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Comedian Pyros


Terence Black

Independence Day

Chapter 1

I don't look psychotic when I look at myself in the mirror. Plain brown hair, plain, hazel eyes. The only thing unusual is the tiny scar on the right side of my upper lip. I got that scar from a piece of shrapnel shoved inside a Molotov cocktail. It was an accident, my fingers weren't fast enough to throw it. Now, my skill is much improved.

The doorbell rings, interrupting my reverie. Scowling, I open the door. But when I see who it is, my scowl turns into a smile. Julian Snow, and Lucifer Scarlett. My best friends. They are more than that, for they share my secrets. No-one else does. And let me tell you, they are secrets worth knowing. Julian steps past me, into the house, and collapses into my step-father's leather chair. Lucifer bows cordially, his wicked smile making me very suspicious. Something is on his mind. And I am quite anxious to find out what it is. "Rialto, the police found the remains of that can of turpentine.

They're investigating now. Trying to pull fingerprints." Julian says, his gray eyes shining with a mocking light. "They never will." I reply, "I used leather gloves." "I know. You always do." he said, smirking. Lucifer is silent. He stands by the door, watching us. "What's the problem?" I asked, turning to look at him. As always, his face remains impassive, but his green eyes blaze. "They've called in the FBI." He mutters, slowly looking from Julian's face to mine. "Oh. We may have trouble." Julian says quietly. "Then we'll stay quiet for a day. And besides, who would suspect three fifteen year olds of what we've done?" I said. Julian laughs. Not a pretty sound.

He doesn't snort or anything like that, but underneath the humor, you can hear the coldness of his laughter. I shiver. "No-one. No-one in this town, or anywhere else in North Dakota." Lucifer says. Finally, he sits down on the edge of the coffee table, and rests his chin on his fingers, "No-one will guess. No-one will know." He sounds so sure of himself. Julian too, notices the certainty in the chilling voice. But he smiles, a cold, insolent smile. "Are we going or not?" I ask, anxious to leave the confines of my mother's house. Lucifer nods, and we troop out to his brother's car. Chad scowls as we get in, as though he knows who we are. What we are. But he jams the car into gear, and roars down the street.

I glance around the smoky, bar-like interior of the Holocaust, a local hangout. Then, unimpressed by the surroundings that haven't changed since God knows when, I follow my friends to the booth in the corner. People, friends from school, relatives, passing acquaintances nod, smile and wave to us. It's easy to pretend that we are flattered by their attentions. But are we? Never. We're better company for each other than anyone else will ever be. Lucifer's father, who owns the café, brings us our drinks, and thankfully, leaves us alone. I stare into the depths of my coke, and wait for someone to speak. Finally, Julian slams his glass down on the wooden table.

It shatters. Blood, 7up, and glass cover the tabletop. I keep staring into my drink. Then, I look up at him. He is examining his hand. Without taking notice of the pain it causes him, he pulls little pieces of glass out of the flesh on the back of his hand. Lucifer stares idly out the window next to us. Julian looks up and meets my eyes, "We can't keep quiet." He murmurs. Lucifer doesn't hear him. I catch his words clearly, letting them filter through my mind. "No. We probably couldn't." I finally admit. His gray eyes gleam maliciously, "We'll have to decide later. Lucifer?"

Lucifer turns to look at us, a bored expression on his face. "What?" he asks. "Are you in?" Julian says. Lucifer turns away, "I'm not getting caught. Not tonight. You two take the risk. You always do." He mutters, under his breath. I have the vague feeling that he means his words as an insult. I am right. He turns to me and laughs mockingly, "You are a poor excuse for a girl. You follow everyone else's lead." I scowl, and watch Julian out of the corner of my eye. He is flexing his hand slowly, as though longing to let it make contact with Lucifer's face. "If Rialto follows anyone's lead. It is her own." He mutters, carefully avoiding eye contact with his cousin. "Are you really that crazy? You're both risking this, of your own will, when the FBI and the police are crawling all over the place?" Lucifer asks, raising his eyebrows. Julian and I exchange glances and nod. He turns away, and is silent.

I sit up slowly and reach under my pillow for the restaurant book of matches that I keep there. Julian is standing by my window seat, having just climbed in from my mother's rose trellis. He smirks and holds up a can of spray paint. "Dragon's flame." He mouths. I know what he means. If you hold a lit match or lighter, and spray the aerosol at it, it shoots out a good foot or so. I smile, and reach under my bed. There is another can of spray paint, and a coke bottle filled with turpentine and another of kerosene. I shove the items into my backpack, and we both climb out the window. It is very slow progress, walking toward our chosen target, an old, run down gray house on the outskirts of town.

The house lies still and quiet, its windows dark, not a sound emerging from them. Julian walks to a corner of the house, and looks it over critically. The boards aren't dry enough to burn fast. That's all right. I have a better idea. He pulls a special bottle out of his backpack. It is a milk bottle with a hole poked in the cover. On each side of the cap, protrudes eight inches of cannon fuse. There is silicone holding it in place. He pulls the cover off, and pours turpentine into the jug. We wonder if we can add kerosene, or if the chemicals would react badly. Julian shrugs, and pulls a Zippo lighter out of his pocket. He flips it open and holds the flame to the end of the fuse. As it catches, he throws it in an open window.

The searing heat of the explosion washes over us, as flames engulf the house. We hear a woman's scream. A man's face appears in an upstairs window, but the flames swallow him. I have the illusion of watching the skin of his face melt like plastic. It's a satisfying thought. Julian's face is illuminated by the light of the fire. We know that the police will soon come in swarms, hoping for evidence. They will not find any. They never will. "Rialto? We'd better go." He says. I watch as he melts into the darkness behind the house. Slowly, I follow him. Then, almost as an afterthought, I toss the coke bottle filled with kerosene, and the remains of the turpentine, into the flames. I feel something scorching and hot slice across my cheek, but oblivious to the pain, I walk into the shadows, where Julian waits, eager to make our escape.

We make it to the front of his house, near the white picket fence, before either of us speak. "Score, 9-0. We're winning." Julian says, smiling coldly. "And we'll keep winning." I add, returning his smile. "Night, Ri. Meet me at Starr Park tomorrow around noon." He disappears into the shadows enveloping the white house. I shake my head, and walk across the street to my house. I climb up the big maple tree, and unlock my window. Within minutes, I'm safe and sound in my warm bed. 'Not as warm as that fire.' I think before drifting off to sleep, 'Nowhere near as warm as that fire.'

The alarm clock rings. Loudly. Incessantly. I groan and slap the snooze button. "Get up already." A voice says. I sit up very quickly, and look around the room, anxious. Lucifer is standing by the door, smiling mockingly. "Jerk. I need sleep." I pull a pillow over my head. "I know. Are you going to Starr Park, or not?" He asks, "Julian sent me to get you." "Oh, really?" I reply, "I'll go. But only if you leave and let me change." "Sure." He says, and leaves the room, closing the door behind him.

"So, what's up?" I ask, as we walk down the footpath in Starr Park. Julian grins, "Not sure, yet. Tomorrow's Independence Day." I glance at him suspiciously, "What are you planning?" I ask. "Let's save tonight's ammo, and celebrate with a big bang." Lucifer says. Slowly, I smile, "Good idea. I can't believe you two thought of it." I say, shaking my head in mock disbelief. Julian grabs me in a headlock and whispers, "You had better shut up, Ri.

You never know what kind of trouble you'll get yourself into." "And I'm not in deep enough?" I ask, raising my eyebrows and elbowing him in the ribs. He lets go of me, and frowns. "You could always get in deeper." Lucifer mutters solemnly. I shudder, "Mmm, let's see. I've murdered people in their sleep, burnt their houses and garages to the ground and created millions of dollars worth of damage. What else could I do?" I ask them. No one speaks.

Then Julian smashes his fist into the rough trunk of an oak tree, and starts to swear. "What is it?" I ask, startled. "Your gloves. Do you have them?" He grinds out, pulling splinters out of his knuckles. I am surprised his hand doesn't look like ground beef. "Yes." I pull them out of my jacket pocket, "See?" He takes a deep breath, "Okay. The owner of the house must have left his gloves outside. Because, I saw a pair in that yard last night." "Well, it's okay. I have mine right here. So, what are we doing today?"

I say. "Chad said he could give us a ride up to Big Village. We're gonna get fireworks. Some for home, some, for someone else's home." Julian says. "Yea. I don't know why he keeps offering to give us rides. If anyone is suspicious, it's him." Lucifer says to us. We agree. "Ri," Julian said suddenly, "what happened to your face?" "Huh?" I put my hand up to my face, "I don't know. What does it look like?" I ask, surprised. "A burn. A long, red burn. You'd better get that covered up." Lucifer says. "Definitely, and as quickly as possible." Julian says. I nod, and reach into my backpack for a mirror and concealer, which I don't often use.

Chad scowls as we climb into his car, chattering like normal teenagers. He seems unusually moody today. Julian and I slide into the back seat, and Lucifer gets in the front. We're talking about Lucifer's birthday, and what we're going to do about a celebration. "Will you three pipe down? I got a lot on my mind." Chad snaps. Julian and I exchange glances, "Sure, Chad."

I say, smiling. He growls something imperceptible. "Hey, be nice, bro. Ri's not a gladiator come to get you." Lucifer says. "I wouldn't bet on it." His older brother mutters. "Hey! Man, what is your problem with her?" Julian says adamantly. "Sorry, she just gives me the willies." Chad says. "Stop talking like I'm not even here." I say, scowling. "I wish you weren't." He says. Julian looks as though he'd like nothing better than to throttle Chad. I could've used that sort of entertainment. "Turn the car around. I'm going home." I tell him. "What?" Julian asks, "Why?" "I'd rather hang with the old men at the Black Ribbon, than be here with him."

I jerked my thumb at Chad, who spins the car in a U-turn, and drives back toward Little Village. The car screeches to a stop in front of the Black Ribbon, "Help yourself, Rialto." Chad says. "Gladly." I mutter, and climb out of the car. Julian follows me. "Go with him." I tell him. "Nope. You need company." He says, and grins. I roll my eyes, "You have a very blown up vision of yourself, don't you?" I ask. "Yea. And I'm proud of it." He replies. "Oh, Lord." I say as we walk into the café, through big double wooden doors.

Old Man Harvey, and Herb Thorpe look up from their card game as we walked in. So do half of the cheerleaders at a table in the corner. They are staring at Julian, of course, and wondering who the little sparrow is, who is with him, as usual. "Hey, Herbie." Julian says, peering over the white-haired man's shoulder, at the cards he holds. He whispers something into Herb's ear. The old man lets out a delighted squeal. Old Man Harvey groans, and slaps his forehead. "Thanks, Julian!" Herb pipes, as we walk toward a table. Julian waves and replies, "'Course, it's never hard to beat Harvey." Harvey lets out a string of military swearwords. Julian and I laugh and make our way over to the last empty table. We get our usual drinks, and sit in silence.

Julian stares into his drink, and I get the feeling that he is going to break this glass. "Julian! Oh, Julian, sweetheart!" Anita Warhart says, prancing toward our table. He looks up at me, his gray eyes amused. Anita's skirt flies up. I shake my head. Telekinesis is a gift of his, and a favorite thing to do, is make fools out of the cheerleaders. Anita screams and Julian and I look up. Her hair is on fire, and she is shrieking very loudly.

The fire spreads quickly to her dress, then her skin. We watch in horror as she burns to ashes. Finally, all that is left, is a pile of cinders, once her bones, skin, hair, dress. Julian and I exchange glances, neither of us is pyrokinetic. Neither of us lights fires with our minds. At least, we don't think we do.
"Did you see the way she burnt up?" Julian asks, still looking shell-shocked as we walk toward my house. "Oh, no."

I say sarcastically, "I was watching the waitress pour drinks. Of course I saw!" Then as an afterthought, I add, "You didn't do that, did you?" "No. I don't think telekinesis is for lighting fires. Not with your mind. That's pyrokinesis. I think." He tells me. "Oh, okay, you kind of had me worried for a minute. I don't think I'd want to be associated with a pyrokinetic."

I say. He smiles wryly, "I can see why not. Can you imagine, getting in a little argument, and being burnt to charcoal? It would be this threat hanging over you. Never get on your friend's bad side, or you'll end up a pile of ashes." Julian says. I shudder at his morbid wording. "What do you think the police will say to a cheerleader being engulfed in fire, with half of the town watching?" I ask. "I don't know. They won't like it, that's for sure. They'll probably have a parapsychologist in to tell them what the term is for incineration with your thoughts. It'll creep Sergeant Williams, not to mention Paul, out. They'll be scared 'cause they'll figure they're gonna blow up or something." Julian replies. "Parapsychology. This conversation is going downhill fast." I comment. He laughs coldly, "And we both know it can get a lot worse." "Don't remind me." I say.

"Anyone home?" I shout, unlocking the door to my house. Julian and I step inside. My step-father, Paul, is sitting at the table, along with his son, Joseph. "Hey, Ri. Hello, Julian." Paul says, as we collapse into two empty wooden chairs, "Long day?" "Yea." I say, "Pyrokinesis, spontaneous combustion, and the house that burnt last night. Long day, all right." "Spontaneous combustion?" Paul asks, raising his eyebrows. "Anita Warhart burst into flame in the middle of the Black Ribbon and hour ago. Julian, old man Harvey, Herb Thorpe, the cheerleaders, and I were witnesses.

We thought you would have been called to the scene." I say. Paul's jaw drops. It is in danger of hitting the floor. "Hey, don't forget Ryan Thorpe, Robin Thatcher, and that Cassidy kid. They were doing the usual thing, and hanging in the shadows." Julian says. "Isn't Ryan, Herb's grandson?" Joseph asks. "Yea. He's okay. So is Robin, but that Cassidy kid is strange." I tell him. "Robin is Donny Thatcher's son, and Cassidy just moved out of Big Village." Julian adds. "A Big Village kid in Little Village.

That's interesting, especially when we don't have trash joints to hang around in. All there is, is the Grey Horse Tavern, The Holocaust, Black Ribbon, Green Frog, and The Katie Gray. None of those are disreputable." Paul says. "Nope. All old people in the Grey Horse. A mix in the Green Frog and Black Ribbon, and all teens in the Katie Gray and Holocaust. Not exactly a murderous, strange, drug addicted crowd, is it?" Joseph says. Julian smirks, "Nope. So I don't know why Cassidy is in there. Suspicious, if you ask me." "Very." I agree, smiling. "But pyrokinetic? I doubt it.

That stuff doesn't exist, so why do you think it was that or spontaneous combustion?" Paul asks. "Just a theory." I say. Paul does not know about Julian's telekinesis, and he never will find out. Not if we can help it, anyway. "An interesting theory, but you two don't really believe in that parapsychology bull, do you?" Paul asks. "No." Julian says, before I can answer. I shrug, figuring he must have his reasoning. "We just think it's interesting, even if it doesn't exist." He continues, without pausing. "Oh. Are you into that stuff now, Ri?" My stepfather says, rasing his eyebrows once again. "No. I read a book on it the other day, and Julian and I were talking about the book, when it happened."

I say, smiling. "What was it called?" Paul asks, glancing at Julian. "A Study of Kinetic Powers and How They Are Employed." I say, silently congratulating myself for quick thinking. "Ah. I see. Very long title, Rialto." His tone is very suspicious. I shrug, and open the refrigerator door. "Hungry, Julian?" I ask. "Yea." He says, "Bring on the food." "Okay. Canned cat food, nightcrawlers, three day old spaghetti, or-ew, nasty. Bean burritos." I say, making a face. "What's nasty?" Joseph asks. "Is that the chocolate pudding you opened, what, two weeks ago?"

I point to an uncovered bowl of moldy, crusty, goo. "I was wondering what happened to that." He says, grinning. "It got moldy, idiot." Julian mutters, "Let's just go get pizza, Ri. My treat." "Sure. If you're paying, it's worth it." I say. "Cool. Hey, why don't you just crash at my house? Dad and Andrew are back." He replies. "Sure. Let me get some stuff. C'mon." I dragged him to the stairs, and we climbed up to my attic bedroom. "Did you see the look Paul gave me? That was awesome." Julian exclaims. "What? You like everyone thinking you're crazy? That's the same way he looked at you when we went out to your camp with your dad and cousins for the week." I say.

He grins lopsidedly, "Yea. Ain't it grand?" I roll my eyes in exasperation. "To you, maybe. I don't like my step-dad thinking my friends have gone nuts. Even if it is true." I say. Julian shoves me over. I stick my tongue out at him. We laugh and finish putting my stuff in my backpack. With a questioning look at him, I hold up a book of restaurant matches. He shakes his head minutely, and slings my bag over his shoulder. Together, we troop down the stairs. Paul is standing in the front hall, waiting for us,

I suppose. "Rialto, I want you to stay here tonight. Julian can stay too, but I don't want you going over there." He says, scowling darkly. He reminds me of Lucifer at his worst. "Why not?" I ask, confused. "Just-just don't." He says. "Guess what? You aren't my dad. My dad is in California. And he never said I had to stay out of there. Bye, Paul, honey." Julian and I walk out the door, and I throw a saucy wave over my shoulder.

"Hey! Dad, Drew, Kacey!" Julian shouts, opening the big glass paneled door. "Hey, kiddo. Ri-rocker! What are you two up to?" Scott Snow says, grabbing me in a bear hug. "Going for pizza. It is okay if Ri crashes here, right, dad?" Julian replies. "Sure thing, Julian. Ri's always welcome here. You know that. Drew and Kacey ran into Big Village to pick up the parts for the Camaro. Mind if I tag along for pizza?" Scott asks. "No, come on, dad. You're the cool one.

But my treat is hereby transferred to you." Julian says. Scott slaps his forehead, "I shoulda known." "Yea, you should've. It's me and Julian we're talking about, here." I say. Everyone starts to laugh. "Come on. Are we walking, or shall we take the Pontiac?" Scott asks us. "Walking." We chorus. "That's car is extremely dangerous." I add. "Definitely." Julian says. Scott makes a face as we go out the door. "Come on, latch-key boy. Hurry up and lock that door!" He says to his son, who turns amused eyes on me.

It's a nice, sunny day, and we keep up steady chatter as we walk toward the Holocaust, intent on downing a house special, and a gallon of whatever soda Scott bought. "Hey, Mr. Snow? Did you catch that new Metallica song? Saint Anger. Talk about heavy." I say. Scott grins, "Nope. I've been listening to country lately." Julian and I exchange horrified glances. "Where were you, Mexico?" I ask. "India. But the only human station I could get from where I was camped was country. Or else I'd have enough Metallica and Nickelback and Yellowcard in my head to last me all winter."

He says. "Where are you going next, dad?" Julian asks. "Greenland. Very, very cold there." Scott says, and turns to me, "That's where Julian was born." "Seriously?" I ask, keeping my eyes on Julian's reddening face. "Yep. That explains the white hair perfectly, doesn't it?" "Yea. Julian Snow, born in Greenland, with white hair. Coincidence? I think not." I say. Julian glares at me. Scott begins to laugh.

As we approach the doors to the Holocaust, Scott hoists me onto his shoulders. I shriek slightly, and hold on for dear life. Julian is laughing. We troop inside, and everyone begins to laugh. A group of geeks is sitting at the table by the window that we usually sit at. The other tables are full, so we walk up to the bar, and take the three empty stools. Merve and Scooter, the bartenders, (and short-order cooks) both come over to us. Scooter grins and leans toward me. "Ri-rocker. How's it going, babe?" He says. "Great, Scooter. Not much to do during summer in Little Village, though." I reply. "Not even for you, honey?"

He says. "Sweet talking me never works. What do you want?" I say bluntly. "Jeez. Gets right down to the point, doesn't she?" He asks Julian. "Darn right, she does. You had better answer her. Her temper is short." He tells Scooter. "Okay. You hang around with a couple girls from The Docks, right?" He says to me. "Yea-Kelly Vandenboom, and Marisa Davenport. Why?"

I ask suspiciously. "Can you find out if Alison Cramer is single?" Scooter says, looking at me pleadingly. I glance at Julian and Scott, they're both smirking. "I guess. You'll owe me, though." I tell him. "Okay. Just let me know how much. Oh, anyway, what did you guys want to order?" Scooter says, remembering his duties. "A medium pizza, with pepperoni, green olives, and extra cheese. And two cokes and a 7up, of course." Scott said. "He's smart. Been gone for two months. Still knows what we like."

Julian says, grinning. "You bet, I do. You two are the easiest to feed. The only things you won't eat are liver and onions." Scott says. "Don't forget oysters, Mr. Snow." I say. He laughs, "That's why you two are so boring. You won't eat gritty, fishy foods." Julian and I make disgusted faces. Merve is staring at us intensely. It's extremely unnerving to have a slimy little worm like him staring at you while you try to talk to your friend and his father. Merve has always crept me out. At least Scooter is friendly. "Coke for Ri and Scott. 7up
for Julian. Am I right?" Scooter says, sliding drinks across the bar toward us. "Yea. Poor, boring old me." Julian mutters, and downs half of his drink in one gulp. I raise an eyebrow. "How come you never get sick?" I ask him. "Fast metabolism." He replies. "Which is why you can wolf down three burgers, your fries and mine, not to mention dessert, in five minutes, and still weigh as little as Ri does." Scott says, raising his eyebrows and looking at me. "Is that good or bad?" Julian asks.

"Both." Scott and I chorus, and laugh at Julian's confused look. "Great. Thanks, Ri. Take dad's side." He mutters. I grin and wiggle my eyebrows. He groans and leans his forehead in his hand, "Crazy, crazy woman. I'm surprised Paul and Joseph are still alive." "You should be surprised that you and Lucifer are still alive. After all, I'm around you two more than I'm around them." I say. "Actually, maybe I'm lucky to be alive. You're around me more than Lucifer. And he's not as irritating." Julian says. "Oh. So you finally admit it? Wonderful." I say. Then our pizza arrives, and we all settle down to eat.


"Ah, no! It's Ri! Hide me, hide me! She threatened to hurt me last time!" Julian's seventeen year old brother, Kacey says, shielding his head, and looking horrified, as he comes down the basement stairs. Another brother, Andrew and his friend Adam close behind. "Hey, Kace. Don't come any closer, or I'll run you through." I hold up the toasting fork that Julian and I are using to roast marshmallows in the fireplace. "Lordy, Lordy, save me, ,,,,, please!"

Kacey says, laughing. He plops down beside me and pulls something out of his backpack. Something that is giving off a particularly foul odor. "What is that?" Julian asks, holding his nose. "Bait." Kacey replies, grinning lopsidedly. Julian and I exchange glances, "Bait?" We ask in unison. "Fish eggs. A little rancid, but they'll do. We're going fishing at the Docks tomorrow. Gonna go catch us a Fourth Of July dinner." Andrew says. "Gross. Absolutely gross." Julian mutters, and stares back into the dancing flames. "You camping here, Ri?" Adam asks. "Yep. Or am I too scary?" I ask, smiling. "Nah, not too scary, babe." Andrew says. "Jeez. There will be," He did a quick head count, "five people in this basement.

Christ. Good thing there are three rooms and a rec room. Let's see. Ri, I guess you'll have the extra bed in Julian's room. Of course." I see Adam slide a glance at me. "Adam's stuck with the couch. We can pull it out. And me and Kacey get our rooms to ourselves." Kacey and Andrew slap high fives. Julian and I exchange amused looks. "So, what are your plans for tomorrow?" Kacey asks everyone. "Me and Ri are going swimming, then going to the party at the Holocaust." Julian says, saving me the trouble of coming up with a good cover story. "Adam and I are going to that party, and probably to the parade. We're meeting some girls for that." Andrew says. "Girls, huh? Sexy girls?"Julian asks, glancing at his brother. "Yea, and not for you, little bro." Andrew says, laughing. "Wasn't interested." He says defensively. "Yea, you got Ri." Kacey says. "Hey!" Both of us

exclaim, "There's-" "We know, we know. Nothing between you two." Andrew says. "We can always hope." Comes Scott's voice from the bottom of the stairs. "I hope you didn't just say that." Julian mutters. "I did." His father says, "What're you gonna do about it?" I glance at Julian, his gray eyes are riveted to the flames, and he's got a very strange expression on his face. "Ooo, getting under youngest brother's skin, are you, dad?" Andrew asks. Scott smirks, "So it's working. All I can see is the back of his head, and a bunch of orange flames." "Oh, it's working all right, you ought to see his face." Kacey says. "Oh, cut it out. Will you ever grow up?" Elizabeth Snow, Julian's mother says, coming down the stairs. "Nope.

Julian will have to go first." Scott says. "What is that supposed to mean?" Julian grinds out from behind clenched teeth. "If you're that blind, no-one is going to tell you, little brother." Kacey says. Everyone turns to look at Julian, who is now facing everyone, a toasting fork in his hand. "Blind? Blind to what, Kacey?" He asks, shaking the fork slightly. Calmly reaching over, I pluck it out of his hand. His gaze snaps over to me. "Not a good idea, Julian." I say quietly. Kacey had been backing away, and was now looking at me with relief etched onto his face. "Boys, you had better stop now.

I don't want a fist fight on my hands, especially when Julian could beat all three of you." Elizabeth says, smiling her usual soft smile. Julian snorts and turns back to the fire, where his marshmallow is burning to a crisp. "Gross." He mutters, waving out the flames, and feeding the empty charcoal hull of the marshmallow to the dog, Jack. "Bet that tasted good." Adam says, sitting down on the couch. "I wouldn't know. I didn't eat it." Julian says. Every trace of his earlier good mood erased. Gone in a puff of smoke, and a few words. "What's on TV?" Scott asks, taking a seat in the leather armchair behind me. "Er..." Andrew says as he looks over the on-screen guide, "The Blair Witch Project, K-Pax, Sweet Home Alabama, and Thirteen Ghosts." "Thirteen Ghosts." Everyone choruses automatically. "Are you two going to watch, or just stare at that fire all night?" Scott asks. "Staring at the fire sounds good."

Julian says quietly. "Oh, hey. Did you two hear? Mike Baldwin's house was reduced to ashes last night. The arsonists, again. He, his wife, and two daughters were killed. They don't even know what started it, yet." Andrew says. Julian and I turn to look at him, "All four of them are dead?" I ask. "Yea. It was a big explosion, I guess." Adam says. "Did you hear what happened to Anita Warhart?" Julian asks them. "No. What happened?" Scott asks. "She burnt.

That's it. Like spontaneous combustion, or pyrokinesis." I say. "Whoa, that one's hard to swallow." Kacey mutters. "What, her dying? Or that theory?" Julian asks, turning hard gray eyes on his brothers. "Both. Number one, she was a great girl. Sexy as all get out. Number two, where on earth do you two get crazy ideas like pyrokinesis? Last year it was, what? Third Eye?" Andrew says. "Our ideas are interesting. Parapsychology, ghosts. It's cool stuff." I say. "It's weird stuff, if you ask me." Adam says, arching an eyebrow. "Just because your only interests are girls, food, girls, sleep, and oh, did I mention girls? That doesn't mean everyone else is stuck with the same interests." Julian tells him. "I hope not. Ri is a girl." Adam says. "Ha, ha, ha. Very funny."

I say, making a face at him. "Hey, hey. Be nice. Toasting forks hurt." He says, as I wave the fork at him. Everyone looks at me, and the whole room fills with laughter. There is a burning ,marshmallow stuck to the end of the fork. "Yummy." Julian says, and pulls it off of the fork. He pops it into his mouth, then gasps in pain. "Smart move, man." I say, laughing. "Shut up." He says, slurring his words, since they are being spoken through marshmallow. He takes a big swig of 7up from the bottle next to him, trying to cool his mouth down. Then he looks around at everyone and says, "That is the last time I eat a flaming marshmallow." "You shouldn't have done it in the first place, genius." Andrew points out.

Julian makes a face, and takes the toasting fork from me. I look at him warily, wondering if I should take it back before he spears his brother, and roasts him over the fire. But he just pulls another marshmallow out of the bag, and runs the fork through it. "Hey, you don't have Hershey's bars over there, do you?" Kacey asks. "Yea. Hey-wait. Where'd they go?" Julian says. Kacey points toward the stairs. Jack has the package of Hershey bars in his mouth, and is moving at a fast pace. "Hey!"

Julian and I chorus, and race toward the collie. He gives us a bored look, and runs faster. Julian tackles him. "Playing football with the dog, now, are you?" Scott asks. "Sure, yea. We only want our food back." I say. "I think he ate a couple, Ri." Julian says, holding up the wet, slobbered on package. "Ew. That's gross." I say, "I'm definitely not eating that." "Kacey can have it." Julian mutters, smiling wryly. "Not on your life, little bro." Kacey replies, laughing. "Shh. Both of you. The movie's starting." Scott says. Quietly, Julian and I make our way back to the fireplace.


Later, Julian and I sit in his room, watching the lava lamp on his desk. I yawn, and stretch. "So, do you think Lucifer got some big fireworks?" I ask. "I hope so. Make a nice little exhibition, anyway. Behind the bar at the Holocaust, maybe?" He replies. "No. Then we'll have to hang out at the Katie Gray or something. I mean, the Holocaust has good food." I tell him. "Fair point. The Black Ribbon, then?" He says, looking thoughtful. I smile coldly, "Yea. They may think it a bit unusual after what happened in there, today, but that's their problem. Our job is just to make the noise." "Right. Noise, lights, special effects. All us. What else could we do?"

He asks, watching a particularly large wax bubble float to the top of the lava lamp. "I'm not sure. We could set off some Saturns behind the pulpit at church. They won't do anything harmful, but they'll make a nice show." I say. "Cool idea. You know, you can be smart every once in a while." He replies thoughtfully. "Jerk." I toss a pillow at him. It nails him in the forehead. "Crazy woman." He mutters, launching it back. Then the door opens, and Adam and Andrew come in. "You guys couldn't keep it down, by any chance, could you? Your fighting is keeping everyone awake. Even mom and dad."

Andrew says. We exchange amused glances, "Sure. No prob." Julian says. Andrew nods, and they vacate the doorway. I stand up and shut it behind them. Then Julian and I burst into laughter. "God, why doesn't he just go cry? We weren't being that loud." Julian says. "No, we weren't. He's just trying to get under your skin, you know." I tell him. "I know. They're starting to drive me crazy. They started that when dad and Drew got back a week ago. This, and that. Anything to annoy me. You and Lucifer are their favorite subjects, by the way." He slides a wry glance in my direction. I roll my eyes, "Lordy, Lordy. Maybe I should steer clear of your family for a while." I say. "Don't bother. Kacey didn't start that 'til tonight. Mom's been telling them to knock it off." Julian says, the asks, "Did you see that bruise on Andrew's arm?" I nod, "Yea, why?" "I hit him the night before last.

He was going on about how I'm gonna end up screwing up my life. Something about being blind. I have no idea what they mean by that." He says. "Maybe you don't want to know. After all, it is something from your brothers' minds. Something fascinating, but dangerous, no doubt." I say, laughing. "True. But dad's doing it too. I'm past the point of caring. It'd be smarter just to ignore them." He replies, grinning. "Yea." I say sarcastically, "You wouldn't want to do anything stupid like stiffen up and wave a toasting fork at them." He glares at me, then laughs, "Jesus. It would be so much easier if I could stay mad at you.

Then I could give you what you deserve." He mutters, shaking his head in exasperation. I flutter my eyelashes, and smile, "And what might that be?" He groans, "Get a life." He tosses another pillow at my head. "I though you two were going to be quiet?" Kacey says, opening the door. "Why bother? It's too much fun to annoy you guys." Julian says. "I'm not even gonna ask. I am going to back out of this room very slowly. Whatever you do, don't shoot." Kacey's eyes are on the pillow in my hands. While he's watching me, Julian picks up a cushion off of the chair in the corner, and launches it at his brother's head. "Ahh." Kacey exclaims, "I should've known better than to even come in here.

I keep my eyes on one of you, and the other hits me. Jesus. It's bad when your brother's got good aim." He turns to leave the room, "Especially when his best friend is perfectly capable of stopping a train in it's tracks with looks alone." I launch the pillow at him, but it only hits the door with a harmless, 'Whumph!' "Were you actually trying to hit him? Because, if I didn't know better, I'd say he was trying to give you a compliment." Julian says, with raised eyebrows. "Kacey? No way. And, yea. I meant to hit him. But he's reasonably fast." I reply.

The lights snap on, and someone shakes me roughly. "Get up. We've got to get out of here soon if we're gonna set up all of that stuff." Julian says. I look up at him, my vision blurry, and somewhat out of focus, "Man. Fine, I'll get up. Give me a minute, will you?" I mutter. "Nope." He pushes me off of the bed. "Ouch. Jerk. Julian, you are a first-class jerk." I say angrily. He grins lopsidedly, "Yep. That's me. Come on." He pulls me to my feet. I blink at him, and swear, "What time is it?" He glances at his watch, "Eight o'clock. Come on. We've got to get breakfast, then head to Lucifer's." I groan, and follow him into the rec room, and up the stairs, rubbing at my eyes. The kitchen is completely empty, which doesn't surprise me, considering it's eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, and it's Independence Day on top of that. "What d'you want for breakfast?" Julian asks, opening the fridge, as I sit down on a stool at the island. "I don't know, or care. Anything that doesn't taste like fish, look like your brothers, or stare at me while I'm eating it." I say.

He laughs lightly, "Cold cereal or toast? I take that back, dry toast. Nothing to put on it." He says. "Does your mother ever go grocery shopping?" I ask, raising an eyebrow and yawning. "Nope. If we want something, we go and get it. We have Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams, make up your mind." He says, bringing two boxes and a jug of milk to the table. "Golden Grahams." I mutter, and reach into the cupboard above my head to retrieve two bowls and a couple of plastic spoons. "Good food." He says, ripping open the box. "Are you two ever quiet?" Kacey asks, coming into the room. "Nope. Never." I say through another yawn. "It's early. I'm guessing he dragged you out of bed." Kacey eyes me thoughtfully. "Right on both counts." I say. "Shut up and eat, so we can get out of here." Julian says out of the corner of his mouth. I nod, and take a bite of breakfast.

I stop chewing, and swallow surreptitiously. "How long has that milk been in your fridge?" I ask suspiciously. "Dunno." Julian shrugs and takes a bite of his cereal. He turns and spits it in the trash. "You have a point. We can catch some food at the Holocaust." He says. "Does that mean I have time to stop by my house for a cold shower to wake me up?" I ask, raising an eyebrow at him. "Use the shower here." Kacey tells me, shrugging. "I'd have to be nuts to do that. I'd rather actually get clean, instead of dirtier." I mutter. "Use mom's bathroom. Me and Kacey never clean ours."

Julian suggests. "Don't I know it." I mumble, and head toward the door at the end of the kitchen. I stop, "Wait. There isn't a peephole in your mother's bathroom, is there?" I ask, reminiscent of a previous mishap at this house. "Are you kidding? That's nasty. But on second thought, maybe you should use ours." Julian says, first incredulous, then thoughtful. "Fat chance, buddy." I say over my shoulder. I hear him chuckle, and Kacey says, just loudly enough that I hear it, "Julian, go get the drill. I think that bit is in the junk drawer." I swear at him blatantly, and they both begin to laugh.

When I walk back into the kitchen ten minutes later, Kacey and Julian exchange glances and begin to laugh. Andrew and Adam are there too, and exchange confused looks. "Don't ask, guys." I caution them. "We found the drill bit. The battery on the drill needs charging though." Julian tells me. I thump him over the head. He crosses his eyes and says, "There's a bluebird, there's a redbird, and that one looks like Elvis!" Everyone begins to laugh. "What's so funny about a drill bit?" Adam asks curiously. "You know how there's a peephole in the basement bathroom?

Well, earlier this year, there was a -er-mishap involving that hole and Ri. She took a shower in mom's bathroom this morning, and we volunteered to drill one in that wall." Kacey says. "You two spied on Ri in the shower?" Andrew asks. Kacey and Julian grin and look at me, "Yep. Robin Thatcher and Ryan Thorpe, too. That was what? Three days after Christmas?" Julian says, a leer spread across his face. I'm blushing, I can feel how warm my face is. Adam and Andrew glance at me and burst out laughing. "What's so funny?" Scott asks, coming into the kitchen and yawning. "Nothing." Kacey, Julian, and I say quickly. Adam and Andrew stop laughing. "Uh-huh. Ri's face is red, Julian's got a funny smile on his face, and you others were laughing. What's up, guys?" Scott asks suspiciously. "Nothing, dad."

Julian says, in a tone of innocence that fools no-one. "Yea. Come on, kiddo, spit it out." He looks at Julian with one eyebrow cocked. Julian looks at me. I glare at him. Then, obviously unwillingly, we both start laughing. "Now I know something's up. And those two were either involved, or instigating the whole thing. Kacey?" Scott looks at his middle son, who is choking back laughter. "They were both involved, and so were Rob Thatcher and Ryan Thorpe. Someone else too, but I forget his name." Kacey says. "Kacey. That was his name." Adam says, grinning. "And what was this scheme?"

Elizabeth asks, coming in beside her husband. Again, Julian and I exchange glances. I try my best to glare at him, but just end up grinning. I'm never mad at him for more than five minutes. "There's a peephole in the basement bathroom." Andrew informs his parents. Scott flushes hotly, "Let me guess. The four of you were spying on Ri." He mutters quietly. "Score for dad."

Kacey says. Everyone starts to laugh, even me, despite my efforts to restrain myself. "Shoot. Ri, we'd better go if we're gonna get to Lucifer's, and catch breakfast." Julian says, interrupting the laughter. "Why don't you eat breakfast here?" Elizabeth asks. "Drink some milk, Mrs. Snow." I say, as Julian, Kacey, and I troop toward the door. "Mind if I have breakfast with you guys?" Kacey asks when we get onto the porch. "Come on, if you want to. But you're paying for yourself." Julian says. His brother shrugs, and we walk down the street.

"You guys are having burgers for breakfast?" Scooter asks, as he takes our orders. "Yep. Good food. Doesn't taste like rancid milk." I mutter. Scooter looks at me curiously, "O-kay. Coming right up." He disappears. "So, what time do you have to be at Lucifer's?" Kacey asks us. "Soon. He's coming swimming with us."

Julian says. "Swimming? You guys don't have your suits." Kacey says. I grimace, "And it's entirely impossible to wear one under your clothes." "Oh." He flushes. "Two orange juices, one coffee." Merve says, setting two glasses and a coffee cup on the Formica table with loud clunks. "Thanks, Merve." Kacey says, and takes a swallow of his coffee, scalding his mouth. "Pain, pain, pain!" He howls, and downs half of Julian's orange juice. "You're paying for that." Julian mutters. "Fine. I'll pay for another one, too. But I need coolant." Kacey chugs the rest of the juice, then waves Merve to the table, and orders another glass for Julian. "Did that hurt, Kace?" I ask, arching an eyebrow. "Just slightly."

He murmurs. "Slightly, huh?" Julian says, stealing a drink from my glass. "Hey! I don't want your spit, Julian." I exclaim. "Oh, why not?" He asks teasingly. I toss a straw at him. He grins, and ducks under the table, as I toss the remaining contents of the glass at him. I hit Kacey. "Oh, man, Ri! Thanks a lot!" He exclaims, frowning at me. "Sorry." I say, not at all sorry. Everyone laughs when he licks the orange juice off of his arm. Then our burgers arrive.

"Ah, no It's them, Mommy!" Katrina, Lucifer's nine year old sister says as she opens the door. "Is Lucifer home?" Julian asks. "Hello, Julian, Rialto. He's home, come on in. You'll have to wait until he gets out of the shower." Laurel Scarlett says, smiling in a very motherly fashion. "Thanks, Mrs. Scarlett." Julian says. He glances at me and mouths, 'shower'. "Jerk." I mutter. "What?" Laurel says. "Oh, nothing.

I was talking to Julian." I assure her, as we follow her into the kitchen. "Ri? What happened to your cheek?" Katrina asks, sitting down on one of the metal diner chairs. "Julian hit me by accident with a hot toasting fork." I tell her. Julian shoots me a murderous glance. "Hey! I didn't think either of you would be up before noon." Lucifer says, coming down the stairs. "We were up at eight. One of us, unwillingly." I say. He laughs, "So I guess you're ready to go." "If you are." Julian says. "Yep. Let's go." He grabs a duffel bag from beside the stairs, and we follow him outside.

When we're out of sight of his house, he asks, "What's the plan?" "First we're setting some fireworks up behind the pulpit at church. Then we'll put a pipe bomb behind the bar at the Black Ribbon." Julian says. "Okay. Let's do the bomb first, though." Lucifer says. We both nod, and change direction to cross the street. Lucifer, the only one of us who can make a bomb, sets it up, then comes back outside. "Let's get to the church." he says.

Julian and I take the roll of cannon fuse and cut off several pieces. Using electrical tape, we fasten single pieces to the shorter fuses of three Roman Candles, two Saturns, and six bottle rockets, which we place in a single coke can. Then we attach all of those fuses to a final one, twenty feet long, and thread it through a vent in the ceiling. We place the giant firework behind the pulpit, and tape the long fuse to the wall. It is the exact same brown color as the paneling. Anxious, Julian checks his watch. It is quarter to eleven. The sermon will start in half-an hour. "I'll be back in a little while, okay?" Lucifer says, and sneaks out the back door. Shrugging, Julian and I shimmy up the ladder, and find the vent. That is where we sit, Julian holding a Zippo at the ready.

Slowly, the church fills. We start to worry. Lucifer isn't here yet. "I am pleased to welcome you all, guests and members of our church. Today, as you all know, is Independence Day. The day the Constitution was signed." Pastor Jacobs said. That is our cue. Julian touches the lighter to the fuse. We watch as the sparks travel down the fuse on the wall, and right next to the pastor's feet. Finally, the flames split up, and every one of the fireworks go off with a deafening BANG! Screams and shrieks erupt from the congregation, and everyone makes a break for the door.

Orange and green, red and blue, purple and yellow sparks fly everywhere. Julian and I slap high-fives. Then, as the pastor goes out the door, two people pass him, coming the opposite direction. Two people in police uniforms. And they make a beeline for the ladder. Julian and I exchange horrified glances. We can hear the ladder rattling as they climb it. The two cops emerge from the trapdoor. "You there! Stay where you are!" One shouts. A flashlight roams over our faces, "Julian and Ri. Unbelievable." Another voice says. Sergeant Williams, Paul's best friend, is staring at us. We sit stock-still. Like deer caught in headlights. And let me tell you, that's what we feel like. Submit

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