Friday, August 20, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 20

  Sharon screamed.

  Okay, she didn’t really scream, instead making a high-pitched keening noise caused by frustrated anger, and to the casual observer it did appear to be a scream. (Two people walking down the other side of the street agreed it was so, and then turned into Maria’s House of Habaneros.) Sharon rose to her feet and stomped over to Hexom. “What the hell is Raz talking about?”

  Hexom glared back. “I have no idea. The only thing I’m certain about at this moment is that my crack is full of sticky, drying sugar.” He pointed at Alejandro’s lemonade-soaked shirt lying on the floor. “It didn’t all go in there, honey.”

  “Well,” snorted Sharon. “Then you should be feeling right at home, all lubricated.”

  “Besides,” added April, patting Hexom’s hand. “the lemon juice might tighten things up a bit. God knows your cooter has been to the prom a time or two.”

  “Excuse me,” said Raz. “I don’t really know you folks, and I’m not really that invested in keeping anybody happy, but I didn’t say Hector gave me the rock. I said he looked like the guy. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to go rinse out my own crack. I’m sure lemonade is not any fun in places it shouldn’t be, but neither is road kill.”

  Raz opened the screen door and disappeared inside.

  Sharon had her hands on her hips, still standing in front of Crystal Light. “So what’s the scoop, Hexom? Is your brother in on this? Your father? The whole damn family? Why are you hiding stuff from me?”

  Hexom sighed. “You know I can’t tell you everything, I said that 20 chapters ago. But this is news to me, about the guy with the rock. But you know it’s not just a rock, right? It’s your first stone.”

  Sharon rolled her eyes. “Of course I know it’s the first stone, I’m not a total moron. No offense, Alejandro. That big-ass number one on the back kinda clued me in, ya little man bitch.”

  Theresa walked over to Sharon and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Perhaps you’d like some sugar-free lemonade the next time.”

  “No kidding,” said April, absently toying with her exposed navel, because that aperture could trap the weirdest things and you had to constantly monitor the terrain. “She’s a little too wired for me. Like Hillary Clinton on crack.”

  Sharon opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. She would deal with the mouthy toothpick later. She looked at Hexom again, and reactivated her voice portal, trying to remain  calm. “Okay, I realize that you can’t say everything. I don’t understand it, but whatever. Now, can you at least tell me if you knew I was going to get this, and exactly what it means?”

  Hexom glanced at Theresa and then back at Sharon. “Perhaps we should talk about this later.”

  Theresa easily caught the meaning of this remark. “I think I’ll go check on Raz. Make sure she remembers where the shower is and all.” The screen door slammed again.

  Sharon sat down, skooched her chair closer to Hexom, and lowered her voice. “Okay, go. Tell me.”

  Hexom, also lowering his voice, not because it was really necessary but because it seemed like an interesting thing to do, carefully chose his words. “Of course I knew you were going to get the stone, eventually, that’s the whole point, finding the stones. But I didn’t know this one was going to be a piece of concrete. I don’t know if that’s a clue in itself, or just somebody being cute. And I certainly didn’t know you were going to get it right now. Generally, it doesn’t happen in front of… an audience.”

  Sharon peeked in the screen door but didn’t see any activity. “So what are the rules about that? The audience. Am I going to get hit by a flaming hubcap if I say the wrong word to the mailman?”

  Hexom shook his head. “No, it’s not really like that. It’s not important in that sense. But. You have to be careful around people who are unfamiliar because you don‘t know if…” Hexom pointed at his face and mouthed the words “they’re also playing the game”.

  Hexom’s secret phone rang.

  He whipped it open. “You couldn’t possibly have heard that. Play fair.” Then he slammed the phone shut again.

  Sharon got Alejandro’s attention and pointed at her own face. “Go to the car. Get the tablet.” Then added out loud: “And take Q-Tip with you.”

  Alejandro leapt off the porch, followed by a reluctant April, who flipped the bird at both of them as she stomped across the yard. This was the least of Sharon’s worries, and the hand gesture was quickly forgotten. Sadly, the little boy sitting two houses over, plopped on his Big Wheel and getting an eyeful, did not forget so easily. The incident would remain in his mind, and would indirectly lead to a short stay in prison 17 years later.

  Sharon started to mouth something else to Hexom, but then her own secret phone ring.


  “Congratulations, Sharon,” said the distorted voice. “Well done. For a beginner.”

  “Now, see,” said Sharon. “Why did you have to throw in that last part? You’re such a jerk.”

  He laughed, and the computer did that odd thing where his actual voice came through briefly, which was more chilling than the robot burble. “Actually, I can be very nice, but I get a wee bit testy when my kids don’t play quite fair.”

  “Really?” fumed Sharon, instantly hot. “First of all, as we’ve discussed, I didn’t ask to be a part of this, and I don’t know what’s going on. How the hell am I supposed to know what’s fair and what’s not?”

  “You’re starting to bore me, Sharon,” bleeped the voice, antagonizing her further. “You’ll learn that the closer you follow the rules, the higher your score.”

  This totally stumped Sharon. “My score?”

  “Of course there’s a score, Sharon. Does that help you understand why Hexom won’t tell you everything that you want to know? He wants a better score. Be careful who you trust.”

  Sharon glanced at Hexom. He stared back, suspicion in his plucked-eyebrow eyes. As if he knew exactly what was being discussed. This was getting even more bizarre. And intriguing, despite her reluctance to admit this.

  “So,” said Sharon. “Is it possible for me to learn what I did that you didn’t like?”

  “Oh, it’s possible. But not just yet. I’ll give you a tip, though, to prove that I can be nice. Would there really be a store that only sold habanero peppers?”

  This completely threw Sharon. “What? I don’t…” Then her mind flashed back to a short time ago. Two people. Walking down the street. Going into a store. She glanced across the street at the building. The sign was gone. “Roboto, what does this mean? How is this a tip.”

  “Think about it. It’s time for me to go, Sharon.”

  Sharon clutched the phone tighter to her ear. “Wait. I’m not understanding.”

  “You will. Really must run. Perhaps I’ll call later and warn Hexom that you’re on to him. Or maybe not. I do so love messing with my kids.”

  Sharon stiffened again. ‘I’m not your kid. Although the image of you as a goat does seem fitting.”

  “Oh, you are my kid, Miss Horizons. You’re mine. Which leads me to the clue about your second stone.”


  “Accept.” The phone went dead.

  Accept? What the hell? Sharon slipped her phone back into her purse, then turned to Hexom. “We need to talk.”

  Hexom looked at her slyly. “What did Daddy say?”

  “That you’ve been a very bad boy.”

  The screen door banged open, and there was Theresa, smiling. “Would you guys like to stay for dinner? We have plenty.”

  Hexom smiled broadly. “Actually, that sounds like a hoot. If Sharon is up to it, we gladly accept.”

  Sharon’s head snapped around toward Hexom. And the word he had just used.

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Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

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