Jack owes Michelle big timeshe once saved his life. Michelle is pretty sure a biker named Lucky Avila had something to do with Jennifer’s disappearance. She also admits she did business with Lucky, who might be angry at her. Jack goes out to see Lucky, hoping for a simple end to the case. He should have known better. Anything in which Michelle Wu is involved is bound to be complex, dark, and wild. Soon Jack is up to his neck with bikers, Mexican gangs, and a giant pet wild Razorback hog named Ole Big, who may offer a major clue to finding the missing girl.
The Best Bad Dream is fast paced, tough, funny, hip, and filled with unexpected twists and turns.
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|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
ADAM VERNER is a voice over artist and actor. He has worked extensively on stage and screen and narrated a diverse array of audiobooks, from fiction and fantasy to nonfiction self-help and history. He’s been involved in the world of audiobooks since 1980 when his father recorded Golden Books for him to listen to. Adam holds his MFA in acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and his commercial voice over clients include Gillette, Kmart, McDonalds, Harley Davidson, Wrigley, Keystone Beer, and many others. If he could be any animal in the world it would definitely be an orangutan.
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They drove up Route 285 from Santa Fe as the sun went down, Michelle Wu and her younger sister Jennifer riding their matching metallic gray Suzuki B-King cycles over one hundred miles per hour.
"C'mon," sis, Michelle yelled as she cruised past her sister. "You're standing still out here."
Competitive since they were kids, Michelle expected Jennifer to shout back and speed by her. Instead, she just turned her head in a moody way and looked straight ahead at the dark road.
Michelle groaned. She'd thought getting out the bikes would cheer her sister up but it was obvious Jen was still furious with her. So maybe she could make it up to her by taking her to the Tewa Pueblo at Taos. At least Michelle prayed it would. Because when Jen got into a serious sulk it could last for days.
Michelle geared down and waited for her sister to catch up.
"Follow me. The next left. I'll race you there."
She shot ahead, hoping Jennifer would rise to the challenge, but it was no use. Her sister moped behind. What a waste of horsepower.
That it was her own fault made the whole thing even more annoying.
Ahead of her, Michelle saw the turnoff to the ancient pueblo. In the fading afternoon light it seemed an ancient magical place. Built a thousand years ago, the village glowed with a golden light.
But as they got closer, Michelle could see how barren and poor the pueblo really was. It was muddy outside the adobe walled buildings, and the Tewa people had to climb rickety ladders to go from the first to the second story, and from the second to the third.
Now Michelle worried that Jennifer, too, would find the whole trip a drag, and she'd be even more disgruntled than before.
There was a big Indian man standing at the base of the bleak dirt parking lot, selling tickets. He wore a cheap, torn, plaid cloth coat, and his pockmarked skin and big belly weren't exactly the romance novel idea of a native warrior. He looked exactly like what he was: a guy hustling his way through a tough, unforgiving life.
After they parked their bikes on a small side street, he sold them their entrance tickets and stamped their hands as though they were teenagers going to Disneyland.
Still, Michelle didn't want to be cynical. Two thousand people lived on this reservation in three-story adobe buildings. They warmed these rooms with fire, the old way, and raised their children with their grandparents close at hand. They made their own cornmeal, and sang the songs of their ancestors.
In a faked-up, bullshit world of fast food, McMansions, and jive there was something authentic and appealing about the pueblo, something even holy.
Jennifer walked slightly ahead of her, not yet finished being furious. Michelle wanted to poke her and say, "Snap out of it," but she knew her sister better than that. Better to wait until the rage wore off.
Then she could talk to Jen, explain what went wrong. It wasn't really her fault anyway. It was just the way things fell. You tried to do the right thing but sometimes — too many times — you ran into ming, or what Westerners called fate.
She had learned as a girl that ming often ran counter to puny human wishes and the way to deal with it was to forget it, and to act nobly anyway.
But Michelle wasn't really that much like her Chinese ancestors. She was American Chinese and wanted very badly to control ming, to make things work out. She could hear her dead grandmother laugh at such a thought.
"Ming is as controllable as the wind or the rain. How do you control either of them?"
She believed in ming, yes, but she also believed in happy endings. Happy endings achieved by any means necessary. Michelle had learned a long time ago that you had to cut corners to make things work. And when opportunities presented themselves you should strike and strike hard.
Surely Jen would understand all this. Though the sisters were different, they weren't that different. She'd understand it, and then they could get back on the right track.
The two of them climbed the ladders, walked hunched through the cramped adobe rooms, and Michelle wondered how anyone could stand living in so small a place. Smoke from the fireplaces gave all the rooms a deep musty odor that Michelle couldn't decide if she liked or not. Maybe if she got used to it.
As they went into a souvenir shop, she asked Jen how she had liked the tour but her sister rolled her eyes at her.
"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm really pissed at you."
Michelle took that as an opening and laughed.
"What's the matter, babe, you think I'm not sensitive?" that got the smallest of smiles.
"I'm going to take a little walk, Michelle. I've got some thinking to do. They say the village's big religious room, the kiva, is down that way. Meet me there in, say, twenty minutes. Okay?" Okay, Michelle said. She wondered what she would do for the next twenty minutes. She was already getting a little bored. Michelle didn't dig history all that much. She had spent most of her life trying to live in the now. Her own family history was filled with remorse, drunkenness, and violence. She didn't want to remember it. But she knew that turning her back on her history was probably superficial and dumb. So she tried, even though looking at the past, hers or anyone else's, made her jumpy and nervous.
Now she watched as Jennifer left the little pueblo gift shop and headed down to the kiva, a couple of short, muddy blocks away. Michelle looked at a few Indian dolls — strange little things made of wood, feather, and bone — then checked the pocket of her leather cycle jacket.
There it was, a joint. Just what she needed to get through all this native culture.
She walked outside and climbed up to a second-floor balcony. Coming toward her was a tall, thin man with a black coat and ... what was that ... a white collar? A priest? The sight jolted her a bit.
She had suffered at the hands of priests when she was a girl, the beginning of a long series of betrayals.
As the man drew nearer she could see that he had Indian features, high cheekbones and a reddish color to his skin. He looked up at her, stared at her for a second, then walked on. He wasn't a priest at all, just a man wearing a collarless shirt.
After looking around to make sure no one could see her, she lit the J. She inhaled deeply a couple of times, then peered down at the burnt-orange valley and fell into a fantasy that she was actually an Indian maiden, living a thousand years ago. Hey, maybe she was wrong. When you were high, history became a lot more lifelike. The image was so interesting she felt as though she were a different person. She must have been a warrior woman, she was pretty sure. No sitting home waiting for the braves to come home shot up by the Spanish or, later, the Americans. She would go out with her own band of hand-chosen women and use their sex to ensnare the Spanish commandant. She could feel herself dancing wildly, mesmerizing the older man. Then, while making love to him, she'd stab him in the throat and be a heroine to her people.
The fantasy was so real that she indulged it again, and then a little wind came over the pueblo. She lay back on the cool adobe wall, her feet hanging over the ledge, and in seconds fell fast asleep.
When Michelle woke up, she looked down at the lonely pueblo street and saw only a few orange streetlights down by the big kiva.
God, she had gotten stoned and nodded off. Well, no wonder. The last few days with Lucky Avila had been totally stressful. The lying, cheating bastard.
She climbed back down the ladder and checked her watch. Oh man, she was ten minutes late. Not all that long in reality, but too long when your sister was already pissed off at you.
She walked down the creepy street to the kiva. Only two other tourists were there, a middle-aged man wearing an Ohio State football jacket and sweatpants and, at his side, a young, honey-blonde woman with eyes as blue and vacant as two plastic buttons.
Michelle started to look inside the round mound of adobe, the big kiva, but there was a sign on the wall that said, NO TRESPASSING.
She gave an irritated sigh, walked a block past the meeting spot, and came back but there was still no sign of her sister.
Finally, starting to worry, Michelle approached the Ohio couple.
"Hi, I'm looking for my sister. You didn't happen to see a Chinese girl around here a few minutes ago, did you?"
The man shook his big head and assumed a worried look.
"Chinese? No, ma'am. Nobody like that."
The woman made a face like she was sucking on a lemon.
"Naw, there was some Indians here. At least I think they was Indians, but they weren't Chinese, no way."
"Thanks," Michelle said, feeling a little uneasy.
She turned away and headed back to the parking lot.
As she left Phil looked at his wife, Dee Dee.
She was a Chinese, the man said,
"So?" Dee Dee responded, fury in her voice.
"Well, it's just that I have some trouble telling the Asian races from one another. Like I was in line at Buckeye Noodles once in Columbus and there were people in the line who were, I am pretty sure, your Koreans and Japanese and maybe even your Chinese and I am somewhat ashamed to admit I could not tell them apart."
"Why am I not surprised by that?" Dee Dee said.
"Well, I suppose you can tell every damned Oriental from every other," he replied.
"Oh for Chrissakes, Phil. You are such a freaking hick."
Phil wanted to say something vicious back but he didn't have the heart for it. Instead he said, "You know what? I think I've had about enough of this Indian village. Why don't we get back down to the Blue Wolf? Must be around happy hour there now."
Dee Dee thought it was a good idea. But she wasn't going to give him credit. No way. She was sick of his jive, his ideas, and truth be told, pretty much sick of everything else about Phil, too.
She gave him a hard little smile, and they headed across the street toward their metallic gray Hummer.
Just outside the pueblo, Michelle walked past the adobe outer wall and turned onto the unpaved lot where they'd parked their bikes. She figured if Jennifer's bike was gone, then she'd just taken off and they would probably meet back in Santa Fe at their hotel, La Fonda. But if the bike was still there ...
And it was. The two choppers were sitting there side by side, gleaming, ready to be ridden hard back down the starlit highway to Santa Fe.
But no Jennifer.
Michelle felt something turn in her stomach. Of course, Jen could still be wandering around the pueblo, but Michelle doubted it. No matter how mad the two sisters were at one another, it wasn't like them to play games. They had always been two against the world, even when they were young; each knew that she couldn't survive without the other.
She had to go back to the pueblo and look around some more. Maybe Jen had gotten lost in the dark streets.
Then she found herself doing a very uncharacteristic thing, yelling, "Jennifer, hey Jen, it's time to go, girl. Jen ..."
But her words were lost in the cold, clear air. Only an old, wrinkled Indian woman smoking at the parking lot entrance looked her way, but she didn't say a word.CHAPTER 2
As Jack Harper drove the seven blocks from his home toward Culver City High, he felt a great relief. No cases to worry about, no reports to write, no trials to attend, no lawyers to hassle with. No more office politics. For two whole weeks he would get to be on his own, relax. The thought was almost too much for him to take in. The only thing that bothered him was that he hadn't really mapped out any particular thing he wanted to do for his vacation. For the first day he'd beat up on himself for not making plans to go to Spain, or maybe down to Mexico to go sport fishing. But hey, he could always do the latter next week. It was easy to call and get a fishing boat at Baja, or, for that matter, he could always call his old buddy Will Lazenby and fly over to Hawaii for some marlin fishing.
The truth was he was almost relieved that he didn't have any plans. Maybe he'd just hang with his son Kevin for a while, like he was doing today. Watch the kid play lacrosse, go to the batting cages with him, or play some hoops down at the beach. That was something he really enjoyed and he needed to be with his son more. Kevin was a sophomore in high school now, and who knew where he would end up when he went off to college. Jack may not have been the best dad in the world, but the thought of not having Kevin around really shook him up.
He hoped his son would stay in town and go to UCLA, but Kevin was getting to be a great lacrosse player and might well get a full scholarship to an East Coast school. Scouts for the University of Virginia and Jack's old alma mater, the University of Maryland, had been hanging around his son's games.
If he ended up on the East Coast Jack would never see him. So he really ought to spend as much time with him as he could right now.
Jack stood on the sidelines with the other Culver City parents as Kevin cradled the ball in his midfielder's stick and made his way down the sideline toward the Brentwood goal. Jack was stunned by his son's speed. When he had played, Jack had been a good stick handler but wasn't all that fast. With Kevin the talents were reversed. His boy was blazing fast but he was sometimes a little careless with the ball.
Now Jack hoped that Kevin would see a wide open crease-attackman crossing in front of the goal. One good pass and a quick stick shot by Andrews, the attackman, and Culver City would win the first-round play-off game.
But Kevin was being dogged by a big defenseman and didn't see Andrews crossing and waving his stick high, calling for the ball. Instead Kevin tried a dodge, dropped the ball, and took a couple of steps cradling his empty stick, not realizing that the defenseman had already scooped up the loose ball and was heading to the other end of the field.
"Kev," Jack yelled. "Kev, the ball."
Kevin turned, looked at his stick, and Jack thought he could see his red face right through his helmet and mask.
For a second it looked as though Kev was going to hang his head and just stand there, but suddenly he lit out after the defenseman. The big guy was running in long strides but busy looking at opposing Culver City defensemen who were coming up to stop him.
He didn't see Kevin moving up behind him.
Now the Brentwood defenseman held his stick back a little, ready to make a pass to a lone attackman on his side. Which gave Kevin exactly the shot he needed. He whacked the big guy's stick so hard it fell from his hands, the ball rolled free, and Kevin scooped it up and headed back toward the Brentwood goal.
Everyone on the Culver bench was up and screaming as Kevin dodged one middie, then another, and ended up open in front of the Brentwood goalie. Two defensemen were closing fast on him and he barely had time to get off a low ground shot, which sailed to the left of the goalie's stick and into the net. Just as time ran out.
Immediately after the shot Kevin was decked by both defenders, a human sandwich. After the dust had cleared, he was up and being carried off the field by his ecstatic teammates.
Jack quickly joined him and the regular coach, Mike Mahoney. They pounded Kevin on the back as he was mobbed by mothers, fathers, and other Culver City lacrosse fans.
"Way to go, son," Jack said. "That was just awesome."
"Thanks, Dad," Kevin said. "Sorry I dropped the ball."
"Don't worry. You kept hustling and it paid off."
He tousled Kevin's black hair and felt a surge of happiness.
All around him parents were talking, chattering, and congratulating their sons for a great game.
Kevin stepped up to Jack and spoke in a low voice.
"Dad, I think I see the next Mrs. Harper checking you out."
Jack laughed. "You do? Where?"
"Look just off to your left. Slowly, don't be obvious about it."
Jack turned and looked across the green field to where he saw a brunette in her late thirties, wearing skin-tight Levi's and a formfitting green sweater. And she had the body to fill it out. And those lips ... even thirty feet away, Jack could see she had luscious, full lips. She smiled his way and he managed a half-smile back.
But then there was a nasty little surprise. A big, sandy-haired guy in his forties walked up behind her, took her hand, and they turned and walked away toward the parking lot.
"Well, there goes that fantasy, Jack said. "HE next time you find me a new Mrs. Harper please see if she's married first, okay, pal?" Kevin laughed and shook his head.
"Well, she looked like she was alone, Dad, and you gotta admit she was staring at you with that lean, hungry look."
"Yeah," Jack said. "But she's probably a team mom."
"Not for our school," Kevin said. "Must be for Brentwood."
"She looked too fancy for me even if she was single," Jack said.
"Not my type."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Best Bad Dream"
Copyright © 2011 Robert Ward.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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