Friday night in beast ho.., p.1
FRIDAY NIGHT IN BEAST HOUSE
LEISURE BOOKSNEW YORK CITY
A LEISURE BOOK®
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright © 2001 by Richard Laymon
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Table of Contents
Mark sat on the edge of his bed and stared at the telephone.
Do it! Don’t be such a wuss! Just pick it up and dial.
He’d been telling himself that very thing for more than half an hour. Still, there he sat, sweating and gazing at the phone.
Come on, man! The worst that can happen is she says no.
No, he thought. That isn’t the worst. The worst is if she laughs and says, 'You must be out of your mind. What on earth would ever possess you to think I might consider going out with a complete loser like you?'
She won’t say that, he told himself. Why would she? Only a real bitch would say a thing like that, and she’s…
To Mark, everything about Alison was wonderful. Her hair that smelled like an autumn wind. Her face, so fresh and sweet and cute that the very thought of it made mark ache. The mischief and fire in her eyes. Her wide and friendly smile. The crooked upper tooth in front. Her rich voice and laugh. Her slender body. The jaunty bounce in her step.
She’ll never go out with me.
But jeez, he thought, why not ask? It won’t kill me to ask.
Before today, he never would’ve seriously considered it. She belonged to another realm. Though they’d been in a few classes together since starting high school, they’d rarely spoken. She’d given him a smile from time to time. A nod. A brief hello. She never had an inkling, he was sure, of how he felt about her. And he’d intended it to remain that way.
But today at the start of lunch period, Bigelow had called out, 'Beep beep' in his usual fashion. Alison hadn’t dodged him fast enough, so he’d crashed into her with his wheelchair. Down she’d gone on the hallway floor at Mark’s feet, her books flying.
‘Jerk!’ she yelled at the fleeing Bigelow.
Mark knelt beside her. 'Creep thinks he owns the hallways, ‘he said. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Guess I’ll live.’
And the way she smiled.
‘Can you give me a hand?’
Taking hold of her arm, he helped her up. It was the first time he’d ever touched her. He let go quickly so she wouldn’t get the idea he liked how her arm felt.
She knows my name!
‘You’re welcome, Alison.’
When she stood up, she winced. She bent over, lifted the left leg of her big, loose shorts and looked at her knee. It had a reddish hue, but Mark found his eyes drawn upward to the soft tan of her thigh.
She fingered her kneecap, prodding it gently.
‘Guess it’s okay,’ she muttered.
‘You’ll probably have a nice bruise.’
She made a move to pick up one of her books, but Mark said, ‘Wait. I’ll get em’. The he gathered her scattered books and binders.
When he was done, he handed them to her and she said, ‘Thanks, Mark. You’re a real gentleman.
‘Glad I could help.’
He stared at the telephone.
I’ve got to call her today while it’s fresh in her mind.
He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans, reached out and picked up the phone. He heard a dial tone. His other hand trembled as he tapped in her number. Each touch made a musical note in his ear.
Before pushing the last key, he hung up fast.
I can’t! I can’t! God, I’m such a chickenshit yellow bastard!
This is nuts, he told himself. Calm down and do it. Hell, I’ll probably just get a busy signal. Or her mom’ll pick up and say she isn’t home. Or I’ll get the answering machine. Ten to one I won’t even get to talk to Alison.
He wiped his hands again, then picked up the phone and dialled…dialled all the numbers.
His arm ached to slam down the phone.
He kept it to his ear.
Yeah, but nobody’ll pick it up. I’ll get the answering machine.
If I get the answering machine, he though, I’ll hand up.
Hang up now!
Oh my God oh my God!
‘Hi’, he said. ‘Alison?’
‘It’s Mark Matthews.’
‘Ah. Hi, Mark.’
‘I, uh, just thought I’d call and see if you’re okay. How’s your knee?’
‘Well, I’ve got a bruise. But I guess I’m fine. That was really nice of you to stop and help me.’
‘I don’t know where Bigelow gets off, going around crashing into everybody. I mean, jeez, I’m sorry he’s messed up and everything, but I hardly think that’s any excuse for running people over, for godsake.’
‘Yeah. It’s not right’
There was a silence. A lone silence. The sort of silence that soon leads to, Well, thanks for calling.’
Before that could happen, Mark said, So what’re you doing?’
‘You mean now?’
‘I guess so.’
‘Talking on the phone, Einstein.’
He laughed. And he pictured Alison’s smile and her crooked tooth and the glint in her eyes.
What’re you doing? she asked.
‘The same, I guess.’
‘Are you nervous?’
‘You sound nervous. Your voice is shaking.’
‘The answer is yes.’
‘Yes, I’ll go out with you.’
I can’t believe this is happening!
‘That’s why you called, isn’t it?’
‘Uh, yeah. Mostly. And just to see how you’re doing.’
‘Doing okay. So… I’ll go out with you.’
OH MY GOD!!!
‘How about tomorrow night?’ she suggested.
‘Sure. Yeah. That’d be… really good.’
‘On one condition,’ she added.
‘Don’t you want to hear the condition first?’
‘I guess so.’
‘I want you to get me into the Beast House. Tomorrow night after it closes. That’s where we’ll have our date.’
‘Have you ever been in there at night?’ she asked.
'Huh-uh. Have you?'
‘No, but I’ve always wanted to. I mean, I’ve lived here in Malcasa my whole darn life and read the books and seen all the movies. I took the tour before they started using those tape players, and I know the whole audio tour by heart. I bet I know more about Beast House than most of the guides. But I’ve never been in there at night. It’s the one thing I really want to do. I’d go on the midnight tour, but you have to be eighteen. Anyways, it’s a hundred bucks apiece. And besides, I think it’d be a lot more cool going in by ourselves, don’t you? Who wants to do it with a dozen other people and a guide?’
‘But… how can we get in?’
‘That’s up to you. So what do you think?’
‘Sure. Let’s do it’
‘Where have I head that before?’
He shrugged. ‘I don’t know, where?’
‘From all the other guys who promised to get me in… and didn’t.’
He felt a strange sinking sensation.
‘But maybe you’ll be different’
‘I’ll sure try.’
‘I’ll be at the back door at midnight.’
‘Your back door?’
‘The back door of Beast House. What you probably need to do is buy a ticket tomorrow afternoon and go in before it closes and find a hiding place. The thing is, they count those cassette players they give out for the tours. They can’t be short a player when they go to close up for the day. If they’re missing one, they know somebody’s trying to stay in the house and so they search the place from top to bottom.
‘You sure know a lot about it.’
‘I’ve studied the situation. I really want to spend a night in there. I think it’d be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. So how about it? Are you still game?’
‘But… we’ll be staying in Beast House all night?’
‘Most of the night, anyway. We’d have to get out before dawn.’
‘Are you allowed to stay out all night?’
‘Oh, sure. Every night’
‘I’m kidding. I’m sixteen, for cry-sale. Of course I’m not allowed to stay out all night. Are you?’
‘So we’ll both just have to use our heads and improvise.’
‘Just like you’ll have to improvise on getting in.’
‘How am I supposed to do that thing with the cassette players?’
‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
‘Mark, this is a test. A test of your brains, imagination and commitment to a task. I think you’re a cool guy, but the world’s full of cool guys. The question is, are you worthy of me.’
Though she sounded serious, Mark imagined her on the other phone, grinning, a spark of mischief in her eyes.
‘See you tomorrow at midnight,’ he said.
‘I sure hope so.’
‘I’ll be there. Don’t worry.’
‘Okay. That’ll be really neat if you can do it. Thanks for calling, Mark.’
After hanging up, Mark sprawled on his bed and stared at the ceiling. Stunned that Alison had agreed to go out with him. Trembling at the prospect of being with her tomorrow night… all night. Slightly depressed that she seemed less interested in going out with him than in getting into Beast House. And dumbfounded by the task of how to deal with the cassette-player problem.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Usually true, but certainly not always. He could will himself to flap his arms and fly to Singapore, for instance, but that wouldn’t make it happen.
He’d taken the Beast House tour often enough to understand the system. They gave you a player as you entered the grounds. You wore it by a strap around your neck and listened to the self-guided tour through head-phones as you walked through the house. Afterwards, you handed back the player and headphones at the front gate. Handed it to a staff member.
The crux of the problem, he thought, is the staff member.
Usually they were good-looking gals in those cute uniforms that made them all look like park rangers.
If nobody was watching, you could walk up to the gate, return the audio equipment (slip it into the numbered cubbyhole in the storage cabinet), then turn around and go back to the house and find a hiding place. Or have an accomplice drop off both players on his way out while you remain in the house.
But there is a gal at the gate and you’ve gotta hand her the player. They want to make very sure nobody’s in the house when they shut it down for the night.
So how can I do it? Mark wondered. There must be a way.
It’s just a matter of thinking of it.
Bribe the girl at the gate?
Create a diversion?
He lay there staring at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying to come up with a plan that might work. Might work when you’re just a regular sixteen-year-old real kid, not Indiana Jones or James Bond or Batman.
He came up with ideas. His only good ideas, however, involved the use of an accomplice.
I’ve gotta do this on my own, he thought. If I drag Vick or someone into it, they might screw up the whole deal.
So he kept on thinking. The thoughts filled his head, cluttered it, whirled, bumped into each other. They didn’t make his head hurt, but they certainly made it feel heavy and useless.
Without realizing it, he fell asleep.
He woke up at the sound of this fathers voice calling from downstairs. ‘Mark! You better get down here fast! Supper’s on the table. Come on, man. Move it. Arriba! Arriba! Andalé!’
On his way down the staircase, breathing deeply of the aroma of fried chicken, he heard a gruff Mexican voice in his head. It said, ‘Tape players? We don’t need no steeenkin tape players!’
Plans and hopes and fears swirling through his mind, Mark lay awake most of the night. But he must’ve fallen asleep somewhere along the line because his alarm clock woke him at seven in the morning.
He lat there, staring at the ceiling, trembling.
I don’t have to go through with it, he thought.
Oh yes I do. I’ve gotta. If I screw up, that’ll be it with me and Alison.
But what if I get caught?
What if I get killed?
What if she gets killed?
By now, these were old, familiar thoughts. He’d gone through them all, again and again, while trying to fall asleep. He was tired of them. Besides, they always led to the same conclusion: getting a chance to be with Alison tonight would be worth any risk.
He struggled out of bed and staggered into the bathroom. There, he took his regular morning shower. Afterward, instead of getting dressed for school, he put on his pyjamas and robe and slippers. Then he headed downstairs.
By the time he entered the kitchen, his father had already left for work and his mother was sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. She lowered the newspaper. And frowned. ‘Are you feeling all right?’
He grimaced. ‘I don’t think so.’
She looked worried. ‘What’s the matter, honey?’
‘Just… a pretty bad headache. No big deal.’
‘Looks like you’re not planning on school.’
‘I could go, but… we never do much on Fridays anyway. Most of the teachers just show movies or give us study time. So I guess, yeah, it’d be
He knew what the answer would be. He made straight A’s, he’d never gotten into any trouble and he rarely missed a day of school. The few times he’d complained of illness, his mother had been perfectly happy to let him stay home.
‘Sure,’ she told him. ‘I’ll call the attendance office soon as I’m done with my coffee.’
‘Thanks. I guess I’ll head on back to bed.’
As he turned away, his mother said, ‘Will you be okay by yourself? This is my day to work at the hospital.’
‘Oh, yeah, that’s right.’ He’d known full well that she worked as a volunteer at the hospital every Friday. It was perfect. Many of her regular activities kept her in town, but not this one. For the privilege of doing volunteer work in the hospital gift shop, she had to drive all the way to Bodega Bay. More than an hour away. She would have to leave very soon. And she wouldn’t be getting home until about six.
By then, Mark though, I’ll be long gone.
‘I’ll be fine by myself,’ he said.
Frowning, she said, ‘I’ll be gone all day, you know.’
‘It’s no problem.’
‘Maybe I should call one of the other girls and see if I can’t find someone to fill in for me.’
‘No, no. Don’t do that. There’s no point. I’ll be fine. Really.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I’m sure. Really.’
‘Well… I’ll be home in time to make dinner. Or maybe I’ll pick up something on the way back. Anyway, why don’t you make yourself a sandwich for lunch? There’s plenty of lunchmeat and cheese in the fridge…’
‘I know. I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.’
Upstairs, he took off his robe and slippers and climbed into bed. He lay there, gazing at the ceiling, trembling, trying to focus on his plans but mostly daydreaming about Alison.
After a while, his mother came to his room. ‘How are you doing, honey?’
‘Not bad. I’ll be fine. I took some aspirin. I probably just need some sleep.’
‘You sure you don’t want me to stay home?’