13 His Courage, my Fear...(Joey)

"I know you did the right thing by not choosing violence as an answer and all." Matt scratches the back of his neck in thought, "But I don't think Will's going to ''respect' your option."

I walk with him, my pace slows on purpose, till not wanting to reach home from school.

"Does it matter what he thinks as long as I'm confident about my own decision?"

He shrugs, frowning, "I don't get you sometimes."

"And why is that?"

"Like you have a lot of different moods." He looks up at the sky, then back at me with a perplexed look, "There're times when you just can't control your anger and react so hard at things. Dude, and I'm not just talking about what happened with William. And then there're moments where you stay so calm that it shocks me."

I don't say anything for a while, thinking it through, until finally, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh really?" Matt rolls his eyes, "What about the time your slammed your fist so hard at the desk that the teacher almost had a heart attack? And might i add that you just happened to do it randomly in the middle of the lecture?"

I remember that time.

That was the time that Mr. Miller didn't bother to...to 'dispose' off the victim. It...it was horrible. That very sight was so horrible that i can't even describe. Her lifeless yet bloodshot eyes staring at me, sticky blood surrounded her hair. Blaming me. It was brutal. That woman didn't deserve it. No one deserves it.

And yet there he was stood, guiltless and blank as ever. Not giving a shit to how psychotic he is.

That was the moment I knew that I had as much as part in this as he is. Even if I keep telling myself i have no choice, I still help him. I'm still the assistant. This very thought made me loathe myself, resulting into the commotion that happened in class.

The reminder of it force me to stop in my tracks and take a deep breath.

Today, it'll happen again. And once again, I'll have to go with it. Once again, I won't be able to do anything. I'll be powerless and the burden will only increase on my shoulder.

"Joey?" Matt says, "You coming?"

I rest my hands on my knees form the weight of my mind, staring at the ground.

"Hey, you okay?" Matt asks.

"Yeah," I take another breath, "Just a little hot."

"Dude." Matt says, now clearly worried, "It's like the mid of autumn right now."

I stand up straight, trying to laugh it off nervously.

"If you want, we can get some ice cream." Matt grins.

I scowl for a second, knowing that I need to go home early. He'll be waiting.

But…

"Yeah sure." I smile, "Who'll say no to eating ice cream in this cold?"

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Matt laughs, "Probably a boring person."

"A sensible person, you mean." I add.

"Oh, come on!" Matt pleads. "It's not like the both of us have something important to do. And I need to talk to you about something important!"

I sigh, adjusting the strap of my bag, "Alright then."

"Great!" He cheers. "And let me tell you this, my friend, I promise I won't let you go until we get sick!"

I raise my eyebrows, "Why…? Just why?"

Matt shakes his head, disappointedly, "Man, your dad really made you miss the sweet little things about life."

Yeah… you don't know the least of it.

"Whatever, as long as I'm home before the evening." I say, bluntly.

"How come?"

"I need to go somewhere today." I reply, kicking at a rock on the street.

"Where?"

"Nowhere special…" I mutter, refusing to say any further, and maybe Matt understood me because he doesn't speak any further about it.

"The ice cream parlor is right around the corner." Matt points with his finger.

"Just get me some. I'll wait for you outside." I say.

"What flavor do you want?" He asks, skipping a little to hurry himself.

"Surprise me." I reply, uninterestedly.

He grins, mischievously, "Alright, I will."

I frown at the way he says it, realizing he's up to no good. I open my mouth to answer when my phone buzzes with a message. I take it out from my pants' pocket, staring at the notification gleaming on my phone's screen.

"I'll be back in a minute," Mark looks eagerly at the ice-cream store, "Don't go anywhere."

I wave him off, my eyes not leaving the screen.

It's a text. From Mr. Miller.

I swallow a lump in my throat.

He never texts me. Unless it's something urgent.

Unless…unless it's a warning.

My legs start to shiver but I hold my guard, only slightly leaning against the pole behind me for support.

I inhale deeply.

What do you have to say to me?

Is he angry that I didn't come home early?

But why would he care about that? As long as I make it on time, why should he care?

Last time he texted me. That day…

He called me several times. But I was in school, my phone wasn't turned on. I was busy and I didn't know. After a while, he came to pick me up. I don't know what I expected. I was stupid to take the situation lenient. I was stupid to believe that the reason he picked me up was because of some emergency – like going for a 'meeting'.

Naïve, as I was, I casually sat in the car, not feeling a hint of doubt or suspicion.

I stared out of the car's window until he starts the car, but driving slowly, taking his time.

Finally, he hissed, his fingers clenching at the steering,

"Really thought you ran away."

This caught my attention, I turn to face him, only to see the menace of anger in his eyes.

"What?" I asked.

He smirked, "Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about."

I stared back in utter confusion, my heart started to thump with regret, "I…I don't know what you mean."

"Oh, you will."

Back then, I didn't know what kind of a threat those words held.

But I realized that when I stayed trapped in my room for almost a week.

Or was it just one day? I don't remember. The fear had encircled me back then, and I didn't know what I did wrong.

He told me later, of course.

Warned me.

Who's to say I'll ignore this text from him today after what happened?

I open up Mr. Miller's contact, staring at the message he sent me.

'The party had been delayed. They say their certain guests will make it by tomorrow. I won't be home because of a thing I need to handle so take care of the motel and clean up anything that's 'suspicious'. Don't wait for me. I may not come tonight."

As if someone just melted my heart, I sink to the ground, not bothering about the dusty road, my head against the cold steel pole.

I wipe off the sweat from my temples, running my hands through my hair repeatedly. A smile crosses my lips, the relief coursing through my veins. Today, I don't need to worry about anything. I'll watch some T.V, and definitely not stay in my room for the day.

I will make this day last.

"What's up with your mood swing?" Matt stands in front of me – for I don't know how long – holding two cones of ice-cream in his hands.

He reaches down to hand me mine, joining in on the ground.

I grin, "Nothing really."

"Then why're you smiling like a big goof?" Matt teases, "Come on, man. Tell me."

"Well, the party I was supposed to attend tonight got postponed."

He laughs, "Oh, good for you. Considering how rich your father is, I bet that party would have been extremely formal and dull."

I nibble at the edge of my cone, "Yeah… 'Dull'."

"You have any other plans?" Matt asks, mostly focusing on his desert.

I shake my head, "None that I can think of."

"Well your lucky." He sighs, "My mom's forcing me to go to buy some groceries for her, she just called me when I was inside, scolding and all. It sucks being the oldest kid."

"Well you can't expect your eight-year-old brother doing these sorta chores." I point out.

He rolls his eyes, "Your supposed to be on my side here. All that kid ever does is steal money from Dad."

This comment hits me like a rock, plunging me deep in my memories.

Money…Steal…

God…

I forgot…

I forgot!

Gillian is gonna be waiting. He'll be expecting me to send him the money anytime soon. And if I don't…

No…

"Joey? you listening?" Matt asks, gritting his teeth because of a brain freeze.

I get up with a start.

How much time do I have? Did Gillian call Mr. Miller just to tell him what happened?

No, no. I can't let him do that.

I need to hurry.

"Joey?"

He won't hesitate. He won't.

"Joey!" Matt pushes me back on the road, beside him, "Dude, I'm sick of this attitude of yours! I brought you here to talk to you about something important but your ignoring me like a piece of shit!"

"Listen, Matthew, I need to go." I plead, trying to get up again but his grip only tightens.

"Not until you hear me out." He says, firmly.

One thing I've always known about Matt; he can be stubborn as anything.

"Fine." I sigh, my eyes darting here and there, looking for anyone who's watching me.

He sits up straighter, so his eyes could meet mine, a dead serious expression on his face.

"What is it, Matt?" I ask, not really interested.

If Gillian's men are watching over me right now, then I'll most likely be reported about wasting time.

I need to-

"I want you to help me find the killer, Joey."

He mumbles it in a low voice, and yet, they still feel like he announced it to the world.

Baffled, I muster, "Huh?"

He shakes his head, thinking it through, "You heard me! I want to find the bastard who's wrecking our town."

Matt…

What the hell are you doing?

Why are you adding another stress in my already overflowing list?

"I know I may sound insane, Joey, but hear me out." He waves around his arms, frowning in concentration, "This is our home, Joey. And there is some lunatic roaming around freely, trying to ruin it, ruin us! We need to find him. The one who's causing these murders."

"Matthew, what-?"

He raises his hand, to stop me, "Look, I thought a lot about what you aid the other day. About how the police don't care just cause a few criminals live here. But so, what? I mean I bet that in cities, more than half of the civilians did something illegal, no matter how small the crime may be. Don't you think this is just an excuse that the police don't care? You know what I think? I was wondering that what if this murderer really thought this through? What if he – I don't know – 'bribe' them into his team? Or threaten them? Maybe he's a strong person? Maybe all the other gangsters of the street already know who he is! I know, how smart you are, and I know you're not oblivious enough to not search about all this. I know you're curious. So come on, Joey! Why don't we at least try to end this mess? It won't hurt to try, will it? Please say yes!"

His eyes sparkle with thrill, expecting me to agree with him.

I…

This is the first time in my life I'm finding it hard to lie.

"Joey…" His voice loses its momentum to see me hesitate.

And all his 'assumptions'.

All his 'theories'.

This is the closest one could ever be to know what's actually going around in this town.

What scares me more is how determined he is.

How confident and yet childish…

He thinks this is a game.

He thinks that he won't be risking his life.

He doesn't know that the one he's talking to….is the killer.

At least is the one to help the killer.

Matthew Park.

His courage will always be my fear.

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