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Richard Laymon - The Lake

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Richard Laymon - The Lake
The Lake
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“We don’t.” His hands moved up to her breasts.

She stroked the backs of his hands as they caressed her through the sweater. “We’ll go someplace else, okay?”

“Like where?”

“Someplace that isn’t…” Allan gently pinched her nipple, and she caught a ragged breath. “…isn’t so dark,” she said in a shaky voice. “A street near home.”

“In the backseat?” She nodded.

“Wouldn’t it be better…” His voice stopped. His fingers spread out, hands still holding her breasts but motionless.




Then Deana heard it, too. “It’s just the wind,” she whispered.

“It’s a car.”

Deana’s insides went soft and loose. She tightened herself.

If it was a car, where were its headlights? Allan took a hand off her breast. The warmth went away. He pointed. At first, Deana saw only strips of moonlit parking lot in the spaces between the trees. Then a dark shape crossed one of the strips. More like a chunk of shadow than a car.

“It’s probably someone like us,” Allan whispered.

“What do you mean?”

“A couple. You know. Looking for a good place to mess around.”

“God, I hope so.”

“Let’s get back to the car.” He picked up the blanket. Deana stayed close to his side as he walked along the path. She still heard the car, but she couldn’t see it. Just before the end of the path, Allan crossed to a tree. She followed. Ducking behind its trunk, they looked out at the parking area.

The Mustang was only a few yards away. The other car was directly behind it, motionless near the middle of the lot. Its headlights were off. Its engine idled. The glare of the moonlight on the windshield prevented Deana from seeing inside.

“What do you think?” she whispered.

“I don’t like the way it’s just sitting here.”

“Do you think he can see us?”

“I doubt it.”

For a while, they watched the car in silence.

“This is crazy,” Deana finally said. “Why doesn’t he go away?”

“Maybe it is somebody making out.”

“With the engine going?”

“It’s like he’s waiting,” Allan said.

“Yeah. For us.”

“Don’t worry. Nothing can happen as long as he stays in the car and we stay here.”

“What if he gets out?”

“Comes looking for us?”


“It’d be easy to hide from him. He wouldn’t know where to start looking. Maybe we could even double back to my car.”

“Maybe we should just go to your car. Right now.”

“You think so?” Allan asked.

Her heart pounded so hard, it made her chest ache.

“At least we’d get it over with. We can’t wait around all night. And we don’t really know what he’s doing in there.”

“Maybe just enjoying the scenery,” Allan suggested in a nervous whisper. “You want to give it a try?”

“I don’t know.”

“It was your idea.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure about it.”

“It’s either that or we try to wait him out.” Allan looked over his shoulder at Deana. “Maybe we should go ahead with our original plan.”

“I’m glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”

“He might be gone by the time we get back.”

“And if he isn’t and he nails us,” Deana said, “at least we’ll have shared a few moments of bliss.”


“Shit,” she muttered.


“We’re going to feel like a couple of prize idiots after we stroll out to the car and drive off and he’s still sitting there.”

“Does that mean you want to do it?” Allan asked.

“No, I don’t want to do it, goddamn it, I’m scared shitless, but what sort of choice do we have?”

“We’d only be out in the open for a few seconds.”

“Yeah. What’s he going to do, spray us with lead?”

Allan pushed himself away from the tree trunk and stood up straight. He took a deep, loud breath and blew it out. He had the wadded blanket under his left arm. He dug his right hand into the pocket of his cords, took out his keys, and picked through them until he found the car key.

“Did you lock your side?” he whispered.

“Yeah. I always do.”

“Okay, you take the keys. Once you’re in, reach across and unlock my door.”

“Don’t give me this ‘ladies first’ stuff. You’re quicker than me.”

“Deana.” He sounded ready to argue, but paused. He was silent for a few seconds. “I know what we’ll do,” he said. “You wait here. I’ll go out to the car and bring it right up to here. Sideways, so it’ll shield you. Then you just jump in, and off we go.”

“Don’t be a…” She shook her head. That’s right, she thought, snap at him for offering to take all the risk. Leaning closer, she kissed him softly on the mouth. “You’re all right,” she whispered.

“You too.”

She stroked his cheek. She almost said that she loved him, but decided it would sound too sappy and melodramatic. This is it. End of the road. I love you. Violins. Hand in hand, the lovers stride toward their rendezvous with death.

An hour from now, we’ll be laughing about this.

Sure. Maybe in a week.

“We go out together,” she said.

“I really think…”

“You and me, pardner. Butch and Sundance.”

“Please. Not Butch and Sundance.”

“Let’s get it over with.” She took the blanket from him. He didn’t put up a fuss, apparently realizing that they would have to rely on his quickness if something went wrong. She held his hand. It felt wet and cold.

They stepped out from behind the tree and walked through the high grass, straight toward the front of his Mustang.

The headlights of the other car came on. Deana’s stomach gave a cold lurch. One of the beams was high. It crossed the other. She moaned.

“Just act normal,” Allan said.

A foot in front of the bumper, they parted hands and split up, Deana walking to the passenger door while Allan stepped to the driver’s door. She gripped the handle, thumb on the latch button, ready. Forcing her eyes away from the other car, she looked across the Mustang’s low roof and watched Allan bend over. She heard the rasp of his key entering the lock, the quiet thump of the button popping up. Allan swung his door open.

The other car sprang forward, roaring. Allan’s head snapped toward it. He was bright in the glare of its headlights, hunched over, mouth wide.

“Get in!” Deana yelled. Dropping the blanket, she ducked and peered through the door window. The ceiling light was on. Allan dived at the driver’s seat. The car got his legs, yanked him out. Deana lurched back, numb, as the speeding car ripped off the driver’s door.

It was slow motion.

It was impossible.

It was the door flipping upward, twisting, skidding across the hood of the Mustang with a trail of sparks and the car rushing past with Allan in front, hooked over the bumper, out of sight from his waist down, the rest of him draped across the side of the car, arms flapping loosely overhead.

Brakes screaming, the car had too much speed to stop before the edge of the lot. It bumped over the grass and smashed into a tree. The tree caught Allan in the rump. He was thrown backward from the waist, hair flying, arms flinging out.

The backup lights came on. The car shot backward. Allan rolled loose, hung in the air for a moment in front of the one working headlight, then dropped and tumbled.

Deana was numb, frozen. But there was a lucid corner of her mind that somehow took control. She peered through the window of the passenger door as the other car shot backward. Allan’s keys lay on the seat where they must have fallen when he was hit. Though she knew her door was locked, she thumbed the latch button anyway and jerked. The door stayed shut. The other car had stopped slightly ahead of the Mustang. Its door opened.

Deana ran.

She ran for the woods, not looking back.


Dad sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and puffing on a cigar, while Mom helped Leigh with the dinner dishes. Most of the dishes, after being rinsed, went into the dishwasher. The crystal glasses, however, Leigh didn’t trust to the machine. Those were done by hand, Mom washing them while Leigh dried.

It didn’t take long, because there were no cooking utensils to contend with. The food had been prepared by the chef at the Bayside, delivered and served by two of Leigh’s best waiters, who had since returned to the restaurant.

When the last crystal wine goblet was dry, Leigh suggested after-dinner drinks. Dad, stubbing out his cigar, asked for Scotch and water. Mom wanted Bailey’s. Leigh stayed in the kitchen to prepare the drinks while her parents headed for the living room.

The evening had gone quite well, she thought. Dad and Mom both seemed to be in excellent spirits, as if oblivious to the rather scary fact that Dad was now only a year short of sixty.

Hell, they’re young. Damn young to have a thirty-seven-year-old daughter and a granddaughter who will be starting college in the fall. They’re both in good health. They’ve got plenty to be happy about.

Me, too.

She took her time pouring the drinks.

I’ve got two great parents, a beautiful, intelligent daughter, a thriving restaurant considered the finest place to dine in Tiburon. Not to mention the house. Fabulous house.

So what’s this jittery feeling in my stomach like something’s wrong? Nothing is wrong. Probably just that Deana’s out. It’s impossible to relax completely when she’s gone at night. So much could happen. A breakdown…

Allan seems reliable, though. He’ll take care of her.

That amused Leigh.

Other way around: Deana would be the one to take charge if a problem came up. Nothing will come up. She’ll waltz through the door around one o’clock—after the movies are over.

If they went to the movies at all.

Leigh set the glasses on a silver serving tray. She knew she was a bit tipsy, so she concentrated on holding the tray steady as she carried it past the dining area and down the single step to the living room. Mom was in the stuffed chair, Dad standing by the glass wall staring out at the view. He turned around as Leigh set the tray on a low table in front of the sofa.

“I can’t get over your view,” he said.

“Me, either.” Leigh had lived in this house for eight years and still found herself staring out at it daily.

“That was a lovely dinner,” Mom said.

Leigh handed her a snifter of Irish cream. “Beef Willington is Nelson’s specialty.”

“It’s such a shame that Deana had to leave early.”

Leigh smiled and fought an urge to roll her eyes upward. Mom had to start on that. Well, she could be counted upon to start on something, especially after a few drinks. “Mom, she and Allan canceled a dinner reservation so she could be here.”

“Why would she have a dinner reservation for tonight? Didn’t you tell her…?”

“We originally asked you over for last night, remember? But you and Dad had the club banquet.”

“It still wouldn’t have killed her to stay.”

“She has a life of her own,” Dad said. He took his Scotch and water from the tray and sat on the sofa. Leigh lifted her glass of Chablis off the tray. Holding it carefully, she lowered herself onto the sofa beside Dad. “I’m sure she has better things to do,” he continued, “than spend Friday night with a bunch of old fogeys.”

“We’re hardly old fogeys,” Mom pointed out. “It wouldn’t have killed her to spend one evening with her family.”

“She sees you all the time,” Leigh said. “It’s not as if you live in Timbuktu.”

“Wherever the hell that is,” Dad said. Smiling, he took a drink.

“What do you know about this Allan?” Mom asked.

“She’s been going with him for a couple of months. She met him in drama class.”

“He’s an actor?

“I think he intends to be an attorney.”

“Great,” Dad said. “We could use a lawyer in the family. You know what they say—every family needs a lawyer, a doctor, and a plumber.” He grinned. “And a restaurateur, of course.”

“He’s hardly part of the family.”

“I don’t know, Helen, they looked pretty serious to me.”

“Don’t be silly.”

“And it is probably no coincidence,” he added, “that they both plan to attend Berkeley in the fall.”

“Berkeley,” Mom muttered. She rolled her eyes upward. “Don’t talk to me about Berkeley.”

“I don’t think it’s the same as when I was there,” Leigh told her.

“Well, thank God for that.”

Dad settled back against the cushion and crossed his legs. He looked at Leigh. “You turned out pretty well for a radical hippie chick.”

“Let’s drop this subject,” Mom said. “Uhhh. The absolute hell you put us through. Do you have any idea of the hell you put us through?”

Leigh sighed. She didn’t need this. “It was a long time ago,” she said.

“Your senior year in high school. That’s when it all started. You were just Deana’s age. She’s such a fine young lady. You don’t know how lucky you are.”

“We’re all pretty lucky,” Dad said. He patted Leigh’s knee and gave her one of those looks that said, Sorry about this. You know how Mom gets.

“How do you think you’d feel if Deana came home one fine day, dressed up like one of those ‘punks’ you see on the street corners in the city? How would that make you feel if her lovely hair was all chopped off and spiky like a bed of nails, and green? Or orange! Or maybe she comes home with a Mohawk, looking like Mr. T!”

Leigh couldn’t hold back her smile.

“You’d be smiling out of the other side of your face, young lady. Suppose she had a safety pin in her cheek?”

“I never did any of that,” Leigh told her.

“Only because it didn’t happen to be ‘in’ at the time.”

“What movies did they go to?” Dad asked.

“I’m not sure. A double feature in San Anselmo, I think.”

“We went to see—”

“You should’ve seen yourself,” Mom interrupted. “You looked like one of those Manson girls.”



“God only knows what might’ve become of you if we hadn’t shipped you off to Uncle Mike’s.” A pause. “And then look what happened.”

Leigh felt as if an icicle had been thrust into her belly.

“Damn it, Helen!” Dad snapped.

“Well, it’s the truth. You know it’s the truth.” Her eyes watered up. Her lower lip began to tremble. “Don’t raise your voice at me,” she said with a tremor.

“You push it and push it. We’re supposed to be here for a good time. The last thing Leigh needs is to have that summer thrown into her face.”

Mom took a drink of Bailey’s. She stared into the snifter, weeping quietly. “I was…just trying to make a point.”

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