Jump to content

Westley D.

Author
  • Posts

    74
  • Joined

  • Last visited

View Author Profile

Reputation

463 Initiate Scribe 1st Class

Story Reviews

  • No Story Reviews

Comments

  • Rank: #0
  • Total: 11

2 Profile Followers

About Westley D.

Favorite Genres

  • Favorite Genres
    Romance

Profile Information

  • Topic Display Title
    Pen Name
  • My Words
    uh...
  • Location
    Indiana
  • Interests
    Superpowers and bully romances.

Contact Methods

Recent Profile Visitors

1,413 profile views
  1. Westley D.

    Chapter 14

    Monday, August 27th, 2012 Lunch was unusually quiet today. Most likely due to the sheer absence of not only Kaspar or Justin, but most of the football team that West ate during this particular block. It only added to the stress the blond carried from yesterday’s incident into the next day. Law enforcement was quick to respond, but ended up just as confused by the whole thing. No one who knew famous German basketball player Friedrich Kuttner IV would ever encroach upon his territory like that. Not even the thugs on the western side. They knew they’d lose a lot more than they thought they had if they dared threaten Tuct Side’s most well-known family. His mom wanted everyone to stay with the Dedekinds, but his dad, ever the tough, hardheaded man, wouldn’t leave, refusing to show weakness. Judging by the multiple sets of eyes West felt on him, it didn’t take long for news to spread. Teachers and students, his teammates especially, muttered their apologies and sympathies. However, each one only served to exhaust the captain further. Someone saw them that night at the abandoned playground, and now they were paying the price for their trespassing. Or at least, West was. Weirdly, he was relieved to shoulder it all. He knew Finn and his family didn’t need another reason to isolate themselves any further. As the two sat next to each other and ate at a nearly empty table, Finn was gazing at West’s camera display, which revealed the shocking findings of yesterday. “You sure you’re okay?” “I think. I just, uh…” West exhaled. “I never thought…” “You never thought this would happen? Me neither, dude. It’s my fault anyway, so if you want to take out your stress on someone, let it be me.” West turned to his friend, whose eyes were looking back with unmasked guilt. “No, Finn, you-” “It was my idea,” he shrugged, resigned. “I thought it would be a harmless road trip.” “You didn’t know it was being watched either. I’m just glad they’re not going after any of you guys. Especially your family, Finn. Besides, it was just spray paint. The whole thing was washed away in an hour.” The ebony-haired boy seemed unconvinced, shaking his head with hooded eyes on his half-eaten lunch. “I’m gonna feel real bad if that isn’t the end of it.” “We’ve heard rumors that… we’re all being watched.” The blond shivered. West didn’t want to exacerbate his friend’s self-condemnation, so he placed a comforting hand on his boy’s shoulder and remained silent. It was a quiet, tranquil lunch for five minutes before Nathan and some other senior burst into the cafeteria, darting for West and Finn. Being upperclassmen, they had different schedule blocks, but the closer one got to graduating, the more they could get away with. So, no nearby teacher enforced the rules when the two seniors ran toward the designated football table. “Uh, guys?” Nathan spoke nervously. “You might wanna come with us.” Both sophomores glanced at each other in confusion before slowly standing up. Behind the upperclassmen, they noticed more students run into the room and gesture wildly at their friends to follow them out. People were abandoning their lunches left and right. “Why? What’s up?” West questioned. The other senior answered. “It’s an all-out brawl out there! The guys heard what happened to your house, West, and they’re duking it out with the Wildwood folks.” The blond swallowed. “Are Kaspar and Justin…?” Nathan nodded grimly. “Yeah. I’ve never seen your cousin so angry, man. He has a mean-looking right hook.” That got them moving. Kaspar was short-tempered. Becoming a lot easier to irritate the older he got. However, what kept him in check the most was his position in many school functions. If he were caught throwing punches, he stood to lose his running for class president, national honors society membership, and his playtime in sports. However, that all didn’t seem to matter to the redhead right now, for West and Finn were led out to the school back parking lot to find him and Neil grappling with each other, delivering blind punches to wherever they could reach. Comparing the two, the noirette had the advantage in height and muscle, but Kaspar had the wrath that had been festering for months on his side. Justin was present as well, standing with the other football players in the cheering of their peer and cursing out the opposing side. Neil planted a hard fist into Kaspar’s stomach, causing the latter to cough harshly. Still, he powered on, keeping a tight hold over the bigger boy’s neck, which, judging by his opponent’s reddening face, only appeared to strengthen. It was when West spotted Nora, Neil’s closest lady friend, inching toward the battling duo he chose to act. His rival had just given his cousin a powerful shove, sending him back into the blond. Luckily, West had already braced himself and stumbled back as he caught the redhead. Nora jumped in front of Neil, standing defiantly before him and daring him to make another move. “Du wertloses, dummes Stück Scheiße!” Kaspar swore vehemently, struggling in his cousin’s grip. “Shut the fuck up, Nazi-boy!” Via yelled back. “We don’t speak Hitler!” Justin stepped forward, his eyes roving over Enzo’s sister with a disgusted sneer while addressing said brother. “You really need to muzzle your bitch, dude. It’s barking a bit too loud.” Twice a dozen and then some pairs of narrowed glares focused on the brunette, but it was Enzo who snarled their thoughts aloud. “What the fuck did you just say, kike!?” An unusual, dangerous smirk stretched upon the tall boy’s lips, one of his hazel eyes twitching madly. “Get the burritos out of your ass and you might hear me better, lard-ass!” Everything went to shit after that. Knuckles were bloodied, bodies were trampled on, and West could barely make out the flashes of blue and red through the mayhem. When the cop siren sounded, it was like watching a Pavlovian response. The former Wildwood students were quick to bail, a few even sprinting down the lot toward God-knows-where. School security encircled the crowds, making sure nobody else ran off, and guided the remaining students back into the building. As West pulled Kaspar along with Finn doing the same to Justin, the blond couldn’t help but think about the odd response time of the security. And the cops? From an outsider’s perspective, it couldn’t have looked that bad. As the four made their way toward the school, they crossed by with Neil and Shaun, the latter’s arm around the former as they trudged the opposite way. “Let’s bounce, man,” the dyed blond spoke, his voice hoarse. “Gotta watch those fuckin’ hands.” West couldn’t move his eyes from the noirette. Aside from a cut lip, a purpling cheek, and a red discoloration on the neck from being choked, he seemed alright. Moody and scowling, which instantly transformed into a sneer when he caught his nemesis’ green eyes. “You’re everywhere where you shouldn’t be, are you? Always gawkin’ at me with big ol’ ‘fuck me’ eyes, right?” Neil hissed it so only the ears of six individuals could hear it, and it made West freeze in place. He… he couldn’t know, could he? “Don’t listen to that street rat, Westford!” Kaspar spat, now being the one to drag his cousin. A callous grin plastered on his face, Neil continued. “Careful, Flower Boy. Wouldn’t wanna stand out too much.” Kaspar stopped, faced the noirette, and smiled, stating with cold amusement, “He stands out for the right reasons. Unlike you, Cam Boy!” That wiped the sadistic expression off the other teen’s face, his already pale skin blanching further. “How th’ fuck-” Shaun seemed alarmed as well, but he recovered quickly enough to wrench his friend out of his shocked stupor and keep him from further incriminating himself. “Neil!” He pulled said boy along, casting a dirty look at their four enemies. “Y’all better keep quiet about this.” “Keep out of our fucking way then!” Justin spat before twisting around and stomping inside the school. “Goddamn beaners.” It was muttered, but his three companions heard it, their eyes going wide. “Dude…” Finn began, but the brunette wasn’t having any of it. “They brought in race first!” Their tall center spun and treaded heavily up the nearest staircase, angrily digging inside the pockets of his shorts. West looked at Finn. “Make sure he’s okay, yeah?” The ebony-haired boy nodded immediately. “You got it, Cap.” He set out to follow Justin, patting Kaspar on his shoulder as he passed and took the stairs two at a time. West knew Justin didn’t really have anything against other races. Or he hoped his friend didn’t have such thoughts. Most of the former Wildwood population was comprised of those of Latino and Hispanic descent, but the brunette has never made any telling comments that might suggest a reason for his antagonism toward the former western students could be because of their race. So far, Kaspar’s problem chalked up to class, but even that wasn’t clear enough. “Head back into the school!” Principal Murray’s amplified voice reached their ears even as they sauntered down the hall. “The school day has not ended yet! Report to your next class or suffer severe consequences.” Kaspar shook his head. “Shifting. Everything’s shifting.” West silently agreed. Kaspar getting into fistfights. Justin’s gradual shift in personality. Neil and his uncanny ability to get under the blond’s skin. West and his masochistic tendencies for allowing it. And Tuct Side with its secrets that have yet to be unveiled. “West! Wait up!” The cousins turned around to spot Nora hurrying toward them, and Kaspar was livid all over again. “Are you fucking kidding me!?” The outburst made Nora flinch, stopping her from progressing and further. West planted a firm hand on the redhead’s heaving chest. “Kas! Chill out!” he forced a smile that most likely appeared to be a grimace. “Hey, Nora. What’s up?” Nora sighed sadly. “I heard what happened to your house. I’m so sorry.” “What is this-” “Bro, please!” The blond cut his relative off, staring him down into compliance. “Get yourself cleaned up, man. I’ll be quick.” “It won’t take long,” Nora reassured. Kaspar pursed his lips, eyeing the girl with apparent rage and distrust. Eventually, he groaned, palming the side of his bruised face. “Don’t believe anything they say, West! Sie sind alle verdammte Lügner!” When he was out of earshot, West gave Nora an apologetic smile. “Ignore him. And thank you. It’s shaken us up, but we’re doing alright.” “Good. I just… I just wanted to say that I know that you guys might think Neil and the guys did something to your house, but trust me, they didn’t. They wouldn’t do that.” “Huh?” West didn’t think either Neil or his boys had vandalized his house despite them being likely candidates. Though, Kaspar, considering his abhorrence for all things western Tuct Side, would definitely place the blame on them if it meant destroying any of their plans for taking over Patriot High. Now, the fight didn’t seem so random after all. “I mean, they would spray paint someone’s house for shits and giggles,” she went on. “No doubt about it, but I’m positive they didn’t have fun with your house. We were…” she looked both ways for any eavesdroppers before leaning in and whispering, “we were at a bar last night.” West stared at her, dumbfounded. “A-A bar?” Nora nodded, gazing down at the floor bashfully. “I know it sounds crazy, but trust me. Neil has access to all kinds of crazy places and things kids our age shouldn’t even be thinking about. He’s not the type to get drunk and walk across the tracks and vandalize someone’s house. He’s usually a sitting grouch.” Figures. “Oh. Um, okay. I guess… I believe you. Thank you.” What else was he supposed to say? Nora reached over and placed West’s right hand in between both of hers as she gazed up at him with a pleading expression. “I know we haven’t said more than a single word to each other until now, but I still think I should tell you to be careful.” A raised blond eyebrow had the girl backtracking. “That came out wrong. It’s not a threat. It’s just that… There are people in this town you don’t want to get on the bad side of.” So, he and his boys weren’t the only ones to sense something fishy going on in their little town. “Who?” Nora shrugged and shook her head, looking a bit frustrated. “I should know, but I’m not too sure myself.”
  2. Westley D.

    Chapter 13

    Sunday, August 26th, 2012 The next day was West and Kaspar’s first day volunteering at Tuct-In. It was a rather anxiety-free welcome, knowing the children there, or at least some of them, were a part of the Jiving Four fanbase. Plus, their jobs were simple. Supervising a bunch of kids took a lot of time to get used to, but since the two teens had younger siblings, that experience box was checked off. Theresa was a big help as well, aiding them in getting to know each child. One child, in particular, knew about them more than most. Jack Kiersten, the little blond boy who was the first to notice the cousins the first time they came around, was shaping up to be their number one fan. He was a motor mouth, but in an adorable way. West felt his ego inflate when the kid seemed to attach himself to the captain, wanting to know the ins and outs of his individual talent. It didn’t take much time for the teen to make a best friend in the eight-year-old boy. He wondered if it was because of their hair. Sometime after lunch, while Kaspar spoke with Theresa as they watched the kids frolic around the backyard playground, Jack accompanied West to the restroom. The latter was sure the former went earlier, but his infatuation was so cute he didn’t bother pointing it out, happy for the kid to tag along. “How are you so good at basketball?” the boy went on. “Me and Ian tried doing that one move where you steal the ball and toss it to another guy, then they give it back to you so you can shoot, but it’s hard…” West chuckled as he headed into a stall and thought about it. “I think I do that twice a game only. The other team usually picks up on it.” “Can you teach me? I really want to join the basketball team at my school so I can be famous like you one day.” The older blond lit up at that. “Say no more, buddy. Consider me your new coach, but you got to promise me something first.” “Yeah!? Anything!” West smiled. “A good teacher always knows their students. You can do that, right? Tell me about yourself? What you like and don’t like? Hobbies? I wanna get to know you better.” “Mhm! I can show you my room. I have my drawings in there!” “You’re an artist?” “I’m starting to like it and Therrie says I’m good,” Jack giggled. “Then, I already know you’re good. I’m excited to see them, little dude.” West could feel the little boy bouncing on his heels in eagerness. Jack scrambled out as the older blond finished up. He was genuinely interested and serious about wanting to get to know the kid. As he got older, he was starting to see basketball as a money maker rather than a passion. Playing it was slowly losing its appeal, but teaching it and hopefully passing on his prowess to the next generation was a whole new and thrilling experience. Now, West was sure he was only in the restroom for twenty more seconds, so he was perplexed when the hyperactive kid wasn’t anywhere close. “Jack? Bud? You there?” he called as he peered down the three colorful corridors. He couldn’t have gone that far. He was about to head down right, which led to the outside playground, when his hearing picked up a couple of voices from the left, one high-pitched that could only belong to a child and a deep baritone, a gruff pitch of an older man. There was a sudden weight in his stomach that felt like lead. His mind flashed to the recent AMBER alerts, which only served to make his insides grow cold. Last night, it had hit him how stupid it was to leave Ophelia in the house after finding out about the oddly scheduled warnings. Missing children were easy to find on their own, but when involving a second, older, sick, and twisted party… West hurried toward the voices. Jack was definitely one of them, but the other was less familiar. That is until he turned the corner and connected eyes with Bran Morterero. The big guy had his hands on his hips, an amicable grin on his face as he listened to Jack yammer happily. “Yo,” he mouthed and nodded. West slowly moved forward. “Hey-” “Clutch!” Jack beamed, pointing at the large man. “It’s Bull!” “Bull?” Bran chuckled. “Name on the court. Nice t’ meet ya again, Double Clutch.” The older Morterero’s hand dwarfed West’s as they shook hands. It made the hairs on his arm and neck stand even straighter as if those wooden eyes cutting into him hadn’t set him on edge already. He’s never heard of any Tuct Side basketball player called “Bull.” That nickname was more fitting for football or wrestling. He’s heard of Hangman, but Bull? Not a word. “You guys met already?” Jack piped up. West had to stifle a wince, honestly forgetting the tiny kid was present for a second. “A week ago, right? We didn’t talk much because we just got there while you were just leaving,” he braved to look back at Bran in the eyes, placing a palm on the little boy’s head. From the outside, it looked to be an affectionate gesture, but the sudden streak of protectiveness got harder to control the longer Jack was in Bran’s vicinity. It was a completely different feeling he had with meeting Neil, but there was just something… off about the older sibling. Something West could sense but wouldn’t be able to point out in words. Thinking back to the night at Malt Chimney, he wasn’t going to doubt what his guts were telling him right now. “Was in a hurry,” Bran pointed his thumb down the hall behind him. “Just got off from talkin’ with my girl, so I guess we caught each other at a bad time again.” Jack pouted. “You’re not staying, Bull?” “Sorry, Jacko. Not this time, but I’ll be back so you can properly introduce me to Double Clutch here, yeah?” “When?” Jack asked as the man started backing away. “Not sure, but you keep watch, ya hear?” And then, he was off. As quickly as he’d shown. Off down the hall that West now knew did not lead to the exit. Or at least, the front side. “Okay! Bye!” the smaller blond waved. The bigger one remained silent and unmoving until Bran was out of sight. “He’s so cool! Maybe next time, you guys can play basketball together! It’ll be like one of your games.” West forced a smile. “You think so, bud?” “Yup!” As the kid talked, West’s mind ran over the short conversation again and again. “Just got off from talkin’ with my girl.” He must have meant Theresa. However, the last time he saw Theresa, which was about six minutes ago, she was talking to Kaspar. So, why the hell was Bran Morterero really here? “We can do something for Isaak’s birthday,” West mentioned to Kaspar as he drove back home. “Isaak’s birthday? I don’t think Uncle Fried and Auntie Sofie would appreciate that. Plus, I thought your big bro was reformed and all.” “I’m not counting on Isaak to liven up the party. Dad will be there, and you know this whole town loves him.” Despite always saying he was done with his party days, West knew his father wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with his longtime friends. “Oh crap, you’re right!” the redhead jolted forward, but sagged back down again. “It’ll be weird for your old man and his buddies to hang around with a bunch of teens, though. Unless we can host a big event for all ages. Maybe a basketball game with your dad’s old teammates.” West shrugged. “If we do that, we might as well invite the entire town. No one’s gonna want to miss that.” Kaspar thought for a moment. “We should probably save that idea for another party. At the start of the season, we’ll have another party during tryouts. That’ll surely turn everyone-” “What… the fuck…?” The redhead blinked in shock, rarely ever hearing his cousin mutter that particular swear word. “Huh-” But then his attention was drawn toward the Kuttner residence. “Meine Güte…” West parked on the edge of the driveway, where his mother, father, Ophelia, Kaspar’s parents, and Kaspar’s little brother, Leonhard, looked on in a mix of anger, fear, and bewilderment. West’s mom hurried toward the two as they got out, their eyes not moving from the garage door. “Oh my god! Boys, you-” a frantic and shaking Sofie looked them over, then back at her husband, who was furiously pacing their driveway while cursing in German. Kaspar’s parents were nearby, Elmar, Kaspar’s dad, on their phones in a hushed tone despite the situation and Karlotta leading a perplexed Leonhard and Ophelia into the house, doing her best to shield their sights from the garage door. “Mom,” West took her in like she did them, checking for any injuries. “A-Are you guys okay? What is… what happened? Who did this?” “I-I’m not sure, honey,” she sputtered. “We… we took Ophelia and went out for lunch as soon as you and Kaspar went to work. It must’ve… I don’t know, it must’ve been done for the few hours we’ve been gone.” It must have. And it must have only taken several minutes. In purple and maroon spray paint were inscribed a threat that sent waves of ice-cold fear down West’s spine. STAY ON YOUR FUCKING SIDE
  3. Westley D.

    Chapter 12

    Saturday, August 25th, 2012 It was the weekend before they knew it. Not even the Friday football game was as eventful as West expected it to be. He saw Neil and his boys play, and they were good. Really good. The blond wasn’t worried about his rival being better in that aspect. Football was just a sport to pass the time until basketball season started up. “It’s obviously drugs.” West heard Kaspar say as he sauntered down the stairs after putting his little sister to bed. He was tasked with looking out for Ophelia while his parents were out of town for the weekend, but that didn’t mean he’d put solving the mysteries in Tuct Side on pause. He had sat on showing his guys the recording of the conversation between Neil and Shaun in the bathroom, his mind juggling with the ethics of revealing such a private discussion since then. Now, he was walking back in the living room as the other three pondered on what they just heard. “Is that the bias talking or…?” Finn narrowed his eyes quizzically at the redhead. “No, I’m serious. ‘Destroy other people’s lives? A good time over necessity?’ The first is a piece of shit drug dealer, and the second’s an addict,” Kaspar’s glanced at his cousin, who sat next to him with his camera in hand. “Don’t feel bad for catching their shit on tape.” Suddenly, Kaspar’s face lit up like it did when he found the answer to some complex math problem. “In fact, the more I think about this, the more I think it was all planned!” West was quick to turn his camera on and record his relative. “What do you mean?” Justin asked. He was smoking a joint, something he’s been doing more often, near the open door that led to the patio. The team captain was thankful his tall friend waited until Ophelia went to bed, but he was still worried his parents would still be able to sniff out the remaining smell. That, and Justin’s wellbeing. “I don’t know what’s going on in this town,” Kaspar got up and started to pace, “but it’s something… something bad. Wildwood is shut down by a simple shooting threat. The students there move here. And they're basically handed crowns, but this time, they’re polished.” “But why?” Finn questioned, laying back in a recliner to gaze up at the ceiling in thought. “Whose powerful enough to do all that?” “Der Handel. We’re dealing with cold, calculated business.” Justin blew out a puff of smoke. “And you think Neil and his guys are doing this?” Kaspar shook his head. “Based on what we just heard? No. But that doesn’t seem to matter to whoever’s in charge.” “It sounded like they’ve been doing this for a while,” West mentioned somberly. “Don’t start feeling guilty now. The asshole wanted to leave in the wake of his destruction. His brother’s probably in on it, too.” Who wouldn’t want to escape the cage they had no business being in? The blond kept the thought in his head. “I just don’t get the captaincy shit,” Justin sighed, gazing out the patio door and into the night. “For one, there is no way in hell the team would let him take over,” he looked at his blond friend and smirked proudly. “Not when our boy here led us to the championship once.” West shook his head but smiled back. “Still not taking all the credit.” “You should. Seriously though, why does he want it so bad?” “A power play or something?” Finn suggested. It was quiet for a moment as they searched for an answer. West briefly wondered if he could secretly interview an ex-Wildwood student to get them, but dismissed it entirely. Despite attending the same school, they still had loyalty to where they came from, and that little tidbit would definitely make its way back to Neil, leaving him to face the lightning-eyed noirette’s wrath. “Maybe… influence,” Kaspar piped up. “People might not like him now, but with him at the position of top dog and the right people coming to him…” “It’ll make their jobs a lot easier,” finished West, his fingers scratching his head and making a mess of his hair. Attempting to make sense of all this was going to take a lifetime. “We gotta do something about that,” Justin suddenly stood up as he threw his joint in an ashbin on the patio. “I know I have no room to talk, but at least I’m doing this crap to myself. We can’t let them upend everyone else’s lives.” Kaspar nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. I say we host a couple parties or two,” he turned to West, who expectedly opened his mouth to voice his concerns. “I know. I know you don’t like to flaunt your popularity like that, but this is dire. They can’t gain any favor if we want to protect your position and the lives of everyone at school.” Being captain of the basketball team – freshman, junior varsity, or varsity – was becoming a coveted rank. West could almost see why Neil was jockeying for it. Or, at least, part of the reason why he was. “I… uh…” “Besides,” his cousin continued. “What’s the harm in a party? They don’t have to be so out of control like in the movies. It’ll be big coming from you.” Of course, this made Justin ecstatic. “Fuck yeah! Let’s do it, bro!” There really wasn’t any harm in it. Neil and the rest of Wildwood were bound to crash one of them. It would be simple to put someone on them and track their actions. West blew out a breath and nodded. “Well, alright then. We’ll plan, but let’s get the rest of these clues out of the way first. Then, we go explore.” Finn promptly sat up, his lips slightly curved up in a light grin. “I, uh, think I know where we should start.” “When my parents and I moved here, searching for a house, we thought about living on this side of the tracks only because it was cheap,” Finn told them, “but we didn’t want what happened to us back in Seattle to have a repeat performance. Though, we did come across this place just to look around. I haven’t been back here for, like, ages, but I don’t think anyone ever has. But you know what they say about abandoned locations.” West followed his ebony-haired friend’s directions as he drove through the western side of Tuct Side. He hated to think it, but the deeper they went into the area, the creepier the place appeared at night. Justin’s arms stuck out the open window as he, at the request of his captain, recorded the passing dark landscape with his phone. “I dunno what they say, but you can always find some crazy shit at abandoned places.” “What do you think we’ll find, man?” West asked Finn, who shrugged. “I’m not sure, but it’s got to be left for dead for a reason, right? All I know is that one day, for some unexplained reason, people decided to stop showing up.” A couple of minutes down the line, West parked his car before what looked to be the remains of a playground. Kaspar’s lips pursed as he took in the area. “You were talking about the woods next to the playground, right, Finn?” “That, too, I guess. But seriously, look at this place. This playground’s been here for ages! It’s forgotten. Maybe we might find something forgotten lying around somewhere.” With that said, the four climbed out of the vehicle and trudged toward the play area, flashlights in hand – Justin still recording and West handling his Canon camera. The playground looked to be neglected for years, left for fungi to grow on the wood and rust to overtake the metal. One of the swing sets was missing and the slide seemed to be colonized by small rodents. Justin cringed as he pointed his phone and flashlight at the rotting, infested construction. “Everything looks like it’s covered in shit. How long’s this place been here for?” As Kaspar took West’s flashlight so the latter could take pictures, he began explaining. “Back then, it was just the eastern side of Tuct Side that existed. A whole company town. It was a decent way of living until the prices of daily necessities got too high. People straight up left the town without paying rent, leaving their houses to the dirt and bugs. Thus, the western side of Tuct Side was born.” West, much to his brunette friend’s chagrin, got close to the slide and took a shot of the rats, who squeaked in dismay and quickly scurried away from the approaching human. “We can’t be here too long,” his cousin said to him. “You and I have to babysit tomorrow.” “I know. I just wonder if-” “Hey, guys! Come look at this!” Finn’s voice sounded distant. All flashlights followed the sound to find him standing right near the treeline, a boundary that separated the play area from the woods. His flashlight was pointed on a specific tree, which appeared no less ordinary from afar. Kaspar cursed. “Jesus, Finn! Don’t wander off so far! It’s too dark for that.” “Sorry. I guess I was half-joking when I said we might find something in this place, but you can’t ever doubt the woods.” “Man, this is how horror movies start,” Justin complained, looking more agitated and frightful by the second. “Now, we wait for the masked psycho kid killer to cut our heads off with his big-ass machete.” The four boys surrounded the tree and settled their gazes on the bark. From a distance, they would have never noticed the purple spray paint. The three letters T S S were imprinted vertically and largely on the wood, from bottom to top. And at the head was a familiar shape. An encompassing diamond. The revolver cylinder. And the tiny, centered x. Justin gaped. “Hold up! Is that…?” Kaspar nodded, his features hardened. “The symbol we saw on those guys’ jackets. It’s spray-painted and everything. Usually, the paint would wear off after a decade, so this must either be initially drawn here not long ago or repainted recently.” West was shocked, his head filling with assumptions, questions, and predictions. Still, he found himself asking calmly, “What’s TSS? I think it’s an abbreviation for something. Anyone ever heard of that before?” “TSS,” Justin sounded out slowly. “Tuct Side… s-something…” “That’s pretty much my guess,” the redhead shrugged. Finn was busy waving his flashlight at nearby trees, inspecting them for similar marks. “It’s only on this one, though. No other tree has it as far as I can see.” Justin backed away from the tree, bouncing anxiously on his heels. “Alright. Alright. Now that we know where to find it, let’s get the fuck outta here, revive a couple of our brain cells, and think about doing this shit in the morning, yeah?” Kaspar snorted. “Your high not last long enough?” “No, and it’s making me freak the fuck out!” West nodded in agreement. “Yeah. I don’t want to leave Ophelia alone for too long. Let’s head out.” The four began their trek towards West’s car. They were halfway past the playground when Kaspar suddenly flashed both lights at the ground and hissed, “Oh shit!” While West and Finn merely snapped their heads down, an unmanly squeal emitted from Justin as he leaped and tripped over himself, latching onto Finn in terror. “What!? What!? Fucking what!?” Kaspar burst out with laughter, clutching his stomach with one light as he pointed the other at his tall friend’s frightened face. “Nothin’! I just… I just had to! Too easy!” “Fuckin’ dickhole!” He angrily raced up to the redhead and threw fists at him, which made the latter chortle harder. “I’ll get you back! I swear, Kas!” “I’m counting on it, du Angsthase!” Kaspar wheezed as he guarded against the punches. Finn chuckled as he watched the two duke it out – Kaspar blocking and laughing more than reciprocating as Justin unleashed on him. West hid his snickers, not wanting to draw his brunette friend’s ire to him. He felt his phone buzz in his shorts. He dug it out and turned it on. Lately, he had set up his device to show notifications of AMBER alerts in Tuct Side just so he wouldn’t forget to do it later. So, he was honestly surprised to see one pop up now – a second alert despite the last one being a week ago when it should have been in two months. * AMBER Alert Tuct Side, ID AMBER Alert: LIC/NYC-TSS (ID) 2012 Black Dodge Caravan *
  4. Westley D.

    Chapter 11

    Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 “We should talk to him,” West said to Justin as they sat in the locker room with their football team. Scheduled at the end of the day was a pep rally for the first game on Friday. Three days of spirit and support got not just the school, but the entire town hyped up. It didn’t hold a candle to the celebrations that went on during basketball season, but the excitement would spread just the same way. “Is that a good idea?” the brunette spoke through a mouthful of apple. “What if he’s like our resident bad boy, Nigel?” The blond shrugged. “I dunno. He seemed pretty nice when we met him.” Initially, Bran Morterero wasn’t Jorge’s level of nice, but at least they didn’t get insults flung at them. “Nice?” Justin balked before biting into his apple again. “Nice enough to almost mow down a crowd of kids. I’d hate to see what his mean side looks like.” “That was probably an accident. Or maybe he was in a hurry.” “Didn’t you say Neil looked scared? If even he was afraid, I’m not holding out any hopes on the older version.” West knew he was reaching, not sounding too sure even to himself, but if he was going to get ahead in his investigation, his “people-of-interest” needed to be sane and willing to answer questions. Before he could reply, he caught the head football coach, Herald Rogers, trudge in with three familiar boys. A portion of the football team watched in budding stunned silence as Neil, Shaun, and Enzo were led by their portly, stern-faced instructor to his office, which was located in the corner of the lengthy, rectangular room. The ex-Wildwood trio ignored the shocked and irritated glares as they followed along. “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” Justin muttered, vaguely annoyed. West blinked. “Are they…?” “No way. They haven’t been at any practices over the summer or for tryouts. Coach Rogers wouldn’t allow that.” Five minutes later, he was proven wrong. The three guys walked by without Coach Rogers carrying jerseys on their shoulders. Enzo had number fifty, Shaun had seventy-five, and Neil carted fifteen. As they swaggered toward the other end of the locker room, the lightning-eyed boy caught West’s eye, giving him a smug smirk and an almost-playful wink that made the blond’s stomach knot up in heat and confusion. “Fuckin’…” Justin narrowed his eyes. As the silence began to ebb into low and harsh murmuring, Scott and Henry sauntered over to the two, expressions just as perplexed and angry as the others. “Did you guys-” “Yup,” West answered Scott before he finished, his eyes on Neil as he slipped the jersey over his torso. Henry turned and eyed the troublesome trio. “Is Coach really lettin’ those assholes on th’ team!?” “They just came out with jerseys and shit-eating grins,” Justin grumbled, chomping into the last half of his apple moodily, “so I’d say the infiltration was successful.” Scott scratched his head furiously and exclaimed, “The fuck is going on!? They’re being treated like goddamn royalty!” West lifted an eyebrow. “How so?” During the first week of school, West discovered that he only shared one class with Neil, which was Geometry. Considered that Kaspar was a high honors student and mentioned having yet to notice any ex-Wildwood peers, the latter must’ve had more lower-level classes. “You know Mrs. Mander is a stickler for eating,” Scott went on. “I couldn’t even bring a water bottle in without her getting all up in my ass. Last week, the fatso there had a whole bag of Tortillas, and what did Mander say? Nothin’. Nada. Not a single word!” Henry crossed his arms as he cut in, narrowed eyes still on three guys talking amongst themselves in the corner. “That Neil prick had his phone out th’ entire time durin’ History. Got a call and left in th’ middle of th’ lecture.” “Kas is gonna implode when he hears about this,” Justin sighed. “He doesn’t know how lucky he is to be in the smart classes.” Neil and his friends chose that moment to exit, their jerseys on and chins high. As they passed by Coach Rogers, who had, at some point, walked out of his office to linger near the entrance, stood by looking down at his phone, Shaun faced the glaring crowd and grinned. “’Sup, team.” When he made it behind the coach, he looked at him and waved the end of his right fist toward his mouth, puffing up his left cheek each time it got close. Scott snarled and flipped him off, making the tall teen laugh. “Alright, ladies!” Coach Rogers, oblivious to the interaction, bellowed. “Let’s get this show on the road! To the main lobby!” It was only a matter of minutes when the rest of the school would find out. Especially Kaspar. The pep rally took place outside, the weather being blue skies and a bright, shining sun. As the football team stood in the middle of the sport’s field, being showered with encouragement and praise, West caught Kaspar near the stands beside Finn, who was taking pictures with his captain’s new camera. The redhead was staring slack-jawed at Neil, Shaun, and Enzo, who all were surrounded by other ex-Wildwood students, having their own little celebration, jumping up and down and hollering out lyrics to some rap song. Sometime during the pep rally games, Kaspar pulled West aside, still reeling from earlier. “What-” “I know. I know,” West cut him off. “We all just found out today.” “B-But…” Kaspar’s head swiveled between their adversaries and his cousin, “they never showed up for summer practice or even tryouts, right?” “That’s what Justin was banking on, but it turns out…” “I… I can’t fucking believe this! They’re… it’s actually happening!” West just sighed. “They’re actually taking over the school!” West didn’t want to believe it, but Neil’s threat of taking the captaincy from him suddenly had more layers than he thought. It wasn’t just about being the captain. It was about taking the ”throne.” The basketball captain sat solemnly in the closest restroom he could find, hidden inside the farthest stall from the door, only occupied by him, his camera, and his thoughts. Of course, they were all on Neil. Why was he doing this? He couldn’t have known who West was before. Did the blond do something to spurn such vitriol? As West halfheartedly fiddled with his camera, pressing the record button and turning it on himself, the door to the restroom opened and a couple of voices floated in, already in the middle of a conversation. He froze as his ears twitched, instantly knowing who made their way in. “I dunno, man,” the one he knew to be Shaun spoke. “This place is lookin’ to be a bit posher than I expected. You really think anyone’s gonna get their noses white in this place?” “For sure.” Neil. Deep and self-assured. West quickly lifted his legs and placed his feet on the bottom of his stall door. This sounded like a private conversation, and if they found out he was listening in on it… “They fuckin’ hate us, bro. It’d be a lot more hilarious if we didn’t have a job to do.” Job? “Yeah, but not all of ‘em,” the lightning-eyed boy replied confidently. “There’s always that little group of outliers that’ll put a good time over necessity. Over loyalty. Trust me. Once they get hooked, the chase will be irresistible.” It was quiet for a moment, the only sound being the rush of the tap water followed by a few splashes. West deduced that one of them was washing his face. “Real talk, Ni?” Shaun’s voice came out a bit low as the tap was shut off. “What?” “I just… I don’t…” “Come on. Out with it, man,” the noirette snapped gruffly. Shaun sighed, suddenly sounding as if the world rested on his back. “I don’t think I can do this kind of shit, bro. I mean, sure we didn’t want to in the first place, but we all have a line and I think we just hit mine.” “Three years, Shaun. Three!” Neil growled. “That’s all that’s left. We won’t have to stay in this shithole for a second more! Our band will take off, and we’ll never have t’ speak with those bastards ever again! Just roll with the punches, ya feel me?” “And destroy other people’s lives in the process? So that they’ll have to go through th’ same thing you did?” The dyed-blond’s tone was soft, but there was that speck of accusation that did not go unnoticed. And West wasn’t the only one who caught it. “I ain’t like them, man! Don’t say I ain’t fuckin’ like them!” In his mind’s eye, he could see his rival’s face bloom red and his eyes flash in his borderline rage, ready to strike at the next affront. “Hell, no, I’m not!” Shaun retracted fiercely. There was no fear in his voice as he agreed with his friend. “You may be a douche most of th’ time, but underneath all that, there’s a great guy who wouldn’t put up with fucked up shit like this happening to other people! You don’t wanna do this, Ni-” “I know!” Neil roared, and West jumped, nearly yelping, as a bang on the stall door next to him rattled the aligned entrances, immediately bringing a long and tense silence. It was a minute before the irate teen spoke up, calmer but still strained with seething anger. “I fuckin’ know, okay? I hate this shit! I don’t think much of the assholes on this side of th’ tracks, but I hate what they’re makin’ me do! But… but…” “He’s getting impatient?” Neil grunted. “He won’t say it, but it’s obvious. I convinced him with Gia, but I’m not sure I can get us out of this. Maybe I’ll just… make a trade and offer my-” It was Shaun’s turn to yell. “Fuck, no! You’re not going through that again, bro! Not if I have anything to say about it!” Silence once more. West was still, shocked, and just a little bit heartbroken. These guys sounded… trapped. As if they were in a barely lit maze with no exit. “Besides,” he continued, “you already have enough on your plate with the webcamming and shit.” “Cristo, tell it to th’ whole fuckin’ world, why don’t ya?” Neil grumbled, back to his regular, brooding, and cold self. The mood was lifted by Shaun’s responding laughter. “Just us, motherfucker.” At that, West felt stunned and guilty. Stunned because of the webcamming part and guilty because he just realized his camera was still recording. However, he couldn’t quite bring himself to turn it off. It’ll only be used as a piece to the puzzle, he told himself. Nothing else. “So, who should we start with?” Shaun asked. “Have anybody in mind?” “I’ll figure it out.” “You think Flower Boy would want in?” Pause. Apprehension filled West as he waited on bated breath for his rival’s answer. Neil scoffed. “Don’t me make laugh.” “I mean, you never know. You always say that ‘not even the brightest star is enough to hide the darkness surrounding it.’ I bet Flori has some pretty fucked up secrets.” There really wasn’t anything dark about West, or rather, anything that he could think of. He believed himself to be a simple teenaged guy who loved to play sports and shoot pictures. The dimmest, undisclosed thing he could think of was that he was into kink. He didn’t know when it started, but he was slowly starting to see the appeal in BDSM. “Everyone does,” answered Neil, his voice beginning to sound far away. West latched on to the last thing he heard before the two made their way out of the restroom. “Come basketball season, we’ll see just what that is. Let’s get th’ hell outta here.” Late at night, West looked up Untold. They had recently uploaded a new cover about three days ago. The blond slept to Neil angrily singing Fake It by Seether.
  5. Westley D.

    Interview #2

    {Individual Interview #2}: MELINA BISHOP Site: WINSLOW HIGH SCHOOL CONFERENCE ROOM Date: FRIDAY, APRIL 20TH, 2018, 9:08 PM PST ---------- WEST: Okay. Whenever you’re ready. MELINA: Okay. Hello, my name is Melina Bishop and I am the vice president of the Tuct Side Board of Education and have been for eight years. I’m only thirty-five years old, so I was pretty young when I was first elected. Believe it or not, I actually loved going to school, so if that doesn’t tell you that I wasn’t like the other kids, then I don’t know what will. WEST: Don’t worry. I get it. MELINA: (LAUGHS) The town celebrity? Of course, you’d understand. To be honest, if we went to Patriot together, I would have run the other way. I was and still am what the populars would call a “bookworm.” Whether it be textbooks, romance novels, or whatever, I could not get enough. They say knowledge is power and you do not know how true that is. WEST: Oh, trust me. I do. MELINA: Then you and I have a lot in common. Though, there isn’t anything else about me. Grew up here all my life. Parents were cool. Two brothers and one sister. All amazing. WEST: That’s quite alright. Why don’t we get into the main course? So, the district would include both Patriot and Wildwood, right? MELINA: That’s correct. It might as well be every school in Tuct Side at this point. WEST: How was… seeing over Wildwood? Or rather, what’s your opinion on then and now? MELINA: Oof. Wildwood was… quite troublesome to keep a hold of. The finances, regulations, and even the students. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure most of the kids that went there had their backstories and unfortunate situations, but it was as if every day there was an issue or a change in policies. If you ask me, based on the fast pace of things, I don’t think President Mitch was in control of anything. WEST: You think there was some kind of inside job? MELINA: Didn’t want to believe it, but things weren’t quite adding up. Now, Mitch is the kind of guy that once he sets his mind on something, it is set in something stronger than stone. It’ll take ten wrecking balls to get through to him. However, I’d say a year before Wildwood officially closed down, he would have one idea, but then suddenly have a turn-around. Very unlike him. WEST: And the others caught on to that? MELINA: Oh, most definitely. He was a well-respected citizen in the community. Everybody knew what he was about. But, for some reason, no one questioned him. Or if they did, it was only once. He wanted Wildwood‘s graffiti cleaned up, he’d come back the next day and say he was actually talking about some writing in the men’s bathroom of Patriot High. He wanted to hire some teacher out of town, the person-in-question would have a job at the high school in the next town over. We had no idea what was going on with him. WEST: And the response to the shooting threats? MELINA: That was a big shocker! I think the world stopped moving when we got word of the news. WEST: And no one even questioned him on that? MELINA: Actually, just about everyone in the office was on his case about that one. The poor guy. I don’t even think it was his decision. It sounded like a choice the state department would make. WEST: To close the school completely must have meant the threat would have been carried out. MELINA: Tuct Side always did have some… untoward presences in its midst. A gang, they called it? No, that’s just minimizing the danger. They were more because they had influence. The police would have been on their tails a long time ago, but their longevity just goes to show you that this whole thing started before arriving in Tuct Side. WEST: How much influence would you say? MELINA: Other than the school board? The police department. The town itself. Hell, the people inside the town. Even ran secret town hall meetings. WEST: Town hall meetings? Were those a thing back then. MELINA: Way before you guys, but they diminished in recent years. Many say the gang took over. They were secret, but once you’d start paying attention, you’d see the signs. WEST: Signs? Like what? MELINA: Tuct Side is already a pretty quiet place, but on those days, everything would just be… silent. No cars. No kids playing at the park. I don’t think anybody would step outside of their house to go to work. The gang? They ran the streets, and it was indirectly hammered into your head that you were not allowed to disrespect them. Nobody talked about them. Either they wanted to pretend like they weren’t there or… WEST: Or? MELINA: They had eyes in every corner. They were easy to spot when they wore certain clothing, but then it got tricky. You wouldn’t know you were talking to one or inviting another into your home. Hiding in plain sight. WEST: So, you would say they had a hand in the shooting threats against Wildwood? MELINA: I believe so. No one else had that kind of power in little ol’ Idaho. Whoever they came from, it wasn’t from a single student. It was from the ones behind the curtains. The ones pulling the strings. WEST: The gang? MELINA: Exactly. (INTERVIEW END)
  6. Westley D.

    Chapter 10

    What were you put on this earth for? What role did God bestow upon you before you were born? Or if you’re not into that stuff… Why do you exist? Now, I’m not some self-absorbed brat with a hero complex, so I won’t say I was born to cure Tuct Side of its afflictions or something like that. I was just a teenage, aspiring journalist with a camera. I’d like to say it was a coincidence, but what was one coincidence after another? After a while, it started to feel like I was meant to uncover the truth. That could be my dormant ego talking, but after all this time, thinking about it now, either it was fate or we were dealing with a very sentient town, one that wanted to turn itself from the inside out. Saturday, August 18th, 2012 The weekend had finally arrived, which meant that the cousins would start their volunteering job at the Tuct-In Children’s Group Home. For a while, the place used to be an abandoned parish church, decay slowly taking the structure down. However, ten years ago, the ones in charge had the sudden idea of turning it into an orphanage due to the rising homeless and drug problem on the western side. Which brought them to now, parked before the refurbished former place of worship. “No sense of originality these days, huh?” Kaspar said as he stepped out of the car to stare up at the building. “What do you mean?” “It looks about the same as the new one that’s being built.” West took in the location and almost laughed. It did look a bit similar, the only differences being the brick composition and no pinnacles or a nave roof in sight. “Oh yeah. Now that you mention it…” Kaspar breathed out a chuckle. “Well, let’s go sign up for teenage parenthood.” The blond laughed and followed the redhead inside the building. They were greeted with a wide expanse, vinyl flooring littered with toys, empty juice boxes, and ten or so rowdy, small kids that froze at the sight of the newcomers. It was quiet for about a second before one of them, a small blond boy, went slack-jawed. “Woah. Woah! It’s- Y-You guys are…” Kaspar immediately adopted his cool, bored attitude and nodded once. “’Sup, kid.” West put on a bright smile and waved. “Hey, little dude. What’s up?” “D-Double Clutch and Ghost!?” the boy ran up to them, shock and excitement taking over his expression. Ghost. Kaspar’s basketball nickname. It wasn’t often anybody used it, the redhead preferring to be called by the shortened version of his first name, but it seemed it was popular among the younger generation judging by the realization of the duo town celebrities in their presence. “Wait, what!?” “Nuh-uh.” “Yuh-huh,” West winked at the disbelief on their faces. And soon enough, they were being flocked by a crowd of little boys and girls, vying for attention, pictures, and autographs. West had to laugh. It was almost a parallel to the commotion in Bradvons Park. “Kids, come on! Don’t hound them like that!” a familiar, silvery, and stern voice resounded from the back. West looked up to spot a short, russet-haired woman quickly making her way over. She was an attractive, young woman. When he first called her, he guessed her age range to be about around the thirties and forties, but she looked like she stepped right out of college. “Therrie!” the boy who noticed them first shouted giddily at her. “It’s Double Clutch and Ghost! From the basketball games! Did you bring them here?” “No, but I have a feeling they’re going to be sticking around for a while?” her gaze lost its exasperation when it turned to the two teens. West answered with a nod. “I hope so.” “Really?” the children bounced in growing joy, making West's heart swell. The woman giggled. “That’s right, but let me see if it’s alright with them. You guys head over to the lunchroom while I sort things out.” Of course, they begged to stay, still wanting their fill of the famous high school sports stars, but she shooed them all out. Once they were gone, she stuck out a hand for a shake. “Hi, guys. I’m Theresa Moldier. Therrie to the kids. Sorry. They’re rowdy on the weekends.” “Not much different than us, then,” West turned on the charm. “I think we’ll fit right in.” Theresa grinned. “You don’t say? Well, let’s get your schedules settled in.” However, before they got moving, someone else made their way in. All eyes went to a hulking boulder of a man, his large, muscular body stretching out his moss green shirt and black jeans. He stomped forth in combat boots with his head down so that his dark, curly hair covered his face. “Oh, sweetie!” Theresa spoke in surprise. “You’re off?” “Huh?” he looked up at last. “Oh, yeah. Gotta get goin’.” Then his sights went to the boys behind her and West felt a strange sense of familiarity hit him. The man’s bushy eyebrows furrowed in recognition. “I’ve seen you two before.” “Yeah?" the blond stepped forward. "We play for Patriot High. West Kuttner. And my cousin-” “Kaspar Dedekind,” the redhead introduced himself, discreetly bumping his shoulder against West's to stop him from going closer. “Nice to meet you, man. Are you guys…?” A shy but loving smile graced Theresa's youthful face as she gazed up at the huge guy. “My fiancé, Bran Morterero, but we plan to seal the deal in November.” Both boys stilled. The two adults didn’t notice. “Wants a whole Thanksgivin’ feast and everything,” Bran wrapped a big around Theresa’s slender shoulders, a sly, cocky grin on his face just for her. “Jesus, woman, a double celebration? You keep tellin’ me you ain’t a princess.” Theresa practically swooned. “Oh, hush, you. It’s for the kids.” West glanced at Kaspar, who looked just as astonished as he felt. “That’s…” he mouthed. “Brother? Cousin?” his relative replied voicelessly and shrugged. The blond was taken back to February, the night of their championship victory at Malt Chimney. The two individuals that moved past them, their moods on different sides of the spectrum. He now knew one of them had to be Neil. Could the other be this guy? Now that West got a good look at him, there was some semblance of his brooding adversary. Although, instead of eyes of lightning, there were orbs of wood. In place of pale, shiny skin was tan and coated in jet black stubble. “I’m so sorry!” Theresa failed to conceal her laughter. “We’re such teenagers over here. No offense. Let’s get you two situated.” She wrapped her arms around Bran briefly. “See you tonight, hun.” “You two, babe,” he kissed her forehead before turning to the boys, who still watched in stunned silence, and nodded. “Good seein’ you boys.” “You, too, man,” West responded, surprised he was able to keep his voice from stuttering. “Say hello to my lil’ brother, yeah?” And that did it. “R-Right. You got it.” His wide eyes went to Kaspar’s. “Brother,” the redhead mouth, confirming that mystery. Getting the schedules figured out was almost a blur. West’s thoughts remained on Bran Morterero, older brother to Neil Morterero. Cousin to Jorge and Javier Rabellino, the latter of which they have yet to meet. If fortuity had anything to say about it, it was only a matter of time. “It really is wonderful to have you guys here,” Theresa beamed. “Considering earlier, the kids will love you guys.”
  7. Westley D.

    Chapter 9

    Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 “We need to start with the school. If we’re going to spread some goodness around town, we at least need to look the part,” Adyson Stell, junior and second-in-command of the service-learning club, spoke as she paced the half-circle the other students made, her brown hair swaying back and forth. Mrs. Ada Kanumba, advanced World History teacher and chief of the club, nodded in approval as she listened in from her desk in the corner. “I like the sound of that. Let’s start with the school first. Throw some ideas out. What ways can we… enrich our school.” “Pizza on Fridays,” Jerry Rutherford, the black-haired sophomore and resident class clown sitting next to West, piped up jokingly. That got his ten or so peers laughing. The basketball captain blew out a breath at the irony, chuckling as he playfully elbowed him. “If Justin were here, man.” “I know, right?” “That sounds tasty, Mr. Rutherford,” Mrs. Kanumba said as the hysterics died down, “but by ‘enrich’, I mean further develop the quality of our school.” The club members tossed out idea after idea, and it wasn’t until the others exhausted their thoughts that West put in a word of his own. “Let’s decorate,” he shrugged. “Like?” the teacher encouraged. “Hang up motivational posters. Catchy signs for recycling. Paint the walls with space. We can spread some goodness, but let’s have some fun while we do it, yeah?” And that was what happened for the next half an hour. Mrs. Kanumba got out the markers, color pencils, and posters, and the club got to work. Fifteen minutes before the end of the meeting, West’s phone buzzed. Pausing on his work, he quickly took it out, unlocked it, and read the notification. * AMBER Alert Tuct Side, ID AMBER Alert: LIC/NYC-TSS (ID) 2012 Black Dodge Caravan * West felt a lurch in his stomach. It wasn’t often that he paid any mind to AMBER alerts. They occurred so infrequently and never made any noise around town, but since he and Kaspar had signed up for volunteering at a group home for children, it sent a new level of stress to see these kinds of messages. “You got it, too?” Jerry peaked at West’s phone over his shoulder, holding his own device. “Yeah. Hope they find the kid.” Jerry tapped away at his phone for a bit, then started giggling. The blond turned to him in question. “And I was right,” the jokester grinned a smug smile. “Two months later, another alert. Kim owes me fifty.” ”What do you mean?” Jerry’s smile broadened as he leaned close to West, showing the contents of his phone. “Well, my lady friend thinks I’m a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I can’t help but think that we, as in Tuct Side, get an AMBER alert only every two months. Starting from last year. See, look.” He scrolled upward, revealing a list of saved text alerts. All of them were AMBER alerts, the most recent dating back to June 15th. There was another one two months before it, just as Jerry claimed, on April 16th. February 15th. December 17th. October 13th. “What the fuck?” West whispered, staring at the phone in growing shock and apprehension. Jerry nodded, suddenly giddy. “I know, dude. It’s freaky. I think there’s a stalker kiddie diddler out there somewhere. As if this town isn’t crazy enough.” The new group home being built on the western side, the strange men with the diamond symbol on their jackets, and the unknown figure that may or may not be Javier Rabellino came to mind. However, no matter how much West tried to fit the pieces together in his head, it felt like there was still a whole lot missing. Those thoughts stuck with him for a while. Even after the club ended for today, he was too deep in his head to stick around and mingle. He had football practice next, but he doubted running across the field and being tackled by two hundred plus-sized dudes was going to bring him out of his reverie. As he headed down the school steps towards his car, where he kept his gear, he heard shouting emanating from the side of the building. “-know what your fuckin’ askin’, ya little shit!? Huh!?” He knew that voice the instant he heard it. “Woah, d-dude! I didn’t-… I-I didn’t-” What followed and cut off the desperate pleading was a deep smack, flesh connecting sharply with flesh. West was on the move, preparing himself to stop a fight, or rather, from the sounds of it, a physical assault. When he finally made it, he spotted three figures. Only one of them was who he thought it was. With a red sweater bunched up in his calloused fists was Neil, his cold eyes putting the fear of God into a brunette freshman. Close by was his friend, the big-boned boy named “Enzo.” “Shut the fuck up, puta!” Enzo stood beside Neil to bellow in the younger guy’s face. “Rich snobs tryin’ to grub our shit!” “I-I’m sorry! I-” The freshman was a second away from pissing his pants. West chose that moment to step in. “Yo! What’s going on?” All attention went to him, but the blond kept his sights on the lightning-eyed noirette. “Get lost, asshole!” Enzo swiped at the air. “It’s none of your business!” West ignored him and addressed Neil. “Hey, man. Let him go.” “Piss off, Flower Boy!” he snarled. “Not until you let him go. Whatever he did, I’m sure it didn’t warrant this.” It was silent for a beat, and West braced for a lunge, but was surprised to see his Wildwood adversary drop the freshman. Although, instead of lunging, he stomped toward the basketball captain, eyes locked the entire time. West’s breath caught in his throat when Neil got up in his space, noses a few centimeters from touching. The former, having to angle his head up slightly, forced himself not to move back as his rival sneered. It was a near-perfect replication of the Monday morning, and the same feeling stirred within. “You fuckin’ trippin’ right now!? Mr. Goody two fuckin’ shoes policing the whole school now!?” West squared his shoulders and glared right back into the storm. He was by no means a fighter, but he wouldn’t be seen as a pushover. “I don’t know how you rolled back in Wildwood, but here? Sorry, man, but I can’t allow it.” At that, the muscular noirette took a step back and crossed his arms, grinning mockingly at the stern attitude. “So, you wanna take the little shit’s place, pendejo? Square up, then.” West immediately shook his head. “I don’t wanna fight you, dude-” “He said square up, faggot!” Enzo yelled impatiently. West pursed his lips, thinking about what to do next. The obvious choice in his mind was to back down and attempt to make peace, but he knew it would be him getting beat on instead. Football practice was nearing its start, and his buddies were bound to wonder where their teammate was. He wasn’t exactly one of the star players, but his presence was needed. “Wait!” the freshman, who the others practically forgot was still there, squeaked. “It’s okay, West. I-I just wanted hit from…” He shakily pointed down at Neil’s feet. West looked to spot a small, used cigarette. “I’ll just… Sorry.” And he was off, tail tucked between his legs. Enzo scoffed in disgust. “Pussy.” West bent over to pick up the cancer stick, confusing the two ex-Wildwood adversaries. “The fuck you doin’?” Neil growled. The blond held the cigarette in his palm, gazing down at it before giving the lightning-eyed boy a look of disapproval. “What’s the point, man?” Neil blinked, stunned out of his brewing anger. “What?” “This?” he lifted his hand, but it wasn’t the object he spoke about. “You being angry all the time? What’s going on with you?” “You-” Enzo went to butt in, but stopped when his friend raised a hand. West tensed as Neil’s body turned to stone, not moving an inch as he stared coldly at the blond before him.“I believe,“ he started, his voice low and calm, “that’s none of your fuckin’ business, pendejo. Stick your nose in someone else’s asshole, yeah?” “You can’t be this angry without a reason. If you need to talk, I’m-” It was so quick, West almost didn't catch it. Neil’s arms flashed out and pelted him in the chest, and what probably looked like a light shove nearly sent the blond on his ass. Luckily, his basketball skills kicked in and broke his fall with one hand reaching back, feeling the hard ground scrape and cut into the skin of his palm. “I said keep out of my fuckin’ business, you piece of shit!” Neil shouted, his rage spilling out. “You,” he pointed trembling, accusing finger at the boy below him, “people like you think your shit smells like roses. Think that your assholes are all clean, prime, and proper when, really, you’re all the nastiest cunts of ‘em all. I’ve met people like you, and I know your hiding something, Flower Boy. A drug problem? Like to get your knuckles scraped up? Like to get a bit too touchy with girls? What is it?” West slowly picked himself up, bracing for another push just in case. “Never said I was perfect.” Neil’s laugh was harsh, a jovial sound void of humor. “Oh, I know that, but keep those eyes on what you shouldn’t be lookin’ at and I just might find out those flaws, you feel me?” West swallowed the lump in his throat. He wasn’t about to cry, but he did feel a twinge of guilt rise up. Was he being too pushy? Inconsiderate? “Yeah…” he decided to relent. “I get you, man.” He didn’t know Neil’s situation. It must be bad, judging by the bruises he saw that one day during summer break, but he wasn’t about to intrude. “Bueno,” an irritated but complacent smirk curled upon the noirette's lips. “Vuelve esos bonitos ojos a otra parte.” Behind him, Enzo flipped him off. West watched cautiously as the two strode away, their forms getting smaller as they walked down the school parking lot. “Y-You okay?” West spun around to find the freshman rounding the corner of the building, scanning the sophomore head to toe for injuries. His face was contrite, most likely for running away, but West wasn’t bothered with that. It was the whole point for stepping in anyway. “Oh, hey, yeah. You didn’t leave?” The younger teen shrugged sadly. “Felt like a jerk for running.” “Nah,” West waved dismissively. “Don’t feel bad. I can handle them.” “You sure? They looked like they were gonna clobber you.” The blond chuckled lightly, the stress from the situation easing out of him. “Yeah, but let’s just say there are perks to being the town’s Flower Boy.” “That absolute cunt!” Kaspar roared, banging his fists against the headrest of the passenger’s seat in his cousin’s car. “Wenn ich meine verdammten Hände auf ihn bekomme-” “Kas, please! Calm down!” West, in the driver’s seat, grabbed his hand, but the redhead would not be placated. It was after football practice and the sun was beginning to lower. West thought it would have been a good idea to inform them of what went down, but began to realize how ill-advised that was. “No! No! I will not calm down! That fucking shit-for-brains has the nerve to threaten you and besmirch our grounds with his… filth!?” Justin, leaning against the driver’s door next to Finn, rolled a joint in between his fingers as he grimaced. “I can’t believe you just used the word ‘besmirched’.” “I stopped it before anything happened,” West focused on his raging relative. “He laid into one of our own! That cannot go unpunished, man! If we don’t do something, they’ll turn our school into a circus!” “You’re very territorial,” mentioned Finn. Kaspar huffed indignantly. “If I am, then so be it. You know, West, I always make fun of you for going after this like it’s some kind of Scooby-doo mystery, but maybe there’s some truth to it.” West stilled. The other three gave him astonished looks. “You believe the rumors?” Kaspar sighed. “I wouldn’t go that far, but I refuse to believe that Patriot would choose to shack up with Wildwood so suddenly. And so… eagerly, too.” “So, you’re saying…” West egged him on, feeling that spark of excitement flare. The redhead rolled his eyes as he got in the car. “I’ll help as much as I can. Get some info. Take some pictures. I just wanna know why this is happening. I tried to ignore it, but… I just have a bad feeling about all this.” The blond hugged him from the side. He knew it took a lot for Kaspar to agree to this. Maybe telling him of today’s events wasn’t too much of a bad idea after all. “Thanks, bro!” He turned to Justin and Finn for confirmation. Justin took the joint from between his lips. “Hey, I’ve been on board since the beginning. Plus, it’ll get me out of the house.” Finn nodded in agreement. “Same.” “I’m not letting a bunch of lazy, backwater faultfinders control me,” Kaspar grumbled as rested back in his seat. West mentally jumped for joy. His whole crew was now onboard. “Well, in that case, anybody noticed our bi-monthly AMBER alert?”
  8. Westley D.

    Chapter 8

    Monday, August 13th, 2012 It was the day of reckoning. That’s what Justin called it. Patriot High will finally share the halls with Wildwood. The rest of yesterday was spent at Bradvons Park playing ball and planning out war strategies. Finn, a jokester when he wants to be, even pulled out The Art of War by Sun Tzu to see if they could apply anything for the tumultuous year ahead. However, even as they swaggered toward the school entrance, they were still trying to figure out an attack plan. “I say we just ignore ‘em,” Kaspar suggested. “People here already think they’re shit on the bottom of our shoe, so let them handle the grunt work.” West shook his head. “I doubt that’ll happen. I have the feeling they won’t be sitting ducks if somebody gave them shit.” And he didn’t want them to be, either. Despite everything, he wanted them to have a good experience here. Though, he didn’t say that out loud. “That is why we make the first move,” Justin spoke. “They ain’t any tougher than us.” “I’m with Kasleo on this,” said Finn. “Let’s not bother them.” “Well, judging by our first meet-and-greet, they didn’t have any warm regards for you, Finnehugs. Something tells me you didn’t have the best of times back in your Wildwood days,” the brunette put an arm around the much shorter boy. “Don’t you want to stick it to them for whatever they did?” “No, man. I just want to get through these next three years smoothly and unscathed.” “All I’m saying is that if they get in my face, I ain’t pulling any punches.” The four sauntered past the entrance, getting a few appreciative looks from lower and upperclassmen alike, which they ignored. “If they bother any of you guys, you tell me,” Kaspar pressed his thumb to his chest, his face serious. “I can’t say I won’t be expelled by the end of the week.” West shook his head, but kept his sights forward and in search of a certain someone. “Nobody will be getting expelled. Just be nice.” Justin pursed his lips in dissatisfaction. “I’m not taking a fist to the face.” “Not what I’m saying.” The blond reached back for the side of his backpack to pull out his camera and turned it on. “And you’re recording again,” Kaspar sighed dramatically. “Why am I not surprised?” West rolled his eyes. “Get used to it.” Lucky for the four of them, their lockers were located nearby each other, with West and Finn on one side and Kaspar and Justin on the other. Justin didn’t bother stopping at his, staying in between West and Finn. “Yo! Jivin’ Four! What’s up!?” a stocky boy in a letterman jacket saluted. “Hey, boys. Let’s play sometime, okay?” a girl in designer clothes passed by with her carbon copy posse. “Dudes! Wanna light up later?” a long-haired guy in a beanie proposed quite loudly. Justin immediately brightened at that. “I’ll take you up on that!” West and Finn snapped their eyes to their brunette friend in surprise, who shrugged indifferently. “What? Another excuse to get out of the house.” It seemed like every single second they were greeted by someone they mostly knew or had no idea existed. It was expected, but West could see how tiring it could get. Soon, they were joined by their football friends, Scott, Henry, and the twins Nathan and Vinny. A few more players caught up as well. “You guys enjoying the spotlight?” Scott asked with a grin. “Yeah, but it’ll blow over in fifteen minutes,” West waved at a couple of giggling freshmen girls. Henry, witnessing the interaction, clutched his stomach as he laughed, along with the other guys. “Not sure ‘bout that, man. You’re like Michael Jackson during the eighties.” “I’m trying to be humble here.” Nathan’s amusement vanished as his eyes locked with something down the hall. “Might want to save a piece of that humble pie. Look who's headed our way.” All turned to find a familiar group of teens approaching the boys. However, instead of four individuals, a set of ten made their way over, the vaunting advance catching the attention of the entire corridor. Their advent was led by Neil Morterero, of course, his blue eyes charged with resolute hostility. In the midst of their group, West met eyes with Nora, who was gazing back at him with a silent apology. The blond smiled back, reassuring her that she didn’t have to choose sides. He then redirected his attention to the noirette with the hidden husky singing voice with his best welcoming smile. He was tempted to mention Untold, something he has been listening to for the rest of summer break, but knew that wouldn’t go over well. “Hey, man,” he greeted brightly as he put his camera around his neck and left it recording. “You liking the school so far?” He got a few confused looks from his teammates at the warm salutation. As expected, it was not reciprocated. “Flower Boy,” Neil murmured gruffly. The two boys stood before each other, only a foot of space separating them. West could smell the aftershave and noticed a thin line of hair just above his rival’s upper lip. “So,” Shaun took a step forward, looking around the hall and its decoration of motivational posters and sports banners with boredom, “this is where the rich pricks and bitches come to inbreed? I expected as much.” That ignited Henry to get up in his face. He wasn’t nearly as tall as the former Wildwood student, but his brawn made him just as intimidating. “You wanna talk about inbred, look in the mirror, you western hicks!” West was quick to quell the rising tension. “Alright, alright! Let’s rein in the teeth and claws, guys. We don’t want to fight with you. If we can’t all be friends, that’s fine,” he turned back to Neil. “You stay out of our way, we stay out of yours, okay?” The lightning-eyed boy was silent. “Yeah?” the blond stuck out a hand, hoping to nip the issue in the bud. Unfortunately, his plea went unacknowledged. “You’re buggin’, Flower Boy. It’s you tontos that need t’ watch y’all’s backs, you feel me?” West let out a breath, suddenly weary. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, bro.” His teammates chuckled at that even though he wasn’t trying to be funny. Neil sneered and closed the gap between them, nearly touching noses with his adversary. “Come ball season, I’ll be taking that captain’s seat, aight?” “E-Excuse me?” the blond backpedaled, jarred from the trance Neil’s closeness nearly put him in. The noirette towered over him with a malicious smirk. “Jivin’ fuckin’ Four. Watch your backs.” He glanced down at the camera and winked before stepping back and walking the way he came, his gang splitting apart for him before following. “The fuck did he say?” Kaspar said behind him, having got there unnoticed at some point during the stand-off. West couldn’t help but groan, being frazzled by the interaction completely unexpected. He thought he could get a handle on his rival’s demeanor, but this was a whole other ball game that was being played. “Basketball season’s gonna be a trip.” “Alright…” West spoke into his cellphone as he paced around his room. “Okay, thank you so much… We’ll be there. See you soon!” Hanging up, he turned to Kaspar, who sat at his desk with a laptop, expectant. “Saturday. Noon.” “You have football practice?” he asked. “At four, but we won’t be there for long. If I’m remembering correctly, we get to settle our schedules.” “Cool. Getting the position for president in student council is gonna be a bitch this year without time on my side.” The first day of school proved to be more arduous on the academic side of things. Nothing else of significance occurred between the warring sides for the rest of the day, but it only served to fuel the ever-present tension. “Okay, look,” Justin, who was laying on West’s bed behind a sitting Finn, piped up. “I’m ninety-nine percent sure you’ll be president, so I have a few proposals.” Kaspar scoffed and talked as he typed away on his computer. “No, ‘Sophomore Skip Day’ is not going to be a thing and pizza on Fridays is not going to happen.” The brunette predictably pouted. “The skip day, I know it’s wishful thinking, but why not Pizza Friday?” “If it’s going to be every Friday, then it has to apply to the entire school. And you know how Murray is with the budget.” “Bullshit!” Kaspar sighed and stopped working to think for a moment. The tall boy was relentless with these kinds of demands. “I can work out a fundraiser or something. I’m getting a job at Tuct-In, so we might be able to work something out.” “But every day?” Justin’s eyes fluttered hopefully. “Gierig.” That got a good laugh out of West and Finn, who turned to beam at each other. The latter kept his eyes on the former when he returned to whatever he was working on, which happened to be posting sticky notes onto a blank piece of paper. “What’s going on over there, Flo?” the ebony-haired boy walked toward the blond to peek over his shoulder. West pursed his lips as he glanced at Kaspar, who was still typing up a storm. “I don’t want Kas to get mad at me.” The redhead grinned and spoke teasingly, “I already know. He likes mysteries, now.” “Meaning?” Interested, Justin got up and stood next to Finn. Finn peered at the writing of one of the sticky notes. “About Tuct Side? Honestly, I get that feeling around here.” “Man, weird shit always happens in this fucking town. Like that car that drove up on the court at Bradvons.” West nodded eagerly, feeling a bit vindicated at Justin’s statement. “That’s right. And the school shooting threats that closed down Wildwood. And one of the Rabellinos at the graduation party and the strange figure at the open house, who I’m almost sure is the same person. And-” “Wait! Hold on,” Justin interrupted. “What? Strange figure?” The basketball captain spun over to find his three friends staring at him in surprise. While biting his cheek to suppress a smirk, he dug out his own laptop from his backpack, turned it on, and clicked into a folder dubbed “T.S.” Scrolling instantly toward the bottom, he pressed on one of the mp4 files taken by Jaylin. The other three got in close and watched as the video focused on Principal Murray for about a minute before it zoomed out and panned upward in an attempt to capture the entire body of sports representatives. This maneuver happened to catch a bit of the balcony, but it was enough to get the unknown figure in the frame, sitting there ever so still and ominously. “See that? In the balcony,” the blond pointed, watching the others’ faces shift from confusion to shock. “Woah,” Justin leaned back. “Creepy.” Kaspar scratched at his red hair, a sign of his growing agitation. “One – why are we hearing about this just now? And two – how do you know it’s the same guy? We barely got a glimpse at the weirdo at the party. Not to mention, it was crowded and dark as fuck.” “Well, I looked up Javier Rabellino and got his Facebook page,” West replied as he did just that. “He hasn’t posted in a while, but I think it’s up to date. Jorge told me that his older brother coaches for the Humberston University basketball team. Tell me this isn’t the same person we saw at the party, Kas.” He pulled up an image of said older sibling with two college-aged basketball players on either side. Javier Rabellino was a very handsome Latino man like his younger brother. His black hair fell in waves, stopping near the middle of his sturdy neck that sat atop a muscular, mesomorphic body. Similar to Jorge, his smile was white and bright, completely dissociative from the mysterious man from the party or the figure in the video. “What was he was doing at a high school party?” Finn asked. West shrugged. “Dunno. Probably recruiting more athletes?” “He was surrounded by juniors, though,” Kaspar reminded them. Finn moved away to sit back down on West’s bed. “He was recruiting juniors at a party? I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit suspect to me.” Justin took the abandoned spot to gaze at the sticky notes. “What else we got?” On the inside, West felt his excitement grow at the prospect of his buddies including themselves along for the ride. “After the championship win, my folks and I got to Malt Chimney early and we nearly ran into these two guys. One of them was stomping and cursing angrily and the other just kind of followed along silently. Now that I think about it…” “You met our new resident bad boy a lot earlier than you thought,” Finn grinned. The captain nodded in agreement. “Oh yeah. And whoever showed up at Bradvons must have been the same guy. Nobody would be that crazy to nearly steamroll a bunch of kids at the park. Even Neil looked scared.” He didn’t mention the hidden bruises he spotted marring the lightning-eyed boy’s pale skin. It was very possible the culprit was the angry fellow who, based on that day at the park, had no business driving a car. Maybe it was one of those guys we saw at the orphanage- er, group home site,” Justin wondered. “Those guys had jackets with that purple diamond symbol on the back. They’re probably a part of a gang or some shit.” Kaspar’s face scrunched up, disbelieving. “What gang would build a group home for children?” It was quiet for a moment before West muttered, “Maybe it isn’t a group home.” Of course, ever the intellectual, his cousin shook his head. “Man, I expected J-Dog here to say that, but not you. And it’s kind of hilarious.” “I’m serious, though.” he reached for the corner of his desk and pulled out two more sticky notes to add to his timeline. “Lastly, we have secret surveillance and the timing of a whole bunch of marriages, but we need more info on those two.” Kaspar huffed in exasperation. West knew his hotheaded relative wanted to tell him off, but it wasn’t like the blond to leave something unfinished once he got it started, especially something as exciting as this. “How is any of this connected?” the redhead questioned. “I don’t know, bro, but I have a feeling it is. It looks like we need to go exploring,” West clicked the power button on the camera around his neck, having secretly videoed the entire conversation.
  9. [Personal Account #2] The following narrative is recounted by: FINN CASBALD Hello to everyone whose reading this. Um, doing this feels a bit weird, you know. You’d think with the number of times teachers make you introduce yourself in front of the class, it would be easier to simply transcribe it on paper. Only this time, millions and millions of people are going to be reading this. Man, West. Why’d you have to go and get famous, huh? I’m kidding. I’m happy for him and what he’s doing. This saga of our history needed to get out. As a cautionary tale, a scary campfire story, or a documentary. It doesn’t matter. Anyway, my name is Finn Casbald. I was born on January 27th, 1997 in Seattle, Washington. Don’t mistake it. I consider myself an Arab American. My parents, Salma and Abdus Samad Casbald, conceived me in Saudi Arabia. That might seem like a little TMI, but I’m proud of my roots. Unfortunately, other people didn’t like that. We lived in the dingier suburbs of Seattle, rife with thieves, vandals, and druggies. The woodlands in our backyard had tents at every third tree, so misery loved company in our close-knit neighborhood. Our move to Tuct Side was rather dramatic. “Harrowing” is actually a much better word. I wasn’t a very popular kid in elementary school. My social status was almost the complete opposite of what it was at Patriot High. Instead of a small-town basketball hero, I was a city block verbal punching bag. My Islamic faith was mocked and was called every name in the book. My personal favorite was “Casbah.” Good thing I happened to like The Clash and their music. Not only that, but I was a total nerd. Other kids got other kids to be afraid of me because they thought my intelligence meant I knew how to build a bomb. Oddly, I felt both flattered and insulted at the same time. Most of the bullying was verbal and emotional. Until it wasn’t. It was also the day I realized that bullying didn’t only go down in school. It was the winter afternoon of 2009. A twelve-year-old Finn was running, or at least trying to run, in eight inches of snow. School was on an extended shutdown because of the wintry weather, so I thanked Allah by playing and dancing in the snow, completely unaware of two approaching and armed skinheads. Now, I should preface that my parents were being harassed for months prior. Nazi symbols on our door, racial slurs being shouted our way, etc. And it was all kept away from my eyes and ears – that is, if it didn’t come from school. This moment, however, was an instance that could have been worse. I consider it both lucky and unfortunate. These guys looked like your everyday roughneck thugs with a swastika stamped on their foreheads. My parents were home sleeping off a free day from work. Though, I don’t think they were too disappointed settling for me. The memory is a bit of a blur. I remember one of them screaming at me while the other fiddled with his pistol. The words were a jumbled mess, so I don’t recall a thing of what he said, but it must have been pretty racist. A rough grab on the arm had me wailing for my mom and dad, then a loud bang that stole my hearing, sight, and consciousness. I was lucky enough to feel no pain. I woke up in the hospital a week later, my teary-eyed parents surrounding me. They said it was a miracle I survived. I believe that, too. Allah blessed me that day I decided to sing and dance for him in the snow for closing down school. Needless to say, after I made a full recovery, we moved out of that place. The monsters who shot me were arrested and had a pretty lengthy sentence, but it was not enough to comfort and keep us in place. It was no longer our home. Some people took pity on us and donated their money to help us get on the road, but not before attempting to convince us to stay. Your community had no place for bigots? Yeah, tell that to the bullet scar on my shoulder. Tuct Side turned out to be a lot better. We had enough borrowed money to land us a cottage on the eastern side of town. Due to prior events, our trust in neighbors was pretty shot to shit- no pun intended. So, we decided to isolate ourselves. Not too many know I went to Wildwood considering the fact that we lived on the comfortable side of things. My folks had mistakenly thought the middle schools on the eastern side were private. I transitioned into Patriot High rather quietly. Seventh and eighth grade at Wildwood was a different year for me. At first, no one really spoke to me during my first few weeks. That was until I nearly ran into Neil Morterero. The fellow noirette was, with no holds barred, a bully and a prince. A fourteen-year-old seventh grader ruled the halls of Wildwood. And I’m not kidding when I say that. Having a big stature for a middle schooler, an acerbic and explosively hostile attitude, and three family members that still have a controlling hand in running the edifice put him on a tyrannical pedestal that no child should be placed upon. If you want them to grow up with a sound and humble mind, that is. Backtalking teachers, getting in fights, and defacing school property were only a few things on the list of offenses this kid has gotten away with. In typical Nigel fashion, he laid into me, who shrank in the face of his lava-hot rage. I resigned to my fate that the bullying from my other school would spill into my time here in Wildwood, but like an angel in glasses, Nora Orellana jumped in front of me before the fist my would-be tormentor had been preparing could reach me. I was amazed about what transpired next. It was like she flipped a switch and the red-faced beast subsided into a grumbling but pacified one. Nora was my first friend at Wildwood. And with her friendship, came Shaun McMann, Neil’s best friend. Enzo and Via Ramírez, twins, were next. Neil himself disapproved of me for the first couple of months, dealing out the occasional shove and jokes at my expense, but he warmed up to me after that. In fact, we got so close that I might venture to say we had a tighter relationship than we had with either Nora or Shaun. We shared dark secrets, he got me hooked on basketball, and I provided him with a healthy outlet for all his troubles at home. It was honestly one of the best years of my life so far. But, as a wise man once said, “all good things must come to end.” Now, I apologize to the readers if you all were anticipating what went down between us, but I don’t think I want to talk about that time. Call me coward, a simp, or whatever, but even after all these years, I hate to think writing about it will put Neil or any of the others in a bad light. It was not petty drama like everyone was led to believe. I already forgave them fully for everything weeks after it occurred. I will say that things got physical, and I was in a pretty dark headspace about it or the remainder of eighth grade. Though, knowing what I know now, I realized I wasn’t the only one hurting. People project their pain in different ways. Neil’s way was to unleash it onto others. Being scared, lonely, and out of control for most of your life will have you do the craziest of things. High school was an improvement beyond improvements. I was initially scared of West and Kaspar when I first met them. Kaspar was a bit like Neil in terms of their hothead behavior and quick temper. We were all teammates on the freshmen basketball team and whenever the redhead got mad, he would devolve into German expletives and obscenities. It reminded me of the two men that came for my family that day, which made me slip into a panic attack. I’ve had them since the shooting, but they gradually lessened as I got older. It was quite embarrassing sitting on the locker room floor trying to control my rapid breaths while my shoulder throbbed with the painful phantom sensation of what the bullet was supposed to feel like had I not blacked out. Once again, I thought I had ruined my social reputation, but the angel this time around came in the form of a boy named Justin Shoemaker. The tall brunette had such an eccentric nature to him, I never saw myself being friends with him. Though, through that “energetic goofball” personality was a sensitive and attentive temperament. He had sat next to me, a soothing arm wrapped around my shoulder as I rode out the rest of my panic attack. West, Kaspar, and a good chunk of the basketball team had appeared sometime during my episode. The team captain, his cousin, and the boy next to me stayed by my side while they reproached anybody who would dare taunt the kid who freaked out over a foreign language. I told them about my injury and the dirty details it came packaged with, but the three never left me since. Kaspar apologized for his fury that day and, at one point, even made it a goal to keep his angry German side to himself, but I insisted on him blowing up every now and then. Keeping such rage inside never ended well, and I’ve seen that happen too many times. People wonder how I can keep such a positive attitude. It’s actually pretty easy for me. Nowadays, I prefer to keep my mind on the positive. Trust me. It works wonders on the mind. I am a hell of a lot happier for it and cannot express my boundless gratitude to everybody who's been a part of those good memories during my most turbulent years. Damn. I wrote a lot, and it isn’t even the full story. You thinkin’ about hiring an assistant soon, West? 😉
  10. Westley D.

    Chapter 7

    Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 Neil’s voice remained inside West’s head for the better part into next week. Through a few more football practices, drives through town, basketball matches at Bradvons Park, and a few fifty more photos of Tuct Side taken by his new camera, the rough and slightly raspy tones of his “rival” haunted his mind. Even when he got the news of an impromptu open house at Patriot High, that husky timbre was not too far from his mind. He suspected the open house had to do with the displaced Wildwood students. Those suspicions were confirmed when he found Kaspar, Finn, and himself, his new camera around his neck, in the school main lobby, along with other top athletes from each sport, wearing their blue team jackets. Justin was surprisingly absent, and they weren’t the only ones who noticed. Principal Joseph Murray was a tall, bald middle-aged man who was far from the usual sourpuss instructor stereotype that sucked the fun out of everything. He was a genuine upstanding town resident with a calm, lax attitude even during school hours. At the most, the troublemakers got a stern frown and long lecture, but if anyone knew how to give the man an ulcer, it was the Shoemaker boy. Murray marched by, coming back from a third round of doing attendance, and grimly surveyed the lacking group. “Still not here?” “Nope,” Kaspar replied gruffly. “Texted him,” West glanced at his phone. “No reply, sir.” “I’ve tried calling him, sir,” Finn answered solemnly, poking nervously at the drawstring of his gray hoodie. “He hasn’t answered, yet.” Murray pursed his lips tightly as if fighting to utter a curse, before exhaling and pinching the bridge of his long nose. “You know, this was kind of out of the blue, so I understand a bit. Still doesn’t lessen the headache, though.” West stepped forward. “I can drive up to his house and see what’s going on. I’ll be back in-” Just right then, one of the entrance doors swung open to reveal Justin Shoemaker, untroubled inside and out. Not a curly, brown hair was out of place and his team jacket, pink polo shirt, and khaki shorts smelled of a floral fragrance. To top it all off, the brunette graced everyone with a shit-eating grin, which sobered up quickly when he locked eyes with Principal Murray. “Mr. Shoemaker-” “I’m terribly sorry, sir,” Justin clasped his hands together. “And I mean that. I was supposed to be watching my sisters today, but my mom had trouble rearranging things. It came at such short notice.” The mock apology on the teen’s face would have been laughed at if it weren’t for the presence of their principal, who shockingly sighed in resignation and waved a dismissive hand. “I… apologize for this inconvenience, Mr. Shoemaker. The only thing that matters now is that you’re here. No repercussions for your actions today.” Justin nodded frantically, imitating a bobblehead. “Thank you, sir. May I hug you in thanks?” “Just stay in sight, Justin,” the man shook his head and sauntered into the gymnasium next door. “Right.” Five seconds of silence between the group went by before they busted into hysterics. A tear or two even escaped West’s eye. “May I hug you?” Kaspar mimicked. “Dude, one of these days, he’s gonna clock you for some shit. I swear.” Justin grinned widely at that. “One of my new goals in life.” After the amusement settled, Finn leaned toward Justin and took a whiff of his shoulder. “You smell like flowers. Since when do you wear your mom’s perfume?” “Since a little of…” he fished inside his shorts’ pockets to pull out what looked like a tiny piece of rolled-up paper, burnt at the tip, “this.” West blinked twice at the object. “That’s…” “It’s only w-” he stopped before darting his eyes around for unwanted attention, specifically a certain principal or other loitering authority figures. “It’s only weed.” “Why do you have it?” Finn questioned immediately. “And where did you get it?” West asked right after. “And how the fuck do you even have it at all?” Kaspar glared at him. “Your folks are like Nazis for Christ and all that shit.” Justin raised both of his hands, but promptly hid them in his pockets. “Chill! I only smoke to take off the edge. You know how the ‘rents are always on my ass. It helps to take off the edge.” West could attest to the “strict parents.” Justin was allowed to bring only one friend once every week. And even then, there was barely anything to do since they were under stringent supervision. The blond knew his brunette teammate was out of the house a lot unless he wanted to be with his little sisters. “It’s still bad for you, J,” Finn gazed at the boy with worry. Justin attempted to placate him by wrapping an arm around the ebony-haired boy’s shoulders and bringing him in close, making the latter blush. “No need to worry, Finnehugs. I don’t do it every single day. I save the getting really fucked up for the upcoming parties. Er, sorry. Get-togethers.” It sounded like someone else West knew very well, and he opened his mouth when he spotted one of his classmates glancing expectedly at him. “Hey, Jaylin!” he waved the girl over. “Over here!” Jaylin Martin smiled sweetly as she ambled over to his space. She was a very attractive junior, with glowing, coffee skin, a large afro, and a lovely, helpful personality. West had a small crush on the girl, but he knew Kaspar was enamored, which would explain why he was currently staring down at the floor, trying to appear in thought while hiding a crimson face. “Hey, West! Is everything alright?” “Just fine,” West chuckled as he lifted the camera strap from around his neck and handed the device to Jaylin. “Again, thanks for doing this.” Jaylin nodded eagerly. “No problem. It’s not every day an athlete joins the photography club, much less a famous one, but with you onboard, we might be able to make some waves.” Before West could respond, the middle gymnasium door opened and Principal Murray took one step out, stern brown eyes assessing each athlete as he addressed the lobby. “Alright, students! We’re about ready to start. It’s pretty simple. When your group is called, walk down in a single-file line. Mrs. Shannon will lead you where to go and stand. You represent the school…” West chose that time to tune Murray out and turned back to Jaylin, whispering, “I’ve been wanting in for some time now. You don’t have to do much. Just film what you feel is important. And you can stop whenever you want.” “Don’t worry,” Jaylin waved down the concerns, brimming with confidence. “I’ve been doing this for a while, too. I know how to get the good shots.” “That’s good. Thanks, Jaylin.” By then, Murray was already back inside, continuing his speech for the assemblage of new parents and students. Jaylin snuck in, West’s camera already aimed at the principal and recording. “You’re joining the photography club?” Kaspar muttered, his cheeks still flushed. “Yep. Made a spot for myself as soon as I got here.” “Ah. So, a little quid pro quo action on the side, eh?” Justin smirked as he poked at the blond’s side. West’s face scrunched as he swiped at the brunette. “No! Nothing like that. Your head’s in the gutter, man. Get it out.” His cousin let out an indignant snort. “Don’t let Wildwood hear you say that word.” The team captain sighed internally. He had realized some time ago that his redheaded relative’s dislike of those on the western side was more of a prejudice culminated by narrow-minded preconceptions rather than the typical rival-like aversion. In his mind, they made up the druggies, wife beaters, and future jail cell occupants. He was going to have to discuss these notions with him sometime soon. Especially since West’s interest in a particular boy with eyes of lightning had skyrocketed. He gave his cousin a pointed look. “If we see them, play nice.” The basketball team was the fourth sports team to be introduced to the masses. With Wildwood making up the majority of the audience, West prepared himself for an awkward reception. However, and shockingly, the crowd seemed to explode as the Jiving Four made their appearance, their cheers still shaking the room even as Principal Murray announced them individually. Only a quad of the most talented athletes of each team represented the sport as a whole – which might have been planned to keep the Jiving Four together – but Murray brought up the other teams they were a part of as well. West for football and lacrosse Kaspar for lacrosse. Justin for football and wrestling. And Finn for hockey and boys’ volleyball. They really were at the top of the ladder despite being incoming sophomores. West had a distinct feeling Murray was showing off. After blowing the school’s horn for half an hour, lunch was offered in the cafeteria while tours were given out for the families serious about attending. Patriot High was an enormous school, well-heeled people and their money backing up the system. Of course, the kids huddled around the Jiving Four, scrambling for an autograph and a picture with the boys. Only a few brought up the unfinished match between West and Neil, and the former could only shrug. Though, speaking of the latter, after sneaking away from the gymnasium, the four, or rather just West, searched high and low for the team captain’s rival. The hunt’s results came up empty concerning the lightning-eyed boy, but instead of him, they found his friends. Nora and Shaun were at a corner table in the cafeteria, sitting next to each other, eating and laughing. Across from them were the remaining half, the short, stocky boy who he recalled went by the name of “Enzo” and his sister, both of who were doing the same. West felt a bit disappointed at Neil’s absence, but the opportunity to build a bridge between Patriot High and Wildwood and welcome new Pioneers to the school made him feel optimistic. His legs led him toward the group, but a hard hand tightly grasped his shoulder and pulled him back. The blond spun around to glare at Kaspar, who scowled back. “I know what you’re thinking, dude, and I don’t think so.” “Kas! You can’t just-” “I, uh,” Justin leaned in near West, his eyes darting around the shuffling mass, “I gotta side with Kasleo on this one, bro.” “Wait, what?” That was new. Justin was the daring one of the four, yet he would object to this. “What do you mean?” “West,” Kaspar sighed as he placed both hands on his cousin’s shoulders and connected eyes with him, “the last time you saw, no, spoke to them, they looked like they wanted to cut you up and dump your body in a lake. Well, all of them except Nora. And you were nice to them. They’re the type of people who hate receiving handouts. Who hate receiving help from ‘rich bitches’ like us. I bet you millions they’re at their threshold for having their school closed down and being forced to come here and would love nothing more than to make Patriot High look bad.” West absorbed all that his relative said. He wanted to believe it was just Kaspar’s prejudice talking, but he could not deny that an argument would more than likely be stricken up if he went over there right now. A small part of him still combing for credence, he turned toward his small forward. “Finn. You’ve known them for a while. Is this true, man?” The ebony-haired boy gave him an apologetic look. “I… hate to say it, but most likely. The whole us-against-them mentality runs deep in Wildwood. Expect for some shit to go down the first few weeks of school.” “And we’re not starting that shit now,” Kaspar nodded. “You hear me, man?” “I-” “Yo! West, bro!” The quartet’s attention shifted to the tension breaker. West immediately recognized the jovial face as Jorge Rabellino and felt his discontent fade. “Jorge! What’s up, dude?” He moved away from Kaspar to shake the ex-Wildwood player’s hand. Meanwhile, Kaspar was stupefied, Finn had a half-smile on his face, and Justin’s jaw was closing in on the floor. “You’re-” “And the rest of the gang, too. Don’t tell me your names! Let me guess!” Jorge reached for the stunned brunette first. “Shoe… Shoemaker? Justin Shoemaker?” “Y-Yeah…” He chuckled before turning to the Pioneers’ small forward with a knowing gleam. “Finn Casbald. Also known as Fish Finns, my boy! I know you! Of course, I know you!” he ruffled the teen’s black hair. “I haven’t seen you in a while, son! How are you?” Finn laughed shyly. “I’m well, Jorge. It’s good to see you.” “Good shit. And last but not least,” Jorge’s eyes connected with a pair of suspicious brown ones, “Kaspar Dedekind, right? Hopefully, you’re as friendly as the ghost?” The redhead was still for a few seconds, assessing the guy in front of him head to toe, before reaching out and shaking his hand, gracing him with a smile that did not quite reach his face. “When I need to be, Hangman. Never on the court, though.” Jorge’s grin widened at hearing his nickname. “That’s what I wanted to hear! Amazing to finally meet you all!” “You, too!” West said, then he had to ask, “Hey, is Neil here, by any chance?” His cousin’s glare was on him yet again. “Nah. I tried to get ‘im to come, but dude wasn’t havin’ it. He’s been a little… tight recently. He is coming here. I wonder if that’s got him so wound up.” The ex-Wildwood player rotated to observe the people walking, conversing, and eating around them, his eyes glazing over with suppressed amazement. “I mean, nothing personal, but back then, I would’ve thought hell had frozen over if something like this happened back then. Pioneers and Warthogs were… are like water and oil.” Justin hummed in agreement. “I heard it was a school shooting threat or something.” “Something like that. Honestly, I’m kinda glad this happened,” Jorge spun back around and beamed at the four, looking at each of them individually. “It’s about time the two halves bury the hatchet, yeah? Based on your guys’ little cup tie, I feel like this year’s basketball team’s gonna be unstoppable.” “Shit, yeah! A clean sweep with this guy at the helm!” Justin patted West on the shoulder. Internally, the blond wanted to bring up Neil and his singing. He wanted to know more about the angry boy’s talent. A flair that nobody would have ever initially guessed. Kaspar must have seen his pensive expression because, shockingly, he voiced his cousin’s inner thoughts after sighing. “So, I’ve heard your cousin’s a singer. Heard him playing around the block when we went out for a stroll. He’s pretty good.” West gaped at him while listening raptly for the answer. "Fuck, yeah, he is! My dude’s branching out from basketball, but I really think he and his boys are gonna make it. I think they’re online. Look up Untold on YouTube. They have some great shit on there.” ”Will do,” West nodded. He glanced at Kaspar and mouthed a “thanks,” making the redhead roll his eyes and huff. He could hug Kaspar in front of all these people and not care. The five continued their conversation as they stuffed themselves with food. In the midst of their lunch, Jaylin had found West and returned his camera. Not only did she record the sports representation, but the academic presentations and a school tour as well. It was more than he asked for, which was more than perfect. Later that night, when West had the time to review the footage before he went to bed, he had caught something rather… odd. The gymnasium was a wide expanse with a balcony above the bottom level bleachers. Jaylin did a wonderful job capturing everything during a few slow peruses before focusing on the main parts. However, in one of those moments during the sports presentation portion of the open house, there was a lone figure in the far back row seats of the balcony. Even zooming in, the person was nearly impossible to make out, but judging by the shoulder length and slouched sitting position, it was most likely a male. The unknown man sat there until the footage progressed into the middle of the academic segment. The departure hadn’t been caught on camera. When it panned back over to the balcony, he was gone. Sunday, August 12th, 2012 It was the last day before school began. Not only the last day before slamming lockers, slumping in desks, and listening to adults drone on, but before a battle between rivals began. With Wildwood integrated into the Pioneers’ student body, things at Patriot High were bound to get hectic, and West felt as if it was the calm before the storm. A war he wanted no part of. So, to ease his mind, he opted to spend the entire day with his boys, joyriding around Tuct Side. “So, you’re actually doing this,” Finn asked from the passengers’ seat. “Making a… documentary?” “Yeah. I figured I’d start off with something simple like my hometown. Not many people know Tuct Side exists.” Well, he hoped that was true. He had managed to convince his family, more so his parents, that it was a project for school. Everyone knew Friedrich Kuttner IV wouldn’t let his son slack off from becoming a true star in basketball. Not after the firstborn slipped from his fingers. “I’m sure you’re bound to make it interesting,” Kaspar piped up behind his cousin. West blinked, glancing at the redhead through the rearview mirror in surprise. “You don’t say?” “Yeah. I mean, the rumors of hidden cameras. The sudden influx of marriages. Even Hangman fucking Rabellino. Hell, throw us in there. Tuct Side’s an interesting place. You just gotta live here to get it.” “Never figured for a fan of this place, man,” the blond had to grin. Justin shook his head from his relaxed, horizontal position in the farthest back seat. “Nah. You only get used to it.” “I’m pretty grateful,” Finn shrugged. “I would have never been kind-of famous, get into b-ball, and befriend you guys if I hadn’t moved here.” “That’s right. And Mr. and Mrs. Casbald deserve all the credit.” “You’re just jealous your ‘rents keep you in a cage,” Kaspar threw back at the brunette. “Yours don’t and they’re Catholic, too! You know, my mom talked shit about your dad.” It was no secret that Justin’s parents were distancing themselves from their friend group – the rest of the Jiving Four’s folks. They were delving past Catholicism to straight-up fundamentalism. “Hold on. What!?” the redhead exclaimed as he twisted back, fists clenched in growing anger. “The fuck did she say?” West wasn’t even shocked. As he came upon a red light, he quickly pulled out his phone, logged on to his YouTube account, and typed in Untold. The first search result showed a cover of Send the Pain Below by Chevelle. It had over thirty thousand views despite being uploaded a week ago. So, it’s a rock band. He smiled to himself as he hurriedly snagged earphones from the center console, put them on, and connected it to the phone. Luckily, West happened to love rock music, so he was bound to enjoy whatever they put out. He clicked the video at the same time the lights went green and let himself be absorbed in his rival’s husky vocals. “It’s nothing bad,” Justin crossed his arms behind his head. “She saw him wearing a rainbow shirt and got all uptight about it.” Hearing that, Kaspar strangely deflated, spinning back around and slouching in his seat. “Denmark got gay marriage legal a couple of months ago and my parents support that even though they’re Catholic. I dunno. It’s kind of weird.” “Are you sure they’re Catholic,” Finn seemed nervous when he asked. “Well, yeah, but I mean-” the redhead cut off when he noticed his cousin banging his blond head to some music only he could hear as he drove. “What are you listening to on your phone?” West froze. “Nothing. Just-” “Untold, eh?” Finn, who leaned over to peer at his captain’s phone, smirked. “Never heard of them before.” Kaspar groaned as he stared at his cousin. “You. Are so. Obsessed, man.” “It’s a little suspicious, you know?” Justin said. West’s eyes narrowed at that, pausing the video before staring his tall friend down. “Suspicious, how? What do you even mean?” The brunette suddenly appeared a bit tense, as if not knowing how to phrase his next statement. “I mean… it’s a bit…” his sight went out the window in search of a distraction, “Hey, look! Construction!” It wasn’t a trick. The construction site was in an empty expanse of grass and dirt, located at what seemed like the corner of the entire town. From the looks of it, it was going to be a large farmhouse, which was an unusual establishment in western Tuct Side. Seeing as there wasn’t any traffic right now, West stopped on the side of the street to watch as men in lime safety vests trudged around the half-completed building. “What do you think they’re building?” Finn broke the silence. Justin sat upright and clapped his hands. “That, my boys, is the western side orphanage. A sister home to the Tuct-In institute.” “You serious?” Kaspar titled his head in confusion. “I swear there’s one nearby in the next town over.” West shrugged. “I mean, the more homes, the less homeless children, right? I see nothing wrong with it.” “Yeah, yeah,” his cousin rolled his eyes. “I’m a terrible person. So, we’re still going with Tuct-In, correct?” The blond chuckled. “Shut up. And we’re gonna have to. It’s closer to school.” “You know, orphanages aren’t supposed to exist in America anymore,” Justin said. “There’s only foster care and adoptions.” “What? No shit?” Kaspar swiveled between the brunette and the construction site. “No shit. These orphanages-” he promptly stopped. “No, sorry. Children’s homes seem a bit… suspicious.” “You’re telling me. Just look at those guys over there. They’re all dressed the same way.” Their attention went to three tall, buff individuals standing near the road, inspecting the site as well while the biggest of them spoke with a worker holding a clipboard. The trio wore similar outfits – dark jeans or sweats, beanies, and black bomber jackets that had a purple diamond-like shape with what resembled the cylinder of a revolver in its center and an “x” in the middle of that. “Don’t look like no caretakers to me,” Justin snorted. West felt his fingers twitch. “They’re probably just security.” He leaned back to allow Finn more space, who inclined forward to get a better look. His brown eyes widened just a tad when he caught on to the symbols on their jackets. “That symbol on the back. I swear I’ve seen that somewhere before.” “Come on.” West turned to look at Kaspar. “What?” “Take a picture or a video or whatever. You wanna make your documentary exciting? Get this on tape.” “You brought your camera?” Justin quirked an eyebrow. The blond answered by reaching over in front of Finn to open and dig inside his glove compartment, making Kaspar laugh out loud. “Ach du großer Gott! I fucking knew you had it somewhere!” West wasted no time powering his camera on to take a video, focusing on the shady triad more than anything. “I have never seen that symbol before.” “So, not security?” Justin spoke. The three then finished their conversation with the builder and began moving down the sidewalk, still across the street from the car. West stilled has he locked eyes with the shortest of the trio, who browsed the vehicle dispassionately before facing forward to follow his associates. “Definitely not.” And so ends the summer saga of this tale. Once again, I apologize if it came out as disjointed and sporadic with the time jumps. Everything you have read so far, I believe, is imperative to the narrative as a whole. So, I guess, keep the faith. From here on out, things get much stranger and chaotic that it almost feels like a ghost hunting story. I can’t deny those times of traipsing around town looking for anything amiss with my guys were some of the most exciting times of my life. I just hate what we found. Or rather, what was given to us. But how else would I have disclosed all of this to you?
  11. Allow me to start off... There are two covers for this story that was created for me. Which one do you think fits the whole vibe of the story?
  12. This is quite out of left field for me, but I've recently started up a new story named "Tuct Side", a dark mystery / romance. Feel free to come over here and converse, ask questions, or speculate if the comment section isn't a big enough place for your thoughts.
  13. Westley D.

    Chapter 6

    Saturday, July 14th, 2012 A Canon EOS 5D Mark III. West, newly sixteen, almost couldn’t believe he was holding it in his hands, a birthday gift from Papa himself. Although, he knew he should never doubt his father’s methods. Being a rich and famous basketball celebrity included the perk of purchasing products that cost an arm and a leg without a sweat. And he had the camera he’s been thinking about since his recent dive into photography. The family had returned home to Tuct Side after a two-week departure to the United Kingdom. However, West had yet to use the prized camera until just now, sometime a few hours into the afternoon after they got back. It only felt right to make the first click in his hometown. Though, he was starting to slightly regret that sentiment as his siblings jostled him around on his bed. “Stop,” West demanded, trying to suppress his laughter as he turned the camera on and began tinkering. Isaak, who had Ophelia swaying in his lap, went cheek to cheek with his little brother, his own blond hair tickling the other’s skin. “How do you even work this thing?” Vanessa, on West’s left, went in for a closer look as well. “Lord, this looks complicated. Just stick to your phone.” “Come on, Wezzie!” Ophelia reached over and pulled on West’s arm. “Take my picture!” He couldn’t help but let out a couple of huffs of amusement. “Hold up, you crazies! I’m testing the lens out.” “It’s exactly the same as your last camera!” his older brother complained. “This one’s better.” The blond wished Kaspar was present, but the redhead had retired to a fortnight-long slumber, a mix of the rush of being out of the country and the boring familiarity of Tuct Side settling him into a state of lethargy. It was the same for his little brother, Leonhard. West loved his siblings, but moments like these shouldn’t be made with haste. Even if they were going to be immortalized into photographs. “Calm down, Isaak,” Vanessa spoke, bunching up her darker golden locks into a ponytail. “It’s just like you and parties. They’re all the same, but you insist the next one is better than the last.” Isaak narrowed his blue-green eyes at her. “That’s a terrible comparison. Parties are a little thing called fun. Something you wouldn’t know anything about, Mrs. Bookworm.” “Books are fun, college reject,” she retorted. “Also, Mrs.?” “Yeah. Your nose is buried so far into the curves of the pages, it looks like your swapping spit with ‘em. That and you’re never seen without one. And you’re going into college this year.” “I could say the same thing about you and alcohol, Drinker.” Drinker. Isaak’s given nickname not just for the amount of beer he would consume at parties, but for having the greatest number of swishes during his career on the court in high school. “I don’t-” “Can we take the picture now!?” Ophelia’s demand snapped them out of their soap opera. It was hilarious being present for one of Isaak and Vanessa’s legendary arguments. They were closer in age, only being a year and a half apart, so they had much to spew out at each other. “Alright, alright, alright!” West breathed out through chuckles. “Chill out! I’ll do more fiddling later.” Vanessa screwed up in disgust. “You did not just say ‘fiddling.’” “So, that’s why you like cameras?” Isaak smirked and elbow-nudged his little brother. “I knew you had a freaky fetish, little bro.” “Where’s the stash, Florida?” his older sister giggled. West shrugged them off. “Shut up, weirdos.” He got up and aimed the lens at the rest of his room. “Wezzie!” Ophelia bounced irritably on Isaak’s thigh. “You’re supposed to take a picture of us!” West smiled at her to ease her down. “I know, Fifi! I know! Let me just take a quick video.” So impatient. He finally pointed the camera at them. “Okay, then. Let’s get started. Isaak? Vanessa? Start arguing again.” I’m sorry I’m time-skipping so much. I’m just trying to get in the important things that happened that summer without adding in too much unnecessary fluff. For now, you’ll be getting some personal accounts and interviews alongside the depicted story, but I have a whole lot more to show you. That is if you don’t know what went down all those years ago. It’s just a bit too much to throw in right now, but stay tuned because we can only go deeper from here. And I don’t think we’ve even begun to dig yet. Saturday, July 16th, 2012 Football wasn’t much of a thing as basketball in Tuct Side, but that didn’t mean the sport was enjoyed any less. Patriot High football practice began mid-summer, and the football team was currently on a charter bus to St. Declán Catholic School for their field, seeing as how their own turf was being “clean-sweeped” at the moment. West and Justin, wide receiver and linebacker respectively, sat next to each other near the back, the latter bopping and mumbling to some rap song through his earphones while the former watched in amusement. West shook his head as he stared on. “Do you ever run outta energy, dude?” The brunette had been dancing in place for fifteen minutes straight. Justin took out his right earphone and glanced at his friend. “Wuzzat?” “You’ve been dancing like that since we got onto the bus. I’m bouncing in my seat and we haven’t run over that many speed bumps.” “Bro, it’s football practice in the early summer morning,” the taller boy laughed. “Vacation ends today for us. So, why not just get myself into a good mood before the torture starts?” That… actually didn’t sound like a bad idea. “Well, when you put it like that…” West snatched the right earphone from Justin and placed it in his ear. He closed his eyes and nodded along to the beat, occasionally reaching up to push the earpiece back in due to his buddy’s rollicking. Five minutes later, West heard someone call his name. He opened his eyes and leaned forward to catch the gray eyes of Scott Gavin, the team’s running back. “Yo, Flo! When are you finishing your match with Wildwood, man?” Henry Kessler, a brawny junior who shared the position of a linebacker with Justin, pitched in with an excited grin. “Yeah! It was fuckin’ intense!” West shrugged as he answered. “I mean, other than time, I haven’t really seen the Wildwood guys around. It’s been weeks.” “They’re not too hard to find,” Scott scoffed dismissively. “They're always hanging around their insane asylum for a school, I think.” “You heard why that place was shutting down, right?” Senior star quarterback Nathan Cassell piped up from the seat behind West. Next to him sat his twin brother, Vinny, the quiet type in contrast to his brother’s garrulous nature. West looked over at him. “No. Why?” “They’ve been getting threats. Like, actual death threats, man.” That was it? “And that’s enough to get the school shut down? Death threats from some idiot kid?” It’s happened before at Patriot High. Some dumbass freshman who thought they were being funny. Of course, they were expelled, and it gave the rest of the student body an extra day on fall break. “But it wasn’t a kid, dude. That’s the tricky part,” Nathan wagged his finger. “It would’ve probably made news for a bit, then, that would be it, but since then, nothing happened at all. Why isn’t half of the world talking about this?” Justin shrugged, answering, “It’s high school, my guy.” Vinny chose this time to speak up, facing up from his phone to state, “A lot of shit is happening under the covers, man,” he scratched at his dirty blond hair. “I dunno.” “What do you mean?” West asked. “Well,” Nathan took over, “we’ve heard rumors that… we’re all being watched.” A beat of shocked silence went by before Scott broke it. “W-Woah. Really?” “And what sci-fi channel did you get this from?” Justin lifted an eyebrow at the quarterback, seemingly skeptical. “I’m serious, man! Not like aliens or some dumb crap like that. I mean, like, hidden cameras or… or audio recordings.” “So, they could be listening in right now?” Scott’s head swiveled around as if searching for evidence of recording devices. “Probably,” Vinny replied, his twin nodding along with him. “Don’t know all the details, but my mom’s a cop. They gossip, too.” West ruminated on the conversation. He had forgotten to ask his mother if she talked with Auntie Kar or her school board friend, but it appears he’s learned enough this morning. A school shooting threat took down a school like Wildwood, an outside – or inside – force is watching the citizens of Tuct Side, and the police know some of what’s going on. The basketball captain felt his fingers twitch, wishing he had his camera with him. The prospect of a mystery within his small town sent thrills down his spine, and he needed to document as much as he could so he could piece the puzzle together. “So, Cynthia’s getting married.” He was snapped out of his reverie by Justin’s statement. The familiar name in the same sentence as “married” had his green eyes widening in astonishment. “Shit. Seriously? Don’t tell me she was…” “No. My parents didn’t force this one, but they’re ecstatic all the same. It hasn’t even been a month since she started seeing the chap. White, blond… well, basically, you, but Christian.” Cynthia Shoemaker – Justin’s adult cousin on his father’s side. His close friends have only had a couple of run-ins with her, but she was a cool, easygoing chick and yards apart from the overbearing religious zealots that were Robert and Jenna Shoemaker. Though, to hear she was getting married at the age of twenty-two? One would think she was pressured into the act by her own parents, which seemed highly unlikely. “Bro!” Henry exclaimed. “My older twin sisters are getting married, too! Twins, just like them.” “My aunt is, also,” Scott’s brows furrowed. “Weird, right? The first date, she said they were already talking kids.” A few other boys chipped in as well, from their grandmother to their slightly younger sister soon to be united in wedlock. West blinked in surprise. “And they all live in Tuct Side, right?” All nodded. Glaringly strange. “Does Vanessa have a honey?” Justin asked him. “Hell no. Her standards are higher. Or so she says.” “She is a bookworm.” West rolled his eyes, but smirked, nonetheless. “Hush up, party animal.” They arrived at St. Declán not long after. The Catholic school wasn’t a big building and had a lesser number of students enrolled, which could be chalked up to the ginormous tuition. From back to front and with a tiny chapel on the side, it was a pretty edifice to look at, but West has seen better in his opinion. Most specifically Patriot High. As the football team dug for their equipment in the bus’s storage, the blond remembered a discussion he and his parents had the moment he got his license. In their mind, he was becoming an adult, and since Isaak nearly screwed up his life, they were going to go tough on Vanessa and West so his mistakes wouldn’t be repeated. “You have any jobs in mind?” Justin gave him an inquisitive glance. “Jobs? As in… wasting eight more hours of my life expending precious energy just for seven dollars and a quarter?” “Not a nine-to-five. Lazy. Just a weekend job. A few hours at the most.” The brunette froze for a second to think, then shrugged. “Try work-study. Finn does it.” “Can’t,” West shook his head. “I’m not the right type of student.” Justin pondered for another minute before finally responding. “I’ve heard my mom mention the Tuct-In children group home had a few vacancies when she went to visit. Being a small-town basketball star could get you the inning you need. The kids will have stars in their eyes.” The idea was appealing. And West was good with kids. He had Ophelia to thank for that. He spoiled her silly. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll think on that,” the blond fist-bumped Justin’s shoulder. “Thanks, J-Dog.” The taller boy gave him cutesy smile in return. “Anything for my little Flower Boy.” West laughed. “Lucky for me, I’m starting to like that name.” “Mein Gott, du bist heute unruhig. Was football not enough for you?” As Kaspar drove his father’s old convertible, West sat in the passenger’s seat with his new camera out, aiming at the lines of houses on the western side of town. They had been driving aimlessly for over thirty minutes, talking about the mundane and the interesting even while West snapped pictures and recorded footage. It was at this moment Kaspar chose to bring up West’s new habit. “That was physical energy,” the blond scoffed. “Photography is primarily mental.” “Mental? You just gotta take a quick picture.” “Yeah, but it depends on the timing, place, lighting, subject matter, etcetera. Plus, I’m videoing, too. So, that’s another challenge in of itself.” It sounded like he was joking, but the serious intonation in his voice suggested otherwise. Still, Kaspar shook his head, his lip curling in amusement. “You and your exaggerations. What’s your dad gonna say? He seems pretty confident you’ll turn out to be a major basketball legend.” The redhead expected his cousin to go quiet in thought, but to his surprise, West just shrugged. “It’s nothing to worry about. In all likelihood, basketball will always come first. So, I’ll stick with that. Though, just in case things don’t work out, I got my handy camera to pave the way to success. Or at least earn some kind of living. For now, I’ll let the court lead me.” A mixture of envy and pride in his best friend and cousin manifested itself in Kaspar’s eyes and smile. West already had his own life figured out while Kaspar hadn’t even found a starting point. “I like the way you think, cuz. And I’m not knocking on your hobbies or anything. At the very least, you won’t be trapped in this town. I’m starting to realize that happens often.” “Speaking of which, have you heard-” Above the engine of the convertible, the two boys heard the strumming of a guitar further down the left of a three-way street. Both looked out Kaspar’s side to find a crowd gathering around the garage at the fourth bungalow down. Alongside the guitar and the bits of voices conversing was the tapping of drums, however, the one responsible for the percussions was too far back in the garage to be seen. Although, upfront and center stage, jamming away on an acoustic guitar behind a microphone, was Neil Morterero. “That’s…” Kaspar shook his head and grumbled, “This town really is too small.” Even from where they were, West could tell that Neil was exceptional on the string instrument. It made him wonder what type of music the lightning-eyed boy liked. As far as the blond knew, he was usually irate. Metal, maybe? The microphone indicated Neil was going to start singing. Hold on. Can Neil sing? “Pull over,” West muttered the demand. “No.” “Drive up slow, at least?” Kaspar huffed in exasperation. “Christus, Westford! I just said I liked the way you think! Now, you got me retracting that statement in record time!” “Excuse me…” the team captain mumbled before stumbling out of the car. “West-” the cheering of the crowd cut him off as the two instruments kicked up a notch in volume. “Ugh!” he slapped the steering wheel before turning the car off. “Westford Kuttner!” “Chill out, Mom, this’ll be quick,” West assured him with a simple smile, to which his cousin snorted, but stayed silent and put. West jogged over to the assembly, making sure to remain hidden behind the others. He reckoned his presence would throw Neil off his game. Even though, the noirette seemed immersed in his playing. The crowd was made up of young and old, most likely neighbors and local kids, similar to the audience that witnessed the intense match between them. And now that he was up close, he was able to see the drummer. West recognized the lanky, tall form and wavy, blond-dyed hair. The one named Shaun, most likely. The garage they were in also appeared to be a personal gym, weights, machines, and a couple of exercise balls stuffed toward the back of the room. West lifted his camera and started recording the live performance. He wasn’t too out of place. Others have already begun savoring a piece for themselves with their phones. Neil and Shaun were nothing short of amazing for a couple of teenagers. Despite their only being two instruments in use, it sounded like actual music. The crowd seemed to agree with that sentiment judging by their hoots and heaps of appraisal. But that was nothing compared to when Neil finally started singing. “In my shadow!” West’s jaw dropped, nearly dropping his camera. “My shadow! Change is coming through my shadow!” The blond knew the song very well. It was one of his favorites. However, it was Neil’s voice that had him gawking in awe. “My shadow’s… shedding skin! I’ve been pickin’… my scabs again!” Gruff. Husky. Low and grave despite being sung in a higher pitch. All of a sudden, West’s heart beat faster, each pump sending a wave of the unnamed sensation throughout his mind and body. The stirring got stronger when Neil took the time to place the guitar down and peel off his gray shirt. He wore an A-shirt underneath, revealing scarred, muscular arms that were connected to broad shoulders and well-built traps. His torso was hidden, but his pectorals strained against the white fabric of his shirt. The bruise under his collarbone was gone, showing off more of the paleness of his skin. Neil Morterero was a Hunk. West felt his own skin heat up regardless of the maroon short sleeve he was wearing. His tongue suddenly becoming too big for his mouth. It was a similar feeling to the night of the party when he and Kaspar were with those girls. However, this was something more. Something deeper. His heart had never beat this fast before. West didn’t know how long he stood there in a trance, but he soon shook himself out of it, stopped recording, and slinked back down the street, speed-walking away to Neil’s husky voice. “I've been crawling on my belly, clearing out what could've been.” He reached the convertible safely and sat back in silently. “Got enough video for your spank bank?” Kaspar taunted. West’s mind was still in another world. “Uh, yeah.” “What?” “What? What did you say?” It was quiet for a second before the redhead dismissed his joke with a head shake. “You probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m worried about you, West.” The blond forced out a light laugh. “At least we both know one of us is okay.” Kaspar chuckled, successfully lightening the mood. Even when West’s head was in a fog.
  14. Westley D.

    Interview #1

    {Individual Interview #1}: MAMORU KOJO Site: PATRIOT HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASIUM Date: SATURDAY, MARCH 17TH, 2018, 3:16 PM PST ---------- WEST: And we’re rolling. Man, it’s been a while, hasn’t it, Coach? KOJO: It certainly has, my boy. Must feel nostalgic stepping inside this room, huh? WEST: Yeah. I mean, all things considering, it feels… it feels like home. KOJO: No matter what. WEST: No matter what. (SILENCE) KOJO: Sorry. I don’t mean to derail you. You’re the journalist here. WEST: Haha! Maybe. Alright. Let’s start with the basics. Who are you? KOJO: Well, my name is Mamoru Kojo. I am fifty-two years old, born and raised in Ōmiya, Saitama before moving to the land of opportunity on my own to take a stab at college. Got into basketball during those years. I played, but wasn’t anything special. Just average. But I grew to love the game. So much that I wanted to pass off my obsession to a bunch of oddball brats. Who knew they’d become small-town stars in only a few months? WEST: Heh. Oddball brats, huh? Say, was the 2011-12 Patriot High freshmen basketball team your best team or favorite team? KOJO: You’re lucky you’re your father’s son. WEST: As long as you love us the most, coach. (LAUGHTER) WEST: So, I’m guessing you moved here in 1984 or 1985? KOJO: Sounds about right. WEST: What was it like then? Or rather, what were your thoughts of Tuct Side? Your reaction? KOJO: Honestly, when I came here, I was shooting for normal. Regular. A place that would be easy to blend in. A pipe dream, really. Of course, I had to deal with the occasional color hater, though, those exist everywhere. With a part-time assistant coaching job here for the basketball team, a bit of fame washed the hate off my back. My wife, Marge, even noticed me. Guess the class. WEST: Hm. Human anatomy? KOJO: Can you believe it? WEST: Hahaha! I believe. (LAUGHTER) KOJO: Anyway, I liked Tuct Side back then. Local college. Local job. Close relationships. It’s home. WEST: And what about now? KOJO: It’s still home. Love it here. No matter what. It will always be home. WEST: What makes you say that? KOJO: Tuct Side, like other houses, towns, and cities, was built to give others a home. And more often than not, you’ll have to deal with home invasions. Some outside force encroaching on your safe space. That’s what I believe happened. In theory, it happened a long time ago and right under our noses. And over the years, the infection spread, but we’re healing. We’re still healing even after all this time. We’re getting better. WEST: I hear you, coach. You remember the day we had our final match against Wildwood? In freshmen year? KOJO: Oh, you guys killed it that day. Though, that one sticks out to me the most because of what happened after. WEST: Right. The little brawl after the game. KOJO: We’re damn lucky we didn’t suffer any repercussions for that. They thought it was an isolated incident. Was…? WEST: No. He wasn’t anywhere nearby that day. KOJO: I see. WEST: Though, that couldn’t be the only Wildwood matchup throughout the years. Any ones, say, between the years 2003 to 2006? KOJO: I see what you’re asking. One of our toughest opponents happened to be Wildwood. In fact, I think that school and Patriot were rivals. WEST: You serious? I’ve never heard of such rivalry before now. Maybe because Wildwood was closing down. KOJO: No, no. The competition began to rot way before that. There was an incident with one of their players and a girl from here. Or maybe it was a group of guys and girls. I don’t know the specifics, but after whatever happened, the school wanted out of the limelight. The 2005-06 season was the last matchup we had with them until you guys. About six years later. WEST: They must have buried the story somehow. KOJO: They must have, but now that they’re gone, I’m surprised the case hadn’t been revealed or opened. WEST: Must have been a separate incident. I think the situation is quite similar to the bigger picture. KOJO: Do you know- (INTERRUPTED BY THE ARRIVAL OF THE VARSITY BASKETBALL TEAM FOR WEEKEND PRACTICE) WEST: Looks like we’re out of time. Man, are they in for a world of hurt. KOJO: Aw, it wasn’t that bad. You know the saying, “the only way to go is up.” You guys would quit if you went through what they do. WEST: So, that’s why you tried to appease me earlier. You’re replacing us. KOJO: No way. Your team holds a big, special place in my old, Japanese heart. WEST: It’s the same for us, coach. You really are the best. We haven’t forgotten about you and we never will. (INTERVIEW END)
  15. Westley D.

    Chapter 5

    Without basketball on my mind 24/7, the rush of the championship win starting to wear off, and my family’s trip to the United Kingdom in five days, I found myself quite bored. None of my friends were morning people during the summer. Ten months a year of early rising and interrupted sleep will have you cursing the sunrise first thing waking up. Luckily for me, now that my name was known around town, my dedication to being a stand-up citizen was a nine-to-five job and I was one hundred percent committed to taking it on. And that all started with acquiring new hobbies. It was a list in my head of what I wanted to get done before school started up again. Oh, crap! I forgot to mention that my birthday was on the same day we began our out-of-country vacation. That was part of the reason why the trip was planned. Or so my dad said. It was probably just an excuse to go to Germany again, which was last summer’s place of interest, but I digress. Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of documentaries. Ever since Mrs. Sparks, my fourth grade teacher, pulled up an hour-long video on where chicken nuggets come from (she was put on administrative leave the next day), the reactions from my classmates – mainly disgust and fear – struck a chord inside me. Of course, I was just as revolted. Although, I realized that day that one did not have to already be a Hollywood bigshot to send a worldwide message. That was before basketball got in the way. However, less than a week before my trip, on a cloudy Wednesday, I found myself standing before the unoccupied Wildwood Community School building, my iPhone 4 clutched between my hands. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I wanted to start with the basics. Pinpoint the level I was at and improve from there. So, why not make a documentary about the place I grew up in? Sounded boring in retrospect, but only because I had no idea what I would later be in store for. That day might have been the start of whatever I’m doing here, but it was also the day I realized that something awry was occurring in our little town of Tuct Side. Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 West didn’t know what he was doing. He had thought it out. Had a whole plan he could execute in ten minutes tops, then beat feet. However, as he stood before the barren edifice of Wildwood Community School, which had more similarities to a prison than anything, he couldn’t help but feel his actions inapt. Taking pictures of a school that will soon close down for good, leaving numerous kids without an education and many instructors out of a job, for some personal endeavor? And he wondered why the western folks were so territorial. Wildwood didn’t take up a lot of space. What used to be red bricks were now stained with rust. Almost every window was broken, courtesy of the ruffians that lingered after hours. Rotten food and old dog shit discolored the concrete pathway, leading to a set of double doors that seemed to be one push away from completely dislodging from its hinges. It was sad, but maybe it was best this place was closing down. ‘Jeez. Harsh much, Westford?’ he admonished himself. Shaking his head, the blond put his iPhone on camera mode and took a trek around the school, snapping photos of its derelict corners. The blacktop was cracked and muddy, white and yellow parking lot markings smudged or fading. Dirtied basketball posts sloped. Patches of browning grass missing. It was a warzone. ‘What the hell happened?’ West got as much as he could. If only he could get inside the school. Before he could think of entertaining the idea, he heard footsteps pattering around the corner, deep voices already in conversation accompanying them. The team captain panicked, shoving his phone down his pocket before searching for a place to hide, but it was a wide expanse. The only thing he could do now was to wait and explain himself. “…don’t worry about it. Alright, bud?” The first voice was soft and smooth. Gentle and placating. “You keep saying that.” Gruff. Husky. Not at all unpleasant and… familiar. “I know, I know. It’s just-” The discussion came to an abrupt end when two individuals locked eyes with the third, unexpected party. The taller of the duo was a bit unfamiliar, but it wasn’t him who West was focused on. Lightning-to-grass connection. Neil Morterero gawked back at West and vice versa. It’s been two and a half weeks since he saw the boy. Not a glimpse or a peep. Finn did keep up with Nora, though, asking about the strange event that happened before the irate boy was whisked away. Apparently, he was alright. At least, that was what Neil kept saying. However, as West inspected him now, he noticed a discoloration on the pale teen’s collarbone, which was mostly hidden behind the maroon polo shirt. The blond looked back into those glaring blue eyes and made out the bags under them, a sign of little sleep. His black hair wasn’t out of place and he appeared to be moving fine. “Are you okay?” the question tumbled out of West’s mouth before he could stop it. The surprise on the noirette’s face vanished, confused rage taking its place. “Th’ fuck are you doin’ here, Flower Boy!?” The stranger beside him blinked at the nickname. “Flower Boy? You know this kid, N?” “Nah. Just another one of those eastern pricks.” West ignored the insult as he studied the unfamiliar face. The guy was a few inches taller than both teens and, judging by the dark stubble and thin mustache against tan skin, was most likely much older. Despite that, he had a slightly more muscular build than West himself, but was nowhere near Neil's figure. However, warm gray eyes suggested an amiable demeanor. Was he the driver from two weeks ago? “Uh, sorry!” the blond scratched the back of his neck. “I didn’t realize anybody would be here. My name’s-” “Doesn’t matter!” Neil snarled, his cheeks reddening in growing irritation. “Just go home, cabrón!” The man took a slight step closer to the teen while looking between the two with intrigue. “Now, hold up, bro. It seems like you guys know each other,” he rested his attention on the blond. “What’s your name, chico?” “Westford Kuttner,” he lifted a hand to shake, and the man reached over to do just that. “My first name’s Flori, hence Flower Boy.” The stranger promptly froze. “Wait, wait, wait! Santa mierda, you’re that West Kuttner!? The Jivin’ Four, right?” Four months later and he wasn’t able to get used to the perks of fame. He thought it would only last for fifteen minutes. “Yup. That’s me,” he blushed. Neil only turned away in cursed in Spanish. A bright smile spread across the man’s face as he grabbed West’s hand in both of his and shook vigorously. “My god! You’re a legend around here! So, he was the guy you were playing against a few weeks ago, huh, N? Why didn’t you say anything?” Neil closed his eyes and slowly shook his head, muttering, “Wasn’t important.” “But you could’ve-” Though, the noirette wasn’t having it. A harsh glare was all it took to get the man to drop the subject. “Alright, alright,” those gray, eager eyes went back to West. “Anyway, you play for the Pioneers at Patriot High, yeah?” “That’s the plan for the next three years.” Even though it was sounding less appealing with each passing day, he added mentally. The stranger nodded in approval. “That’s great. I remember playin’ for this rust bucket of a place years ago,” he pointed a thumb back at the school building. “I’m pretty famous around these parts, too. At least, I used to be. You don’t hear too much about Jorge Rabellino nowadays. Sad.” At that name, it was West’s turn to gape, suddenly starstruck. “Get out! Jorge “Hangman” Rabellino? I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you! You’re like… a huge inspiration, dude!” He had to give credit to the ex-Wildwood player, his middle school pastime being watching 2003 video reels of the Hangman, renowned for his long-term plotting during the game. No matter who they were facing, even a stronger and better team, a carefully thought-out plan by team captain and power forward Jorge Rabellino was enough to seize the win. “That’s great to hear, man!” Jorge laid a friendly hand on West’s shoulder. “Real talk, I should be grateful that the newest hotshot in town remembers me!” The blond shook his head. “Nah. It was a team effort. I wish my buddies were here.” “You two done jerkin’ each other off yet?” Neil piped up, his lip curled in an impatient sneer. Jorge shook his head, although, he appeared amused. “Cranky, this one, huh? Although, I do gotta ask. Why are you in a place like this? It’s a shithole.” The cold and stormy torrent of bitter resentment Neil aimed at Jorge’s back forced West to take a step back. The mounting tension went unnoticed by the target, so, he had no choice but to move on. “W-Well, it isn’t often I come around here. I heard about the school closing down and kind of wanted to see why. It might not be the prettiest of buildings, but I can’t help but feel for those who’ll lose their livelihoods. Kind of makes you wonder why we easterners aren’t doing anything to stop it.” The ex-Wildwood player nodded in genuine empathy, gazing up at his former school with a wistful melancholy. “I hear ya, bro. It’s a shame. A damn shame. So many memories made in this school. I miss it.” For half a minute, it was silent. Quiet mourning for the place that housed so much nostalgia for the alum. Until… “Jorge,” an exasperated Neil gritted through his teeth. The older male lightly shook his head as if to rid himself of the recollections. “Sorry. Just thinkin’ to myself. My bad, dude. Were you in a hurry or somethin’?” “No, no,” West spoke, “but I should get back home. My little sister needs someone to play House with.” Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Neil’s face contort into a strange expression. West couldn’t read the current emotions behind pursed lips, stony eyes, and clenched fists. “Siblings. I hear ya, my friend,” Jorge snickered. West looked at the two guys. “You two brothers or…” “I wish. No, he’s my little cousin. I do have an older brother, though. Big fan of basketball. He would love to meet you.” “If he’s another former Wildwood player fond of a current Patriot member, then I’m okay with it!” the blond took the opportunity to start walking the way he came. “I’ll be seeing you guys! See ya later, Neil! Maybe we can finish our game soon, yeah?” As expected, Neil held up his middle finger. West had to laugh. “Bye!” And he was on his way. He made it out of there in one piece. Jorge saluted with two fingers. As West rounded the corner, he glanced back to witness Jorge wrap an arm around Neil’s broad shoulders, which slowly relaxed. However, the sleeve around his right arm rode up a bit, revealing a yellowing smear. Jorge’s fingers were careful to avoid that spot.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..