The nighttime air in Calabasas is cool. I'm standing on the rooftop of Trev's home. Barbie ordered the roof of her house flat, like the rooftop of a penthouse. Tonight, she's got the slow Christmas music playing. The lights of the city—flashing, blinking, dancing—can be seen all over the neighborhood. Rachel will like it when she moves here. In a perfect world, she'd move close to Trev and Barbie; no matter how much it costs to get her in this neighborhood, I'll pay it. Just knowing she and Janie are in the same area as my brother would make me feel better. Of course, I'll have to move somewhere in Calabasas now. It's an hour drive away from L.A.; I can't have Janie that far away. I wonder if Rachel knew that when she picked this town. I wonder if she thought getting both of us out of L.A. and into a quiet town, just like San Fran, would help us reconcile. Or is that wishful thinking on my part? Did she think the Kevins and Breannes of the L.A. world were doing nothing but pushing us away from each other? I'll give Rachel's mother a call tomorrow and give her the sale.
About ten feet away from me, Trev's got a table set up for him, Sean, Barbie, and me. They're all sitting at it now, talking amongst each other. Sean and Trev are sipping cocktails, while Barbie—who's five months pregnant, sips orange juice. The nightfall parties here, with the white Christmas lights strung above our heads, and the tables filled with food… and food… and food is what Rachel and I looked forward to once a month. Trev and Barbie, Sean and Vivian, Rachel and me. The six of us, enjoying the view from up top. Enjoying the sushi, ten-layer Mexican dips, garlic butter lobsters, and endless pitchers of blueberry cucumber gimlets. Right here, on this rooftop, is the only place where I can comfortably drink a cocktail.
I would wonder where Rachel is tonight, but I already know. She's with Vivian now, at our townhome, having a blueberry cucumber gimlet on our balcony. I couriered over a letter to Rachel this morning. I'm sure she received it, but she didn't respond. That's understandable; I wasn't expecting her to. I wrote another letter this afternoon and decided to give it to Vivian, to make sure Rachel received it and hopefully read it.
She’s looking over L.A. I’m looking over Calabasas. We should be looking over California together.
“Marc,” I hear Trev say. I look at him and see a few waiters rushing around the table, delivering food, replacing drinks. Trev waves me over and them away. “We got a plan.” I head over, the waiters rush away, and I take a seat at the table. Plates of food are scattered along the Christmas-red table runner, decorated with pictures of gold ornaments and holiday stockings. Janie's video sleep monitor is near my table setting. I look at her sleeping on her side, in a spare crib in a guest room. Yeah, I've gotta move to Calabasas.
“First thing’s first,” I say to the table, “we need to get rid of Adam. Something’s up with him.”
“Took the words right out of my mouth,” Sean says.
“Aww, Adam’s sweet,” Barbie says. We all smile at her; she’s trying to be funny. “But I’ve got a feeling he’s being used as a pawn.”
“Agreed,” Trev says. “To get your family back, Marc, we need to take away the distractions. So, yeah, Adam has to go.” I look at Sean.
Sean nods. “Done,” he says.
“Now, about this person writing the exposés,” Trev says. “Are we thinking that this is a different person than the one releasing the emails?”
“Is it,” I tell him. “The person writing the exposés would take pleasure in everyone knowing that he’s the guy who’s also releasing the emails to the blogs.”
“True,” Trev says. “So, we’ve all read the exposés; who was living across the street from us during The War?” I steal a quick look at Sean. It’s a millisecond of a look. He steals a look at me at the same time. Just a nanosecond of a look.
“What was that look for?” Barbie asks. Good ol' Barbie. Her father, Chunk, was pushing dope before Trev was born. Chunk retired on top of his game, moving his family out to Beverly Hills, investing in stocks and turning dope money into real money. Barbie's legacy. She's the vet out here. She knows a look—no matter how brief—when she sees one.
“There were a few families who moved in and out of the houses across the street from Aunt Carmen and Uncle Jason,” Sean says of my mother and father. “Marc and I have a short list of who this guy may be.” What Sean’s saying is an understatement. I have one person on my list who would be capable of writing these exposés. And, after reading the latest one, and seeing that my business was infiltrated, I know for sure that my guess is correct. But I’ll let Sean keep his short list.
“When Sean and I narrow it down, we’ll tell you two who it is,” I tell Barbie and Trev. “But I don’t think you have to worry, Trev. This guy’s coming for me, not you.”
“He’s coming for you to get to me,” Trev says.
No, bro, you’re wrong. This person isn’t thinking about you.
“Don’t worry,” I say, “I’ve got it covered. I’ll know for sure who’s writing the exposés by next week.”
“And what about the emails?” Barbie asks.
“The Lock family,” Sean says, quickly. “I can guarantee you that they’re the ones who broke into Rachel’s phone.”
“Yes, but how did they get her phone?” Barbie asks. “Because Afterlife Lane, is our street. We run that motherfucker. So, who on The Lane gave Rachel's cellphone to the Lock Family?” And I would look to Sean, but I know that Barbie's a monster and would catch me. In fact, I'm not so sure she's not reading my mind right now.
“This is how we’ll narrow this down,” Trev tells us. “We’ll ask everyone to name everybody they saw at Ma’s house. We’ll get a list together and see who was most likely to deliver the cellphone to the Locks.” And, as smart as that may sound, Trev will be going through a ton of extra paper work.
One thing about my brother is that he's never cared about people he didn't care about. He's not an observer of people. He passes people over who are of no concern to him and dismisses their presence. I've learned that disregarding people and their feelings is the surest way to miss something significant. It's the cracks that cause a leak. Barbie is just like me. My brother didn't catch the look between Sean and me, but Barbie did. She never dismisses a person, a feeling, or a conversation, no matter how small. I look at Barbie. She looks at me.
You know who it is, Marc.
I do, Barbie. But give me time.
Barbie looks away. I better not take too long.
“What I want to discuss,” I say, “is what happens once I know the entire story.”
“We’ll have to approach the Lock family,” Trev says. “And we’ll have to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We can’t just allow these people to fuck with you and your family and not do anything. It makes you—and us—look soft.”
“Trust me, I want bodies,” I say to my brother. Barbie smiles.
“About time,” she says.
“But I want my family safe. My wife and my daughter can’t be in L.A. when this shit goes down.”
“They’ll go to The Library,” Trev says. “That's where Barbie and the kids will be.”
“I’ll send Vivian and Lexie there too,” Sean says. “I’ll just have to come up with an excuse.”
“It’s the holiday season!” Barbie says, a wide smile on her face. “Us going to The Library will just be us getting into the holiday spirit. And we can reasonably give that excuse until spring rolls around.”
“Not if Rachel leaves me,” I tell them.
“Well, that’s where you gotta put in some work, bro,” Trev says. “Because you’re right, Rachel ain’t going nowhere with you, unless you and her are back together again.”
“I won’t lie,” I tell them. “Shit’s looking impossible for me right now.”
“It’s not,” Barbie says, waving me off. “Put in the work, Rachel will come back. But first thing’s first, you gotta get rid of Adam’s ass.”