Please Note: Links to the previous episodes are in the top left panel. However, Saturday before last, I published a slightly edited version called "The Story So Far" which makes the first episode's relationship to the Past Lives series invisible. The link lies between the Fourth and Fifth links on the left. So you can choose. Follow the Cardinal links on the left to see it with the unmodified First Episode, or click on the Story So Far link and then the Fifth to read it just focused on The Kid.
And now ... Episode 6 .. of .. The Kid ...
The engines roared to life as the pilot opened the throttles and sent his aircraft hurtling down the runway and up into the stygian black of the East Kansas night.
The Kid felt everything. Every bump in the runway. The sound pounded his chest like fists. Every sense was on edge and keen to its purpose. He saw, felt and heard EVERYTHING.
It was always like this after a kill. He felt like he was dancing on the edge of his knife. Jumpy and alert. Tense and elated and high as a kite. He felt the plane ease off the runway and pull him down, into the seat, as she climbed into the night. He felt the thumps as the gear locked into place under the engines. As the airliner thundered and roared, higher and higher into the night, he forced himself to slow his breathing and relax, just relax. Easy. Just slow it down and take it easy.
The engines throttled back some, settling into a lower pitch and volume.
"Can I get you anything?"
"Nah. Thanks anyway."
She noted that that was the first time he had said anything even remotely polite.
"Say, wait a minute. You got any gum? I could use some gum."
"I may have. I'll check and see."
As the Stewardess moved to the rear of the plane, he watched her with an interest he hadn't displayed, previously. This was his time of peaked interests, on all levels. This is when he would have sex. After a kill. Typically, this was the only time he was interested in sex. He was afraid of women. He was intimidated by the thought of being seen, naked, by a woman. Afraid of ridicule. The bigger boys at the orphanage had made fun of him. And so did the girls, because the boys had told them things about him. Too pale. No body hair. Too small. 'Little Dick' they called him. And his uncle, before that, had ridiculed him all the time. Made him feel dirty and obscene. That's why he kept his body free of hair. His uncle had been hairy. Very hairy. He didn't like touching hair - he didn't like the thought of someone touching hair on him. Back in Chicago there was a hooker he knew. She kept her body free of hair. He would see her after a job. She never said anything. She never charged him anything, either. Not after the first time, anyway. He sensed fear in her. He had no idea why.
"Here's your gum, Sir. I hope you like DoubleMint."
"That's fine. Thanks."
"Can I get you anything else?"
He stared at her for a moment.
"Do you like working for the airline?"
"It's okay. People seem to think it's glamorous, somehow, but after a while, it's just a job. Why?"
"Oh .. I just wondered. You're very pretty and you're very good at your job. You must like doing what you do."
He patted the empty seat next to him; an invitation to sit.
She sat down, hesitantly, in the empty seat.
"Oh, I like it well enough .. it's just that it keeps me away from my son too much."
"Not anymore. That's the only reason I could get on with the airline. My husband was killed in the last days of the war. We got married in '44, when he was home on leave. He went back and I never saw him again. All I have left of him is his son. My son."
"Just the two of you, then?"
"No, my Mom stays with us. She watches Jerry, that's my son, when I'm out of town."
"Yes, it is. Which is why I'm leaving the line. That and the fact that I'm tired of hiding the existance of my son from the airline. You can't be married and be a Stew; it follows that you can't have kids, either. So this is my next to last westbound. On my next trip out, my Mom and Jerry are coming along. We're going to live in Vegas. I have a job waiting in one of the new casinos."
"Yes, I'm going to be working in the money room. Counting money."
"Hey, that's a good job. Who do you know?"
"I..I'm sorry, I have to see to the other passengers now. You do understand, don't you?"
"Yeah, not a problem. Talk to ya later."
She rose and walked to the back of the plane, checking on passengers as she went.
He sensed a fear in her. He didn't understand her fear, either.
He leaned back in his seat, a headache starting to grow, behind his eyes. He was coming down from his adrenalin high. Best to try to get some sleep. There would be no dreams. Not for a while. There never were, after a job. It was the only time he slept well.
He woke to silence. He sat up and in doing so discovered a blanket had been placed over him. His hand went to the pocket with the knife. Still there.
"You looked cold so I covered you with a blanket. You're not too warm, are you?"
"No, I'm fine. Are we on the ground?"
His voice had taken on a flat, hard note that made her cringe inside.
"Yes. We're in Oklahoma City. We be taking off again in just a few minutes. We'll be flying into the dawn on the way to Albuquerque."
"Are we pickin' any people up here? Any new passengers?"
"No, no new passengers. Just the one couple got off, that's all. Why?"
"Curiosity. That's all. Just curiosity. I'm a very curious kinda guy."
He sat back in his seat, felt for the knife in his pocket, and, reassured, stared off into the west where the faintest tinges of light began to touch the sky.
Flying into the dawn. Something nice about that. Nah, get that shit out of your head. Keep it straight. You can't get mixed up with no tail. You got places to go. Albuquerque and then Vegas. You got people to see. Starting with that guy, Sully. Vegas. Things will be good in Vegas. Real fuckin' good in Vegas.