Doesn't matter. Yesterday and today I added 20 pages of Jake and Lemm...and for some reason I'm picturing Mary Astor in "The Maltese Falcon", where you never know what she's up to. Not a bad template...but I hope Lemm winds up on the side of the angels. I'm just that shallow.
Here's a taste.
So we got to Dion and Ton’s place about nine-thirty, and it was dead quiet. Dion crept in to find the twins in bed, sound asleep, while Ton and I checked on Joel. The boy was also asleep, but on a corner of the bed, a small flashlight clutched in his mouth, sat this guy who couldn’t have been more than nineteen, working on a jigsaw puzzle depicting Niagara Falls. He heard us peek in and looked around, and I was hit by the sweetest, most open face I’d ever seen in my life. Big brown eyes. Gentle smile. Good clean chin with a hint of stubble on it. He was close to ideal.
He dropped the flashlight into his hand and put a finger to his lips then carefully sipped off the bed, and I saw he had what I can only call a male-model body. Not one of those skinny guys who look like they live on the thought of food, but muscular and lean and clean and in just the right proportions, under a Polo shirt and Dockers that only added to the flow of his body. He whispered over to us and closed the door behind him, and his smile widened to reveal neat, white teeth.
I damn near hated him, he was so perfect.
“Joel wanted to talk,” he said, his voice carrying a bit of an accent. “So I sat on the bed to listen and advise as he told me of his problem. And he tried to stay awake. He drifted away only moments ago.”
“What’s the trouble?” asked Ton.
“He only wanted to know if he should tell you of a problem he has at school. More than that, I can’t say.”
“What d’you mean you can’t -- ?”
Dion put a hand on Ton’s shoulder and cut in with, “What’d you tell him?”
“He should speak with his fathers.”
“Thanks, Lemm. We’ll give him the opportunity.”
Then Lemm turned his eyes on me, and I felt my heart begin to pound and my face tingle. Dion jerked and put his other hand on my back.
“Sorry, Lemm, this is Jake. Old friend of mine. Nephew to Owen.”
Lemm just smiled and nodded a greeting.
“Hi,” was all I was able to come up with.
“May I have a ride home?” Lemm asked Dion, his voice nearly musical. “Then you can fill me in on the meeting.”
“I’m headed back,” I said, and it popped out of me faster than I could think it. “And I’ll fill you in. Uh, in fact, uh, Lemm, I’d like to ask you a few things, if you don’t mind?”
“It’s fine. But can we leave now?”
“Sure,” I said.
Dion slipped a couple of bills into Lemm’s hand, saying, “Thanks for helping out, baby. You’re a lifesaver.”
“I enjoy being with your children.” A slight cloud crossed his face as he continued, “They are such happy little things.”
We headed outside, Dion walking us to my car, and Lemm’s casual walk was so catlike and elegant, I almost stopped breathing. So I jolted myself with, “Lemm, you – uh, you’ve been having trouble with a guy, right?”
He looked around at me, his dark eyes narrowing, slightly. “Yeah.”
“What does he look like?”
His wariness turned into a frown. “Why?”
“Please? It might make a difference, later.”
Lemm looked at Dion, who said, “Baby, you can trust Jake as much as you trust anybody. More, even.”
The guy took in a deep breath and said, “Thirty. Not much hair. Round face. Sloppy, but not from being poor, more from not caring...except for his hands; they are manicured. He is not as tall as me. And his eyes are green. His clothes are cheap, and he has a small black book in his back pocket. I think it’s a bible, but I don’t know for sure.”
“And you’ve never seen him before? He just appeared?”
“I worked at a grocery store. I think I saw him there a few times before this began, but I don’t really know.”
“Where’s the store located?”
“At Nassau Boulevard,” said Dion. “They have great produce.”
“Tell me, Lemm – was he usually in black pants and a white shirt? Tie?”
Lemm nodded. “But he was always clean, so I think he had more than one set of each.”
“What the hell, Jake?” Dion asked. “You think he’s a Mormon?”
I shrugged. “Uncle Owen thought so. He mentioned a guy like that bugging him just before the trial. Told him he’s going to hell and all that...but he didn’t sound Mormon.”
“What does one sound like?”
“Perky. This guy sounds more like a bible-thumper.”
“What’s that?” Lemm asked.
“A fundamentalist Protestant who believes the bible is literal and absolute, and damn the facts. We got ‘em all over the place in Texas, and they’re half the reason the state’s falling apart. No teaching anything that isn’t god-based; no discussion of birth control or family planning; no acceptance of anyone who doesn’t see the world as they do. They want to take the country back a hundred-and-fifty years, come hell or high water, as my Gramma’d say. Did you notice if he had a car?”
“I think he’s a closet case,” Dion snorted. “Got his little self fixated on Lemm and is acting like an eight-year-old boy over it.”
“I can see why,” slipped out of me faster than I could censor it.
Lemm smiled at me then turned to Dion. “Let Joel come to you with his trouble.”
“I’ll keep Ton under control.” And Dion’s eyes twinkled when he said it.
“You’re over in the condo complex, right?” I asked, already knowing the answer, of course.
He shrugged an affirmative, told Dion goodnight and got in the car. I slipped behind the wheel, trying like hell to ignore Dion’s smirk as he closed the door on me.
“Drive safe,” he said, his voice carrying way too much meaning.