Disclaimer: Leo Jones and Gerald Stano were real. The rest - weren't and isn't. I'm sad that it's not the opposite way around.
Warnings: Indignation blended tastelessly with homoerotics and night monsters. Really. Research did it to me.
Feedback: please, yes.
Some of you guys nominated The Tail for the Nifty BBSAs - lots of thanks and hugs to you. Yay! And virtual flowers.
Memory prodder: here's the end of the previous chapter:
"Today - I mean, the reason I ran over here."
"You wanted to hit something. Erh... Ya wanna - now?"
"No. I told my dad that I had met somebody and suddenly it seemed such a short time that we have. I panicked."
He was quiet for a moment. "You never were with anybody for less than two years, right?"
"Right. The thing is - I don't want to hurry, like, I would like to forget about the deadline."
He stopped petting Busta and with a finger started stroking my shoulder. "If we stick together until you leave, it'll be close to a record for me. The longest, if we count from alligator-day."
"Commitment scares the shit out of me, man. Three weeks and I usually get the hell out of there or turn into a complete bastard."
Which was odd, considering his commitment to the group and the other four.
"Actually, I kinda like that there is a deadline."
Something loosened in my chest and I could breathe easier. "I'm glad to hear that."
"I'm gonna hurt you."
"I know. I may hurt you too."
"Yeah... Hey, you really wanna slap my ass?"
"Yes. Do you think you'd like it."
"It wouldn't hurt to try." He yawned. "You better tie me up first, though."
"Sure. You got handcuffs?"
"Mhm. I'll show you my kinky-bag later."
"Yes." A yawn almost wrenched my jaw off. "Turn the light off?"
He grunted and flicked the switch.
* * * * * * *
The Tail of the Tiger, chapter 14
It had not been a quiet drive home from Tom's game. It was well enough that he wasn't going with us. His team had lost and that made Mormor upset. She kept expecting me to comment on her analysis of the game. The comments that I was capable of made her even more upset, and she started talking irritating teacher talk at me. "A ball, do you know what a ball is, Mikkel? Let's start with the round ones, they are probably easier-"
I had turned the radio on in answer to that. Not that it had made the resulting exchange any less passionate, and we dragged the passion into the kitchen where the walls were ringing with it.
"- and you Danes are worse than the Canadians. No sense of justice, wrapping murdering perverts in wadding, because you don't have the guts to give the perverts the treatment they deserve. And you - you are a weak-bellied fool-"
"Justice! You heard what they said - that guy, Leo Jones, may be innocent. A weak belly is a bloody-"
"-a fucking bloody healthy reaction to that. There is no justification for deliberate murder in the first place - it being committed by the fucking state only makes it worse-"
The door opened and Tom walked in. "Guys-"
"You just stay out of this," I snapped at him, shivering with anger.
"I said no. You two are not gonna agree on this. You might as well stop it."
"Your cousin is an illiterate, foolish hippie."
"And your granny is a heartless dinosaur."
Frowning Tom held up a hand signaling us to stop. "We have guests."
Chris appeared behind Tom, sparks of amusement were buzzing around his head, and there was something else in his eyes that I couldn't quite read.
Behind him Lance and Joey looked apprehensively back and forth between Mormor and me. Joey waved hesitantly, and I waved back.
Mormor smiled, the anger instantly evaporating from her face when she saw Christopher.
His hair was in thin braids again, shiny and with white stripes. I regretted not having spent more time running my fingers through the silken strands before they were woven into sleek bundles and decorated with bird droppings.
"Hi guys. I tried to hold Tom back seeing you hadn't gotten around to throwing things yet. Sorry, he got loose."
Chris! The awareness off him shot through the cracks in the shield the Curse had created around me.
"He was outside, listening by the window." Tom looked accusingly from Mormor to me. "I could hear the two of you to the end of the driveway with the motor still running."
"What's going on, anyway?" Chris asked. I pulled Tom out of the way so that I could get to a much needed hug. Chris! Held me, working his magic; the boil settled and there was better room in my skin.
Mormor snorted. "My fibbergibling fool of a grandson ran a red light when he heard about the executions tomorrow and on Monday."
I had never before thought about death penalty as being a part of my reality before. It had been neatly stowed away, filed as something that belonged to the middle ages or despicable inhuman regimes. Yet, on another level I had known that it was going on in the USA. It had merely been incomprehensible.
When I had heard it on the radio mentioned like an ordinary piece of local news, my foundation had cracked. "The thought of being in a state that kills its own citizens makes me vomit."
"Now - that was disgusting."
"He puked in the car while running a red light?" Chris beamed admiration at me, arm securely around my middle.
Tom stared fixedly at my face, probably because of the red light. He did have this thing about me and traffic lights; this was only going to make it worse.
"No, he stopped and did it out the door. It was still disgusting. Did you brush your teeth?"
"Yes. And I'm going to that rally. I don't care if I'm not a citizen - killing people is a universal wrong-"
"I am not the one picking you up from custody."
"You already told me that. Say, is rallying is illegal here?" Right then I was ready to believe anything about the state of Florida.
"No. I'm saying that your foolish behavior is going to get you arrested-"
"Just stop it. Okay?" Tom appeared truly distressed.
Mormor glared and grunted.
Joey patted Tom on the shoulder. "So, what's up? We going swimming or not?"
Tom shook his head. "Not me. Paul's picking me up." It was Paul's last day at home before leaving with his parents for the spring break; Daddy-Paul had invited Tom over for barbecue.
"I'm going," Mormor said. Which was no surprise since she and Christopher had set up the date in the first place; the place we were going to was some kind of an activity club that she was a member of. "And the Impossible Grandson is coming, too," she added and I got another glare. "Now, stop making faces at Christopher and introduce me to your friends."
I did and, for the sake of Lance, included the dogs in the presentation. He was pale and resembled a scared deer. His eyes were showing white all around and they tended to stray to Mormor; he definitely needed dog therapy. Then I left them to get my things from my room.
I did the mistake of checking my watch that I had left on the dresser.
Six hours and thirteen minutes.
Snap - I was stuck in the Curse, unable to move, trapped, waiting for another minute to pass while every cell in my body screamed with the need to move.
The Curse was the reason I had taken my watch off in the first place; the evil spell had gone into effect at midnight. I knew the exact moment: there had been a click that had been both a sound and a physical sensation reverberating through me. After that, every clock and watch had been a danger, reaching out to trap my mind.
A heavy weight landed on my back and stayed there, held in place by a strong grip of arms and legs. "You ready?" the Shaman asked, offhandedly barreling through the stupid shield, squishing the Curse, bringing rest to my still unsettled stomach and blowing warm air into my ear before he scampered up higher.
"Yes." I dumped the watch before the Curse could take effect again and gripped his legs, wanting him there, securely wrapped around me.
He bit my ear and growled. I turned my head for a kiss, our tongues darting and playing, leaving more saliva outside than inside each other's mouths. I laughed and got my nose bitten.
He wriggled impatiently, mirroring the impatience in my blood and incidentally rubbing his hardening dick against my back. "Let's go."
"Mmm. Okay." I opened the dresser and found the sunblocker. "You brought a ball?"
"Yeah. Justin lent us one of his good ones."
"He's not coming?"
"Nah. He and JC are doing music-stuff today." He picked the sunblocker out of my hand and looked at it. "You want this on now?"
It got complicated with Chris stuck to my back, but the shirt came off without him touching the ground, and he applied the lotion to my front. I held on to the dresser to keep my balance while he climbed around. Chris had the same generous attitude to sunlotion that he had to lube; it made staying on a slippery affair for him. "Legs?"
I would have said "yes" just to see how he would go about doing it if the Curse hadn't made me so restless; I wanted out and moving. "No. They already got it." It was standard part of my morning toilette to put sunscreen on the bare pieces of skin; the alternative being a rather lobsterous and painful effect.
I pulled my shirt on; Chris climbing around and doing acrobatics on me was not much help but it felt good. That done, he picked up the sunlotion and flicked his wrist. The plastic bottle sailed through the air in a neat arch and landed in the small open sports bag on the bed. "Yesss. He scores again. There, you're all packed."
I picked up the bag and walked out with Chris still hugging my back.
"When is that rally?"
"As far as I understood there is a group camping out somewhere. I'll probably go tomorrow."
"Tomorrow - I can do that."
I stopped and turned my head. Chris climbed up higher so that it was easier looking at each other's faces. He licked my nose. "I'll bring puke bags. I have lots of them. They are my favorite flight souvenirs."
"Puke bags?" I tried to remember what they looked like. "Aren't they the same a lot?"
"Yeah. The collection's kind of boring. But it's, you know, big. You should see the collections that some of the other guys in the Puke Bag Club have. This guy, Dennis-"
We found the others outside, waiting in the driveway, Mormor with Busta in her lap. Chris let me walk down the ramp before he slid off.
"Can I talk with you for a moment?" It wasn't really a question; Tom was already pulling me off to the side.
"You didn't go to bed last night, did you? I have this feeling that if I poked around in the trash I would find a lot of coffee filters."
If I denied it he might just start digging around in the trash. And find the birthday cards too. Now, that would be bad. He had already guilted Mormor into agreeing to a celebration of her birthday. "I hid them. Really, except for this state doing murder, I'm okay. Fine." I repressed a burp. "It's not a build-up for a breakdown or anything like that."
"You sister called again?" Tom had taken an acute dislike to Karla.
"No. Well, yeah, but I'm fine with that, mostly. I don't listen." That one time she had gotten hold of me, I had left the phone on the desk until it stopped screeching. "It's the last statute of limitations. Tonight." Free! I'm going to be a changed man; rebirth and all that... What nonsense. "So I'm just going to be a little crazy today and that's it."
"You were weird this morning, man. When is it?"
"At six. That'll make it midnight at home."
Tom checked his watch. I tried to catch a glimpse of the display but he moved too quickly. "Okay." He squeezed my shoulder. "And - no more fucking red lights, man. My blood pressure."
The "activity club" turned out to be more like a resort with a fancy, outdoor restaurant at its heart. The buildings were white and the lawns were abundantly trimmed. Everything was so clean that I had no trouble imagining the entire complex, lawns and flowerbeds included, being hosed down and scrubbed with soap every night at closing time by lots of uniformed staffers.
"Look Joey - crazy golf." Lance pointed. He had gotten his color back and had stopped moving about Mormor as if he expected her to bite.
"That course was the main reason I became a member in the first place," Mormor said and had a lot more to say about crazy golf.
I fell off the team without realizing I was doing it, and floated around in my mind until a hand landed on my shoulder and a pup sniffed at my sandaled feet. "What are ya doin'?" Chris asked breaking the spin of my mind.
"Looking at the grass. All the straws are the same length. See my feet?"
"Yeah... You've got curly hairs on your big toes. Like a hobbit."
"They are on this piece of ground."
"Uh... You gonna puke?" He pulled Busta out of my puke range.
"Maybe... It's not real."
Chris studied the grass and nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose a puddle of your stinking vomit would improve on that."
"That's what I was thinking..."
"Say, do you wanna to leave?"
I shook my head, couldn't imagine any immediately accessible place that would do better than this piece of fairy tale land.
"Pissing would work too."
"Yeah. Ozzie Osborne peed on the Alamo. That's why they painted it yellow. It used to be white."
"He peed on what?" He was throwing me a line, wanting me out of that weird place my mind had fallen into, and I wanted out too.
"The Alamo. Man, being in a group styled like ours does have drawbacks-" Chris acerbically dished out the select piece of modern North American history meeting the old. At some point during the telling we started heading towards the restaurant to join the others. Chris pulled me along; his high voice working like a leash and anchor on me.
Mormor eyed me. "Can we order now?"
"In a minute." I picked up the menu, flicking through it without much sense of an appetite. It had a page with information on the energy distribution in the dishes. I almost got up to leave.
"Hey, this is neat," said Lance and chose his meal from the numbers in the energy table rather than relying on what kind of food he liked best at the moment.
I had been assaulted by barbarity during the entire day. Chris was watching me across the table, eyes gleaming.
Joey kicked my foot under the table. "What are you having?"
Lance ran his finger down the table and frowned. "Which of them?"
"Salmon - and don't tell me."
He had already checked the energy content in the other orders and given us the ratings.
The waitress brought a bowl of water for Busta and picked up the menus. I asked her if the diving boards were open; she told me that I'd have to wait about half an hour, then the lifeguard responsible for them would be on duty. At the mentioning of a time, the Curse took on a new life and I had to run attention-slalom the way I had done all night and all morning. The watches on people's wrists and the clock behind the bar all wore alluring halos, reaching out to trap me.
Joey noticed my glance and helpfully, maybe it was instinctive, held his wrist so that I could see the time. He and Lance were still talking crazy golf with Mormor; Lance was trying to describe an unusual contraption he and Joey had played on a course in Austria and Joey wasn't all that helpful, interjecting comments that threw Lance off the intricate explanation.
Five hours and eight minutes.
"Man, it's a long way to Monday," Chris informed me, shaking me out of Joey's watch. It took me a second to figure out why he said it.
I put my hand over Joey's wrist and turned it so that his watch was out of easy sight. "You want to go diving when we have eaten?" I asked Chris. Jumping out from high places seemed like the thing to do in order to stay focused and not get trapped in the Curse or shatter into little dots and evaporate.
"Nah, I feel like doing something with a ball. I'll look around for an open game." The Shaman was present in full; no detail escaped him when he looked around inside my soul.
I smiled to tell him I was okay. With the Shaman around and the dives to look forward to, it was possible to stay collected as long as nobody put a watch in front of my face.
He nodded. "Dani called. She said to say hello. She got into trouble investigating the wrong property."
He came alive with the story and another streak of his light made it through the stupid shield; I held on, wanting another light beam.
Lunch was as fine as one can expect in a place that puts energy tables in the menu. Lance and Joey finally figured out why they couldn't agree on what the contraption was like - they weren't talking about the same one. Joey probably knew all along.
"Rose! It's so good to see you again." A woman of Mormor's age broke right into our conversation. "How's you leg, dear?" Her heavy perfume settled around us, a sticky, cloying cloud. She was loud in any sense one could think of.
"Patricia," Mormor nodded and spoke tightly. "Fine, thank you. I mostly notice it when somebody brings my attention to it." She sent a nod to the two men who had accompanied the woman. They nodded back, one of them looking a little uncomfortable.
Patricia smiled very widely indeed. "That's good. You're such a tough little cookie." She patted Mormor on the shoulder. "And such pleasant company you brought." Smile still in place, she looked us over curiously.
It wasn't that she was wrong about the company, I was just surprised that she knew we were pleasant.
"Yes, certainly. We were enjoying ourselves. Are you going a round on the course?"
"Maybe later. My kid brother is visiting from New York. We're having lunch." She gave Mormor another pat. "I'll see you around."
"Karen's friend - Patricia Said?" I asked Mormor when the woman was out of hearing range. I had remembered who I had heard talking about a Patricia.
"Actually it's McGre- oh. Yes. That Patricia." Mormor smiled.
"I remember that crazy golf course," Chris said to Lance. "You're talking about the one where there was this blue and green woman -"
"No." Lance stopped Chris by putting a hand in front of his mouth.
Joey picked up. "That was the Sex Course in-"
"Joey!" Lance looked panicked; Joey was outside his reach.
"Sex Course?" Mormor asked.
"It was horrible," said Lance, drying his hand in a napkin.
Chris dried his mouth on the back of his hand. "But you won."
Lance rolled his eyes. "I didn't finish it."
"I won." Joey frowned, looking sadly disappointed with Chris for not remembering that. "You came last, just before Lance and that was only because he didn't finish it. You used more tries than all of the rest of us put together."
Later, finally standing on the top of the tower and taking a look around before I walked to the diving board, I had a great view of the surroundings. The resort looked even more clean and artificial from up there, reminding me of my old Lego toys.
Chris was playing beach volley, his back towards me. I suppressed the childish disappointment at not getting a chance to wave to him.
Lance and Joey were playing crazy golf. Next to them Mormor was articulating with the hand that wasn't holding Busta's leash. She quieted when Lance took his shot. It must have worked out well, she clapped her hands and Joey slapped Lance's back. Mormor noticed me and waved; I waved back, feeling better, and turned towards the diving board, heading for the delightful point of no return; for a moment I was entirely back in my head.
I've never gotten around to do any of the fancy stuff when diving - the sense of cutting clean through the air and picking up speed fast is just too good; I don't want my mind on anything else. The best part is the transition, breaking the surface and rushing into the water, the higher the speed the better.
When I was nearing the top of the tower for another dive, the golf players had gathered around another contraption. Lance waved to me.
Chris still had his back turned. One of the girls on the opposing team pointed me out to him; she didn't get a chance to say anything before he smashed a hard ball at her. He must really have been into the game to jump that high in such deep sand.
Three dives later Chris still hadn't turned, not even when he was sitting in the sand waiting for his turn to play. I wondered if I had done something that had upset him.
Mormor had fallen behind Lance and Joey, talking with a man who was playing on his own. He wore very blue shorts and a happy yellow shirt with a large uneven pattern in clear colors. It could have been an attempt at disguise - he fell right in with the contraptions.
When I got out of the water I didn't head for the tower but for the volley court to check up on the situation.
Nothing was wrong. I should have known, and felt stupid for it. Chris beamed a smile at me and waved for somebody to take his place before he came over. He looked really fine in red shorts and a white T-shirt that stuck to his sweaty skin. Sand clung in a fine layer to his bare legs and arms; he had some on his cheek and in his beardlike growth, too.
"Wanna join?" he asked.
I watched the cumbersome movements of the barefoot players and didn't feel any inclination at all to run around in deep sand. "No. I'm going back into the water. There's a bunch of people playing ball; maybe I can join them. Also I haven't tried the water slides yet. You want to come?"
"Sure. You finished diving?"
He smiled even wider; there was something going on with him that I couldn't fathom. He seemed relieved. I pushed worries aside; he would tell me if it was important.
"Yeah. I got sand between my buns, man. It itches like hell."
"That would not happen if you didn't play sitting on your ass."
He smiled, the tips of his ears turning red. "You were watching me."
"Of course. You look really small from up there, by the way. Like a tiny spider." And very much alive between all the Lego.
He slapped me on the back of my head.
"Hey. Tiny spiders are cute."
That didn't mollify him at all. I got another slap, which was more than I was going to let him get away with, and I chased him right out into the water. That got the sand out of his T-shirt. He left it behind on the shore to dry in the sun.
We couldn't hug and kiss but we could get a lot of touching out of interrupting each other's moves and being nuisances to each other when we were swimming.
The area of the lake that belonged to the club was surrounded by strings of orange balls. Chris swam to the buoy in one of the corners and held on to it looking like he needed a rest. I joined him, putting my arm around the buoy from the opposite side so that it touched his.
He grimaced, working at his behind with his free hand. "It's not funny, dude. I'm raw."
I bit my lip to keep from laughing. "Want me to help?"
"No." He pulled his swimsuit off. "Hold this."
"Mmm." I did and tried to get a look at the pale golden body. The breeze made the surface of the lake too restless for a good view and when I went under everything was blurred. I regretted leaving my goggles behind.
Chris sprayed me. "Give me my swimsuit."
I looked at him.
He growled. "Mikkel."
He was still not recovered enough for a good fight. I gave the red swimsuit back to him and helped him pull it back on, taking a quick fondle of his soft dick. "Better?"
"Yeah." He smiled. "No need for you to stop."
"I'd like to have sex with you. But it would be visible from the diving boards."
We watched the other people for a moment.
"This is an odd place."
"What do you mean?"
"Energy-tables in the menu... And I counted three signs going up the tower, telling me that diving was on my own responsibility. Yet the lifeguard asked me a lot of questions before he let me go up, like he had this memorized list of if-then-else questions inside his head. It threw him a bit when I couldn't refer my experience with diving boards to highschool or college. The interrogation caused a line but nobody complained and nobody were irritated with me afterwards. That was pretty odd."
"Yeah, control makes people feel safe."
"That's why they weren't complaining - it made them feel safe that I was being controlled? Like, they were actually feeling good about standing in line?"
Chris grinned and nodded. "The longer and slower the line the better. You should see the line outside the tax office at the city hall - some of the people there have spontaneous orgasms."
"Really - the line at the tax office?"
He nodded, eyes wide, liquid and innocent.
I had to spend a moment working up a proper picture on my inner screen.
Chris watched my face and grinned when I was back. "Got it?"
"Yes." I stroked his arm behind the buoy and looked towards land.
"Places like this sometimes, man, when I look at people and have to think, to make it real, you know? Like, hey - they have to sit down when they crap, and it gets smelly too; it's not just me."
I nodded and put that piece of fighter's coping advice away where it wouldn't be forgotten. "In a sense you come from further away than I do."
"Yeah... Hey - talking about crapping. Rose will probably want to go home for that. We should go play while we can."
"Is your sore ass up to water slides?"
"My ass is always up to fun."
Nice ass. Rub me in it.
Chris laughed at the expression on my face and challenged me to a race.
Lance and Joey joined us by the water slides. All three of them were noisy sliders, Chris yodeled, Joey laughed and Lance squealed when going down the fast one.
Mormor came down to see us, pointing my camera at us and smiling. I swam over to her. "Do you want to go home?" I asked her.
"Not yet. Are you having fun?"
"Yes. Those are really good water slides."
"I know." She looked longingly towards them before turning to me. "Say, do you really think that I'm heartless?"
"No." I sent a small spray her way and she smiled. "You don't think I'm foolish either."
I made ready to give her a large spray.
"No. I don't."
"What did you do to the secret course-agent?"
"Yes. The guy in camouflage."
She grinned. "That was Richard, he's an old friend. We're meeting for a drink when he finishes his game."
An old friend - there was no need for me to check what kind of guy it was, then. She really needs to get laid. "You just tell me if you want me out of the house for a while."
"Brat." She was still smiling and there was a gleam in her eyes.
So, when Christopher came over to pet Busta, I excused myself, recognizing the only chance I might get, and went hunting for Richard. He wasn't difficult to find - he was by the last contraption; he was still gray-haired and was still wearing that yellow shirt. Up closer I could see that the shirt had palms and cars on it.
I waited for the ball come to rest right next to the hole before I spoke. "Hi."
He took his sunglasses off and smiled politely to me. "Hello."
"I'm Mikkel, Rose's grandson. You're Richard, right?"
"I sure am." He reached out and we shook hands. "Pleased to meet you."
"Pleased to meet you." He seemed decent enough. "Do you think there's a chance you may be staying with my grandmother tonight?"
"What?" He stared at me.
"It's just - if there is, then there's a couple of instructions you should have. She really sucks at asking for help."
He stared. Then he burst out laughing. "You don't beat around the bush, do you, kid?"
I shrugged. "We only have a few minutes. She thinks I went to the bathroom. She would have my head on a platter if she knew I was meddling."
"Well, well. Rose's grandson." His gray eyes gleamed somewhat like Mormor's had. "Since I just may get lucky with you grandmother, you better give me those instructions while you still have a head and can talk."
I did and he asked a couple of smart questions; it was good to know that he had been listening. He was chuckling behind me when I left. I met Mormor and Busta going the opposite way, and tried to look like somebody who had been to the bathroom. She appeared to buy it.
The other three had joined a game somewhat like water polo. I made sure to join the opposite team of Chris', making the most of the opportunities to push his squirmy body under and get an elbow or a kick in return, and having him fling himself on top of me when he wanted to keep me from the ball.
Lance and I left the game, taking a breather. I went to get drinks for all of us and Mormor called me over and introduced me to Richard; she wanted to go home "soon", using one of the Curse activating code words, and almost got me with her wristwatch. She would have too, if it hadn't been one of those really elegant small gold ones that one can't see the time on anyway. I didn't dare look at the clock in the bar.
"What time is it?" I asked Lance when I joined him on the lawn. He was flat on his back like he had been when I left to fetch the drinks.
He groaned and rolled over, digging around in his little pile of stuff. "Twenty minutes to four."
Two hours and twenty minutes. "Thanks." Ten years but two hours and twenty minutes.
There, look - Chris! And Joey.
And Chris' love-trail! Pull down his pants.
Joey had draped himself over Chris' shoulders and was looking very used. They were arguing; Joey wanted Chris to carry him and didn't take no for an answer. He did his best to get a carrying effect out of Chris' sturdy body. The muscles shifted under Chris' wet skin.
Lick nice Chris. Lick, lick!
"Water!" gasped Joey and fell to the ground next to Lance.
"Here." Lance hurried and the drink sloshed his wrist and unto Joey's belly. Joey yelped at the cold.
Chris rolled his eyes and sat by me, folding his legs neatly and crossing them before he took his drink. He emptied it in one go and burped.
"Can I stay with you tonight?" I asked Chris
He raised an eyebrow at me. We had planned on staying at Mormor's place. "Sure."
Interested, Joey lifted his head. "Rose is getting laid?"
"If she wants to, and I hope she does. The guy is willing."
Lance made a choked sound and rolled onto his stomach so that he could boink the lawn with his forehead.
Joey grinned. "The guy in the yellow shirt?"
"Wait a minute," Lance looked up at me. "You asked him?"
"Sure. He needed instructions-"
Both Joey and Chris burst out laughing and Lance gaped, then grinned, red-faced. "Really? You instructed him?"
I nodded, not sure why it was such a big deal.
"Mikkel-" Lance said and I waited patiently for the explanation; he gave up on it before he even began and chuckled into his drink.
* * * * *
"That's fine. You can go now," Mormor said when I had filled the fridge with a variety of drinks.
"But-" There still were a few snacks that I hadn't gotten from the basement.
"You cleaned the dogs' den?"
"All's set, then. You can leave." Her hair was a little damp at the edges. She had recovered from having had to accept my help getting a shower - now there was amusement beneath the irritation.
"Are you sure-"
"We'll order out. Now - out!"
I nodded. Perhaps she wanted me out of there. "You call if-"
"Out!" She did want me out of there.
"Okay. I put condoms in your bedside-"
She growled, showing clenched teeth.
"You want me to go now?"
"Smart kid. Yes."
I got my jacket and overnight bag and left.
Some time during the cleaning of the dogs' den the clock had passed six. There should have been fanfares and fireworks and the sense of going through a gate to another world - but I had felt nothing other than a quiet relief when I saw that it was five minutes past the statute of limitations.
As I drove, the relief grew steadily. Waiting by a red light, I slipped my birthday present from my sister Lisbeth into the CD player and turned up the volume. Hearing Swedish and Finish from the speakers - it made my other home feel far, far away and yet closer. Mormor and I mostly spoke English to one another now; it was easier than switching back and forth.
By the time I rolled to a stop in front of Joey's house, I was bubbling inside. Joey opened the door. He was covered in flour and had large stains of what looked like jam on his T-shirt. Conclusion: Chris is helping him cook. And he smirked at me; he could probably see that I was ready for a kiss. When the door closed behind us I gave it to him since he was the only receptor within reach and that smirk was just too much of a provocation. He grinned into it.
We hadn't even gotten to touch tongues yet when a high voice interrupted us. "Hey - Joey, fuck off. That's mine!" Chris!
Joey pulled out of my hug with a yelp of pain, and then I was jumped by Chris wearing a gossamer coat of flour on top of his clothes. I tumbled backwards against the door, and suddenly there were fireworks, champagne bubbles and a sense of repeated gating when his mouth started doing lewd things to my face.
"You fucker," he muttered. "That was Joey."
"Sorry. You two look a lot alike. Arrgh."
He bit my ear for that and for laughing.
Chris! "Want a blowjob?" I asked him.
His body flashed heat. Then he tore himself lose and ran screeching into the kitchen to hide behind Joey.
"Help! Joey - he's gonna eat my dick. He's an evil man."
I growled and charged, intent on catching my prey. Joey stood in the middle of it all, laughing and fighting for his balance; Busta barked from beneath the kitchen table.
I caught my pitifully, and rather loudly, squealing prey and swung it over my shoulder.
"Help, Joey! Help! Fuck, can't you see I'm in distress here. Joey!" Chris' voice went high enough to break - which was right on the edge of human hearing range.
"Mikkel - please, take me instead." Joey suddenly sounded all drama and Shakespeare.
I turned to look at him, keeping a good grip on Chris' legs that were prone to kicking.
"Please! I promised his mother to take care of him." Joey looked really earnest, tearing at his chest as if his heart was aching, and pleading with those soft brown eyes. "Please, take my dick for thee meal. For sake of his mother, the poor suffering woman. My dick is bigger and better looking than his, anyway."
Chris stilled for a heart beat, then he started struggling again. "It's what? You've got warts on it, dude. Big fat hairy warts - you have no dick left - it's all warts. And it stinks like Lynn's old cheese."
"Did you wash it today?" I asked Joey who was frowning at Chris' insults; the remark about the cheese had made him wince.
"Hey!" Chris said behind me and slapped my ass. "That's not in the script. He's got warts on his balls too; you're gonna get them all over your pretty face."
"Yes?" I didn't think dick-eating monsters like me were supposed to be pretty - warts in the face actually sounded quite fitting.
Joey glared at Chris' ass. "I don't have warts, you little fucker."
"Too bad," I turned heading for the stairs. "I'll take this one, then. It's small but it's all wart."
"It's what?" Chris' voice reached the edge of human hearing range again and I was glad his mouth was closer to my ass than to my ears. "Are you insulting my dick?"
"I like warts and it looks a lot like a wart."
"Joey! He's insulting my dick."
Joey was busy laughing.
I slapped Chris' ass and he slapped mine. He must have liked the sound of it because he continued slapping a rhythm and started rapping, his voice surprisingly smooth considering he was singing with his middle squeezed against my shoulder and with his head hanging down. The song was about getting your dick sucked and blown, and he didn't sound distressed at all.
A yelp and thump behind us told of Busta trying to follow us up the stairs.
"You really think it's small?" he asked shortly after, studying his dick critically, spread out on the bed, gloriously naked except for the condom on his hard poker.
"No," I poured lube on my fingers. He spread his legs wider; eyes glowing welcome at me when I moved into position. "It's really big." I slipped my finger inside and he hissed and closed his eyes. "For a wart." Warm, soft. Tight - want it! Want in!
"Bastard." He grinned and punched my shoulder. It was a weak punch; I had found his prostrate and he grunted.
His dick was certainly big enough to shut me up completely. With Chris writhing and grunting on the bed and his heels caressing my back I felt no inclination to talk anyway.
Afterwards, I just lay there, feeling at home in myself, Chris was half on top of me, the arm and leg he had flung across me were warm and heavy. He shifted, sighed. I lifted my head to see - yes, a relaxed face, the dark lashes rested on his cheek and didn't flutter.
He wrinkled his nose, the hair on my chest was tickling him; it must have been pretty irritating. He rubbed his nose against me and lay still again. "Mmmkl?"
"Yes." I stroked his shoulder feeling sleepy myself. I didn't want to sleep yet. If I went to sleep now I would take the deep plunge, too tired for just a nap - and I really didn't want to use it all up before midnight. I wanted to sleep night-sleep with Chris. "Go on. I'll wake you up when I'm bored."
I let my had fall back on the pillow. Wrapped in napping Chris.
Safe to let my thoughts roam. Chris would wake up if I got stuck in a loop. Not that it would happen. In the quiet, out in the open on the other side of the gate, I could let go.
The glowing white of the wake kept running, fanning out into the dark behind the boat. The air stung my face, prickly with cold salty droplets.
A sudden light was dancing on the water and Martin swore loudly enough to be heard over the muted roar of the engine.
Fear and disbelief followed the cold realization of just what kind of light it was that moved towards us. A search light. Palle's, "Mikkel, for Christ's sake!" was a signal straight into my motoric system. My hands cranked the wheel. It was full throttle forwards into the dark and fuck going North, it was all about staying out of that light.
I was sucking every moment I had left for what it had, high on the speed, the night sky above us, and the mad dance with the light of death.
The loud crack split the skies just as the light trapped us. There was a sharp pain in my chest; I was hit. The minor detail of me being dead hadn't mattered; right then it had seemed quite natural that I could steer a motorboat while being dead, as long as I wanted it enough and just ignored the pain.
But I had only been hit a small piece of plastic; their shot had hit out boat. The crack had been Martin, killing off their searchlight with Niller's hunting riffle. I hadn't been aware he had brought it.
Niller had given birth to a foal when he found out about the run, and about the weapons. About Martin and Palle bringing me along.
No amount of good Dutch speed and skunk could have calmed him.
That's when Niller made the decision to leave without me if nothing else worked.
I came to a full stop at that realization.
Sounds from downstairs tore me out of my reverie. Somebody was coming up the stairs, taking two steps at a time.
The closed door muted Joey's voice from downstairs; he was loud enough to be understood. "Justin, wait!"
There was a symbolic knock on the door, then it was opened and Justin poked his head in. "Chris... Oh. Hi, Mikkel."
Chris buried his face in the crook of my shoulder. He tensed up as he struggled to bring his body back online. "Fuck. This better be hell of a lot important, infant."
"Uh. It is." Justin watched us with round eyes, chewing on his lip. "JC's missing."
"I'm running around in circles and panicking," muttered Chris. "See me run and panic, run and panic, run and panic."
More people were coming up the stairs and then Joey was looking over Justin's shoulder.
"Welcome back," I muttered, nuzzling the slick braids.
Chris' cheeks pushed against my arm and side as he smiled, the smile ending in a groan. He rolled over and sat up, crossing his legs under the sheet. I pulled myself up against headboard.
"Okay, give it to me. Slowly."
I could think of several things in response to that. Chris slapped my thigh in response to my thoughts.
Justin's rendition on "slow" was pretty fast but mostly coherent. "He never came, you know, I mean, at first I thought he was late - then I figured maybe he had forgotten. He didn't answer his phone and when I got tired of waiting I went over to him. Chris, he hasn't been home since Thursday morning. Nobody fucking knows where he is; I looked everywhere and tried everything... He's gone." Justin came in and sat on the edge of the bed, looking imploringly at Chris, mutely asking him to conjure one piece of healthy JC.
Chris grunted and looked down, his thoughts spinning fast enough to make an audible whine. He plucked distractedly at his belly hairs, rubbing the dried semen off.
"Whose is it?" asked Justin; hearing his own words, his eyes widened and he turned red.
Joey looked at the ceiling.
"Mikkel's. Look, give me five, and get the fuck out of my personal space, okay?"
"Okay." Flustered, Justin got up. "We're downstairs."
"Has he disappeared like this before?" I asked Chris when Justin had closed the door.
Chris rolled out of bed and began pulling his clothes on. "Yeah. Twice that I know of, for a night or so, and he called to tell us not to worry. But then he wasn't pissed with any of us, so... I guess the answer is no."
After a strategic meeting in the kitchen and several phonecalls that came up either unanswered or negative, the four of them left to check clubs and other places that JC liked to go to. I stayed behind, dog sitting and finishing making the meal Joey had begun. Since cooking had a calming influence I made a cake too.
It definitely wasn't the time for me to sit in front of the TV and run into the news by accident. Gerald Stano tomorrow and Leo Jones on Monday - the Daily Lewinsky Show would be too much of a farce.
The doorbell rang and I got up from the floor where I had been playing with Busta and went to open the door.
"JC." I stepped aside to let him in. "You okay?"
"I..., yeah. Sure." He looked it, even if he wasn't meeting my eyes, being busy saying hello to Busta. I felt cheated for not having my relief out in a hug.
"You better call the guys and tell them that. They are all out looking for you."
He nodded to my chest and rose, cradling Busta. "Mikkel..."
"I..." he drew in a deep lungful of air. "Look, what I said, I mean, out on the lawn, I'm sorry. I was... I shouldn't have said that..." He finally met my eyes, his own wide and anxious. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. I want to talk about what you said, at a more sedate pace, but I'm not angry with you for it."
"I... Yeah... Really, you're not angry?"
"I am, but not for that. People get angry and say things in a stupid way - it usually means that there is something we should talk about when things cool down. And that's that."
He swallowed. "But?"
"But - yeah, I'm angry with you for disappearing for days without a word, I mean, I worry too, and I'm angry with you for hurting Chris, and for doing the yelling on the frigging front lawn - but that's really none of my business. Other than that - we are fine and I am really, really happy to see that you are well."
JC blinked. "Uh..."
"Go and call them home - I'll start making the salad. They are probably hungry."
I walked into the kitchen and he slipped off to the living room, leaving the door open behind him. I was straining my ears to listen; all I got was mumbling until a, "They went where?" made Busta yap.
I put the knife down and went to listen from the doorway.
"But - that's... Joey, the Steroid Five are there. ... I can't; I just tried, they don't answer. Fuck. ... Where are you? ... Okay, I'll go. ... No! Joey, that's another half an hour, we can't fucking wait. ... No! I'll go. Right now." He slammed the phone down, very effectively cutting Joey off.
Face to face he looked like a madman, shivering, his eyes huge and round. He was standing still, yet it was like his arms and legs were moving disjointedly in all directions. The fear was beaming off him, infecting me, too, and I didn't even know what this was about.
"Shit, the car keys."
"You don't have a car?"
He shook his head once. Then his face cleared. "I can borrow yours."
"You can drive stick?"
"Yes! ... No."
"You take Busta. The leash is on a hook by the front door." I ran upstairs to get my keys and wallet.
JC was waiting by the car when I came out, cradling a leashed and writhing Busta that rather would be on the ground, and, when we were in the car, rather would be roaming the car.
JC threw directions at me while trying to calm Busta down.
"Do you mind telling me why I'm out here breaking the traffic laws?" I asked when both JC and Busta had calmed some. Busta was busy on the back seat, sniffing the smells of her old home.
"Justin and Chris are checking up on a party - like, looking for me; a lot of my old friends are there tonight, and Chris', like, his Archenemy is there - all five of them. And they don't know, Chris and Justin, they don't know. And these guys are like - huge. And they are fucking dangerous."
"And what are we doing?"
"I thought, maybe if we got there first, Chris and Justin had a way to drive, then we could wait outside. And stop them before..."
"And if... We'll just have to see, right."
"Yeah. Left here and then a long straight stretch."
"What do you mean "dangerous"?"
"Ah... They fight?"
"Do they have weapons?"
"You mean like guns and knives? It's not like that. But... I mean - they fight. For real and. Yeah. Right at the third traffic light after this. And - that's the street, it's far down, I don't remember the number."
"Try Justin again."
"My cell's out of power," muttered JC. "Man, we should have left them a message. Just in case."
I had too many ideas as to why Justin might have chosen to turn his cell phone off, ideas that I really didn't want to think about. JC didn't say anything about it either.
I turned down the street. JC was gnawing his finger and twisting in his seat, looking out the windows. "Slow down," he then said. "It's just a few houses m-stop!"
I did. Then I checked the mirrors; glad there wasn't more traffic than there was.
"Back up... A bit more... That's Lynn's car. Fuckfuckfuck..."
"The house?" There were a lot of cars parked in the street. Somebody was having a party.
"Four-six houses further down. Man, I just hope the Steroid Five are not here yet."
I could recognize the partying house when I got to it - the cars were parked in two rows and there were lots people inside the lit rooms and there were a few people out on the lawn too. I found a spot in the second row of cars, right behind a car with mostly torn off bumper stickers, and stopped. Feeling bad about leaving Busta behind, I followed JC into the driveway.
"JC!" A smallish guy came bounding towards us on slightly unsteady feet.
"AJ." JC stopped and returned the one armed hug of AJ, careful of AJ's drink. "Hi. Have you seen Chris?"
"Punk Rabbit? He was here. He ran off again - man, he's in trouble, Sasha's gorilla brothers chased him. Justin was here, too. He's probably with Chris." He eyed me, hidden behind dark glasses. "Hi."
"Mikkel, this is AJ. That's Mikkel, a friend of Chris. We're looking for Chris and Justin."
"They ran that way." AJ pointed to the next back yard, making a swing away from JC, his whole body following the arm that kept pointing. JC caught him before he could fall.
"Have you any idea when?" I asked when AJ was rebalanced.
AJ checked the level in his drink and hummed. "A quarter of an hour, maybe a bit more. Hey - is this the same drink?"
JC frowned. "None of them have come back?"
"My drinks? Not yet. Oh. No, no. I've been talking with Sasha..."
"Okay. Thanks." JC gave AJ a squeeze. "See you."
"Hey - you got a phone we can borrow?" I asked AJ.
He paused, mulling it over, then he grinned and dug out his cell phone and gave it to JC. "I want it back tomorrow."
"Thanks. Sure. I'll come over."
AJ nodded and mumbled the access code in JC's ear.
"Got it." JC shivered.
"See you, man." AJ patted JC's behind and smiled. If JC hadn't glanced nervously at me, I would have thought nothing of AJ's drunken caress.
I nodded goodbye and walked off to the car, desperately wanting out of there now that we had a pointer. Behind me JC said another goodbye and was back in the car almost as fast as I was.
"I think I know why they turned the phone off."
"They were hiding. How about you keep look out towards the gardens, I keep an eye on the other side of the road?"
JC nodded and rolled down his window before beeping around with the phone. "Fuck, Justin-" For a second I thought he had actually reached Justin. Then it became clear he was just leaving a message.
Next he called Lance, talking while looking out the window. I drove along as fast as JC could accept; he put a hand on my arm whenever he thought it was too much.
"Okay - what now?" I stopped at a crossroad; on the other side were a string of greasy looking small stores, a gas station and a used car sales place. "Did they stick to this area or did they cross the road?"
"I would have crossed the road, I think. Looks like there are a lot of hiding places."
It looked like a lot of frighteningly deep shadows to me. Belatedly I shut the door on my imagination; this was no time to have it playing tricks on me. "'Kay. You listen out for dogs." Wham! I wished I could do the shutting more selectively.
"Ah. Right. Dogs." He stared at the fenced yard behind the used car place as if expecting to see torn off limps hanging form the wires. "I'm not sure there are dogs in that place. Not so fast."
I slowed down some then came to a full stop at a yet another crossroad; the roads going off to the sides were ominously dark, lit only by a few streetlights. Oh, no. I don't like this place.
"Turn right." I did what JC said. That took us into the most shadowy road. There was hardly any traffic, so stopping to listen was no problem at all. "Turn the motor off, I can't hear." I did that too and rolled my own window down a crack, listening, and hearing nothing other than the hum of the city and the whispers of the monsters hiding in the deep shadows. JC patted my arm and I started the car again. We entered a stretch where several streetlights were out.
It was a Chris kind of place. I kept expecting to see him striding purposefully along on the walkway, undaunted by the shadows, hips rolling, braids swinging. "How far are we from Chris' old apartment?"
"A mile or two? Perhaps three." JC said and stared at me; I realized what I just had said. "Of course, man. That's that way." He pointed in the opposite direction. "I think. You got a map?"
"No. It's in the other car." In the glove compartment. And with a neat circle around a club protected by the Spanish Inquisition, a very safe place that likely was getting it's nightly scrubbing right then. "My sense of direction says the same thing, though."
I turned the car and we headed the opposite way, going faster but slowing at JC's urgence when we reached the part of the road we hadn't been on before. By then I was ready to scream. When JC had had another stop-and-listen I whistled the dog call instead.
"Shit. Warn a guy," muttered JC and rubbed his ear.
There was no answer to my whistling other than Busta going bonkers in the backseat. JC reached between our seats and petted her.
Several crossroads, stop-and-listens and whistles later the road came to an end in a T.
"What is this?" I eyed the wall on the other side of the road in front of us.
"It looks like... a park?"
I shifted the map inside my head. Chris had talked about a park and I remembered it from the map. This could be it. "The one where he went rollerblading? A couple of waterholes, kind of big."
JC shrugged, frowning.
"They could scale that wall."
"Yeah, probably. Uh... You know, the trouble would be getting Chris down from it. It's pretty high."
"Jump down?" Into the darkness... I remembered the way his body had tensed. Remembered his warm squirmy body... Unhurt - please, let him be unhurt. I want a whole Chris. "Not good, huh. But with five thugs at their heels? Justin could push him."
"Mikkel. He wouldn't."
"Okay." I would have and it didn't make me feel bad at all. "Maybe the gates are lower."
"I... look, doesn't that look like a hole in the wall?" He pointed. "Maybe it's a gate."
I got the car into the sparse traffic and headed for what might be a gate - what was a gate made of thick iron bars. It was lower than the wall, and had decorative but nasty pointy spears on top. I stopped the car.
"Ouch, my balls," mumbled JC.
Ouch, what a darkness behind it.
No way am I climbing that.
And there's Busta.
And the darkness.
And five thugs...
Did Chris really climb that?
Chris and Justin, alone, in a place like that?
Wham. Stop images...
JC was already on his way out of the car. I pulled the lever releasing the trunk, got the flashlight from the glove compartment and got out, picking up a few tools from the trunk on the way over to JC.
"Sssh." JC hissed, quieting me. Using the flashlight I studied the path on the other side of the gate. If it stuck to that width it would fit a car snugly. JC straightened, signaling that he had finished listening. "You hear anyth- What are you doing?"
You can work wonders on a locked lock with a solid large screwdriver and a heavy socket wench if you know just where to apply the punch and the gate is cooperating. "Opening the gate," I said but by then the answer was pretty superfluous. "Look, the path is wide enough for a car."
"Are you out of your mind? You can't... You can't take a car into a park. That's - you can't."
"Why not? If the path is wide enough and the squirrels-"
"Sssh." He gripped my arm. "Hear that."
I listened and thought I heard voices; the pulse was loud in my ears and I didn't trust my imagination not to make up sound effects. The growls were definitely not real.
"There's somebody in there, or on the walkway..." He looked along the walkway. "I heard yelling - didn't you?"
I shrugged, relieved that JC could make sensible sense of the night sounds when I couldn't. "I think I heard something. How far? And where?"
JC pointed along the wall. "Far. There's probably a gate that's closer. And - well it could have been from the walkway, but I'm almost sure it was from inside."
I was on my way to the car. "Come on. We take the next gate."
JC jumped back in the car. I put the tools and the flashlight in his lap. "Seatbelt." I fastened my own and turned the key.
"Keep an eye out for a gate." With the speed we were going I figured I better concentrate on the traffic.
"Coming up ahead; brake... See it?"
Busta yapped, maybe she saw it too. Or maybe it was in irritation because she had tumbled to the floor when I braked; JC helped her back up.
Once again we got out to listen. This time I was sure I heard something from the direction JC pointed out to me. "Jimmy - over here." It wasn't a voice I knew.
"That's them. That's Johnny."
"He said Jimmy."
"Yeah." JC looked at me with wide eyes, shivering. "They are twins."
"Oh." I forced the lock open. Twins - so they probably have just the right height for knocking their heads together.
JC had reached the end of protests; he just pushed the gate open and held it while I inched the car inside. Nobody stopped us, there were no sudden bursts of blinking blue lights or blaring synthetic alarms. JC let the gate shut quietly before he slipped in. "They were moving away - that direction, I think. Turn the lights off."
"What? I have to see, man. There are trees in here. And trash containers. And friends." And monsters. Look at them moving in the shadows, their eyes burn, burn. And they have claws and long, sharp teeth.
Chris is outside - in that. And Justin, fuck, he's just a kid.
"Look, we want to find Justin and Chris before they do-"
For a second I thought he was talking about the monsters. Then I realized it was the Steroid Five. "How can we find them we can't see? How can they find us?"
"Just - turn the lights down, then. Don't go so fucking fast."
I flicked the lights down a notch and de-clutched the engine, letting the speed and the downward slope carry us silently along the winding path. JC stuck his head out the window but pulled it back in. "The wind - I can't hear."
It was well enough that he didn't have his head near the window frame - the path turned and separated. I flung the car down the path that appeared to go off in the direction we had heard the voices from. It was pure guesswork, though; with all the winding going on we might end up pointing the opposite way.
It was a bad stretch indeed; monsters were scrabbling against the car. I tried to get JC to close his window but he wouldn't.
"We are right in the breeding grounds." I argued but he just hissed at me, sounding most of all like he was about to bite.
When the car rolled to a stop we were more or less perpendicular to the direction JC thought was theirs. He stuck his head out the window. I bit my lip to keep from yelling, shivering, expecting to see him headless, bleeding all over the seat, once he pulled back inside.
Miraculously he kept his head. "No, nothing - arrrgh."
Maybe Chris would guess just who was driving around in the park in a car that obviously had a stick drive, and an excited pup on the back seat. I stepped on the clutch pedal again and we sailed along quietly - except for the yapping.
Until I almost missed a turn, a very sharp turn.
"Fuck!" JC was thrown forward and there was a yelp and a couple of thuds from the back. I stared at the illuminated water right in front of us, full of huge, writhing, black snakes. Loch Ness monsters. My heart was going at double speed and my hands grasped the wheel with a will of their own. JC twisted between our seats to check up on Busta, blocking my access to stick and handbrake with his body.
"There boy, there. Good little puppy-" he muttered. "Yeah, good boy. Come here. There, good boy."
"Hold on to her, we might need to get out of the car in a hurry. She can't swim."
"Got him." JC moved back in his seat.
I took another couple of breaths, and got enough control over my hands to let go of the wheel and pull the handbrake tight. My legs were shaking and it wasn't all because of the effort of stepping on the brake. I eased the car into reverse, released the handbrake slowly and had every nerve-cell focused on handbrake, clutch and gas pedal; just a fraction of a slip and we could slide the rest of the way into a water full of deathly monsters.
"These tracks aren't made for driving really." JC swallowed audibly.
I grinned, thankful of his lack of panic. "Here we go. Shit..." The wheels turned without gripping - then they took and we moved backwards, away from the snake pool and back onto the path.
I contemplated what was in front of us. "That bridge isn't meant for cars either. Really."
JC chuckled, sounding as shaken as I did. The wooden bridge might be just wide enough for the car, only I didn't trust it to carry the weight. "Shine the light behind us, will you? I need to turn the car."
JC slipped Busta onto my lap, grabbed the flashlight and snaked his upper body out of the window. I did my best to ignore the monsters lurking at the edge of the light and mapped out a path. "Okay."
He turned the flashlight off, slipping back in; again he had been lucky - his head and upper body were unscathed still attached to the lower part. Maybe he's in league with the monsters. The monsters rushed in, taking me by surprise. I bit my lip, screaming silently in horror, and sat still, very still, trying to get a grip on myself.
Busta started yapping and courageously but utterly stupidly jumped from my lap to JC's and tried to climb out the window.
JC reached out and flicked the headlights off.
"What the fuck?" My voice broke.
"I can't hear." He slapped my hand away from the light control. "Sssh!"
"You need light to use your ears?"
Busta fell silent, too, whining. I wanted to mewl with her. The motor hummed a low and steady hum, masking the moves of the monsters that quietly was surrounding the car, a thick wall of powerful evil- "It's Chris." I suddenly knew what Busta and the restless shadows were telling us.
JC mewled. "And Jimmy and Johnny and Bill and I forget his name."
"You strapped in?" If we went across the bridge fast enough it wouldn't have to take the weight of the car once we had passed the top of the arch. The move also might be quick enough to evade the troll under the bridge. The only problem was that I had no idea of what was on the other side.
JC moved about and the seatbelt clicked. Busta yapped again, sounding much surer, and tried to get to the window. Shadows were moving on the bridge, the smallest of them with a potted plant on its head. Eeeh!
Not monsters. Chris!
I rolled down my window a notch. "Don't just stand there," I told them, willing them to move, and, getting smart again, I rolled up the window and shifted the gear. Reverse? Yes. Good.
"Come on," JC chimed in with me.
The doors behind me was torn open. "Busta!"
And Busta went something like Chrischrischris in Puppy.
Justin and Chris tumbled inside slamming the doors behind them. "Go!" said Chris.
JC hissed "Strap in!"
"What the fuck took you so long?"
I flicked on the long light, and there, on the bridge, was a small army of very dirty, broad and tall men, holding up their arms and turning their heads away, faltering when the strong light blinded them. I stepped on the gas pedal and the car shot backwards, tyres squealing and gravel flying. As I shifted to forward, I saw two of the men jumping over the railing and into the water. Still, I didn't trust the other Sasha-mercenaries not to jump the car so I turned as fast as I could and accelerated out of there, all my attention on the driving. It was a lot easier to navigate with the headlights on full burn.
A hand squeezed my shoulder, warm, moist and with a grainy feel to it. Chris.
So, we had outrun the Steroid Five. I slowed down, took a hand of the wheel and gave that dear grimy hand a squeeze. "How are you two?"
"Fine," chirped Chris; for once the energy in his voice sounded fake. But - he's fine. They are fine.
Justin groaned. "Wet, dirty, got fucking burs and barbs everywhere... My sneakers. We're great."
"You still have your balls?" asked JC.
"Fucking gates," muttered Chris. "Basically, yes."
I tried to see him in the mirror, but it was too dark. "Functional is fine."
Chris chuckled and rubbed my shoulder.
"Next time - give me a fucking phone call."
"Yeah, I'm sorry... Really. I..."
"You know what? I'm gonna guilt you; I'm gonna guilt you so fucking much you'll want to do my laundry - you'll fucking want to iron my underwear until Christmas."
"Yeah." JC sighed. Chris pulled his hand away and the car fell quiet except for Chris mumbling nonsense to Busta.
I had missed a turn and we ended up by what I hoped was the first gate I had broken open.
"Now what?" asked Justin from between JC and me.
JC got out and jogged up to the gate and pulled it open, holding it as I squeezed the car out on the walkway. Out where there were nice bright lights. The clunk of the gate falling shut in the face of the night monsters behind us felt good, so good.
My stomach ached. I was hungry.
"Don't tell me that gate was open all the while," said Justin between clenched teeth when JC got in. "Chris?"
"Hey, stop that - I'm not telling you."
JC giggled. "Mikkel, erh, opened? it." He held the wench and screwdriver up.
I wonder what the statute of limitations is for that. Break and entry. Driving around in a park. Disturbing the night monsters...
I stopped at a red light; looking around for blue blinking lights, I caught Chris' eyes in the mirror. His face was smeared with grime. Aliens had made another nest out of his hairdo. His teeth were bright when he sent me a slow and very exhausted smile that came from deep inside.
I want to hug you.
He nodded and wrapped me in a gaze.
A car hooted behind us and I put my attention back on the road.
Maybe JC had learned a lesson; he called Joey to tell him we were going home. For some reason thinking of Joey made my hunger even more acute.
Shit - Mormor!
I forgot my grandmother.
Shit, shit, shit. Mormor!
Tom's going to flay me.
No statute of limitations on that - it's forever.
"JC, call my home number, will you?" I asked once he had finished talking with Joey.
"Let me," said Chris and JC handed him the phone. "This is not yours."
"AJ's?" said Justin puzzled. "You've got AJ's phone?"
Chris punched the numbers and hushed Justin.
"Sssh. Rose? Hi, it's Christopher. Guess what - your own grandson forgot you-"
I groaned and tried not to listen. It was impossible with the imp sitting right behind me. "Until when? ... Okay, I'll tell him. ... Yeah, right here; he's driving. ... Well, at the moment he's actually sticking to the road. Did you tell him about Magic Mountain? ... Yeah. ... You have fun too. See ya." He snapped the cell phone shut. "You're exiled until late morning tomorrow. She's still not bailing you out this side of Halloween."
"Okay." So - she was getting laid. "Good."
"Nick's number must be-"
"Chris!" One should think that JC and Justin had practiced choir together. Justin tore the phone right out of Chris' hand and gave it to JC.
"Hey, I was just gonna-"
"No." JC was very firm. "AJ trusted me with it."
"Just a teeny-weeny call? Three minutes? ...no? Two? One and a half, then? JC, pleeease? I promise I'll be good, like, really nice."
"Okay. Not Nick - hey, I could call Kevin-"
Even Chris gave up on arguing with that and we got home without being stopped by the police and without Chris starting a feud by telecommunication.
JC had another serious attack of guilt when he could see just how bedraggled his two friends were.
Lots of hugs, a good scrubbing, clean clothes, damage control to Chris' hairdo and several servings of hot food did a lot to mend the situation. Still, JC kept sending them doggy looks during the entire meal.
When Justin told how he got stuck in a muddy pond, JC's face turned green. He was already white from hearing about Chris getting stuck on top of the gate. Before the meal had ended Justin had pushed the deadline of JC's willingness to do laundry well past Halloween.
For all his smart remarks, Chris gave the impression that he might suffer sporadic, if repressed, inclinations to help JC do Justin's laundry.
After we had eaten I left the five of them alone in the kitchen; it was pretty obvious that they had some talking to do that was none of my business. Lance lent me his computer and I sat in his room, mug of coffee at hand, checking my mail and seeing if I could find anything on the whereabouts of the rally.
Once, when I surfaced, Justin's upset voice made it through the closed door downstairs and all the way up the stairs to Lance's room. "He what?"
Hopefully JC was finally getting whatever haunted him off his chest.
I repressed the inclination to sneak downstairs to listen by the door, and dove back into cyberspace. Sneaking on those creaky stairs was a doomed project.
"Hey? Mikkel?" I blinked and found a wrist with a watch in front of my face.
I checked the time. "Did I forget something?" Other than my own grandmother.
Chris frowned at his watch. "It's not working?" He gave the chair a push to make room and sat down on top of me.
Chris! Make him naked!
"Oh, the Curse." I folded my arms around him and snuggled. Warm, nice Chris. Soap and swamp water. "It self-destructed at six o'clock. You know - somebody actually put pictures out on the Web."
He twisted and blinked at the screen; it was an email in Danish. I had been busy answering birthday mails and doing what I could to fend off threatening birthday calls.
"I don't need to see child porn to know it's bad, either."
"Ah." He turned to face me, eyes liquid and dark behind the glasses. "You found a site about the bungled executions." He grimaced and wriggled, getting comfortable. "I found one too. Your stomach held up?"
"I crashed the computer before the pictures were loaded."
He grinned and hugged me; I hid my face at his neck, breathing the exquisite smell of Chris, soap and swamp water and pulled his shirt up so that I could get at warm skin. "I found out about the rally-" I told him what I had found.
"Let's go early, then."
He nibbled at my jaw and it turned into a wet kiss, a lazy kiss - I could feel the exhaustion in him, it swung with my own like a heavy, slow pendulum. He's okay. Chris is fine.
Fine body. Take all the clothes off. I want out!
"Are you gonna tell me why my watch didn't work?"
A small fear, rat shaped, poked its head out of hole. I stared hard at it and it evaporated. "The last statute of limitations, the ten year one. Like, at midnight Danish time."
"We're several hours past that."
"Yes." The exhaustion was evident in the texture of his skin; still, the power of the Shaman hummed earthly and steady inside the warm mortal body.
He held me.
It was... like entering a harbor at dawn, after a tough night on a lively sea.
There had been a different storm brewing onboard - Palle was furious with me. His gray eyes were cold and flat, very flat. He kept it in, saving it for later.
Which told me that we weren't out of the very deep waters by far.
But it was a breathing space, entering the quiet of the harbor. There were no mad Dutchmen or Belgians in motorboats to be seen when looking across the water behind us. The buoy that we had used for marking the spot where we dumped the major part of the goods was of sight too. I let myself feel relief, just for a moment.
I could still remember that moment, soft blue colors of dawn, the muted hum of the motor and the smells of sea and land. It was after all the only breath that I had been allowed to breathe that night and that morning.
Palle's voice shredded it. I remember the voice but the words are gone. Not a great loss, really. Though some of the threats would probably sound funny today.
I had seen the panic behind his anger. It hadn't been until several years later, when I recognized a murdered man's face on a front-page of a paper, that I understood just what kind of gang we were meeting in that empty warehouse when we got back. Understood what kind of dangerous game Martin had played when he told them that we were out, and how lucky we had been when they actually, as far as I knew, left us alone.
Palle had known.
And I had thrown his stupid gun overboard...
"I hate guns," I told Chris.
He rubbed my shoulder.
"They change people." Palle with the black pistol in his hand and a mad gleam in his eyes. Ordering people around.
"Dude. Being dead is major change."
"Oh... Nobody died. Or was wounded." And that - that was really something to be happy about. "That was luck. I was thinking - when my friend pulled out that fucking gun, it was like I didn't know him anymore. He was totally out of whack. I mean, so they were going to cheat us, but what's a few kilograms of stupid Dutch speed compared to... What do you say when friends turn into strangers, doing stupid things with guns?"
Chris had stiffened. "Scram!" he snapped.
My heart skipped beats and then took off at high speed, and everything collapsed inside me. I hadn't realized just how vulnerable I was right then and how stupid, letting my mouth run as if...
Of course Chris wouldn't hang around with drug smuggling idiots and alliances of occasionally gun-horny maniacs. He was smart like that.
"Sorry," Justin said behind me.
"And flush the can." Chris said after him.
I stared at Chris. He held my gaze without disgust... I looked and looked and perhaps there wasn't going to be any disgust. He stuck his tongue out at me. "Fucker," was all I could say, embarrassed by my distrust. Chris grinned. I hid my face by his neck; the relief was so overwhelming that I couldn't keep the water works entirely under control.
"Stop that," he muttered and wrapped himself around me. I bit him and he chuckled.
* * * * * * *
End of chapter 14
© Morgenfryd 2002