16 Dixie Road
By the time they got to Atlanta, Ace was really feeling edgy. Too close to home for comfort. His old guilt complex was revving up in spite of himself. I’m not going to let her make me miserable any more, he said. But his sense of dread grew with every mile. He hadn’t been able to reach Sheila in almost two weeks. Molly had returned his calls three times, so he knew his massages were being heard. He could hear tension in his little girl’s voice.
“Mommy says you’re a bastard.”
“Sometimes Mommy gets mad and says silly things. Don’t worry about it, Ok?”
“Mr. Biggs is sad.”
Oh, shit, my dog! Triple guilt.
Sheila took the phone.
“Don’t call here.” She was cold.
“Shee, what’re you doing to our daughter?” Ace’s phone beeped. “Oh crap, let me clear this.”
“Rob! Goddam it, baby, I’ve been missing your voice.”
“Missing anything else?”
“Everything else, you know that.”
Ace’s phone beeped again.
“Just a second, let me clear this.”
“Ace, it’s Ella. Are you on the line?”
“Hey, Ella,” think fast, stupid! “Yeah, I’m talking to this publisher in Nashville. Can I call you back?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“Rob? Who’s Rob?” Oh fuck, it’s Sheila!
“Uh… Rob’s a publisher … uh…in L.A..”
“I really don’t want to talk to you anyway.” Sheila hissed.
“Hi, baby, who was that?” Roberta didn’t suspect a thing.
What am I doing? Thought Ace
“It’s this publisher in Nashville. Shirt is number eight this week. All of a sudden I’m hot shit.”
Ace, you are just plain shit: a big, fat, old lying sack of shit!
Horn called on his cell.
“Juliana, did you run that stuff on Ace Jones?”
“Yes, I did. I summarized his files. Should I email it to you?”
“That would be good. Did Arkavarian’s office call?”
“They have not returned my call so far.”
What’s that Armenian weasel up to?
Dr. Jonas Arkavarian closed the door to his office. He studied the papers in his hand while chewing nervously on a pen. He picked up his cell and clicked.
“Charles? Jonas. We have a problem. A big problem.”
“Hebe, what the fuck are those?” Marco looked over Harry’s shoulder at his laptop screen.
“Fumiko emailed ‘em to me. What can I say? She’s a photographer!”
“That is way too much information for me, “Marco laughed, “but with the right people, it would be art! Did she have the cameras on a timer?”
“She didn’t tell me. I had a good time. I don’t think I look too bad.”
“You look good for a deceased person with a hangover! She’s not too bad for an older woman.”
“In twenty years you won’t think she’s older.”
“In twenty years you’ll be in an old folk’s home, kvetching to some fat nurse about not getting enough pretzels at snack time.”
Sandy found some beer cans near a fire ring and set them up against the hillside. She stood about thirty feet away and held the .38 in both hands.
BLAM! Too high. The gun jumped in her hands.
Steady. Now, squeeze. BLAM! Close.
I won’t be this far away. She stepped closer. BLAM! BLAM! The can flew off to the right. Winged it.
She let her right arm drop and she held the pistol by her side. She looked around at the high peaks of the Lemhi Mountains rising straight up in the clear air. The only sound was the wind whistling downslope through the sage and pinon pines. She calmly raised the gun and squeezed.
BLAM! The can flew back up the hill, demolished by the slug blasting through it.
Do it again. BLAM! Another can skittered up the slope. Reload. Again.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Jesus, Lord, I’m ready.
“We can’t sit on this!” said Tim Rector, handsome anchor man of ABS Evening News.
“So far no one else has it. We need more confirmation.” Arliss Stableford, CEO of ABS, sat with his feet up on desk. He was playing with his fingers, forming a steeple shape with his hands. “These are unconfirmed reports.”
“They are not unconfirmed. We have the man on tape.”
“I’ve seen it. One guy does not a story make.”
Rector was hot. “Arliss, This guy’s penis basically exploded while he was having sex!”
“It could have been for some other reason. Maybe he had sex too soon after the implant.”
“Xeonosis is making a fortune on this thing, but what if thousands of men are permanently injured by having it? “
Arliss sat up and stared at his anchor. “Look, if this turns out to be a real problem, we’ll report on it first. But there’s no need to start a panic over one incident. End of subject.”
Rector stomped out. Arliss put his feet back up. He clicked his cell.
“Yes, thank you. Arliss Stableford.” He waited for a moment. “Hello, Charles! Listen, we have a problem. I can’t keep this thing down for much longer. When are you going to be able to get your pr piece together? You’re going to have to come up with something by tomorrow or the next day. I have reporters here who take this kind of thing seriously. Right. Ok, get back to me by the morning. Ok.”
Arlis clicked off and hit another number.
“Prentiss. Yeah, it’s bad. Listen I want to get off Xeonosis right now. It’s at forty seven plus. And you cannot tell your other clients today. Give it twenty-four hours. This can’t get out until late tomorrow at the earliest. Yes I owe you; don’t I always owe you? You’re the best. I’ll call you as soon as I know more. Yeah, thanks.”
Fuck! Oh well, I’ll be ok. What a shame, could’ve made so much more.
He called Rector.” Tim, Arliss. Ok. Listen; go ahead with the story tomorrow night. You got it. But you need to come up with someone else, we can’t have just one. We want this airtight. Right.”
Arliss smiled. Ratings will go through the roof! There’s no bigger story than a man with an exploding cock!
“I won’t be there. We’re going to Asheville with my mom.”
Oh, be still my beating heart! Thought Ace.
“You’re kidding! Here I am actually coming home for a show and you’re going to Asheville? I haven’t seen Molly in almost two months!”
”And she’s doing fine without you. She is fine with just me and my mother. She doesn’t need a father who’s never home.”
“You mean a father who’s taking an opportunity to make some money for once. You realize that if I were home, you’d be complaining that I wasn’t working.”
“Stay in a hotel while you’re here. I don’t want you around my stuff.”
“You mean our stuff. I’m going to take my dog for a walk.”
“Leave him in the back yard when you get back and don’t plan on spending the night here. You should find a new home for that dog. You’re not here to take care of him.”
“I’ve been paying Kara twenty bucks a day to walk him. You don’t have to do anything. Besides, the tour is over in two and half weeks.”
“I have to smell him. And don’t bother coming back home when it’s done.”
“Have it your way! I’ve had it with your anger anyway.” Ace tossed the cell across the motel room. Then it hit him. This is really it. This time it really is over; and she’s the one who’s doing it.
Ace was in a bright and chipper mood when the band played at the Peach Bowl that night. Joey got pissed because Ace was being so outgoing on stage. But even Joey’s sideways scowls couldn’t knock Ace’s exuberance down.
”What got into your kool-aid tonight?” a grinning Marco asked after the set.
“A double shot of freedom, brother!” Ace grinned back.