5:31am, part 10

Tommy was standing above Lamarr’s crib, thinking the worst and trying not to visualize it. Mom was staring down at the crib too, the headless rabbit that had been placed in the middle was making her avert her gaze every now and then.

“Who could have done this?” she asked. “Bethany was a quiet baby, wouldn’t hurt a soul. We’re just a normal family. Why would anyone do this?”

“L-, I mean, Bethany didn’t deserve this. I’ll get her back. I promise.”

Mom became a christmas elf for a few seconds as her eyes lit up. After the few seconds had passed, they went dark again and she ran from the room sobbing.

“I’ll get her back,” Tommy said to himself. Lamarr was a saint as far as he was concerned. She represented all that remained sacred in this world. Headless rabbits everywhere? Shitty, but tolerable. Half-insane teachers running for POTUS? More stress on an already buckling donkey, but still doable. But no one–NO ONE–was going to take Lamarr and just get by with it!

Tommy was tearing the crib apart to find clues. A fingernail, a fiber of hair. Something!

After a couple of frustrating minutes, Tommy found a bloodstained note under one of the sheets. It read:

Come to Emerald View Cemetery on Thursday. Bring the emails. You know which ones.

–Anonymous, except you know who it is.

Zhang was merciless. He would take Lamarr, an innocent babe, because of a few emails? What a bastard.

Tommy decided to call Zeke. He would probably have a full-fledged counter-conspiracy prepared.

“Leave everything to me. Don’t worry. Seriously. Plan a celebratory dinner. That’s how certain I am,” Zeke said.

Tommy’s mouth was already watering. He hadn’t eaten in ages. It dried up once he glanced at the rabbit again.

Tuesday bled into Thursday while Zeke and Tommy rehearsed their proposal. Zhang would never know what hit him. They took the whole day preparing. Tommy’s parents had called the principal and explained that Bethany had gone missing. He wasn’t happy about it, but had to be diplomatic to some degree. It was part of the job.

More headless rabbits appeared between Tuesday and Thursday, but Zeke just nodded knowingly, smiling creepily. But Tommy trusted Zeke. He didn’t for one minute doubt Tommy’s emerging, ultra-dark view of the world. Things were piling up. Tommy could sense it, and Zeke was more than happy to come along for the ride. Zeke was a very willing partner in crime while the world was turning to shit.

Before heading to the cemetery on Thursday night, Tommy made sure they had the report. It was damning evidence against Zhang and his harassment of Tommy.

“I think we have everything,” Tommy said, pulling the backpack onto his shoulder.

“What about Plan B?”

“You mean, the crowbars? Yeah, got ’em.”

“Things might get nasty. He might not listen to reason.”

That was the first time Tommy detected anxiety in Zeke. But it wasn’t the generic anxiety of a teenager confronting an adult at the height of his knowledge and competence. No. This was something else, but Tommy didn’t have the time to figure it out.

Once they had reached the cemetery, the sun had set completely, and the stars were half-hidden by dark apathetic clouds.

A short but imposing figure stepped out of an old Studebaker. It wasn’t Zhang, but Milton.

“How are you two children this evening? I’ve come to take what is mine,” Milton said, casually waving his right hand in the direction of the vehicle. Several figures stepped out, brandishing weapons of some kind.

Apparently Milton meant business.


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