Chapter 50: Just Like Old Times and Better Than Sex

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"Did you ever wonder what it would've been like if Wynter grew up with us?" Jesse said as they walked a couple of blocks away from the venue, toward the train tracks. "If Mom came back with her when she was a baby, and collected us from Harry's, and all of us grew up together?"

"I've never thought about it, no," Indio said. What if's were a waste of mental energy.

"Or if we'd all gone to the ashram..." Jesse mused glumly. "I woulda had a brain aneurysm trying to make sense of all that Light crap. No need to run away in the dead of night. They'd've thrown me out. What about you?"

Indio had no idea why he was persisting with this line of thought. "I'm a lazy S.O.B. You know that. I'd have taken the path of least resistance and gone along with it."

They reached the train station, which was closed but a little too near the street for privacy.

"Let's go to the river," Indio suggested, pointing across the tracks.

Jesse balked at the chain-link fence running parallel to the tracks on the other side, as far as they could see in both directions. Beyond that was the river.

"It's only eight feet, no barbed wire," Indio said. "We can scale that, just like old times."

Finally, a flash of anticipation in Jesse's eyes at the challenge. That was more like it.

They ran across the tracks and scaled the fence in unison. Indio slowed his momentum as he briefly straddled the top, hoping Jesse would drop to the ground first, then changed his mind and beat his little brother after all. That was the way it was supposed to be. Jesse would see through any attempt to hand him a win.

The river bank was soft from the afternoon's rain. Rather than sit in the mud, they walked along a few dozen yards and found a patch of sand with rocks to sit on. Indio lit the first joint and they passed it back and forth in silence for a while. On the opposite bank stood a majestic modern building of pale stone, its lights reflected in the dark, slow river.

"Heidi was nice," Jesse said eventually. "Scary as hell, but she brought me some poppers and jello, and ice."

"She propositioned me after our soundcheck this afternoon."

"Whoa."

"She has an office up top of the club with cable TV and a sturdy futon. Her words."

"Isn't that called workplace sexual harassment? You should report it to your union. Or... hang on, did you accept the proposition?"

"I did not. I drove across the river with the guys to eat."

"We chatted for a bit just now."

"Please don't tell me she propositioned you."

"No. She looks like a hellraiser, though. She's from Louisiana. She used to own a club in Everett. Harry would come in on jazz nights and drink alone. You got this gig because of him—did you know that?" Indio shook his head. "He suggested she invite Blunderbelly to play." Jesse gave him a careful look. "You don't seem too cut up about the cash. I'm still alive."

"I'm miserable about it. I don't blame you. You tried to hand it over to me last week."

Jesse kicked at the sand. "I should've said that, just now. I should've explained. If Harry knew that..."

He fell into silence again. If, if, if... They both had a lifetime of ifs. A lifetime of wondering if there was something they could've done or said differently that would've generated a different outcome.

"What happened earlier, in the club?" Indio asked.

"He asked me for cash to buy another drink. He had a credit card on him, so he was just trying it on. Told him I needed what I had for gas, to get home. I guess I got annoyed when he insulted my bike. According to him, it's a scooter that runs on the smell of an oily rag. He said I wouldn't need to fill up. He actually reached around my ass to grab my wallet in that weirdly playful way he sometimes has. Like he thinks it allows him to do anything because he's got a grin on his face. What d'you need cash for? You're still mooching off Caleb. So I sort of blurted out that I just had five hundred dollars stolen. Didn't tell him it was yours. I just wanted him to know what a shitty day that was for me, too. And he clocked me for being stupid. Can't believe he managed to land one. What happened to my karate reflexes? But, y'know, it was unexpected cuz it's been a while since he... And we were in a public place."

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