Prom Nights from Hell (Chapter Two)

And he wants me to know that he's coming. He's playing with me now… just like his father played with Mom, before he… well, did what he did to her.

Then I hear a strange sound-a sort of whoosh-followed by another "Dammit!"

What is happening?

"Sebastian." Lila's voice sounds bemused. "Someone is shooting ketchup at you!"

What? Did she just say… ketchup?.

And then, as I carefully turn to try to get a look past the pillar to see what Lila is talking about, I see him.

Not Sebastian. His shooter.

And I can hardly believe my eyes.

What's he doing here?


It's all Ted's fault. He's the one who said we should follow them on their date.

I was like, "Why?"

" 'Cause the dude's trouble, man," Ted said.

Except there's no way Ted could have known that. Drake had basically turned up from out of nowhere outside Lila's Park Avenue apartment building just the night before. Ted had never even met him. How could he know anything about the guy? Anything at all?

But when I mentioned this, Ted said, "Dude, have you looked at him?"

I have to admit, the T Man has a point. I mean, the guy looks like he walked straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog or something. You can't trust a guy who's that, well, perfect.

Still, I'm not down with following other guys around. It's not cool. Even if, like Ted said, it was just to make sure Lila didn't get into trouble. I know Lila is Ted's lady-ex-lady now, thanks to Drake.

And okay, she's never been the shiniest fork in the drawer.

But following her on this date with the dude she's hooked up with? That just seemed like a bigger waste of time than-well, that two thousand-word, double-spaced essay I've got due in Mrs. Gregory's U.S. History class on Monday.

Then Ted had to go and suggest I bring the Beretta 9mm.

The thing is, even though it's just a water pistol, toy guns that look as real as that are illegal in Manhattan.

So I haven't really had an opportunity to use mine much. Which Ted knows.

And is probably why he kept going on about how freaking hilarious it would be if we soaked the guy. Because he knew I wouldn't be able to resist.

The ketchup was my idea.

And, yeah, it is pretty juvenile.

But what the hell else am I going to do on a Friday night? It beats a U.S. History paper.

Anyway, I told the T Man I guessed I'd be down with his plan. So long as I was the one who got to do the shooting. Which was fine with Ted.

"I just gotta know, man," he'd said, shaking his head.

"Know what?"

"What this Sebastian dude's got," he said, "that I don't."

I could've told him, of course. I mean, it's pretty obvious to anyone who freaking looks at Drake what he's got that Ted doesn't. Ted's a decent-looking guy and all, but Abercrombie material he is not.

Still, I didn't say anything. Because the T Man was really hurtin' over this one. And I could sort of understand why. Lila's just one of those girls, you know? All big brown eyes and big, well, other parts, too.

But I won't go there on account of my sister, Veronica, who says I need to stop thinking of women as sex objects and start thinking of them as future partners in the inevitable struggle to survive in postapocalyptic America (which Veronica's writing her senior thesis on because she feels the apocalypse is going to occur sometime in the next decade, due to the country's current state of religious fanaticism and environmental recklessness, both of which were present at the fall of Rome and various other societies that no longer exist).

So that's how me and the T Man ended up at Swig-fortunately, Ted's uncle Vinnie is their liquor distributor, which is how we got in, and without having to go through the metal detector like everybody else-shooting ketchup at Sebastian Drake with my Beretta 9mm water pistol. I know I was supposed to be home doing that paper for Mrs. Gregory, but a guy's got to have some fun, right?

And it was fun to see those red stains spurting all over the guy's chest. The T Man was actually laughing for the first time since Lila sent him that text message during lunch, telling him that he was on his own for the prom, because she was going with Drake.

Everything was going great… until I saw Drake staring at that pillar over to one side of the dance floor. Which didn't make any sense. You'd have thought he'd have been looking over at us, in our VIP booth (thanks, Uncle Vinnie), considering that's the direction the ketchup assault was coming from.

That's when I noticed there was somebody hiding behind it. The pillar, I mean.

Not just any somebody, either, but Mary, that new girl from my U.S. History class, the one who never talks to anybody but Lila.

And she was holding a crossbow.

A crossbow.

How the hell did she get a crossbow through the metal detector? No way does she know Ted's uncle Vinnie.

Not that it matters. All that matters is that Drake's staring at the pillar Mary's crouched behind like he can see straight through it. There's something about the way he's looking over at her that makes me… well, all I know is that is not where I want that guy looking.

"Moron," I mutter. Mostly about Drake. But also about myself, a little. And then I aim and shoot once more.

"Oh, snap," Ted yells happily. "Did you see that? Right in the ass!"

That gets Drake's attention, all right. He turns…

… and suddenly, I get what they mean about blazing eyes. You know, in Stephen King books, or whatever? I never thought I'd actually see a pair.

But that's exactly what Drake's got, as he stares at us. Eyes that are most definitely blazing.

Come on, I find myself thinking in Drake's direction. That's right. Come on over here, Drake. You wanna fight? I've got a lot more than just ketchup, dude.

Which isn't exactly true. But it doesn't end up mattering, because Drake doesn't come over anyway.

Instead, he disappears.

I don't mean that he turns around and leaves the club.

I mean that one minute he's standing there, and the next he's… well, he's just gone. For a second the fog from the dry ice seems to get thicker-and when it clears, Lila is dancing by herself.

"Here," I say, thrusting the Beretta into Ted's hand.

"What the-" Ted scans the dance floor. "Where'd he go?"

But I've already taken off.

"Grab Lila," I yell back at Ted. "And meet me out front."

Ted utters some pretty choice expletives after that, but no one even notices. The music's too loud, and everyone's having too good a time. I mean, if they didn't notice us shooting at some dude with a ketchup-filled water gun-or a few seconds later, that dude literally vanishing into thin air-they're hardly likely to notice Ted shouting the F word.

I reach the pillar and look down.

She's there, panting as if she's just run a marathon or something. She's got the crossbow clutched to her chest like a kid's security blanket. Her face is as white as notebook paper.

"Hey," I say to her, gently. I don't want to startle her.

But I do anyway. She practically jumps out of her skin at the sound of my voice and turns wide, frightened eyes up at me.

"Hey, take it easy," I say. "He's gone. Okay?"

"He's gone?" Her eyes-green as the Great Lawn in Central Park in May-stare up at me. And there's no missing the terror in them. "How-what?"

"He just vanished," I say with a shrug. "I saw him looking at you. So I shot him."

"You what?"