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Richard Laymon - The Lake

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Richard Laymon - The Lake
The Lake
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“You’d better apply it. You’re the artiste around here.”

“Fine. Sit.”


“On the ground.”

“It’s wet.” She wrinkled her nose. Then, with a heavy sigh, she sat. “You owe me for this, Charlie.”

“You’ll sing a different tune when your foot’s hanging in the De Young.” Tearing off the wrapper, he crouched at Mattie’s feet and picked the paper away from the adhesive strip.

“Why can’t you be normal and shoot nudes?” she asked.

“Leaves nothing to the imagination, my dear.”

She wiggled her toes. “That turn you on?”

He nodded. The bandage on the big toe might be a little too obvious. The third toe seemed best, though the Band-Aid was really too large for it.

Mattie leaned back, bracing herself up on stiff arms.

Yes, the third toe. He reached for it.

Mattie raised the knee of her other leg and swung it far to the side. “Does this turn you on?”

He looked. The cutoff jeans were very cut off—no more than a frayed seam remained between the legs. “How inelegant,” he said.

Mattie chuckled. She kept her left foot fairly steady while the bandage was being applied, but waved her bent right leg from side to side, whispering, “Now you see it, now you don’t…Now you see it, now you don’t.”

“All set.” He patted the bottom of her foot. “Assume the position.”

“Bet you can’t stand up straight.”

“Matter of fact, I already am.”

He pulled her hand, and they both stood up. Mattie bent over to check him out. “Well, shitski, hon, you could knock me over with a feather. Want me to take care of that for you?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “I know, I know.” Turning away, she stretched out her leg until her foot found one of the small, flattopped rocks a yard from the bank. Arms out for balance, she pushed away from shore with her other foot. Once she was perched on the rock, she carefully pivoted until she was facing him. Then she swept out her right foot, planted it on a nearby rock, and took a deep breath. “Fire away.”

Crouching, he framed the foot, the water shimmering around the rock. “Beautiful,” he muttered. He snapped the shot. The camera’s automatic advance buzzed. He clicked, straightened up a bit for a new angle, took another shot, sidestepped to the left and took more, stood up straight, took more, then waded out with the cool water filling his sneakers, bent down, and snapped a few extreme close-ups.

“What dedication,” Mattie said.

He waded ashore, changed the lens setting for six feet, picked up a stone, and tossed it underhand at Mattie’s midsection.

“Hey!” she yelped.

She caught the stone. But her quick movement was enough to upset her precarious balance. She flapped her arms as she fell backward.

He got it all on film—Mattie’s stunned expression as she snatched the stone, her flapping arms, her splash when she hit the stream back-first, feet flying into the air. Then her furious drenched face as she sat there scowling at him. He kept clicking away as she staggered to her feet and waded toward him. “I suppose you think you’re cute.”

He lowered the camera so it hung by the strap, and protected it between his arm and side. “Don’t do anything foolish,” he warned as she approached. Mattie had a brown belt in judo. She could throw him ass over head into the stream, and he had no defense short of decking her with a punch. He wouldn’t do that.

He didn’t like the way she was grinning. “Mattie, my camera.”


“My beeper.”

“Oh, your precious beeper.”

“My revolver.”

“A little water won’t hurt that.”

“It’ll ruin my holster.”

“Not to mention your ego, big man.” She grabbed the front of his shirt. Instead of dropping backward, planting a foot in his gut and sending him on a trip, Mattie pulled him against her and kissed him. He put his arms around her. The wetness soaked through his shirt.

“I’m going to wait,” she murmured against his mouth. “When you least expect it, wham.”

“Fair enough.”

“Now, how about tooling me over to my place so I can get out of these duds?”

“You may feel free to get out of them at my place.”


“We’ll give them a spin in the dryer, they’ll be good as new. Which isn’t saying much.”

She swatted his rump. “Let’s move it, then, Charlie.” She stepped into her sandals.

They climbed the slope. They were nearly to the top when his beeper sounded.

“I don’t believe it,” Mattie muttered. “There goes our Sunday.”

When they reached the car, he opened the trunk and pulled the blanket out from under the shotgun. Mattie wrapped the blanket around herself, then sat in the passenger seat. “Maybe it’s a wrong number.”

“Most likely.” He called headquarters on his cellular phone. “Harrison,” he said.

“Mace, you just got a call from a Leigh West. She said it regarded the Powers case.”

Mace took the number, broke the connection with headquarters, and put the call through.

“Hello?” The woman’s voice sounded taut.

“Miss West, this is Mace Harrison.”

“I’m sorry to bother you, but you said we should call if anything suspicious happened, and the car’s out on the street right in front of our house.”

He didn’t need to ask what car. “Any sign of the driver?”

“We didn’t see anyone.”

“Is your house locked up?”


“You’re in Del Mar on Mark Terrace, right?”

“That’s right.” She gave him the address.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“We’re not absolutely sure it’s the same car, but…”

“I’ll be right over.” He put down the phone. “The Powers case,” he told Mattie as he swung his Trans Am around. “That was the mother of the girl. There’s a car in front of her house. She thinks it’s the one that ran down the boy. Want to come?”

“Like this?” She plucked the wet shirt away from her breasts.

“I can drop you off.”

“Hell, I don’t want to miss anything.”

“Didn’t think so.”

She bent over, lifted the hanging blanket, and brought her shoulder bag up from beneath her seat. She took out a comb and brush. Then she twisted the rearview mirror in her direction. Mace’s rear visibility was gone, but he didn’t protest.

“Guess I shouldn’t have stoned you,” he said.

“Those photos better just not show up at roll call.”

“On my honor.” He accelerated to make it through an amber light on Throckmorton. There wasn’t much traffic in downtown Mill Valley. He knew he would make good time.

“Should we notify Tiburon PD?” Mattie asked.

“We’ll check it out first.”

“You think he’s up there?”

“If he is, he hasn’t made his move yet. They’re secure in the house.”

“Unless he’s inside with them.”

It was a disturbing possibility, one that Mace had already considered.

Leigh hung up the phone and turned around in time to see Deana slide a butcher knife out of its walnut holder. “What’re you—”

The girl pressed a finger to her lips. She walked quietly across the kitchen to where Leigh was standing. “Follow me,” she whispered.

“What is it?”

“Shh. Come on.”

Confused and growing alarmed, Leigh followed her past the dining area. What was happening? Had Deana seen something, heard a noise? My God, does she think the killer’s in the house? He couldn’t be. The doors…Don’t kid yourself, anybody who wanted to get in…maybe the guest-room windows.

She scanned the living room. Deana was several strides ahead of her, shoes squeaking on the foyer tile. Leigh rushed to catch up. Beyond the girl’s shoulder, she saw the narrow, shadowed hallway stretching ahead of them.

Deana wasn’t planning to search the place?

Leigh almost reached out to grab her, but Deana made a quick lunge into the bathroom, caught Leigh by the hand, and yanked her through the doorway. She swung the door shut, locked it, then hurried to the tub and checked behind its frosted-glass shower panels. Turning to Leigh, she let out a loud breath. “Just being careful.”

“Do you think he’s in the house?

“He might be. I mean, I don’t really think so, but who’s to say he isn’t? I just think this’d be a good place to wait until your policeman gets here.”

“He’s not my policeman.”

“Then how come you called him instead of the Tiburon police?”

“Because this is his case. He knows what’s going on.”


Leigh shook her head. Deana boosted herself up and sat on the counter beside the sink. “You know what some people have,” the girl said, “is a safe room. Some actress has one. Victoria Principal? It’s the bathroom. You have a reinforced metal door put in, with special locks. You have a telephone put in. That way, you’ve got someplace to go if there’s trouble. You can call the cops, and nobody can get to you. The lock on this door wouldn’t keep out a four-year-old.”

“I wouldn’t want to live like that,” Leigh said.

“You don’t have to live in the john. It’s just so you have a place to go…”

“No pun intended?”

Deana grinned. Lowering her head, she scraped the knife over her thigh. “This thing isn’t very sharp.”

“It isn’t supposed to be a razor.”

She lifted the knife away and ran her hand up from her knee to her shorts. “I’m gonna start looking like a werewolf. You’re lucky you’re a blonde.”

“You’ve got lovely hair,” Leigh said, stepping past her.

“Yeah, everywhere. What did my father look like, King Kong or something?”

Leigh felt a cold ripple in her stomach. She took off her ballcap and started to unpin her hair.

“You don’t talk about him much,” Deana said after a while.

“There’s not much to say.” Crouching, she took Deana’s blow dryer from the cabinet under the sink. “Mind if I use this?”

“Help yourself.” Deana reached down beside her knee, slid open a drawer, and took out her hairbrush. “Here.”


“Gotta fix yourself up for your policeman.”

Leigh plugged in the dryer, turned it on, and started to brush her hair as the hot air blew against it.

“You never told me how he died,” Deana said in a loud voice.

“Yes I did.”

“I mean, not how it happened.”

“It’s a long story.”

“Okay, so?”

“Mace’ll be here in a minute.”

“Well, that’s…” She stopped. Frowning, she leaned forward and peered at the bathroom door. “Turn it off, Mom.”

Leigh silenced the dryer. “Did you hear something?” she whispered.

“I don’t know. That thing’s so loud.”

Leigh stood motionless, holding her breath. She flinched at the sudden sound of a thud.

A car door shutting.

“It’s probably Mace,” she said.

Deana hopped to the floor, cranked open the bathroom window, and looked out. Leigh gave her hair a few final strokes with the brush. She heard footsteps on the walkway leading to the stoop.

“It’s him,” Deana said. “He’s got a gal with him.” She stepped away from the window. “You think it’s his wife?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Don’t worry about your hair. Hers is wetter than yours.”

The doorbell rang.

“Just a second,” Deana called out. She picked up the knife.

“Why don’t you leave that here?”

Deana raised an eyebrow, kept the knife, and held it at her side, blade forward, as she stepped to the bathroom door. She turned the knob slowly, keeping the lock button depressed so it wouldn’t ping out. She jerked the door open fast. Nobody there. Leaning out, she looked both ways. “The coast is clear,” she said.

The ghost is clear, Leigh thought, following her out. That’s what Deana used to say when she was about four and didn’t know any better. It didn’t seem like very long ago. Now she’s eighteen, and looking after me.

Deana led the way to the front door and opened it.

“Come in,” she said, lowering the knife.

Mace stepped in, followed by the woman. The woman’s short brown hair was slicked down. Her blouse and cutoff jeans looked wet. “Any trouble?” Mace asked.

“We haven’t seen anyone,” Leigh said. “We were worried he might’ve gotten into the house, though, so we waited in the bathroom.”

“It’s about the only door with a lock,” Deana added.

“Good place to wait,” Mace said. “Ladies, this is Sergeant Blaylock. Sergeant, Leigh and Deana West.”

They nodded greetings.

“I’ll take a look around,” he said. He turned away. As he walked up the hallway, he lifted his shirttail and pulled a small revolver from a holster at the back of his belt.

Sergeant Blaylock stayed.

“You got one, too?” Deana asked.

She patted her shoulder bag. Her head moved slightly as she scanned the living room. “I heard you own the Bayview,” she said, glancing at Leigh before returning her gaze to the room beyond. “That’s a fabulous place.”

“Thank you.”

“Anytime some guy wants to impress me, that’s where he takes me. Works, too. Maybe I could hit you up for the veal scaloppine recipe. Or is that classified information?”

“I’ll get it for you,” Leigh assured her. The recipe was to be kept secret, but she liked Sergeant Blaylock. She felt a bond with this slim, attractive woman who looked as if she’d just lost a sorority tug-of-war. She didn’t know why she felt this bond. Maybe it had to do with the sergeant coming to her home on a Sunday morning, ready to put it on the line for her. “For your eyes only,” she added.

“Fair enough.”

“Are you Harrison’s partner?” Deana asked.

“Used to be. When we were in radio cars.” She frowned toward the corridor. “Mace!” she yelled.

“Yo!” he called back.

“He might take all morning,” she said, “but when he’s done you can bet your petuties you won’t have anyone creeping out at you.”

“Are you two on duty?” Deana asked.

Leigh wished she would quit.

“We are now,” the sergeant said.

“How come you’re all wet?”

“Sorry about that.” She looked down, apparently to see whether she was dripping. “You know the Old Mill Stream in Mill Valley?” She fluttered the front of her blouse. “This is it, Charlie.”


What is this, Leigh wondered, a conspiracy to keep dredging up Charlie Payne?

“We came right over, so I didn’t have time to change.”

“If you’d be more comfortable in dry clothes,” Leigh said, “you’re welcome to something of mine.”

“No. Thanks anyway, Ms. West.”

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