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Authors: S. B. Alexander

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BOOK: On the Edge of Humanity
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My jaw dropped. “Is it going around school?” I twisted my lips and crinkled my nose.

“Yep. It’s viral. I like it that you’re coming out of your shell.”

Sweat dotted my forehead. I kept thinking of how I was going to explain to Mr. Jackson that I grabbed Blake’s crotch. First day back at school and I’m already called to his office. I had a feeling he was going to add to my punishment list—probably a Ms. Manners’ class.

She must’ve seen the look on my face. “Don’t worry. You’re living with Mr. Jackson so I’m sure he’ll go easy on you.”

“Believe me, Mr. Jackson can be just as scary at his house as he is at school.” I pointed behind me. “I’m late. Where’re you off to?”

“Guidance counselor. My mom wants me to talk to Mr. Grant about Boston College.” She shrugged her shoulders. “She’s so set on me going to BC—you know, her alma mater.”

Darcy’s future was planned out. Her parents had decided on which schools she could apply to and which were off limits. Her mother taught at the local community college in town and her father was some big CEO of a law firm in Boston. He commuted every now and then, but most of the time he stayed at their apartment in the city and drove home on a Friday night.

I wished college were my only worry. It sure as hell wasn’t my top priority. Plus, I couldn’t picture myself going to college. I was lucky if I made it through a day. If the events of the past week were any indication of how my future looked, I was in deep trouble. Besides, I needed to find out who I was before I could decide on my future.

Darcy and I didn’t talk much about where we would be when we grew up. We were both still trying to find our way in this world. At least, she had parents to guide her and to help her along the way, although she was more interested in boys right now than college. I wanted to share with her all the details and events of my horrible week, but couldn’t. What would I say?
Hey, Darcy, I like the taste of blood. You should try it.

Since we were going in the same direction, Darcy placed her right hand through my left arm.

“So, you going to the dance this year?” I asked.

“Maybe. You should go.”

“I don’t do dances,” I said.

“Come on. It’d be fun. I can do your make-up—” Then, suddenly, she stopped walking.

“What is it?” I asked, my body jerking forward.

“I had a thought.” She winged up her brows and smiled wide. “I can be Ben’s date and you can be Jack’s date. You know he’s hot. His soft, brown curls are always falling in his face, and his teal blue eyes just do something to a girl’s body.” She sighed and placed a hand over her heart. “Plus, I know how you like boys with brown hair and blue eyes.”

“Jack Powell? The pitcher of the baseball team? Crazy idea.” I shook my head. “No way.”

“Why not?”

“Are you looking at me? Do you see this cut on my face?”

I had to agree with her. Jack was hot with his broad shoulders, strong jaw and a bad boy look that could make butter melt. But Darcy was also crazy. I’ve never been on a date in my life. I wouldn’t even know what to do.

“The cut will heal by then,” she said.

“He doesn’t even know who I am.”

“We can change—”

“Jo?” Gail, Mr. Jackson’s secretary was walking toward us. “Mr. Jackson needs to see you.
Now!

Gee, what was going on? Gail was never uptight. She always had a calm voice, but now she seemed panicked. Darcy and I looked at each other.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

Gail turned and walked the down the stairs, high heels clicking against the tile floor.

Darcy and I followed. When we reached the bottom, we did a u-turn around the stairs and continued into the Admin wing. Gail had already disappeared.

The administrative offices were located on the left. One door opened into a large quad-like area with offices dotted around the room to the attendance/absentee office, the guidance counselor’s office and the enrollment/grading office. In the middle of the quad, stood a counter where students checked in for their appointments. Darcy and I said our goodbyes.

“Good luck,” she said as she waved a hand in the air.

I had a feeling I was going to need more than luck.

Mr. Jackson’s office was located down a hallway off the quad. I walked around the counter and turned right. I reached the glass door that read
Principal’s Office
. I opened it and stepped in.

Gail had to have sprinted back to her office. She was sitting in her chair, long nails tapping frantically on the keyboard. She looked up as I closed the door.

With the tilt of her head, she said, “Go on in, Jo. He’s waiting for you.”

I took a deep breath. Voices filtered through the door. My hands shook as I reached for the doorknob. I desperately wished Sam were standing next to me. I replayed the fight with Blake in my head. When I reached the part where I grabbed Blake in the... I shuddered.
I don’t go around grabbing guys in the crotch. I don’t know what got into to me.
Maybe Sam’s rage was rubbing off on me.

I placed my backpack on the floor, shook my hands a few times and closed my eyes.

“Jo, go in already.” Gail had stopped typing.

I opened my eyes and grabbed the doorknob as Gail resumed typing, nails dinging against the keys.

Here goes nothing.

I opened the door and two men in military uniforms stood in front of a bookcase, their black berets tucked under their left arm. In a chair in front of the desk, another military man sat staring at me.

I didn’t know it took military men to discipline a sixteen-year-old girl who grabbed a boy’s crotch.

“Jo, please, come in and sit down.” Mr. Jackson pointed to the empty chair next to the man in fatigues.

My knees locked in place. I couldn’t move. Why were military men in Mr. Jackson’s office? What did they want with me? I looked at Mr. Jackson as he lowered his gaze—something was wrong.

The military man in the chair stood up and waved his hand at the chair beside him. His young-looking face was clean-shaven, and his cobalt blue eyes were tucked under his thick, dark lashes as he peered at me.

My heart fluttered.

“Please, have a seat,” Blue Eyes said.

I observed the other two guards standing at attention. They wore black leather boots laced up over their pants and their starched shirts disappeared into their green fatigues. Their eyes were frozen on some object in the distance, as if they were guarding a king’s palace.

I walked slowly to the empty chair.

“Jo, this is Lieutenant Webb London. He’s here to discuss a personal matter with you and Sam. We’re waiting on Sam,” Mr. Jackson said.

I sat down and dispelled all the air from my lungs.
A personal matter? What does the military want with us? Are they here to question us about Neil?

Gail opened the door and waved a hand to Mr. Jackson. He rose and exited the room.

I sat still, staring out the massive window in front of me, looking down on the football field. A class stood on the green carpet jumping in the air, clapping their hands over their heads as Coach Welles walked around inspecting everyone’s form. I wondered if Coach was going to make me do jumping jacks after school for my self-defense classes.

Silence filled the room. The electricity in the air prickled my skin. This wasn’t about my fight with Blake. No, it was more serious than that.

The silence was broken by Blue Eyes sitting next to me.

“Jo, I’m currently in charge of a Navy SEAL team known as the Jupiter Sentinels. As Mr. Jackson mentioned my name is Lt. London. But you can call me Webb.”

His glare made my stomach flutter.
Why do I keep getting this weird feeling every time this Webb guy looks at me?

“And your name is supposed to mean something?” I asked.

“Jo, I—”

Mr. Jackson entered the room and walked to the window stroking his goatee. He had grown a goatee over spring break. I thought it looked good on him, but Ben didn’t think so.

“Is Sam on his way?” I asked.

Mr. Jackson bit the bottom of his lip. “I’m afraid we have a problem. Sam didn’t show up to his History class.”

My heart accelerated. Maybe he was still in Mr. Bale’s anger management class or with Coach Welles. No, Coach Welles was out on the field and Sam wasn’t in the crowd. It was only third period. Where could he be? Then my heart sank to the floor. Did the bandana dude show up at school?

“Maybe he’s with Ben.” My voice trembled.

“Ben is on his way,” Mr. Jackson said.

I didn’t want to panic. I was trying to be calm, but my body had a mind all its own. I tapped my foot against the chair.
Don’t panic. It’s nothing.

Lt. Webb or whatever his name was, stood up, walked over to one of his guards and whispered something in his ear. Then both guards marched out of the room when Ben walked in.

“Hey, Dad. What’s up?” Ben asked as he sized up the military men. “Who are these guys?” He pointed to the two disappearing guards then to the lieutenant.

“This is Lt. London, son. He’s here to speak with Sam and Jo about a private matter. Do you know where Sam is?”

“Isn’t he in History this period?” Ben asked.

“No. I checked. He wasn’t in his last class either. We’ve checked the school grounds. I have security doing another search.”

A dull pain started to form at the base of my skull.

“Sorry, Dad. The last time I saw Sam was at our baseball meeting first thing this morning. After that, Sam was talking to a couple of people—one kid named McDonald and then the janitor. I was going to be late for my class, so I high tailed it out of the locker room.”

“You mean Neil the janitor?” I asked.

“Who?” Mr. Jackson asked as he knitted his eyebrows.

“Neil. Isn’t that the janitor’s name?” Tears began to pool in my eyes.

“Sorry, I don’t know that name,” Mr. Jackson said.

I gripped the chair. “Neil Foster is the janitor here. He also works at the hospital at night. He helped us at the hospital.”

“You’re not making sense,” Mr. Jackson said.

“Neil is tall, with a bald head and a tattoo on the back of his neck.” I bit a nail while still tapping my foot.

“Excuse me,” Lt. London interrupted at that moment. “I’ll be right back.” The door closed behind him.

“Jo, Arlan Summit is the janitor of this school and has been for the past few years. He’s not bald either.” Mr. Jackson had a confused look on his face, which scared me.

“Is…Mr. Summit in school today?” I asked.

“He is. I saw him in the locker room this morning,” Ben said.

None of this was making sense. Then who was Neil Foster? How would Sam know Neil from school? I dropped my head in my hands. Maybe Sam went back to the funeral home to find Neil. I took a deep breath in hope that my superstitious belief of three didn’t include Sam.

“Do you think that guy that was chasing—” I picked up my head when Lt. London walked back in.

“Mr. Jackson, may I have a word with Jo alone?” he asked.

“Hey, are you guys SEALs? Like the Navy ones?” Ben asked with a hint of excitement in his voice. “I want—”

“Sure. Take as long as you need. Ben, let’s go.” Mr. Jackson placed his hands on Ben’s shoulders and guided him towards the door. “I’ll check with security again. I’ll be back in about thirty minutes.”

When Ben and Mr. Jackson left the office, Lt. London walked over to the window.

The electrical charge I felt earlier returned. I wondered if it emanated from Webb.

“First, I have a team of folks searching for your brother. Between Mr. Jackson’s security and my team, we should be able to uncover some clues as to Sam’s whereabouts.” He paused when the door to the office opened and his two guards entered. His voice sounded confident, but his bleak expression said something different—an angered or a worried look, I couldn’t tell. Whatever it was, it made my pulse race. Both guards nodded at Webb then resumed their positions. Only this time, they stood three feet behind me.

“I came here today to speak to you and Sam about your father, Steven Mason. Now it seems with this recent news of Sam MIA, our suspicions of what we didn’t want to happen have been confirmed.” He walked over to a spot directly in front of me. He leaned against the desk, crossed one ankle over the other, and stared down at me.

Our eyes met and I couldn’t look away. I scanned his tall, lean body. His brown wavy hair was tucked behind his ears. It seemed a bit long for a military man, but what did I know? My knowledge of the military was minimal. What I did know stemmed from watching movies like
Top Gun
. I had no idea what he was talking about and certainly didn’t understand the military lingo of ‘MIA.’

As if he could read my mind, he continued. “I know I’m not making much sense. Let me explain. I work for your father. I’ve worked for your father for the past twelve years.”

Twelve years? This guy doesn’t look a day over twenty-one.

“We’ve planned for this day,” he said.

I knitted my eyebrows together. “You’ve planned for this? What does that mean?”

“I know you’re confused.”

“I’m not confused. I know I don’t have a father. I know my brother isn’t in school. And I know I don’t care for you or the two goons standing behind me.”

Rage boiled within me. Undoubtedly my eyes would show it, but I didn’t care. I stood up and Lt. London grabbed my wrist.

“Jo, I’m not here to hurt you or your brother. And I know you have no reason to trust me, but please just listen.”

He was right I didn’t trust him. How did I know he wasn’t working with the guy that was chasing us?

His gaze swept over my face absorbing every feature. He dropped my wrist. He raised his hand to my chin and gently tilted my head to my right. His touch sent a prickly heat fluttering through me.
There’s that feeling again.

“With the exception of that two-inch cut, you look every bit like your father.” He dropped his hand. “Sit, please? Let me explain. I think you’ll want to hear what I have to say. After that, you can leave if you want to.”

I wasn’t going to leave. I was going to run like hell.

I eased into the chair and kept my eyes glued to his.

“How did you get that gash on your face?” A red ring of fire rimmed the outer edges of his cobalt blue eyes as he spoke.

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Your father isn’t going to be pleased.” He examined every facial feature as if he were taking snapshots of my face.

“Pleased? Why would he even care? Where’s he been for fourteen years? Where is he now?”

Webb raised his head and, I assumed, he looked at the two goons behind me, before dropping his gaze back to me.

“About a week ago, your father went missing. In fact, he went missing when we got word that you had some sort of accident and landed in the hospital. Up until that day, we hadn’t been able to find you and Sam.”

My body went numb. All the blood rushed to my feet. I didn’t know what to process. The person I cared for the most was missing. A team of military men was at my school telling me my father was missing too. Not to mention all the other shit that had happened in the past week.

“I told you, I don’t care about a man I don’t know. Unless you can help me find my brother, I don’t want to hear about a man you say is my father. He’s not here, so he doesn’t care. Don’t make it sound like he does.”

BOOK: On the Edge of Humanity
6.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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