It was a Thursday. The day one eighteen-year-old gunman would change the lives of an entire town.
Principal Mark Kurtz loved his school. He worked hard to give his students every advantage in life, but he could have never predicted that on a warm day in May, a distraught senior would commit an unimaginable act of vengeance on his classmates.
In the aftermath of the shooting that left both students and faculty members dead, Mark must deal with his own guilt while trying to help those around him feel safe once again.
Mark’s problems are compounded when an old flame, Lane Warner, arrives in town to help treat the trauma victims. How can he possibly deal with his own guilt, be there for his seventeen-year-old son and confront the part of himself he’s always denied while trying to heal a broken community?
People Need Time to Grieve
My newest release, It Was a Thursday, deals with the aftermath of a school shooting. I’ve been sitting on this story idea for about five years. Four years ago, I decided to write the story that continued to sneak its way into my dreams. However, each time I started working on the story, another mass shooting would happen somewhere in the United States. I would feel guilty about bringing up such tragic events, so I’d put the story away until society had time to heal.
Here’s where the tricky part lies. In the US, mass shootings have become the norm. We, as a society, aren’t allowed the time to grieve before another tragedy happens. Because of this, I’m afraid we’re becoming numb to the overwhelming sadness that comes with a shooting like the one that happened last month, last week and yesterday. Worse, in my opinion, is what these acts of violence are doing to our children. For years, there have been advocates against violent video games because some people believe if I child sits in front of a television playing a game that is filled with violence, they’ll become immune to it. Hmmm. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not the video game industry that is threatening the humanity of our children, it’s us. It’s the violence we, as a society, accept without doing a damn thing to stop it. We are creating an entire generation of people who are immune to violence because we as adults let it happen every single day.
Groups will gather to protest a single shooting and practically bring down a city while doing it, but we sit in front of our television sets and do nothing to change policies that are literally killing hundreds of people a year. What sense does that make? Why are we so afraid to stand up to the small segment of our population who demand they have complete access to guns without jumping through legal hoops to get them? Damn it! People should have to jump through serious legal hoops to gain access to a firearm.
My daughter has to take a test and put in fifty hours of driver’s training before she’s issued a driver’s license. When I was young, I had to take a written and a driving test in order to get my license. The laws were changed because too many teenagers were getting injured and killed in car accidents. So, are you really going to tell me that our government is unable to change laws in order to protect us? I’m calling bullshit on that one. I honestly don’t care if you want a rifle to hunt with or even a handgun to protect your family as long as I feel safe in the knowledge that those firearms were earned through a serious waiting period and a serious amount of training before you were allowed to take it home. Like a driver’s license, I want people to prove to me they know what the heck they are doing before they are allowed to be in charge of something so dangerous.
Mark Kurtz paused in the process of scrubbing his hands to throw back another swallow of the dark amber liquid that had been his constant companion since the shooting. He didn’t take notice of the raw skin under the nail brush or the sound of the ringing phone because once again he was lost to the memories.
* * * *
A loud crack pierced Mark’s ears as he sat in his office, checking the weather report. The blood froze in his veins when he realized what he’d just heard. “Fuck.” He jumped up and rushed around his desk. A second shot rang out as he threw open his door. “Code Red,” he yelled as he ran through the administration office.
Juvenile screams nearly drowned out the third and fourth rounds as he hit the hallway and tried to assess the direction from which they’d been fired. Gym? He did his best to push down thoughts of his own son as he raced toward the gathered class of 2015 while the loudspeaker overhead ordered students and teachers to follow lockdown procedures. The school board had fought him when he’d insisted on implementing the Code Red drills after several shootings across the country had put students and teachers at the mercy of a madman with a gun, but he hadn’t backed down until they gave in to parental pressure.
By the time he neared the first set of double doors that led to the gymnasium, all hell was breaking loose. He fought to stay on his feet as the panicked students pushed and trampled their own classmates in search of safety. Mark did his best to hold his ground as he fought his way into the gym. He had no real idea of what he’d do once he made it inside, but a bullet in him meant one less in a student.
While squeezing his bigger body between the crush of students and the metal door frame, one of the lock plates scraped against the side of his face, but suddenly, he was inside. The coppery scent of blood mixed with the pungent smell of gunpowder filled his nostrils. It only took a moment to spot the gunman.
Mark skidded to a stop. “Scott!” he shouted over the echoing screams. He couldn’t believe the devastation had come from the confident, fun-loving senior in front of him. No. Scott didn’t fit the profile.
Scott Brown, better known as Skittles, lowered the gun slightly before turning to face Mark. He blinked several times, as if coming out of a trance. “Principal Kurtz?”
Holding his hands up and out to his sides, Mark took three steps forward. “Put the gun down, Scott.”
Scott quickly scanned the gym’s interior. “You know I can’t do that. Just look at what I’ve done.”
“It’ll be okay,” Mark tried to reason. “We’ll get you help.” He heard several students moan but didn’t take his eyes off the boy with the gun.
“I’ve had to fight every day to be true to who I really am, knowing it would be easier if I were someone else. I’m tired of fighting,” Scott’s voice quavered as he raised his arm again.
Mark braced himself as he watched the gun swing upward. Not me, not me, he silently prayed. “Is that what this’s about? Is someone bullying you?”
“Yes, sir.” Scott’s eyes swept the carnage he’d wrought before returning his gaze to Mark. His facial expression seem to change from sorrow and guilt to pure hatred. “They thought because they weren’t on school property they’d get away with taking my self-respect. I had to show them they were wrong.”
Before Mark could react, Scott pressed the gun to his own temple and fired.
* * * *
“I’ve been calling you for an hour!” Max yelled after opening the back door. “You scared the shit out of me.”
Mark jumped at the sound of his son’s voice. He methodically put the scrub brush back into the soap dish before turning off the hot water. “Sorry. Reporters are still calling for an exclusive, so I’ve just stopped answering the phone.”
Max grabbed a dishtowel off the counter before moving to Mark’s side. He gently wrapped Mark’s bleeding hands in the towel. “You have to stop this.” He eyed the half-empty bottle of Johnnie Walker beside the sink. “I’m worried about you, Dad.”
“I’m fine,” Mark lied.
Max lifted Mark’s wrapped hands. “This is not you being fine. Do you want me to call Dr. Long?”
Mark shook his head. He’d spoken to the psychiatrist three times a week for nearly two months, and it hadn’t done a damn bit of good. “I’m just nervous about tomorrow. That’s all.”
“What’s tomorrow?” Max asked.
“I have to go back to work to get ready for the new school year. It’s the reason the press is still interested.” Mark tried to muster a smile for his son. “You’ll be a big senior this year. Nervous?”
“Sure, but it has nothing to do with being a senior and we both know it.” Max released his hold on Mark before opening the refrigerator. “We’re all scared, Dad. It’s going to be as hard on us as it is on you, but you don’t see me getting drunk in the middle of the day or scrubbing the skin off my hands.”
Mark bit the inside of his cheek to keep from saying what he really wanted to say. He should have been grateful Max hadn’t been anywhere near the gym when Scott had opened fire. He should’ve been over the moon that his only son hadn’t been forced to choose which of the students to help before the paramedics could arrive. Nope, only he had stared into the eyes of a dying Mitch Crawford while trying to stem the bleeding from Julie Rosedale’s chest wound.
“You’re right,” Mark finally agreed. “I’ve got two weeks to face my demons before you kids come back. Don’t worry. I’ll have my head straight by then.”
About the author
Carol Lynne – An avid reader for years, one day Carol Lynne decided to write her own brand of erotic romance. While writing her first novel, Branded by Gold, Carol fell in love with the M/M genre. Carol juggles between being a full-time mother and a full-time writer. With over one hundred releases, one thing is certain, Carol loves to keep busy. Although series books are her passion, Carol enjoys the occasional stand-alone title.
As an organizer of the annual GayRomLit Retreat, Carol has little free time, but enjoys trips to the lake with her family when she has the rare weekend off.