The students at Lake Mills Community High School knew there was something wrong with Scott – but what David saw firsthand was more than they could ever imagine. He and his best (only) friend Matt were content to keep their suspicions to themselves until a simple trip to the library sets them on parallel trajectories where even the most careful plans have unexpected consequences that can rock a community and reverberate long after they’re gone.
Fifteen years later, Matt loses his high-profile reporter gig and is forced to return to the town he did everything he could to leave behind. He gets a shot at redemption with the small-town weekly where he started and quickly discovers a community that has moved on from the past. Well, everybody but David. He remembers everything and doesn’t buy a thirty-something Scott’s “normal” act. There’s a madman hovering inside. After all, some people never change, right?
Something the entire town is reminded of when the first dead girl turns up.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love stories with unintended consequences. When a character does something with the best of intentions only to have it blow up spectacularly… NOW what do you do, character? That’s when a story gets interesting for me. I saw a lot of that in Tales From the Crypt as a kid. Those Hitchcockian twists always kept me riveted. “How did they even THINK of that?”
And I’m not getting into spoilers here, but it’s safe to say things don’t always go smoothly for the friends I introduce you to in A Necessary Act.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My story is told through the eyes of two protagonists, Matt and David. When we first meet them, they are a boring pair of completely normalized high school students. Then an… event… happens that changes things dramatically. The story shows the different paths two similar people can take in response to a dramatic catalyst.
And then there is Scott, my antagonist. I LOVE bad guys. Always have. Hannibal Lechter, Vader, Anton Chigurh, Annie Wilkes… sign me up. I’m not saying Scott can hang with those titans, but I dialed up the creep factor as high as I could, and he ended up being a lot more twisted than I gave him credit for.
THE SOUND OF EXPOSED SKIN screeching across the hardwood cut Matt and David’s conversation off mid-sentence. The boys snapped their heads to see Lake Mills High School’s only special education student gingerly pick himself up off the floor.
“Jesus,” David muttered from their daily perch in the bleachers. The gymnasium served as a holding area for the students after lunch, and the odor of that day’s tuna casserole wafted in whenever somebody came through the doors.
As Noah Cooke attempted to corral the football he’d sacrificed his skin for, a voice boomed over the clamor of a couple hundred students.
“NICE CATCH, ED!”
David wasn’t surprised to see Carl and Russ Blake across the gym, chortling with delight, considering they were the only ones in school who still called Noah “Special Ed”.
For the most part, the other students accepted Noah and did what they could to make him feel like he belonged there. But a two-time freshman who spends his afternoons down in the elementary building alongside a dyslexic third grader and an 11-year-old with Down’s syndrome was an easy target. His puppy-like combination of boundless energy, poor judgment and a longing for acceptance made him easily manipulated—especially for cousins who’d been in a two-man race to be the biggest prick since birth.
Noah trotted the ball back across the gym. Carl snatched it from his hands, not bothering to hide the sick amusement he found in the red bursting forth from the kid’s legs.
“HUT!” Carl shouted.
Noah took off across the gym with wild abandon. David and Matt watched as Carl heaved the ball in a massive arc over the heads of half the student body.
“What is he…” was all David got out before Noah went crashing to the floor again, sending another squeal of flesh through the gym in an effort to catch a ball obviously thrown well out of his reach.
David shot bolt upright. His gaze was locked on Noah, who got up much slower this time. Even from the bleachers he could see the angry red rash extending along his entire leg.
The second crash was enough to turn a few more heads, but more seemed to purposely ignore whatever scene was unfolding. Not surprising, considering the Blake Boys’ reputation, nobody wanted to get them involved in their day.
The ball bounded into a group of girls sitting in the far corner, where one swatted it away.
Noah limped towards the ball and scooped it up.
“LET’S GO, ED!” Russ shouted, getting his considerable weight behind it. His face was a grimace of mean-spirited glee, while his cousin Carl now openly cackled.
Noah responded by breaking into a jog, which with the condition of his legs appeared more like an awkward skip.
David watched in disbelief as Noah returned the ball to Carl Blake. It was too much, and David stood up.
Before he could take a step down the bleachers, Matt’s hand snagged his elbow. “Where are you going?”
“Somebody’s got to do something,” David glanced back at Matt, but made no move towards the gym floor. Part of him was relieved his friend stopped him, because it wasn’t like the Blake Boys were going to accept someone telling them how to have fun without violence.
“Hold on.” Matt nodded towards the floor.
Scott Alston had walked up and joined Carl and Russ. One hand was on Noah’s shoulder as he spoke softly in his ear.
A river of ice ran down David’s spine at the sight of Scott, and seeing a beaming smile cross Noah’s face did nothing to stem the tide. He remained frozen in the bleachers when Noah handed the ball to Scott and sprinted off once again. The kid’s floor-burned legs pumped as fast as they could go, all trace of a limp gone. Scott waited until he’d covered two-thirds of the gym before letting the ball fly. Seeing the ball’s trajectory, it didn’t take a trigonometry genius to know exactly where this was headed.
David opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
Noah never took his eyes off the ball as he rocketed across the gym. He blasted through a group of kids sitting under the basketball hoop and went flying into the concrete wall. The football slapped the wall at the same time as Noah’s face.
He slid down like a cartoon character and landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.
The entire gym went eerily silent. David stood rooted in his spot, watching a pool of blood spread out from under Noah’s head. A crowd formed near the wall, blocking David’s view. He could feel the panic bloom in the gymnasium as the whispered murmurs from below steadily grew.
Somebody must have run off to alert the teachers, because seemingly the entire staff flooded in through the doors and shoved their way through the mass of students. Commands of “Give him room” floated up from the crowd.
The principal, Mr. Donald, walked into the gym and made his way over to a trio of teachers kneeling over their student. He exchanged a few quick words with Mr. Roderick, who turned to the crowd with his hands up.
“OK, EVERYBODY BACK IN THE CAFETERIA,” He bellowed. “ALL STUDENTS RETURN TO THE CAFETERIA. NOW PEOPLE, LET’S GO.”
The request had little effect. Like David, most kids were riveted where they stood. Eventually, enough teachers were on hand to herd the students through the two sets of doors and back into the lunchroom.
“I can’t believe that sick fuck,” David muttered. He stared at the far side of the gym, where Carl and Russ Blake were nowhere to be found. Scott still stood there, staring at where Noah was just starting to regain consciousness.
“He ran him right into the fucking wall.”
Matt’s voice filtered up towards him. “You think?”
David turned away from the scene below. By this point, the school nurse had arrived and was holding a gym towel to Noah’s face.
“That ball was halfway up the wall,” David said. “No way he misses a throw that bad. He ran him right into the wall.”
If Matt responded, David didn’t hear it as memories cascaded through his head and poured over the dam he’d built years ago to keep them at bay. He turned back towards the floor, where Scott was turning to leave. His eyes caught sight of David and he paused, a half-cocked smile crossing his face as he continued towards the far door.
The look lit a fire of fear in David’s gut.
“Somebody has to do something,” David said as Matt made his way down the bleachers. “He can’t keep getting away with this shit.”
ROW AFTER ROW OF GIANT, razor-sharp teeth. The kind that pierced, held, and devoured whatever found its way into their path. Apex-level predator teeth.
Scott wanted to look away, but couldn’t. The teeth had a hold of him, almost as if they picked up the sunlight from the lone window in a way that washed out the rest of the office. Not that there was anything else worth looking at. Principal James Donald had collected a decisively small number of personal effects for someone who had inhabited the same workspace for 16 years. The shelves behind his desk contained books, procedural binders and a tacky gold frame with a few family pictures. There was a group shot of the Donald clan, flanked by woefully out-of-date pictures of his two children.
But mounted to the wall beside the desk, a 51-inch muskie dominated the room. Its maw was perpetually agape, with dagger-like teeth greeting anyone who walked through the door. The neon green jerkbait used to land it dangled from its bottom jaw, treble hooks and all.
Scott knew he needed to pay attention—to play his part—but he kept stealing glances at the great muskie’s teeth as he sat in one of the two chairs across from Principal Donald’s desk.
The teeth fascinated him. They reminded him of his own trophies back in the fort.
“Scott, are you listening to me?” Principal Donald snapped.
“Yes, sir. Sorry,” he replied, pulled back from his thoughts and into another boring conversation. But he was ready. “Just thinking about what happened with Noah. I mean, I know he just tripped, but I can’t help but think that it was my fault.”
Principal Donald eyed him suspiciously. Probably expected more defiance on this one; more you don’t want me to call my dad.
Scott had used that tactic before, certainly, but that was when he was younger. His impulses had landed him in the principal’s office plenty during elementary school—before he learned control. Now he didn’t need his Holy Roller of a stepfather bringing his righteous indignation raining down on the principal’s desk. He could talk his way out of this with half his brain tied behind his back.
Scott gave his principal a look that betrayed nothing of what was going on behind it.
“I mean, you know how he is. Running around like crazy all the time. We were playing catch and Noah kept trying to intercept the ball, you know, trying to get in the game.”
“Well, he kept knocking it away and Russ was starting to get pretty pissed–I mean mad. Sorry.” Scott said. “So he chucks it all across the gym and makes Noah run after it. Just to get him away from us, I guess. Well, he picks it up and brings it to me. And I figure if I throw him one maybe he’ll leave us alone.
“I tell him to go out for a pass and he takes off like a wildman. Before I can even say anything he is already halfway across the gym, so I just try and throw it as far as I can. Noah kept running and goes right through this group of people sitting kinda by the basket. First I thought he dove, but I think he tripped up on somebody’s leg or something because he went flying into the wall. I just stood there waiting for him to get up, but he just laid there.
“When I realized he was really hurt, not just lying there, I went to go get somebody, but by then I saw the teachers. People were all crowded around him and stuff. Kinda freaking out. I mean, I didn’t know what to do.”
It wasn’t what happened, but Scott knew he’d buy it. Noah Cooke was completely hyperactive and always going at 100 mph. Nobody would be surprised when he had an accident, which is what made him a perfect plaything.
He could still see the blood pooling on the floor and the excitement welled up inside him. His eyes drifted back to the muskie. The teeth.
“So you were just playing catch and he went tearing off,” Principal Donald said, much more a statement than a question.
“Well, yeah. I mean, like I said, we weren’t really playing catch with him,” Scott replied. “I just wanted to get him away from us. It’s my fault. I should have just told Russ to let him be. Is he OK? I mean, is he going to be all right? I tried to ask Mr. Roderick after it happened, but he just kept pushing us all towards the cafeteria.”
“I don’t know,” Mr. Donald said. The tone of his voice told Scott he’d already won. “The paramedics took him down to the clinic, but they thought they might have to take him down to Mason City to get some tests because he was out when he hit the ground.”
“Man, that’s scary,” Scott said. “Hope he’s OK.”
“Yeah, me too,” Principal Donald said. He gave Scott one last stern look before dismissing him, probably to assure him he hadn’t pulled one over on him.
It was all Scott could do not to laugh.
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