All the rage, p.23
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       All the Rage, p.23

           T. M. Frazier
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  “How?”

  Smoke’s eyes went wide as he stared at the paper now in his hands. He looked just as shocked as I was. “What the fuck?” he muttered, tugging on the bottom of his beard.

  I snatched it from him, not able to fully believe what he was holding. “It couldn’t be, it’s impossible,” I said, unfolding it completely, ready to confirm that what we were both thinking was wrong.

  It had to be.

  But sure enough, in multi-colored pen, written in several different skill levels of handwriting, changing between block lettering and script, were the familiar rules written for me throughout my childhood.

  Rules I’ve read a thousand times.

  Rules meant to contain my anger.

  Rules meant to try and make me normal.

  Rules I grew to hate over time.

  Rules…written by Cody.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

  Rage

  It was only a hunch, but it was all I had to go on. It was surreal pulling up to the park on the back of Smoke’s bike when the last time I was there I was driving away on it. It had been years, but it felt like no time had passed at all. I could almost feel the rough tulle of my prom dress scratching against my legs as I ran toward the excitement of the unknown.

  The second he pushed down the kickstand and leaned the bike onto it, I hopped off. He cut the engine and followed me. “Did you call Joker?” I asked for the fourth time.

  “Yeah, ’bout a hundred times. The brothers left this afternoon on a ride, but they’re on their way back. Joker’s M.I.A, but I sent him a text and put a call in to some of Nolan’s brothers. They’re on their way back from a ride and heading straight here but it’s gonna take them a while.” Smoke said. “You got what you need?” He pointed to my bag.

  I nodded and clutched it close to my chest. “Hopefully, I brought a hell of a lot more than what I’m gonna need,” I answered, scanning the clearing between the pines. I could almost still see Cody’s Honda where it had been parked the last time. It was like its ghost was still there.

  Haunting me.

  “Tell me again why you let this Cody kid fuck you?” Smoke asked. His words were cruel, but that was just Smoke. “If you were hell bent on giving it away, you know I would’ve stepped in and helped you out with that.” He flicked the toothpick in his mouth from one side of his lip to the other.

  The last thing I wanted to do was explain to Smoke that all these years, when I’d thought I’d lost my virginity to Cody, I’d actually lost it just the day before to Nolan.

  My chest squeezed.

  “Cody was a last-ditch effort to be someone I wasn’t,” I said, not wanting to elaborate. I needed to get to Nolan.

  Smoke huffed. “I sometimes get a bit turned around too, kid. That don’t mean I let some punk stick his dick in me when that happens,” he growled. The conversation we didn’t need to be having was growing unbearably long.

  “We got more important things right now than you being pissy about something that happened when I was sixteen,” I reminded him.

  “You really think this guy is capable? From the way you’ve always talked about him, he sounded like he hung the moon and shit. A real all American clean cut douche bag.”

  I shook my head. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”

  “Think you can handle business if it is Cody?” Smoke asked, quirking an eyebrow at me.

  “I think you forget who you’re talking to.”

  “That’s something I never forget when it comes to you.” Smoke looked around at the empty park. “You sure they’re here? Looks empty to me.” Smoke was right. Even without any lights, I could make out the overgrown grass, the crumbling picnic tables, and the un-raked pine needles carpeting the ground. The place was abandoned, a shadow of what it used to be.

  I was about to tell Smoke that I wasn’t sure at all, that it was just an idea, a hunch, but he held up his hand and I stopped. The breeze picked up, gently rustling the tall grass. Smoke inhaled deeply.

  “They’re here,” he whispered.

  “How do you know?” I asked, peering into the dark, trying to see what he might’ve seen.

  Smoke looked over to me and hesitated. He put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. A sign of affection that had my blood running cold. My face paled. I knew what he was about say because with another sway of the breeze, I picked up on what he already had. I didn’t want to hear the words but I couldn’t stop them from coming out of his mouth. “Hate to say this, but it smells like death.”

  My heart dropped.

  Sadness. Hurt. Two things I hadn’t been used to until I met Nolan, crashed into me like an out of control bus. My knees buckled, but Smoke caught me before I could hit the ground. I leaned into him for support as he plucked the phone from my hands. “This is what we’re going to do.” Smoke whispered. He released me and leaned down so his lips were level with my ear. “You need to pull it fucking together. Later on, when we’re bathing in this Cody kid’s fucking blood you can fall apart. But not now. Right now, we got shit to do. You need to call on those inner demons I love of yours cause them bitches need to know it’s time to come out and play.”

  He was right. I could fall apart later. I took a deep breath and focused on his words. “Our rescue mission might have just turned into a blood bath, but I know how much you like those,” we whispered seductively. “Do you feel it Rage? Do you feel that fucking fire? ’Cause we need it right now. You with me?”

  My vision shifted. The reality in front of me became slightly blurry and all I saw was red. “I’m with you,” I whispered.

  Smoke leaned over and tipped my chin up. He looked into my eyes. “Oh yeah. It’s time, baby.”

  I felt the heat more than ever in my spine as it exploded into the rest of my body like an adrenaline shot to my entire system. I was like a rabid dog who needed to feast. “Let’s go,” I said. We’d barley gotten two feet into the field when a shot rang out, echoing through the tall trees. A bullet whizzed between the few feet separating me and Smoke, landing somewhere in the wooded area behind us, across the narrow dirt road. Startled blackbirds flew from their nighttime perches, their wings batting in quick succession as they emerged into the sky, rattling the branches. Pinecones fell to the ground, landing with soft thuds on the thick bed of pine needles.

  Smoke pulled his gun and ducked, but I did no such thing. I just kept walking into the dark, toward the direction where the shot had come from. Toward the murder and mayhem I was about to rain down.

  Toward revenge without salvation.

  “Rage, don’t be fucking stupid,” Smoke hissed, hopping up and running to my side, gun drawn. His black hair and black clothes concealed him as we moved forward. My pink T-shirt, light blue shorts, and light hair made me stand out like a torch being carried in the night. I didn’t care about being concealed.

  I cared about one thing and one thing only…spilling blood.

  We reached the end of the clearing where a car was parked with its lights off. Smoke protectively shifted me behind him, but I stepped out from behind his big body and continued moving forward. The full moon shone down from the night sky like a spotlight, encasing the car, a newer model Honda, and the man sitting on top of it, in an eerie yellow glow.

  “I can see you, Rage,” Cody sang, picking at something on his nails. “You know, I’m the one who gave you that name. I feel like I deserve some credit for that.” His voice was familiar, but at the same time, it was very different. Higher pitched.

  Off.

  He hopped down from the cab and walked around the car, trailing his fingers across the blue metallic paint. He stopped when he reached the back of the car, tapping on the trunk.

  “Stay back,” I told Smoke, who grunted and shouted something at me I couldn’t hear over the blood rushing through my head. I stepped out from the shadow into the light of the moon just as Cody popped the trunk latch, revealing white fabric drenched in red, wrapped around a lifeless body. The smell hit me not
a second after.

  Nolan.

  Even though my anger, even through the blood lust raging through me, I felt my gut twist.

  A part of me hoped that when Cody saw me, he would be the same Cody I’d been friends with my entire life. He’d gone through great lengths to get me there. I didn’t think he was going to hurt me, at least not right away. All I needed him to do was hesitate, just for a second. Just to give me enough time to blow him to fucking hell.

  I walked right up to Cody, who looked me over. At first when he saw me, he seemed pleased with himself, smirking and nodding like I was a dog who’d found his way home to his master who’d called for him. But when he looked me over, his wild smile dropped from his face into an emotionless straight line.

  Then he lifted the gun, aimed at my chest, and fired.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

  Rage

  As soon as I heard the bullet explode from the barrel, I thought it was over. And it was.

  Just not for me.

  After realizing I wasn’t dead, I spun around to where Cody had fired after redirecting his aim at the last second.

  My eyes landed on Smoke.

  Smoke who was facedown in the dirt. A pool of his own blood seeping into the ground around him.

  “Serves that son of a bitch right. He never should have taken you away from me!” Cody roared, kicking up dust with his boot and sending it flying over Smoke’s body.

  I turned back to Cody. Calmly. Too calmly. I was so focused, I scared myself, my heart thumping out a wildly erratic rhythm in my chest. “I know we haven’t seen in each other in years, dear friend,” I said, my voice flat and forced as I closed the space between us. His eyes went wide, and as he took a step back, he floundered for a quick second before recovering. “But it seems that you, the person who has known me the longest, has forgotten exactly who the fuck I am.” I took a step forward and Cody raised his gun again, this time at my head. I didn’t stop. I would never fucking stop. “And what I’m capable of.”

  “He’s alive!” Cody suddenly shouted, taking a step back. Fear replacing the confidence that had been there seconds earlier. “That fucking biker you’re fucking. I didn’t kill him.”

  I glanced to the sheet in the trunk then back up to Cody, who shook his head and pointed to the body. “That’s not him.”

  “Bullshit,” I seethed. “Then who the fuck is it?” I asked.

  “Don’t believe me? Go look for yourself,” Cody said, waving his gun to the car. I ducked under him and peered into the trunk. “Why don’t you learn how to use that thing? You hold it like it’s a fucking dog about to rip your arm off. Where’s your fucking pride, man?”

  “Fuck you, Rage!” Cody spat, the gun shaking in his hands, the weight of it in his untrained hand looked awkward and heavy. I yanked back on the sheet and held my breath.

  “Why did you do this?” I asked, looking down at the bloodied body of who could only be Cody’s girlfriend. I recognized the golden curls from his social media accounts.

  “She’s a gift,” Cody stammered. “For you. I thought…I thought you’d like it.”

  “What the fuck does that mean?”

  “I can be like you. I wanted to show you that we could be together. That no one could come between us. Didn’t I do good? She screamed and I didn’t even stop. Not even when the shovel got stuck in her—”

  “Cody,” I snapped interrupting whatever it was he thought he was doing by telling me that story. “Where the fuck is he?”

  “He’s…he’s right over there,” Cody said, pointing to a picnic table in the shadows where something large and dark was lying across the top.

  “Nolan!” I yelled, running toward the table. Nolan’s right eye was swollen shut. The other just a slit. Blood stained his face and arms. He was breathing but barely conscious, strapped down to the table like a Christmas tree across the roof of a small car. My relief at him being alive was short lived. My attention shifted to the device strapped between the ropes and Nolan, pressing against his torso.

  My hands started to shake. I cracked my neck and jaw to relieve some of the tension that had me wound so tight, that not only would Cody be dead at the end of all this, he wouldn’t make it out with a single limb intact. I spun around as he approached. “This is my other gift,” he said as I breathed fire, feeling the hatred burning in my lungs.

  I launched myself at him and was mid-air, about to take him down, when he took a single step to the side, holding up a small black remote with a flashing red light and a single button.

  I stopped my attack but not my forward motion. I was right up in Cody’s face when I said, “Your gift to me is wrapping explosives around someone I love? Shooting someone I care about?” Nolan coughed and I turned. He moaned and red sputtered from his mouth, dripping down his chin onto the table.

  Cody nodded. “I saw him come to your parent’s house on his bike, so I watched him. Then I saw you arrive, and I knew this biker was something to you. Saw the way you looked at eachother. What shocked me the most is when he kissed you. Fuck, you never even let me kiss you. I thought you couldn’t feel love and suddenly it’s written all over your face? Or is that just something you told me to blow me off?” His eyes shone wickedly. “None of that matters now. I remember how much you love explosions. I’ve been learning. Practicing.” He took a step toward me. It was my turn to move back, so I didn’t snap his arm in half and accidentally detonate the bomb strapped to Nolan.

  “All this time!” I yelled. “All these years and you’re pissed off at me? Why? Because I left? Because we tried the list and it didn’t work? Why Cody? Why now?”

  “See, I knew this would happen” Cody said, tapping the gun against his head. “I knew you wouldn’t understand. You’ve never been good at the whole feelings thing, so I get that. I totally do. But I needed time to be able to offer you my grand gesture,” he said, waving his gun around in the air. In the corner of my eye, Smoke shifted, just slightly. Then his eyes opened and landed on me. I didn’t look over at him, not wanting to draw Cody’s attention. “And I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, Hope, but you are very high maintenance. It took a while to learn all this. Explosives, gun shit, all that took time.” He lowered his voice. “But you’re worth it. Always have been.”

  “I’m gonna rip your fucking throat out with my bare hands!” I screamed.

  “Awe, baby. Now, is that anyway to treat someone who went through all this trouble for you?” He held up the remote, his thumb hovering above the button. Again, I paused, looking back at Nolan whose eyes focused and unfocused as he struggled to stay conscious. I closed my eyes tightly.

  In order to save Nolan, I’d needed to take some control and attempt a different approach. Anger was my zone, my center.

  But it wasn’t Cody’s.

  Cody’s weakness…was me.

  He must have seen the shift in me. Maybe it was when I turned back around to him and my shoulders fell in defeat. He smiled. “When we were kids, I was going about this thing with you the wrong way. Instead of teaching you how to be a normal kid, we should have been learning all this stuff together. Instead of running off with that son of a bitch” he said, fire dancing in his eyes as he stared daggers at Smoke who thankfully closed his eyes in time. Suddenly, I had hope. Hope I could get all of us out of here alive. I knew what I had to do. I just hoped Smoke was with it enough to catch on before it was too late.

  “We could have been together all along,” Cody continued. “And I know, I know, I pushed the sex thing too soon.” Cody looked me up and down from my Keds to my ponytail, pausing between my legs and my chest. “But you’re just so fucking beautiful, Hope. I couldn’t help myself.” He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and flicked my ponytail off my shoulder with the tip of his gun. I cringed. He circled around me slowly, appraising me like cattle.

  “But we didn’t,” I spat. “You let me believe that. What you did, Cody, while I was zoned out? You came on my leg. I’d thought I’d given you
that part of me, but I was wrong. Found that out when I gave it to Nolan.”

  My stomach rolled at what I was about to do.

  But my stomach was no match for my will.

  Cody’s face turned red with embarrassment. He was about to say something when I interrupted. “So…let’s try again,” I said. I stepped back and unhooked my bag from my shoulders. I grabbed my T-shirt and sports bra at the same time, pulling them over my head. I put my hands on my hips and pushed out my bare breasts.

  “What? What?” Cody stammered, waving his gun at me and staring down at my naked chest. “What are you doing? Is this supposed to be
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