The Graduation

Read The Graduation for Free Online Page A

Book: Read The Graduation for Free Online
Authors: Christopher Pike
Tags: Fiction, Crime, Young Adult, Final Friends
the night of the party.”
    “Go on.”
    Michael remembered back to another night, to homecoming, to the moment before the varsity tree toppled and destroyed the snack bar. The idea had begun to form in his mind even then. “I think she was dead before she was shot,” he said.
    The doctor thought a moment. “It’s possible.”
    “Is it?” Michael asked, realizing he had been holding his breath waiting to hear those exact words.
    “Possible, but unlikely,” Kawati quickly added. “Why would someone quietly and effectively kill her with a blow to the nose and then put a gun in her mouth and fire a shot that alerted everyone in the house?”
    “To give the impression it had not been a murder, but a suicide.”
    “Why?”
    “To give the police an excuse not to investigate, which is precisely what has happened. They threw the file on the shelf and closed the case before they opened it.”
    “You sound angry.”
    Michael felt a tightness in his throat. “She was very dear to me.” He started to get up. “You’ve told me what I wanted to know. Thank you, doctor.”
    Kawati glanced at the screen a last time. “There is one other thing you might want to consider. If some-one did strike her, cracking her nasal cartilage and giving her a cerebral hemorrhage in the process, then he must have done it with a baseball bat. Either that or he was a strong devil.” Kawati put a hand to his chin, nodded thoughtfully. “Incredibly strong.”

Chapter Five
    Nick Grutler drove fast down the coast, reaching San Diego in less than two hours. He had never been to the rehabilitation clinic before, but Maria’s directions were precise and he found the huge modern, two-story building without difficulty. Since her discharge from the local hospital three months ago, Nick had spoken to her on the phone every couple of weeks. Each time, he had called her. Each time, she had sounded much the same, quiet and withdrawn. Yet the bitterness that had unexpectedly arisen after her accident still remained. It had faded, true; nevertheless, it tore him apart to catch hints of it in her voice. Sometimes he felt as if he were talking to a stranger, that he was in love with someone who no longer existed.
    She was sitting outside, waiting for him as he walked toward the front stairs. She had a red wool blanket over her legs and a battered tan suitcase by her side. Only she wasn’t simply sitting; she was sitting in a wheelchair.
    Oh, Jesus, please heal her.
    He had prayed the same prayer a thousand times since last winter. Jesus was either keeping him in suspense or else He had already given him his answer. Nick was a big, strong young man but he almost broke down and cried at that moment.
    “Hi. Maria.” he said. She had cut her hair, her beautiful hair. There was hardly any of it left. It was probably easier to take care of shorter, he reasoned. She smiled briefly, and rolled toward him. He wondered if it would be OK to hug her, if he would hurt her.
    “Hello. Nick,” she said, glancing up at him before quickly looking down to make sure of her hold on the wheelchair handles. She still seemed to be learning how to get around. “Thanks for coming.”
    He stood above her, afraid to move. “It was no problem. It’s good to see you again.”
    “It’s good to see you.” She nodded to her bag. “I’m already checked out. We can go.”
    He stepped past her and picked up the suitcase. He knew it was all she had to her name. After the accident, her parents had been exposed as illegal aliens in the United States. They had subsequently been deported to El Salvador. Maria’s status was still questionable. As long as she needed medical attention that only the United States could provide, she was allowed to stay. She might be deported now that she was leaving the rehab clinic. Michael had helped Nick write a letter to their local congressman pleading her case. So far, there had been no reply.
    Nick helped her into the front seat of his car—he

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