âYou wouldn't,' said Matty.
But now the driver climbed up on to the boarding step and said, âCome on, sir. Until you get off, this tram's going nowhere.'
The young man ignored him. âSee this beer gut of mine?' he asked Matty, even more softly. âWhat do you think it's really made of? Fat?
! It's C4 â plasticized RDX.'
Matty turned to Irene Wallach. âIrene, get all the kids off the tram, now.'
âWhat?' she frowned.
âGet all the kids off the tram and do it now. Please.'
âUnh-unh,' said the young man in the mirror sunglasses, shaking his head. âNobody's getting off. You're all coming with me.'
Matty shouted, âNo!' and made a lunge for the wire that ran down the young man's arm, trying to wrench it free. At the same time, Jaws reared out of the lake in a blast of compressed air, its eyes staring and its teeth bared. With the exception of Kevin, all the children screamed.
Saturday, September 25, 10:34
The blast was heard five miles away in every direction â a dull, emphatic thud. The front car of the tram was blown apart so violently that there was nothing left of it but a blackened chassis and a surreal arrangement of twisted seats. Most of the second car was burned out, and hundreds of windows were broken, all over the lot.
Jaws, the great white shark, was wrecked even more comprehensively than it had been in the movie. All of the latex was blasted away from its frame, leaving a smoking, grinning skeleton.
But the human litter was so terrible that when the first police and security officers arrived at the scene, they couldn't understand what they were looking at. As a
reporter was later to write, âThey looked not like cubs, but like cherubs, shot down by anti-aircraft fire.'
rank rang the doorbell. Through the intercom, Astrid said, âHold on,' and then she pressed the buzzer so that he could let himself in. He walked across the Mexican-tiled hallway and climbed the stairs. She was waiting for him outside apartment three, wearing a very short white muslin dress and bare feet, with silver rings on her toes. She was looking pale and fretful, as if she had taken too many pills.
âThere's been another bomb,' she told him.
âI know. I actually heard it. I was out in the yard, putting out the trash. Then
like somebody slamming a door.'
âThey said on the news that nineteen people were killed. Eleven cub scouts. They showed pictures. God, it's so terrible.'
âHey, you're shaking.'
, Frank. I'm so upset. All those little boys.'
Frank closed the door behind them and laid his hands on her shoulders. âI know. As soon as I heard about it, I thought about all of their parents. Nobody should have to suffer like this. Not for the sake of some crazy idea about religion or politics or whatever.'
âDo you think the same people could have done it?'
âThose Arabs? Who knows. But who else could it be? The cops are pretty sure that it was a suicide bombing and Western terrorists don't go in for blowing themselves up, do they? And you heard what they said yesterday about wrecking the entertainment industry.'
âDo you want a drink?' Astrid asked him.
He nodded. She went to the white wicker table on the opposite side of the room and poured out two long-stemmed glasses of Shiraz Cabernet. He could see her face in the mirror on the wall, and he was surprised how different she looked, in reflection. Perhaps it was the lack of symmetry that made her face so striking.
She brought him his wine. âThey said that all of the studios are going to suspend their tours. And they're closing down Disneyland.'
âA little too late for that, don't you think?' said Frank. âThe next time they'll probably hit someplace totally different, like a TV studio, right in the middle of a game show or something.'
âEleven children killed,' said Astrid. âAnd what's it all for?'
The French windows were open. Astrid stepped outside on to the narrow tiled balcony and Frank followed her. Below them was a small shadowy yard with a stone fountain, overgrown with orange blossom. A warm ocean breeze blew across the rooftops and stirred her muslin dress, so that now and again Frank could see the curve of her bare bottom and her hip. âThat's the way to kill people,' she said, almost as if she were quoting somebody. âKill their children.'
âThey'll catch them, especially after this.'
âYou really think so?'
âHalf of the LAPD is out looking for them, as well as the FBI.'
âYes, but who are they looking for?'
Frank shook his head, as if an insect had tried to fly into his ear. She spoke in riddles sometimes. âDid you really lie to me about your father and mother?' he asked her.
âMaybe I did, maybe I didn't.'
âYou're teasing me.'
âNo, I'm not. I'm simply asking you to use your eyes.' She leaned on the railing for a while, sipping her wine. Then she suggested, âLet's go inside.'
He took off his shoes and they sat on the couch together, cross-legged, facing each other. He lifted his glass to her and said, â
, whoever you are.' A curved reflection from her red wine danced on her lips, making it look as if she was smiling when she wasn't.
âHow's your wife?' she asked.
âNo different. We went to the funeral home yesterday and saw Danny. That didn't improve matters.'
âWhat did he look like â Danny?'
âWhat did he
âI'm sorryÂ .Â .Â . I was just curious. I never saw anybody dead before.'
Frank thought about it and then shrugged. âHe looked like Danny but he wasn't Danny, if you know what I mean. I saw my grandfather when he was laid out and I can remember thinking,
why am I here
why am I saying goodbye to this
Â .Â .Â .
? My grandfather's body was there but I knew my grandfather wasn't. He was long gone.'
âYou're right. A body without a spirit, it's like an hourglass with no sand in it. It's meaningless.'
He finished his wine and put down his glass. âTalking of spirits, I've arranged for Nevile Strange to come around to our house tomorrow and hold a sÃ©ance.'
âYou're kidding me.' She peered at him more closely and then she said, âYou're
âHe thinks he can get in touch with Danny â and one of Danny's school friends, too.'
âWhoo! Doesn't your wife object?'
âShe did at first, but then her friend called her and they got to talking about it, and I guess her friend won her round. Lynn Ashbee, poor woman. There was nothing left of her daughter but her feet, still in their shoes. What kind of a world are we living in when we have nothing left to bury but our children's feet?'
âA very heartless world, Frank. Even more heartless than you know.'
They watched the television news. The latest casualty figures from Universal Studios were fifteen children killed, and seven adults. Over a hundred people of all ages had been seriously injured, and the damage to property had already run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the indefinite closure of Universal City to the public, and almost every other major attraction in Los Angeles.
An FBI press officer said, âEarly tests have led us to speculate that the suicide bomber fashioned himself a corset or a false abdomen out of malleable plastic explosive to avoid detection at the gates. Yes, there was a dog there trained to sniff out explosives but in this case the bomber somehow managed to elude it. The explosive bears strong similarities to C4 â cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine â which has a less pungent odor than many other explosives.'
Frank switched off the television. âShit. This is serious. It's coming to the point where we're not going to feel safe anywhere.'
Astrid leaned forward and touched his forehead, and then the tip of his nose, and then his lips. âDo you think you're safe with me?' she asked him.
He grasped her wrist to stop her from touching him anymore. âAny reason why I shouldn't be?'
âBecause I think that you and I should think of becoming lovers.'
He looked at her narrowly, still holding her wrist, trying to read those stone-washed denim eyes. âI lost my only son less than three days ago. You lost somebody too, although you won't tell me who it is. I don't think I'm ready for this yet, even if you are.'
âMeaning that you might be, given enough time?'
When he arrived home he found that Margot was preparing dinner for them both. She said, âHi,' and busied herself laying the kitchen table. He stood and watched her. Maybe this was her way of telling him that she might, in time, be able to forgive him. She was making wide noodles with fragments of poached salmon and Pacific Rim pesto, which he detested, but of course he had never told her that he detested it.
She had washed and brushed her hair and put on makeup and she was wearing her white silk Saks Fifth Avenue sweater with baggy sleeves and oatmeal-colored slacks. He recognized her perfume, too. Flowers, the same perfume that Astrid wore.
âThere's some wine in the fridge,' she told him.
âHow was your meeting with Joe?'
âOh, fine,' he lied. âThey're going to give me as long as I want.'
He poured himself a glass of cold Sauvignon and sat down at the kitchen table. Along the top three shelves of the white oak hutch stood rows of white plates and white milk jugs that Margot had thrown herself, at pottery class. Next to the hutch hung a painting of a red-haired woman covering her face with her hands. It was titled
âWhat time is Nevile Strange coming tomorrow?' asked Margot as she spooned out pasta.
âHe said he'd try to get here by one o'clock. Hey â that's enough for me, thanks. Really.'
She served herself and then she sat down. He wound some pasta around his fork but he didn't lift it up. Instead he found himself staring at Margot with an unexpected feeling of resentment. All right, she was talking to him. All right, she might be ready to forgive him. But he wasn't sure if he
to be forgiven â not if it was going to be like this.
She glanced up at him with those big dark Audrey Hepburn eyes. âIs it OK? Your pasta?'
âSure, it'sÂ .Â .Â .' He waved a reassuring forkful at her.
âLynn will probably be here about twelve.'
âShe's going to bring a photograph of Kathy, like you said.'
He lowered his fork again. This wasn't going to work. He felt so badly bruised, not just physically but mentally. Their life could never be the same, not after losing Danny. When he looked at Margot, he had the same feeling as watching a home video of a summer day that could never be relived. What had he read in
? âYou will never pass this way again in a lifetime, effendi.'
âYou're not eating.'
He frowned down at his plate.
âYou ought to eat something, Frank.'
He couldn't speak. After a while, she stood up and took his plate away. He heard her in the laundry room, scraping it into the trash. She came back and stood close to him. âIf you want to come to bed tonight, FrankÂ .Â .Â .'
He cleared his throat. âSure, I'll justÂ .Â .Â . watch a little television, you know.'
She stayed where she was. From the way she was fidgeting he could tell that she had something to tell him. âFrankÂ .Â .Â . I do know that you didn't let Danny die on purpose. What I said to you â the way I blamed you â well, you have to understand how I felt.'
He nodded, still looking down at the place where his plate had been.
âI've been thinking about tomorrow, and if I can hear that Danny's at peaceÂ .Â .Â . that's all I care about.'
Frank nodded again.
Margot tore off a sheet of kitchen towel and blew her nose. She stood beside him for another minute or so, but he felt too bruised even to raise his head. Eventually she left him in the kitchen and went to the bedroom. When he passed the bedroom door on his way to his study, he saw that she had left it a half-inch ajar.
He crept into the bedroom a few minutes after two
., wearing his pajamas, which he never normally wore. He stood still for a long moment, trying to decide if Margot was asleep or not. Eventually, so tired that he felt dizzy, he eased himself under the covers beside her, turning his back to her, as hers was turned to him.
He lay there, unable to sleep, until six fifteen. Then he climbed out of bed as carefully as he had climbed in, and went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee.
While the coffee perked, he switched on the television. Charles Lasser was being interviewed on the early-morning news. A huge, bulky man, with shiny dyed-black hair and a head that looked like a half-finished sculpture by Rodin, with a massive brow and a hooked nose.
âSo you've doubled your reward to ten million dollars, Mr Lasser?'
âThat's right. And if necessary I'll go on increasing it, until these scum are caught.'
âSome people in the entertainment industry are suggesting that this is nothing more than another Charles Lasser publicity stuntÂ .Â .Â . and that you're using these outrages as a vehicle to promote Star-TV.'
âOf course they're saying that. They're jealous and they're mean-spirited. But they can think whatever they like and they can say whatever they like. I didn't get where I am today by being Mr Nice Guy, I'll admit that, and I know that many people in the television business resent me for being an upstart â and not only that, a highly successful upstart.