The room was hot. Cory plucked at the front of her shirt, peeling it away from her skin. Thibault kept playing. Her stomach felt sick. She shifted in her chair and watched. The Hawk still stood over the kid from behind, glaring at the top of his head as he faltered measure after measure. Thibault’s playing had become so soft it could barely be heard. The sound of blood pumping in Cory’s ears crowded out the music. She jiggled her leg on the ball of her foot and looked over at the whisperer, sprawled out in his chair, his clarinet resting comfortably across his lap. He was tall and looked older. A senior. He watched the Hawk toy with his prey, too, but his face was passive, detached.
He turned back in her direction, and Cory felt her face flush, worried he had caught her staring. Leaning over, he whispered, “That poor slob. If there’s one thing the bandleader can’t stand, it’s incompetence. Don’t bother showing up if you’re not prepared.” He shook his head from side to side. “Schroeder’s going to finish him off.”
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