My Soul to Keep Page 34

“So, don’t freak out if you lose your balance, okay?” I continued for Scott’s benefit, doing my best to ignore Nash. “You ready?”

“Yeah.” But Scott’s voice had gone squeaky, and his grip on my arm was cutting off my circulation. He was terrified.

Good. So was I.

I took another deep breath. Then I spun away from the knife and twisted my arm from Scott’s grip. He shouted. The knife arced toward me. I threw my arm up to shield my face. Pain sliced across the fleshy part of my forearm. I screamed and kicked him. My boot hit his hip, and Scott stumbled toward the desk. He tripped over his own foot and went down like a felled tree.

I whirled around before he landed and fumbled with the lock, twisting the knob twice before it would turn. I pulled the door open and Nash shoved me behind him even as he charged into the room, armed with nothing but his own outrage.

Scott lay motionless on the floor, the knife clutched loosely in his fist.

For a moment, I thought he was dead. That his shadow man had been right—he’d died because he hadn’t crossed over. Then I saw his chest rise and fall, and realized he was unconscious. He’d hit his head on the desk when he fell.

Nash dug his phone from his pocket and was dialing before I’d even processed what happened. Distantly, I heard him answer the 9-1-1 operator’s questions, telling her that his best friend, Scott Carter, had gone crazy. That he’d attacked me with a knife, then fell and hit his head on a desk and knocked himself out.

The operator said help would be there soon. She was right.

Nash was still wrapping my bleeding arm with a kitchen towel when the sirens screamed down the street. “Just go along with whatever I say,” he insisted as flashing red lights drew to stop in front of the house, easily visible through the glass front door. He pushed me gently onto a couch in the living room. “Everyone at school will back us up. They all saw him acting crazy.”

My eyes watered and the room blurred. “You’re going to get him committed…” I whispered, unsure whether or not I meant it as a question.

“There’s no other choice,” Nash insisted, walking backward toward the front door to let the EMTs in. “There’s nothing we can do for him now, and the only way to keep him from hurting anyone else is to lock him up.”

“This is our fault, Nash,” I sobbed, wiping scalding tears from my cheek with the back of my good arm. “We should have done something sooner.”

“I know.” His eyes swirled with grief, and guilt, and regret. Then he turned his back on me and opened the front door.

“TELL ME AGAIN WHY you left school?” the police officer said, scooting his chair closer to the E.R. gurney I sat on, my legs crossed beneath me like a kindergartner. Only he wasn’t just an officer. He was a detective. Because attempted murder—or manslaughter, or whatever they would wind up calling it—was afelony, and even though Scott was strapped to a bed in the same mental health ward I’d once spent a week in, he couldn’t officially plead his mental defect until his parents called in their fancy, overpriced attorney to replace the court-appointed rookie currently shaking in his loafers upstairs.

And if anyone deserved to get off on temporary insanity, if was Scott Carter. He hadn’t really meant to kill me. Well, maybe he had, but he would never have done it if he weren’t in withdrawal from Demon’s Breath and under the manipulation of an as-yet-unidentified Netherworld monster. Both circumstances I was convinced Nash and I could have prevented, if we’d acted sooner. Called in reinforcements.

“Kaitlyn? Kaitlyn, are you okay?” the cop asked, and Nash squeezed my good hand until I glanced up, surprised to find everyone staring at me.

“It’s Kaylee…” I mumbled, staring at the neat row of stitches on the arm I held stiffly in front of me, awaiting a sterile bandage. “My name is Kaylee.” I was grateful for the local anesthetic, and a bit surprised that it seemed to have numbed my mind, as well as my arm.

Or maybe that was shock.

“I’m sorry. Kaylee,” the detective corrected himself, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. I’d insisted he sit, because I didn’t like him towering over me. He made me nervous, probably because I felt guilty, though he didn’t seem to suspect me of anything. “Kaylee, please tell me again why you followed Mr. Carter from the school parking lot.”

Behind him, the thin blue curtain slid back on its metal track and an elderly nurse appeared, nearly swallowed by her purple scrubs. She carried several small, sealed packages, and I eyed them suspiciously.

“Because he was acting…crazy.” There. Maybe I could help with Scott’s defense…. “He wasn’t making any sense, and we didn’t think he should be driving. So we followed to make sure he was okay.”

“And he went straight home?”

I glanced at Nash, who nodded. “Yeah. The front door was open, so we went in. He was in his dad’s office.”

The nurse ripped open a package of sterile bandages and I flinched, startled.

“And he just attacked you with a knife?” The detective was still scribbling in his notebook, not even watching me as I nodded. “Did he say anything?”

“Um… He wanted me to take him somewhere.”

Finally the cop looked up, surprised. “Where?”

“He didn’t say.” Which was true, technically. “He just said he’d kill me if I didn’t take him. I told him I’d take him wherever he wanted to go if he’d put the knife down. So he moved it from my throat to my back, and when I tried to get away, he slashed me.” I held up my injured arm for emphasis, foiling the nurse’s attempt to bandage it.

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