Out of Tune (Wynter Wild #2)

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Pink-haired Photographer

Indio emerged from his bedroom to find Jesse making coffee, badly, in the kitchen.

“You look surprised,” Jesse said. “Anyone would think you forgot I drove down last night to see you play.”

“I do remember.” In fact, Indio’s memories were quite clear because he’d drunk a couple of Jim Beams and that was all. Some kind of post-gig record. Still, he and Jesse had hardly spoken and he wasn’t even sure how Jesse had made it to the apartment. “Did Turk bring you back?”

“Yup. Are you guys friends again yet? I couldn’t tell.”

“We’re halfway there.”

He and Turk were all the way there twice a week on stage and any time they jammed, but off-stage things remained subdued. Half Indio’s fault—and he’d admitted to it—and half Turk’s girlfriend’s fault. Ex-girlfriend, following that weird night in January when they’d shared a joint that she somehow forgot to tell him was laced with opium. She’d tried for hours to get him off while he was barely conscious—enjoying it, but frustrated nevertheless at the discovery that opium’s tendency to prevent orgasm was one of its two lesser charms.

Jesse said, “He took me to this lame rave first—only stayed twenty minutes. You would’ve hated it.”

“I hate all raves, lame or not.”

“Yeah, well, this one was particularly lame, and then Wynter called at some godforsaken hour this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting to see you before noon. And you look stone cold sober.”

“Trying to be good. Set an example.”

“For Wynter?”

“Sure. Whatever.”

“So you don’t have a pink-haired girl with a New Jersey accent in your bed right now? The one who was sitting in your lap backstage?”

Indio scowled at his nosy little brother, elbowing him out of the way to open the refrigerator. “I’m cutting back on my vices one at a time.”

“How come you never worried about setting an example for me?

“You were never in danger of getting into trouble.”

“What’re you talking about? I’ve taken drugs. I got stoned last weekend for the fourteenth time. You never once told me not to take drugs.”

“I figured you’d learn from my poor example. Ever peed in a churchyard?”

“No.”

“There you go, then.” Indio scraped old bacon grease into the trash before setting the pan on the stove to heat.

“I took LSD at that New Year’s after-party thing you made me go to.” Jesse was getting defensive, which meant he was going to ramble on for a while. “That’s what they told me it was. It’s supposed to expand your mind or whatever, but I couldn’t get one thought straight in my head. Had a lengthy philosophical discussion with… someone, a male human, I think, and I’m sure it was brilliant but I don’t remember a word of it. What’s the point of that? I’d rather be clear-headed when I’m being brilliant. What is that—bacon?”

“Hickory smoked.” Indio dropped slices of bacon into the pan. “My go-to hangover cure, not that either of us needs it this morning, apparently.”

“If you’re spontaneously cooking me bacon, you’re gonna ask me for a favor.”

“I need to sell a couple of my guitars. Can you deal with that in Seattle? Or bring them down here if someone in Portland shows an interest?”

“Sure, for a twenty percent commission.”

“I’ll give you a list and prices. Don’t sell anything that’s not on the list or I will break your fingers, drummer boy. I’ll write an ad, too, so you may get strangers calling.”

“That’s fine. Sad, but okay.”

“And no commission. I need three thousand dollars yesterday.”

“Why would I do it for zero commission? I’m not stupid.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re brilliant. You’ll do it cuz I told you to.”

“This is bullying.”

“I’m making up for all those times I never bullied you as a bratty know-it-all kid.”

Jesse’s look was calculating as he took a seat at the table, knife and fork in hand. “You’re not gonna give me a list. You’re gonna procrastinate. Caleb already paid those fines. And our dishwasher died on Friday, and we can’t afford to fix it. So, thanks for that.”

Indio’s phone rang, saving him from addressing the issue. He checked the screen. “What the…? It’s Wynter’s foster mother.”

Jesse’s jaw dropped. “Rosa has your number?”

“No. I have hers—Caleb made me put it in my phone.” Indio answered the call warily.

“Indio? This is Dr Rosamund Meyers. I’d like to discuss the—”

“Where’s Wynter? Is she okay?” Indio said, unnerved at hearing that woman’s voice for only the second time ever. She sounded even more pissed off than last time, too.

“Wynter is fine. I’m sitting in the church parking lot right now…” Rosa’s voice shook. “I’m sitting here attempting to calm myself down after that message you sent.”

“Uh, I’ve never texted you anything.”

“Half an hour ago! You sent a very inappropriate photograph. To my phone! This is not acceptable. I intend to report it to Wynter’s caseworker. If you ever—”

“Hang on.” Indio muted the call and gave Jesse a bemused look as he checked his sent messages. “Maybe I bum-dialed her or something. Oh… okay…”

He had sent Rosa a photo earlier—or rather, someone had. A photo of him sprawled in bed with the sheet pulled all the way down to his ankles. Fully naked, on his back, leaving nothing but his toes to the imagination. The message with the photo said, Look who’s a big boy now!

Jesse choked with laughter as he took a peek. “Dude, that’s not good.”

Indio glared at his bedroom door. “D’you remember her name?”

“Why would I know her name?”

Indio wracked his brain. “I think it’s… Alannah? Ailene?”

Jesse gave an elaborate shrug. Indio unmuted the phone.

“Rosa, I didn’t send it, obviously. I was asleep. It was just someone being a dick. I guess they sent it to a random name in my contacts list.”

“I see. And what if this person had sent it randomly to Wynter? I haven’t shown her, of course, or even described the nature of it. Still—”

“It won’t happen again.”

“That’s simply not good enough. On Friday, I learned you have a criminal record in addition to the juvenile offense—”

“That’s not relevant,” Indio broke in.

“—and now… and now… this.

Indio gritted his teeth as he forked bacon on to a plate and carried it to Jesse. “What d’you want me to say, Rosa? It’s a picture of me doing nothing. I apologize if it traumatized you.”

He hung up and tossed the phone on the table. Probably not the best way to end the conversation.

“Doing nothing?” Jesse grabbed the phone and tapped his way to the photo. “One particular part of you is doing something, bro. That’s not PG-13. That’s a little bit o’ morning wood. That’s a sexually explicit image, a sext, a dick pic, a moderately pornographic—”

Indio clipped his ear to shut him up. “You’re lucky I didn’t blame it on you.”

“Thanks for nothing.” Jesse crunched on a piece of bacon. “And if an apology includes the word if, it’s not an apology.”

“Why would I apologize for something that’s not my fault!”

“I wonder if she ever drives with the top down,” Jesse mused, tapping his fork against his greasy lips.

“What?”

“She drives a convertible. Totally the wrong look for her but, y’know, maybe not. Maybe she’s a tight ball of pent-up sexual frustration underneath that frigid exterior, yearning to break free and express her sensual nature. That picture could be, like, therapy for her. You could be her sex therapist.”

“What the fuck are you talking ab—?”

The bedroom door opened and the girl from last night sauntered out wearing her bra and panties and nothing else, her hair a pink cloud around her face.

“Oh! Didn’t realize you had company.” She grinned at Jesse.

“Morning, Alannah,” Jesse said breezily.

“Close.” The girl sneered at Indio, blaming him for Jesse’s error, but she was still smiling. “It’s Eleanor.” She wrapped her arms around Indio’s waist from behind.

“Did you take a photo on my phone?” Indio said, unwinding her arms before sliding onto a chair. He dragged it close to the table in case she had any ideas about sitting in his lap again.

“I did! You looked so cute, like a little boy. I sent it to your mom. Couldn’t help myself. She didn’t mind, did she?”

“That wasn’t my mom. That was my sister’s foster mom and she minded very much.”

Eleanor clamped her hand over her mouth to suppress her giggles. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I saw Mom on the list and just went for it.”

“It says W Foster Mom,” Jesse pointed out, showing her Indio’s contacts list.

Eleanor simpered. “I was half asleep. Am I in trouble?”

“Could you get dressed?” Indio said. “I have to be somewhere in fifteen minutes.”

She looked at him shrewdly, assessing whether he was being truthful. He was not.

“You want me to call you an Uber?” he added, to hurry her along.

Eleanor’s lips twisted into a pout. “I can walk home from here.”

“Awesome.” It was forty degrees with rain threatening, but that wasn’t Indio’s fault either.

Her eyes flicked to the phone. “Um… So, I had a nice time. I’m a huge fan and… Can I give you my number?”

“I think you’ve done enough damage,” Indio said with a tight smile.

“You’re supposed to offer to walk her home,” Jesse said when Eleanor had disappeared into the bathroom.

“What century are you from? You walk her home.”

“For twenty percent commission on those guitars, I will.”

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