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Impact, p.3

Impact, page 3

 

Impact
 


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  “How did you meet Mark Spencer?” the prosecutor asked.

  I held my breath.

  “Mark went to the school I transferred to,” Shannon said. “I noticed him right away. Mark was good-looking. He was nice too. I heard people talking about him all the time.”

  She glanced at where my mother and father and I were sitting. She looked at my parents. I held my breath again. She didn’t look at me.

  “Mark asked me out,” she said. “We went out a couple of times. He was nice.”

  “Did Tony ever see you with Mark Spencer?” the prosecutor asked.

  “Yes,” Shannon said. “One time we came out of school together. Mark must have said something funny, because I remember I was laughing. Then I saw Tony. He came up to me and demanded to know who Mark was. I told him it was none of his business. He tried to grab me, but Mark shoved him away. I think Tony would have done something, but a cop car went by, and I could see the cops were looking at what was happening. So Tony took off.”

  “When did this happen?”

  “About a week before Mark...before he died.”

  “Did Tony do anything that led you to believe that he might want to hurt Mark?”

  “He phoned me. He wanted to know who Mark was. He wanted to know his name. But I didn’t tell him.”

  “Did he say why he wanted to know Mark’s name?”

  “He said he wanted to talk to him.”

  “Why didn’t you tell him who Mark was?”

  “I was afraid he wanted to hurt Mark the way he hurt Michael Riordan.”

  Tony’s lawyer asked Shannon a lot of questions about her and Tony.

  He asked why Shannon had stayed with Tony for two whole years. Shannon said that he was nice at first.

  The lawyer asked her about a party she and Tony went to just before Shannon transferred schools. He asked her if it was true that she got mad at Tony because he was flirting with another girl. She said no. He asked her if she knew there were several witnesses he could produce who would testify that she had told them she was mad at Tony because he was flirting with this girl and she was going to get even with him if it was the last thing she did. She said no, but I could tell that some of the jurors were wondering if she was telling the truth.

  Then Tony’s lawyer asked if that’s what she was doing now—getting even with Tony. She said no. He asked her if that was the real reason she transferred schools—because she couldn’t stand seeing Tony with another girl. She said no. He asked her if anyone had seen Tony give her that black eye. She said no. He asked her if she was sure she hadn’t given herself that black eye and then blamed Tony for it, as a way of getting even with him. He asked if that was the real reason she hadn’t reported Tony to the police—because he hadn’t hit her at all.

  Shannon’s face was red by then. She said no. She said she would never do anything like that. She said everything she said about Tony was the truth. She said—

  “No more questions,” Tony’s lawyer said.

  Chapter Seven

  “We worried about our younger son, Jordan,” my father reads. I wait, but he does not look at me the way he looked at my mother earlier. “We know what a terrible toll his brother’s death has taken on him.”

  Michael Riordan was called as a witness. He said what Shannon had already described. He said that Tony Lofredo had come into the school library when he was working on a project with Shannon. Tony pulled him up out of his chair and punched him in the stomach and said that would teach him to fool around with Shannon. Michael said that Tony then punched him in the face, and he kept punching him. He said Tony got suspended, but even then he was afraid to go back to school because Tony used to hang around across the street. He said he transferred schools to get away from Tony. He said he made sure he didn’t transfer to the same school as Shannon because he didn’t want Tony to get the wrong idea.

  Tony’s lawyer objected.

  That afternoon, after court was recessed for the day and I was outside, waiting for my parents, who had stayed behind to talk to the prosecutor, Shannon came out onto the sidewalk. She was pretty when she was at my school, but that had been almost two years ago. She was even prettier now. I guess I was staring at her, because she smiled at me as she walked toward me.

  “You’re Mark’s brother,” she said. “It’s Jason, right?”

  I felt my cheeks burn the way they always did when I was embarrassed.

  “Jordan,” I said.

  “Right,” she said. She smiled at me the way you smile at some stranger your parents have just introduced you to. “Well,” she said. She paused, as if she wasn’t sure what to say next. A car horn tooted and she turned her head toward the sound. A look of relief flooded her face. “I have to go,” she said. “My boyfr—” Her cheeks turned red. “My ride is here.”

  She ran to a car that had pulled up at the curb. She got inside. The driver leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. He looked a couple of years older than me. I watched his car pull away from the curb. I watched Shannon disappear.

  Seeing Shannon made me realize how much had changed since Mark had died. It also took me back, way back—to school the way it used to be when I actually cared about it, to what it was like being the kid brother of one of the most popular guys in my school, to how things were always so easy for Mark when they were so hard for me. Back to when I used to wish I was more like Mark. I wanted to be as outgoing as he was, as confident, as comfortable around people. But I wasn’t.

  The new girl at my school was a good example. I noticed her the very first day of school, which was just a couple of months before Mark died. She sat two rows over and one seat up from me in homeroom, but she wasn’t in any of my classes. Her locker was down the hall from mine. She was quiet the first couple of days, but after that she made friends with some girls. I used to see her swinging down the hall with them, laughing and enjoying herself. I wondered what she would say if I asked her out. I wondered if she would turn me down or, worse, laugh at me. A girl I’d known my whole life, but who I wasn’t interested in and who wasn’t interested in me, told me that the new girl used to go out with a guy at her old school but they had broken up. I still didn’t ask her out. The truth was I had never asked a girl out before. Besides, I hadn’t even talked to her yet. If I’d been Mark instead of me, I wouldn’t have hesitated for even a second. I would have asked her out, just like that. And she would have said yes, just like that.

  But I wasn’t Mark.

  I started to sweat every time I saw her.

  It was the third week of school before I got up the nerve to say something to her. She was at her locker one morning. It was early, so the hallway was almost deserted. She had unlocked her locker but was having trouble getting it open. That happened sometimes—kids fooled around in the halls and slammed each other into the lockers. Sometimes the lockers got dented, and that made them hard to open. When I saw she was having trouble, I asked her if she needed some help.

  “If you don’t mind,” she said.

  I had to put a lot of effort into it, but I finally got it open.

  “You should talk to one of the janitors and ask him to fix it,” I said. “Or talk to Mr. Moorcock.” He was our homeroom teacher.

  “Thanks,” she said. “I’ll do that.” She started to get stuff out of her locker. I watched her and tried to think of something to say. Then two of the girls she had started hanging out with showed up. They totally ignored me, so I went back to my locker. My heart was pounding in my chest. I should have said something else. I shouldn’t have frozen up.

  I watched her for the rest of the week, waiting for a chance to talk to her alone. The same girl who had told me that the new girl didn’t have a boyfriend also told me that she liked football, so I planned to ask her if she was going to the game that was coming up. It was the next week before I finally spotted her without a whole bunch of other girls around.

  She was at her locker again, only this time it was after school. There was no one else aroun
d. I walked over to her. I tried to make it look casual.

  “Hi,” I said.

  She was taking books out of her locker and loading them into a backpack.

  “Hi,” she said.

  “I was just wondering—there’s a football game on Thursday.”

  “I know,” she said.

  “I was wondering—are you going?”

  “As a matter of fact, I am,” she said. She smiled pleasantly at me and closed her locker. “I talked to the janitor like you said,” she said. “He fixed my locker door so it doesn’t stick anymore.” She slung the backpack over one shoulder. She was getting ready to walk away.

  “I...I’m glad your locker is working now.”

  She gave me a funny look. But then she smiled. “Well, see you,” she said.

  “Yeah. See you.”

  She walked away. I hated myself as I just stood there in the hall like some kind of statue. Mark would have handled it differently. And if he’d been there watching me, he’d never have let me live down what I’d done. I imagined him shaking his head. I imagined him telling me, “That was pathetic, Jordy. Just pathetic.”

  Chapter Eight

  “It was especially hard,” my father reads, “to hear one of the accused tell the court exactly what happened that night.”

  The prosecution had finished. Now it was time for the defense lawyers to present their cases. My parents talked a lot about whether any of the four defendants would testify.

  “They don’t have to,” my father said.

  “They probably won’t. Why would they? It’s all circumstantial. No one actually saw them beat Mark up. Their lawyers have been trying to make it look like they just came along afterward. They’re probably hoping that that’s enough reasonable doubt that they’ll get off.”

  We could tell the next day when we got to court that something was going on.

  The prosecutor came up to my parents. He said, “Two of them are going to testify.”

  “Which two?” my father said.

  I held my breath.

  “Robert Teale and Kyle Mercer,” the prosecutor said.

  But they didn’t testify that day because the other two lawyers had motions they wanted to present to the judge. It took another week before the trial started up again.

  Robert Teale was called to testify. Tony stared at him the whole time he talked. So did Joey. Kyle wasn’t in court.

  “Robert,” his lawyer said, “do you know who killed Mark Spencer?”

  “It was Tony and Joey,” Robert said. “Tony was mad because Shannon was going out with this guy at her new school.”

  “And what was his name?” the lawyer said.

  “Mark Spencer,” Robert said. “Tony said he wanted to teach him a lesson.”

  “What did he mean by that?”

  “He wanted to beat the crap out of him,” Robert said.

  Tony’s lawyer objected.

  “Can you tell the court in your own words what happened that night?”

  “Tony asked Kyle to find out where Mark was going to be that night and—”

  “Are you referring to Kyle Mercer?”

  “Yes,” Robert said. “Kyle knew Mark. They went to the same school, and Kyle lived on the same street as Mark. He found out that Mark was working that night. Tony said we were going to surprise him after work, and Tony was going to make it clear to him that Shannon was off-limits.”

  “Then what happened?”

  Robert shrugged. “We hung out. I smoked up.”

  “You smoked marijuana?”

  “Yeah,” Robert said. “Then we went to where Mark was working, and we waited across the street for him to get off work. It was late. Midnight. There was no one around. We saw Mark come out of the restaurant. He went into a sandwich place, and Tony started to get antsy, like he couldn’t wait until he finally came out again. But he finally did. We were waiting for him in the parking lot, away from the street. When he came out of the sandwich shop, Kyle went out onto the sidewalk to wait for him.”

  “You’re referring to Kyle Mercer?”

  “Yes,” Robert said. “Like I said, Kyle knew him. He called to Mark, and Mark went over to him to see what he wanted. Kyle told him he’d found something in the parking lot, and he got Mark to follow him, you know, get him away from the street. Then Tony went up to him and told him to stay away from Shannon.”

  “What did Mark do?”

  “He smiled. He said, ‘What are you going to do, Tony? Are you going to hit me like you hit Michael Riordan?’ And Tony just went nuts. I guess he realized that the only way Mark would know that is if Shannon told him. I guess he didn’t like the idea of Shannon talking to Mark.”

  Tony’s lawyer objected. He said Robert had no way to know what Tony was thinking.

  “What did Tony say?” Robert’s lawyer said.

  “He said, ‘Let’s get him.’ And then he hit him.”

  “Tony hit Mark?”

  “Yeah.”

  “What did he hit him with?”

  “His fist. He punched him in the stomach. Mark doubled over, and Tony grabbed his shirt and pulled him away from the light and shoved him down to the ground. Mark tried to get up, so Tony kicked him. So did Joey. They really started in.”

  “Started in?” Robert’s lawyer said. “What do you mean by that?”

  Robert looked out at the people in the court, but he didn’t look at my parents.

  “They beat up on him,” he said.

  “Tony Lofredo and Joey Karagiannis and Kyle Mercer?”

  Robert shook his head. “Tony and Joey. Kyle didn’t touch him. The only thing Kyle did was tell us where he was and get him to come into the parking lot so that no one could see him. Tony and Joey started to beat on him. Tony found some pipe lying on the ground. He picked it up, and he hit Mark with it.”

  “What about you, Robert? What did you do?”

  “I kicked him a couple of times,” Robert said. “But that’s all. I was pretty wasted. I was out of it. And I didn’t have anything against the guy. I sure didn’t know what was going to happen. I was just along for the ride, you know?”

  It was the other lawyers’ turn after that. Tony’s lawyer asked Robert why he had decided to testify and what he had been promised. Robert said he hadn’t been promised anything. He said he felt bad about what happened. He said he knew he should have stopped Tony and Joey. Tony’s lawyer reminded Robert what the pathologist had said—that Mark had died from being kicked in the head with some steel-toed boots. He asked Robert if he wore steel-toed boots.

  “Yes,” Robert said. “But I didn’t kick him in the head.”

  “How can you be sure?” Tony’s lawyer said. “You said you were pretty wasted. Do you always remember exactly what you did when you were wasted?”

  “No, but—”

  “So how do you know for sure that you didn’t kick Mark Spencer in the head? How do you know for sure that it wasn’t you who killed him?”

  “I didn’t kick him in the head,” Robert said. “I know I didn’t.”

  “You told the court you were ‘wasted.’ You admitted to the court that you don’t always remember what you do when you’re wasted. You admitted that you kicked Mark Spencer. You admitted that you were wearing steel-toed boots—”

  “So was Tony.”

  “So you really can’t be sure that it wasn’t you, can you, Robert?” Tony’s lawyer said.

  Robert’s lawyer objected.

  Kyle was supposed to testify next. I felt sick to my stomach.

  Chapter Nine

  “It was even harder,” my father reads, “to listen to the youngest of the accused. This is a boy who lived a few doors away from us. His parents were our friends. He went to the same school as our sons, Mark and Jordan. When I first learned that he had been arrested, I thought to myself, There, but for the grace of God, goes my Mark or my Jordan.”

  I couldn’t look at Kyle, and I couldn’t not look at him. I felt numb all over. Kyle was the same ag
e as me. He’d gone to the same elementary school as me and Mark and then the same high school. He’d been in some of my classes for a while, until he started skipping and hanging out with Tony and the rest of them. And now he was going to talk about what he had done.

  The prosecutor asked him how he knew Mark.

  “He lived on my street,” Kyle said.

  “Tell us about that night, Kyle,” the prosecutor said.

  “Well...” Kyle looked over at the far side of the court where his parents were sitting side by side. His mother nodded to him, like she was encouraging him to go ahead and do the right thing.

  I felt myself tense up. The right thing was not to have called out to Mark that night. That was the only right thing. But there his mother was, looking at him like he could make up for all that now.

  “Tony knew Shannon had started going out with Mark,” Kyle said.

  “How did he know that?” the prosecutor said.

  “I told him.”

  “How did Tony react when you told him?”

  “He said he was going to put an end to it.”

  “Did he say how he was going to do that?”

  “He said he was going to have a talk with Mark. He asked me to find out where Mark hung out so that Tony could have a talk with him in private.”

  “In private?”

  “Where no one would see Tony talking to him,” Kyle said.

  “And what did you tell Tony?”

  “I said okay.”

  My stomach felt like a knot. I could hardly breathe.

  “Then what happened?”

  “Mark worked at a fast-food place. Sometimes he worked real late. I told Tony that.”

  I held my breath as I waited for the prosecutor’s next question. But he didn’t ask what I thought he would. Instead he said, “What happened that night, Kyle?”

  “We got together, Tony and Joey and Robert and me. Robert had been smoking up all day. He was kind of wasted. We went to the restaurant where Mark worked, and we looked inside to make sure he was there. Then we waited. By the time Mark got off work, almost all the stores around there were closed, and there was hardly anyone on the street.

 
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