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Richard Laymon - The Lake

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Richard Laymon - The Lake
The Lake
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Leigh got up from the sofa. Crouching next to her mother, she said, “Hey, it’s all right.” She had a lump in her throat, tears in her own eyes. She stroked her mother’s hair. “That was so long ago. Everything’s fine now, isn’t it?”

“You put us through such hell.”

“I was pretty much of a creep there for a while. But now is what counts. The present. I’m not so bad now, am I?”

“Oh, honey,” she said, sobbing. “I love you.” She pulled Leigh’s head down and kissed her. Leigh stayed at her side while she took out Kleenex and wiped her eyes and nose. Her mascara was smeared, making her look a little weird, somehow reminding Leigh of Bette Davis in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, though Mom didn’t look nearly as old or weird as Charlotte. “The beef Willington was absolutely delicious,” she finally said, signaling her recovery.

“It’s Nelson’s specialty,” Leigh said. Hadn’t they been through this before? She didn’t mind. “You two really should come to the Bayview more often,” she said, returning to the sofa and picking up her wine.

“We don’t like to take advantage,” Dad said, looking vastly relieved. His eyes were red. He, too, must have been weeping.

“You’re not taking enough advantage,” Leigh told him.

“You’d see us there more often if you’d let us pay for our meals occasionally.”

“If that’s what it takes,” she said.

Some of the tension remained, and they soon got up to leave.

“I wish we could stick around till Deana gets back,” Dad said, “but that might be a while, and I’ve got eighteen holes waiting for me in the morning.”

They walked toward the door.

“Why don’t you and Deana come over next week,” Mom suggested. “We’ll barbecue, and the pool’s nice and warm with all this hot weather we’ve been having.”

“That sounds nice.”

“And tell Deana to bring her friend.”

“All right.”

“We really didn’t get much of a chance to visit with her tonight.”

“I know. I’m sorry about that.”

“You should bring a friend too.”

Let’s not start on that, Leigh thought. The one touchy subject that had fortunately been avoided until now.

“Really, darling, you’re thirty-seven and—”

“We’d better be on our way,” Dad interrupted. He hugged Leigh and kissed her cheek. “I had a wonderful time, sweety. Thanks so much for the dinner and presents. And give our love to Deana.”

“I will. Happy birthday, Dad.” He patted her rump and turned away to open the door.

“Next Saturday, all right?” Mom asked.

“You’re on.”

They hugged and kissed.

Leigh followed them out to the driveway, waited there while they climbed into their Mercedes, and waved as Dad backed the car up the steep driveway.

Inside, she shut the door, leaned back against it, and sighed.


At least Deana hadn’t been around to witness Mom’s tantrum.

She gathered up the glasses, took them into the kitchen, and rinsed out the milky residue of Mom’s Irish cream. She would wash them in the morning.

She had the house to herself. It felt good. If only she could get rid of that nervous feeling about Deana. From several years of experience, however, she knew that wouldn’t go away until Deana returned.

She looked at the clock. Not even ten-thirty. The first movie was probably just ending. Deana probably wouldn’t be home till one. A long wait.

So make the most of it.

Out on the deck, shivering as the breeze found its way through her gown, Leigh twisted a knob to heat the water in her redwood hot tub. She hurried back inside and walked down the long hallway to her bedroom at the far end of the house. There, she slipped out of her clothes and put on a soft, bulky bathrobe.

There was a greasy stain on the breast of her gown from a glob of Hollandaise that had dripped off an asparagus spear. She took the gown into the bathroom and scrubbed at the spot with hot water. She threw it over a bedroom chair. It would have to go to the cleaners. She tossed her undergarments into the hamper. She lined up her shoes on the closet floor. No hurry. She wanted the water in the redwood tub to be good and hot before she ventured out again.

Dropping onto her bed, she checked TV Guide. One of the local channels would be showing a repeat of an old Saturday Night Live show at 11:00. She remembered watching one of the current SNLs with Deana a couple of weeks ago. Deana had found humor in strange places.

Generation gap.

She thought about her mother.

Mom’s right. I’m damn lucky Deana hasn’t gone freaky, the way I went when I was her age.

Pretty harmless stuff, though.

Except for that sit-in. That’s what got to them, the idea that their wonderful daughter almost got herself thrown in the slammer. That’s what did it. That’s why they sent you to Uncle Mike’s…

Her stomach knotted cold.

Quickly, she rolled off the bed and took a towel from the closet. She hurried down the hall.

Don’t think about it.

Do not.

I’ll watch the TV when I come in. A toss-up between a Cagney & Lacey rerun. Or Titanic. Again. Or…anything that takes my mind off what Deana is up to right now.

Leigh left the foyer light on, then made a circuit of the kitchen, dining area, and living room, turning off all the lights. Stepping outside, she slid the glass door shut behind her. She flicked a switch to start the bubbles, climbed the three stairs beside her tub, and dropped her towel onto the platform. She took off her robe. Gritted her teeth at the feel of the breeze.

Quickly, she stepped over the side of the tub. The warm water wrapped her leg to the knee. Not bad, but it would get better as the heat increased. She lifted her other foot over the edge, stood on the submerged seat, then stepped off and crouched, covering herself to the shoulders, sighing with relief as the water eased her chill. For a while, she didn’t move. The water swirled, its warm currents caressing her like gentle, exploring hands.

Then she glided forward, stretching over the front rim and peering over the top, higher than the deck railing, so she had an unobstructed view.

Below, most of the houses at the foot of the hill were lighted. A lone car circled the cul-de-sac and pulled into the Stevensons’ driveway. Off to the left, a car crept up Avenida Mira Flores, turned toward her, and dipped down the slope. Much too early to be Allan’s car. Over the tops of the hills, she could see a piece of Belvedere Island rising out of the bay, dark except for a few specks of light from streetlamps, house windows, and cars.

Beyond Belvedere, far off in the distance, the northern end of the Golden Gate was visible—red lights on top of its tower, cables sloping down. The bridge was often shrouded in fog, but not tonight. Nor was there fog sneaking over the tops of the hills beyond Sausalito. Too bad. The fog was always so lovely in the moonlight, glowing like a thick mat of snow and always moving, always changing. She watched the headlights of cars on Waldo Grade, then lowered her eyes to the lights of Sausalito.

Leigh rarely went to Sausalito anymore. It was no longer a town, it was a traffic jam. She shook her head, remembering how she used to love that place. Back in her high school days. A century ago. God, the hours she used to spend there, wandering around. It had street people then, not just tourists. It had the Charles Van Damm: The ancient, beached stern-wheeler was a coffeehouse in those days, and she used to sit in the smoky darkness far into the night, listening to the singers. The guy with the twelve-string who did “The Wheel of Necessity.” Leigh sighed. She hadn’t heard that song in about twenty years.

Staring out at the swath of Sausalito lights, she could hear it in her head—the pounding thrum of guitar chords, the raspy, plaintive voice of the singer. What had become of him? What was his name—Ron? He was the best. “The Wheel of Necessity.” She’d forgotten all about that song. It must have been Mom’s talk about the early days that helped stir her memory.

Ah, the water felt good. Releasing the tub’s edge, she eased backward to the far side. The bench rubbed her rump. She sat low, stretched out her legs, and let the roiling water lift them. She held on to the edge of the seat to keep herself from drifting up. The water was very hot now, wisps of steam rising off its surface.

She closed her eyes.

“The House of the Rising Sun”—that was another one the guy used to sing. Sometimes, she hadn’t been able to force herself to leave. On a couple of occasions, she didn’t get home until almost two o’clock. No wonder she drove her parents crazy. If Deana ever stayed out that late…

She wondered what Deana and Allan were up to. If they really stayed for both shows, they would have to drive straight back here to arrive by one o’clock. Deana had said she would be back by one, and she was reliable that way.

What they probably did, they split before the second feature so they’d have some time to make out. Deana was usually straight with Leigh; on matters like this, however, she might bend the truth a bit. Only natural, Leigh thought. The girl wouldn’t want to announce she was fooling around.

Just be careful, honey.

Yeah, like I was.

Pregnant at eighteen. Not exactly a picnic. It worked out, though. It worked out fine.



Her eyes sprang open. Her heart raced. She took deep breaths.

No. That’s one little trip down memory lane you don’t want to take.

You filthy whore! shrieked in her face.

Leigh groaned. She stood up fast.

I’m not going to remember, she told herself.

Her warm wet skin, hit by the breeze, turned achingly cold from shoulders to waist. She started to shake. Gritted her teeth. Crossed her arms over her breasts. Drops of water rolled down her back and sides.

The shock treatment did its trick, forcing her mind into the present.

The memories of that time didn’t come often, but when they did they could tear her apart if she let them. Fortunately, there were the tricks. She had taught herself plenty of ways to stop the assault before it went too far. This was a new one, and hurt less than punching the nearest wall or digging fingernails into her leg.

If she relaxed into the warmth, however, the memories would start again. Once that terrible door in her mind was open, it stayed that way for a while. The thoughts had to keep busy with other matters.

She started to sing “Waltzing Matilda.” She sang it quietly in a shaky voice as she climbed from the tub, toweled herself dry, and put on her robe. She kept on singing it while she turned off the bubbles and heater.

In the kitchen, she looked at the clock.


She wished Deana were here.

Probably parked somewhere—maybe nearby. If they left the movies early, though, they’d be careful not to return too early and blow their cover.

Leigh smiled.

The kid was no dummy.

Hope she’s smart enough to use something. If she had taken care of that little matter, she had kept it to herself.

Don’t depend on the guy, for godsake.

Maybe I should have another talk with her.

Hell, if she hasn’t gotten the message by now, it’s probably too late.

In her bedroom, Leigh took off her robe. She put on a light, silken nightgown.

From the way Deana and Allan acted around each other, Leigh was pretty sure they had already made love. The idea of that, shocking at first, no longer bothered her. Hell, the girl was eighteen. What kind of girl hasn’t done it by eighteen? And Allan seemed like a good kid.

Just don’t knock her up, that’s all I ask.

Save the bambinos for after college.

In the den, she inserted a tape of The Way We Were into her VCR. Before turning it on, she got herself a glass of wine from the kitchen. Then she started the television and sat on the sofa.

When her glass was empty, she stretched out. A pillow propping up her head, she watched the movie. She had seen it many times. The hot tub, followed by the wine, had left her feeling languorous. After a while, she let her eyes drift shut.

The jangle of the telephone startled her awake. Thrusting herself up, she grabbed the phone off the lamp table. “Hello?”


It wasn’t Deana.

“Leigh. It’s Dad. ’Fraid we’ll have to call off that date next Saturday, hon. Had a message to say your aunt Abby had a heart attack. She’s in intensive care. So Mom and I are catching a flight to Boulder just as soon as we can.”

“Oh, Dad…”

“It’s okay, Leigh. Don’t you worry none about your aunt Abby. She’s in safe hands, and we’ll be looking after her when she comes out of the hospital. Sorry to spring this on you, honey—after such a wonderful evening an’ all. We both enjoyed it so much. Now this. Matter of fact, your Mom’s packing as we speak, so…”

“Sure, Dad. Have a safe flight. And tell Aunt Abby she has our love.”

“Speaking of which…Young Deana, has she—”

“Deana’s okay, Dad. Tucked up in bed right now…”

A white lie; reasonable at a time like this. Can’t have Mom and Dad worried about Deana. ’Sides, she’s gonna show up any minute now…

“She shouldn’t worry you like this, Leigh. Get to grips with the situation before…”

“Before she ends up like I did at her age?”

“You know what I mean, young lady. Now, sounds like my presence is required elsewhere…”

“Okay, Dad. Safe journey. Love to Mom.”

“Sure. Catch up with you later, honey.”

Leigh’s stomach began to churn. Something was not quite right about tonight; she was sure of it. And it wasn’t only the news about Aunt Abby, either. Put it down to Deana, she told herself.

For godsake, Deana. Where are you?

The phone jangled again. Leigh caught a ragged breath.

Deana. Something’s wrong…

She snatched up the phone again.

A man’s voice said, “I’d like to speak to Leigh West.”

“This is Leigh West.” Her heart pumped hard. She felt dizzy.

“This is Detective Harrison of the Mill Valley Police Department. I’m calling about your daughter…”


Glancing over her shoulder as she made her break for the woods, Deana saw him leap from the car. He was tall and cadaverous, with strangely long arms. He loped after her, waving a meat cleaver overhead. He was dressed all in white. He wore a chef’s cap that wobbled and flopped as he ran.

Whirling away from him, Deana dashed onto the path. She had a good head start. She was in good shape from running every day before school. If he wasn’t fast enough to overtake her quickly, she might get away.

I will get away, she thought. I have to.

If he catches up, he’ll kill me.

She couldn’t hear him. He must be far behind, but she didn’t dare slow down.

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