Brother’s Debt

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   “Wake up Keri,” Julie said, shaking her friend who was currently stripping away her desk’s varnish with her drool. This was the normal scene for the longtime friends at the end of most school days. One teacher or another, that day’s being Mr. Befgee their English teacher, started droning on and Keri soon face-planted into unconsciousness and her desk. Julie liked to pretend that Keri never got caught dozing off because she always had a book standing up on her desk, but really most of the teachers just didn’t care. “Come on, I wanna go home.”

“Stop picking on me poof head,” Keri mumbled as she started to come to. Then, once her eyes were actually open, “Julie? Where’d poof head go?”

“Not only is Colin not in this class but you know he doesn’t like it when you call him poof head,” Julie said before starting to pack Keri’s backpack for her. How she got stuck with that job every day was beyond her, but at least it got them out of school faster.

“Is class over?”

“It’s been over for ten minutes.” Julie grunted as she shoved Keri’s last book into the backpack and forced the zipper closed. “Now let’s go, if you’d been away you’d know we have homework and I’d really like to not be up all night doing it.”

“Fine, fine,” Keri sighed. It wasn’t that she had any real desire to stay at school, but she’d been sleeping so soundly that she just couldn’t think about going anywhere.

 

“I’m amazed you haven’t failed all your classes,” Julie said as they walked south down Main Street. There were faster ways home but they rarely deviated from their usual route unless the weather turned bad.

“It’s not like I sleep in all my classes,” Keri said, it was her part in the conversation they repeated at least every other week.

Julie scoffed. “Please, of all the classes we have together the only ones you don’t sleep in are homeroom and Comp. Art.”

“That’s because poof head’s always bothering me in those.”

“Only because you always start something with him.”

Keri puffed out her cheeks and crossed her arms. Julie didn’t have the heart to tell her that her ‘upset look’ made her look like a squirrel.

Less than a block from the corner they always took the voice called out from behind them, “Hey little Miss!”

Keri and Julie turned around and neither was pleased about who was approaching them. Keri’s cheeks didn’t stay puffed out, but arms remained crossed as Julie slid slightly behind her. “Well if it isn’t the Raptors. To what do we owe the unpleasant sight?”

“Your bother,” Falco, the current head goon of the Raptors said with a smirk. It seemed to be some rule that only the acting leader of the Raptors could talk to their intended shake downs, Corozon had been the only one dish out the threats when he was around, at least until he had caused himself to not be around anymore. “He borrowed some money from us to feed his technophilia.”

“So?” Keri asked, her apathy in utter contrast to Julie’s increasing terror.

“You just tell him to pay us back quick,” Falco said before his and all the other Raptors’ eyes started wondering everywhere but Keri and Julie’s faces. “Or else we might do something the two of you might regret.”

“Didn’t your old boss set himself on fire?” Keri asked, her blank look unwavering in the face of the Raptors’ deviancy. Cazador Raptor hadn’t set himself on fire, but that was close enough to the truth for it to be how everyone in Reverie remembered it happening.

Each of the Raptors’ eyes widened. Rooster, the piercing-riddled tall one with the orange Mohawk actually pulled in his tongue as his mouth dropped. Keri had always assumed from the straight jacket he wore that he couldn’t have understood insults. Pen, the hunched bald one actually took a step back as his eyes flitted between Keri and Falco. And Pidge, the shortest member of gang, actually let the cartoonish-evil smile he usually held fall away. Only the member in the bank that Keri didn’t recognize, his face hidden in the shadow of his hoodie, seemed unphased by Keri’s insult.

“Shut up you little bitch!” Falco’s eyes practically glowed yellow with rage as he grabbed Keri’s collar. Still she didn’t waver. “Cazador may not be with us anymore, but we’ll always be Raptors!”

“How noble,” Keri said, unimpressed, before swiping away Falco’s hand with her own. I’ll tell him, but next time try a phone. They’re handy for chatting and threatening.”

“Don’t be a smart ass girl. That hole only has one use as far as I’m concerned.”

Mumbling to himself, Falco turned around and started back the way he’d come, the other Raptors following behind. Except for one, the new member in the hoodie. Neither Keri nor Julie could see his face clearly, but as he looked back at them they could tell he was smiling. Almost he had just watched an enjoyable show.

“Need something else?” Keri asked, but the last Raptor only turned around and followed the others in reply.

Not until the gang disappeared from sight did Julie dare speak. “Are you trying to get us killed!”

Keri, still tired an apathetic to the world, blew a bang that had fallen away from her eyes before replying. “Why would they kill us?”

“Because of the way you talk to them! They may be idiots but they still have guns and even idiots know how to use those!”

“They won’t kill us,” Keri said, giving Julie a sliver of hope before then skewering it. “They’d just kidnap and rape us.”

Julie’s mouth dropped as she tried to wrap her head around not only what she’d just been told, but the way Keri and told her. As she attempted to stutter through her shock Keri grabbed her wrist and started pulling. “Let’s go, I think we have homework.”

 

“You borrowed money from those idiots!” Keri yelled as she threw whatever she could at her technophile older brother. Her façade of calmness and apathy had disappeared the moment she had gotten Julie home.

“There was a new graphics card out and I just got fired–”

“So you have no way to pay them back!” Keri cut her brother’s half-assed explanation off before throwing the next closest thing she could find, which happened to be the book she had fallen asleep behind earlier.

“I’ll have the money by next week. They won’t do anything till then so don’t be so pissy.”

“I’ll show you pissy!” Keri yelled, then slammed the door to his room and hers. For the rest of the night she was busy getting ready for the next time she would see the Raptors, and that didn’t include much homework.

 

“Wake up Klutz,” Colin said before Keri could actually doze off in homeroom.

“Don’t bother me poof head.” Despite it being her who had originally started their little game, she was in no mood for it that morning. “And I’m not a klutz.”

“Keri,” Colin said, practically sighing, “you have a regular tendency to get stuck in trees and trip over yourself. You are the definition of a klutz.”

“Oh yeah, well your hair is poofy…you poof head.” It wasn’t one of her better comebacks.

Colin rolled his eyes. “It’s not poofy, it’s spiked.”

Poofy was probably a better word for Colin’s hair than spiked, though most would understand why he didn’t call it that. Keri just assumed he had decided to be live like a cartoon character at some point, with an unchanging wardrobe of a dark hoodie and cargo pants, and his hair a failed experiment to copy some anime.

“Can’t you bother Lisah instead?” Keri nearly pleaded. “She likes it more than I do.”

“Oh no,” Lisah cut in from her desk behind Colin’s. “If I don’t let the morning ritual go like it’s supposed to who knows what could happen.” No one knew how the town weirdo had lucked out with such a beauty, or how he had kept her after actually becoming the town weirdo, but even Keri knew the poof head was a luck s.o.b.

“You heard her,” Colin said with a grin. “So, no dozing.”

After homeroom, the day went along the way it usually did. Keri got bored with five of her sixth other period and as the day went on she missed progressively more of each period to sleep. The teachers all droned on like white noise machines that did anything but help her exhaustion. The only period without it was lunch, where the teachers who had to monitor the cafeteria didn’t try and teach her anything, and was by far her favorite period.

 

“Are you sure we should be walking home along?” Julie asked Keri as they approached the corner. “I’m sure Colin, Derreck, or someone else would have come with us if we asked.”

“And what would they do for us, exactly?” The little bit of sleep Keri had been able to get during school hadn’t been nearly enough to put her in a good mood.

“Dissuade someone from kidnapping us?”

“Derreck only knows how to hit pucks, and I’d rather not have to ask poof head for help.”

“What about Kyle, Alex, or Chris?” Julie was evidently willing to throw out any name that came to mind.

“Gamer, artist, and…Chris.”

Julie sighed. “You have a bad habit of not trusting people.”

“Being threatened will do that to a girl.”

 

Three days passed without incident for Keri and Julie, though there was little else that could be called good news around Reverie. Two of their classmates, Sheila and Ashley had both been attacked in the night. Sheila was so traumatized that she had locked herself in her room and Ashley had had fallen into a coma after being strangled. But as sad and terrifying as it was, Keri and Julie had barely any time to worry about them as the threat of the Raptors could come at any moment.

And then on the fourth day, as Keri and Julie walked home on a surprisingly empty street, it happened. Instead of calling out to them from behind, the Raptors were waiting at the corner for them.

“Your brother hasn’t paid up yet,” Falco said, strutting up to them and placing a hand on their shoulders. His eyes seemed yellow, probably from some drug he’d done to get psyched up for this. “So you two will be spending some time with us until he feels like cooperating.”

“That is quite an offer,” Keri said with a dismissive glance at his hand on her shoulder. “But no, just no.”

Falco’s perverted grin turned sour. He looked back at the other Raptors and they all burst out laughing, except for the one in the hoodie. That one just stared as the others laughed and Falco reached into his coat. A dead-eyed stare just like Keri gave as she slid off her backpack and reached into the outer pocket. With a click the laughing stopped, and a gun was thrust into Keri’s face.

“Unfortunately,” Falco said with a smile, “You don’t have much of a say in the matter.”

A bang echoed across the empty street and Falco’s gun was sent flying. Keri blew away the smoke coming out of her own guns muzzle as his hit the ground. “Or maybe I do.”

Falco was shocked. The Raptors were shocked. Julie was shocked. The only one not taken aback was Keri and she wasn’t going to wait for that to change. Whipping her backpack up, she flung it into Falco’s face. It hit him hard enough to send him stumbling into Rooster, Pen, and Pidge as Keri grabbed Julie’s wrist and took off. They ran back the way they came, but they couldn’t go back towards the school, there was too much open ground. So Keri took the first left, hoping for some people, but that street was just as empty as Main had been. It wasn’t empty of cars though.

They ducked behind the closest car right before the sound of more bullets being fired filled their ears. The car they ducked behind was filled too, with holes.

“Where did you get a gun!” Julie demanded as bullets continued to ricochet above their heads. Keri thought there were other thing Julie could have had her priorities on at that moment.

“I found it when my family drove up to New York.” Keri left out the part about it being in a trash can.

“And you kept it!”

Keri looked at her semi-secret prized possession and said under her breath, “I thought it was pretty.”

The sound of bullets stopped and they could hear some vague cursing about reloading, in that moment Keri started running and dragging Julie along again. “Come on! We just have to get to a crowded street!”

They ran along the curve of the street, but there were still no people. Somehow Reverie had become a ghost town, bathed in silence. And then the silken broke, and it was as if they were surrounded by thousands of cheering and shouting people. But no matter where they looked there were no other people to be seen.

“Touchdown!” erupted from a loudspeaker at the entrance to the stadium parking lot. “That puts the Reverie Razorshells in the lead. What a great game on a great game, it looks like the entire town is in the stands today.”

“Damnit!” Keri shouted to no one as she kept running. That’s why no one was out, that’s why the Raptors had decided to come that afternoon, because despite every team in Reverie being the bottom of their division the whole town still crammed into the stadiums anytime there was a home game. So of all things, football may have doomed Keri and Julie.

A bullet struck right besides Keri’s foot as they reached the alley across from eternally closes “Stuff-N-Things” junk shop. The police tape was still hanging from when Ashley had been found, but it was the best place they had to hide at the moment.

“In here,” Keri said, pushing Julie in as another bullet hit the brick just above her head. Keri started in after Julie but at that moment another bullet managed to hit something. In a shot they never would have been able to make if they were trying, one of the Raptors’ hit Keri’s gun just as she had Falco’s sending it flying into the air, bouncing in the street, then clattering to a stop on the opposite sidewalk.

“I’ve gotta get it!” Keri said, not noticing the bullets still bouncing around them in light of her favorite toy and only means of defense being knocked away. Julie grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the alley before the next shot would have torn her shoulder apart. No matter how far back into the alley Julie pulled her, Keri’s kept reaching for the gun.

“What are we gonna do Keri?” Julie asked as they huddled behind some trashcans.

Keri looked around the alley. Besides the trashcans there was only a cracked mirror and the police tape they had partially knocked down as they ran in, not much to work with. She tried to not even think about the stains on the ground or the chalk outline of where the police had found Ashley. “I don’t know…”

“But Keri–”

“I don’t know Julie! I thought they’d leave us alone if I had the gun, okay?”

The bullets had stopped, Keri didn’t know when but probably around the time they had ducked into the alley. For a moment there was silence, then footsteps, and then whistling. It was a dark and haunting tune that weighed on Keri’s heart, as if slowing it. The longer it went on and the closer it got the more terrible things got. The trashcans grew flimsier besides them, the stains they would soon be shoved into grew deeper and wider, the cracks on the discarded mirror seemed to be cackling, and the chalk outline seemed to beckoning them to join it.

A head popped around the corner and the whistling stopped.

“Hello, ladies,” the Raptor in the hoodie said, his face still hidden in shadow but his yellow eyes and smile widely beaming at them. He slowly wobbled into the alley, as if drunk on the moment, and raised his claw-like hands out towards his prey. “Two more lights to be extinguished, to less lights to shine besides him.”

The shadow of his hands fell over their throats. “The council will fall, you will fall, and only his radiance will remain.”

“I think you dropped this,” came from behind the Raptor in the hoodie. The next moment the Raptor grunted in pain as something struck his head, bounced off it, and landed between him and Keri. The Raptor looked back as Keri looked down, mystified at what had found its way back to her. She dove for her gun and grabbed it as the Raptor noticed what she was doing, but it was too late to stop her. From the ground she aimed up and fired.

The Raptor’s mouth grew in size and an inhuman roar filled the alley. A gaping hole in his palm freely bled as he reeled in pain and staggered backwards. Blood splattered across his entire right sleeve and began to pool on the ground by his foot. The roar became a growl as Keri pushed herself up.

“Grrrrrl, I will–”

“Be full of more hole if you don’t leave us alone right now!” Keri demanded, her gun arm unwavering.

The Raptor continued to growl as he backed up, only pausing as the other Raptors finally made their way to the alley entrance. The hole in their comrade’s hand was too much for them though, and Falco completely overlooked the police tape. His foot became tangled in it as he tried to figure out whether to do something about the girls or the Raptor in the hoodie. The next step sent him sprawling back into Pen, Rooster, and Pidge. The Raptor in the hoodie growled again as they tumbled over one another then to the ground.

The Raptor in the hoodie glared at them, his bleeding hand, and finally Keri. “This isn’t over…I will ensure the council does not come to be.” His shadow fell over the fallen and groaning others before heading back in the way they’d come from, his fellow Raptors somehow dragged along in his wake.

Keri inched up to the alley entrance, never lowering her gun until she reached sidewalk. Julie soon joined her and together looked up and down the street. Once again it was empty, as if the Raptors had never even been there.

“Where’d they go?” Julie asked, wary of the Raptors’ disappearance.

“Uhm, somewhere else?” The sound of footsteps kept Keri from making any more brilliant insights. More footsteps than the Raptors could have made, it was a crowd, a big one.

“Go Razorshells!” the fan at the head of the crowd yelled as the stadium’s worth of people made their way up the street. Evidently the home team had won and allowed the citizens of Reverie to return to the town.

“Good,” Keri said as she flipped the safety back on. “We’ll mix in with the crowd and be home free.”

“Are you sure?” Because Julie obviously wasn’t.

“Sure I’m sure,” Keri said, sliding the gun into her friend’s backpack then pushing her by the shoulders. “Now let’s go.”

Keri and Julie mixed in to the crowd with ease, and stayed with it for as long as they could. The sun was beginning to set by the time they got home, but there was no sign of the Raptors the whole way. Not because they took the one in the hoodie to the hospital or they were afraid the girls would do something else, no, the Raptors would leave them alone because less than an hour after Keri fired her first shot they lost their excuse. With an advance from his new job in hand, Keri’s brother walked into the Raptor’s ‘office’ and paid back his loan. He would expect major kudos when he got home, he would not get them.