It was me, Jessie Bates, Hunter Gilch, and Gabrielle Edison. We are the reason that Bobby Tanner never returned home that Friday night ten years ago, why every year his parents send out a plea asking for their son to come home. It was us. The senior class rejects.
Jessie was a bit slow and would believe anything you told him. You could tell this boy over a dozen times that ‘gullible’ was written on the ceiling and he’d believe you each of those times.
Gabrielle was pretty popular until her sophomore year when she got gonorrhea after having sex with her cheating shitbag of a boyfriend who didn’t know how to put on a condom. He, of course, blamed her for giving it to him and it didn’t matter what the truth was after that- Gabrielle was labeled a dirty slut and became a social outcast.
Hunter was just… off. Jessie followed him around like a lost puppy, but Hunter was that kid everyone was sure was either going to one day shoot up the school or become a prolific serial killer. Casual conversations would quickly turn sadistic as he’d brag about catching squirrels and birds in traps before killing them and cutting them up. He was the leader of our lil group, probably because the rest of us didn’t have a backbone.
Me, you can pick a reason why I was picked on- I’m fat, I had a serious acne problem, I’m socially awkward and a crybaby. I was an easy target because I’d start to cry when the words got too much and that was exactly what the bullies wanted.
Bobby was one of those bullies. He was everything we weren’t- he had money, he was good looking, he thought he was pretty smart, and he was funny… at least, if you weren’t the butt end of his jokes. We usually were. The only one he didn’t really pick on was Hunter, at least, not if he didn’t have a pack of friends around him. Hunter scared him, and probably for a good reason.
It was Hunter’s idea to kill him, after all.
It was after school, we were all at Hunter’s house. His parents were never home and it was a safe place to chill. I’d just finished throwing the pizza rolls in the microwave when he came out with it.
“What’s your perfect plan to kill someone?” Hunter said, interrupting Gabrielle’s rant about our stupid English teacher Mr. Shea.
Jessie laughed while Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Really? I don’t have one, Hunter. Because I’m not a sociopath.”
“Come on, it’s all hypothetical,” Hunter waved his hand, “Just go with it. What’s your go to plan?”
Jessie stroked his chin, which had a few scraggly hairs on it that he proudly called his ‘beard’. “Huh… I mean, I guess I’d kill them with my dad’s shotgun so he goes down for the murder? Fuck my dad,” He said.
Hunter snickered while I took a seat on the couch arm and pondered this hypothetical question. “I mean, I’d probably go for making it look like an accident. Like they fell off a cliff or a building, or the brakes in their car just gave out,” I answered.
Hunter looked genuinely impressed. “That’s actually not half bad! Come on, Gabrielle, what do you think?” He asked.
Gabrielle scoffed before she started twirling her hair- she always did that when she was thinking on something. “Oh my god, fine… I think I’d just poison the bastard? I’m not really strong, I mean, neither is Noelle, but here she is threatening to throw people off of buildings,” She elbowed my ribs teasingly.
“It’s a hypothetical question!” I threw my hands up in the air before looking down at Hunter. “Since you asked, I’m sure you already have an answer.”
“Lure them out to the woods before slicing open their throat so I can shower in their blood,” Hunter grinned menacingly and I had to suppress a shudder.
“That’s fucking gross… and would leave so much evidence, you idiot,” Gabrielle shook her head, “Actual sociopath, Hunter Gilch.”
We all laughed until Hunter brought up the next question. “Okay, who would you murder then? Say you could murder anyone and know you could get away with it. Name your picks,” He said as he crossed his arms.
I shifted uncomfortably while Gabrielle shook her head. “Too much, Hunter, too much,” She said.
“Who would you murder?” Jessie piped up with.
Hunter opened his mouth to respond when I heard the microwave beep. “Natural segue, it’s pizza rolls time!” I leaped up from the couch arm and ran into the kitchen. I did hear Hunter say he had a few possibles, but my return with the delicious snack had us completely forget about murder.
The next week the cruelest prank was played on me. I got to my locker to see a present from a secret admirer, a box of chocolates with a sweet love letter. I was so overjoyed and I ended up enjoying two or three chocolates before class.
Chocolates that Bobby had laced with laxatives.
Just as the teacher was about to hand out the assignments, my stomach made that oh so uncomfortable gurgling sound and I had to bolt for the bathroom. Not to get graphic, but I… didn’t make it. I shit myself, and I was wearing a skirt.
Liquid shit dripped down my legs as I scrambled for the bathroom, only to hear the cruelest laughter behind me. I looked, I saw Bobby, I saw his friends taking pictures with their phones, and I realized what happened.
I considered killing myself that night. The whole school knew what had happened. One of Bobby’s friends had texted him to let him know it was going down and that’s how he knew, and the incriminating pictures of me waddling down the hallway with a brown trail behind me spread like wildfire. I’d never live this down.
I’d already decided that I’d take all my mother’s sleeping pills and wash it down with a bottle of vodka when I heard my doorbell frantically ringing.
My mom was out so I ended up dragging myself to the door. When I opened it, there he was- Hunter. He had been raining out and he was soaking wet, gasping for breath as he leaned against the doorframe.
“Bobby. That’s who I’d fucking murder. Bobby fucking Tanner.”
I burst into tears and collapsed in Hunter’s arms.
That’s when we seriously began to plan to murder Bobby.
Jessie took no effort to convince, although I’m not sure he knew we were serious until the night it happened. Gabrielle was on the fence, but after she heard people laughing about ‘Shitstain Noelle’, she agreed to help as long as she wasn’t doing the actual killing part.
We all had a part to play. Gabrielle was the bait. Hunter and Jessie were the muscle. And I was the clean up crew.
I remember going to Jessie’s father’s home improvement shop to pick out the weapons. Jessie might’ve been dumb as a box of rocks when it came to things like school and common sense, but he knew tools. He chattered my ear off about how this certain brand of hammer was known to have its head come flying off if you used it too roughly and how this other brand was hardy and good for long term use.
Hunter picked one of those hammers and tossed it in the air. I never saw him smile quite so genuinely as he added it to the basket.
It was much more fun to actually plan the murder than commit it, at least for me. Each of us did get our own hammer, Jessie jokingly called us the hammer bros and Hunter laughed until he cried.
Gabrielle was probably the best damn bait. She made sure to approach Bobby when he was alone and actually let the bastard feel her up before saying if he wanted more, he should come with her after school. I was her back up, watching from around the corner just in case he got too much. I saw how he ogled her, he was entranced. Sure she was a slut, but she was still hot, and Bobby was still a teenage boy.
She had him drive them to the woods near Jessie’s place. We were all in position. The car pulled up and Bobby was far too focused on making out with Gabrielle to notice Hunter storming up to the car. By the time Hunter ripped the door open, it was too late for Bobby to get away.
The plan didn’t feel real until Hunter cracked the hammer against Bobby’s mouth.
Bobby screamed as Hunter dragged him out, bringing the hammer down again and again on his head. Jessie joined in and began smashing him wherever he could, but Hunter did most of the work. Jessie was more timid, he didn’t have it in him to really kill someone else.
Hunter did though. Bobby screamed and begged for him to stop, I don’t think he ever threw a punch back, he didn’t have a chance.
When he finally ceased crying and struggling, his face was a swollen, bloody mess. You couldn’t tell who he used to be. I think Hunter would’ve continued beating him if Jessie didn’t tell him it was enough. Bobby was dead.
The next part of the plan was performed mechanically. Hunter and Jessie took Bobby’s car to a deeper part of the woods where it was dismantled. Gabrielle went home. And I took care of the body, throwing it in the nearby river, tied with rocks, where it’ll never be seen again.
They sent search parties. People were dragged in for questioning. Even Hunter was, but we each other’s alibi- we were at Hunter’s house all night and he didn’t go anywhere. Probably the best stroke of luck was that Bobby didn’t tell anyone he was going out with Gabrielle. He was probably going to save the bragging for later.
People completely forgot about ‘Shitstain Noelle’ now that Bobby just up and disappeared. People talked about how he was such a good kid with such a promising future. Some rumors sprouted up about how all the pressure from his parents just made him crack and he took off to live in Florida or some shit. Other people still continued to point the finger at Hunter, saying we were just covering for him. Never really thought we participated though.
But I lied.
Bobby Tanner wasn’t dead when I took him to the river.
It came as a shock to me when I went to lift his body out of the bed of Jessie’s truck and he groaned. I nearly screamed. Somehow after being pulverized, Bobby was still alive.
I had a choice. If I dumped him in the water, he’d drown. No question about it. It was up to me now to finish the job.
Or maybe I couldn’t. Maybe when faced with the choice at the end, I just couldn’t.
Bobby was stashed under my bed. Every day when I came home from school, I expected to find him dead, but somehow he’d kept clinging onto life. I took care of him best I could with what supplies I could pick up over the counter, I fed him food turned into paste, and I’d clean up after him.
He wasn’t really… Bobby anymore. Even when his face healed, it was all crooked and puffy. I think sometime during the beating Hunter knocked one of his eyes out, because it was just gone, I don’t know what happened to it. I had to teach him how to go to the bathroom, how to eat by himself. I asked him if he remembered who I was, if he remembered Noelle.
All I got was a blank stare.
Bobby went with me to my new place when I moved out of my mother’s house. I taught him how to be quiet and stay still in the trunk I’d keep him in. During the day he knew to hide under the bed, when I got home from work he’d always give me a hug before lying down on the couch. He knew not to be seen, he listened to whatever I said. It was like having a son.
I never told the others. After the murder we just… grew apart. Things weren’t the same. Hunter was more manic and morbid than ever, Jessie became quiet and threw himself into work at his father’s shop, and Gabrielle…
Gabrielle couldn’t live with what we did. She hung herself about three months after our group murder. It was too much for her. I wish I told her at least that we didn’t kill Bobby. It’s probably the only reason the guilt hasn’t consumed me either.
But maybe I shouldn’t have kept him alive, either.
Like I said, it’s been ten years. Bobby’s made leaps and strides in taking care of himself, he can even heat up leftovers in the microwave. For the longest time, he was a blank slate. I was his Noelle, the woman taking care of him. His only friend. The world outside was a bad place, was the reason he lost himself.
Last week I left out some old things while doing some spring cleaning. Most importantly, I left out a book of pictures. I came back home to see Bobby staring at a picture of my friends. I asked him what he was doing and he just shrugged and I thought that was that. He didn’t have his memories, after all.
Well that picture knocked something loose. I came home today to find Bobby was gone, with that picture torn up in little shreds. Sometime that afternoon someone broke into the home improvement store that Jessie still worked at and beat him to death with one of the hammers.
I’m trying to get in contact with Hunter now, I know he still lives in the state but we haven’t spoken in years.
I just hope I’m not too late.