Lytle, Texas – August
The chanting had stopped, and with that, Joey and Jason looked at each other, afraid of what they might face in the seconds ahead. Was she still alive? Yet their resolve had won the battle of the what-ifs earlier that day. It was a rare occasion when Jason considered the well-being of anyone else. His humanity was showing like a big red pimple on a nose, disgusting him. He also felt the need to be there for his best friend Joey. He wasn’t going to allow him to go in and rescue this weird chick all alone. He had to help. Joey would do the same for him.
With their suspicions confirmed the day before they hid in silence behind the aging trash cans in the yard. The stench was enough to make them wince and cover their mouths and noses with the front of their t-shirts. Their breathing had grown shallow and their hearts raced in anticipation. There was no turning back now. Sarah needed rescuing. She had to be freed from the hell she likely faced her entire life. THEY would be her knights in shining armor. At least, Joey thought so. This fair-haired girl had somehow struck a cord in their adolescent minds, though she seemed a bit off when their curiosity got the better of them just three days ago. That was the day they saw the moving truck pass through town and over to the old green house on East Elm. As nice and pretty as Sarah was, nobody wore Little House on the Prairie dresses anymore.
Over the past three days, they met up with her at the end of her driveway, and judging from their conversations, she was an innocent. Instinct told them something wasn’t right about her home situation.
Joey voiced his concern. “I don’t know man, something about the whole thing is just… weird right?”
“Yeah, and why doesn’t she ever leave the driveway? It’s like she’s afraid she’ll turn to ash if she steps past it, like a friggin’ vampire or something,” Jason added.
“Nah, I don’t think she’s a vampire. She’s definitely something though.”
Yet, here they were in the dark searching for answers, waiting behind three garbage cans in her driveway at 9:25 on a warm south Texas night. They heard several voices chanting from inside the old weathered house.
“Dude, what the fuck!?” Jason whispered, looking wide-eyed at Joey.
They both stared back at the screen door and dimly-lit windows of the house. Prior to leaving Jason’s place, they packed flashlights and pocket knives for protection. Joey hoped he wouldn’t need to use his small blue Swiss army knife. Jason on the other hand hoped one of them would try something. He wanted to know what it was like to stab somebody, although inside he was as frightened now as his pudgy sidekick.
The life-long friends lived in the small town of Lytle, Texas, population 2,694. Lytle was a town that thrived due to the oil business. Jason’s dad was a field supervisor for Halliburton. Joey’s dad, on the other hand, worked as an assistant manager for H.E.B., the local grocery store chain. The two families weren’t particularly close; however, they were accommodating to the two best friends.
On a hot Texas Saturday morning in August, Joey rode his bike through Lytle to Jason’s house. Jason lived in a nicer part of Lytle, which was why Joey enjoyed staying there more so than at his own house. Joey pedaled up to Jason’s driveway meeting him outside. Upon his arrival, Jason picked up his bike. The heat made Joey sweat profusely from every crevice, soaking his shirt, prompting Jason to make fun of him, laughing. “You’re sweating like a hog, Joey. You nervous or something?”
“Dude! Sit and spin!” Joey sneered holding up his middle finger to Jason.
Had anyone else done this to Jason, he would’ve instantly rushed in to fight. Joey, however, was his only friend and knew just how hard friends were to come by. If Joey responded to his joking and teasing with the usual middle finger or a “Screw you!” or “Bite me!” it was likely deserved.
“Hey, I saw a moving truck go up to East Elm just before you got here! Let’s go check it out!” Jason pointed to Elm with a tilt of his head.
Joey raised his eyebrows in surprise and responded with, “Yeah! Ok!” With that, the boys mounted their bikes and pedaled as hard as they could up the steep hill leading up to East Elm Street. This street was known as “Dead Man’s Curve” due to the very sharp turn just before ascending up deep into a dark wooded area. Several deaths were credited to the sharp turn over the years but this never kept kids from riding their bikes up the steep, lonely road.
Once they arrived at the top of the hill, they looked to the lot just to the right. The old green house had been vacant for years. Now there were signs of life as a large moving truck sat backed up to the front steps. Just as Jason was about to speak, a girl ran out of the house and over to the boys. She looked to be about their age, twelve or thirteen. She had strong Nordic features with long blonde hair. She wore an old off-white dress that looked like it came from Little House on the Prairie.
She began to wave as she ran towards Jason and Joey. They noticed immediately how pretty she was and raised their eyebrows in shock.
“Hi! Hi there!” she called out.
When she stopped in front of the boys, she extended her hand and introduced herself. “I’m Sarah, Sarah Campbell.”
“Uh… I’m Jason, this is Joey.” Jason shook Sarah’s hand, nearly forgetting how to speak. Joey reached for Sarah’s hand to shake and said, “Hi, Sarah. Nice to meet you.” Sarah smiled, eager to make new friends. It was slightly unnerving for the boys to look into her eyes, almost as if they were looking down into their souls. She didn’t seem like your usual run-of-the-mill Lytle girl. She was very friendly for a pretty girl. The pretty girls at Lytle Jr. High were all stuck up.
“So, where did you move from?” Jason asked in an attempt to break the ice.
Sarah looked at Joey, trying to disguise her fear at his question. “We came from Travis County.”
Joey immediately followed with “Hey, isn’t that where the Texas Chainsaw….”
“Dude! Shut up!!” Jason interrupted before Joey could finish. “Sorry about Joey, he has Tourette’s syndrome,” Jason apologized. Sarah giggled.
“No, I don’t!!” Joey retorted at Jason, embarrassed.
“You two are funny. Hey, would you like to come and meet my folks?” Sarah asked. The boys looked at each other for a moment.
“Nah, that’s ok, maybe some other time,” Jason replied.
Visibly disappointed, Sarah said, “Yeah, maybe another time then.”
“Well, we gotta go Sarah. Maybe we’ll see you around town,” Joey said, trying to be cool.
Sarah’s bright smile dimmed a little and as the boys pedaled toward dead man’s curve, she shouted, “Will you be back tomorrow?”
“Maybe!” Jason shouted back as they rode away.
Lytle consisted of mostly Catholics and Baptists. If you weren’t one or the other, you were looked down upon. Lytle was full of secrets, however. Everyone in town grew up with various ghost stories and tall tales like Ole’ Broken Bones Pete, Fang Baby of old Pearsall Road and the Brecht family, who previously occupied the house Sarah was now living in. Lytle had its fair share of secrets indeed. Sarah was very mysterious. Perhaps she had her own secrets hidden beneath her lovely, naïve surface. Jason and Joey both were intrigued by her. What could she be hiding? After riding back to town the friends both agreed they would go back the next day and try to get a read on her. Sarah was a summer mystery begging to be solved.
The boy’s conversation raced between theories of Sarah’s family being in-breeds who just happen to have a pretty daughter, to her family being cannibals or sideshow freaks.
“Maybe she has a Siamese twin we couldn’t see,” Joey suggested.
“Or maybe they’re cannibals. Maybe she was trying to get us to go inside and then wack!! Dinner time!” Jason brought his right hand down into his left in a hatchet motion.
The boys didn’t attend church on a regular basis, so they met the next day at Jason’s house.
“Mom, we’re going out riding!” Jason shouted at his front door.
“Ok, honey, be careful! Be back at noon in time for lunch! You’re welcome too, Joey!” Mandy shouted back.
Her voice was kind and sincere. He thought about his own mother. Sometimes, she showed a slight maternal instinct. She drank now due to spells of depression.
“Thanks, Mrs. Pruitt!” Joey shouted with a smile on his face.
“I don’t think we have fatso food, Joey.” Jason ruining the moment.
“Shut it, dickweed!!” Joey retorted and punched him in the arm.
As they pedaled through town side by side, Joey thought about his mother and how he wished she would quit drinking. The late night fights while he slept, the slamming of doors, the look on his dad’s face, wanting to give up, doing his best to keep things together. It was enough to make a boy eat his feelings. Why couldn’t Mrs. Pruitt be his mother? Jason’s family was so nice. He swore they were switched at birth.
“Hey, man, sorry about what I said earlier.” Jason interrupted his train of thought.
On occasion, Jason showed some sign of humanity. It gave Joey hope that maybe his buddy wasn’t a total douchebag. Jason waited in silence for a forgiving answer. “Yeah.” Joey said half-heartedly.
East Elm was in full view in front of them. They stood now, pedaling harder and faster for momentum. Joey hated this part but was determined to beat this hill once and for all. He began grunting, making known his determination. “Come on man!” Jason yelled out while Joey struggled to pedal behind him.
“I will beat you! You got it! You got it!!” Joey grunted, using his anger as fuel.
“Whooo hoooooo!!!” Jason called out as Joey slowly reached the top of the hill, out of breath. Joey positioned himself on the side of the road, both feet stepping on the weeds.
“Hey, getting easier right?” Jason slapped Joey’s arm with the back of his hand. Still catching his breath, Joey nodded his head in agreement. They rested for a moment, looking ahead at Sarah’s mailbox. It was old and weathered. The pole it was fastened to was rusted and wouldn’t hold up much longer. Three beaten-up old tin garbage cans lay nearby. They were empty and not returned the day prior on trash day.
“Ready?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, ready.” Joey began pedaling toward Sarah’s driveway.
As they slowly approached, Sarah was waiting on the front steps in a sleeveless blue and white floral patterned dress. Braking to a stop near the mailbox, the boys were unnerved by what they saw. Sarah’s entire left arm was brightly painted blue. “Uh…. OK!” Jason said facing Joey, never looking away from Sarah.
“Be cool!” Joey whispered as Sarah ran gracefully to them. Sarah was as cheerful and bubbly as yesterday, the boys staring at her arm.
“Hi, guys! What’s new?” She seemed totally oblivious to the very noticeable sight of her bright blue arm.
“Not much,” they both said in unison.
“Why is your arm blue?” Jason asked with content. The image of the smiling girl with a brightly painted blue arm, acting like it was nothing out the ordinary, was even more of a mystery now. Sarah looked down at her arm then up at her shoulder.
“That? My brother bet me $20 that I wouldn’t paint my arm blue and leave it for the rest of the day.”
Joey stared in amusement. “That’s wild…” he said, earning a smile and a “Thanks!” from Sarah.
In seeing their momentary connection, Jason butted in with, “So, have you been to town yet?”
Sarah looked back at Jason. “No, I haven’t. Daddy says I can’t leave the driveway.” Her smile dimmed to a forced smile.
”You have a brother?! How old is he? What’s his name?”
“Jimmy Lee,” Sarah answered hastily.
An awkward silence filled the space between them. Joey broke the silence. “Where is he? Can we meet him?”
Sarah’s attitude went from defensive to slightly jealous. “He’s older than me, fifteen and no, he can’t come out just now. He’s shy around strangers.”
Jason’s wild imagination took over his mouth just then. “Why, is he retarded or something?”
Joey looked over at him, shocked. “You did not just say that!”
Sarah’s patience was growing thin, not to mention she was visibly offended by Jason’s question. “NO! He’s not retarded! He’s… just… shy is all.”
In an attempt to be funny, Joey said, “Sorry, Jason has Tourette’s today. It jumps back and forth. Tomorrow, it’s my turn.”
Sarah laughed out loud. “You’re cute!”
Joey felt his heartbeat quicken, his eyes blank for a second then lighting up as he fully absorbed Sarah’s words. Jason’s eyes filled with anger as he could feel his heart break just a little. Sarah thought “Lunchbox” was cute… but never mentioned anything about him. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, Sarah continued, “You both are cute.” This brightened him up.
“So, what do you guys do for fun around here? I mean… I can’t exactly leave here and find out on my own.” Sarah shifted to her left hip, waiting for a response.
Just then, a raspy voice called out from inside the ragged house. “Sarah…time to come in now!”
“I gotta go! I’ll see you tomorrow, guys!” Sarah said in haste.
“Coming, Mama!” And with that, she turned and ran down the dreary driveway back into the house, the screen door slamming behind her. Something was definitely not right about the situation. It felt very icky to them.
Riding back into town, Joey couldn’t help but recall Sarah’s words, “You’re cute!” Her words played like a broken record. Her smile haunted him. He felt his heartbeat race again. He felt that familiar nervousness in his chest and throat. Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that just maybe Sarah needed their help. Jason was consoled by Sarah’s “You’re both cute” comment. He could sense though that any chance he thought he may have had with her was now inherited by Joey.
“She’s weird, anyway! They deserve each other!” he thought, trying to distance himself from thoughts of her.
“Hey, did you get the feeling like something was wrong there?” Joey looked to his left side where Jason slowly pedaled his bike.
Jason pondered for a moment, hoping he could just ignore his gut feeling. “Yeah, but so what? She’s weird anyway man!”
Joey shook his head. “Nah, man, I don’t’ know. I think there’s something bad going on there.” He slowed his pace to a stop.
Jason stopped next to him. “Like what?” he asked, expecting confirmation of his suspicion, one he felt in his gut but wanted to ignore.
“Ok, she can’t go past her driveway, her clothes look like something out of the old west, she’s way too nice for being THAT pretty and something about that house… like her parents aren’t good people. Also, what about her brother? You’d think we’d have seen him by now,” Joey questioned Jason.
“He’s probably a retard like I said! They probably keep him inside because they’re embarrassed.”
Joey thought for a moment “Yeah, maybe. I still wanna go back tomorrow.”
“Ooohhhhh… Mr. Studmuffin! Shoulda known you liked ‘em weird!” Jason teased, trying to get a rise out of Joey as he continued pedaling on down Main Street.
“Yeah! Guess that explains why I hang out with you, huh?” Joey yelled out, pedaling to try to catch up to Jason.
Monday came and Jason was up by 7 am. Jason wolfed down his bowl of Rice Chex and was out the door headed to Joey’s house. Morning was always the best part of the day to get out if you were going to go riding. Although it was hot and humid, the wind still managed to partner up with your sweat and cool you down as you rode. It was known as “Mexican air conditioning” in Texas. You also referred to holes in the armpits of your t-shirts as such.
Along the way, Jason hoped Sarah’s spell of intrigue had lost its luster for Joey. He noticed the faint smell of death emanating from the old Robinson place along the way. He had passed it hundreds of times… likely thousands over the years. Once he and Joey had actually rode their bikes up to it. They grew up with the old rumors of “Ole’ Broken Bones Pete” and how his family was murdered His bones were broken and he was shot in the back in that tiny rotted house. Neither of them ever had the stones to go inside. He figured he would distract Joey by suggesting they explore the Robinson place today.
As he arrived at Joey’s front yard, he met with Celeste, Joey’s alcoholic mother, sitting on the porch. “Is Joey home?” he called out from a safe distance.
“No, he left about an hour ago. I think he went up to see that new girl up on dead man’s curve,” she hollered back from the porch, already sounding tipsy.
“Thanks.” Jason stared right into her eyes all the way from the yard with disgust and contempt.
“Hey, you got something to say to me?!?” she raised her voice as she struggled to stand up. Jason didn’t bother looking back as he rode away. He knew ignoring her would hurt her more than a good argument.
“What the hell is he up to?” he thought.
Riding through Lytle, he looked around at all the daily happenings. The delivery trucks roaring through main street. Old-timers sitting in the convenience store drinking hot coffee and reading the newspaper. Middle aged moms jogging through down the sidewalks and down the streets. Other kids rode their bikes around town. People were going in and out of the Mom and Pop restaurants all found on Main Street for breakfast.
Dead man’s curve was now in sight. He was 100 yards from the bottom when he saw Joey riding downhill. His eyes met with Jason’s.
“Ah, shit!” he thought.
Jason pedaled faster to close the distance halfway. “Dude!” he said as if questioning him, looking at him with eyes enlarged and eyebrows raised.
“I know! I know! Dude, you went without me?!?” he mocked Jason who was little surprised at his friends sarcasm.
“So, did you have a good time up there, Lunchbox?” He knew this would hurt him more than cursing or yelling.
Joey stared at him for a second, “Whatever, man… do you wanna start today or do you wanna hear about the shit I just saw at Sarah’s house?! I think she’s in some kind of trouble, man.”
“What, did you finally meet Jimmy Lee or Jimmy John Joe or Johnny Joe Jim Bob?” Jason joked.
“No, Sarah had bruises on her arms, man… she acted like nothing was even wrong!” Joey looked at Jason with concern.
Jason shook his head. “Yeah, I had a feeling too that something wasn’t right. But that doesn’t mean we need to get involved. It’s not our problem!”
When you’re the fat kid, you don’t have many opportunities for friends or romance. So when a pretty girl showed some interest in him, Joey wanted to do everything he could to show her he cared and liked her. So what if she was a little strange, at least she was nice, friendly, pretty and didn’t treat him like dirt.
“I think we should tell somebody at least, like the cops.”
Jason nodded his head in agreement. “Let’s go.”
Sheriff Allen summed up the boys statement. “Alright, boys, so what you’re telling me is that you’ve been hanging out with the new girl from East Elm, and this morning she comes out with bruises all over her arms?”
“Yes!” was Joey’s response.
“Jason, did you see this too?”
“No, I met Joey at the bottom of dead man’s curve when he told me.”
Sheriff Allen stared at Jason and took a deep breath. He looked up at his deputy, Chris Priest. “Wait here a minute boys,” he said as he walked over to Deputy Priest. He leaned in close and whispered, “I knew something wasn’t right about those folks.”
They both knew what they were obligated to do as Officers of the Law. Deputy Priest knew his boss was a natural born lawman. He always seemed to have a sixth sense about something going on, even when it wasn’t apparent. He had a lot of respect for him as his mentor. He walked out to the patrol car ahead of the Sheriff.
“Boys, I want you to go on home. Deputy Priest and I are gonna take a ride out there now,” he said as he walked them towards the station door. His cowboy boots clanked loudly on the floor as he walked.
“But will you let us know if Sarah’s ok? She’s our friend.” Joey stopped, awaiting an answer.
“He has a crush on her,” Jason chimed in.
Sheriff Allen smiled and nodded, “Yes, you will be the first to know, Joey. Now head on home.”
Satisfied with his response, hoping they did some good, Joey and Jason replied, “Yessir.” In Texas, you were taught to show respect to your elders. Even Jason had respect for the Sheriff. Now, all they could do was go back to Joey’s house and wait.
About an hour later, Sheriff Allen and Deputy Priest came back into town. When they arrived at Joey’s house, the boys were waiting outside and talking. Upon seeing the patrol car, they walked up awaiting an answer. Joey’s expression grew more concerned.
“Did you see Sarah? Is she ok?” He looked in the back of the car for her. “Why isn’t she with you?” He became frantic.
“Son, when we went up to check, they said they didn’t have a daughter. When I asked if we could search their property, they said, ‘Not without a warrant’” Sheriff Allen explained.
“Well, can’t you get one? We need to help her!” Joey shouted.
“Now boys, are you sure you actually saw and spoke to a girl up there at that green house on the right? The first house?”
“Yessir!! We saw her every day since they moved in on Saturday. Jason didn’t today cause I left my house early to see her alone. What, man, I didn’t want you making fun of me or ruining it for me!” he said, turning his head as he talked to Jason.
“Whatever, Lunchbox…” he said, as he tried to brush off his friend’s remark.
“Dude! I told you before, quit calling me ‘Lunchbox’!” he shouted.
“Hey, alright boys… knock it off!!” the Sheriff intervened.
“Oh, and she said she had an older brother there, too. He lives there too. Uh… Jimmy Lee!”.
Sheriff looked at him puzzled then looked at Deputy Priest with the same look. “No, can’t be. They said they had a son named Jimmy Lee but he died as a baby. Said they didn’t have any other children.”
Upon hearing this, everyone’s blood ran cold.
“We gotta get that warrant, Chris! Now!” Sheriff Allen said as they both quickly entered the patrol car. “Stay here, boys!”
The car sped off towards the police station. As they watched them speed away, Joey, still staring ahead said, “I’m not waiting for them. It could take too long to get a warrant, right? I wanna go up there myself. We can save her, Jason!”
Jason looked at him for a moment with intense eyes. His gaze shifted towards the ground. “Ok man, let’s do it.” He extended his hand in front of him.
Joey now feeling stronger, more confident, with his best friend’s response locked hands with him and said, “Fuck yeah!!”
“What the fuck is that chanting?!?” Jason whispered, looking at Joey.
“Be quiet.” Joey held up his index finger to his lips.
The darkness surrounded them as they hid behind the old garbage cans. The sounds they heard coming from in the old green house were something like they heard in old b-horror movies. Also, the voice of a man could be heard preaching as the chanting continued. “And we give you this offering, O dark lord, in hopes you will grant us prosperity and protection in this new home.”
More than just 2 voices were chanting. It sounded like it could be at least 4. Suddenly, the unmistakable sound of a girl’s scream came from inside the house.
“Sarah!” Joey whispered out as he began to stand up and move toward the house’ just to be pulled down by Jason.
“Dude! We gotta distract them! I’ll throw rocks at the window and lure them out. They’ll chase me downhill and you go in and get her!” Jason planned to help his friend. He knew deep down it was the right thing to do. Joey was on the verge of losing it. “Hey!” Jason whispered, trying to be quiet. “Did you hear me? Huh? Joey?!?” He had his hands on Joey’s shoulders, shaking him back into rational thinking. “Did you hear me?”
Joey looked up at Jason. “Yeah, You throw rocks, they chase you down the hill. I go save Sarah.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Ok… You ready?”
Jason picked up four medium sized rocks, looked over at Joey and said, “Stay there until they chase me down the hill!” Joey nodded his head. “Here it goes.” Jason walked with up to the house with resolve. Joey braced himself for what was to transpire in mere seconds.
“Hey, you Satanic inbred bitches!!! Fuck you!!!” he yelled to the top of his lungs as he threw all four rocks at their windows one right after the other, shattering two windows.
The chanting had stopped as soon as he began yelling. Upon the shattering of the windows, an older man dressed in men’s clothes from the same period as Sarah’s clothes ran out of the house with a large knife. A woman they recognized as Sarah’s mother followed the man.
“Come on, motherfuckers!” Jason yelled, not even moving from his spot. They ran towards him with their knives ready.
The sound of police sirens could be heard echoing through town in the distance getting closer. Jason ran over to his bike, picking it up, mounting it and trying to pedal. They were closing in and would definitely kill him. There was no way he would make it. He had misjudged the timing.
Joey looked down to the right as he saw the blue and red lights of a police car headed their way. Thinking quickly, Joey wrapped his arms around the trash cans, stood up and threw them at the man and woman. This slowed them down as they fell but not for long. They looked at Joey standing in the driveway, caught like a deer in headlights. As they picked themselves up he began to hightail it towards the street. The sound of the police sirens was at its peak and the red and blue lights flashed all around the darkness. Joey just ran towards the lights not thinking, just screaming.
“Freeze!!!” came from behind the lights. Joey, still in survival mode, stopped. The couple didn’t.
“Freeze Now!!! Get down, Joey!!!” Joey dove to the left into the street.
Several gunshots yelled out through the night air. Joey was curled up into a ball, shaking, crying. After what seemed like several minutes, he heard two thuds hit the ground just behind him.
Several footsteps ran up to him calling out, “Joey! Are you ok, son?!?” It was Sheriff Allen’s voice.
“Jason! Stay back!” Deputy Priest yelled.
Joey opened his eyes, looking up, then around, spotting Deputy Priest squatting next to him. He looked over to his right to find the Sheriff checking the fallen bodies of the knife-wielding man and woman. They were not moving.
“Sarah!” He motioned to the house.
“Deputy, go check!” Sheriff Allen pointed at the house.
Upon entering the house with his service pistol drawn, where he heard a girl’s screams for help, Deputy Priest was sucker-punched by the stench of death. He saw a girl around 12 years old laying on her stomach on the floor on top of a black plastic tarp. She had been hogtied with rope. Lit candles lay everywhere around the room. Sitting in a chair nearby, surrounding the living room, was the freshly exhumed corpse of a man, judging by his old, rotted, grey suit. A black book with the name The Satanic Bible on the front cover lay on the sofa. This scene was unlike anything he had witnessed in his three years as a Deputy. Watching crime movies like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs wouldn’t prepare him for seeing this kind of horror in real-life.
The next day, around 2 pm, Jason stood in the driveway of Joey’s house, staring up at his window. After a few moments, Joey’s mother walked out slowly calling his name, “Jason… Jason, come here, sweetie. It’s alright!” She looked sober for a change.
Jason could recall a time when she was actually nice, like his mother. It was good to catch a glimpse of that again from her. He walked over, stopping at the screen door. She opened it, motioning for him to come inside. “He’s been asking about you since he woke up.”
“How is he?” His concern for his best friend touched the heart of Celeste.
“He’s good. He also keeps asking about Sarah.” She paused. “They took her to the hospital last night and were going to do a complete Psych evaluation in a day or two.”
Joey nodded his head. “Thanks, Mrs. Meher. Can I go up?”
“Sure, but not for too long, he needs to rest,” she said calmly.
Jason headed upstairs. Joey’s bedroom door had a picture of a kitten looking into a mirror with a lion staring right back. It read, “It doesn’t matter how others see you. What only matters is how you see yourself.” He thought of how Joey had slowed down Sarah’s parents when they were chasing him. He would be dead if Joey hadn’t done that. He smiled and knocked on the door.
“Come in…” Joey shouted from his bed.
“Hey!! There’s the man of the hour,” Jason joked.
“Hey! What’s up, man?” Joey asked.
“Blood pressure,” Jason said with a laugh. Joey smiled. “So, you doin’ ok?”
“Yeah, they want me to rest for today. The ambulance guy said I needed to,” Joey explained.
Jason nodded “Hey, uh, your mom is sober… that’s good!”
Joey smirked “Yeah, it is. I hope she stays that way this time.”
“Yeah,” was all Jason could say. “Hey, there’s a new kid who moved in today down the street from me. I met him this morning. His name is Charlie. He’s from San Antonio.”
With a surprised look, Joey said to him, “Shit! No more new kids today, Jason. Maybe tomorrow.”