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."
END CHAPTER FOURTEEN