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The Unfortunate Occurence at Shenandoah High 2020 - 22. Chapter 22

After a brief hiatus, Tristan and the gang are back!

I press my forehead against the window. The blur of red and white against the pitch black is strangely calming as we speed down the interstate towards a part of town I don't often frequent. The silence that fills the space between us is neither comfortable nor completely unwelcome. I'm chewing my thumbnail which usually drives Keisha crazy but she's too busy white-knuckling the steeling wheel to notice.

The glass is cool against my skin. I want to stick my head out the window and inhale the crisp autumn air.

I want to be at home, in my room, in my bed, underneath the covers.

I want this day to be over.

I want this day to be erased.

The car in front of us takes the next exit and Keisha follows suit. In the darkness, I can make out the silhouettes of Jon-Jon and Sheldon and Andy. Finn's Jeep is bringing up the rear. I can't help but think about Leah sitting in the passenger's seat, scrolling through the playlists on Finn's phone. The things I used to do.

It doesn't take us long for us to arrive at McKenna Manor, one of the older gated communities. I don't know what Jon-Jon says to the guy manning the gate but he lets all three vehicles enter.

It never occurred to me that Nick Ramirez was rich, or at least well-off, but then again there's a lot I don't know about him. What I do know is his dad's a dentist with his own practice and I sort of remember Nick mentioning that his mom had recently retired from being a psychology professor at Georgia Tech. I guess having a dentist and a professor for parents means Nick and his brother don't have a whole lot to worry about at least on the financial front. It's not Montgomery money but the Ramirez family aren't exactly broke.

Jon-Jon comes to a stop outside of a two-story red brick home with white columns and a circular driveway. There's a two-car garage attached to the house but Andy's assured us no one is home.

Keisha shuts off the engine and unfastens her seatbelt.

"I can't believe I'm about to do this."

She pushes open the driver's side door which is my cue to unfasten my own seatbelt and vacate the vehicle.

The others have gathered around Finn's Jeep. Keisha and I join them and I'm forced to endure another awkward silence. If this were a movie, there would be lots of witty banter exchanged by way too good-looking 20-something actor but instead this is real life and we are a bunch of scared kids standing outside the house of our dead classmate's house plotting to cover up his murder.

As I stare up at the house in front of us, I think about my role in all of this. Technically my hands are clean in all of this. So is Keisha's. Well - clean in the sense that neither of us were the ones who pushed Nick off the stage and into the orchestra pit. We weren't the ones who crammed Nick's body into the costume trunk we found in the prop closet. Technically I did help carry the trunk out to Nick's car but that's only because it was way too heavy for Keisha and Leah and Andy was certainly in no mood to put his ex-boyfriend's body in the trunk of his ex-boyfriend's car.

So what does that make me? An accessory? If convicted, would I have to go to jail or would I be sentenced to a few months of probation and some roadside clean-up.

"Not to sound rude or anything but can we get this over with?"

Leah's voice is like shrapnel.

"It's just that I told my mom I'd be home before nine."

"Is Andy going to get out?" Finn asks, gesturing to Nick's car.

Sheldon shakes his head.

"We told him to stay put," he says. "None of this really has anything to do with him."

"None of this has anything to do with me either," Leah mutters under her breath.

"Then why are you here?" Keisha asks.

I can hear the eye roll in her words.

"Why are any of us here?" Jon-Jon asks. "This was an accident."

"Try telling that to the cops," Leah says. "Sorry, Officer, we didn't mean to push him off the stage."

"None of this," Sheldon says, "Is getting us anywhere. Whether it was an accident or not, we all agreed to this. I suggest we stick to our plan."

“I’ve got the keys.”

Jon-Jon holds up a ring of keys. Nick’s keys. I remember seeing Nick twirl them around his fingers while we were talking one day.

“Leah, would you open the front door while we get the trunk?” Sheldon asked.

“Um, wouldn’t my fingerprints get on the doorknob?”

“Wear gloves,” Sheldon says.

“I left them in my locker. At school.”

Keisha lets loose a loud groan and says, “Give me the keys.”

Jon-Jon tosses the keys at her and she catches them in her right hand. Without a word, Keisha starts up the stone path leading up to the huge front porch running the length of the house.

Sheldon and Jon-Jon start moving towards Nick’s car. I feel a hand on the small of my back.

“You okay?”

Finn's scent engulfs me like a warm embrace. I look up to find him looking at me. His eyes somehow manage to penetrate the darkness and are as bright as the stars taking pity over us. Finn looks at me with such a familiarity that for the briefest of moments I forget the reality of our current situation.

"Finn, Tristan - hurry up. This thing is heavy."

Jon-Jon's words are the bucket of ice cold water I need. Nice try, Finn Montgomery.

"No," I say. "I'm not okay."

Not even bothering to wait for his reply, I turn and walk over to where Jon-Jon and Sheldon are standing. The three of us, plus Finn, wrestle the trunk out of the trunk of Nick's car. We walk fast up the path towards the house and by the time we reach the front porch Keisha's managed to get the door open.

I hear a chirping noise coming from inside of the house followed by Keisha letting out a string of expletives I wish I could repeat because sometimes Keisha sounds so eloquent when she's cursing.

"Does anyone know the code?" she asks, hands on hips, annoyance etched into her face.

"Try 1, 2, 3, 4," Jon-Jon says as we lower the trunk to the ground.

Sheldon glares at Jon-Jon and asks, "Who would use that as the code to their alarm system?"

"That's the code we use at my house," Jon-Jon says. "It's easy to remember."

"Please stop talking," Keisha says.

"Um - you guys, if we don't put something in the cops are going to come," Finn says, running his fingers through her hair.

"Then we'd really be fucked up the ass," Jon-Jon says. He then looks over at me and winces. "Um - no offense."

The chirping noise is getting faster and my palms are starting to sweat.

"Does anyone know Nick's birthday?" Keisha asks looking back and forth between the four of us.

"Try November 13th," I suggest. "1113."

Keisha walks up to the keypad which is just inside the door and enters the four numbers. The chirping continues.

"That's not it," she says. "Shit."

"Maybe we should get out of here," Finn says looking back at his Jeep.

"Dude - in case you forgot, there's a dead-ass body in a trunk."

"Dude, that's our friend in there," Finn says, gesturing to the trunk. "Have some respect. Jesus."

"This is not helping," Keisha says bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.

"Try 0223."

Andy appears at my side, a gray hoodie drawn tight around his thin frame. Nick's hoodie.

Keisha immediately punches in the numbers and the chirping stops.

"Oh thank God," she whispers leaning her head against the keypad.

"You know the code to Nick's house?" a slack-jawed Jon-Jon asks.

"I come -." Andy clears his throat. "I used to come over here a lot. Plus 0223 - it's my birthday. Nick changed the code right after his parents left on their trip."

"Well," Jon-Jon says. "Crisis averted. We better wrap this up. My mom's blowing up my phone asking where I am."

Without a word, the four of us pick the trunk up and carry it over the threshold.

"Where are we putting this?" Jon-Jon asks. "I mean him."

"Not to sound crass but maybe we should put him at the bottom of the stairs," Sheldon says. He points to a nearby set of stairs leading to the upstairs. "I mean technically he fell at school. Maybe they - the cops - will think he fell down the stairs."

"He didn't fall," Andy says with a touch of venom in his voice. "He was pushed."

"Dude - why you looking at me?" Jon-Jon asks.

"Because you pushed Nick," Keisha says.

"We both pushed him at the same time and he fell off the stage," Jon-Jon says gesturing at Finn.

"You guys," Sheldon says. "Playing the blame game is getting us nowhere. This was an accident. A horrible, horrible accident."

"Take him upstairs," Andy says.

"What?" Jon-Jon asks, eyes wide in disbelief. "Why."

"I don't want to think about him lying on the floor," Andy says. "We'll take him upstairs and put him in his bed."

"But that doesn't make sense," Sheldon says.

"I don't care if it makes sense," Andy shrieks.

"Whoa," Leah says walking through the front door. "What's with all the yelling. The whole neighborhood can hear you guys."

"Thought I told you to wait in the car," Keisha says, giving Leah the death stare.

I reach out and place my hand on Andy's arm.

"Andy - we'll take him upstairs," I say. I turn to the others. "Let's finish this."

No one says anything and for the first time today I feel relief. Keisha, Leah and Andy lead the way as the rest of us lug the heavy trunk up the carpeted steps. Along the way, I noticed the framed photos lining the pistachio-colored walls. There's a photo of Nick and Nathan as babies followed by a smaller photo taken on their first day of Kindergarten. Nathan is clearly the more outgoing of the two, smiling the biggest in every photo. Nick seems more reserved, like he understands life in a way that his twin brother doesn't.

The photo at the top of the stairs is the most recent. Nick looks really hot with his hair slicked back wearing a black tux standing next to an equally stunning Andy who is wearing a white tux with a pink boutonniere. Nathan is cradling his former girlfriend, Monique Castillo, from behind. The photo must have been taken at prom last year. Keisha and I didn't go. We have promised each other we will go this year.

That's if we don't end up behind bars.

Andy leads us to a door at the end of the hallway which I assume is Nick's bedroom. He pushes open the door and the seven of us enter a rather large space with a sloping ceiling. My bedroom is a shoebox compared to Nick's room. Several posters of Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance pepper the seafoam walls. The bed is unmade and several Mountain Dew bottles litter the hardwood floor. Now I'm not the neatest person but Nick's room looks like a bomb went off in it.

I bow out of the next part which involves Finn and Jon-Jon removing Nick's body from the trunk. I look over at Andy who has an unreadable expression on my face.

"Is this good?" Jon-Jon asks.

I look over just as he's pulling the covers over Nick's still body.

Andy doesn't say anything. Instead he starts moving towards the bedroom door. As everyone starts following him, I look over at Nick's desk and see a small notebook sitting on the edge. It's the kind with the black and white splotches across the front.

I don't know why but I reach for it and quickly shove it underneath my jacket. I quickly join the others in the hallway.

"Keisha, can you give me the keys," Finn says. "I'm going to put Nick's car in the garage."

"Nick doesn't park in the garage," Andy says in a quiet voice. "He usually parks in the driveway."

Finn nods and turns his head just in time to catch the keys.

"Mind if I ride back with you?" Jon-Jon asks Keisha.

"Sure," she says.

"You guys mind if I have a moment?" Andy asks as he stares inside of the bedroom.

"Of course," I say, patting him on the shoulder. "Take your time. We'll be downstairs."

Andy gives me a weak smile before he walks back inside of Nick's room. I watch as he quietly closes the door behind him.

"What's he about to do?" Jon-Jon asks.

"You are not allowed to talk for the rest of the night," Keisha says through gritted teeth.

Jon-Jon opens his mouth to respond but instead he turns around and starts walking down the hall. The rest of us follow.

I walk down the stairs as fast as I can and I don't stop until I'm buckled into the passenger's seat of Keisha's Honda. I want to get as far away from this place as possible.

"I think I'm going to be sick tomorrow," Keisha says as she slides in behind the wheel.

I watch as she inserts the key into the ignition and starts the car. Jon-Jon and Sheldon climb into the backseat.

"Finn's going to wait on Andy and then drive him home," Sheldon says.

According to the clock on the dash, it's a quarter to nine. I should've been at home three hours ago. I pull my phone from my pocket and see that I have no missed calls from Dad. I check my texts and there's nothing new from him. I wonder if he picked up an extra shift at the hospital.

Keisha turns around at the end of the cul de sac and soon we are headed out of McKenna Manor. I think about Andy alone in Nick's room. I try to imagine the pain he must be in right now but thinking about it makes my stomach churn.

I turn to Keisha and say quietly, "I think I'm going to be sick tomorrow, too."

Thank you all for being patient with me. Last week was a busy week for me, work-wise, and this past weekend all I did was lie around and watch TV and movies. Hope you all enjoyed the latest installment of The Unfortunate Occurrence at Shenandoah High.

Copyright © 2020 imperfect _pisces; All Rights Reserved.
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Putting Nick in bed makes no sense at all. Even positioning him at the bottom of the stairs would have been borderline iffy depending on the quality of the coming investigation. There are way too many people and loose ends involved to keep this quiet.

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2 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

Putting Nick in bed makes no sense at all. Even positioning him at the bottom of the stairs would have been borderline iffy depending on the quality of the coming investigation. There are way too many people and loose ends involved to keep this quiet.

Are you saying a bunch of teenagers who accidentally killed their classmate and are trying to cover it up are making questionable decisions? Imagine that! 😝

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2 minutes ago, imperfect _pisces said:

Are you saying a bunch of teenagers who accidentally killed their classmate and are trying to cover it up are making questionable decisions? Imagine that! 😝

They aren't anywhere fractionally as devious as I was at their age, but you'd expect a little more savvy. They've had the advantage of endless episodes of CSI and various incarnations of Law and Order.

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Well let's see how well the coverup of the accidentall killing of there classmate goes. They start it by putting him to bed, interesting choice considering he fell off the stage.

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