Forced Perspectives – Snippet 26

CHAPTER SIX: How You Get Out of Your Way

At 6 AM Vickery had tucked the .45 into his belt and trudged around the trailer park and looked up and down the road, but the cars in the park were all familiar, and there were no vehicles stopped alongside the road for as far as he could see. The October wind had still been cool over the desert, and he had gone back to the trailer and opened all the windows and turned on fans to blow the stale air out. Finally he had carried gloves and a whiskbroom and dustpan out to the Saturn and punched out the remaining glass in the two back windows and swept out the interior, and had then gone in to wash the dishes and make breakfast.

He was standing by the stove, turning sizzling strips of bacon in a pan, when he felt warmer air puff in through the kitchen window, so he took the pan off the burner and closed the window, then went around taking fans down and sliding windows shut in the utility area and the living room. The bedroom door was closed, and he was reluctant to knock, though he would have to as soon as the bacon and eggs were ready.

But Castine came shuffling into the kitchen as he was using the rim of a tumbler to cut disks out of the middles of two slices of sourdough bread.

“I smell coffee,” she said, squinting at him.

He poured a cup and stepped past her to set it on the table. “Milk and sugar are already out. Silverware is in the basket by the condiments.”

She stirred two spoonfuls of sugar into the coffee and took a sip. “What are you cutting holes in bread for?”

“It’s Guy Kibbee eggs.” He forked the bacon strips out onto paper towels, lifted the pan and poured most of the grease into a jar, then laid the slices of bread in the pan and broke an egg into the hole in the middle of each one. “I’ll flip ’em in a minute. You get your egg and toast all in one piece, see.”

She nodded grudgingly and had another sip of coffee. “You’ve looked around?”

Vickery refilled his own cup from the pot. “Yes, just after dawn.” He shrugged. “Evidently nobody could see us over the curvature of the earth.”

“The way you live out here,” she said. “It’s as if you’ve been marking time. Waiting.”

He was mildly startled. “It could look that way, yes.”

“I suppose I’ve been doing the same, after all.” She set down her cup and ran her fingers through her disordered hair. “It’s a long drive to LAX.”

“Ontario airport is just eighty miles south. Hour and a half drive, even with a stop at Hesperia to retrieve your stuff from the bus station locker.”

“Oh.” She yawned. “We should check flights, I suppose.”

Vickery flipped the slices of bread. The top sides now were browned, and the eggs in the middles were white with yellow centers. “Can’t do it here. I’ve got no computer or smart phone.”

“Time yet for a hundred indecisions,” she said, “and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of Guy Kibbee eggs and coffee.” She looked up at him. “That’s T. S. Eliot, except for the eggs and coffee.”

Vickery laid bacon strips on two plates, then slid the egg-and-toast slices alongside. He carried them to the table and went back for his coffee, and when he sat down he said, “Indecisions?”

“And visions! — and revisions.” She had found a knife and fork in the basket of mismatched silverware, and cut into her fried bread. “What was it Laquedem said last night? Right after ‘it’s on a boat’ — something about ‘a crowd of people falling into the black hole.'”

“That’s what he said. He didn’t say anything about it.”

Castine nodded and shook Tabasco and then salt onto her cut-up egg. “That guy shot that woman, in the wrecked-house vision last night.”

“Echo vision. A time-spike. As you said, it probably happened a long time ago.”

“Imagine if we tried to tell the police about it — ‘In a hallucination we saw a woman get killed somewhere, some time.'” She took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. She swallowed, and said, “But it did happen. I wonder who she was. Who he was.”

“No way of telling.”

“Probably not. Old betrayals.” Castine glanced past him at the kitchen counter, where the bottle of Maker’s Mark still stood, visibly depleted. “It would be a mistake to fortify this coffee.”

He rocked his head, considering. “You don’t need to be very sober just to get on an airplane.”

“If we do get on an airplane.” She put down her knife and fork. “Last night we were closer to the old house than we’ve ever been; and did you see the motorcycle’s shadow? It was longer, it’s late afternoon on that day now. That long day. And the killer said he took that woman’s blood pressure, which is the same phrase that poor girl on the bicycle used — and she was pretty clearly channeling the crowd that was chasing us yesterday.” She gave him a quizzical look. “And they’ve got your daughter.”

He smiled wryly across the table at Castine. “My fossil daughter. You don’t want to get on an airplane.”

“Do you? I was awake a long time last night, thinking. Why do we keep seeing that old house, now, instead of our recent local pasts like before? I don’t want to see what happens there when the sun’s down. And I’m afraid I will, if these things are allowed to take their course. And — a lot of people falling into a black hole.”

Vickery turned his head to look at the bottle, then looked around at the interior of his trailer, noting the crowded bookshelves and the framed Maxfield Parrish prints in the living room, and the hole in the wall over the washing machine where he’d had to get at some pipes, and which he’d been meaning to patch. “I guess I wasn’t really considering leaving — not really. I guess I pictured escorting you to a departure gate and then…”

She nodded. “Driving back to L.A.”

“Well, yeah, I do want to talk to Galvan.”

“And we’ve got a date at four with Supergirl. You gave her a thousand dollars!”

Vickery tore off a piece of the fried bread to mop up some egg yolk. For several seconds he just chewed, then took a sip of coffee and said, “Okay. We don’t fly away, we go back down into L.A. and try to get a handle on this stuff. That’s about a two-hour drive.”

“We’ve got plenty of time. I’m glad to see you’ve got a shower in your bathroom, and — if I can borrow some money? — I’ll want to stop at that outlet mall below town for some fresh clothes.”

Vickery was chewing a strip of bacon, and nodded.

After they’d finished eating and the breakfast things were cleared away, Vickery went outside to check the tire pressures and oil and coolant levels on the car. When he came back in, Castine was washing the dishes.

She looked up. “Okay if I hang onto your .38?”

The question made their plan immediate, and depressed him. “I guess you may as well. Get a big purse. The gun’s registered — to Bill Ardmore — but you’re on your own if a cop should catch you with a concealed gun and no CCW permit.”

“That’s a misdemeanor, as I recall. I think we’ve got bigger worries.”

“I guess we do.” Vickery looked out the kitchen window at the desert, then back at Castine. “I’ll fill a couple of speed-loaders and magazines and put ’em in the trunk. And I should crawl under the trailer and get another pocketful of cash.”


Out past the Long Beach breakwater, the 45-foot Hatteras increased her speed, surging west across the twenty mile expanse of glittering blue sea between Santa Catalina Island and Point Vicente, and her shallow keel cut smoothly across the low waves. The twin V-6 diesel engines hummed in perfect synchronization, and the hull was cored with balsa wood between the fiberglass layers, so in the boat’s interior the engines and the water rushing past the hull outside were muted enough that the passengers had quickly stopped being aware of them.

In the lounge, the view forward was blocked by cabinets Harlowe had installed, and Lexi and Amber were kneeling on the long couch, sipping from plastic cups of root beer and peering out through the starboard windows. They were absorbed in the view, communicating only in excited squeaks and brief, sung bass notes. Simon Harlowe sat on a padded bench below the windows in the opposite bulkhead, staring at the girls.

They were his brother’s twin daughters, and Harlowe had adopted them after the death of both their parents in what the District Attorney had concluded was a tandem suicide.