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Richard Laymon - The Lake

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Richard Laymon - The Lake
The Lake
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“We can’t.” She reminded him that Sally and Murray would be waiting at the beach that afternoon, to give them a lift back to Tiburon.

“We can drive over and meet them.”

“Oh, come on. We can’t let a little rip stop us.”

“It’s not so little.”

“Let me see.”

“Are you kidding?”

“It can’t be that bad.”

“I haven’t got any…uh…just a supporter.”

“How tacky.”

“Ha ha ha.”

“Take off your shirt. You can tuck it in back there—eclipse the moon, so to speak.”

“I’ve got very fair skin,” he said. “I’d sunburn. How about if I use your shirt instead?”

“Normally, I’d be glad to give you the shirt off my back.” Mimicking him, she added, “I haven’t got any…uh…”

“I know, I know.”

Allan finally took off his T-shirt and wore it like a tail the rest of the day. Later, he gave the shorts to Deana, giftwrapped but still torn, as a memento of the journey.

Elbows on the dresser top, the shorts pressed to her face, Deana tried to stop the crying that had begun when she started to remember. She wiped her eyes dry, but they filled again.

The seam in the rear looked almost as good as new where she had stitched it with the sewing machine.

Maybe best, she thought, to put the shorts away. Hide them in the bottom of a drawer or something, so they wouldn’t be around to remind her of Allan.

Hell, I don’t want to forget him. If the memories hurt, it’s only because they’re good memories. I’ll wear these shorts till they fall apart, and then I’ll still keep them.

Sniffing, Deana stepped into the shorts and pulled them up. The wet seat clung to her skin.

She put on a bra. God knows, that hadn’t come from Allan. It was an elastic harness made for running—the female equivalent of a jockstrap. He liked the flimsy, transparent kind that unhooked in front. Or none at all. The look on his face that first time she didn’t have one on and he didn’t know it until he reached under her sweatshirt and touched her breast instead of fabric.

In the mirror, she saw herself smile. Just a bit. She looked like hell with her eyes all red and puffy.

Allan hadn’t said anything. He’d moaned.

Deana pulled a T-shirt over her head, took socks from the drawer, and sat on the edge of her bed to put them on.

After that night, she’d started making a game of it. Sometimes she wore a bra, sometimes she didn’t. It drove Allan nuts each time they were together, until he found out one way or another. He never came right out and asked. He observed. He pulled little maneuvers such as running his hand down her back. If he determined that she was wearing a bra, he relaxed. If she wasn’t, he spent the rest of the evening watching her chest at every opportunity—apparently eager to catch a jiggle of breast or evidence of nipples pushing against her clothes. If she wore a loose top, he kept trying for glimpses down the front. And Deana would help him by bending over a lot. Obsessed, that’s what he was.


Oh shit oh shit.

Deana sprang from her bed. It’s okay to think about him, she told herself. Just not all the time.

She took her shoes from the closet. She put them on quickly, grabbed the front-door key off her dresser, and hurried down the hall, slipping the long key chain over her head. She dropped the key down the front of her shirt. It felt cold for a second against her skin.

“Back in a while,” she called out through the silence.

“Hey!” came her mother’s voice. “I want to talk to you.”


“Come here.”

Deana backtracked to the master bedroom. She crossed to the bathroom door. It was open a crack. “Yes?”

“You’re not going out to run, are you?”

“That was the plan.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

Keep it light. “Gotta stay fit, Ma.”

“Not today, all right?”

“Why not?” She knew why not.



“I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“You want to turn me into a hermit?”

“You know what Mace said.”

“Mace? You mean Detective Harrison?”

“Yes, Detective Harrison.”

“I know what he said. He said to be careful. I’ll be careful.”

“I don’t want you going out alone. Not for a few days, anyway.”

“I need to run, Mom.”

She heard some quiet splashing sounds from behind the door. Then Mom said, “Okay, but I’ll go with you.”

Deana didn’t want to wait. She didn’t want company. It wouldn’t be the same. “You’d never be able to keep up with me.”

“You’re talking about the gal who wipes you off the tennis courts.”

“You don’t want to get sweaty after your bath.”

“I’m not kidding about this. I don’t want you going out alone. I mean it.”

Deana sighed. “Is it all right if I wait for you out front?”

“Where out front?”

“On the driveway. I’ll just warm up while I wait.”

“Where on the driveway?”

“At the bottom.”

“All right. But keep your eyes open.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ll be right out.”

Deana started away. Christ, Mom thinks the guy’s out there. Ready to pounce on me. Or run me down.

What if she’s right?

That is just what I need on top of everything, a good case of paranoia.

“I don’t want to frighten you,” Harrison had said. Mace. “You and the Powers boy might very well have been random victims. On the other hand, it’s possible that the assailant knew precisely who he was after. If he was after you, Deana, then he might make another attempt. You and your mother need to face that possibility and take precautions. Do you understand?”

“He wasn’t after me. I mean, it had to be random like you said.”

“Not necessarily.”

“I already told you, I haven’t dumped any boyfriends, I don’t have any enemies, I—”

“This could be a guy who spotted you at the supermarket and followed you home. It could be a guy who stopped beside you at a traffic light, or sat behind you one night at the movies. And seeing you triggered something. Maybe you wear your hair the same way as a girlfriend who jilted him. Maybe you’ve got his mother’s blue eyes, and she used to abuse him. It could be a hundred things. Do you understand? There’s a good chance it was random, but you have to act as if you were the intended target. At least until we nail this guy. I don’t want you to end up…hurt.”

He had sounded as if he really meant it, as if he cared. And somehow as if his lecture, though addressed to Deana, was actually spoken for Mom’s benefit. Something going on there. A subtle undercurrent.

It must have made an impression on Mom. Calling him Mace.

Deana opened the front door, pulled it shut behind her, and stepped over the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle. She looked back at the paper. Part of her routine was to bring it down from the top of the driveway each morning when she finished her run. She always found it near the top of the driveway—sometimes hidden in the geraniums. This was strange. No matter how good his arm, the paper man couldn’t possibly have winged the Chronicle all the way to the front stoop. You can’t even see the stoop from the road. He had either driven or walked down the steep driveway to get it here. Really going for brownie points. Christmas is six months away. Maybe it’s somebody new.

Maybe he did it.

Deana felt a chill crawl up the back of her neck.

Paranoia must be contagious. Like the flu.

She scanned the ice-plant-covered slope across the yard, the hedge at the top, and the weed-choked stretch of hillside behind the Matson house. It all looked normal. The hedge up there was a bit too skimpy to conceal anyone.

At least this is taking your mind off Allan.

She walked past the kitchen windows and stopped on the broad, concrete apron in front of the garage.

The paper man got ambitious, that’s all.

One steep mother of a driveway. Narrow, too.

She shook her head.

The geraniums along the sides of the driveway were not skimpy.

Get off it.

Deana stepped closer to the garage. Facing the driveway, she took a deep breath. The morning air smelled sweet and clean. She did a few jumping jacks. When she started the toe-touching exercises, her rump brushed the garage door.

Thataway, back to the wall. Nobody’s gonna sneak up on you. No-sirree.

Chicken shit.

She took five steps forward—count ’em, five.

That’s better.

That wasn’t better. She felt exposed.

What’s keeping Mom?

You wanted to go running alone, remember?

She sat down. The concrete, still in shadow, was cold through her shorts and worse against the backs of her legs. She leaned forward, stretching, grabbing her shoes.

I would have been just fine except for Mom’s little talk. And she had to remind me of what Harrison said.

The way you wear your hair.


She touched her forehead between her knees.

Saw a madman in a chef’s cap bounding down the driveway waving a meat cleaver, and looked up fast and saw no one.

Where’d you get this chef’s cap nonsense?

Oh yeah, the dream.

Lovely little dream—and all that weird shit the night before.

Legs spread wide, she leaned forward, touched her right hand to her left toe, left hand to right toe. The stretching muscles felt good.

She flinched at a sudden bumping sound, then realized it was only the front door shutting. Mom. That was pretty quick, actually. She got to her feet and hitched up the shorts that had been inching down her rump during the exercises.

“What took you so long?” Deana asked.

“Are you kidding? I’m still wet.”

Deana stared. Mom looked so normal. So good. As if this were just any other fabulous Marin County morning. Except for the blue ballcap covering her pinned-up hair, she was dressed in white—knit shirt, shorts, socks and shoes, all white. Which made her fair skin look almost bronze.

Deana had rarely seen her with her hair up.

“My gosh, Mom, you’ve got ears.”

“Anything wrong with them?”

“They’re rather large, is all.”

Mom grinned. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”

Deana’s own smile slipped.

Sure have, Mom.

She remembered it well. A red-eyed girl clutching gym shorts.

“Not to change the subject or anything, I thought you promised to stay down here.”

“I did.”

Mom raised an eyebrow. Then she swept down from the waist, touched her toes, and made a quick catch as her ballcap dropped.

“Oh, you mean the newspaper.”

“That’s right, Watson. Here, hold this.”

Deana took the hat.

Mom resumed touching her toes. She had a few drops of water on the backs of her legs. No cellulite. She was in terrific shape. Always had been. Maybe that was one reason why Deana started running last year. She’d been getting a bit pudgy, and it was damned embarrassing to have a mother who looked better than you in a bikini. Some of her boyfriends—take Herb Klein, for instance—spent more time ogling Mom than…

“At least you didn’t leave without me,” Mom said.

“I didn’t bring down the newspaper. I didn’t touch it.”

“How did it get there?”

“I suppose the delivery guy was feeling energetic.”

“Geez,” Mom said, “and Christmas isn’t for six months.”

“Maybe he’s angling for a Fourth of July tip.”

“Weird.” Mom swung her arms around, then took the hat from Deana and flopped it onto her head with the bill high. She squinted up the driveway. Looked at Deana. Raised one side of her upper lip to show her distaste for the chore ahead. “Well, I’m ready when you are.”

“I’ll take it easy on you.”

“Oh, thanks. You’re so thoughtful.”

Deana started up the driveway, leaning into its slope, not pushing. Mom stayed at her side.

It was like climbing a stairway. Taking the stairs two at a time.

She thought of the stairs at the start of the Dipsey Trail. They sure nailed Allan. Let’s try not to think about Allan for a while. Let’s just think about running, the good feel of working muscles. And getting closer to the top.

Halfway there.

Three quarters. No sweat. She glanced at Mom. Mom smiled.

The mailbox at the top came into view.

Then the car.

Mom said, “That’s a great place…to leave a car.”

It didn’t block the driveway. It was parked on the other side of the street. But nobody ever parked there because of the blind curves.

Deana didn’t see anyone inside.

She stopped at the edge of the street.

“What’s the matter? Pooped?”


The tone of Deana’s voice turned her mother’s face strange.

Deana’s gaze swept the street and hillside as she walked on numb legs toward the old, red Pontiac Firebird. She stepped in front of it. The grille and headlight on its right side were smashed in. “My God,” she muttered.

Mom grabbed her arm, pulled her. “Quick. Back to the house.”

They ran.


“It needs something.”

You need something,” she said. “A frontal lobotomy.”

“That’s no way to talk to the man who’s going to immortalize you.”

“My foot,” she said.


“You’d better hurry. If I fall in, I’ll tear your face off.”

“Behave.” Still squatting on the bank of the stream, he raised the Nikon to his eye and studied the situation again. “Nah, no good.”


He stood up. “I’ve got it. Come on back.”

Mattie reached out her hand. He grabbed it and pulled as she leaped across the running water. Her bare feet landed on twigs, and she winced.

“Right back.”

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“My first-aid kit’s in the car.”

“Good idea, Charlie. You may need it.”

“Buck up. We’ll be done shortly.”

Mattie rolled her eyes upward and planted her fists on her hips. “You know,” she called at his back, “real models get big beans for this kind of shitski.”

“Don’t think I’m unappreciative.”

“No, not you.”

He made the top of the wooded embankment, jogged past a deserted picnic table to the parking area, and opened the trunk of his Trans Am. He glanced around to be sure nobody was nearby, then lifted his .12-gauge Ithica shotgun, raised a corner of the blanket on which it had been resting, and took out his first-aid kit.

He hurried back to Mattie.

“What’s the big plan?” she asked.

“A Band-Aid on your toe.”

“You jest.”

“Not me. Mark my words, it’s just the touch that’s needed. An air of vulnerability to an otherwise perfect foot.” He opened the plastic case, took out a bandage, and offered it to her.

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