“You’re a baby,” Rich teased. “You’re afraid of the water!”
Lanie watched from in the pool, moving her arms through the water so that her floaties reflected the sunlight. “Come on, Doug, it’s fun!”
Doug stood at the edge of the pool, his toes curled over the side. “I can’t.”
“Why not?” Rich asked. “You scared?” When Doug said nothing, Rich taunted, “You are scared! I knew it, I knew it!”
“Rich!” Lanie protested, “Stop it!”
“Okay,” he said. Moving so quickly Lanie didn’t have a chance to cry out, he put his hands on Doug’s shoulders and shoved him into the pool. Doug fell into the water, struggling for several seconds before Lanie helped him put his feet on the ground.
“See?” she said. “You can stand up. It’s okay.”
Rich slid into the water beside them. “You’re okay, right?”
Doug grabbed his wet glasses, putting them back on his face briefly before realizing he couldn’t see. “I can’t see,” he whispered.
“Oh, come on!” Rich complained, climbing back out of the pool and taking Doug’s glasses. “Just clean them off! They’re fine!”
Doug got out of the water, and Lanie slowly followed. “Give them back,” Doug ordered, reaching for the glasses.
“I’m helping,” Rich insisted, rubbing the lenses in the towel. “See?”
“Give them back!” Doug yelled. “Give them back now!”
When Rich pulled the glasses away out of Doug’s reach, Doug balled his hand up into a fist. Drawing back, he hauled off and hit Rich square in the nose. Rich fell down; a hand to his face.
“You’re mean!” he said, trying not to cry. “I was just teasing, I didn’t do anything!”
Lanie hung back, afraid that if she went closer Doug would lash out at her too.
“I told you to give them back,” Doug said quietly. “I warned you.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore,” Rich said, fighting back tears. “This is my house, and I’m telling you to go home.”
Doug picked up his towel and disappeared around the side of the house as Rich and Lanie exchanged silent glances.
Doug leaned against the frame in the open door, blocking the only path out of the back room. Lanie turned to Rich and whispered, “How long has it been since you talked to him?”
Rich shook his head, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “I don’t know.”
“Stop talking,” Doug hissed, waving the rifle in their general direction.
Cassie buried her face in Rich’s shoulder, muffling her sobs. Lanie felt the cold air cutting down to her bones, and she dug her nails into her wrist to stop from shivering. Biting into her lower lip, she scanned the numbed faces of her classmates.
“Lanie,” Doug said.
Her head snapped back in his direction, and she found herself afraid of breathing.
Doug beckoned her to come. When she didn’t move, he crossed the room and grabbed her arm, yanking her to her feet. “Come with me.” Steering Lanie by her arm with one hand and clutching the rifle in the other, he stepped out of the back room. “Nobody moves,” he said over his shoulder, “or I will shoot her.”
Lanie took a deep breath as he shoved her forward, slamming her eyes shut and concentrated on not passing out. “What are you doing?”
“You’re going to go up to the window and look outside,” he said calmly. “I’m going to be behind you with a rifle in your back. You’re going to tell me what’s going on out there, and then we are going to walk back to the storage room.”
“Why are you doing this?” she whispered.
“No questions,” he answered, jamming the rifle harder into the small of her back. “Do what I say.”
Lanie put her hands up to the glass, peering out.
“What do you see?”
“A lot…a ton of people.”
“Police?” he asked.
Lanie nodded, becoming more aware with every passing second of the rifle pressed to the small of her back. “Can we go back now?”
“What else?” he asked.
“I…” She scanned the parking lot, her eyes lighting on the man with the bullhorn. “There’s a police officer with a bullhorn. And…” She looked a little bit closer. “And…I think I see your mom. And my mom…” Tears started to stream down her face. “My mom’s out there…My mom…”
“Get back,” he said, yanking her arm and shoving her back through the door. “Get away from the window, before they see you.”
Lanie fell through into the back room, as Rich came out from behind the doorframe and jumped on top of Doug.
“Excuse me?” the man with bullhorn.
“My son,” Becca repeated. “Doug Watkins, my son. I think he’s the shooter.”
The man grabbed Becca by the shoulder, steering her away towards the larger swarm of police officers.
“Rich, don’t!” Lanie cried out.
Lanie fell on her hands and knees, rolling over into the group as people around her started to scream. Peering back, she saw Rich shove Doug out onto the tile, and the rifle clattered across the floor towards the main door. Grabbing Doug by the hair, Rich slammed his head into the tile again and again.
Doug closed his eyes against the pain and reached down sightlessly into his boot to pull out a small pistol. “Rich!” Lanie screamed, squeezing her eyes shut again as the pistol went off with a bang.
“He’s in the cafeteria,” one of the police officer radioed in. “There have been more shots fired. Officers in the building are surrounding the area and blocking it off.”
The officer with Becca in his grasp sat her down in the backseat of one of the cars with the door open. “Wait here,” he ordered, running towards the building. “Let’s move, people. Let’s go!”
As he disappeared into the building, Becca couldn’t stop herself from running after him.
Doug shoved Rich’s body off of him to the floor and got to his knees. Lanie could see his hands shaking slightly as he struggled to hold on to the pistol. “I didn’t…I didn’t mean…Not Rich.”
There was a wave of people pushing past her and running for the doors, and Lanie was crying so hard she couldn’t move. Somebody tried to grab her arm and drag her along, but she shook them off and crawled over to the boys instead. Doug raised the pistol, shooting at the students fleeing with shaky hands.
Lanie saw a couple of people fall to the ground, but there was no one in world anymore except for her and Rich and Doug. Reaching out with one hand, no longer aware of even the boy beside her waving the gun around, she touched Rich gently on the chest. He didn’t stir, and when she pulled her hand away, it was covered in blood.
Pulling away suddenly, Lanie pinned herself to the wall as the doors flew back open and a police officer appeared with his gun drawn.
“Doug? Doug Watkins?”
Doug’s grip on the pistol tightened, and he rose slowly to his feet, a small smile forming on his face. “You already know my name, right? You know my name?”
“Put the gun down and walk to me.”
Lanie focused on Rich’s lifeless face, tears streaming so quickly down her cheeks that she could barely see.
“Funny,” Doug said. “It’s funny how people keep telling me to do that, and funny how I still don’t. I’m making choices.” He took a step back, yanking Lanie away from Rich and pulling her to her feet. “I’m making choices,” he said as wrapped one arm around her neck and used the other to hold the pistol to her head. “I’m becoming less than ordinary. I’m growing into something extraordinary.”
Lanie sobbed hysterically, all thoughts of struggling going out of her as she leaned into Doug. The sensation of floating took over, and she found herself watching from above as the pistol was being shoved into her temple.
“Extraordinary, son,” the police officer whispered, “would be letting the girl go.”
Becca ran down the hall, pushing past the officers that tried to stop her. She knew the route like the back of her hand, and she crashed through the officers towards the entrance to the cafeteria.
“You can’t go in there.” Another officer grabbed onto Becca’s arm and tried to bar her from entering the cafeteria.
“My son is in there,” she replied, shaking off his arm and shoving by him.
“Extraordinary is my legacy,” Doug retorted. “Look what I’ve done here.” He nodded his head around the room as if gesturing. “Look at everything I’ve done.”
“And that’s all fine and good, but you need to let the girl go, Doug. Just let her go, and we can talk.”
Lanie winced as Doug’s arm tightened around her neck.
“Doug!” Becca skidded into the room, coming to a stop behind the police officer.
“Mom, get out of here!” Doug yelled. “Get out! You don’t need to be here!”
“Doug, let Lanie go and come to me,” Becca said.
“Get out of here!” he screamed.
“I’m not leaving. I won’t leave you Doug, I won’t ever leave you, I…”
Doug’s grip around Lanie’s neck loosened slightly. “Mom?” he whispered. “Mommy?”
“Doug?” Becca answered, reaching out a hand to her son.
“I love you,” he replied.
In the second it took Lanie to realize the barrel of the gun was no longer against her temple, Doug had pulled it away and raised it to his own head. Maintaining the grip on Lanie, he took a few steps backwards, sliding his arm down towards Lanie’s hip, and pulled the trigger.
As Lanie crumpled to the ground, no longer supported by weight of Doug’s arm, the rapport of the gun echoed above her head. She covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the sound, lifting her head slowly and looking over her shoulder. The only thing that stared back at her were Doug’s sightless eyes. With a shudder, Lanie began to scream, and she felt like she might never stop.
I stood up from the student I was bandaging and surveyed the situation in the lot. I was dimly aware of the man coming up to my elbow, but I only turned to face him when he spoke my name. “Dr. Bradley?”
“Yes,” I answered, throwing the contents of my trauma bag back together and swinging it over my shoulder.
“I need you to come with me please.” At my questioning glance, he added, “It’s your daughter.”
We walked through the strangely empty hallways of the school, making several turns before the police officer opened a door and stepped inside.
Lanie was folded into the corner of the empty classrooms. I knelt down in front of her. “Lanie?”
She gave no indication that she heard me; her eyes were fixed on something off in the distance.
“She hasn’t spoken,” the police officer said. “We tried to check her and see if she was hurt, but she wouldn’t let us do that either.”
I frowned, pulling a clean towel out of my bag and dumping a small amount of bottled water onto it. “How did you know…”
“To get you? Your friend told us. Becca Watkins?”
I took one of my daughter’s hands into my lap, gently wiping the blood off. Still, she gave no reaction or signs that she I was there. “Where’s Becca?”
“She in another room,” was the only answer I got.
“It’s safe in here…right?”
He nodded. “It’s safe. We wouldn’t have let you in here if it wasn’t.”
“This isn’t…her blood.”
“No. She was hugging her friend when we pulled her away.”
I was dimly aware that if it was safe, something must have happened to Doug. Kneeling down, I continued to sponge off my daughter as the police man radioed out for a gurney. Paramedics wheeled it in within a couple of minutes, and Lanie hung limply as we boosted her up and strapped her in. Covering her with a blanket, I ran along next to the gurney as the paramedics took her back to the ambulance. “I want to ride along. I’m her mother.”
The paramedic nodded, letting me in as he slammed the door shut behind me.
Becca sat down in the chair that the officer pulled out for her, trying to make sense of the roaring inside her head.
“I’m sorry that you had to see that.”
She could hear the unspoken words that the officer hesitated to say. There’s a reason why we told you to wait outside—either we were going to kill your son, or… “He’s dead, isn’t he?” He has to be. After that…there can’t be anything left.
The officer nodded slowly. “Mrs. Watkins, do you…”
“I had no idea,” she interrupted. “I had absolutely no idea. I didn’t know my son at all.”
“Where did he get the guns?”
“I…I don’t…” Becca stammered. “My husband, Gabriel, he’s a hunter. Sometimes he hunts, I mean…but we never…There’s a lock on his gun cabinet, and the ammo is locked away in a separate drawer, I don’t…”
“Do you have any idea why he’d want to do this?”
Becca shook her head, trying to clear the fog that was filling up her brain. “I don’t…I…Like I said…I didn’t know my son at all…I didn’t know him at all, I…” She tried to stand up, but her legs wouldn’t support her anymore, and she crashed down to the floor.