Time for a new post. This one is from my story Jezebel, a second sequel to The Coppersmith. It takes place right after Topheth. Now that I have a couple of people reading this, I hope you like it (that, and it might distract you from the palm leaf).
“You’re not gonna believe this.” Bobby Fulton stepped up his pace to stay ahead of his older brother Ray. His breath came out in a wispy vapor. It flashed briefly in the morning sun before vanishing. Ray shook his head and lengthened his stride.
“What are you yammering about?” He took a puff from his inhaler and tried to be nonchalant. It was probably nothing. When his little brother approached him five minutes ago he was chatting amicably with Jessie Curran, one of the cooler boys in school. Always good to buff your image, he thought, just like his old man said. Ray never had been the most popular kid in school, a fact largely due to his chronic asthma. He’d spent most of his middle school career falling further and further down the social totem pole—a worry that plagued him relentlessly. Even the new cell phone he showed off after Christmas was met with a dismissive nod. That’s why striking up a conversation with Curran was such an opportunity. Jessie’d actually asked him how to get past the fourth level in Halo three, and Ray was more than happy to oblige.
Then Bobby was tugging at his coat and whining, “Raymond! You gotta come see this!”
He rolled his eyes and told Jessie it was probably a dead bird or something stupid like that. Bobby persisted, and he finally pulled away to follow him. It annoyed him that Mom insisted he watch his brother. He’d rather have been shooting hoops or scoring at the arcade—anything. Mom seemed possessed by this ridiculous notion that he and his brother should play together. There was five years difference between them. Playtime consisted of nothing more than a walk to Lincoln Park where Bobby’d clamber on the monkey bars while he sat and played with his Gameboy. Sometimes he’d watch groups of other kids gathering for a pick up game of football nearby—kicking up clouds of dust and shouts of action as one team pressed the other down the field. There’s no way he’d ever be allowed to join them. Even if he wasn’t under strict orders to keep an eye on his sibling, his parents would hit the roof if they caught him playing football with his condition. And his little brother had no compunctions at all about telling on him. He hated him for that.
Still, Bobby had his curiosity piqued.
They made a left turn down an alleyway and Ray grew wary. This was Chip Geller’s turf. Geller was an eighth grader who stood about a foot taller than everyone else in his class. It was widely reported he carried a real switchblade. Last year he’d beaten up a ninth grader with a baseball bat in the fields behind school. Ray wasn’t sure the story was completely true, but Geller was no one to mess with at any rate. In the football games he watched Geller always played quarterback. He’d have made a better linebacker with his size and strength and utter lack of a throwing arm, but nobody had the guts to tell him that—leastways not to his face.
He pulled his hands out of his pockets and searched the alleyway. Bobby went on confidently ahead, oblivious to the danger. He looked over his shoulder when he sensed his brother wasn’t following and urged, “Come on Ray! You gotta see this.”
Swallowing, Ray followed him into the shadows.
The alley was cooler than the street outside. With no sun to warm it the alley took on a damp quality in the early winter air—a chill that seeped through his jacket and pants and left him feeling like he wore nothing at all. Rivulets of water seeped from downspouts and pooled along the edges of the brick and mortar walls, soaking and staining the decaying remains of broken bottles and empty cigarette packs. Trash cans lurked beside the locked rear doors of shops and apartments, occasionally letting their pungent contents spill to the asphalt below.
He glanced nervously at the shadowed doorways he passed, half-expecting Geller to leap out from any one of them and—well, do something unpleasant—but nothing happened.
“Come on, Ray! Come on!”
“What is it, already?” His voice sounded whiney and impatient. He hated it. Hated Bobby for making him sound this way. Stupid kid.
“He’s up here.” Bobby pointed to a silver gray car parked in the side alley. The chrome and paint were both highly polished, reflecting the ice-blue of the sky even down here in the darkness of the alley, like a diamond glittering in mud. It clearly didn’t belong here. Raymond slowed as he approached the car, his brow furrowed. It was a Lexus. A new one, too. What was it doing here?
“He’s in there, Raymond. I just saw him like that.”
Him? Him who? Ray crept up to the driver’s side window, where the figure of a man was clearly slouched in the front seat. He put his hands on the glass and stared down. The man’s eyes bulged in their sockets, with pinpricks of brownish-red spots dotting the whites around his lids. His face was bloated and gray, and an ugly purple welt stained the flesh under his skin. His right hand clutched at his throat, claw-like. A part of Ray’s mind told him to look away. He shouldn’t see this. It was then he realized he couldn’t move.
“That guy’s dead, ain’t he?”
“Don’t use ain’t, Bobby. And yeah, he’s dead. We should—uh—we should call the cops or something.”
“Think there’ll be a reward?”
Raymond turned and stared at his little brother. Bobby stuck his jaw out. “I found him.”
Raymond turned back to the dead guy. “This isn’t like finders-keepers, Bobby! Sheesh!” He shook his head and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed 9-1-1, and waited for the operated to pick up the phone.