Don't Look Down Read online

  The son of a bitch.

  Two more days and he's gone out of your life, she thought, and then the camper door opened and Pepper said, "Aunt Lucy, look!" and Lucy swiveled her chair to see Pepper in her WonderWear, now modified by the wardrobe department to fit her: red cami and blue-and-white-starred shorts topped with a piece of blue material safety-pinned to the straps of the cami as a cape. She'd painted white stripes on her red rain boots, picked up some gold-painted rope somewhere, and wrapped aluminum foil around her wrists, now secured with silver duct tape.

  "Wow,'' Lucy.said.

  "Connor gave me the rope and put the duct tape on for me," Pepper said, her fists on her hips. "I don't have a crown though."

  "That was good of Connor," Lucy said. ''You look great, baby."

  Pepper sat down in the swivel chair across from Lucy. "So can we have a Wonder Woman party now?"

  "Now?" Lucy said and then remembered her promise in the comics store. "Oh, Pepper, I forgot." Pepper's face fell and Lucy added hastily, "Tell you what, let's do it tomorrow night, and we'll get a Wonder Woman cake and ice cream, too. How about that?"

  Pepper nodded, woebegone.

  "And maybe a video," Lucy said, desperate. "Do they have Wonder Woman videos?"

  Pepper shrugged.

  "Oh, baby, I'm sorry." Lucy opened her arms and Pepper climbed onto her lap. "I really am," she said into Pepper's hair as she held her close. "It was a bad day and I was really busy, it just slipped my mind. But it will be a better party tomorrow, I swear. Hey, we should have root beer and cheese sticks. Let's-"

  Pepper pulled back to look into her face. "Did you find the mole?"

  "The mole." Lucy blinked. "No, I haven't had a chance to look, sweetie. He's probably run off by now. Don't worry about him."

  "Did he go into the forest?" Pepper said.

  "Yes," Lucy said. "And he's very happy there. Moles love forests. Forget about him. So how about some root-"

  "Will you have to look for him tomorrow?"

  "Pepper, I swear, we will have the part}' tomorrow night, mole or no mole. And I'll wear my WonderWear, too. I promise."

  "And Mom?"

  "She'll wear hers, too," Lucy said, condemning Daisy to Wonder-Wear whether she liked it or not. Hell, looking that ridiculous might cheer her up. "And there'll be a cake, I'll find a Wonder Woman cake." Gloom will find a Wonder Woman cake. "And maybe I can find a crown."

  "A crown," Pepper said, perking up. "That would be so cool."

  "A crown it is," Lucy said, praying that Estelle in wardrobe would be able to make a crown. "It'll be tun. You'll see."

  "I can't wait. We can all have crowns!" Pepper squinted at the Kingdom Come action figure. "She doesn't look like she has a crown. She looks like she has a gold headband."

  Easier to make, Lucy thought. "Well, headbands are better. They'll hold our hair back for us. You can take the action figure with you to wardrobe tomorrow and show them." I'm going to have to wear a Wonder Woman headband.

  "Headbands are better because they hold our hair back when we're fighting crime," Pepper said.

  "Exactly," Lucy said, thinking of Finnegan. "So about that root beer-"

  Stephanie opened the door of the camper and said, "You'd better see this."

  What now? Lucy thought and stood up, letting Pepper slide off her lap before she went to the door.

  Bryce and Wilder were standing there under the base-camp lights, Bryce looking like a kid who was waiting to get grounded and Wilder looking like hell. "What?"

  Stephanie jerked her head toward Bryce, and Lucy looked at him closer.

  The side of his face was red and starting to swell.

  "What the…" Lucy came down the step to look at him more closely, Pepper right behind her.

  "It was my fault," Bryce said. "I went into the bar, I-"

  "This was a bar fight?" Lucy said, incredulous.

  "We didn't start it," Bryce said. "This guy spilled-"

  "We?" Lucy looked at Wilder. "Bryce generally doesn't get into bar


  "Lucy," Bryce said.

  "Could I see you in my camper, Captain Wilder?" Lucy said, and Wilder turned and went up the step without a word.

  "Lucy. "Bryce grabbed her arm as she started to follow him, and she turned and glared at him, but he didn't let go. "No, it was my fault. I took him there. I picked out the bar. I wanted a tough place. For the movie."

  "There's no bar in the movie."

  "No, but Brad would go into that kind of bar. It was research."

  Lucy shook her head, too mad to argue. "Stephanie, take Bryce to makeup and have them put arnica on his face, and then take Pepper back to Daisy, please."

  "No," Pepper moaned. "I want to stay with you and J.T."

  "Bryce, find out from them what you have to do to look decent tomorrow. We'll have to shoot you from the left tomorrow if it's noticeable."

  "That's not my good side," Bryce said.

  "It is now," Lucy said and went back into the camper.

  Wilder was sitting at the table when she went in, his hands pressed flat against the surface.

  Lucy cut Kirsty off on the iPod and stood in front of him with her arms folded. "Captain Wilder, are you trying to kill this movie?"

  Wilder shook his head once, not meeting her eyes, his rugged face in profile to her.

  Lucy stared at him, willing him to look at her. "Why in the name of God did you let him go into that bar?"

  "His choice," Wilder said.

  Lucy bent over the table, determined to get his attention. "Look at me, Wilder. Take some responsibility here. Bryce wouldn't know a dangerous bar if it had a dangerous bar sign out front. You would. Why did you let him go in there?" When he didn't answer, she said, ''Look at me, damn it. "

  He turned his head and she looked into his eyes and saw misery, bone deep.

  She straightened, thinking, What the hell happened? His eyes went back to the table, and she went over to the cupboard and got out her emergency kit: a bottle of eighteen-year-old Glenlivet and two glasses. She put the glasses on the table, poured a shot into each, and sat down, sliding one across to him.

  He picked up the glass and she saw his hand shake, not much but not steady.

  He's vulnerable, she thought. Who knew?

  He tossed back the scotch and put the glass on the table again, and she poured another shot. The third time seemed to do it; the rigidity went out of his shoulders and the hand that held the glass stopped trembling.

  When Wilder spoke, his voice was low. "It wasn't a dangerous bar when we went in. Three guys came in after. They were the dangerous part."

  "What happened?"

  He swallowed. "I crippled a man."

  Lucy drew back, knowing from the way he said it that "crippled" wasn't a figure of speech.

  "One of the three," Wilder said. "He pulled a knife. It wasn't a good knife, but it had a sharp edge."

  Lucy thought about what a knife could have done to him and crossed her arms in front of her.

  "He never got near Bryce," Wilder said.

  Lucy shook her head. "It's not-"

  "I'm sorry about screwing things up for tomorrow," Wilder said, and Lucy thought, The hell with tomorrow.

  She picked up her glass to drink and then on second thought offered it to Wilder, and his hand covered hers as he took it, warm, still a little shaky. She waited a moment to let go of the glass, looking into his eyes. "It's all right. I get it now." She smiled at him. "Thank you for saving Bryce's butt."

  He nodded and took the drink.

  "So how did the fight happen?" she said. "Did somebody recognize Bryce?"

  "No." Wilder tossed back the shot and then leaned back, looking more thoughtful than bleak now, relaxing by millimeters. "Those three guys just started it."

  "Why?" Lucy said. "Did Bryce say something?"

  "Well, he didn't fit in real well," Wilder said. "But they were looking for trouble."

  "And Bryce looked like trouble to them?"