“How much is it?”
“Uh…” Dave Starsky frowned as he tried to recall the amount on the meter. “Two fifty.”
“Here.” Candi dug through her purse and handed him a five dollar bill.
“Hey, no.” Dave tried to hand it back. “That’s way too much.”
“No it isn’t.” She set her purse down on the table next to the door. “Dave, nobody else is willing to take me to the store, then wait while I grab some groceries.”
“Well, you work so late – “ He shrugged and smiled at her. “It’s not right to make you get up early and go shopping before you have to go to work.”
“It’s nice of you to carry them upstairs for me, too.” She tucked the five into his shirt pocket and let her hands slide up his chest to his shoulders. “All the way up two flights.”
“Just tryin’ to help a lady out.” Dave laid a hand on her waist.
“Most guys don’t think a stripper’s much of a lady.”
“I’d just say they don’t know you very well.” He’d picked Candi up on several different nights, and she always went straight home. No stops at bars and no men coming home with her. Just the occasional stop for groceries. “It’s not like you’re turnin’ tricks.”
“God, no.” The curls at the nape of his neck begged for attention, and Candi slid her fingers through them. “I’d go back to being a secretary first. I type eighty words a minute, you know.”
“I’d noticed you’re very good with your hands.” Candi had moved until her body was brushing against his, and Dave put his hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer.
“You think I’m good with my hands…” Tilting her head, she pressed her lips to his.
Dave parted his lips and let her tongue in to play with his, sucking at it gently. His left hand slid inside her jacket to capture a soft breast while the other cupped her ass, pressing her firmly against him.
If he shocked her, Candi didn’t show it. One hand was tugging open his shirt buttons and the other was sliding over his hip and around to squeeze his ass. After a few moments, both of them were panting and gasping for air as the kisses and caresses grew more urgent.
Dave was busy nibbling on her ear and grinding himself against her when a sudden chiming made him jump. “What – the – “ He looked around the room. “What the hell was that?”
“The clock – ignore it.” Candi pulled his head back around and kissed him again.
“Wait – “ Breaking free, he looked at the clock. “It’s five? Geez, I’ve got to get the cab back.”
“It can’t wait?” She licked at the hollow of his throat.
“I wish – oh, geez – but no.” Dave stepped back reluctantly, giving her a couple of quick kisses as he went. “The cab has to be cleaned out and gassed up before the morning guy takes it out."
She pouted and he leaned back in for another kiss. Or two. “Then I got some paperwork – I can be back in an hour and a half tops.”
“I’ll be asleep by then.” Candi smiled at the disappointed look on his face. “Tell you what – I’m off on Monday. Why don’t you come by, say around six? I’ll cook dinner for you.”
“Dinner?” He waggled his eyebrows. “Watch out virtue, she’s plying me with food.”
“Maybe I’ll show you the new outfit I’ve been working on. Lots of spangles and sparkles.”
“That sounds nice.” Dave slid a finger along the soft, warm mounds above the lace of her bra. “Keep these warm for me?”
“I’ll keep them nice and warm.” She promised with a wink.
Sighing, he opened the door. “Later, sweetheart.”
Candi gave him a kiss as he backed out the door into the hall, giving him one last swirl of her tongue around his. “See you Monday, Dave.”
“Monday?” Licking his lips, Dave gave her a wobbly grin. “Do we have to wait ‘till Monday?”
The door closed and he stared at it for a minute. Take the cab back? Go get the girl? He weighed the options carefully and had to give in to his paycheck. He didn’t want to live with his aunt and uncle forever.
“Get fired and you won’t be able to buy the wine to go with dinner.” He skipped down the steps and went outside to his cab.
“I’m gonna get lucky on Monday.” Dave sang to himself as he started the cab and drove away. “I’m gonna get lucky on Monday. I’m gonna get – whoa!”
A car had pulled out of the alley in front of him and stopped. Dave slammed his foot down on the brake pedal, bringing the cab to a screeching halt inches from the rear bumper of the other car.
“What’s the matter with you?” He threw the cab into park. Opening the door, Dave got out. “Why don’t you look where you’re going?”
The car doors opened and two men got out. Dave recognized them. “Uh oh.”
“Ready to pay up?” One of them asked as they walked toward the cab.
“Shit!” Getting back into the cab, Dave dropped the gearshift into reverse. Lights from behind blinded him as he turned to look over his shoulder. The cab lurched forward as it was tapped from behind. “Holy shit!”
The night before, he’d been stopped by a pair of men who weren’t interested in a ride. They’d been short and to the point. They wanted a percentage of his nightly take or else. He’d said, just as clearly and to the point, no. If fuck you, I don’t pay protection money to goons like you meant no. Which, in Dave’s vocabulary, it did.
Apparently in their vocabulary it meant we’ll come back again tomorrow and we’ll bring friends.
“Hey, asshole!” One of the men banged a fist on the cab’s fender. “You ready to pay up?”
The cab was sandwiched between the two cars with no leeway to get out. Dave could see two men from the second car coming up along the passenger side. The other two were walking up to the driver’s door.
“Fifty fifty.” Shutting off the cab, he pocketed the keys. He pulled up on the door handle, unlatching it, but held it closed with one hand while raising the other as if he were giving in. Dave waited until the first man was next to the door.
“You’re gonna give it to us.”
“Okay.” Dave opened the door hard and fast, slamming it into him and knocking him down. He jumped out of the cab and took off at top speed.
Unfortunately, the second man avoided his falling partner and ran after Dave. He caught him within a few steps and tackled him.
A heavy weight hit his legs, and Dave stumbled and fell to the pavement. He yelped as the rough surface burned his hands and the side of his face. A knee to the kidneys added to his pain.
“Get him up!” The man he’d hit with the door ordered. “Bring the son of a bitch over here!”
Dave was jerked to his feet and dragged back to his cab.
“Get your paws off me!” He struggled against the two men until the third planted a fist in his gut.
They threw him against the side of his cab and he fell to his knees, clutching his stomach and retching.
“We’re gonna ask one more time –” The man he’d knocked down reached down and grabbed a handful of Dave’s hair to haul him to his feet. “Nicely – for our share.”
Gritting his teeth against the pain, Dave lurched forward, hoping to break the man’s grip and possibly clock him under the chin. His arms were caught before he could connect, and pinned behind his back.
“So, what do you say, kid?” The guy twisted Dave’s head back. “You ready to do business?”
“No!” He struggled, but he was held too tightly. “I don’t pay thugs for – “ The air went out of him in a hot rush as a fist slammed into his stomach.
“Kids today – who understands them?” The other three laughed at his joke as he raised his fist again.
They worked him over slowly, methodically. Their aim was to teach him a lesson without breaking bones. That would be lesson two if lesson one wasn’t effective enough.
Wheezing, Dave hung limp in their grip, long past having the strength to hold himself up. His ribs screamed against every breath trying to come in while his lungs begged for every ounce of air. It was a painful catch twenty two.
So far, they hadn’t hit him in the face; he wasn’t sure why. Marking someone’s face was a sign of disrespect. It wasn’t likely they wouldn’t –
A few million flashbulbs went off in his head as a fist hit his jaw.
There it is…
Another light show as his eye was introduced to a fist at high speed.
“He’s had enough.”
The pavement was getting much closer – closer – closer – close –
“That was asking nicely, kid, the next time you get a few days in the hospital … “
Why’s the bed so hard? An’ wet? Dave felt around for his pillow. The movement brought a ripple of pain along his side.
“Oh… God…” Carefully, he rolled over. He was still out in the street, probably lucky that nobody had run over him. It was still dark, which meant he hadn’t been out for very long.
His mouth was filled with blood, and Dave rolled to one side enough to spit it out, groaning and clutching his aching ribs.
“Get up – got to – get up – “ Feeling his way up the side of the cab to the door handle, he used it to pull himself to his knees. He panted, lying against the door to rest. Short, shallow breaths – Dave moaned as his ribs protested each one.
“Come on – get up – “ Deciding that one big and fast pain was better than a lot of slow ones, Dave forced himself up to his feet in one desperate heave. A sharp cry of pain echoed off the buildings. No lights went on, no windows opened. Nobody wanted to be involved.
He opened the door and fell inside, grabbing at the steering wheel to keep from falling over into the seat. If he lay down, he’d never get up again.
Digging in his jacket pocket, Dave found the keys and fumbled with the ignition key until if finally slid in. Thankfully, the old cab was an automatic. There was no way he’d have been able to manage a stick shift.
“Jesus… “ Laying on the steering wheel, he tried to clear his head. He had to drive at least ten minutes to get to the cab station, and he couldn’t do it if he couldn’t see straight.
On the floorboard was the cooler he kept ice and soda in, but he wasn’t sure he could reach it without ending up on the floor with it.
“Slow – go slow – “ Carefully, slowly, he reached down with his right hand, searching for the ice chest. Normally it was within easy reach – but now it seemed like miles away.
“Slow – slow – slow –“ His ribs were whimpering but they weren’t screaming and he didn’t want to crank up the volume. Feeling around carefully, Dave’s hand hit the money bag that was tucked between the cooler and the radio. It was empty.
“Of course it’s empty, stupid – “ Just past it, he finally found the cooler. “You think they’re gonna kick your ass for free?”
The cooler lid slid aside easy enough, and he scooped up a handful of ice. Pressing it to his face, he rubbed the ice across his forehead and eyes before holding it to his aching jaw.
He hadn’t had his ass kicked this good since basic training. At least these goons hadn’t used combat boots on him. This time. Ice water trickled down his neck and into his shirt, making the muscles there jerk and hurt.
Revived somewhat, Dave sucked some of the ice into his mouth to soothe his cut lip. It was bloody and nasty, but then so was the inside of his mouth. He started the cab and dropped it into drive.
“You’re not callin’ the cops!”
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Dave reached for the phone again.
“I said no!” Frank Rustin, the owner of Bay City Cabs, jerked the phone away once more. “You’re not calling the cops – I don’t want any trouble!”
“You’ve already got trouble!” He groaned as the throbbing in his head shot up another notch, and he continued in a lower tone. “You’ve got hoods hittin’ your drivers up for protection money.”
“And as long as they get it – we’ve got no problems.” The man looked Dave over critically. His left eye was black, his bottom lip split and swollen, and blood was streaked down the front of his shirt. “You look like crap.”
“Thank you.” Dave laid his head in his hands. “Crap was the look I was going for.”
“Look, you learned your lesson.” When Dave looked up, Rustin smiled. “I’ll let you slide on paying back the money – but from now on – you just hand over your share, got it?”
“No, I don’t got it.” He’d gotten the crap kicked out of him and robbed – and this asshole thought he was doing him a favor by not making him pay back the night’s fares? Getting slowly to his feet, Dave headed for the door. “No, I don’t fucking got it.”
“Take a couple days off, Dave!” Rustin called after him. “Get some rest!”
Outside, Dave unlocked his Camaro and got in. “Asshole.” Sinking into the leather seat, he considered giving in to temptation and closing his eyes – eye anyway – for a couple hundred years.
He’d just wake up with a stiff neck to go with his other aches and pains. Turning the key, Dave pulled out of the lot. It hurt his ribs and head – but soothed his pride – to leave a trail of expensive rubber on the street in front of Bay City Cabs.
“David? You’re so late, I thought maybe you had – “ Rosie turned as the back door opened, looking up from the bacon she was frying. “Oh my God – David!”
“I’m fine, Aunt Rosie.” He smiled for her, grimacing as it pulled on his split lip. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Sit down.” Shutting off the stove , she rushed to his side and helped him to a chair at the kitchen table. “You sit down – I’ll get some hot water.”
“Aunt Rosie – “ She was already gone, hurrying out of the kitchen and down the hall. “I just need a shower and some sleep.”
“I’m sitting – I’m sitting.” He crossed his arms on the table, pillowing his head on them.
His aunt was quickly back with bandages and peroxide, gently patting his back before going to fill a basin with water.
“David, sit up, and look at me.” When he raised his head, Rosie peered into the sapphire eyes. “Did they hit your head?”
“Just my face.” He couldn’t help smiling. Her face was so serious, her mouth pulled down into a frown.
Rosie ran her fingers through his hair, carefully searching for any bumps or cuts. Outwardly, she maintained a calm face – but inside she was crying. She and Al had never had children of their own, and just as she had resigned herself to not being a mother – David had come to live with them.
Even though David had been twelve years old, she had mothered him as much as possible. As much as he would let her. He had not been the perfect, quiet little child she had dreamed of when she had been a young girl in Okinawa, but she loved him more fiercely than she had ever imagined she would love a child.
“I’m okay, really.”
“You are not okay.” Rosie began to gently wash away the blood on his face. “We will clean you up and then you will call the police.”
“I’m not sure it’d do any good.” Closing his eyes, he sighed as the warmth eased some of the pain.
“Of course it will.” She insisted. “You have been beaten and – did they take your money?”
“Took it all.”
“And robbed.” The scrape on his face was carefully cleaned. “The police will find them and put them in jail.”
“What happened, Dave?”
Dave opened his eyes to see his uncle standing in the kitchen doorway. “People were asking for money and I wasn’t in the giving mood.”
“They mug you?” Al sat down at the table. “Or was it a shakedown?”
“Shakedown – ow!” Dave flinched as his aunt put peroxide on his scraped cheek. The move made his ribs send a reminder that they were bruised and battered and moving was not the smartest thing to do.
“David?” Rosie set the bottle aside, concerned at the way he hissed his breath in between clenched teeth. “Where else are you hurt?”
“Check the boy’s ribs.” Al got up and went to the hall closet to get an old sheet.
Rosie unbuttoned the bloody shirt and helped him pull it off. She gasped at the bruises that covered his ribs and stomach.
“They’re just bruised up, Aunt Rosie.” The guys were pros. His ribs weren’t broken because they didn’t want them broken. “I’m all right.”
“It looks very bad.” She shook her head. “We must call the police.”
“Won’t do any good, Rosie.” Shaking out the sheet, Al began ripping it into wide strips.
“Why?” She looked up at him. “There was a crime and they will solve it.”
Dave loved his aunt, but her simple faith in the police made him smile and shake his head.
“I should’ve warned you, Dave.” Al tossed the strips onto the table. “I figured they were getting their cut from the owner – not the drivers.”
“You knew about this?” Dave looked up at him. “You knew about this and you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t think – “ He ran a hand through his hair. “I just didn’t think.”
Dave took a good look at his uncle. At the slump of his shoulders and the worry on his face. “You’re payin’ them?”
“Last year, this guy moves in and sets up a protection racket.” Al sat down at the table again. “He’s got the muscle to back it up – so everybody pays.”
“I’m not payin’ for the privilege of working crappy hours in a beat up old cab.”
“You’re paying this man, Al?” Rosie turned to her husband. “But that is not right.”
“It’s the way things are, honey.”
“Since when?” Dave demanded. “You came out here to get away from this crap, remember?”
“Sometimes it follows you.” Reaching out, Al brushed back a strand of black hair that had escaped from the tidy bun Rosie kept it in.
“Stand up, David, and let me wrap your ribs.” Rosie patted his shoulder lightly.
Using the table for support, Dave got slowly to his feet. He lifted his arms out of the way as best he could so that his aunt could wrap his ribs. “I can’t believe you’re not standing up to this guy.”
“I did. And they busted some windshields – set a car on fire – so I paid.” His uncle shrugged. “I’m still making money. This guy’s just dipping his beak a little.”
“My father would have stood up to this guy.”
“And that’s why your father’s dead!” Al slapped his hand down on the table.
“David. Al.” Rosie finished pinning the bindings and stood up. “Al, that was very disrespectful toward David’s father.”
Rosie stood barely five feet tall, and she never raised her voice, but both men fell silent.
“I’m sorry, Dave.” Al shook his head. “I shouldn’t have said that. Mike was a great guy – I’ve got nothing but respect for him, you know that – I loved him like he was my own brother.”
“I know.” Dave sat down again. The tight wrapping had helped to ease the ache in his ribs. “Thank you, Aunt Rosie, I feel better.”
“You’ll feel better with breakfast and rest.” Opening a drawer, she took out a bottle of aspirin. “And two of these.”
“I can’t argue with that.” He held his hand out for the aspirin. “Or these.”
Al poured a cup of coffee and slid it across the table to him. “What happened?”
“They stopped me night before last and said they wanted me to pay them a cut of my fares.” Washing down the aspirin with a swallow of coffee, Dave continued. “I said no, so they asked me again tonight.”
“And they took your money?”
“Don’t worry about it.” His uncle poured himself a cup of coffee. “I’ll cover it for you.”
“The boss said I didn’t have to pay it back.” Dave made a face. “This time.”
“Well that’s one less thing to worry about.”
Rosie set a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him, gently patting his shoulder as she did so. “It is a little cold, but still good.” She set another plate in front of Al before going back to the stove.
“Dave, why don’t you come back to work for me?” Al asked. “Then you won’t have to worry about any of this.”
“That would be perfect.” Rosie sat down at the table with her own breakfast plate. “You can learn all about the car business. Al will retire some day, and you can take over.”
“I’m – I – “ Dave didn’t want to disappoint his aunt, but working for his uncle seemed too much like some kid working for Daddy because he couldn’t hold down a real job. “I dunno – I like driving a cab.”
“David, the hours are awful – you work all night and in a very bad neighborhood.” She turned to her husband for support. “David was very good selling cars for you, wasn’t he?”
“He was – it’d be good to have him back.” That was the truth and then some. David had started working for him when he was sixteen and had quickly become his best salesman. The damn war had interrupted a promising career.
“I kinda like driving a cab.” Dave pushed his eggs around with his fork. “I meet a lot of interesting people. Tonight I took a lady to the store and helped carry her groceries upstairs for her.”
“You were always a good boy.” Rosie patted his hand. “You’ve become a good man.”
Good thing I left out the part about the tonsil hockey. “Thanks, Aunt Rosie.”
“I thought about getting in touch with Joey – see if he could get this guy to lay off.” Al said quietly. “But I didn’t want to end up owing him a favor.”
“He couldn’t protect his friend.” Dave shoved the plate away. “What makes you think he can protect us?”
Al knew that Dave blamed Joe for his father’s death. It didn’t matter to him that Joe hadn’t known what was going to happen or been in a position to stop it – he pinned the blame squarely on Joe Durniak.
“The boss told me to take a couple of days off.” Dave ran his fingers over his swollen jaw. No way he could take on those guys in the shape he was in. “That’ll give me time to figure out what to do.”
“Rosie, honey – “ Al turned to his wife and gave her a sheepish smile. “I couldn’t find my blue tie with the little red stripes – I was going to wear it today.”
“Al, I don’t know what to think of you sometimes.” Getting up from the table, Rosie patted her husband’s shoulder lovingly. “I will find it for you.”
Al moved closer to his nephew after she’d left the kitchen. “Dave, I know what you’re thinking.”
“I’m just taking a few days off.” He looked down at the tabletop.
“Look at me – look at me – “ Al waited until Dave looked back up. “These guys play for keeps – they’ll put you in the hospital, or worse.”
“So I’m supposed to just tuck tail and run?” He hissed. “Pay up like a good boy?”
“You gotta do what you gotta do, Dave.” Standing, Al laid a hand on his shoulder. “I just don’t want to have to call your mother and tell her she’s gotta buy you a box.”
Dave slumped back in his chair and watched his uncle walk out of the kitchen. What am I gonna do?
On the one hand, he could go back to work for his uncle and close his eyes to the fact that his uncle was paying gangsters to protect him from them. On the other hand, he could go back to work driving a cab and pay the same gangsters to protect him from them. On another hand, he could go back to work driving a cab and not pay the gangsters to protect him from them, and end up in traction. On the other hand – he was out of hands.
“I should’ve done the GI Bill thing and went to college.” Dave sighed. “I’d be livin’ the life of leisure with no worries.”
“As you can see, in this instance, all charges against your client will be dropped.”
Ken Hutchinson frowned as the professor finished. “But, sir – “
“Yes, Mr. Hutchinson?”
“But, he’s guilty.” There were a few snickers from behind him, and he felt his face get hot. “Isn’t that – “
“You must always use the law to benefit your client.” The professor tapped his book. “In this case, sloppy procedure by the police allowed the client’s attorney to have the evidence thrown out. With no evidence, there was no case.”
“I can see that, but – “ He closed his textbook. “But if you know your client is guilty – “
“Even if your client is guilty – ” Addressing the entire class now, the professor held up one of the law books he kept on his desk. “You must defend your client to the best of your ability – you must take advantage of any and all laws that will help you. To do otherwise is to cheat your client of the best possible defense – as well as leaving yourself open to disbarment.”
“What about justice?”
Clearly irritated, the professor turned to him. “The law is not about justice, Mr. Hutchinson. The law is about providing your client with the best possible legal defense – ergo – your job is clear.”
The timer on the professor’s desk buzzed, indicating that the hour was up. He set down the law book and shut the timer off. “Class dismissed.”
Getting up, Ken pulled his jacket off the back of his chair and shrugged into it. He picked up his textbook, running his fingers over the lettering on the cover. Ethics And The Law. “Looks like the two things are mutually exclusive.”
Outside the building, Ken pulled his jacket around himself as the cold air hit him. Spring in Minnesota was still considered winter in most places. He walked past groups of students, ignoring friends who called out to him. He was in a funk, and he wanted to stay that way.
More and more, he was becoming disillusioned with his studies. The farther he got into pre-law – the less he liked it. It was less about helping people and more about twisting the law – tangling it around until it was a mockery.
Walking up the stairs to his frat house, Ken went inside and upstairs to his own room. He threw his book on the desk and collapsed into the chair. He couldn’t even look forward to working at his father’s law firm. Not that he ever really had.
Over Christmas break, he’d worked at his father’s office, his father saying it would be a better experience than going to Vail with his friends. It had been an experience all right. He’d had a front row seat to see his father neatly twist the law into a bow to get a client off just in time for Christmas.
The son of one of his father’s best clients had gotten drunk and caused an accident that had left two people dead. Because someone else had purchased the beer they’d gotten drunk on – the boy driving was somehow not responsible for the accident. The boy’s father had sent over a bottle of champagne for the legal team to celebrate their victory. There was no word on how the victim’s families viewed the outcome.
“This isn’t what I want to do. I want to help people.” Ken looked up at his poster of Raquel Welch. “Tell me the secrets of life, Raquel, how can I help people?”
Raquel didn’t answer. She stood frozen, forever poised to flee the dinosaur just out the camera’s range – or maybe a group of horny cavemen who liked the way she looked in that fur bikini.
He’d considered joining the district attorney’s office after he graduated – but his father had put his foot down on that idea. When he passed the bar, Ken would be joining his father’s firm. Period. End of childish rebellion.
“Would it be simpler if I was a caveman?” Looking up at Raquel in her fashionable fur ensemble, Ken smiled. “My father would probably want me to only kill one kind of dinosaur. Hutchinsons only kill woolly mammoths, my boy.”
He picked up the catalog for summer courses and thumbed through it. “Maybe I could be a doctor. I could set broken bones and stitch up cuts. Dr. Hutchinson. How are we doing today? I’m doing fine, Dr. Hutchinson. Mom would like that.” And his father would give him that look that said he was such a disappointment.
A knock on his door made him sigh. “Go away.”
The door opened, and one of his frat brothers stuck his head inside. “Hey, Ken, there’s a protest over at the Delta house.”
“I don’t feel like protesting the war right now, Rick.” He shook his head. “I’m thinking about switching my major. How’s pre-med sound?”
“Yeah, sure, like your dad would let you.” Rick snickered. “Come on, it’s gonna be cool.”
“What good does protesting do?” The war in Vietnam was something that Ken felt was wrong, but he didn’t believe that walking around carrying signs and singing Give Peace A Chance was going to do a lot of good.
“We’re just going to sit around and sing, maybe smoke a little.” His friend grinned. “There’s going to be plenty of chicks.”
“Ah, so it’s really a party disguised as a protest?” Most of the protests were.
“Hey, man, any excuse to party is all right by me.”
Looking at the books on his desk, Ken knew he had a test the next day and a paper to turn in. All for a major he was coming to hate with a passion. “What the hell, let’s go.”
“Get your guitar, man.” Rick picked the guitar up and handed it to him. “You know the chicks love to hear you sing.”
“And what do you get out of it?”
Laughing, Ken pushed him toward the door.
There was a pleasant buzz in his head, and Ken leaned back, sipping from his glass of wine. The girl snuggled into his side was very into tracing his face with her fingers. Debbie? Darlene? Donna? Oh well. She was pretty and blonde, and very friendly. That much he could remember.
The party was in full swing, with plenty of wine and grass being shared. He didn’t care for the feeling he’d gotten from pot the few times he’d tried it in the past, so he’d skipped hitting the pipe or any of the joints being passed around. There was enough secondhand smoke in the air to help him feel tranquil and relaxed, and he did like those feelings.
Around the room were little pockets of anti-war talk, enough to classify the party as a protest, he supposed. But mostly it was a quiet little party. The blonde – Dixie? – moved to press her lips to his and Ken kissed her back, a long slow kiss with just the right amount of tongue to make it interesting.
The sofa rocked as someone sat down on the other side of him. Someone loud.
“Man, I was really freaked for awhile about it, but it’s cool now, you know?”
“You really got one? Man!” Another voice, just as loud, replied.
It wasn’t a pleasant conversation to make out by. Ken opened his eyes. His friend Lewis was sitting next to him and Rick was sitting on the floor in front of the couch. “You guys mind keeping it down?”
“Lewis got a draft notice.” Rick told him.
“You did?” Ken avoided the girl’s lips for a moment. “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing.” Lewis shrugged.
“Nothing?” Sitting up, Ken ignored the pout from – Dedra? – and focused on his friend. “How can you be so calm? I’d think you’d be freaking out over this.”
“My dad has probably already fixed it. So why freak, man?”
“Yeah.” Rick took a long hit off the joint he held before passing it to Lewis. After a few lung torturing moments, he blew the smoke out again. “My dad’ll take care of it for me if it happens, so what is there to worry about?”
“What, me worry?” Lewis said, making him and Rick both giggle. “Ken, man, relax. Your dad has probably already fixed it for you, too.”
“You can’t just fix this kind of thing.” Both of them looked at him and giggled again, making Ken feel like he was the only sane person in the room. “This is the government.”
“Yeah, man, and the government makes rules.” Lewis handed the joint to the little blonde at Hutch’s side, knowing his buddy was too straight to toke. “And lawyers love to play with the rules.”
“This is different, there’s a war going on.” There was no way his father could ‘fix’ something like a draft notice. Was there? “With a war – “
“Let’s not talk about the war.” A redheaded girl walked over and sat down next to Rick. “Play us some songs, man.”
“Peace, man.” Rick winked at him. “It’s about getting a piece.”
Unwinding the blonde’s arms – Deena? – from around him, Ken picked up his guitar. He strummed slowly to warm his fingers up, waiting until everyone settled comfortably around him before he began to sing.
“For every thing, turn, turn, turn,
There is a season, turn, turn, turn,
And a time for every purpose under heaven.”
“Come back to bed.”
“I wish I could.” Ken pulled a pair of clean jeans on. He had less than twenty minutes to get dressed and get across campus to class. Grabbing the books he needed for his morning classes, he looked regretfully at the pretty girl in his bed. “I really wish I could, but I’ve got a test this morning in Civil Procedure.”
”We could test something else.” She sat up and let the sheet fall to show her naked breasts.
“Ah… oh… “ Resolutely, he turned and opened the door. “I hate my life.”
Outside, Ken ran across campus. If he could get to class a little early he’d have a chance to look over his notes for the exam. An exam he should have studied for instead of going to the party last night. A grin covered his face. Too bad it’s not an anatomy test, I studied that most of the night.
The clock on the wall read ten minutes till the hour when he skidded into the classroom. Maybe he could cram enough information into his head in ten minutes to get a passing grade. There was an empty seat next to Lewis, and he sat down and pulled out his notes.
Lewis was blinking sleepily and reading over his own notes.
“Hey, man, how are you doing?” Ken thought that Lewis had seemed pretty calm last night, but he was probably worried about the draft notice this morning.
“Nah, I think I got enough studying in before the party last night.” Lewis held up his notes. “Got a copy of Lamont’s notes just in case.”
“I meant about the draft notice.” Ken looked down at his notes. Luckily, he took damn good notes, with plenty of detail.
“I talked to my dad this morning. It’s all taken care of.”
“Taken care of?” He turned to Lewis. “What do you mean?”
“It’s fixed, man.” Lewis glanced up from the notes and saw the look on Ken’s face. “Hey, man, don’t worry. You know your old man can fix it for you if your number comes up. He’s got more pull than my old man does.”
“You can’t just – “ Other students shushed him and Ken lowered his voice. “You can’t just fix this kind of thing. If you’re drafted, then you have to go.”
“Yeah, right, man.” Lewis laughed. “Your dad has probably already fixed it for you.”
Looking back down at his notes, Ken tried to study them, but he couldn’t shake the idea out of his head that his father might have somehow ‘fixed’ things for him.
“All right, class, put away your notes.” The instructor got up from her desk. “Books and papers under your seats.”
Obediently, Ken put his notes inside his textbook and set it under his seat. He took the exam paper the instructor held out.
“This is for one third of your grade.” She walked past him, handing out exams to the others. “If you’re failing at this point and you fail this test – it’s over.”
Ken looked down at the test. Nothing came to him. Not a single word. His grade in this class was already on the edge of falling from a high C. Failing this test would kill his grade point average. Never mind that it was required for pre-law, or that his father would never let him hear the end of it.
Sighing, he read through the questions looking for any that would spark his memory. “I should have skipped the college thing.” He sighed. “I’d be an average working guy without any worries.”
Up next: Dinner And A Show