2800 words (11 minute read)

Three

The morning light was poking its ugly head through the curtains. A knife wound of light through the cool, pleasant dark was leaving a gash across Lindsay’s face. The ultimate betrayal. Worse still, it was 8:00 am and the sounds of human activity on La Jolla beach was already loud and obnoxious enough to hide the rhythm of the waves lazily rolling up onto the sand.

Some mornings the clouds were on her side, blotting out the sun and casting the world grey. When there was a light fog in the air, it was perfect. Cool ocean breeze, no sunburns, no surfers, no screaming children or drunk assholes. Just her and the Pacific, no sounds but the crashing of waves and maybe a few seagulls squawking in the distance. Her own little silent paradise.

Clearly, this wasn’t gonna be one of those mornings. Typical.

She hissed in the direction of the window and rolled away from it, burying her face in the pillow and tugging the blankets up around her head. She would deny all existence outside her dreams for as long as possible, even though she didn’t have to be anywhere. In fact, her one job was to stay here, out of sight and drawing no attention. On paper, it seemed like a pretty good deal. Live on the beach alone and speak to no one.

She’d been here in this small house for a year now. She’d pondered the phrase "can’t be too careful." Did it apply when nobody seemed to care what you’ve done? It was in the news the day after, but that was about it. Did the cops even really care? Did Greg’s family even care? Did Greg even really have any family? The few times he spoke of them, it wasn’t favorable. Perhaps therein lay the answer.

"Shutthefuckup" she groaned at herself. She considered these the worst moments. Those brief windows where there was plenty of time to sleep, however, your mind summoned up a gag reel of every stupid thing you’ve ever done. The what if’s and the why’s and the should -have-done’s. Transcendental meditation for the masochistic.

Hack Glanton owned this place. His home away from home. Despite its size, it didn’t come cheap. Nothing really does in California, and if it’s within 10 miles of a beach? Forget about it. He’d told her he did pretty well during the eight years of the Obama administration, but she knew better than to think that his main customers were paranoid Republicans and wannabe militia. She didn’t care much about that. Hack was a decent guy in a world that didn’t have many. She’d had nowhere else to turn after what had happened...well...happened, and he looked out for her even though he didn’t have to. Wasn’t even charging rent.

Times change though. Hack told her this was one of the last holdouts of his bygone wealth. The business had been less than favorable lately. If she’d had a little less sense in her head, she might think that was a sign the world was getting a little less terrible, but she knew better. Mass murder, crimes of passion and gang violence continued on as much as these things always had, business as usual. They didn’t need Hack’s merchandise to do so.

The sound of a diesel engine and loud rap music rattled the windows of the bedroom. What must have been a large pickup was pulling up to the curb outside, as the beach parking lot across the street would have been at capacity hours before sunrise. There was a series of squeaks as the driver attempted to fit into what little space was left on the street, tires scraping the curb. Finally settling, the engine was cut and four doors opened and slammed shut. She could hear the mindless banter from the group of SoCal douchebags that had invaded the tiny sliver of Lindsay’s peace and she decided that sleep was done. It was time to drag herself kicking and screaming into the horror that was morning.

"Fuckfuckfuuuuck" she grumbled pathetically as she sat up, sweeping her hair up out of her face and staring at the floor, blinking her eyes and wondering what exactly starting the day was supposed to mean for her. Idly, she ran her hands along her bare legs, feeling the roughness of the stubble that had grown in since the last time she gave a shit. It had been a few days since she’d gone for a swim, one of the last things she still enjoyed besides deep slumber.

She thought about how some large spiders use their legs to flick their hairs like hundreds of little irritating and painful darts, warding off attackers.

"I’m a tarantula," she mused to no one, "if the fangs don’t getcha, the leg hair will."

With that, her feet met the carpet solely out of the desire to piss and procure caffeine. She fought through the initial dizziness to the bathroom, making her first mistake of the day by glancing at the mirror.

"Ugh"

She rarely drank anymore, so she couldn’t blame that. Her hair, cropped short and dyed soon after she moved in and almost touching her shoulders now, was a blonde trainwreck with long dark roots emerging at the scalp. She had developed dark circles around her eyes, and at 29, the first few ghosts of crow’s feet. She’d drooled in the night, which had now dried on her chin and one of her breasts had decided not to be confined to her tank top any longer.

Lindsay conducted her business and in what she considered an amazing display of patience and grace, decided to postpone her first cup of coffee by three whole minutes, quickly washing her face and rinsing her mouth out. She made her way out of the bathroom and down the narrow stairs to the quaint living room, stumbling a bit and grabbing the back of the couch for balance, before pushing on to the kitchen. She retrieved a little pod from a drawer and inserted it into the weird space coffee machine Hack had brought down a few months ago. She sat glaring at the LED screen as the sweet nectar dispensed slowly into the cup, silently threatening destruction to the mindless caffeine robot if it refused to work faster.

Once the concoction had been completed, she mixed in her normal cocktail of sugar and french vanilla creamer, before moving the party to the living room couch. She fired up the large smart tv and tuned it to the news, more out of habit and background noise than any real desire to be informed on the latest batch of bullshit for the day. Her phone sat abandoned on the side table from the night before. She had shed any desire or need to keep it close. She deactivated her social media accounts and email last year (after ditching the phone under her name) after everything had happened. The only person that would be calling (the only person who knew she was alive and hadn’t fled the country actually) was Hack. There were no messages waiting for her and the battery indicator reported that it was at 9 percent. She plugged it into the charger and set it back down, taking a large sip from her cup and turning her attention to the news.

While the anchor droned on about the latest PR nightmare from the White House, Lindsay found her thoughts drifting to her mother and what she would think about her living almost completely dependant on a criminal. She pitched a fit when Lindsay had gotten a tattoo, the band of markings found around Tolkien’s One Ring was now permanently wrapped around her arm. She’d had a catastrophic meltdown when she found out her daughter and only child was stripping in some dirty Vegas hole in the wall. Blew up even worse when Lindsay had told her about her engagement to Greg, the co-owner of a nightclub on the Strip, whom she had met just under a year prior.

What would Lindsay’s mother think, if she knew Lindsay was living in the house of what her mother would call a flesh-peddler? Accuse her of being a godless Jezebel, paying her rent on her knees like some street-slut of Babylon?

She remembered the look in her mother’s eyes when she called her a whore. It carried the same venom as Greg’s eyes did when he hit her for the first time. Which had also been the very last time he hit her or anyone else.

What Lindsay’s mother didn’t know, what certainly none of Hack’s associates or customers knew was that Hack wasn’t like that at all. Exactly the opposite. He may own a titty bar and sell guns to some less than reputable members of society, but abusive to women he was not. Attracted to women he was not.

To Lindsay, he was a good friend. At this point in her life, the best friend she could have ever hoped for. She’d called him the night it happened, and little explanation was needed before he told her to come to LA, that he would figure something out. She came to him, her face bruised, hands still shaking and eyes threatening another flood of tears even after the 5-hour drive, when she was sure there couldn’t be any more left in her. Wracked with guilt, angry, confused, heartbroken and on the verge of total mental collapse, Hack ditched her car the next day, packed her in his own that night, stopped briefly for some supplies to get her through the weekend, and got on the 5 South to San Diego.

Hack had the strange ability to understand suffering. He was also able to find just the right things, little ways to take the edge off, sometimes with his notoriously dark sense of humor. There she was, in the passenger seat, in between fits of sobbing while staring out into the suffocating darkness which, in the light, would be the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, out of the speakers came that one cheerful and upbeat song by the Dixie Chicks about the abused woman who turned the tables on her husband. It stopped her cold and she looked over at him in the driver’s seat. He was wide-eyed, staring straight ahead at the freeway, before slowly turning his dark brown eyes right to meet hers, a sheepish grin on his face.

The song went, "It turned out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all"

She burst out laughing incredulously, which hurt due to her injuries. She didn’t care about the pain. She had spent what felt like so long feeling that her life was over and she would never feel anything good ever again, but for this one little moment, she was laughing and felt like her world hadn’t ended. Hack held her hand as he drove, and she cried again, but the tears were different this time.

The memory was interrupted by a news bulletin on the tv screen, "Massacre in Tavish"

Lindsay turned up the volume.

The voice of the stern-faced anchorman cut in, "...available at this point, but we’re now receiving word of a horrific murder scene in Tavish, we now go to Julie Freemantle for more information. Julie?"

The screen cut to the young reporter standing on a dirt road, which was apparently up north near LA near Angeles National Forest. Behind her were a plethora of police cars, vans, and bystanders trying to get a look. Yellow caution tape was stretched along the path, and cops were attempting to control the crowd that had formed. Lindsay had only ever heard about Tavish when something terrible had happened.

Julie nodded at the camera, "Thank you, Bob. I’m standing outside Bachman Spring Campground, a quiet retreat near the city of Tavish, where the remains of 5 people were found by a jogger at 5:00 am this morning. Information is very limited at this point, but a description of the scene paints a picture far more grotesque than that of the Sharon Tate house decades ago. We’ve been told that an ID of the victims will be considerably more difficult due to the extensive mutilation of the bodies, the severity was described by one individual as appearing ’ritualistic’. This bears many similarities to last year’s murder of Raymond Porter at Veteran’s Park in Tavish, the 4th Street Shooting in 2017, and the New Year’s Massacre in 2013, where Officer Alexander Hawkins of Tavish Police Department and DEA agent William Burke were found slaughtered. There’s no official word on if today’s tragedy is connected, but given recent history, official word would be a formality at this point. Back to you Bob."

Bob appeared back onscreen.

"Thank you, Julie. More on the scene in Tavish as the story develops. Already accusations are being made on social media at Abaddon Temple, the religious group headquartered 10 miles north of Tavish off of Angeles Crest Highway. The church has previously been questioned in connections to slayings in the last decade taking place in and around Los Angeles County. A spokesperson for the group took to Twitter to say ’Abaddon Temple expresses deep sympathy in light of another heartbreaking incident in Tavish. We offer prayers and open arms to our neighbors.’. The bizarre and often hostile practices of this group have been a growing concern among law enforcement, government, and religious officials, as well as an alleged connection to the designer drug known as ’Gris’, a hallucinogenic substance that caught attention in late 2015..."

Lindsay decided that was enough news for today. She clicked the TV off.

As for what to do with the rest of the morning, she decided on pouring more coffee for one, rolling a joint and heading to the tiny second-floor patio. Later, exercise. Go for a run, work up enough of an appetite for lunch. No more being underfed. Regroup and come up with a plan for the afternoon. Maybe figure a way to earn extra money. The money Hack loaned her wasn’t going to last. Maybe she could paint something. She liked to paint. Etsy was a thing and it probably didn’t require photo ID.

The phone chimed. Message from Hack.

"Something’s come up. Might need your help for a few days. Can you be ready to go by tonight?"

"Now this is an interesting development," Lindsay said.

She texted back "sure...bored anyway. what time?"

After a few moments, a reply "pick u up at 8. staying at my place. pack a bag".

Lindsay sighed, "Well, so much for my busy schedule."

She had started up the stairs when another chime came in.

"And bring that iron I gave u."

Whoa.

He was referring to the Beretta PX4 Storm, a compact 9mm pistol, he’d given her last year. Just in case. He risked taking her to the range a few times, just to make sure she knew what she was doing. She turned out to be an exceptional marksman.

What was THIS about?

She sent "ok, but might I inquire WTF?"

The reply, "my friend darren coming to town, that cop I told u about. explain more tonight."

Another one of Hack’s proteges. From the sound of it, he was kind of like her. Maybe Hack was starting a collection of broken assholes.

Lindsay decided against prying further for now.

By 6:00 she was packed, showered, (and since she had time, shaved off the tarantula hairs, much to her chagrin) dressed, and ready to go.

At 7:30 she sat on her patio, smoking a joint and watching the sunset and enjoying the cool breeze. The beach douchebags were finally leaving and this little corner of the world was about to be hers again. It was a shame she was about to leave her little paradise, but it had been too long since her last outing. That and she owed Hack more than she thought she could ever repay. She’d changed her appearance enough, and the fake ID was professionally done, but there were only a few places in public she’d risk going. Balboa Park, the zoo, the little park next to the hospital on Coronado, where you can look up at the bridge. Hiking out at Torrey Pines and out near Rancho Bernardo. It was time to see some other places. Maybe enough time had passed.

She remembered the look in Greg’s eyes after she had driven the knife in his chest. And when she stuck it in again. And again. And again.

She shuddered.

A horn honked right below her. She looked out over the patio fence to see Hack’s Range Rover.

"I think I’m quite ready for another adventure", she said to herself, flicking the joint and heading downstairs.

Next Chapter: Four