Chapter 15: Performance
Deena watched as Luther talked into his cell phone, sitting in his car. Her mother was talking non-stop, but his voice in her head was something she couldn’t drown out.
“Hello Aunt Katy?”
It was a one-sided conversation. Deena could only hear his voice, not what the person on the other end was saying.
“You said you wanted another job...well I’ve got one.”
“It should be there in the mail. Good.”
“Well, I’ve got a situation here. I need you to be here by four P.M. tomorrow.”
“Yes, you’ll have to fly. There’s no way you can drive from Malibu. Redding has an airport. You can get a rental car there.”
“Well, it’s about a girl... No, not like that. I told you I had no time for girl friends, not now.”
Deena felt something twist in the pit of her stomach.
“No. She’s not even my type. But I still have to make peace with her dragon of a mother. You need to be here as guardian in residence when they come by the house tomorrow.”
“Katy, quit that. I tell you it’s not romance! You want me to hire someone else to play my aunt?”
“How about five thousand, or the equivalent in gold? My cash doesn’t free up until Friday.”
“But you’re not me. It makes sense to me. Can you come or not?”
“Okay. I’ll be at school when you get into town, so use the key in the rock. Park the rental car down the street.
“Good. See you then.”
Deena watched him put away his cell phone and walk back to them.
“Mrs. Brooke, my Aunt Katy would be glad to invite you over after school tomorrow. She said to apologize for not inviting you earlier, but her current sculpture is being annealed in her furnace and she can’t get free until tomorrow.”
Mara accepted his invitation, and Luther said goodbye to the both of them before driving off. Deena just nodded. She really had nothing to say.
Deena picked up her water bottle, and followed her mother back to the house.
Once the door closed behind them, Mara turned to face her daughter. Hands on her hips she demanded, “Now young lady, what pills did you buy at the drug store today? Hand them over, right now!”
Deena was playing Luther’s words over in her mind. “She’s not my type. I have no time for girlfriends. It’s not romance.”
Luther had no interest in her, and what’s worse, he was a liar. Who was this person he hired to be his aunt? What’s more important, who was Luther?
“Deena! Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, Mom.” Deena dug into the pocket of her pants.
“Here.” She handed over the little bottle of multivitamins. “I couldn’t afford the big size. When you’re done with them, I want them back.”
Katy Ferril heard the post office truck go by and she raced out to the mailboxes on the street in front of her Malibu apartment. She had prayed for an early delivery.
Kuper Rooney, her landlord, was already there. “I need that rent check today. You’ve already got a late fee. I’ll lock the door if I don’t see some cash.”
Katy hated the tone of his voice and the perpetual frown on his face. He looked like a weasel to her...thin of body with a prominent nose.
“Mr. Rooney, I’ll have the cash by Friday afternoon. I promise.”
“Not good enough. You know the lease.”
She turned the key in her mailbox. There was an Express Mail envelope inside.
“Mr. Rooney. Please give me an extension.” She picked up the envelope. It was heavy, and lumpy. “How about I let you hold some collateral until I pay it off Friday?”
He sneered. “I’ve been left holding too many Cracker Jack rings and fake gold watches to fall for that again.”
She tore open the envelope. Seven gold coins clinked. Seven! Thank you Luke! You only said five.
“Here is something better.” She reached inside and pulled out four Golden Eagles. “One ounce gold coins, each of them is worth almost a thousand dollars at any coin shop.”
Rooney’s weasel eyes were locked on to their yellow glint.
“Hold these, and I’ll bring you my rent, plus late fee, in full by Friday.”
He pointed to the envelope. “Make it five coins and it’s a deal.”
She didn’t say the words that came to her mind. Five coins clinked into his outstretched hands.
“I’ll want these back when I bring you my rent!”
He nodded, and walked away staring at the coins in his hands, feeling their weight.
She folded the envelope and looked at her watch. She had only a little while to get to the airport or she’d be late.
Kuper Rooney sat at his desk, the five coins stacked in a tidy little cylinder where he could watch them. When Ferril’s car drove away, he picked up the old wrinkled piece of paper he had stashed in his desk drawer.
He could still remember the gold necklace and the pinstriped suit on the man who had collared him at the bar over a year ago. He had given him a fifty-dollar bill to hold onto this piece of paper and to watch his new tenant.
“Call me if she does anything strange, or comes into money, especially gold coins. Got me?”
Kuper did. I wonder how much he’ll pay this time.
He dialed the number.
Deena hummed a popular tune in English class, then caught herself.
Don’t hum! People would stare at her. And if she did it at the wrong time and the wrong place, someone would guess her secret. Guess her latest secret.
Somehow, she could pick up radio signals. It wasn’t hard. In fact, the hardest part was to tune out the ones she didn’t want to hear.
I never realized there were that many broadcasts. She could pick up dozens of radio stations, the sound from at least three television signals, and who knew how many others.
And cell phones. Luther’s call last night had just been the first she was aware of. When anyone made a cell phone call within a block or so of her location, she could hear it, but never the return side of the conversation.
It was invasion of privacy on a grand scale. Thus far, few had been from people she could identify. Hardly any of the conversations were embarrassing, and most were boring.
Still, considering she had little choice when a call burst into her skull, it was a secret she intended to keep from everyone. Especially from Luther.
So what if he is a liar? He can scam everyone for all I care.
And maybe he is right. Am I turning into an alien? I have all these new abilities. I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt before. My belt is two notches tighter than it was last week. I must be losing weight at a fantastic rate. I could live with this.
Her energy level was way up. And the only downside, all those strange cravings, seemed to be gone.
Just seconds before the bell rang to change classes, the cell phone traffic erupted as students made calls. Deena had no idea there were that many cell phones in school. Luckily, the conversations were easy to block out as people talked over each other.
In the hallway, she saw Bryony.
“Hi there. How’s it going with Luther?”
Bryony looked at her with suspicion. “How should I know? He’s been talking to you a lot more than me.”
Deena dismissed that with a wave. “It’s just science projects with us. Nothing more than that. Feel free to make your move.
“Just be careful around him. He doesn’t say what he means. I wouldn’t trust a thing that comes out of his mouth.”
Bryony’s suspicion turned instantly to sympathy. “What did he do?”
“Nothing. He’s a perfect gentleman. Even my Mom couldn’t get into an argument with him.”
Deena shook her head. All the signals in her head were like mosquitoes buzzing. It made her irritable.
She sighed. “I heard him say he had no time for girl friends, not now. He’s nice, but never serious. I have no idea what goes on in his head.
“Don’t trust him, Bryony. You’ll get hurt.”
In physics class, Deena sat in the back, as usual, and since there was no lab, Luther had no excuse to seek her out. Bryony monopolized his time before and after class.
He’s bored with her. Deena felt a little unworthy glee. Bryony’s not your type either, Luther. Be careful what you wish for.
Her schoolwork was suffering from the newfound radio in her head. It was all too easy to tune out the lectures when she could scan the airwaves for interesting tunes, or even a television soap opera.
If I could learn how to get the video too, I could be set for life.
Mom was dressed in church clothes when she arrived, on time, to pick her up after school. Deena almost told her mother to skip the visit, but then she changed her mind. She was curious. Who was this fake aunt of his?
They followed the little hand-sketched map Luther had supplied across the highway and into a development off of Elk Valley Road. The house was nice, and at the far end of the street.
Deena had her eyes open, and spotted a new looking car parked down the road with a rental sticker in the window. She nodded smugly.
As they walked up, she noted one of those fake rocks beside the walkway. Inside, she was sure, was a compartment where the house key was kept.
If these abilities kept on coming, she could be a great detective, just by overhearing things.
Luther was already there. He opened the door before they knocked.
“Ah, you made it. I wasn’t sure of my directions.” He invited them in and guided them to the front parlor.
“I’d like you to meet my Aunt Katy Ferril.”
Deena liked the lady immediately, and she chided herself for it. Luther and his ‘aunt’ were con artists running some scam.
But although Aunt Katy was being the gracious hostess and treating Mara Brooke like an old friend come to tea, her disturbingly dark eyes were always looking her way. They were dark brown, almost black. And they stared out of a face that always looked on the verge of laughing.
“Yes, Deena. Would you like some cheesecake?” She was already cutting a slice.
Deena nodded. It had to be store-bought. There’d been no time to prepare these snacks, considering she must have just arrived.
Katy handed a slice to Mara and then one to Deena. “I’m sorry these aren’t home made, but I’m a working woman, and I just don’t have the time—or the talent to be honest—to bake up something good. Poor Luther has to make do with what the grocery store bakery can provide.”
Mara told her not to fret. She didn’t bake as much as she had in her earlier years either. Deena tried not to show her reaction. Mom hadn’t baked in years.
“You are an artist, I hear.” Deena asked, between bites.
“Yes,” Katy Ferril smiled brightly. “Small metal sculptures, mostly.”
“I’d love to see your work.”
Katy turned to Luther, who had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room. “Would you be a dear and bring out a couple of pieces from the workshop? Maybe the Aztec bookends?”
He got to his feet. “We don’t have those any more. The Albuquerque gallery has them, remember. I’ll find something else.”
As he left, she confided to her guests. “I can never keep the business end of it all straight. Luther is a godsend. He handles all the sales and bookkeeping.”
She sighed, “I so loved those bookends. They were of a warrior and a maiden, climbing opposite sides of the mountain, coming together. Very romantic.
“But Luther was right to sell it. A commission here and a commission there—it keeps us in business.”
He returned with a bronze disk about eighteen inches in diameter. Katy said, “The Mayan calendar, with stone inlay. That one took awhile.”
Mara nodded, not really appreciating the work. “How much does something like that sell for?”
Katy fluttered her hand. “I never can tell. That’s why I trust Luther.” She looked at him questioningly.
He frowned at the piece. “We would let it go for about ten thousand. Her other stuff is more popular.”
Mara looked appropriately impressed. When Luther took it back to her ‘workshop’, she confided in Katy, “Luther is such a nice young man.”
Mom has been totally taken in. Deena wasn’t surprised.
But I’m not. She popped up out of her seat.
“Excuse me a minute.” She walked out of the living room before ‘Aunt’ Katy could say anything.
She made it into the kitchen before she surprised Luther, coming back in from the garage.
“Hi.” He looked flustered.
She smiled, and confided, “Katy is giving a wonderful performance. You really shouldn’t hire anyone else to be your aunt.”
She kept her face innocent as she saw him frown and stutter.