The following Monday, Matt found himself leaving school alone. Steph wanted to go and study with Elyse, and Brian, with a free last period, had left school early. No one was worried. It was a warm spring day and the sun was shining. Although he’d originally been convinced that Dale’s ‘accident’ was Jordan’s doing, as the days and weeks went by Matt found himself less and less convinced. The guy just wasn’t acting like he’d done anything. He was his usual self, picking on the outcasts, irritating the teachers, being a thug. Same as he’d been since the fight, and before it. Besides, the cops didn’t seem to have a reason to suspect him.
He hadn’t seen Jordan all day, either, so when the final bell rang he waved Steph and Elyse goodbye at the school gates and then headed off down Wayward Road towards his house, walking slow and enjoying the warm sunlight and the smell of early spring. He turned into Bulling’s park, a stretch of grass with a little playground and a few trees that provided a pleasant shortcut to his street, and he was halfway through when the trap was sprung.
Jordan stepped around the corner in front of him, a half smile hanging on his face like someone nailed it there and forgot about it. His eyes shared none of the humour. Matt’s heart jumped in his chest, but when he turned to run he saw Jimmy and Ray flanking the path behind him. There was a hair’s breadth of space to get around them if he was fast enough, and Matt took the chance.
He shrugged off his schoolbag in one fluid movement and sprinted for Jimmy’s right, hoping to squeeze between him and the fence before they closed in. Within seconds, he knew it was hopeless. Jimmy was too packed with muscle to be very fast, but he was fast enough. He caught Matt just as he reached the fence and slammed him into it with all eighty five or so kilos of dense muscle. Matt felt the wind whoosh out of him and he dropped to the ground, sucking at the air like a gasping fish.
Ray reached them a second later and the two boys lifted him up by the arms and pressed him against the fence, standing to the side so he couldn’t knee them. Black patches danced across Matt’s vision, and when they cleared and he could breathe again Jordan was approaching him, glancing around for witnesses. Evidently, he found none, because the first thing he did was slug Matt in the stomach again.
Oh shit it was him after all. He got Dale and maybe the coma was an accident, but only because he was supposed to die. Meaty hands reached into his pockets and took out his wallet, phone and house keys. Jordan jangled them in front of his face. ‘Hey, hey, maybe I’ll pay you a visit some time.’
‘Remember to…’ Matt wheezed. ‘Remember to… bring flowers.’
Jordan slapped him with the back of his hand, opening a small cut on his lip. ‘You’re such a smartass, aren’t you? You wanna see where that’s gonna get you? Hey, get out of here, kid!’ This last he shouted over his shoulder, and a small boy walking home from school turned and sprinted out of the park.
‘I’m fucked anyway,’ Matt said, standing up a little straighter.
‘Yes, yes you are,’ Jordan said. He smiled and ran a hand through slick black hair. He looked like a mean gorilla. ‘You are fucked, and so is your other friend. Too bad your buddy’s in a coma or I’d do him, too. I guess I’ll have to wait ‘till he wakes up.’
‘Whatever. We don’t want to fight any more, Jordan, just leave us alone.’
‘You don’t want to fight?’ Jordan said. ‘You started the fight, so you can see what happens. Hey, Ray, bring that finger over here.’
Ray was holding Matt’s right hand against the fence. He tucked the elbow under his arm and forced the arm towards Jordan. ‘Remember how you gave me the finger after the fight, Matt? Do it again, I dare you.’ Matt was clenching his fist as hard as he could but Ray grabbed his middle finger and forced it up.
Jordan curled his fist around it and smiled his dead smile, but Matt realised what he was going to do only too late. ‘Oh, no, please man. Don’t do that, Please don’t do th – ’
He hadn’t bent the finger back, but sideways, as quick and easy as if he was breaking a twig. Matt’s scream was muffled by Ray’s hand clamping over his mouth. He dropped down, struggled madly, kicking everything he could reach. He got his arm free for a second, but Ray got both hands on it again and slammed it back to the fence, and Jordan hit him, not hard, in the throat, cutting his cries short. For a few moments, he could only lean against the fence and sob. The pain ate up his whole hand and seemed to stretch up his arm.
‘Guess you’re not going to give me the finger again, are ya, motherfucker?’ Jordan said.
Matt just shook his head, eyes squeezed shut with agony.
Jordan opened his mouth to say something else when a strange sound came from somewhere behind him. A weird bark of laughter, like a hyena. Jordan turned around and stepped away from Matt, who lifted his tear stained face to see who it was.
Brian, sporting an obscene grin, was strutting – not a care in the world – into the park from Wayward road. Oh man, he doesn’t have anything, not even a knife. Jesus, Brian.
This was bad, because Matt saw Jordan reach into his back pocket and pull a brand new switchblade out of his own pocket. He kept it behind his back. Matt tried to kick it but it was too far away. ‘Brian, he’s got a knife!’ he shouted, before Ray could stop him. Jordan shrugged and let the knife out into the open.
Brian slowed a little, but the knife didn’t seem to bother him in the least. There was something wrong about him. The way he was walking was almost predatory. And he looked bigger, somehow, like he’d been hitting the weights really hard for the past few months. Steroids? No way. Brian wouldn’t touch that stuff, even if he knew how to get it.
‘On the left, ladies and gentlemannnnn,’ Brian drew it out like a boxing announcer. ‘We have Mr. Big, the monster truck, the destroyerrrr, Jordan Siliiiiic!’ He made a grand gesture toward Jordan. The four of them could only stare.
‘And on the right, the young up and comer, the underdog, the man with the plan, Briannnnnnn ‘Beast’ Pooooole!’ He made a sound in the back of his throat like a cheering crowd and held his hands over his head. He’d been walking steadily forward this whole time and he was barely five meters away now.
‘Fucking retard,’ Jordan muttered under his breath, and went for him.
For a few seconds, Brian stood in the grass and stared at Jordan as though he’d completely forgotten he was there. Only when Jordan moved to grab him by the shirt collar did he move, and it was like nothing Matt had ever seen outside of a movie.
He dropped under Jordan’s arm and slugged him three, four times in the gut and then moved around and got him in the kidneys, Jordan doubled over, hit the ground and then struggled back to his feet, swinging the knife and missing by a mile.
‘Fuck!’ Matt found himself falling forward as Jimmy and Ray both left him to get Brian. He put his hands out as he fell and a white hot poker shot up his arm when his broken finger hit the ground. He screamed and rolled onto his side, clutching his hand and trying not to vomit. He could still see the fight happening, a blur through his tears.
Jimmy and Ray were both on Brian, who didn’t seem to be defending himself at all. Jordan was back on his feet, knife in hand. Oh, man. It’s over. Get up and run, Matt you bastard, get up and run and call the cops before they kill him. He staggered to his feet on shaky knees, wiping the cold sweat off his face, and took a step in the direction of Wayward Road.
Something happened, and so quickly that later Matt wasn’t really sure what he’d seen. Brian – he thought it was Brian – let out a roar that was more animal than human, and there followed a series of loud smacking sounds that could only be fists on flesh. They echoed around the park. Ray went down so hard he might have been shot. Jimmy reeled backwards into the jungle gym and slammed his head against the old metal slide on the way down.
Jordan stabbed Brian in the left shoulder blade, and Brian whirled around and punched him in the throat. Jordan’s eyes opened wide, gasping for breath just as Matt had a minute ago, and he staggered back, the bloody knife falling into the grass. Brian picked it up, chuckled, and drew it back. He’s actually lost it! He’s lost it! But then he hurled it as far as he could. It flew over at least two houses before disappearing into someone’s backyard.
Jordan was still standing, but it was all over. He took a step forward and Brian delivered one solid hit to his midsection, followed by one uppercut to the middle of his face. His whole body bent backwards, his nose spraying blood in a beautiful arc, and he collapsed into the grass. Brian, still grinning like a maniac, saw Matt as if for the first time. ‘Hey!’
‘Dude, are you nuts? Let’s get the out of here!’
Brian caught up with him on the path and lifted an arm around his shoulder. They got the out of there.