Here we are.” Andy said as he lifted the bottom of the chain link fence for me to crawl under. “Go ahead, I got it.” He said in answer to my questioning glance.
I did as I was told and crawled beneath the fence into what appeared to be an abandoned house lot. After looking around I could tell that the house must have burned down years before, leaving one single car garage standing on it’s own in the darkness. “You come here often?” I asked as he began to walk toward the lonely structure.
“This is my home.” He replied as he reached in his pocket and fished out the rabbit’s foot key chain with the one single key on it. Kicking at the tall grass on his way to the door, he turned and smiled at me. “Looks like crap out here, but it’s kinda nice inside, really.”
I nodded and slowly followed him to the side door. All the openings appeared to have been boarded up many years ago. The grass in some areas of the property seemed to be at least waist deep and almost appeared to swallow up the old driveway as well as the house foundation. After watching him fumble with the lock, he grinned and swung the door open. He silently waved for me to go inside and followed me into the darkness of the room as he closed the door with a fairly loud creak before I could make out the sound of a sliding steel bolt securing it. “You have any candles or something?” I asked as I stood almost completely still, trying to get my eyes to adjust to the pitch blackness.
“One sec.” He replied as he seemed to rummage around and suddenly shed some light into the room with an old oil storm lantern. “There.” He said with a satisfied smile as he set the lamp on the table in the middle of the room and smiled at me. “You can look around if you want, I just wanna grab a couple of things.”
“How long have you lived here?” I asked as I looked around at a very comfortable looking layout.
“A few years I guess. A few friends of mine found this place and we kinda decided to crash here for a while.” He replied as he slid a box out from beneath what appeared to once be someones work shop bench. “When they left, I didn’t want to move again. I had friends here that I didn’t want to lose so, I stayed.”
“Alone?” I asked as I watched him drag the box over to an old couch right next to the table and plop down onto it. “Kinda dangerous for a halflife to be totally alone, isn’t it?”
“Well…” He replied as he dug what looked like an old book out of the box and set it down on the table. “It can be, but this place is watched over.” He said as he opened the book and pulled out a few folded up bills and a handful of pictures. “The family that owns the lot are kinda keeping it available.” He said with a grin as he stuffed the money in his pocket and looked at the pictures.
“Watcha got?” I asked as I sat down next to him and smiled.
He smiled back and leaned toward me, turning the pictures so I could see them. “A few of my friends.” He said as he handed me one. “This one you know.”
“It’s Spencer.” I said with a smile looking at the background and opening my eyes wide. “Um, how old is this shot? I asked after noticing all the cars on the road in the background were all late 70′s models or older.
“Um…” Andy said with a grin. “That was the year he was turned, 78 I think.”
“Cool.” I said as he handed me the next one. “Place look familiar?”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “It’s the club we were at last night. Who are the people you’re with?”
“Lemme see.” He said as he shuffled himself closer. “Ok, the teenage guy on the left with the goatee is Bryson. He actually looks after a halflife pack in the area. Really nice guy too, he’s a good friend but…” He said with a sigh; “I haven’t seen him in a long time.” He seemed lost in thought for a second before pressing on. “That’s me in the stupid looking hat. I was soooo drunk, you woulda laughed.” He giggled. “The other halflife next to me, well actually we were holding each other up.” He said with a giggle. “His name is Gyro and next to him looking like they would rather be out doing ANYTHING else but having fun is his sister Rain and her friend Taryn. They all kinda live together in an old car lot not far from here.”
“Looks like you were having fun.” I said with a smile seeing the goofy grin on his face beneath the brim of one of those multi colored novelty hats with a propeller on it. “You still friends with them?”
“Yeah, but it’s been about a year or so since I’ve seen any of them.” He said as he sat up. “One of these days we gotta find Gyro, you haven’t partied until you’ve partied with him.” He said with a grin. “Wicked bad influence.”
“Gotta love that.” I said as I watched him flip to the next shot. “This is the pack I used to live with, maybe two years ago.” He said as I looked at the 5 faces. “Ok, that’s you.” I said pointing. “Spence and Gyro again.” I added squinting my eyes to see them clearly in the dimly lit photo. “Who are the other two?”
“Ok, the one holding the Jack Daniels bottle is Alan. Actually I think this is the last picture ever taken of him.” He said as his voice started to get a little hoarse. “We lost him one night out by the Pier.” He said taking a deep breath. “Spence thinks he hooked up with another pack, I think he got too drunk and, well…” He said looking me in the eyes. “…didn’t make it home in time.”
“Oh man, I’m sorry.” I said wrapping my arm around his shoulder and giving a squeeze.
“It happens.” He said looking back at the picture. “The older guy standing next to him is Bruce. Big Bad Bruce.” He said with a laugh. “If you ever got into a fight in the street, you could count on him to run faster than anyone, in the other direction.” Andy smiled as he tapped on the picture and continued; “There was this one night we had all gone to a rave, Gyro was soooo hammered and hit on some guy’s girlfriend. I swear, that kid had a knack for picking out the girls with the biggest toughest boyfriends.” He said laughing out loud. “Well that night, this guy was just about to flatten him when we all rushed outside to help. We all jumped the guy and one of his buddies, we were doing good too. Anyway, in the time it took us to finally take the two down and limp home, I swear Bruce had already run all the way here, barricaded the door and was hiding under this couch.” He got out with a laugh as he patted the couch we were sitting on. “Body of a human pit bull and the soul of a battered chihuahua. He was a really close friend but absolutely horrified of confrontation of any kind.”
“Is he still in the area?” I asked looking at the big guy’s grin.
“Nah, when our group broke up he hooked up with some drifters and I think they headed west.” Andy said with a grin. “It was his dream to hit California some day. I hope he did.”
I just smiled and flipped through a couple more taken right here in the garage before I hit an unfamiliar face. “Who’s this?” I asked pointing to a dark haired kid just out of the camera’s focus.
“That’s Ben.” He said with a scowl. “He took most of these pictures.”
“What happened to him?” I asked as I watched Andy’s scowl get colder.
“Hooked up with a group of Raiders.” He said clearing his throat. “Well, that was just after he ran out of here with half our stuff one night right after sunset, including the camera most