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D Is For Damien: Chapter 6

A Near Miss

HARVEY AND ESMERALDA joined their friends Lawrence, Sadie, and Ann out at their old treehouse. They'd made it all for themselves, and no one so far knew where it was, except for Father Damien, who they knew could keep a little secret. They didn't want any nosy grownups snooping around their domain. But FD was an exception to the rule, and so far they were not sorry. This morning it was hot again, and sunny; it was still a little humid from the rain, and none of them had wanted to be cooped inside all day, so it was the perfect day to hang out. While they were there they talked things over in their usual "objective" way--which was basically bragging.

"Dami says those Scorpio guys are involved again," Harvey was saying. He liked to be the center of attention. Indeed he and Ez shared a lot of sibling rivalry. "He says they're the ones who got FD and tied him up and wanted to poison him. And he says these guys are real dangerous, and he says they've been after him for years, and he says--"

"Oh, he says, he says, he says!" Ez sighed, exasperated. She was leaning against the opposite wall, yawning throughout her adoptive brother's speech, as well as trying to fan herself unsuccessfully with a handful of leaves. "You're just a yammermouth, Harvey, and you know it."

"I am not a yammermouth!" Harvey retorted, sticking out his chin. "I heard it all. And I saw that weird Luther guy myself. He was actually in our house."

"Wow," Sadie, Ann, and Lawrence breathed.

Ez rolled her eyes and sighed.

"Weren't you scared?" Sadie asked with awe.

"Yeah, weren't you?" Ann, the youngest, echoed.

Harvey puffed out his chest. "Me? Naw. I wasn't scared for a minute."

Ez laughed suddenly and loudly. "Yeah, right! In your dreams, Harve. And maybe not even there."

Harvey sneered at her. "Shut up, turdface. How would you know anyway? You're just a yammermouth."

His sister smirked. "Takes one to know one."

Harvey snorted in his best impersonation of an adult and exited the treehouse. He jumped to the ground below and glared up at the others defiantly.

"Let's see you do that!" he taunted Ez.

"Let's," Ez echoed, and jumped from the tree. She landed on her feet, just as Harvey had, but with a lot more grace. She grinned at him smugly.

"Race you," she said.

"You're on."

They started off at a dead run toward the trees nearby. The other three dashed to the window and watched them from above.

"Hey, you guys!" Sadie yelled. "You're goin' right towards the road!"

Harvey and Ez didn't listen. They continued on in the direction of the old dirt road Harvey had ridden down before; it was pitted with holes and lined with weeds, rarely used anymore. It was partly because of this, and partly because they were so set upon what they were doing, that they didn't see the car approaching.

Lawrence gasped when he noticed it. He pointed. "Hey, look! Ain't that a car?"

The girls strained to see. From far away, they could see dust rising from the road, and in the center of the cloud was a car colored the same as the road. "It is," Sadie said, growing anxious. "Hey, Ez! Harvey! A car!"

The two kept running.

"Hey, Harvey, Ez!" Lawrence shouted with all his seven-year-old might. "Look out! A car!"

Still no response. The two obviously couldn't hear, or were just ignoring them.

Sadie started wringing her hands and hopping up and down. "We can't just stand here and watch," she said with distress.

"We can't reach them in time either," Lawrence replied gravely, jumping from the tree. He stumbled, scraping his knee, then got up and ran after them but Ann and Sadie could tell he was too late.

Now, nearing the road, Harvey finally spotted the dust-caked car as well. His heart did a backflip in his chest.

"Hey, Ez!" he cried. "Watch out! There's a car coming!"

"You can't fool me this time, Harve!" Ez shouted back over her shoulder with that smile. "Not falling for that old line again."

"But Ez--!"

The car was getting steadily closer.

Ez ran out into the road.

The car kept coming, not slowing a bit.


Harvey plunged after his sister and managed to shove her roughly to the side and just avoid being hit himself as the huge car barreled by, kicking up great clouds of dust from the parched road. They landed in a heap on the other side of the road, neck high in weeds with Harvey on top, Ez coughing in the dirt. The car kept on going, not slowing a bit, and soon disappeared from sight out on the highway.

Ez staggered to her feet, her dress torn and dusty. "Hit-and-runner!" she shouted, shaking her fist in the air after the vanished car. Her voice was made shrill by fear and anger. "Jerkwad!"

"C'mon, let's get away from here," Harvey said nervously, taking his sister by the elbow. The near miss had frightened him badly but he didn't want to show it. To his relief Ez silently agreed, grudgingly shaking off his hand and trudging back to the treehouse, swiping at her dirty dress. He followed her and they caught up with Lawrence, then went back to the tree, Harvey casting one final, shaky look over his shoulder, and sighing with relief that the race hadn't been his last.

Damien met with his uncle early that day to talk; he hadn't intended to talk about Scorpio any, as he would just as soon wish them away. However, he couldn't help but bring them up every so often, so Father Damien suggested that maybe he go home and take a rest, try to clear his mind a little. Damien had agreed--he was feeling pretty tired, his sleep having been interrupted by strange nightmares--so he stopped by the B&C to pick up a few groceries and then went home. He knew no one would be there now because Harvey and Ez had left to go play with friends at their "treehouse" (he'd never seen it himself, so he wasn't even sure if there was one; he was starting to think maybe it was a cover); everybody else who lived in the house was out. He could have the whole place to himself. Relieved by this thought, he turned and pulled into the driveway. He parked his car outside the garage and got out, stretching his tired arms, and reached inside to get the grocery bag. After slamming the door he walked up to the house. He entered the porch. His hand reached for the doorknob.

And stopped.

Damien paused. Something was wrong. There was a feeling he suddenly got, a sort of tensing of the muscles of his neck and shoulders--he'd always gotten that feeling before being jumped by a bunch of guys looking for a fight, and the feeling had never been wrong. He looked around, trying to put his finger on it, to figure out what was out of place, but it wouldn't come. It was just a feeling he suddenly had.

He shook it off. Get off it! he told himself. There's no such thing as ESP. Stop being stupid. You're just tired, is all. Go inside and take a nice long nap.

That relaxed him again, and he opened the door. The fact that it wasn't locked didn't surprise him much since they rarely did lock it except at night. We ought to start locking it all the time though, he thought, and wasn't sure just why. He shut it behind him--instinctively locking it now--and, after kicking off his sandals in the utility room, walked through the kitchen and into the living room, checking the answering machine for any messages, and then turning around to go back into the kitchen and put the groceries away.

That was when he saw it.

He stopped. The bag he had been holding dropped to the floor with a shattering of glass as he found himself staring with horror at what appeared to be a bloody knife plunged into the wall.

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