Football Season Is Over

story by Mabel Harper & Emrys Webb
written by Emrys Webb

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They’d hung out all day by the construction site where Ethan Kirkpatrick worked, then followed him.

Now, about an hour later, Rory and Fabi were watching the ex-football player from a corner booth in a sports bar on Dearborn, where he’d met up with some of his former teammates—including, as it happened, his literal partner in crime, Jordan Knight.

The two of them linking up was a stroke of luck that made it feel like destiny was on Rory’s side.

Bryce Archer himself, he and Fabi had agreed, was unlikely to show his face. Since his release on Wednesday, word had it Archer’d been hunkered down under tight security in his father’s mansion in Winnetka, scared into hiding by the mountain of death threats he’d received.

But both his accomplices at once would do for a nice warmup act.

Rory flexed his fingers, fiddled with his empty glass. Fabi eyed him. “You okay, B?”

They’d done key bumps earlier to make sure Rory wouldn’t lose his nerve. He’d been raring to go afterward, pumped for the moment Knight or Kirkpatrick would wander off to take a leak or have a smoke—when he’d have his chance to ambush them.

But both of them had lingered at the bar long enough now that Rory’s high had passed its peak, and now he was just feeling jittery and anxious.

“I could seduce them,” grinned Fabi. “Lure them somewhere private.”

“No.” Rory shook his head. They’d fucked like rabbits all day. He was feeling protective.

Fabi rolled her eyes. “Aiight, B. Whatever. Guess one of them has to move sometime.”

Rory muttered part of his planned speech to himself. “This is for the women and girls who are afraid to walk alone, afraid to have fun and make innocent mistakes, because of animals like you.”

“Hey.” Fabi kicked him under the table, nodded her head over her shoulder. “Knight’s up.”

Rory’s heart started bashing itself against his ribs.

“Wait, it’s a bunch of them going,” said Fabi. “Kirkpatrick, too. Heading out the back holding cigarettes. Okay, here’s the plan: You go smoke too, and when they go to come back in, give a holler at Tweedlefuck and Tweedleshitstain. See if you can get them alone. I’ll run interference from in here.”

Rory wasn’t sure he understood, but he nodded anyway. His thoughts were a panicked jumble.

Can I really do this?

He got up from his seat, put up the hood of the black jacket Fabi had lent him. Pulled his Marlboro Smooths out of his pocket, wended his way through the Friday night crowd toward the exit.

Knight, Kirkpatrick, and their friends, all athletic-looking college-age kids, were standing around on the stoop just outside. Rory shouldered his way through them with some grunted excuse-me’s, moved off a couple paces down the alleyway. Fired up a square of his own. He pretended to pay no attention to them; went over Catherine Doe’s victim impact statement, which he’d read five times, in his head, visualizing each nauseating detail of what had been done to her that night, trying to rile himself up.

But a simple thought kept butting in, dumping wet sand on his fire: 

Am I really about to kill these guys?

Before he knew it, the group were stomping out their cigarettes and heading inside.

Now or never.

“Jordan. Ethan.”

The two of them stopped, turned to face him as their friends went ahead of them into the bar.

Rory saw Fabi’s furtive shape in the doorway, pulling the door closed behind them.

“Who the hell are you?” asked Knight.

Rory stood there, mute. Heart like a drumbeat.

The two felons exchanged glances. “Aiight, whatever,” shrugged Knight at last. They turned to go inside.

“Did you do it?” Rory blurted. His planned speech had vanished from his head.

Knight and Kirkpatrick stopped short. Turned back.

“Do what?” asked Kirkpatrick, dangerously.

“You’re those guys from the news. Aren’t you.” Why is my stupid voice shaking? “Those f—fucking rapists.”

“What are you, some kind of white knight?” sneered Kirkpatrick.

“That girl was DTF, brother,” said Knight. “You weren’t there. Slut was raring to go.”

There it was. Anger. “She was passed out drunk.”

“Just drunk, bruh. Not passed out. We were all fucking drunk.”

“Yo, Jordan, let’s go. We’re don’t need to explain ourselves to this fag.”

“Don’t walk away.” Rory’s voice gained strength. “I want to hear you say it: You raped that girl. You knew Archer wanted to punish her for kissing another dude. Witnesses heard you assholes cheering him on when he said it.”

“Man, get a life.”

“You’re both parasitic shitstains, and you should fucking die!”

Knight closed on him. Rory tried to strike, but he couldn’t summon up the red haze. All he felt was a wave of nausea.

Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I just do it?

Next thing he knew Knight had him by the collar, breathing in his face. Kirkpatrick moved around to hem Rory in from behind.

Maybe they’ll kill me instead. That works, too.

“You self-righteous little cuck,” Knight spat. “You’re just jealous ’cause you could never get a piece of ass like that.”

“She was real fine,” Kirkpatrick chimed in. “Stuck-up little teacher’s-pet type. But soon as she got hammered, couldn’t get off our dicks!”

Rory saw Knight’s face split in laughter.

But all he heard was a thunderclap, followed by static.

It wasn’t a red haze that bled over his visual field. It was a stark red wash. The shock wave exploded out of him with so much force he briefly blacked out.

When he came to, a heavy weight slammed into him from the front, and the ground rose up to meet him from behind. His skull struck hard, jarred him painfully to his senses.

Warm liquid soaked his clothes. The stench of copper filled his nostrils.

A track of star-speckled sky between the tops of the buildings melted into view. Rory grunted, tried to sit up, but something heavy, wet, hot had him half-pinned to the ground. He could hear an inhuman bleating coming from behind him—a sound that set his teeth on edge.

Rory forced himself up partway, finally saw what was on top of him—though he had no idea which of them it was. You couldn’t tell it had been human. It might have been inside out. At the sight of it, Rory turned his head and retched.

He craned his neck then, heaving, and spotted Kirkpatrick on the ground behind him. The former athlete’s body looked like it had exploded somewhere around the crotch. His legs lay several feet away from him in opposite directions. His innards formed a glistening pile on the pavement. He was making hoarse, wet braying sounds, staring bug-eyed at his missing lower half.

His gaze caught weakly on Rory. “What are you?” he half-wheezed, half-sobbed.

Rory managed to cough out the last line of his planned speech: “I’m the motherfucking reckoning.”

A last weak hex sent blood spewing out of Kirkpatrick’s mouth. He collapsed with a dying gurgle on the asphalt.

Rory gritted his teeth, moved the thing that had been Knight off him with a series of vigorous shoves, his stomach twisting at the way his fingers sank into the meat, at the ugly wet sounds it made when he struck it.

His legs shook as he pushed himself to his feet.

Fabi loomed up out of the half-light. “Come on.”

Rory stumbled as she dragged him by the elbow, gradually picking up his pace till he was going at a clumsy half-run. He didn’t—he couldn’t—look back.

His legs continued to churn for how long he didn’t know, till the two of them found themselves in a darkened alley behind some closed-down boutique, where Fabi stopped short and, panting, backed him against the wall, kissing him with an eager tongue.

When she released him, Rory could see, even in the dim light, that her mouth was covered in blood.

“You did it,” she breathed, with a weird glint in her eyes. “Passed judgment on the wicked. The broken will rejoice. The world is godless no more.”

Rory’s mind traveled her strange words over and over as she sank to her knees on the asphalt, worked open his belt.

But it’s not God…

It’s the devil who punishes the wicked.

He heard his own gasps in the quiet of the alley like they were coming from someone else. Thrust his hips in spite of himself. Felt like an animal, getting his rocks off while covered in blood and gore.

His reverie was shattered by his phone vibrating against his shin. His fingers twitched.

Who would call me at this hour?

Rory gathered what was left of his wits—bent to reach into the pocket of his jeans, which were bunched around his ankles.

Dug out his Nokia. Squinted at the screen.

815-555-4808.

… 808.

In seconds, the phone was open and at Rory’s ear. “Hey,” he gulped.

Fabi looked up with a frown. Rory shuffled away from her, tugged up his jeans.

“Rory…” It was Jules’s voice on the line. “I need you.”

NEXT CHAPTER: CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
PREVIOUS CHAPTER: CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
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