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Authors: Ray Garton

Crucifax (8 page)

BOOK: Crucifax
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Okay,
she thought,
so they don 't have the criminal record Kevin has, either, but that's no big deal.

He'd been in trouble with the police last year. From what little he said about it, she gathered he'd stolen something. At least it wasn't rape or murder. She couldn't understand what he needed to steal for, though; his parents were definitely not poor.

Maybe that's why,
she thought.
Maybe stealing was the only way he felt he could get something on his own, something that wasn't handed to him by his parents.
He didn't talk about his parents often, but when he did, he had nothing good to say.

Beneath his abrasive surface, though, Kevin had a soft side. It was buried deep and she'd only seen glimpses of it a few times, but it was there. And it seemed that maybe, just maybe, it had come out a bit more in the last couple weeks, that maybe she was having an effect on him. Perhaps, with a little time, she could cool the angry fire that seemed to burn in his eyes.

He hadn't said so, and probably wouldn't, but Kevin Donahue
needed
her.

Dating Kevin came with a price, though. The reactions from her friends hurt her, made her feel isolated, cut off, and, most of all, let down. They also made her more determined to stay with him, to show them she wasn't going to knuckle under just because they didn't approve.

That did not, however, diminish the disappointment she felt, as if she'd been betrayed or abandoned.

Her shoulders suddenly felt heavy, and she wanted to talk to Jeff. He always cheered her up when she was down, made her feel better, or at least took her mind off things.

Not this time.

Maybe,
she thought,
he can't
do it anymore at all Can't or won't
.
Maybe those days are over.

That only made her feel worse.

She stopped at the side entrance to the building and stared for a moment at the door. If she went to class, she would run into Jeff; their first classes were next door to each other. If she didn't, she could get the assignment from Deidre later, and she could go find Kevin.

Mallory picked up her pace as she walked by the door….

Eight

Kevin Donahue opened his eyes and quickly squinted against the sunlight shining through his bedroom window. His headphones were still on, but the music had stopped. He sat up in bed and looked around. Something had awakened him.

"Kevin!" his mother snapped, pounding on the door again. "I have got to go to work now—will you get
up?
"

He took off the headphones and sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the ragged sneakers that were still on his feet. His jeans and T-shirt clung to his skin.

"Kevin?"

"Yeah, I'm coming," he said hoarsely.

He ran his hands through his bushy hair as he stood and stretched. His eyes were bleary with sleep, and he rubbed them hard for a moment, then crossed the room and turned off the stereo.

After dropping Mallory off the night before, he'd come home to his room to write for a while. Music thundering in his head, he quickly jotted down the lyrics of a song he hadn't touched in months. When he finished, he read it over quickly and realized the song was about Mallory. No surprise. He'd never had that much sex in one night. Trevor's brother was gone for the week, and Trevor had lent them his key. It had been a small and sloppy apartment, but it had a big bed.

After finishing the song, Kevin had gone downstairs to the back yard, smoked a joint, and returned to his room to enjoy the high with some music and to relish the lingering, throbbing warmth in his genitals.

He went to his desk and looked at the lyrics of the song again. Sometimes they didn't seem so good the next day. This time, they did. He played the tune in his head, singing the words under his breath.

"Kevin!"

He reached under his shirt and scratched his flat belly, wishing he hadn't fallen asleep.

He opened his bedroom door on his mother, who was standing at the mirror in the hall, tugging her coat into position, turning this way and that, looking at her reflection.

"You know, Kevin," she said, adjusting an earring, "I don't think putting that lock on your door was such a good idea. I've been standing out here knocking on your door for the last ten minutes. If you can't get yourself up when you're supposed to, the lock
goes,
do you understand?"

"I thought you were late for work."

"I am, but I wanted to make sure you were up before I left." She turned to him, running a hand down the side of her shoulder-length ash-blond hair. "Things are going to change this year. You're going to school
every day
unless you're sick, or there will be some serious changes in this house." She spoke quickly and crisply with her face tilted downward, looking up at him from beneath her carefully plucked eyebrows. "Why are you dressed? Did you sleep in your clothes? When did you get home last night?" The questions poured out in one breath as she looked him up and down.

"I fell asleep with 'em on, yeah." He turned away and started down the hall. He could smell bacon frying downstairs.

"Sylvia has breakfast for you downstairs. Cold by now, probably. Get to school today, Kevin. I mean that."

Her voice faded behind him as he went down the stairs wearily, then caught up with him again as she hurried by from behind, saying, "I was supposed to be at the studio five minutes ago, dammit. Your dad's in the kitchen, tell him I had to go." And she was gone, leaving behind an invisible cloud of musky perfume.

As he neared the kitchen Kevin heard his little brother Michael talking. Probably to Sylvia. She'd been their housekeeper and cook for as long as Kevin could remember. He stood at the doorway and saw her pouring a cup of coffee at the counter. She was a short, round woman with graying hair tied in a bun and a smiling, rosy-cheeked face. She nodded as Michael went on about school. He was skipping this year from fifth to seventh grade, and it had been his favorite topic of conversation most of the summer.

On the far side of the kitchen, Kevin's father stood at the bar, the telephone receiver cradled between his ear and shoulder, his hands shuffling through his briefcase as he spoke quietly into the phone. His posture was perfect in his dark suit; his styled brown hair looked appropriately windblown resting on his wrinkled forehead. He looked important.

No, no,
Kevin corrected himself.
He looks like he thinks he's important.

Kevin watched them for a while, thinking how distant they seemed from one another. Sylvia was nodding and smiling as Michael spoke but seemed preoccupied. She had a home and a husband, too; there were other things on her mind than the Donahues and their breakfast.

Michael would talk endlessly to anyone who didn't tell him to shut up; it made no difference to him who it was.

And Kevin's father could just as well have been in his office. In a few minutes he would leave in a rush without even noticing that his wife had already gone.

The bacon smelled good, and the marijuana had left him hungry, but Kevin didn't want to be in the kitchen with them. He turned and went back upstairs. In his room, he quickly changed his T-shirt, went to the bathroom, washed his face and brushed his teeth, grabbed his coat, and went back downstairs.

The morning air was cooler than it had been in a while, and the sky was slightly overcast. It seemed summer was finally giving in.

With the visor of his black helmet down over his face, leather jacket zipped up halfway, Kevin sped his motorcycle out of the neighborhood, past the large houses with two-car garages, exquisitely manicured lawns, and ornate mailboxes. He turned right on Ventura and drove out of Encino, past the tall, smoky-glassed building in which his father's law firm was located, and into Sherman Oaks. At Woodman, he took a right and headed for Sam's.

Sam's Stop was a small outdoor diner. Six round-seated stools lined the counter beneath a dirty black-and-white-striped awning at the corner of Woodman and Moorpark. The menu was limited, and the food wasn't great, but the prices were ridiculously low. But price made no difference to Kevin. With the money his parents gave him every week, he could afford to eat in stylish, expensive restaurants three times a day if he wanted, and still have plenty left over.

His mother, a television set designer, was always trying to coax him into hanging out with the sons and daughters of her coworkers.

"Here," she'd say, handing him some money, "why don't you get dressed up and go out? Or go to the country club a couple nights this week. Krystal and Zona—I've told you about them, haven't I?—they go there all the time, and they'd love to meet you. You know, they're reading for parts all over town. It's only a matter of time."

Kevin had no desire to get to know any of them. He knew they were just clones of their parents, who were just like his parents, and he didn't like their company, either.

Kevin preferred the uncomfortable stools of Sam's Stop, the greasy food and the smoke from the grill as it blew in his face. He liked the activity of the street and the sidewalk behind him as he ate and visited with his friends—friends he chose for himself. He liked Sam, too, a wiry sixty-year-old man who hated Los Angeles but stuck around because he couldn't think of any place he hated any less.

As he drove down Woodman Kevin squinted ahead through the smoky haze of his visor to see who was at Sam's this morning.

Sam was standing behind the far end of the counter, his face hidden by the morning paper.

A tall slender person with long platinum hair and sunglasses stood at the opposite end facing the street, elbows on the counter, booted ankles crossed.

As he got closer, slowing down the bike, Kevin looked at the stranger's face. It was narrow with very fair skin, almost porcelain. The mirrored shades rested on high, pronounced cheekbones. Shadows carved hollows in each side of the long face.

Kevin thought, at first, that it was a woman, but as he drew nearer he spotted the bulge of an Adam's apple below the razorlike jaw. He seemed to be watching as Kevin approached, but through the dark glasses it was hard to tell. His hair was short and spiked on top, disappearing behind his shoulders in flowing strands of glaring platinum. The breeze shifted the ruffles that went down the front of his blousy white long-sleeved shirt; it was tucked into the black jeans that clung tightly to his long, narrow legs.

Kevin kept his eyes on the stranger as he pulled his bike up to the curb, watching him inconspicuously through the edge of the visor. The man reached up with his right hand, curled his long and slender fingers around the sunglasses, and slid them off his face.

Kevin froze.

The stranger's smiling eyes seemed to gaze through the visor, straight into Kevin's. He propped his elbow on the counter again and let the glasses dangle from his fingers.

Kevin killed his engine and swung his left leg up off the bike, keeping an eye on the man. As he walked toward Sam Kevin pulled off his helmet and tucked it under one arm. Without moving his head, the man watched Kevin, a slight smile resting on his thin lips.

"Hey, Sam," Kevin said, perching himself on a stool. "How's it hangin'?"

Sam peered over the edge of the paper, a frown crinkling his stringy features.

"This fuckin' city," he growled, crumpling the paper into a heap on the counter.

"What's the matter now?"

"Ah, somebody killed a cop and dumped the body in a garbage bin in North Hollywood. You believe it? Didn't even leave a mark. Just a few bites where the rats nibbled on his corpse."

"I thought you didn't like cops, Sam."

"Don't. Hate 'em. What'll you have, kid?"

"Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast."

Sam switched on a portable radio that sat on a shelf above the grill; tinny Top 40 music began to rattle from its battered speaker as he cracked open a couple eggs.

Kevin pulled the paper across the counter and scanned the headlines, turning slightly to his right to get a better look at the stranger from the corner of his eye.

He was facing Kevin now, one elbow still propped on the counter. The breeze shifted his spiky platinum bangs back and forth over an arched brow.

"Hey, man, you gotta problem?" Kevin snapped, turning to him suddenly.

The stranger's mouth curled down slightly into a poorly concealed smirk. He shook his head slowly.

"Then what the hell're you staring at me for, huh? Why don't you go stare at somebody else, find a mirror and stare at yourself, okay?"

The smirk disappeared and the lips pursed as he nodded ever so slightly, averting his eyes.

Kevin looked down at the paper again.

"Hey, kid," Sam said over his shoulder as he cooked, "Paco tells me you didn't get that gig at Fantazm. Zat true?"

"Yeah." He hunched over the paper, staring blankly at the small, blurred print. The stranger was making him very uncomfortable, and as hard as he tried, he couldn't pretend the guy wasn't there.

"So what happened, huh?"

"I just haven't talked to the booker yet."

"Thought you knew the guy."

"Sort of. I know his brother-in-law."

"I hear your buddies are pissed at you for not goin' in the other night. Why didn't you?"

Kevin started to reply but realized he didn't know what to say. He squinted at the headlines but did not bring the letters into focus. He couldn't remember exactly why he hadn't gone into Fantazm on Saturday night. He remembered going there… crossing the parking lot….

Kevin suddenly got a bad feeling, a tight feeling in his gut like a cramp without the pain. The sizzle of food frying on the grill diminished to a mosquitolike hum as he stared at the newspaper and vaguely, hazily remembered the sky on Saturday night….

The newspaper disappeared beneath a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast that slapped onto the counter with a jarring clunk.

Kevin's head snapped up, and he blinked at Sam.

"Kid," Sam barked, "I asked you how come you never went in?"

"Urn… I just figured the band wasn't, you know, wasn't ready yet. We need to rehearse a little more."

BOOK: Crucifax
7.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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