Stupid Mark. If only he hadn’t been showing off, he might not have hit that tree and totaled his Mustang. That beautiful, black Chevy Mustang. Man, I loved that car. Thankfully, Mark somehow got through the accident uninjured, but the Mustang? Nothing left of it. Why, Mark? Why?
That was last Monday. This Friday I was walking down the sidewalk toward home after school. I have a car, but the school is within walking distance of my house. The way gas prices are these days I spend a lot of time walking instead of driving. My car sits in my parents’ driveway, and I get a lot of exercise.
Anyhow, I’m just walking along, and here comes Mark pulling up next to me in this expensive-looking red convertible. Naturally, he had the top down and some death-metal song I didn’t recognize cranked up loud enough to shake the windows of nearby houses. “Hey, Steve!” he called to me. “What do you think?”
I covered my ears and faced him. “It’s horrible. Turn it down!”
“What?” Mark looked confused until he realizes I’m talking about the music. He shrugged and shut it off. “Sorry,” he said. “I was talking about the car.”
I stuck a finger in my ear and wiggled it as I examined the car. I had to admit, it did look pretty nice, although it wasn’t any make or model that I recognized.
I just wish it hadn’t ordered a tactical nuclear strike on my eardrums. “It’s great,” I finally said. “But how did you get it? I thought your dad said he wouldn’t buy you another car.”
“He did.” Mark smiled even bigger than before; he was obviously ready to deliver some big news. “I bought this one myself.”
I couldn’t help but gawk all over again at the shiny, new car in front of me. “You did? But… how did you afford it?”
“My dad isn’t the only one in the family with money,” Mark said. “I’ve got a decent job, you know.”
No way was I going to believe that. This car looked as if it had come off a lot for a hundred grand. Mark worked at a pizzeria after school. No way could that possibly connect. And Mark clearly wasn’t intent on sharing his secret.
Mark laughed at my confusion, and he reached over to open the passenger’s door. “Come on,” he said. “Get in, I’ll drive you home.”
“Um, no thanks,” I said, my mind replaying the last time Mark drove a car. “I think I’ll pass.
Mark shrugged. “Fair enough,” he said, his eyes already wandering to a group of girls walking a little way ahead of me. He pulled forward, ignoring the car’s warning ‘ding’ telling him his door was open, and braked hard on the road next to them. The passenger’s door swung open again, propelled by momentum.
I couldn’t help but shake my head at this display. He obviously thought he was being slick. I couldn’t help but laugh when he actually convinced one of the girls, a shapely blonde whose name I couldn’t recall, to climb into the car with him.
She obviously hadn’t heard about Mark’s new reputation with cars; that or she wasn’t afraid of it. Soon Mark took off down the road, his tires squealing on the pavement and his new passenger squealing from the front seat. I watched them go, then resumed my lonely walk home.
I may as well admit right now that I’m not a very social person. I have friends and all, but I don’t like to leave the house a lot.
That’s why I was sitting in my room playing MW3 when I got the first call. I paused the game and glanced at my watch. Six-thirty. At first I wondered if that was my boss calling and telling me I was late for work, but then I remembered that I didn’t work that day. Hmm.
Turns out the call was from Mark’s brother, Jeff. “Hey, Steve,” he said. “Is Mark over there with you?”
“Not that I know of,” I replied, looking warily around my room. The last thing I wanted was to find Mark hanging out in here uninvited. “Why do you ask?”
“He never came home this afternoon,” Jeff replied. “He disappears like this all the time, but I’ve called almost all of his friends and nobody knows where he’s at.”
“Nobody?” I said, now curious about this situation. “Hey, does he have any girlfriends?”
“Not that I know of. Why?”
“He picked up a girl from school in his car today,” I replied, suddenly recalling that situation. “Chances are he’s out with her somewhere.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jeff said. “He’s in for a lecture if dad finds out he took off with some girl.” I heard another phone ringing in the background. “Maybe that’s him,” Jeff said. “I need to go. Call me if you hear anything.”
Of course that wasn’t exactly the initial plan. I knew about Mark’s reputation for vanishing all night, then reappearing in the morning with a new excuse for his absence. Honestly not wishing to get involved, I grabbed my Xbox controller and kept playing.
The second call came after dinner, around eight-o-clock. Now I was simply browsing the internet, watching gameplay videos on YouTube mostly. My cell phone went off in the middle of watching somebody blow themselves up with a rocket launcher.
“Hey, Steve,” Mark said when I answered. “You know where I’m at?”
“No I don’t,” I replied, annoyed by his wish to get me involved. “Jeff really wants to know, though.”
“Jeff can go- (I won’t repeat what he said)- for all I care,” Mark said. In the background I could hear a girl laughing. “We’re having a good time up here.”
“Mark, where are you?” I asked, exasperated by his game.
“Oh, you want to come join the fun?” Mark taunted. “We’re up at that spot where we shot fireworks at O’Malley’s barn a couple years ago. Come on up, I’ll save you a seat.”
I didn’t really want to know what he meant by that. As soon as Mark hung up, I called Jeff. “Good news,” I told him. “I know where Mark is now.
I just want you to know, I was not responsible for shooting fireworks at O’Malley’s barn.
Thankfully, I knew the exact spot that Mark was trying to guide me to. It was a hill a little ways off County Road 35 that overlooked Gregory O’Malley’s farm. A half-hour after I received Mark’s call, Jeff and I were headed up there in my Oldsmobile. Hopefully we could catch Mark before he did something stupid.
When we reached the overlook (I had to pull off the road a decent ways), we found Mark’s convertible sitting on the hill with the top down. Problem was, we didn’t find Mark.
“This has to be some kind of prank,” Jeff told me as he circled around the hood of the car. “Why else would he and his girlfriend leave the car just sitting here?”
“No clue,” I replied. I had just noticed Mark’s baseball cap sitting in the driver’s seat, and I picked it up to examine it. After turning it over, I noticed a red stain on the visor. “Jeff, there’s blood on this hat.”
“Blood?” Jeff came around the front of the car and took the cap from me. He turned it over and noticed the stain. “That’s not blood, that’s raspberry juice. He’s probably hiding in the bushes waiting to scare us.”
“Raspberry juice?” I asked.
Jeff was now looking at the car. “He left the keys in the ignition. Bad idea.” A mischievous grin crawled across his face, and before I knew it he was climbing into the driver’s seat and starting the engine. It growled to life like an angry lion.
“What are you doing?” I asked in disbelief.
“Pranking the prankster,” Jeff said. “He deserves it.” Before I could stop him, he slipped the car into gear and drove off down toward the road, barely missing my own car. In under half a minute, the sound of the convertible’s engine had faded away into the darkness.
I waited around for about twenty minutes, expecting Mark to come tearing out of the foliage and demand to know what happened to his car. Instead, I heard nothing except the normal night sounds. I was beginning to worry, and I wondered why Jeff hadn’t felt the same way. Eventually, I decided to try calling the police. When I looked at my phone, however, I discovered that I was getting no signal. Well, that’s just great! I thought. I headed back to my car to see if I could find a place where I could make the call.
I made it home around ten, and that’s when I got the surprise of my life. Mark’s red convertible was parked perfectly in my driveway.
I got out of my car and gawked at the convertible sitting in front of me. What was it doing here? Why did Jeff bring it here instead of taking it back to his house? I circled the car curiously, looking for an answer of any kind. I found it on my third lap: Jeff’s cell phone, sitting in the driver’s seat.
I picked up the phone, and I realized that it felt sticky. I turned it over and gasped, dropping the phone in surprise. It hit the asphalt hard, causing the battery to go skidding across the pavement and under the convertible. I ignored this minor detail, because what I’d seen was unmistakeable.
There had been blood on the phone.
I ran inside, my house, fearing the worst, and called 911 immediately. All I got was a busy signal. A busy signal? On a 911 call? What the heck?
I heard a car alarm going off in my driveway. I didn’t want to go outside, for fear that something would happen to me, so I chanced a quick peek out the window. The lights on the convertible were blinking, and the alarm was going off. Mark’s baseball cap was sitting on the hood of the car. Three seconds after I looked out the window, the car alarm stopped, but the headlights remained on.
I’d had enough of this. I ran upstairs to my room, wondering why nobody else had been woken up by the car alarm, and shut the door.
Saturday morning. How on earth did I ever sleep? I had no idea, and I didn’t want to think about it. All I knew was that my dreams had been filled with every horrible thing that could possibly have happened to Mark and his brother.
As soon as I got up, I remembered last night’s events. My room faces the front of the house, so I could see the driveway out my window. And I could see that Mark’s convertible was still parked out there.
The phone I had dropped and the baseball cap were both gone, and the headlights were off. Maybe last night had all been an elaborate prank? If it was, somebody was getting punched. Somebody named Mark.
My phone rang as I was eating breakfast. I finished my spoonful of frosted flakes and checked the caller ID. “Weird,” I commented when I saw that it was Jeff’s cell phone number. I flipped open the phone. “Jeff, that wasn’t funny last night,” I growled. “There will be payback involved.”
“Jeff was delicious.”
The deep voice on the other line was definitely not Jeff. “Who is this?” I asked warily.
“Jeff was delicious, and so was Mark and his girlfriend. But now I need more fuel.”
“Fuel?” I looked out the kitchen window at the car again.
Jeff’s blood-covered phone was sitting on the convertible’s front bumper.
“Let’s go for a drive, shall we?”