“I don’t give a shit. I’m picking him up tomorrow at ten-thirty whether the little bastard wants to go or not.”
“Les, don’t yell.”
“Well, it pisses me off.”
“I don’t”—she stammers—“I don’t want to do this now. I’m getting off. I hate to be put in the middle.”
“Elena,” I warn. “You tell him he’s going. I know he’s there. You tell him he’s going.”
“Les, what are you going to do if he really decides not to go?” she asks. “Kill him?”
In the background, in their house, in her bedroom, a door slams. I hear Elena sigh, heavily. “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be put in the middle. Do you want to talk to the girls?”
“No,” I mutter.
I hang up the phone, then walk out onto the balcony of the penthouse with the box of Triscuits and stand next to an orange tree. Cars move along a freeway, one line of red, another moving strip of white, and after the anger brushes past, I’m left with a feeling of caring that seems strangely, hopelessly artificial. I call Lynch to tell him that I’ll join him and O’Brien and Davies in Las Cruces but Lynch’s girlfriend answers and I hang up.
The limousine picks me up from my office in Century City at ten o’clock. The chauffeur, Chuck, puts my two bags in the trunk after opening the door for me. On the way to Encino to pick up Tim, I pour myself a Stoli, straight, on the rocks and am embarrassed by how quickly I drink it. I pour myself another half glass with a lot of ice and slip a Sondheim) tape into the stereo and then I sit back and look out the tinted windows of the limousine as it crawls up through Beverly Glen toward the house in Encino where Tim stays while off from school at USC.
The limousine pulls up in front of the large stone house and I spot Tim’s black Porsche, which I bought him for barely graduating from Buckley, sitting by the garage. Tim opens the front door of the house, followed by Elena, who waves uncertainly at the darkened windows of the limo and then walks hurriedly back into the house and closes the door.
Tim, wearing a plaid sports jacket, jeans and a white Polo shirt, holding two pieces of luggage, walks up to Chuck, who takes the suitcases and opens the door for him. Tim smiles nervously as he gets in.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hi, Tim, how ya doin’?” I ask, slapping his knee.
He jerks, keeps smiling, looking tired, trying not to look tired, which makes him look even more tired.
“Um, good, I’m fine.” He stops for a moment, then asks, somewhat clumsily, ” Um, how are, um, you?”
“Oh, I’m okay.” I’m smelling something strange, almost herbal, coming off his jacket and I picture Tim in his room, sitting on his bed, this morning, smoking marijuana from a pipe, gathering blind courage. I hope he has not brought any with him.
“This is … great,” he says, looking around the limousine. I don’t know what to say so I ask him if he wants a drink. “No, that’s all right,” he says.
“Aw come on, have a drink.” I’m pouring myself another vodka on the rocks.
“It’s okay,” he says, this time less steadily.
“I’ll pour you one anyway.”
Without asking him what he wants I pour him a Stoli on the rocks. “Thanks,” he says, taking the glass, sipping from it cautiously as if it were poisoned.
I turn the stereo up and sit back and put my feet on the seat across from me.
“Sooo, what are vou up to?” I ask.
“Not too much.”
“Um, when does the plane leave?”
“Twelve sharp,” I say casually.
“Oh,” he says.
“How’s the Porsche running?” I ask after a while.
“Um, good. It’s running good,” he offers, shrugging.
“How’s … the Ferrari?”
“Good, though you know, jeez, Tim, it seems like kind of a waste having it in the city,” I say, shaking my glass, rattling the ice. “I can’t drive it that fast.”
“Yeah.” He considers this, nodding.
The limousine pulls onto the freeway and begins to pick up speed. The Sondheim tape ends.
“Do you wanna hear something?” I ask.
“What is it?” he asks nervously.
“No. Do you want to play some music?”
“Oh.” He thinks about this, flustered. “Um, no. Whatever you want to, um, hear is fine.”