"Hey, Dylan! Dude, wait up!"
Dylan turned and craned his neck in the crowded hallway, which was jam-packed with hundreds of students. Seconds later, a familiar face popped up.
Dylan grinned at the sight of his friend Kyle jogging up beside him, still munching a burger. "Hey, I didn't see you at lunch. I figured you'd split from school again!"
The other boy shook his head, took a quick swig of a Coke, and deftly weaved a path through the crowd and into the awaiting classroom.
"No way. I made a promise to you and Coach. I swear, no more screwin' around."
Dylan gave him a skeptical look, and Kyle laughed out loud.
"Alright. For this week, anyway."
"Or until we make it to the state championship in two weeks," Dylan added, as they took their seats on the right side of the classroom.
At that moment, the bell sounded. The teacher, a hatchet-faced woman with a pinched mouth and close-set eyes, stood up from her desk and glared at the group of students. They gradually stopped talking and looked at her, expectantly.
"Alright, class," she said in a clipped British accent. "I trust that all of you have completed the assignment on Great Expectations. And by that, I mean actually reading the book, as opposed to watching the movie -- right Mr. McDermott?"
Kyle froze in mid-gulp, the last of his burger still jammed in his mouth. He nodded and gestured in agreement.
There were a few titters among the students. The teacher, Ms. Raymond, was unamused. "What's that you say, Kyle? Cat got your tongue?"
Kyle swallowed. "I was... just finishing my lunch, Ms. Raymond. Yeah, I read the freakin' book."
She smiled sweetly. "Excellent. Then you should have no problem with today's pop quiz on Mr. Dickens' masterpiece. As always, if your group gets more than four out of ten questions wrong, you all fail."
The class groaned. For the last few weeks, Ms. Raymond had been subjecting them to occasional extra quizzes, loosely based on the TV game show Weakest Link. She seemed to have a twisted delight in shooting them with rapid-fire questions on their literature assignments. Cruel though it may have seemed, the teacher was convinced that this would force the students to learn the lesson better than a traditional exam.
"Row number one -- you first." She snapped her fingers. "Up we go. Quickly, quickly!"
Dylan got up with his row, and walked over to where the others meekly stood in a line at the front of the class.
"Alright, students," she chirped brightly. "I want you to speak loudly and clearly, and fill the room with your knowledge about Great Expectations. Question number one: What is the name of Pip's secret sponsor? Miss Spencer, you first."
Jill Spencer, a demure red-head who was chewing gum, froze. "Ah... his sponsor was..." She hesitated. "No, wait... it was that convict guy, right? From the graveyard?"
Ms. Raymond nodded. "We'll accept that answer. Abel Magwitch is the name of the convict. Next..."
Dylan shook his head and tried desperately to concentrate. He'd skimmed through most of the book the week before, and crammed the Cliff Notes over the weekend. If I fuck this up, he thought, I can always pull up my grade with the written final in two weeks.
"Next," she said, crisply. "Mr. Callahan: Estella is actually the daughter of which two characters?"
Shit, Dylan said to himself. He decided to stall for time. "Estella is the chick... I mean, the girl that Pip was after, right?"
"Yes. Go on."
"And... ah," Dylan said, desperately trying to remember the Cliff Notes explanation, "...and she thought that Mrs. Havisham was her mother."
Ms. Raymond rolled her eyes. "Just answer the question!"
Dylan began to break out in a cold sweat. "I...um..."
The teacher smiled, an evil glint in her eye. "Is one of the local villages missing their idiot?"
The class tittered.
Dylan opened his mouth to speak when suddenly, a piercing electronic tune began squealing from his pants pocket. Fuck, he thought. Great time to get a phone call. He clicked the mute button and turned to the teacher.
"Sorry, Ms. Raymond. Just give me ten seconds to grab this call."
She rolled her eyes. "You know the rules, Dylan -- no cell phones or pagers allowed in class." The very idea, she thought to herself. These Americans with their constant need to be connected to something. She sighed and gestured wearily towards the doorway. "You have thirty seconds, while perhaps Mr. Mitchell can answer this question."
A pale, thin boy looked up. "Me?"
"Yes, Donald. From Dickens' Great Expectations: Estella is actually the daughter of which two characters?"
Dylan quickly jogged out to the empty corridor, closed the door behind him, and flipped the phone open.
"Hey, fag-boy," said a familiar voice. "Just checking in to see when I get my next payment."
Dylan tightened his jaw. Angel. "Listen, you little asshole," he said in a low voice, glancing around to make sure he was alone. "I know what you did to K.C. I know your whole story: you set the fire two months ago, you got that priest thrown out of the church back in Santa Fe, and you got that teacher in trouble, too." Even killed your own sister, he thought.
Angel giggled. "So? You can't prove anything. And nobody'll believe you."
He took a deep breath. "Maybe they wouldn't believe it if there were just one or two things. But all the shit you've done, plus K.C.'s 'accident'... there's too many coincidences, Angel. And I know your real name, too -- Michaelangelo Tortellini. I bet the cops back in New Mexico still have a pretty big file on you... wouldn't you say, Angel?"
The phone was silent.
"Come on, Angel," snapped Dylan. "I gotta go."
"Alright," the boy said slowly. "So we're even. You've got some stuff on me, and I got stuff on you."
"Yeah. Only I never killed anybody, Angel."
A pause. Then: "Come over tonight and we'll talk about it," said the boy.
There was a sharp rap at the window nearby. Dylan looked up and saw the scowling face of Ms. Raymond, who gave him a signal to come back into the classroom.
"Can't do it, Angel. Saturday's the earliest I can make it."
"Friday," corrected Angel.
Dylan cursed under his breath. "Alright -- Friday night, after the game. But this is the end, Angel. I mean it."
Before Angel could protest, he turned the phone off, clicked it shut and opened the door.
The teacher looked up. "So nice for you to join us again, Mr. Callahan. Now... your team has gotten three wrong and three right. You must answer the next question correctly, or you all fail."
Great, he thought nervously as he took his place in line. Bases loaded, two outs, and I'm up at bat.
The classroom suddenly became as quiet as a graveyard. Ms. Raymond carefully studied the 3x5 card in her hand. "What was Mr. Dickens' next work after Great Expectations?"
He glared at the teacher. "Wait a minute," he protested. "You said this was a quiz on Great Expectations -- not the books that came after that!"
Ms. Raymond smiled, and her eyes narrowed to slits. "It was all in the class syllabus I handed out months ago, Dylan."
"But that's not in the book!" he insisted. And it wasn't in the Cliff Notes, either, he mulled to himself.
"It looks like you're one french fry short of a happy meal, Mr. Callahan. You are the weakest link! Goodbye!"
The students groaned and began to file glumly back to their seats. "Good one, Dylan," muttered Lisa, a pudgy sophomore that sat in front of him. Some of the other students chuckled nervously.
"The correct answer was Our Mutual Friend," the teacher said, "but I would have also accepted The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a book Mr. Dickens sadly did not live to finish. Row number two, please step up for your quiz."
Dylan sat down and closed his eyes, rubbing them. He'd been up late studying for a history final last night, and knew today's football practice would be unmerciful. It looked like it was gonna be a long day.
As Kyle walked past Dylan's chair, he leaned down to his friend's ear. "Hey, bud," he whispered, "you might be the weakest link, but that cunt's the biggest skank."
Dylan looked up and grinned. Kyle gave him a friendly nod, then trotted to the front of the classroom.
"Ready?" snapped the teacher. "Now, which of you will be... the weakest link?"
§ § §
Dylan made it home by 6:45. The football practice had gone much later than expected, and both Coach Highland and the passing coach had drilled him for more than two hours with several new plays they were going to try in their upcoming game. Like I already don't have enough to think about, he thought, as he wearily climbed the curved staircase that led up to his room.
Just as he walked through his doorway, he heard his father's voice boom down the hallway.
"Son? That you?"
"Yeah. It's me, Dad. Just got home from practice."
Dylan tossed his textbooks on his desk, kicked his shoes off, and fell back exhaustedly into the bed. His father gently pushed open his door and walked in.
"Tough day?" asked his father.
Dylan nodded. "Yeah. I gotta start reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, or my wicked bitch English Lit teacher is gonna flunk my ass."
His father grinned. "Ah, yes -- Hemingway. 'Don't ask for whom the bell tolls... it tolls for thee.' You'll like it. It's about the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s -- it's got intrigue, violence, romance... actually, it wasn't a bad movie. One of David Lean's first films."
Dylan shook his head. "I gotta read the whole thing by next Wednesday. Plus I got a history final coming up. And we got the big playoff game this coming Friday."
The elder Callahan sat down at Dylan's desk. "Sounds like you've got a full plate. How did you... how'd things go with Dr. Rosenfield yesterday?"
Dylan's heart fluttered. He'd almost forgotten about his conversation with the psychiatrist from the day before.
"It was... okay," he said, slowly. "Better than I expected."
His father nodded. "You know, I used to think shrinks were pretty much worthless," he said. "But after our corporate disaster last month, I'm changing my opinion."
Dylan shrugged. "My problems aren't anything like that."
"It's all relative, son. What might seem pretty minor to me, might be something life-threatening to you." He paused, then tried to make himself sound casual. "Listen, Dylan... do you have anything you need to tell me?"
Dylan heard an odd tone in his father's voice. Uh-oh, he thought. The old man knows something. If that shrink told him anything...
"Like what?" he said nonchalantly, sitting up in bed. "You mean about my punchin' out the wall? I already said I was sorry, Dad. I'll pay for it, if that's what you mean."
His father shook his head. "Listen, kiddo. I just get the feeling maybe you're in over your head with some kind of problem. I just want you to know, your mother and I won't judge you, no matter what it is."
An uncomfortable silence passed, and Dylan felt a cold feeling in his stomach. "Alright," he croaked, then cleared his throat. "I... I stole one of your watches a coupla weeks ago."
The man sighed. "Yeah. I figured it was either you or Yolanda, and your mother was certain it wasn't her. Why'd you do it?"
Dylan looked away. "I... I needed the money. I had to come up with five grand in a hurry, and there wasn't time..." He turned back to his father. "I didn't have any choice, Dad. I'll pay you back."
His father stood up. "You'll do better than that," he said. "I don't need to know why you needed the money for the moment, but I would like to get my watch back. I'll call the bank and release the hold on your trust fund. Can you get the watch back?"
The boy nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "I pawned it, over at a place in Van Nuys. The guy said he'd hold it 30 days."
His father leaned forward and gripped his shoulder. "Son, is this... this isn't about drugs, is it?"
Dylan shook his head, then looked away.
"Did you... you didn't get some girl pregnant or anything?"
He looked up at his father. "No. Nothing like that. I just had to give a guy some money, that's all."
"Is that why you put your fist through the wall?" his father asked.
Dylan's jaw twitched. "Do we have to do this now? I'm totally beat, Dad."
His father walked around the desk and paused at the doorway. "I can see this is hard for you," he said, making an effort to keep the concern from his voice. "Look -- I'm coming home early next Monday. I want you, your mother and I to have a family conference with Dr. Rosenfield, in his office at 5PM."
Dylan started to protest, but his father held up his hand. "No buts. Part of this is my fault. I haven't been around much for the last couple of months, trying to get our New York office back together, and in the meantime, I can see that things are falling apart around the homestead."
The boy turned away and looked down at the floor. "I can handle it myself," he muttered.
"No, Dylan," his father said. "Listen to me. This isn't something you have to handle alone. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's just a little bump in the road. We'll work it out together, I promise. Just don't do anything drastic until Monday."
"Dad... lemme think about it, alright?"
His father grinned. "Alright. But just remember -- I always get what I want in a deal. You'll see. And I've been up against some pretty formidable adversaries in my time."
Dylan nodded, and the door closed softly. He felt his eyes burn with tears.
But you've never had to deal with Angel before, Dad.
§ § §
Dylan managed to successfully dodge Angel's phone calls for the next few days. I dunno who invented Caller ID, he thought with a smile as he checked the cellphone's readout, but I couldn't've done it without you.
"So, we gonna kick ass tonight, or what?" said Kyle, as he tugged on his jersey and slammed the rusted locker door behind him.
Dylan grinned. "Yeah." He looked around the spartan locker room. As with all 'away' games, it always bothered him not to have the familiarity of Chatsworth High around him. "These Garfield guys have an even crappier locker room than we do."
Kyle nodded. Garfield was one of the inner-city schools close to downtown LA. But while their buildings were shabby, their football teams was currently the topped-rank in their division. "Maybe this shitty school is what makes these guys so fucking mean," he said, lacing up his cleats.
Just as Dylan grabbed his helmet, the coach called out.
"Alright, men! Listen up." Highland assumed his standard 'leadership' stance, arms folded, one foot propped up on a bench. The other players stopped talking and looked up.
"By the grace of God, we managed to make it into the finals," he said. "No thanks to certain individuals who've been suspended from the team."
"They suspended the wrong fuckin' guy," muttered Kyle under his breath. Dylan turned and silently nodded to his friend. Although Dylan knew that Ron Williams was technically a rival for his position, he had a grudging respect for him; he understood too well why Williams felt like punching Jordy in the mouth at the game last week.
"Tonight's the night we've worked for five months to get to," the coach continued. "Offense -- you know the plays. You linemen: I want you to hit the other team like crap through a goose."
He began to pace back and forth, his nervous energy causing his voice to rise an octave.
"Football is the closest thing we have in this world to the Christians and the Lions. That's what I want you to think of when you play tonight. I want you to fight for your lives, like everything depended on it!"
Kyle groaned quietly, but Dylan elbowed him into silence.
"Remember what Vince Lombardi said: This isn't just a contact sport. Dancing is a goddamned contact sport; Football is a collision sport. Don't forget that. And you've gotta be a son-of-a-bitch in order to play this game right."
A few of the players nodded. One of them cleared his throat.
"Mr. Guiterro, you have something to add?"
The boy nodded. "Yeah, Coach. I seen some of these Garfield cabrons. Man, these are some bad-ass mofos, you know?"
Highland grinned. "You're saying you're scared. That it, son?"
Manny shrugged his shoulders. "Well, maybe... I dunno."
"Your problem is you think fear's your enemy," the coach said, shaking his head. "You got it backwards. Those assholes on the field out there are your enemy; use your fear as a weapon! Look at it this way: fear is like fire. If you can control it, you can cook with it, heat your house. If it gets out of control, it all goes up in smoke."
The other players murmured in agreement.
"I just want to make sure we don't have a repeat of what went on last week. If you jokers do screw-up, you let me handle the discipline problems. Focus your energy on your opponents, not your teammates -- no matter what happens."
Jordy Chandler's face reddened momentarily, and he stared at the floor, desperately hoping the coach wouldn't mention him by name.
"Now," the coach continued, "just a quick moment of silence. You boys pray or meditate to whatever gods or prophets you want to; if you're an atheist, just concentrate on the word 'winning,' and make that your mantra."
For the next ten seconds, the room was silent. In the distance, they could hear the crowd roar their approval as the home team charged onto the field.
"Alright!" shouted the couch. "What're you boys gonna do tonight?"
"Win!" they shouted.
"I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
"WIN!" they screamed.
"SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT!" he bellowed.
"WE'RE GONNA WIN!" they hollered at the top of their lungs.
Highland beamed. "Damned right you are. Now, get out there, and kick some Garfield ass!"
§ § §
The game didn't go quite as easily as the coach had hoped. By the middle of the fourth quarter, they were still tied, 6-6. The crowd grew restless; neither team had an outright edge over the other, save for Garfield's legendary defensive squad. The smallest guy on their front line was nearly as large as the biggest player Chatsworth had, and it took everything they had to hold them back.
"Fuck," moaned Dylan, as he took a quick swig from a water bottle. "We sure could've used Latrelle tonight."
"Damn right," said Lionel Jackson, to his right. "He'd whip the white off their asses."
Dylan gave him a look.
Lionel grinned. "Just an expression."
"Ten seconds!" warned the referee.
They trotted back to the huddle. Dylan glanced up at the clock. Less than 3 minutes left. More than enough time to turn this around.
"Alright, guys," he said. We're gonna do a hook-and-ladder."
The other players were confused.
"But coach said to go with Strongside Slam!" quipped Jordy.
Dylan eyed the center coldly. "I'm callin' the play, Chandler, so shut the fuck up." He turned to Kyle. "I'm gonna drop back, while you do a 10-yard curl pattern. Watch for Lionel to get free on the left, while you and me take all the heat. The moment you see he's clear, lateral it out to him, and he goes for the goal."
The player to Dylan's left, halfback Mark Wallace, suddenly interrupted. "Just give me the ball, Callahan. I'm supposed to be the running back!"
Dylan sighed. "If this one fails, Mark, we'll try it your way on the next play." He looked over to Jackson. "Got it straight, Lionel?"
The black athlete rolled his eyes. "You one crazy-ass muthuh, I give ya that."
Dylan leaned so close to the other player, their helmets were practically touching. "You got another way to clear a 60-yard touchdown in the next couple of plays?"
Lionel shrugged his shoulders. "Alright. But tell Coach, this was all your idea -- right, homeboy?"
The quarterback grinned. "Look, Jackson -- we played it Coach's way for the last three-and-a-half quarters. Just do this one for me. It'll work. You up for it, Kyle?"
"Fuckin'-A." The two players high-fived each other.
They broke and got into position. At the snap, Dylan tore back and to the left, then rocketed the ball to Kyle, who zig-zagged his way down the sideline.
"What the fuck is he doing?" cried the coach in disbelief.
In less than five seconds, two of Garfield's finest were nipping at Kyle's heels. Almost in slow-motion, just as one leapt through the air to drag the tight end down, Kyle shot the ball straight across to Lionel, who practically had the opposite end of the field to himself.
"God DAMN it, Callahan!" roared Highland.
Just as Kyle hit the turf, the Garfield defense blinked in surprise, and took off for the other player. Seconds later, Jackson confidently jogged past the goal-line. Touchdown!
The crowd came to their feet, stunned at the first surprising play of the entire game.
Dylan looked up just in time to see the scoreboard change from 6 to 12. Finally, Chatsworth was in the lead. The crowd roared their approval.
"CALLAHAN!" bellowed a familiar voice from the sideline.
Uh-oh, he thought. Here it comes.
Dylan jogged over to the coach, but couldn't help but grin as he felt the crowd's applause echo in his ears.
"Hi, Coach," he said, slightly out of breath. "Everything OK?"
The Coach began shaking slightly, fought to control himself, then finally sighed and grinned wanly. "Yeah. We're... we're winning."
"And that's the only thing -- right, Coach?" asked Dylan, cocking his head.
"Promise me: no more grandstanding. Just hold the line, and don't let 'em score for the next minute and a half. That's all I ask."
Dylan nodded just as the refs blew their whistles. "You got it, Coach. Scout's honor."
In the distance, the Garfield coach was screaming at one of his players, then reached out and whacked the side of the boy's helmet.
Dylan winced. I know what that's like, pal, he thought. Tonight's just not gonna be your night.
§ § §
An hour later, the victory celebration at Mark Wallace's house was completely out of control. Nearly the entire team was there, sprawling throughout the living room, the kitchen, and part of the backyard. A few of the more-adventurous players had shed their clothes and were in the jacuzzi, which bubbled foggy clouds of steam through the cold night air. Three empty cheerleader outfits lay nearby, with the pom-pom streamers wafting lazily in the misty breeze.
Dylan sat on the couch, sipping a bottle of Miller Lite, with his feet up on a nearby coffee table. The music was deafening -- Pink's "Get this Party Started" thundered through a half-dozen speakers throughout the house -- and his ears were beginning to ring. He could feel the vibrations throb through the table, and idly tapped his foot to the beat.
He glanced over to his right. Kyle had already taken his shirt off and was bumping and grinding with one of the girls from his 1st-period Humanities class. What was her name again? Tiffany-something. He sighed. All the girls at school seemed to be Britney-this or Tiffany-that these days.
Dylan's eyes locked to Kyle's sweating chest, his muscles moving rhythmically to the beat, just as the girl placed her hands right on his pecs, her hands caressing them gently. Suddenly, two more hands reached around Kyle's waist from behind, and Dylan raised his eyebrows as he realized it was Randi Weber. His heart fluttered when he remembered the three-way he'd had with her and Kyle only a couple of weeks earlier.
"Jesus," said a voice to his left. "I may have to hit those horny dogs with the garden hose if they go much further."
Dylan turned to see the grinning face of Mark Wallace, who had a joint in one hand and a bottle of Michelob in the other. Mark put his hand affectionately on Dylan's left shoulder. Dylan winced slightly; he'd been hit hard in the third quarter, and he knew he'd be black-and-blue in the morning.
Marcus crouched down and got next to Dylan's ear, shouting slightly to be heard over the din of the music. "Dude, listen," he said. "You were totally right about that last play. I'm, like... I'm really sorry I didn't keep the faith -- y'know?"
"No problemo," Dylan said. "I worked out a deal with Coach. He agreed to let me run some of the plays, and we cut him some slack. Look, at least he dropped some of those fucked-up rules, right?"
The other player's eyes widened. "No shit! That was your doin'?"
Dylan grinned. "Me and Kyle. Coach is really a good guy. I think he doesn't really give a shit as long as we win." He turned back to Kyle and the two girls, who continued their dance. Kyle gave Tiffany deep kiss, practically inhaling her tongue, and just as they broke apart, Randi leaned forward and licked off a tear of sweat from inbetween Kyle's pecs. Dylan felt his heart momentarily pound, and felt a familiar twinge in his groin.
"Jesus," lamented Mark. "Look at those idiots! If my parents see this, they'll kill me. It's like having the Playboy Channel live and in-person, right here in the fucking den."
And man, are they hot, thought Dylan. Suddenly, his mind flashed to a vision of what it'd be like to take Randi's place, and imagined how Kyle's lips would taste... the warmth of his skin... the feel of his touch. I never even thought about Kyle until a month ago, he mused. But there's no way he'd ever go for it. He's totally into those two chicks.
"Hey, heard a good one yesterday," chuckled Mark, who sat down next to him and took a long swig from his bottle. "What's the difference between Randi Weber and a mosquito?"
Randi's lips were currently wrapped around Kyle's left nipple, and her hand was deep into the boy's pants. From the way his crotch was straining, it was clear he was about halfway to liftoff.
"I dunno," muttered Dylan.
"When you slap a mosquito, it stops sucking!" Mark let out a loud guffaw. Dylan sat in silence, momentarily transfixed by the three teenagers a few feet to his right, then finally grinned and laughed.
"Yeah," he said, taking another drink and setting the bottle down on the table. "I can verify that."
Mark grinned, then looked down and pointed at Dylan's crotch. "Dude! You're either enjoyin' the show or you got a cellphone in your pants!"
Dylan's face momentarily reddened, but before he could answer, his phone chirped noisily. He pulled it out and held it up as evidence. "Not guilty, your honor."
Mark laughed and stood up. "You want another beer? Jack D? Smoke?"
Dylan shook his head and eyed the LCD display. Fuck, he thought, immediately recognizing the number. Angel again.
"No prob. Enjoy the party, bro."
Mark made his way back through the crowd, and Dylan glanced around. The bathroom to the left looked clear. He made a beeline for it, quickly closed the door behind him and locked it, then flipped the phone open.
"About fucking time!" said an angry voice.
"Hello, Angel," Dylan said sweetly. "And what can I do for you, this fine Friday evening?"
"We had a fucking deal," the boy fumed. "You were supposed to be here by midnight."
Dylan glanced at his watch. "So I'm 20 minutes late! Just cool off, asshole. We just won the second-biggest game of the year, and I'm the hero of the moment, 'kay?"
"Some hero. I bet the team would have a different reaction if they know you suck little boy's dicks."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the bathroom door. "Hey! I gotta come in and puke, alright? Open up!"
"Gimme two minutes!" called Dylan.
"Where the fuck are you?" snarled Angel.
"I'm at a party at a friend's house. Look, Angel -- I already told you, I don't want any fun and games from you any more. Keep the goddamned money. We're done, alright?"
The phone was silent for a moment. "Alright," Angel said finally. "But just one more night. Give me tonight, in the barn."
Dylan was immediately suspicious. This little asshole already killed at least one kid, he mused to himself. What's to stop him from killing me?
"Listen to me," he said quietly. "I told my shrink about you, y'know -- everything. Alright... everything but your name, but if anything ever happened to me, he'd be able to figure it out."
Angel giggled. This wasn't exactly the reaction Dylan expected.
"What's so funny, you little douche?" he snapped. "I'm not kiddin' around -- the shrink's got the whole story! One word from me, and you're dead meat."
"I'm real impressed, Dylan," the boy said evenly. "I figured you for just a dumb jock, but maybe you're smarter than you look."
Dylan's gritted his teeth. "Thanks for the compliment."
"Listen," continued the boy. "1AM in the barn. I swear, we'll work this out."
"Yeah. I'll just bet we will." Dylan sighed wearily. "Alright. Give me half an hour to get out of here, and I'll meet you in the barn."
"Thanks. Listen, I never lied about one thing, Dylan."
He sighed. "Hurry up, Angel. I gotta go."
"I love you," he said, in a small voice.
Dylan tightened his jaw. "Yeah, right. 30 minutes." He clicked off the phone, then flushed the toilet for effect and opened the door.
"Dude!" cried Kyle. "Where the hell were you?"
Dylan managed a wan smile. "I'm kinda beat, man," he said. "I busted up my shoulder pretty good tonight. I'm gonna go home and kick back, 'kay?"
"You sure you don't wanna hang out with me and my backup singers?" As if on cue, Tiffany and Randi came over and put their arms around him and giggled.
"Three's a crowd," called Dylan over his shoulder. He stopped and grinned. "Hey -- make sure somebody else drives ya home this time, alright?"
Kyle grinned. "Dude! I've had like one beer, and that's it. I'm totally on the wagon, at least until we play up in Sacto."
He continued towards the living room. "Good," he yelled. "Call me tomorrow -- maybe we can work out at Powerhouse."
Kyle eyed his friend, who weaved his way through the crowd and out the front door. "Sorry, girls. It's just yours truly." He grabbed a couple of towels off the bathroom rack. "It's jacuzzi time!"
In the distance, he heard Dylan's engine roar, then disappear into the night. Dylan, my man... you don't know what you're missing, he thought, then put his arm around both girls and gently led them to the back of the house.
§ § §
The mid-November moon was dark and distant, and clouds wafted across the western sky. A low-lying mist crept over the distant hills, and the acres of neatly-trimmed yards in Monteria Estates reflected a faint silver tint from the dew.
Lady barked when she heard the familiar roar of Dylan's car rumble up the driveway, then cocked her head when she realized he was turning past to park by the barn. She whimpered slightly, then curled up patiently by the chain-link fence, hoping to catch her master when he came in later on.
As Dylan approached the barn, he looked around warily. A chorus of crickets echoed through the nearby meadow. A mosquito buzzed by his ear, and he swatted it away instinctively. He paused, then walked carefully on the gravel path, to avoid making any sound. If this kid has any ideas about blowing my brains out or stabbing me, he thought, he'll find out real fast what it's like to attack a brown belt.
He crept up to the barn door, which was slightly ajar, and peered inside. All he could see were the pale yellow fingers of light from the interior bulb, which cast scattered shadows on the far wall. Still holding his breath, Dylan kicked the door open and leapt inside, ready for anything.
"Jesus Christ!" cried Angel, who was leaning against a pen ten feet away. "You just about scared the shit outta me!"
"Yeah, I'm sure," replied Dylan. He closed and locked the door behind him, then looked around cautiously. No sign of a weapon, he thought. But you can never be too sure.
Angel took a step towards him. He was shirtless, but still had on a pair of black jeans.
"You probably won't believe me," the boy began, "but I'm sorry. About everything. It kinda... I dunno how it happened, but it got totally outta control. I never thought any of this shit would happen!"
Dylan glared at him. "You're right -- I don't fucking believe you, Angel! Who the fuck are you, anyway? Are you some kid who kills people like it's nothing, and just doesn't give a shit? Do you say you love me because you really believe it, or is it just to get what you want?"
Angel stood silently and turned away.
"Come on," Dylan said angrily. "At least fucking answer me."
When Angel turned back, Dylan was surprised to see a lone tear trickle from his left eye.
"I knew you wouldn't understand," he said in a small voice.
Dylan sighed. "Dude, I'm sore as shit from the game, I've been up since 6:30 this morning, and I'm half-drunk and ready to keel over. At least lemme sit down."
They both trudged over to a large bale of hay and leaned back.
"So," Dylan began. "Why the fuck did you have to kill K.C.?"
"It was an accident," Angel wailed. "I swear!"
Dylan shushed him and looked around. One horse was still asleep, but the other neighed and stirred in her pen.
"Keep it down, man," he said in a low voice. "My parents think I'm over at Kyle's house tonight."
Angel nodded. "Sorry. It looked like there was nobody home."
Dylan stared at the boy coldly. "Anyway, don't give me this 'accident' shit. You shoved him off the fucking mountain, didn't you?"
Suddenly, it was as if Angel dropped a mask. He smiled, an evil grin revealing a row of perfectly-white teeth.
"No. I never shoved him," Angel said evenly. "Let's just say we were climbing on Rocky Point, and I might've sorta accidentally stepped on his fingers on that last ledge up."
Dylan shook his head, trying to imagine what that would've been like: 470 feet high, falling more or less straight down, rolling over and sliding across rough-hewn granite, tumbling through dust and debris, breaking arms and ribs on the way... then slamming into the ground head-first at about 60 miles an hour. If K.C. was lucky, he thought, he was already unconscious before he hit the bottom. Maybe he never felt a thing.
He leaned forward and gestured disbelievingly. "Why do it? Why the fuck would you kill this kid, Angel?"
The boy shrugged. "I dunno. I was kinda..." He made a vague gesture, then shook his head and looked up at him. "I guess I was bored with him. K.C. was real dumb, y'know? Once you get past the dick, there's not much upstairs."
Dylan glared at him. "So you offed the kid 'cause he was dumb?"
"No. I guess I was... I was sorta jealous." Angel leaned forward and looked Dylan right in the eye. "I knew he fucked you when I was gone. That was never a part of the plan. And it totally pissed me off."
Dylan stiffened. How could he have known? Hidden cameras? "But how..." he started.
"Simple," Angel said, a slight smile on his lips. "I found the used rubber. You gotta be more careful how you get rid of the evidence. And K.C.'s the only kid I knew who could wear Magnums."
Shit, thought Dylan, mentally smacking his forehead. We were in such a hurry, we didn't think of flushing the toilet twice.
"If it means anything to you, I'm sorry I did it," the boy said meekly.
"How am I supposed to believe that, Angel?" Dylan snapped. "You're a fuckin' pathological liar! You make this shit up and then justify it any way you want! My shrink says you're some kind of a bad seed, like you don't really know what's right or wrong, and think you can just do whatever the fuck you want! Like everybody else has rules -- everybody except you."
Angel began to cry softly as he walked towards him. "I swear, I really am sorry, Dylan. And I wasn't lying when I said I loved you. The only reason I did what I did was you were kinda ignoring me."
Dylan's heart began to melt. As the boy grew closer, he could see Angel's piercing green eyes were filled with tears. If he's faking it, he thought, he's doing an Oscar-caliber job.
The boy leaned forward and began unbuttoning Dylan's shirt.
"Angel, no..." Dylan began. "I can't..."
Suddenly, he felt a warm grip on his crotch, a gentle touch that grew to a powerful caress.
"No," Dylan whispered. "Not now."
Angel leaned forward and kissed him softly, then slipped his hand through Dylan's shirt and squeezed his chest. Dylan leaned forward and pulled the boy's face closer to his, while their tongues parried and thrusted. At last, they separated and leaned back, both panting slightly.
"Okay," said Dylan quietly. "Just for a little while."
"All night," corrected Angel. "You promised."
Dylan grinned. He was still horny as hell from the party, and it'd been at least three days since he got his rocks off.
He leaned forward and kissed the boy hard on the mouth, then slurped his tongue noisily down his neck and onto his chest, then made his way down to his flat stomach. When he reached Angel's belly-button, his tongue encountered the beginnings of a few stray bits of peach-fuzz. Dylan reached out and popped open the top button of Angel's jeans, revealing a small, sparse thatch of curly black hairs. Angel quickly slid them down his thighs and kicked them to the hay-covered floor.
Dylan sat back, pulled off his shirt and pants, then breathlessly leaned down and inhaled the boy's erection deep into his mouth. Angel groaned, then ran his fingers through Dylan's hair.
"Hey," he said softly. "Before you do that, please... will you do something for me?"
Dylan looked up, his heart still beating with desire. "Anything," he said. It had only taken about thirty seconds, but he was once again completely consumed by a white-hot fire of love and lust.
Angel leaned up and kissed him again, then whispered in Dylan's ear. "Tonight... I want you inside me," he said. "Please."
"We shouldn't..." Dylan started, but the boy put his fingertips on his mouth.
"Please. Just for tonight."
Dylan shook his head and nodded towards the doorway. "I've got some condoms in the house, but my parents'll hear me if they're home."
Angel grinned. "I know you're safe. Just fuck me. Please, Dylan."
He reached over and spread out a horse blanket across the hay, then lay on his back.
Dylan gulped. Warning bells went off in his head, but he ignored them and crawled over to the boy, then embraced him.
"You got any..." Dylan began.
The boy smiled slyly. "Well," he said, pulling out a small plastic tube from his pants pocket on the floor. "I'm like a boy scout -- I'm always prepared."
Dylan covered his face with kisses, then lightly bit his earlobe. "Alright," he whispered, his voice hoarse with desire. "But only because you insisted."
Angel closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable burst of pleasure/pain he knew was coming. "Go slow," he whispered. He pulled his knees back by his sides.
Dylan was trembling slightly. He reached down, applied some of the ointment, then leaned forward and pushed in slightly. "You okay?" he asked.
Angel sucked in his breath. "Yeah," he said, through gritted teeth. "Go deeper."
After a few moments, the older teen leaned forward and Angel moaned. "God," he said. "That... that feels great. Keep going. Please."
Dylan carefully lowered himself down until their faces were together. He held Angel's face in both hands and kissed him roughly, then his hips began to thrust rhythmically.
They began to breathe in unison. A thin film of sweat trickled out between their chests, and Dylan began to pick up the pace.
"Jesus," he moaned. "This is so good."
Angel smiled. "I tried to tell you that before, but you wouldn't listen to me."
Dylan gazed into his lover's eyes, then attacked his lips with a sudden frenzy. Angel exhaled, his warm breath flowing into Dylan's mouth. Dylan felt a surge, then ran his tongue across the boy's neck, then bit him lightly. Angel murmured, closed his eyes and let the waves of pleasure ripple through his body. They continued that way for several minutes, their rhythm gradually picking up the pace.
"I love you," whispered Angel. He wrapped his hands around his lover's buttocks, pulling him closer.
Dylan kissed him again savagely, his lust consuming him like fire. They both began to moan simultaneously as Dylan's thrusts quickened, his hips practically taking on a life of their own, pushing in deeper, then deeper still.
Seconds later, Dylan felt his chest becoming flush. "Oh, CHRIST!" he croaked, then spasmed twice and collapsed on the smaller boy, his heart pounding like a jackhammer.
After a moment, Dylan opened his eyes and smiled, still panting. Angel grinned and kissed him on the nose.
"Hey," he whispered, still dazed.
Dylan disengaged himself, sat up on his knees, then rolled next to the boy and sighed with satisfaction. Angel turned on his side, then put his head on Dylan's chest, which rose and fell with every breath. Dylan instinctively brushed back the boy's luxurious black hair, which cascaded over his shoulders.
"I meant what I said before," Angel said, using his fingers to trace the deep ridges in the football player's muscular chest. "In fact, you're the only person I've ever really loved. I wish maybe there was a way we could... I dunno, start over or something."
Dylan sighed. If only I could believe that, he thought. "It's not gonna be easy. How can I know if I can ever trust you?"
Angel grinned, then gently tweaked the tip of Dylan's left nipple, which quickly became erect. "Let me prove it to you. But for now, I'm horny as shit, dude!"
They both laughed.
"Alright," Dylan said, sitting up. "But won't your mom expect you home?"
The boy shrugged. "My dad sorta paid us a surprise visit this afternoon. She and him are having some kind of dinner together, so she sent me off to spend the night at a friend's house. He's covering for me while I'm here."
Hmmm, Dylan thought. Angel's never mentioned his father before.
"Alright, slave," Angel snapped. "Get into position!"
Dylan looked up, momentarily taken aback.
Angel stared grimly at him, then burst out laughing. "Kidding!" he chortled. "It's a joke!"
Some joke, Dylan thought, as he lay back on the blanket. He looked up and saw that Angel was completely aroused. The boy kneeled down in front of him and grinned.
"It'll be different this time," he whispered. Angel carefully slid on top of him, and Dylan slowly felt the boy's warmth plunge deep inside him.
§ § §
Later, both teenagers lay under the blanket, exhausted, using the warmth of their own bodies to fend off the cold night air. Under some duress, Angel gave Dylan some of the details of his sordid past: he insisted his sister's death was an accident, when she fell and hit her head in a bathtub when he was five. True, it had happened while the two kids were having a fight -- a little detail he covered up from his parents -- but he hadn't actually intended to kill her.
Same with Mrs. Evans, the 66 year-old baby sitter who had fallen down the stairs. She'd yelled at him for weeks to clean up his toys; one day, she tripped on one of his Hot Wheels cars and tumbled down sixteen steps and broken her neck, but he hadn't done it deliberately -- or so he claimed.
The other stories were harder to explain. Angel admitted he had set a couple of the fires while playing with matches, but he had no idea how the neighborhood cats had been tortured and killed. He only cut out the stories from the newspaper because he thought they were "crazy-cool," he said.
Curiously, Angel seemed a little reluctant on providing many details when Dylan quizzed him about the priest and the Uncle who had allegedly molested him two years ago. He claimed he'd never done anything more than let the priest masturbate him a couple of times, and that he'd refused to talk when other boys had come forward, insisting that they'd been victims of the same man. Angel's Uncle Bob -- or more properly, Roberto Tortellini -- had been the first gay person he ever met, but all Angel would say was that he'd asked his Uncle for advice when he was 13. Angel claimed the man went to jail a year ago after a school custodian had found him orally pleasuring a junior high student in the restroom after hours.
Dylan sighed. Maybe Angel's side makes some sense after all, he thought. Sure, the kid's screwed-up a little, but maybe a lot of this stuff was accidental.
Then he remembered K.C. and felt a cold shiver down his spine. That was no accident.
Angel yawned and snuggled against him. "Quid pro quo," he whispered. "As long as we both have something on each other, we're safe. Nobody has to know our secrets, Dylan," he said sleepily.
Dylan took one of Angel's hands, kissed it, and clasped it around his chest. "Let's just take it a day at a time for now," he whispered. They closed their eyes and slept, contented and secure with the world. Nearby, one of the horses whinnied softly and lay her head down in her pen.
§ § §
Dylan was suddenly aware of a muffled beeping. He opened his eyes, momentarily unsure of where he was or what time it was. He turned, and saw Angel curled a few feet away, half-naked, hogging most of the blanket. Dylan reached over and found his pants, then fumbled for his cellphone, which told him it was 4:22AM.
"Hello?" he whispered.
"Dude!" cried Kyle. "I'm so fucked, I don't know what I'm gonna do!"
Dylan shook his head wearily. I'm in no mood for this now, he thought. "What's up, man? This had better be fucking good."
Kyle was almost hysterical. "I think he's dead!" he sobbed. "Oh, Christ -- this whole fuckin' thing is my fault!"
Dylan's mind was racing. "Who? Kyle, where are you? Are you still at the party?"
"No. Mark's parents threw us all out about an hour ago, and me and Hank were on our way home. We had this totally fucked-up wreck... It's foggy as shit out here! Hank went through a red light at Balboa and Lassen, and smacked into a pickup at about 60 miles an hour. I was wearing a seatbelt, but Hank..." His voice trailed off.
Dylan started pulling on his pants. "Where are you now?"
"I'm still here at the intersection. The cops just showed up, and I'm still a little fucked-up."
"Relax," said Dylan, as he tugged on his shirt. "Hank was doing the driving, so you're safe."
"Wait a minute." There were a few unintelligible voices and a distant siren, then Kyle came back on. "The cops just told me an ambulance is on its way. Can you meet me at the hospital?"
Muffled voices, then Kyle spoke again. "Holy Cross, on Rinaldi and Sepulveda. We'll be in the emergency room."
Dylan nodded. "I'll take the freeway. I can be there in five minutes."
Kyle started to sob again. "Oh, fuck... you should see Hank's face!"
"Kyle!" Dylan said sharply. "Dude, get it together. Listen to me. Ride with him in the ambulance, and I'll meet you there. Gimme just five minutes. Once Hank's OK, I'll give you a ride home."
Kyle paused. "Dude," he whispered. "I'm really sorry about this. I didn't know who else to call..."
Dylan grinned. "Hey -- you'd do the same for me, right?"
"Yeah. Just hurry, okay?"
Dylan clicked off the phone and slipped on his shoes. Just as he reached the barn door, he heard a voice call behind him.
"Hey," mumbled Angel, who sat up. "Where are you goin'?"
"Shit, I'm really sorry, dude. Kyle's gotten in a bad car wreck, and I gotta meet him at the hospital. Stay here until I come back."
Angel pouted. "How long? You promised we'd be here together all night!"
Dylan rolled his eyes. "Angel, this is a fucking emergency! Kyle's in major trouble, and I'm the only friend he could call. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Angel held up a finger. "One hour."
"I'll try. Just sit tight until I get back, 'kay? Call me if you get antsy."
He closed the door and the wooden bar latched behind him. Angel heard the rumble of Dylan's BMW start up, then roared off into the distance. He leaned back against the blanket and put his hands around the back of his head, stared up at the ceiling, then sighed.
This isn't going at all the way I planned it, he thought.
§ § §
Kyle McDermott sat forlornly in a stiff brown chair at the back of the emergency room waiting area. His nose wrinkled at the pungent antiseptic aroma that filled the hallway. Something about the smell of hospitals, he thought to himself. Enough to make you sick if you breathe it long enough.
The room was nearly deserted. In the background, the public-address speaker occasionally sounded beeps or summoned doctors to room numbers. An occasional gurney wheeled by, usually with patients being transported from one room to another.
The electric doors to the left hissed open, and a familiar shape trotted in. "Dude!" he called.
Kyle looked up just as Dylan ran over to him.
"God," he croaked, standing up and hugging Dylan.
Dylan was momentarily taken aback. In the three years he'd known Kyle, they'd been the best of friends, but they'd never hugged. Not even when they'd had sex with Randi Weber, he thought.
"Hey," he said softly.
They stood apart, each slightly embarrassed at the sudden display of emotion.
"It's gonna be okay," Dylan soothed. "Where's Hank?"
"Still in surgery," Kyle said, brushing some tears out of his eyes. "He had a buncha glass and shit in his face. Fuck, for all I know he's blind! You should've seen him..." His voice choked and he shook his head, then wiped his eyes.
Dylan shook his head. This could be worse than I thought. "Look, dude -- just stay calm. Don't go nuts about this. When Hank comes to, we've both gotta try not to upset him, no matter how bad off he is."
Kyle nodded and sat back down in his chair.
"You want a Coke or something?"
His friend pointed down a hallway. "There's some coin-op machines over there. Just water for me, if they have any."
Dylan returned with a can of generic lemon-lime and a bottle of Crystal Geyser water, which he handed to Kyle, then sat beside him. Above their heads, a TV set silently displayed footage of a CNN Headline story about nuns helping to evacuate a village in Afghanistan.
Dylan took a long sip of his soda, then leaned back. "You talked to your folks yet?"
Kyle shook his head and closed his eyes. "Fuck, no. After I wrecked the car just two weeks ago, there's no way I'm gonna tell them anything about this." He turned to his friend. "Please -- promise me this thing is just between us. If the 'rents find out, my Dad'll send me to a fucking military academy! He's been threatening to do this for the last two months."
Dylan chuckled. "Dude -- you're almost exactly the same age as me. We're gonna be 18 in less than six months. After that, you're legal. All they can do is throw you out of the house."
"Great," sighed Kyle. "Then maybe I can move into your barn."
The barn, thought Dylan. He glanced at his watch. He had at least forty-five minutes before Angel would get pissed-off.
Suddenly, the overhead speaker beeped twice. "Will Mr. McDermott please report to the Nurse's Station on the first floor? Mr. Kyle McDermott, to the Nurse's Station, please?"
They both stood up. "You want me to go with you?" asked Dylan.
"No. Stay out of this for now."
Dylan nodded, then sat back down, leaned back and closed his eyes. Jesus, he thought, this has been one total fuck of a day.
§ § §
Someone was shaking his shoulder. "Dylan. Time to leave."
Dylan opened his eyes. By the look of the pale yellow light outside the glass sliding doors, it was probably near dawn. Fuck, he thought, glancing at his watch. Already 6:10! Angel will be totally pissed for sure.
He wearily got to his feet. Kyle stood near him, his face ashen, eyes red.
"How's... how's Hank? How'd the surgery go?" Dylan asked, trying to stifle a yawn.
Kyle stared off into space. "Operation went fine. Unfortunately, Hank stopped breathing."
Dylan was stunned. "Jesus," he whispered. "Dude, I'm so sorry." Without even thinking, he embraced his friend. Kyle immediately broke down and sobbed uncontrollably onto his shoulder, his body shaking violently.
"He... he was so smashed-up, he looked like fucking Frankenstein," Kyle choked, inbetween his tears.
"Hey," whispered Dylan, putting his hands on his friend's back. "It's okay. This wasn't your fault."
"No," cried Kyle, who took a step back. "I'm the one who should be dead! I should've made Hank let me drive! If I hadn't wrecked my fucking car, he'd be alive, right now!"
Dylan pulled his friend to him and hugged him again. "No," he said, firmly. "Shut up and listen to me. If anything had happened to you... I dunno what I'd do, dude. It'd be like my parents died or something. You know what I'm tryin' to say?"
Kyle sniffled and nodded. "Yeah. I love you too, bro'. I'm just... sorry I don't show it real well."
"Mr. McDermott?" called a voice from the right.
They turned to see a doctor dressed in a blue-green surgical gown. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but we have one more form for you to fill out."
Kyle nodded and took the clipboard and pen from the man.
"We did all we could for him, Kyle," said the doctor. "But this kind of massive trauma, the swelling in the brain... we couldn't have done much even if we'd been right there at the scene when it happened."
Dylan thought for a moment and checked his phone. No calls. He was sure Angel would've tried to have called him.
The doctor looked up. "Sorry, sir. That cellphone probably won't work in this area. Too much interference, with the main computer center off on the left, and the power grid down the hall. You might get some reception if you step outside the glass doors."
Dylan nodded. Jesus, he thought, glancing again at his watch. If I'm lucky, Angel's still asleep in the barn.
Kyle finished filling out the form and handed it back to the doctor.
"If it's any consolation, at least Mr. Wiseman was insured," the man said. "We still haven't been able to make contact with his family. Can we call you in case funeral arrangements need to be made?"
"Yeah," Kyle said.
The doctor started to walk away, then stopped and placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder.
"Kyle, Henry was lucky to have had a friend like you here. Don't blame yourself for any of this."
The doctor reached into the gown, felt around for a pocket, then produced a business card. "If you need to call someone, my office can reach me any time. Hang in there, son."
The two teenagers trudged wearily out the door and into Dylan's BMW. They rode down the 118 Freeway in silence, the roar of the wind rushing through their ears, and the whine of the engine changing as Dylan shifted gears.
Henry Wiseman, thought Dylan, as he made his way down the freeway, changing lanes as he approached the Porter Ranch exit. I never even knew Hank's last name, and he was in two of my classes last year. I must've bought at least $5,000' worth of steroids from him.
Finally, they pulled up to Kyle's house. As Kyle sat up to open the door, Dylan reached out to stop him.
"Hey," he said quietly. "Listen -- you get some sleep. I got some stuff to take care of. I'll call you tonight... maybe you can come over for dinner or something."
Kyle nodded. "Yeah. I'm really fucking tired." He turned to his friend. The reddish-gold light of the early-morning sun glinted in his eyes, which looked weary and bloodshot. "Thanks, dude. I don't know what I can ever do to make up for this."
Dylan sighed. "I got a lotta shit goin' on myself, dude. Some of it pretty bad."
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "You? Mr. CEO Junior? Not possible."
"I... I don't even know where to begin. I started seein' a shrink a few days ago, and... Well, let's save it for later. Get some sleep, Kyle, and maybe I'll cry on your shoulder next time."
His friend smiled sadly. "Yeah. Call me around 4, dude." He hopped out and slammed the door.
Dylan roared off down Mason, then made the turn at Devonshire Street.
He could still see Kyle's face in his mind's eye. I'm gonna have to tell him, he thought. I owe it to him to tell him the truth. Maybe he won't hate me too much.
Less than a minute later, he pulled through the Monteria Estates gates and came to a quick stop at the gate.
"'Mornin', Dylan," said the guard. "Either you're just now comin' in after a long night of partying, or you're up with the roosters."
"Definitely the former, Daniel," he replied. "I had to help out a friend of mine. Now, I just wanna go home and crash."
The man nodded and hit the button to raise the security gate. "Just don't crash the Beemer, son. Take it easy, and watch out for the speed bumps."
Dylan waved his thanks and roared down the road. When he reached the turn, he pulled off to the right, towards the barn, but was dismayed when he found the wooden door wide open.
Fuck, he thought, as he shut off the engine and hopped out and ran up the path. Angel's gotten pissed-off and split. As he expected, the barn was deserted, save for Borneo and Montana. He checked their feed, refilled their water trough, then closed the door and crossed the lush grassy field that separated the barn from his family's estate.
"Yo?" he called, entering from the front door. "Yolanda? You up yet?"
"In the kitchen, hon'," she called. "I was just..."
Her voice stopped. Suddenly, she let out an ear-splitting wail.
Dylan stopped in his tracks, then ran down the hall to the kitchen. The maid was screaming at the top of her lungs, pointing towards the pool that stretched out through the back part of the living room.
"What?" Dylan shouted. "Yolanda! What's wrong?"
She began to sob, but could only point vaguely towards the front part of the pool, several feet away from the coach.
Dylan pushed past her. He looked down and saw the water reddened, a scarlet film that scattered and swirled across the surface. On the steps at the far end was a brown furry shape. Dylan ran over in a blur, then pulled the dog out of the water. From the looks of it, she'd been stabbed repeatedly. Her eyes opened and she let out a faint growl.
"Oh, Jesus fucking Christ," he whispered, cupping the dog's face. "Lady, hang in there, girl!" He looked around the room frantically. "Yo!" he called. "Call the vet, and tell 'em it's an emergency. I'm gonna bring her in right now."
He turned, and Yolanda was standing behind him, holding her hand over her mouth.
"Yolanda!" he cried. "Please hurry! And bring me some towels. Are mom and dad home?"
She shook her head. "They're down in... LaJolla for some kind of conference," she said haltingly. "They'll be back this afternoon." She began to cry softly again. "Who could have done this terrible thing?"
Dylan's eyes began to tear up. "Just call the vet, Yo!"
He looked down at the dog, who began to stir. Her eyes opened, but were distant and foggy, as if she didn't see him at all.
The white carpeting around the steps was already soaked in blood, as were Dylan's hands. His jaw muscles tightened, and he began to tremble. Whether she lives or dies, he vowed, Angel's gonna pay for this. I'm gonna make him regret the day he was born.