ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Angie and Rudy pick the wrong house

"Money Walks," a serial novel by 16 Los Angeles writers who will be appearing at this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, runs Monday through Saturday until April 24. The festival takes place on April 25 and 26 at UCLA.

Angie stared at Bunny, who clutched her oxygen tank as if it were a magical talisman, and all she could see was her mother, who had approached life as if with her hands held out in front of her like a blind person in an unfamiliar room. Half the reason Angie had done the drugs she'd done, dated the losers she'd dated, was to court the kinds of danger her mother couldn't even imagine.

But the last time she'd gone back to Downey, and they'd sat over cups of Ovaltine in that pocket-sized kitchen, she found herself marveling at her mother's skin, at the startling landscape of wrinkles. For the first time, Angie had witnessed a kind of beauty there, a beauty she now saw in the terrified face of Bunny, and Angie's heart broke open a little. When Rudy appeared at the driver's side window, his big face coming into the frame like a close-up monster in a movie, she felt protective.

"You have to let us into your house," she said quietly.

Bunny reached between the seats and grabbed her cellphone. "I've got the police on speed dial," she said.

Angie thought of that cop staring up at the sky like a turkey about to drown in the rain. "I think the police are tied up."

Rudy pulled on the locked car door. Angie flashed him an angry look. At first she'd found his animalism appealing, but now he just seemed like a schoolyard bully. He banged on the window with the flat of his hand, and the Bentley shook.

"Let's look at our options here, honey," Angie said.

It wasn't the kind of house Rudy would have chosen if he'd been able to case the place and not the person. It had too much glass for his taste, both personally and professionally.

It was one of those modern boxes people snapped up, painting one wall the color of peas, throwing down a gray rug and turning it around for millions. The place still smacked of the era in which it had been built -- the couch cushions tweedy and worn, matching curtains hanging on either side of the windows like bad hair. It smelled like decades of food were trapped in the rust-colored shag carpet.

Rudy could tell Angie was softening on the old lady -- something about the way she stuck so close. So he made them stay in the front hall while he moved through the house like a seasoned Realtor, quickly taking in each room's assets.

A decent flat-screen TV in the den, pictures of a Vegas fan dancer posing with a series of cheap suits lining the hallway. Hard to tell about the art in the bedroom, which was the kind Angie liked. She'd make him go to the museum and stare at a white canvas struck through with a single blue line. All he could think was that he was in the wrong racket.

Rudy made a beeline for the bureau, slid open the top drawer and reached past the silky things. Bingo. People were so obvious. He pulled out a velvet necklace case and opened it. The pearls were gum-ball big, but when he bit down on one, he knew it was a fake.

He headed toward the closet. That was where most people kept their home safes. But when he opened the sliding door, he was surprised to discover a small woman in a maid's uniform. She was holding a mop in one hand and a gun in the other.

Silver's novel "The God of War" is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. She will be on the "Fiction: New West" panel at 1:30 p.m. April 26 in Young Hall CS 50 at UCLA at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

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