I thought about Father Sebastian’s advice as I left Father Vincent’s office. He was right; it was a good idea to make the most out of whatever time I had before my punishment was official. It was hard to say what Father Vincent and the Sisters would come up with, but I was certain they’d want to keep Meryl and I separated. Until then, we were free to hang out together. I just needed to find her first.
I quickly made my way down the hall and stopped in front of the double doors that led into the common room. I glanced around to make sure no one else was nearby and then cracked one of the doors open just enough to peer out into the room. I had to be careful; if one of the Sisters spotted me, my freedom would be short lived.
Directly to my left, watching Saturday morning cartoons and sprawled out on the two stiff, blue couches, were Mike and Brian. Behind them were April and Trisha, who sat at a small table giggling to each other and painting their nails.
As I took in the rest of the room, I breathed a sigh of relief. The large table on the opposite side, which was usually used for board games, was empty. Nobody was at the piano, either. I didn’t know where the Sisters were, but all that mattered was that they weren’t in there, waiting to bust me.
Since the area was safe, I pushed the door open and quickly walked toward the front door. I could feel Trisha and April stare at me as I moved, but I did my best to ignore it.
When I finally got outside, I didn’t slow down. Instead, I quickly followed the sidewalk to the concrete patio around the side of the building. There were a handful of wicker chairs and small tables on it, but only two kids. Both sat in the sunlight, at separate tables, reading. On the far side was Scott, a ten or eleven year old boy. Closer to me was Katie, Meryl’s roommate. Meryl herself was nowhere to be seen, which wasn’t a surprise. As disappointing as it was, I knew she was likely up in her room or in Sister Martha’s office getting an earful.
I thought about trying to sneak upstairs to find her, but quickly decided against it. The last thing I wanted to do was get us both into more trouble. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t have to prowl around looking for her. I could just ask Katie. I wasn’t sure how much she knew about the situation, but I didn’t think it mattered. She was too quiet and mild mannered to say anything.
“Hey Katie,” I said as I stepped toward her.
She looked up from her book and forced a smile as the morning sun reflected from her glasses. “Hi.”
“Sorry to bother you. I just wanted to know if you’ve seen Meryl this morning. Is she up in your room?”
Katie shook her head and glanced back down at her book. “I—sorry.”
That wasn’t the kind of response I had expected. Even if Meryl and I were in trouble, there was no reason for Katie to have a problem with us. It wasn’t like she was going to be punished for talking to me. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
She couldn’t keep from blushing. “I-it’s really none of my business.”
“I take it you heard about last night?”
“I guess things really do get around here fast. Nothing happened between us. I had a nightmare and needed someone to talk to, but then we fell asleep. It’s just a big misunderstanding.”
“Whatever happened between you two isn’t any of my business,” she said again.
“Did one of the Sisters already grab Meryl?”
She reluctantly closed her book and looked at me. “No. She came back to our room and got changed. I didn’t tell anyone she was gone, so the Sisters weren’t looking for her. They probably are now, though, since Griffin told everybody he saw her come out of your room this morning.”
I could feel my neck stiffen as I tried to keep the anger off my face. Griffin, that muscle-bound prick. I should have known he’d be the one to stir up trouble. “Where is she, Katie?”
Katie sighed and looked away. “I don’t want to cause any trouble between you two.”
A bad feeling began to form in the pit of my stomach. That didn’t sound good. Had Meryl taken off? “You won’t. Just tell me where she is. Is everything OK?”
“Will you promise not to tell her I told you?”
“She went into the woods with Griffin, Zach, and Jay. I don’t—”
“Go get Father Sebastian,” I said as I immediately turned away and dread shot through my veins.
“Wait, what are you going to do, Drake?”
“Meryl wouldn’t have gone anywhere with them willingly.” Without wasting another second, I began to run toward the woods that bordered Saint Helens. Before I got too far, I turned back around and shouted to her one more time, “Just go get Father Sebastian. He’s in Father Vincent’s office.”
Anger and fear swirled around inside of me, vying for dominance. Griffin had been in trouble more than once for trying to touch Meryl and asking her to do outrageous things to him. I wanted to beat him within an inch of his life every time, but Father Sebastian always stopped me. He promised he’d take care of it. If Meryl was in danger, though, he obviously hadn’t done enough.
By the time I made it into the woods, I was frantic. My eyes darted all over as I tried to figure out where they had entered from, but it was useless. The woods were huge, which meant Meryl could be anywhere. I didn’t have time to think about it. I had to find her. I had to save her. I had to.
“Meryl!” I shouted as I plowed straight ahead, through dying undergrowth. Almost immediately I had to push a tree branch out of my face, but I didn’t let it slow me down. “Meryl, where are you?”
I had no idea how much of a head start they had on me. For that matter, I didn’t know which direction they’d headed, either. Even so, I was going to find her. “Griffin, hurt her and you’re dead,” I called out, hoping for some kind of response.
There was only silence.
Meryl hated Griffin. How he and his cronies had gotten her into the woods was beyond me. I shook my head. It didn’t matter, at least not yet. I needed to focus on finding them. Once I knew Meryl was safe, I could handle everything else.
“Meryl!” I shouted again, desperately hoping to hear something, anything, so that I’d know if I was headed in the right direction. I wished Father Sebastian was with me. If both of us were searching, they wouldn’t be able to hide for long.
“No, stop,” a girl’s voice faintly cried out. It was Meryl’s. I sped up. “Somebody, he—” her voice was suddenly cut off.
As much as I wanted to call out and let her know I was coming, I grit my teeth and remained silent. The thought of letting her sit there, terrified, gnawed at my insides. If Griffin knew I was close, though, he would try harder to keep her quiet. Her voice had given me their general direction, but I needed to follow it a little longer to have any hope of finding her.
“No,” she yelled a few seconds later. “Anyone or anything that’s out there, help me! Destroy this— don’t touch me you son of a bitch!”
“Shut up,” Griffin said. His voice was hard to make out, but I strained to listen to it anyway. “Stupid bitch, you already gave it to Drake. I just want a little taste.”
My blood boiled and rage rushed through my body. I reached for the knives I normally kept in my waistband, but they weren’t there. I could have kicked myself. I’d removed them before bed and hadn’t thought to replace them.
“May your flesh rot and be devoured by maggots,” Meryl shouted. She was much louder, which meant I was getting closer. Still, I wasn’t moving fast enough. It sounded like she was fighting back tears. I couldn’t let them hurt her another second.
“You’re so weird. You’d be a lot hotter if you kept your mouth shut. We just want to look. That shouldn’t bother a whore like you.”
“Burn in Hell,” Meryl said.
I could feel my face twist in fury as I pushed myself as hard as I could. Weeds and branches scratched my skin and tugged at my clothes, but I hardly noticed. All that mattered was Meryl. I had to find her.
No sooner did that thought enter into my mind than I burst through a tangled web of tree branches and into a small clearing. Just ahead at the opposite end was Meryl. She was on the ground, blindly trying to scratch at Griffin and push him away. For a second, I wasn’t sure what he was doing; he was on his knees and bent over her. Then I realized it. Her white shirt had been taken off and thrown into a bush. He was struggling to get her bra clasp undone.
I ran toward Meryl and Griffin as fast as I could. Without noticing me, she stopped struggling against Griffin and ripped her black tourmaline necklace free. Then, not missing a beat, she threw it in his face and spit at him. As she did, another movement by her legs broke my tunnel vision and I saw Griffin’s two friends.
Jay, who was scrawny and a year younger than Griffin and I, fought against Meryl’s thrashing legs to take her pants off. They were unzipped, but that was as far as he had gotten. Zach, the youngest at fifteen, stood a few feet away, watching wide-eyed and horror stricken as he held Toast by the scruff of her neck.
Whether or not Zach felt bad, I didn’t care. All I could see was murder. I was going to kill all three of them.
“Let her go,” I demanded as I plowed forward at full speed.
Griffin gave up on her bra and got to his feet. “Here comes your boyfriend to save the day,” he said as he turned and glared at me. “There’s three of us. What do you think you’re going to do?”
I stared at his greasy, square face and didn’t slow. “Kill you.”
He laughed and raised his fists as he stepped past Meryl. “Whatever, you p—” I didn’t give him a chance to finish. Instead, I darted around him and slammed my elbow into his jaw hard enough to knock him to the ground.
Jay absent-mindedly let go of Meryl’s legs and stared at me slack jawed. His acne-covered face and beady eyes made me sick to my stomach, especially given what he had tried to do to Meryl. Before his mind could process what was happening, I kicked him in the teeth and sent him sprawling.
“Go,” I said to Meryl as I ran toward Zach. The husky boy shook as he slowly took a step backwards and held Toast out in front of him like a shield. “Get your clothes and find Father Sebastian.”
Zach threw Toast at me and turned around to run as I closed in on him. The cat embedded her claws into my arm as I caught her, but I didn’t flinch. Instead, I lowered her to the ground without slowing and let her go.
“Thank you,” Meryl said as she ran for her shirt. Toast followed suit and took off, too, straight for Saint Helens.
I nodded, but didn’t turn around to look at her. The least she deserved was the chance to dress in private.
As I grabbed Zach, he flinched. “Wait, I—”
I didn’t give him the chance to finish. Instead, I spun him around and punched him in the face. He grunted and fell backwards, grabbing his bloody lip as he hit the ground.
I heard the sound of Griffin’s hurried footsteps as he rushed up behind me. Without hesitating, I spun around and stepped to the side. As I did, I swept Griffin’s legs out from under him and sent him tumbling down onto Zach.
“You stupid asshole,” he shouted as he pushed himself off of Zach and tried to stand. At the same time, I noticed Jay slowly get to his feet, too, and wipe the blood from his mouth.
Griffin glared at Zach’s quivering form and brushed himself off. “Get up.”
“Yeah, I’m not done with you yet,” I said.
Griffin’s nostrils flared and his face turned an even deeper shade of red. “This is going to be fun. You can’t surprise us now. We’re going to kick the shit out of you.”
“Wrong. You’re going to die,” I said as I moved toward him.
Jay tried to take advantage of my focus on Griffin and attacked from the side. As he punched, I pivoted out of the way and grabbed his wrist. At the same time, I kicked him in the gut and then twisted his arm back. Before I could break it, Jay fell backwards and slammed into the ground. Then, just for good measure, I kicked him in the nose.
As much as I wanted to keep working on Jay, I couldn’t. Griffin and Zach were too close, so I turned back to face them. Jay didn’t move. Instead, he just lay on the ground, moaning and clutching his face.
Griffin was on me in a second. I dodged his meaty right hook and stepped into him as he tried to get me with his left. As he did, I slammed my knee into his balls. Hard. He went down, only a moan of pain escaping his lips. “Cocksucker,” he squeaked as he clutched his manhood, no doubt struggling against tears and rising vomit. I was going to take my time with him, but first I needed Zach out of the way.
Zach looked at me, terrified, and put his hands up in surrender. “Look, I didn’t even want—”
I lunged forward and punched him in the face. He let out a squeal and tried to grab his eye, but I swept his legs out from under him and sent him sprawling forward. “Stop,” he begged.
My face twisted in disgust. “Like you stopped for Meryl?”
“I don’t care what you wanted,” I shouted as he tried to push himself up on his hands and knees. I kicked him in the gut and sent him back to the ground. “You’re just as bad as they are.” Another kick, this time to his ribs.
He started to cry. “Please.”
“Begging,” I kicked him in the gut again, “won’t,” and again, “help,” and again, “you,” I finished, finally stomping on his back. “Stay down.”
He didn’t say anything. He just lay there, sobbing like Jay. Pathetic.
Griffin, of course, finally got to his feet and rushed at me like he was some sort of football player. His body was bent and his arms were widespread like he wanted to tackle me. Without even stopping to think about it, I pivoted out of his way and stuck my foot out to trip him. He went down, once again, and kissed the ground.
Before he could try to move, I flipped him around and sat on his chest.
“You mother—” he didn’t get a chance to finish. I punched him in the mouth. Repeatedly. As I did, blood oozed from his lips and smeared across his face.
“I won’t let you hurt her! I won’t let you hurt Meryl,” I shouted as I continued to punch him.
He wheezed and tried to throw me off as his arms flailed to no avail. “Stop.”
“No. I told you I’m going to kill you.”
True terror finally filled his eyes. The look on his face reminded me of Meryl’s as he tried to assault her. Renewed hatred shot through my veins like venom at that thought. I grabbed a large rock that sat beside us and hoisted it up into the air.
Before I could bring it down and cave his head in once and for all, something huge rammed into my side and knocked me face down to the ground. The rock flew out of my hand, but I forgot about it, focusing instead on whoever had just attacked me. I didn’t know how Zach or Jay had gotten up, but I wouldn’t let it happen again.
“Drake,” a voice yelled as I tried to twist my body out from under my attacker’s and blindly hit them with my elbow.
“Drake, stop it!” the voice demanded. I tried to move for another attack, but he pinned me down with far more strength than I imagined any teenage boy would have. I couldn’t move. “Drake, it’s me. It’s Sebastian. Calm down.”
Finally, I stopped thrashing and turned my head enough to look at the hulking figure on my back. “Let me go.”
“Are you done?” he calmly asked, not moving a muscle.
“Are you done?”
“Yes,” I gasped as he increased the pressure on my sides with his legs. He immediately let go and got to his feet. “I was—”
“Enough,” Father Sebastian said, cutting me off.
“Shut up, Drake.”
For a moment, I wasn’t sure what to say. Father Sebastian never talked to me like that. He had the patience of a saint. Silently, I got to my feet beside him.
“What have you done?” he said under his breath as he looked at Griffin, Zach, and Jay. “What have I done?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but he just shook his head. “Do you three need to go to the hospital?”
“I want the police,” Griffin moaned as he tried to wipe the blood from his mouth. “This crazy son of a bitch was going to kill me.”
“That’s fine. We’ll call them as soon as we get back to Saint Helens,” Father Sebastian said.
My body went cold as fear suddenly fought to replace my anger. The police couldn’t know about me. Nobody could. If they did, it would put all of our work in jeopardy. Father Vincent had made that abundantly clear. Everything would be ruined.
“Of course, I doubt Drake attacked you unprovoked. I’m sure all of you have nothing to hide, though. You didn’t do anything you wouldn’t want the police to find out about, did you? Surely you know that if Drake only acted in self-defense, it will be you three in trouble.”
How I loved that man. He always had my back, no matter what.
“I said I—”
“Wait, Griffin,” Jay said as he slowly sat up. “I don’t think we need the police.”
Father Sebastian shook his head. “No, I think Griffin is right. Why don’t we let them decide who was in the wrong? Their punishments will be much harsher than anything we can do here.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. What was he doing? “Fath—”
“Drake,” he said, sharply.
I closed my mouth as anger painted my face red. Why didn’t he just let me kill them? They deserved it. Surely it would be what God wanted me to do, anyway. Didn’t he realize he was about to ruin everything we were trying to do?
Griffin struggled to his feet and glanced over at Zach, who was pale and in the process of sitting up. “No, Jay is right. We’re fine.”
“I don’t know,” Father Sebastian said. “When everyone else hears about this, the Sisters will insist.”
Zach looked at him with fear in his eyes. “We won’t tell anyone. Please.”
Father Sebastian rubbed his chin as he seemed to debate for a moment. “All right. If you boys are sure you’re OK and don’t make a big deal about this little tiff, I guess I can forget about it.”
“What?” I said, indignant. “They—”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Father Sebastian said. “All of you get back to Saint Helens so you can get cleaned up. And try not to let the Sisters see you like this.”
If he let them live, it was just a matter of time until they tried to hurt Meryl, or someone else, again. Maybe the other two wouldn’t on their own, but Griffin would, and he’d convince them to help. No, Griffin didn’t get to walk away.
Without thinking, I bent down and grabbed the large rock I had dropped earlier. As I took a step toward Griffin, Father Sebastian’s beefy body slammed into mine and knocked me to the ground. I struggled against him for a moment, but then everything went black.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed Lost to the Shadows so far! If you have, please consider buying the book!
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