Chapter 27

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The cheerful party atmosphere of Ace's disco ball juxtaposed with what Jack had accused me of turned my stomach into a champion gymnast. As soon as I was able to work past the nausea, I turned it off and flipped on the bare bulb. The attic, in its unfinished grubby glory, presented itself to us. Nothing could hide in that harsh light, not even the truth.

"I would never hurt you Jack. You must realize it."

"You held up a gun and pointed it at me. I remember you doing it."

I shook my head. "I don't even know how to use a gun."

"They're pretty self-explanatory."

A weight descended upon me, as though the house had collapsed, leaving me buried in its rubble. I dropped to a crouching position and pressed myself to the wall. Panic beckoned.

"That's not the reason you're here," I told him. "It can't be."

How could I harm Jack? Then again, Jack's memory wasn't about his ghostly self, if was about Blake. Blake, who for all I knew, really was dangerous. Was I capable of shooting Blake if I was defending myself? I didn't even know where I'd get a gun from. My parents were staunchly opposed to having them in the house.

"Jack, do you remember anything else? I mean, before you saw... what you saw. What were you doing? How were you acting? Was there anyone else with us?"

He crisscrossed the length of the attic several times before circling back to stand in front of me. "I felt scared. Dizzy with fear. Maybe there were other people there, but I don't remember faces or voices or anything. Aside from you holding up a gun, it's all a blur."

"Did I pull the trigger?"

"What?"

"Did I hold up a gun and shoot you or did I just hold up a gun and that's all you remember?"

He spun around. "That's the moment I died. I know it, Mazie."

"All right. Calm down." I waved my hands in front of me. "Stop spinning around or I'm going to puke all over the floor. I'm just trying to make sense of this, same as you."

With effort, he came to a standstill, except for one foot in its customary tapping mode. "I don't know how to make sense of it. I remember what I remember."

"But your memories are selective. They don't paint the whole picture, and we need them to." I pushed my palms against the floor and slowly rose to my feet. The panic attack I could have sworn was about to overtake me had retreated unexpectedly, but I was still anxious to clear myself of what Jack thought I was capable of. "Let's try a memory from further back."

"Like from when?"

"Blake knows Ethan and Zeke. They have a history that I'm guessing isn't about pre-school playdates. And—we've gone over this part before—we agreed Blake is somehow tied to what happened to Zeke. I have a new theory and you're not going to like it. Hear me out."

"I supposed since I told you you killed me, it's only fair you tell me something I don't want to hear too."

"Right. Okay, so Blake's girlfriend—ex-girlfriend—Dakota. She's not exactly the faithful type. I think she cheated on Blake with one of the brothers—probably Zeke. Because even though he's from a weird survivalist family, he's got that alpha man in training vibe going for him and Dakota's the type to be into that. Or maybe she just wanted to piss off Blake. Who knows?" I paced and spun around like Jack did when he got excited. "Anyways, Blake found out, high tailed it to the Campbell compound, confronted Zeke, got super jealous, grabbed a gun and shot him. Maybe it was an accident or a heat of the moment thing, but he did it."

Jack scratches his head. "That doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't the police have arrested him?"

I clapped my hands together. "Good question! I've thought about that. At first, I figured it was because only Zeke was there to witness it and he was in a coma. But Ethan must have suspected. That's why he came to school, so he could see if Blake tipped his hand. And then after Zeke woke up, he plotted with Ethan to torture Blake, goading him and starting that rumor about me, getting Dakota to dump him, all to drive him crazy until they either sought their own revenge or told the police he did it."

Jack tapped his foot but didn't spin. "Wait, the conversation you overheard between Blake and Ethan—they talked about both being there. Wherever there is. If that's the case, Ethan witnessed what happened. And I'm going to just put this out here, but I truly don't believe I—meaning Blake—would shoot Zeke over Dakota. Blake never even loved her."

I brought my hands to my mouth and squealed. "Oh my God. What if...? No, it can't be!"

Jack moved so he was in front of me again. He waved his hands to get my attention. "Care to share what's going on in that brain of yours?"

"If they were both there, and if we don't think Blake shot Zeke, then that only leaves one other person." I headed for the stairs. "I'm going to find Blake and flat out ask him."

"Now? It's after midnight!"

"I don't want to wait, do you?" I hurled myself down the stairs. "Besides, if my theory is right, Blake is in danger—and not from me."

"Right, but as much as I don't want to believe my other half is capable of shooting someone in a jealous rage, we can't totally rule it out. It's too risky for you to confront him like that, all alone in the middle of the night."

I slowed down as I got to the second floor. He had a point. How ironic that we both had to contemplate whether we could murder each other.

"Besides, I want to be there when he finally tells you this stuff. Isn't that fair? You have to invite him here."

"What? No way. Remember what happened last time? It was literally like, five hours ago and it did not end well."

"It will be different this time."

"You can't know that."

"It doesn't matter. I want to know. Maybe having him here will trigger more memories and we won't even need him to tell us anything. I might even remember more about my upcoming demise—enough to clear you."

I stopped at the top of the landing. "Fine. I'll text him."

"In the morning, not now."

"Why not now? I want this resolved, Jack."

"I do too, but it's late and this isn't the time. We need to strategize. Plus, you shouldn't be alone. I mean, I'll be here but you need Kayla with you in case things go south."

In case things go south. It was one thing if something happened to me. I'd signed up for this. Inviting Kayla into this madness meant I'd be putting her in danger. Still, he wasn't wrong. We did need to strategize. Kayla would want to be looped in.

"Fine, you win. But only because I can't stand to see you pout." Also, because he can hurl a kitchen knife in my direction if he wants to. I gripped the railing, wondering where that thought had sprung from. It seemed Jack wasn't the only one to be blamed for thinking the worst of someone he cared about. 

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