Authors: Ray Garton
"You know, I think I've got just the girl for you."
"Blond," the man said, "with the prettiest eyes, man, the most
eyes you've ever seen. Big and brown. She needs someone like you. A knight in shining armor to fight for her honor. Sort of a"—he chuckled—"big brother." The stranger's blond hair fluttered as he walked beside Jeff through the nearly empty mall. Jeff stopped and faced the man, suddenly filled with an icy mixture of fear and anger.
"I knew you'd be interested," the stranger said, his smile creasing the pale skin around his golden eyes. "I can arrange it. A real dream come true"—he winked—"If you know what I mean." Jeff felt sick, confused, and afraid. "Stay away from me," he said quietly.
"My name is Mace."
"I don't care who you are, just leave me—"
"You shouldn't say that until you know what I can do for you."
"There's nothing you can do for me, whoever you are, so just—"
"Maybe not today," replied Mace darkly.
Something about the tone of his voice, perhaps it was the confidence with which he spoke—as if he knew everything there was to know about Jeff Carr and his forbidden dreams about his sister Mallory—made Jeff's blood run cold…
Copyright 1988 © by Ray Garton.
Published by E-Reads. All rights reserved.
Dedicated to Paul Meredith
A true friend
In many ways, this book was a collaborative effort involving a lot of people who contributed their time, knowledge, and support to its creation. I would like to thank my co-conspirators…
Scott Sandin, David Wurts, Dave Yeske (who came up with the word
David Schow, Kathy and Bill and the crew at Giugni's Deli, Sarah Wood, Joan Myers, Laurel Larson, Jessie Horsting, Richard Christian Matheson, Richard Laymon, Dean Koontz, Francis Feighan, Steve Boyett, Jo Fletcher, Steve Jones, the makers of No-Doz, Ruth James, Debbie Allen, Susan Davis, Cheryl Lormann, Barbara Neiborg, Sue Shelley, Sherry Parker, Chris Waltz, Tracy Heller, Wayne Manning, Jim Potter, Michael Bradley, and my parents Ray and Pat Garton and sister and brother-in-law Sandy and Bill DeWildt, who are always there.
For the sake of atmosphere and convenience, I have taken a number of liberties with the San Fernando Valley, not the least of which is my grossly inaccurate depiction of its sewer system.
Some of the places of business mentioned actually exist, but, like Dangerous Visions Bookstore, not necessarily in the locations given. Valley High School and the Calvary Youth do not exist and never have. However, while the Laurel Teen Center is fictitious, it is not entirely imaginary; hundreds, perhaps thousands, of similar institutions are currently in operation and doing bang-up business throughout the country.
As daylight faded over the muggy San Fernando Valley the dirty brown of the smog in the sky was deceptively hidden by the soft blood-blister pastels of sunset.
It had been one of the hottest and most humid summers in recent memory. Temperatures and humidity levels reached record highs in the Valley, and Los Angeles residents, normally willing to venture over the hill for one reason or another, took to avoiding the Valley completely.
Three deaths were blamed on the heat: two elderly patients in a small Canoga Park nursing home in which the air conditioner had broken down, and a postman in Sherman Oaks who had been less than a week short of retirement.
The bright, stylish clothes of Valley teenagers, usually spotless and perfectly in place, wrinkled easily and were blotched with perspiration as the kids paraded through the malls and up and down the boulevards. The most-voiced complaints among teenage girls that summer concerned the damage done to their hair and makeup by the insufferable humidity.
Cars overheated on short trips to the market, and fast food drive-up windows attracted interminably long lines of afternoon drivers in need of a cold drink.
Those without air conditioners sacrificed a few nights out each month so they could afford to rent them; those with air conditioners did the same so they could afford to repair them when they burned out from overuse.
Two women were arrested for tearing each other's clothes off in a fight over who was first in line at the Frostee Freeze on Lankershim Boulevard.
A widower in Sylmar came home from work one afternoon in July to find that his fifteen-year-old daughter had baked some cookies, raising the temperature in the apartment; he caved in her forehead with a rolling pin.
Children did not go out to play in the afternoon, and dogs did not chase cars.
Sirens were the carols of the season day and night.
But the long summer was nearing its close.
It would end officially after the Labor Day weekend when school began and department store windows displayed their new lines of fall clothing.
On this Saturday evening, as shadows lengthened and the smog slowly lost its facade, clouds began to roll in. There were only a few at first, separated by large patches of gray-blue sky, but they were fat with dark undersides. As they crept over the Valley, low and sluggish, they gathered together, slowly closing the spaces between them.
Deejays on local radio stations announced the unexpected cover of clouds over the Valley with a fanfare one might expect to accompany the arrival of royalty; they played songs about rain and dusted off their sound-effects records to play the rumbling of thunder and the spattering of rain.
As the night darkened and the cloud cover thickened, acne-prone young people began to cruise the boulevard with rain songs pounding from their car stereos.
Nightclubs that catered exclusively to teenagers geared up for a night of heavy traffic, knowing that the last Saturday night before the beginning of a new school year—especially if it cooled off and rained—would be a busy one.
The fat, dark clouds blocked the starlight and glowed with soft swirls of color from the lights of the Valley. They stopped their crawl across the sky and remained, hovering over the Valley like an enormous, fragmented, cottony ghost.
But it did not rain….
Jeff Carr blanched at the heat when he stepped out of the Studio City Theater on Ventura Boulevard. The moist air clung to his flesh like honey.
The movie was not over, but he didn't care how it ended. He hadn't really wanted to see it; he'd just come along with the others because his sister Mallory had picked it, and he wanted Mallory to enjoy herself tonight.
To the left of the theater entrance was a small group of conservatively dressed teenagers. The boys wore ties and dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up and dark slacks with perfect creases down the legs. All the girls wore knee-length skirts and loose-fitting tops, some with buttons down the front, fastened all the way up to the throat. Each of the eight group members carried a stack of pamphlets and wore a button with calvary youth printed below a stylized cross. They were all smiling pleasantly.
Standing in the middle of the group was a wiry blond man in his fifties. He wore a dark suit, and there were sweat stains on the collar of his white shirt. Beneath the light of the marquee his cheeks looked hollow, and below his brows were deep caves of shadow. He carried a Bible under his left arm and he smiled at Jeff with a birdlike tilt of his head.
Jeff turned away from him. He'd seen them before, the Calvary Youth. They waited outside theaters and nightclubs, places where high school students gathered, dressed like Sunday school teachers, trying to recruit a few more souls for the Lord's work.
He walked to the curb and slipped his fingers into the back pockets of his baggy white pants, watching the traffic. The boulevard was backed up from the intersection of Ventura and Laurel Canyon, and the smell of exhaust was heavy in the air. Music blasted from open car windows and clashed, sounding like construction work. Looking up past the lights of the street, Jeff saw that the clouds that had rolled in earlier were still there.
"Some clouds," he muttered disgustedly, turning away from the street.
He looked back at the line of cars and saw Larry Caine standing up in the back seat of a red Rabbit convertible, waving a hand over his blond head. He wore a yellow muscle shirt that showed his hard, tanned arms. There was one other guy in the car and a bunch of girls. Figured.
"Where is everybody?" Larry asked.
Jeff gestured over his shoulder toward the theater.
"Your sister, too?"
"I thought she was going out with Kevin tonight."
"He stood her up."
"Yeah?" Larry flashed a pleased, straight-toothed grin. Jeff hated him, knowing what was going on behind those bright blue eyes. The light at the intersection changed, and the cars began to move. Nodding, Larry said, "Well, bring her over to Fantazm later and we'll show her a good time." He waved again, then sat down as the car moved on, putting his arm around one of the girls.
Jeff walked away from the curb and leaned against the wall of the theater.
Larry Caine had been after Mallory for months, but she wasn't interested—something Larry found rather confusing, Jeff was sure. Mallory had been seeing Kevin Donahue for the last month or so, probably a source of further confusion for Larry. Why would Mallory ignore the sun-bronzed physique and movie-star smile of Larry Caine in favor of a scrawny, sneering punk like Kevin Donahue?
Jeff didn't know the answer to that question either, but as much as he despised Larry, and as much as he enjoyed seeing the puzzlement in Larry's eyes each time Mallory turned away from him, he would rather have his younger sister spend time with him instead of someone like Donahue.
Normally, Larry would not take such rejection quietly, without performing what he seemed to consider some sort of mating dance. He and his grunting entourage of bench pressers would begin to frequent places where Donahue hung out. They would talk to one another in booming voices, making sure Donahue could hear them as they made profane remarks about his clothes or his jewelry or his black scraggly hair that sometimes shone with a hint of grease when he went a few days without bathing. If that got no reaction, they would direct their insults to Donahue until he made a move. Then they would probably take him outside and beat him senseless. That's what they would
do. But they didn't.
Because they were afraid. And with good reason.