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Abductions and Reflections
An Idolwood story
Start at the beginning of the Idolwood series
Alex and Grey stood on the shared porch in the half-dead light of the springtime sun; Grey listening intently as Alex spoke loudly and slowly, working to cover any noise from Isaac's re-entry to his rooms. "So I got seven of them. There might still be one left, at the Oak Opening parking lot. I didn't get to that one before she showed up."
"You called her thin—she was remarkably thin?" Grey's voice rose with excitement. "She might have been the one who tried to break into my house!"
Alex nodded, his eyes bright. "Makes sense, if she's the one leaving the dolls. She'd try to get them back."
"If she had a gun, though..." Grey swallowed. "I mean, why didn't she use it in the break-in? If she was armed..." Why not shoot me, he thought, and felt a hollow in his stomach. The porch lurched to one side in his mind, forced him to steady himself with a hand against the banister.
"It was just one doll. She thought she could get it back. It wasn't worth assault. I crushed them when I found them. The way Edie did, you know? Going after all of them, that might be more serious." He shook his head. "I don't know if I want to be part of this anymore."
Grey shook his head. The skin around his eyes was tight, his thick lips pursed. "I don't know if you've got a choice, Alex. I mean, if she's seen you—she knows who you are and where you live, where we both live. God, I wish Isaac had never found that thing."
Both men were silent a moment. Grey shook his head, looked up into Alex's eyes. "Look, come inside. You've been through a lot today. You want a drink or something for your nerves?"
"No. I don't drink." His youthful, easygoing features were creased now, thick arms crossed on his broad chest. "Listen, Grey. You're in, too. Right?"
"Alex—I was in when it was just creepy. If it's an actual threat to my family—if Edie's right—"
"Then yes, of course. Of course I am."
"Okay then." Alex lowered his voice. "So... you can't afford to look for another job now, you know? I need you watching our houses. All the time, Grey."
Grey blinked twice, then looked to the side; his voice flat. What?"
"I can't take any more time off. Not from my schedule, not now. Listen, I felt it, Grey. I saw her when I couldn't have seen her. I felt her when I couldn't have known she was there. I saw it because of the run. Because that's my place as much as it is hers. Those paths, the woods—hell, once she was gone, standing over those kids? I could still feel it."
"It was adrenaline."
Alex shook his head. "No. I've had runner's high. It's more than that. I could see the paths; I knew where everything was happening. I was everywhere. I was all over the Glen, and I knew right where she was until she turned around."
"What happened when she turned around?"
"I don't know!" Alex's face contorted, now beyond frustration. The thick veins along his biceps twitched as though he longed to lash out, as if only locking them across his chest kept him from punching a hole in the floor, the wall, or whoever might be closest.
"This is new to me, yeah? She was there, she had the gun, and she turned around and just... disappeared, like she was never there. I came down. Like when you're cooling down from a power jerk and all your muscles are flooding from relief? That feeling."
He was scared, Grey realized. Not only had his life been threatened, but his routine, the thing most precious to him, had been ripped apart. He'd been hunted through a place he felt safe, hunted by a psychotic with a handgun. Grey had asked him to do it, pushed him to do it; and a guilty sense of shame flooded him with the realization.
"Okay. That makes sense, Alex, I understand. Tonight, though, I have to get Isaac to his mother's house. It won't take long; she's just two towns over, in Barrington. You stay here; watch the house while I'm gone. I'm going to call Edie and pick her up on the way back. Then... then we'll all sit down and talk. We'll set up a plan, a pattern. Okay?"
Alex's lips twitched to one side. "Yeah, okay," he said, casting his eyes down. With his arms crossed, he looked like an overgrown child, needing to be appeased. "Listen, Grey, about the drink?"
"You want one?"
"No... look, I get it if you can't, but can you pick up dinner on the way back?"
"Yes, of course, Alex. Of course I can." He lowered his pitch and slowed his words down, as if he were trying to calm Isaac. "What do you want to eat?"
"You know Midland Harbor, downtown? Get me the redfish with two sides of pasta." The tension began to melt from his face and posture. "You want anything? I can call it in."
Grey calculated the cost of a meal at the Harbor. He and Deborah had been there only twice due to the cost. If he couldn't work—which was still up for debate—then it was more than he wanted to spend.
Yet he'd have to keep up appearances if he wanted them to listen to him. Neither of them held real jobs, after all. It was just like consensus-building back at the office.
"Steak," he said, "Call in the New York strip, with a baked potato. I don't feel like dessert, though."
"You want to get something for Edie?"
Grey closed his eyes. "Let me call her first, see if it's in her price bracket."
"I'm good for it."
He was good for it, the overgrown man-child living on protein shakes and jerky. Suddenly he wanted the best meals in town. Grey nearly spat out his refusal, then pursed his lips. A gun, he thought, an actual gun. His temper and insistence had nearly pulled a gun on his neighbor.
"I'll make you a deal, Alex." He kept his voice slow and level. "If she needs help we'll split it for her, okay?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Grey. I appreciate it. Saturday, you know… it's usually I go down myself, to the Harbor, once a week, for fish night. I've just got to eat something, though."
"Sure, Alex. Let me grab Isaac. I'll be as quick as I can."
"I'll pick you up on Wednesday." Grey let the BMW idle, keeping his eyes from the house. His house, the one Deborah taken from him. She'd put in plants along the sides, messy, colorful things that announced a woman's presence; and daubed splashes of purple and blue along the fence posts rather than the deep brown he had left behind.
"Yes, sir." Isaac sat a moment, and then turned to Grey. "You've got to pop the trunk for my skateboard."
"Oh, right." He pressed the button. "Gentle when you close it."
"Yes, sir." Isaac shouldered his backpack and went to the rear. Grey watched him in the rear-view mirror, struck once again by how small he was—how fragile he seemed, every time he left him behind. He needed the discipline of a loving father; true, but maybe he'd focused too much on the discipline, and not enough on the rest.
That woman had tried to get into the house. She might be trying to get Isaac. Grey shut his eyes and thanked God, for once, that they shared custody. At least the house—Deborah's house—would be safe enough for a few days. He might be able to convince Deb to keep him for the week. He could claim a business trip, move on from there.
"Isaac," he called through the open window. "Come here a minute."
Isaac stiffened, and then turned. Grey's face hardened. He expected some kind of lecture. Well, he has a right to, Grey thought. It was their usual practice, before all the dolls, and break-ins, and handguns.
Grey leaned over the leather seats and looked into his son's eyes.
"I love you, Isaac." He wanted to say more. "That's all."
Isaac looked to one side, shifted the backpack, and then shifted his weight from leg to leg. "Love you too, dad. Is..." He stopped the question on his tongue. "I'm sorry about earlier. About... you know, the fighting."
"Have a good time with her, all right? Try to behave, and sleep tight."
"Okay." The silence was unbearable.
"Okay. I'll see you Wednesday." Grey pulled from the curb, waving one hand from the open window and watching as Isaac grew smaller and smaller, as he slipped further and further away.
Isaac walked up the path of his mother's house, thinking of Miss Edie's gardens. They were beautiful, but so wild. Here the plants were set in neat little rows; patterns some landscaper had decided were popular this season. He couldn't help comparing the two and thinking Edie's came away ahead of the game.
The door was locked. He took the key ring from his backpack and opened it, shouting, "Mom?"
An empty house, the foyer freshly painted a salmon pink with white trim. He propped his skateboard against the wall, just beneath the rack where Deborah kept her keys, jacket and umbrella. The keys were gone, which meant—no surprise—she wasn't home. Isaac laid his backpack next to the skateboard and headed for the kitchen.
The note was written on a yellow legal pad, one left over from the divorce. He'd used a permanent marker to cover up the lawyers' names a year ago, but still, it was the only paper she ever left him notes on.
Dad said it was in case he came in, just to give him a jab. Not that he'd been in for months.
Welcome home. Had to run out with Greta for a bit—teleconference with clients tonight but I'll be home before dark. There are brownies or hummus in the fridge if you're hungry. Love you.
Isaac frowned. The teleconferences always took forever, and of course she'd be busy preparing notes and such beforehand. He looked at the calendar on the wall—ten o'clock, conference with Sleater.
She knew he was coming over tonight. She knew he'd be here, but she went ahead and set up the conference anyway. Greta could have come over, too, instead of making him wait by himself in the too-big house. Instead they went out to the coffee shop, just like a couple of girls.
He felt the heat rising in his face. He and dad had been going back and forth all week, and now mom left him alone at dinnertime, with what? Hummus? At that moment, he couldn't think of a thing he wanted less.
"This is just... god damn it," he muttered, kicking the refrigerator door as he pulled out two brownies and a Coke.
Throwing himself on the white sofa, he put his feet on the cushions and started to eat, letting the chocolate mess melt in his mouth, on his fingers. The rebellion was short-lived, thinking of what she'd say if he tracked food all over the couch. Mom liked to keep things clean.
He licked his fingers, wiped his face, then licked again before picking up the remote and turned the television to an alternative music station.
Neither of them wanted him around, really. If they did things would be different.
The teleconference was at ten o'clock. He could be out the window at ten-fifteen and out to Morgan Glen by half past eleven if he hurried. There was no way Jenny Malloy would come out, and Isaac would be there to make sure of it. He'd make sure Brandon knew it, too.
For once, Isaac Jordan was going to come out on top.
Gamine was accustomed to the sleepless nights. Her hollow belly roiled against the black coffee, raw spinach and pills which made up her mealtimes. Her mind sharpened itself on the whetstone of the past, the present, the whole grand mess of her life.
Tonight she thought of the compound where she grew up, the tall Scotch pines, and the high plains heat. Remembering her first teacher, the feel of the child's pistol in her hands, the sense of his bulk looming behind her, his steadying hand on her shoulder as the shot went wide, as the rabbit meant for dinner leapt to one side and escaped.
She remembered his calming words, his sweet voice. She remembered his endless gentleness to the Family.
It had been a good life until the reckoning; when she herself had leapt to the side to escape the dragnet, the false warrants, the bright red slashes across the chain-link fences and rust-red earth. Before they had come to tear them apart, just as Mama warned they would.
She kept her eyes closed, and she waited for dawn, August's sweet bulk comforting her in the bed at her side beneath a hand-knit quilt of green and gold, starched white sheets and the sick green blinking of the alarm clock from his side of the bed.
He stirred beside her. She kept her eyes closed. She didn't want the Hanged Man to worry.
One of his great hands fluttered beneath the quilt, his left hand, his mojo hand, the one which breathed life into cloth and clay. He muttered in his sleep, eyes rolling beneath their lids, and his great form shifted to the side, facing her now.
He'd forgotten to brush his teeth, again, and she wrinkled her nose against the staleness of his breath as he whispered, "Boys, boys... Oak... Oh, Glen."
Oak Opening. Morgan Glen.
The boy. The traitor's boy, that other child of a lone father. The wandering little brother of her beloved's beautiful children.
Her eyes snapped open, sharp and bright and restless.
She had placed the silencer in her bag along with the PK-380 after her tantrum, after his calmness, after the fierce and strangling orgasms of the afternoon.
She had added a pair of brass knuckles, a pair of black gloves, a length of piano wire, a pair of handcuffs. She had removed the license plates from the car. Just in case such a thing were to happen again, in case a chance to redeem herself arrived.
She would go. Just to look, just to be sure—she would go. If she were wrong, nothing need be done.
If she were right... how pleased her love would be.
Isaac skated down the street, clad in a black hoodie and black denim jeans. He'd avoided three cars so far, ducking into the grass at the side of the road when he heard their engines or spotted their headlights. None had been police, but it paid to be careful, he thought. Village curfew was ten o'clock. He didn’t want to be caught, to be grounded.
Nearing Morgan Glen, he flipped the skateboard up and carried it in his left hand, heading into the woods alongside the entrance. The gate stood ajar. Brandon had tried to show him how to jimmy locks before, but Isaac hadn't been interested.
A car came creeping up from deeper within the forest, its lights off, moving as silent and still as possible. Isaac peered at the shape—a sedan, not the Mustang Brandon routinely took from under his older brother's nose.
Was it Jenny? Had Brandon been telling the truth? If he had, and they were leaving now, there was no point to the trip... but no, the Mustang sat in the main parking lot, apart from the scattered pools of light cast by the electrics of the preserve. Brandon sat on the trunk, the red pinprick of a cigarette barely visible at this distance.
Grinning, Isaac moved closer. Maneuvering to the picnic area in front of the car, he slipped from the woods and moved like a trapper circling his prey to the hood of the Mustang. He laid his skateboard in the grass, placed both hands on the hood, and shoved down hard with an Indian war whoop.
Brandon jumped from the trunk with a shout, cigarette dropping onto the front of his t-shirt and throwing sparks against the white. Isaac strutted around the car, grin plastered across his broad child's face.
"Jesus Christ, Isaac." Brandon stepped forward. "I ought to knock you into next fucking week."
"Try it," said Isaac, puffing out his chest. The night air, the liberty, the pleasant sense of false danger conspired to make him bold. "Go on, give it a shot... fucker."
"What the hell are you doing out here?"
"I came to say hi to Jenny," he said, shading his brow with one hand and pretending to look around the parking lot, "but I guess she's not here, huh?"
"It's too early, dumbass. You're early."
"So who's your other friend, the one who just left?"
Brandon stopped, looked Isaac up and down. "You saw someone, huh?" He shrugged at Isaac's nod. "It's just a little business. I met him at one of the other entrances."
"What kind of business?" Isaac's voice lost some of its edge. He'd seen some of the boys Brandon was hanging around, rough-edged boys from the part of town Grey called 'Little Mexico' with a sneer.
"None of yours," said Brandon, pulling another cigarette.
"Then why'd you tell me to come here tonight?"
He shrugged. "It was funny. I didn't think you'd have the balls to actually do it."
"Well... I did." He wanted to know more. Brandon had become a stranger in the past year, growing faster than he had; but he'd been his friend for so long. It was a hard habit to break.
"So what kind of business was it, Brandon?"
"Nothing you need to know about. Drop it, okay? You want to see Jenny or not? I ought to just throw you in the trunk and make you listen while we fuck."
"Brandon, I'm serious."
"Yeah? Well, I am too." The bigger boy stepped forward. "I'm not a kid any more, Isaac. You get that? I'm getting too old for games. I'm getting too old for you. Understand? I put up with you. Like a kid brother who needs babysitting. That's it. That's all it is."
Isaac's face flushed. "Yeah? You think it's funny? You think we don't put up with your bullshit, me and Joey and Bill? You think we like hanging out with you?"
"I don't give a fuck what you like," said Brandon, stepping forward again. He grabbed Isaac by the hoodie and swung him around, pushing him away from the Mustang and out into the parking lot. "Understand that? You can like your little dolls, and your kid's games, and that fat little cunt with the freckles, or whatever, but I've got bigger plans."
"Don't call her that!"
"She's a cunt and so are you." Brandon pushed him again, further from the car, angry and spitting. "What are you going to do about it? Huh?" He grabbed at him again, balled the fabric of the hoodie in his hands. "I'm too old for your games. I'm too old for you. My new friends? They're my speed."
Neither noticed the town car until it was too late. Its lights were off, cruising in neutral to the front of the parking lot, stopping in front of the entrance—and blocking it.
"Hello, boys," called Gamine with a wide smile, stepping from the car, halfway into the light. "Little late for you to be out."
Brandon let go of Isaac's shirt, both of them turning. "Who are you?"
Her smile became a smirk, biting her lower lip with tiny teeth, the left canine askew. "What are you two doing so far from home, so late at night? Waiting for someone? You got a date?"
Without thinking Isaac stepped behind Brandon, placing the older and bigger boy in between them. All the earlier bravado leaked out of him, drained into the ground. The danger of being out past curfew without supervision didn't feel so false now. He felt his chest tightening; heard the blood pounding in his temples. He brought one hand up to tug at Brandon's shirt.
Alex had mentioned a woman.
"Come on," he whispered, "let's go."
"Yeah. I got a date." Brandon returned the smirk, but with a faint catch in his voice. He looked Gamine up and down. "Why, were you looking for one? Isaac's free, aren't you?"
"Brandon," Isaac hissed, "come on, let's go. Let's go."
"What? You're happier with your muscleman, huh?" Brandon's laughter was too loud in the night, and Gamine stepped sideways against the lights, edging closer to them. Isaac watched the shadows play across her—the hollows of her cheeks, the knifelike motion of those too-long, too-thin legs.
"Oh," she said, bending to pick up a stone—one of those Isaac and Brandon had traded with one another just that afternoon. "You mean Mr. Pajari?"
Isaac felt Brandon's back stiffen. He recognized the name, recognized that she knew it, too. Recognized this might not be the game he'd thought at first.
"It's not like that," Isaac's face flushed again, shame and humiliation warring with fear. "Brandon. Please, come on. I want to go home."
Brandon lowered his voice to a whisper, "Pajari's the guy who picked you up?"
"Yes. He talked about her. Come on, Brandon."
Brandon nodded, turning to face Gamine. "Okay. We don't want anything you got. We're gone."
"What about your date?" Gamine slid forward, leading with her right shoulder. The handbag at her side swung forward, bumped against the bones of her hips. "Won't she be... disappointed?"
"Bitch, step back. I'm not going to fuck around." Brandon pushed at Isaac, moving him toward the car—and dropped the keys into his hoodie's pockets.
"Start the car," he whispered.
Isaac's eyes widened. He wasn't being thrown under the bus, or hustled, or made fun of.
He stepped back, glanced to the Mustang, then turned and made for the passenger door.
"Tch." Gamine looked up, drew back her arm, and threw the stone in her hand at the streetlight. Its glass dome shattered, made more for aesthetics than security, and the twin sounds of buzzing coils and tumbling shards of glass filled the lot a moment.
"Go!" Brandon shouted, and turned to run. "Start it, start it!"
Isaac had the passenger door open, sprawled across the seat, jabbing keys at random into the ignition. He scrambled into a sitting position in the driver's seat, face drawn tight. Brandon threw the driver's door open and dove across the younger boy's lap just as the key slotted in.
In the rear view mirror Isaac saw Gamine pulling something from her handbag, racing toward them.
Isaac screamed and turned the ignition, thrusting both feet on the gas. The roar of the Mustang seemed to drown out the world as Brandon shoved the gearshift into reverse, and Isaac's back slammed into the seat as they car lurched straight backward for Gamine.
She dove to the left. The pavement opened the flesh along her left shoulder and forearm, jarred her grip on the pistol. She screamed then, as she had screamed in the basement. It was her very last chance this time. They'd seen her.
Brandon thrust one hand down between Isaac's legs, slamming on the brake, and with the other brought the car into drive. "Go! GO, Isaac!"
Isaac stamped on Brandon's feet, unfamiliar with cars. The howl forced him to move his feet onto the gas pedal and he turned the wheel, trying to avoid Gamine but still reach the exit. The Mustang swerved around her as she drew herself to a seated position, brought the gun around, and fired.
The driver's side front tire exploded.
Isaac felt the car sag and panicked, spinning the wheel to the right. Already too fast, the disabled car hit the safety curb and lurched onto the grassy picnic area. Brandon tumbled upside-down into the passenger's side. Isaac screamed again and took his feet off the gas, stamping to find the brakes as they crashed through a picnic table.
The lack of gas and flat tire slowed them to a roll. Unthinking, Isaac threw open the driver's side door and leapt out, landing on his pigeon-chest and skinning both his hands. In his panic, he remembered the same thing happening on his bike, on his skateboard, and he thought of his mother and father, kissing and bandaging his wounds.
They didn’t know where he was. They'd never even seen a gun, and she'd shot at him.
Gamine limped toward the car's passenger side, snarling and lifting the gun again. Isaac scrambled to his hands and knees, looking backward, but her attention was on the car. With a sob of relief, he stayed on all fours, crawling as fast as he could for the safety of the trees.
She threw open the passenger's side door and grabbed Brandon by the shirt collar, reaching down to place the pistol at his temple. Dazed, he felt the warmth of the muzzle and the pressure of the metal on his skin.
"Where'd he go? Where's your friend, huh?" Gamine panted. "Never mind. Get up. Get the fuck out of the car. Go. GO!" She dragged him from the door and pushed him to the ground. "Nice and still. Good boy. Nice and still."
He felt the metal against his wrists. He closed his eyes, hot with tears; his skin hot with terror. The coolness of the cuffs was almost comforting. "What are you doing, lady, please..."
"Shut up." She jerked the boy to his feet, keeping him off-balance, and stuck her hand into his pocket, coming away with a cellphone. "Go. Get in my car, now."
She thrust him into the spacious back seat, started the car. The town car cruised easily toward the exit, fishtailing slightly to avoid the broken glass. "Your friend—Brandon, right? Give me his numbers."
For a moment, confusion settled on Brandon. Then he nearly laughed. She thought he was Isaac.
He'd been in the passenger side when she came around, and with the streetlight she'd taken out his features and size weren't as critical. She didn't know. She didn't know it was Isaac who got away.
There was a chance to be rescued, if she slipped up.
"Eight-four-seven..." he ripped out Isaac's number, praying the kid would be smart about this.
Isaac fell flat on his face when the phone vibrated in his pocket. His eyes were wide and his skin pale, shaking with the enormity of what had just happened, of what could have happened. He rolled onto his back and looked. Brandon. Brandon.
He sobbed with relief and flipped the phone open.
The woman's voice cut across without hesitation. "Keep your mouth shut. I have your friend. Keep your damn mouth shut or he's dead. I will kill him and then I will find you and I will kill you, do you understand?"
The phone shut off, leaving him alone in Morgan Glen preserve.
Isaac lay on his back and wept, the stars and distant streetlights shimmering through a curtain of tears. He felt hot liquid dampen his groin, his thighs, smelled his fear as it sank into the ground.
Sirens were coming.
If she was serious...
His skateboard was still in the grass.
He struggled to his feet and ran on shaky legs toward the wreck of the car, grabbed the skateboard, and ran into the night, keeping the trees between himself and the road, looking only to stay out of sight.
He had to get home. Idyllwood was close, so much closer than mom's.
Dad would know what to do.
Story by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2011
Image by Amber Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2011