AAAIM > Artists > Writers > Laura Bell

Laura Bell a local of southern california author's work in progress with multimedia objects and java script Laura Bell shares with us the first few chapters of her upcoming novel This presentation includes java script pop up windows of multimedia objects and hyperlinked websites from across the world Laura Bell shares with us the first few chapters of her upcoming novel This presentation includes java script pop up windows of multimedia objects and hyperlinked websites from across the world Luara Bell a local of southern california author's work in progress with multimedia objects and java script california, southern, southern california, artist, author, southern california author, southern california artist, altadena, altadena author, altadena artist, pasadena, pasadena author, pasadena artist, san gabriel, san gabriel valley, san gabriel valley author, san gabriel valley artist, mystery, novel, mystery novel, intrigue, plot, scandal, private detective, religion, religioius, california author, california artist, upcoming, upcoming novel, preview, selections, entertainment, reading, book, library, script, movie, tv, television
copyright 1996 by Laura Bell
For reading and commenting only
Please write to me at writer@well.com

Chapter One

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sound picture A slight breeze hit Randy in the face. His toes scrunched in the damp sand as he headed north on Big Corona's beach-head between the two jetties which marked this site for ships who may have lost their way.

..........Every tickle of the wind, seemed to be a lash of condemnation. Nature screamed, "You fool. You idiot."

..........The whole world hated attorneys. That was a given. Now, because of a lack of judgment 20 years ago, he would be the laughingstock of the firm -- his colleagues... Who knew how far this thing would go?

..........'You're going to pay,' the waves seemed to scream, as they continued to lap at his feet -- 'it isn't over and never will be.' The water was lapping higher now at his ankles, dampening the expensive gabardine of his burgundy slacks. They had been a birthday present from his wife, Cindy, last year.

..........Cindy's image flitted momentarily across his mind. He had to do something to make this right. Where to start was the question eating at him. He'd been raised to be a people pleaser from his earliest days. Basically, the pressures from family and later, peers and colleagues, had created something in Randy he'd been trying to hide from the world his entire life -- he was a coward.

..........A whiff of Cindy's favorite scent seemed to be lingering in the breeze. The memories of life's pleasures were there pushing him on, despite his terror.

..........He halted his strides, looking back towards the public parking where he'd left his Audi. It was a darker shade of burgundy. Burgundies and rose shades were Cindy's favorite colors. He stopped, realizing just how far he had come. He also realized he had been walking diagonally across the strip of sand. His subconscious had been trying to get him away from the incoming tide. He still had managed to drench the bottom of the material. It was quickly turning into a yucky plum color. An extra trip to the cleaners would not evoke any smiles from his wife.

..........Cindy was very precise in her clothing choices. She considered it part of her wifely duties. She studied every issue of GQ. Sometimes it was annoying; but most of the time, he considered a live-in personal shopper a side perk to the state of marriage.

.........."Side benefits, my ass," said a voice in his ear. A cold chill hit him right in the middle of the back. His 6'4", well-kept 50-year-old body, turned to the right, expecting...

..........The figure intruding in his doldrums was very familiar -- the curls at the man's collar reminded him of... It was his hair style the year he made a covenant with the devil.

.........."What in the hell are you doing here?" Randy queried his younger image.

.........."You know the answer to that," screeched the figure. "You made a choice 20 years ago. You've been sailing along on the percentage earned from that portfolio ever since."

.........."B-B-But," Randy stuttered, a habit he thought he'd left behind in junior high school, "that big check was the only chance in hell I had of paying my partnership buy-in fee," he almost protested. He stopped. His voice was swept away on the wind. The figure had disappeared.

picture The September 90 degree mark had given away to an early chilly evening. Randy suddenly realized he was shivering. Before continuing, he knelt down, rolling up his pant legs. Maybe, he thought, if I can still be practical, I haven't lost my sanity completely. He reached into his pants pocket, feeling his car keys along with the usual pocket change he carried. Something about its familiarity gave him comfort -- the world as he knew it still existed. The unanswered question was how did he bring himself back?

..........His strides took him quickly back in the direction of the Audi. A chill seemed bent on encompassing his body with the only promise of relief being inside the car. He increased his speed. The owner's of the lot's previous occupants had departed. He sat sideways in the driver's seat while pulling on his socks and slipping on his penny loafers.

..........Next to his loafers was Herbie's diary. That damned piece of incriminating evidence. It had shown up in his office mail this morning. The address label was scrawled into an almost childlike block print with no return address.

..........Randy turned around after adjusting his clothing, and had turned the key in the ignition, allowing the heat to flow for a few seconds before starting the engine. He was about to turn the ignition to the notch necessary to ignite the engine when his side vision spotted a package of death on the floor ticking away.

..........He hand-wrapped his trembling fingers around his cell phone and Herbie's diary, and ran like hell! The fact that he hadn't closed the door when he first sat down was now instrumental in saving his life.

..........The heat encroaching on him as he ran was close as he ever wanted to get to Gehenna fire. For a split second before he was tossed through the air, he thought about Hollywood stunt men. In his case, he lost control of his bodily functions.

..........A gigantic fog came over him. Two things surprised him a few minutes later when he came to -- the pain, and that he was still clutching his cell phone. His index finger hit the speed dial. Cindy answered on the second ring.

.........."Big Corona, quick," he yelled, "send paramedics.." That's all he got out before blacking out again.

*****

..........Cynthia Arden was still a formidable figure at 52. Her blond hair and petite stature turned heads frequently. She had something going for her which the majority of her female contemporaries lost years ago, if they ever had it. She adored her husband. It created a kind of unique energy.

..........Their personal power as a couple was explosive. They were something to reckon with. What she heard in his voice told her that what she had for almost her entire adult life was being threatened. The second part of their matching cell phones was almost always by her side and she punched in the speed dial for 911. Randy programmed it for her the day they purchased their second home. He'd insisted that one day the new glitzy home might invite trouble.

..........Later she would be asked why Randy hadn't punched 911. He had just never gotten around to programming his speed dial with anything but her personal line.

*****

..........The explosion's trajectory had dropped Randy very close to the incoming tide. If it wasn't for the happenstance that a local jogger was close enough to feel the heat, Randy might have succumbed to the elements, might have drowned in six inches of salt water.

sound The jogger was an ex-New Yorker and an ex-practicing attorney. He was in the process of gently moving Randy a few inches up the beach when he heard the paramedics arrive. Jose said a silent prayer to the God of his childhood. He had been transfixed for the last five minutes. He could see the burns on Randy's legs. He was moaning in his semi-conscious state. Jose had rolled his frame over once but didn't want to end up in a law suit for misbehaving as a good Samaritan. He wanted to permanently leave that part of his legal life behind.

..........He'd managed to escape his law practice in Manhattan through no great talent. He was in tune with the right place and right time just once in his life. One of his oldest clients, a struggling writer, had been ripped-off for thirty thousand bucks in a straight-to-video film deal. Jose knew the right buttons to push. The defendants screamed settlement very loud. The writer paid him a very big bonus.

picture Jose had tired of Manhattan years ago, but had felt trapped by the economics of a small legal partnership. He never realized how fast one could pack up and leave. He took the bonus, made a down payment on a beach-side condo and made a clean break, selling his part of the practice to his now ex-partner.

..........The last thing he did before leaving New York City was to call an old college buddy, who had taken his law degree and put himself to work in the legal world, by apprenticing himself to one of the largest private detective firms in Southern California. His friend had a lucrative sole practice for the past two years. He'd been sending Jose faxes every month begging him to join him.

..........Jose just received his California license a month ago. Looking down at Randy, something told him fate had just dumped his first big case into his lap. A small blond woman appeared, apparently out of nowhere, and reached his side just behind the paramedics.

..........She screamed, "Oh my God." The paramedic gently encouraged her to move out of the way. After she identified herself as Randy's wife, the paramedic said, "You can either come with us, or follow the ambulance to Hoag Memorial Hospital."

..........Jose's senses were suddenly overwhelmed. The previously almost deserted beach was buzzing. A local patrol car skidded onto place behind the ambulance.

..........Its occupants didn't arrive soon enough to keep Cindy from grabbing Herbie's diary off the gurney, where one of the ambulance attendant's had temporarily placed it. She stuffed it into her jogging pants. Something about the entire surreal scene froze Jose to the spot. Cindy began long quick strides back in the direction of her Mustang coupe, parked near the water's edge.

soundTen feet away from the car, she was felled in her tracks like a head-shot deer. Must have been by an unseen sniper! Pandemonium broke. In the midst of it, Jose managed to reach the injured woman before the cops.

..........In the ensuing commotion, he snatched the diary and got out before anyone had a clue as to what'd taken place.

..........His condo was 100 yards down the beach in the other direction. He thanked God for the stamina he had built up with his jogging since his move. He didn't slow until he was almost at his rear door, realizing that nobody had followed him. He collapsed on his back steps and waited for his breathing to slow to its normal rate.

..........Jose sat there, unmoving for five minutes. He picked up his phone from where he'd left it on the patio earlier.

..........He stared at it several minutes as if it might turn into a bomb and explode in his face. Even as a New Yorker, he'd never been this close to violence. He'd laid the diary down on the steps. He stepped over the edge, by which he ran his life, and the evidence stared up at him. His law partner had not wanted him to leave the city, accusing him of having gone mad. Perhaps he'd been right. But now, the only thing he could think of was talking to his old friend.

..........He punched in the familiar number, "Please, please let him be there."

Chapter Two

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..........Arnie's 6', blonde figure sprawled on a bed too short for his long frame. The furnishings in this hotel were one of the reasons he and Rosie used this as one of his secondary choices.

pictureThe furnishings were institutional -- they made it by. The walls were painted in colors just warm enough so as not to give you a chill when entering. If a woman was asked to describe the decor she would have retorted, "blah, a man was assigned this one."

..........An earlier appointment today made this room the choice location for the early evening rendezvous. He'd always left this particular hotel with a backache. He swore he'd never be back, but never got around to switching the location. It'd been too much trouble.

..........He glanced momentarily in Rosie's direction. She was one hell of a passionate woman. He felt a slight stirring in his loins -- again! He wondered, maybe?

.......... Rosie and Arnie had a sexual relationship which lasted longer than most marriages. Writing was her skill, her passion for most of the 30 years they'd been together. Sometimes he wondered if it didn't come before him.

..........Writing, their bed, and jogging were her passions. She was currently clad only in a t-shirt. Her figure revealed little to an outsider hinting this was the body of a 58-year-old. Her well-kept permed short "do" of red curls caught many the eye of male acquaintances. He teased her many times about men sneaking glances at her the times they were out in public together.

..........Her beauty brought him great joy. Her passion was something, that as a young man, he thought existed only in the minds of writers composing phony letters to Playboy or Penthouse. She'd shown up one day to cover him at a Feast day, while she was still a journalist.

..........It started the second she sat down across the table with tape recorder and pen in hand. As the years went by the tie that bound him to Rosie only got stronger.

..........He wondered if he could convince her of round two. She was on her belly, remote in one hand, while the other was stretching towards the spot on the floor on her side of the bed where she'd left her lap top.

..........He'd tried every trick in the book during the years to separate her from her constant attachment to note taking devices. Once he'd accepted the fact she couldn't concentrate on a thing if she couldn't spot, or have her notes within her peripheral vision, he'd bought her first lap top. At least, she didn't misplace them as often as those infernal legal pads she use tote in her briefcase. There were some days he cursed himself for having fallen in love with a writer. They did try one's nerves! Maybe, it was his envy of a talent he didn't possess. Only the muses knew for sure.

..........He moved a little closer to Rosie, but she seemed oblivious, the evening news was on and the lap top was inching its way to her side of the bed.

..........Rosie was completely unaware of Arnie's inching his way closer to her. There was a breaking news story unfolding on the screen. An earthquake could have hit the room and her attention wouldn't have been shaken. Her finger poised over the on/off key of her 'notebook,' when she heard Arnie gasp so loud, she'd feared momentarily she was about to witness a repeat of last year's minor heart attack, a recurring nightmare at least once a month, from which she woke up in cold sweats.

soundArnie heard and saw only two things on that screen, chaos and the name Arden. Terror gripped him. One thought screamed in his brain -- move it fool.

..........Rosie sensed Arnie's fear; her stomach started to cramp. He jumped into his slacks in less than 60 seconds. A sight she'd never witnessed in all the years they'd spent together. Rosie hit the mute button. She knew the newscast would be repeated. She turned to face the man who'd been a part of her psyche for most of her adult life.

..........Friends clicked their proverbial tongues for years, yakking whenever she'd been fool enough to listen, "...why don't you think yourself good enough to demand a full-time relationship. You deserve somebody who wants to give all of himself to you." She'd used all the stereotypical lame excuses. But in the bottom of her heart, she'd realized years ago, it was all she wanted. Most writers didn't have time for the 'usual relationships.' If that's what she'd needed or wanted, the first skipped anniversary would have been enough to drop him.

..........Not that she hadn't thought about it; but as the years continued, she realized it would be like shedding a second skin. Now, watching the man she adored panic in front of her, she didn't have to ask. She knew; just like that -- it was over! He was leaving. Not just leaving her, but moving into another phase of his life. She had some ideas why; but the only real emotion she felt at this moment was terror. It just happened to be in a different hue than Arnie's.

.........."What in the hell are you doing Arnie?" she half yelled at the image who was racing around the room getting dressed as if his life depended on how fast he got his clothes back on. She thought that maybe the muting of the broadcast would have calmed him down. No such luck.

..........Despite the sound of her voice, his panic continued. His mind was racing and thoughts were screaming -- get out, get out. Don't let her see you like this.

..........By the time Rosie pulled on her sweats, he was standing in front of the mirror.

.......... "Damn, fuck," he yelled at the room in general, "whoever decided that ministers had to wear ties should be shot at dawn!"

..........Rosie came up behind him very quietly and with one short jerk snapped his tie into the proper alignment. It was a trick she'd learned from her brothers while growing up. There were four brothers and only one mother to teach them how to properly dress. A portion of it had fallen on her shoulders. As a girl, she never realized it would turn out to be a useful skill.

.......... "Thanks," he muttered. Her touch had done nothing to deflect his tension. It was as if a fly had only momentarily landed on his shoulder; and now, it was gone.

..........His cell phone was on the edge of the dresser. He was able to reach it without moving since he had long arms that matched the rest of his large frame. He had played a lot of basketball in college and kept it up until Rosie had come into his life; but she left him little time for any other outside hobbies.

..........Rosie surprised both of them. She knocked the phone out of his hand. An inner voice, which at the moment was more powerful than common sense, wanted to get Arnie's attention.

..........His deep brown eyes bore a hole into her soul, momentarily and it was enough to trigger a long forgotten memory as to why she had fallen head over heels with a married man, who was for all intensive purposes forbidden. The power of their connected psyche, for the brief lapse, shocked both of them.

..........Arnie took a deep breath, "Randy,...attorney, Dad.. It's happening all of over again. Gotta..............."

..........It had been a long time since his father's name had cropped into their conversations. It was almost the 10th year anniversary of the funeral. She remembered now the photo of that attorney shot on the beach. He'd once been involved with mess the church had found itself in just after Arnie left. Remembering the stress from those days brought back a pain in her neck she hadn't felt since then. Her relationship with a controversial television preacher had almost cost her job at the "Mirror."

.......... Arnie took a deep breath. "That's the attorney Dad and I used as a courier when he and I were traveling abroad." He saw the questions written across her face. He wished with all his heart he had the time to stop to answer. He knew better.

.........."Rosie, the state's suit against the church was only the tip of the iceberg. On his death bed, Dad promised me he made sure that the truth was going to come out. He had muttered something about a diary. I knew the second I saw the pictures coming across the screen, the two are connected. I don't intend to stick around to find out."

..........During the years, she had seen him battle with his Father, she had mistakenly taken him for a strong man. Now, she realized anything outside of family boundaries created one emotion, the need to run like hell. The image she had of this man for the duration of their relationship had been based on a ruse.

..........The energy which had for the few minutes for that short burst of communication left as quickly as it came. He turned his back on her and started emptying the drawers in the dresser. Rosie had stopped wondering years ago why their trysts always took place in the same hotels with room numbers that were identical. Watching him now, she saw the preparations for this flight had been at his finger tips for years. There must have been leases on the hotel suites.

.........."Who paid the bill on the hotels over the years?"

..........Arnie opened a closet, which until a minute ago had blended into the wall -- she never noticed it. She would lay odds there were similar ones in all the rooms.

..........Arnie was in his own private hell. She was only an outside observer. He was just about to snap closed two suitcases, which somehow had managed to also fit into that closet. In the side pocket, came out a wallet she'd never seen. He checked quickly a handful of documentation.

..........She didn't look that closely but he appeared to flip through a passport and a set of credit cards she'd never seen. He didn't normally tote gold cards. There was also money which wasn't U.S. currency. He slipped the wallet into his breast pocket. He glanced up at her just before locking the clasps on the suitcases. She could have sworn she saw the bulge of a gun in one of the side pockets, but would later swear in court that she couldn't be certain.

..........Without warning, it was as if an unseen force caught him by the tail for a fleeting moment. He stopped and looked at Rosie again. "The company paid for the hotels, Rosie."

..........She retorted with her reporter's consciousness, "Just where in the hell do you think you are going Arnie?"

.........."Me, me, Sweetheart?" he retorted. He thought about telling her but realized in so doing he would sign her death warrant. "I am getting the hell out of Dodge before it's me in the next news broadcast." With that, he opened the door and left quietly, very quietly. It was probably one of the few quiet things he ever did in his entire life. Arnie was someone who made a secondary career out of noticeable entrances. He was also an expert when it came to taking advantage of exit cues.

..........Rosie sat on the edge of the bed fully, clothed, in a slouch before the reality of the quiet hell left behind hit. "Just what in the hell am I suppose to do now?" She got up and paced the length of the suite a few times and writers' instincts hit. She found her purse on the other side of the room and rummaged through until she came up with her own cell phone. In the speed dial was the number for an old friend, a reporter.

..........This was going to be the hottest story of her life. The image of a Pulitzer pushed her forward as she listened to the ringing on the line.

Chapter Three

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..........Indian summers take a great toll on the citizens of Manhattan dumb enough to find themselves inside the city's limits when the weather forgot what month it was. Today's score was the weather five and city residents zero. It was to the point that weathermen in the city were being ostracized. They didn't like reminding the citizenry, anymore than the local residents did hearing, their misery was continuing. To make matters worse, the residents were being told if they were considerate neighbors, they shouldn't keep their air conditioners on during peak hours. Brown-outs and other shortages were predicted.

..........Brad's medium frame was sitting at one end of what once had been a "show stopper" of a couch. This was the way his ex-girlfriend described it shortly after it had been delivered from the sales catalogue of a prestigious retailer. Brad no longer remembered the name of the manufacturer anymore than he did the rest of the vendors whose services he used. It happened and when it was over; he moved on to other things -- work.

..........Exactly one month after Jose's departure to California, sitting in the office after court created one emotion -- the urge to run. If he'd been asked by an impartial observer, he would have described the claustrophobic feeling as an emotion the Gods decided to drop on him.

..........Life in Manhattan's legal circles without a partner wasn't something Brad envisioned. He and Jose met in law school. Brad's parents funded the cost for the start-up expenses for the partnership. Jose's move to California hit him. In fact, he hadn't been able to discuss it with anyone.

..........Jose's leaving left Brad with one relationship -- work. He was currently surrounded by law books and legal pads. Neither his current secretary or paralegal were people he was at ease with.

..........It wasn't that they weren't good at their jobs. If he was forced to be honest, he would have to admit the bottom line reason, was simple, Jose hired them. They both reminded him of one thing. It was the reason he was sprawled on the couch with piles of work which he should have wrapped up hours ago.

..........The air conditioning's buzz usually calmed Brad's nerves. Today it seemed to be talking a new language. "I am about to go on the fritz. And, then you'll have to go back to the office and face the world." It seemed to be blowing on half gale. The result was a slow trickle of sweat down Brad's back.

..........He was just contemplating getting up to stretch his legs and to take a leak, when his thoughts were interrupted by the beep on the cell phone. He grabbed it before it had a chance to make another.

..........He'd left specific instructions with his staff not to bother him tonight unless one of his clients was threatening suicide -- yeah it had happened, once!

.........."Thank God!" The tension in Jose's voice came through the phone line as if he was standing right in front of him. Despite the panic he heard in his previous partner's voice, he really wasn't all that anxious to hear what he had to say.

..........Jose's state of mind did not allow time for Brad to get a word in before he continued. "Brad, Brad are you there?"

.........."Yeah, man," he responded. He was now pacing the room, realizing he couldn't cut off the bond they had totally. If it hadn't been for Jose, he doubted he would have ever made it out of law school in one piece. Studying was difficult for Brad, unlike Jose who grabbed honors in school with minimal effort.

..........While he was waiting for Jose to continue, he headed towards the kitchen. He suddenly realized he hadn't had a thing to eat since morning. His stomach was talking louder than his ex-partner.

.........."You're not going to believe it!" Jose's voice was so nervous, he was shaking now... "I'm not quite sure you will want to hear what I have to say."

..........Brad stopped mid stride, listening, never quite sure what life was going to throw. He momentarily rerouted himself towards his work area.

.........."I've removed evidence from a crime scene," his partner's voice resonated in his ear. It was if a surreal fog suddenly appeared over the pile of work which consumed his entire being just a few moments ago.

..........He was suspicious Jose had been at the point of cracking when he made the lunatic announcement about moving to California. Now, he knew it. He thought about how this crazy-sounding city Jose had told him about -- Big Corona -- sounded like a city for those wanting to make a name for themselves in the surfing world or someone wanting to relive their childhood.

soundBrad slumped back down at the edge of the couch. The light in the refrigerator left for the time being, blinking as if a strange voice calling for help. The door was cracked and the draft from the air conditioning system, or what was left of it was rattling the door, like a dormant ghost whose spirit was being bothered by the tension in the apartment. It, the rattle, lamented, "...get rid of the tension in your life; or there will be nothing left of you!"

..........After his announcement, Jose only heard the sound of his heavy breathing and recognized the signs.

..........Brad had sunk down on the couch's edge. He always kept a well sharpened supply of pencils close to his elbow when he was in the middle of drafting briefs. He picked up several and broke them, in a quick and efficient movement. He tossed the pencils at the mirror hanging over the fireplace. This was a habit he'd picked up his last year in school when things started going tough. Jose heard the pitting of the pencils. Knowing the layout of Brad's apartment, he knew the sound. "Go on," Brad said to Jose.

..........It took Jose about 15 seconds to be reminded of one of the reasons he sold his partnership. He ended the phone connection almost as quickly as he dialed. Brad tossed the phone towards the end of the sofa. It bounced silently off the thick shag carpet.

.........."Oh God, almighty, what in the hell has he done to me?" Somehow, some way all he could think was that his loco ex-partner's action would reflect on him, getting him into trouble. He momentarily glanced at the stack of work which had consumed his entire conscious before the buzz of the cell phone. The fact that the door to refrigerator was still cracked would be remembered in the morning and probably discovered by the maid.

..........For the moment, the only thing important in his whole apartment was the decanter of his favorite Brandy, which he kept on the edge of the bar. He poured a generous helping and walked in the direction which would lead him to the steps of the Jacuzzi. He left his clothes in a path behind him, which the maid would pick up in the morning. Let her think he had a wild tryst. Nothing would please him more.

..........He stopped long enough in his stride to turn on the jets to the spa. For now the liquor and the moisture from the spa became one. The rest of the world would wait.

..........

*****

..........Jose without a minute's hesitation placed the cell phone on the edge of the bar which separated the kitchen from the rest of the living area. Panic and terror were his main emotions at the moment. He was facing the most horrifying experience of his life, alone.

..........His stomach was yelling louder. His body wouldn't hold up unless he did something about his digestive system. He needed courage and right now the only answer seemed to be crying out to him from the refrigerator.

..........He had never been that much of a cook, so he had made sure the kitchen area came equipped with every quick-fix gadget imaginable. He cracked two eggs on the side of the blender, pulled the clean frying pan from its hook on the side of the refrigerator. Almost with the same motion, he yanked a half defrosted package of beef sausage from its resting point in the meat tray. There was a bottle of instant onions in the spice rack on the side of fridge. If someone had been observing and asked why breakfast, he would have replied, "breakfast has always given me comfort. Don't tell Dad, but it reminds me of Mom before she got sick. All that's left of memories of how things were when they were still right with the world."

..........Jose buried his Mother a year ago and he had felt out of sync ever since.

..........While spooning down the eggs and sausage, his peripheral vision caught sight of the small TV he kept perched on the counter. That's when he remembered seeing Hoag Memorial Hospital on the one side of the ambulance. The yellow pages were in reach. A place he had permanently decided for them since moving in.

..........He realized he'd come to a decision. He was going to follow through on this, no matter how foolish or preciously new his private detective's license was. There was something here. Something very big.

..........An inner consciousness clicked, "Who in the hell is going to pay your retainer? Do you want to end up broke like all those private detectives on TV?"

..........That's when he remembered that his selling his partnership put his bank account on the power side of six figures. Cash wasn't a problem in the near future.

..........God, it felt great to able to make a decision which didn't hinge on how much something cost.

..........The diary was at the end of the counter and another voice kicked in "you broke the law!" Yeah, he muttered under his breath, but I'll give it back and it is for the better good. "Hmm, hmm, the better good, meaning the continued growth of your bank account" Jose stopped and thought about that one for a minute, but then came to the grips with reality. He started walking down a path which was too narrow to turn around on.

..........He jumped down from the stool, his bare feet scrunching down into the deep shag carpet. The luxurious carpet was one reason he chose this house instead of one up the road a piece. He'd had a passion for thick plush carpet since he dated a woman ten years ago who had been richer than the Rockefellers. (He had left his dirty running shoes at the back door.)

..........He put the dirty dishes in the dish washer; got a grip on himself and turned and faced the diary. For a fleeting second, it appeared to have a strange light bounce off it. He was beginning to think maybe he was developing an overly active imagination.

..........When he opened the front cover and noticed there was an inscription that was signed with familiar initials, he momentarily inhaled and seemed to freeze. The initials brought back old memories.

..........He couldn't help himself. He had to read as fast as he could what was in front of him; although there was a voice which told him he was intruding, intruding into a conversation between a Father who was reaching out to his son from the grave.

.........."Randy (the inscription read), you have to tell Arnie and the rest of the world the truth. There's a part of it I kept even from him. And, nobody's going to be happy with what you say. He will probably try to run. You're going to have to be stronger. It's the reason I picked you for the job. There's one thing Arnie has never been told -- his brother did not die in a car accident.

..........The inscription ran the inside of the cover and one quarter of the first page. The rest of it was blurred as if maybe it had gotten wet. The only portion left readable were those famous initials - RHM.

..........He couldn't help wondering why the TV evangelist had chosen to sign the introduction to his diary in such a manner. This diary ending up in his hands angered him. A past memory was biting him.

..........His father, in his mid-40s had become disgruntled with the Catholic Church. His searching had led him straight to this man's preaching. The family was never the same. Jose had rebelled in full force. He was told he had to keep Saturday as the Sabbath. He'd never let go of that anger he felt toward his Father. He's spent the rest of his teen years agnostic.

..........He took a deep breath and turned the page. Frustration engulfed him. The rest of the journal was penned in what appeared to be some sort of alphabet shorthand. The book was a gold mine. It could end up a ticking bomb if he didn't find its secrets before someone else got their hands on it.

..........The people who followed this preacher were not known to be the most rational folks on earth. Angered, they had taken up firearms. The group had attracted a few radical celebrities in the 60s and 70s, a movie star and chess player came to mind.

..........The ringing of the phone in the kitchen startled him. It never ceased to amaze him how the slightest ordinary things could interrupt his thought.

.........."Oh, Holy Hell," Jose said, realizing it was probably Pop. He always waited until after the rates had gone down to check on his successful son, the ex-lawyer. He never stopped reminding him that he was nuts to leave the only civilized city in the world. Pop was an ex-cop using retirement to take in every event in the city he had excuses for his entire marriage. Jose's Mom had been big on culture.

..........He was waiting for the machine to answer the phone and was about to go check on it when it finally answered on the fourth ring. He remembered resetting it after Pop got annoyed because it answered too early. He was offended that his son might be trying to monitor his calls; therefore successfully avoiding talking to his father. He'd gone on for five minutes. He decided against dealing with the situation for now. There was only so much stress one could deal with.

.......... He headed in the other direction leaving Pop to talk to the machine. He spotted three key items before hitting the shower: his electronic notebook, his gun and the yellow pages, again. He thought it kind of screwball to name an all-night copying and fax joint Kinkos. He ripped the page out and took the quickest shower in his life. Appearing in a hospital with sand on his clothes was not appropriate way to act to enter his first big case.

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AAAIM > Artists > Writers > Laura Bell

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