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Authors: John Skipper,Craig Spector

The Scream

BOOK: The Scream
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The Scream
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"This is the working hour. We are paid by those Who learn by our mistakes."

-Tears for Fears

THURSDAY, JULY 12DIAMOND BAR,
CALIFORNIA

Perry's eyes were gone, but that didn't really matter. The old biblical quote had been set on its head. Perry had no eyes, yet he still could see.

Let Jesus suck on that one for a while.

Dr. Wyler's Wreck Room was a
California
dream of exposed brick and stucco, adobe reds and desert-sand tans. On the far side of fifty, and the man had style. The Wyler home was typical for the Diamond Bar area: a gracious, comfortably elegant split-level that oozed organically upward mobility and
San Gabriel
Valley
chic. Every line, every curve was clean and crisp and new; every room was tastefully decorated in opulent woods, burnished brass and natural fabrics.

But the sprawling downstairs rec room was the best. There was a well-stocked wet bar across from the wall-to-wall sliding glass patio doors that led to the pool; there was a Neiman Marcus dart board and tapestries woven by some nameless Mexican peasant on either flanking wall. Matte black CapriTrack lighting above, oak parquet floor below, potted midget palm trees and ficus trees to either side. The giant Sony Trinitron that filled damned near one whole corner of the room glowed like a portal to another dimension. The little driftwood
nouveau rustic
"Wreck Room" sign hung askew above enough matching leather sofa modules to accommodate six swinging couples, and the far corner of the playland held the most luxurious expanse of veld-green pool table that Steve Beeker's seventeen years had yet born witness to.

It was a great place for a party.

Too bad Dr. Wyler and his wife could not attend.

In the Wreck Room, the post-concert funzies were out of control. No surprises there.
Fifteen drug-crazed Screamers
, Steve noted,
doth not a Tupperware party make
. They were dancing to the sonic boom of the Bang + Olufson stereo, making out or passing out in the corners. They were spilling drinks and leaving little cigarette burns on the modular sofas, the green felt plateau, the burnished wood of the bar and the floor. They were wired on coke and smoke and tequila and beer.

Most of all, they were wired on The Scream.

"
Best fuckin concert I ever seen!
" Deke bellowed, and Steve was inclined to agree. Just more quietly. He prided himself on being a bit more thoughtful than most of the headbangers he hung out with. But the music they loved was the music
he
loved; and it was nice to know that even someone as monosyllabic as Deke could appreciate The Scream.

Steve looked over at the viddy: MTV was doing its heavy rotation number on The Scream's cut "Filet of Soul", from their double-platinum debut album. The band had opened the first show of their coast-to-coast MegaTour with it, less than three hours ago. The video was great, in itself: all sex and drugs and rock and roll, the way it should be.

But the visuals
inside
his head were better. If he closed his eyes, and was very very still, he could almost transport himself back . . .

. . . to the sixth row, center, staring straight up what little there was of Tara Payne's skirt as she hip-ground her way to the edge of the stage. He could see the slash of razor-thin Mylar that obscured the oriental perfection of her features; he could see the wild black sweat-sheened hair that whipped like a thousand razor-tipped serpents. Her fine-boned beauty was almost painful to behold, and her face was matched only by her form. He had never seen so many curves move so well on one body. Every gesture was snake-and-mouse time; sixty seconds in and he was ready to die.

The band thundered up through the changes: Rod Royale, the imperious lead guitarist, dressed like a crown prince of darkness in studded leather and lace, cock-strutting his way across the stage as twin brother Alex did his Amadeus-gone-mad number on the banks of synths and Gene and Terry laid down the law in tight-knit syncopation on the bass and drums.

Theirs was the undisputed claim as the tightest band in the lexicon of postmetal cyber-thrash, but they were much more than that. They were more than a fashion, more than a credo. They were magic. They were a way of fucking life.

When Rod and Alex played, yes.

But especially when
Tara sang.

On the video, she was just beginning her leap to the kill . . .

"I want your body. No bones about it. Want you to know that I can't live without it."

Steve Beeker opened his eyes, caught himself in the mirror behind the bar. He was pleased to note that he didn't look nearly as loaded as he felt. The wraparound shades helped, of course; so did distance from the mirror, and the long dark locks that fell artfully across his face. At the ripe old age of seventeen, he was a five-year veteran of the drug abuse wars. He could handle his shit.

Or hide what he couldn't handle.

Which was more than he could say for some of the boppers at this party: his adorable hostess, in particular. Cyndi Wyler careened past his reflection, Eddie propping her up, her lithe limbs like rubber.

"Barbie Meets Gumby," Eddie muttered, and laughed. Steve smiled and shook his head. It was true. Like the party, she was out of control.

Cyndi Wyler was the fifteen-year-old daughter of the doc. Leaving her alone for the weekend might not have been the wisest idea. Blond and built like a Nordic pinup goddess, she was all tits and tan and even, perfect teeth. Had the I.Q. of a toaster oven. All in all, the most likely candidate for statutory rape that Steve could imagine.

Especially in the loving hands of Eddie Hansen: The Cock Without a Conscience. Watching him in action was like watching a panther toy with its lunch: the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Steve hoped that they would name one of the kittens after him.

"Yo, Eddie!" he yelled. Eddie turned. Cyndi did a centrifugal Snap-The-Whip, teetering at the end of her escort's arm. Her blue eyes were blank and shiny bright.

"
Now
what," Eddie droned, his face a death's head picture of gaunt, practiced arrogance. His hair was high and black, trailing down long in the back and shaved to the roots above his temples, in direct tribute to The Screamer look perfected by Rod and Alex. It gave his features a cadaverous appearance, offsetting the coldest smoldering eyes in Diamond Bar High. He turned on one hip, expertly flipping the trailing edge of his black canvas longcoat back over one leather-clad leg. What his garb didn't state outright, his shit-eating grin completed. He was young, vicious, amoral, and genuinely enjoying himself. He was a Screamer to the bone.

"You're not going to sexually abuse that poor girl, are you?"

"Kinda looks that way, don't it?"

"Promishesh, promishesh," elucidated Cyndi. She giggled, lost her balance, and gravity made its move. "Oops!" she added, then landed face-first in Eddie's armpit and giggled some more.

"So long as she knows what she's doing," Steve counseled.

"Look at it this way, dude. Either she'll love it or she won't remember a thing."

"Or
both
!" she cried, then began to howl with laughter. Her arms clung weakly to Eddie's chest. She quivered and quaked. He shrugged. Steve echoed the gesture.

"Better get her to bed, before she throws up"-Steve grinned ruefully as Eddie nodded and turned away, his tootsie in tow-"you miserable shit," Steve concluded, just loud enough to hear. Eddie laughed and headed up the stairs.

The bitch of it was, Eddie really
was
a shit. Not in the twenty-four-hour-a-day sense: he was funny, he was cool, he was gracious with his drugs. It was mostly in the way he treated girls and other perceived inferiors: humor 'em, use 'em, wad 'em up, and chuck 'em.

John Masey came up beside Steve, his bleary gaze following the couple up the stairs. He was dressed in gear almost identical to Steve's or Eddie's or any of the two dozen other Screamers in attendance, but somehow it hung all askew. It was fairly clear that Masey was doomed to trudge through life, perpetually harnessed with the "wrong way" caption to Eddie's "right way," and he damned well knew it.

"Sorta gets to you, doesn't it?" he said, swigging off a Grolsch bottle. "Fucker gets
all
the fine little foxes."

"I like to picture him in thirty years, with a watermelon gut and no hair."

Masey laughed. He was high enough to picture it. "Just a good thing Dempsey's not here. You know how the little creep is about Cyndi."

"Yeah."

Oh, yeah. Steve knew how Perry Dempsey was, alright. He could still clearly see the flicker off the knife's bright blade, even from a three-week distance.

"Why do
you
think he's not here?" Masey asked.

"What do you mean?"

The point of the knife had placed a deep dry dimple in the soft flesh under Beeker's chin and held it there, for what had seemed like a very long time. "Eddie ditched him at the concert. Lost him in the crowd."

Beeker smiled and looked amazed. It was common knowledge to everyone in Diamond Bar that little Perry Dempsey had a man-sized chubby for Cyndi Wyler. "Wow," he said. "What did he tell Cyndi?"

"'Perry found another ride.'"

Steve laughed. Three weeks ago, he hadn't found it funny at all.
I don't know what I'd do if anybody ever hurt her
. Perry had said in his quivery little voice. Steve had chuckled non-committally, waiting for him to buzz off.

I might do this.

And the knife came up.

Steve, to his credit, had diffused the weirdness: not reacting at all save to reply ever-so-calmly,
I don't think that would be a very good idea.

It had worked, somehow. So much for the entertainment value of insane jealousy. The knife had held momentarily, grazing the softly stubbled skin beneath his jawline, as if weighing the wisdom of ploughing upward.

Steve waited.

The knife came down. Perry smiled, looking drunk or drugged or even a little chagrined as he shuffled away. He'd just jumped another notch on his peer group's Dipshit Scale.

"Eddie's one slick sonofabitch, that's for sure," Masey said.

"And Dempsey's one stupid one," Steve replied, remembering the laugh that had accompanied the knife's bloodless slide back into its sheath. Nobody home, one night-light in the basement. Mortimer Snerd
cum
Henry Lee Lucas.

And all of that for one harmless bit of flirting that wasn't even leading anywhere. Sitting on the stairs, three weeks ago, at Deke's house. Playing with her hair a little, kneading the tequila-loose flesh of her shoulders, making only the fuzziest come-ons in naughty-joke form . . . no big deal, right?

Wrong-o, buster. Not if your name was Perry "Psycho" Dempsey, the I-Was-a-Teenage-Norman Bates of
Diamond Bar,
California
. Then it didn't even matter that the girl whose honor you were defending couldn't stand to be around you; it was just full speed ahead, point-first, through the shower curtain . . .

"Well, fuck it," John Masey said, clapping a hand on Steve's shoulder. Steve jolted back to the present. "I'm gonna grab me a brewsky and hit the Jacuzzi."

"Sounds good."

"Fuckin' A."

They slapped skin in the high-five way that had replaced power grips as the funny handshake of its age, and Masey headed for the bar.

Well, that was certainly meaningful
, Steve told himself. The loving couple was long gone from view. Perry was probably still wandering around in the coliseum parking lot, waving his knife at the shadows. Unless Mommy and Daddy found him first, that is. If that happened, he'd probably be crucified.

Steve turned to the picture window, looked out. A slate path wound through the center of the backyard. He could see the sauna, the Japanese rock garden, the Jaccuzi and the swimming pool beyond. Again: Dr. Wyler was not lacking in style. It looked like there were some naked young people by the pool. That seemed like his best bet.

It was one o'clock. The night was young.

And getting older by the minute.

* * *

Mary Hatch was the first one to spot the bone-white Cadillac tooling up

Ranchero Drive
.

She was, at fifteen, tall for her age, and just beginning to fill out. Her breasts would probably never be large, but they were bound to get bigger than the thimbles she sported now. Her hips, on the other hand, seemed motherhood bound: high and wide enough to squeeze out a nine-pounder without even breaking a sweat. Breeder's hips, her mother called 'em and they ran in the maternal gene pool along with her height and her hair and her green-eyed nearsightedness. Breeder's hips. Thanks, Mom. Looked like shit in a bikini.

But her legs, ahhh . . . Said legs were long and lean, like her upper half; and even though she thought her features too angular and her behind way too wide, she still got hit on enough to be convinced that she was attractive.

BOOK: The Scream
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