Authors: Tim Tharp
“Hey,” Randy said. “I just hope he can get us some coin for telling our story when the trial’s over.”
And Audrey’s like, “Yeah, Dylan, maybe you can go on one of those true-crime shows you always watch. They can get Jack Black to play you in the reenactments.”
“He probably wants to sell the story to
,” Randy said.
But I’m like, “Forget that. I’m writing my own book about it. And this time I’m going to tell everything just like I want to.”
“Okay,” said Trix. “But just make sure to describe me as a sultry beauty.”
Randy suggested that when the money from my best seller started rolling in, I could finally buy myself that sweet ’69 Mustang, while Trix thought I should go for a Jaguar.
“No,” I said. “I’m over all that kind of thing. I just need something nice and dependable. Maybe I’ll buy my parents’ car. It worked well enough for them. Besides, whatever money I make, I’m splitting with you guys. It’s only fair. We did it together.”
At that Randy made another high-pitched noise, this time with his mouth. That, he explained, was him taking back his earlier fart.
Randy, I had to hand it to him—he definitely had his own kind of mojo. He always told you what he thought, talked back to anyone regardless of how big their muscles or bank accounts were, and wasn’t scared to mix it up with every hot rich girl at Gangland. I used to think he was that way because he lacked any understanding of other people’s opinions. Now I realized he simply liked what he liked, and if everybody else didn’t agree, that was their loss.
“You know what, Randy?” I said. “None of this would’ve worked without you. I never even would’ve jumped in that
Dumpster with Hector if it wasn’t for your loud mouth. You are a total champion, dude. And you were right—those snooty Gangland girls really missed out on a stellar opportunity with you.”
“Oh God,” Randy said, looking at Audrey. “He’s getting sentimental.” He turned back to me. “That still doesn’t mean I’ll go out on a date with you, Dylan.”
Everyone laughed. I thought about coming back with a crack about his pseudo-mustache but decided against it this time.
Brenda came over to take our order, and when she left, we started in on how stupid it was that the lawyer for the Brownings kept coming on TV and blowing off about how Ashton and Tres were innocent and that it was all a mix-up.
“That’s just what lawyers have to do,” Trix said. “They have to lie. You should meet some of the hotshot creeps my dad deals with. If he told the truth about them, they’d all be in jail.”
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter what their lawyer says,” Audrey reasoned. “I mean, we have the whole thing recorded, everything Ashton said.”
Randy’s like, “I can’t believe you guys were hiding in the hall the whole time I was about to croak.”
“Well, not the whole time,” Audrey said. “We only went in after we saw Tres and his hired muscle show up.”
“You still took your sweet time doing something,” Randy told her.
“Yeah, well, I was trying not to get you guys shot. It was the luckiest thing ever that Tres missed Dylan at such close range. You know what? If he’d been aiming at your belly instead of your head, you wouldn’t be sitting here getting ready to eat your Number 11 right now.”
“But I loved how you threw up on him,” Trix added. “That was the pièce de résistance.”
“Glad I could oblige,” I said.
We’d already talked this stuff over a hundred times, but it never got old.
Trix went over how furious Audrey looked when she first saw Ashton with the gun, and I imitated Randy’s Wiccan speech and Randy explained how I got Dickie on our side.
“Yeah,” I said. “I hope Dickie doesn’t get into too much trouble, but he should’ve never hooked up with those idiots.”
Then, across the restaurant, the front door opened and in walked Beto. He had his straw porkpie working, and I’ll admit he pulled his off better than I ever did mine.
I waved him over. “Hey, Beto, glad you could make it.”
After shaking hands with everyone, he pulled up a chair to the end of the booth. I’d talked to him on the phone a bunch, but this was the first time we all had a chance to get together at the same time since he got out of jail.
“It’s great to have you here,” I told him.
And he’s like, “Oh, man, you don’t know how good it is to be here.”
Brenda showed up with a menu for him, and he went into how bad the jail food was, along with some of the other horrors of being locked up. But he didn’t linger on that. Instead, he turned to how thankful he was for what we did to spring him.
“Dylan,” he said, “I should’ve trusted you from the first, man. I should’ve told you about that girl. I can’t believe I fell for all her lies.”
I’m like, “Hey, she was a good actress. I fell for her crap too.”
I already knew a lot of his story, but he explained to the others how he and Hector first met Ashton when they were
visiting at their grandmother’s place next to the Ockles’. She seemed cool, even knew some Spanish. He could tell Hector was falling for her right away. Then one night she showed up at Beto’s door, crying, hysterical, saying someone killed Hector and they were after her too. So Beto told her she could lie low with him until they figured out who did it.
It was Ashton’s idea to pull off the fake disappearance from the nature park. Looking back, Beto said, that was when he should’ve got suspicious. She had the plan all figured out in detail—making sure someone saw her leaving her car, planting the running shoe so searchers would find it, meeting Beto along the side of the road a mile from the park. It was pretty coldly calculated, not like something a girl who just lost her boyfriend would come up with.
Then she fed him phony clues about who killed Hector. Maybe it was someone from Hector’s school or some South Side gang. Then she’d change and say she suspected her father or an old boyfriend or one of the Hollister gangs. She even pushed him to meet up with her brother and get himself invited to Gangland.
“She seemed so real,” he said, bowing his head. “But now I can look back and see she was just using me, right down to the day she gave herself that black eye and handcuffed herself in my bathroom.”
“Damn uppity-ups,” I said. “You never can trust them.”
When our food came, we let go of Ashton Browning and her wicked ways and turned to what we were going to do now. Beto said he was swearing off women for six months, but after that they better look out because he’d be back on the town. Randy said the women better look out right now because he was already on the town, and Audrey and Trix said they’d let those other women take care of themselves because
they’d already found who they wanted. Me, I had my book to write, and if there were any ladies out there who didn’t mind a writer who drove around in a used mom-and-dad car, then that’d be all right too.
The Number 11 never tasted better. I didn’t leave a crumb on my plate. We kicked back, finished our drinks, told jokes, and laughed about things that wouldn’t be funny if they weren’t already over. Our group was just herding to the front door when who came in but Corman Rogers and his two black-clad best buddies, their silver chains jingling from their belt loops.
“Well, look who it is,” said Corman. “It’s Body Bag and the Body Baguettes.”
Beto looked at me. “You want me to punch this dude?”
“No,” I said. “Don’t waste your energy.”
“Hey,” Corman said. “Do you think you’re some kind of hero now? Because we sure don’t.”
I stopped and looked him in the eyes. “You know what, Corman? I’m not like you. I don’t need somebody to tell me what I am.”
His eyes darted back and forth as he tried to think of a response, but he came up empty.
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what I thought.”
Outside, the sky was a perfect blue, but the air was a little chilly for my new Andromeda Man T-shirt. We threw some change into Rockin’ Rhonda’s cup, and she nodded her appreciation.
“Keep on rockin’, Rhonda,” I said.
And as we headed toward the parking lot, she cranked up her new guitar and started her mighty wail. “Mr. Mojo risin’. Mr. Mojo risin’, risin’, risin’, risin’.”