How could one of his closest friends from childhood be a killer?
It all started when Nicole called me that hot July night the summer after we graduated. She wanted us to all get together one last time, before she and Eric and their parents moved to Paris, I went off to college, and Pauly got a job someplace. Just the four of us, meeting at the old hideout and going to the carnival together.
In grade school and middle school, we'd been friends, doing everything together, watching each other's backs on the playground. Raymond had been there a lot of the time, too. He'd always been a little strange, but we'd been friends for a long time. Then we went to junior high and high school, and the four of us drifted apart, till one day, we weren't part of each other's lives any more.
But it was different with Raymond and me. We'd been friends longer, and we'd stayed friends. I knew all about his Black Rabbit, and how sometimes it whispered to him. He knew how I really felt about Nicole. And I knew I wanted him to be there for the one last time, whatever it was going to be. It took me a while to talk him into it, but he finally agreed. I didn't know it that day, walking back across the street to my house, but I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.
The next night, the five of us met at the hideout. We had some booze, and Pauley brought a roach, so we weren't exactly sober when it was time to go to the carnival. Nic told Eric and Pauley to go ahead-she wanted to talk to me in private—and persuaded Raymond to leave too. She wanted to have sex, but it didn't feel right to me—not the time, not the place, not even Nic herself. She was furious, and putting her clothes back on, she stomped out. I couldn't really get my head around what had happened. Why tonight, after all these years? And why me?
I knew I wasn't going to get any answers, so I just stumbled along toward the carnival to look for Raymond. I couldn't just go home and leave him. The rest of the night was a blur. I staggered home at dawn, still looking for Raymond. I was sure Raymond was in trouble, somehow, and I wanted Dad to find him. But a phone call calling him into the station let us know Raymond wasn't the only missing person from that night. Stella, the town celebrity, had disappeared too. And the last person she'd been seen with was Raymond.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.