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The End of Mark Vitale
Mike blinked. He looked to his right, his left. His friends stood a few feet away from him. Why did they look scared? What was wrong? He looked straight in front of him. There he saw Mark Vitale’s entourage, Ray and Vic, wearing the same expressions of horror. But where was Mark Vitale? He looked down. Oh. There was Mark Vitale. Lying on his back, a knife sticking out of his chest.
Mike turned back to his friends, his eyes widening. He tried to speak. “What happened?” Yet the words, when he said them aloud, sounded like, “I killed him.” That wasn’t what he meant to say. But it was too late to take them back. Tyler and Jack nodded slowly in consent.
“You killed him, buddy,” Tyler agreed. It was so unlike him to have worry on his face instead of a smile. He had always been the joker of the bunch. The sight of Mike slaughtering a fellow student seemed to drain the laughter right out of him.
Jack’s emerald eyes lost their sparkle as they met Mike’s pale blue ones. Disappointment flowed out of him like a river in a rainstorm. He spoke softly, gently. “Mikey...” Shaking his head, he looked at the concrete beneath his feet. A nervous smile tickled his lips. “I’m sorry, Mikey. I never thought you would kill nobody. Not the Mikey I know.” His eyes flicked up to Mike’s for a moment. “I’m real sorry.” Carefully, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small flip phone.
Mike was still taking it all in. He backed away. “No. Please, Jack. Don’t do this.” Anything but this.
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Jack asked, his voice rising. “What the hell am I supposed to do?” The tears on his cheeks showed how much he cared, but the finger resting lightly on the grey buttons in his hand showed how much he didn’t. “I’m sorry, alright?” He cleared his throat. With a pitying glance at Mike, Jack pushed three buttons on the phone. Everyone was silent, staring frozen at Jack.
Even Ray and Vic were speechless to see Jack betraying his friend so easily. He, Tyler, and Mike had been close since kindergarten. The teachers often mistook them for brothers. Now, eleven years later, their relationship seemed to be ending before their very eyes.
A bored voice leaked out of the phone. “Miami Police. How can I help you?”
“I’m at the fountain at Bayfront. There was a fight, and–” Jack’s voice caught in his throat. He coughed. “One guy stabbed another guy to death.”
“Do you know the victim?”
“No, sir,” he stated flatly. Mark’s friends stared.
“Do you know the killer?”
“No, sir,” he lied again. Jack’s friends stared.
“If given a photograph, could you identify him?”
A long pause. Jack finally met Mike’s eyes.
“No, sir. I didn’t see his face.”
“Alright, son. Thanks. We’re on our way.” The phone beeped. Crystal clear, the sound echoed in the empty space. Empty except for five boys and a body.
Jack stepped towards Mike. “Get outta here! The cops are comin’.” He turned. “All of you! Leave!” No one moved. “Go on, run! Get out!”
Ray and Vic were stunned by their rival’s generosity. “Well, what about you?” Vic stammered.
“I made the call. I gotta wait for them.”
Ray and Vic sprinted away. But Vic stopped at the edge of the concrete and looked back at them. With a smile and a salute to his worst enemies, he disappeared into the park.
“Dude, that was weird,” Tyler said after a moment.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed distantly. “Now, get outta here, both of you! It ain’t safe here.”
Tyler punched Jack lightly in the arm. “Thanks, buddy,” he said with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m goin’. See ya later. Mikey... it’s been nice knowin’ you.”
Mike gave a half-hearted smile. “Bye, Tyler.” He watched his friend wipe away rare tears.
“Dammit, Mikey.” Tyler smothered Mike in a parting hug.“I’m gonna miss you if they take you off to jail.” Mike returned the goodbye with a heavy heart. Eventually, he pulled away to apologize to Jack.
“I’m sorry, Jack,” he murmured. “I didn’t mean–”
“I know you didn’t. He was gonna kill you if you hadn’t done it. You were just protecting yourself.”
“I know. But maybe there was something else I coulda done. Run, maybe.”
“He woulda chased you down. You know that.”
“I guess.” Mike sighed. “Thanks, Jack.”
“For coverin’ for me. Sayin’ you didn’t see my face.”
“That’s what friends are for, Mikey.”
Tyler smirked. “For what, lyin’ to the cops?”
“Shut up, Tyler,” Jack scolded. “Now, Mikey. You’re gonna face a whole lotta trouble out there in the world. ’Specially if you’re runnin’ from yourself. So be yourself, even if it means let the cops get you. You’re a good guy, Mikey. They’ll take you away, but you can do good there.”
“They’re gonna take me to jail.”
“So what? You can do good in jail. But listen to me real close.” Jack put his hands on Mike’s shoulders. “You’re a special kid. Michael Finn Bradley can change the world if he really wants to.”
Mike let a smile crawl over his face. “I’m gonna miss you.”
Tears threatened Jack’s eyes for the second time that night. “I’ll miss you too, Mikey.” They embraced, erasing all tension between them and forgiving each other for what they had done.
After an eternity, Tyler poked them. “Hey, guys? I hate to break up your goodbye, but... we gotta go.” Mike raised his head and heard a siren in the distance.
“We’d better,” Jack agreed. Reluctantly, he and Mike released each other.
The three boys performed their eleven-year-old handshake with flawless accuracy. Their shout at the end meant a million times more than it ever had.
“All for one! One for all!”
Their words echoed, seeming to bounce throughout the entire city of Miami, off buildings, over cars, under bridges, around strangers. Then Mike turned and ran for his life. Jack’s voice followed, mingled with the sound of Tyler’s shoes slapping pavement.
“Michael Finn Bradley can change the world!”