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TREPIDATION: PART TWO
Nina’s funeral was even more depressing than Mister Jacob’s, and when Calin and Toni left, Toni would not speak a word to him the whole ride home.
When he pulled into her apartment complex, one with a room she used to share with Nina, she thanked him quietly before entering the building, rushing up the stairs as tears began to roll down her face.
She opened the door to her apartment and stood still in shock, from the combination of the unusually unlocked door and the chair in the center of the barren room that she planned to move out of, positioned directly under a noose.
Her tears stopping, she moved toward it as if she was in a trance.
She stepped up on the chair and felt the weaving rope, feeling as if it belonged around her neck.
Slowly, she positioned the noose, and began to tighten it around her neck…
Calin looked up at the stairs at the bottom of the complex, and, on an impulse, rushed up them two at a time, flying toward Toni’s open door, he screamed her name as he saw the chair kicked over through the doorway, and jumped into the room to see Toni sobbing, curled up into a ball in the far corner of the room.
He sprinted toward her, taking her up in his arms and whispering, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
Lacey had come late to the cemetery to avoid the funeral, and the demented homicide paparazzi, so when she arrived everyone had already left.
Walking slowly over the unnaturally green grass, that looked as if someone had painted over it, she approached Nina’s grave as if something horrible awaited her.
When she arrived, she gasped, taking up her phone from her jacket pocket.
Toni picked up the phone on the fifth ring, tentative to hear more bad news.
“Toni?” Lacey’s voice came through the receiver as if she had to whisper.
“Yes?” Toni asked.
“What was Nina doing when she died?”
“Ch-checking her m-make-up. W-why?”
Silence returned her answer.
Lacey, at the cemetery, had dropped the phone.
She looked on in horror at the early-arrived headstone.
The granite was smoothed, sanded perfectly so that a wandering eye could more easily catch the roughly carved letters.
Vanity Was Her Undoing.
Jane and Lynda sat across from each other at the restaurant, and Jane looked down toward the tile-covered table.
“Thank you for coming,” she whispered so that only Lynda could hear her.
“Always,” Lynda smiled at her. The smile was meant to cheer Jane up, but the fact that it was broken only made it worse, everything she felt.
She couldn’t let herself think of escaping the despair the way someone had tried to trick Toni into doing.
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and, well, you don’t like me very much, do you?” she asked her best friend.
“Jane, I can’t answer…”
“I was right. You don’t.”
Jane looked away.
Lynda grabbed her hand.
“Jane, it doesn’t matter whether I like you or not. The fact is, to me, you’re a sister. I don’t have a choice on whether or not I like you. I don’t need one. I will always be here for you. I won’t ever stop being there for you. And you put any thoughts you have of me not liking you out of your head. I don’t like you. I love you. And I’ve never had a better friend.”
Lynda was surprised by how truthful her words were. She honestly meant every syllable she had just let loose to Jane, which shocked her completely.
She had never really thought she had liked Jane, but to know this was the way she felt, she pondered her heart.
If Jane was so close to her heart, why had she never realized it before?
Jane smiled at her, and Lynda grinned back, this time completely sincere.
Natalie looked at Nathan as he picked her up.
“Nathan, I’m leaving the class. I’m just scared out of my mind right now. I need some time to relax, to grieve. Mister Jacobs was my favorite teacher while he was alive. To know that he’s gone… I guess I never really had time to mourn him.”
Nathan nodded as she spoke, letting her know he was listening.
“So, I need to tell Daddy. If you drop me off at the junkyard, I can walk myself home,” she told him.
When the two pulled into the junkyard parking lot, Natalie stepped out of the car without hesitation, despite nervousness on how her father would react.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to be there?”
Natalie nodded in a polite motion of declination.
Nathan pulled away in his car, and Natalie, seeing Lacey running toward her in the corner of her eye, made toward the gates to the yard with haste.
“Natalie, wait!” Lacey cried out.
“What?” Natalie turned to her, bitterness echoing throughout the tone of her voice and the stance she took.
“You-you can’t quit the class. I-I think the killer is playing a game. You’d be quitting. Don’t leave. Please.”
Natalie looked at her for a second and turned away.
But the dark-haired girl just sped through the gates of the junkyard’s entrance, without a second look at the perceptive teen behind her.
Natalie walked toward her father’s office, not looking forward to telling him that she was quitting the class.
The mesh flooring creaked under her high-heels, and she felt insecure as she brushed her hand over an unstable railing, and it moved under the slight weight of her hands.
When she arrived at her father's office, the conversation that ensued about her leaving the class was painful to even a tabloid queen, her only thought through the whole thing was, "Please don't disown me, please!"
After her father had begun to understand her situation, he left her to close the junkyard.
With the gate already padlocked, she would only have to turn off the systems and go out the locked front door.
She hit the switch in her father’s office, turning off all the electricity in the complex, and she walked once again over the mesh, elevated flooring, when she saw something in the corner of her eye.
Quitting is the same as losing. Either way, you’re going to die.
She let out a short scream as she saw the bright red words, and backed up in fear, her heel getting caught in the mesh, she flung back with a bad case of whiplash, clutching the rail for support.
A short sigh was emitted from her nervously smiling mouth, and she began to pull herself up, thinking, "Thank God."
And then the railing broke with a loud crack, followed by the heel of her shoe, which was her only support in the chance of a fall.
Screaming, Natalie plunged down into the car crusher, and the electricity returned, bringing the crusher to life.
She pressed her back to one side, her hands out to one other wall each, both to her side, and a foot to the wall in front as the ceiling shut, kicking her other leg up to stop the ceiling and pushing outward with all her strength, but to no avail.
“Someone help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” she cried out as blood began to trickle out the side of her mouth.
Lacey had left the junkyard quickly after Natalie had abandoned her, dialing Eric’s number in her cell phone.
“Hello, this is Eric,” his voice came through the receiver.
Lacey sighed in relief at the sound of his voice.
“Eric, you know how Mister Jacobs died, and in the same week Nina died, too?”
“Yeah, it’s me, but still…don’t you think that’s strange?”
“I guess. Weird coincidence,” he replied, and her mind’s eye could hear him shrug.
“I’ve been thinking. What if Nina’s death wasn’t an accident. What if someone had it planned?”
“I don’t understand. What are you suggesting?”
“I think that someone murdered Mister Jacobs and Nina. I don’t think they’re done yet, either.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Lacey could hear the doubt in his voice.
“Call Natalie. I think she might be next.”
Eric rolled his eyes as he began to hear the dial tone in his ear, but still dialed Natalie’s number.
What he heard in the receiver was so terrifying that he jolted up from his couch.
“Someone help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We are sorry. This line is disconnected. Please hang up and try again.”
Natalie had not returned with her father, and Nathan was worried about his unstable sister. She was his world, unfortunately, because she was the baby girl of the family, the only girl among the hordes of boys that they had, and the youngest.
Natalie had been conceived a month after him by superfetation, and was born when she should have been. They were told that Natalie was a rare occurrence, and that the chance of superfetation occurring is one-in-a-million.
Natalie was babied and spoiled, and eventually Nathan was told that it was his one expectancy from his parents to protect Natalie.
So while Natalie had the best life that could possibly be provided, he had no life at all.
Nathan skipped the art class the next day to look for her, and found nothing by lunchtime, when the class was sure to be over.
He finally went to the location of the encounter his father had had with her the previous night, and the junkyard was closed.
He climbed up the back fence, which he knew had no charge, and into the junkyard, looking around for his sister.
Nothing could be worse for him than this. If he found her he knew it would somehow be his fault for what had happened to her.
Because something had happened to her. She would never disappear for this long unless this was true.
Nathan's keen eyes saw the first thing that was unusual, and his mind contemplated the reasons for this observation.
Why would it be so important for the red light that indicated electricity to be on that it would jump to his attention?
Then he realized it; either she had never turned it off...
He looked frantically around at all the electrically operated machines as his thought met its full realization.
...Or someone had turned it back on!
Nathan ran toward one of the junkyard's pits that held the giant piles of trash, looking around for a body that had been disposed of.
He then heard a buzzing sound behind him and his attention shifted toward the noise as he turned around.
The crane machine was suddenly alive, and Nathan turned to run as the claw swung at him, but it was to late, and he went flying into a support that was under the mesh walkway of the junkyard.
The support creaked as he tried to crawl away but was utterly crippled by the pain, and the ensuing snap that followed left him looking on in horror as the mesh plate turned on its side so that he could only see one side of the frame as it rushed down on him from five stories up.
DiRozio looked up from his desk with a sigh.
Four people dead.
Four unsolved murders.
But there was a connection, his only hope to solve the case.
They were all involved in the same summer art class.
He left the files on his desk, the faces of the victims to the murder he would never solve.
It was the day after the death of Nathan had been discovered. Lacey had politely waited until after class to tell everyone the news.
When they were all leaving, going to the parking lot, she decided to tell hem.
They all turned to her.
“Um…I don’t know how really to say this, but…well, you know how Mister Jacobs, Nina, Natalie, and Nathan are dead?” All Lacey received were the ‘way to go little miss obvious’ kind of stares. “Well,” she continued, “I think that someone may be trying to kill us. All of us.”
Jane turned with a jolt toward Lacey, as though her own thoughts had just come out of Lacey’s mouth.
Lynda and Virginia characteristically looked toward the ground as if to say ‘you’re crazy, but I’m too polite to say anything.’
“I called Natalie. She answered the phone on accident right before she died. I heard everything.”
Calin and Toni clearly believed her.
“No,” Leslie said, her blonde hair blocking her eyes as she looked downward. She swung her face upward to look at Lacey and screamed. “NO! NO! NO! ARE YOU INSANE! NO! THIS ISN’T HAPPENING! NO ONE IS TRYING TO KILL ME! I AM NOT GOING TO DIE-”
Leslie had by then backed away from the rest of the group. Her voice was cut off by the explosion of the car beside her, and everyone watched in horror as the car’s front left tire flew through the back of her head.
The school was quiet early the next day, and Virginia walked toward the classroom with the utmost solemnity as she thought of the two children that had just been found.
Natalie, all the police could say was that she was found in the crusher, barely identifiable. Nathan had been found bisected at the waist by the cheap mesh flooring that had been elevated before it collapsed. And Leslie…they had to watch.
She tried to put on an emotionless smile, but the fear that shown through was reflected in the faces of the students, who had looked to her for a gleam of hope.
As the lesson over pottery began, she slowly went into autopilot, hoping the day would soon come to an end.
As she left the school for lunch, she noticed the manner of the students.
Lacey, Calin, Toni, and Eric had already left for the joint funeral being held for Nathan and Natalie, and from the looks of it many were going to follow.
Jane, a consistently depressed girl, looked at Lynda, a usually bright, bubbly friend to find some ray of happiness, but Lynda could only look away from the brown-locked girl in despair, her own blonde tresses curled for the event that they would be leaving for.
Jane seemed to be sad, horribly sad in the way that it was speculated by Virginia that she seemed to think of ending her own life, and that Lynda seemed to be a beacon that shown only to keep Jane from this horrible ending.
Stephen and Ethan were giving them a ride to the funeral. Ethan liked Jane, as was obvious, but Virginia thought he was better matched for Lynda, as they were happy and independent.
Stephen didn’t like anyone other than his brother, Ethan, and Jeff.
Jeff wasn’t really like anyone she had ever known. Honestly, being a teacher aside, she hated the cynical, depressing, ungrateful waste of breath.
He got into Mick’s car, Mick, who had suddenly been separated from Eric and Lacey.
As the teens all left, Virginia thought she would never understand them.
She couldn’t even understand herself.
Virginia pulled off the interstate happily as she began to withdraw her foot slightly from the accelerator.
The panic that swept over her was instant, and they pedal that had stayed in place seemed to taunt her with the car’s astonishing speed.
She slammed down on the brake, and found it useless; someone had cut them.
Bracing herself, she turned the steering wheel off the bridge she was now on, and into the water below.
She began to scream as she tugged on the door handle, but the pressure on the doors wouldn’t let it budge.
The windows burst in as she saw the faint glimmer of siren lights, and a piece of glass sliced across her forehead as she saw everything turn black.
DiRozio was intercepting everything that was going to Virginia’s room. Even the kids that came to see the teacher, who would be out in a day or two, were intercepted and searched.
Anything that could look suspicious was stopped in the lobby. Cell phones, purses, backpacks, everything.
Some students, like Stephen Curtis, sarcastically suggested a strip search. DiRozio never told them that he was considering it.
The killer could try to strike at the teacher in her weakest state.
On the day Virginia was to leave the hospital, he heard a sizzle, and attacked someone’s breakfast as a result. He was highly embarrassed by his complete overreaction and decided to take a short brake from his duties to relax himself.
He left the room, headed toward the men’s restroom.
Virginia dozed off to the silence in her room, the image of peace.
She heard a continuous beeping, though stayed in a light sleep.
As she heard rushing footsteps and shouting, she suddenly heard the word, “Clear!”
It was much too clear to be from anywhere else but her room.
Her eyes snapped opened to the doctors looming over her, and she realized what had happened as she felt the defibrillator pads contact her chest, and screamed as the electric charges flew through her body.
The doctor, clearly surprised that she was still alive, dropped the defibrillator pads, which struck her, pumping her once again with electricity.
She screamed in pain as she felt herself dip into the blackness of death.
DiRozio ran to Virginia’s room as he saw the doctor’s running.
As the doctor had charged the pads and screamed, “Clear!” he had seen her eyes. How they moved. She screamed as the pads hit her chest, and he cried, “No!” as he ran toward her, screaming at the doctor as he dropped the pads, Virginia’s body charging a second time with electricity she screamed as she died.
He had the time and the tools to resuscitate her, he realized, as the pads fell onto the sheets, causing them to burst into flames.
He dove, scooping Virginia’s lifeless form off of the sheets, tearing the I.V.’s out of her arms in the process, and flying across the room toward the doors as he saw in his peripheral vision the image of the doctors running toward the door, but in his sprint he had knocked the I.V. bag’s stand outside the door, and it promptly fell into place between the double-doors handles on the opposite side of the door than the doctors were on.
He set the woman’s body down on a counter and yelled toward the nurse, “Resuscitate this woman!”
The nurse nodded once, and he ran toward the door, trying to pry loose the make-shift bar, to no avail.
He then, on an impulse and in a rush of adrenaline, he picked up a wooden table, throwing it at the windows to the room. As he did so, the glass, far from bulletproof, shattered under the table’s momentum. Doctors jumped through the window, and DiRozio ripped the fire extinguisher from the wall, at the cost of the electrical box beside it crushing inward and the entire floor blackening, using the extinguisher and snuffing the fire in the white foam that emerged, icy, from the front hose.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he turned, seeing the machine that had originally killed Virginia giving her breath, and dropped the empty extinguisher.
The doctors pulled DiRozio aside and told him how she would be in recovery for trauma for a while.
While left unattended, Virginia never heard the empty extinguisher scrape softly against the floor as a figure, shrouded by the darkness, picked it up.
She was breathing heavily, panicked from living through possible death twice already, as the canister that saved the life of the doctors came crashing down on her head, and without a cry she slipped into a trauma-induced coma.
Lacey and Eric were waiting for Calin and Toni to join them at the restaurant, a fancy place with a large glass chandelier hanging above them. It was a double date, when they began to discuss what was happening to their lives because of all of it.
“I can’t believe all of this is actually happening. This is like a complete horror movie. It really sucks,” Eric said, not whining, more stating the obvious.
“I know, baby, I know.”
“Do you hear that?” Eric asked. He swore he could have heard a stretching sound.
Eric shook his head, letting the thought pass.
“Anyway, I want to ask you about all this,” Lacey said, smiling softly, brokenly.
“Do you really believe me?”
“Hell yeah, I believe you. You forget. I heard Natalie die. But you know something?”
Eric leaned over the table to plant a long, hard kiss on her mouth.
“I’m almost glad it’s all happened. I feel like I wouldn’t have you if it didn’t. We never would have gone on this.”
“It’s our first date.”
Eric nodded, grinning.
Then he heard it again, the stretching sound.
“Did you hear it that time?”
Lacey looked at him in confusion.
He looked off behind her to see a flyer falling to the ground.
The flyer said, “Falling for the first time,” and was written in blood, like all the other clues.
Eric jumped across the table, tackling Lacey, then turning back to the table as Lacey screamed, the chandelier falling, shattering against the table.
They heard a scream on the other side, and rushed to see that Toni and Calin had arrived.
Toni’s eyes were wide, a wooden piece of shrapnel right in front of Toni’s lightly made up face.
The students received phone calls the following hour telling them their teacher was unresponsive, and that class would be halted.
When they heard the news, Lacey, Eric, and Mick met to discuss what they should do next.
“I think we should probably just go about it as we have, but be very careful about it. The killer could still be out there,” Mick recommended with a sort of concern in his voice.
“I think that everyone should try to stay together. The killer won’t strike unless we’re apart,” Lacey said.
“But maybe it’s a trap. We could be doing just what he expects,” Eric said.
Lacey, weak-willed after the most recent events, simply nodded.
Jane looked over at all three from her place upon Mick's car, and she couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen.
She brushed back a pure-brown lock of hair, and looked toward Lacey with a sympathetic look.
She reminded her of herself when her parents died.
Nothing could ever make her want to go back before then. Before she was an orphan. Not all the money in the world.
Her father, the despicable waste of life, he had done things to her, horrible things, he touched her like she never wanted to be touched again.
And her mother...she watched. She watched and didn't do anything about it. And when Jane asked why she didn't, she hit her.
Jane hated Lacey for reminding her of it all, just for a second, but it was still a moment that Jane would have to repent. Jane had always told herself that after her parents were gone, she wouldn’t hate another soul.
Mick came to the car quickly, and Lacey and Eric went to Eric’s own car.
Mick hopped onto the hood with her, and for a little while they just sat there in silence.
Finally, she turned to him and whispered to him what she knew he needed to hear.
“It’s not a game, Mick. It’s for real, you know that, right?”
Mick looked at her as if she was a foolish girl who had yet to understand anything.
Jane just sighed, turning away.
“Of course I understand that, Jane. But someone thinks it’s a game. And I think they’re getting ready to take one of the most important moves.”
Jane thought of everything that had happened, and of the inevitable ending to her part in the whole sadistic design.
The only winner could be death itself.