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“I did it,” I whispered through the phone, supported by the tree as I glanced around, still petrified that I had been seen.
“Good, did anyone see you?” He replied hastily.
“I don’t think so, it was behind a church.” Behind a church. Of all the places.
“Good, good, and the evidence?”
“Gone, behind the dumpster, never to be seen again.” I had buried the body, heavy as it had been, under the ground between a large dumpster and the woods behind it.
“Great work. I have another job just like this one in California. Are you up to it?”
My breath caught. Another job? How much more could I take? My eyebrows knitted in concern, and my stomach heaved. But I needed the money, desperately.
I inhaled sharply. “It would be my pleasure.” Lies. I was lying again.
“Perfect. I’ll get you the information by tomorrow.”
My phone beeped off, and I glanced down at my right hand. The gun still felt hot in my grip, like I had accidentally touched the toaster while my waffles were cooking. My head rolled back, and I slowly folded to a seated position, resting my neck against the thick oak tree. I looked up through the leaves at the darkening sky, where stars were beginning to scatter. Winter had come early this year, and I pulled my jacket tighter against me as a shiver ran through my spine.
What had become of me? Just a year ago, I was halfway through my senior year, and the early acceptance letter from Yale was just arriving. I was working hard every day in order to get the money I needed. With all the scholarship money I had won, I was sure there was a way to pay off the tuition.
But with my dad gone, it had taken barely a few weeks for my mother’s cancer to eat both of us alive. Any money we could scrape together would go right to her chemotherapy, her medicine, the bills for the house, food. And then, everything changed.
Having exhausted the school’s math department as a junior, I’d taken a paid internship with Mr. Cross, a CEO in Boston, for more school credit. I’d ride the train in immediately after school to work on his stellar computer system, helping to manage the money coming in and out of his company.
At the end of my internship, he’d called me into his office for a “discussion.”
“Cameron,” he’d said. “How is your mother doing?”
“Um…not too well, I guess. We’re having trouble finding the money to pay for all her treatment, and her cancer’s only getting worse.”
Pity had flickered for a brief moment in his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Cameron.”
“Thank you, Mr. Cross….” I’d said, uneasily. I’d wondered why I was there.
“So,” he began again, “Are you still planning on attending Yale in the fall?”
I’d glanced down at the ground in misery. “No…my mother needs the money.”
“Well,” he’d said, now leaning forward on the desk and looking straight at me. “Would you be willing to do me a favor, Cameron? Just a small favor? I know it may not be what you’re used to…but I’ll pay you enough money to take care of all of you mother’s medical costs.”
I straightened in my chair. “Anything! Anything, Mr. Cross. Whatever you need, I’ll do it!” I gasped.
“There’s a catch. You have to swear on your life that you won’t tell anyone about this special task, Cameron. Alright? Swear it. Because if what I’m telling you now is ever repeated, I’ll have no choice but to have you and your mother both killed. And believe me, Cameron, I’ll make sure it happens.”
A wind swept through the trees, and I groaned as I remembered the horror. Mr. Cross, apparently, had stolen money from more than one “colleague”. Now, they were going to get him back. He’d been discovered, and if word got out, then his company would be forever destroyed. So, he’d said, those certain colleagues needed to be eliminated. And he needed my help.
One down, I thought. I was nineteen years old, and already a murderer. How much more could he possibly ask of me?
As if on cue, the silver Blackberry he’d given me with my new “job” beeped twice, the screen illuminating in my jeans pocket. I sighed and flicked my finger across the button. An e-mail appeared, with just a short message.
“Meet @ 24 Maple Ave.,” it read. “I’ll be in a black limousine on the corner. I have all the documents you need. Come NOW.”
Bending my knees, I heaved myself up from the tree, shoved the gun to the bottom of my small backpack, and took off at a jog. 24 Maple Avenue was at least two miles away, and clearly, I had a plane to hop to California.
The wind whistled in my ears as I ran, slapping against my face. I reached 24 Maple Avenue in record timing, so early that Mr. Cross had not even arrived yet. Taking a seat on an empty doorstep, I closed my eyes and took a long, slow breath. My phone beeped again. I hastily reached for it, afraid it would be Mr. Cross to yell at me that I had gone to the wrong place. “One new voicemail,” read the screen.
Pressing the phone to my ear, my lungs tightened in anxiety. How had I missed his call? He would be furious with me. I was told never to miss a phone call from Mr. Cross. But my ears pricked and my whole chest relaxed as my mother’s voice began speaking. “Cameron, where are you?” she began. She sounded so tired, so weak. “I’m worried out of my mind. You haven’t called or been home in days. The doctors are giving me a few weeks out of the hospital, saying I’ll be okay for a bit. I was hoping we could spend some time together. I’m sorry about Yale, Cameron. So terribly sorry. You’re so smart, you deserve better than your getting. When I’m gone, Cameron, maybe you can go….” My eyes began to well with tears as I heard her voice crack. “I’m so proud of you. Please call me
back, I’m going out of my mind here. I love you.” The call clicked off.
Burying my face in my hands, I felt like my insides were being squeezed into a knot. What would my mother think if she’d knew what I’d done? Just to get the money for her? Would she still be so proud of me?
To my right, a black limousine slowly rolled to a halt. There it was. The window began to lower. “Cameron!” yelled Mr. Cross. I raised my eyes, but didn’t make a move. I couldn’t go on like this. But I couldn’t just sit here, either. Getting to my feet, I took long strides towards the limousine. One, two three…it took me exactly ten steps.
“What are you doing?” Mr. Cross asked, confused. I kept my eyeballs trained on the ground. The tears were coming out fast now, pouring like raindrops, leaving small rivers down my face. I adjusted my backpack, then swung the door open to see Mr. Cross. He wore a dark suit, shining leather shoes, and was leaned against the back of the limousine with one foot propped up on the seat in front of him. An issue of The New York Times lay open across his lap. He raised in eyebrow. “Take a seat, I have something for you,” he said, fishing through a glossy briefcase.
“Here, these are the pictures-”
I collapsed to a heap, sobbing as a scream escaped my body, filling the cold night air. Mr. Cross’s blood spread across the newspaper like paint, dripping on to the seat below him. His head lay cocked to the side at an odd angle, the papers he’d been holding strewn across the floor.
I dropped the gun, letting it clatter on the sidewalk. Several people behind me screeched, and I was sure the police would be there any moment. Yet oddly, the fear that had taken over my mind was lifted like a weight from my shoulders. A strange sensation of relief replaced it. It was all over.