Jesse strolled leisurely through the halls, ignoring the halted conversations and apprehensive glances. Why do I even show up anymore, he asked himself, steeling his expression against a grimace.
Jesse’s girlfriend passed away last year, right before homecoming. The proposed idea of actually holding the murderer accountable for his crimes threatened too many pockets. When Jesse offered testimony against his girlfriend’s killer, it landed him here, in Scapegoat Town. Few of his classmates saw him as more than Murder Suspect #1.
He felt the memory looming over him, preparing to strike in that familiar, soul crushing way. He paused mid-stride, fished his smokes from his pocket, and lit up a cig right there in the school hallway.
People murmured, breaking their uneasy silence. Jesse continued down the hall, smug. They could trash talk him all they wanted, but he’d never allow them to say it to his face. He reminded them occasionally by doing these sorts of little things, reminded them that it was between Jesse and them.
Jesse passed Ms. Pearle, the principal. He waved, obstinately flashing his cig.
She coughed, smiled, “Nice to see you in school today, Harstrom.”
It was a public school, but she still used her students’ last names.
“Same to you, Ms. Pearle.” He nodded respectfully and left the hall to cross the atrium.
At his core, Jesse was respectful, considerate, and generous. To the teachers. To his friends.
And to everyone else, he was a Grade A asshole. You see, Jesse firmly believed in giving people back what he got from them. And most people were assholes.
Especially after Vic’s death.
He could never ignore her memory when he crossed the atrium. Currently, the open space was filled with students, none appreciating their surroundings. Jesse recalled how Vic used to stare up at the vaulted glass ceiling with awe. She used to wear curios, inspired by the gold and blue wallpaper that contained hundreds of thousands of them. She wanted to organize a ballroom dance here for homecoming and waltz with him across the marble floor.
Someone collided into him. Reflexively, he reached down to catch the girl before she fell.
She looked up at him with those steel eyes and long ink lashes. Jesse’s heart stopped. His mouth moved wordlessly, his voice lost to shock.
Victoria Marshall. Dead Victoria Marshall. There was no mistake. She looked precisely the same.
“Sorry,” she mumbled in that quiet, humble voice of hers.
He hated when she apologized. Her father always had her apologizing.
“I’m a klutz. Shoulda been watching where I was going,” she rattled on. “I’m Bridgette. What’s your…” she continued to speak, but Jesse heard nothing more.
“What did you say your name was?” he managed at last.
She smiled warmly now. “Bridgette Farmer. I just moved into the old Eastlake Victorian on the edge of town.”
Vic’s hideout. The place her father killed her. “You shouldn’t live there.”
“What…?” The Vic imposter now looked highly unsettled.
“Nobody should…” His voice sounded far from his body. He abandoned the rest of his sentence as the memories raised up like a great tidal wave. “Nobody should live in that house!” he finally blurted out, sounding exactly like the lunatic his classmates painted him to be
“Are you okay…?” Vic’s voice asked him. He looked away. This was too much.
“I gotta go.” Jesse squeezed through the crowd that openly gawked at “Bridgette,” not stopping until he was off school property.
Vic never mentioned a twin, but how else to explain it? Over the following two weeks, Jesse would learn that Vic failed to mention several key details.
And one particularly old and dangerous secret.