I could feel my hands starting to shake as I waited for what Daniel was going to tell me. Goosebumps were forming on my arms and I sat in anticipation staring at the brunette across from me.
“We had a party that night, you could have guessed that,” Daniel started. “Blake had just gotten dumped by his girlfriend, who I won’t even give a name, and he wasn’t taking it well at all. He was drinking a lot.”
“Okay, he broke up with her,” Austin chimed in.
“No; she cheated on him with you after she told you that he kicked her to the curb,” Daniel scrunched his nose in disgust. Austin shut his mouth and leaned back in his chair. He wanted nothing to do with this in the first place and was livid that Daniel was even telling me anything.
“Anyway, he started early, before the party even started and kept it going as the party went on. We were here, in my backyard. I was talking to everyone, being a good host, and then all hell broke loose. This fucking idiot invites Blake’s ex-girlfriend to the party,” Daniel motioned at Austin.
“I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know what went down between them. She told me he dumped her. She told me that he didn’t love her anymore,” Austin whispered.
“Dude, it was still one of your best friend’s girlfriends…or ex-girlfriends,” I added.
“You shut up, bitch,” Austin snapped.
“Hey!” Daniel scolded. “I’m doing the talking. So Blake lost it. He didn’t want to see her there. He went into my house and I let him. I figured he wanted to be alone. He came back a bit later and was even more pissed than before. He was blacked out and raging and he went straight for that girl. I ran to hold him back and before I got to him, Austin decked him in the face; laid him out right there on the grass, and he didn’t move. And that girl, she freaked out cause she thought Austin killed him. But Blake didn’t die from the punch, at least we don’t think. We think it was how much he’d had to drink plus the fall didn’t help. He started shaking and heaving like he was gonna hurl, but nothing happened and then the shaking just stopped and nothing.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was all so much to take in. In a few days, I had learned not only that my house had a restless spirit, but that maybe he couldn’t cross over to the other side because of his untimely death, a death that could have been prevented.
“Austin was freaking out. Googling alcohol poisoning, seeing if punching someone could kill them, and the ex was crying and mad at Bloom telling him he better do something about this and telling me that since I’m his best friend I needed to do something too,” Daniel said.
“We didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want her freaking out and I didn’t want anyone to know that I hurt Blake, so I did the first thing that came to my mind. I told her Dan and I would take Blake home,” Austin looked sick to his stomach.
“We picked him up, put him in the back, and drove to his house,” Daniel continued. “He still wasn’t moving and at this point we definitely thought he was dead. He wasn’t really breathing and he looked kind of blue and really pale. That was when Bloom started freaking out. He didn’t want to tell Blake’s parents that he killed their son and I didn’t want to tell them that I had over-served him and let him get drunk enough to basically kill himself.”
“We had to cover our asses,” Austin said, tearing up. “I couldn’t go to jail. I was 18.”
“We picked him up and carried him to the backyard. There was a bottle in my car and we wiped it down so our fingerprints weren’t on it, just Blake’s. I left the bottle by the side of the pool, and we dropped him in. I watched him sink and I think Austin nearly threw up. We went back to my house and in the morning, we heard the news of the accident. I was supposed to take him home all along. I told his parents that when I dropped him off, I’d watched him walk inside before I drove away. They were too devastated to pry. They believed me; I was his best friend,” Daniel was now tearing up. The thought that made me sick to my stomach was that Blake was probably still alive when they put him in the water. A call to 9-1-1 would have saved him.
“For two years we’ve been keeping it a secret; two whole fucking years. Do you know how hard it is? It eats away at me every single day,” Austin admitted.
“Are you the only two that know?” I asked him.
“Well, there’s one other person,” Daniel said.
“Max,” I finished, already knowing the answer. It all made sense now: why Max hated Daniel and Austin and the rest of Blake’s new crowd.
“He had just gotten off work and was smoking on the back porch. He saw us. He saw the whole thing, but we didn’t see him. Not until the end. I told him I’d kill him just like I killed Blake if he told anyone. I said no one would believe him and that nothing would happen to me. Then, I’d kill him or we’d pin the whole thing on him. He would be the ‘jealous ex-best friend who didn’t approve of the new friend group so he killed him.’ And he’s kept quiet for two years. I don’t know if he bought into our threats or just knew that he didn’t have any evidence of the truth to get us in trouble,” Daniel concluded.
I was absolutely shocked. The three of us sat there in silence while the rest of the group chatted away, oblivious to the story that had just been told and oblivious to what actually happened that night two years ago. Max had said that things were different ever since Blake died; things just didn’t feel right. Well maybe this was why. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t sit here and try to make friends with people who would kill you if they were afraid of getting their own asses in trouble.
“Can you show me to the bathroom?” I asked Daniel, breaking the silence.
“Yeah, follow me,” he replied, standing and leading me towards the house. Things just felt awkward now and I didn’t know how to break the tension.
“Daniel?” I asked. “Why wouldn’t you just have confessed? You didn’t do anything wrong. Blake just drank too much.”
“I think about it every day. I replay that night over and over again thinking of how I would have done things differently. If anything Bloom would have been the one in trouble, not me. He was the one that thought we should throw him in the pool, to wash away the evidence, ya know?” I nodded my head, leaning against the wall of the house. He opened the door and showed me to the second floor bathroom.
“We went back after they left; to look around. It was empty, but we always felt like someone was watching us. That was something we didn’t tell people because we were afraid. Of course we spread the story that weird shit happened there, but it really didn’t. I just remember this feeling of overwhelming dread in that house. When I was there it felt like someone knew what I did. Only me, Austin, and our other friend Zack went back and it was only one time because it was so freaky,” Daniel admitted.
“That’s comforting, knowing that I live there now,” I said. But the truth was, I wasn’t afraid of Blake…and Daniel was right. He was in that house and he was the someone that knew what Daniel and Austin did.
“Yeah, you probably didn’t want to know all of that stuff. But it was a long time ago. No one talks about the accident anymore,” Daniel assured me. He turned to walk back down the stairs. “I’ll be out back,” he called. I went into the bathroom and locked the door. I just needed to get away from them and be by myself. I sat down and pulled out my phone, calling Max. He answered on the first ring.
“Need my help yet?” he asked.
“How did you know?” I whispered.
“Because I know those scumbags. You were curious and I knew you’d ask about Blake and I also knew Daniel would be dumb enough to tell you. It’s not him you have to worry about, though, it’s Austin.”
“They told me everything,” I confessed. “Please tell me you know where Daniel Anderson lives,” I begged.
“I do. Is that where you’re at?” I could hear him moving already.
“Yeah, can you come get me?” I asked.
“I’m already in the car,” he promised. I heard the engine in the background, assuring me that he was coming. I could make up an excuse to leave in the 10 minutes it would take Max to get here. Plus, I could stall for a couple more minutes in here. This was the stuff out of movies. These boys had been keeping such a dark secret that no one even questioned. I didn’t have a reason to be afraid, but I was afraid. This situation didn’t sit right with me and I couldn’t let them get away with this. There was a reason I’d seen Blake and talked to him and there was a reason he showed me the yearbook. Him being real to me made me want to help him, although he made it clear with his whiteboard message he didn’t want me here. I took a breath and gathered the courage to go back outside. I stepped out of the bathroom started to see a shadowy figure in the hallway. The person shoved me against the wall, pinning me there with one arm.
“You shouldn’t have come and you shouldn’t have started asking questions,” he said, something shiny catching the light. It was Austin and he looked angry. I was frozen and didn’t reply. The shiny object was brought closer to my face and I realized that it was a knife from the Anderson’s kitchen.
“I could tell by the look on your face that you were gonna narc. You think I’m stupid and didn’t find it weird you wanted to go to the bathroom right after hearing that story? We can’t let that get out. I’m not doing time. Hell no,” Austin sneered. My phone lit up in my hand displaying a text from Max saying that he was here. Austin looked down at my phone and I took the opportunity to kick him in the groin while he was distracted. He flew back and hit the other wall as I took off running towards the back.
“Get back!” he yelled, but I was already out the door. I sprinted around the house toward the front yard. A very confused Daniel started chasing after me.
“What are you doing?” he shouted.
“Stop your crazy-ass friend from murdering me!” I screamed at Daniel, not breaking pace. I could see Max standing outside of his car looking ready to fight. By now, Austin had caught up to us, knife still in hand.
“Dude, what the fuck?” Daniel asked. Austin took a swing at him just catching his forearm as he continued on toward me. I ran behind Max, bursting into tears. Austin stopped a few feet from Max glaring at him. A now bleeding Daniel followed behind.
“Two years I’ve kept quiet. Two years and everyone forgot about Blake and the ‘accident.’ You’re done hurting people, Austin,” Max said.
“You called him?” Daniel asked, motioning towards Max.
“And it’s a good thing she did,” Max answered. “This is over now. I’ve been silent for too long. I have another person to confirm what I already saw and you can’t stop us. You have no leverage anymore.” Austin lunged toward Max, but was stopped by Daniel.
“I’ll get rid of all of you!” Austin cried.
“You tried to fucking stab me tonight, bro. I’m with them. I’m coming clean,” Daniel nodded.
“What’s wrong with you? We’re going to go to jail,” Austin screamed.
“What we did has been haunting me for two years. And after telling the story again tonight and seeing your reaction? The secret is out. They’re going to tell whether we come clean or not. I’m just hoping my honesty will encourage them to go easy on me,” Daniel said, tearing up for the second time that night. I wiped my own tears away and stepped out from behind my neighbor.
“You’ve always been soft. Fucking pansy,” Austin sneered at his best friend.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t ‘cool’ like you thought I was. I had no idea you were involved with Blake’s death,” I said. Daniel just nodded and grabbed Austin by the shoulder.
“It’s over. Let’s go,” Daniel motioned toward his car.
“What?” Austin looked puzzled.
“We’re turning ourselves in right now. Well, after I deal with this,” he said. Daniel grabbed the knife out of his hand. I looked at Max skeptically.
“You’ll need us too,” Max said.
“We’ll be right behind you,” I chimed in. True to his word, Daniel got in the car after sending his friends home, cleaning up his arm, and gathering a still reluctant Austin. I knew Daniel was a good guy deep down. He was truly pained by the secret he was keeping and wanted justice for his best friend just as much as I did. I was surprised he was able to reign in his violent best friend as easily as he did. The look on the detective’s face was an odd one when we all came forward with our story and reopening Blake’s file would still be a process, but everything had a way of working itself out. The boys were going to face jail time, that was a given, and the fact that they’d covered up the murder all this time wasn’t helping them much either. After what felt like days, Max and I finally returned home. When this story broke, the press would probably storm my neighborhood just as I knew it did when Blake died.
“The secrets are all out now. I think you can relax and try and make some friends, not so much enemies now,” Max smiled, walking me to my door from his driveway.
“Well at least I have you for a start,” I smiled, pulling him into a hug. I thanked him for coming to my rescue and waved goodbye as he headed over to his house and I walked quietly up the stairs to my room as to not disturb my already sleeping parents.
The summer after my freshman year was definitely the weirdest start to a summer I had ever had. Just as I suspected, it was all over the news how the accidental drowning of a San Antonio high school student was discovered to be a murder that was covered up all along.
“Twenty-year-old Daniel Anderson and 19-year-old Austin Bloom turned themselves in after two years in hiding thanks to eyewitness testimony that had not been previously reported….” All of the reporters sounded the same. Max and I were never named, but we both agreed that we liked it better that way. All of the fuss seemed to die down after a day or two and it appeared that the drama was all behind us. The only question that lingered in my mind was whatever became of Blake, but I didn’t have to wait long for that question to be answered.
A few weeks after Daniel and Austin went to jail, I was sitting in bed, writing about this experience, actually, and there was a knock on my door. “Come in,” I called, assuming that it was just my dad. I froze when I looked up to see a blonde in a baseball tee and skinny jeans take a seat at the end of my bed.
“Long time, no see,” Blake smirked.
“I’ll say. Where have you been?” I asked, feeling dumb at the question.
He chuckled. “Just around. You’re the only one that can see me, you know.”
“Why did you hide from me?”
He sighed, growing more serious. “I wanted you to help me. I’ve been alone wandering around this house ever since my family left. When new people came, I thought this was my shot for someone to figure out what happened to me. I didn’t want to be stuck here. I thought that the truth coming out would set me free. You saw me; you didn’t know I was dead at first. I knew you’d figure things out so you could see me again.”
“How could you be so sure?” I questioned.
“I had a feeling,” he smiled. “Plus, I gave you help along the way. I hope those pricks rot in jail for the rest of their lives.”
“I’m sorry about what happened to you,” I told him.
“Life can be a bitch, and then you die,” he laughed. “Some sooner than others,” he trailed off.
“So what’s the deal? Can you leave?” I asked Blake. A knock on my door once again caused me to look up. My dad poked his head in.
“Who are you talking to?” he asked. I looked to the foot of my bed and no one was there.
“I was watching a show, I wasn’t talking to anyone,” I told him. He nodded and left the room.
Blake never came back after that. I felt more at peace knowing that those who did him wrong were brought to justice, but I was still uneasy that I didn’t know what became of my ghost. Was he destined to be a lost spirit until the end of time?
I read online not too long ago that Daniel killed himself in jail. He had pretty much gone off the deep end, complaining of voices in his head. He was brushed off as faking schizophrenia to try and use the insanity defense to get himself out of jail, but the eerie thing wasn’t that he had just heard voices; he complained that he was hearing Blake’s voice. I almost regretted freeing the lost spirit living in my house. You’d think being dead would stop you from seeking vengeance on your enemies, but those years alone in this house must have given him time to think and plan out exactly who he wanted to go after. One by one, those involved with the “accident” were going mad and complaining of the same symptoms. I didn’t know any better. I just wanted Blake to be at peace. I couldn’t have imagined that the truth could unleash the wrath that had been building up inside of this house for years. I knew that I was safe, I had done the ghost a favor, but I was still uneasy living here. I feared that he would be back and ask something else of me and I would have to do it or I’d end up like the rest of them. At this point, the paranoia might get to me before Blake comes back. Even writing this, I fear that somehow he’ll know that I let his secret out. Nothing can protect me. Not from someone who is already dead.