"Girls...just want to have fuh-hun...oh girls, just want to have fun..."
Anthony DeMartino wrestled with the child-proof safety cap furiously, until finally, he managed to twist it open. He shook four of the little pills out onto his hand, popped them into his mouth, and dry-swallowed them. He pushed his hands to his ears in a futile effort to block the strains of Cyndi Lauper coming from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and waited. Finally, after ten minutes of the siren's voice calling him, it began to fade out of existence.
After all, the song wasn't coming from within the cabinet, but from his own head.
He sat up, drenched in sweat, panting heavily, and went into the bathroom, now that it was safe. He eyed himself in the mirror for a moment before stripping off and getting into the shower, making sure the knob was set at the coldest setting. As he washed himself, he siletly prayed.
Towel wrapped around his waist, Mr. DeMartino (years of teaching had robbed him of thinking of himself as Anthony) opened the medicine cabinet and gazed at the jar featured prominently in the center.
The dentures rested at the bottom, as they had for over a decade. They sat in water still just a little foggy with the color red, as they had when he had ripped them from his mouth that horrific night in 1987. The pills he had taken before his shower ensured that they did not sing to him...at least, for the time being. His eyes began to water as he stared unblinking at the false teeth he had made himself, back when Lawndale still had a shop class and he was its instructor. It had never occured to him, not being a connoisseur of spy flicks, but the teeth had more than a passing resemblance to the prosthetics Richard Kiel wore in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
Finally, he managed to shut his eyes and close the medicine cabinet at the same time. He gritted his teeth -- professionally-made dentures, made for him after he had been shuffled from shop to sewing -- and suppressed the urge to vomit. After a moment, he forced his eyes wide open again -- if he left them closed too long, images of that night in 1987 came swimming back.
This time, opening his eyes were no respite; he could still see the star quarterback crawl away from his car, his throat torn out, blood spreading everywhere, until finally he ceased his struggle and died.
His cheerleader girlfriend never made it out of the car. Her face was covered in bites -- in some cases, the bites had been hard enough to crack the skull open.
Mr. DeMartino screamed, spat into the sink until his mouth was dry (the vision was so detailed he could still taste the blood), lunged into his bedroom, seized up the bottle of whiskey, and drank half of it down in one go. His psychologist had strongly advised him against mixing alcohol with his anti-psychotics, but his psychologist had yet to prescribe a better treatment for flashbacks to the grisly murders he had committed than distilled spirits could provide.
After a few minutes, the booze had the courtesy to hit his system, and he sat down on the bed, rubbing his eyes, pretending he wasn't crying. His thoughts returned to the quarterback he had mauled -- the young man had made fun of the lisp Mr. DeMartino had acquired due to a lack of teeth, and that was the only reason he had been targeted. In his mind's eye, the quarterback even looked like Kevin Thompson (except with a different hairstyle -- the only distinctive thing about the young man DeMartino actually retained). Mr. DeMartino wondered if it was because the two were related somehow, or (more likely) it was just his brain putting Kevin's face on the older student's body because they were both stupid. Before his brain could go any further along that path, he introduced it to the other half of the bottle of whiskey, and within five minutes he lay sprawled across the bed, passed out.
His last conscious thought was a snatch of song: "When the wor-king day is done, Anthony DeMartino...just wants to kill some-one...Oh, DeMartino just wants to kill some-one..."
Daria sat down on Jane's bed. "Guess what finally arrived in the mail today," she asked, unzipping her backpack.
"Did you order a severed head from a medical supply warehouse?" Jane responded.
"Close," Daria said, pulling out a large book from the backpack.
Jane leaned closer. "Is that...no way, that CAN'T be."
"It is," Daria said, almost reverently. "'The Sick, Sad Book of Slaughters, Mysterious Maulings, and Deranged Decapitations'. I got if off eBay for almost $200." She traced her finger along the gruesome picture on the cover, which purported to be a cow post-alien mutilation.
The Sick, Sad Book of Slaughters etc. was a spin-off project from the makers of Sick, Sad World, the purpose of which was to document various unusual deaths and injuries from around the world. Shortly before the book's release, though, the publishers were slapped with a serious lawsuit from the estates of several people profiled in the book, since the editors hadn't bothered to retrieve permission to use the dead peoples' likenesses in the book. Shortly after, a second lawsuit was filed -- this time, by various cities, counties, and states, for the unlawful use of autopsy and crime scene photos. The judge eventually ruled against Sick Sad Media on both cases, and ordered all copies of the books destroyed. However, there had always been rumors of a few which had slipped out from the executioner's industrial-sized paper shredder...and now Daria had physical proof of that rumor.
Jane abandoned her easel to lay next to Daria, who had moved herself so that she lay face-down on the bed, propping her head up with one arm while turning the pages with the other. Both girls' mouths practically drooled as each page had several detailed photographs, often in full-color, of dead and/or dismembered humans and animals. One man who had had his arms ripped off in a forest in Washington state had sworn just before he bled out that a bloodthirsty sasquatch had been responsible.
"How did he live long enough to actually tell somebody, unless they were close enough to actually witness this?" Daria asked, skeptical.
"Look here," Jane answered, pointing to the caption under a picture of a blood-smeared cell phone. "Says here he dialed 911 using just his nose."
On another page was a man who had fallen into an industrial-sized paper shredder, and subsequently blamed it on a ghost.
"I guess the fact that he tested positive for several hallucinogens had nothing to do with it," Daria remarked.
The next page shocked Daria and Jane. Printed across the top: "Metalmouth: The Cannibal Killer of Lawndale!" The letters were stylized, depicted as jagged bits of metal dripping blood.
"Daria, that story Trent told us! It's real! Metalmouth is real!"
"Hush, Jane," Daria said, intently reading the article.
The article was quite interesting: It said that officially, the wounds inflicted upon the deceased quarterback and cheerleader were attributed to wild animals, but all of the bites' measurements indicated that they were about the right size for a human's mouth. In addition, similar bite marks were found on several areas of the car, which matched up with the grievous injuries. Curiously enough, the article made no mention of the shop teacher Trent had mentioned in his retelling of the tale.
Daria touched the picture of one of the bite marks that appeared on the car, her brows furrowed in concentration.
"Amiga, look at this!" Daria was shook from her reverie to look at what Jane was pointing to. Her mouth dropped open in surprise.
It was an autopsy photo of the dead quarterback. The caption revealed his name: Kevin Thompson.
"No way," Daria muttered breathlessly. "There can't be two of them, there just CAN'T."
Jane tapped the gruesome photograph again. "There aren't, Daria. This guy died in 1987. Hmm...maybe Kevin's -- that is, our Kevin's dad knows him?"
Doug Thompson opened the door. "Whaddaya want?" he eloquently inquired.
"Uh, Mr. Thompson..." Daria started out reluctantly, turning to Jane and wordlessly asking for help.
"Mr. Thompson, we were wondering if you were related to anybody named Kevin...besides your son, that is."
"Kevin?" He broke into a grin. "Why, that's my brother, one of the greatest quarterbacks to..." His smile suddenly switched off, like a power outage. He suddenly seemed to age ten years, and slumped against the doorway. "Sorry, girls...it just hurts after all these years, thinking of Kev, my baby bro." He closed his eyes, most likely to stem a tide of tears. "He had an arm like you wouldn't believe, and the way he dodged the other players, you would think he was a professional dancer." He let out a chuckle. "Don't say that to his face, though, or he'll..." The smile died again. "Something killed him, almost twenty years ago now, I think."
"What killed him?" Daria asked.
"Well, the thing is..." His eyes shot open. "Say, you're that weird girl Kevin goes to school with. Is this about that goddamn book?" His face began to grow red as his mouth turned into a snarl of fury.
"Uh..." Daria unconsciously took a step back.
"It is! It's about that book! Those sons of bitches dragged my brother out of the grave and now you're here to dance on his corpse! Get the hell out of here!" He advanced two steps towards Daria and Jane, which prompted them to turn tail and run all the way back to Casa Lane. To Jane's astonishment, Daria actually beat her there by half a minute.
Daria lay on her bed, thinking. She and Jane had talked about Metalmouth some more, and had even tried talking to Trent about it (no luck -- he was far too deep in his sleep for even Jane's attempts at wakefulness). In the end, they had decided to keep an eye and an ear out for any more Metalmouth stories, and see if they could find more of the mystery. They shared a joke about siccing Metalmouth on the dumber elements of Lawndale High, then realized how bad in taste it was. Daria remembered Tommy Sherman, and didn't want something that weird coming between her and Jane again...besides, Kevin (while unbearable to be around at the best of times) sure as hell didn't deserve to lay on the same autopsy table as his namesake uncle had...and the thought of Jane, or even Quinn on that same table made Daria want to throw up.
She got up from her bed, went to her bookshelf, and withdrew a photo album. Inside were a number of pictures she had taken over the years of the strange and unusual. She lingered over one photo, the one she still considered her masterpice after all her years: Beavis and Butt-head, wearing eye-patches in lieu of athletic straps (every model of the former being too large for their equipment). The photo still managed to draw a genuine smile from her, and she suspected it would until the day she died.
She turned through a few more pages, and finally found the photo she was looking for. Some time ago (in fact, the night she had first heard the Metalmouth myth), Helen had arrived home, complaining of a funny metallic sound coming from the passenger-side door of her SUV. The next morning, she and Jake had taken a look, and found the door disfigured. There were footprints which matched none of the Morgendorffers' shoe sizes, and Jake had gone off on a rant about 'damn vandals' and how the door wasn't covered by insurance. Helen had taken a number of photos anyway, and sent them off to the insurance company in the hopes that they would fill her claim. Daria had on impulse kept one of the photos Helen neglected to send, putting it into her photo album for future recollection.
Her finger caressed the gashes in the SUV's door. They were a perfect match for the ones she had seen in the picture of Kevin Thompson the First's car. She began quaking in fear, and wondered where she could get a gun in Lawndale.
Mr. DeMartino's after-school activities typically consisted of swinging by the liquor store, buying the cheapest rot-gut they had, and drinking it all down as fast as possible when he got home so that he would be in a proper state of mind to grade that day's homework assignments. The routine was upset today, however, when upon his arrival home, he found Daria Morgendorffer sitting on his front stoop. He left the booze in the car and approached her. "Miss Morgendorffer, to what do I owe the visit?" He discarded the notion that Daria was having some sort of academic trouble, as her ability in that arena was significant enough to raise the average grade of the entire class up a full letter.
"I wanted to ask you a few questions about some of your past students, if that was alright," she explained, looking less sure of herself than she did in the classroom.
DeMartino nodded. "I'm sure I can help you with that, Miss Morgendorffer, although I cannot help but wonder what I could tell you other than the fact that, for the most part, they were a parade of MORONS." Daria winced, as did DeMartino -- he couldn't help his volume outbursts, it was simply a side effect of his anti-psychotics. (He couldn't console Daria with this, though -- if he told her, then she'd ask him why he took them, and he would be behind bars within hours). He invited her inside and asked her if she wanted anything (she turned down the offer -- the only thing DeMartino could really spare was a glass of water, anyway). He slipped into the kitchen regardless, and there retrieved a miniature tape recorder. He set it to record and dropped it into his breast pocket, where it sat unobtrusively out of view. He had read just enough stories about teachers having their careers ruined by a student who cried rape to make him paranoid, and not even being his best student in years would exclude Daria from the precaution.
He sat opposite her in his recliner. "So, Miss Morgendorffer, did you have any students in particular you wanted to ask about?"
"I was wondering if you could tell me anything about Kevin Thompson...er, that is, Kevin's uncle. I understand that you taught him in the 80s...right?"
Mr. DeMartino drew a blank. "I...was unaware that Kevin had an uncle. I don't remember teaching any Kevin Thompson in the 80s."
"Are you sure? Because I looked up his class schedule, and it listed you as his teacher."
For a moment, he was more intrigued that the school kept its decade-old records on file, but dismissed it for the more pertinent issue. "I'm sorry, Miss Morgendorffer, but I honestly don't remember teaching him."
"Maybe a picture would help refresh your memory?" Without waiting for a confirmation, Daria reached into her backpack (set on the floor next to the chair) and pulled out a Lawndale yearbook from 1986. "I checked this out of the library and marked the page his picture is on."
Mr. DeMartino took the book (not even noticing the tremble in his hands) and opened up to the page indicated. Kevin Thompson's smiling face looked back at him, and suddenly it was 1987 again, and
"Ath I wath thaying..." Mr. DeMartino pronunciated.
"Yeah, what were you thaying?" Kevin Thompson (the elder) mocked.
Mr. DeMartino glared as one of his teammates chastised him, and Kevin just shrugged him off. He decided to continue the lesson without a reprimand.
"Ath I wath thaying, you may find thith to be of great uthe inthide your prithon thell. Thomething I thee in motht of your futures. Now, can anyone tell me the differenthe between a file and a rathp?"
Mr. DeMartino's ulcer began to flare. "A rathp."
"A rathp!" The class broke down into laughter.
Mr. DeMartino remembered it all. The complete humiliation. The forging of the dentures. The freak radio transmission he had received on them in class the next day. And then, the blood...
All the time, it had been Kevin Thompson. The young man he'd murdered bore an uncanny resemblance to Kevin the younger for a very good reason. And, most importantly, he discovered that he had slaughtered two innocents over the matter of his hurt pride. Tears of shame and anguish began to well up in his eyes, but he clapped his hand against them so as to prevent Daria from seeing them.
"I'm sorry, Daria, but I don't want to talk about this anymore," he whispered, afraid that talking any louder would permit a sob to escape.
"Um...okay," she said, sounding worried. "Is there...anyone else I could talk to about him?" DeMartino shook his head. "Okay...well, thank you for your time, then. If you want to talk to me about him, or...uh...anything else, just give me a call." DeMartino was grateful that she didn't acknowledge he was on the verge of sobbing like a baby. "I'll...I'll just let myself out."
Daria was almost out before a thought occured to Mr. DeMartino. "Daria," he called out, completely unaware he had started referring to her by her first name. "Why are you looking into Kevin's uncle?"
"Um...I heard that he was killed. By someone named Metalmouth."
"Do you just want to have fuh-hun, Mr. DeMartino?"
"WHAT?" DeMartino jumped up and stared fiercely at Daria, teeth bared in a grimace.
"I...nothing." Daria left the house as quickly as she could without breaking into a panicked run.
DeMartino followed her to the front door and watched as she beat a hasty retreat out of his neighborhood. She turned back once, and upon seeing him gazing back at her, she doubled her pace.
Once she was out of sight, he withdrew the tape recorder from its pocket and rewound it a few minutes.
"--eard that he was killed. By someone named Metalmouth."
"Are you feeling alright, Mr. DeMartino?"
Mr. DeMartino tried to pry the tape from the recorder, but couldn't, as the recorder was still set to 'Play'. So, he settled for throwing it onto his stoop as hard as he could and stomping it until it was an unrecognizable pile of shattered plastic and silicon. Then, terrifyingly, it began to emit voices again.
"Mr. DeMartino, I know you murdered Kevin Thompson and his little cheerleading girlfriend," it said, in Daria's voice. "I'm going to go tell everyone in Lawndale, unless you come over tonight and tear my throat out like you tore his throat out. Then, you'll have to tear out my sister Quinn's throat, and mom and dad and Jane and Brittany and Kevin Junior and --"
"SHUT UP!" Mr. DeMartino roared, kicking the pile of broken parts, which merely scattered them across his front yard but, thankfully, had the effect of silencing the voice. He ran to his car, seized the bottle of booze from its resting place under the seat, and managed to drain the entire bottle in a single extended gulp. He managed to stagger back into the house, where he pulled his 'emergency stash' out from underneath the sink. He almost made it through that one before he simply blacked out.
"You want to up your dosage." Mr. DeMartino's psychiatrist sighed. "Again."
"Look, Anthony..." He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "The thing is, we both know you pop your pills like they were M&Ms. They're not. Your dosage is already so strong it'd kill a child, and given how much you drink I'm not so sure it's not killing you already. For all I know, your liver could be a blackened husk by now."
"I need those pills."
"Damnit, Anthony, I'm not some vending machine you can insert $200 into every month and get a bottle of pills! You have to tell me why you need them!"
DeMartino withdrew a little as his doctor actually yelled at him. Finally, he relented (a little). "I've...started hearing voices." (He neglected to mention that he had started hearing voices a little over a decade ago, after his foray as Metalmouth). "I was talking to a student, and I heard her say one thing, but when I played the tape back, she had said something else entirely. Then the tape recorder started playing her voice saying things she hadn't said."
"Okay," the doctor nodded. He decided not to ask why Mr. DeMartino had been recording his students. "I don't suppose you brought the tape recorder with you?"
DeMartino looked a little remorseful. "I...broke it, in...fear. I already threw it out. Sorry."
"Right. You know, Anthony, I'm not an idiot. I know you've been holding back on me for every session we've ever had...what, the past five or six years?" He leaned forward on his chair, hands clasped. "I just wish you would open up to me more, Anthony. I'd be able to treat you a lot better if you opened up more."
Mr. DeMartino nodded in recognition. He definitely would receive better treatment if he were locked into an asylum for the rest of his life. "Could you at least renew my current prescription?"
"Yeah, sure." He jotted out a few lines on a prescription pad, tore the sheet off, and handed it over. "Just think about what I said, Anthony. I want to see you get well just as much as you do."
The pharmacy technician recoiled at Mr. DeMartino's yell. "I, uh, said that your insurance card was rejected, uh, sir," he said hesitantly.
"What do you MEAN it was REJECTED?"
"Well, sir, sometimes when you don't pay your premiums on time --"
"I GET MY INSURANCE FROM WORK!"
"-- or when your place of business changes their insurance policy, the...sir?" DeMartino was already out the door.
"Angela, you BITCH!" DeMartino roared as he slammed open Angela Li's office door.
"Mr. DeMartino, what is the meaning of this?" she shouted back, rising from her chair.
"You CHANGED OUR INSURANCE POLICY!" He slammed down the contract he had forced Angela to sign several months ago after a brief strike. "It says RIGHT HERE that we're entitled to FULL MEDICAL COVERAGE!"
Angela read the passage his finger had landed on. "What the hell are you talking about? I didn't change any of the coverage plans...unless..." A thoughtful look appeared on Angela's face. "I did change one aspect of the plan recently, but only in accordance with new district policy. The school board and Superintendent Cartwright recently decided that the district would no longer actively employ persons with debilitating mental illnesses -- particularly ones which made them a harm to others. So, I proactively decided to slash treatment for those specific illnesses, since the school wouldn't be hiring anybody like that in the first place."
Angela sat back down in her chair and smiled. She could smell the blood in the water. "Now, Tony, you don't happen to know anybody like that, do you?"
He simply stared wordlessly at her for a solid minute before leaving, slamming the door as hard as he could on his way out.
Angela's smile widened as she wondered who it was that had been deprived of their treatment and gone crying to Tony, the union rep. Actually, only two candidates readily sprang to mind: Ms. Barch, and Anthony himself. Either way, it worked out well for her, as both teachers had been a headache to Angela in different ways during their tenure at Lawndale High. All she had to do was wait for their meds to run out, and the first time they slipped, they would be pink-slipped.
Angela Li felt so good, it made her shiver all over. She even let out a giggle.
The next day at school (before the start of class), Mr. DeMartino examined his last two pills, sitting at the bottom of the plastic bottle, mocking him. He withdrew them and slipped them into his breast pocket, just in case.
Half an hour later, he almost ran into the hallway as the class (in his head) suddenly started singing the chorus to Girls Just Want To Have Fun. He thrust his hand into his breast pocket (partially tearing it off in the process) and chewed the pills straight up. They were very bitter, but he managed to choke them down.
"Way to go, Mr. D.!" someone cheered from down the hall. Mr. DeMartino turned and saw that it was one of his C students, Jennifer something. He remembered overhearing a few students talk about scoring off of her, and impulsively he decided they weren't talking about sex as he strode over to her.
"Jennifer, is it true you deal drugs?" he asked, a stony look on his face.
"I need something."
Jennifer's usually-sleepy expression brightened up a little. "Well hell, Mr. D, why didn't you say so in the first place?" She, like Mr. DeMartino, kept a tape recorder on her at all times, out of a similar sense of paranoia. Since he had just solicited her for purchase of a controlled substance, she could nail his ass to the wall just as firmly as he could nail hers. "I have to warn you, though, I don't carry any of the heavy stuff."
"I have, ah, a special order...probably something you don't carry." He fished out the empty pill bottle and handed it to her. She examined it, curious. "I've never heard of this stuff before. What's it do?"
"Don't ask," DeMartino snapped.
"Okay, okay! Jeez," Jennifer replied, hands up in a I-surrender position. "I'll see what I can do."
That afternoon after school, Jennifer's contact at the pharmacy (in fact, the nervous college student who DeMartino had scared so badly the day prior) gave her the pills, and she gave him what he wanted in return. After she wiped her mouth off, she asked him what the pills were for. Not only did he tell her they were anti-psychotics, but about the crazy man with the bulging eye who had tried to buy some yesterday but his insurance was no good. That night, Jennifer told a few of her friends that DeMartino was secretly a psychopath (in jest), and they told a few of their friends the same (not in jest) and that was how most of the student body of Lawndale, in a single night, came to the (right) conclusion that DeMartino was in fact the legendary Metalmouth (but for the wrong reasons).
Jennifer approached Mr. DeMartino the next day before school began, right as he was getting out of his car. "Hey, Mr. D! I got the stuff you asked for...that'll be $50." DeMartino grumbled, but handed her the money anyway (as the pills were, in fact, cheaper than paying for them through official channels). "So, are you really Metalmouth?"
"What?" Mr. DeMartino's stature had suddenly turned to ice, his eyes piercing into Jennifer's.
"Uh, well, I found out what those pills are for, and I told a few of my friends, and they said that meant you were probably Metalmouth. Like a joke, you know? Heh heh?" The laughter wasn't very sincere at all, though, and Jennifer began to feel nervous, and a little scared. "Of course it was a joke, you know? Because how could you be Metalmouth? He doesn't really exist..." She trailed off in the face of DeMartino's continuing stoniness. "Uh, Mr. D, are you alright?"
"Who else did you tell?" The teacher's voice was barely louder than a whisper, but the tone of fury was very clear.
"Just...just some of my friends, you know? I mean, they might have told one or two other people, but...you know what? Here, on the house," she said, thrusting the money and the pill bottle into DeMartino's hands before taking off at a dead run as far away from the high school as she could. (Once she arrived home, she would discover the fact that she had wet herself).
DeMartino stared at the bottle of pills in his hand. He had not taken a dose in nearly 24 hours, a new record. He had been unable to sleep through the night, of course -- Cyndi Lauper had kept imploring Mr. DeMartino through her 80s classic to maim the student body -- or the students' bodies, rather. Instead of going on a killing spree, though, he had laid in bed, unblinking, grinding his teeth. (He had done it very seldomly since receiving his professionally-made dentures, and the dentures were a lot more resilient to wear and tear than the teeth he had been born with). He lay like that for ten hours, blinking only when the dust motes became too unbearable, grinding all the while, GirlS Just Want To Have Fun reverberating through his head at an impossible volume.
He slipped the bottle into his pants pocket, unopened.
He walked down the center of the halls of Lawndale High, staring straight forward, his motions more mechanical than animal. Clustered around their lockers, the students were gossiping, and the main topic of discussion was Mr. DeMartino, and how he had murdered at least a dozen kids a year, but escaped prosecution because he was blackmailing the police chief. Or how he had almost been taken down by the militia from twenty miles down the road, but he had caught all the bullets in his mouth, chewed them up, and spat them out. Or how he was the high priest of the Satanic rituals held at High Hills Park.
Mr. DeMartino entered his classroom, sat down, and continued to stare into the distance. After a few minutes, students began to file in -- in pairs, to be sure; none of them wanted to risk being caught alone with Metalmouth, after all. The whispering and rumor-mongering continued unabated, DeMartino taking no notice whatsoever of it. Finally, the last two students in absentia -- Daria and Jane -- slipped into the room just moments before the tardy bell rang. They were one of the few students who weren't actually trying to figure out how many people their crazy history teacher had buried in his backyard.
Daria and Jane, in fact, knew that there was nobody buried in his backyard, because that wasn't his MO. After being scared away from his house, Daria had kept digging for info on Metalmouth. She discovered a number of missing persons cases over the years, as well as a number of people found dead after having been missing for days or weeks (or sometimes months or years), whose deaths had been attributed to an 'animal attack,' and since their bodies were too decayed (as opposed to the elder Kevin and his girlfriend), this view was not challenged. The deaths and disappearances were all clustered around one of the more rural areas of Lawndale where animal attacks were a distinct possibility, but Daria had also noted that Mr. DeMartino's house was also in the area.
She had gone back to the decade-old school schedules on a whim and re-checked the elder Kevin's class schedule. She could not believe how stupid she was to have overlooked the fact that DeMartino had taught Kevin's shop class -- not his history class.
Knowing what to look for, even more clues began to turn up. Reading microfilm copies of old newspapers, she had found a few mentions of how the missing victims' cars had some unusual body damage..."Like an animal bite", one unnamed Lawndale cop had put it, in an article from 1993. She went on to plot the route her mother had taken home the night her SUV had been similarly mangled, and it went right through the 'kill zone', as Daria privately called it. Her mother had been seconds from a violent death; the news of this had forced her to march downstairs and uncharacteristically embrace Helen in a squeezing hug. (This surprised Helen Morgendorffer, but instead of asking her daughter why, she simply squeezed back -- knowing Daria, she wouldn't receive another hug for years, so she would take them where she could get them).
Daria had shared her findings with Jane, who (after a short period of hysterics) suggested that the duo go to the police. Daria had dismissed the idea out of hand, pointing out that all the evidence was circumstantial, and probably wouldn't hold up in court.
"But what if he kills again, Daria?" Jane asked, the fear apparent in her voice.
A grave look was on Daria's face. "I...I don't think he will, Jane. Besides, if we go to the police, and they let him go, he might come after us." The two friends shuddered at the thought.
She asked Trent (who had first told her the story of Metalmouth) who had told him the part where Metalmouth was a shop teacher. Jane's brother shrugged and thought about it for a few minutes. "I guess it was common knowledge that Kevin Thompson really pissed off Mr. DeMartino just before he got killed, so everybody just assumed he'd killed him. I guess you know how rumors are like in high school," he added with his usual half-smile, not knowing how prophetic his words would prove a short while later.
Daria pumped Trent for more information. It turned out he'd gotten the story second-hand from a bunch of seniors who had been freshmen when Kevin the elder had been killed. When Daria pointed out the similarities between the story Trent had originally told and the popular 'escaped killer with a hook hand' urban legend, Trent shrugged and once again referenced the power of the high school rumor mill.
Not wanting to hedge her bets on DeMartino going on a rampage, she decided to take advantage of that rumor mill and made a few anonymous requests to be kept abreast if Mr. DeMartino did anything unusual. She asked her sister Quinn, her friend Jodie Landon, and casual acquaintance Andrea to spread the word amongst their own friends and acquaintances to keep an eye on Mr. DeMartino, and let her know. (Between the three people she asked and their various social circles, that covered practically the entirety of Lawndale High, and a fair chunk of Lawndale Middle School for good measure).
This precaution had paid off the day prior when the word filtered to her that Mr. DeMartino had fled during the middle of his class and solicited drugs from one of Andrea's friends. She asked Andrea what drugs exactly, and Andrea called back a few minutes later and told her. Daria searched the drug online and found out that Mr. DeMartino had asked to buy a (legal) anti-psychotic, highly powerful, meant for people with uncontrollable violent impulses and hallucinations. Daria's mouth went dry. She wondered why Mr. DeMartino was resorting to the school's black market, when he had health insurance through his job.
On impulse, Daria looked up the Lawndale school district's website, and after browsing through countless blog posts about parades, fundraisers, results of various sporting events, and the latest elementary school play, she found a tiny announcement that said district policy had been modified to prohibit the hiring or retention of any staff with a mental disability that rendered them a threat to students. While Daria was sure it was illegal as hell and would most certainly be struck down the second it came in front of a judge, that was too far down the line if Mr. DeMartino was resorting to getting his sanity fix from a high school senior.
Jane had called her that night and let her know that the rumor mill was flying -- everybody had once again connected Mr. DeMartino to the Metalmouth slayings. Daria told Jane of the new developments she had uncovered herself, and told Jane her plan.
After they took their seats, Daria and Jane watched Mr. DeMartino -- so, in fact, did the rest of the class. He kept doing nothing...or rather, he kept staring forward, intimidating the hell out of the class.
Finally, Jane and Daria turned to one another and gave a silent nod. It was time for their plan.
Before they could stand up, though, Kevin Thompson the younger spoke up. "Hey, Mr. DeMartino!" He reached into his backpack, which he had set next to his desk. He pulled out something he had grabbed from the shop room before class started. A big grin was on his face, like he was about to play a huge joke. "What is this thing called?"
Finally, DeMartino snapped out of his thousand-yard stare as his eyes focused on the tool in Kevin's hand. "It's..." he muttered.
"Oh Kevin, you damned idiot," Daria muttered herself, bracing herself for what was about to happen.
"A RASP!" DeMartino roared as he shot up from his seat. His mouth was open in a vicious grimace, and the glint of sharp metal teeth were unmistakable. As one, the students in the classroom let out a terrified scream as DeMartino -- Metalmouth -- casually shoved his desk off to one side. It was an easy task, what with the adrenaline flowing through his system, and having finally snapped.
The students began stampeding out of the class and into the hall, painfully jostling one another. As Kevin tried to make his way through the mob, a steel hand seized his arm. "I ALREADY KILLED YOU!" Metalmouth roared, and he sank his teeth into Kevin's arm. Kevin's shriek of pain was nearly loud enough to rupture the eardrums of the class. Metalmouth tightened his jaw muscles, and was rewarded with the tearing of flesh, the snapping of bone, and the spray of hot blood in his mouth. He jerked his head back, taking a great chunk of meat with it. Blood squirted from the gaping hole in Kevin's arm, spattering himself, Metalmouth, the floor, several of the desks at the front of class, and even the ceiling.
Metalmouth casually spat the flesh out to the side and wiped off his mouth with one arm, bloodying the sleeve. He positioned Kevin for his next bite -- the QB's exposed neck. He thrust his head down, and...
Twin streams of Mace splashed into Metalmouth's face, causing him to recoil in agony as his eyes suddenly burned. He dropped Kevin to the floor and slammed against the blackboard, clutching his face and roaring in pain. Daria and Jane discarded the empty cans of Mace and each took one of Kevin's arm (Daria taking the mangled one) and proceed to drag him out of the class.
They almost made it.
Flailing blindly around, Metalmouth managed to seize onto Daria's hair by pure chance and yanked her towards him. Jane almost dropped Kevin, but Daria protested. "Get him the hell out of here first!" Jane nodded and continued dragging Kevin out, a blood-smeared path in his wake.
Daria balled her hands into fists and started swinging wildly behind her, scoring a glancing blow against Metalmouth's head. She finally managed to pull herself loose (sacrificing a fair-sized hunk of hair) and ran towards the rear of the classroom. Metalmouth pursued her, knocking the desks out of his way, and Daria saw that, despite his eyes being blood-red, he was beginning to visually track her again.
She grasped for one last straw. "Why did you kill all those people?" It was cliche, but Daria didn't feel especially creative at the moment.
"I ONLY KILLED KEVIN AND HIS LITTLE WHORE! I WOULD HAVE KILLED HIM AGAIN IF --"
Daria cut him off. "No. You've killed at least two dozen people, maybe more."
"...What?" Metalmouth had suddenly lost some of his steam.
"You didn't just kill Kevin's uncle, damnit! You've been killing people for years! A statistically significant amount of people have been dying in a very specific radius around your home from 'animal attacks', if they haven't disappeared entirely! They all share the Metalmouth M.O. to some degree! You've never stopped killing!"
Metalmouth vanished entirely. The only thing that remained was the broken form of Anthony DeMartino. "I...I've never stopped?" The torrent of blocked-out memories came rushing back to him. Person after person after person, all of them meeting their bloody end at his teeth. It had mostly happened when he had gotten black-out drunk, which was often. The parade of death began to repeat itself and speed up in his mind's eye, a march of mutilated bodies. He began dry-heaving. Daria edged her way around the side of the room as quietly as she could, not knowing how long the reprieve would last. When she finally got between DeMartino and the door, she bolted, almost running into the person standing in the doorway.
Angela Li moved to one side and allowed Daria to pass. She had alerted the authorities, and could hear the sirens even now, but couldn't pass up this opportunity to gloat over DeMartino's carcass. "Oh Anthony," she began, walking up behind him. "I'm so sorry it's come to this." She was as sincere as a crocodile's tears. "I think it goes without saying...but what the hell. YOU'RE FIIIIIRED!" She roared the last at the top of her lungs.
She now stood directly behind Mr. DeMartino, who was still on his knees. "Well?" She prodded him with one shoe. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"You know, Angela..." DeMartino turned his head. Seeing his face caused Angela to gasp aloud. His eyse, though still bloodshot from the mace, were wild and unfocused. She could almost swear his bulging eye was ready to fall out. Blood was smeared all around his mouth...coupled with his pale skin, he almost resembled the Joker. All he needed was the green hair, Ms. Li thought randomly.
And then he grinned, revealing his teeth, and Angela Li's heart stopped.
"I never really liked you."
She turned to run a fraction of a second too late, as Metalmouth lashed out and seized her by one foot and pulled. She fell face-forward, her jaw clacking shut rather painfully, her glasses flying off under one of the desks. She scrabbled against the floor in an effort to drag herself away, but it was too slick with Kevin's blood and she was unable to gain any purchase.
She screamed in utter agony as Metalmouth took his first bite out of her calf. He moved up her body, tearing two more chunks of flesh out of her back and shoulder. Her last sight was of his steel maw lowering itself onto her face...
Three minutes later, practically every cop in Lawndale swarmed into Mr. DeMartino's history classrom. Several of them became sick at the sight, and turned to vomit out in the hallway.
In the middle of the classroom among the rows of desks lay the horribly mutilated body of what could only be Ms. Li, the principal. The remains lay in a large pool of blood.
Against the wall, under a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., Anthony DeMartino was sprawled. He had taken out the Metalmouth dentures and replaced them with his regular ones before the police had arrived, setting the Metalmouth dentures to the side.
He looked at the dozen guns aimed at him. The events of the day had completely drained him of everything. "It's alright," he told them. "I'm done."
Within hours, a media frenzy had descended upon Lawndale. News brigades from all the major networks swarmed the town and began hounding anybody with even the slightest connection with the Metalmouth slayings.
A little after midnight, two reporters from Sick, Sad World were badly beaten by Jake Morgendorffer after they had been caught attempting to break into the Morgendorffer residence, in an effort to get interviews with Daria and Jane, who had been at the eye of the storm. Daria and Jane didn't like to watch Sick, Sad World very much after that, and Daria sold her copy of The Sick, Sad Book of Slaughters online. (She got ten times what she paid for it, due to the article on Metalmouth it contained).
Mr. DeMartino confessed to the murders of Kevin Thompson the elder, his cheerleader girlfriend, as well as a large number of people found dead or gone missing over the years around his home. He was ruled incompetent to stand trial, and was placed in the high-security wing of Quiet Ivy, where (thanks to a constant IV drip-cocktail of sedatives and anti-psychotics) he managed to finally find peace. He found a more permanent peace seven years later, when his liver finally gave up the ghost.
The Thompson family sued the Lawndale school district and the estate of Angela Li for their part in the murder of one Kevin Thompson and the mauling of another. They were awarded the full amount they asked for, and Doug Thompson later remarked that it was a good thing Kevin's throwing arm hadn't been the one to have been mutilated.
Despite that, Kevin would never play professional football, or even college football. After graduating a year after he was supposed to, he joined his father's construction business (which had become much more successful with the infusion of the money from the settlement). Eventually, he went back to night school and (with the help of a few very patient tutors), earned a bachelor's degree, which let him return to the world of Lawndale High football as a coach.
The Lawndale school district was rocked by a second lawsuit at the same time as the Thompson case: Janet Barch (who had been elected the new union rep) sued the district for their anti-psychopath policy. It turned out that almost three quarters of the staff at Lawndale High alone would have been fired outright under the new guidelines. Just as Daria suspected, the policy was thrown out by the judge almost immediately, and Cartwright and most of the board resigned in the wake of the scandal. The new regime promised transparency and an end to corruption, a promise which they kept for almost three months.
The Metalmouth dentures were held in police locker on the off chance Mr. DeMartino would ever come to trial, but that never happened. After his death, it was decided to have the gruesome relics destroyed. However, the dentures were absent from the locker, and a search of the building turned up fruitless. They were obviously taken by a cop with sticky fingers and sold to a private collector, but some people say the dentures have a mind of their own, and are always looking for a new victim...at least, that's what the students of Lawndale High will tell you.
The package had finally arrived. She was excited -- after all, she had paid that cop fifty grand so he could smuggle out the dentures to her.
With trepidation, she ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the cardboard box. Reaching her hands into the styrofoam peanuts, she finally pulled out the object of her desire -- the Metalmouth dentures. "Finally," she whispered.
She reverently placed the dentures in their spot of honor, next to her Grammy. Cyndi Lauper smiled evilly, and then began to laugh, a sound which would terrify anybody within earshot.