“Were you really serious about the Hitler thing?” Dave said, dousing Meredith’s jeans and sweater with lighter fluid.
“Easy on the rocket fuel there, pyro,” Gideon said. “We’re just torching her clothes, not trying to burn the house down.”
“I tried to stop her,” Dave said, throwing her bra and panties on top of the pile. He tossed them on casually—a teenager disposing of his big sister’s underwear. To Dave they were just rags to be burned. But to Gideon the lacy black bra and wispy matching thong were fuel for his sixteen-year-old fantasies.
Meredith was twenty-one, a college girl—red hair, green eyes, creamy white skin. As far as she was concerned, Gideon was just another one of her kid brother’s geeky friends. She had no idea how much further his imagination had taken him.
Dave added a few more generous squirts of accelerant to the mound of clothes. “You saw,” he said to Gideon, looking for validation. “Didn’t I try to stop her?”
“You always try to stop your sister from doing stupid shit,” Gideon said. “But she’s five years older than you and fifty times more stubborn. Stand back.”
Dave stepped away from the crusty old Weber kettle grill.
“And yes,” Gideon said, striking a wooden match. “I’m dead serious about the Hitler thing.” He tossed the match onto Meredith’s tattered sweater, and as blue-orange flames shot into the air, he allowed himself to relive what had happened that evening.…
It was the night of the Salvis’ Halloween beach party, and Dave did his best to convince Meredith not to go. “What’s the attraction?” he asked. “The clams, the cannoli, or just hanging out with a bunch of drunken greaseballs?”
“No, David,” she said, which is what she always called him when she was pulling rank. “I’m going because they’ve got a kick-ass band, fireworks like it’s Chinese New Year, and because my brain is fried from burying my head in a macroeconomics book for four hours. Why don’t you and Gideon go?”
“To a Mafia party?” Dave said. “No. You know how much Dad hated the Salvis.”
“Everybody hates them, but everybody still goes. So what if they’re Mafia? The beer is free, and you know for sure they’re not going to check your ID.” She opened the front door. “What time does Mom get off work?”
“The bar will be packed tonight. She won’t be home till after three.”
“Then I’ll be home by two fifty-nine.” She blew them both a kiss and left, laughing.
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