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A Dangerous Game

Chapter Text

Stan’s POV

“Oh, what is this, that I can see? These ice-cold hands taking hold of me…”

It started like every other day in South Park. Birds were singing, it was cold as fuck, and giant, alien robots were having an epic battle in the middle of town. So, again, just a normal Tuesday. It had been five years since that day, and for some reason, that thought didn’t come into my mind when I woke up.
Five years. We were fifteen now, and probably not any wiser. It’s strange how as you grow older you don’t notice yourself changing, but when you look back at yourself from five years ago, you sit there and think “Why the hell did I do that? I look like a dork!” I didn’t look much different than I did from five years ago (I got a lot taller though) but my friends managed to change quite a bit. I still even wore the hat I wore in fourth grade, I was that boring. But hey, I grew my hair out a bit, so that’s something, right?
Kenny, somehow, wound up being the shortest of the four of us. When we were thirteen he got a tattoo on his right arm. And his left arm. And his shoulders. By the time he turned fourteen, he was covered in tattoos and somehow managed to hide every single one of them from his parents.
Cartman, unsurprisingly, was the tallest out of all of us. He was still as large as ever, and his voice was still pretty high pitched. He had lost enough weight that he could actually touch his toes if he strained himself, but was still the biggest kid in class.
Kyle, on the other hand, had become the skinniest out of the four of us. When we were twelve, he somehow managed to grow his hair out so that it was long and kind of wavy, and if I wasn’t dating Wendy, I would have said he looked pretty hot with that style. Too bad he still covered it up with his hat. Wendy would often joke that if we ever broke up again she would immediately go after Kyle. I still don’t know if she was joking or not.
Wendy had become absolutely gorgeous. Not to say that she wasn’t already gorgeous, but let’s just say that one day everyone (including the girls) voted her to be the hottest girl in school. And she was all mine. I would to say that I didn’t brag to some of the other guys that I was the one still dating her, but yeah, I totally did brag from time to time.
Sorry, I got completely off track. Anyways, the day started out like any other day as I made my way down to the bus stop. I felt as though something was nagging at the back of my mind, like I had forgotten to do something, but I ignored it. My friends were waiting for me, and the instant I looked at my best friend, I could tell that something wasn’t right.
He had a sort of haunted look in his eyes, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in a long time. For some reason, Kenny and Cartman either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because neither of them made any comment about his appearance.
“What’s wrong, Kyle?” I asked him.
“Nothing,” he replied, not looking me in the eye.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Because it looks like you’ve seen a ghost, dude.”
“Yeah, what’s up with you, Kyle?” Cartman asked, nudging him hard in the side and almost knocking him over. “Did your mom force you to have sex with her again last night?” Kyle glared at him.
“One, that has never happened and you know it,” he growled at him. “And two, it’s none of your fucking business, fat ass.”
Cartman opened his mouth to argue with him, but at that moment the bus pulled up and the conversation was put on hold. Kyle immediately took a seat next to the window and I sat down next to him. I tried to start a conversation with him, but he pretty much ignored me, instead choosing to stare out the window and only occasionally respond to what I was saying.
Rolling my eyes, I decided to give up on the matter. I figured he would tell me what was bothering him sooner or later. He always did.
I was shaken out of my thoughts when Wendy sat down next to us, giving me a winning smile. She flipped her long hair as she pulled her back pack onto her lap.
“Hey, Stan,” she greeted. “Did you understand the Spanish homework? I swear, most of the questions and words are things we haven’t even discussed in class.”
“Boy, I’ll say,” Cartman said, peeking over the seat in front of us. “I couldn’t even figure out the first question!” Kenny took his paper from his hand and glanced at it.
“That’s where your name goes, idiot,” he pointed out. I couldn’t help but laugh as Cartman angrily snatched his paper from Kenny’s hands and sat back down. Wendy started flirting with me, but I was distracted by the fact that Kyle had remained silent through that. Even now he would take every opportunity to insult Cartman, but it was like he hadn’t even heard that entire exchange at all.
School went by as mundanely as ever, but not once did I lose that nagging feeling in the back of my mind. And it didn’t help that Kyle wouldn’t stop acting weird. I decided that I was going to confront him about it after school, but when I went to find him, he was already making his way towards me.
“Dude, I need to talk to you for a second,” he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me aside. He led me into an empty hall way that almost seemed abandoned and turned to me.
“How long has this hallway been here?” I wondered, but he ignored my question. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a folded-up piece of paper.
“This letter was taped on my house’s front door this morning,” he muttered, pushing the hair out of his eyes. “I found it before my parents did, and I haven’t told them about it. I didn’t want to make them worry.” Then he silently handed the note to me.
It was made up of a collage of letters, like the ones you see as ransom notes on TV. I felt my blood began to freeze as I read out loud: “I’m coming to get you. Before this week is over, you will feel my wrath. This time, all of you are fucking dead!”
“Who could have sent this to you?” I asked, my voice tightening. “How do you know it was for you?” Kyle looked me straight in the eye, terror shining in his own.
“Stan, don’t you remember?” he asked, his voice a hoarse whisper. “Don’t you remember what day it is?” I didn’t respond. Suddenly, I knew what had been bugging me all day. I knew why my friend looked so terrified. “It’s been five years, Stan. Trent Boyett has been released again. And this time, I think he’s not going to stop until we’re dead.”

Chapter Text

“So, wake me up when it’s all over! When I’m wiser and I’m older!”

I could see several emotions battling for control over Stan’s face. But ultimately fear won, and I could see my own fear reflected in his eyes. He stood there silently for a couple of moments before finally speaking.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?” he asked, his voice shaking. “We’re best friends, why didn’t you tell me?” I flinched at the hurt in his voice.
“Because I was hoping it wasn’t him,” I muttered. “You know that childish notion where you’re always hoping that if you don’t acknowledge something, it won’t come true? I’m afraid that even just thinking about it will make it come true.”
Stan let out a sigh and shook his head. “Kyle,” he started. “Even if it wasn’t him, which we have to face facts, it probably it is, someone’s still threatening you. I know you didn’t want me to worry, but I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Thanks, dude,” I replied, barely being able to muster up a smile. “I don’t want you to get hurt either.” He gave me a look that was unreadable before looking away. “So, what do you think I should do?”
“I don’t know, have you gone to the police about it?” Stan wondered. I shook my head, embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of that first. “We can go right now, if you want.” I let out a defeated sigh.
“Sure,” I agreed, pushing the hair out of my eyes again and stuffing the note back into my pocket. We made our way back down the hall and out of the building, though our steps became less sure, as if we expected Trent to just pop out at us right then and there.
We walked as fast as we could without making a noise, desperate to get inside and around other people, but thankfully we met no one on our way. I reflected on how much easier it would be to just go and ask Stan’s sister for help again, but unfortunately Shelly had moved out of town for college. And she definitely wasn’t going to just drive back to tell Stan to suck it up.
The police station was quiet inside, as there was only one police officer seemingly on duty, and he was falling asleep from sheer boredom. Stan didn’t hesitate in walking up to him and knocking on the desk to get his attention. The guard immediately jerked awake.
“What do you kids want?” the police officer asked. “Don’t you realize how late it is?” Stan and I exchanged confused glances.
“It’s only four o clock,” Stan pointed out.
“It doesn’t get very busy around here,” the cop admitted. “So, what seems to be the problem?” Stan gave me a sideways glance, expecting me to speak.
“I received this threatening note this morning,” I told him, pulling it out of my pocket. “I think someone’s trying to harm my family.”
The officer took the note from me and stared at it carefully. He flipped it over, ran a finger over the letters, pressed it to his face, sniffed it, licked it, put it over his head like a hat, flapped it around like a pterodactyl, rubbed it with his hands, folded and unfolded it, then finally actually read what was written on it. Stan and I exchanged confused glances as he did all this but remained silent all the same. Finally, he handed it back to me.
“Well I can’t make heads or tails of this thing,” he said. “This guy is crafty, I’ll give him that. But he’s not going to outsmart me!”
“We think it might be someone called Trent Boyett,” Stan told him. “He was sent to juvi when he was in preschool, then was rearrested five years ago. He’s supposed to be released soon, and we know he has a vendetta against us.”
“Quiet, lad, I’m thinking,” the officer said, looking like he was concentrating very hard. “I think this might be the work of a Trent Boyett who’s being let out of prison after five years!”
“I think we’re done here,” I muttered to Stan, who nodded with agreement. We turned and left as the officer continued to rant about something that was no longer even connected to the note or who had written it. “I’m beginning to think we might be on our own with this,” I confessed to Stan as we walked towards our houses.
“Yeah, that guy was no help,” Stan admitted with a sigh. “But we have to do something! Someone is threatening you, and we need to make sure this guy’s threats don’t come true. Maybe we should tell Kenny and Cartman.”
I hesitated. I don’t know why I didn’t want to tell those two about this. Maybe it was still that childish fear that if I didn’t think of Trent then whoever was threatening me wouldn’t be him. And I really didn’t see how telling those two would help in any way. I knew they would either freak out, or brush it off. Or both. Probably both.
“Have you told your parents yet?” Stan asked, breaking me out of my thoughts. I shook my head. I couldn’t tell them. I was too afraid to. I didn’t want to think what this psycho would do to carry out his threat towards my family, but I wasn’t ready to face them about it yet. “You have to tell them, they deserve to know,” Stan pointed out calmly. For some reason, his words angered me, and I turned to him.
“I know I have to tell them!” I hissed. “You don’t think I don’t know that? What do you say to them about something like this? ‘Hey, don’t panic or anything but a killer is after our entire family?’ You know my mother has nervous issues.”
“Well, when were you going to tell them?” Stan countered. “Before or after this psycho burned your house down?” I gritted my teeth but didn’t answer him. “It’s not just your battle too, you know,” he said softly. I let out a sigh.
“I’ll tell them tomorrow, I promise,” I told him. He smiled in reply.
“Good,” he said.
“Can I stay the night at your house though?” I asked him. “I really don’t want either of us walking home alone or anything.”
“Yeah, sure,” Stan replied and we set off for his house. It was growing dark by the time we reached his house. We made our way up the path, talking about other things to get our minds off of today, when suddenly we stopped dead in our tracks. There, on the front door of Stan’s house was a note with writing that looked eerily familiar.
Taking a deep breath, Stan walked up to the door and took the note off, reading it carefully. Then he passed it to me with shaking hands allowing me to read it.
“Don’t think I’m leaving you out too, Stan,” it said in the same clip out lettering. “One more day, and I’m hunting you all down, and you’re going to pay for what you did to me! The only question is who I’m going to kill first. I’ll leave that for you to find out.”
Once again, there was no signature or name. Only the words, “You know who this is.” I looked up at Stan, and fear was plastered all over his face. There was only one thought going on in my mind, and that was that we had to call Cartman and Kenny. And hope that we wouldn’t be too late.

Chapter Text

Kenny’s POV

I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling with dozens of papers surrounding me. I had yet to tell my friends or parents, but I had been filling out multiple job applications to pretty much every business in town. Someone in my family had to start earning money, and apparently it wasn’t going to be anyone else, so I had to do it. I didn’t want to tell anyone yet, because I didn’t want to raise my family’s hopes if I didn’t get anything.
I had taken a break from filling out applications, (I was so desperate, I was even filling out an application for Tweak Bros. Coffee) when suddenly I heard the phone ring. Not wanting to get up, I called out to someone in the house to answer the phone. Not a single person answered me. Sighing with annoyance, I slowly shuffled over to the nearest phone and saw from the caller ID that it was Stan.
“You’re interrupting me right now,” I warned him. “This had really be pretty fucking important.”
There was a long pause, and for a moment I thought that I had actually gotten a butt dial or something and was about to hang up when I heard Stan’s voice.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to come out and say it,” Stan said. He paused for another moment. “Trent Boyett is back.”
Immediately, my blood ran cold and I almost dropped the phone. I could feel my breath start to leave me and for a moment I forgot how to speak or do anything really. Then I shook my head to snap myself out of it.
“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly. “How do you know?”
“It’s been five years, dude,” Stan murmured. “And besides that, Kyle and I both received threatening messages from him. He said he’s come back to finish us off.”
My mind was reeling and I didn’t know what to think. “But, Cartman and I haven’t received any threatening letters,” I reasoned, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
“I didn’t get mine until five minutes ago,” Stan said quietly.
“What are we going to do?” I asked after a moment of thinking it over.
“I don’t know,” Stan admitted. “Kyle and I already tried going to the police, but they’re just as useless as ever. What else can we do?”
“What about your sister?” I asked desperately. “Can’t Shelly just get rid of him?”
“She’s in college now, remember?” Stan replied with a sigh. “I can’t just call her up and expect her to drop everything and just fly in from Florida to stop this guy. I can’t do that to her.”
Stan and Shelly had started to get along a lot better in the past few years, probably because Shelly finally got her head gear off, and the two of them still video chatted from time to time. But it was unfair of us to try to get her to drop her studies just for us.
“Well, we have to do something!” I said eventually.
“You don’t think I don’t know that?” Stan snapped. “Look, I’ve got to call Cartman and tell him, and I think I might warn Butters just in case. Just, don’t go outside for the rest of the week, ok? We don’t know where he might be.”
The conversation left little else on my mind except the fear of Trent Boyett’s return. Why did we have to do that stupid fire thing in preschool? And why didn’t we just come clean five years ago? We knew this was coming eventually, but for some reason it just didn’t sink in until this moment. Trent was going to kill us and I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t totally justified in his anger towards us. Why hadn’t anyone warned me sooner? I could have been half way to Mexico by now!
I was broken out of my thoughts when my mother suddenly knocked on my bedroom door. I quickly took up all the papers around me and put them on my nightstand before going over and answering the door.
“Sorry for interrupting,” my mom said. “But I just remembered you got a letter today. I don’t know who it’s from though, there was no return address. Kind of rude of them.”
I felt my heart sink into my stomach as I stared at the envelope in her hand. A feeling of dread came over me as I snatched the letter and slammed the door. It was too light to have a bomb in it, but I still hesitated to open it. I threw it onto my desk and sat down on my bed and stared at it, as if afraid that it was going to come alive and try to eat me. Then I told myself to stop being stupid and got up to take the envelope again. Then overwhelming fear overtook me and I threw it back onto the desk. This went on for several more minutes until eventually I told myself to suck it up and I finally opened it up (albeit very slowly).
“I haven’t forgotten,” the letter read. “I’m taking you down one by one. Just try to stop me! I won’t be so merciful this time around!”
There was no signature, but I didn’t need one. I knew it was from Trent. Staring ahead of me, I let the letter slip from my hands and flutter to the floor. I knew Stan had told me not to leave my house, but suddenly I didn’t feel safe staying there. But it was too late to go anywhere else, and the last thing I wanted to do was wander the streets at night with Trent on the loose.
Instead, I slowly made my way over to my sister’s room and gingerly knocked on the door. Karen was still awake and laying on her bed, reading a book. She looked up with a smile as I entered.
“Hey bro, what’s up?” she greeted me. It broke my heart just seeing her completely unaware of what hell was going to break loose. For a moment, I almost didn’t want to tell her about Trent. Maybe if I didn’t tell her, she wouldn’t have to face the horrors that lay ahead. But she was the dearest thing to me, and I couldn’t risk not telling her in case Trent decided to go after our family.
“Hey Karen,” I greeted with a sigh, coming over and sitting down next to her. “You know how sometimes you can mess up, and you think nothing of it at the time, but then it comes back later to haunt you?” She looked at me with concern shining in her eyes. “Well, your brother made a huge mistake a long time ago, and now it’s coming back. I-I just wanted to warn you because he’s kind of psychopathic and…he might come after you to hurt me.”
Karen blinked in fear at me. “There’s a bad man that wants to hurt you?” she repeated. “What did you do to him?”
“That’s not important right now,” I replied. “I just wanted to warn you in case he tries to take that route. Just promise me you’ll stay close to other people, ok? And don’t talk to anyone who you don’t know, ok?” Karen slowly nodded and looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“Big brother, please promise me that you’ll be ok too,” she said after a moment. I smiled warmly at her and held out my pinkie to her.
“I promise I’ll be fine,” I told. She smiled as well and hooked my finger with her own.
“I promise,” she repeated.

Cartman was not even sort of helpful with suggestions when I saw him the next day. I could tell from his attitude that he didn’t believe that Trent was really coming back. He stood in a laid-back position like he didn’t have a single care in the world. For some reason, it really annoyed the shit out of me that he wasn’t taking this more seriously.
“Did you hear the news?” I asked when we arrived at the bus stop, just to make sure that he actually knew that Trent was back. He scoffed at me.
“Of course, I did,” he replied. “I can’t believe you guys are actually taking this seriously. So, you got some death threats! Big deal! I get death threats all the time! That doesn’t mean they’re from Trent!”
“First of all, all of your death threats are from me,” Kyle pointed out calmly. “And I’m totally going stay true to them one of these days. And secondly, it has been five years since the last time Trent got arrested, and the notes have been saying we should know who sent them.”
Cartman glared at him and was about to respond, but I interrupted him.
“He says he wants revenge, Cartman,” I reasoned. “Who else could it be?”
“Well, in Cartman’s case, lots of people, but that doesn’t include us,” Kyle muttered under his breath.
“We need to stick together, guys,” Stan said seriously. “This is no time for jokes. There has to be some way we can stop him.”
“Did you call Butters last night and tell him what was going on?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” Stan replied. “He’s freaking out. He said he was going to call in sick today.”
“Wimp,” Cartman grumbled. Stan glared at him.
“Do you not remember what Trent did to him last time?” he growled. “He has every right to be scared!” Cartman rolled his eyes in response.
“It’s not Trent,” he replied in a tone of voice as if he thought that should have been obvious.
“How do you know?” I snarled. “How are you so certain that it’s not Trent?”
Cartman opened his mouth to reply, but in that very moment, we heard a loud bang. It only took me a moment to realize that it was the sound of a gunshot before a white hot, searing pain over took me, and I collapsed to the ground with my friends calling my name.

Chapter Text

Cartman’s POV

It was almost like we were watching everything in slow motion. I swear I saw the bullet whiz through the air and burrow through Kenny’s stomach. He didn’t even cry out as he slumped to the ground, holding his arms over his stomach, his face twisted with pain. I looked around, but I couldn’t make out where the bullet had come from. Was Trent watching us right now, or had he run away? Was that even Trent? I didn’t know, but at the moment, I didn’t care.
Kyle was already on his knees beside Kenny, calling his name and carefully moving him into a better position. He looked up at Stan and me with a look of terror and anger on his face.
“Well, don’t just stand there!” he snarled. “One of you call 911!”
Immediately, Stan snapped out of his trance and whipped out his phone, practically shouting into the mouth piece in his panic. I just continued to stand there, completely stunned. Other people had started to gather to see what the commotion was, which is why I think Trent didn’t try to shoot the rest of us. At least, at the moment.
Kenny let out a groan and I crouched down next to him and Kyle.
“Don’t worry, buddy,” I said, my shaky voice giving away how scared I was. “Help is on the way. You’re going to be just fine!”
Kenny didn’t reply, curling further into a ball as his own blood soaked through his arms and spilled onto the pavement. I didn’t know what else to do or say. Kenny might die, but he would wake up, perfectly alive later. Trent had to know that, right? Was the purpose of shooting Kenny just to instill fear? Was there a way to permanently kill him? I hoped not.
Kyle was doing his best to keep Kenny comfortable, but he was no doctor, and I could see the panic on his face as he struggled to figure out what to do. His shaky hands slowly moved down to Kenny’s wrist, pulling back his sleeve to take his pulse.
“He’s going to be ok, right?” I asked in a soft voice. “Kenny can’t die!”
Kyle looked over at me, as if just realizing that I was there. “I don’t think he was trying to kill Kenny,” he replied after a moment. “I think he was trying to scare us.”
I felt my blood run cold, and I opened my mouth to ask what he meant, but at that moment, the paramedics finally roared around the corner, screeching to a stop in front of us. Stan was looking wildly around, as if he was hoping to see the shooter, but whoever it was seemed to have vanished. As Kenny was being put on a stretcher, a cop car came around the corner and slammed into a telephone pole next to the ambulance. A second later, the cop stepped out, looking nonchalant about the situation.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, peering over his shades at us.
Stan and Kyle quickly explained what was happening to the cop as I watched the stretcher being thrown into the ambulance. I turned back to my friends, and saw that the cop was casually writing down notes. Then he looked up at us.
“Ok, I’m going to need statements from all of you,” he told us.
“But I want to go with my friend!” I protested. “I want to make sure he’s ok!”
“Yeah, we just told you what happened,” Stan agreed. “Can’t we go with Kenny?”
The cop let out an annoyed sigh, as if it was completely unreasonable for someone to want to know that their friend is ok. The dick-hole. He agreed to let us go, grumbling under his breath, but said that one of us had to stay behind to give a statement, so Stan agreed to stay behind.
Kyle and I were completely silent as we sat in the ambulance with Kenny. We refused to look at each other the entire trip to the hospital. I subconsciously reached out and took Kenny’s hand, keeping my eyes on his face.
As soon as we reached the hospital, Kenny was taken away to have the doctors perform surgery on him or something, so Kyle and I were forced to sit in a waiting room. We continued to look at anything except each other, not speaking for the entire time until a doctor finally came in and told us Kenny’s condition.
“How is he, Doc?” I asked, holding my breath in fear.
“He’ll live for now,” the doctor said calmly. We both let out a sigh of relief. “He’s sleeping now, but he’s stable at least. We’ll have to keep him here and run a few more tests and make sure that he doesn’t get any worse.”
“Can we go see him?” Kyle asked, wringing his hands nervously. The doctor thought for a long moment, looking us both up and down.
“I suppose a short visit won’t do any harm,” he replied at last. We quickly rushed past him and burst into Kenny’s room.
Our friend was indeed fast asleep, in a hospital gown that allowed us to see all the tattoos covering his arms. He didn’t look to be in any pain, at least, and it looked like the worst of it was over. We grabbed a couple of chairs and dragged them over to sit down at his side.
“I can’t believe he shot at us in broad daylight,” Kyle muttered, almost too quiet for me to hear. “Was he trying to kill us? Or was he just trying to scare us? Why can’t he just kill us? It’s too hard going on with this.”
I surprised myself by reaching over and putting a hand on his shoulder.
“You worry too much, Kyle,” I told him. “We’ve survived much worse than this. We just have to stick together, and he won’t be able to touch us.”
Even I didn’t believe my own words. Trent was back with a vengeance. There was no denying that. I knew I had been cocky about it before, but who else could have shot Kenny like that? And why was I comforting Kyle anyway? I still hated Kyle!
Kyle was giving me a skeptical look, glancing at my hand on my shoulder to my face. “Boundless optimism isn’t going to help us, Eric,” he said in a soft voice. I shuddered. Kyle never used my first name. He only called me by my first name when things became incredibly serious. He didn’t look like it, but I could tell that every inch of his body was filled with fear.
“Well, we can’t just sit around like ducks, can we?” I asked. “I know I’m not going to just lay down and wait for him to kill me! I’m going to fight back!”
Kyle blinked in surprise at me before letting out a sigh. He brushed off my hand and stood up. “I’m going to call Karen and let her know that Kenny’s ok,” he told me. “I’ll be right back.” Then he quickly turned and walked out of the room.
I watched him go before turning back to my unconscious friend. He looked so peaceful in his sleep, I almost wished that he didn’t have to wake up until this entire ordeal was over. Even his tattoos couldn’t hide that sweet interior that had become my best friend.
Making sure Kyle wasn’t coming back, I leaned forward, my eyes fixed on Kenny’s face.
“Oh Ken,” I sighed. “Why did he have to attack you first? Why couldn’t I have listened to you guys? Now you’ve been put in pain, and I feel like it’s somewhat my fault.” I did, too. Had Trent shot Kenny just to scare me? Just because I hadn’t believed that he had come back?
I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was coming, and when I turned back to Kenny, another wave of affection overtook me. I couldn’t help myself. I leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead.
“I love you, Kenny,” I whispered to my sleeping friend. “I always have, and I always will. I wish I could have taken that bullet for you. Then you might feel the same way about me.”
It felt good getting that off my chest. Even if he hadn’t actually heard it, I still felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt tears spring to my eyes and I quickly wiped them away. Trent was going to pay for this. One way or another, I was going to make him pay.
I just needed to figure out how first.