Rumour has a Memory: Sample Chapter
Two rock journalists, Hollis Danby and Elizabeth Anderson, have an assignment to interview the few surviving `rock dinosaurs' for their magazine, Off the Wall. One of them, Elizabeth, had a brief love affair with superstar David Blakely many years before, and he is on their list of interviews.
David has no recollection of their love affair, but many of his memories from that period are hazy. He is haunted by an image of a woman drowning in a large pool of water, quickly followed by the image of the very young Elizabeth.
Hollis and Elizabeth arrive in England, where many of their interviews are to take place, and make contact with their editor, Michael Callahan, on that side of the Atlantic Ocean. Hollis and Michael become an item, while David's memory is stirred by his meeting with Elizabeth. The two journalists are sent a newspaper clip, anonymously, concerning the murder of one of David's long-ago roadies. David's hazy memories and the new murder began to make a pattern in their minds when David's friend and agent, Charles Byrne, is also murdered. David and Elizabeth are drawn into a continuation of their love affair amid danger and ancient memories. In order to have any peace, they must solve the case. Their friends rush to help them.
Chapter Six: Exorcise in Art
Elizabeth wore a white knit with `bat-wing' sleeves that tapered down to a narrow hem, so she wouldn't have been able to walk if it weren't for the slit up the back. A row of studs across the shoulders, sleeves and neckline increased the triangular look that pointed to her perfect legs. David was so absorbed in looking at them he failed to see the expression on her face. She fought to maintain the cool public self it had been such a struggle to create in the first place. "Mr. Blakely. How ... er, odd ... it seems to see you again." She'd debated the idea of pretending they'd never met and rejected it. Most people had a hard time forgetting her because of the hair. And the color hadn't changed. In this case, however, she had been forgotten.
"Uhm. How pleasant to see you." He'd never liked ice queens, and was sure that if he'd ever met this girl before, their acquaintance must have been short-lived. But -- the hair and the legs? Surely he'd have remembered?
"Since it isn't at all pleasant for me to see you, I'll leave your interview to my partner." She turned on her heel and left him with his mouth gaping. He was particularly annoyed by the cool way in which she did it.
Hollis was just then taking in one of his paintings, titled `Subverted'. In the exact center was the face of a repellent individual who really needed a bath, and a shave. He was coarse-looking. Probably drank beer, belched, and beat his girlfriend. In that order. His coarse beard was silver and brown, and long, as was his hair. And it was the hair that dominated the rest of the painting. Long, flowing hair that turned from brown, to silver, and then was nearly white. Hidden in the hair were subtle images. Just barely visible nymphs and satyrs frolicked there, some of them with bloated, drowned faces. This is one weird rock star, she thought, the like of which I've never seen before. And I've seen more than my share.
Pauline and Kevin Richardson appeared at her elbow. "I remember him," commented Kevin. "He always was one for the dollies. Now, what was his name? Jason? Gerald?"
"I'm so lucky to never have met him. He looks disgusting."
Kevin rather thought the roadie -- what the hell had his name been -- was the lucky one. Pauline would've been on his act in less time than it took to throw a snit. His remarkable success with the ladies had been due almost entirely to the freedom with which he dispensed pills, and other substances. "I'm gonna bid on this one," he said. "I sort of like the dreamy violence of it."
"Where are you going to put it?" asked Hollis, who couldn't imagine living with that face on a day to day basis.
"In the music room," Pauline answered. "I won't have it in my part of the house. It makes me ill, even if it is well executed. What kind of a sink-hole does Dave have under that pretty face?"
Hollis found herself liking Pauline. It was good not to hear someone singing the enemy's praises, and anyone who had managed to become an enemy of Lizard's was pretty low on her list. As if conjured by mere thought, her friend appeared out of the air. "Hello, Hollis. How did it happen that David Blakely was one of the artists at this little event?" She may have been speaking to her friend, but her eyes were on Kevin. He looked just a little too demure. She smiled pleasantly at Hollis. "Get his comments on this painting for me, will you, dear? You know I can't abide the man." She walked away then, smiling tightly at Pauline.
"Ow!" Kevin began to hop up and down on one foot. "That little bitch spiked me!"
His wife and Hollis exchanged glances. "You deserved it." They spoke almost in unison.
"Have you seen the mobile with the earrings attached to huge ears?"
"Why no, I haven't," Pauline replied, and put her arm through Hollis'. They trooped off together and left Kevin muttering to himself about the fickleness of females.
Later, when Hollis herded Blakely off into a corner that was relatively quiet to ask him some questions, she was surprised to find that she liked him. Almost. And, she began to think that Kevin Richardson was courting another spiked foot. She might even buy a pair of high heels just for the occasion.
"Are you Miss Anderson's partner? Except for the obvious, I was misled. Maybe Kevin never did look at your face."
"There's no need to tell me what the first thing was, but what else did he say?"
"That you were short." David was trying desperately to cover his faux pas.
She liked the hopeful way he did this, but wasn't going to let him off the hook. "What else did he say?"
"Well, he always was lousy at ages. But then he said he hadn't really looked at your face."
That was when she began thinking about spiked heels. "Ah, yes. I quite realize that I'm an old hag, but perhaps Mr. Richardson exaggerates."
"Considerably," he tried an apologetic smile.
With an air of resignation and a muttered, "It's alright, never mind," she changed the subject.
David felt that he was blathering like an idiot, but for some reason seeing Elizabeth Anderson had upset him, and he just didn't know why. In his perturbation he told Hollis about the nightmare, right into her tape recorder. "I've had it for years. This guy was a roadie for me some time ago, and shortly before he left I started having these lousy dreams. I'd hear a splash and then he'd show up, wet as a mongrel dog in a mudhole, and offer me some dust. After that the dream got weird. I painted the picture and exorcised the little demon. It's one way of losing your nightmares."
By the time she decided to forgive Kevin, David was in his bed, learning that exorcism wasn't always successful. He woke screaming, and the words `Forget the girl, she's dead!' were the only clear thing about the dream.
Chapter Twenty: The Setting for Murder
Charles Byrne was ready for his party. The caterers had everything well in hand, his elegant Queen Anne house was spotless, and all the expensive breakables were put away for the night. His truly excellent houseman had seen to all the details; there had been rumours about him and Frank for years. Frank and Charles found this amusing, as none of them were correct. Not that anyone would believe that, so neither of them argued the point. Frank, decidedly heterosexual, had made a career of smiling noncommittally. The relationship was a traditional employee/employer one. The unwritten contract included a loyalty clause. They never gossiped about one another.
Frank came to the regular parties, and other special occasions, by prearrangement; and was paid a bonus for these services. He thoroughly enjoyed the parties, except for the fact that they generally turned Charles into a nervous wreck. Tonight was no exception. Once the guests arrived he would settle down and enjoy himself, but until then he invariably spent an anxious time wondering if this would be the night when no one showed up. He checked his costume in the mirror, again. A perfect Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing. The heavily padded shoulders of a mock-military coat were exceeded only by his self-important swagger. He planned to stay in character all evening. The ringing doorbell calmed his jittery nerves. The opening door revealed a portly man dressed as a king, and with him a young prince.
These were old friends of his, aged, respectively, 48 and a young-looking 37. He knew their relationship to be something besides father and son. But who were they dressed up to be? He swept them an ungainly bow (for Dogberry could not be graceful) and inquired, "Your Majesty! Who be'est your esteemed companion?"
The man smiled. "None but my young Harry. O, that it could be proved some night-tripping fairy had exchanged him for young Percy." He nodded hello to Frank, who gave a fine example of his `non-committal' smile.
"King Henry IV and Prince Hal, I now perceive. Have it writ down, my good man, that the King has seen fit to call me a fairy. But I object that I am no night-tripping one. I do it in broad daylight. I am not such an ass as to hide in the darkness, yet so my King accuses me. Have it writ down that I am an ass!"
He was having fun now, and managed to engage as many of his guests as were willing in character-revealing conversation. Though in some cases it was hardly necessary. No less than five ... or was it six (?) ... men showed up in black-face. Frank turned to him. "The place is fairly crawling with Othellos."
"Yes, and some of them are melting. I believe there's some black-face in my old costume box. Dig it out, will you? I'll let the gentlemen know there's some available."
The Hollis, Michael and Elizabeth trio rang the bell, and Charles greeted them with effusion. At last the entertainment was starting to arrive!
Michael and Hollis came through the door, arguing as befit their characters. She was heard to say, "I wonder you will still be talking, Signor Benedick, since nobody marks you."
"What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?"
Charles laughed. "Beatrice and Benedick, you make it too easy! You spoil the game and while I might have it writ down that I am an ass, I am not such a one as to interfere with you two. Carry your argument indoors." He turned to Elizabeth. "What have we here. The delicate Ariel?"
"How many guesses do you get?"
"I make an ass of myself but once with each guest. It must be Puck. Declare yourself."
"Thou speak'st aright. I am that merry wanderer."
"In with you then, but none of your tricks. We are a decorous bunch."
Some minutes later, in came David and Echo. He was wearing a dark-blue tailcoat with a high collar. The coat was glittering with expensive hand painted designs, sequins and beading. A white cravat, skin tight breeches, and knee-high boots completed the costume except...
"That wig is incredible, David," their host giggled. He'd been hitting the champagne punch; he expected only a few more guests and he was free to enjoy himself. "Did you have to buy the costume, or did they let you keep it when the movie was over?"
David lifted one painted eyebrow. "I bought it. May I introduce my date?"
"Echo! You are fabulous. Now you simply must be Titania, which makes David Oberon. Am I right?"
She nodded. "But who are you, my friend?"
Across the room, having collected two men in her train, was Elizabeth. She hadn't been putting herself out to entertain her following, but that changed rapidly when she saw David and Echo. Echo was gorgeous in a thing that seemed to be made of starlight and nightfall. Around her neck was the most wonderful collar of gold and rubies. It was so beautiful that she almost regretted ... Elizabeth turned to the two men beside her and began to play the impish Puck to the life. The little group became very merry. She looked back at David. He probably wore those boots to hide skinny calves, she thought ... but she knew it wasn't true. His legs were muscular and handsome.
David approached her with direct unconcern for the gaping, gossiping crowd. He was grateful to Charles. He'd known he could count on the town gossip to have the girl here. The necklace was in his pocket. He slipped it around her neck. "I'm not that easily shaken off, my dear." He said nothing else, but returned to his date's side.
"You know," Echo said, "I was surprised when you asked me to come tonight. Why did you?"
"I've no desire to appear as the rejected suitor."
"Neither have I any such desire!"
"Are you going to throw my necklace back in my face, too?"
"Hardly. When have I ever been so foolish about parting gifts? I'm just considering my options, here."
"Like what?" He asked her warily.
"Well, I could make a scene. In which case you would look like a jerk and I a rejected fool. Or ... yes, that's it."
She kissed him on the cheek and went off to join the admiring crowd around Elizabeth. "The necklace suits you very well, Snowflake." She was trying to soothe the other woman, whose face was altogether too expressionless.
"Your's is gorgeous, as well." Her voice was as flat.
"In an altogether different style. Well suited to the saying of goodbyes."
Elizabeth's head came up quickly. "Are you sure?"
"Positive. I hope you love him. He's nice, you know."
"I'd like to find out. It's been a long time."
Echo considered her a moment. She'd like to find out? If he was nice, or if she loved him? No matter. She plastered a confident smile on her face made her social rounds and began saying, repeatedly, "Why shouldn't I have come to this party with him? He's my best pal." She interlaced this conscientious circulating with frequent, and highly visible, visits with both David and Elizabeth.
She stopped once to speak to Charles ... "I'm not sure what I should do to you for putting me in this situation."
"Kill me. Everyone else wants to."