Skull Session

Skull Session by Daniel Hecht Read Free Book Online

Book: Skull Session by Daniel Hecht Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daniel Hecht
eighteen an hour just to look the place over and for any repairs she agreed to based on his estimates. The idea of pulling in eighteen bucks an hour for a while was very agreeable.
    And yet Vivien gave him the creeps: the intrusive questions, the amused, ironic tone, as if she already knew the answers to every question. Bringing up his childhood neurological problems, fishing for something on Mark.
    Or maybe he was just tired, a little down after talking to Aster, being unnecessarily negative. Bad habit, time to change it.
    The lights were off upstairs. Turning into the dark bedroom, he could just make out Lia, the white bedspread vaguely outlining the rise pf her hips. It smelled good where Lia was: the scent of fresh laundry, sweet sweat, a faint pastiche of perfumes and smells from the mysterious alchemical pharmacy of cosmetics on her bureau.
    He took off his clothes and slipped into bed beside her, avoiding touching her with his chilled skin. But she put one hand out behind her and pulled him up tightly against her, the top of his feet against her soles, his knees in the crook of hers, chest to back, every possible inch of skin contact attained. Her heat seemed to scald him.
    His dark mood evaporated. Lia's presence was sweet, silky, luminous. Balm that soothed the jagged, ticcish energy the day had stirred up. He smiled into her hair. Life hath its rewards, and none greater than this. Sleep came over him almost instantly, as if he'd caught it from her unconscious body.

    T HEIR FIRST STOP IN WESTCHESTER was Dempsey's. Paul had forgotten exactly where Highwood was, and the old man had agreed to come along to show them, look over the lodge, offer his perspective on any repairs it might need.
    Turning into the familiar driveway, Paul found he couldn't enumerate all things Dempsey Corrigan was to him. More than father figure, more than friend. At seventy-two, Dempsey was living proof that you could make your own way in life, making no concessions to conventions or passing trends. He'd fought in World War II and afterward spent several years as a professional boxer. In 1949 he'd settled in Lewisboro, where he'd supported himself doing odd jobs, carpentering, museum-quality furniture restoration, all the while pursuing his real love—painting brilliant abstract canvases—and caring nothing for his lack of commercial success. An animated and tireless raconteur, a vehement gesturer. A gruff, gentle, skeptical, funny, joyful man. It was no wonder he'd been Ben's closest friend.
    He was also proof that living true to yourself helped you stay young. Though his bald head was marked by age spots, and the stubble that grizzled his cheeks was white, he lived an active life and had kept the wiry, sturdy build of the young middleweight fighter, sleek and corded, that Paul saw in the little gallery of posters and fight bills Dempsey kept.
    Dempsey's house and grounds reflected his personality completely. From the driveway, the house looked like a medieval structure, with eaves close to the earth, small windows, a mossy shingle roof sweeping up steeply. Dempsey had built it himself with rock he'd dug out of his twelve acres. Inside, the ceiling rose with the roofline to a high raftered peak, and the downhill side of the house was all glass, revealing a view of the Corrigans' land. Sculpted by the paths and terraced gardens they'd built, the hill sloped down to a stream at the bottom, a tangle of woods. It still looked like the old Westchester County, rugged and viney, that Paul greatly preferred to the other images that had overlaid it—highways, shopping centers, boutiques and antique shops in the old buildings, mushrooming developments. Now just the smell of the house—rock, concrete, woodsmoke, turpentine, garlic—gave Paul a sense of continuity with his own past. Dempsey was a point of reference, enduring. Somebody you could count on. Being somebody you could count on, Paul decided, was a good person to be.
    Paul pulled the

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