Chapter 1, Part I: Opening
Andrew could hear the quiet sobbing of someone behind him. It was probably a family member of the victim. Hell, it could be his own mother. There were two families in court. One praying for justice. The other praying for mercy.
– Counselor, I understand your client and the District Attorney’s office have come to an agreement in the matter of Baker vs. the state of Alabama?
– Yes, your honor. My client pleads guilty to murder in the second degree of Mr. Jackson Wilson.
– In order for this court to accept your plea agreement, we need to hear your client’s account to his part in the death of Mr. Wilson. Is he ready to make a statement?
– “Yes, your honor.” Andrew stood up and the courtroom went silent. He heard his ragged breath and felt the thumping of his heart. A bead of sweat rolled down his flushed cheek.
Chapter 1, Part II: The Beginning
Four months ago, Andrew had dropped out of college, quit his job at the campus library, and moved back home. Lounging on the couch, stuffing his face with potato chips, and watching television until morning had become his normal routine.
– Don’t worry, Dad, I’m going back. I just need a break. I mean, I’ve been in school for twelve years. Thirteen if you count preschool.
– Jesus, Andrew, do you have any idea how much this semester cost me? You could have at least finished.” Jonathan shook his head in disappointment.
– Jon, give him some space. It’s ten at night. We can talk about it tomorrow.
– Thanks, Mom.
– Thanks, Mom? No, we’re going to talk about it today. What are you planning on doing with your life? I thought we got past this whole getting into trouble thing when you left high school.” Jonathan’s voice got louder and louder. “Do you have any idea how much money I’ve already spent bailing you out of one trouble after the next?
– Jon! Jenna shouted.
He brushed her off. “You know what? You’re getting a job by the end of the week. By the end of the week! You’re going to start paying me rent. And for your share of the food, utilities, and whatever else you use up in this house."
– “No problem. I’ll move out by the end of the week.” Andrew got up, stared coldly at his father, and then slammed the front door as he stormed out.
– Andrew, get your a$$ over here. Where do you think you’re going? Get over here, now! You’re in my house!
– “I’m outta your house now, Dad!” he shouted sarcastically and jumped into his old rusted Camaro. An angry cloud of black smoke rose from the tailpipe as he started the engine. He saw his father standing on the front porch, so he waved at him with the back of his hand. He had a smirk on his face as he burnt rubber down the road.
Chapter 1, Part III: Backstory
A few hours later, he was in the downtown party district. All the local bars, restaurants, and nightclubs were open to the street and loud music came from all directions. Police Officers, moonlighting as security guards, were roaming around making friendly conversation and checking IDs to make sure all of those drinking outside were of legal age.
Andrew stopped by an outside vendor, pulled out his fake driver’s license, and asked for whatever was on tap.
– “Twenty-two? I don’t think so. Get outta here!” the vendor yelled.
Two cops started to walk towards him.
– "Oh, darn,” Andrew whispered under his breath. “Listen, just give me my license and I’ll leave. Come on, man. I don’t want trouble. Okay?”
The guy gave him a dirty look and handed him the ID. Andrew ducked his head and ran into a crowd of people mingling in the street.
– You dodged a bullet there, Sailor.
– "What?” He turned to see a young pretty girl, maybe in her mid-twenties.
– “Ashley.” She reached out to shake his hand and nodded to her companions. “My friends, Adam and Ally.”
– Wow, all your names start with an A. Did you come up with that just for tonight?
– No, she’s not making it up. Those really are our names. Coincidence.
Andrew turned to the dark-haired man who’d spoken. He also looked to be in his mid-twenties. He was wearing a heavy, three-inch cross around his neck and Andrew could make out his muscular build beneath his leather jacket. No doubt, this guy worked out and worked out hard.
– So, what do your enemies call you?
– Don’t know. My friends call me Andrew.
Ashley looked up at him from beneath her green painted lids. “No sh!t. Your name starts with an A too, huh? Darn, maybe this friendship was meant to be.”
She wore black lipstick and even though that wasn’t Andrew’s usual type, he thought it was sexy as hell. They all wore black leather jackets, which was odd since it was so warm. Both girls had on very short skirts and skinny half tank tops that revealed their slim waists. They both had the bodies for it.
Ashley leaned in, revealing more than a little of her ample cleavage. “Whew! Warm today. So, we’re getting ready to go to my house. Maybe watch a movie, drink a few beers, take it easy for rest of the night. You in?” She blinked her long, black fake eyelashes.
– "Hell yeah,” Andrew replied without even trying to hide his lecherous gaze.
Adam wrapped a protective arm around Ally as two guys passed by staring.
– What the f’uck are you looking at? You looking at my girl? You better keep walking. Punks! I’ll bash your ugly heads into this sidewalk.
Then, as if nothing had happened, he casually looked back over at Andrew and said, “Walking distance, right around the corner.”
Common sense had never been Andrew’s strong suit. Something told him to walk away, but like a typical teenager, he couldn’t keep his eyes off Ashley’s petite, fit body.
– “So, how old are you, cowboy?” Ashley asked, snuggling up to him. She put her arm around his waist and smiled up at him.
– Yeah. How old are you really?
– “Nineteen. Well, almost nineteen,” he replied sheepishly, wondering if his new friends would change their minds now that they realized he was underage.
– Cool. Adam and I are twenty-four. Ally is twenty.
– “Well, that was easy,” he thought as they strolled through the crowd of drunken revelers in the street.
Ashley lived in a small loft above a Chinese restaurant. “I wait table downstairs if you were wondering.”
Andrew hadn’t been wondering. “Nice place.”
Everything in her apartment was old, but it was clean and neatly arranged. She seemed to be an artist of some sort. There were pictures of anime all over the walls.
– You draw these?
– Yup. The three of us are designing our own kind of comic-slash-anime-slash-cartoon. Adam writes the stories, I draw the pictures, and Ally formats it.
– “Darn, that’s pretty cool.” Andrew leaned in to observe some of the pictures on her makeshift kitchen table. “Colored pencils?”
She handed him a white can with the word “beer” written on it.
– Here. Not the best but it gets the job done.
– I’m good as long as it has alcohol.
He opened it and took a sip. It was awful. He cringed and his right eye began to twitch. Adam laughed at him.
– Newbie. You ever have a beer before?
– "Been drinking since I was sixteen,” Andrew replied proudly.
– "Sixteen? I had my first beer at nine. Snuck it out of the refrigerator in the garage. My old man worked at a beer cannery. He brought home cases and cases. Funny thing—he didn’t drink beer, only liquor,” Adam said, sniffing a container of what looked like leftover Italian food. “How old is this sh!t?”
– If he didn’t drink it, why did he bring it home?
– He sold it. He probably stole it. We were broke, we lived in a trailer. You watch TV so you know where I’m going with this. What about you? What’s your story? You look like a rich kid.
– Rich? Not even close. My parents own a shitty little house. My dad is a high school gym coach and my mom is a librarian. Two of the most boring jobs on the planet.
– Adam, leave the new guy alone.
Ashley had moved closer again and spoke as she ran her fingers through his hair. She blew in his ear, then whispered:
– So, cowboy, you ever been with an older woman?
– Well, my high school girlfriend was a year older than me.
– She was a girl. I’m a woman. I could teach you a thing or two. One night with me and you won’t even remember her name.
Ashley’s hot breath on his ear sent a bolt of electricity down Andrew’s spine. He nervously took another sip of the beer.
– “Come on Ash, leave the kid alone. I mean he’s only barely legal. He’s probably a virgin,” Adam snorted, reaching out to his girlfriend.
Ally kicked off her boots and jumped on his lap, then tilted his head back with her hands and French kissed him.
– “Feel free to watch,” Adam mumbled between the kisses. “You might learn something.”
– Come here, you!
Ashley grabbed his hands and pulled him up. She led him to her bed which was just on the other side of the room. There were no doors or walls blocking the view.
– I’ve got something to show you.