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Authors: Max Allan Collins

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BOOK: Criminal Minds
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With his close-cropped black hair and slenderly muscular frame, Benny was everything Addie wanted in a guy—long, narrow, handsome face, with deep brown eyes and lips so full that Addie had to hold herself back from kissing them every time she saw them.
Now, for instance.
They sat next to each other in the bucket seats of his navy blue Hyundai Tiburon. The car was actually Benny’s mom’s, but Mrs. Mendoza rarely drove it, and the vehicle had become, in a de facto kind of way, his. Either that, Addie thought with a laugh, or his mom had left behind the Ozomatli CD they were listening to!
Turning to her in darkness cut only by the dashboard glow, Benny smiled and asked, ‘‘What is it,
querida
?’’
She loved him calling her that. ‘‘Nothing,’’ she said, reaching across the console and touching his knee. Squeezing his knee . . .
After their third date, he had started calling her ‘‘
querida
.’’ When she had asked him what it meant, he’d said, ‘‘ ‘Darling.’ Or it can also mean, you know, ‘lover.’ ’’
His eyes had lowered then, his embarrassment obvious. But she had kissed his cheek and told him she liked it. Since then, she had been ‘‘
querida
’’ whenever they were together.
Now, his eyes went back to watching the traffic on the rain-slicked Dixie Highway as they headed south, toward home. Traffic wasn’t heavy, but they weren’t the only ones out late on this windy, rainy night.
Normally, their parents would have pitched fits about them being out past midnight on a school night, but tonight was special. Benny had been invited by his baseball coach to a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field. And Benny had convinced the coach to let him bring Addie along as his guest. (And convinced her parents, too.)
They had met the coach outside the park and gotten the tickets. They had even enjoyed the first few innings as the Sox got an early lead on the visiting Detroit Tigers, but then the rains came. The trio had waited bravely with the other diehards for the storm to blow over, but the game had finally been called just before eleven and they had been trying to get home since.
‘‘Tell me what you were laughing at,’’ he pressed.
She shook her head, her hand covering her mouth in embarrassment. ‘‘I can’t tell you.’’
‘‘Come on,
querida
,’’ he said, all honey-voiced. ‘‘You know you want to.’’ His fingertip touched her arm and she felt a surge of heat rush through her.
‘‘No!’’ she squealed. ‘‘I’m not telling you.’’
His hand moved, finding a rib and tickling.
She slapped it away. ‘‘Will you please
drive
?’’
He grinned. ‘‘Yeah, drive you
crazy
till you tell me what was so damn funny.’’
He tickled her ribs again, this time his hand brushing a breast and, even as she giggled, warmth surged through her. If they hadn’t been so late, tonight would have been the night—
the
night.
But she wanted it perfect for them both, and this evening—which was supposed to be Benny’s big night at the ballpark—should have been just the thing. The coach seemed sure Benny would be taken early in the June amateur draft and that there would probably be some nice bonus money. Benny had worked hard for this, Addie knew, and he deserved it.
She’d been planning to top off his big night by finally giving in to him, but they were so late now, there was just no way. Another night would have to do.
Still, Addie knew one thing above all: she didn’t want to wait until prom night.
Some of the other girls, who had already done the deed, told her it would hurt a little (
at least
a little) and it could be messy (
would
be messy). That wasn’t the experience she had in mind for prom night, not to mention her prom dress. That night needed to be extra special perfect. Better to get the thing out of the way before, and hope it was fun, at least.
There would be other nights, no doubt, but she was so primed this night. . . .
‘‘Tell me,’’ he said, tickling her once more.
‘‘All right!’’ She pushed his hand away. ‘‘It’s just . . . embarrassing.’’
He shrugged. ‘‘So what? Tell me.’’
‘‘I was just . . . thinking about the CD being in your mom’s car? Like how funny it would be if it was
her
music or something.’’
‘‘It is her music,’’ he said.
‘‘You’re kidding!’’
‘‘No,’’ he said, his voice as calm as the sky wasn’t. ‘‘She really digs Ozomatli.’’
‘‘
Your
mom is into multiculti hip-hop rock?’’
Benny nodded. ‘‘She’s not a hundred years old, you know.’’
Part of the reason she loved Benny was she never knew for sure when he was serious and when he was just kidding her. Like now, for instance.
‘‘Which song’s her fave, then?’’ she challenged.
‘‘This one,’’ he said, skipping to song number eight on the live album—‘‘Love and Hope.’’
She listened carefully. The chorus was about how love and hope never die and, no matter what, your heart and soul will survive—a positive message sung over an almost traditional Mexican song with horns and hip-hop drop-ins.
Addie liked it immediately and wondered if she really
was
listening to one of Mrs. Mendoza’s CDs.
Benny gave her a sideways look. ‘‘You’d believe anything I told you, wouldn’t you?’’
She realized he had been pulling her leg the entire time. She smacked him in the shoulder. ‘‘You!’’
‘‘Ay,
querida
, you’re way too gullible.’’
Mildly annoyed he’d fooled her yet again, she turned the tables. ‘‘Does that mean I should never believe anything you tell me?"
"Like what?"
‘‘Like if you said you’d be careful not to get me pregnant, if we ever . . . you know.’’
‘‘
Querida
, I don’t joke about serious things.’’
‘‘Oh? Then tell me something I
can
believe.’’
Benny, casual as could be, said, ‘‘You can believe I love you.’’
Addie sat there for the longest moment, not knowing what to say. She adored hearing him finally say those words, but even the throwaway way he’d spoken them seemed to have sucked all the air out of the car.
When the Dixie Highway veered at One-hundred-eighty-third Street, Benny turned left. They stayed off the expressways—one of the rules Benny’s mom had laid down for him being able to use the car.
Finally finding her voice, Addie said, ‘‘You love me? Really love me?’’
Benny didn’t hesitate. ‘‘Sure I do.’’
‘‘You better not be fooling.’’
‘‘No way,
querida
,’’ he said, his voice softer now. ‘‘I told you before I don’t joke about serious things. I love you.’’
Once Benny graduated in June, he would almost certainly be drafted by a major league team, meaning he would spend the rest of the summer playing minor league ball. Addie wasn’t sure how or where she fit into that plan, but she knew two things for certain: they were going to prom together, and she was in love with Benny Mendoza.
‘‘I love you, too,’’ she said.
He grinned at her and she smiled back.
Leaning over, Benny gave her a quick kiss.
‘‘Drive,’’ she said, pushing him away. She wanted to pull him to her, but waiting until they weren’t driving in a rainstorm with cars all around them might be a safer plan.
He took the right that jogged back to the Dixie Highway and once again headed south. Addie had learned a long time ago that few things ran straight in the Chicago area. Streets veering off in odd directions all over the place was an accepted part of living in the city. She still remembered, as a child, commenting about nothing being straight in the city, and her father replying, ‘‘You think the streets are something? Wait until you’re old enough to understand politics.’’
The answer had stuck with her because it made no sense when she was six, but now, as her government class studied how things in the city worked, Addie realized what her father had meant. The streets weren’t the only things in the city that were crooked.
They wove southeast until Benny took the short right onto Ashland that carried them south to Joe Orr Road, then right again and back west to Travers Avenue, and a left south until the right onto her street, Hutchinson Avenue.
Technically, Addie lived on Two-hundred-seventh Street, but since she lived on the corner, Benny liked to park next to her house on the Hutchinson side. That kept her father from spying on them through the front door while they kissed good night. And kissing good night sometimes lasted a while with Addie and Benny.
Most people, especially those from anywhere other than Chicago Heights, immediately thought ‘‘slum’’ when they were told of the suburb’s location on the south side of the city. That wasn’t true at all.
The neighborhood where Addie lived was a multiracial middle-class neighborhood with blacktop streets, no sidewalks, and houses varying from ranches to split foyers to the new brick castles coming up when the old houses were razed.
One of those brick monstrosities sat across the street to the east from her parents’ modest ranch with its one-car garage and flowers planted everywhere. Houses lined the south side of Two-hundred-seventh right up to where Hutchinson teed into it, then east of the intersection, on the south side, Swanson Park spread before them, an oasis of green with its soccer fields and softball diamonds.
Benny pulled the Tiburon in alongside Addie’s house and killed the lights. They were pointed south on Hutchinson, the park visible through the pounding rain, the parking lot on its far side obscured by the downpour.
She caught a glimpse of the clock as Benny turned off the car: 1:15. Her parents were going to be mightily pissed. Addie had wanted tonight to be
the
night, but there was just no way. . . .
Benny undid his seat belt, slipped it off, leaned over and kissed her.
The rush she felt as his tongue snaked its way into her mouth was like nothing she had ever felt before. Heat rushed from her lips to her tongue, down her throat, extending out through every fiber of her being, to burn somewhere just south of her waist.
His arms were around her, then they were unfastening her seat belt. Next his hands were roving all over her T-shirt, leaving a wildfire trail in their wake.
Benny’s hands were at her back now, sliding up under her shirt, soothingly cool as they met hot flesh. She wanted him to touch her everywhere at once. She felt the clasp release on her flimsy bra and then his hands were under the shirt in front, inching up, cupping, squeezing, all the time his tongue like a wild animal in her mouth.
Control was slipping away and even though it was nearly 1:30 in the morning on a school night, her parents less than a hundred feet away (certainly not asleep and almost certainly waiting up for her), Addie was about to let Benny Mendoza get her ready for the prom. . . .
Not like this
, she told herself as she wrestled for control. Not a quickie in a Hyundai, even if it was with Benny, the man she loved.
Make it perfect
, her voice said in her brain,
make it perfect.
With more strength than she knew she had, Addie broke away.
Benny’s concern was instant and sincere. ‘‘What is it,
querida
? What’s wrong?’’
‘‘I can . . .
can’t
,’’ she said.
‘‘I thought this was something you wanted.’’
‘‘It is,’’ she said, and, despite her best efforts, she found herself crying.
His arms engulfed her as she wept full tilt now, sobbing into his shoulder. It felt good there, in his arms, and slowly her tears subsided.
‘‘
Querida
,’’ he soothed. ‘‘There’s plenty of time for that. I love you. We’ll wait for the right moment. No rush. I’m not going anywhere.’’
She pulled back from him a little to look into his eyes. ‘‘You will go away . . . this summer. . . .’’
‘‘Addie,’’ he said, gazing at her, ‘‘that’s just one summer. We’re going to be together
forever
.’’
She kissed him again, with a painful urgency. When their kiss broke, she thought she saw someone standing next to the driver’s door, outside in the rain.
Oh shit
, she thought. Was it her dad?
Instinctively, she pulled away a little from Benny, who looked confused.
The form outside the car was definitely a person. Addie saw something come up between the figure and the car, then there was a flash that caused Addie to blink. When her eyes opened, the window shattered and Benny’s left eye exploded in a pink cloud, splashing her face like rain from within the car.
Finally, she heard the roar of the gunshot and something else, someone screaming—
herself
.
As Benny’s body slumped into her, his head a broken melon, only one eye and a corner of his mouth looking like something that had been a face, Addie realized he had been right.
They
were
going to be together forever.
She saw the pistol rising again, the small black hole pointed at her face, Benny’s voice in her mind:
Togetherforever, querida.
That thought gave her a moment of peace as Adrienne Andrews saw the last thing she ever saw: a muzzle flash.
April 17 Oak Park, Illinois
Connie had not slept particularly well. She never did when her husband worked odd hours, and now she rolled over and looked at the alarm clock for the zillionth time since he’d left last night.
Just after five, she fought the urge to just say, ‘‘Screw it,’’ and get out of bed. She could read or watch TV or something. The kids wouldn’t be up for another hour and a half.
But she decided to give it one more chance and rolled over. Squeezing her eyes shut, Connie thought back to those early days when she and her husband had been so happy. Though she loved her kids and knew they were easily the greatest thing she’d done in her life, she still reflected on those earlier days as the happiest of her marriage.
BOOK: Criminal Minds
4.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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