t have much time.”
He flashed a grin. “After you.”
The rain was chilling to the bone. We were both drenched in no time. Stinging wind and water lit up every fresh burn on my face and hands. The storm quickly washed the blood and bits from my hair. The solid pieces, I realized with disgust, were splinters of bone fragments. I wanted to puke, but I held myself together. I needed to keep my wits about me and watch for the right opportunity to turn the tables. But Wolfgang was patient and calculating. He followed closely, never coming within arm’s reach.
We used our phone’s flashlights to cut through the dark. If I got lucky, my baseball bat might save the day. But as we continued, I became aware of certain curious matters. There seemed to be far more trees than I remembered seeing on our walk up here. And the road felt much thinner. Where we walked might barely be considered enough space for a one-way. And our walk didn’t include any sort of decline… Weren’t we supposed to be going downhill?
Krikrikrikrikrikrik. I shined my light at the nearest tree. For a moment, it looked like something had skittered into the branches, but whatever it might have been was the least of our concerns.
We were nearly a mile into the trip before Wolfgang finally spoke up.
“You know... you look like a shit took a shit.”
Considering I’d just been blown up and lost my best friend and was probably about to die, his assessment could have been a lot worse. All I could say was, “Alright.”
I didn’t recognize anything around us. It was impossible that we’d gotten lost on the only road. And yet, being impossible hardly seemed to stop anything else from happening today. The only thing I could do was chock it up to my memory playing tricks on me again. How long has it been since I took my medicine?
It must have been another mile down the road before Wolfgang spoke again. “How far away do you think we’d have to be to not hear a gunshot from the house?”
In this weather, you could shoot someone dead at the end of the driveway and nobody would be the wiser, but I sure as hell wasn’t about to tell him that.
“Don’t worry. Gunshots are loud as hell. If someone were to fire a gun, everyone would know.” You little fucking captain obvious asshole klepto-sociopath.
I kept pushing forward. The trees were so thick on either side of us they looked like a solid wall in the dark. That’s not right, I thought to myself. I remember. This was all farmland before.
“How much further?” Wolfgang whined.
“I’m not sure. The cars should be around here somewhere.”
I scanned the edges of the road for a stick or rock or anything. I could feel it. He’d lost his patience, he was getting ready to take a shot, and I didn’t have anything to defend myself.
“I don’t think we walked this far,” he said. “I think someone must have moved all the cars.”
“Who would do something like that?”
“I don’t know. But it makes sense.”
I stopped, turned to face him, and asked, “How does that make sense?”
“Think about it. Whoever is doing this has it down to a pattern. They must have had lots of practice. They probably have friends or workers who wait until we leave, and then they come and drive our cars to a scrap yard. They’re good at this because they’ve done it so many times before.”
“You’re right. It makes sense,” I said, even though it really didn’t. “I’ve got to say, you don’t seem all that worried.”
“I’ve got a plan.”
“Yeah. When they come for me, I’ll just kill them all.”
I turned around and started walking again. “Hey, let’s keep looking. Maybe our cars are a little further this way.”
I put some pep in my step, trying to create some distance between us. But Wolfgang was faster than me, and he kept up without any problem.
“You know what?” he said. “I think that’s the secret ingredient. Practice. You just need a little bit of practice and you can do anything you want.” There was something up ahead. An interruption in the pattern. A driveway. For a moment, I thought I was safe. Wolfgang hadn’t noticed it yet. He just kept talking. “That’s what Mom always told me. She said I needed ‘real world experience,’ and I could do whatever I wanted.” As I got closer, I realized what was wrong with this driveway. I’d seen it before. “You know why Mom left her room after that man told us to stay still? She wanted us to sneak away before the cops arrived. You want to know why? Because she thought I was the one who killed that old bitch. Mom thought she was protecting me. But really, she was just controlling me. And then I saw my opportunity, and you know what I did? I took my knife and--”
“Wolfgang!” I shouted.
He was grinning, holding the gun in his hand, eager to get more practice.