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Impact, p.4

Impact, page 4

 

Impact
 


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  “Mark came out of the restaurant. He went to a sandwich place. Then he started walking to the bus stop. That’s when Tony told me to go and get him. So I called to him and told him I’d found something in the parking lot and didn’t know what to do.”

  “What did Mark say?”

  “He asked me what I found.”

  “What did you say?”

  “I said it looked like someone was hurt, and I didn’t have a cell phone and didn’t know what to do. So he came with me to take a look. And that’s when Tony started in on him.”

  The prosecutor asked Kyle to describe as best he could exactly who had done what.

  Kyle said pretty much what Robert had said—that Tony had started it by punching Mark and shoving him to the ground, that Tony had hit Mark with a pipe, that Tony and Joey had done most of the punching and kicking and hitting, but that Robert had kicked Mark a couple of times too.

  “What about you, Kyle?” the prosecutor said. “Did you hit Mark?”

  “No,” Kyle said.

  “You were there, you lured him to where Tony and the others were, but you didn’t hit him, not even once?”

  “No.”

  “Why not?”

  Kyle shrugged. “I knew Mark,” he said. “He was okay. I didn’t want to hurt him.”

  “Did you try to stop Tony and the others from hurting him?”

  Kyle hung his head for a moment. He looked at his mother again. So did I. There were tears in her eyes.

  “Tony was my friend,” Kyle said at last. “He asked me to help him get Mark alone, so I did.”

  “Did it occur to you that Tony wanted to hurt Mark physically?”

  “Yes,” Kyle said. “I knew he was jealous, on account of Shannon. I thought he would throw some punches. But I didn’t know he was going to kill Mark. I didn’t know that. If I had known that...”

  “If you had known, what?” the prosecutor said.

  “I don’t know,” Kyle said. “Maybe I would have tried to stop Tony. But I didn’t know. Tony and Joey were beating on Mark. Then, all of a sudden, Tony had a pipe and was smashing Mark over the head with it. At first Mark fought back. But after a while he was just lying there moaning, and Tony was still kicking him. And then someone shouted, and I saw this guy out on the street, near a pizza delivery car. He called out, asked if everything was okay. Then he came across the street and started to come into the parking lot. So we got out of there. Fast.”

  “Then what happened?”

  “We ran for a couple of blocks. Then Tony said we should split up. He said we shouldn’t say anything about what happened.

  “The next day, when we heard that Mark was dead, Tony said we should get rid of the clothes we were wearing. He said we should just throw them out.

  “Joey said what about his boots? He said they cost a lot of money and there was no way he was going to just throw them out. Robert didn’t want to get rid of his Docs, either. I don’t think Tony wanted to ditch his boots. He said they should just all clean them real good. He said if we all kept our mouths shut, everything would be okay.”

  Kyle looked at Tony when he said that. He looked like he was mad at Tony because Tony had turned out to be wrong.

  If you asked me, the only reason Kyle was up there was that they had been caught. If they hadn’t been caught, he wouldn’t be telling his story. His mother wouldn’t be looking at him with tears in her eyes and a proud look on her face, like her son was different from Tony and Joey, like her son was doing the right thing.

  After the other lawyers asked their questions, Kyle was excused. He looked at me as he went back to his seat. He looked at me and nodded, just a little, like he was my friend, like he’d just done me a big favor.

  Chapter Ten

  “I was glad, at first, when I heard the role that Kyle Mercer played in the death of our son Mark. But bit by bit, as I listened to what he had to say, I grew bitter and vengeful. Even now, as I read this out for your consideration before these young men are sentenced, I find that I have no mercy left in my heart. I find that I am a changed man, and I don’t know whether I can ever change back.”

  The jury was excused to deliberate. My parents and I went outside. My father paced up and down on the sidewalk. My mother asked me if I wanted to go across the street to a coffee shop with her. I said no.

  It was a warm day. There were a couple of benches in the little square outside the courthouse. I went and sat down.

  My father paced up and down some more. He called to me, “Tell us if anything happens.” Then he crossed the street and went into the coffee place where my mother was. They took a seat in the window where they could see me. The prosecutor had told us that if he didn’t see us inside when the jury came back, he would send someone outside to find us.

  Twenty minutes went by. My parents came out of the coffee shop and crossed the street again.

  “We should go back inside,” my mother said.

  “I’m going to stay out here,” I said. “If they come back, let me know.”

  My parents went inside. I sat on the bench. I knew it was stupid, but I was hoping that Shannon would come back. I knew she couldn’t be in court before she testified. You’re not allowed to hear what anyone else is saying until after you’ve given your testimony. But I thought she would come back after that. She didn’t. I wondered whether she even thought about Mark anymore. I wondered, if Mark were still alive, would she still be going out with him?

  Mark could be funny. My mother said he was charming. Girls liked him, and not just because he was good-looking. Girls were always making eyes at Mark and trying to get his attention.

  Sometimes I’d see him in the hall at school or out on the athletic field. I’d see girls making eyes at him. I’d see girls sauntering over to talk to him. I’d see girls buzzing to each other after one of them had caught his attention for a while. They were all excited around Mark. And I would wonder why I couldn’t be more like him. Why did I have to be the shy one, the awkward one? Why was I so afraid to talk to girls when Mark could practically do it in his sleep?

  After that second time I talked to the new girl, when I asked her if she was going to the football game, Mark walked in on me at home. I was sprawled on the couch in the basement, flipping through channels but not really paying attention to anything that was on.

  Mark grabbed the remote out of my hand and flopped down beside me. He had what he called an unwritten rule: when he was in the room, the remote was his. A lot of times we ended up wrestling for it, but that day I just let him take it from me. He could put on the weather channel for all I cared. I was too mad at myself for not taking it one step further with the girl. I shouldn’t have just asked her if she was going to the game. I should have asked her if she wanted to go with me. But I hadn’t done that. I’d been too chicken.

  “Hey, Jordy,” Mark said. “What’s eating you?”

  “Nothing.”

  “Right,” Mark said. He flipped through a few channels before he finally settled on a cartoon show. He laughed at something on the screen and then glanced at me when I didn’t join in. “Seriously, Jordy,” he said.

  “What’s up?”

  “It’s nothing,” I said.

  “Hey, I’m your brother. You got a problem, you can always tell me.”

  Sometimes Mark liked to give me a hard time. He was smarter than me and better looking, and he had way more confidence. Sometimes he treated me like I was ten years younger than him instead of just one. But other times, like when I was having problems with Mom and Dad, he gave me good advice. Or he talked to them for me and got them to ease up a little. Sometimes he helped me with other stuff, stuff I didn’t understand at school. And if there was one thing Mark knew, it was girls.

  “I want to ask this girl out, but I’m afraid she’ll say no,” I said finally.

  Mark looked surprised. “Girl?” he said. “What girl?”

  “She’s a new girl. She’s in my home-room.”

  “Yeah? Is sh
e pretty?”

  “Yeah,” I said. Just thinking about her made me smile. “She’s really pretty.”

  “Is she seeing someone?” Mark said.

  “No. Someone told me that she broke up with her boyfriend before she transferred to our school.”

  “So what’s the problem?” Mark said.

  “Why don’t you just ask her out?”

  “What if she says no?”

  “What if she says yes?”

  “What if she laughs at me?”

  “What if she doesn’t?” Mark said. “And why would she laugh at you anyway? You’re a good-looking guy. Maybe not as gorgeous as your big brother, but you’ll do.”

  When I didn’t laugh, he said, “Seriously, Jordy. If you like her and you want to be with her, ask her out. The worst thing that could happen is she’ll say no. So what? You can’t win all the time. But I’ll tell you what—for sure you can’t win if you don’t play. Ask her.”

  I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept going over and over in my mind what I would say and what she would say. What if I couldn’t get the words out? What if I started asking her and then her girlfriends showed up? What if she said no—then what would I say? What if she did laugh at me?

  I saw her the next day at her locker. I told myself I could do it. I sucked in a deep breath. I ran through what I was going to say. I started to walk to her locker.

  Her girlfriends showed up, and I chickened out.

  I didn’t see her for the rest of the day.

  “So?” Mark said that night. “Did you ask her?”

  I knew he would think I was totally pathetic if I told him I’d chickened out again, so I said yes. He got me in a neck hold and rubbed the top of my head until my hair was matted.

  “Way to go, baby brother,” he said. “See, I told you it was easy. I knew you could do it. So I guess I’ll see you there, huh? You can introduce me to her.”

  “I thought you were working that day,” I said.

  “A guy at work has a thing on the weekend and asked me if I would switch with him. I said yes.” He grinned at me. “Way to go, Jordan. I’m proud of you.”

  He actually sounded proud, which made me feel like a total wuss. I promised myself that, no matter what, I would ask her out the next day.

  “Jordan!”

  I turned and saw my father in the doorway of the courthouse.

  “The jury’s coming back,” he said.

  Chapter Eleven

  “I told myself that when the jury came back in, that would be the end of it,” my father reads. “I told myself that now I would be able to put the whole thing behind me.” He looks up. “I don’t mean that I would ever forget my son. I don’t mean that. But I thought that if justice were done, that would help somehow.”

  They were all found guilty, but not all of the same thing. Tony and Joey were convicted of second-degree murder. Robert and Kyle were convicted of manslaughter.

  A date was set for sentencing. The prosecutor said that we would have a chance to give victim impact statements before the judge decided how much time Tony and Joey would have to serve. Kyle turned and looked at me again that day before he was led out of court with the others.

  “Do you want to make a statement?” my mother asked me that night.

  “Do I have to?” I said.

  “Of course you have to,” my father said. “He was your brother. The judge will take into account what we say before he sentences those guys.”

  I looked at my mother.

  “No,” she said softly. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, Jordan. But your father’s right. Making a victim impact statement is important. This whole time, ever since Mark died, everyone has seen those four boys, but no one has seen Mark. Everyone has talked about how Mark died and what those four boys did. But nobody really got to see Mark, what kind of person he was, how important he was to his family. This is our chance to let people see that, to let them know what those boys did when they killed Mark, to get them to understand what a terrible thing it was for the people who loved Mark.”

  I looked down at the floor. After a while my mother said, “I know how shy you are, Jordan. I also know how much you miss your brother. If you don’t want to stand up in front of everyone and talk about it, it’s okay. Really.”

  My father sat at the dining room table that night and wrote out what he wanted to say. My mother curled up on the couch in the living room with a big pad of paper and wrote what she wanted to say. I went up to my room to think.

  My mother was right. I was shy. If I were the one who had died, Mark wouldn’t have hesitated. He would have made a statement. But Mark was Mark, and I was me. Mark could do a lot of things I couldn’t. For example, Mark could ask a girl out and not worry about whether she was going to say no. I couldn’t.

  I lied to Mark about asking the new girl out. But I had another plan. I decided I would go to the football game anyway. I would look for her when I got there, and if she was alone, I would go and sit with her.

  The whole night before the game, I thought about what I would say to her. Maybe I’d ask her if she followed professional football and, if she did, what her favorite team was. Maybe I’d ask her about her old school and about what she thought of my school. When I thought about it, there was always plenty to talk about.

  I was nervous when I started around the athletic field to the bleachers. What if she was with a bunch of her new girlfriends? What if—

  Then I spotted her. She was halfway up the bleachers, right near the middle. She wasn’t with her girlfriends. She was with a guy. She was with Mark. He was saying something to her, and she laughed. She touched his arm. She looked so happy.

  Mark spotted me and waved. I saw his eyes looking all around me, like he was looking for the girl I had supposedly asked to the game.

  I turned and ran from the field. As I ran, I spotted Kyle. He was sitting near where Mark was.

  Mark didn’t get home until late. He must have gone out with her after the game. I wondered where they had gone and what they had done. I heard him come up the stairs. He knocked on my door.

  “Go away,” I said.

  Instead he pushed open the door.

  “What’s the matter with you, Jordy?” he said. “Didn’t you see me at the game? I waved to you. I wanted to introduce you to someone.”

  Right. The girl he was with.

  “You saw her, right?” Mark said, beaming at me. “She’s really something, huh? Her name is Shannon. She just came up to me and asked me to the game, just like that. I couldn’t believe it.”

  I just lay there on my bed. I didn’t say anything.

  I was sitting in homeroom the next morning, staring at the back of Shannon’s head. Our homeroom teacher was late coming into class, so almost everyone was talking.

  One of Shannon’s friends said, “I can’t believe how lucky you are. Mark Spencer is so hot. Do you have any idea how many girls wish they could go out with him?”

  “He’s cute,” Shannon agreed. “And he’s really nice.”

  “Are you going to go out with him again?”

  “Saturday night.”

  Shannon’s friend groaned. “You’re so lucky,” she said. “Do you know how many girls are ready to claw your eyes out right now because Mark Spencer asked you out instead of them?”

  I felt like someone had punched me right in the gut.

  “I’m not even sure how it happened,” Shannon said. “He just came up to me and started talking. He said something about football, and I heard myself asking him if he was going to the game.” She shook her head as if she couldn’t believe it. “He said yes, and I asked him if he’d like to go with me.”

  “Shannon,” her friend said, “you are the luckiest girl I know. Tony would go crazy if he knew you were going out with someone else, especially someone like Mark Spencer.”

  “If Tony knew, if he ever found out, he’d probably try to beat Mark up,” Shannon said. “That’s why
I transferred schools. I thought he was a nice guy, but I was wrong. Tony Lofredo is the craziest guy I know. I’m glad I don’t have to see him anymore.”

  That was the first I ever heard of Tony Lofredo. The first time I saw him was a little over a week later. Mark and Shannon had already gone out a couple of times. I was outside the school, and I saw them come out. Shannon had her arm looped through Mark’s arm, and she was laughing at something Mark was saying. Then this guy went up to Shannon. I had never seen him before. He grabbed Shannon by the arm and tried to pull her away from Mark. I heard him yell at her, “Who is that guy? What are you doing with him?”

  “Leave me alone, Tony,” Shannon said. That’s when I realized who he was.

  Mark went up to Tony.

  “You heard her,” he said, nice and calm, like it never even occurred to him to be afraid. “Let go of her. Leave her alone.”

  Tony turned to Mark. His face was twisted in anger, and I saw his hands curl into fists. I thought he was going to hit Mark, and you know what? I wanted him to. I wanted him to do what I felt like doing every time I saw Mark with Shannon— I wanted him to hurt Mark.

  But just then a cop car came down the street. Maybe it was the look on Tony’s face that made it slow down. Shannon looked at the cops. Tony turned. When he saw them, he backed down. He looked at Mark, and then he turned and walked away. I wished at the time that he hadn’t.

  I didn’t go straight home after school that day. Instead I went to the park to hang out. I saw Kyle there. He was horsing around with some guys who didn’t go to my school. One of them was Tony.

  Kyle saw me and pointed to me. He said something to the guys he was with. After a while they split up, and Kyle walked over to where I was standing.

  “Hey, Jordan,” he said.

  “Hey, Kyle.”

  “How’s things?”

  I just shrugged. “Are you friends with those guys?”

  “Not really,” he said. “I sort of know one of them from around, that’s all.” I didn’t believe him. “Why?”

  “I was just wondering. You look like you know them.”

 
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