Prologue – J.K. Lynch
My mom had feelings for guys, LOTS of them. A large range of feelings, a large range of guys. She spent most her time with whichever was the flavor-of-the week when I was a kid so I would spend as much time with the girl that lived at the end of the street as I could. I want to say it was second or third grade when I fell in love with my best friend. Of course, I couldn’t explain to anyone I had the same feelings for a girl that I should have had for guys.
On Saturday mornings, Cry’s grandma would roll her oversized, baby-blue, Lincoln Towncar into our driveway. Grams would lay on the horn, and I’d dash out the door. The purr of the motor, the deep long honk, the crash of the screen door behind me as I launched off the two-step porch. Crystal would pop up from the front seat after I made myself comfortable in the back. Her beautiful face would grin at me.
“Ready JK?” she’d ask.
I would just nod my answer as a flutter would ripple through my stomach, and then lower. She was everything I ever wanted and our relationship was my most valued possession, if that could even be a thing for a child.
The first stop was always the car wash, one of those old-fashioned ones that had the whirly primary colored pom-poms swishing and swaying, the colored spray and incredibly loud dryer that the car would inch through, the water being pushed this way and that.
I would gaze out of the moon-roof peering at the foaming bubbles, the automated arms doing their chores. It thrilled me, the ceremonious cruise through the car wash with Cry and Grams. Then we’d head out to Denny’s for a late breakfast and sometimes the park. It’s my favorite childhood memory; the only good one really.
Whenever we drove under pedestrian walkways, when there were people crossing above us, Cry’s grams would instruct us to “Send them some love, ladies,” and we’d close our eyes, and picture red and dark pink hearts floating up from our passing car like millions of bubbles, popping around the people above us. I would look over my shoulder to see if they felt the love, if they were smiling or looking affected by our efforts. Grams would smile and nod slightly, her head bobbing as her eyes darted to the rearview and back forward. It seemed as if she were also checking to ensure our energy was finding its targets.
Grams read cards. She had a big blue bin of tarot cards, angel cards, totem animal cards, goddess cards, oracles and prophecy cards. On the days we went to the park, she would set up a card table under a portable awning and charge twenty dollars a reading. Sometimes we got to watch, other times she would ask us to go play at the playground to give her and her client a ’bit ‘o privacy’. Most times the people that paid left in tears, a couple times hysterically laughing. Occasionally a client left muttering under their breath about being ripped off.
Once I heard a young man bark, “You’re a fraud!” and storm away. I looked at Crystal, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion. She asked Grams, “Why is that guy mad at you?”
“Oh, he’s not, honey,” she replied with zero emotion, “sometimes the cards don’t tell us what we want to hear and the truth hurts, that’s all.”
I doubt those few dissatisfied customers ever got under her skin, she looked just as radiant when the next person took the folding chair.
Crystal had her own deck, a plain old deck of playing cards from a casino. There was a star-shaped punch hole in the bottom left corner of each of them and when the deck was aligned you could look through the hole. She taught herself to read those cards. When she wasn’t immersed in her readings, we played fish or slap-jack.
With the playing card deck, the hearts were feelings, the diamonds material possessions, the clubs actions, and spades were logical thoughts. Sometimes Crystal would make stuff up; other times I felt like she was really channeling energy and spirits.
After the park, we’d head on back home. I lived at number eight Mastick, and the love of my life lived in one on the opposite side.
Mastick court is a dead-end. It’s tucked between a busy road and the water that leads to the bay. There are only eight houses in the court, and each is as individual as the families that have dwelt there. The numbers start on the west side. Crystal’s house was on the corner. Typical brick, squat rambler with a four-foot chain link fence running around it. I lived in the pure white number eight all the way at the end. Four houses flanked the west side of the street, three on the east and our humble abode sat at the end, facing north. It was as if the whole road was our driveway. The biggest bonus about that house is that the end lot is twice as big as any of the others. The west side has a canal cozied up to the backyards that curves along our back yard.
Since Alameda is an island, we were used to canals, boats and water. San Francisco was the backdrop to our sunsets and Oakland was our gnarly big brother, giving us the Raiders, the A’s, and close, affordable city life.
During our senior year of high school, Crystal’s grams died. It rocked her world. We both were devastated. In contrast, when my grandpa passed away a few years later, we celebrated. I never felt it was fair that Grams died first, but as they say, only the good die young.
Crystal left Mastick Court after that. Her mom got a decent inheritance and they moved to ‘the right side of the tracks’, as the saying goes. I inherited the old house after good ole gramps kicked the bucket. For Crystal and I, once we had to work on our relationship a bit it became more precious. As we grew up it became only the two of us against the world. We were just two besties, living our best life.
Then the murders began.