When the breast genes were passed out in heaven, Alie'e had been in line for an extra helping of eyes instead. That became obvious in junior high when her friends began to complain about bra straps cutting into their necks. Not Alie'e. As the Olsons' best friends, Ellen and Bud Benton, said-Bud said it, anyway-"Ain't no Miss Minnesota without the big bumpers, y'know."
As it happened, the breasts didn't matter. In the summer of her sixteenth year, Lynn and Lil took her to a model agency in Minneapolis, and the agent liked what she saw. Alie'e had knife-edge cheekbones and those jade-green eyes. They came straight from God in a perfect package with white-blond hair, a flawless complexion, delicate fuck-me shoulder blades, and hips so narrow she'd have trouble giving birth to a baling wire.
Between Minneapolis and New York, Sharon Olson vanished and Alie'e Maison stepped into her size-six dress. She was so famous that the second-most-famous person in Burnt River was a lawn-care service operator named Louis Friar. Friar, one night in tenth grade, nailed Alie'e in the short grass beside the first-base line of the American Legion baseball diamond on Bergholm Road, on an air mattress that he'd brought along for that express purpose.
Louis never talked about it. He never even confirmed that it happened. He held the memory of the event in a beery reverence. Alie'e, on the other hand, talked to everyone; so everyone in Burnt River knew about it, and how, at the critical moment, Louis had cried out, "Oh God oh God oh God oh God," which was why everybody in town called him Reverend. Friar himself thought the nickname was based on his last name, as if the residents of Burnt River were universally fond of puns; nobody ever told him different.
"You don't think they're getting too close to porno?" Lil now asked, under her breath to Lynn, as they watched Amnon Plain push their daughter around the set. "I don't want any goddamned porno." Lil had a thing about porno.
"You know they're not going to do any porno," Lynn said placatingly. He was wearing black-on-black, with wraparound Blades.
"They better not. That'll kill you in a minute." She refocused. "Look at Jax. I think he's so good for her."
Jax-he had no last name-was peering around the set through the viewfinder of a Nikon F5. He thought of himself as a photographer, although he hadn't yet taken many photographs. But how hard could it be? You look through the hole, you push the button. When Alie'e said, "You got anything?" Jax let the camera drop to his side, tipped his head, and they moved together against the hull of the barge. Jax took a plastic nose-drop bottle from his pocket and passed it to her. Alie'e unscrewed the top, slipped the end into a nostril, and squeezed the bottle once, twice. "Whoa, whoa," Jax muttered. "Not too much, it'll kill the eyes." If you had eyes as green and large as Alie'e's, you didn't want them dilated.
Amnon Plain was moving lights around as his assistants refilled the camera backs with Kodachrome. Alie'e would be wearing a torn pale-blue T-shirt that was meant to show just a hint of rouged nipple within the tear, and the film had to hold the subtlety of the pink-against-blue. With the Kodachrome, the flare of the torch behind her wouldn't pop as it would on the Fuji, but that wasn't so important in this shot.
Plain was juggling the color equities in his mind when Alie'e said, past his head, "Hello, Jael."
Plain turned. His sister was standing in the gash in the barge's hull, just inside the line of lights. "What do you want?" He snapped.
Jael Corbeau-she'd changed her name with her mother, after their parents split up-was light where Plain was dark, blond against Plain's deep brunette. Despite their coloring differences, they had faces that were astonishingly alike, wedge-shaped, edgy, big-eyed.
Reprinted from Easy Prey by John Sandford by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by John Sandford. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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