Chapter 192

There was a light knock on the door of Rich Weaver’s dorm. He pulled himself from his bed without much enthusiasm. After the day he’d had all he wanted to do was go to fucking sleep. The only silver lining was that his roommate had already left town, since he was not obligated to stick around for questioning on today’s fiasco. The official stance on who passed and who failed was that if you weren’t spoken to then you should assume you had a place to come back to next year. New rankings would be announced at the start of next year, pending the results of the investigation into the Vince incident. With all that out of the way, the only thing Rich had left on his mind was rest, but now some knocking asshole had taken even that from him.

Rich jerked open the door to find a relatively short man in a dark suit staring at him.

“What do you want? I don’t have to be out until tomorrow at noon.”

“I brought you a package from Nick Campbell,” the man said. He pulled a small envelope out from his jacket pocket and handed it to Rich. It was thin, with only a single bulge at the lower left corner. As Rich’s fingers closed around it he realized it was about the right size for a flash drive. Probably one containing a video file.

“Is this the only one?” He’d have preferred to play it cool; however, this was too important to have signals get crossed.

“To my knowledge,” the man said simply.

Rich grunted his acknowledgement and closed the door. He’d have liked a little more reassurance, but it looked like this is all he was getting. At least Nick had lived up to his part of the bargain. He’d turned over the evidence and managed to keep the telepaths off of Rich’s back. The day had been terrible, and with the small envelope in his hand, he could finally put the whole thing in the past.

Rich reared back and smashed the envelope down on his dresser, making sure his palm drove the device into the hardest corner. He repeated this motion a dozen times until all that would eventually come tumbling out were bits of plastic and hunks of metal.

*    *    *

Professor Pendleton sat at his desk, a glass of whiskey in front of him and a romance novel to his side. Not even the dashing adventure of Rodrigo could take his mind off the day’s events, though the whiskey was having a good bit more success. He swallowed another wretched mouthful. It was swill he’d picked up at the corner gas station. Good booze was for celebrating; it was meant to be joyfully toasted with. There was nothing he found worth celebrating today. This was whiskey for mourning.

“Afternoon,” said a voice from his doorway. Professor Pendleton looked up to see Mr. Numbers standing there, strangely unbothered to walk in on an educator drinking at his desk.

“Afternoon,” Professor Pendleton echoed. “Can I get you a glass?”

“Thank you, but no; I’ve still got some errands to run,” Mr. Numbers replied. He was thankful he’d been given this task instead of Mr. Transport; that man would have sat here drinking and commiserating through half the night.

“Ah, I take it to mean you come bringing my goodbye present. I don’t suppose Nick told you what it was?”

“I’m afraid not,” Mr. Numbers replied. He produced a wide envelope, one made for greeting cards, with a thick wax seal on the back. “In fact, he was very adamant I not open it. Said it would defeat the entire purpose.”

“Cryptic and effective. The kid was good.” Professor Pendleton took another gulp as he realized he’d referred to Nick it the past tense. It wasn’t incorrect, he just hated himself for adapting to the change so easily.

Mr. Numbers set the envelope on the desk. Professor Pendleton made no motion to pick it up. He would eventually - no man could resist such temptation of curiosity - but for the moment he was content to dwell in this moment of misery.

“Have a good night,” Mr. Numbers said, knowing the sentiment was wasted, yet trying to express it anyway. Perhaps Mr. Transport was rubbing off on him after all these years.

Professor Pendleton nodded his understanding and refilled his glass.

*    *    *

It took some hours for quiet to settle in at Melbrook Hall. News and comprehension of Nick’s departure was greeted by railing, frustration, and even some tears. Eventually, as evening overtook the afternoon, the four remaining Melbrook students, along with Camille, sat in the common room in silence, punctuated by an occasional thought or recollection. It was only then that Mr. Numbers and Mr. Transport appeared, emerging quietly from their apartment in the rear of the building.

“I see everyone has come to terms with the loss of one of our own,” Mr. Numbers observed.

“What Mr. Numbers means to say is that we know this is a trying time for all of you, so we wanted to come out and make sure everyone was holding up all right,” Mr. Transport corrected.

There was a chorus of mumbled groans; however, nothing remained to be said. It had all been vocalized earlier on. Now the weary din of acceptance had settled in.

“Since no one seems to have any pressing issues, we can move on,” Mr. Numbers surmised. “Before his departure, Nick made certain preparations in case this series of events played out. One of those was requesting me to relay a message to you all.”

He couldn’t have gotten their attention faster if he’d announced a giant dinosaur was attacking the campus.

“What was it?” Vince asked, his voice half hopeful and half terrified.

“Nick knew you’d all be saddened by losing him; however, he hated the idea of you all moping about. He said he’d rather be remembered with joy and annoyance, the same things he worked so hard to bring into your boring lives.” Mr. Numbers paused as he surveyed the looks he was getting. “Those are his words, not mine. Anyway, to that effect, he had me take one of his DVDs before it was packed. It was his sincere last wish that you all watch it together instead of sitting about moping. Again, his words.” Mr. Numbers pulled the DVD from his jacket pocket and set it on the coffee table.

“It’s a dumb slasher movie,” Alice noted. “That son of a bitch. He got us one last time.” And then Alice did something she would have thought impossible only moments before. She laughed. Not a sweet giggle or a half-hearted chuckle: a full-bodied gale of laughter that shook the chair she sat on. Before long the others had joined in, and it was quite a while before the mirth finally subsided enough for someone to put the disk in. Alice undertook this task, setting up the TV and DVD player before returning to her seat.

The title screen rose before them, a trio of dark skinned women with cheap plastic fangs set in their mouths. Hershel grabbed the remote and hit the Play button. What appeared on the screen was not a government warning about piracy or a preview for another movie. It was, in fact, the last thing any of them expected to see.

“Hey there,” Nick called from the screen. “Damn I wish I could see your faces right now. I bet you all look so shocked it’s ridiculous.”

He would not have been disappointed.