A Kiss Gone Bad

Jeff Abbott


When the Blade (as he secretly called himself) felt blue, he liked to relax behind the old splintery cabin, where his three Darlings were buried, and feel the power of their vanished lives pulse through him. It was quiet in the shade of the laurel oaks, and on lonely evenings the Blade pretended that his Darlings lived with him, with their cries and pleadings and wet, fearful eyes. His kingdom was small, twenty feet by twenty feet, and he ruled over only three subjects. But he ruled over them completely, life and body and soul.

Today, with his portable tape recorder playing a worn Beach boys cassette and the clear harmony of ‘God Only Knows’ drifting up into the oaks, he sat down between two of the unmarked graves: one of the mouthy carrot- topped girl from Louisiana who had fought so hard, the other the young woman from Brownsville who had cried the whole time and hardly deserved to be a Darling at all. He had selected a new Darling, a prime choice. But fear made his spit taste like smoke, because he had never wooed near Port Leo, much less wooed anyone… famous.

He had followed her for a daring ten minutes yesterday, sweat tickling his ribs, idling near her in the grocery store while she shopped with the big-shouldered boyfriend who had brought her to Port Leo. The Blade didn’t like the boyfriend named Pete, not one bit, although he liked to think about all the mischief that Pete had been up to, starring in those nasty movies. The Blade had eavesdropped in the grocery, pretending to inspect the jug wines while the couple selected beer. She fancied Mexican beer, one that folks drank with a lime slice crammed down the neck of the bottle, and he wished he knew its taste; but Mama didn’t let him drink. The Blade hoped they would talk about sex, being their vocation, but Pete and his Darling talked about grilling shrimp, the rainy autumn, how irritating his Godzilla-bitch ex-wife was.

His Darling’s voice sounded edgy, and impatient. I’m tired of us sneaking around this town and you pissing off these dumbasses. Let’s go to Houston to write your movie, I’m in big favor of Plan B. The hint that his Darling was making a movie, here in Port Leo, tightened his throat with desire. The boyfriend muttered no. Then she’d said, Jesus, let this crap with your brother go.

The sweet agony of being close to her flamed into fear. He’d grabbed a gallon of cheap cabernet in terror and bolted for the checkout lines, crowded with new winter Texans. He’d fled to the cereal aisle and shoved the jug behind the Cheerios and waited until his Darling and her boyfriend left the store before venturing out.

They hadn’t seen him, known him.

Pete was writing a movie? He didn’t think that the films those two did involved screenwriting. Didn’t they just point the camera, clamber on the bed, and do their artful moaning and thrusting with all the sincerity of professional wrestlers?

Last week he had driven into Corpus Christi when he learned that his soon-to-be Darling did movies, of an extremely dubious sort. He frequented adult bookstores, driving the two hours to San Antonio or the thirty-odd miles to Corpus Christi, avoiding the few establishments that were too close to Port Leo along the ribbon of Highway 35, never going to any single store too often, paying with bills worn thin from lying under Mama’s mattress. He never asked the clerks for recommendations – he didn’t want to be remembered – and tried to fit in with the faceless men who wandered the too-brightly lit aisles of the porn stores. He was unremarkable: just another lonely guy with eyes only for the bosomy models on the video covers.

His research uncovered that she had acted in only a few movies; she had directed far more. He almost felt proud of her. On his last jaunt, off the sale table, he bought a video she had headlined five years ago, her last acting job. She went by the name Velvet Mojo, an appellation the Blade found tasteless. The tape was called Going Postal. He suspected the post office would receive a satirical treatment. Perhaps even a deliciously violent treatment. But the movie disappointed. No violence. And while his Darling was versed in erotic tricks involving stamps that made his tongue go dry, her friend Pete performed with her, which seemed… wrong. The Blade watched them couple again and again until the world’s edges grew soft and his mind napped. He heard Mama cursing. When he awoke, he felt bleary and offended. She deserved rest with the pleasure of his company.

He could save her from this sordidness. He would.

That little shady spot under the old bent oaks, it would be perfect for her. But winning her would be tricky. Wooing other Darlings and avoiding suspicion had been easy. Louisiana and Brownsville and Laredo were far away. She was within a mile or so. And he would have to wait. He could not truly enjoy her now, but he could in a few days. His hunger sharpened, and he imagined her lips, speckled with her own blood, tasted of copper and strawberries.

The Blade stood with resolve. He would make her his. But first he would have to make sure that no one cared if she was gone.


The phone jarred The Honorable Whit Mosley awake at ten-thirty at night, out of a dream that melded campaign signs, incomprehensible legal mumbo jumbo, and his stepmother in a sheer nightgown. He cussed quietly and grabbed the receiver.

‘This is Judge Mosley,’ Whit croaked.

‘This is Patrolman Bill Fox, Judge. Sorry to wake you, Y’Honor, but we got a dead body we need you to certify.’

Whit sat up in bed. ‘Where?’

‘At Golden Gulf Marina.’

Whit blinked and stretched. Golden Gulf was the rich-boy marina in Port Leo – no boats under fifty feet need apply. ‘You got ID?’

‘According to a driver’s license his name is Peter James Hubble.’

Coldness settled in his stomach. Oh, mother of God.

Fox took his silence as an invitation for details. ‘A girl showed up at ten, found the fellow dead, shot in the mouth.’

Well, this would make a splashy headline. All over the state of Texas.

‘Okay, I’ll be there in a few minutes.’ Whit got up out of bed, a book tumbling to the floor. He’d fallen asleep trying to charge his way through the Texas Civil Practice text, the world’s surest cure for insomnia.

‘I’m wondering if this guy might be related to Senator Hubble,’ Officer Fox mused.

No shit, Sherlock, Whit wanted to say, but Fox was a smiling, amiable man and he said nothing. Fox was also a voter, and Whit needed every vote he could muster. ‘Pete’s her son. He’s been away for several years.’ Whit managed to keep his voice neutral. ‘If we’re sure it’s him, someone’s got to call the senator.’

‘Yes, sir. I’ll talk to the chief about it.’

‘Okay, thanks, Bill, I’ll be there in a few.’ He hung up.

Call the senator, hell. How about calling the dead guy’s ex-wife? He picked the phone back up, started dialing Faith Hubble’s number, and stopped. No point in freaking her out until he was sure it was Pete.

Please, God, don’t let Faith have had anything to do with this.

Whit pulled on the wrinkled khaki shorts, a clean T-shirt, and the parrot-covered beach shirt he’d worn earlier in the day. He locked up the guest house behind him, hurried barefoot across the cement decking around the pool, and by the back door to the main house found a worn pair of Top-Siders in a pile of pool accessories. Through the windows Whit saw his father assembling a sandwich in the kitchen, no doubt needing nourishment for another bout of nuptial bliss. His father noticed him rooting for the shoes and opened the back door.

‘Who called?’ Babe Mosley asked. He wore a silk robe Hefner would have approved of.

Вы читаете A Kiss Gone Bad
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату