Authors: James Heneghan
Copyright Â© 2003 James Heneghan
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Heneghan, James, 1930-
Hit squad / James Heneghan.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8565.E581H57 2003Â Â jC813'.54Â Â C2003-910687-X
First published in the United States, 2003
Library of Congress Control Number:
: Students in an upscale high school decide to take on the bullies and take back their school, with decidedly mixed consequences.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Christine Toller
Cover photography: Eyewire
Printed and bound in Canada
05Â Â 04Â Â 03Â Â â¢Â Â 5Â Â 4Â Â 3Â Â 2Â Â 1
Orca Book Publishers
1030 North Park Street
Victoria, BCÂ Â Canada
IN THE UNITED STATES
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer, WA USA
For my granddaughter Margaux
I would like to acknowledge Bruce McBay's considerable contribution to this book.
Other books by James Heneghan, published by Orca Book Publishers:
Waiting for Sarah
Friday afternoon, ninth-grade art class, final period.
Two girls spat sunflower seeds at the blue-eyed blonde.
Birgit Neilsen, the blonde girl, tossed her ponytail. “Cut it out!” She shook the sticky seeds from her hair and spun around to face her tormentors. “Slobs!” Her eyes were like ice.
The girls at the next bench, Shelley
Crewell and Mona Teasedale, eyed each other in mock horror.
“Did you hear that, Shell?” said Mona, the bigger girl. Black mascara circled her eyes. She looked like a raccoon.
Shelley acted shocked. “Ooooh, Mona!” Shelley's dark hair was streaked with a single white skunk stripe across the top of her head from front to back.
Mona said, “She called us slobs! We're not slobs, are we, Shell?”
“No, Mona, we're not! If anyone's a slob around here it's Miss Superior. If you ask meâ¦” Shelley whispered into Mona's ear.
Mona's laughter erupted in a spluttering giggle that sent a spray of wet sunflower seeds into Birgit's hair.
“You two animals belong in a zoo,” Birgit hissed. She snatched up her work and moved out of range.
“It's not me,” Shelley lied. “I'm eating a Mars bar. Look!” She held up a chocolate bar, still in its wrapper. Her eyes were wide and innocent.
“What's the trouble here?” The art teacher was a big man with a beard and brown hair that fell below his collar. “Shelley? Mona? You planning on working today?”
Except for their jaws, the two girls didn't move. They chewed sunflower seeds.
“Sure, Mr. Paddock.” Mona eased her feet off the stool and slouched against the bench. Shelley followed suit with exaggerated slowness.
“And sunflower seeds are forbidden in here. You know that. Stay behind after class and clean that mess off the floor.” As Mr. Paddock moved away, Mona jerked a finger at his retreating back. Shelley sniggered.
On the bench next to Mona and Shelley, a girl named Jessie Jones was busy making tiny clay pellets. She fired them through a pen barrel at a boy named Dietrich Mueller, two rows in front of her. She wore a reversed baseball cap and a T-shirt that had
written in black letters on it.
Dietrich turned and grinned. “Who keeps
doing that?” he asked, looking at everyone behind him. He looked at Jessie. “It's you, isn't it?” He giggled.
Jessie looked innocent. “Deet? You talking to me?”
Dietrich giggled again. “I know it's you, Jess. I know it's you.” Dietrich didn't fully understand why people called him Deet. He thought it was simply a friendly way of saying his name. He didn't know that it was the common name of an insect repellent. “How are the flies today, Deet?” kids asked him. Dietrich always laughed, thinking they were being friendly. Deet was a friendly boy.
Jessie answered, “It's not me, Deet. Must be the mosquitoes, huh?”
Deet laughed and went back to his clay sculpture.
Jessie looked at Shelley. “What's with her highness there?” She nodded in Birgit's direction.
“You mean Miss Superior? She thinks she's too good for the rest of us,” said Shelley. “Called us slobs. Ain't that right, Mona?”
“We should teach her a lesson,” grunted Mona.
“Yeah, why not?” said Shelley. “We Creekside girls gotta stick together.”
“Get her in the stockroom,” Jessie suggested.
“And then what?” asked Mona.
“Paint her pretty colors,” laughed Shelley.
“You gotta get her in the stockroom first,” said Jessie. “Leave her to me, okay?” She headed for Birgit's bench. “I saw what they did, Birgit,” she said. “The sunflower seeds, I mean. You're right. They are a couple of slobs.”
Birgit didn't look up from her work. “Forget it.”
Jessie acted friendly and concerned. She gently brushed a few seeds off Birgit's back. “Birgit, do you know where in the stockroom they keep the paper towels? My bench just ran out.”
“They're in a cardboard box at the back beside theâ¦”
“Be a sweetie and help me find them?”
Birgit stopped working and looked
around. Mona was busy joking with Shelley. She shot a glance at the other students. Normal. Her hands were covered in wet clay. She tore paper towels off the roller. Wiping the clay from her hands, she followed Jessie to the stockroom.
Mona and Shelley were fast. They quickly followed Jessie and Birgit into the room and closed the door behind them. Mona looped an arm around Birgit's neck from behind and pulled her backward to the floor. Jessie stuffed a wad of paper towels into Birgit's mouth before she could cry out.
“Hold her, Jess!” said Shelley.
Jessie kneeled on one of Birgit's arms. Mona kneeled on the other arm. Shelley sat on Birgit's hips. For Birgit, struggle was useless; the weight of the three ninth graders was too much for her. She waited, ice-blue eyes glaring up at her attackers.
“Get the paint, Shell,” said Mona.
“I've got a better idea,” said Shelley. “What Miss Superior needs is some nice hot chocolate.” She tore the wrapper off her Mars
bar and took a bite. “She called us animals, remember?” She passed the bar to Mona.
“And slobs!” said Mona. Her dark eyes glittered through her bandit mask of mascara and eye shadow. She took a bite of her friend's chocolate bar.
Shelley chewed noisily. Then she opened her mouth and drooled sticky saliva-melted chocolate and caramel onto Birgit's upturned face.
Birgit tried to turn away, but they held her head tight. The brown liquid dripped into her hair and dribbled down her cheeks.
Mona copied her friend. She leaned over and slobbered chewed chocolate into Birgit's eyes. Bubbled it out slowly from the sneer of her lips. She made retching noises deep down in her throat.
Jessie laughed nervously. “Gross.”
Birgit tried to wrestle her head away. Eyes closed tight. Neck muscles straining. Jessie grabbed a handful of hair and forced her head straight.
Birgit lay quietly, almost relaxed, taking
whatever else they had to give without flinching. Jessie removed her fingers from her hair. Birgit lay still, as if she were dead.
It was quiet in the stockroom. The sounds of the class just outside the door were far away. A single bare lightbulb shone from the ceiling. The floor was black and white squares, like a chessboard. It was narrow, with just enough room for Birgit's spread-eagled body. The room smelled of paint and thinner.
Mona leaned close to Birgit and spat in her ear. “So who's the animal now, huh?”
“Yuk!” said Jessie, screwing up her face in disgust.
The bell rang. The three attackers fled. Birgit's skin was no longer white and her hair was no longer shining. She pulled the wad of paper from her mouth and sat up, trembling.
A shadow filled the doorway. She looked up through saliva, chocolate and tears. The art teacher stood at the door. His mouth was open as he stared down at her in disbelief.
Grandview High, Monday, lunch hour.
“Gimme your lunch, kid!”
Mickey Cord, reaching into his locker for his bag lunch, turned to see who was growling in his ear.
“You deaf? Hand over your lunch.”
There were two of them. Overweight bullies with mean eyes. The kind who got fat eating other kids' lunches as well as
their own. They looked like seniors. They were big. One of them was glaring down at Mickey. The other mountain of lard was hitting the kid in the next locker over.
There were eighth and ninth graders all around. Slam of metal doors. In and out of their lockers. Pretending not to notice what was going on right under their noses. Minding their own business.
Mickey left his lunch in the locker and backed away a few inches. He closed his locker door but kept his hand on it. Fatso moved after him, pushing his big face into Mickey's. Mickey let him have it. He slammed the locker door into Fatso's face. Fatso screamed and staggered backward holding his nose.
“Sorry,” said Mickey. “Hand slipped.”
A punch came at him from nowhere, landing on his ear. It was Fatso Two coming to the aid of Fatso One. Mickey fell to the floor, his ear ringing with pain.
Fatso One, his nose leaking blood, came in with the boot to Mickey's ribs. Mickey
took the kick and rolled away to avoid a second.
Then suddenly all was quiet. Mickey staggered to his feet. The kid from the next locker was sitting slumped on the floor, his face white. The two Fatsos had disappeared, scared off by the appearance of a teacher, Miss Harlan, heading their way.
Mickey turned towards his locker. His lunch was gone. “They get yours too?” he asked the kid on the floor, an eighth grader by the looks of him.
The boy nodded.
Mickey said, “You okay?”
“Punched me in the stomach. I feel a bit sick. But I'll be okay.”
“Is anything wrong?” asked Miss Harlan. “I thought I saw a scuffle.”
“Everything's fine,” said Mickey, closing his locker loudly.
The kid stood. “Everything's fine.”
Mickey and the kid moved away. Mickey's ear was still ringing, and his ribs hurt where Fatso One had kicked him. He
said, “You want to come down to the cafeteria? I'll buy you a Coke.”
The kid tried to smile. “Thanks.”
Tuesday morning, homeroom class.
Mickey found a letter on his desk. It had no stamp. A plain sealed envelope with a letter inside. His name scrawled on the front: Michael Cord, Division 5, Grade 9, Room 106.
Michael. That was funny. No one ever called him Michael, even though it was his proper name. Michael was fancy, Grandview High fancy. Mickey. That was what everyone called him, just plain Mickey. If he told the other kids at Hobbit House that Michael was his proper name, they would laugh.
Mickey never got letters, stamped or unstamped. It was something new. He stared at the envelope while the teacher checked attendance. When homeroom was over he shoved it into the hip pocket of his jeans and moved to English class. He settled himself in his usual back seat near the window. He
took out the envelope and opened it carefully with a fingernail. One sheet of lined notebook paper. The writing was bold, dashed off with a confident speed. It had exclamation points like bursting grenades.