The music in the car was loud but they were silent. Mark liked the noise and he liked the silence. He was pumped but focused. He was ready to rage. Mark pulled over and looked at his best friend.
“You ready?” Kevin said.
“Let’s kill those fuckers dead.”
They fist bumped.
Mark wasn’t nervous, just excited. If he was alone he might be nervous. If he was alone he might not be doing this at all. But he wasn’t alone and he wasn’t nervous doing it with Kevin.
“Live together, die together,” Mark said.
“Live together, die together,” Kevin repeated.
It was their motto. Mark even had it inked on his shoulder. Kevin, only seventeen, had to wait for the ink. Not that it would happen now. They were doing something that would bind them together far more closely than any arm calligraphy.
“Kill together too,” Mark said.
“Fucking A,” Kevin said. “You know it. You damn well know it.”
They were parked in the driveway where no one lived since the Great Recession spit a lot of people out of their homes. Mark and Kevin stepped out of the car and then to the trunk. Mark opened it. So weird to be driving his mother’s car to do this. He tried not to think about his mother. It was difficult when he thought about her. Mark and Kevin withdrew their trench coats and put them on. Mark’s was a little tight. He’d bought it at Goodwill. Only one they had left. $18 and stained on the lapel, but it did the trick. As Kevin said at the time: they weren’t making a fashion statement.
Inside the house was music. Nice, polite music. Rich people music. Prince. Madonna. Old shit that pretended to be bad ass. Or maybe it was once, but now it was so lame. 1985 lame.
“You hear that shit?” Kevin said.
“I hear it,” Mark said. “We’ll give them some real noise.”
He picked up his rifle, looked down the sights.
“You still want first shot?”
Mark smiled. “I’ll put one right in her head.”
Mark meant Kelly Swindel, richest and prettiest girl at Jefferson. Cheerleader, band, tennis star, Valedictorian. She’d be prom queen too. Except she wasn’t going to live. Neither would her stuck-up friends or family. Mark and Kevin would take them out, then split for the mall and shoot everyone in sight, all those losers who thought they were so high and mighty. That was the plan and it was good. None of that Columbine crap, with only 13 dead and a few wounded. Mark and Kevin were ready to do hundreds. They’d stockpiled weapons and ammo, Mark working double-time all summer to purchase the swag. They’d plotted the schedule and escape routes. It was all written down by Mark. It was all explained in the manifesto that Kevin typed and Mark signed.
Eventually, sure, the police would corner them, and then they’d go down shooting. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. If you wanted to go old school, you needed to go something like that. Bad ass.
“How many times have I got to tell you?” Kevin said. “Don’t shoot Kelly first.”
“We want her to see her family slaughtered.”
“Yeah,” Mark said, thinking it over. He was a little annoyed. Mark was older, but Kevin ran everything. It got to him sometimes. Still, he figured Kevin was right. “Let her see her family bleed.”
“That’s what I’m saying. Remember: you don’t shoot Kelly at all. Don’t even point the rifle her way. Leave her to me. That’s my prize. Understand?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I just feel bad for my mom.”
Kevin’s shoulders slumped. “You want to chicken out? You want to go full limp dick?”
“I ain’t chickening nothing,” Mark said. “I’m just saying. Too bad about Mom. I mean, fuck Dad, you know. But my mom is cool.”
“Maybe I should take the first shot. If you’re not up to it.”
Mark felt hurt. “I got it.”
“You sure? We can’t go in there half-assed. I need to know if you’re sure.”
“Yeah. I said I got it, and I got it. I’m good. I’ve always been good, right? Well, right?
“Yeah, I guess,” Kevin said.
“Live together, die together,” Mark said, hoping it would lighten the mood. They’d be dead in a few hours. No point in going out grumpy. “By the way, what’s with the pea shooter?”
Kevin looked down at his holstered pistol. He shrugged. No pistol was ever mentioned in the plans. “In case we need an early exit.”
Mark thought it over. “Makes sense. Live together, die together. Right?”
“Let’s keep quiet until we get inside.”
They walked across the lawn as cool as can be. Mark felt like this was what he was made for. To be here with his best and only friend. Gone the fact he was left back twice. Gone the fact he was a twenty-year-old senior with no future except maybe a fast food job. He was about to show the world that you couldn’t screw with Mark Mallory. Tonight their names would be on the news. They were going to set records, and set the record straight. Mark and Kevin. Live together, die together.
It was early but not too early. The door was open and people were still arriving. The party raged on inside the house and in the backyard. Mark moved into the room. He was responsible for the outside, Kevin would handle the inside. A few stared, but nobody said anything. They were people who never had anything bad happen to them, and Mark was looking forward to ruining their evening.
No, their lives.
He walked right by Kelly Swindel, talking to friends. Bitches. They never gave him a second
look at Jefferson, but they were going to look twice now. Once when he pointed, once when he shot. At least they’d look until he splattered their brains. He really wanted to do Kelly first, but Kevin was right. Better she stick around to see the carnage.
He knew the drill. They’d rehearsed it forever. They’d drawn up diagrams on his computer. When he found his designated spot, he took a deep breath. Then he turned and said the words he’d been practicing weeks.
“Time to die!”
Mark flipped open his trench coat and let them see his steel. A few screams, but mostly people were confused. Someone took a step toward him, but when he saw the rifle he stepped back. Another guy bolted for the door. Mark aimed right for Belinda Harmon, one of Kelly’s friends, and pulled the trigger.
The gun had jammed or something.
He tried pulling the trigger again. Nothing.
Something was terribly wrong. It wasn’t jammed, just not firing. Like the rifle had been sabotaged.
Silence overtook the screams. People who’d been diving for cover a moment ago were now staring at him.
He scanned the crowd.
Why wasn’t Kevin blowing people away?
He looked for him through the bodies and finally got an angle. He was there. But instead of his rifle he was holding the pistol. It was pointed in Mark‘s direction. There was a strange look on Kevin’s face.
And then it made sense. It came to him in a flash of understanding, as if somewhere—who knew where?—he had known all along, known and didn’t want to believe.
Mark saw it so clearly. He’d been set up. Kevin, his best friend. He’d coaxed him into this. He said they’d take out the scumbags. He had Mark score all the weapons, write down those maps, those designs, the plot to kill scores of people. There were the diagrams on his computers, the note to his mother on his cell. Kevin had him sign—a manifesto from the both of them— that note that was typed, not handwritten. Had Mark read it? No. Why would he bother? They were best friends.
Then Kevin sabotaged his rifle.
He’d tell the police he’d tried to stop Mark. Begged him. He was hoping his friend would change his mind, and then—only at the last moment—when all hope was lost, when Kevin pulled his rifle on those innocent people, he knew he had to act. He had to kill Mark to stop him.
It was so clear now. How could he be so blind? How many years had Kevin been in love with Kelly? Since third grade, at least-- well before Mark moved into the neighborhood. And yet he never stood a chance with her. He’d always been a zero, a nonentity. Now he would be a hero. Her hero.
Now he knew why Kevin hadn’t wanted him to shoot at Kelly. If for whatever reason something went wrong. If Mark insisted on carrying another gun. If Mark loaded the rifle himself. If who knows what.
Yes, it was all clear. But how could this happen? Kevin was his best friend. And what about their motto?
As the bullet sped toward him, he thought, “Live together, die—”