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Dead Shot Chapter 1

 “I'm worried about Nicholas.”  Pam Weatherby leaned back in her beach chair and closed her eyes behind her over-sized sunglasses.  “I know you mean well, darling, by planning a holiday in the middle of the week, but I can't relax when I'm forever thinking of Nicholas.  What if he does something while we're away?  I'd never forgive myself if something happened and we didn't do anything.”

“We are doing something.  We're enjoying ourselves on holiday.  What else is there to do?”   Charles Weatherby tugged the wide brim of his Panama boat hat further down on his forehead.  “Nicholas isn't a child, Pam.  He's nineteen years old.  He's in university.  The only thing he should do while we're away is attend class and pass his mid-terms.”

“You know that's not what I mean.” Pam bit down so hard on her bottom lip that she tasted blood.  “What if he has one of his episodes?”

“Why don't you check his YouTube channel?  That's the only way any of us can keep track of his comings and goings anymore.”

“Brilliant idea!”  

She picked up her phone from the white plastic table and tapped on the YouTube app.   She knew Nicholas's channel address by heart now.  NicSays.  They'd watched and re-watched every single video he posted to try to make sense of the dark turn his life had taken since starting college. Pam knew every parent of a troubled child always said, “But he was such a happy boy,” and, “We have no idea where this came from,” but, in their case, it was true. 

Nicholas grew up wanting for nothing.  Anything he could ever want was just a credit card swipe away. The parade of psychologists they'd taken him to in the last year said it made him entitled and out of touch with reality. 

He was used to getting what he wanted, and when that didn't happen with the girls he showed interest in, he had the angry teenage boy equivalent of a temper tantrum: he posted nasty things about them online.  First it was social media and then he started a YouTube channel with his video blog ‘Nic Says.'  It turned out Nicholas says a lot of things and none of them were flattering to the girls who refused to date him.

“Maybe you just came on too strong,” Pam remembered telling him after he uploaded his first video.  “That can happen when you like someone very much.  Why don't you try again with a little less demanding and a little more sensitivity?  I'm sure that will do the trick.”

But it didn't do the trick that time.  Or the next time.  Or the time after that.   It seemed every girl Nicholas approached always had some excuse.  They had to study.  They had to work.  They had a boyfriend.  To their credit, they did their best to let him down easy, but it wasn't as easy for Nicholas to put the constant rejection behind him.  

“Oh, look, darling, Nicholas’s uploaded a brand new video.”

Pam clicked the play button and held out her phone so they could watch it together. Nicholas's face filled most of the frame.  He didn't look dangerous with his shaggy blonde hair and perfect smile.  He looked like the sort of boy who would help an old lady cross the street, not mug her and kick her while she was down.  

He certainly didn't look like the sort of boy anyone would turn down for a date, though Pam admitted to herself that she was more than a little biased on that front.  The only thing that seemed even the slightest bit off about Nicholas was his eyes. They shifted back and forth like an over-wound metronome, particularly when he started ruminating on screen.   

“Is he on something?” Charles muttered.  “He looks as high as a kite.”

“Hush, darling, so we can hear what he has to say.”

“Hi everyone, this is Nicholas. Today on Nic Says is 'payback a bitch – like you lot.'  I'd like to dedicate this very special episode to Stephanie, Kate, and Michaela. I tried to be nice.  I tried to be rational.  I tried to think of all the reasons you might be telling the truth as to why you were too busy to grab a damn cup of coffee or see a movie with me, but I kept coming back to the same conclusion.  

You're lying.  You're lying through your perfectly made up lips, your pearly whitened teeth that Mommy and Daddy paid for, and now it's payback time.  You're about to find out that payback is an even bigger bitch than you.  See you in Hell, girls.”

Nicholas jostled the camera around so he was no longer the focus.  Instead, it showed a busy university campus.   Nicholas’s university, Southern Cross University, Lismore campus.  Pam and Charles heard a round of pop-pop-pops that sounded like firecrackers going off.  But it wasn't.  Amidst the screaming and running and swearing as someone big and burly and dressed all in black tackled Nicholas, they realized their worst fears were fully apparent. Those weren't firecrackers going off. Those were gunshots.  

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