Authors: Melissa de la Cruz
ALSO BY MELISSA DE LA CRUZ
The Au Pairs
The Au Pairs: Skinny-dipping
The Au Pairs: Sun-kissed
Fresh Off the Boat
AND COMING IN SUMMER 2007 â¦
The Au Pairs: Crazy Hot
How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less
The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-Inch Heels and Faux-Pas
SIMON & SCHUSTER
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2007 by Melissa de la Cruz
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Book design by Steve Kennedy
Character illustrations by Sigmund Torre
The text for this book is set in Serifa.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
De la Cruz, Melissa, 1971-
Angels on Sunset Boulevard / Melissa de la Cruz.â1st ed.
Summary: When the people closest to them start to disappear, Taj and Nick hit the streets of Los Angeles looking for a way to reach the lost souls of their friends that have been “tapped” by The Angels Practice, a World Wide Web-based movement that connects young people and makes them feel good with no apparent consequences.
[1. SingersâFiction. 2. FameâFiction. 3. CultsâFiction. 4. DrugsâFiction. 5. WebsitesâFiction. 6. Missing personsâFiction. 7. Los Angeles (Calif)âFiction.]
For my sister, Christina Green, who always loved L.A. and for my husband, Mike Johnston, always
SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE IN-N-OUT AND A STEADY
parade of drunken rockers, skater kids, Chicano families, frat boys, Beverly Hills princesses, East L.A. gangbangers, Hollywood hippies, artists, and stoners walked through the swinging glass doors, a microcosm of Los Angeles itself.
Nick Huntington sat alone in the front booth, listlessly watching the local citizenry and unconsciously eavesdropping on two hyperactive film typesâboneheads, in his humble opinionâhoning a movie pitch at the next table, dreams of Hollywood the backbone of every conversation within a ten-mile radius of the studios.
He was holding a fry in midair when he spotted the boy. Nick froze, and the fry dangled on his mouth, the ketchup dripping from the tip and burning the edge of his tongue.
The boy was shaking visibly, his entire body vibrating from an uncontrollable compulsionâknees knocking against each other, teeth chattering, head twitching from side to side. His long hair was matted against his forehead and the back of his neck, and his jeans were torn and holey After midnight at the In-N-Out Burger on the corner of Orange Drive and Sunset Boulevard and no one paid much attention as he shuffled up to the front of the line, dirt-black fingers trembling as they dug into his pants pockets for grimy dollar bills and change.
“The number one,” he mumbled, so softly that the cashier had to repeat it. A flat chemical scent emanated from his pores as if he were sweating aluminum.
“Number one?” she asked again helpfully, breathing through her mouth so she wouldn't smell him but trying not to show itâthey got all kinds there.
The boy nodded. His hair was so dirty it looked brown, except for the roots, which were startlingly, shockingly silver, like a halo. He was so skinny his wrist bones protruded from his skin, poking out painfully His skin was sallow, a drained, sickly, yellow colorâjunkie yellowâbut otherwise it was clear, free of the acne scars and hollowed craters that typically accompanied a drug-induced complexion. He
scratched at his three-day-old stubble, then picked at a cuticle on his thumb, watching as the cashier punched in his order.
He accepted his food and turned to look for a seat.
His eyes met Nick's, and a chill went down Nick's spine. It was like looking into the eyes of a ghost. Nick became conscious that his jaw was hanging open and made a deliberate effort to close it. He never did eat that french fry. He'd lost his appetite.
“Aren't you Johnny Silver?” he finally asked.
Nick couldn't believe it. Johnny Silver was supposed to be onstage at the Hollywood Bowl at that very moment, in a comeback concert that was already being heralded as the most important music event of the yearâif not the decade, if not the century.
Yet there he was, standing right in front of him. Johnny Silver, his violet eyes boring into Nick's skull, that otherworldly masculine beautyâlike David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phaseâhaughty and feral. Dirty and delirious, but alive. The famous Johnny Silver, the boy who would rock the world, standing underneath the fluorescent lights of a fast-food restaurant, looking as if the universe had just run him over.
For the longest time Johnny simply stood there. His eyes glazed, then focused. Tears sprung to his
eyes, and they coursed silently down his cheeks, a river of white against the grime.
Nick stood up and approached him cautiously, as a lion tamer would approach his lion. “Johnny, man, what the hell happened to you?”
“I â¦ I don't know,” Johnny replied, and the shaking intensified. He looked around the fast-food restaurant as if he had no idea how he'd gotten there. “I don't remember anything, except that moment when I came out and strummed my guitar, and I looked out at the audience, at the lights â¦ so many peopleâthey'd all come to see meâroaring my name. I blinked, then in a flash everything was goneâthe club, the band, the stage, the hotels, Sunset Strip, palm trees, cars, everything disappeared. And I woke up, alone in the desert, as if none of this”âhe waved his hand to indicate the whole place and everything beyond itâ“had ever existed.”
SIX WEEKS EARLIER
“Here we are now going to the Westside, weapons in hand as we go for a ride.”
âMOBY (WITH GWEN STEFANI), “
FROM ABOVE THEY LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE A MASS OF
buzzing locusts, swelling in a faceless, amorphous, intolerable hunger, growing louder and larger every minute. Taj continued to peek out of the curtains of the topmost penthouse of the Chateau Marmont to get a better look. She bit the top of her thumb anxiously. This was totally out of control. They were chanting his name. Screaming it, even.
“Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!
“Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!
“Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!”
There must have been hundreds of themâmaybe even thousands. Taj wasn't sure. Some were holding up signs.
JOHNNY SILVER IS MY IDOL!!! WE LOVE YOU JOHNNY!!! WILL YOU MARRY ME JOHNNY?? JOHNNY SILVER ROCKS!!!!!
Waving bouquets of white lilies. (His favorite flower, according to his TAP profile.) Pointing their cell-phone cameras to the sky. Crying into their glitter press-on Johnny Silver T-shirts.
She noticed that traffic on Sunset Boulevard was backed up in all directions, and there were even policemen on horseback trying to manage the crowd. It was absolute mayhem, madness, total insanity. This was the Beatles landing in New York, this was Michael Jackson dangling Prince Michael III off the balcony in Berlin, this was Gwen Stefani in the middle of Tokyo.
Taj pulled the curtains firmly shut, and her tiny gesture sent a ripple through the crowd down belowâthe roar intensified. She raked a hand through her long, blunt-cut bob of shiny black hair. The severe cut could have been disastrous, but it only served to highlight the exquisite proportions of her beautiful face: large, slightly slanted green eyes, an adorable button nose, that sharp, Keira Knightley chin. She was model-slim and stunning in her striped French sailor's top layered underneath a shrunken antique denim jacket, tight cutoff leggings, and incongruous red patent Doc Martens. Taj didn't dress like anyone else in Los Angeles, where the female population tended toward midriff-baring sweats or
plunging jersey V-neck tops. Instead she always looked like she'd stepped out of a funky avant-garde European photo shoot. Edie Sedgwick for a new generation.
She stepped away from the window and took a deep breath. She was not prepared for this. She was not prepared for any of it.
For a moment Taj wondered if it was all a dream. The lavish penthouse suite, the screaming fans, the
cover shoot that was underway in the next room.