Posted on November 19, 2009 by Flames
In this preview, FlamesRising.com is proud to present you with a preview of the new young adult novel LEGACY by acclaimed author Tom Sniegoski. LEGACY is about a boy who discovers his father was a superhero, and he now has to decide whether he’ll take up the mantle and become a hero himself.
He could always see it in their eyes.
The look that said, Why would anybody put on a costume and fight crime?
He wanted to tell the poor slobs, If you have to ask that question, you’ll never know.
You’ll never understand.
The masked man, dressed in the tight-fitting costume of red and black, perched at the edge of an office building and surveyed the city sprawled below him.
They—the citizens he protected—called him the Raptor, a sleek bird of prey feeding upon the vermin infesting the city.
They might not have understood him, but they were grateful for what he did, how he allowed them to sleep safely in their beds knowing he was out there.
Protecting them from evil.
The Raptor looked at his partner beside him.
The newspapers called him Talon.
The Raptor and Talon; it had a nice ring to it. They’d inspired other crime fighters in cities across the world. For there was only so much that law enforcement could do. No matter how hard the police fought, some bad guys would always slip through the cracks.
It was up to the Raptor and Talon, and others like them, to pick up the slack.
Talon noticed that the Raptor was staring at him and met his gaze. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing.” The Raptor turned his eyes toward the rooftop of the building below them.
The object of this evening’s mission.
While the Raptor had indeed inspired the birth of heroes, these superheroes had in turn inspired the birth of a new class of criminal, a kind of evil the world had never seen before.
Flamboyant. Colorful. Powerful. Deadly.
The Raptor refused to accept responsibility for these new and dangerous criminals, convinced they would have arrived even if he hadn’t. The world was changing, and these villains were simply products of that change.
Just as he and the other costumed crime fighters were.
One side couldn’t . . . wouldn’t exist without the other.
“So you think they’re down there?” Talon asked.
The building below them had been designed to be Seraph City’s new convention center, a showplace to announce to the world that a restored Seraph was on the rise. That the dangerous, crime-ridden place of old was a thing of the past.
But that was before construction workers discovered that the earth beneath the building had served as an illegal dumping ground for years, poisoning the area with toxic
The project had been stopped cold, leaving an abandoned, decaying shell, a perfect home for all manner of vermin.
“They’re down there, all right,” the Raptor confirmed.
He had been searching for the Terribles for more than a week, and finally, thanks to his many informants, he had located his prey.
“Slippery Pete saw the Frightener and the Blade Master going in less than an hour ago,” the Raptor said.
“Good old Slippery Pete,” Talon said with a chuckle. “It’s a good thing he’s more afraid of us than of the Terribles.”
The Terribles had held the city in a grip of fear for weeks.
Their recent armored car attack had left two civilians close to death and another badly burned.
It was high time their reign of terror was brought to an end, and over the last three nights the Raptor had forgone sleep to spend every moment tracking the Terribles.
Now he had found them.
A thrill vibrated through his body as he readied himself to strike. He always felt this way before he went into battle; he always felt this good.
There was movement in the shadows below them, and he and Talon both tensed, watching with predators’ eyes.
The Raptor reached up to his mask, gently tapping the side of his head to activate the Owl’s Eye lenses in his face mask, which turned the night as bright as day.
Below him, lighting up a quick smoke, was the Muscle.
This villain was ten times as strong as a normal man, and twenty times as dumb. He would be the least of their problems.
The criminal finished his smoke and returned to the protection of the nest.
“It’s time,” the Raptor announced, spreading his arms to activate the flight sensors woven into the protective mesh of his costume. Talon did the same, and they leapt from the rooftop, riding the air currents to the unfinished convention center below.
Silently they touched down in the cool darkness of the center’s entryway. A set of double doors secured with corroded, rust-covered chains and padlocks was now all that stood between them and their quarry.
Talon looked at him, a glimmer of excitement in his eyes.
“It’s all yours,” the Raptor said. It was like throwing a bone to a hungry dog.
He smiled as he watched the boy lunge. The strengthenhancing exoskeleton built into the costume he wore allowed the boy to tear the doors from their hinges with ease.
He was good; maybe good enough to carry on the legacy when it came time for the Raptor to step down.
Of course, the crime fighter hoped he wouldn’t need to think about that for many years. There was far too much evil in the Angel City for him to think about stepping down as its protector.
With a powerful leap, the Raptor bounded through the doorway to join his partner. Oddly, there was no sign of the Terribles.
“What, did they see you and surrender?” he asked, coming to stand beside Talon.
“Something’s wrong” was all Talon had to say. Suddenly the darkness was dispelled by a bright, almost blinding light as multiple spotlights set up all around the cavernous first floor were illuminated.
Stunned, the Raptor realized almost at once what he and Talon had done. How could they have been so stupid? So overconfident?
There were five chairs set up across from them, with five people bound and gagged in them. He knew each and every one. They were his agents, his informers, people he used and trusted to collect information to eliminate the criminal element from the city.
Justin Spiewack, the incorruptible beat cop with a wife and two infant daughters; Patricia Doughtery, tough-as-nails reporter for the Seraph Sun; Brucie Mitchell, owner of the Ballentine club, Seraph City’s hottest nightspot; Dr. Lita Coughlin, personal physician to some of Seraph City’s most powerful criminal figures; and Slippery Pete, one of the greatest con men of the twentieth century.
All of them tied to their chairs. All of them clearly terrified as the small digital clocks connected to explosive devices resting in each of their laps counted down the last seconds of their lives.
Eight . . . Seven . . . Six . . .
“What do we do?” Talon asked, his earlier excitement replaced by fear.
Five . . . Four . . .
A thousand and one scenarios ran through the Raptor’s mind. But he knew that none would be successful. “It’s too late,” he said.
Three . . . Two . . .
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, he thought, frozen in place, feeling the fear emanating from those who had aided him in battle.
The Raptor and Talon were supposed to charge into the dilapidated building, defeat the bad guys, and bring them to justice.
That was how it was supposed to be. How the game was played.
How it always had been.
The world around the Raptor was consumed in fire and smoke, and a sound that could very well have signaled the end of the world.
The end of his world.
Evil had changed the rules.
Even with the industrial-sized fan blowing, it was hot as hell inside the garage of Big Lou’s Gas Up & Go.
Lucas Moore was under the hood of Jeb Dolahyde’s old Ford truck, using a ratchet wrench to tighten the spark plugs he’d just installed. He could feel trickles of sweat tickling the scalp of his shaggy head, eventually dripping down to and across the bridge of his nose. It was days like this when he wished he had the courage to get a crew cut, to shave it all off, but the ladies seemed to like his untamed, curly black hair.
And what the ladies liked, he kept.
He stood up and pulled a red bandanna from his back pocket, wiping the sweat from his face. All he had to do was change the fluids and he’d be done with the first car of the day, leaving only five more to go.
His head pounded and his stomach was becoming increasingly sour. He knew he should probably have something to eat, but the thought only made him queasy. Lucas wanted to blame his misery on the blazing Arizona heat, but he knew it was more likely the beer and whiskey shots from the night before.
He headed to the workstation in the corner of the garage, stopping in front of the fan and closing his eyes. The warm air didn’t provide much in the way of relief, but it was better than nothing.
Head throbbing, he pulled himself away from the fan and dropped the wrench on the workbench. His stomach burbled, and again he considered getting something to eat at the diner across the way, but then he realized that would mean seeing his mother, and he thought better of it.
He flashed back to earlier that morning when his mother had been preparing to leave for work at the Good Eats Diner (also owned by Big Lou). She had started to lay into Lucas about how he had come in drunk, and how he wasn’t even old enough to be drinking, and pretty soon that had led into how he wasn’t doing anything with his life, and how he would never amount to anything without a high school education.
The fact that Lucas had dropped out of high school earlier that year was a real sore spot for his mom, but Lucas saw it as looking at things realistically. He believed high school wasn’t going to teach him anything that was going to help him much in life, especially when he more or less knew he was going to end up fixing cars in Big Lou’s garage anyway.
Dropping out of school had just helped him on his way to an inevitable career path. But try telling his mother that.
He was walking over to a display of radiator fluid when he heard his name called.
Lucas turned to see Richie Dennison and two of his punk friends, Teddy Shay and Vincent Clark, saunter into the garage.
“What can I do for you, Richie?” Lucas asked, taking a plastic container of radiator fluid over to the pickup.
“I told you last night it wasn’t over,” Richie said. He stood with his hands out to either side, like a gunfighter ready to draw.
Lucas’s head immediately began to throb harder. “What wasn’t over?” he asked, setting the container of coolant down in front of the truck and approaching the three.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Richie snarled.
“Playing stupid isn’t going to help you.”
Seeing Richie had begun to stir up some memories from the night before, but they were buried pretty deep. Lucas vaguely recalled making a comment about Richie’s girlfriend. “This doesn’t have anything to do with something I said about Brenda, does it?” he asked.
“I told you never to say her name to me again!” Richie shouted, coming at Lucas with his fists clenched.
Lucas backed up, throwing his hands in the air. “Hey, look, I’m sorry, all right? I don’t even remember what I said. But I’m sorry. Okay?”
Richie smirked and his friends chuckled.
“Figured you’d try to get out of it once your buddies weren’t around to back you up,” he said.
“Look,” Lucas began, “I don’t remember much about last night. . . . I guess I was a little drunk.”
“Not too drunk to run your mouth and talk trash about my girlfriend,” Richie replied.
Lucas thought for sure he was going to throw up. The heat and his hangover were making him feel sicker by the second. “What do you want from me?” he finally asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of his tone. “I said I was sorry. I shouldn’t have talked trash about Brenda.”
Richie moved more quickly than Lucas expected, slamming a fist into his jaw and sending him stumbling to one side.
But he didn’t go down.
“I told you not to say her name,” Richie said menacingly.
Lucas held the side of his face. “I think it’s time for you all to get the hell out of here,” he said, jaw throbbing. He knew he’d been wrong the night before, even though he couldn’t remember exactly what he’d said. He did have a tendency to run his mouth after a few beers, and probably deserved that punch.
But no more.
“We’ll get out, all right,” Richie said as he and his buddies came at Lucas. “Just as soon as we’re done stomping your ass.”
Lucas liked a good scuffle as much as the next guy, but three against one? That just wasn’t right.
He ducked his head low and charged. Teddy tried to hold Lucas’s arms behind his back, but Lucas drove the heel of his heavy work boot down onto Teddy’s sneakered foot. The kid screamed, limping backward, giving Lucas a chance to concentrate on the other two.
Vincent knocked him back with a punch that grazed his cheek, but it gave Lucas the opportunity he needed. He dove at the guy, grabbing him around the waist and bringing him down to the ground. He pinned Vincent to the floor and put everything he had into a punch to the kidneys.
Richie threw his arms around Lucas’s thick, muscular neck, pulling him from his friend, who now writhed on the floor, moaning. Lucas jabbed his elbow back into Richie’s stomach, loosening Richie’s grip enough that Lucas was able to turn and throw a right cross into the guy’s face, sending him sprawling to the floor.
Breathing heavily, Lucas stood unsteadily as he watched Teddy help Vincent up from the floor. Both eyed him cautiously.
“Get out,” Lucas said, spitting a wad of bloody saliva onto the concrete floor.
They didn’t move, waiting as their ringleader got to his feet.
“Don’t make me tell you again,” Lucas warned. He really wasn’t ready for round two, but he didn’t think the three of them had it in them either.
“This isn’t over,” Richie said, his back to Lucas.
What happened next was a blur.
Lucas thought the boy was leaving, but Richie spun around. Something glinted in the glow of the fluorescent lights as he surged toward Lucas. Lucas tried to block the thrust, but he wasn’t fast enough, and suddenly there was an explosion of pain, followed by a cold numbness in his stomach.
Lucas looked down at himself as Richie stepped back. He could see the new hole in his T-shirt, a scarlet stain starting to expand around it.
“What did you do?” Lucas asked, horror beginning to sink in.
He looked up to see the three wearing expressions of shock as they started to back toward the garage exit. Richie was still holding the blood-speckled knife in his hand.
Jeb Dolahyde appeared in the entrance just then, his ample belly making it around the corner before the rest of him. He was taking the plastic wrapping off a pack of discount cigarettes but stopped short when he noticed Richie and then Lucas across the room.
“What the hell…”
The punks bolted from the garage.
Lucas could smell the blood from his wound. He stared at the scarlet blossom on the belly of his T-shirt until his eyes began to blur. For some reason it no longer hurt as much as it had, and he knew that had to be a bad thing.
“Lucas?” Jeb called to him, his cowboy boots clicking across the concrete floor.
Lucas continued to stare at the stain on his shirt, afraid to look beneath the fabric. Outside he heard the screeching of tires as Richie and his friends fled.
“Lucas, you all right?” he heard Jeb ask. “Do you need me to call 911?”
Lucas didn’t answer. He was distracted by the fact that he could no longer feel any pain. Gathering his courage, he grabbed hold of his bloody shirt and lifted it. His exposed stomach was smeared and sticky with blood, but no matter how hard he searched, he couldn’t find the wound.
With a tentative hand he reached down and began to feel around, expecting a lightning bolt of pain that never came.
There was nothing there.
“No,” he said finally, looking up into the concerned face of Jeb Dolahyde. “It… it looks worse than it is.”
It was like he hadn’t been stabbed at all.
It was a good thing Lucas kept a spare shirt in the back of his truck. He threw the bloodstained T-shirt into one of the barrels inside the garage.
He quickly returned to the job of finishing Jeb’s truck.
Jeb hovered for a while, asking a lot of questions about what had happened, but he finally gave up and went outside when it became clear that Lucas wasn’t giving any answers. It wasn’t that Lucas was intentionally being rude; it was just that he really couldn’t explain it. No matter how hard he thought about it, he always came up with the same answer.
Richie Dennison had stabbed him.
But if that was the case, why wasn’t he hurt?
Lucas threw himself into the job, changing the radiator coolant, then topping off the fluids for the wipers and the brakes. And all the while, the questions kept right on coming.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t been hurt. He’d been hurt, all right. He’d felt the blade go in—it was one of the most painful things he’d ever experienced. And he’d bled like a stuck pig, too.
But in the time it took Jeb to come into the garage, something had happened.
Lucas cleaned up and tossed the trash into the barrel. He saw his bloody T-shirt among the discarded air filters and auto-parts packaging.
Pulling his eyes away, he went outside to find Jeb.
At first he didn’t see Jeb anywhere, but then he caught sight of the large man ambling across the parking lot of the Good Eats diner with an iced coffee.
“Truck’s all set,” Lucas called out, wiping his hands on the bandanna from his back pocket.
“Good job,” the man said, eyeing him curiously. “You sure you’re all right? That was a helluva lot of blood.”
Lucas forced a smile. “I’m fine. Think I just got a good scrape when me and Richie were fighting. You know how those things bleed.”
Jeb nodded, but Lucas could see he really didn’t understand. Truth be told, neither did he.
Lucas was writing up Jeb’s receipt and collecting his cash when it came over him. He was suddenly absolutely ravenous. As he said goodbye to Jeb, he actually stumbled a bit, catching himself on the corner of Big Lou’s metal desk. His legs were shaky, and he wasn’t sure he had ever been this hungry before.
Placing the BE RIGHT BACK! sign on the door to the office, Lucas made his way across the street toward the diner, wondering if there was enough food in the place to satisfy his hunger.
As he stepped into the air-conditioned space, his eyes scanned the crowded diner for a place to park himself. His mother stood at the back of the restaurant, a full pot of coffee in one hand.
Cordelia Moore was staring at him with eyes that just about screamed he was in trouble. She pointed to a spot that was being vacated by an old man and his wife, and shot him a look that said Lucas had no choice.
The smells inside the diner were overwhelming, and Lucas’s belly gurgled and growled uncontrollably. He had to eat soon.
His mother approached the table, rag in hand, and started to wipe it down.
“Hey,” he said by way of greeting.
“What’s this I hear about a fight over at the garage?” she asked.
“You talked to Jeb, eh?” His stomach was aching, and he almost told her to knock off the small talk and bring him one of everything on the menu.
“Yes, I did, and he seemed to think you might’ve been hurt pretty bad.”
She’d finished the table and stood staring at him with those angry eyes, hands on her hips.
“I’m fine,” he said, frustrated that he had to explain himself again. “He knew I was fine…. I told him I was fine.”
“Well, he didn’t seem to think you were fine.” She reached out and grabbed his face. “Let me see.”
He wrenched his face from her hand. “I told you…”
“I know, you’re fine.”
His stomach grumbled so loudly that his mother heard it over the din of the crowded diner.
“Sounds like somebody’s hungry,” she said.
He nodded, pressing a hand to his aching abdomen. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”
“How’s about the Hungryman’s Platter and a cup of coffee?”
“As fast as you can get it,” Lucas said, looking up to meet her gaze. “Please.”
She gave him the look again, then turned and headed toward the kitchen to place his order.
“And he wonders why I’m so upset about him dropping out of school,” Lucas heard her grumble as she walked up the aisle. “Big trouble is going to find him one of these days.”
Lucas shook his head as he watched her go. Diners seated nearby had heard her scolding him and were casually looking his way.
“Big trouble, huh?” he called after her. “What kind of trouble would come looking for me here?”
The private jet taxied down the single runway of the La Cholla Airpark, coming to a gradual stop in the blazing Arizona sun.
The door opened and a retractable stairway unfolded to the tarmac.Within moments a tall, white-haired figure leaning on a silver-topped cane stood in the doorway, looking out across the private airfield.
“May I help you, sir?”
The gentleman looked over at his pilot, who had joined him at the door.
“No need, Jeffrey,” the man said, limping from the doorway and slowly making his way down the steps.
“Should I arrange a ride for you?” the pilot asked, following.
“I’m way ahead of you,” the white-haired man said from the bottom of the stairs.
A navy blue Crown Victoria appeared just then, driving across the airfield toward them.
“Very good, sir,” Jeffrey said.
The man waited until the driver emerged, walked around the car, and opened the back door.
“Any idea when you’ll be wanting to return to Seraph?” Jeffrey asked as the old man was about to climb into the car.
The old man stopped, considering the question.
“If all goes according to plan, it shouldn’t take long,” he said, then entered the coolness of the limousine.
But one can never tell with things like this, the old man thought as the driver climbed back inside.
“Take me to Perdition,” the old man instructed.
And without a moment’s hesitation, the car was on its way.
Lucas considered heading over to the Hog Trough for a few drinks after work but thought better of it.
The business with Richie was still gnawing at him, and then there was his mom. Did he really want to have another run-in with her tonight?
Nope, he just didn’t have the patience.
He sat behind the wheel of his truck, windows rolled down to catch the breeze as he headed home for an early night.
This is a good thing,, he thought, driving fast down the bumpy dirt road that would take him to the Perdition Trailer Park (also owned by Big Lou).
Lucas’s mind scrolled through all the things he could do with the extra time tonight—stuff he’d been meaning to do but never quite got around to. He could start the Lord of the Rings books. He’d read The Hobbit, but not the Rings trilogy—although he had seen the movies and thought they were awesome. Or he could catch up on his laundry. Not as fun as reading, but it had to be done. And then there was the whole just-spending-time-with-his-mother thing.
She was a good mother, and she had done a lot for him, but they’d sort of drifted apart in the time since he’d left high school.
He drove slowly through the metal arch that served as the entrance to the trailer park, watching for stray kids and animals. It wouldn’t be the first time one or the other had darted out in front of him.
He pulled up beside the powder blue double-wide he and his mother called home, and saw old Mrs. Taylor sitting in front of her place across the street. By the way she was staring, he knew she was waiting for him.
“Hey, Mrs. Taylor,” Lucas said as he climbed from his truck.
She was wearing a lovely flowered housecoat and a blond wig that sat crooked on her head, like some sort of furry hat, with tufts of gray poking out underneath.
She got up from the white plastic lounge chair and motioned for him to join her.
“What’s up?” he asked, crossing the dusty street.
“Somethin’s wrong with my AC,” she said, bony hands on even bonier hips. “Take a look at it, will ya?”
Lucas didn’t know squat about air-conditioning, but there was no sense in arguing with the lady. As far as she was concerned, he could fix just about anything.
“Sure, no problem,” he said, climbing the three steps to the front door.
He stopped short, peering through the screen at Fluffles, Mrs. Taylor’s nasty cat. The thing had more attitude than a pit bull with a toothache.
“Fluffles is at the door,” he told Mrs. Taylor.
“He won’t hurt ya,” the old woman said. “You just gotta show ‘im who’s boss.”
She was standing beside him, looking in through the door.
“Why don’t you show ‘im?” Lucas suggested.
Mrs. Taylor went in first, kicking at the cat with her slippered foot. “Go on, shoo!” she said.
Fluffles hissed like a cobra, trying to get around her to come at Lucas, but the old woman managed to block the attack.
“Behave yourself, cat!” she exclaimed. Her foot connected with the side of the white-furred beast, sending it running with a shrill squeal.
“I’ll be payin’ for that tonight,” Mrs. Taylor said, walking from the entry through the tiny kitchen and into the living room. “Damn thing will probably suffocate me in my sleep.”
The idea was horrible but not all that far-fetched.
It was stiflingly hot inside the cramped living room. The news blared from an old twenty-five-inch television set in the corner.
“There it is,” Mrs. Taylor said, pointing out the old air conditioner in the wall. “Nothing cool comin’ out of that.”
“Not sure what I can do,” Lucas said, walking over to give it a look. The machine was old, and he was surprised that it had worked as long as it had. When he turned it on, it made a low humming sound, sending warm air out the vents.
On the news, a Chicago woman and her child were describing how they had been saved from an apartment fire by a superhero called the Winged Champion. Lucas looked up, finding himself pulled into the story. He watched the grainy cell phone footage of the superhero with enormous white wings swooping down out of the sky to pluck the woman and her daughter from the rooftop of the collapsing building.
“Wow,” Lucas said.
“Yeah,” Mrs. Taylor agreed. “Wonder if one of them super-types could figure out what’s wrong with my AC.”
Lucas took the hint and returned his full attention to the old woman’s air conditioner. He pulled the plastic face from the front of the unit and curled his nose with distaste.
“Fluffles doesn’t happen to like sitting on the AC, does he?” Lucas asked.
The inside of the unit was clogged with tufts of white fur, the old filter completely covered.
“Matter of fact, he does,” Mrs. Taylor confirmed.
Lucas pulled the filter from inside the AC and brushed most of the fur into a barrel that Mrs. Taylor brought from the kitchen.
“This might help,” he said, putting the filter back. “I think it might’ve just been clogged.”
He reattached the unit’s front piece. “Fingers crossed,” he said, flipping the switch and feeling a blast of much cooler air flow from the vent openings. “I think that did it,” he said proudly.
“You’re a lifesaver,” Mrs. Taylor said happily. She reached inside the pocket of her flowered housecoat and removed a change purse. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, un -zipping the purse and removing a wad of crumpled bills.
“You don’t owe me anything,” he answered.
Every time he did something for the woman, she tried to pay him. But Lucas wasn’t interested in taking the old lady’s money. He knew she barely had enough to support herself as it was.
“What, do you think you’re one of them super-types?” she asked, gesturing toward the television. “Swoopin’ in to save the day?”
Lucas laughed. “Not me,” he told her. “Think of me more as a Boy Scout.”
“You’re too good to me, Lucas,” she said with a smile, returning her small purse to her pocket.
“My pleasure.” Lucas cautiously headed for the door, watching for Fluffles.
“Word to the wise,” Mrs. Taylor whispered. “Think your mom’s been hittin’ the hooch.” She made a gesture as if drinking from a bottle.
Lucas nodded and his stomach sank. He hated when his mother drank; it always ended with her crying.
As he crossed the street toward their trailer, he’d almost decided to take his truck and head to the Hog Trough. But then he saw her, glass in hand, standing in the doorway waiting for him.
And he didn’t have the heart to leave her alone.
* * *
Lucas leaned into the refrigerator, looking for something to eat. He found some old pizza and leftover spaghetti and meatballs.
“Did you eat yet?” he asked his mother, carrying the leftovers to the microwave.
Cordelia was sitting at the small kitchen table, a nearly empty glass of whiskey in her hand.
“I had a big lunch,” she answered, her eyes riveted to the melting ice in her glass.
“Lucas, do you hate me?” she asked suddenly.
He rolled his eyes as he put the spaghetti in the microwave and hit the two-minute button. He hated when she got like this. It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, it was the worst.
“No, I don’t hate you. Why would I?” he said. He could hear the ice in her glass tinkle like Christmas bells. He tried to concentrate on the spaghetti.
“If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be in this place,” she said, her words slightly slurred.
Lucas wondered how many drinks she’d had.
“It’s fine, Ma,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. All I know is Perdition. I don’t know what I’m missing.”
She nodded, getting up from her chair and going to the counter, where the bottle of whiskey was waiting.
“And that’s exactly it,” she said as she unscrewed the cap and splashed more of the golden liquor over the ice. “You are missing stuff… lots of stuff….You’re wasting your life away working in a crappy garage because I wasn’t strong enough to—”
The microwave alarm went off.
“Ma, enough,” Lucas said, replacing the spaghetti in the microwave with a paper plate that held three slices of cheese pizza. “I don’t know why you keep blaming yourself for coming here.”
This was the pattern. She got a little bit drunk and started talking about how she had to run from her past in Seraph City. No matter what he said to console her, it never helped.
And really, Lucas had never blamed her for leaving. Sure, he was curious about the specifics, about a father he knew nothing of, but he always figured she had done what she had to do, nothing more or less than that.
She was adding ice to her drink as he sat down to eat. He didn’t want to talk about this stuff anymore, but when she was like this, there was no stopping her.
“You know how sorry I am, right?” she asked, practically falling into her chair.
“Be careful,” Lucas said, spearing a meatball and starting to eat.
She reached out to touch his hand. Hers was damp and cold from the condensation on her glass, and Lucas almost pulled away, but then realized how that would look to her.
“There’s no reason for you to be sorry,” he said, grabbing a slice of pizza with his other hand.
“I always wanted the best for you.” She had tears in her eyes now. “But I had to get away from the city… as far away as possible or…” She fell silent, staring into her glass once again. And then she had some more to drink.
“Ma, I don’t know how many more times I have to tell you this,” Lucas began. “But I like it here. This is my home. It’s the only home I’ve ever known.”
“But—” she started to argue.
“No buts,” he interrupted. “Perdition is fine. Everything I could ever want is here.” He got up and took his dirty dishes to the sink. “End of story.”
He returned to his mother, put his arm around her, and gave her a kiss on the top of her head.
“You might want to think about making yourself some coffee or something,” he said, heading toward his room. “I’m gonna call it a night.”
And he left her there alone.
Alone with the memories of her past, and what she believed to be her failures.
Shaking off the cobwebs of deep sleep, Lucas pulled himself from beneath the sheet and saw that it was after eight.
The garage was supposed to open at eight.
He threw on some clothes, grabbed his wallet and his keys, and pulled open the door to his room.
He half expected to see his mother still sitting at the kitchen table, but from the looks of it, she’d managed to get up and make it out to the diner on time. Lucas half recalled somebody knocking on his door and telling him it was time to get up, but he had decided it was only a dream and had rolled over.
Locking up the trailer, he went to his truck.
Lucas shrugged and climbed behind the wheel of his truck. Within seconds, he peeled away from the trailer and was on his way to work.
This preview for was provided and published with express permission from Delacorte Books for Young Readers and Tom Sniegoski. ©Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.