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FUN AND GAMES 

DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI 

For David Thompson

Che sempre l’omo in cui pensier rampolla sovra pensier, da se dilunga il segno perche la foga l’un de l’altro insolla.

—Dante Purgatorio, canto 5, lines 16–18

You’re the type of guy that gets suspicious I’m the type of guy that says, “The puddin is delicious.”

—LL Cool J, “I’m That Kind of Guy”

THE PIERCING screech of tires on asphalt.

The screams—

His.

Your own.

And then—

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It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

—Popular saying

Los Angeles—Now

SHE DISCOVERED Decker Canyon Road by accident, not long after she moved to L.A. A random turn off the PCH near Malibu shot her up the side of the mountain, followed by twelve miles of stomach-flipping twists and hairpin turns all the way to Westlake Village. And she loved it, hands gripping the wheel of the sports car she’d bought with her first real movie check—because that’s what you were supposed to do, right? Blow some of that money on an overpriced, overmuscled convertible coupe that popped a spoiler when you topped 75. She never cared she was going thirty miles faster than any sane driver would attempt on this road. She loved the ocean air smashing into her face, the feel of the tires beneath as they struggled to cling to the asphalt, the hum of the machine surrounding her body, the knowledge that one twitch to the left or right at the wrong moment meant her brand-new car, along with her brand-new life, would end up at the bottom of a ravine, and maybe years later people would ask: Whatever happened to that cute actress who was in those funny romantic comedies a few years ago? Back then, she loved to drive Decker Canyon Road because it blasted all of the clutter out of her mind. Life was reduced to a simple exhilarating yes or no, zero or one, live or die.

But now she was speeding up Decker Canyon Road because she didn’t want to die.

And the headlights were gaining on her.

The prick had been toying with her ever since she made the turn onto Route 23 from the PCH.

He’d gun the engine and then flash his high beams and fly right up her ass. She’d be forced to take it above 60, praying to God she’d have enough room to spin through the next finger turn. Then without warning he’d back off, almost disappearing… but not quite.

The road had no shoulder.

No guardrails.

It was like he knew it and was trying to spook her into a bad turn.

Her cell was in the dash console, but it was all but useless. The few seconds it took to dial 911 could be a potentially fatal distraction. And what was she going to tell the operator? Send someone up to Route 23, seventeenth hairpin turn from the middle? Even the highway patrol didn’t patrol up here, preferring to hand out speeding tickets on Kanan Road or Malibu Canyon Road.

No, better to keep her eyes on the road and her hands upon the wheel, just like Jim Morrison once advised.

Then again, Jim had ended up dead in a bathtub.

The headlights stayed with her. Every few seconds she thought she’d lost them, or they’d given up, or—God, please please please—driven over a bump of asphalt where a guardrail should be and tumbled down into the ravine. But the instant she thought they might be gone… they returned. Whoever was behind the wheel didn’t seem to give a shit that they were on Decker Canyon Road, that one slip of the wheel was like asking God for the check, please.

She was almost two miles along the road now; ten to go.

Her Boxster was long gone; traded in after the accident in Studio City three years ago. Now she drove a car that suited her age—a leased Lexus. A car for grown-ups. And it was a fine machine. But now, as she took those insanely tight turns in the near dark, she wished she had the Boxster again.

Decker Canyon Road was notorious for two things: the rusted-out chassis of cars that dotted the hills, and its uncanny ability to induce car sickness, even with safe, slow drivers just trying to make their way up to Westlake Village in one piece.

She felt sick to her stomach now, but she didn’t know if it was the road doing it to her, or the events of the past few days. The past few hours, especially. She hadn’t eaten much, hadn’t slept much. Her stomach felt like it had been scraped from the inside.

She’d been up for a job that seemed like a sure thing: producers, director, writer, star all in place, a guaranteed fast-track green light. It was a supporting role but in a higher-profile movie than she’d done in years. A role that would make people notice her again—Wow, she’s in that? I was wondering where she’d been. And then it all had fallen apart in less than an hour.

She’d spent the majority of the past week in her Venice apartment, brooding, not able to bring herself to take much interest in feeding or watering herself or even turning on the satellite cable—God forbid one of her pieces of

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