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Crimson Summer - Chapter Fourteen

Chase couldn't believe it when it first happened. Unlike what many others would later claim, the moment didn’t fly by for Chase. It lingered on, almost as if in slow motion. He could see the terror in Marion's eyes as she fell toward the ground, trying to grasp at anything in order to catch her fall but only grabbing air. Every passing second felt like hours, watching and expecting the worse when the impact finally happened.
And it really could have been worse, Chase supposed. Had her weight been distributed differently she could have landed on her head and killed herself a most heinous fashion. Instead her left leg snapped, bone protruding out of the flesh, the white of it just barely peeking through the mushy mess, and caused several of the kids to faint. Sure, she screamed bloody murder and it looked like one of the most painful experiences a human being could go through. But still. It could have always been worse. I have really have to stop thinking like that. This is pretty fucking bad, Chase resided, the loud snapping noise reverberating over and over in his head.
It was a complete mess for the next few hours with police cars and ambulances coming and going. The cops around here must have absolutely nothing to do, Chase thought. Which made sense given the camp’s remote location. The deputies currently at the camp probably watched over the surrounding area for tens of miles. This made their response time all the more sad, taking nearly an hour to finally arrive at the camp. By that point Marion was passed out from the pain and Carol was off trying to cover all the blood with more dirt, to prevent any more kids from seeing it and fainting.
Barry did his best to round up the kids and take them over to the lake for some early swim time but most were too interested in the events at the rock wall. Too much had happened to leave now. It took Al threatening all of them, telling them to go or it’d be the last time they swam all summer.
After nearly twenty minutes, Marion was finally loaded up in the ambulance to head to the hospital. A few other campers suffering from shock also joined, but they rode in the cop cars. What a fucking day, Chase thought as the final car pulled away.
                Over at the lake, Chase was finally able to talk to Liz who had just come back from arguing with Al, her face red with anger.
                “Are you okay?” Chase asked already knowing the answer. Her face was pale and tears streamed down her face.  She just watched her good friend break her leg in half, of course she’s not okay you idiot! ”Sorry, that was stupid.”
                “He won’t even let me go with her. Fucking Diane is. This is ridiculous!” Liz exclaimed.
                “I’m sure they didn’t know,” Chase said trying to comfort her but she was having none of it.
“If it was Marion’s choice I’d be on that ambulance with her right now. She’s practically my sister for Christ’s sake!” said Liz, glaring daggers at Al from across the camp, “All because he’s a fucking jackass who has gotten with the times. God, I’ve never needed a bowl more.”
                Chase knew he needed to do something, anything to help keep her mind off Marion so she’d stop worrying. The idea came to him easily enough, but in hindsight he kind of wish it hadn’t.
                “Just wait. I’m gonna have an awesome surprise for you,” said Chase.
                With the Marion’s fall behind them, the excitement for most of the campers dwindled down as the day went on, while Chase’s grew as his anticipation for what he’d do that night came to a head. When the sun finally set, he knew it was time for his adventure to begin.

Chase certainly had worse ideas throughout his childhood but he couldn't remember any being as stupid as the one he was currently entrenched in. Sure, he’d snuck into his parents room and tried to find his Christmas presents. He’d also been able to retrieve a plagiarized paper from one of his English teacher’s before she could show it to his mother at parent-teacher conferences. But it was harmless kid’s stuff. This felt more serious.
Sneaking into the main office seemed easy enough in theory but Chase quickly discovered the level of skill it required may have exceeded his own. And he was going to need a whole lot of luck. With one of the windows boarded up and the others seemingly unable to open, there was only one way in or out of there: the front door. While he was certainly no professional, he knew an exit strategy was usually the staple of any good heist and just having the door made him nervous. Nothing he could do about it now though, he’d just have to hope for the best.
Chase watched the counselor's fire from off the in the distance, its flame still burning bright. He could even see their shadows being cast onto the forest behind them, like some kind of huge puppet show. They would be over there for a least a couple hours, giving him a perfect opportunity to make his move. He’d told Santa to make an excuse if anyone asked where he was, which Santa happily obliged, believing it had something to do with Liz. He wasn’t delusional though, anything could happen at any time. A counselor could decide to go to the office to get something just because it randomly came to their head. The spontaneity of the world aside, Chase thought he was as ready as he’d ever be. Now the only piece of the puzzle that Chase had to worry about was the most unpredictable of them all: Al.
Most nights Al would end up falling asleep on the floor of his office. If that were the case this night, Chase was going to scrap the entire thing. Wasn't going to be worth it if he was busted within the first thirty seconds of trying. He banked on Al being gone but there was really no way for him to know until he was inside, causing the knot in his stomach to grow.
Getting into the office didn't end up being much of a problem. He assumed he’d have to jigger the lock open with a hairpin – a process he was not exactly professional at. If all else had failed he planned to just try to use his library card to jigger the lock open. Thankfully, it all came much easier than expected. By the time he worked up the courage – finally convincing himself that the coast was clear – it was a mere seconds before he was actually inside the building. The layout seemed simple enough, the main office was in a room near the back, with the first room serving more as an entry way. There was a bathroom off to the left, a sign on it reading “out of order”, and a utility closet to the right.
Now where could you possibly be?
Spotting a huge trunk under one of the windows, he walked to it, opening it up and pilfering through the goods. This was definitely where Al was keeping all the things he had taken from the campers. There were various cell phones, laptops, video games, and even some bottles of liquor so clearly it was both the stuff they handed over at the beginning of the summer, and the stuff that had been confiscated in the time since. Even then, Chase still couldn’t find what he was looking for. With half the trunk’s contents laid out across the office, he finally decided it couldn’t be in there.
He moved to the desk, starting to rifle through the drawers, thinking maybe Al had just quickly placed it there since it had just happened so the night before. It took all of one minute to search the entire desk but still it yielded zero results. Annoyed, now wondering if Al hadn’t just thrown it away, he heard someone outside shuffling along the wooden deck. It wouldn’t be long until they were in the office. Chase was screwed. Looking around, he appeared to have two choices: the bathroom or the closet. Not wanting to deal with whatever putrid smell could be originating from the toilet, he decided on the closet.
As soon as he entered it and shut the door behind him, he took note of the obvious smell of marijuana. There it was, the thing that he was looking for, the item that would help turn Liz’s day around: The blue pipe Al took from her. It sat on one of the shelves, a lighter laying right next to it. Oh Al, you hypocritical bastard.
The front door opened up and multiple feet shuffled into the office. Two people? Three? Chase quickly looked around the closet, hoping for a way out. There was a window but it was near the back of the closet, behind a bunch of cleaning supplies; he would certainly make noise trying to go out that way. He looked up at the ceiling, wondering if he could pop one of the tiles out and get out that way. It’s not the movies, I doubt they could even support you.
It was hard to tell how many people were there, let alone who it was but he could have sworn he heard Al’s voice at one point. They weren’t really talking, it seemed to be just – were those . . . love making noises? Was that what that was? Chase couldn’t tell but his desire to leave increased ten-fold with the weird moans that started coming from the other side of the door. If he was going to leave, it had to be now.
                He maneuvered his body past the mops and the brooms, almost knocking a dust pan onto its side. A storage shelf holding varying degrees of chemicals sat under the door. The perfect ladder. Chase moved his foot forward, testing to see if it would even hold his weight; it was only plastic after all. With a quick hop he rested his weight on the bottom shelf and prayed. Thankfully the shelf held up, bending a little in the middle but otherwise sustaining his full weight. Making his way up, shelf by shelf, he was careful not to knock over any of the cleaning supplies. Getting near the top he balanced on the shelf, trying to see if there’d be any possible way to open the window above without making a ruckus. Then the decision was made for him.
His foot crashed through the shelf, breaking it in half and sending half the cleaning supplies to the floor in a loud flurry. Okay they definitely heard that. He pushed at the window, shoving it open and pushing his body through the frame as quickly as possible. He heard the door of the closet open just as he plopped down to the ground outside.
                As Chase ran for his life, hoping like hell that whoever was in the office didn’t identify him, he could have sworn he heard someone scream after him. You’re not gonna get me. He would just deny any accusations levied his way. It’d be easy enough. Hell, if it had been Al, Chase wasn’t so sure he could even remember his name if he saw him let alone in that low of light. But as he ran, the wind hissing in his ear, he couldn’t help but think he heard the word “help.”

Chase was still coming down from the massive rush that sneaking into the office provided when he returned to his cabin. Half the campers were asleep while Ralph, Santa, and Donny were all up.
“Ayyyy” the boys resounded as Chase walked in. Santa must have told them he was up to something.
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” Chase responded to a question they didn’t ask but wanted to.
“I’m not sure what you mean. We clearly didn’t say anything,” said Donny, trying to act as clueless as possible.
“Whatever you’re thinking and had been talking about, I don’t know anything about it,” Chase replied.
“Oh please. We’re quiet enough. No one else knows outside of us. Everyone else has been sleeping,” Donny explained, “So what’d you get? Santa said you were pulling some mission impossible shit.”
He wasn't much of a bad boy back home so he relished in the moment. Getting Liz her glass back would definitely solve that any lingering doubts he had with her. She’d be ecstatic about getting it back, he just knew it. However, he had no desire to let more people in on it than needed to know. He already have enough to worry about, not knowing whether or not they saw his face in the dark.
“Look, I’m not telling you what it is but I will tell you that it was totally worth it,” said Chase with a big smile on his face.
“Boo!” the boys all resounded in unison.
“Come on, you gotta give us more than that, bro,” Santa chided, trying to get some information out of him.
Chase debated just lying to them to appease their need for conclusion but instead he just left them with, “If I told you, what do you think that chances of me actually keeping it would be?”

The next morning at breakfast, Chase half-expected everyone to be standing and huge round of applause to meet him upon his arrival. The epic adventure he just went on could only be celebrated with such. But instead he entered the dining hall without alerting a soul — outside of Marge who was motioning him over to get his food while it was still hot. Ah, the unfortunate consequence of a secret. It was okay though, there’s only one person I need to know about it.
He obliged Marge’s request and took the steaming hot plate of biscuits and gravy, before making his way over to the area he assumed that Liz was at. When he reached the tables, the Belar twins shot him a half-smile – Chase wasn't sure just how fake they were but assumed the worst – but quickly started whispering to each other. Couldn't be about Chase. Could it?
Before he could think on it, he noticed Liz and set down next to her, practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
"I think I have something that may make you a little happier."
"Chase I'm really not in the mood," she said, dejected. She certainly didn’t look to be having the best morning but that’s why Chase was there. To fix it.
"Don't speak so soon."
Chase made sure that no one else could the bag, keeping it well below the table. He opened it up, just enough so she could see the blue of her pipe. Liz’s eyes lit up and suddenly it was all worth it.
Then the sirens started up again.

Chase's mind raced a mile a minute. Were they here for him? How could they know that he broke into the main office? That person must have seen him when he ran away. It must not have been as dark as he thought. Would they arrest him or just leave him with a slap on the wrist since he was a minor? Regardless of outcome, Chase knew this could not be good.
"Why the hell are they back? Is this really happening again?" Liz said, putting the bag in her purse and thanking Chase with a tug on his hand.
"It's probably just them bringing back Marion," Nancy deduced.
"They don't turn their sirens on if something's not going down, stupid," Alice yelled at her sister just wanting to start a spat.
“Maybe they’re just wanting to make an entrance,” said Nancy, going for the bait, “You know Marion.”
"No. Something is definitely wrong," said Chase, leaning closer to the window, looking out at the scene. The cops had sectioned off the area around the main office. Carol had been talking to one of the detectives for several minutes, tears streaming down her face. Whatever it was, it was clearly big.
Did something else get taken? Are they gonna find my finger prints and accuse me of whatever happened. The possibilities in Chase's head felt endless and none of them were good.
The hole in his stomach kept growing as he gritted his teeth and hoped for the best.
Shortly after the cop cars arrived a vehicle labeled "morgue" followed, signaling to everyone just how serious things had gotten.
"Holy fuck. Do you think it's Keith? Maybe Al killed him and stuffed him in the floorboards," Alice theorized.
"God you're like a vulture. Why on earth would that ever be it? This is real life not one of those stupid horror movies you watch at Dad's," her sister responded. They went at it for a little bit, calling each other insults ranging from ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ to ‘super-bitch.’
“Will you two just stop?” said Sally, speaking up for everyone.
The Belar twins may have interjected had it not been for Santiago, who was walking across the lawn returning from his cabin, casually walking by the scene of the crime like it was nothing.
"There's no way he can be that oblivious," said Samantha, pushing her way past some thirteen-year-old girls.
Santa was definitely overacting his part of the oblivious camper as he almost walked right into one of the police officer’s. They quickly turned him around and Carol stepped in, ushering him over to the dining hall.
That's when they saw it: the body bag. They had taken it out of the main office and were in the process of getting it in the back of the ambulance. How could there be a body bag? That means there was someone dead in there. Chase felt like an idiot having these thoughts but it was all his brain could process. How could someone have died in there? He was in there last night and everything was fine. Were those really sounds of passion?
"Oh my god," Ralph exclaimed, shaking his head and looking like he was about to vomit. Chase quickly looked around, doing a body check, trying to figure out who could be in the body bag. Before he could even think it himself, Santiago was announcing what he overhead from the cops.
"It's Al. He's dead."

Crimson Summer - Chapter Thirteen

Liz didn't really believe in bad luck but she was about to get a harsh lesson in it. It started with one of the snaps on her favorite bra breaking off, putting her in a particularly bad mood. It continued when Liz was told they were out of vegetarian options at breakfast. I shouldn't have told any of those bitches about doing that. So she settled for a chocolate milk and strawberry pop tart. Breakfast of Champions. Then she was forced to help serve brunch because Marge needed help. Al treated like an opportunity which Liz tried to decline but he was insistent.
On top of it all Chase seemed to be acting weird. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it but it was clear something was up with him. It was understandable given how quickly their – whatever it was they were in in – had progressed. If she was scared, he must have been terrified. While she wasn’t calling him her boyfriend, it certainly felt like it was there. They were spending any moment they could together and things had progressed but it certainly wasn’t a talk she wanted to have with him at that very moment.
After the day she was having, it was a relief when Marion asked her at dinner if she wanted to smoke afterwards. Liz hadn't smoked in several weeks so she was happy to indulge. Plus, she had yet to catch up with Marion all summer given her hectic schedule in recent days. So she met up with Marion just after lights out, out near the woods next to the lake.
"You know, I wasn't even sure if this was where we were meeting or not," Liz said.
"Oh come on, gotta stick with the classics. This spot is great." Marion was right, this was definitely Liz's favorite smoke spot. They walked a little ways into the tree line until they reached a massive tree, right near the water’s edge.
"So how much has Al been freaking out about Keith running off?" asked Liz.
"You know, I'll answer this one question but as soon as this torch is lit, the work talk stops," said Marion as she raised the pipe to her mouth, lighter right next to it, just itching to ignite, "He's pissed. But hey, I get it. When you got a chance at the pros, you've gotta take it. At least that's what I heard he's doing."
"Well then, I wish him all the best in all his future endeavors," Liz said, raising an invisible glass as a salute.
"And on that note. . ." Marion sparked the lighter and lit the pipe. It was time.

They smoked, doing little smoke tricks back and forth like the French inhale – a trick Liz had perfected with a boy sophomore year – giggling to themselves as they kept one upping each other. Her mind wandered, drifting back to Chase. He was certainly the closest friend she had made at the camp – outside of Marion of course. They formed a bond rather quickly and it was weird to Liz just how comfortable she felt with him already. Like they had been friends for years. But she couldn’t deny that she was developing feelings for him.
She wasn't sure if the feelings were returned but it seemed like they were. She still enjoyed his company regardless. Not that she didn't get a little jealous when Sally asked her if she was dating Chase and if it'd be okay if she talked to him. They weren't but Liz wasn't okay with another girl making advances towards him. Not like it mattered though, they only had a few weeks together. Then they'd go their separate ways. Dammit why are things so complicated?
Liz noticed Marion looking over at her but before she could say a word, Marion was already talking, as if reading her mind.
"So what's the deal with you and Chase?"
"Honestly? I have no idea. I mean, he's totally someone I would date but . . . he also live hundreds of miles away. Not like this is really going to be anything more than a summer fling. I’m not some delusional girl," Liz said disappointed.
"Since when is a summer fling so bad? I can't count the number of times that one has helped me out during a shitty time. Sometimes we just need a boy."
"Your feminist colleagues would be appalled."
"Oh shut up, you know what I mean. I can be completely happy by myself but that doesn't mean I don't like male company. Doesn't make me any less feminist. Just means I like to cater to my base instincts."
"Yeah but how can you tell your brain that a relationship’s just going to be casual? It doesn't work like that. And I really don't think the heartache is worth it."
"So you're avoiding it because you don't want to get too attached? Sounds pretty weak to me, missy." Marion leaned up against a tree, throwing rocks out into the lake. Her eyes followed them as they pitter-pattered across.
"Look I just don't really feel like falling for some guy when I know he's just going to be gone in a couple weeks. It's stupid."
"It happens. You're into him and you keep spending time with him, what're you expecting out of this?"
"Do I really have to even think about that right now? Can't I just enjoy this bowl?" Liz asked, taking a hit of the pipe.
"Do what you will, girl. I'm just telling you that just because it won't last forever doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it while it does. I mean, think of how many times you would have missed out on friendships if you had known they weren't going to last forever," Marion said, eyes half open.
"What about you?" Liz asked.
"What do you mean 'what about me?' You think that this is just going to turn around on me now?” Marion retorted, the intensity in voice rising.
“Yeah, that’s how these conversations work,” Liz said nonchalantly, “so any cute prospects around the camp? Back home?"
Marion looked at her a moment, like she was debating answering her question at all. With a raise of her brow Liz made it clear any excuse would not come welcome. Eventually Marion succumbed with a sigh.
"Oh god. Well you've seen the counselors and, outside of newbie Keith who was super cute but now obviously gone, it's the same crew as every year. No way would I let Louie touch me. He's a bit too much of a pervert for my liking," Marion pondered as if checking off a list in her head.
"Oh come on, Louie is the best," Liz said and Marion was immediately staring down her nose at her.
"Oh please. I'm sure you can get away with God knows what as a camper around him but for me it's a living hell. He'll be so inappropriate that I sometimes have to take a moment just to reassure myself that he did in fact just say that. He completely loses track of his group sometimes all because he doesn’t want to take them anywhere normal in the woods, it always has to be some random spot, two miles in."
"Sounds about why I like him." It was true, Liz didn't see any problem with Louie. He was laid back and didn't seem to care what his campers were doing as long as it didn't get him in trouble. It made him pretty easy to deal with from Liz's side.
"Yeah well try being his boss, then tell me all those things are great qualities.”
“Yet another reason why I’m glad I’m not a boss.
                “Oh I’m sorry, can I help you with your breakfast duties, Madame?” Marion said daintily.
“Oh fuck you,” said Liz as she playfully punched Marion on the arm, “You need to get me out of that.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that the moment you tell me that Louie is indeed as bad as I say he is.”
“That’s blackmail!”
“That’s the way of the world, darlin’” Marion said, this time with a southern drawl, “I don’t know why you care so much anyway. I will shatter your illusion of him no problem.”
“Oh yeah, how you managin’ that?”
“Imagine dealing with a guy who you can tell is trying to picture you naked like any time you talk to him."
Wait. This was her earth-shattering claim? Are you kidding me? Liz snorted, rolling her eyes a little.
"What are you talking about? I'm in high school. All anyone thinks about is sex in high school. I'm around that constantly."
"God, I sometimes forget what little perverts we can be during puberty." Marion took a hit and blew a giant smoke bubble into the air. Liz leaned in, sucking in the bubble and coughing. They had perfected that technique last summer. It was their unofficial way of changing the subject. Marion couldn’t remember how it started but she made sure not to do it with anyone else.
"That still leaves Barry."
"Barry? No thanks. Former jock just finally being hit with the realization that high school was the best time of his life? Yeah, not for me." Marion seemed offended even at the suggestion.
"Okay calm down. I was just making small talk. He was the only guy left. I guess I could have said Diane," Liz joked.
"I'd pick Diane over any one of ‘em. I'd be in a lesbian partnership if it meant those guys were my only male choices," Marion chided, "I'm not sure it'd take that much to switch Diane though. She always gets a little too handsy when we drink."
"Diane is so sweet. She's destined to get knocked up by some idiot."
"Oh, absolutely. She has the worst taste in men. She fucked Barry two summers ago. Something she immediately regretted but still, it happened. And to be fair, Barry had a six pack then."
"Wait, Diane fucked Barry and you never told me?" Liz said, completely flummoxed. She thought that Marion had told her all about the juicy sex gossip in the camp. It was usually a funny source of entertainment while they smoked.
Marion stopped what she was doing and looked to be thinking deeply. She definitely didn't realize she never told me, Liz thought, a little annoyed.
"Oh hey, dick move on my part. Look so Diane told me not to say anything but then I had high brain and just kind of assumed I had told you since that's pretty much the only thing I've purposely kept from you."
"Well that and Jake Tramer."
"Wait . . . How do you know about Jake?" Marion asked, a little mad Liz would even know the name.
"D to the I to the A - N - E. Duh."
"That little bitch –" Marion started but was swiftly interrupted.
"Hey, what're you doing over there?"
The voice came out of the dark in an instant. It took a moment to register just who it was but it clicked with Liz the moment his voice echoed over in her brain. Only one person could sound so clueless and from a different time period: Al.
Marion was quick, rising to her feet and taking control of the situation. She dusted herself off and put the pipe in a notch in the tree next to Liz. She swiftly motioned for Liz to be cool, quickly letting her know she'd handle this. Liz wasn’t sure though. She didn't want Marion to lose her job or anything. The flashlight was almost on them, all their movement would be tracked from that point on. No time to hide.
"No worries, Al. I've got this all under control," said Marion.
"Shut up, Marion. You're not my mom," Liz spat out. Marion looked at her, confused and alarmed.
"What's going on here? Is that marijuana I smell?" Al asked, reaching them and quickly shooting them a stern look of disapproval.
"This bitch won't let me just do what I need to, to fucking survive this place," Liz said, hoping her attitude would do its part.
"Marion, what exactly happened?" Al asked but Liz was quick to retort, not wanting Marion to have to come up with the lie herself.
"She caught me smoking and was in the middle of a bullshit speech when you showed up." Liz hoped that at the very least if the lie didn’t take, at least she’d earn some major friendship points with Marion for at least attempting to take the bullet.
Al looked between both Liz and Marion, not sure what to believe but just waiting to hear Marion's side.
"Like Liz said, caught her smoking," said Marion and put her head down in shame.
“I just . . . I never. Just when you were really starting to show some real promise you go and do something like this. I would say I’m disappointed Ms. Thompson but you already know that.”
Al was acting like the ultimate parent in a way that Liz hadn’t felt in a long time. He dismissed Marion pretty early, saying that he didn’t want her to hear the things he had to say to Liz. He wouldn’t stop telling her how disappointed he was and how much she was throwing her future down the drain. She could have sworn she saw a tear in his eye at some point but Liz hoped she’d just imagined it. He said the repercussions for her actions would come quick and he wasn’t lying.
This wasn’t going to be the easiest summer. Not anymore.

As if it weren't bad enough that Liz was taking the fall for the situation, something she still did gladly given its impact on Marion's career, she wasn't allowed to go out at night anymore. At all. Al said she was to stay in the dining hall until bed, at which time she'd be escorted to her bunk by Carol. Otherwise she would be spending her day with, what she considered the worst of the punishment, Carol's group.
Liz had been in Marion's group every summer and that was part of the appeal of the camp. She didn't know what it was like to experience Watanka without Marion leading the activities she took part in. Marion was always her counselor and that was the way that she always envisioned it. Maybe had a different thought entered her head she would have been more resistant to returning to the camp.
                The next morning the Belar twins made it clear they knew exactly what was going on with both mimicking the act of smoking a joint. Liz just rolled her eyes. Of course they know. They always know everything.
                Liz went to the showers, taking part in a surprisingly lukewarm rinse, and returned to find the girls complaining about some kind of awards show they were apparently missing out on. By the time she got all dressed and returned to the front of the cabin, the Belar twins were busy complaining about some girl from another cabin.
"What the hell is she even doing?" Alice asked, staring out at the girl spinning poi balls around her body to imaginary music.
"I've seen that at Lolla before and it's fucking stupid," said Nancy, who seemed to be barely paying attention, just wanting to talk down about the subject.
"I know the general thing that she's doing, I just don't understand why," Alice said, totally perplexed.
"Come on, can't be the first hippie spiritual person for you to encounter. At least I hope not. You've been missing out on a lot of good stuff if you haven't," Liz said.
"Yeah well not all of us are giant potheads so it doesn't always appeal," Nancy spat out. The word was getting around camp fairly quickly, even before she had made the official move to the other group. By then everyone would know.
"Oh shut up, I smoke a handful of times and suddenly I'm a drug addicted. Whatever," said Liz.
"Woah, putting words in my mouth miss guilty conscience," said Nancy with a little too much innocence.
"Don't act like you haven't taken part in smoke green with me."
"I just don't understand what goes on in someone's head that makes them go 'I want to spin balls around my body while looking like a complete idiot," said Alice, getting the subject back on topic.
"I'm sure she doesn't thinks she looks stupid at all," Liz interjected.
"Yeah well maybe that's the problem. Not like everyone else cares about others opinions as much as you do," said Nancy, taking another shot at Liz.
"Oh so now I care too much about other opinions, is that it, Miss Freud? If the measuring stick is the dancing diva over there, then yeah maybe I care too much."
Liz spotted Marion walking across the grass to the main office. She didn’t notice Liz at first but when she did, gave her a half-smile and a nod of her head, mouthing “thank you.” Liz just smiled back, glad that she was able to help her out. It certainly didn’t come without its price though.
“Liz, we gotta go,” said Nancy. All the girls were getting around, getting ready to depart in their groups.
“You sure the pothead can join us?” Nancy spat out.
“Yeah, I thought you weren’t allowed to have any fun anymore?” said Alice immediately.
“Umm . . . yeah, of course,” said Liz, acting like she knew.
She wasn’t entirely sure if she was still allowed to do rock climbing given that Marion was the instructor, but Al hadn’t strictly prohibited so she assumed it was fine. Plus, the last thing she wanted was to give them the satisfaction.
Ah the rock wall. While there were many things around the camp that felt unsafe, the rock wall was not one of them. According to Marion, Al had spent most of his last bank loan to get it, hoping for a surge of campers because of it. There was a slight surge but that died down quickly. Liz still enjoyed it a great deal though. In fact, she held the time record for female campers. Marion had the fastest overall, but given the time she got with the wall to practice, Liz didn't see it as exactly fair.  Still, when Marion called for everyone to gather up at the rock wall, she couldn't help but feel a little excited.  She wasn't good at many physical activities so she was going to take this one as serious as possible. Plus it didn't hurt to try and impress Chase.
It was easy enough getting everyone into one area but settling them down was another story. Marion hadn't arrived yet and Carol was feeling under the weather, so Louie and Diane were left to deal with the campers, who were restless.

Marion carefully put all the equipment on, strapping everything in and tightening it all up. She looked a little ridiculous but given that the wall reached 50 feet at his highest, it was a necessary precaution.
"Now I don't want anyone trying to get fancy and act like Spider-man when you're up there. I get it, it's fun to climb walls. But it's also not fun to break bones. So let's try and avoid that as much as possible so that then I can continue harassing you little terrors," Marion's voice provided some laughs.
"So is it cool if I did it?" Louie said, cracking wise.
"No, Louie, you're allowed. In fact, do some crazy stuff . . . by yourself. I'll turn a blind eye."
Marion continued to climb, step by step, rung by rung, she made her way up the way. Ten feet. Twenty feet. She was up it so fast, Liz couldn't believe it. Someone's been practicing.
"And if you can get up here, I'll give you --" Marion started but cut herself off with a horrific scream.
In one sudden motion, the rope line holding her up snapped like a twig, her hands reached out, trying to grab onto a rung, the rope next to her, anything. Only she wasn’t able to grab onto anything. She just fell.

Marion came crashing down thirty feet onto the dirt below and all Liz could do was scream.

Crimson Summer - Chapter Twelve

"I am such an asshole," said Louie, burying his face into a crumpled up sweatshirt. He had been like this since Keith up and vanished; a self-blaming mess. Marion would have been lying if she said it weren’t starting to get on her nerves. And the rest of the counselors agreed, almost wanting to avoid this lunch entirely because of it.
"Not this again," said Barry who shook his head disapprovingly. He was seated next to Diane, who twiddled her thumbs, sipping on a cup of coffee. Her emotions had ranged from sad to angry and it wasn’t the prettiest sight to behold. She seemed subdued now. Carol just sat there, reading her newspaper and trying not to scoff every time that Louie said “asshole.”
"You guys just don't get it,” Louie reasoned, “Keith would still be around here and we wouldn't be having to bust our asses picking up the slack. It’s all my fault.”
At least that much is true, said Marion who certainly was feeling the brunt of having one of her counselors up and leave on her. It wasn't the first time this had happened but she was surprised at who the perpetrator was. If anything, she figured it’d be Louie who left without warning.
"He had an opportunity and he took it. It's really not a big deal. If you were offered a. . . professional . . . Halo contract," said Barry, trying to come up with anything that Louie could be professional at, "I'm sure you'd be out of this place in a heartbeat. Especially if you'd been working so hard for it. Easy choice."
"One, you've now proven that you have absolutely no idea how the video game industry works and sound like a complete idiot. Two, it is not up to you to decide whether this is a big deal or not. I was the last person to talk to him and I know what was going on," Louie said, seemingly trying to sound as authoritative as possible but coming across more childish.
"Uh technically it was –" Barry started but was quickly stopped.
"Okay fine, the last person that saw him before he left. The conversation did not go well and if I hadn’t been such a dick he wouldn’t have left. It’s all I’m saying," said Louie for the umpteenth time.
“Everything you’re saying is ridiculous. You just need to drop it and let it go. You sound like a scorned lover,” Marion said, not wanting to deal with him at all.
“She’s right, there’s no reason to act like that,” Barry added.
“You guys can think whatever you want but I know the truth,” said Louie, trying to put a nail in it.
“You are such an asshole,” exclaimed Diane.
“Thank you! At least someone can see what I’m talking about,” Louie said. Marion choked a little on her sandwich, laughing at the fact that Louie was thankful for the insult.
“No, you are a self-centered piece of shit,” Diane started, her face growing more and more red, “Why the fuck would you ever think that this was about you? People have lives that are bigger than some asshole talking shit to them while they’re hammered.”
                “And on that note, I really must be going,” said Marion and stood up, ready to make her exit.
                Not that she had much of an issue with leaving such an awkward lunch, but Marion also wasn’t wanting to return to the office either. Lesser of two evils I suppose. She quickly left the dining hall, glad that she had at least a little time to progress with office work while the kids were busy at lunch. It had grown so hectic that, especially with recent events, they were quickly getting behind on bills and payments.
                When she arrived at the office, Al was halfway through a coke – not a week after swearing off all caffeine – and seemed a little more jittery than usual. Marion figured he’d be on edge about Keith, but it appeared he’d succumbed to at least one of his vices. She took off her sweatshirt and plopped down in the seat across from him.
                “I fucking hate that kid,” said Al, completely drained.
“Oh you do not. He was a great kid,” Marion reasoned, “In fact, he was looking to be one of the best counselors that we had. Just had an opportunity and took it. So don't be like that.”
"The headache that motherfucker has caused me is enough for me to want to contact him and tell him that he needs to refund any money that I paid him during his first three weeks. Because he did not fulfill his contract and I refuse to be taken advantage of. No, ma’am. I refuse. God, and to even think about the work I put into getting that archery range back up and running,” Al fumed.
"Al, do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound right now? Hell, Keith did most of the work clearly out all the weeds and stuff anyway. And he provided the bow and arrows. He helped us out a ton so what are you even talking about? Have you been drinking?" she asked, beginning to wonder if this was more than just an emotional outburst.
"Ridiculous? I don't think so. You should be right on board with me right now. You know our finances. This fucks us. This totally fucks us. I can't even believe he'd do something like this. He knew what hot water we were in and he specifically told me he wouldn’t let me down. He promised me. Job interviews mean nothing nowadays, they’ll just say anything to get themselves hired. Society is just a fucking mess these days. And this is all just the beginning. Now people are gonna be dropping like flies."
“What do you mean?” Marion asked, a little concerned.
“We were barely able to keep control of everything going on with six counselors, now we have five. They’re gonna start complaining about not having enough to do. Then they’ll just go spend the rest of their summer playing video games and texting each other. I know what we need to do, we need to make sure that they can’t call home. That’s it. No one leaving and asking their parents to come pick them up. Phone privileges revoked.”
Al was growing ravenous in his tone and Marion did not like it.
“Do you hear yourself right now? Is everyone going fucking crazy? This doesn't change anything. We already have the kids from Keith's group divided up into mine, Louie's and Carol's. It's been two days everything has been totally fine. You're freaking out over nothing," she said, trying to be the more calm of the two, an easy feat given Al’s volatility, “You still didn’t answer my question. Have you been drinking?”
The door was thrust open, banging up against the outer wall of the cabin, with someone clearly wanting their entrance noted. It startled Marion at first but then she saw it was just Carol – not Louie as she originally feared. She had had enough of Louie trying to get Keith’s contact information so that he could make sure he wasn’t the reason he left. They already had enough difficulty getting ahold of him, it wasn’t going to do any good for him to try. Besides, when was Carol ever a problem?
Carol sat down in the chair next to Marion and noisily started tapping her foot on the floor. She was obviously mad but Al refused to make eye contact with her, clearly sick of having to deal with the many issues going on in the camp. Carol seemed to take the tension in the room as her own doing and as such tried to command the room with loud sighs and incessant tapping. Finally Marion took the reins and decides to ask her what was up.
“We lose one counselor and suddenly I’m expected to change my entire schedule around? This is – and I’m sorry for saying it – bullcrap,” Carol snorted, annoyed she even had to have this conversation.
“Look, I know that you have a very meticulous schedule planned out and I know you’ve worked very hard on it,” Marion started but not before Carol had to start in.
“A schedule that has already been rough enough to keep with all these willy nilly meetings and happenings that are going on,”
“Carol, we were forced to have that safety meeting. I’m sorry that it interrupted whatever activity you had planned –“
“It wasn’t just any activity it was my pottery,” Carol interrupted.
“However, it’s kind of a moot point now anyway so I’d appreciate you not arguing with me about it. I already have enough of a headache right now,”
“Well you wouldn’t have that much of a headache if I could just take over a duty here or there,” said Carol, just trying to weasel her way into Marion’s job.
“How about you just do what we ask of you?” Al finally chimed in, “It’d be lovely if you just did that.”
“You’re asking me to give up my pottery class and go do archery. I should not be punished just because you had some irresponsible boy that Marion hired decide to up and leave. If anything she should be punished for having such terrible judgment in character,” Carol said looking down her nose at Marion.
“That’s not the point, Carol. The point is that you’re the only person here with any real kind of experience with archery and you have the opening in your schedule,”
“I told you, I don’t have an opening that’s when I teach pottery!” Carol said, putting her foot down figuratively and literally.
“You have two signups!” Al said bluntly, “And that’s just because the Belar’s know that they can just sit there and gossip in privacy since no one else is around. I’m not going to have any more of this camp’s resources be wasted. And in this day and age, pottery is a waste. So you’re going to do what I’m asking you to because I’m asking it. That’s all there is to it.”
Carol took it hard, not even wanting to look him in the eyes. Tears formed around her eyes but before she would let them fall she dismissed herself and was gone from the cabin.
“That may have been a little harsh,” Marion finally said after several minutes of silence.
“I don’t have time to babysit these counselors. I have enough trouble babysitting all these campers. Did you get things settled with that Lieber kid?” Al asked.
“Yes, he said he was with Sally, it’s all been sorted out. Carol just needs to calm down – in more ways than one.”
“You can say that again,” he said, taking another swig of the coke. If it even was coke.

                The rest of the day consisted of Arts and Crafts, a thrilling game of capture the flag which Marion’s team won, and a pizza dinner – something the campers were ecstatic about after the first two nights of some kind weird pasta. The stresses kept coming though, with two showers in the boy’s bath house going out completely and the toilets in the girl’s, things just seemed to be getting worse and worse with each passing minute.
                When the day was finally over and the campers were back in their beds, Marion couldn’t help but crave a real cigarette. Something to just allow the tension in her shoulders to release and let her go to sleep. She hadn’t had one in months and while she still puffed on her e-cig daily, avoiding real cigarettes made her feel some form of health awareness.
                Not that it mattered anyway, with Carol throwing a tantrum about having to take over the archery class the moment she walked in the door. While it didn’t affect Carol’s job performance, it certainly didn’t make her any more pleasant to be around. She received three complaints from campers in her group that she was being particularly mean and snappy. Marion understood that pottery was important to her but it was still just another aspect to the job like any other. She’d complain less if I had her scrub the toilets with her own toothbrush.
                This probably attributed to her bad judgment when Diane said she wanted to have a party and agreed it was a great idea when it clearly wasn’t. Even though she wouldn’t admit to it out loud, Keith’s sudden departure definitely got to Diane so mixing in alcohol and a bunch of horny guys couldn’t have sounded like a worse idea in hindsight. Unfortunately Marion’s usual judgment was stressed out beyond belief, and didn’t care to tell her no. So she agreed to go over to Diane’s cabin, even though every part of her body was telling her just to stay in. Then she remembered Carol would be there.
                “So what’s on the menu tonight?” Marion asked before she was even fully through the cabin’s door. She kind of regretted saying it the moment she saw the state Diane was in.
                “Well, I still have plenty of vodka left and whatever’s in that fridge is fair game,” Diane said, slurring her words a little. Diane had decided to start early based on the red cup in her hand which she proceeded to take a big chug from.
                “You’re really going hard tonight, eh Di?” asked a concerned Marion.
                “Why not? Not like there’s anything else to do in this place?” Diane said, taking another swig from her cup. Diane was one to get sloppy drunk but there was a violent temper to everything she said now. It worried Marion.
                Breaking the tension without even realizing it, Louie and Barry walked in, arguing over something involving video games.
                “So glad you guys could come,” Diane said playfully, raising her red Dixie cup high.
                “Yeah, it was a really long walk,” Barry joked, drawing a sideways look of annoyance from Louie. Those two just can never get along.
                “So why exactly do we have to be inside this cramped cabin drinking when we could be outside at the fire like we do pretty much every night?” Louie asked. And he wasn’t wrong. The same thought had definitely occurred to Marion but she just assumed Diane wanted to switch things up. She was wrong. Sort of.
                “The fire is fun and all but how are we going to get any privacy out at the fires?” Diane uncomfortably teased.
                “Why would we need privacy?” Louie bit like a rabid dog.
“Al wouldn’t appreciate us playing strip poker out there, now would he?”
                Diane took everyone off guard with this comment. It wasn’t like Marion was opposed to the idea since she was really good at poker and found the thought of Louie having to finish the night in his boxers hilarious. Still, it was becoming more and more evident that Diane wasn’t fit to be drinking.
                “I think you’ve had enough,” Marion said, trying to take her drink away from her. She refused though, pulling away and spilling some of her drink all over of the floor.
                “Excuse me! I believe I’m a grown woman,” exclaimed Diane.
                “Yeah, well I believe you’re acting like a child. So I guess we’ll split the difference and call you a teenager,” Marion said matter-of-factly.
                Diane didn’t like this. Not one bit. She charged at Marion, knocking her own cup onto the floor and causing Marion to hit up against Barry, who quickly stepped between to the two. The cabin was far too small for so much drama, they were all practically on top of each other as it was. Diane’s sloppy and broad movements weren’t helping matters.
                “Enough! Diane, you’ve clearly had enough to drink. Marion, stop provoking her,” Barry said, trying to be the voice of reason but only angering both girls.
                “Stop provoking? Are you fucking kidding me?”
                The fight lasted all of 60 seconds but it felt like much longer. Between the insults that Diane was throwing and the nonsense Louie was spouting, Marion had, had enough. She was sick of dealing with everyone else’s issues. No matter what they just kept coming with their problems and she went from head counselor to head babysitter. No one could deal with anything themselves and the camp couldn’t hold itself together. She was done.

                Forgoing the usual nightly tradition of the fire felt weird, especially after walking by the pits in order to go back to the main office. She quickly grabbed her sweatshirt from the office cabin and started her way back towards her own. As she turned she saw something move in the woods, not ten feet away from where she stood. The black hood. The white face.
                “Oh my god,” she exclaimed under her breath.
A person. Wait, was that a person? She closed her eyes, trying to adjust them more to the dark but when she opened them, she saw nothing. No one was around. She was completely alone. She peered into the forest but it remained void of any movement whatsoever.  Was anyone ever there? Was she just seeing things?
                “Hello? Is someone there? Look, I’m not having the best of days so I swear I’m not going to write you up if you just come out now so that I can send you back to your cabin,” she shouted into the woods, but received no response.
                She waited for something to emerge from the woods. Something had to; she knew she wasn’t just seeing things. She didn’t imagine that dark black hood and that white mask. It couldn’t have been a trick on her eyes. Even while she waited, part of her knew that she had to just have seen things in the dark. It was just her eyes playing tricks on her. That didn’t stop her from running back to her cabin. Just in case.
                Marion returned to her cabin as quietly as possible, not that it mattered given Carol’s deep sleep patterns, but still Marion was raised to be courteous. Even if it was to someone like Carol.
                Carol slept perfectly still in her bed, under the covers, just like usual. She wouldn’t be moving an inch until the morning when her internal alarm clock went off and she made her presence known. Marion really hated mornings.

                I’m done with this place, Marion thought. This is the last summer I’ll ever have to spend in this shit hole. With that she took a drag on her electronic cigarette and dozed off to sleep repeating two words to herself – Last summer.

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