by Hamen Cheese

Chapter 27: My Bloody Valentine

I couldn't understand what happened. I mean he hurt Charlie. No one had any right to hurt Charlie. I just hurt him back because of what he did. And somehow, I ended up as the bad guy, again. Granted, I did kinda hurt Travis to the point of knocking him near unconsciousness but to be fair, I was feeling guilty about that. I knew Travis was a piece of shit but I didn't really want to hurt him. I was just angry and I guess I just lost it when I saw Charlie get hurt.

I was justified, wasn't I? The Spot was special to Charlie and me. It was our place and he forced himself into it. And he even kissed…

I shook my head, which only made the headache worsen. I grasped the sides of my head for a few seconds, willing the pain to subside. Something was wrong. I knew it. Headaches weren't supposed to be like this, not so painful and not so long lasting.

I ducked as I saw a police car pass by. I was parked in a dark enough spot in the alley not to be noticed but I figured that it was better to be safe than sorry. I wasn't hiding because of what I did to Travis if that's what you're wondering. I'm pretty sure that Charlie and Travis were okay. I lingered long enough just beyond the park's gates to see Mrs. C's car arrive and she herself exit the vehicle. She gave my empty car a hard look before rushing into the park. That was when I left.

What I was hiding from was my own mom. I didn't go home that night or the night after. I don't know why I didn't. Perhaps it was guilt or worry or any number of things anyone could guess. But whatever it was drove me to hiding. I've been missing for more than twenty-four hours so I knew they were already looking for me…

I saw Charlie come to school by himself the day before the dance (Friday). I was watching from afar all the students and vehicles trickling into Southmore. I suppose I was curious about what happened to Charlie and Travis. I supposed that Travis was resting since he never showed up. I didn't really know how I felt about Travis. A part of me was still screaming that it was his fault. But then another part of me, perhaps the more logical one kept asking new questions.

Who was sending Travis threatening letters? From the way Travis said things, he was sure it was me writing them. Yet, I'd never written a single note to him before, at least as far as I could remember. And that was what was disturbing me. Had I perhaps written threatening letters to him without even remembering it? I couldn't disregard that possibility anymore. It has happened that I would write something and forget having written it. But, to write several letters and deliver them without remembering? It seemed just a little farfetched even by my standards.

But I knew I couldn't find out more without talking to Travis and I mean really talking. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of being so angry. I was tired of having a headache every time I saw something that seemed to disturb me. I was tired of not remembering. I was just so tired…

I didn't know where to look for him. I didn't know where he lived. I was hoping I'd be able to catch him by himself and manage to speak to him before we both ended up shouting at each other. But since he didn't go to school, that plan was thrown out the window. I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't ask Charlie. He'd probably think I wanted to finish Travis off. But I needed to know. I needed to figure out what was happening because it felt like someone was playing with us.

I took a sip of the soda I bought from a drive thru. It was Saturday by then and I'd had to feed myself with fast food from faraway restaurants. I didn't want to be seen in any of the healthier places I frequented. I could feel my stomach roiling and grumbling about the lard it was being exposed to. I watched people passing by carrying various flowers. It reminded me that it was Valentine's Day and that the big game against Westfield should be happening at that time. And in a few hours, the dance would commence at school.

I figured there was no point sitting around in my car. I had no idea where to begin to find Travis. I was sure the school already knew I was missing and if I showed up there, they'd have me carted off to my mom in no time. Still, maybe that was the best option. I was tired, hungry, and alone. Perhaps going home was the next best option. Sitting there all day wouldn't help me figure out in any way who was sending all those threatening letters to Travis. It wasn't like the answer would just miraculously fall into my hands.

I nearly dropped the soda can when the passenger side of my car went swinging open and a familiar but most unwelcomed face came into view as he sat down next to me.

"Fancy meeting you here, Derek," Luke said once he was comfortably seated.

"What are you doing here?" I asked with narrowed eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be at the game?"

Luke rolled his eyes. "Do I look like I want to spend an hour getting yelled at by coach and another two hours sitting on the bench? Excuse me but I have better things to do."

"This is the game against Westfield," I glared. "We have to beat them. We have to support the team."

"Really?" he asked sounding amused. "I don't see you cheering the rest of the team. Why didn't you go if the game was so important?"

I looked away unable to answer his question.

"I see," he said sounding bemused. "Mrs. Corpus is throwing a fit right now," he laughed as though he was relishing the thought. "Apparently, she couldn't understand why you decided to disappear right before a big event that you're supposed to be overseeing. Of course she says she's just worried about you and all that crap but we all know she's just concerned about what will happen to the dance."

"They'll be fine without me," I said as I massaged my forehead, my headache seemed to be worsening with each of Luke's words. "Everything's set anyway."

Luke shrugged. "Whatever. It's not like I was planning to go to the dance anyway. I don't really care what happens there."

"How did you know I was here?"

Luke laughed. "Derek, seriously, how many people do you know own a 1996 silver Camaro or for that matter, any kind of Camaro? This car sticks out like mud in a plaster wall. Frankly, I'm surprised you've managed to remain hidden this long." He picked up the half-eaten burger on my dashboard, gave it a disdainful look before dropping it again. "Living the life of a fugitive, eh?"

"I am not a fugitive," I glared.

"I heard some things at school yesterday," he said with a wicked grin. "Some people say someone beat the hell out of Travis. And then I find out that you didn't go the school or even come home. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together, Derek. I knew you had it in you."

"Whatever you're implying, Luke, it's not true."

"Oh?" he raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying you didn't do anything to Travis?"

What could I say? That I didn't lay a finger on him? That would have been a complete and total lie. I didn't really know how much damage I did to Travis but I knew that whatever had happened to him was my fault.

"I thought so," Luke said with a smug grin.

I sighed. "I need to find him."

"Want to finish the job, eh?" Luke asked with fire in his eyes.

"No!" I replied. "I just want to talk to him."

"Talk, eh?" Luke asked, his eyes twinkling devilishly.

"Seriously, I just want to talk to him," I insisted.

"Hmm," Luke said as he seemed to study me. His eyes were roaming across my face as though trying to find some hint there of some ulterior motive for seeing Travis. Of course, I didn't have one. I really just needed to talk to him to sort everything out. Luke's critical eyes were unsettling me and I was about to ask him to leave when his next words made me change my mind. "Tell you what. I know where you can find him."

"You do?" I asked surprised. "You know where he lives?"

"Well, no. But I know where he'll be tonight."

"Well that's obvious," I replied. "He'll be at the dance."

"Nope," he grinned. "He's not going to the dance tonight. He has other plans."

"Where's he going to be?" I asked.

"If you want to know, you have to take me with you," Luke grinned.

"I'm not taking you with me to talk to Travis. If he sees you anywhere near me, he won't bother to talk. He'll just start shouting for us to get out."

Luke shrugged. "Well, that's the only way you'll get to see him tonight. You want to talk to him, you have to bring me."

"What the hell kind of requirement is that? What we're going to talk about has nothing to do with you."

"Well if that's how you feel," Luke said as he opened the passenger side door, "then I might as well get out of here then."

"Wait," I said grabbing onto his wrist to keep him from leaving. I really did need to talk to Travis. I wasn't sure how much talking would get done with Luke there but if it had to be that way, then I had no other choice. "Okay, we'll go to where Travis is. Together."

"Good," said Luke as he closed the door. A sly smile played on his lips. "Very good."

"Can you explain to me again what we're doing here?" I whispered furiously as I looked around for any telltale sign that someone recognized my car.

"Relax, will you?" Luke said as he himself looked around. "I told you I needed to pick up my stuff from work before it closes."

"Work?" I asked looking at what looked remarkably like a shabby old pub.

"Yes," he said. "I do work on Saturdays, you know."

"How could you be working today if you were with me all afternoon?"

"I was playing hooky," he said as he opened the door.

"Do you play hooky for everything?" I demanded.

"Only when I can get away with it," he winked and shut the door. He ran towards the back alley that ran beside the pub. He looked around as though making sure no one was watching before he disappeared into the darkness.

I tapped the steering wheel nervously. It was getting very dark. The sun's rays were barely visible on the horizon as twilight descended on us. I looked around certain that someone would recognize my car, which was parked openly in front of the pub. All the faces, however, seemed quite unfamiliar and disinterested. There weren't any people my age and I wasn't entirely surprised. The place looked like it was crawling with questionable adults doing questionable things.

I jumped when the passenger side seat opened again and Luke came crawling in with a backpack. "What took you so long? And what the hell is that?" I pointed towards the object protruding through the open zipper of his bag.

"A baseball bat," he said simply.

"What are you doing with a baseball bat?" I asked, my eyes narrowing at him suspiciously.

"Well, probably to play baseball, duh?" he answered sarcastically.

"Since when did you play baseball?"

"I thought you wanted to get out of here?" Luke demanded, sounding annoyed.

"I did. I mean I do," I said.

"Well then, let's go. What are you waiting for?"

"You didn't tell me you were coming here for a bat," I demanded.

"I said I was coming here to get my stuff," he replied, rolling his eyes at me as if I was being daft. "Was I supposed to tell you every single item in my bag?"

"You better not be planning something stupid, Luke," I whispered furiously.

"Relax, will you?" he said. "If you don't hurry, you might miss your chance to talk to Travis."

"Fine," I said. "Where are we going?"

"There's a junkyard where people dump their old used stuff," he said. "It's near the corner of Mason and 7th."

"Junkyard?" I repeated as I drove the car far away from the pub. "What's Travis doing at a junkyard in the dead of night?"

"Beats me," Luke shrugged, "but if you don't hurry, he might leave before we get there."

"What time's he supposed to be there?" I asked. It would take us about twenty minutes to get there if traffic was forgiving.

"He should have been there for awhile," Luke said as he checked his watch. "And he'll be leaving soon if we don't hurry. Come on, step on it."

And I did. I drove as fast as I possibly could, appreciating my Camaro's ability to reach incredible speeds in short amounts of time. I barely paused at the Mile Five Intersection stoplight (which as expected turned green for me at the very last second). Several cars honked in protest in my wake.

"That's it," Luke pointed at what looked like a mechanic's shop except it was expanded to accommodate an area the size of a used cars lot. It was fenced on the side of the road by metal links and surrounded on the other three corners by what looked like tall commercial buildings.

"What is this place?" I asked as I turned off the engine and peered into the dark lot. It wasn't as disorganized or dirty as the Iron Graveyard that could be seen from The Spot. In fact, it looked like a lot of the electronics there were in decent condition (though quite dirty).

"People come here to buy and sell used electronics," Luke said as he peered through the windshield. He then looked at his watch. "The place should be closed by now which means Travis is about to leave if he hasn't left already."

"Travis family owns this place?" I asked. Somehow, I couldn't imagine Travis' father to be the type to be into electronics. He seemed more like the type who would own a business that poked its nose into other people's business.

"Nah," Luke responded as he opened the door. "He's probably just… what are you doing?"

I had grabbed his wrist to keep him from leaving the car. "You're staying in here."

"What?" Luke asked in surprise. "That wasn't our deal."

"I said we'll go to where Travis is together," I replied. "I didn't say we'll talk to him together."

"Seriously, dude," Luke said, letting his irritation show. "What the hell is your problem?"

"Travis won't talk to me if you're there," I rebutted. "And I need him calm enough to talk to me and answer my questions."

"Answer what questions?" Luke asked, sounding curious.

I hesitated. Was I allowed to tell Luke about the threatening letters? How would he react to that information? "It's complicated."

"It's complicated?" Luke demanded. "I brought you here and you're not going to tell me anything?"

"Just stay in the damn car, okay?" I demanded, shaking his wrist. We turned as one of the lights inside the junkyard went off.

"Fine," he said slamming the door shut again. "Just hurry back."

"Okay," I said not willing to let go if his wrist until I was sure.

"If you don't hurry, you'll miss your chance," he said.

"Okay, I'm going," I said as I opened my door and headed towards the junkyard. I looked back to see if Luke was still in the car. He was and he waved at me, looking very annoyed.

I made my way into the junkyard. It was quite dark as most of the lights were off. There was still a light shining near the central building so I decided to make my way there, trying to make as little noise as possible. I wasn't trying to sneak or anything. I just had a feeling that I might get thrown out if someone other than Travis saw me first. Then again, it was Travis I was dealing with here so chances are, he'd throw me out anyway.

I could hear a voice talking in the distance. The sound of an engine running in the background drowned out the words so I had to move closer to hear if it was Travis. As I moved closer to the source of the voice, I noticed something odd leaning against one of the piles of old toasters. It was a bike. Not only did it catch my attention because it was out of place with everything else around it, but I recognized it immediately. It was a beat up old bike that looked like it could have belonged to a kid. It had familiar scratches running on the side and knobs on the back wheel that hinted of training wheels once upon a time.

"Thank you so much for helping me tonight," came an old man's voice. "It would have taken me much longer to load all this without your help."

"No problem, Mr. Maloney," came another voice that made my blood freeze. "I didn't have anything else to do tonight so I figured I would help."

"I thought you had a dance to go to," Mr. Maloney said as he latched on what sounded like the back of a truck.

"Uhm, Travis and I decided to sit this one out," Charlie replied. "I'm going to meet him after this though."

"Are you sure I can't offer you a ride anywhere?" Mr. Maloney asked. "There's plenty of room in the truck."

"Don't worry about it, sir. I'll be just fine."

"Alright then," Mr. Maloney said. "I'll see you next week in the shop."

"Okay, sir."

I heard the slamming of a truck door and then the area near me was suddenly bathed in the bright glow of headlights. I hid against the wall where Charlie's bike was leaning until the truck passed by me. Mr. Maloney didn't seem to notice me as he passed and left through the junkyard's entrance.

Charlie was here, not Travis. They were meeting though. Did that mean Travis was coming here to pick Charlie up? Was that my chance to speak to Travis? I was hoping Charlie wouldn't be there. I had a feeling Travis would be more approachable if he knew I wasn't anywhere near Charlie.

The sound of someone coming brought my mind back to what was happening. I looked down at the bike and realized too late that there could only be one person who was coming to where I was.

"Derek?" Charlie asked in surprise as he rounded the corner where his bike was. "What are you doing here?"

I opened my mouth to say something but no words came out. I closed it and opened it a few more times.

"Are you okay?" he asked sounding both worried and apprehensive.

"Hello Charlie," someone said from behind Charlie. The two of us looked in time to see Luke come out of the shadows. The baseball bat was leaning against his shoulder and a wicked smile was playing on his lips. "Fancy running into you here."

"Luke?" Charlie asked.

I finally found my voice. "Luke, what are you doing here? I told you to stay in the car."

"Well, I couldn't let you have all the fun," Luke said as he took the bat off his shoulder and started patting it against his hand as though trying to test how heavy it was.

"You came here with Luke?" Charlie asked, sounding concerned.

"No!" I replied instinctively. "I mean yes, but not to see you. He told me Travis was here."

"You were waiting for Travis?" Charlie asked sounding afraid. He took a step back away from me.

"Yes but only to talk to him," I added quickly as Charlie's eyes were suddenly illuminated by the night light. They were wide with accusations.

"Yep," Luke said as he swung the bat back and forth in front him, "just to talk."

"Derek," Charlie said, his voice cracking, "what are you two doing here?"

"Luke, stop it," I demanded. "You're freaking him out."

"Oh, he better be freaking out," Luke said as his own eyes came into the light. They were dark as though the shadows had coalesced into his irises, except for a mad, ethereal glint that reflected in the very center of his eyes. "He's a faggot after all." Luke swung his bat against a television. Shards of glass and metal came flying away towards us. Charlie took several steps back away from both of us.

"Luke, what the hell are you doing?" I demanded angrily.

"Come on," he said turning to me. "I thought you'd be more fun doing this. You beat the crap out of Travis and now I'm giving you the chance to do the same thing to this faggot without any witnesses. The junkyard's empty. No one's gonna be here for another hour. And by that time, they'll be too late."

"Too late?" I asked softly.

Travis reached from behind him and pulled a gun out. It was thick and about as black as his eyes. He looked straight at Charlie, his voice dripping with murder. "I'm going to teach you a lesson you'll never forget, faggot."

Chills crawled up every bit of my exposed skin. And a splitting headache pierced my skull. My vision swam and I lost balance against a pile of toasters, which went toppling over. I grasped my stomach as I wretched the fast food I ate out onto the floor.

"Dude, you alright?" Luke asked sounding more disgusted than concerned. "Fuck!" he suddenly yelled. "He's getting away."

I fell to my knees and grasped my head. It felt like a chainsaw was cutting through my skull. I looked up and saw Charlie running while Luke ran after him. Someone was yelling. Someone was angry. Some was in my head. What the hell do you think you're doing? I had to get up. I had to help Charlie. Don't you talk to me, you faggot!

I reached up for anything to help me get up. It was another pile of toasters that came crashing down. I knew it was a mistake having them here. I managed to get hold of a refrigerator's handle and used it to pull myself up. Have you ever kissed anyone? My legs were refusing to support me but I willed it to get stronger. You know that I love you right? I just did what I had to for your own good. I can't be weak. I needed to be strong. I needed to do it for Charlie.

I pushed the voices and the images out of my head and ran. My whole body felt like it was burning from a fever but I ran in the direction Charlie and Luke disappeared to. I heard the sound of breaking glass and suddenly a pained scream, a voice that belonged to Charlie.

I ran and ran through the aisles looking for any sign of them. I heard Charlie scream again and I used his pain as a fuel to go on. To find him before it was too late.

I heard Charlie crying as I turned down the last aisle. Luke was hovering over him. The gun was hanging from list left hand while he used the bat on his right hand to turn Charlie on his back.

Charlie lolled his head to the side and his eyes met mine. It felt like time stood still as he spoke. His voice barely above normal carried itself to me in loud tones. "Hero," he said. For a moment his face changed to one much younger, one out of breath, laughing and begging me to stop tickling him, begging and telling me he'd reached his limit. "Save me."

Luke swung his foot and it collided heavily with Charlie's face. Blood splattered the wall behind Charlie.

"No," I whispered and ran as fast as I could to them.

"You got blood on my shoe, faggot," Luke yelled angrily as he raised the bat in his arms. "I'm going to kill you like I killed your faggot boyfriend."

"What?" Charlie choked. His face was stained with blood and he looked up with tear stained eyes.

"Yeah," Luke said. "Travis didn't put up much of a fight either. Thanks to Derek, he could barely lift a finger as I shot him straight through the head." Luke pointed the gun straight at Charlie's face as though he wanted to demonstrate what he had done.

Travis was dead? My God… Luke murdered someone and if I didn't stop him he was going to kill Charlie too. I ran as fast as I could, fully intending to run him over. I didn't care about the pain. I didn't care about the risk to my own life. All that mattered was Charlie.

I was barely halfway to them when Luke turned and pointed the gun at me.

I stopped in my tracks and almost lost balance. My body felt like it was going to collapse at any moment but I needed to be strong for Charlie.

"Are you with me or against me, Derek?" Luke asked. His voice was controlled and deadly.

"Luke," I begged.


Charlie was whimpering on the ground nursing his broken nose. I could see several bruises on his arms as though he had tried to shield himself from Luke's bat using only his arms. He yelled in anguish which I had a feeling had more to do with what he was feeling inside than any pain related to his body.

My eyes rose up to the wall as I looked for something, anything I could use to get Luke away from Charlie. "Answer me, Hampton," Luke yelled as he clicked the gun, the sound ringing like a death bell.

"I'm with you," I told Luke, looking him straight in the eyes. "But we have to go."

"Oh yeah?" he sneered. "Why is that?"

"Because someone saw us," I said.

"What?" he asked.

"There," I pointed up towards a lit window of the building next to us. Luke looked up but just as quickly looked back at me as though worried I might try something.

"I don't see anyone," he said.

"I saw a woman," I said, thinking desperately. "She had a phone. She could be calling 911. The police might be here any minute."

"Then I say we finish this faggot off," he said as he pushed a shoe against Charlie's chest.

"If you kill him," I said quickly. "That's murder and there's a witness."

"I already killed one faggot. What difference is it going to make if I kill another one?"

"There's a witness with this one," I said desperately, hoping that my lie would not be seen for what it was. I needed to get him away from Charlie. I needed to stop him. "You don't want to go to jail for this. Come on!"

He stood there, staring at Charlie as though he was thinking if he should continue or not. The gun was pointed down on the ground but I knew that all he needed was a second to aim it and another second to pull the trigger. It was simply not enough time to save both of us. "I suppose you're right," he said after what seemed like forever. "He placed the end of the bat against Charlie's face as though trying to press it down. "Remember this night, faggot. Remember what happens to people like you."

I was afraid he would hit Charlie on the head with the bat but he turned and walked towards me, gun still in hand. I was tempted to fight him and subdue him but I wasn't sure if my body was up to it. I was still feeling sick and Luke had a gun and a bat while I had only my hands.

I looked back at Charlie. He was shaking and whimpering uncontrollably on the ground. He was curled up into a ball, hugging his legs to his body. A cracked cell phone, Travis' gift, was clutched in his bleeding hand. My heart broke for him and I wanted more than anything to just run over, hug him, and bring him to the hospital. But, I couldn't. Not with Luke so close. So I gave a silent prayer hoping that someone would watch over Charlie and make sure he was okay.

I followed Luke back to my car. His shirt was splattered in blood, Charlie's blood. He looked around to see if anyone was near and then he went into the passenger seat. I rushed to the driver's side and got the car as quickly as possible away from the junkyard, away from Charlie.

"Whooo…" Luke said with a laugh. "Now THAT was fun."

My hands on the steering wheel were tight. My grip was threatening to break it off at any minute. From the corner of my eye, I looked at Luke. He'd placed the bat somewhere in the back but the gun was still in his hand. I didn't know where I was going. I just knew that I needed to get Luke away.

"Did you really kill Travis?" I asked in the deathly silence in the car.

"Why?" Luke smirked with a laugh. "Does it matter?"

"It matters to Travis, I imagine," I said trying to match the laughter in his joke. But I think I failed miserably at it. I was afraid to try laughing more because some bile might come out with it the next time around.

"Well, no, I didn't," he said, looking satisfied with himself.

"You didn't?" I asked surprised.

"Nah. I just said that to freak that faggot out. You should have seen his face when I told him his boyfriend was dead. His eyes nearly bugged out," he laughed. "Damn, but of course, you my dear friend were the icing on the cake."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

Luke grinned slyly at me. "I know what happened back there. He called you Hero. That's his old pet name for you right? He was asking for help and when you stood by and did nothing. He looked like he just about died. That was the best punishment anyone could ever have inflicted on him." He laughed so sadistically that I was having a difficult time keeping my hands on the steering wheel. "If we're lucky, he won't check if Travis really is dead and he'll go kill himself and do the job for us."

"And what about the gun?" I asked. "Where'd you get it?"

"Oh this?" he asked as he raised the weapon in his hand. He then pointed it at me and pulled the trigger. I almost swerved the car into oncoming traffic. I looked at him disbelievingly and saw a wick of flame on the barrel's end. "It's a lighter. Looks pretty convincing, huh?"

"You mean to tell it wasn't a real gun?" I asked, my stomach feeling like it was filled with the burger I puked out earlier.

"Nope," he flipped the gun midair. "But looks pretty damn good for an imitation. You should have seen his…" He couldn't say anything else because his head slammed against the dashboard of my car as I stepped heavily on the breaks. Since I was wearing my seatbelt, I didn't slam against the wheel. Luke, however, was not wearing a seatbelt. "Oh, fuck. Dude, what the hell?!"

"Get out," I said in a deadly whisper. I had all that time thought that Luke had murdered someone and that he had a gun with him. I had thought that Charlie was in graver danger than he was in and I didn't act because I wanted to keep him safe. I could have helped him more. We could have wrestled for the bat if I just knew the truth. Charlie was back there, alone and broken. I needed to get back to him. "Get out," I said again.

"Dude," Luke said as he massaged his forehead where I was sure (from personal experience) that a lump was growing. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"I said get out!" I yelled as I reached over and opened his door. I then started pushing him out of the car.

"For fuck's sake, we're in the middle of the road," Luke yelled. "There are cars coming from behind us." As if in response, two cars swerved on either side of my vehicles honking their horns angrily.

"I don't care!" I yelled. Fury was raging within me and I was half-tempted to get the bat from the backseat to beat Luke to death. "Get out! Get the fuck out of my car! NOW!"

"Fuck!" Luke yelled as I finally managed to push him out and onto to the ground. I threw his bag out with him but I couldn't find the bat so I just reached over and closed his door. I then turned the car around in a quick one eighty while cars were swerving out of my way. "Faggot!" Luke yelled. "I'm going to get you Hampton! I'm going to get you. And I'm gonna make that fucking pussy boyfriend of yours really pay the next time around!"

I pushed hard on the break and turned my car around again. Luke was suddenly illuminated in my headlights. I could feel my throat being pushing to the limit as I screamed loudly, putting the entire weight of my body on the gas pedal. Luke's eyes bogged out in surprise and fear as my car screeched forward, the smell of burning rubber filling the car. He turned and began running but was no match to my car's speed as it accelerated straight for him. He threw the bag aside and as my car came up to run him over, he disappeared…

He disappeared. He literally vanished into thin air, as if he never existed. He didn't fall to the ground or jump to the side. He simply disappeared.

I slowed the car to a halt. My fists were white as snow from gripping the wheels too tightly. I was also covered in sweat.

"Shit!" I said when I realized what just happened. I jumped out of my car to look for Luke. I checked underneath the car but he wasn't there. I checked the front and he wasn't there either. I looked for any signs on the front of my car that I had somehow run him over but there weren't any – no blood, no scratches, not even a dent.

I looked around and realized that I didn't recognize the place. I was nowhere near Mason Street or 7th Street. It looked like I was in one of the highways because the road was surrounded by thick, tall trees on both sides.

"What…?" I asked no one in particular. I checked my watch and my worst fears were confirmed. The time was many, many hours later than it should have been. The sky was no longer the dark of the night, but instead was tinged by a slight light as though it was almost morning.

It happened again. I blacked out and somehow managed to find myself driving in the middle of nowhere.

Pressing questions came to my mind. What happened to Luke? Did I run him over? What about Charlie? Was he okay? I got back into the car. The passenger seat was devoid of any traces of Luke. I checked the back seat and the blood-stained bat Luke left behind was on the floor. "Shit!" I said again. I oriented myself by looking around. The road forward looked like it was headed to the mountains so I turned the vehicle around. There were no other cars or landmarks near me so I had no idea if I was going the right way.

"Why does this keep happening to me?" I asked as I wiped the sweat off my face. "Shit. Shit. Shit," I repeated again and again as I beat my open palm onto the steering wheel. I needed to get back. I needed to find Charlie. I needed to find Luke. What had happened during the hours I had blacked out? Had I just committed murder? But I didn't remember it happening so it wasn't my fault! But I could remember hating Luke so much that I turned the car having every intention to fuse his face with the pavement. Did that count as murder?

I pinched my eyes half-shut trying to remember. My head was throbbing worse than ever and it felt like my brain would explode at any moment. I needed to remember. Enough was enough.

And then I did remember. Memories I did not expect flooded into my mind in a whirlpool of images, the day I had forgotten all those years ago, the secrets I had kept. I remembered it clear as day as sounds so foreign yet familiar flooded my ears as though the car itself was alive with my thoughts – a pounding on the door, the sound of flesh violated, a muffled scream and a desperate plea of a young voice pushed to the edge. No, Mr. Hampton! Please! Stop!

I remembered and I saw the light.

And then I really did see the light and it had the face of an eighteen-wheeler truck and it went EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHH!

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!" I answered in return as I pulled wildly on the steering wheel and my Camaro flew off the road.

End of Part Three

I'd like to thank Linxe Turmoil, Anya, and Quonus10 for taking the time to beta read this last part of Charlie. Their input has been valuable in the way this final part has been shaped.

Many grown-ups enjoy telling their children stories of "the good old days" when they got up to do the craziest things (which in truth is never as crazy as they make it sound). Most stories told are filled with fond memories of loving parents, loyal friends, and exciting adventures. We tend never to talk about the bad parts – the boring times, the painful moments, the pricey learning experiences. We often like to put them aside, possibly forget the less than pleasant memories because it will not help us move forward when we dwell on darker days.

Nevertheless, we should never forget, because forgetting would be to deny a part of us. It would be as if the negative experiences in our lives never played a role in shaping the person that we have become. Because in truth, that is who we really are. We are the sum of both the good and bad. To pretend otherwise would be a fiction, a false reality that will eventually come crashing down when our past returns to haunt us.

What I am about to tell you is not my story, that is to say Derek Hampton's story. No, to say that would be to deny myself, to lie to the person I am and to forget the person I was. It would be the same as to pretend that everything in life was just… perfect.

No, this is not Derek's story.

This is Hero's story.

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