“Maybe you can tell us all this later,” Thomas says, and it’s there in his voice. He knows. I’m glad.
“We should just focus on getting your athame back,” he suggests. I nod weakly. What is it my dad used to say? Out of the frying pan and into the fire. He used to chuckle about living a life full of booby traps.
“Has anyone seen Will?” I ask.
“I’ve tried to call him a few times, but he ignores it,” says Carmel.
“I’m going to have to get in his face,” I say regretfully. “I like Will, and I know how pissed off he must be. But he can’t keep my dad’s knife. There’s no way.”
The bell rings for the start of third period. The halls have emptied without us noticing and all of a sudden our voices are loud. We can’t just stand here in a cluster; sooner or later some overzealous hall monitor will chase us down. But all Thomas and I have is study hall, and I don’t feel like going.
“Wanna ditch out?” he asks, reading my mind—or maybe just being an average teenager with good ideas.
“Definitely. What about you, Carmel?”
She shrugs and tugs her cream-colored cardigan tighter around her shoulders. “I’ve got algebra, but who needs that anyway? Besides, I haven’t missed a single class yet.”
“Cool. Let’s go grab something to eat.”
“Sushi Bowl?” Thomas suggests.
“Pizza,” Carmel and I say together, and he grins. As we walk down the hall, I feel relieved. In less than a minute, we’ll be out of this school and into the chilly November air, and anyone who tries to stop us is getting flown the bird.
And then someone taps my shoulder.
When I turn all I see is a fist in my face—that is, until I feel the multicolored dull sting you get when someone hits you square in the nose. I double over and shut my eyes. There’s warm, sticky wetness on my lips. My nose is bleeding.
“Will, what are you doing?” I hear Carmel shout, and then Thomas joins in and Chase starts grunting. There are sounds of a scuffle.
“Don’t defend him,” Will says. “Didn’t you watch the news? He got someone killed.”
I open my eyes. Will is glaring at me over Thomas’s shoulder. Chase is ready to jump at me, all blond spiky hair and muscle t-shirt, just aching to give Thomas a shove as soon as his designated leader gives him the go-ahead.
“It wasn’t her.” I sniff blood down the back of my throat. It’s salty and tastes like old pennies. Wiping at my nose with the back of my hand leaves a bright red swatch.
“It wasn’t her,” he scoffs. “Didn’t you listen to the witnesses? They said they heard wailing, and growling, but from a human throat. They said they heard a voice speaking that didn’t sound human at all. They said the body was in six pieces. Sound like anyone you know?”
“Sounds like lots of someones,” I snarl. “Sounds like any dime-store psycho.” Except that it doesn’t. And the voice speaking without sounding human makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“You’re so blind,” he says. “This is your fault. Ever since you came here. Mike, and now this poor schlub in the park.” He stops, reaches into his jacket, and pulls out my knife. He points it at me, an accusation. “Do your job!”
Is he an idiot? He must be unhinged, pulling it out in the middle of school. It’s going to get confiscated and he’s going to get signed up for weekly counselor visits or expelled, and then I’m going to have to break into god knows where to get it back.
“Give it to me,” I say. I sound strange; my nose has stopped bleeding but I can feel the clot in there. If I breathe through it to talk normally, I’ll swallow it down and the whole thing will start over.
“Why?” Will asks. “You don’t use it. So maybe I’ll use it.” He holds the knife out at Thomas. “What do you think happens if I cut someone alive? Does it send them to the same place it sends the dead ones?”
“You get away from him,” Carmel hisses. She slides herself between Thomas and the knife.
“Carmel!” Thomas pulls her back a step.
“Loyal to him now, huh?” Will asks, and curls his lip like he’s never seen anything more disgusting. “When you were never loyal to Mike.”
I don’t like where this is going. The truth is, I don’t know what would happen if the athame was used on a living person. To my knowledge, it never has been. I don’t want to think of the wound it might cause, that it might stretch Thomas’s skin up over his face and leave a black hole in its wake. I have to do something, and sometimes that means being an ass**le.