Sunday, October 15, 2017

HER DARK DAYS part 3

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



“Mistakes once made … have the capacity to spread like fire in a high wind.”
Part 3
By R. Peterson

            The woman who couldn’t remember who she was knew something was wrong as the long black limousine carried her through the streets of Manhattan. The name “Johnny” awakened in her a memory of pain and regret but she knew it wasn’t because she thought her infant son had perished in a swimming pool. The name was connected to the memory of the man throwing clam shells on the beach, and somehow she knew that, as surely as she knew that “Jane” wasn’t her real name.  She glanced over at the well-dressed man sitting in the backseat with her and knew deep down he was not her husband. Why was he lying to her and why had he shown her photographs that obviously had to be fake? The name he had mentioned had caused her to rush blindly into something without really looking.  What have I done? The mistakes I’ve made seem to be spreading like wildfire.
            “I want to go back to the bakery,” she told him.
            “What! After searching for you for a full week and finally finding you? No way I’m letting you go. Don’t you want to see your son … Johnny?”
            “I have no son named Johnny,” J.J. told him. “A woman would remember if she had a son … and you’re not my husband. I would remember something like that too.”
Edward Coffee (Fast Eddie Black) started to pull out the photos he kept in his wallet J.J. told him to put them away. “Stop the car and let me out,” she demanded.
            “You’re not yourself … you don’t know what you’re doing!”
            “You’re right on both counts … but I’m not going anywhere with you!” J.J. opened the door on her side and Eddie grabbed her just before she flung herself out. The long black limo careened sideways and came to a stop alongside a taxi on Park Avenue. “What the hell are you looking at?” Eddie yelled at the bearded driver who was staring at him from beneath a large green Sikh turban.
            “Help me!” J.J. screamed. The man turned away, shaking his head. Infidel women in America have no respect or obedience to their men.
            “You need to put her out,” Eddie told the limousine’s driver and moments later she leaned over the front seat with a hypodermic needle in her hand. Her left arm was in a cast obviously it had been broken.
            “I should never have gotten mixed up with you,” Benji told Eddie as he held a screaming J.J. down and Benji reluctantly prepared to give her an injection. “You have over a hundred beautiful girls working for you that are forced to do anything you ask … and you’re never satisfied.”
            “Make sure you give her enough to knock her out but I want her alert when I return from business downtown.”
J.J.’s head swam as the drug began to take effect. Minutes later the limo came to a stop in front of a fifty-story apartment building with iron railed balconies on each level. “We’re not going up there are we?” J.J. pleaded. She was dizzy and felt drunk as she craned her neck to look upward. “I have acrophobia!”
            “Nonsense,” Eddie told her as he and Benji dragged her past the doorman, who discreetly looked away, and to the elevators. “What’s to fear? You’re home now, Baby!”

-------2-------

            She woke up in a round Abdolhay Parnia bed covered in black chinchilla.  It was night and only city-light came in from the floor to ceiling windows. Thank God she was alone and still dressed! A large framed photograph on a Chateau Beauvais bedroom chest showed her and Edward on what looked like the deck of a very expensive yacht. A close-up inspection of her face looked vaguely familiar, but she still didn’t recognize the black man with his arm measuring her waist … who claimed to be her husband.
Obviously this apartment occupied an entire floor of the building. J.J. waded through white shag carpet that tickled her ankles as she wandered through a dozen rooms looking for the front door. It was locked from the outside and beating her fists and yelling did no good. After crying for what seemed like hours she decided to explore the apartment.  Paintings by Andrew Dasburg and Arthur Dove covered the walls and they didn’t look like reproductions. Bright colors surrounded by soft tones. More photos this time her Edward and baby Johnny in what looked like a church! An eighty-six inch flat-screen TV with a dozen surround sound speakers covered almost an entire wall but J.J. couldn’t get any response from the remote controls. Wedding pictures? She didn’t recognize any of her attendants. If Edward were really her husband why did he have to keep her prisoner? Their baby was cute …but she didn’t recognize him … what kind of mother was she?
She felt like she was suffocating, luckily the access to the balcony was unlocked. J.J. almost fainted when she walked to the edge of the iron railing. It was forty-seven floors to the street below and the heavy night-traffic looked like specks of glitter floating both directions in a dark rain gutter. She took a deep breath, stepped back quickly and closed both glass doors. Her legs were shaking.
J.J. was sitting on the bed with her head in both hands when she heard the front door unlock.  How could she have been so stupid? The girl driver of the limo came in with a bundle wrapped in her arms. “Johnny fell asleep waiting for you,” Benji said. “I thought you would like to see your son!”
“He’s cute but he’s not mine,” J.J. told her. “I don’t know what’s going on here but I’m leaving!”
“I can’t let you do that,” Benji said as she placed the sleeping toddler on the bed. A gun was suddenly in her hand. “Eddie will kill me if I mess this up!”
“What’s with you people?” J.J. screamed. “If I’d ever been married and had a child that I would remember!”
“You still don’t know do you?” Benji said still pointing the gun. “Of course! Those Italian immigrants who found you don’t believe in radio or television! You haven’t seen the news have you?”
J.J. shook her head.
Benji reached behind the giant TV screen where a power-strip had been unplugged. Moments later she was scanning through channels until she found a news station. The volume was up very high. She didn’t try to adjust it. “I’m sorry,” she yelled. “I was supposed to make sure you couldn’t watch any of this but I just can’t leave you here with no memories. Do me a favor, if Eddie returns … tell him you found the power cord and plugged it in yourself.”

-------3-------
J.J. heard the front door close and lock and Benji was gone with the toddler. A commercial for 2018 Dodge trucks was just finishing and the nightly news came on.
            Authorities in New York City are now in the second week of the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Academy Award winning actress Robyn Janette. A police spokesman earlier confirmed that Warner Brothers action star Brent Andrews had been taken into custody as a person of interest in connection with her disappearance. A film clip showed the doorman being interviewed in front of J.J.’s apartment building. “Miss Janette ran out of the building upset and crying,” he said. “A few minutes later Brent Andrews came out of the building with blood on his face and ran in the same direction. I should have never let that bastard into the apartment but he had a recording of him and her making a date. He said it was going to be a surprise.  J.J. if you’re still alive … I am so sorry!”
J.J. was so shocked she almost fell to the floor. The memories came back to her in a rush … who she was … a superstar … and everything about her glistening career … and also what she had done. “Johnny! I’m so sorry,” she whispered as she walked across the room. “I live on a high hill and once you start a stupid mistake rolling down it just keeps picking up more and more stupid like a growing snowball and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it.”
She was deathly calm as she opened the doors and stepped outside. “I now know who I am … and why I didn’t want to live … not without real love.” She tried to laugh but knew it would take hours of rehearsing. “I would have been better off not knowing. Johnny, my dear Johnny! I only hope I didn’t hurt you.”
A strong breeze was blowing on the balcony and J.J. felt like she might be swept over the edge. She didn’t care. She could still hear the audio from the TV blaring inside, this time it was Brent Andrews giving an interview as he came outside the police building with his lawyers. She turned to look and found that she couldn’t hate him … not like she hated herself.
            “… suspect Andrews was reportedly released today on one million dollars bond …”
“Sure I had sex with her,” Andrews blurted to over sixty-million viewers.  J.J. cried real tears as she climbed onto the railing.  “But it was consensual. After all, I’m on the cover of Time Magazine as the world’s sexiest man. I mean what actress wouldn’t jump at the chance to say they slept with me?”
            “Did you kill her?”
            “Of course not!”
            “Then why was there blood on your face?”
Andrew’s lawyers cut the reporters off with a NO COMMENT as they whisked their client into a waiting limo.
J.J. tried to stand upright on the railing but her fingers were frozen tight and she couldn’t let go. It was consensual sex … almost. It was her fault. She was a stupid bitch. Nausea swept over her like a first time drunk. Suicide is never as easy as it looks in the movies. If I just drop over the edge my falling weight will pull my hands loose. I had everything. All my princess stories that I dreamed about as a young girl growing up in Cloverdale came true … and then I burned the damn fairy tale book and danced on the ashes. I didn’t want to remember who I was and what I’d done. I still don’t. How could any person be that stupid?
She remembered the look in Johnny’s eyes just before he turned and walked out of her bedroom almost ten days before and the pain in her heart came back … Astonishment? Sadness? Betrayal? The sound of the keys as he dropped them on the table. She really had hurt him … even more than herself!
There was a banging sound on the front door and Zanobi Esposito’s voice yelling about the bastard Edward Coffee and how his Mafioso friends had beat the street thug into talking. They had found her and were only waiting for someone to unlock the door.

-------4-------

J.J. released her fingers and stood up. It was easier this time. She felt like she was on the deck of a sailing boat during rough seas at night … looking for her home lights in the dark. The busy street almost five-hundred feet down seemed to tilt from side to side. There were police lights far below flashing in front of the building.
A voice like a warm blanket on a freezing cold night suddenly came from the television. An international reporter was interviewing Johnny Lang from a movie location in Spain. J.J. felt her heart flutter the way it had whenever he walked into a room. There was no other man in the world like him. She turned slowly toward his voice hoping to catch a glimpse of his dreamy image one last time. As always, the sight of him took her breath away. She stretched her arms to keep her balance.
            “Bad times are a part of life and Robyn Janette is a light that will burn forever,” Johnny said softly. “Whatever happens to her she has the guts, ability and determination to soar high above it.”
J.J. suddenly felt like a young girl with hope and dreams aplenty on the long road before her. Johnny Lang was the only man in the world who could ever make her feel this way. She had to do right by him. He has to know that you will love him forever … even more than life itself.
            “There have been reports that you and her have broken up. Superstar Brent Andrews has admitted sleeping with her. If she is found alive … is there any chance that you two will get back together?”
A sudden gust of wind prevented J.J. from hearing Johnny’s last words clearly. More banging on the door. What did he say? Why did that damn reporter have to ask him that? It was so close! Did I hear him right … does it really matter?
The rushing air sounded like the audience applauding at her first High School performance … as Jean Janette Robinson slowly turned, closed her eyes and stepped off the railing.


THE END.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

HER DARK DAYS part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


Part 2
By R. Peterson

J.J. often didn’t know who she was when she first woke up; it usually took a minute. Acting for eighteen hours a day under bright studio lights will affect a person that way. This time however the mind-storm went unnoticed. She was sprawled halfway in the street next to Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan and knew only that she hated who she was. The Academy award winning actress and Grammy nominee’s Fifth Avenue apartment was ten blocks north but she didn’t know that. Her mind had gone astray in a nightmarish urban jungle of gloom, remorse and self-destruction.
The elderly man wearing a ragged fedora and a stained overcoat who stopped while others walked past thought she looked familiar but he wasn’t sure. He didn’t go to the theatre or movies and had only a tiny AM radio in his apartment tuned to an Italian language station. Possibly the granddaughter of a friend? “È una bella botta in testa,” he said as he helped her to stand and carefully touched her bleeding head. “Forse dovrei trovare un telefono … so you can see a doctor?” She was a little surprised that she understood him.
“I don’t want un'ambulanza o un medico,” J.J. replied in Italian wiping filthy hair out of her eyes. “I want to die.”
“We all will go when the master calls,” the man said sadly. “Why enter a race? My name is Zanobi Esposito. Perhaps I can help you?”
“Unless you have a razorblade, a gun, or a full bottle of Vicodin in your coat pocket I don’t see how,” J.J. told him while raking cigarette butts and tiny bits of dog feces out of her hair with her fingers.
“Foolish talk from such a … pretty … young lady. Tell me your name and I won’t mention what you said to your poor mother!”
“My poor mother and father are both dead … and … I don’t know who I am.” J.J. found herself stunned by the sudden knowledge, but she didn’t think being an orphan was what her trouble was. She had lost someone very dear to her … but just couldn’t remember who. A fleeting image of a breathtakingly handsome man throwing a clam-shell down a sandy beach and laughing together with him at fighting seagulls made her insides blister but she didn’t know why. Was he dead too? What happened? The woman with no name couldn’t think about that right now … it was just too painful.
“Frost on a few vines and you want to burn your fields!” Zanobi took off his hat and brushed arthritic fingers through his greying hair before he sighed. “The people selling tickets for the ship lied when they told us America was a land of goat-herds and honey.”
“Oh, the dreams are here alright,” J.J. told him. “But if you don’t have enough cash in your pockets those goats transform into demon-herds and you’re apt to get stung.”
Zanobi looked at the torn jeans and the sneakers she was wearing with the laces untied. The glittery but dirty yellow t-shirt with a screen print of I LOVE NY on the front looked expensive but then everything in Manhattan did. He took her hand as they crossed 6th. Avenue and he led her west into Greenwich Village. “I’m sure someone must know where you belong.”

-------2-------

Zanobi Esposito led the bewildered young woman down several streets in the village and no one knew her although several said she looks familiar. “She looks like the girl who played Jane in Tarzan,” a woman selling Hobo sandwiches suggested.
 “Nah,” a man putting spicy mustard on a roll corrected her. “Robyn Janette has a robust figure. This poor woman looks like she works in a broom closet.”
“Robust? Look at the face - not her boobs … you guys are disgusting!”
“If they didn’t want us to look they wouldn’t film so many close-ups of a young girl running half-naked through the jungle!”
“Anyone know who this young lady is? She seems to have lost her memory!” Zanobi shouted to several people across the street.
Zanobi and J.J. crossed the street and after stopping at a café to get a sandwich and using the telephone the Italian immigrant decided to try a different section of the village. “Don’t worry,” he told her, “you belong somewhere … everybody does! If we can’t find your life we’ll just have to make you a new one … and find you a job and get you a place to stay.”
“I don’t want a job … and I don’t want to live.” J.J. began to cry.

-------3-------

A smiling black brother wearing a six thousand dollar Brioni suit and eight-hundred dollar shoes watched and listened from a café service entrance next to the What a Ride! taxi parking area. Eddie had just finished slamming a seventeen-year old runaway’s head into a wall for holding back fifty from her last three-hundred dollar fare. He’d started by twisting her arm just a little. Girls from Kansas are always so slow to learn. Now a dishwasher would have to be paid to clean the blood from the brick. Eddie forgot about his troublesome intern when he recognized the superstar and heard the word amnesia mentioned. He slipped the brass knuckles back into his jacket. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Of course Eddie didn’t come forward or say anything; that wouldn’t be good business.
Edward Coffee (Fast Eddie Black) was always on the lookout for opportunities. Most of his legitimate money came from his café and from securing models for the hundreds of form artists in Greenwich Village just one canvas away from success. The illegal uses he found for his unemployed girls (and sometimes boys) made a thousand times that amount. The taxi service was by appointment only and on a Saturday night every hack was continually in service. If the woman wasn’t Robyn Janette she was her identical twin … even without makeup and with sidewalk smeared on her face.
Three of Robyn’s golden-framed movie posters graced Eddie’s bedroom walls including her Oscar winning movie Escape the Night and he had over two hundred publicity photos downloaded to his smart phone. A few of his favorites had been photo-shopped by desperate computer artists into full-frontal nudes. Robyn had a tiny mole in the exact same place as this woman on her lower left cheek and a few others in less viewed places. This was no lookalike. Eddie thumbed through some of his collected images now. To say this sexy entertainer was an obsession was an understatement.
Eddie used his iPhone to call several associates. People had to be warned. No one in the direction the pair walked would give them any help at all … or else! Then he texted an employee who drove one of his fleet of custom equipped taxis (fold-down back seats) and with special dark tinted windows – currently at a local carwash being cleaned - apt clean/class - stock expensive size 3 bitch / white-blow no cuts ASAP This would get things rolling. He’d give Benji Jets more detailed instructions later. The young blonde from Seattle had been moved from back seat entertainment to tour-driver because of a broken arm. If the bitch messed up this time, or if he just decided to have some fun, she was in the river … she wouldn’t be the first. Now all Eddie had to do was come up with a business plan.
As J.J. and Zanobi walked away, Fast Eddie followed … sniffing, wiping his nose, cool as rain. A smiling African American just off the boat driving a BMW with fresh paint and a new serial number. Praise the Lord and show no frown! There do be a God in New York Town! And Eddie wasn’t talking about his friend Slicer the president of East Harlem Crips. He wasn’t going to lose sight of this particular sweet-thing … No way! This was a dream-ride sent to him from heaven … waiting just down the street to be jimmied, hot-wired and driven all over the city.

-------4-------

J.J. may not have known who she was but she still was perceptive to her surroundings. As she and Zanobi grew near his Bleeker street apartment building, people became friendlier although none seemed to speak English. Many of the residents seemed to know him; some even called him “Pappa” Esposito. “The people in your neighborhood like you,” J.J. said.
“What’s not to like,” Zanobi told her. “You treat people with respect and they do right by you.”
It wasn’t just that the people liked him, J.J. detected an underlying sense of esteem from his neighbors that made her look at the old man wearing scuffed shoes a ragged fedora and a stained overcoat in a new way. “This is the building where I live. Don’t worry, mamma knows you’re coming.”
J.J. was surprised at the elegance of the apartment building. She expected dark hallways in a shabby tenement overflowing with children and trash cans. Where Zanobi lived was modern and elegant. Mrs. Esposito met them at the elevator. “Look at that nasty bump on your head! And he has you walking around half the city!” She ushered J.J. mother hen like into a large, white-carpeted apartment tastefully furnished in modern glass and chrome.
J.J. noticed the bright artwork hanging on the walls … it looked original and expensive. Mrs. Esposito noticed her amazement. “Mio marito lavora molto duramente! Do we have to live like hobos?”
The well-dressed gentleman opening what looked like a medical bag in the kitchen took J.J. by surprise. “Have a seat,” he told her. “While I have a look at your pretty head.” J.J. stared at Zanobi accusingly.
            “What? I knew you would refuse be taken to a hospital … so I had someone come here!”
            “I didn’t know doctors made house calls anymore!” J.J. winced as the doctor cleaned the bump on her head with an alcohol soaked tissue.
            “He’s not just any doctor,” Mrs. Esposito corrected her. “Benny is finest Neurosurgeon in all of Manhattan.”
            “Mr. Esposito and I go back a long way,” the doctor who introduced himself as Benito Russo told J.J. as he tracked the movement of her pupils with a small light, “All the way from Sicily! Pappa has done many kind things for my family over the years … it’s a small thing for me to come here and look after one of his friends.”
            “I’m afraid I don’t know if I have any money!” J.J. began to get worried.
Dr. Russo allowed his voice grow gruff with mock sternness. “A smile is my fee for house-calls … and I demand to be paid at once!”
J.J. managed a small grin and Zanobi applauded. “Now! That’s more like it!”
            “I don’t detect any apparent temporal lobe damage that would cause your memory loss,” Dr. Russo told her gently. “It’s my opinion that you probably don’t remember who you are … because you don’t want to.”
            “Why would I do that?” J.J. had a feeling that he was correct.
            “Sometimes people have things done to them or do things to others that are so horrible that they want to forget … so they do.”
The misty image of a man throwing a clam shell down a sandy beach flashed through J.J.’s mind and then was quickly gone. “I remember something … but it was a happy memory!”
            “It’s like after someone you know very well dies,” Dr. Russo told her. “We only remember the best things about them.”
Sadly that seemed to make sense to the woman who didn’t know who she was. Whatever her life had been before - it was now gone forever … she had overwhelming feelings of guilt and regret. Had she hurt someone? Had she done something illegal? Were the police looking for her? It didn’t seem likely but it was still probably best to bury the past. “I do want to live,” she told Zanobi. “Thank you for helping me … and perhaps I can find a job and hope my memory returns!”

-------5-------


Fast Eddie Black had spent a week learning everything he could about Robyn Janette from her rise to Hollywood stardom to her current romance with newcomer Johnny Lang.  Word on the street was they had had some kind of blowout. Now he looked up and down the hallway as two of his associates, Bill (Beef Boy) Nelson and Lester Holmes kicked a door open on the sixth floor of a shabby nine-story tenant building. They didn’t bother knocking.
A sickly pale Steven Bates, and a swarm of circling flies, jumped from a torn and stained sofa and made a dash together for the bathroom – the only room in the filthy apartment with a locking door. Lester grabbed him by the neck and body-slammed him onto a rug covered with cigarette butts, wood splinters, beer-soaked upholstery-padding and stale popcorn.
The Walking Dead was playing on a battered black and white TV and Beef Boy punched his huge fist through the bulky picture tube without wincing. “Relatives of yours?”
“I’ll pay you the money in the morning! I promise!” Steven squirmed as Lester pinned his head to the floor garbage with his foot.
“Damn! Don’t you ever clean this stink-hole up?” Eddie covered his nose with a silk handkerchief.
“I will tomorrow,” Steven bawled, “right after I get you your money!”
“You still have that photo equipment … or did it all go shooting up your arm?”
Steven pointed to a digital camera covered with a dirty dishtowel on a tripod and a color printer next to a battered Apple computer. “Yes I still have them,” Steven closed his eyes. “The hock-shop will only give me a hundred bucks for everything … and it’s my only way to make any money.”
            “You still have those pictures you took of Robyn Janette at the airport and in the park? The ones nobody would buy because they looked too domestic?”
            “Yeah sure!” Steven said feeling better. “I must have several hundred. I followed her for two weeks the last time she came to town. You want me to make more Photoshop nudies for you?”
Eddie handed Steven a stack of photos of himself. “I want you to put me in the pictures and make them look real … no dirty stuff … washing the family car, dining together on a cruise ship that sort of thing. Oh, and a baby. I want us to have a baby together. I want it to look like me and Robyn Janette are the happiest married couple you’ve ever seen … you got that?”
            “I can make you a whole photo album … wedding pictures with all the attendants and the honeymoon … you want a cruise to the Caribbean? I can do that!” Steven felt born again.
            “You have a week,” Eddie told him. “You do a good job and maybe I’ll forget about the money you owe … Hell! I might even throw in a taxi ride!”
Beef shook his head. “Not until after I’m finished,” he said.
            “You won’t be sorry,” Steven promised. “Her own mother will think you two are married!”

-------6-------

            It had been a week since Zanobi took J.J. home and he had begun to think of her as his own daughter. Mrs. Esposito had two of her younger friends give the girl, who couldn’t remember who she was, a complete makeover cutting the gum out of her hair making it short and putting in blonde highlights. “As long as you don’t know who you are … you might as well look pretty!”
J.J. even had a new job working in a local bakery. Zanobi had many friends ready to do anything for him and slowly the pain of J.J.’s past, whatever that was, was beginning to slip away.
One morning J.J. who everyone now called Jane, somehow the name seemed familiar, was just carrying a large pan filled with Danish muffins to the rack to cool when a well-dressed black man came in the shop. “Where on Earth have you been?” he demanded as his eyes filled with tears.
            “Right here,” J.J. was stunned. “You know me?”
            “Of course I do … you’re my wife,” Eddie told her.
            “I don’t remember you,” J.J. said dropping the still warm pan on the counter.
            “We’ve been married for two years … we have a son,” Eddie looked frustrated as he tried to convince her. Then he opened his wallet and showed her the pictures. “You disappeared after Johnny’s accident and we’ve looked everywhere for you!”
The name Johnny sent cold shivers down J.J.’s spine. She knew the name was dear to her and somehow connected to her guilt and memory troubles.
            “You thought our son had drowned in the family swimming pool while you were supposed to be watching him … but by some miracle the doctors brought him back!”
            “Johnny’s alive?” J.J. was already taking off her apron. All she knew was that she had to find him.
            “He’s home from the hospital and off from life support … he’s been asking for his mamma.”
            “I’ve got to see Johnny,” Her head was swimming. She didn’t remember much but she remembered the name Johnny. J.J. burst into tears as Eddie followed her outside to the waiting limo.
            “Don’t worry,” Eddie said under his breath as he flipped the window sign on the shop to CLOSED and then pushed her into the back seat. J.J.  was bawling tears of joy. “When I get tired of you, you’re going to see lots of Johnny’s.”
And the long black car sped away …


TO BE CONTINUED …

Sunday, October 1, 2017

HER DARK DAYS

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



“The higher you are … the longer your fall.”

By R. Peterson

Jean Janette Robinson woke up leisurely … smiling. She felt good, actually better than good … great! Although, it took a moment to remember who she was; an eighteen-hour-a-day acting job will do that to a person. Robyn Janette - that’s who she was, Academy Award winning actress and hopefully soon to be a Superstar Grammy Award winner. Her country/pop album Flame Games was number seven on the Billboard charts and climbing daily. Her agent was already writing her acceptance speech. Last night was the best night’s sleep she’d had since … well the night before. There is something absolutely wonderful about falling into bed without drugs and sleeping like a rock; in Hollywood three nights in a row is worth more than an Astor diamond necklace with matching earrings.
Suddenly J.J. realized nobody was lying next to her. He hadn’t left … had he? Oh God! He better still be here! A sudden panic with icy chills washed over her like the cold waterfall shower scene when she played Jane Porter in the jungle epic Tarzan. It couldn’t have been just a dream … not even Tinsel-town writers sleeping on pillows stuffed with cocaine have hallucinations that fantastic. Besides, she could still feel swirling ribbons of goose-flesh running down her arms and legs from where he’d kissed her neck the night before. Things like that aren’t allowed in PG rated dreams. His pillow and the faint impression where he’d slept were both still warm. She brushed her fingers across the silk sheets and her hand tingled with lingering sensations of pleasure.
J.J. slipped into a short, black Azalea Lace robe and almost ran down the stairs. She could smell coffee and hear Seitan sizzling even before she reached the kitchen. She was suddenly hungry - famished and it felt wonderful.


-------2-------

 Johnny Lang turned and smiled as she burst into the room. “Good morning! It’s almost 5:30,” he said pointing to the pink Kit-Cat clock with a swinging tail and eyes that rolled from side to side that he had bought her from a second-hand store. It was now her most endearing possession. “I thought you were going to sleep through church!”
“I have to repent before they let me in.”
Johnny dropped the fork he was holding into the pan as she swept into his arms. “Who the Hell are you, Johnny Lang?” J.J. closed her eyes and allowed the euphoria to engulf her completely.
“Just a guy about to incinerate some soybean bacon. He reached an arm around her picked up the fork, flipped over four slices and then kissed her.
“Can I help?”
“You can pour the orange juice … but try not to burn it this time!”
“Nobody burns orange juice!” She slapped his butt and grinned as she walked to the refrigerator. “What are our plans for the day?”
“I have to be in New York tonight, my flight from L.A. leaves at 2:15. The private jet to Spain leaves LaGuardia tomorrow at 6:20 and I have to be on set in Andalusia by seven Tuesday morning. That means we have about six hours to fool around.”
“No, that means we have twenty four hours to fool around,” J.J. grinned. “I have an apartment in New York and I’m going with you. If you think I’m going to let you spend a night in the Big Apple alone you’re crazy!”
“I thought you were filming tomorrow?”
“Jack Thomas will just have to swallow a few more Xanax,” J.J. smirked as she poured the juice. Both lights on the landline phone on one end of the kitchen counter suddenly flashed like a police car. “Damn it’s him!” she cursed looking at the caller ID. “Do all Hollywood agents have your house bugged?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Johnny said. “I usually sleep in a different Motel Six every night.”
J.J. picked up the phone. “Whatever the Hell it is, it can wait another day or two,” she yelled and slammed down the phone without waiting for a reply.
Johnny poked a slice of vegetarian bacon into her mouth. He had a magic touch. “Mmmm, that is so good!”
            “After we shower, I thought we might take a walk on the beach,” Johnny said. “I always hear my mother’s voice in the waves.”
J.J. grinned. “And what does your mother say?”
            “She tells me to watch out for exotically beautiful, dangerous, breathtaking girls named Jane with a whole lot of animal magnetism.”
            “And why is that?” J.J. led him back up the stairs. He evidently had seen a screening of her last movie.
            “You get too close to the edge of the jungle pit-trap … and you might tumble into love,” Johnny told her.
I hope so, J.J. smiled. I don’t want to be the only one down here.

-------3-------

            The walk on a private beach in Malibu was a dream. Waves rolled onto the sand and tickled their bare toes as they ran and frolicked like children. ‘I never imagined life could be this exuberant - this much fun!” J.J. gasped.
Johnny watched for tiny holes to appear in the sand when the waves receded and dug the clams out with a stick.
            “I’m happy too,” Johnny said. “I thought I’d lost you on Oscar night and I didn’t want to live … if what you call this is living.”
J.J. had not been surprised when the bullet holes in Johnny had healed so suddenly. There was something very supernatural about him … although in a good way. “None of that matters,” J.J. whispered. “All I know is that when I’m with you I feel great … better than great. I feel like I’m in love with living and with you! Please don’t ever leave me!”
“Hanging out with me could be dangerous,” Johnny told her. “The world is always in balance and there is always bad to counter the good. That blissful euphoria you feel inside is just one side of an ancient … coin. You must remember that darkness and sorrow are just a flip away. You’ve heard that your life can change on a dime … sometimes it’s even less than that.”
Johnny tossed the clam down the beach and he and J.J both laughed as a half-dozen screaming seagulls danced around the shell and fought over it.
            “I don’t care about any of that as long as we’re together.” J.J. wrapped her arms around his waist, blew tiny bits of sand off from his cheek … and then she kissed him.

-------4-------

J.J. bought up all the first class seats in front and to the rear on flight 419 from L.A. to New York so that they wouldn’t be distracted. She also had to give three signed copies of her latest CD and have her picture taken with the Delta Airlines ticket agent who claimed she would have to bump passengers … but it was worth it. Johnny laughed when he saw the plane was only half full. “Everyone in LA has a money rake in their back pocket!”
            “At least I won’t have someone asking me if Tarzan really got me pregnant and if I’m going to keep his baby.” J.J. lay back in her seat and stretched out her long legs.
            “I was wondering the same thing,” Johnny said. “But I didn’t want to be nosey.”
J.J. slapped his hand playfully and then let her fingers linger. “I wish you didn’t have to go to Spain. We could spend the week in New York. I know lots of fun things we could do.”
Johnny smiled. “I’ll bet you do but this is my job. I signed a contract.”
            “To hell with the contract,” J.J. said. “You have a bit part in two scenes. What are they paying you – scale?”
            “Yes,” Johnny said. “But my airfare and expenses are paid plus the director said if the scenes work out they might alter the script to give me a bigger part.”
            “I’ll pay you ten times that amount just to stay in New York with me!” J.J. was beginning to get worried; the thought of spending a week without Johnny was terrifying.
            “I’m not the kind of guy who could ever live off from a woman,” Johnny told her. “Not even you.”
            “It wouldn’t be like that!”
            “Yes it would. Maybe not at first but eventually I’d lose my ambition. I’d start clinging to you and become your shadow … and you know what happens to shadows in the bright lights?”
            “They vanish,” J.J. moaned. “That’s what I’m trying to keep from happening.”
            “Don’t worry,” Johnny said. “I’ll never leave you … unless you push me away.”
J.J. was annoyed that the smiling airline attendant kept coming down the aisle and hovering over Johnny. This was the third time she had asked him if he wanted a drink … or anything else. The last time she bent over to take his dinner tray the top two buttons on her airline blouse were undone and strands of her blonde hair had fallen into his lap. There were always plenty of pretty girls at movie locations. They were like bees drawn to honey flowers.
            “I trust you; it’s other women that I don’t,” J.J. pouted. She instantly regretted the statement. She had always found jealousy unattractive. What would Johnny think of her now?
Johnny stared out the window at the clouds streaming past for a moment with his head cocked to one side as if he were listening to something. When he turned back he looked almost sad. “Remember bad times are a part of life,” he said. “I hate it as much as everyone else. All we can ever do is hang on until the coin flips again … but it will … I promise.”
J.J. felt like crying. Does Johnny think I’m a clinger? She closed her eyes and vowed that she would never become that kind of person.

-------5-------

After the plane landed at LaGuardia J.J. and Johnny enjoyed a leisurely dinner at a fairy-light covered outdoor garden called Milk and Roses. Warm sensations! All the waiters were male and J.J. was beginning to feel more confident. She even enjoyed the attention she was getting. Her infatuation with Johnny had made her forget she was one of Hollywood’s hottest actresses soon to be superstar. Smiles all around. The waiter begged for her autograph and squealed with delight when she kissed his cheek. Johnny didn’t seem to mind and even encouraged her to be happy. During desert her phone rang and it was Brent Andrews who was currently on the cover of People magazine as the world’s sexiest man. He said he heard she had just arrived in New York and wanted to take her around the town. “I thought coming here was a secret,” she gushed. Brent Andrews had been her teen infatuation and at one time she had three of his movie posters hung up in her bedroom. “Sorry, but I’m on a date,” she told him.
            “Perhaps another time?”
            “Sure,” she told him.
J.J. looked for any sign of jealousy in Johnny’s eyes or in his behavior but she could see nothing. It’s just me; she thought … I’m the clinger.

-------6-------

The night went by much too fast. Before she knew it Johnny was stepping out of the shower and dressing to meet his plane. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you to the airport? I could call a limo?
            “I’ll take a cab,” Johnny told her. “I want to remember you standing here by the window with the morning light spilling across your hair, not pushing your way through crowds at a busy airport.”
J.J. was already missing him terribly but she knew she had to be strong. “This is an extra key to my apartment and my house in Brentwood. I told the doorman to put you on the list. If I’m not here when you come back … please don’t stay anywhere else.” She handed him a key-ring attached to a grinning white rabbit made of diamonds. “That’s so you’ll remember what we’re going to do when you come back!”
            Johnny took the keys … and then flinched slightly as if he had been burned. “What’s the matter?” J.J. suddenly had a strange feeling of fear sweep over her.
            “Something about these keys,” Johnny said, “a strange kind of Déjà vu feeling.”
            “If you’d rather not take them …” J.J. felt like crying.
            “Don’t be ridiculous,” Johnny said as he took her in his arms and kissed her. “I love you … I want to be part of your life forever!”

-------7-------

J.J. stared out the window and caught a glimpse of Johnny climbing into a cab. Rain was pouring onto the streets in torrents … lightning flashed and then he was gone. An ache settled over her heart that was the most painful thing she had ever experienced. How would she last two weeks without him in her life? She cried until there were no more tears and by shear willpower was finally able to pull herself together. I’ve got to stop this … this clinging … if I don’t I’ll lose him for sure. I’ve got to remember that I’m someone special too … I’ve got to believe in myself if I want him to believe in me. Suddenly her cell phone rang. “Johnny?” she blurted as soon as she picked up.
            “No,” It was Brent Andrews. “But I wish I could storm up that kind of excitement!”
            “Sorry,” J.J. said. “I was just expecting someone else.”
            “I was just wondering if you’d like to get together today … you’re not busy are you?”
            “No, but I really can’t,” J.J. said. “It’s complicated.”
            “Too bad,” Brent crooned. “I had some fun times planned.”
            “Sorry!”
            “Maybe another time!”
J.J. felt more miserable and alone after Brent hung up. What was she going to do for two weeks with Johnny gone? Cry in the apartment day and night? She had to pull herself together her whole world was falling apart because of this strange infatuation. She decided to listen to the radio her song Burn Baby from the album Flame Games was playing. It was as if she had sung the words a thousand times … but never really listened to what they said.
If you want your love to be hot … there has to be flames.
If you want what mother taught … there has to be games.
It’s a cold world so burn baby … burn!
Burn baby burn!

The song ended and the DJ went into a thirty second rant about how hot Robyn Janette was. “If he could only see me now,” J.J. moaned. “I can’t take this anymore. What I need is to make sure this thing with Johnny is real. If it is I can learn to deal with it.” J.J. pressed redial on her cell phone and Brent Andrews picked up on the second ring. “I’ve changed my mind,” J.J. said trying to make her voice sound sexy. “I’d love to do something fun with you today!”
            “I’ll be right over,” Brent said.
            “Just give me enough time to shower and put on makeup!”

J.J. turned the water from blasting hot to icy cold and felt one hundred percent better when she came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her. She couldn’t close herself off from people or no one would love her … including Johnny. It would be a harmless afternoon of sightseeing. She could always claim the studio ordered it for publicity. Something nagged at the back of her mind … did she really want to do this? What the hell was she doing?

J.J. gasped. An obviously naked Brent Andrews was in her bed with the covers pulled up around his hairy chest.
“How did you get in here?” She almost screamed.
            “I told the doorman that I wanted to surprise you … I had to play him a recording of our date plans before he would unlock your door!”
            “You recorded our conversation?”
            “I always do, baby. It’s an old Hollywood trick. People remember a lot better when they can hear themselves saying things.”
            “Get out!”
            “Not until I get what I came for!”
            “You’re not getting anything from me!”
            “If I don’t your boyfriend … Johnny Lang is it? He’ll get a copy of our date plans while he’s on location in Spain. I know the director of the film he’s in personally and he’ll be sure to rub him all the wrong ways.”
            “You bastard! That’s blackmail!” J.J. was angry but more than that terrified. Johnny must never find out. How could she have said something so stupid?
            “Call it what you like … I didn’t get where I am by being a nice guy.”
J.J. was in a corner and was suddenly terrified. What would Johnny think if he heard the tape only minutes after he left her apartment? “If I sleep with you … I get your cell phone to stomp to pieces and your promise to keep your damn mouth shut?”
            “That sounds fine,” Brent said. “But you can’t just sleep with me. You have to act like you’re enjoying it. That shouldn’t be too hard. You got rave reviews for your work in Undercovers Cops.”

J.J. allowed the towel to fall to the floor as she slowly slid into the bed. For a brief moment she remembered her childhood fantasy. Would it be the same? Be strong get through this. It was either do this or kill herself. Halfway through the sex J.J. realized it really was just an act. Brent Andrews was as phony in bed as he was on the screen. What did she ever see in him as a girl?
Brent grunted for the last time and J.J. pushed him off her. She felt dirty. What if the bastard lied what if somehow Johnny finds out about this? My God! What have I got myself into? Even if Johnny never finds out … I still have to live with the fact that I cheated on him! She lay there trying to think of the best way to salvage her life. Maybe she should tell Johnny the truth … perhaps he would understand. What if he didn’t?  She couldn’t live without him if he didn’t.

            J.J. heard the apartment door open but was too stunned to move. She was frozen like a nightmare when your feet are on tracks with a train coming and won’t move. Johnny was walking through the living-room. She could feel his presence. No! God No! He dropped his carry-on bag.
“Wake-up sleepyhead,” his voice called. “The flight has been delayed because of the weather … sorry but you’ll have to put up with me for another … six hours!”
He sounded happy. J.J. could feel herself falling but there was no way to stop it. Please don’t come in here.
The bedroom door opened and Johnny stopped in the doorway. J.J. felt the same rush of euphoria whenever he came near her. He stared at the two in the bed for only a moment and then his eyes seemed to glass over with sadness. “I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I should have knocked.” Johnny turned and walked out. He paused for a moment as if remembering and then dropped the keys with the glittery laughing rabbit on a glass coffee table.”

J.J. heard the keys drop on the glass but it was her heart that broke. And then the apartment door closed and he was gone.

J.J. was too stunned to speak. It was as if time had hit a pedestrian (her) and come to a screeching halt. But she was still alive. She was out of bed and getting dressed in an instant.
            “I guess you won’t need to smash my phone after all” Brent grinned. “Too bad … you really earned it baby!”
J.J. hit him as hard as she could in the face with a tennis shoe before she put it on. Moments later she was running down the hallway with the laces still untied. She had to catch him. Then what? What was she going to say? That she was raped? Lie to the only person she had ever loved?
“Johnny!”
The elevator was too slow so she ran down the stairs skipping two and three at a time. The doorman jumped back as she pushed through the glass doors and onto the sidewalk. How could I ever have been so stupid?
“Johnny!”
She had to find him … try to explain … forever could not end!
            “Are you okay?” The doorman had never seen her looked so disheveled. “I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t have let Brent Andrews in but he had that recording and it was him and he was so insistent …”
J.J. ignored the doorman and ran down the sidewalk trying to look for taxi cabs on both sides of the street … they were everywhere.

“Johnny, Oh my God Johnny! What have I done?” The world was spinning and it was hard to keep her balance - hating herself. Frantic!

J.J. tried to call Johnny’s number but the tears kept washing over her eyes and she pressed the wrong speed-dial button three times. She staggered into a street-light pole banging her head. Finally a recorded voice came on and said the number was no longer in service. She checked and dialed again … the same. Again and again she dialed the number until she finally dropped the phone and took three steps and then crumbled on the sidewalk.
It was no longer two weeks before she’d see him … but never. The truth cut like a cancer surgeon’s knife and she wanted to die on the table.
The pedestrian traffic was coming out in force along with the emerging rays of sunlight. Several people stepped over her but nobody stopped or gave her a second look. There was sticky gum on the sidewalk, dirt on her hands and cigarette butts … all in her hair … and a coin … a penny near her finger but J.J. was beyond caring. She was far beyond anything … even tears … finished.
The rain had stopped and the sun was shining somewhere up above the skyscrapers. All she noticed now were the shadows – long and lonely. It was barely nine O’clock but it was already the darkest day Jean Janette Robinson would ever see … the growing pain in her heart told her it was about to get so much worse ...

TO BE CONTINUED …