Read Innocent Blood Online

Authors: Graham Masterton

Innocent Blood (2 page)

BOOK: Innocent Blood
2.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
At last, Jade produced a crown-shaped piece of paper from behind her back, and handed it over. It was nothing more than one of those fortune-telling devices, with the paper folded into triangles, and a fortune written on each of them. Except that the fortunes on this device were much stronger than the usual ‘you will be lucky in love' or ‘you will be rich and famous' or ‘you will go to jail.'
One of them read ‘you will suck Mr Lomax's cock.' Another said ‘you will lose both your legs in an auto accident.' A third predicted ‘you will get pregnant at thirteen.'
‘Like Helen said, it's only a game,' Jade protested as Lilian Bushmeyer opened each triangle in turn. The last prediction was ‘you will die before your next birthday.'
When she had finished, Lilian Bushmeyer looked at the children one after the other. It was obvious that three or four of them were really embarrassed and ashamed, and it seemed that the boys went pinker than the girls.
‘Do you want me to show this to Ms Redmond?' she asked.
‘Sure,' said Jade. ‘Might give her a thrill.'
‘No!' gasped David Ritter. ‘She'll
us. I know my mom will kill me. My stepmom will kill me, too.'
Lilian Bushmeyer said, ‘I know that you probably didn't mean any real harm, but you know what this is? It's tasteless, and there's little enough taste left in this world without you young people making things worse. Supposing one of you
lose your legs, or
get pregnant, or
get sexually abused? How would you feel then?'
‘I'd feel like my fortune-telling really works.' Jade grinned.
‘So which one did
pick?' Lilian Bushmeyer asked her.
‘Die before my next birthday.'
‘And do you want that to happen, just to prove you right?'
‘I don't care. Like, what's death? It's only like not being born.'
Wednesday, September 22, 9:03
Ms Redmond stood up in assembly and the sun shone on her glasses so that she looked as if she were blind.
‘As usual, October brings our first great event of the year – the all-school camp-out. This year we will all be going to Silverwood Lake in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. Over the weekend, students and parents will get to know one another by camp-fire singing and storytelling, pot-luck dinners, hiking, swimming and picnics. This is a wonderful way for new families to join the Cedars community. At the end of October, we will be holding our first fund-raising event, which this year is going to be a Latin fiesta.'
Arriba! Arriba!
' called out Tony Perlman, the geography teacher, and then looked deeply embarrassed.
Wednesday, September 22, 9:06
A tractor-trailer had jackknifed right across the off-ramp from the Hollywood Freeway, causing a southbound tailback of glittering cars as far as Ventura Boulevard. Frank shifted the Buick into neutral and pressed down the parking brake.
‘I'm going to be
,' Danny protested.
‘Sorry, champ, there's nothing I can do. I'm going to be late, too, and I have a script meeting.'
monitor, I'm supposed to put out the
‘Don't worry, I'll tell your teacher what happened.'
Danny frowned furiously out of the window, as if the traffic could be willed to get moving just by glaring at it. But they had to sit and wait for over twenty minutes while highway patrolmen stood around in their mirror sunglasses and chatted to each other and yawned, and drivers climbed out of their automobiles to use their cellphones and stretch their legs, and one woman even took a folding chair out of the back of her station wagon and sat reading the paper as if she were sitting in her own back yard.
‘I bet Susan Capelli is putting out the paints,' said Danny, as if he were suffering the greatest personal tragedy since Hamlet.
‘You can do it next time, can't you?'
‘You have to be
when you're a monitor.'
Frank shook his head and said nothing. Danny always amused him because he was so serious about everything. He may have been a tufty-haired eight-year-old kid with freckles and a snubby nose and scabs on his knees, but he had the mind of a forty-eight-year-old man. He said he wanted to be a real-estate developer when he grew up, building low-cost housing in some of Hollywood's most expensive enclaves, so that poor people and rich people could learn to get along. Like, for an eight-year-old, how serious was
‘Is it Ms Pulaski I have to talk to?' Frank asked him.
‘You don't have to. I can tell her myself.'
Another five minutes passed before a huge green and silver tow truck came grinding up the hard shoulder, and after a further ten minutes of gesticulating between the police and the tow truck guys, the tractor-trailer was finally chained up and dragged clear of the off-ramp.
truck,' said Danny venomously, as they drove past it and down the off-ramp.
‘It was an accident, Danny, that's all. Accidents happen.'
‘Not if people were more reliable.'
Traffic was slow all the way along Hollywood Boulevard, and Danny gave a theatrical groan at every red signal, but eventually they reached La Brea and turned right toward Franklin Avenue.
Frank said, ‘Remind me what time you finish school today. You don't have drama rehearsals, do you?'
Danny had been picked to play Abraham Lincoln in the school play,
Heroes and Heroines of America
. He had been bitterly disappointed that he hadn't been given the part of John Wilkes Booth, since John Wilkes Booth got to fire a gun and jump off the stage.
‘That's tomorrow,' Danny replied.
Frank parked the car outside the school and Danny scrambled out. ‘See you later then, champ. Have a good day.'
Danny ran toward the school gates, swinging his X-Men satchel like a propeller. Frank turned around to check the back seat and saw that, in his hurry, Danny had left his sandwiches behind. Danny suffered from a nut allergy, so he always had to take a home-prepared lunch.
Frank climbed out of the car and shouted, ‘Danny! Hey, Danny! You forgot your . . .' He held up his Tupperware box.
Danny skidded to a stop, hesitated, and then began to run back. As he did so, Frank saw a white van drive through the school gates and stop by Mr Lomax's little glass booth.
Wednesday, September 22, 9:32
Kathy had changed into her field hockey kit and joined the shuffling, giggling line at the changing-room door. Eventually Ms Bushmeyer appeared, wearing her cerise and white tracksuit, with her whistle around her neck on a lanyard.
‘All right, girls, an orderly line, please! No pushing and shoving!'
‘Amanda pulled my braids.'
‘I did not! I was nowhere near you!'
They left the church building by the side entrance, still arguing. Kathy and Terra walked on either side of Lilian Bushmeyer. They liked talking to Ms Bushmeyer because she was always telling them that she dreamed about a handsome man with thick black hair and shining white teeth, who would come striding through the school gates one morning, walk straight into assembly, and lift her clean off her feet in front of everybody. Then he would fly her off to a Caribbean island where they would lie on the dazzling white sands all day and drink cocktails out of half coconuts.
‘Did you ever have a boyfriend, Ms Bushmeyer?'
‘Of course I did. His name was Clark.'
‘You mean like Superman?'
Lilian Bushmeyer pushed her frizzy hair into her sweatband. ‘Not exactly, Kathy. He sold carpets.'
They were nearly halfway across the parking lot on their way to the playing fields when they saw the white van, too.
Wednesday, September 22, 9:34
It was an ordinary white panel van. It had to stop because the school gates were always locked after nine
., for the sake of security. There were too many students at The Cedars whose parents may not have been Hollywood A-list, but who were certainly wealthy and well known and who could have been potential targets for kidnap.
The van driver tooted his horn and Mr Lomax came out of his booth. Mr Lomax was very tall and loopy, like a basketball player, and he wore a beige uniform with a peaked cap. Lilian Bushmeyer couldn't stop herself from thinking about the ‘Mr Lomax' prediction in Jade Peller's fortune-teller, and – to her own embarrassment – found herself blushing. She turned to the chattering crocodile behind her and called out, ‘Come along, girls, we don't have all day!'
Mr Lomax opened the gates and the van drove into the parking lot toward them. Lilian Bushmeyer noticed how slowly it was being driven, as if she were watching it in a dream.
‘Keep well out of the way, girls!'
The van was almost alongside them now. Lilian Bushmeyer looked at the driver and for some reason he was smiling at her, really smiling, as if today was the happiest day of his whole life. He was unshaven and he was wearing a black woolly hat. There was a woman sitting next to him, wearing dark glasses, but she wasn't smiling at all.
Wednesday, September 22, 9:35
Lilian Bushmeyer felt a strange compression in her ears, but she didn't hear anything. The van exploded only ten feet away, blowing off her legs and arms and sending her torso flying through the high stained-glass window of the Zeigler Memorial Library, where nine students were just beginning a class in creative writing. Six of them were killed instantly.
The field hockey team were strewn across the parking lot, so violently torn apart that it looked as if they had been attacked by wild animals.
The van itself was blown into a wild sculptural question mark of twisted paneling. An orange fireball rolled out of it, up into the blue morning sky, and the bang echoed around the canyons like a frightening shout.
Wednesday, September 22, 9:35
Even though the van had blown up nearly two hundred feet away, the force of the blast was so powerful that Frank had been hurled against the passenger door of a parked Toyota, denting it into the shape of his body. Danny was thrown face-first on to the sidewalk. The Cedars had completely disappeared behind a huge cloud of black smoke and dust. Leaves had been stripped from the yucca trees all the way along the street and sent whirling up into the air.
Now, through the fog, fragments of metal – nuts, bolts, a windshield wiper, a length of exhaust pipe – began to rain down all around them, clanging and tinkling like a chorus of badly tuned bells. Frank was hit on the shoulder by a tire iron, and then by a stinging shower of ball bearings. He tossed aside Danny's sandwich box, grabbed hold of his arm and hoisted him to his feet. Danny's nose and knees were scratched, but apart from that he seemed to be unhurt.
‘Are you OK?' Frank shouted, still deafened.
‘My back hurts.'
‘My back hurts!'
Frank turned him around and around but he couldn't see any sign of injury. No blood, no rips in his jacket. ‘Come on,' he said, ‘let's get out of here.' He took hold of Danny's hand and pulled him along the street as fast as he could run until they reached their car. He wrenched open the door, bundled Danny into the back seat, and then seized his cellphone.
‘Emergency? You're going to have to send everything you've got – fire, police, ambulance, everything. A bomb's gone off at The Cedars school on Franklin Avenue . . . That's right . . . No, no. It's a bomb for sure. People have been killed, I've seen them. Children. I don't know how many.'
‘Can you give me your name, sir?'
‘Frank. Frank Bell. I was just taking my son to school and
! There were children killed. They're lying all over the parking lot. It's just terrible.'
‘OK, sir, please try to stay calm. Are you at a safe distance from the school now?'
‘Yes, yes I am, I think. Me and my son.'
‘Stay well away until the emergency services arrive. There could be a secondary device. Warn others to stay away, too.'
‘A secondary device? You mean
‘Just stay well away, sir, but make yourself known to the police when they reach you.'
‘Got you, yes.'
Danny was white. ‘Was that a bomb? Was that really a bomb?'
Frank nodded. He was shaking so much that he could hardly speak. ‘How do you feel now? Does your back still hurt?'
Danny grimaced and nodded. ‘My knees are bleeding.'
Frank reached into the glovebox and found him a Kleenex. He looked back toward The Cedars and saw a thick cloud of gray dust rolling out of the school parking lot and across the street. People were staggering out of it with their hands held out in front of them, like zombies.
‘Listen,' he said, ‘I have to go back to help. You stay here and call Mommy. Tell her what's happened; tell her we're both OK.'
Danny said, ‘You have blood on your face.'
‘What?' He touched his forehead and it felt wet. He pulled down his sun visor to look at himself in the mirror. There was a small cut just below his hairline and the blood was sliding down toward his nose. He tugged out another Kleenex and dabbed at it, staring at himself as he did so. Apart from that single minor injury, he looked completely normal. Thin-faced, pale, bespectacled. How could he look so normal when he had just witnessed a bomb going off, and all those children killed?
BOOK: Innocent Blood
2.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt
Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon
Katharine's Yesterday by Grace Livingston Hill
No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell
Secret of the Wolf by Cynthia Garner