Chapter 12 The ride to the high school was silent, but then it always was when Aaron was in control. He half smiled to himself as he glanced sideways at Howard, noting how white the man's knuckles were as he gripped the steering wheel. *Serves you right, old man. If you weren't such a damned narrow-minded, bigoted sonofabitch, you wouldn't be dealing with me. But...you started this, and since that pantywaist you call a son can't deal with you, I will!* he thought. *It's really gonna rip you wide open when...* he paused, then put the thought aside. *Naw, you're gonna get it when everyone else does*. The truck turned into the broad driveway in front of the high school, and Aaron got out. Slamming the door, he leaned down to look in at Howard and said, "Don't wait supper for me ...dad. I won't be home till late." He chuckled, watching Howard's already ramrod stiff posture tighten even more, waiting for him to meet his eyes. After a moment, he chuckled again when Perry's father turned his head to look at him. "Hell, it may be tomorrow morning before I get in. Leave the back door unlocked, okay?" "You're an animal," Howard said, his voice low and strained as he fought to control the urge to grab "Aaron" by the throat and choke the life out of him. "If you hurt Perry..." "C'mon, Howard," Aaron said lightly even as his tone and gaze sharpened. "You know me and threats...we don't mix. Besides....kill me, kill Perry." "I'm warning you..." The cutting humor vanished as Aaron's attitude took a darker turn. "Don't threaten me, old man! It ain't you callin' the shots any more. I am. And there ain't a goddamed thing you can do about it. Unless of course you want the whole town to know your little secret." He smiled when he saw the color drain from the other man's face. "That's better. Just so's we understand each other." He stepped back from the truck, shifting Perry's textbooks to his other hand, still bent over slightly to maintain eye contact with his adversary. "Remember ...dad...don't wait up. Bye." Watching the gray pickup drive away, Aaron shrugged his shoulders, then turned toward the school. Blending with the crowd of students hurrying into the building, he entered the air-conditioned coolness of Willandale High School. Spotting three boys lounging against the wall by the office, he headed for them. "Hey, guys, what's up?" Richie Zimmer, a six foot two inch senior, who looked every inch of the fullback, the position he played on the football team, looked up when he heard the familiar voice. Piercing black eyes looked back at the world from under a fringe of dark blond bangs daring anyone to say anything he didn't like. "Hey. Where ya been, Aaron? Haven't seen ya for almost a week." "Yeah," Don Hambrine, another senior who also played fullback, echoed. "It get's damn right dull around here when you're gone." His quiet voice, china blue eyes, crewcut dark hair and perfect smile had earned him the attention of a lot of the girls, a fact of which he took full advantage. But the looks that made a lot of female hearts flutter, hid a personality that liked things rough and gritty, and was just biding his time till he collected his diploma so he could shake the dust of the little backwater town from his life. "Where've you been hiding?" "In a very dark room," Aaron joked, "and, I'm the only one who knows where it is and how to get into it. What's been going on?" "Like Don said," the third member of the group, Jerry Jacobs said, "nothing." A slightly built young man, Jerry was senior editor of the school newspaper and several other clubs. But it was his penchant for everything that his parents had striven to impress on him as "unseemly and participated in by only those of the lowest social standing", that had been his ticket into the group that was shunned by most of the other students. Irritated by the lack of inspiration in the other boys, Aaron scanned the halls filled with students hurrying to the first class of the day. Spotting the bulletin board on the wall just outside the school's office door, he he made his way to it, perusing it idly. His eyes lit up. "The "Junior/Senior Get Acquainted With Your Class" dance is coming up," he murmured softly, a sly gleam lighting his eyes. "It's day after tomorrow," Margie Hennessey, a junior, said shyly, glancing up at the young man who bore a strong resemblance to Perry Kirkwood who was in two of her classes. Glancing at the girl who'd spoken, Aaron didn't even have to sort through Perry's thoughts to recognize her. *I can see why he can't keep his eyes off you* he thought as he turned on the charm and said, a touch of silk in his tone, "Will you be there?" "I..yes, I will," Margie stammered, blushing under the appreciative warm look. "I don't think we've met. I'm Margie Hennessey." "Nice to meet you, Margie Hennssey," Aaron smiled at her. "I just got into town this summer," he lied smoothly. "My name's Aaron. I'm a distant..cousin of Perry Kirkwood. Do you know him?" "Yes," she said, feeling her shyness fading under the warmth of his focused attention. "He's in my chemistry and history classes." "Lucky him," Aaron said just as the final warning bell for first period classes sounded. "I've gotta get going," Margie said, turning away. "Where you going?" Aaron asked. "Uh..Shorthand Two." His agile mind already considering and sorting through myrid thoughts, Aaron shifted his books to his other hand and said, "I'm going to Mr. Pernier's French class. Mind if I walk with you?" Tongue-tied at the rapid onset of such strong masculine attention, Margie shook her head and smiled. "No," was all she could manage as she headed quickly down the hall, highly aware of Aaron's attractive presence at her side. Tossing a wink and quick thumbs-up behind Margie's back at the three boys..*you losers*..still standing at the bulletin board, Aaron made light small talk for the few seconds it took them to reach their respective classrooms. "Want to have lunch with me?" Aaron asked Margie at the door to her class, his winning smile hiding the dark thoughts he wasn't ready for her to see yet. "I..I usually sit with some friends in the central quadrangle when it's nice," Margie stammered. "About twelve fifteen," she finished then hurried into the classroom, closing the door quietly. "Twelve fifteen, it is," Aaron said to himself. He watched through the narrow window set in the door, licking his lips as he watched the pretty brunette take her seat. Chuckling softly he murmured under his breath, "I do like 'em soft and sweet." He watched her another moment. "Can't wait to see her expression when I...." **NO!** The hot needles of pain slamming through his temples caught Aaron completely offguard and he grabbed his head, the textbooks dropping noisily to the floor. "What the hell?" he gasped. He stumbled against the wall, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, the thundering pressure building inside his head making it feel like it was going to explode. "Stop it! Stop it, damn you!" Aaron hissed, unaware of the thread of desperation in his voice. Dropping to his knees on the hard tile floor, he writhed and cursed his latest "prey" as the "owner" of his new body exerted unexpected mental strength, forcing him to retreat into the darkness. In a matter of seconds the transition was done, and Perry Kirkwood's body lay motionless in the empty hall.