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by P L Nunn


Chapter 8


Mildred and Betty had directed Atticus to a house on Beacon Street, a rental property that sat far back from the road, beyond an acre or two of weed obscured, untended lot. An old house with peeling white paint and a dilapidated wrap around porch.

There were a couple of cars parked out front when he drove up late Sunday afternoon. He debated on wearing a robe, but his best one had disappeared somewhere between the debacle at the school semi-formal and his return, and the majority of the others had burned with the retirement home, which left him with a few worn old ones of his father's that were still at the house. But though they reeked of mothballs, it still hadn't prevented bugs from chewing holes in the cloth, and showing up in moth eaten robes of office would hardly boost his status of Hooded Leader.

He decided that one of his father's heavy goat skull inside a pentagram rings and a no nonsense, confident attitude would have to do. He straightened his tie, adjusted his sweater vest and rang the doorbell. He wasn't entirely sure it worked, when after a few minutes or more standing in front of the scuffed, peeling front door no one bothered to answer his summons.

He knocked, then he banged a fist and finally after several more minutes, a young man with short, spiky blonde hair, wearing a dirty white t-shirt answered, staring at him the sort of sullen ill-humor of someone interrupted from an important activity by a someone else attempting to peddle insurance.

"So sorry, did I interrupt you?" Atticus asked with as much scorn as he could dredge up. Which was a fair bit.

"What do you want?"

Atticus stood a little taller, trying to put on that mantel of mental authority that his father had worn so well. He'd never quite gotten the hang of silencing a room with a mere look down pat.

"I'm the Hooded Leader of the Satanic Society of Crowley Heights. I'll speak with whoever is in charge, now."

The kid, who was maybe nineteen, lifted a brow and let out a snort very much lacking in the respect that Atticus' announcement deserved. He yelled over his shoulder into the depths of the house.

"Drax - - some dude's here to see you."

"The Hooded Leader," Atticus corrected tightly, but the kid ignored him, leaning a heavily tattooed shoulder against the doorframe.

A man appeared eventually, out of the dimness of one of the inner rooms, past cardboard boxes stacked in the hall. And all Atticus' planned bravado in the face of this new cult treading on his territory began packing its bags and planning a trip out of state. The man was huge, like some over developed poster boy for Muscle Milk aimed at aspiring bodybuilding hooligans. Like the kid at the door, his exposed flesh was covered in tattoos, but there was a lot more exposed flesh. He was bare chested, clad in tight jeans, with long brown hair streaked with just the barest hint of grey at the temples. He looked like he could crush a bowling ball between his hands.

He strode up, right into Atticus' personal space, and Atticus found himself staring at the decimated scull of some cloven beast tattooed between bulging pectorals. He swallowed and dragged his eyes up to meet a hard, impatient gaze.

"Well - - ah - - welcome to the neighborhood. Are you here visiting or planning to stay?" was the first thing out of his mouth and he regretted it instantly, but gathered courage and soldiered on regardless. "I'm Atticus Murphy, Hooded Leader of the Crowley Heights sect of the Dark Following."

The big man gave him a dubious once over, then shrugged, which made no few muscles ripple. "Are you now? I am Draxal Gottslayer. We're here because the Pure Evil One is here. We'll stay as long as we like.

"ahh - - the Pure Evil One - - well, I can assure you I have that situation well in hand - -"

"Who are you again?"

Atticus smiled tightly. "Atticus Murphy. The Hooded Leader of this town's satanic sect?"

"You mean the old geezers in the nursing home?"

"No. All the Satanic activity in this town is under my authority." Just a trace of a whine crept into his voice. His neck was getting a crick from having to look up.

"That so?"

"It is so. And I don't appreciate a new sect coming into my territory and doing things without my approval. At the very least a heads up would have been nice - - a nice fruit basket."

This Draxal Gottslayer lifted a dark brow. "Your authority? Aren't you the one that fucked up to begin with? Weren't you and your Society supposed to be watching over the Book of Pure Evil, guiding the prophesy and the coming of the Pure Evil One - - and then I hear two thousand years of waiting and preparing is gone to fuck because you let the Pure Evil One deviate from his destiny? That authority?"

"To be clear," Atticus had the strongest urge to back away from the darkening glower being directed at him. "That was a very confusing night. And you can't hold the Book's poor judgment in choosing master's against me. I was given faulty information."

Gottslayer laughed in his face, then shook his head and stepped aside, waving an arm towards the interior of the house. "Faulty information. Well, that explains the whole clusterfuck don't it? Come on in."

Honestly Atticus would have rather not, but if he were to assert any authority whatsoever over this situation, he needed to buck up and show no fear in the face of this muscle bound behemoth.

"So, I'm to understand you had a run in with the Pure Evil One?"

"Yeah, we had a little get together with the kid."

The boy trailing behind them snickered. Gottslayer led him to a big room overlooking a backyard more overgrown than the front. There was an old TV and a few couches, where four other youthful, tattooed, menacing looking men were sprawled, watching what sounded like, from the screams, some teenaged slasher movie. There was an odd apparatus made of leather and chains hanging from a hook in the ceiling behind the couch, and a box near by overflowing with what looked at hasty glance, with various bondage paraphernalia.

They really did look more like bikers with a taste for S&M gone bad rather than Satanists.

"We corrected your mistake and we got the Book back."

Atticus tore his gaze away from the suspicious box and lifted both brows, feeling very much out of the loop. There was a great deal he was still in the dark about, having spent a fiery siesta inside the pages of the book for the last six weeks. "And where was the 'back' you got the Book from?"

"That's right. The kid sucked you right up into it, didn't he? Fucked you up big time and then he sent it away. A mutually interested party came to me to clean up your mess. He kicked your ass. But then you and yours couldn't fight your way out of a plastic bag if somebody was suffocating you with it."

That was a disturbing analogy. Atticus flinched when the blonde kid leaned in over his shoulder and sneered. "He wasn't so tough. We staked the little prick down and cut him up and he bled and he screamed - -"

Atticus carefully extricated himself from the blonde kid's hovering presence and said with offended dignity. "I'll have you know that this society is one of the oldest and the most respected - - we're in all the periodicals - - "

"That's your problem, man," Gottslayer loomed up in his face. "The old ways had us waiting in the shadows for millennia in the hopes that our devotion would one day pay off. Fuck the old ways. The new way ought to be proactive."

"I was being proactive," Atticus ground out. "I had the book in my hands. I had hostages. I was supposed to be the Pure Evil One, not Todd Smith - - I would have fulfilled the prophesy - - whatever exactly the prophesy is - - it's not my fault the Book chose him."

Gottslayer crossed his impressive arms, eyeing Atticus speculatively. "Tell you what, Atticus. Lammas Day is coming up and we're gonna have a little Sabbat Festival. Nothing special, just a little fun, a little blood sacrifice to offer up - -why don't you join us. See how the new blood operates."

"Should I bring the goat?"

Gottslayer smiled and it wasn't a nice smile. "Naw, we got it covered."


Hannah had still been listening to her parent's tapes when Jenny crashed. She'd taken the guys home a few hours earlier. It had been a long, long day and they'd all been exhausted, despite claims to the contrary. Between driving back to Crowley Heights from the city, tracking down Todd, finding out the Book was back, Hannah returning from the dead, and burning down the retirement home - - it had been a pretty traumatic weekend. She felt as if she could have slept for days.

But her internal clock was a cruel taskmistress and exhaustion or no, she found herself blinking awake at quarter after eight to the aromatic scent of fresh coffee. She ran a hand through her hair, letting the sleep fade away, then shoved aside the sheet that she'd manage to twist about her during the night, and padded into the kitchen to see what was brewing.

Hannah was up, in one of Jenny's old oversized sleeping t-shirts, sitting at the kitchen table with Jenny's laptop on one side the cassette deck on the other, making notes of her own in a fresh notebook while she sipped coffee and flipped through the pages of one of the journals from the lab.

"Oh, I didn't wake you, did I?" she looked up, pen poised, a worried furrow between her brows. "I found the coffee and put on a pot. I hope you don't mind?"

Jenny went for the pot. She'd been consuming caffeine in mass since she was twelve. Her mom hadn't cared and her father had always been too preoccupied to notice. "After the day I had yesterday - - it's a Godsend."

She took a long sip and shut her eyes as the caffeine hit her system.

Hannah smiled a little hesitantly, tapping her chin with the blunt end of the pen. Her hair was damp from a shower she'd probably taken while Jenny was still in the throes of REM sleep. "I would have fixed breakfast - - but you don't seem to have a lot of edible food in the house. You may be on the verge of discovering a new form of fungi in the refrigerator, though."

"Yeah," Jenny sighed. "After mom left, I ate out a lot. Between school and the Book there wasn't a lot of time for grocery shopping or cooking."

"Do you cook?"

"Ehh." She waffled a hand. "A little. When my dad was home, I'd cook. Mom was out of town most of the time on business or screwing around and he'd forget to eat sometimes if I didn't remind him. You?"

Hannah hunched her shoulders a little, shrugging. "If there's a recipe I can follow it. My aunt used to do all the cooking though. Well, the woman I assume was my aunt."

"I'm so sorry, Hannah. I mean, God, I thought I had it bad with a mom who couldn't have given less of a damn and a dad more interested in the Book than me - - but at least I knew they were my parents. You - -"

She didn't know how to finish that thought. Hannah managed half a smile and took her off the hook. "I don't know about aunt Gladys, but I think my parents were my parents. But they weren't - - weren't very nice people. I know sometimes boundaries have to be stretched to make advancements in science - - I believe there are lines that some people find morally objectionably that have to be crossed or progress can't be achieved- - but there are things in these notes - -"

She shook her head, trailing off.

"Do we want to wait for Todd and Curtis so you only have to explain this once?" Jenny ventured.

"I think if Todd and Curtis are here, I'll be explaining it a lot more than once." Hannah smiled and this time it was genuine.

"True dat," Jenny grinned back at her. "But let's wait for the idiots anyway."

It was Monday morning though, and Curtis had summer school and she thought Todd had a summer job that he worked four mornings a week and honestly it was too early to listen to Hannah expound in detail the inner workings of the minds of a couple of twisted satanic science nerds. Todd and Curtis weren't the only ones that got lost sometimes when Hannah was on a roll.

"So, let's go shopping," she suggested instead.

Hannah blinked up at her. "Shopping?"

"Yeah. I mean, I'm willing to loan you some clothes, but let's be honest, my taste and yours aren't exactly in sync and that 80's ensemble you had on yesterday just hurts my eyes. So let's go the mall."

"I don't have any money, Jenny."

"I've got a credit card and it looks like you do most of your shopping at JC Penny's - - no offense - - so I can sport you a few outfits."

"Why would I take offense? Penny's has reasonable, affordable clothing."

"Right. So lets go to the mall. It'll be a girl's day."

It would have been a girl's day, if her doorbell hadn't started ringing practically before the sentence had left her mouth. She exchanged a look with Hannah, before shrugging and going to answer it.

"Aren't you two supposed to be at work and school?" she complained.

"School schmool," Curtis waved a dismissive metal hand, edging past her, obviously looking for Hannah.

Todd just stood in the doorway, staring with a gigantic lack of tact at her sleeping attire, which consisted of a pair of silk Victoria's Secret boxers and a thin tank top. Her nipples, sans bra, were behaving badly this morning and his eyes were glued to her chest.

She crossed her arms and gave him a dry look. "Could you possibly look me in the eye?"

It took him a moment to drag his gaze upwards. She arched a brow and gave him a tight smile. "Good morning."

"Uh, yeah. Hey, Jenny." She moved aside and let him in, looking past him before she closed the front door at their bikes lying on her overgrown front lawn. She imagined, if she uncrossed her arms and asked, she could get him to cut it for her.

"So why aren't you at work?"

"I called in sick. Which is sort of true. I'm still kind of sore." He did still have a few fading bruises, but he looked as if a night's sleep in his own bed had done wonders. He trailed her into the kitchen, where Curtis had scooted a chair next to Hannah's and was looking at her like he was trying to reaffirm that her coming back hadn't just been a pot induced dream he'd had over the weekend.

"Can you afford to miss summer school?" Jenny hit Curtis with the responsibility question since Todd had shrugged it off.

Hannah latched onto that like a dog with a bone. "Oh, you really shouldn't skip school. I don't want you to be held back next year."

Curtis shrugged. "So you'll help me catch up, right? Its not like I'd be able to concentrate anyways - - so I might as well be here."

"Curtis, that's why you had to take Summer School to begin with."

"It was because of all the monsters," Todd piped up.

"Yeah, monsters are distracting," Curtis gave him an appreciative nod, thankful for the assist.

"It was because of you two being stoned all the time," Jenny corrected. "How Todd managed to avoid Summer school is beyond me."

"The teachers were scared to fail him, after he went all Pure Evil at the dance" Curtis grinned. "You were completely failing, weren't you, dude?"

Todd leaned against the refrigerator and sniffed. "That's not exactly true - - I was sort of passing - -" He trailed off, trying to come up with that fictional passing course and coming up with, "P.E."

Jenny smirked and waved a hand. "There you go. The wonders of the educational system where fear and intimidation dole out diplomas."

"Hey, I didn't intimidate or fear anybody - -on purpose."

"Curtis, you need to graduate. You too, Todd," Hannah said with conviction. "I'll be happy to tutor you - - both of you - - next year, but you've got to make it to senior year for me to do it."

Curtis sighed, beaten down by Hannah's big eyes and her look of determined desperation. "Yeah, okay. Tomorrow. I promise I won't skip tomorrow."

"It wouldn't entirely hurt to check and see if the Book has shown back up at school, though," Jenny suggested. "If it's gonna pop up anywhere, it'll be there."

"Yeah, probably," Todd agreed, but he didn't sound particularly enthusiastic about it, looking down and scuffing the toe of one black converse on the tile.

She supposed he had good reason to be a little less than hyped about Book stuff at the moment. Getting kidnapped by crazy cultists trying and succeeding to bring it back was bad enough, but finding out that all it took was a little loss of control and some itty bitty fragments of the book close at hand for him to go just a little Pure Evil -- and they really did need to come up with a less traumatic term because there was a big difference between somebody willing to destroy the world as they knew it and Todd, who'd gone out of his way to avoid it. Top that off with the knowledge that those same crazy cultists had done something to him that interacted badly when he was channeling the power of the Book and she didn't blame him for looking like she'd just suggested they go sit through a twelve hour foreign film festival.

"Did you find out anything about that mark on Todd's chest?" she asked.

"I couldn't find anything online last night," Hannah said, casting Todd an apologetic look. "But I only searched a little while. Sorry, I got distracted by all this - -" she waved a hand at the scattered journals.

Todd shrugged. "S'okay. I sorta got the gist of what it does."

"Has it faded again?' Hannah asked.

He nodded.

"I keep thinking about what you said about mixing the unholy with the holy - - Those ingredients and that ritual - - and what happened to you yesterday when you channeled some of its power - - it seems that maybe they were trying to do more than just release the book, they were trying to impede your access to it."

"Why would they do that?" Curtis asked. "I thought they were all about the Pure Evil One cutting loose and destroying the world?"

"But he didn't do that?" Jenny said. "In fact he did exactly the opposite."

"Which is maybe why they've decided Todd can't be trusted with the power the Book offers. If he's not going to advance their cause - -"

"Yeah, this is shit loads of fun to discuss, but can we maybe change the subject and talk about - - I dunno - - anything else?" Todd cut off their speculation sullenly. But there was a little bit of desperation underneath, a little bit of fear and she had the strongest urge to edge over and press up against him.

Curtis had just gotten himself in over his head by asking Hannah if she'd found out anything interesting from her parent's journals and Hannah was telling him and all Jenny could think about was how Todd's skin would feel. And that if she ran her fingers up under the hem of his shirt he'd be hard and lean - - and God, but it had been a really long time since she'd had anything but a vibrator - -

"Crap - -" she let out a gust of air and they all looked at her, Hannah faltering mid-sentence. Todd just looking at her curiously while the fog was slowly clearing from Curtis' eyes.

"I gotta go take a shower." A cold one. She turned on her heel and fled.


"What's a Demonicon?" That was one of the few words that actually registered, out of the hundreds - - the thousands of incomprehensible words that Hannah was spewing. Oh, Curtis knew the words as individuals - - eighty percent of the words, at any rate - - it was just how she was putting them together that had his brain starting to liquefy. But the sound of her voice was so wonderful and for a while there he'd thought he'd never hear it again, that he'd slice off his other hand before he told her to cut it short and give him the condensed, dummed down version. Unfortunately when it came to genetic manipulation, cellular fusion and the basics of supernaturally enhanced cloning - - well, even the cloning for dummies version would have been so far over his head, it would have been a pin point in the sky.

"Is that like a convention for demons?" Todd offered, sprawled in the chair across from the couch, one leg swinging off the arm while Curtis and Hannah sat on the couch, waiting for Jenny to finish getting dressed.

"That would be cool," Curtis narrowed his eyes, envisioning it. The local Holiday Inn convention center filled with horned, tailed demonic conventioneers up from the underworld. "I can see them wearing name tags and holding panels."

"Not 'a' Demonicon. The Demonicon," Hannah corrected. "And I don't know. There was just a mention in the end of one of the journals about possible research into it and a connection with the Book. The journal that was supposed to come after is missing. Burned up, I suppose."

"It's okay, sweetie," Curtis patted her knee. She had on a pair of Jenny's black tights and one of Jenny's black jean skirts over them, and big black sweater over that. She was adorable in angry Goth girl attire. "Too much information makes the brain rot. And I don't care how you're back or why, as long as you're here."

Todd nodded in agreement, his staunchest ally. Hannah gave them both looks and smiled with strained patience. "You can never have too much information. And I care," she added in a small undertone.

Jenny finally finished dressing, having chosen the same color palette that she'd loaned Hannah, a pair of tight black jeans under a skin tight black Bauhaus T-shirt. Which meant Curtis was the only one of the three of them sporting any color, with his blue baby T with its big-eyed baby walrus.

Despite Todd being less than enthused about checking out the school for sign of the Book, Jenny being the chauffeur, had the last word and drove them there anyway. Curtis just hoped none of his teachers saw him and called him on not being in class.

"Its not the same without Jimmy being here," Todd complained as they trailed the girls into the school.

"Yeah," Curtis lamented. "It means we're gonna have to buy all our weed without him to bum offa."

Todd stuffed fingers in his pockets, shrugging. "Yeah, that too. You don't have any, do you?"

Curtis cast him a grin and fished a plastic baggie with one fat little joint inside, out of his side pocket. Todd's eyes lit up, a slow smile chasing away the sullen pout he'd been wearing since they'd gotten to school.

"Dude, you're like, my hero."

Curtis kept grinning, figuring if anybody needed to get baked right about now, it was Todd and it had been a really long time since they'd gotten baked together. His own stupid fault. Half the summer just wasted because he was an idiot. He really should have known something was up with Randy Savage taking such an interest in him. He should have figured it out when the guy kept asking subtle questions about Todd when Curtis was too stoned to keep his mouth shut.

He bumped Todd with his shoulder and said earnestly. "I'm sorry about Randy. I shoulda known."

Todd shrugged. "It's okay, man."

"No, its not. You figured out he was an asshole first time you met him."

"Yeah, well, he called me a punk. And it looked like he used hair gel and you've just gotta figure - - I'm cool, Curtis. But, if I see him again, I'm gonna kick his ass - -"

"Yeah, dude, I'm right there with you."

They shuffled along after the girls down the darkened hall towards the gym, secure in their masculinity, until a figure stepped out of a dark doorway right in their path, bearing what looked to be a weapon. The both of them let out embarrassing little yelps, taking a few hasty steps backwards, before they recognized the weapon as a mop and the dark figure as the replacement janitor. The old guy stared at them with wary resignation.

"Don't you kids be scuffing my floors," the old guy warned. "I just waxed down here."

Curtis exchanged a look with Todd, the same thought flitting through their heads, that if anybody would know if strange goings on had started happening in the school, it would be the janitor. Jimmy had always known everything.

"Sooo," Todd straightened his shoulders, pretending he hadn't just squealed like a little girl, and asked. "You're the replacement Janitor?"

The old man looked down at the mop in his hand then back up at Todd, with deadpan disinterest, not bothering to answer the obvious.

"You know the guy before you was the best in the business."

"Boy, I mop floors. I ain't looking for trophies in it." The old man made to push the mop bucket past them.

"Wait," Todd stepped in his path. "We were just wondering, if anything weird happened over the weekend?"

The old man narrowed one eye, giving Todd a skeptical look. Curtis rushed in to clarify.

"He means, any unexplained blood or body parts lying around. Inanimate objects coming to life and trying to rip people's heads off - - gross things oozing up out of the grates trying to devour people - - that sort of weird?"

The old man's mouth gaped open. "Are the two of you high?"

Todd sniffed gloomily. "No."

"Hey, do you - -" Curtis pantomimed taking a hit off a joint and the old man drew himself up indignantly. Before he could respond Jenny inserted herself between them, grabbing Todd and Curtis' arms and pulling them backwards towards Hannah who was a few paces down the hall.

"You know these special ed students," she cast a smile back at the frowning old janitor. "Always getting away from you."

"Would the two of you stop trying to score weed and focus?"

"We weren't trying to score," Todd said with just a little bit of offense. "It's not like he's Jimmy."

"We were seeing if he'd seen anything Book related," Curtis explained, because Hannah had a furrow between her brows and was frowning at them, too. "Janitor's know everything that goes on around places like this."

"That's a good point," Hannah conceded.

"Well, did he know anything?" Jenny huffed, not letting go of her impatience so easily.

"No," Todd admitted. "So maybe it hasn't shown back up here yet."

"With just summer school in session, its just a fraction of the student population," Hannah pointed out. "With so many kids out of school, it's got the whole town to haunt."

"I wonder why we never heard of weird stuff happening outside the school before?" Jenny asked. "Its not like there aren't plenty of fucked up people that aren't teenaged out there. This town is crawling with them."

"Well, teenaged angst does tend to be a bit more dramatic than everyday adult problems." Hannah speculated. "And there's Todd. I think it's likely that the Book is drawn to him, so it was staying relatively close."

"Well, that's fucking great," Todd groused. "So it's my fault all the shit that happened last year?"

Jenny shrugged, not entirely dismissing that assessment. She always had been the quickest of the lot of them to think the worst about Todd and his connection to the book. It was like she had no idea how easy she could hurt him with the casual little cruelties that slipped past her lips. Curtis gave her a narrow eyed look before squeezing Todd's shoulder.

"How is it your fault the Book has a thing for you? How many people are alive because of you? A lot more than the Book killed."

"That's true," Hannah seconded. "None of this is your fault. Things have been in motion for a very long time - - this whole thing, this prophesy - - these people that have been pursuing the Book for centuries - - if you think about it, this thing is so huge - - world shaking huge - - Da Vinci code conspiracy huge - - and we're all just the tiniest gears caught up in the whole ponderous machine. And with the exception of Todd, any actions we make probably won't make that much difference in the whole scheme of things - -"

Jenny and Todd were staring at her with wide, appalled eyes.

"Sweetie, you're not helping all that much," Curtis pointed out as kindly as he could, when he was feeling overwhelmed by all those ominous statements, too.

"Oh. Sorry."

"There's nothing happening here," Jenny cast a glance at Todd, lashes half-mast, like maybe it had finally gotten though he was holding on to guilts that just weren't his to shoulder and maybe she should show a little sympathy. "So let's go to the mall. Lunch is on me."

They almost made it off of school grounds Scott free, but for the black Camero that burned rubber screeching to a stop in front of them before they'd made it half way across the parking lot to Jenny's car.

Randy Savage got out and stalked around the front end to stab a finger at a set of big dents in the passenger side door. "I know you did this, you little prick. You're gonna pay for it."

Curtis glanced from the dents to Todd, who had his fists clenched and was practically vibrating with pent up tension.

"Seriously, you're bitching to me about a few dents in your fucking car?" Todd growled. "You cut me up, you giant douche."

"This is the guy?" Jenny demanded.

"I want my phone back " Curtis stabbed a metal finger at Randy.

Randy cocked his head, eyes traveling over the girls, lingering on Jenny, who narrowed her eyes and glowered back.

"Well, damn, ain't you a hot little piece of ass?" He patted the hood of the car and grinned lewdly. "Could bend you over right here and show you what a real man feels like."

"Fuck you - -" Was as far as Jenny got in response to that, before Todd was surging past her, going for Randy. The only thing that stopped him from making contact was Jenny clutching a handful of his t-shirt and making him falter enough for Curtis to get in front of him and throw his weight against Todd's forward momentum. All his tough talk about being right with Todd for the ass kicking of Randy - - when it came down to it, Curtis was a whole lot more of a lover than a fighter, when it wasn't down to life and death. A knock down drag out in the school parking lot in front of the girls just struck him as not the brightest move on any of their parts.

"You son of a bitch - -you fucking bastard - -" Todd was growling, on the verge of sobbing in his incoherent rage, trying to get past Curtis.

"He deserves it, man - - he deserves it," he had his arms around Todd, and even though Todd had the height on him, Curtis had the mass and if he didn't want Todd getting past him, Todd wasn't getting past. "But not here. Not now - -"

"You asshole," Jenny stabbed a finger at Randy. "You stay away from us. Stay away from him."

Randy laughed, holding two fingers up to his lips and flicking his tongue at her lewdly, then giving Hannah the same treatment, before he strode back around to the drivers side and slid behind the wheel, revving the engine before peeling out of the lot.

"Oh, my God," Hannah whispered, eyes wide behind her glasses.

"That dick," Jenny muttered, tearing her glare away from the receding tail lights of the Camero and back to Todd, who was so pissed he was trembling. Curtis could feel the frantic thud of his heart, before Todd pushed away, stalking a few paces, fists still clenched so tight his knuckles were white.

Jenny followed him, lying a hand on his arm, and he flinched from the touch, almost like for a second he didn't even realize it was her. She didn't shy away though, just stood there staring up at him until something closer to sanity edged back into his eyes. He let out a breath, shoulders slumping as the tension bled out of him. He cast a glance back to Curtis, a desperate sort of look like he didn't know whether to be pissed at him for holding him back or to thank him for it. Curtis figured in the long run, he'd go with the latter. Todd had a short temper and a low tolerance for assholes and he talked big, but he wasn't any more of a brawler than Curtis.


In the shade of an old oak, across the parking lot, sat a beat up old Chevy. It, or some facsimile thereof, had sat in this parking lot at one time or another, for close to five decades. The car had over time, changed, but it was almost always invariably a beat up, ramshackle excuse for a vehicle. The passengers never did. Oh, they changed their clothing, ever evolving with the times, but they themselves hadn't aged a day in a very, very long time. Waiting and watching and biding their time.

A trickle of smoke seeped out of a barely cracked window, and the low chuckle of amusement followed it, as the black Camero across the lot peeled away, spewing burnt rubber in its wake, and leaving four teenagers staring after it.

"So damned easy," Brody took a deep drag off a half inch joint and passed it idly to Eddie.

"As quick as he is to go off, maybe we shoulda waited, and he'd have gone over the deep end sooner or later - -" Rob leaned over the backseat, staring through the dirty, cracked wind shield at the kids.

"With a little prodding - -" Eddie passed the joint back, blowing smoke through his nostrils

"No." Brody shook his head. "That's not the vibe I got. I think he might have held. We were right to go with an alternate plan. All or nothing and you end up with nothing."

"Feels like settling." Eddie complained.

"I'm okay with settling, long as we get something out of it at the end."

"Long as we have fun while we're doing it."

"Long as the loser that screwed us over pays."

Brody grinned, the nub of a joint back in his possession. "Oh, he'll pay."




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