Cal’s phone buzzed in his pocket as he rode his scooter home. It was a short ride home, so he ignored it. Whoever it was could wait. He was busy stewing about what happened at the sheriff’s office.
What was Agent Parson up to? Why had he beaten up Walsh? Their previous theory of gang involvement was shot now. The thought of The Lemolos hiring the federal government to kidnap Walsh was pretty silly. Cal was pretty sure Agent Parson hadn’t caught on that Cal knew anything about the kidnapping. Sometimes coming across like a dumb kid had its advantages. But still, now Agent Parson had Oscar’s and Angel’s names. All thanks to Cal.
And he had to admit to a little guilt over picking Oscar over Angel.
And Beth really was a pretty name.
And the worse thing was telling Oscar that he was right. Cal should have just left it alone. Well, lesson learned. He wasn’t sure if a federal offense was one of those things that dropped off your record when you turned eighteen, but he wasn’t all that interested in finding out.
He pulled up into the driveway of his house, his headlight briefly illuminating the election sign in their front yard. Re-elect Mayor Grant, with Mayor Grant’s giant face smiling out. Cal felt that the thick goatee, dark eyebrows and horns that he and Oscar had drawn on the sign was an improvement, but his mom thought otherwise. She thought the neighborhood was going to hell with hooligans roaming the street at night. His plan if caught was to claim it was an early Halloween decoration, but when he saw the anger in his mom’s eyes he let it go and didn’t bother to explain to her that the hooligan who she thought had been roaming the streets actually lived in her own house.
Rob had parked badly, as usual, his old Mustang taking up as much of the double driveway as possible. Cal had to squeeze his scooter between the hedge and the side of the car, being careful not to scratch Rob’s car. It had a custom paint job with a yellow lightning bolt down the side. In it it said “#51 The Cannon”. Aside from that, Rob took really good care of the car. It would be a cool car if Rob wasn’t such a superficial idiot. He took care of it because it was a thing and he wanted to make it pretty. Not because he valued it, but because of how having nice things made him look in other people’s eyes. Forget that he was Assistant Manager at Radio Shack, and that he still lived in his mom’s house. He had nice things, but Rob had no class.
Cal walked into the house. It was quiet. Rob must be sequestered in the master suite upstairs. Cal didn’t want to know the details. The only thing that mattered was that the rest of the house was his. His own little piece of quiet and darkness. He walked through the dark house on autopilot for the kitchen. He thought he heard a giggle as he passed the stairs and immediately worked on ignoring any other sounds coming from up stairs.
He got to the kitchen, flicked on a light and took off his coat. He was suddenly very tired. There was a note on the counter in his mom’s handwriting. The note was to him and Rob explaining in apologetic tones that she was away for the weekend again. She was so busy with her two jobs that he really didn’t expect her around much. The note also said there was money for food, but of course there wasn’t any. Rob would have taken all of it.
Cal sat down at the kitchen table and looked up at the clock. Two hours before he had to be at work. He rested his head on his hands and let the quiet around him soak in to the quiet within him.
He could have easily fallen asleep right there, but he knew he’d miss work if he did that. Plus he’d leave himself undefended when Rob came down for some food. He stood up and shook his head. He grabbed a Mountain Dew out of the nearly empty fridge and opened it on the way down to his room.
With his room’s door locked behind him, he could finally relax. He grabbed the remote control off of his desk and threw himself onto his bed. He lay with his head hanging off the foot of the bed upside down, stretching out his neck. He thumbed the remote and the radio turned on. The Strokes were playing. That was good enough. He promised himself one song before he had to get up.
Somehow The Strokes became Katy Perry and his two hour lead time before work became forty-five minutes. He turned off the radio, wondering how the hell any self-respecting DJ could justify going from The Strokes to Katy Perry. He drank the rest of the Mountain Dew and remembered his phone.
He noticed an envelope on the pillow of his bed. “Calvin” was written on the front in his mom’s handwriting. He grabbed it and sat down in his desk chair. It was a personal card from his mom with an extra sixty dollars in it. “I’ll see you when I get home,” it read. “Rob will probably take what I left in the kitchen, so here’s some money for you. I love you and I miss you.”
He put the money in his wallet and put the card in the back of the top drawer of his desk with many other similar cards. He missed his mom too. Since his dad died, his mom had problems making ends meet. She had taken a second job earlier this year working on the mayor’s campaign.
He remembered his phone and dug it out of his pants. Flipping it open, he saw that he had a text message. NEED TO TALK. ANGEL.
His heart skipped a beat. She had his phone number? And now he had hers as well and she wanted to talk. This day was turning around.
He pushed the button to call her back, but then cancelled the call. He needed a plan. He didn’t want to wind up flat-footed like last time. Was it too soon to ask her to dinner. Maybe just coffee. She liked coffee. Plus they already had coffee together once. Sorta. Coffee. He’d ask her to meet him for coffee. That’s the plan.
He pushed the button to call her again, but then cancelled it again. He needed to brush his teeth first. He didn’t want his voice to sound sticky on the phone. So he went and brushed his teeth and drank some water to make sure his voice didn’t crack, then pushed the button to call her a third time. This time he let it ring.
“Cal,” she said as she answered the phone.
“Hi,” he responded.
“Can’t talk,” she said in a quick, hushed voice. “I’ll text you.”
The call ended and Cal sat on his bed staring at his phone. After what seemed like ages, it vibrated and the screen lit up.
WHERE CAN WE MEET? She asked.
He thought about going to get coffee with her now, but his fantasy crashed to the ground as he remembered work.
HAVE TO WORK TONIGHT, he responded then waited.
AFTER WORK?, she asked.
AFTER CURFEW? He asked
SURE :) WHERE?, she replied.
His heart raced. There was a place that Cal and Oscar used to sneak out to at night, after their parents were asleep. He remembered the freedom of sneaking off into the night. The idea of sneaking off with Angel was even more exciting.
GOLF COURSE, he typed. INSIDE FENCE. DITCH AT 15TH.
OK, WHEN, she replied.
1AM? He asked.
OK, she replied.
C U THEN, he said.
OK, she replied.
Texting was obviously a less personal way of communicating, but ending a text conversation was tricky. With no visual cues or tones to help out, the conversation just felt like it dropped off a cliff.
At least that’s how Cliff felt until he got one more message.
VISITED BY FBI 2NITE :(
Cal froze. The implications of Agent Parson visiting Angel were unsettling. If he had bought everything Cal had told him, he wouldn’t be talking with Cal’s friends. Did he buy any of it?
SORRY, he typed, then erased it. He could take the blame in person. He didn’t want her hating him all evening. Maybe she wouldn’t even show if she knew this was his fault.
ME 2, he finally decided to reply.
Cal texted Oscar next.
FBI? He asked.
Then Cal remembered that Oscar would be at work already. He’d have to try and chat with him sometime while Mr. Tower wasn’t watching.
YES, Oscar replied.
MEET UP 2NITE? Cal asked Oscar
I>M 5SCAR MOM HES GROUNDER, Oscar replied, or rather his mom did. No kid texted that poorly.
Crap, they got to Oscar too. And his parents. Poor Oscar. Cal looked at the time. He was going to be late to work if he didn’t hurry. The last thing he needed was Mr. Tower on his case.
* * *
Mr. Tower was in an awful mood that night. Plus they were busy so everybody was busting their butts for the whole shift. Cal and Oscar only got the chance to chat once. Oscar brought in a heavy bus tub overflowing with dishes. Silverware bounced on the floor as he set it down on the metal cabinet. Cal popped Bessie open to stop the machine so they could hear each other. He positioned himself so that he could see Mr. Tower approaching through the tiny window in the door.
“The FBI came to your house?” Cal asked.
“Yeah,” Oscar replied. “But he’s not just FBI, he’s the guy we saw beat up that other guy.”
“I know, I talked to him too.”
“Yeah, he told us.”
Cal’s heart sank. That meant Angel probably knew too.
“I thought we agreed to drop it,” Oscar said, an anger smoldering in his eyes.
“We did.” Cal nodded. “But I couldn’t let it go. I kept thinking. What if somebody had come forward with my dad’s murder? Maybe they would have the guy who did it. Maybe I could be that somebody for Walsh.”
“They know who killed your dad,” Oscar said.
“No,” Cal said. “Remember when we looked through the files? All they know is that somebody in The Lemolos killed him. They only went after Cesar Bigby because he was the big chief. They had nothing on him personally which is why nothing stuck.”
“This is bad,” Oscar said. “My mom is pissed. Luckily my dad is in Olympia this week. When he gets back, I’m in so much trouble.”
“But you’re missing the point,” Cal said. “The FBI guy is the guy that kidnapped Walsh. That’s the big deal. That’s what’s bad.”
“No, man. No, I don’t want any part of it,” Oscar said. “It’s some messed up shit, and we should leave it alone. You’ve already gotten us pulled into it.”
“But we saw him take that guy.”
“He’s and FBI agent. He takes guys for a living,” Oscar said, pleading. “C’mon man, forget about it. It’s just some guy doing his job.”
“Except that Walsh wound up dead.”
“Hey, maybe it’s all legit. Maybe the FBI busted him for something, then he killed himself because he got caught.”
Cal looked at Oscar. “You believe that?” he asked.
Oscar looked out the window nervously. “No. Something’s not right.”
Cal opened his mouth to say something triumphant.
“But,” Oscar cut back in. “Even more reason to keep out of it.”
“How can we stay out of it?” Cal asked, “We know something.”
“This is too big for us, Cal,” Oscar said. “It’s the freakin’ FBI. Christ, The Lemolos is too big for us, and the FBI is a helluva lot bigger gang than The Lemolos. We can’t do anything. Let’s just stick to The Plan.”
The Plan was hatched a year ago after a rough patch with a bully at school. It was the last straw for Aberdeen. Oscar started taking Muai Thai and eventually convinced the bully to back down. A broken collar bone can do that. The bully didn’t come back to school after that, but the school and town were soured for both of them. The Plan was to stockpile as much money as they could, then get into a good college and get the hell out of there for good. If nothing else, they’d at least move to Tacoma. Tacoma had Denny’s, and probably bullies too, but it wasn’t Aberdeen. Sitting in a federal prison wasn’t part of The Plan.
Oscar turned and headed for the door.
“Hey,” Cal said. “I’m meeting Angel tonight at the golf course. They went to her house too. Meet us there at 1am. I want to see if we can piece anything together.”
“You guys do what you want,” Oscar said. “I’m out. Besides, I’m grounded. If I get caught sneaking out, I’m dead.”
With that he left the dishwashing station. Cal slammed Bessie’s door back down and the loud hum and crash of the high pressure water filled the room. He grabbed the sprayer and took his aggression out on the nearest plate.
As a dishwasher, Cal had developed somewhat of a forensic mind. Little scraps of food, what was eaten and what wasn’t, the size of the plate. It’s all data that he would use to reconstruct the murder scene. In this one and innocent plate of Moons Over My Hammy took a wrong turn down a dark alley. The perp clearly bit off more than he could chew, as the plate escaped mostly intact; however, the damage done was irreparable. This Moons Over My Hammy would be scared for its short, bitter life. Cal felt the only thing an honest man could do was to put the plate out of its misery. He apologized as he scraped the eggs and meat into the trash can then rinsed the rest off into the disposal. This really was the only way to move on.
* * *
Lights cut across the field like a searchlight, briefly highlighting the backs of two figures sitting on the grass.
Angel looked over her shoulder. “They really can’t see us?” she asked.
Cal looked over at her silhouette. “You ever drive by the golf course at night?” he asked in reply.
“Sure,” she said. “All the time.”
“You ever see anything beyond the fence?” Cal smiled. His eyes were adjusting back to the starlight and he could see more of her features. She seemed to smile back.
“Good point,” she conceded. “But wouldn’t it be safe to go further into the course.”
“No, the closer you get to the main area, the more likely you are to get seen by security. Better to stay out here on the edge. Besides you wouldn’t want to fall into a sand trap or a water hazard.”
“Water hazard?” she asked.
“Lake,” he explained.
“Ah, leave it to men to put a beautiful lake in the middle of a beautiful and perfectly manicured landscape then call it a hazard.”
“Yeah,” Cal said. “I normally attend all Man Meetings, but the whole golf thing happened before my time. Frankly, I don’t understand it.”
Angel laughed. It was beautiful, like the sound of, well, an angel laughing. Cal let the moment stretch out before ruining it.
“So, that FBI agent,” he said. “Same guy that kidnapped Walsh?”
“Yeah, isn’t that spooky?” Angel asked.
“Well I’m sorry I put him on your tail,” Cal said.
“Don’t be. We’re in this together, right?” She patted his hand. His concentration was broken.
Confused thoughts tumbled around in his brain. He remembered the sheriff talking about his file on Angel. How she’d caused a lot of problems. That part of her had its enticing bits, but he also didn’t really want to join her on another wild ride.
“But what is the ‘this’, exactly?” he asked.
She took her hand off of his. Cal worried that she had read his mind.
“I think it’s a murder,” she said.
Cal heard another car coming up the road. High contrast shadows cast about in the golf course as the car came closer. Cal opened his mouth to respond to Angel, but the words froze in his throat. A new shadow had appeared in front of them. He glanced over his shoulder into the bright light and saw a figure silhouetted not far away. The cars wouldn’t notice him, but that person could see them as plain as day now.
Cal jumped up to his feet and saw the figure moving towards them.
“Cal?” Angel asked as he reached down and grabbed her hands.
“Get up,” he said, pulling her to her feet. He let go of one of her hands and pulled her along with him into the golf course. “Run,” he shouted to her. “Run!”