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Monster World

Monster World

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Monster World

Länge:
567 Seiten
8 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 5, 2013
ISBN:
9780966587920
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Monster World is a crime story based on the OJ Simpson case. A Heavy Metal rock star's estranged wife and her lover are found brutally murdered at her Los Angeles condo. The criminal investigation finds overwhelming evidence pointing to the rock star. He is arrested and portrayed as a vicious monster by the media because of the evidence against him and the violent nature of his music. A sensational trial ensues. But not without complications. The female prosecutor, with a perfect record for convictions, suspects departmental jealousies at work to undermine her case. A key witness for the prosecution, the rock star's girl friend, is found comatose at her home from an overdose of drugs and alcohol, and is unable to testify. The prosecution scrambles to overcome these and other pitfalls in its pursuit of justice.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
May 5, 2013
ISBN:
9780966587920
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Born NYC I went to Catholic schools, grades one through eight and for my first year of high school. Then it was boarding school and finished senior year in public school. After graduating high school I went to drama school. I’ve worked as an actor, cab driver, bartender, bookie, cook, barista. I began writing as a teenager. My main influences have been Edward O. Wilson, Jacques Monod, Lewis Mumford, Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel among others. My religious beliefs were demolished by the train of thought stoked by the revelations of knowledge and my own introspection. I wrote and directed a short film and had a local access talk show for a couple of years. Living now in Massachusetts.

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Buchvorschau

Monster World - TJ McLaughlin

Contents

Chapter 1 - Book 1 The Crime

Chapter 2 - Book 2 The Trial

**********

MONSTER WORLD

Book 1 The Crime

SATURDAY JULY 5 2000

It was a summer night in Los Angeles. Cool. With a need to be hot. Low riders, aglow with eerie under lighting, floated slowly up and down Sunset Strip like alien space ships on the prowl for human specimens. On the sidewalks the expressionless faces of tourists, painted by neon lights, gawked vacantly at the panoply of characters peopling the strange universe they found themselves lost in. The skin heads, the multi-tattooed, the body pierced, the punks, the hippies, the rappers, the hookers, the dealers, the homeless junkies, all of them giving off an aura of existing in a world apart. A world impenetrable by any but their own. You can't know what it's like to be me, might be their John Belushi like motto.

Image is everything, they revel in their image in a frantic desperation to make a statement. To be a statement. To be the star of the show. To carve out a little corner of celebrity for themselves. A way to be seen while remaining invisible. A way to be like a somebody instead of feeling like a nobody. I am my image, my image is me. A despotic identity rules.

In a luxury apartment overlooking the parade of polarized personalities below a beautiful young woman, Nancy Love, sat on a white leather couch in her living room. She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs forcing her knees up against her chin. She stared out in front of her as if her eyeballs were somehow being sucked out of their sockets. Straining her eyes to see things differently than they were, to envision a different scenario of how things had turned out for her. She had come to Hollywood full of dreams. They had turned into a horrible nightmare.

An ominous looking figure stood over her. He wore an athletic suit, gray with red striping. The open jacket exposed a hairless muscular chest resplendent in gold chains and medallions. One such adornment bore the golden initials AC for Armando Cruz. He stared down at his prey through cold, penetrating, dark eyes. His face, disfigured with many pockmarks, emanated a raw merciless power. As he stood in silence over the cringing woman beneath him one might suspect he was somehow inflicting punishment on her by his mere presence.

The woman suddenly jerked her body convulsively as she desperately gulped for air through the oppression that left her little room to breathe. Armando sat down next to her on the arm of the couch. He began to gently caress her frazzled blonde hair as he spoke softly, Joo had a choice. Joo did have a choice. But now, joo see, joo are mine. Joo belong to me. Tha’s right, joo are my property. Armando hooked his index finger under Nancy's chin and gently turned her face toward his and said, But still, I give joo more choice.

A shudder rippled through the woman.

Joo look nervous. Are joo nervous, Nancy?

I'm...you...your...I'm your... she tried to speak the unspeakable.

Look here, Armando put his hand in his jacket pocket, I got something for joo. He took out a sandwich sized zip-lock plastic bag filled with white powder. He dangled it in front of Nancy's face, See, a little something yust to help joo calm down so joo can make a good decision to the choice I give joo.

Nancy's face and body began to twitch uncontrollably as she eyeballed her desperate need wrapped in clear plastic. Armando stood up and moved in front of her. He bent down and poured some white powder on the toes of his Pumas. Nancy stared down at Armando's feet like a starving animal. She looked up at her tormentor struggling within herself to muster at least a semblance of dignity. It was hopeless. She was nothing. She had no life distinct from cocaine.

Nancy got down on the floor and hungrily began to snort her substance off of Armando's sneakers. Afterward she remained stooped down at his feet for a few moments. Then she clutched the back of her master's legs and looked up at him in utter submission.

Armando took out a switchblade and snapped it open as he said, Jes, joo are mine now. I own joo. Joo know it, too. But, as I say, I give joo a choice. I own joo, unless joo wanna die. That is jour choice. I will have joo when I want joo. I will give joo to others when I want to. This is how joo will pay me the money joo owe me. He grabbed Nancy by the hair and pulled her head up to his waist as he put the knife to her throat, This is how it is. I own joo or I kill joo. Joo unnerstan'? Joo unnerstan' Nancy Love?

Nancy began to caress the back of Armando's legs and then she nuzzled her face into his crotch. Armando looked down at her with a smirk, That’s a good girl. I be good to joo too. I give joo all da dope joo want. Joo can even make a li'l money for jourself.

….............................................................................


Across town, at a rock concert, rows of young girls in obsequious adulation of Blade, lead singer of the heavy metal band, On The Edge, threw their panties and hotel keys on the stage before him as he sang;

Show me that you want me


Show me that you're mine


Get into that position

That shows me your submission


Get down there an' please me


But if you wanna tease me

You may as well be dead


So c'mon girl


An' give me some head


Like you know you love to do

The raucous music came on full force terrorizing the senses as Blade began stripping off his shirt to throw into the audience.

In one of the greenrooms backstage two children, a boy and girl, ages 8 and 10, respectively, sat on the floor staring wide-eyed at a pair of roadies sprawled out on a couch sharing a joint. The two pot-smoking cohorts regarded the kids distantly as they discussed their views on childcare.

Jake, a tall, gangly, bearded techie with a long face reminiscent of a collie was of the opinion that, Fear is the thing. Ya gotta use fear t' get kids to behave like ya wan' 'em to.

Dell, a squat, plumpish, baby faced lighting assistant took exception to Jake's view, Nah, all ya need is love, man.

That's Beatle shit, Jake protested. Fear's the thing...definitely fear, he insisted as he passed the joint to Dell, who asked, as if deeply inspired, Fear? Fear of what? Fear of no love? He took a deep toke quite satisfied he'd struck a fatal blow to his opponent's argument.

Jake looked at his crony with his face scrunched up in confusion and said, What? You're goofy! That makes no sense whatsoever.

Sure it does.

You're stoned.

The fear of no love, Dell began to explain enthusiastically, if you're scared you won't be loved unless you obey someone...

Shut up! My head's gonna explode, Jake said as he took the joint back from Dell and then said, I know. Let's ask the kids. Hey kid...uh... he stared vacantly at the children a moment and then turned to Dell and asked, What's the kid's name?"

Which one?

The boy one.

Umm…

Um? asked Jake, feigning disbelief, What kind of name is Um? What's that short for? Um Uh?

They both thought this was terribly amusing.

But, okay, Jake continued as he struggled to control his guffaws, I'm not one to judge. So, anyway, he said to the fearful boy, umm, nice name kid. Um...

Jake and Dell again found this to be uproariously funny and laughed hysterically at the notion of someone having the name Um.

When their laughter subsided enough for them to speak Jake continued, Yeah, um... and again he and his crony broke up in hysterics while barely managing to speak. Dell finally blurted out in an English accent a la Monty Python, This is too silly!

Much too silly! rejoined Jake.

Let's get a hold of ourselves, shall we! Dell suggested through the laughter and they both immediately took hold of one another, literally. They held each other's arms and laughed on. Their hands moved up to each other's throats as they maniacally threatened one another to stop laughing. They began choking each other furiously. Their laughing gradually ceased as their faces turned red and they released their grips and gasped for air.

What the hell were we laughin' about? Jake asked rhetorically.

Um... responded Dell and again they were convulsed with laughing.

Jake, struggling to control himself managed to say, Okay now let's...um... he said bringing on more fits of laughter. No, c'mon seriously now...um... and still more laughter. It was getting painful for them both and with great effort they brought themselves to a precarious silence.

Jake focused intently on the two children and asked them like a madman terrorist, If I threatened to pour gasoline all over you and set you on fire would you do exactly what I told you to do?

The two children regarded their guardians in silence with wide-eyed trepidation.

Awright, Dell protested, that's enough you're...

Just then two beautiful dark haired women charged into the room. They were both dressed in similar fashion. Rachel, Blade's wife, was wearing a tight black leather skirt, black hose, high heel boots and a halter. She had a small skull and cross bone tattoo with the word poison beneath it on her left side just below the collar bone. Rachel’s friend, Dolores, Dolly as she was called, wore tight black leather pants, high heels and a halter. Both women had a few rings on their fingers and plenty of chains around their necks. They each had a large silver cross hanging from one of the chains.

The children were plainly terrified and Belinda meekly asked, Have you come to take us home, mommy? After surveying the scene and shooting looks to kill at the two baby sitters from hell, Rachel tenderly bent down to her children as her fierce murderous expression softened to one of dewy-eyed compassion. Oh yes, my darlings, she said, mommy's come to take you home.

Jake, in as sober a tone as he could asked, So, you've come for...um... and this sent the two hopped-up techies into more raucous laughter.

Rachel, regarded the two with disdain, Maniacs! she yelled at them.

Dell became suddenly serious and indignant as he said, Hey, I represent that remark! That brought on even more paroxysms of glee.

Rachel stared calmly at Jake and Dell a moment and then bowed her head with a deep sigh. She then busied herself getting her kids ready to leave and mumbled to herself, Who in their right mind would leave young children with a couple of psychopaths? Answering herself she said, Anyone who doesn't give a damn, that's who. She then turned to her friend, Dolly, who was assisting her son, Josh, with putting on his jacket, This is it, Dolly! I mean it! I have had it up to here! This is it!

After the kids were all bundled up and ready to go the two women marched out of the greenroom, each with a child in hand. Blade, having just come off the stage a few moments before, met them as he was on his way to check in with Josh and Belinda. He was barefoot and shirtless having thrown his boots and socks into the audience along with his shirt. His slim, muscular, hairless torso appeared to be much younger than his face that was showing the strain of a grueling six-month tour. He appeared drawn and there were circles under his eyes, dark at the corners. This did little to diminish his good looks. The thirty-eight year old rock star was once described as a cross between Rod Stewart and David Bowie. Imagine those two in the throes of a maculate conception, Blade once quipped when asked about that description of himself during an interview. I bet it was Bowie who gave birth.

Blade was surprised to see Rachel backstage. The couple had been separated for about a year. They had recently been talking about reconciliation and their eventual reunion seemed imminent. Unexpected appearances by his wife, however, usually meant trouble. Blade greeted her cautiously, but friendly, and informed her that he was just about to bring the kids over to her place.

Rachel was livid and turned on her husband with the fury of a demon, You were supposed to do that ten hours ago!

I got tied up, was Blade's apologetic excuse.

With your dominatrix, no doubt! said Rachel as she and Dolly continued on their way with the children toward the exit.

Oh, that's funny, Blade said sarcastically while following close behind.

This spirited exchange drew more than a little attention among the backstage gathering. Crew members paid a passing interest. Caterers setting up for the tour-ending party and arriving guests gawked moronically at the spatting couple. Some followed them as though drawn along under a hypnotic spell. There were various journalists taking notes and shooting pictures at a somewhat respectful but, nonetheless, ringside proximity.

Good-bye, Blade. And good riddance! said Rachel as she reached the exit door.

I'll drop by later to see you, Blade said hoping the good riddance remark was not meaningful.

Never mind, Rachel said glaring at Blade with no mistake to her meaning.

Okay, tomorrow then, Blade responded hopefully.

Do you know what tomorrow even is?

Blade was at a loss and simply said in as charming a manner as possible, Sunday?

Josh has a very important soccer game for the championship of the Peewee League. For which, by the way, he was supposed to be at practice earlier this afternoon and which, by the way, he missed because you're too busy screwin' around all the time."

Yea! Well, what about you with your pizza boy!

My kids come first!

Blade was about to say something about the time he walked in on Rachel and her pizza boy only a short while after they had been separated making it on the living room floor with their kids upstairs. Deciding not to he just said, C'mon, Rachel, c'mon, this is no way for us to get back together.

Good, 'cause we're not getting back together. Not ever!

What!

It's over, Blade! That's that and that's final. I want a divorce!

With that Rachel, Dolly and the kids stormed out of the building leaving Blade abandoned amid all the backstage onlookers. After a moment he addressed the crowd as if nothing at all had happened, Time to party! he loudly announced and made his way through the crowd of onlookers to his dressing room.

.................................................................................


Outside the concert arena Armando Cruz, having completed his business with Nancy Love, was sitting on the car that Rachel, Dolly and the kids hurriedly approached. It was parked under a light post that was buzzing loudly as the bulb sporadically dimmed and brightened. Upon seeing the unwelcome dealer perched upon her Lexus Rachel hesitated momentarily. Oh Christ, she muttered to herself, lowered her head and made a dash for the car with Belinda in hand as Dolly and Josh followed closely behind.

When they reached the shiny black Lexus Armando greeted Rachel by saying, Joo have some money for me?

Rachel got her kids and Dolly quickly into the car, shut the door and faced Armando, I told you to get it from Blade.

I was yust about t'do that, Armando said hungrily eyeing the beauty before him.

Good! Good-bye then. I won't be needing your services any longer! Rachel said emphatically as she opened the car door.

Armando, remained seated on the front fender and said, That’s okay as long as I get my money.

You'll get it. Now get off my car!

Armando didn't budge and said loudly to no one in particular, Joo know jour friend Nancy Love? She pay me tonight.

A look of dread crossed Rachel's face as she visibly shuddered. She asked anxiously, Is she...

Armando smirked, Is she what?

Get off the car you creep! Rachel yelled as she got in the driver's seat, started the engine, shoved the gearshift in reverse and gunned it out of the parking place as Armando leapt off. He glared after her as she sped away. The angered Colombian spit in the direction of the vanishing car and then started toward the backstage door of the concert arena.

….............................................................................

The closing night party was already in full swing. The celebration marked the end of a long and very successful tour for On The Edge. It recaptured their standing as the kick-ass heavy metal band of all time. For the moment anyway.

Blade and the rest of the band, now in their late thirties, had made an enormous comeback after having all but disappeared from view. On The Edge had put out an album five years before their latest one that featured all the songs they had previously declined to record because they hadn't thought them good enough. That judgement about the quality of the material was resoundingly confirmed by their critics and fans alike. The album was a dismal failure.

After a string of previously successful albums On The Edge had become victims of their overwhelming success, indulged themselves in their own celebrity and did not produce any new songs for years. The decision to release the once discarded songs as an album was a result of the arrogance that sometimes accompanies stardom. The rejection of the album was a rude awakening and the once high and mighty band found themselves fading into the ranks of the rock 'n roll hall of has-beens. On The Edge soon became overshadowed by clearly lesser bands. Two years after the release of the album of leftovers the group put out another one containing all the hit songs from their past albums and scheduled a tour to coincide with its release. The album and the tour were both met with a less than enthusiastic response. After that the group split up.

Blade's passion, however, was not doused by the failings and break up of On The Edge, they were ignited. He discovered a renewed commitment to his craft and felt the creative juices flowing through him once again. Most of the songs his group had produced over the years had been a collaborative effort. Blade had written the music and lyrics for a few numbers by himself but he had to wonder whether he could conceive a whole new album on his own. One thing for sure, he was intensely charged up about giving it a try.

After traveling incognito around the country for about six months gathering impressions from cities, suburbs and rural areas Blade holed up in the basement studio of his Mulholland Drive mansion for fourteen months and put together twelve songs he felt were the crowning achievement of his career. He then let it be known, by way of the rock world's grapevine, that he was looking for musicians to record a new album and possibly go on tour. The original members of On The Edge got together and angrily protested Blade's intention of reforming the group without them. Blade explained that, since it was all his work, their shares in the proceeds would not be what they had been in the past and for that reason he didn't think they'd be interested. I didn't think you'd want a gig as my back up band, Blade said to them, I mean the billing's gonna be like 'Blade On The Cutting Edge' or something like that. Ya know? It's my work. My album. My tour. You guys would be like studio musicians. You really wanna do that? They all agreed it would be better than nothing and Blade told them to get an agent to represent them and to work out a deal with his agent.

When all the details were worked out the group rented an abandoned warehouse in a dilapidated industrial park on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio and after just eight weeks emerged with the twelve new songs ready for the recording studio. After completing the album they readied themselves for the tour that was to begin upon its release. The album was received with critical acclaim and went platinum within two months after it hit the stores.

Despite the packaging of the album and tour as Blade's solo act the group came together and performed better than ever. As far as their fans were concerned On The Edge was still in tact as the best rock band ever. The group's celebrity again radiated like a super nova in the galaxy of stars. It was, they now knew, an ephemeral light that would soon burn out. And this time, no rebirth would be possible.

In recognition of this they were more determined than ever to collect all the rewards and perks their celebrity had to offer for as long as it lasted. As Blade said to his band one night on tour after a concert, This is our last ride on the big kahuna, guys. Once we hit the beach we'll be buried forever in the sands of time. He was thinking of maybe a good five year ride after which he was sure he'd be ready for a long peaceful retirement with his family in their luxurious new home he was having built in Marin County. There were, however, forces at work that would soon bring Blade’s high and mighty ride to an abrupt and crushing end.

As of now, however, there was no end in sight and nothing to do but revel in all the spoils of rock star fame. The backstage party was gathering a wild momentum. The yellow painted cinder block walls were lined with large buckets of chopped ice filled with bottles of champagne between tables piled with all kinds of food from fried chicken to caviar, hot dogs to Beef Wellington, macaroni and cheese to sushi. Drugs of choice were openly being smoked and snorted and various dressing rooms were accommodating couples, threesomes, foursomes and whatever for intimate encounters of all kinds.

Among the throng of revelers were two detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department, Mike D'Angello and Steve Conner, who were Blade's friends. They had met him some years ago when they were patrolmen. The two had been dispatched to Blade's home regarding a domestic dispute. Blade was in his prime at the time and the young officers were somewhat bowled over when they found themselves in his presence. The rock star was charming and friendly and assured them that everything was fine. Rachel was at Blade's side with a slightly bruised face. Sorry guys, she said sheepishly, it was a false alarm. Nothing really. Blade invited the officers in for coffee and told them they were welcome to come by and visit whenever they wanted. Mike and Steve took him up on his offer and liberally used the tennis courts, the pool, the Jacuzzi and met many agreeable young women in the process.

Over the years Blade would hire his two friends, off the record, as security personnel during his Los Angeles events. In truth they were paid a generous fee to hang out and party. It was an assignment they found difficult to refuse. Mike felt somewhat compromised as a police officer by the arrangement but his partner's glib acceptance of it effectively buffered his concerns. Mike's worries about propriety were tempered enough by Steve's indifference to allow all the easy money and women to take precedence.

Mike, a burly, dark complexioned Italian in his mid-thirties, took in the party scene around him as if scanning for suspects. His partner, tall, slim, athletic looking, checked his watch that Blade had given to him as a gift, and said to Mike in a confidential tone, According to my Rolex we're off duty now, Mike.

Is that right? Mike asked curtly.

Yep. My Rolex is never wrong about these things. See it lights up whenever it's time to go off duty.

It lights up, huh? Mike said struggling to relax.

Yes, it does. See? Steve showed him the watch. It lights up 'cause it's happy to be off duty.

How'd I ever get teamed up with a nut like you?

Good karma, no doubt, Steve offered with a comically smug expression on his face that his partner couldn't help but laugh at.

Let's get a drink, Mike suggested as he decided to try to loosen up.

Now you're talkin', said Steve as they headed toward the buckets of Champagne.

After downing a couple of glasses each and filling them again Mike said half jokingly, So, Steve, now that we're off duty I guess there's really no reason for us to be here anymore.

Steve had his eye on an attractive shapely young woman who was wending her way through the crowd as if she was headed their way, Well, you never know, he said nodding in her direction.

The woman, a very attractive redhead, wearing a skin tight see through dress with sequins lightly scattered over the vital areas, snuggled up to Mike and asked, Ya got a light? as she put a joint between her lips.

Mike looked around and grabbed a lit cigarette out of the mouth of a guy with a Mohegan haircut, Thanks, pal, he said as he held it up to light the joint.

The woman giggled appreciatively saying, Smooth.

After lighting the joint Mike looked askance at the cigarette in his hand and said, We gotta crack down on this stuff! He dropped it and ground it into the floor with the sole of his shoe.

The woman giggled some more and said, So, what's your scene?

I'm a cop.

You gonna arrest me?

I'm off duty.

I think you oughtta frisk me at least.

Well...uh...

A strip search.

Oh, definitely."

I need discipline.

Then, I'm your man.

Oh no you're not! Mike heard a strange sounding voice rudely say as a husky person in a three-piece suit and sporting a buzz cut muscled in between them, took the redhead forcefully by the arm and led her away.

As the two detectives stared dumbfounded after the odd looking pair the woman said like a little girl, She's my daddy.

Whoa! Steve shook his head as if to wake himself up from a bad dream.

Yea, whoa! Mike echoed.

That was another woman...wasn't it...in the suit?

Mike asked seeking clarification.

Kinda, said Steve.

Yeah...

Steve downed another glass of Champagne and caught sight of Armando slithering through the crowd and muttered, Well, look who's here.

Mike upon seeing who it was said, Mr. scum-of-the-earth.

Armando approached them and mockingly said, Officers, I want to report a crime. Some bad guy is illegally parked in a handicap spot, joo better go stake it out, man.

Mike looked at him through a face contorted with contempt, The only crime happening here is you.

I never park where I no' supposed to, protested Armando calmly with a sneering smile.

Oh yea? You'll slip up someday, mucho bad. When you do, we'll be all over you like sweat.

Until then enyoy the party, man.

Armando moved off working his way through the crowd like a predator stalking prey.

That's the guy we gotta put away, said Mike through clenched teeth.

He's smart, Steve remarked with a hint of admiration.

Shut up, Mike said in annoyance that his partner would find anything complimentary to say about such a creep.

Steve ignored the admonition and glanced aimlessly around the maniacally multiplying throng, Hey, he said as he nudged Mike, there's the man himself.

Blade had just emerged from his dressing room after taking a shower. He was wearing red leather pants, a T-shirt, leather vest and a new pair of boots.

He was immediately surrounded by a gaggle of groupies.

Lining up his quarry, Mike observed.

His harem for the night.

Blade embraced and kissed a few of the adoring girls. He paid particular attention to a cute little blonde.

Look at her, Mike commented with a modicum of disdain, she's what? Fifteen?

I dunno, said Steve deflecting his partner's scorn, looks can be deceiving.

Blade was saying something to his assistant, Cody Tolkein, as he gingerly disengaged himself from the clinging swarm. Cody, who looked like a miniature clone of his boss and was always super charged with energy, opened the door to Blade's dressing room and let three of the girls go inside. He followed them in and closed the door. A few seconds later he came back out, looked around for Blade and noticing that he was headed toward Mike and Steve immediately went to join him.

Hey guys, Blade greeted them, what's up? Don't tell me you haven't scored yet.

Mike thought he had one on the line but turned out he didn't have the right equipment, said Steve.

Ah, well, the thing with lesbians is convincing them your penis is really an enlarged clitoris.

The cops chuckled.

Which, of course, it is, Blade added, factually.

The laughter abruptly stopped.

Blade scanned the crowd saying, But have no fear, guys I'll take care of ya. He turned to Cody and said, See if you can find Natalie and Brenda.

Okay, responded Cody and blasted off on his mission.

Mike, sizing up Blade like a salesman looking for a button to push, said, So, where's Rachel? He and Steve were still in the auditorium when Blade and Rachel were having their backstage quarrel. They had, however, heard some talk of the incident.

She had to take the kids home, answered Blade pouring himself a glass of Champagne.

You two gettin' back together? Mike prodded.

I dunno. Maybe, Blade said as though not interested.

Maybe she's ready for a real man, said Mike posturing in a way that made the comment more offensive than the usual banter between friends.

Actually, she has no use for 'real men', Mike. She's into young boys now. Pizza delivery boys to be exact, said Blade pleased to see the effect it had on Mike who was having a difficult time masking his displeasure.

Mike was in turmoil wondering if the remark was true or not. He wanted Rachel, he wanted her from the first time he laid eyes on her. She wanted him, too. He was certain of it. The only thing standing in their way was her marriage. Whenever that finally came to an end, and he had no doubt it would, then he and Rachel could at last be together.

Mike looked around the party for something to distract him from the image of Rachel in the sack with some punk kid. He caught sight of Armando and asked Blade as if conducting an interrogation, What's he doing here?

Armando? He goes where ever he wants.

Cody returned from his mission and nodded to Blade.

I see you got some young ones lined up for yourself over there, huh, Blade? Really young, Mike said continuing his questioning.

You wanna check their ID?

Blade said with a touch of condescension.

It takes Mike awhile to adjust to being off duty, Steve said. He needs to unwind with a party girl, that's all.

Well, there's a couple of fine lookin' babes here who're just creamin' in their panties to hook up with a couple of real life coppers.

Oh yeah? Steve said with a hungry boyish smile.

Oh yeah! Blade echoed emphatically and turning to Cody said, Take care of my friends here, Cody. Give 'em the keys to dressing rooms 6 and 7 and do the intros to Natalie an' her friend.

Okay, c'mon guys, said Cody as he beckoned Mike and Steve to follow him.

Have fun guys. Hope you brought your handcuffs, Blade said through a meaningful grin.

Steve snickered mischievously as he and Mike followed Cody through the boisterous crowd.

Blade then turned to put his arm around a beady-eyed man with a couple of strands of hair neatly combed over his bald head. He had been hovering around Blade's private little gathering licking his chops like a hungry jackal Harvey, how we doin'? Blade asked.

Great. The tour was a smash. You're hotter than ever. I have you booked on an eleven o'clock flight to Rio tomorrow night...

Rio! Oh shit! I forgot all about that, Blade said grimacing toward the ceiling. Cancel it.

Ya gotta go, Blade. It's all arranged. It's a great market down there. They love ya down there. Oh, and the women...ah, Blade, all of 'em, the girl from Ipenema. I'm tellin' ya. You don't wanna miss this opportunity to expand your marketability while it's still expandable, if you know what I mean.

Oh yeah, I know what you mean. But I'm tired Harvey. Tours over. Tell 'em I've got AIDS, or somethin'.

Well, I'll see if I can postpone it. Ya gotta do it soon, though. It'd just be a TV appearance. Just you on some talk show. Chat it up a little, lip synch a few tunes, that's all.

Lip synch! I don't lip synch! Who'dya think you're talkin' to here? Milli or Vanilli?

Never handled them.

Yeah? Well, give them a call. Maybe they can do the gig in Rio.

I'm telling you, Blade, Rio is a hot market for you. You can't afford to pass it up. Not at this time in your career.

Yeah, sure, I'll see ya Harvey, okay, Blade said as he noticed Armando motioning for him.

Sure, sure. Oh, and we’ll need to look at the film footage of the tour, Harvey said quickly.

Awright, set that up and let me know said Blade as he moved off to join the drug dealer.

As he approached him he saw Armando grab a woman's butt. She turned around angrily with an outraged, Hey! But, upon seeing who it was, became as meek as a lamb. Armando rubbed her breast with the back of his fingers and said, Nice dress.

The woman managed a smile saying nicely, I'm glad you like it.

Armando, que pasa? said Blade.

Armando put his arms around the woman, grabbed her butt with both hands and held her tightly to him. He kissed her and said in her ear, I'll see you later. He then turned to Blade, put his arm around him and walked him off to the periphery of the party. They stood near a wall displaying a fire hose encased in glass.

Jour lady owes me big time, man, Armando said as though reluctant to break the bad news.

Ah, the bitch. She swore she was off the stuff, Blade said with a little anger.

Well, joo know, offered Armando by way of explanation.

How much? Blade asked with a sigh.

Mucho. Thirty-thousand.

You're pullin' my chain.

Oh no, I no like that. That's no' my thing.

Rachel went through thirty-thousand dollars worth of dope while I was on tour?

That’s righ'. Her an' her friends.

Could you send me an itemized bill? Blade asked in mock seriousness.

Armando glared back at Blade unamused"

Uh huh, awright, I'll get you the money tomorrow.

I'll be at McDonald’s tomorrow night. La Cienaga. Joo be there too.

Okay. So, you wanna hang around here, have some fun?

I got business to take care of.

I'm sure. Uh, listen, Armando...uh... Blade hesitated a moment as if deep in thought, Nothin'. See ya tomorrow.

Armando left the party and Blade moved purposefully through the throng and signaled to Cody who signaled in turn to a girl. Blade went into his dressing room. Cody brought the girl up to the dressing room door and left her there. After a moment of preening herself she opened the door and went in to join Blade and the three other girls that Cody had let in earlier.

................................................................................

After their encounter with Armando, Rachel, Dolly and the kids drove straight to Rachel's condo. A two story, three-bedroom luxury dwelling located on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Blade had bought it for Rachel when they decided to separate. Besides being a magnanimous gesture on his part he wanted to keep his wife obligated to him, as well as close by. The condo was only about a five-minute drive from Blade's sprawling estate.

Rachel sat with her friend in the living room after getting her kids ready for bed. It was a large room with a semicircular couch situated about six feet out from a floor-to-ceiling window. It had a sliding curtain that was closed and an array of standing and hanging plants in front and above it. The ecru walls were adorned with framed posters from On The Edge concerts and album covers. A large state-of-the-art entertainment center filled the wall opposite the couch.

Dolly was sitting in the middle of the tan leather couch. She was hunched over the genuine redwood coffee table snorting lines of coke. Rachel had changed into blue satin lounging pajamas and was curled up at one end of the couch with her legs tucked under her. Her dark brown eyes flickered with mixed emotions, at once attracted and repelled as she watched her friend hungrily inhaling the white powder. Mellow jazz softly filled the space with a delicate calm.

You have to quit that stuff, Dolly. You just have to do it, Rachel said matter of fact while wrapping strands of her hair around her index finger.

Dolly paused and looked at her friend a moment as if seriously considering her appeal and said, I know, before diving down for another deep snort.

If I can kick it so can you.

You think you really can? Dolly asked.

Well, I've been off it for three whole days now, said Rachel really wanting it to count for something.

The doorbell sounded. Rachel went to answer it and found Robby standing on the front steps holding a pizza box. He was extremely good looking with just the right combination of cute and rugged features that Rachel found irresistible. She gave him a big smile and said, Hi, Robby.

Hi, you wanna pizza? he asked holding up the large white box with a steaming pizza depicted on the cover and the words in red lettering 'Emilio's Pizza - Favorite of the Super Stars'.

I didn't order a pizza, said Rachel as she stepped outside.

I know, Robby answered with a sly grin.

Rachel chuckled, So?

So, Miss Universe, Robby said as he sat down on the top step holding the pizza on his lap, I got an extra one.

Rachel sat down next to him, So...

A very special one, Robby said confidentially, with mushrooms, he opened the box to show her.

Uh huh, so I see.

But what you don't see is that they're magic mushrooms.

Oh really? Magic mushrooms...

Oh yeah, you eat this pizza with these mushrooms and you will have eternal youth. Look at me, I never told you this but I'm sixty years old.

Are you?

Yes, I am. Robby closed the box and placed it on top of a hedge next to the steps.

So, your youthful condition is all due to the magic mushrooms that are on this pizza?

Yes, but I must warn you, there are some side effects, Robby said as he leaned in toward Rachel.

Of course. What are they?

You will never grow up and you will always be absolutely infatuated with whoever brought you the mushrooms... the sound of a beeper intruded on their banter. Robby pushed himself off from the steps, checked the beeper on his belt and said as he picked up the pizza, I gotta get goin'. Can I see you later?

Tomorrow night? About ten?

Great! See ya then. I'm not workin' tomorrow. I have an audition at Twentieth Century Fox for a part in a film, Robby said as he backed slowly away.

An audition on Sunday?

Yeah, they called me today. They’re holding extra auditions ‘cause they haven’t found what they’re lookin’ for.

It’s gotta be you! Good luck, baby, I know you'll be great, Rachel said loudly as Robby turned and disappeared down the slightly angled walkway lined with shrubbery. She heard his delivery van speed away as she went back inside.

Dolly was curled up on the couch staring dreamily into space.

That Robby is so damn good lookin'. He's a god. A god delivering pizza with magic mushrooms, Rachel said as she stood between the foyer and the living room.

Cool, said her friend thoroughly impressed.

Rachel started up stairs saying, I'm gonna go tuck the kids in for the night.

Josh and Belinda were sharing a bedroom that night because Dolly was staying over. Rachel quietly peeked in and saw the two children lying wide-eyed awake in their beds. She came in the room, kissed Josh and Belinda on their foreheads and sat down on the side of Josh's bed.

Mommy are you really going to divorce daddy? asked Josh.

Yes, Josh, I am, Rachel gently answered as she stroked his hair.

Can I still see him?

Of course, you can. You can spend as much time with him as you want as long as he takes good care of you.

He takes good care of me.

Okay sweetheart. You get some sleep now. You have a big day tomorrow.

Will daddy be there?

Well, you never know with him. I'm sure he'll want to be there. He loves you. He might even love me. He's just...he lives in another world.

What world do we live in? Belinda asked.

Rachel smiled down at her, A wonderful one. Now you get some sleep in this wonderful world that we live in. Okay?

Okay mommy. Good night.

Good night, sweetheart.

Good night mom, said Belinda.

Night honey, Rachel said and went back downstairs.

Dolly was still sitting on the couch. Her body swayed slightly back and forth rhythmically and she appeared to be deep in thought. Upon entering the living room Rachel went straight to the entertainment center to reload the CD player.

This music is so cool, Dolly said.

What music? There's nothing playing. Hasn't been since I went upstairs, Rachel informed her.

The music in my head, in my mind, my soul. My music that only I hear. I think it's cool, Dolly explained. Ya know when I was goin' out with Speed he said I was his Muse. I inspired him to write his tunes.

Now, his latest, whats'er name, Amy, inspires him, Rachel said as she sat down beside her friend.

Yeah, bein' a Muse is a very short lived occupation. I think I'm ready for a comeback though. That's what my music's tellin' me.

The two women sat without talking for a few moments. Then Rachel said, I love my kids.

Yeah, Dolly sighed, great kids.

The greatest. I love them so much it scares me. I never really realized how much I care about them until...

Till what?

I dunno, until I decided to get my head straight, I guess. It's like I suddenly woke up from some chaotic dream to find I have two wonderful kids. God, I was crazy...and I somehow protected them from...myself. Don't ask me how. It just amazes me when I look at them. I can't believe they're really mine. They're so perfect.

Yeah, they're adorable.

I'm so lucky...I thought I'd be dead by now. I thought we'd all be dead by now.

Yeah, I know. Me too.

I really did. I thought I would've overdosed by now or that Blade would've done us all in.

Mmm, Dolly emphasized.

I think that's what attracted me to him, though. That threat of violence.

I know, it's weird.

Now it scares me. Blade scares me. He could kill me. I know he could. I don't think he ever loved me. Or me him. We just had a mutual irresistible attraction, an out of control passion.

Uh huh... Dolly readily agreed and then, puzzled about what she was agreeing with, asked, Passion for what?

Sex, death and rock an' roll. Especially death.

Oh yeah, right.

We have to split now. Me and Blade. We just have to. I'm afraid, though. I'm afraid that Blade will end it all with violence. I dunno, I might've welcomed that at one time. But not now. I've changed. I know I have. It’s weird. I’m feeling like all the sentimental garbage that people think is worth shovin' down your throat all the time means something. I’m getting choked up at those stupid homecoming type TV commercials. You know the kind. Joe Blow comes home from the army and makes the coffee...

Joe Blow? I thought it was John Doe... Dolly wondered aloud.

Rachel looked puzzled and Dolly said, "Anyway, yeah, those commercials, they make me cry too, when

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