|by Mark Finn|
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
One by one they showed up at Holly Schenkle, a.k.a. Holly Day's stylish Arcadia apartment. Holly lived in San Cibola, home of the aforementioned MagicCon, where she and her friends met Larry Croft and his friends last year. Her first exposure to him entailed him grabbing her ass from behind with both hands and kissing her with furious ardor. After that, she and the girls helped Larry and his friends to escape the clutches of hotel security and the cops. Following that kind of first meeting, how could she not go out with him?
Unfortunately, they only went out for three months. A lot of things killed it for them. The distance, Larry's deeply entrenched geekiness (which he tried to tone down, to his credit), and the fact that she never saw him naked. Not for a lack of effort on her part. The overall topper, however, was that he never again gave her the same picaresque passion of their first meeting. Confident, smart, even funny. But never that passion. That was what she really wanted from him.
The first to arrive was Linda Grogan, Holly's best friend. She walked into the large, spacious walk-up dressed in hip hugging denim bell-bottoms and a see-through white blouse. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She didn't need make-up to be pretty. She was carrying a large chai tea and a bag of bagels from the corner grocery. "Holly? Baby, it's Linda. Where are you?" she called out.
"In the kitchen."
Linda walked in to find a bleary-eyed Holly standing in the kitchen, covered in flour, sugar, and eggs. She wore her sleep clothes: athletic shorts and a tight Meatloaf concert shirt that barely contained her ample bosom. She looked miserable as she answered Linda's unspoken question. "I felt so bad about getting you girls up, I decided to make you French toast," she moaned.
"Oh, sweetie, you're upset," said Linda, coming forward to hug her friend. "Why? Holly, you know this is not the place for you."
"I made coffee," said Holly, defensively.
"I know, but you know how to do that, right?"
"Go in there, I'll fix this, okay? Here, have a bagel," she said.
"Thank you," said Holly. She snagged her super-size ceramic cup of coffee and the bag of bagels and sat on the futon, her legs tucked underneath her.
Rhonda Halsey came in next, carrying a double-mocha-latte. She wore her usual outfit; tight blue jeans and a baby-doll T-shirt. This one bore the address for her website, www.sno-conegirl.com. In keeping with the name of her little corner of the web, Rhonda was sporting a dark maroon hairdo, and it was a mess. "Holly," she said as she opened the door, "this had better be important. Rhonda doesn't do mornings, you know."
"Bullshit," said Linda from the kitchen. "You get up early in the morning just to tease the vultures who stare at you through your web-cam."
"That's different," Rhonda said, kissing Linda on the cheek, leaving an orange lip-print. "I don't have to be conscious with my fans. I have to be on my toes with you."
Linda and Holly, working together, had set up Rhonda's website as a sideline moneymaker, expecting it to generate beer money once a month. Rhonda quit work after three months, and has been living comfortably on the income from her voyeur-cam ever since. It was amazing to all of them, because Rhonda very rarely showed her audience anything more than bare breasts, and really, who hasn't seen Rhonda's bare breasts?
Rhonda sat down next to Holly. "Okay, so, what's the emergency?"
"Hold on," said Linda, as she walked out with a plate of French toast. "We're waiting on Leslie."
"Oh, well, you'd better start talking now, then," said Rhonda. "We don't have that much time to wait."
"Be nice," said Holly. She smiled and took a triangle of toast from the plate. It was delicious.
Holly's phone rang. She jumped, stared at it like it was going to eat her, and timidly picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"It's Les. I'm downstairs, parking. Be right up."
"Okay, thanks." Holly hung up. Rhonda and Linda were staring at her.
"Jesus, Holly, you're a bundle of nerves," said Rhonda.
"Leslie's on her way up," she said, drinking her coffee so she wouldn't have to acknowledge the comment.
A minute later, Leslie Lieboldt came through the door, smiled at everyone, and turned and locked it behind her. "Sorry I'm late," she said cheerfully. Her glasses were slightly fogged from her exertions. She was wearing baggy, knee-length shorts and a sweatshirt. "I smell coffee," she said, darting for the kitchen.
"Linda made French toast," said Holly.
"All over the kitchen, it looks like," said Leslie.
"No, that was me," said Holly.
Rhonda hit the arm of the futon impatiently. "Les, hurry up and get settled; I am dying to know what the fuck?"
"Okay, okay!" she shouted. "Jesus, Rhon, I've had a hard morning!"
"I'll just bet," said Rhonda, grinning wolfishly. Leslie was the only one currently dating someone, a thick and dumb bass player named Tom who had a certain way with his fingering that made the rest of them terribly envious.
Leslie came out of the kitchen, blushing and carrying a steaming cup of coffee, and said, "Easy Rhonda."
Holly waited until all of her friends were settled and hunched forward, focused on her with total concentration, before she said, "Larry Croft just called me from an Arizona jail."
The girls exploded with noises of disbelief, disgust, and despair. Rhonda was the first to be able to articulate. "Oh my God! What nerve!"
"Yeah, I know," said Holly. "And by the way, Rhon, this better not go in your LiveJournal, either. I don't need all of your devotees knowing what's fucking what right now."
"Mum's the word," she said, making the Boy Scout salute.
"Holly, what happened?" asked Linda.
"Well, he said that he and the guys-"
"Burt is with him?" interrupted Linda.
"Yes, Burt, and Turk, and D.J." said Holly, irritably. "They were doing some sort of heist, some sort of con-game, I think, and they got caught red-handed."
"Those guys?" asked Rhonda, incredulously.
"Oh, poor little Burt," said Linda, her eyes worried. "I hope he's all right."
"Hey, Lin, what about poor little Holly?" asked Holly. "Larry called me asking for bail money."
"No way!" said Leslie.
"Yes way," said Holly.
"It's not bad enough that they lie to you and break your heart," muttered Rhonda, "but then they go and ask you for money. What fucking nerve."
Linda held Holly's hand. "So, what are you going to do?" she asked.
"That's just it," said Holly. "As weird as it sounds, and this is the part that's freaking me out, I had been thinking about him all week before he called."
Rhonda started. "Ohmigod. Goosebumps." She held out her arm for the others to see. "Rhonda is officially spooked."
"Anyway," continued Holly, "I was just thinking about what a, you know, like cavalier he was at MagicCon...and then we started going out, and we didn't ever have sex, because he was embarrassed about his body...the two pictures didn't match up. But I was thinking, you know, what if we tried it again, baby steps, right?"
"He really got under your skin, didn't he?" said Linda.
"Yeah, he did. It was those eyes...like a force of nature, you know?" Holly's face fell. "And then, I get a phone call asking for money."
"Fuck 'em," said Rhonda "They aren't worth killing, I'm telling you."
Leslie shook a finger at her. "You had a much higher opinion of men before you started taking their money."
"No, I had a much higher opinion of dick. I never really liked men all that much." Rhonda patted Holly's thigh. "And if she ain't getting any, then she shouldn't have to bail him out of jail."
"Don't front," said Linda, "you're bi because you want to be, not because you've been done wrong."
"Not true!" shrieked Rhonda.
Holly held up her hands. "Okay, we're off-course, here. Let's focus on me, my problem."
"What does your heart say?" asked Linda.
"I think you know that," said Holly.
"Can you afford it, then?" said Leslie.
"Of course, that's not the point, either." Holly had quit her job at the bank to do Internet consulting work and website design with Linda. By wearing mini-skirts to their business meetings, they had snagged a couple of small companies with more dollars than sense, and had charged three times the reasonable price for their services. Between the two of them, they now worked roughly forty hours a week and were making double their old incomes.
"I think it's a big mistake," said Rhonda. "You do this for him, you'll never get rid of him."
"Did he offer to pay you back?" asked Linda.
"Yeah, they all did," said Holly.
"Well, then," said Linda. "If you can do it, and you want to do it, then why don't you?"
"Because I don't want another uber-nerd," she said. "That was the problem the last time, but now..."
Leslie's eyes got wide. "You like that he's in jail, don't you?"
Holly put her head in her hands. "Goddess help me, yes I do!"
Rhonda put her arm around Holly's shoulder. "You and your bad boys."
"Oh Holly," said Leslie. "You should think about what you're doing."
"I can't think! That's why you're all here!" wailed Holly.
"Okay, settle down," said Linda. "I think you should go with your heart."
"Actually," said Rhonda, "if it's the bad boy thing, you can't fight it."
"You need to be careful that you don't get hurt again," said Leslie.
Holly stared at them each in turn. They were with her, no matter what her decision was. She sighed, picked up the phone, and asked information for the number for Western Union.
Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents