So Cal Summer 69

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 32

Just before midnight, we pulled into our neighborhood to a dark street and an equally dark house. Lisa parked the station wagon in the garage, and once we were all safely inside, we quickly locked the doors behind us. We were utterly exhausted, but all of us were ridiculously famished, having missed dinner. After we had another couple rounds of full-bodied group-hugs, Jake, Lisa, Kenji and myself changed out of our wet clothes for dry ones while the little men toweled off Sloan.

For the next order of business, I made a humongous stack of buttermilk pancakes. Kenji surprised me by joining me at the stove and started frying up a pound and a half of Farmer John bacon like he was a professional chef. The thing that didn't surprise me was that everything was devoured in record time. Even Sloan got a couple pancakes and did a couple of tricks for some of Kenji's crispy bacon. Next to whipped cream sprayed on her nose, pancakes were her favorites, closely followed by yummy bacon. Shit, sometimes she reminded me of Jordy! Anyway, the best dog in the universe deserved it for doing such a bitchin job out on our 'Get Jake Back' caper.

After we were stuffed, Lisa suggested that we call Cooper, his older brother Colt and maybe Tucker from the pool to spend the night with us. She thought it would be a good idea to have a few more guys hanging around in case Ace and his deadbeat gang showed up later on tonight. As tough as she was, I think she wanted some boyfriend attention because deep down, she had to have been a little scared, even though she never showed it. And besides, we loved those guys and could certainly use their help.

On the way home, we had talked a little about what we thought might happen next, especially once Ace got wind of the boat crash and Jake's escape. We figured it would take a while before he'd show up, so we decided that we should hang out together to face whatever shit-storm was coming our way. We knew he was going to be royally pissed. What we didn't know was what he was capable of doing or what he was going to do next.

We figured that the weasel guy was probably out of the picture, dead on the bottom of the ocean maybe, but we weren't too sure about the other goon we left behind out there naked, looking at his flat tires. All we knew for sure was that this wasn't the end of it. Since the Lulu's and my dad were hundreds of miles away, halfway to Jake and Lisa's Uncle Gus's farm, there wasn't any point in calling them for help, even if we could. Or the stupid police for that matter. We all reaffirmed that this was our fight and that we were going to see it through.

Cooper showed up with his brother Colton, and Colton's friend Tucker a half-hour later. A brand-new round of celebrations ensued the second they came in the house. Everybody was excited to get Jake back, and my boy-o was soaking up all of the attention. The guys were giving him hugs, and even kisses, right in front of Lisa and the little men. Everybody was used to seeing me and Jake do that lately, so they really didn't care. I wasn't jealous though, because I knew that I was going to be giving Jake some extra-special welcome home loving later on that night. Jordy and Chris crashed on the couch soon after we ate, so Enzo and I carried them upstairs and put them to bed. They didn't even stir, except for Chris who cut a righteous fart, so we quickly tucked them under the covers wearing their dirty clothes, since they weren't wet, and got the hell out of there. I was about to shut the door when Enzo suggested we leave it cracked so we could hear the little men in case they had a problem or freaked out in the middle of the night.

Everybody decided to spend the night camped out on the family room floor. We were feeling kind of itchy, and nobody wanted to be apart from everybody else. Plus, it might give us more time once we spotted Ace, if he had the balls to show up tonight. We also figured he'd probably go to Jake and Lisa's house first. So, we ran over there in a pack and turned on a couple of lights, just to make it look like someone was home.

We had replayed the whole story for the older guys a third time, when we decided that it would be a good idea if we took turns watching the street. After asking what kinds of cars to look for, Tucker made a sentry list so at least one of us would scout the street from the living room's front windows. Next, we talked about what we should do if and when they showed up. We felt we could probably handle it if it were just two of them, but then we worried about what would happen if they broke in with guns. I knew where my dad's guns were locked up and could easily get to them, since unbeknownst to my mom, my dad had given me the combo to the gun safe when I turned thirteen. Enzo said his dad had a couple around his house that he could run home and get. Colt and Coop said their dad had a couple of guns, too, plus a few hunting rifles.

That didn't go over very well with Lisa and Jake. They reasoned that if we had guns there was a very high probability that someone would get hurt, and the ones getting hurt would most likely be us. Finally, after some heated discussion, everybody agreed that the guns were out. After that, Lisa said she was too wound up, and together with Coop, they were going to hang out in the living room and take the first two hours of sentry duty.

"If they show up, wake us up right away, okay sis?" Jake asked.

"You know I will. Now get some rest, guys, you're probably going to need it. C'mon, Coop. LuAnn has a nice cozy window seat we can curl up on."

"Right on! I think you need a little lovin' right about now."

Nobody had thought to bring sleeping bags, and since Jake and I didn't want to go out to the treehouse to get ours, I raided all of the bedrooms and the linen closet for a bunch of blankets and sheets. The family room was big enough that we could spread out with plenty of room to spare. Plus, my mom's wacky orange and red shag carpeting was both hideous and cushy. I started to pass the blankets and pillows out to the guys when Enzo asked, "Who's going to sleep where?"

"I thought we could all snuggle up together," Tucker said with a mischievous grin. He reached over and pulled Colt in tight, surprising him, but then Colt stuck his hand in Tucker's back pocket.

"Wait a Goddamn second," Enzo said, sounding like his dad, pointing back and forth between Tucker and Colt. "Don't tell me you guys are getting it on too? Is everybody around here into guy sex? That's heavy!"

"Well, let's see. Jake and Ryan are in loooove," Colt cooed.

"And Colt fucks anything that walks," added Tucker. Now that I thought about it, it was probably true.

"You do too if I remember correctly," said Kenji. Then turning to Enzo, he said, "Uh-oh. Just forget I said that." He was beet red and clearly embarrassed.

"Why?" asked Enzo. That made the rest of us snicker. "What'd did I miss?"

"Well, you might as well know. When we were at the party the other night, the five of us had our own little private party upstairs," Kenji started to explain.

"So?"

"All of us were naked," I said, getting right to the point. "I hope you're not mad at us, but you were such a dumbass that night. Plus, you were way too drunk and obnoxious."

"You're right, Ry, I was a dumbass. And if I weren't so stupid, I would have joined in too," Enzo said, pulling his buddy Kenji in and squeezing his tight little ass. "Any of you guys want to do that again?"

Everybody wanted to, except for Jake and I, but everybody was really beat and nervous about Jake's dad showing up that everyone passed. Plus, we really couldn't do anything with Lisa and Cooper in the front room and the little men upstairs.

The guys paired up while Jake and I stripped off our clothes and got under the blankets. I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight for the longest time. Nobody was going to get my boy-o away from me again tonight. I heard Enzo and Kenji settling in on the other side of the couch, and Colt and Tucker were making their bed over by the dining room door. Sloan wasn't quite sure what to think about all these guys in here on the floor, so after nosing around for a few minutes, she plopped down on the end of our makeshift bed still wide awake. I was pretty sure she wasn't going to sleep all night. But seconds later, the guys were all fast asleep, and the sounds of snoring filled the big room.

We had been asleep for maybe an hour when Jake started to wiggle around in my arms and push his ass into my crotch. I was afraid he was having another one of his bad nightmares, and he might wake everybody up. I pulled him in tighter to me and started stroking his long, sun-bleached brown hair. I leaned in and whispered in his ear, "It's all right, Jake, I'm here, buddy, and no one's going to get you. I won't let it happen again. I promise."

"Can you believe it? I just had the best dream ever!" Jake said, waking up with a start, and giving me his bright smile.

"A good one for a change? That's a surprise. Tell me all about it."

"Well, it's not exactly a dream. I remembered something I was doing while those guys had me tied up and left me alone down in the hold of stinky boat. I didn't want to show them I was scared, so I used some of that guided imagery stuff Miss Sam taught us so I would calm down. Only this time it worked out and was totally bitchin."

"Tell me about it, man. I can't wait. I'm all ears."

"Okay, here goes. I guess you had gotten your driver's license because you were driving your dad's old Austin-Healey up the coast highway. I think we had it all fixed because it was running really good and it sounded super sharp. We had the top down, and the radio was on and blasting CCR. They were playing Midnight Special, and we were singing along. It was so freakin' bitchin. We drove for a really long time, and we ended up where there weren't any buildings or anything. Way past Malibu or someplace like that. It was gorgeous. Beach on the left and tall cliffs on the right."

"That sounds boss. What did we do?"

"Well, you did a U-turn and found a place to park the car off the side of the road where a few other cars were parked. You were worried that the Austin would get dinged, so we parked it away from everybody else and pulled up the top. We covered it up with your dad's old parachute. The other cars around us looked like hippie cars and Volkswagen bugs because they were painted up like Lulu's microbus. After we had got the car secured, we grabbed our packs and headed down a small, steep little trail towards the beach.

"It took us a while to make it down to the water, because it was so slippery, and we had to watch out for the snakes and poison oak. But once we got there it was totally spectacular. The trail ended at a wide, sandy spot between two cliffs. The sun was warm, and there was a soft, cool breeze coming off the water. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and you could almost see forever, maybe even all the way to Hawaii. The beach was sandy and wide, and backed up to tall, shale cliffs with big trees and bushes growing on top of them. The best part was that it was a nude beach! It was heaven."

"That sounds bitchin. I'd love to go to a nude beach with you. Let's do it in a few months when we get our driver's licenses. Was anybody else around?" I asked, rearranging my plumping dick. The thought of running up and down the beach in the warm sun with Jake had certainly stirred things up down there.

"Yeah. Towards the north, going up the beach, were a few naked people playing Frisbee, and a topless mother chasing after her two slobber monkeys. Some naked guys were playing football. It was a happy, groovy scene and everyone was so cool. We stood around for a second watching the guys' dicks and the girls' boobs bouncing all around. Then we decided to walk down the other way where it would be a little more private. Apparently, the tide was way out because the waves were small and flat. That was bad for the one guy that had a surfboard. How cool would it be to go surfing naked? Anyway, when we rounded a small, rocky bluff, you said for us to get naked and to stuff our shorts and shoes in our packs."

"That sounds like me. Any chance to get naked, you know I'll do it."

"No shit. The sun warmed our naked bodies and burned on our butts, and you and I both popped boners in a flash. But it didn't matter since no one was around. Anyway, our boners went down as we walked at least a mile or more down the beach. We only saw a few people here and there sunning themselves up by the bluffs, or dipping in the beautiful water. There was a makeshift fort made out of driftwood logs up by the bluff side, and this naked guy and girl were cuddled up in the middle of it. I could see through the crack in the logs, but I couldn't tell what they were doing. I was pretty sure he was pounding his hard cock into her pussy. I've seen enough of that, so I didn't even bother watching.

"Later, down the beach, an old fat guy was sitting in a fold-up canvas chair wearing nothing but a straw hat. He just waved at us as we walked by. I think he had all of his cock-hair shaved off. It was an interesting look for an old guy. He was doing needlepoint like Rosey Grier does. Farther down the beach were two sweet, older ladies that had a big wicker hamper full of good eats, and they offered to share them with us. It looked good and tasty, but we didn't take them up on it. I kept staring at their tan, wrinkly old bodies and saggy tits with a smile. I want to be that happy when I get old and wrinkly, Ry. How cool would that be? Anyway, they were funny, and after talking with them for a while, we kept going on down the beach."

"Is that all we did? Walk and look at wrinkly old tits?"

"No. Don't be in such a hurry, you nimrod. Like I said, it was a wonderful place, and I want you to picture it in your big, fat hairy head. We finally found a spot that was perfect. Warm, white sand, surrounded by bluffs on three sides. It smelled like a mix of coastal sage, chaparral, and ocean. Two older guys were a thousand feet away, sitting in fold-up chairs and reading, and I couldn't see anyone else down the other way. We threw down our packs and laid out our big beach towels next to each other. Little sand lizards went scurrying away from us. Then we went for a swim. The water was boss, and we had so much fun. It was cool, but not cold, and was so clear you could see the bottom, even twenty feet out. We played around in the surf for a while and chased and dunked each other like crazy.

"We even saw some dolphins swimming close by us off to the west. You were such a dork because you thought they were sharks and you swam back to shore like a maniac. Then we looked for cool shells and rocks, and you even found a starfish. I loved you even more because you tossed him back into the water to be with his friends. You taught me how to skip stones, and that was really bitchin because we found some really flat stones that skipped and bounced like crazy. Later on, you started to chase the sandpipers down the beach, and I had to smile at your cute, naked butt jiggling around while you ran down the sand. You were so cute! You never did catch them, you dork. After we got tired, we went back to lay down on our towels to take a nap. The sun was nice and warm on our naked bodies, and in no time, we both fell asleep wrapped up in each other's arms with my head on your chest.

"The next thing I remember was waking up and rolling over and looking up at you. You were still on your back, one arm crossed over your chest, and that beautiful foreskinny dick of yours was all plumped up, its little eye poking out of its skin. You know how your cock is always hard when you sleep? Well, I just had to have it. It was so big and fat, shiny at the tip and staring me right in the face. So, I crept down and started to lick just a little bit on the head and nibble on your foreskin. It was salty from the ocean, but it tasted righteous. Like you. Then it blurped out a quick shot of pre-jizz. Yum-mee! You stirred a little, but I kept on sucking. It felt so good out there in the open, listening to the waves and the birds, and feeling the nice breeze. And it tasted so good – just like candy. I started to go to town, and soon your dick started leaking buckets of that special love juice that gets me so hot!"

"Oh, God, Jake. You're getting me randy talking like that," I whispered, shuffling around.

"I know. It was so intense. But then you had me stop. I guess you were about to blow your balls. You grabbed my hand and dragged me down to the surf, both of our hot-rods and droopy balls bouncing back and forth for everyone to see. Not that they would have because the beach was ours and ours alone. Everybody was gone. The water was real shallow, and super warm in this one part where the rocks jutted out on both sides and made a little lagoon. You kneeled down in front of me and started sucking on my dick. It felt so freakin' bitchin being out there in the water, open like that where anyone could see us. And if they did, I really didn't care.

"Anyway, you were sucking on my cock like a madman, grabbing my ass cheeks and sucking down my meat deep into your throat while the water swirled around us. I couldn't believe how good it felt. So free and so hot. The breeze whistled over my exposed pucker and sent shivers of lust up and down my spine. It seemed to go on for hours. I finally grabbed your head with my hands to hold you still while I shoved my cock in and out of your hot, slippery mouth. I couldn't take it anymore and finally unloaded my white-hot wad straight down your throat and into your stomach. It was the best cum I'd ever had."

"Holy shit, dude. That was totally freakin' hot! Damn. Feel that? That's my dick drooling all over your butt. We'll have to do that the minute I get my driver's license. And you know, that was a brilliant idea thinking about making out to take your mind off being tied up by your dumbshit dad. I want to be with you forever, dude. That's why I love you so much," I said.

"Because I'm so smart?" Jake asked.

"Well, of course, but also because you're so hot and sexy. All those things make me loooove you."

"Aww, C'mere you."

We started getting into some hot and heavy kissing action and grinding our hard cocks into one another when Cooper came yelling into the room. He turned on the lights and told us that Ace's black Citroen and the green Ford sedan had just pulled up out front.

"Damn. Already?" I asked, standing up and pulling up my sweats and hangers over my hard dick.

"Lisa recognized the car because there aren't that many weird cars like that, and she remembered the other one from your adventure tonight," Coop said. "And besides, the black car is parked in Jake and Lisa's driveway and the sedan's parked on the street right in front. It's the same one that's been out there for the last couple of weeks. I thought it was spying on me, but it turns out it was spying on you guys."

"Yeah, I was afraid they were watching you. I shoulda said something, but so much has been going on I forgot," I told Cooper.

"Ah, fuck," Jake groaned.

"They must have gotten the tires fixed," Enzo said, slipping into his shorts.

"How many guys did you see?" Jake asked. He was up on his feet now too.

"We couldn't really see because he pulled up real close to the house," Lisa said, as she raced into the family room. "I think the guy in the sedan was alone. But for sure, at a minimum, it's my dad and the guy we left naked and stranded."

"Get up, guys, and get dressed," Kenji said, clapping his hands. "Chop-chop! We got work to do."

"We're up," Colt and Tucker both said at the same time. Tucker had to kick Colt in the butt to get him moving though. Guess he had smoked a lot of dope before he came over here.

"Should I go hide?" Jake asked Lisa, pulling his tie-dyed t-shirt on over his head and sounding distinctly worried. "I don't want to go to New York. Not without Ryan."

"No, that wouldn't do any good. He's going to find you sooner or later. Besides, going to New York isn't the point. The point is that he's trying to kidnap you again, little brother. That's completely wrong, and it isn't going to happen. Not on my watch." Lisa started yelling. "Okay, everybody, let's just follow the plans we made earlier. Scatter yourselves around the room. Jake, you get in the back behind the other guys. That way he has to go through all of us to get to you. When he sees all of us, he'll change his mind. I just know it. I don't think he's that stupid. And guys? Listen up. If we have to start talking shit to him, just follow along, okay?"

"I hope you're right about this, sis," Jake said. All the guys in the room agreed and were totally on board. It amazed me how quickly we had bonded together. I totally loved these guys and couldn't have asked for better friends. My only worry was that someone might get hurt, or worse. That terrified me.

Sloan had been running around, but now she was on high alert, belting out a strange, yawning, low-level rumble deep in her throat. I'm not sure if she sensed our adrenaline, or if it was something else, but as it grew louder and more passionate, she turned around and started barking at the kitchen. We heard a loud bang against the back door, like someone was breaking in, which was followed by an eerie silence.

Sloan stopped barking, the hackles on her back going straight up as she arched down and got into attack mode.

"What do you think that was?" Enzo whispered.

"I don't know. I'll go look, but you guys stay here in case this is some kind of diversion. Watch the front door, okay? C'mon Sloan," I said quietly.

I grabbed a sharp steak knife off of the block in the kitchen and headed for the back door. Most of the lights were still off in the house which allowed me to part the curtains in the kitchen door to see outside easily. It was a clear night, and there was just a sliver of moonlight illuminating the pool deck and off the trees. The pool light was on, and that helped too.

What I saw both terrified and amazed me. After telling Sloan to sit and stay, I slowly opened the door just a crack and peeked out at a big, bulky shadow lumbering away, maybe five or ten feet away. It was the Dark Man! At least I think it was. He seemed taller, more erect maybe, and his hair looked like it had been washed. The Dark Man was dragging the goon we left naked at the marina. Even though he was wearing clothes again, I recognized his ugly face. The guy's eyes were almost closed, but he looked like he was staring up at me. It was beyond creepy.

I opened the door wider still and saw a small pool of dark red blood on the step. I looked up and got a better look at the Dark Man and could see him pulling the limp body by the back of the guy's shirt. Oh, fuck! And there was a dark red line going from the door right to the dude he was pulling. Did he really just whack that guy right here? In my backyard? This was bad. Really, really bad.

"Hey," I said quietly. I didn't want the Dark Man to get spooked. "What's going on, man? Is he dead? Are you all right?"

Turning his head around to look at me, the Dark Man said, "It's this night … right now! This night! This… this is the night I told you about right from the beginning. Satellites are almost here. Walking satellites. Not talking satellites. Oh no, not talking. Not those. You get that one, and I get this one. He fell. On his head. Not me. One for one and two for two. Don't… oh no… don't linger on the way. I did two now, so you do three too. I've told you one, two and now three. This is code for the future. Face it! Save your boy-o. It is written."

"I don't understand! Why do you talk in riddles?"

"YES, RYAN JACOB MILLER! YOU GODDAMN DO TOO UNDERSTAND!" he screamed at me, dropping the guy's body hard on the deck. The dude's head bounced on the cement with a dull thud. Then much quieter, the Dark Man said, "Love your boy-o like he loves you. Don't ever quit. No, oh no, no, no, never! You're both walking satellites. I've been told you two are special. Go with the flow, boy-o's. "

With that, he turned and shuffled away, pulling the limp body by his droopy arm. As he was heading off to the trail leading past the treehouse, I barely heard him say, "I'd never be able to have that. So sad, so sad. Walking satellites. Whey-o. Lucky boy-o's."

I hurried back inside the house and locked the back door behind me, then slumped behind it. There were way too many questions about what the Dark Man was doing and what he had just said, but I didn't have time to process or figure them out right now. And he knew my whole name. How was that even possible? Who the heck is that guy and how long has he been watching us? And how does he just appear like that?

"What was all that yelling about out there?" Jake asked once I came back in the family room where the guys had all gathered around. "You look like you've seen a werewolf."

"I think the Dark Man might have killed one of Ace's men. I'm sure it was the guy we stripped naked and left at the marina. He might have been trying to break in the back door, but the Dark Man got to him first. The Dark Man must have got him from behind and knocked him out. Now he's dragging his body up the trail," I said quietly. "There's lots of blood, too." All of a sudden, I didn't seem so brave, and really wished that my dad was here. "That means at least Ace, and maybe the guy on the boat, if he lived, are still out there. Maybe more guys we don't know about."

"Sweet Zombie Jesus," Lisa said.

"Oh, fuck," someone else said.

"Shit!" yelled Colt.

"Damn," Enzo said. "I knew we should have dumped that guy in the drink and left him there for fishies and sharks to snack on."

"I know. But we just couldn't," said Kenji, coming up behind him and putting his arm around his waist. "We're not killers, at least not by choice."

"Listen up everybody. I think this is going to get down and dirty, so be on guard. Don't take any stupid chances and get yourselves hurt. We'll just be calm and tell my dad that he's not taking Jake, and that's it," Lisa said, her voice wobbling a little. "I know he hates our mom and me, but he's not going to get my brother without a fight. I really don't think he'd hurt him or us."

She barely had that out when the front doorbell rang, scaring the crap out of us and making us jump. Sloan started barking like crazy, and all of us looked at each other with eyes wide open. Who the heck would be ringing the doorbell at two in the morning? Why wouldn't Ace or his goons just bust on inside? I had a weird thought and hoped it was Mrs. Kravitz.

"It's now or never guys. Stay in the back, Jake. Kenji, get back there. I'll go open the door," Lisa said. "There's nothing else we can do."

"Be careful, Lisa," said Coop.

Kenji and I stepped in front of Jake, while Colt, Cooper, Tucker, and Enzo fanned out around the front of the three of us. The big guys stopped, then crossed their arms over their chests. They were the larger, burlier guys and would probably slow down whoever was trying to get us. I couldn't help but think we looked like half-dressed, man-sized bowling pins about to be bowled down. Outside of Lisa and Coop, Jake was the only one wearing tops and bottoms; the rest of us barely had time to pull on sweats or shorts.

The front door slammed opened and banged against the wall, and we could hear Ace yelling, "Lisa, where the hell is your brother? And don't fucking mess with me. I'm not in a mood for your shit. You've embarrassed me too many times, and I've fucking had it with you." His voice carried all the way back to the family room. And unlike a deranged vampire, I was pretty sure he wasn't going to wait for an invitation to float on inside.

Lisa started talking, and then Ace was talking, and then they both were talking, and then she was yelling, and then he was screaming until finally, we heard Lisa screech "Dad! Let go of me!"

Just as us guys started to move towards the front of the house to come to Lisa's rescue, Ace pushed Lisa through the family room door, holding her by the hair on the back of her head. Then he shoved her hard, pushing her onto the couch with a thud. He was a lot stronger than his scrawny, pasty white body looked.

"Where's Smiling Joe?" Ace asked us, pointing to the back door in the kitchen by sticking his chin out. "He should have been in here by now."

Nobody said anything, so I bucked up and said, "If you're talking about the guy in the backyard, we just took him out. I don't think he'll be smiling anymore," It was hard for me to accept that this was Jake's father. It was even harder to believe that I had just said that.

"Horseshit! You guys are no match for him. Yeah, you got him naked and flattened his tires, but all that did was make him pissed off. He's a Goddamn killer, for shit's sake! I've had all I can take from you good for nothing Goddamn little pricks. You're just a bunch of fucking punks, and I don't fucking believe you."

"So it was him," Enzo said, mostly to himself.

"Shut up, you moron. Why do you look familiar?"

"I don't know? Why do I look familiar?" Enzo didn't seem scared at all, and his wise-ass comment would have been funny under other circumstances.

"Why don't you go look at the blood trail out the back door. Our friend is going to dump his body in the canyon right now and let the coyotes and raccoons eat his dick off," I said, surprising myself again. "By sunrise, his dick, balls, nose, and fingers will be all munched off! No one will be able to identify him or tell that we did it. And get the fuck out of my house!"

Ace didn't even look at me, and instead, he said, "Jake, you're coming with me, right fucking now," he roared. "Get up here and let's go. Move it!"

"No, Dad, I'm not going anywhere with you," Jake said very calmly from the back of our little teen rat-pack. "You're a prick, and I hate you. I've hated you since I was twelve when you never ever said boo to me. You never went to any of my little league games or even asked how I was doing. You're a piss-poor excuse for a father. 'Sorry, son, too busy' was your excuse. You're a fuckhead. I'd rather get killed right here in front of my friends than go anywhere with you."

"Fine. We can do this the hard way then. I really don't give a rat's ass," Ace said. He reached down and pulled up his trouser-leg and drew out a small gun from a holster strapped to his ankle. It was exactly like the one the guy on the dock was wearing when we stripped off all of his clothes. "You know, I had Smiling Joe and Porno Pete clocking this place for a while now. They were the ones that broke the brake line on your mother's bus. I was hoping to take her out so it would be easy to get you, Jake, all to myself. But, oh no. Lisa had to go and fucking drive up on that nosy old neighbor's lawn instead of crashing down the hill. I'll shoot all of you one by one until only Jake is left. And I'll still have plenty of bullets to spare. Then I'll torch this place, and nobody will even remember who the hell you were because there won't be anything left. Just a batch of crispy bones stinkin' up the rubble."

He waved the gun around the room, stopping for a second to focus on each one of us to make his point. Fuck. I was scared shitless. And unfortunately, it was working. I could tell our resolve was weakening. I didn't see it, but next to me I heard Kenji's bladder let loose all over the floor. Then Ace pointed the gun at Sloan and said, "Maybe I'll start with this ugly mutt, first." He aimed and pulled the trigger, not giving us any time to respond. Luckily, Sloan moved just a fraction of an inch, and the bullet whizzed harmlessly past her ear and into the floor right behind her. The noise was deafening and made us all jump. I don't know what I would have done to him if he shot Sloan. Actually, I did. I was going to fuck this motherfucker up good if it took my last dying breath.

"NO! Stop. I'll go with you. Just don't shoot anybody," Jake screamed at his dad before he could pull off another shot.

"Good, you little merda. I knew you'd come around. You're going with me, and you're going to learn the affari whether you like it or not. Just like I had to do for my padre. It's time for you to grow up and be a signore ." All of a sudden, Ace was spouting Italian all over the place. I'm not sure I got it all, but I had a pretty good idea what he was trying to say. And I didn't like it. He was Mafia, that was for sure, plain and simple, just like Enzo's dad.

Jake slowly walked through us towards his deadbeat dad, shuffling his feet and taking his time. There wasn't really much we could do other than to let him go. Lisa was still on the couch, sniffling away, and I could feel Kenji next to me shaking like crazy. I just hoped his bowels weren't the next thing to let loose.

Sloan had backed down and had scurried behind the couch, out of sight. I was still petrified, and my ears were ringing, but then I had a brainwave. It was a good one, too, as a sharp shockwave pulsed through my body. I don't know where it came from, maybe from Red Crow, or maybe the Dark Man's satellites were in some kind of crazy alignment sending signals straight into my head, or maybe it was from Mrs. Baileys lucky gold coin. Maybe it was all of them working in concert. But whatever it was, I wasn't about to let the boy I love get away from me without a fight!

"Hold on, Jake. I'll go with you. I hate this fucking place and these stupid people. I wanna be a killer just like you. That was fun offing that guy on the boat," I said. It was hardly believable, but just the same, it caught Ace off guard. "Jake and I make a great team. You saw what we did tonight to your team. I think you need more dedicated associates, like Jake and me. My guess is they weren't as obligated or sincere to you as you thought. But we would be."

Enzo, being much smarter than I would have ever given him credit, and maybe remembering what Lisa had said about following our lead, thankfully caught my drift and spoke up. "I'm gonna go with you guys too. I'm tired of my dad controlling my whole freakin' life. If you have guns and take people out, then I'm your man. I'm sick of always being the nice guy. That was fun crashing your boat. The three of us will make a great miniature rat-pack. Besides, my dad is never going to let me be part of the family here. He says the books are closed and that there's no room for me. I'm never going to be made around here."

Caught off guard once again, Ace looked questioningly at Enzo. "Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck are you talking about? What do you know about books and family and being made?"

"I'm Enzo. Enzo Ferrari. I think you know my dad, Crash. He works downtown across the street from the porno theater. I'm pretty sure he's your Skipper." Apparently, Enzo didn't miss a thing either. And he knew the lingo, too.

"Crash? Crash Ferrari? From downtown?"

"Hell yeah. He's my dad. And he's a dick."

" Un bastardo ," was all Ace could say, so quietly that we hardly even heard it. But we did.

"It would be quite a coup for you if we joined up with your posse," Enzo added.

"Hmm."

Jake, Enzo and I had begun to slowly move over to the left side of our group, off to the side and a little behind Lisa. She was still sniffling on the couch. Jake looked at her and said under his breath, "Sorry, Lisa."

Ace looked at the three of us with total bewilderment. "You guys ain't shittin' me, are you?" He had turned his body towards us, his back to the stairs. But his gun was still pointing back and forth and all around at each of us.

"Look," I said. "I just offed your man out the back door. And like I told you before, our friend D.M. is dumping his body down the canyon right now as we speak. Go check outside and see the blood splattered all over the pool deck if you don't believe me. Shouldn't he have been in here by now, backing you up? And I'm sure you know that we crashed your fishing boat on the rocks. I mean, how else would we know about it, right? And we dumped that wimpy, dickless guy guarding Jake overboard as well. Do you really think we fuck around? We might be young, but we're ruthless, and we don't give a shit about who gets in our way. You'd be an idiot not to take us with you."

"And don't forget, we left some guy naked and stranded by his car with flat tires out at the marina," Enzo added. "And we stole his gun and his money. He's probably the one dead in the ravine by now. Our mistake was not finishing him off when we had the chance. That won't happen again, that's for damn sure. We might be young and not know all of the old ways, but we'll kick ass every single time."

"Plus, we took care of that stupid cop up behind the house the other day, too" Jake boasted. Ace had to be a complete rube to believe that. "The paper said he died like a hero, but actually, we shot him in the balls, and he fell down the cliff right before the rest of the cops showed up. That was Ryan and me. I hope he wasn't one of your moles."

"Wait just a fucking second. Let me think this through. All of you guys killed a bunch of my men and a snitch cop to boot?"

"Well, Lisa helped a little," Jake said, shrugging his shoulders.

"I don't believe it. It's impossible."

"It's all true. You think we're dopes, but we're not," Enzo said.

Off to the right, I spotted Jordy and Chris hunched low like panthers, slinking down the stairs, each holding golf clubs. I had no idea what they were up too, but I wanted to make sure Ace didn't see them and hurt them, or worse, grab them as a hostage for Jake. I guess the little men had been woken up by the gunshot, and had gone into my parents' room and grabbed Dad's putter and his favorite three-iron. I casually walked closer to Ace's left side and said way too loudly, "Look! Do we have a deal, or not? You get three young guys to go to New York with you. Right off the bat, you've got three killer associates." I wasn't a dope; I knew a little about mafia hierarchy too.

"I'm not sure. How do I know I can trust you? How do I know you're not lying?"

"The way I see it is this. You don't really have any choice if you want Jake. Once the family figures out that we offed your man, crashed your boat and killed your snitch, you're pretty much screwed around here. How long do you think it will take Crash or one of his Consigliere's connections to find you and then send you to the bottom of the ocean with a bucket of cement around your nuts? But, if you take us to New York to work for you, we'll be the best team that you'd ever hope to have, and we'll help you make a bunch of money, guaranteed," I said. "We'll all take an oath of allegiance to you right here and now."

"And I could be your half a hard-on with a suitcase," Lisa said, speaking up for the first time. Apparently, just like Enzo, she didn't miss a thing either, and knew some mafia-speak. "Which you're gonna need if you want to grow your business. I've already signed up for summer law classes at PCC," she lied.

"What? You'd do that for me? I fucking don't believe it." When he said this, he could almost spot Jordy and Chris if he turned his head ever so slightly. So I moved around Jake way off to the left. Luckily, he followed me when I moved around the room. That was fortunate because right then one of the boys banged a golf club hard against the railing. It wasn't loud enough for Ace to notice, or maybe it was, and he just wasn't paying attention since there were so many people in the room.

"As long as you promise not to screw my friend's mothers," Lisa said, really, stretching it. "That was gross. But, yeah, I'd do that. The family is family, right?"

"I don't think you've ever given her a chance. She's your daughter for shit's sake," I said, sticking up for Lisa. Before Ace had the opportunity to respond, I continued, "I've only known these guys for a little while, but I've heard plenty. The only thing she wants is to be accepted by you. You can't blame her that Lulu is her mother. Now's the chance for you to make everything right, and be her dad. Her real dad. And besides, aren't dad's and daughters supposed to have a special relationship?"

"Yeah, Dad. You're always so mean to her just because she's a girl, but she can kick freakin' ass. She'd be tough in the courtroom too," Jake said. "You know she would." I think it was hard for him to keep from smiling or laughing at that one.

Jordy and Chris were finally at the bottom of the stairs and were still hunched down, making their way slowly around the room behind Ace. He couldn't see them from his angle because they were crouched so low, but if he turned around, they both would be toast. I was worried that some of the guys would follow them with their eyes and give them away to Ace. That worried me so I moved over one more time and practically shouted out, "You have to take us with you!"

Everybody was startled and looked back at me. I was trying desperately to keep Ace's eyes focused on me. "I promise that we'll be loyal to you, and help you make tons of dough. How about this. You take Lisa and Jake and fly out tonight, while Enzo and I will drive your car. Just tell us where to meet you. We've got your two grand, you know. That will get us cross-country. Easy-peasy."

"We're gonna have to hurry before my old man finds out about this," Enzo added, getting into our game and moving over next to me. I don't think he wanted his little brother to get hurt, either. "I'm not sure Crash is going to go easy on you for everything that's been going on tonight. He's gonna blame everything on you. You heard what he did to my so-called mother, right? I'm pretty sure she's at the bottom of the sea. No loss there. And you're gonna be next once he hears about your fuck-ups."

Ace got red in the face and was about to say something, but in one quick movement, both Jordy and Chris spread out behind Ace, whacking him hard behind both of his knees. It sent him down to the floor on his back, but not before he squeezed off another shot. Lisa jumped up and had the smarts to kick the gun out of his hand and across the room. Luckily, it didn't go off again. He laid there withering in pain.

"Anybody hurt?" I yelled out.

I got a chorus of no's, and we're okay's, but then I heard someone say something that scared the ever-livin'-holy-shit out of me.

"I think I got hit." It was Jake.

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