Kensington, London. Summer 1986
Genevive stood at the top of her front steps, hands on hips, glaring down at her younger sister dispassionately. “Hell Gwen, can’t you park that damn bike at the back? I don’t want the neighbors seeing it sat there; God only knows what they’ll think of us.”
Gwen tugged off her crash helmet and rolled her eyes, then got off her bike and unclipped the saddle bags from the Triumph. “Nice to see you too,” she muttered under her breath as she stomped up the steps, pushed past Genevive, and went into the hall.
Instantly, two sets of feet clattered across the hardwood living room floor, and her nephews came barreling out to greet her.
“Auntie Gwen!” the youngest, John yelled as he attached himself to her leather clad leg like a limpet.
“Hey kiddo,” she responded affectionately, as she ruffled his sandy brown hair. Michael, the oldest of the pair hung back a little, but grinned at her all the same.
“Boys, go back to the TV, I need to speak to your Aunt,” their mother snapped as she slammed the front door closed and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Go on,” Gwen coaxed. “I’m not going anywhere; I’ll come and talk to you in a bit, okay?”
The boys nodded reluctantly and slipped back into the living room.
Gwen dropped her luggage to the floor, hung up her bike jacket and went into the kitchen, her older sister hot on her heels. “I know, no junk food, no 15 rated movies, no staying up past 10pm on the weekend or 8.30 pm on a school night,” Gwen rattled off as she put the kettle on.
Genevive glared. “And no drugs in the house, none of your strange friends calling around, and certainly no men staying over.”
“Jeez, Jen, what do you think I am?”
Genevive studied her little sister coldly. “Certainly not my first choice to watch the boys while we’re away, that’s for sure.”
Gwen shrugged. “Not a problem, I can just leave and you can find yourself another babysitter at two hours notice.”
Genevive opened her mouth to respond, but promptly shut it again as her husband entered the room.
“Hi Gwen, long time, no see.”
Gwen smiled at Mortimer Darling as he wandered over to stand by the sink. Mort was her brother in law, and she had a lot more time for him than she had for her stuck up sister. Looking at her now, you would never have guessed that Genevive grew up on a council estate in Hackney. Genevive had married Mort for his money, and Mort had married her for her good looks. Guess they deserved each other.
“Have you finished packing yet, honey?” Mort asked his wife.
“Oh my God, is that the time?” Genevive shrieked, as she dashed out the kitchen and back up stairs.
Mort snorted, and took a seat at the breakfast bar. “Just ignore your sister; you know what a bitch she can be. Seriously though, thanks for stepping in at the last minute. You didn’t have plans did you?”
Gwen smiled. “Nothing that couldn’t be pushed back for a couple of weeks. Don’t worry about it, I love watching the boys.”
He nodded. “So where you gallivanting off to next on business?”
“California again; they asked me back for the summer,” she responded as she dropped a teabag in a cup. “Tea?”
“No thanks. Don’t you ever get tired of all that travelling?”
“Not really, it’s fun to see new places all the time, though maybe this year I’ll see more than the shop and the boardwalk,” Gwen chuckled.
“You know, I’d ask you to do some work on me, but I know that your sister would kill me. According to her, tattoos are for the uneducated.” Mort stated bitterly.
“I hope she never says that in front of our dad,” Gwen joked.
“Nor are they the sort of thing a stock broker should have either,” he grumbled.
“You could always get one somewhere she’d never see.”
“What, like my dick?” Mort retorted venomously.
“Oh, it’s that bad, huh?”
“I love you sister, and I really hope that this holiday can help mend a few bridges. I just feel like… I don’t know. Since I got the promotion and ended up working longer hours, she’s become so distant. I just feel like I’m stuck on the outside looking in, and I don’t know what to do, Gwen.”
Gwen smiled sadly. “Don’t come to me for relationship advice, Mort. I’m the last person you should be talking to about that. I mean look at me, I can’t hold down a steady relationship to save my life.”
Mort frowned. “What happened to Danny?”
“Oh you mean the guy that couldn’t keep his dick in his pants for five minutes once I left the country?”
Gwen sighed. “Still, I’m only twenty-six, got my whole life ahead of me. But you know, somehow I don’t think that I’ll ever be like Jen, and get married and pop out a couple of kids. I’ll stick to being an aunt, I reckon.”
“The boys have been looking forward to spending time with you; I hope that you brought a lot of books to read to them.”
Gwen nodded. “Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple with me that they should enjoy.”
“Just no more Peter Pan; John spent a month trying to fly after you read him that book.”
“Nothing wrong with a healthy imagination, Mortimer,” she grinned.
Mort rolled his eyes. “I never said that, I just don’t want your sister back on the valium because her eight year old is trying to fly out of his bedroom window again, and the eleven year old is idolizing a rabble of badly behaved Lost Boys.”
Gwen touched his arm gently. “Let them live a little, it won’t do them any harm.”
“I know, we’re only young once right?” Mort replied as he scrubbed his hands over his face.
Gwen shifted uncomfortably, and looked away. “Yeah, something like that.”
Gwen clicked the front door shut behind her older sister and brother in law and leant against in relief. Thank God they were gone; her sister had been driving her nuts and there were only so many snide comments she could take in one day. Sure Gwen was different, but that didn’t mean that her sister had the right to berate her at every turn. What her sister didn’t know was that Gwen made more money than Mort did, and by the looks of things, she was having a damn sight more fun. Everything Genevive did was about fitting in, but with Gwen, it seemed to be the opposite. Most of the time she couldn’t give a rat’s ass what people thought of her.
Ever since she’d been a little girl, Gwen had drawn. She’d drawn on every flat surface she could get her hands on, and by her early teens, she’d gotten rather good. By seventeen she was working in a tattoo studio making the tea and drawing up designs for clients, and by twenty two she’d made a name for herself. And that was how she ended up travelling the world guesting in tattoo studios across the globe for a couple of months at a time. She’d seen so many different countries and cities, but one place stood out in her mind; Santa Carla. It wasn’t the studio that made it any different from anywhere else she’d been, but more the people she’d met.
She pushed away her jumbled thoughts, and turned to her two young charges. “Okay, so who’s for pizza?”
Michael nodded happily, while John squealed and bounced up and down. “I’ll take that as a yes, then,” she chuckled.
“Auntie Gwen, did you bring Peter Pan again?” John asked.
“Nope, this time we’ve got The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath; magic, wizards and dwarves.”
John pouted. “But I wanted to hear about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys again, Gwen.”
Michael nodded. “Please, Gwen, and you can be Wendy again.”
Gwen blinked slowly, remembering the last time someone abbreviated her full name to Wendy. Her given name was Gwendolyn; most people called her Gwen, but a couple of people, well four to be precise, had once called her Wendy. It was nearly a year since she saw them, and she hadn’t thought of them in months, but they’d come to her mind on numerous occasions today. Maybe she’d see them again when she went back to Santa Carla in a couple of weeks, to guest at the tattoo studio there. Then again, maybe they’d have moved on by now…
John tugged at her sleeve. “Auntie Gwen, you okay?”
She nodded. “Sure, you just reminded me of some guys I know, that’s all. Tell you what, how about a story about the Lost Boys; I haven’t got the book, but I can tell you it from memory.”
“Does it have Peter Pan in it too?” Michael asked.
Gwen smiled; her sister was going to crucify her when she got back, but what the hell. It wasn’t like the boys would believe this tale anyway. “Nope, but it does have Wendy.”
The stories at bedtime had started out as a cunning way to get the boys to go to bed when she babysat for them, but Gwen had never expected them to enjoy the whole thing so much. John scooted into bed and under his covers, while John climbed onto the bottom of his brother’s bed and sat cross legged. Gwen handed them their milk, tugged off her worn bike boots and settled herself next to John, with her back to the headboard.
“Are we sitting comfortably?”
Both boys nodded.
“Good, then I’ll begin.”
“Why do you always start stories that way?” Michael muttered. “I’m not a baby.”
“Hush, you have to do things properly, Michael. So shall I continue, or are you too old for this sort of thing now?”
Michael shook his head rapidly. “No, carry on.”
Gwen smirked. “Once upon a time…”
John laughed, but Michael groaned.
“I can go, and you boys can go to bed with no story if you like,” Gwen teased.
“No, we’ll be quiet,” John shrieked, as he cast a glare at his brother.
“Okay, now where was I?” Gwen asked.
“Once upon a time,” Michael gritted out.
She smiled “Oh yes.”
“I’m telling you, that new assistant Max has just hired is damn fine,” Paul commented as the boys made their way back towards their bikes.
Marko smirked. “Dude, you think anything with tits and a short skirt is fine.”
Paul mulled over the comments for a second before responding. “True, but this one has that certain je ne says…” he waved his hand. “A certain something, you know what I mean.”
Dwayne rolled his eyes. “Un je ne sais quoi, you idiot.”
“Whatever,” Paul muttered, glaring at Dwayne.
David sighed as he watched the banter between the boys; it seemed that some things would never change. “Feeding time, gentlemen. Barbeque?”
Marko and Dwayne nodded as the climbed on their rides, but Paul was lost in thought, or on another planet.
“Paul!” David chided.
“Huh? Sorry, I was just-”
“Staring at some chick?” Marko offered.
Paul frowned, watching someone further down the boardwalk. “Sort of…”
The other three guys turned to follow his gaze, but nothing jumped out at them; no long legged blonde beauties, that was for sure.
“Fucking stunning,” Paul murmured to no one in particular.
Marko punched him on the shoulder, “Come on, spill! Which one are you looking at? ‘Cos I don’t see anything that worthy of you dribbling down your top.”
“Black hair, black cut offs, black tank top,” Paul responded, while still staring.
Dwayne craned his neck to get a better view. “The short chick with the piercings?”
“Yeah, would you look at that ink, brother,” Paul breathed huskily.
“You’re looking at her tattoos,” Dwayne muttered indignantly, as he shook his head sadly. “Man, you are just weird.”
David studied the young woman intently. “You can always meet up with us later if you fancy eating by yourself tonight; just remember to clean up after yourself, I don’t want any re-runs of last week.”
“I was interrupted during the cleaning up process,” Paul protested angrily to his leader, “Can’t you just let it the fuck go?”
David leaned in close, looking Paul square in the eyes. “No I won’t just let it go; I was the one who had to answer to Max. Every time you fuck up, I’m the one that gets it in the
“Sorry,” the blond muttered, looking away from David’s icy glare. “S’okay, I’m not gonna dine on her, it’d be a waste of all that amazing ink; must have taken hours, days, even.”
Marko let out a bark of laughter. “Jeez, saved by her tattoos, you’re priceless, you know that, Paul?”
“Fuck you, short stuff,” Paul snarled as he got on his bike, gunned the engine and tore off down the boardwalk towards the beach and the millions of bonfires that blazed there.
The boys prowled along the boardwalk, walking one last circuit and having one final attempt at pissing Max off at the video store before heading back to the cave for the last few hours before dawn; it was nearing 2am and the attractions and shops were shutting down for the night. As they neared their rides, Dwayne stopped dead in the middle of the boards.
“What the fuck?” he muttered. “Someone’s messing with my bike!”
The rest of the boys looked over, and sure enough, someone was crouched down next to Dwayne’s Triumph. He took off at a fast walk, crossing the fifty or so feet in a few seconds. David motioned to Paul and Marko to hang back a little; he knew that Dwayne was more than able to handle the situation by himself, and the last thing David needed was the Toxic Twins here wading in and causing chaos.
Dwayne reached his bike and looked down at the figure bending down, peering intently at the engine of his Triumph. “Can I help you? He ground out.
The young woman looked up at him, and he realized that it was the one from earlier; the one with the tattoos that Paul had been watching.
“This your ride?” she asked in what sounded to be an English accent.
He nodded once.
The girl smiled up at him. “Nice bike, man. I see that you’ve added some custom shocks to her; good choice, much better than the factory standard. You souped-up the engine too, I take it?”
He nodded again, feeling slightly bewildered by the whole situation.
“I bet she goes like shit off a shovel,” the young woman exclaimed with a grin.
“Sorry, I mean that it’s a fast bike.”
She stood up. “Oh God, where are my manners? Gwendolyn,” she stated as she held out her hand in greeting.
Dwayne took her small hand in his and shook it a couple of times. “Dwayne.”
She opened her mouth to reply, but Paul picked that moment to come bounding up.
“Hey girl, nice ink!” he crowed as he skidded to a stop next to Dwayne. “I’m Paul.”
Gwendolyn looked from Dwayne to the crazy blond next to him, and smiled. “Thanks. Well, nice meeting you both, maybe see you about some time.”
She stepped around them both and walked away towards the end of the boardwalk.
“Hey, girl!” Paul yelled after her. “Need a ride?”
She stopped and turned back to face him. “Which one’s yours?”
Paul proudly stepped up next to his bike, “This one.”
Gwen rolled her eyes. “That piece of Japanese crap?”
“Hey, don’t you be knocking my Kawasaki, it’s a damn fine bike!” Paul retorted.
Marko walked up to his brother, clapped him on the shoulder, and sniggered. Even Dwayne was smirking at Gwen’s comments.
“I suggest you take note of your friend here, Paul” she said, gesturing at Dwayne, “And trade up to a Triumph.”
Paul glared at her, while Marko howled with laughter, and David leant against his own Triumph and lit a smoke, watching the whole exchange in silence.
Gwen turned away again. “Nice meeting you, boys,” she called out over her shoulder.
“Hey! This ain’t over, girl!” Paul yelled. “Besides, I don’t see your bike parked anywhere close.”
She turned back around again, planted her hands on her hips, and grinned. “My bike’s back at home in England, dufus. And trust me when I say that it would wipe that floor with that push bike of yours any day of the week.”
Marko rubbed his hands together with glee “I smell a wager, boys,” he exclaimed happily.
Paul stepped closer to Gwen, and pulled himself up to his full height. He towered over the young woman, and hoped that he was intimidating the hell out of her. “Yeah girl, a wager.”
Gwen rolled her eyes and stuck her hands in her back pockets, totally un-phased by Paul’s attempts at trying to unnerve her. “Are you deaf or just plain stupid? I don’t have a bike here; it’s in London.”
Marko stepped up to join Paul. “We can fix that.”
The two guys broke out in a squabble over who got to ride which bike, and who rode pillion with someone else. Paul demanded that Marko let Gwen use his bike, and that Marko ride with David or Dwayne. Marko was having none of that, and vehemently told Paul to let her use his bike, while Paul paired up with Dwayne.
David had had enough. He stepped between the guys, and pushed them apart. “A wager?” he asked.
“What is this wager then?” He pressed, when Paul failed to elaborate.
“Err,” Paul offered.
Gwen stepped up to the group. “$100 says that I’ll beat Paul to a destination of his choosing, but I get to pick my ride.”
David looked at her thoughtfully; this woman was either very good, or crazy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“It’s Gwendolyn or Gwen, but never Wendy,” she corrected.
“I prefer Wendy,” David countered, “And besides, we are The Lost Boys. So it kind of fits, don’t you think? Anyway, $100 bet for the destination of our choosing, but if you want to pick your bike, then the wager is $200. Do we have an accord, Wendy?”
“It’s Gwen, and yes, we do.”
David nodded. “Okay, choose.”
Gwen walked past him and back to the bikes. She ignored Paul’s Kawasaki totally, briefly looked over Marko’s Honda, and then glanced between the two Triumphs. She ran her hands over David’s bike. “Nice custom exhaust, but I’d have gone for speed and comfort like Dwayne. I’ll take this one,” she replied as she straddled Dwayne’s bike.
Dwayne pouted and glared at David and Gwen. “Fine, but just you know that if you damage my bike, I will make you pay. Capiche?”
“I’ll treat it like my own,” she responded reverently, as she untied a black shirt from around her waist and slipped it on, then braided her long dark hair back from her face.
David climbed on his own bike, and before Marko could even move, Dwayne had stolen his ride.
“Hey!” Marko shrieked in protest.
He made a move towards Paul, but Paul growled. “Hell, no! I ain’t carrying your dead weight around if I want to beat her.”
“Marko, get on,” David muttered with a sigh. “You know where Hudson’s Bluff is, out overlooking the point, Wendy?”
“See the lighthouse?”
She glanced towards the pulsing light in the distance.
“It’s right there. Oh, and watch the drop,” he smirked.
Gwen nodded, “So, along the beach, through the woods, and along the coast, right?”
“Correct.” Dwayne handed over his bike’s keys without any further comment.
She turned the engine over, let out the throttle and with a brief backwards glance at Paul, she tore off down the boardwalk in the direction of the steps, tires squealing.
“Fuck!” Paul yelled as he took off after her.
“I hate you all,” Dwayne growled, as he pulled out after them both.
Marko laughed loudly, while David smirked again and joined the parade of bikes heading towards the bluff.
The beach was uneven and rutted, but the Triumph made good headway across the treacherous ground. Gwen let out a whoop of excitement and she flew over the sand, and headed towards the lighthouse. That $200 was hers; it was in the bag. There was no way that the Kawasaki could catch her, the Honda didn’t have much chance either, and the other Triumph was carrying two. Besides, what these idiots didn’t know was that she’d spent her youth tearing across London council estates on her older brother’s trail bike. This was like a walk in the park.
The beach gave way to woods, and the ride got more demanding as she wove through the densely packed trees; the light from the bike’s headlight did little to illuminate her surroundings, but she was aided by the nearly full moon. She could hear the other bikes behind her, along with the noise of the wind as it buffeted her around, shirt billowing out behind her, but no one was that close. She must have had about a quarter mile lead on Paul by now.
The woods thinned out to dirt, and she opened the throttle again, pushing the speed up and testing the bike to its limits. The blinking light loomed up in the distance, probably no more than a couple of miles away, and as the Speedo crept up towards seventy; Gwen reckoned that she was only just over a minute from winning this bet.
The bike ate up the ground, drawing Gwen ever closer to Hudson’s Bluff, and her $200. She put her head down to block out the flashing light of the seafarers’ beacon up ahead, and concentrated on the dirt and rocks directly in front of her. Fog had rolled in from the sea, lowering the visibility to nothing more than fifty feet, so she cut the speed for fear of riding straight off the cliff and onto the rocks and icy waves below. Engines rumbled in the distance, drawing ever closer, but Gwen slowed a little more, dropping down to around thirty miles an hour, when suddenly the cliff edge loomed up out of the blackness. She hit the brakes, and the Triumph skidded across the loose ground, back end swinging out wildly. Gwen hunched down over the bike, lowering the center of gravity, and when she felt the bike start to slide, put her foot down to control the motion.
She came to rest mere feet from the bluff’s edge, facing back the way she’d just come, and grinned like a fool; that was the most fun she’d had in ages. She’d barely had time to catch her breath when Paul zoomed out of the thickening mist and screeched to a stop inches away from her.
“Fuck girl, where the hell did you learn to ride like that?” he asked in awe.
Gwen laughed. “On a council estate in north east London. So come on, cough up; I reckon you owe me $200.”
“Shit, yeah. I think that you’ll have to see David about the money, I don’t have that sort of cash on me.”
“What that hell?” Gwen yelled as she reached out and poked Paul in the chest. “What do you mean that you don’t have the money, huh?”
“Here,” Dwayne appeared out of nowhere and handed her a bundle of notes.
She’d not even seen him stop his bike, let alone walk up to her, as the mist was so thick now. Gwen pocketed the cash. “Thanks, for that, and for letting me borrow your ride. She’s an amazing machine, and I’m sorry that I ruined your evening by making you ride a Honda.”
The other two guys finally joined the small group on the headland. David lit a cigarette, the tip flaring orange in the dense fog, while Marko ribbed Paul for losing out to a girl.
Gwen looked at the squabbling blonds. “Well, if you want to lose another $200, we can try this again tomorrow night once I’ve finished work, and I’ll ride your bike this time, Paul.”
Paul considered the idea for a few beats, before shaking his head. “Hell no, I’ll concede now. I have a nasty feeling that I’d be another $200 poorer.”
“And you still owe me for this time,” Dwayne growled.
“Well, this has been a fun end to our evening, Wendy,” David proffered “And now it is time for us to bid you a good night.”
“Excuse me?” Gwen asked in confusion.
David smirked and took a long drag on his smoke. “Goodnight, Wendy.” He stepped back into the fog and vanished from sight.
“Night, girl,” Marko said, as he too disappeared into the darkness.
Gwen shivered with cold; her adrenalin finally faded, and she suddenly realized that she was in the middle of nowhere with two strange men, and no way of getting back to her motel near the boardwalk.
“I guess you’ll be wanting these back, right?” she asked Dwayne as she held up his keys.
The dark haired guy nodded, so she handed them over and got off his bike.
Paul got off his Kawasaki and leered at Gwen. “I’d offer you a ride, but all you’ve done since I met you is trash my choice of bike, and then you had the gall to beat me out here; so it looks like you’re walking, doll. See you around.”
In desperation, Gwen looked to Dwayne, who was still standing next to her.
“Time for me to go. The boardwalk’s that way,” he said, pointing off to his right.
Gwen looked to where he was pointing, and then glanced back to him, but he had already gone. She was left standing by the cooling Triumph, alone and totally lost.
“Bastards!” she yelled out into the mist as she started walking into the night. The fog swirled around her and the sound of laughter followed her on the icy wind.