is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you’re reading
this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your
use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for
supporting a self-published author.
Serial installment 4 – chapter 5
See more from S.A. Barton:
– Website Seriously
Eclectic – Facebook
notes and title
The sun streamed in through the enormous window looking out over
Houston. The blinds were full open and the yellow midmorning rays lay
rumpled over a thousand dollar silk shirt that lay akimbo on the
floor. Beside the shirt was wadded an equally expensive pair of
artfully pre-ripped jeans, black silk boxers, fine socks rolled into
smelly donuts, and a tipped-over pair of all-sidewinder cowboy boots
that could have bought Caleb's whole family twenty times with what
The boots were a little more than a year old and still not properly
broken in. Caleb didn't get out much.
He didn't get out at all.
The rays of the sun lay over Caleb's naked butt as he snored face
down into an expensive down pillow on the daybed in the big room
beside the office. The room where he'd taken refuge. The room with a
new and faintly mismatched panel on the wall opposite the hidden
door, replacing the panel shattered by shotgun pellets when Caleb was
running for his life.
It was Caleb's fourteenth birthday, though he'd forgotten.
On the other side of the daybed from
the sun, lurking in the shadow, was a case of strong small-batch ale
in deep blue bottles imported from Canada's Cascadia province. Seven
were empty. A half-empty bottle of bourbon imported from the CSA
(GENUINE PRODUCT OF WEST TENNESSEE!)
sat beside it, cap lost. The Lone Star Republic's drinking laws were
of the “if you can reach the bar” variety, not that it mattered
in the privacy of the tower.
Caleb groaned and sat up facing the window, naked to the world. That
didn't matter either. He'd long gotten used to the idea that nobody
could see in. The streets were too far beneath him for anyone to see.
And in the day, with the light shining in, even someone with a
telescope looking from a neighboring building would see only the
glare rebounding from the lightly mirrored glass. For the night,
there were automated vertical blinds that drew themselves at sunset,
or whenever the light outside was weak enough to permit prying eyes
to peer in.
Caleb knew how skyscraper windows worked. He'd had a telescope
brought up once. It had only been useful at night. Then you could see
into the glass-walled rooms of downtown Houston, if there were lights
on inside, if the blinds were carelessly left open. He'd looked into
hundreds of empty rooms with the tube of the telescope poked between
the blinds that shielded his own room. Why were the lights on in
those rooms? Forgetful corporate drones, glitched smart lighting, or,
who knew, maybe disgruntled wage-slave janitors leaving the lights on
to take a tiny jab back at the companies that paid them hardly more
than sweatshop workers or... or...
By the habit of a long solitary
year-plus, Caleb stuffed the thought down. It was a dangerous
thought, one that led to... later, later. Soon,
he told himself. He barely even registered what
was soon. It was easy to hold the train of thought at bay behind the
hangover that throbbed in his eyesockets and curled up in his mouth
with the flavor of a skunk that had wallowed in a hot landfill.
In the back of the room there was a sliding panel, and behind it a
cubicle that held a minimalist marble toilet/sink, black with curled
fossil shells, and a stand-up shower just large enough that if he
stood in the center he wouldn't bark his elbows on the walls when he
soaped up. He tottered back to it and croaked, “shower, activate.”
Steaming water poured down on the verge of too hot, the way he liked
it. The way he needed it.
He crouched in the shower like an animal hunkered down in the pouring
rain, cringing inward around a booze-tortured stomach that spasmed
and heaved up bile.
“Hottest water, activate,” he
told the shower when the dry heaves subsided. “Hardest spray,
activate.” The water spat out hard enough to sting. The steam
billowed around him, overwhelming the humming overhead fan, reaching
down for the floor. Veiling him, but not from himself. I'm
a drunk. A useless, clueless drunk.
He uncurled, still sitting on the floor, reached up to a cubby in the
wall and fetched out a little bar of expensive ginseng soap imported
from China's Asia-India-Pacifica Trade Union. Up again for a rough
domestic washcloth – he'd nixed smoother foreign-made ones soon
after taking up residence. He needed to scrub.