2010: Angela’s Thirteenth Birthday Wish

2010: Angela’s Thirteenth Birthday Wish

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Read after White Night 004.

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Point of View: Julian, Jeremy
Featured Characters: Angela Mercy, Julian Hollinger, Jeremy Hollinger, Eric Mercy
Word Count: 2071

Angela’s birthday request is more trouble than Julian expected.

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“I don’t think we should be doing this.”

“You said I could ask for ANYTHING.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think that was going to involve crime.”

Crime? Julian, you’re hilarious.”

The tiny blue-eyed blonde chortled heavily enough to rustle the bushes that surrounded their hiding spot. The brunette crouching beside her was far less amused; she cast a hazel glare at her friend, her features just barely visible under the full moon’s light. If this was to be a night of “crime”, neither of them had dressed the part. One wore a glittery paper tiara that read BIRTHDAY GIRL in scrawling letters and the other had so many strands of beads wound around her neck that she jingled at the slightest movement.

“Breaking into someone’s house IS a crime, Angela. Are you sure you don’t want something else? It’s still early enough for a movie,” Julian complained, turning her gaze back towards the subject of this little stakeout. All of the lights in the house were out and no car was in the driveway. She was thankful for that much, at least.

Angela snorted.

“I’m thirteen now, and we only have a few months left of middle school. If I’m gonna start freshman year with the best boyfriend in town, I need to get all the facts. I don’t want to date the school psychopath.”

“I don’t know why you listen to all those weird rumors. Besides, there’s better ways to stalk people. Like Facebook,” she hissed. But Angela was already sprinting across the lawn. Julian rolled her eyes and sighed, shoving leafy branches out of the way and chasing after her. She caught up just as Angela started testing the sturdiness of an ivy trellis.

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, Julian,” Angela remarked, pulling herself up a few steps once she’d decided the trellis was safe. She paused long enough to glance down at her friend. “You can wait here and I’ll be back in like, five minutes tops.”

Julian’s mouth twisted to the side. She shuffled her feet, hovering at the bottom of the trellis. She knew very well that Angela was going to do this with or without her help. If not today it’d be some other day. But Julian had this nagging feeling that she really needed to be there for this.

“No. I’d better go too.” Ignoring Angela’s triumphant smirk, Julian followed her up.

The climb was easy enough. Thanks to a trusting neighborhood (and a little sheer dumb luck), the window was unlocked. Both girls tumbled inside, first Angela in an exaggerated roll across the floor and then Julian daintily hopping in with wary trepidation. There wasn’t much to see by the faint light filtering through the window beyond the outlines of furniture and scattered household clutter.

A jangle of keys and a soft click heralded the sudden beam from Angela’s keychain flashlight.

“Do you think this is Charlie’s room or his dumb brother’s?” Angela asked, kneeling down to pluck up a dirty sock between her fingers. A moment later she grimaced and tossed it aside, pinching her nose.

“Um, both, I think.” Julian gestured towards the bunk beds standing in the corner.

“Lame. How am I supposed to know which stuff is Charlie’s and which belongs to Chris?”

“Does it matter? If you find any evidence, you should stay away from both of them.”

“YES it matters! Charlie is the one that likes academics and quesadillas, and Chris is the one that carries a knife around and keeps dead birds in his closet. …I think. Crap, did I get that backwards? Whatever, the point is that I just avoid the BAD brother and date the other one. I’ll figure it out!” That was Angela Code for dig through their stuff. The girl was already making a beeline for the desk against the far wall.

Julian had no intention of helping her stalk. She waited in the center of the room with her arms crossed and her fingers tapping gently against her elbows. By the time Angela made her way towards the closet, Julian was restless.

A sudden shrill scream caused the girl to freeze, her blood going cold and heart leaping into her throat.

One desperate glance told her that the other girl wasn’t hearing it, though. Angela was still muttering under her breath about boy funk as she sifted through piles of dirty laundry.

Julian bit her lip. The scream had subsided; now she could hear two voices shouting. An argument. Hesitantly, she turned and headed for the bedroom door. When she stepped out into the hall, her stomach churned. Was it from fear? Uncertainty? She wasn’t fully sure herself.

Silently she padded down the hall, making her way to the stairs. She ran her hand over the railing with each step down. The sounds were repeating on a loop now: shouting followed by a scream, over and over.

At the bottom of the stairs she turned towards the living room, inching across the hardwood floor. When she peered around the door frame, the bottom dropped out of her stomach. Blotches of dark red were strewn across the furniture, a black pool funneling into the brick recesses of the fireplace hearth. Two bodies, one male and one female, were laid out in the middle of the carpet. Their faces were unrecognizable through the layers of gore.

Julian shrieked.

“Julian! What—” Angela came charging down the steps, but was cut off by an older woman’s voice.

“What are you girls doing in here?!”

Julian spun around and was greeted with the surprised—and increasingly angry—faces of Mr. and Mrs. Coleman.

“Oh crap,” Angela whispered first. She gave a sheepish wave as two boys walked in the front door behind their parents. “Hi Charlie. Chris.”

Mr. Coleman was already pulling out his phone and asking to speak to Sheriff Polk.

Julian wasn’t listening. Pale as a sheet, she glanced back over her shoulder… only to find nothing. No blood, no bodies, not a single piece of anything out of place. That feeling of dread and terror was already fading, leaving her a little off-kilter and at the mercy of two angry adults.

Jeremy Hollinger paused to greet Eric Mercy and his appropriately sullen daughter in the hall of the Sheriff’s Office.

“What did they have to say?” he asked, crossing his arms.

The younger father gave the elder an exasperated glance, pushing his thick-framed glasses up on the bridge of his nose and sighing in defeat. Jeremy did his best to keep a stern demeanor for Angela’s benefit, but it was difficult not to smile at the picture Eric was making just then. The pair of them were more like father and son than a couple of dads with kids the same age. Jeremy’s dark hair was peppered with grey, while Eric looked barely old enough to have a thirteen-year-old teenager. Jeremy often found himself doing parenting for the both of them.

“This one won’t say a word and the other wouldn’t stop talking. The Sheriff said there are no charges to worry about, at least. Just a good lecture. She’s waiting around the corner.”

Jeremy nodded, wagging his finger at Angela as he passed them by. The motion earned a sour face from the girl and a chagrined frown from the father.

His growing smile vanished the second he turned the corner and spied Julian sitting on a bench, wringing strands of sparkling beads in her hands. He didn’t say a word as he sat down next to her, didn’t look in her direction. He just sat and watched the night shift officers shuffling papers at their desks.

He didn’t have to wait long before Julian launched into a speech.

“It was my fault—my idea, I mean. Because it’s her birthday and she really wants a boyfriend before we start high school and thirteen is the second-most important birthday next to sixteen, so it had to be something good and it’s not like we were going to steal anything, we just wanted to make sure Charlie Coleman wasn’t a psycho—” Her breath caught then and she swallowed.

He gave her a moment, finally eyeing her. She squirmed under his scrutiny.

“That’s the story, huh? You’re the mastermind and Angela Mercy was just along to make sure you got the right boy?”

Julian nodded furiously.

“You’re going to have to lie better than that to win over the jury, kid.”

“Am I going to prison?” she squeaked, near to tears as she lifted her head to stare at him wide-eyed. It took all of his self-control to only cover his mouth with his hand and rub his chin thoughtfully instead of laughing outright.

“I don’t know,” he told her. “Why are you covering for Angela?”

Julian sagged against the bench.

“It’s thousands of dollars for bail money and Angela’s dad doesn’t have that much so I said it was all my idea,” she confessed.

“You think I have that much money?”

Julian squeaked again, gulping back a fresh onslaught of tears. That was the moment that he caved like a big squishy-hearted sap. He looped his arm around to tug her close and squeeze her tight.

“They don’t send twelve-year-old girls to prison, Julian. We’re going home.”

The walk out to the jeep was quiet, and the silence lingered even after he made sure Julian was buckled and they rolled out of the parking lot. Jeremy squinted sideways at his daughter in an effort to decipher her expression. The kid was pensive and fidgeting. Something still wasn’t quite right.

“Usually when Angela has one of her more terrible ideas, you talk her out of it. Why didn’t you this time?” he asked carefully.

“It was her birthday and it’s what she asked for,” Julian answered with a shrug.

“You didn’t agree to last year’s zoo liberation wish, kiddo. So why was this one different?”

“I don’t know. I just felt like I needed to be there.”

“Hmm. What aren’t you telling me?”

Julian huffed, sliding down further in her seat.

“You’re not going to believe me. It’s weird,” she insisted.

“We do weird every day, Julian. Try me.”

After a long, quiet moment, she finally explained. From hearing the voices and the scream, to the weird feeling, going downstairs to see what she thought was Mr. and Mrs. Coleman dead on the floor, and how it all vanished like nothing had even happened.

Jeremy mulled it around in his head, giving her quick looks now and then as she wrapped up the story.

“Did it feel old and distant, like you were watching it in a movie you’ve seen before?” he queried when she’d finally let it all out. “Or was it fresh and brand new, like it just happened?”

“Um… new, I think. Happening right then and there.” Julian looked confused and went quiet again. After a minute, though, she blurted out, “Is Charlie Coleman a serial killer?”

“What? No!” He finally laughed, his tension draining. He hadn’t realized he was gripping the steering wheel so tight. His fingers flexed as he flashed her a quick reassuring smile. “Charles Coleman is most definitely not a serial killer. And neither is anyone in his family.”

“…But something bad is going to happen to them.”

“No,” he reiterated at once, shaking his head. “They’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

“They will? How do you know?” Julian asked, puzzled.

His fingers tapped against the steering wheel as he considered how much to say and what to keep to himself.

“Because you were there. You made a choice and that choice changed things.”

“But we weren’t supposed to be there at all,” she pointed out.

“Did you feel like you weren’t supposed to be there?”

“Um…” Julian hesitated. “I knew we shouldn’t because we’d get in trouble, but I felt like I had to?”

“Exactly. Understand?”

“No.” She scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Ghosts make more sense than this. MOM makes more sense than this.”

This was another moment when Jeremy Hollinger shouldn’t have laughed and he thanked the gods that his wife hadn’t decided to come to the station with him.

“Good. The longer it takes for you to figure it out, the longer Silent Pines is safe from you and Angela Mercy.” He paused, then smiled wide. “By then I’ll have saved up enough for bail.”

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