On a slow, shaky flight over downtown Los Angeles, he thought to himself, Hinkley, I think you're gonna be sick.

As the skyscrapers loomed larger, he did the best he could to keep his breakfast down. I twas hard to enjoy the sights from above while he was concentrating so hard, but that was okay by him. It would be a pretty big mess if he hurled up here. Truth be told, he wasn't sure what he was doing here anyway. Surely there were plenty of people in the world who would give a lot to be in his position, and he thought, Point em out, sign em up, get me outta here. For most of the bouncy flight, he had had a lot of time to think, mostly about the way his life had turned out so far. If there was one thing that he loved to do, it was wallow in self-pity. He was even aware that he was doing it; a former female friend (no, not a girlfriend, those were very rare) finally stopped talking to him because she just couldn't take all the self-depreciating humor. He'd try to stop, but then again it was something that just seemed to feed itself: Look how pitiful I am, wallowing in my self-pity. Just another thing to complain about.

He supposed if he had ever seen a shrink, as his mother had once suggested, it would be real easy to blame it all on her. His mother, that is, not the female friend. Overbearing, manipulative single mother, trying to make it in the "Industry." And that Industry was always changing: modeling, acting, theatre; lately voiceover work. She wasn't as young as she used to look, especially by Hollywood standards. They had moved south of L.A. some time ago, down to Orange County, back when it was cheaper to live there than in the Los Angeles suburbs. Then it just became easier for his mother to find commercial work at local TV and radio stations. A few plays here and there to keep up her acting skills, and soon her agent in Burbank didn't even bother calling any more. She forgot all about her dreams of starring in Hollywood blockbusters.

So what the hell am I doing circling over Hollywood, he thought.

It was her latest boyfriend's fault. These guys were always trying to involve him in the latest scam to get closer to his mother. And, oh, there had been a lot of them. She had never remarried, but she still more than made up for her son's lack of action with plenty of her own, sometimes stringing two or three guys along at the same time, often trying without success to further her career. Not sleeping her way to the top, necessarily; at least her son hoped not. Her only saving grace in her son's eyes is that she tried to shelter him for these guys, though it was probably to keep from scaring guys off with the single-motherhood thing. It was usually the guys who tried to buddy up with him, thinking that was their ticket in, especially as the age group of these guys got older and older.

Take this guy, for instance. Murphy was literally making him sick.

"Kevin?"

"Yeah, Murphy?" Kevin asked over the headset.

"You're looking kinda green there, bud. You need a barfbag? They're right in the door next to you."

Kevin was already shaking his head. "No, I'm fine, thanks," he said, just as the little two-seat helicopter gave another small lurch. Once Murphy's attention went back to his controls, though, Kevin looked over to make sure he knew exactly where the barfbags were. He didn't reach for one, but concentrated on surpressing his gurge.

Once his stomach calmed down a bit, Kevin continued to ignore the skyline below him and jumped right back in the pity-pool. I wouldn't hafta worry about Mom's boyfriends if I could hold down a fuckin' job long enough to get my own place! He'd tried moving out a couple of times, but once he lost whatever job he had at that moment, it was always back to the nest. She always welcomed him, probably because she felt bad about all the moving around when he was younger, and about all the out-of-town assignments which meant leaving him with sitters, neighbors, her ex-husband - his father...

Oh, yeah, Ralph Hinkley. One thing was for certain: he'd rather live with his mother for the rest of his life than go move in with his deadbeat dad.

Murphy's voice startled him just before his anger could really build over the man Kevin thought was really responsible for his screwed-up life. "Wha..." he started to ask, then realized Murphy wasn't talking to him. He was confirming his call letters into his headset, probably on a channel that Kevin's passenger-side headset couldn't pick up.

Just as Kevin started to mull over a new topic to distract himself from thoughts of his father, he noticed Murphy's sidelong glance at him, and then the helicopter began a sharp change in direction.

"Copy that, Tower, we are returning to Long Beach. Kay-you-eye-four-four-five out." Kevin heard a faint click in his ears, and then Murphy came through just a little stronger. "Sorry about that there, Kevin, but we gotta cut this tour short."

"Something wrong?" Kevin's stomach made a similar course change when he thought about a problem with the helicopter.

The pilot noticed his passenger tightening up, and his furitive glance around the cockpit. "No, nothing wrong up here. Your mom called my office, and... Well, let's wait til we get back on the ground so she can tell you."

Kevin was clearly puzzled. "What's the matter? Come on, Murphy, I'm not a kid. What's happening?"

Murphy concentrated on his bearings while he debated how to break the news to Kevin. "Looks like there was an accident of some kind. Somebody died." He paused. "A friend of your family."

Now Kevin was even more puzzled. His mom didn't have any friends, at least not female ones, and the male friends didn't stick around too long. Murphy obvoiusly wasn't dead. That left his father's side...

The image of a certain person popped into Kevin's head then. It was a person Kevin tried subconsciously not to think about. Ever. The anger that he felt for his father paled in comparison to...

Another thought popped into his head almost immediately, and just as quickly Kevin pushed it away. It was wrong, he knew, but he couldn't surpress the thought.

Please God, let it be him.