Chapter Twenty Three

beachumbr.gif (2000 bytes)What usually was a pleasant walk, usually culminating in the watching a beautiful sunset or an impromptu session of fishing off the pier, was anything but enjoyable for Angel. Forcing himself to walk at a normal pace, and not a trot as his nerves were urging him to do, Angel tried to calm himself down by people watching as he walked. The area surrounding the pier was always bustling with activity – tourists coming and going from the nearby hotels, people shopping or dining at the numerous shops along the beachfront street opposite the pier, people catching a tan on the ample beach. Everyone seemed so happy, without a care in the world, polar opposite to the sadness, regret and fear raging inside him.

    No wonder Martini had chosen the pier as their meeting place. The crowds of people in the area were so busy having fun that no one would notice them. Now all he had to pray for was that he didn’t run into any of his friends. The list of lies he had told was already long enough, and he hated for it to have to get any longer. Keeping his head down, his gaze fixed on the wooden planks of the boardwalk, he pushed on, wanting to get the meeting over with.

cloudsun.gif (2057 bytes)The salty, warm breeze of the Atlantic blew through Angel’s long hair as he arrived at his destination. Two minutes to spare, he was glad that he had arrived first, the few minutes would prove useful to settle down his quickened heartbeat. Closing his eyes, Angel tilted his head back and said a silent prayer to the heavens, pleading his wife to help him through the difficult situation ahead of him. Taking in a few deep breaths, Angel felt bright rays of sunlight peek through from behind a cloud, bathing his face in warms. Thanks babe, he thought, taking it as a nonverbal sign from above. He was not alone.

    "Prompt, I like that," Martini said, from behind him. "Too bad you aren’t as prompt with your payments.."

    "I’m doing the best I can," Angel explained, turning to face Martini.

popcorn.gif (3671 bytes)Martini walked over towards the railing of the pier and looked over it into the ocean. Holding a bag of popcorn, he dug his hand into the bag, throwing a handful over the railing and into the water, where it was attacked by an awaiting flock of hungry seagulls.

    "Chump change," Martini continued, "at this rate you’ll pay me back by the middle of the next century. As you can gather from this meeting, that is totally unacceptable."

    Angel looked around nervously, noticing a man standing directly behind them, watching over them two as they talked.

    Then he caught sight of another man, similarly dressed, about ten yards away, leaning against the railing while keeping close watch of the proceedings as well. Angel turned his attention back towards Martini, as a chill crept up his spine. Never in his life had he felt more like prey being stalked by its predator.

    Cool as ever, Martini stepped forward, joining Angel at the railing. "I’ll give you this much, you sure know good real estate. This area is prime for making money fast. Lots of tourists, the beach.. I really couldn’t ask for better.."

    "So, what’s the plan?" he asked, struggling to keep control over his growing anxiety.

    "It’s really quite simple," Martini said, emptying the remainder of the popcorn onto the pier and kicking it off into the sea, "you owe us fifty thousand dollars. We want our money. So," he said, glancing around to make sure there was no one within earshot, "we become silent partners in the Dusk To Dawn.."

    "Partners?" Angel blurted out.

    This brought Martini’s goons to life. Believing that their boss was in danger, they closed the gap between Angel and Martini, the closer one coming to stand next to Angel, casually scratching his side, and opening his jacket so that Angel could see his gun holstered in a shoulder strap. The second of Martini’s men closed the gap between them, his shoulders back in a defensive stance, arms crossed and fists raised, concealed behind under his suit.

    "Woah, cool it guys, everything’s kosher," Martini smiled, "isn’t that right Angel? We’re old pals," he said, slapping Angel roughly on the forearm.

    Angel wanted to pull his arm away, but he forced himself to be still, concentrating on fighting back the rage that was building inside him.

    "Let me explain myself more clearly," Martini continued, "I will be bringing in someone specifically to help you out at the Dusk To Dawn. Her name’s Gina. Real smart cookie too. She graduated a few years back from one of those fancy-schmancy business schools. Gina’s busy tying up a few loose ends in New York, so she should be down here any day."

    He knew the answer to the question he was about to pose, but Angel asked it anyway. "What specifically would she be doing?"

    Martini laughed, removing his dark sunglasses a moment to wipe them clean. "Geez, the humidity down here is murder. Look Angel, you’re a smart guy, so let’s cut the crap. Gina will be doin’ some, let’s call it creative financing for the bar.."

    Angel gulped, but stood his ground. There was too much at stake. "And how long will she be with us?"

    "Until I say so. Don’t piss me off here Angel, my generosity and patience only go so far."

    "So let me get this straight. Gina’s gonna handle the books til I pay back all the money I owe you.."

    "Now you’re gettin’ it. See?" Martini said, turning to face his goons, "I told you he was smart. Don’t sweat it. This is gonna be mutually beneficial. You’ll see.

    "That’s it?"

    "Sure, it’s that simple. I’m actually doin’ you a favor. This way we’ll get our money and you’ll pay your debt a lot faster than you’re doin’ now."

cellphone.GIF (2027 bytes)Just then, one of Martini’s men’s cellphone ran. Stepping away from the group, he took the call, turning his back and speaking in a hushed tone.

    "Business never sleeps," kidded Martini.

    "Boss we gotta go," the man said.

    "Yeah ok," Martini shrugged. "Gotta tell ya Angel, the bar looks good. Real good. Just keep up the good work and everything’ll go great. I’ll call to check on Gina when I get back to New York. Ciao."

    Angel couldn’t believe it when the young, well dressed man reached out to shake his hand. Steadying himself, he shook Martini’s hand, and stood rooted to his spot watching the men go.

    "What an fool," one of Martini’s men said, as he slipped into the driver’s seat.

    "Sure, but Bernardo’s a good guy, just a little nave. So Tony, what’d Sal have to say?"

    "They found the perfect kid to fill in as bus boy at the bar, from a good family down in Miami. Sal said we just hadta say the word and he’d be up here.."

    "Hell yeah he will. He’ll be the best paid busboy in Florida," Martini laughed.

    Martini settled back into his seat, smiling broadly at how well his plans were going. Gina would put her high priced education to use laundering money for the family, while the kid would include a little something extra in the bar’s take out doggy bags. Angel would drop like a freshly cut elm if he caught on. But he wouldn’t. They had scoped the area for a whole month looking for just the right kid, one who had a good head on his shoulders, who also had experiencing peddling drugs. What had originally been a thorn in his side had totally turned around. The Dusk To Dawn would be a real money maker, and he would end up smelling like a rose to his superiors.

    "Fort Lauderdale’s always been a party town," Martini smiled, "we’ll just be helpin’ add to the fun in our own special way."


jeep.gif (23149 bytes)New car or not, it felt good to be on her own. Always independent, Jess was glad to have a new car to get around in. One more day cooped up indoors would have been unbearable. The fact that Zach, or rather Zach’s father, had bought her the Jeep still didn’t sit well with her, but what could she do? She would have to get used to the fact that one of the perks of being Zach’s wife would be that she wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. Money had never been a big deal for Zach, since he was born into a life of luxury, but Jess had come from a middle class family from Ohio. A strong work ethic had been instilled in Jess since she was a child, watching her father work had to keep his family in a nice home.

    Now she was on her own, on the verge of starting her own family with Zach, and Jess was sure there would be a lot of adjustments they would both have to make as a married couple. Would Zach want her to keep working, or stay home with him as the provider? Work. Wow, that word seemed so foreign to her. I’ll fix that, she smiled, breathing in the fresh air streaming in at her through the open window. After she had her stitches removed next week, she would head down to the Wave offices and take on a new assignment. For even if Zach didn’t want her to, she needed to continue in her pursuit of the career she had loved ever since she was a child – being a writer. One thing was for certain. They had a lot to talk about before the wedding.

    Hey, things were pretty good in her world, well, other than for the souvenir on her face from the accident. That, plus what she figured was an anxiety attack she had earlier in the morning in the shower. Post traumatic stress, or could it be a side effect from the pain killers the Doctor Benson had urged her to take? She wasn’t sure, but refusing to feel sorry for herself, Jess decided to just be thankful for making it through the accident. It could have come out a hell of a lot worse.

    Switching on the stereo, she flipped through the channels until she found a song she liked and cranked it up:

    ‘I got my first real six-string
    Bought It at the five and dime
    Played it til my fingers bled
    It was the summer of sixty nine..’

    Cool, Jess smiled. Bryan Adams. Nothing like a good tune to lift someone’s spirits.

    ‘Me and some guys from school
    had a band and we tried real hard
    Jimmy quit, Jody got married
    I shoulda known we’d never get far..

    ’Oh when I look back now
    that summer seemed to last forever
    And if I had the choice
    Yeah, I’d always wanna be there
    those were the best days of my life..’

    Ain't no use in complainin'
    When you got a job to do
    Spent my evenin's down at the drive-in
    And that's when I met you

    Standin' on your mama's porch
    You told me that you'd wait forever
    Oh and when you held my hand
    I knew that it was now or never
    Those were the best days of my life
    Back in the summer of '69’

    Jess just drove around, not having anywhere to go since Zach was at the office. The mixture of fresh air, sunshine and feeling pretty good in general let the real Jess emerge again, and sing like a teenager to the radio. An older gentleman pulled up next to her at the light, and she just laughed and waved, not carrying what he thought of her singing.

    ‘Man we were killin' time
    We were young and restless
    We needed to unwind
    I guess nothin' can last forever - forever, no..’

     Bryan was right. Nothing lasts forever. Things could turn on a dime. She should be happy. She was engaged, had good friends and a job she enjoyed. What more could she ask for? Things were pretty damn good.

    ‘And now the times are changin'
    Look at everything that's come and gone
    Sometimes when I play that old six-string
    I think about ya wonder what went wrong..

    Standin' on your mama's porch
    You told me it would last forever
    Oh the way you held my hand
    I knew that it was now or never
    Those were the best days of my life
    Back in the summer of '69..’

playground.gif (2916 bytes) She decided to take things one day at a time, and enjoy the good times when they happened. There would be enough craziness, what with the holidays coming up and planning her wedding. Thinking good thoughts must have worked in her favor because, as Jessie rounded the next corner, she caught sight of Mitch and Kelly frolicking in a playground. Doesn’t get more perfect than this, she grinned, honking her horn as she pulled into the adjacent parking lot.

    "Daddy, who’s that?" Kelly asked, turning to look at the car that had just pulled up.

    "I dunno," Mitch answered, "maybe somebody coming to visit that little girl over there."

    Mitch kept his eyes on the car, making sure it wasn’t some nutty kid wanting to start trouble or something, but he couldn’t see who the driver was due to the car’s tinted windows. He heard the car door slam and smiled when he saw Jessie emerge around the side of the car.

    "Well lookie here," Mitch grinned, waving at his friend. "Fancy meeting you here.."

    How many times had Jess appeared, out of the blue, just when he needed a laugh, or someone to talk to. Mitch gazed at Jessie from the safe camouflage of his Foster Grants, hiding the emotions flashing in his eyes. Dressed in a pair or faded jeans, a comfy pair of her favorite Keds and an oversized rugby shirt – stripes worn from years of use – she might as well have stepped out of one of his many happy memories of her, hanging out in the quad during lunch at school, or plunked on his mom’s couch listening to the latest album he had bought. Jessie’s long hair swayed, sunlight catching the natural highlights in her hair, as she hopped on and off the playground equipment between them, smiling that sweet smile that had always warmed Mitch’s heart.

    At that moment Mitch made a vow never to complain about the petty things, for he had so much to be truly thankful for - a daughter he never knew he had, that was healthy and happy, and Jessie, a good friend that he very well could have lost only a week earlier.

    "It’s Jessie!" Kelly smiled, kicking her legs excitedly, as her father continued to push her on the swing.

    "Hi guys," called out, as she approached. "What are you doing here?"

    "Kelly and I are on a date.."

picnicbasket.gif (3654 bytes)"Nuh uh!" Kelly whined, scrunching up her nose. "We’re having a picnic.."

    Mitch stopped long enough to give Jessie a hug. "Nice car.."

    "Yup, I just got it. Zach said I needed a safer car."

    "Daaaddyyyy," Kelly said, "keep pushing me..higher!"

    "Yes ma’am," Mitch chuckled, good-naturedly. "I gotta hand it to him," Mitch continued, as Jessie took a seat at a free swing next to Kelly, "Zach’s right. Wow, did I Just say that?" Mitch laughed. "People are driving like maniacs nowadays.."

    Jessie pushed herself backwards, letting herself start to swing, as she started to talk to Mitch. "That reminds me. Do you know where they took my old Wrangler?"

    Uh oh, Mitch thought. Why in the world would she wanna know that?

    "Yeah, I saw it at O’Neils’ Junkyard over on 441. Why do you ask?"

    "No reason," Jessie lied, "just curious I guess. Zach told me that it was totally wrecked."

    "It was," Mitch answered, uneasily. "Hey," he said, quickly, changing the subject, "you want a hotdog? We’ve got plenty of food left over there in the basket. Chips, sodas, cookies.."

    cookie.gif (12656 bytes) "Cookies?" Jessie said, perking up like a little kid, "you said the magic word.."

    "Chocolate chip," Kelly said, "Daddy made them. They’re yummy.."

    "Don’t have to tell me twice," Jessie said, dragging her feet to stop herself from swinging, the sudden jarring movement causing her to cringe.

    "Take it easy Jess, we’re not kids anymore," Mitch teased, crossing over to her to held her get up. "You okay?" he asked, with genuine concern, as he took her hands in his.

    "Oh puhleez," Jessie giggled, trying to cover up, "I’m fine. I can still kick your butt," she said, lowering her voice so Kelly wouldn’t hear their usual banter and misunderstand, and quickly jabbing Mitch on the chest with a mock punch.

    "Ally oop!" Mitch smiled, giving Jess a hand up put of her swing. "Now how about that cookie?"

    "Mmm hmm," she said, running her fingers through her hair casually as she breathed through the aching in her side. "So how are you doing sweetie? I swear you get bigger every time I see you," she said, reaching down to caress the little girl’s cheek.

    Kelly looked up at Jessie, her expression changing. "Daddy, Jessie has a booboo," she said frowning.

    Mitch stopped, cookie in hand and winced. "Yes she does angel, but you shouldn’t.."

    "No, no," Jessie interrupted, taking the cookie from Mitch with a smile. "It’s okay. Yes I do sweetie. I hit my head."

    Kelly’s frown deepened when she noticed the dark stitches at Jessie’s temple. "When I have a boo boo Mommy kisses it and makes it feel all better.."

    "You have a very nice Mommy. My Mommy used to do the same thing," Jessie replied, munching on the cookie, and taking a seat again on the swing.

    "Daddy," Kelly said, urgency tingeing her voice. "Kiss Jessie’s booboo. That’ll make it all better."

    Mitch’s mouth gaped open, taken aback at his little girl’s proposal. "Umm," he stammered, looking to Jess as if to ask what he should do. All Jess could do was giggle at him. "Okay," he smiled, leaning done to take hold of the swing’s chains at either side of Jessie. Leaning down, the clean scent of Jessie’s hair and her grin caused the uneasiness that Mitch was feeling to melt away. "You’re just eating this up, aren’t you?" he said, turning his head to whisper in her ear.

    "You know it," Jessie whispered back., as Mitch gingerly brushed her hair back and pressed a small kiss on her forehead. "Oh you’re right, Kel, I feel much better already."

    "See?" Kelly smiled. "Daddy knows magic.."

    "Yup, he sure does," answered Jess, meeting Mitch’s gaze.

    Spending an afternoon with Kelly was wonderful, Jessie showing up unexpectedly an added treat. "I don’t remember ever having such a nice afternoon," stated Mitch, at ease once again.

    "I agree," Jessie said, "what luck to run across the two of you – two of my very favorite people - on such a pretty day.."

    Yup. Things were definitely looking up..


   Back at the Wave offices, Zach was going through the motions of being boss, sitting in and giving his okay on this week’s issue of the newspaper and raking in the praise from his employees on proposing to Jessie.

    "You lucky dog," laughed Ted, the paper’s copy editor, hitting Zach on the back, "Jess is the best. You must of done something great in a past life to get a girl like Jess to agree to marry you."

    "Smart and pretty.. not too many of us left," teased Lisa the receptionist.

    "That’s why I’m boss and you’re not!" laughed Zach, "I know how to make the best of a good thing."

    "Must be," said Mark, coming up to his boss with a folder full of paperwork for the paper’s latest advertising acquisitions. "If I had a gal like Jessie waiting for me at home, I’d never go on business trips."

    "A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do," Zach replied. "If I didn’t go to New York to drum up new business for the paper, I wouldn’t have the money to pay you guys the bonuses you look forward to."

    "Yo, Lis, you have the boss’s plane tickets right?" Mark said, in mock urgency. "we wouldn’t want him to miss his flight.."

 tickets2.gif (3472 bytes)"Yup, sure do. Got ‘em right here."

    "That’s what I like," Zach grinned, "employees that are on the ball."

    "You taking Jessie with you this time? Fall in New York is so romantic.."

    "Nope," Zach said, taking his plane tickets, "unfortunately this isn’t a pleasure trip." Though it could be, Zach thought.


   To the average patron at the bar, everything looked great. Everyone looked happy, chatting away over drinks, and that’s just how Angel wanted it. After his meeting with Martini, he was surprised to feel slighty more in control, since he knew what was coming which he didn’t know before. He even had gone out of his way to act like his old, friendly, gregarious self, choosing to switch his focus to other things to take his mind off things.

    "Hey Sugar, glad to see you back," Angel said, seeing Jessie walk in, Mitch and Kelly in tow.

    The scene wasn’t lost on Sally, who made a point of checking Jessie out as she stopped at a table to serve some patrons their drinks. She looked thinner, the telltale sign of a recent illness evident in the dark circles under her eyes. With the morbid interest of a rubber necker, Sally visually scanned Jessie’s appearance, making a mental list of her new flaws. Swallowing hard, she tried to erase the knot forming in her stomach, because she knew what a bitch she was being.

    Sally’s eyes widened, when she caught site of the scar along Jessie’s hairline, as Jess tilted her head and looked Angel in the eye as they talked. So, Sally thought, Miss Perfect’s not so perfect anymore. Karma’s a bitch, Sally grinned. Maybe now the playing field would be a little more even for the rest of us.

    Sally then focused her attention back onto Angel. His meeting must have gone well because he looked a whole lot happier now then when he left. Either way, Sally’s gut told her that something strange was going on, and now that she had caught wiff of it, she would find out what was really going on. Meddling or not, Angel was a great boss and she would do all she could to help him.

    "Something’s wrong," announced Mitch from his position behind the bar.

    Did Mitch know? Angel thought, holding his breath. Calm down, there’s no way he could know..

    "I knew there was something different about the place tonight, Sid’s not here. Anybody seen him today?"

    "Nope, afraid not," stated Angel, as he breathed a sigh of relief. "I’m sure he’ll be in. You can set your watch to it."

    It was true. Every evening at about five, Sid came to the bar for his daily routine of cold beers and heckling the customers. Where could he be? Mitch thought. Reaching for the phone behind the bar, he dialed Sid’s number, but the phone rang and rang. The bum’s probably sleeping, Mitch grinned, and would probably insult him when he finally stumbled over and picked up the phone. Mitch let it ring twenty times and finally hung up when there was no answer.

phone2.gif (17639 bytes)Could he be out with Krystal? Naw, Mitch reassured himself, couldn’t be. Sid didn’t move that fast. And yet he couldn’t help but remember the way his friend had sung Krystal’s praises the other night. God knows he had pissed Krystal off, and what better way could there be for her to get back at him him then by going out with Sid. Mitch quickly dialed Krystal’s number, in an attempt to quite his overactive imagination. After a few rings he got her answering machine. Hmm.. maybe his hunch was right after all, he thought, feeling a little perturbed.


   Lynn felt like a new woman. She had stopped at the hotel after leaving Nick’s motel just to drop off her cassette recorder and put the tape in her safety deposit box for safe keeping, But when she finished locking up her trump card in her box, a desk clerk handed her a phone message slip. Her mother had called to say that Lynn’s father had arranged to purchase a new car for her at a local dealership.

    Her whole demeanor had changed as soon as she had driven off her in her candy apple red BMW convertible. Nothing like the smell of leather, of money! Lynn thought, driving out of the dealership, spirit renewed. Good ole Daddy had come through. Now she could look the part of successful business woman and maybe land herself a doctor. I bet I could even turn Zach Blair’s head now, she thought, with a smirk. What a package he was, handsome, rich, and I bet he’s great in bed too. The old, tough Lynn was definitely back. Hell, he wasn’t married yet, that meant he was still up for grabs.

    Not wanting to look poor, Lynn had changed out of her plain jane clothes back at the hotel before going to the car dealership. She looked good and she knew it. Taking advantage of the colder weather, she had dusted off her black leather mini skirt she had been keeping for a special occasion, pairing it with a new off white brushed suede blouse she splurged on at one of the hotel’s many boutiques. He wolf whistles she had gotten from a group of teenagers at the last stop light had lifted her spirits even higher. She felt invincible.

    Lynn pulled into a parking spot right in front of the bar, making sure every one would see her arrive. Pushing a button on the dashboard, she closed the convertible’s top and, marched proud as day into the bar.

    "Wow, Lynn," Mitch said, having seen her pull up, "what did you do, win the lottery?"

    "Nope," she said, taking a seat next to Kelly on one of the empty bar stools, "I’ve been wanting a new car for a while now, and today’s the day I finally got one."

    "Mommy!" Kelly said, looking wide-eyed at the car and then back at her mother. "Is that my car?!"

    "Ours sweetie," Lynn smiled, hugging her daughter, "but Mommy will give it to you when you grow up."

    "It looks like a cherry," proclaimed Kelly, in childish delight.

    "That’s what we’ll call her – Cherry, short for Cheryl." Lynn met Mitch’s eyes, relishing in the inside joke. "Ask your Daddy. He names his cars too."

    More like cherry popper, Sally thought. Who knew how many young studs the woman would deflower in a car like that.

    "It’s great," added Mitch, surprised that Lynn could be sentimental enough to remember that fact, let alone follow suit.

    "Beautiful car," said Jess, from the table behind Lynn.

    "Jessie," Lynn smiled, crossing her legs to show off her figure to the rest of the bar. They’d have to be blind not to notice her in her gorgeous outfit. She flipped her golden locks back and continued her fake concern, voice sweet as syrup. "How are you doin’ dear?"

    "Much better thanks," Jessie smiled.

    "You look remarkably well considering.. you gave us all quite a scare, especially Mitch. He was beside himself with worry."

    "Mitch is a good friend."

    More like kissing cousin. Lynn grinned, remembering how Mitch had thought it was Jessie he was kissing when she had surprised him that night when she and Kelly had first arrived.

    "You picked the perfect season to buy a new car," Mitch said, "the weather’s gorgeous this time of year."

    Lynn was sure Mitch was checking her out. Good, she thought, you should know what you’re missing out on. Maybe if you’re nice I’ll warm you up a bit..

    "You’re right and that’s why I’m taking my daughter out for a ride before we go out for a mother-daughter dinner. Just the two of us," she said, taking Kelly’s face in her hands, and kissing her.

    "And Cherry," added Kelly.

    "Yes, and Cherry!" Lynn laughed. "Say goodbye to everyone baby.."

    "Bye. Thanks Daddy for the picnic.."

    "You’re welcome sweetie."

cellphone.GIF (2027 bytes)Just as Lynn and Kelly were leaving, Jess’s cellphone rang. Walking into the back where it was more quiet, Jess answered the call.

    "Hello?"

    "Hey babe it’s Zach.."

    "Hi sweetie, you still at the office? You work way too hard.."

    "Worse I’m afraid. I’m on my way to the airport."

    "The airport?"

    "Yeah, Daddy sprung another surprise business trip to New York on me today. There’s an important meeting he wants me to attend.."

    "Oh.."

    "Aw come on Jess. You know I don’t like to be away from you, but I can’t exactly say no to my father.."

    "I know, you’re right. I just miss you so much.."

    "I know babe, and I hate to have to work through the weekend, but I’ll make it up to you when I get back, I promise."

    "Call me okay? To let me know you got there okay?"

    "I will. I love you Jess."

    "I love you too."

    Mitch could see something was wrong the moment Jess came back out into the bar.

    "Jess? You okay?"

    "Yeah, I’m fine. But my weekend’s not. Zach has to go to New York again."

    "Aw," he said, walking up to Jess and giving her a hug. "Hey, I got an idea that’s gonna cheer you right up."

    "What’s up guys? As boss, I forbid anymore sad faces around here. Don’t make me get mad," Angel teased, contorting his face into his evilest attempt at a frown.

    "I was just telling Jess about my idea. I say she comes over and spends the weekend with us.."

    Jess couldn’t help laughing. "Oh no, I couldn’t.."

    "Why not? We’ll rent videos and pig out and listen to music til all hours, just like the old days. C’mon," Mitch urged. "It’ll be fun.."


onair2.gif (11741 bytes) The wooden door of the studio swung open with a creak, startling Sid for a moment, as the cool air from the room outside rushed into the smaller, dark on air studio. A cloud, made up of a couple of hours of Sid’s cigarette smoke, highlighted from the solitary light source coming from the red "On Air" sign made it hard to see who was intruding on his new favorite place in the world. His first day on the job, Sid blinked his eyes in disbelief, sure that his foggy surrounding were that of a dream and that he would soon wake up. But it wasn’t a dream. Ed, the night station manager, had left him alone to get accustomed to what would be his new home late nights, Monday to Friday, as he found the DJ that was going to show him the ropes.

    "Sid," said the short, fat silhouette at the door, "this is Johnny. He’s going to train you."

    "Okay," Johnny said, "let’s get this show on the road."

    "We’re gonna have to get an air cleaner unit in here, or you’re never gonna be able to find the board," Ed laughed, waving the door open and closed to vent out some of the smoke, before taking a seat by the wall, giving the two men space to work.

    His vision no longer impeded, Sid looked down at the board, ablaze with multi-colored lights. "Looks like Christmas in here."

    "It's almost that time," Johnny said.

    Hearing a snore, Sid looked towards the sound and saw Ed, eyes closed and arms crossed, leaning so far back in the chair that it looked like it would topple over. At the sudden silence, Ed lifted his right arm, waving it to the side. "Grab a seat son."

    Sid grabbed the free chair, and pulled it up to the console next to Johnny who still seemed to be off in his own world.

    "The song’s almost done," Johnny said, with a smile. "It's about time for the top of the hour news, weather, blah, blah, blah," Johnny said, his chair bouncing a little as he leaned forward slightly and then gently pushed himself back again. "Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way, then we’ll introduce ourselves," Johnny said, discarding his jacket.

    "Ok," Sid nodded.

    Johnny brought his finger to his lips, motioning for Sid to be quiet. Sid watched the older DJ lean forward and rest his elbows on the console. Pulling the microphone closer to him, Johnny readied himself to flip on its switch, as the two men watched the counter count down. The closer it got the zero, the more Johnny seemed to be slipping into a different persona. Johnny fumbled in the dark for his jacket, searching for something. Then he reached into his shirt and grabbed a lighter, snapping it open. The lighter hissed, as a flame burst to life, casting flickering shadows about the studio.

cigar5.gif (2034 bytes)Lifting his right hand, to his lips, Sid caught sight of the big, fat stogie for the first time. Bathing the tip of the cigar in the lighter’s tall flame, Sid watched as the tip began to glow a bright red as Johnny puffed away, the counter at zero. Flipping on the microphone, Johnny exhaled, in one extended breath.

microphone.gif (1809 bytes)"Top of the hour children," Johnny smiled, his white teeth gleaming, "it’s time for Uncle Johnny to take a short break. But I’ll be back," he chuckled, switching off the mike, and pressing a button that turned on the news feed.

   Johnny leaned way back in the chair and puffed away on the cigar, switching it to his left hand. "I’m Johnny," he said, extending his hand.

    Sid took his hand and gave it a solid shake. "Sid."

     The old man kept smiling, as he pulled his hand away slowly. "Glad to see we finally got someone back to do the late shift live. Such a waste for radio to go to satellite programming."

    Sid nodded. "Well, the hours are good," he replied, laughing.

    Johnny raised an eyebrow at Sid. "Midnight to the crack of dawn?"

    "I'm an insomniac," Sid said, pulling out a cigarette. "But aren’t those your hours?" Sid asked, embarrassed that he would be taking over for Johnny.

    "Yes they are." Johnny replied, "but I'm getting old. I love this job, but it's wearing on me."

    Sid held the cigarette between his lips as his pockets for his lighter. Noticing that he couldn’t find it, Johnny snapped open his, offering Sid a light.

    "Thanks," Sid said, leaning in to light his cigarette.

    "Besides," Johnny continued, "I'll be hanging out until you feel ready to run things on your own."

    "Cool."

    "An insomniac, eh?"

    Sid's eyes closed, as he nodded and flicked his cigarette.

    "Two types of people in the world," Johnny said, holding up two fingers, with the cigar cradled between. "Day people and night people."

moon6.gif (2240 bytes) "Night people?" Sid asked.

    "Yes, night people," the old man said. "See day people work nine to five. They go home and go to sleep. Now night people, we get our best ideas at 3am in the morning, when everyone else is asleep. Day people don't even know us night people exist."

    "Night people, eh?" Sid laughed.

    "We're night people, Sid. Day people let things control their lives. Lists, rules, critics.. the people that listen to me at night - they're nobody like you'd ever imagine. They're not like the people who listen to those other radio stations. They're just like you and me. They don't let lists or critics make their choices for them. Satellite radio doesn’t wash with them because they like live radio, real radio. That's why I'm here and why you're here."

    Sid's eyes lit up. He was inspired. He had spotted the ad in the newspaper just when he was looking for something new to do with his life. Something new. He was tired of working at the record store, the money he was making there was hardly getting him by. Someone suggested he become a bartender. Someone else suggested stand up comedy. But when he saw the ad in the paper stating that his favorite local Jazz and Blues station was looking for a DJ for the overnight shift, Sid jumped at the chance.

    Music was his passion, so much so that he aced the interview, blowing away the station’s program manager with his extensive knowledge of jazz and the blues. His new boss had also taken a liking to Sid’s flamboyant, over the top personality, telling Sid that it would help keep their late night listeners stay awake and entertained during the night shift. The fact that Johnny was gonna stay on and teach him the ropes was icing on the cake.

    Uncle Johnny. He still could hardly believe it. He’d often listened to Uncle Johnny, enjoying his great mix of jazz and blues. But best of all, Johnny had stories to tell. He’d even bring in musician friends to tell their own stories behind the music. Johnny himself would often be touched by a song, because it had brought back a memory about his past, and he would just start talking, telling stories between the music. As the night went on, Johnny would let the audience in on more of the story. Of course, by the time the sun came up Sid would think Johnny had lost his train of thought by the time his show was over, but every time Johnny would remember tying up the story neatly, and leaving his listeners with a thought to think about the next day.

    Sid had gotten the break he had always wanted – as a late night DJ for his favorite jazz and blues station. Yet as he looked over at Johnny he couldn’t help but worry. Would his listeners accept him? Plus his new boss had said he liked his personality, but what on air personality and name would he use? Force of habit made him want to go to Mitch and get his slant on it, but he decided against it. He wanted to surprise his friends with the one big accomplishment of his life, when he finally had his on air persona and show polished.

    "I placed that ad for the station Sid," Johnny continued. I didn’t want some young yahoo coming in and doing what he was told by people who don't know what the business is like, what it’s like to be on the air, much less how things should be. I wanted someone who was different, someone who loves the music like I do, not someone looking for a shiny new addition to his resume. Artie liked you and we talked after your interview, ‘cuz you won me over too, even though I didn’t say much during our meeting last week. Guess I’m not as articulate off the air as on.."

    A yellow light blinked on the console and Johnny flipped the switch on his microphone and started to speak. "Now back to the music," he chuckled, amused at the look of terror on his apprentice’s face, pressing another button and starting another song.

    "Well," Johnny wheezed, as he leaned back in his chair, "up for it?"

    "Can't wait to get started," Sid grinned.

    "Groovy," Johnny said, pointing to the wall of records to his left, "pick out five albums for the next set then, Sid."

    "Am I getting started now?" Sid gulped, as he stood up from the chair.

    "Well, just learning now. Sit back, listen, watch, learn - enjoy." The chair started to creak as Johnny rocked in it again. "But yeah, you're starting..now."

    Sid was now a night person.

* * * * *

Copyright 1998 Susana Audrain and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.

 

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