Down with the Shine - Kate Karyus Quinn
“I gave you my name for a reason, Lennie. It might not be worth much now, but someday, someday real soon, I’m gonna make it so Cash is a name nobody ever forgets. I’m serious, Lennie. People are gonna remember us.”
When I was a little kid, I didn’t get tucked into bed with a story or a song. Instead, I listened to the ravings of my father. The nightly routine ended on my sixth birthday. That was the day he made the nightly news for the first time and they rechristened Leonard Cash the Bad Daddy Bandit.
Over the next two months, Daddy and I crisscrossed the country on a hold-’em-up, shoot-’em-down crime spree. With me in tow, he took down six banks and three toy stores, killing two people who got in the way. He was finally pinned down at a Chuck E. Cheese’s, but managed to escape by taking the guy dressed in the mouse costume as a hostage. They found me hours later, burrowed deep in the ball pit, still waiting for Daddy’s all-clear whistle.
The only place I’ve seen him since then is on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted webpage.
That all happened eleven years ago, but it’s not the sort of story people forget. Maybe if I’d become a super-smart honor-student nerd or a chipper rah-rah leadership council type, they’d dwell on it a little less often. But I’m not either of those things, and most people think it’s just a matter of time before my daddy comes back for me and the two of us pick up where we left off at Chuck E. Cheese’s oh so many years ago.
To a stranger, I might look like a typical sullen, angry teenager, but everyone in town knows I’m the furthest thing from typical.
I’m Lennie Cash.
And my famous name is a big part of why, at this exact moment, instead of dividing my time in English class between clock-watching and trying to figure out exactly how those two crazy kids, Romeo and Juliet, managed to mess things up so badly, I’m sitting in the principal’s office while she and a cop give me the “bad blood will tell” glare.
This is the third time I’ve been called down to the office for one of these sessions since my best friend, Dylan, went missing two weeks ago.
The first meeting was more of a “we’re all on the same team” type of chat. That’s when the cops thought Dyl was a runaway. I told them I didn’t know anything, which was half true, and that I hadn’t heard from her, which was totally true. When I left the room, I caught only the slightest hint of “of course the Cash kid is involved with this.”
Things were a little more serious the second time. That was after they found Dylan’s car at a rather infamous bar on the outskirts of town. They asked me if Dylan went there a lot. If I’d ever been there. Mostly they were fishing, waiting for me to slip up. Or at least that was the only reason I could think of for why they never came right out and said anything about the rumors that Leonard Cash had been spotted at this bar more than a few times. Some people even said he might be the owner.
The one thing they didn’t skirt around was the very public fight I’d had with Dylan the day before she disappeared. “I heard you were extremely angry,” my principal, Mrs. Kneeley, said, feigning concern.
“Well, yeah, we were fighting,” I answered, sounding sarcastic and, yes, angry.
A lawyer probably would have told me to keep my mouth shut. But I didn’t have one of those, or anyone else. My mom and her three brothers were my official guardians, but none of them were the school-meeting type.
Which meant that if Dyl didn’t show up soon, I could see this getting real ugly for me. Still, I insisted I didn’t remember what the fight was about. I was trying to protect Dylan, trying to give her time to do whatever crazy thing she thought she needed to do before they found her and dragged her back home.
In my own way, I was trying to make up for that fight. For saying things I shouldn’t have.
This time, though, I think it may be too late, ’cause the cop and Mrs. Kneeley look dead serious. I know from their expressions that we’re not fucking around anymore.
All dramatic, the cop slams his hand on the table. After getting a