Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 48byhollywoodjim©
I felt my body drop from within and it seemed like the room was spinning. No words came from me only a hoarse whisper.
"H-h-h-how?" was all I could say
"Sometime before midnight he had an altercation with someone outside Hidden Treasure, I guess it's a dance club."
"Marty..." I mumbled "Oh god..."
"Marty O'Brien, was it Marty O'Brien?"
Roger looked at me before slowly nodding his head
"Yes..." he said slowly "They had some words, then it escalated and somebody took a swing at the other, the security cameras will probably tell better."
"Marty...damn it, Marty." I mumbled again "Does he know about this?"
"Yes, and from what I've been told he's on a plane home with his own attorney."
"So he and Chris got into a fistfight?"
"Right, the casino security broke things up, and he disappeared."
"Then what happened?"
"From that point, things get a little fuzzy. Chris left the complex..."
"Was anybody with him?" I asked
Roger hesitated answering
"Yes." He began "Candy from Tigress was with him."
This only got worse
"Oh no...was...was she..." my voice trailed off
"Yes, she was in the car with him."
My eyes closed and I couldn't form the words to ask the next question. But Roger knew what I wanted to ask.
"She walked away without a scratch." He said quickly "She called 911."
"Car, what car?" I was confused "We didn't drive here."
"Candy had a rental car that he was driving. They were on the highway and somehow he lost control, hit a Jersey barrier and was hit by another car."
"Look, Jim. This is unfortunately a delicate situation. I'll handle everything, the casino security and maybe the state police might want to talk to you since you were with him in the Playboy club."
"You were one of the last people to see him alive. You might be asked about his state of mind."
There was a silence between us
I took a deep breath.
"What about his family, have his parents been contacted?" I somehow asked
"Yes, the state police did that. And a friend I have on the force called me."
The rest of Roger's explanation went by in a haze for me. I didn't know what else to say. I'd just lost not only a business partner but my best friend. He'd convinced me that being out west was the place for me. I owed so much of my "new life" as it were to him.
Now what do I do?
"So that's all I know at this time." Roger said with a resigned sigh. He knew this was a loss for him as well. Much of his success had also been because of our friend.
"I'll call you in a few days." He said as he left.
As we walked to the door he gave me a hug.
"I'm very sorry, he was my friend, too." He said
I called my parents. My Mom was with his family since they lived practically next door and had been friends for years. I decided the best thing to do was go home for awhile. Roger had a driver waiting for me but there was a cold, sad feeling to my ride home. I didn't even play the radio. I just let the miles tick off, the chilly grey that was outside matched my mood.
Over the next few days, I saw a steady stream of people go in and out of his house. I heard members of his large family came in from different parts of the country. Some I hadn't seen in many years, funny how funerals bring families together sometimes. His funeral was a solemn occasion, I was asked to do his eulogy, what I said there I'll keep to myself. Besides, I think if I told half of what we did it wouldn't go over well at a funeral service. Kinda like that Seinfeld episode with George's infamous "curse toast".
Roger was there too, and pulled me aside at the wake.
"I'll call you tomorrow, unfortunately there's some important business we need to take care of." He said
"Right, let's get this done."
He looked surprise at my response, it seemed so unlike me. But I needed to get something resembling a routine back in my life. The shorter I "lived in misery" as the song goes the better.
When I returned home after the wake, it was still chilly everywhere. It was strange being back in my old bedroom, looking back over scattered mementos of the past. I guess it was therapeutic, seeing old photos, some with Chris, reliving old memories, it made things easier somewhat. I even found some old cassette tapes I'd made from long ago. They still played too, another memento of the old days as I heard voices from long ago. Outside my window I could see a blue Mustang slowly coming down the street. Then see its turn signal start blinking. Probably someone going to see those two skanky girls who lived across the street from me, I thought. Chris and I remembered those girls, and long ago we'd agreed that neither of them was worth our time.
A few minutes later, I heard our doorbell ring and my Mom talking to someone downstairs.
"Jimmy! Someone here to see you." She called
Another sign I was back home, someone calling me "Jimmy".
Nobody ever called me that back in LA!
I went downstairs and stopped suddenly when I was near the last step.
It was Blake.
"Hi." She said in that voice only she had in times like this.
She looked so casually gorgeous in a Navy pea coat, its collar up and a plaid Burberry scarf wrapped around her neck. Black leather boots worn outside matched leggings and stretching just up to her knees finished off the look of the ever-so stylish Ms. Lively.
She softly wrapped herself around me.
"I heard about your friend, I'm so sorry." She said in a sympathetic voice
"My god...I can't believe you're here" then realized who was standing by us "Oh, Mom, this is..."
"Hi, I'm Blake Lively." She jumped in extending her hand "I worked with Jim and Chris on a project in San Francisco awhile back."
Mom was completely charmed by Blake.
"I have to go out for a bit, Jim, think you'll be OK?"
"Oh yeah, I'll be fine Mom."
"Good, so nice to meet you Blake." She said as she left
"Yes, you too." She said with a smile
We were alone, in my childhood home of all places. In the kitchen, we sat and talked.
"Um, I guess the first thing I need to ask you is..."
"My agent called me in New York and told me. I was there for New Years and all." She said calmly "I really felt I should be here for you."
"And I appreciate that, I really do." I said "But I'd love to know how you found my address, my old home address that is. I mean it's not often I get a Hollywood star in my parent's kitchen."
"I made a few phone calls." She said "He must've been something special."
"I owe him a lot."
Her hand held mine and she smiled
"I do too. In your own way, you guys were just as important to the movie being great." She said referring to her film "Dreamer". It seemed like a lifetime ago when we did that film.
Looking at her was so calming
"What will you do next? Go back to LA?"
"Well, I've got a meeting with our lawyer tomorrow. I guess that will determine what's next." I said with a sigh "I'll tell you that before we left LA we had an offer to merge with a bigger firm. We had loosely agreed to turn it down, stay independent and all."
"Whatever happens, you'll be okay." She said with that understanding tone only she had at times like these.
She leaned across the table and softly kissed me.
We talked for awhile longer, she told me how excited she was about the upcoming Green Lantern film, there was already talks about a sequel and her becoming the Star Sapphire character from the comic books.
"You'll look great in the outfit." I said
"Yeah, right, you guys just want something to drool over." She joked
"Hey," I said with a shrug "we gotta have something, don't we?"
We both laughed.
Blake looked around the kitchen now
"So, how long have you lived here, or should I say how long DID you live here?"
"A long time, I grew up here."
"Nice place, it's so, like white bread suburbia." She said with a laugh "I'm so used to Burbank. You know, long streets, not a lot of trees. And now I'm in New York all the time."
As we walked out to her car, I realized it was the Mustang I'd seen earlier coming down the street. Its royal blue color was complimented by white racing stripes down the middle and the "GT-500" stripe on the sides. The silver cobra on the front grill only added to its powerful look.
"Wow! Nice wheels. Isn't this the same car you had in 'Frisco?"
"Something like that." She said with a big smile "it's a nice little perk. I just got an endorsement deal with Ford. I filmed a TV ad for them when I was in Paris and now I'll be doing them here too."
"It's yours?" I asked, amazed
She nodded with a proud smile on her face
"I'm the Mustang girl, now." She said with a little bravado in her voice, easy smile and dramatic swirl of her blonde hair. "There's supposed to be a big press announcement in the next few days, so you'll be seeing me there too."
"Man, pretty sweet deal."
"Ah, but don't forget Chanel!" she said with a raised finger "that's actually the one I'm a little more proud of."
"Yeah, it fits you perfectly."
Blake leaned against the car and I leaned in to kiss her, we didn't mind the chill at all.
"Remember when we were in the airport, I was about to leave, and how I said I was going to be strong?" she said when our lips parted.
"It's time for you to be strong." She said looking at me.
There was a long silence between us, what she said was just, so, right.
"You seem to always know just what to say." I replied
"So do you."
Blake kissed me again and climbed into the Mustang.
"I'll call you soon." She said
As the Mustang roared to life, she gave me this look of amazement at the sound it made, all power, all style, and all Blake.
"If they only knew what kind of driver I am!" she said with a laugh
I smiled too and waved at her as she slowly drove away. Once she turned the corner, I heard the powerful roar of the engine.
"She's one fast filly." I said to myself
I looked across the street and saw one of the neighborhood kids outside, I don't know how old he was but he must've been watching us the whole time. He gave me a thumbs-up sign.
I smiled to myself and went back inside.
"Dream on, kid." I said to myself.
The next day was my meeting with Roger. I had no idea what to expect at all. His law firm had a branch office in one of the high rise offices downtown. I was escorted into his office and was the only one there. Roger explained his parents and brother had been "taken care of" already.
I was there for a reading of Chris' will, oh, joy. On the one hand, I'd never been to a reading of a will. But on the other, did you really want to hear the final requests of your best friend, who you'd seen just a few nights ago and had pretty much made you who you were today? It just felt weird.
Roger began a very dry dissertation of how it was put together and apparently Chris left specific instructions that were to be followed, no exceptions. Much of his finances (or estate) had been distributed evenly amongst his family. He hadn't talked about his family much but it seemed like they hadn't been very fond of his business, I never knew why though.
"So, that's the required legalese I'm supposed to read you before anything else." Roger continued "Chris told me you had discussions with Chuck Tyler about merging with his firm?"
"Yes, we had sorta agreed to turn it down, stay independent."
"But you didn't formally turn it down?"
"No, we were gonna meet with him when we got back home."
"That's smart." He began before clearing his throat "According to his will, Chris left his entire interest in East Coast Image to you. So the business, images, equipment, photographic rights will all revert to you."
I was stunned and could only stare at him.
"East Coast Image is all yours to do with what you wish."
I now owned the company, lock stock and barrel.
"Is this for real? He's giving me the company?"
"That's correct, he accounted for everything, there's an inventory sheet as well." He said as he handed me what seemed like an itemized list of everything imaginable. I looked at it but was still trying to digest the fact that I now owned the company he'd started.
"He even listed the company car." Roger added
"That old Jeep" I said shaking my head "I think he drove that cross country when we first..."
"Oh no, that's not the car. He left that to his niece. Apparently she's going off to college soon."
"That's the only car we used." I was confused now
"No, he listed the company car as...let me see...a Porsche 911. How he got that past the IRS I'll never know." He chuckled
"His Porsche was the company car?" I said, stunned again.
"Yes, and as of now it's yours." Roger replied
This just gets weirder.
Roger had me sign some documents that finalized everything and I walked out of the office the owner of a major photo agency. I didn't know what to do, I needed some time to digest all this and decide what my next move would be. Sitting in a Starbucks amidst other corporate-types in their tailored suits, I looked over the documentation again and weighed my options. I knew I didn't have the business acumen to run things myself and do all the assignments. But like I'd said before, being independent was nice. And we'd agreed that if we didn't like things we'd close up shop and go to Vegas. I'd be flying back to LA in the morning, maybe once I got back home I'd know what to do.
"Sounds like a plan, Hollywood." I could just hear Chris saying that.
So it was back to La-la-land for me. My parents were sad to see me go but glad to know that I had something to look forward to upon my return. They were just as surprised about my sudden change in status but left it up to me to decide my next move.
It's never a great sign when you depart in lousy weather and the rest of the way it isn't much better. I was right, because midway into the flight it was announced we were being diverted to Nashville.
So, a bunch of grouchy fliers arrived at the airport and immediately ran to the airline kiosks or whipped out their cellphones and laptops trying to get flights elsewhere. I wasn't sure what I should do this was a new experience for me. Well, if I'm gonna wheel and deal a new flight for myself I can at least do it in the comfort of a VIP lounge.
For a change, this one wasn't mobbed like the one in LA was and I could at least find a place to sit and reason with the airlines over the phone. And just my luck, I have none. Obviously I wasn't the only one stuck. Well, I'll try later, might as well see if the coffee here's any good. I got my java fix and waited out the storm, as it were.
I was somehow absorbed in a newspaper story about a new website when what seemed like a Dolce & Gabbana carry-on bag caught my eye as it dropped a few seats over from me. Its owner appeared to be a pretty blonde wandering in wearing a stylish black Nike track suit as she sat directly across from me.
I guess she wants to travel in style, I thought.
"Hey...didn't I see you in LAX?" she said as our eyes met.
The voice was familiar.
"Yes, I was there right before Christmas."
"Right, your flight was delayed?"
"Yes it was, I was going to..."
"Right." Man, this girl has a memory. I hoped mine was as good. "Laura Jean, right?"
"And you're Jim, right?"
"That I am. Good to see you again, what are the chances?"
She moved over to sit next to me and removed her Ray-Ban sunglasses.
"One in a million, probably." She said before leaning in close to me "and you can call me Reese, when I hear Laura Jean I think my Mom's looking for me."
"Same with me, but if someone calls me James I expect to see my Dad."
"And don't get me started on being called Jimmy." I continued
"But that's so southern!" she said with a big smile
"Uh, not when you're northern!" I said, making her laugh "Maybe we should do the introductions over."
"Reese, Reese Witherspoon."
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Reese."
"You too, so where are you going now?"
"Back to LA, what about you?"
"The same. I'm trying to get my flight all set, the studio sent a jet but it's delayed."
"Wow, I always wondered what those jets are like."
"Very nice." She said with emphasis on the word "very".
"Not like that Seinfeld episode with the plane flight?"
"Oh my god! I can't believe you thought of that! I've had flights like that and it is so true everything that happened!" she said exuberantly "No, it's much better than that!"
"Hey, someone like you deserves the star treatment." I said with a shrug.
Reese looked at me as I talked and appeared to be thinking. Just then her phone rang.
"Excuse me for a minute. Could you watch my stuff?"
She got up and went over to the other end of the lounge with her cellphone.
She returned a few minutes later with her phone in hand
"Well, looks like I'm in luck." She said as she gathered her things "My plane's ready to go."
"Good for you."
"It was good talking to you again." She said with a smile we'd all seen a million times elsewhere and then thought for a minute.
"You know I owe you a favor." She said
"But I didn't do anything for you." I replied.
"In your own way, you did." She said "You take care of yourself."
Reese walked away towards the charter flights area.
I wonder what she meant by all that?
I guess I should be grateful she didn't add "...it's all taken care of"
All the way home, I read through the paperwork I had received from Roger. I really had no idea what I'd do; everything was just hitting me from all sides. I just took a deep breath, telling myself this would all work out fine.
My phone buzzed with an incoming text message.
It was from Paris.
"SO SORRY ABOUT YOUR FRIEND, CALL ME WHEN U GET HOME."
Luckily I still had "Mimi Sheraton's" phone number. Gee, I wonder if the offer she once made to work for her was still good. But leave Smokie? Perish the thought!
I walked thru LAX, alone this time. Getting home was what I wanted now. As I headed for baggage claim, I grabbed a newspaper and then noticed the front page of The National Enquirer screaming out the headline;
"IT'S OVER! RYAN AND JULIANNE SPLIT!"
Another had a photo of one scowling at the other and the headline;
"RYAN & JULIANNE'S NEW YEARS EVE BLOWOUT!"
Uh-oh, maybe giving Julianne that souvenir was a bad idea.
Once I got to my SLK, my phone buzzed again.
It was Derek Adams, owner of the Eagle
"Hey...I heard what happened." He said "I'm still in shock."
"Well, I am too."
"It's starting to circulate all over town what happened."
"What do you mean?"
"Lotta rumors, speculation about what Marty did."
"I don't think he did anything other than provoke a fistfight. I'm not even sure who threw the first punch. I'm not exactly dying to watch security camera footage, though."
"Neither am I, just in case though, you better lay low for awhile."
"Where are you now?"
"LAX, just touched down a while ago."
"Well, you can at least come down to the Eagle, we're not open tonight, and I owe you a dinner anyway."
One thing for Derek, he was always good at repaying his personal debts to us. And I always knew I could get a good meal at his club anytime. Usually for free.
For a change, the front of the club wasn't packed with paparazzi and I could just walk in. To my surprise, Derek had a band onstage rehearsing. He was seated in one of the front rows.
"Hey, Jim...good to see you, man." He said with a hug.
"Who's the band?"
"They're called the Scene. Their lead singer should be arriving anytime now. Come on, let's get some grub."