Authors: Greg Herren
For Tony Martin, being a senior means being a star on the football team, classes to get through, hanging out with his friendsâand dating Candy Dixon. And once he graduates, he's getting out of Kansas and never looking back. But his best friend Glenn's decision to come out and be openly gay at their small rural high school creates a lot of problems for the two of them. But a beautiful new student arrives at Southern Heights HighâSara. When all the kids who've been mean to Glenn start dying in very strange circumstances, and Glenn starts acting strangely, it's up to Tony and Candy to get to the bottom of what's going on in their schoolâbefore it's too late for them.
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Â© 2012 By Greg Herren. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-715-8
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First Edition: July 2012
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Editor: Stacia Seaman
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This is for Ashley Bartlett,
because she pouted until I said I would
Being a senior sure doesn't feel any different
, I thought as I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror,
and I sure don't look any differentâbesides that damned pimple on my chin.
I don't know what I'd been expecting. I'd been looking forward to my senior year almost from the very first day I started high school. This was itâwhen the year ended, I'd be an
No more being treated like a kid, no more getting up Monday through Friday at six thirty, no more being at the mercy of teachers and coaches and guidance counselorsâit would all end when I crossed the stage, took the diploma, and put the tassel on the other side of the cap.
It couldn't happen soon enough, thank you very much.
And then I could get the hell out of this podunk town in the middle of nowhere, and never look back.
I finished toweling my hair and hung the wet towel on the rack. I looked in the mirror again. I touched the angry-looking red blotch in the direct center of my chin. It might as well have been blinking and neonâno one could miss the stupid thing. I sighed and wondered what kind of an omen that would turn out to be as I put on my underwear and a pair of jean shorts.
Probably not a good one
, I thought, sighing again as I brushed my damp hair into place. I was out of hair gel, so I just parted it on the side and combed it flat.
I was already starting to sweat. It wasn't even eight in the morning yet, and our crappy house was already turning into a sauna. The house didn't have central air-conditioningâall we had was some window units in the bedrooms. Mom kept saying when she got a little bit ahead she'd buy one for the bathroom, but until then we'd have to make do with fans.
As long as she was working as a maid at the Best Western over in Kahola, I figured she'd probably get ahead about a year after I graduated.
I walked down the hall back to my bedroom, wiping sweat off my forehead. I stood in front of the window unit and raised my arms so my armpits would dry. When I didn't feel damp anymore, I reached over to the bed for my purple Trojan Football T-shirt. I pulled it over my head, but had to yank it down hard to get it past my chest. The weightlifting I'd been doing all summer had workedâthe shirt stretched so tight across my pecs it looked like it might rip. I looked into the full-length mirror hung on the back of the bedroom door and smiled. It made my muscles look hugeâso maybe no one
notice the stupid pimple. I tucked the shirt into my shorts and rubbed some antiperspirant into my armpits, hoping it would work this time. I picked up my backpack and made sure one more time I had everything: notebook, pens, my cheap cell phoneâyeah, I hadn't forgotten anything. I put my wallet in my back pocket and sat down on the edge of my bed to put on my socks and shoes.
“Is Glenn picking you up?” my mother said from my doorway. She was holding a chipped coffee mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She was leaning against the door frame. She was already dressed for work. Her graying black hair was pinned up, and she looked tired like she always did. Resentment toward my deadbeat dad flared up for a moment, but I pushed it aside. Getting mad at him wasn't going to make the support check get here any sooner, and it wouldn't make the check any bigger, either.
I nodded. “Yeah, he should be here any minute.”
“You ready for the shit to hit the fan?” She raised an eyebrow.
I exhaled. “It hasn't been so bad at football practice so far, Mom.” That wasn't completely trueâyeah, sure, some of the guys on the team were acting like assholes, but there hadn't been any real trouble. I think everyone was too afraid of Coach Roberts to do anything more than mutter things out of the side of their mouths.
And the guys acting like assholes had
been assholes, even before Glenn made his big announcement over the summer.
She flicked ash onto the faded linoleum. “Football practice is one thing,” she said carefully. “But school's different. You know I wish he hadn't done it.” She shook her head. “What was he thinking?”
“He said he was tired of lying to everyone.” I didn't look at her. I thought she was right, but somehow saying so seemed disloyal to him, like a betrayal.
And there was enough of that going around without me adding to it, that was for damned sure.
Glenn Lockhart had been my best friend ever since he moved here the summer before our junior year. He was a really good guy. He didn't have a mean bone in his body. He was always in a good moodâjust being around him always picked me up no matter how bad a mood I was in. I'd liked Glenn almost from the startâhe was smart and funny, with a slightly offbeat sense of humor. He loved
and could quote lines from it nonstop, and always knew exactly what to say to make everyone laugh without ever missing a beat. He was a straight A student who never seemed to study much, but he always knew the answer to every question he was asked in class. He made it all seem effortless, and he was always reading a bookâthere were always a couple of paperback novels in his locker. Mrs. Drury, the English teacher, practically worshipped the ground he walked on.
Well, all the teachers did.
All the rest of us at Southern Heights High School had been going to school together since kindergarten, so he'd always be thought of as
the new kid.
Being new, the cliques cemented into place in grade school didn't matter to him at all. He'd hang out with anybodyâthat was another one of the things I liked about Glenn.
He didn't care that I lived in this crappy rented house and had a deadbeat dad.
He was hard to miss in a school our size. I'd first seen him at football practice, which always started two weeks before school with two-a-daysâat six in the morning and six in the evening. I didn't really pay much attention to himâhe lived on the side of town where the kids with money lived, but on the first day of school it turned out we had weightlifting together during sixth period.
The football players could elect to go to the weight room and lift rather than sit in study hall. I hated study hall, so I was more than happy to get out of it. That first day our junior year I'd walked into the weight room and everyone else was already partnered up except for the new kidâwhich was fine with me. The other guys in the weight room didn't like me, and the feeling was mutual.
They were assholes, and I wouldn't trust them to spot me.
“I'm Glenn Lockhart,” he said when I walked up to him to introduce myself. He wore plastic-framed glasses with enormous lenses and had light brown hair, big brown eyes, and one thick eyebrow that ran across his forehead. He was grinning at me. “Guess we're going to be workout partners, huh?”
“Looks that way. My name's Tony Martin,” I replied, shaking his hand. “Guess we should get started. Where are you from?”
“Chicago.” I followed him over to the squat rack.
“Wow,” I replied, looking at him with a new respect. The biggest city I'd ever been to was Topeka. “This must seem like a foreign planet.”
He shrugged as he put a couple of forty-five-pound plates on the bar. He smiled at me. “I don't know, I kind of like it.”
He was friendly enough, and we really hit it off that first day in the weight room. He made me laugh, which got us glares from the other guys in the weight room, which we both ignored.
Now it seemed like we'd always been friends. We'd even double-dated to the prom.
He moved here because his dad had gotten transferred. His dad was an engineer for a railroad (“he doesn't drive trains, he builds bridges”) and had an office over in Kahola, the county seat. His mom was deadâGlenn never talked about her beyond that, and I never pushed him on it. I think she died when he was really youngâthere were pictures of her all over his house, and she'd been really pretty. Glenn and his dad were close. I envied him that. I'd only seen my own father maybe three times total since he walked out on us when I was twelve, and it was always obvious he couldn't wait for the visit to be over. My brother and I were supposed to spend a month with him every summer, but we hadn't done that in years. His new wife was a bitch.
As far as I was concerned, they deserved each other.
But Glenn and I had that in commonâsingle parents. Unlike my mom, Glenn's dad made good money. Their house was really niceâthey had central air-conditioning and carpeting. Glenn also got an allowanceâtwenty dollars a week. That set him apart from most of the kids at school. The majority of our classmates lived on farms and had to work. I was a little jealousâit would be great to spend the summer hanging out at the Kahola Country Club pool getting a tan instead of sweating my ass off every day in the sun baling hay at Crowther Ranch. It would be great to not have to worry about buying new clothes or coming up with the money to go on a date.