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Authors: Jason Starr

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BOOK: The Craving
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“There’re loose ends I’m not happy with,” Geri said.

 

“You know what I’m not happy with?” Dan was raising his voice. “I’m not happy that it took you thirty-six goddamn hours to get a sketch you should’ve gotten a day and a half ago.” His face was pink, pinker than usual, and veins were showing in his forehead. Then in a more restrained, but definitely not more relaxed, tone he said, “Please, Geri. Leave it alone.”

 

A few minutes later, Geri was driving back up to Washington Heights with Shawn in the passenger seat, her adrenaline surging.

 

“You okay?” Shawn asked.

 

“Yeah, fine,” Geri said. “Why?”

 

“You’re just acting, I don’t know … distracted.”

 

That was the last thing Geri needed to hear: somebody else telling her she wasn’t focused.

 

“I’m not distracted, okay? I’m fine.”

 

“I was just askin’,” Shawn said. “I mean I heard you in Dan’s office before and—”

 

“It’s between me and Dan.”

 

“Seriously?” Shawn said. “’Cause I’m your partner. We’re supposed to share things, right? You know, communicate.”

 

Geri didn’t answer. She was thinking about the Becker case. So what if Dan wanted her to back off? She’d back off when it was time to back off.

 

“What?” Geri asked. She knew that Shawn had just asked her a question, but she had no idea what it was.

 

“I asked if you want to stop for lunch now or get something later,” Shawn said.

 

“Later,” Geri said.

 

“See, that’s better,” Shawn said. “At least you’re talkin’ to me, we got some back-and-forth goin’ on.” A few seconds later he added, “Maybe we won’t have to go to marriage counseling after all.”

 
FOUR
 

S
imon spent the night on the couch. He didn’t
sleep
on the couch because for Simon
sleep
really meant
alert rest
. When he was asleep, he was unconscious, but he was also highly aware of his surroundings, as if every part of his body were asleep except his brain. This style of rest certainly had its advantages. For example, he was hyperaware of sounds and smells, so he was an excellent supplement for the smoke detector, and no one was going to break into the apartment without him hearing. For a while Simon had feared that with his brain so active at night, he’d never get a fully satisfying night’s sleep again, but then he realized that he was waking up feeling fully rejuvenated, and sleep had never been so satisfying. He also didn’t need as much sleep as he used to. He used to be cranky if he got less than seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, but now he felt great with just four or five hours of rest.

When Simon got up, at five
A.M.
, he felt antsy, as he often did when he hadn’t been active for several hours, and he immediately did about a hundred push-ups and about twenty minutes of crunches and sit-ups, just to get his blood flowing. Then he went into the kitchen and whipped up some bacon and eggs and sausage, for his daily morning protein fix. At sixish he heard Jeremy stirring, even though Jeremy’s room was down the hallway and his door was closed. Simon went into his room and, sure enough, Jeremy was sitting up in bed.

 

“How did you know I woke up, Daddy?”

 

Jeremy had been asking similar questions a lot lately—
How did you hear what I was saying, Daddy? How did you hear what Mommy was saying, Daddy?
Like most three-year-olds, Jeremy thrived on question and repetition.

 

“I just know,” Simon said, saying what he always said, like a line in a script.

 

“Are you a magic daddy?”

 

“Yep,” Simon said, “I’m a magic daddy.”

 

Jeremy stood in bed.

 

Simon hugged him and said, “Thataboy, kiddo,” and kissed him on top of his wonderful-smelling head. Although the dominating scent was Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, as far as Simon was concerned the smell of his son’s hair was still the best smell in the world.

 

“Ow!” Jeremy screamed.

 

Simon was confused for a couple of seconds and didn’t know what was wrong, and then he realized he was squeezing Jeremy way too hard. He let go, but Jeremy was already on the verge of crying—his little scrunched-up face was bright pink.

 

“Oh, God, I’m so sorry.” Simon felt awful. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

 

Jeremy was already hysterical. The screeching and crying was extremely loud, echoing off the walls of the small room, but to Simon it sounded even louder.

 

With his hands over his ears Simon shouted, “Will you stop? Will you please just
stop it
?”

 

Alison, in panties and a long T-shirt emblazoned with “Best Mommy in the World,” rushed into the room and said, “What’s going on here?”

 

Simon couldn’t take the noise anymore, and he pushed by Alison and went into the bathroom in the hallway and locked the door. Yeah, like a little push lock would be any protection for his family if he turned into a werewolf.

 

Rinsing his face with cold water, he tried to calm down, but his pulse was still pounding. There was no pain in his mouth, like what he’d experienced that time he’d transformed. There was no unusual pain elsewhere in his body, and he checked his hands and there was no sign of increased hairiness, or of his fingers and nails changing into claws.

 

He remained in the bathroom for about five minutes just to make sure he was okay, and then he returned to Jeremy’s room. Jeremy was sitting on Alison’s lap, smiling, holding Sam, his favorite stuffed bear.

 

“Is he okay?” Simon asked, though he knew the question was rhetorical.

 

“He’s fine,” Alison said calmly, but by her tone Simon could tell she was furious with him. She said, “You and Sam play for a little while, sweetie. Mommy has to talk to Daddy about something.”

 

Simon knew he was in for it, so when he and Alison got into the bedroom, he tried to nip it in the bud, saying, “It was no big deal. I just hugged him a little too hard and he got scared.”

 

Glaring, Alison said, “He said you hurt his arms.”

 

“Oh, come on, he’s exaggerating. I barely touched him.” Simon knew this wasn’t true; he
had
hugged him much harder than he’d intended. But he continued, “You know how he likes to create drama, especially lately. The other day I lifted him out of his stroller at the playground and he said I was hurting his arms.”

 

Simon was trying to do everything he could to minimize and defuse the situation, but he could tell it wasn’t working with Alison, who was still looking at him like he was some vile criminal. If she’d blinked during the past sixty seconds, he’d missed it.

 

“I have to know if I can trust you,” she said.

 

“Excuse me?” Simon said.

 

“It’s one thing…” Alison had to take a few moments to compose herself, stifling tears. Then she continued, “It’s one thing if you’re going through something personal. I can deal with you sleeping on the couch, and not wanting to touch me, and your weird exercise obsessions and whatever else you need to do while you work on your … well, your
problem
. I’m willing to support you, and to be patient, and try to help you through this. But it’s another thing if you’re going to bring Jeremy into it, if you’re going to start acting weird around him. I mean, if you’re going to start hurting—”

 

“Oh, come on, can you stop it?” Simon said. “I didn’t hurt him, okay? I’d
never
hurt him. I hugged him a little too hard and he got scared. That’s it, end of story. You don’t really think I’d ever hurt him intentionally, do you?”

 

Alison continued to stare at Simon, as if she were trying to see into his brain. “It’s weird,” she said.

 

“What’s weird?” Simon was suddenly paranoid. Did Alison know? Could she
tell
?

 

“Your eyes,” she said. “They look, I don’t know, darker.”

 

Simon had noticed this himself. His eyes had always been brown but now they were a much darker shade of brown, practically black.

 

“It’s just the lighting,” Simon said, because he couldn’t think of a better excuse.

 

Continuing to stare at him in that invasive way, Alison said, “Maybe I should take off work for a while.”

 

“What for?” Simon asked.

 

“Just to give you some time to … I don’t know … work things out, or whatever you need to do.”

 

“It’s not necessary,” Simon said.

 

“Maybe I can take Jeremy to California for a week or two,” Alison said. “We can stay with my sister.”

 

“Come on, let’s just stop this, okay?” Simon said. “You’re not taking off work. What I’m going through has nothing to do with my ability to take care of Jeremy. I’m a great dad. You know I’m a great dad.”

 

“I’m not saying this to threaten you,” Alison said. “I’m honestly not. But I have to put Jeremy first right now. I’m willing to be patient with you, but if it starts to affect Jeremy … I’m sorry, I’m going to have to protect him.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?”

 

Alison didn’t answer, just stared at him with that penetrating gaze, then went into the bathroom and shut the door. A few seconds later he heard the shower water go on.

 

He was going to go after her, but he knew she was right. If their situations were reversed and she announced she thought she was a werewolf and started acting strangely, and he thought she could be a danger to Jeremy, he’d want to protect him as well. And the real situation was much worse than she ever could have imagined. She only thought he thought he was a danger. What if she knew that he actually
was
a danger? He’d definitely
hugged Jeremy too hard before. What if next time he couldn’t control his strength and he actually hurt his son, or worse?

 

While Simon was making Jeremy pancakes for breakfast, Alison showered and got ready for work. About a half hour later, Jeremy was in front of the TV watching
The Wiggles
and Simon was into another set of push-ups, when Alison entered the living room, ready for work, in a tight rust-colored dress and heels. As usual, her outfit straddled the line between pretty and too sexy.

 

“Well, I’m off,” Alison announced. She came over to Jeremy and kissed him on the cheek and said, “Mommy loves you,” then said to Simon, “Have fun today,” without kissing him or even making eye contact.

 

When Alison left, Simon had the cold and empty feeling he’d had on a lot of mornings lately. He hated how dysfunctional their marriage had become. There was definitely truth to the adage that a couple that sleeps apart grows apart, and Simon felt like he and Alison weren’t even a couple anymore. It was as if they were roommates. Or worse than roommates. They were roommates who didn’t get along very well.

 

Simon rushed out to the hallway, wanting to say good-bye properly and to reassure her that she could trust him with Jeremy, but the elevator doors had closed and there was just the lingering scent of her perfume and body, which somehow made Simon feel even worse.

 

Jeremy looked so content, watching TV and eating his pancakes; he’d obviously completely forgotten about the incident in his bedroom, as if it had never happened. Still, Simon felt like he’d dodged a very serious bullet, and he knew that if he was going to continue being Jeremy’s sole caretaker he’d have to be absolutely certain that he wasn’t endangering him in any way. If there was one more incident
where he hurt him, or almost hurt him, or felt any inclination to hurt him, he was going to do the right thing and leave, get as far away from him—and Alison—as possible. Nothing was more important than the safety of his family.

 

“Are you okay, Daddy?”

 

Jeremy was a smart kid and could tell that Simon was tormented.

 

“Fine, kiddo.” Simon forced a smile. “How’re those pancakes?”

 

“Yummy.”

 

“Great. You finish up and then we’re going to have a great day today. How about we go to the zoo?”

 

“The zoo, yay!” Jeremy raised his fork, with a big piece of pancake stuck to it, to emphasize his excitement.

 

After breakfast, Simon helped Jeremy get dressed and brush his teeth and go potty. Simon was hyperaware of all of his movements, careful not to be too rough with Jeremy or hurt him inadvertently. The strategy seemed to work, and, while it took a little longer than usual to get him ready to go out, at least Jeremy was smiley and giggly the whole time and there were no incidents. It gave Simon hope that if he remained mindful all the time, he could eventually get control of his condition and learn how to live with it.

 

It was the perfect fall day—about fifty degrees, bright sunshine, a brisk refreshing breeze. With Jeremy in the jogging stroller, Simon left the apartment building and walked at a steady pace toward Central Park. Although Simon was going for a low-key look in a Mets cap and dark sunglasses, it didn’t exactly make him incognito, at least as far as attention from women was concerned. Practically every woman he passed seemed to make eye contact with him, even old ladies and the ones with guys, and some smiled at him and one woman said hello to him, which was almost unheard of on a Manhattan street. There was no doubt he was sending out some kind of vibe, or aura, because he’d
never gotten this kind of attention from women in his pre-werewolf days.

 

They entered the park at Eighty-sixth. Pushing the stroller ahead of him, Simon started jogging along West Drive.

BOOK: The Craving
4.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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