How's this for an ad for Telepathy?
"You're bound and gagged in the trunk of a car. The guy behind the wheel is going to kill you. You can't scream. You can't move. What do you do? Just think the words, 'WellCell on, WellCell Dial 911 Dial.' Your call will be instantly transmitted to the local police. Rescue will be moments away."
That's what the commercial would say.
But what if the jeremy who kidnapped you removed the transmitter from your neck before he stuffed you in the trunk? That's what happened to me and to Gwen, my best friend. No, I don't think Wells Cellular is going to be using me in their ads any time soon. Especially since it was a bug in their software that got me in trouble in the first place.
It's funny. I'd pestered my mom, "Gwen's mother says she can have Telepathy. Why can't I?" The whining got me nowhere. Then Dad said he'd pay for it, so I could call home in case of an emergency.
Dr. Feinberg installed jacks in my ears and neck. She numbed the areas first with these medicated patches. I was awake the whole time. The ear jacks, she told me, connect to a nerve that runs from the ear to the brain. The neck jack connects to a nerve that goes to the vocal cords and tongue and lips and stuff.
A couple of weeks after the surgery, Gwen and I went back to Dr. Feinberg to get our chips. You plug them into the jacks to make Telepathy work. Wearing them doesn't look dooby at all, because they're hidden inside jewelry. I chose a pair of turquoise and silver earrings to hold the ear chips, and a matching choker for my neck. I like to wear turquoise; it looks fab with my blonde hair.
Gwen has chestnut-brown hair. She picked gold earrings with a swirly kind of design, and for the neckpiece, a 24-karat gold brooch. Hers were maximum expensive. I don't mind that her family has more money than mine, though. I get two looks from guys for every one that she gets. That's more important than money.
Telepathy did take some getting used to. When you hear another person's thoughts, they sound like they come from inside you. It was tricky telling my thoughts apart from Gwen's, at first. After a while, though, I just knew.
The chips are mini cell phones, basically. You can call other people with Telepathy or even people with regular phone numbers. They were working great, until the day Gwen went to a cookout with her parents.
The cookout had something to do with her father's business. I sat around my house, snacking too much, while Gwen gave me the play-by-play.
"Oh, God, you won't believe this," Gwen was thinking. "There's this ancient woman wearing a red bikini. She's sitting at the edge of the pool with her feet in the water. The way her skin is hanging down from her stomach--it reminds me of making pizza--you know, the way dough hangs when you're stretching it."
"Dooby!" I thought. "Ever hear of a 'tummy tuck?'"
"Are you still in Brazil?"
"Brazil? What do you mean?" I thought.
"You're in LA?"
"Of course I'm in LA? Earth to Gwen!"
"You're not making any sense, Denyssa."
"Neither are you," I thought.
"No, I don't think getting together would be a good idea."
"Gwen, are you being weird? I can't take this. I'm going for a swim. Talk to you later. WellCell Off."
"WellCell" is a keyword. It tells the chip to listen for an instruction. That's so you don't make a call by accident. Like if "chocolate" was a keyword, you'd make a call every time you thought of Dove Bars.
I changed into a black bikini, proud that my belly was nearly flat. I popped my chips out and laid them on the bureau. They're "water-resistant" but not waterproof, which means you won't get electrocuted if you go in the pool with them, but they might not work as well afterwards.
I swam laps, then floated on my back for about fifteen minutes. Not having my chips in felt like I'd lost my voice--like I had laryngitis.
It's amazing that the chips can read your mind. Dr. Feinberg called it "inner voice recognition." The brain's sending signals to the vocal cords, she said, even when you're thinking to yourself. It's a very tiny amount, much less than when you're actually talking, but enough for the chips to figure out what's going on in your head.
I dried myself off, went back inside, popped the chips back in and called Gwen. "WellCell On," I thought. "WellCell Speed Dial One Dial."
Gwen answered. "Thank God you called. I'm so bored. I'm counting the number of times the word 'fiduciary' has come up in conversation. I'm at five."
We chatted for maybe a half-hour. "If you were stuck on a desert island," I asked her, "and there could only be one store, what would you want it to be?"
"Arturo, why are you calling me again?" Her answer didn't make sense.
"Gwen, are you fantasizing about some guy?" I thought.
"Denyssa, where did you get...." The rest was garbled.
"Gwen, it's maximum strange. It's like I'm hearing two conversations at once. I'm hearing you and someone else." "I'm not hearing anybody else," Gwen thought. "Maybe there's a problem with your chips."
"I thought we hashed this out."
"Did you just say, 'I thought we hashed this out?'"
"No. It wasn't me. But it sounds--"
"Gwen, will you shut up for a second so I can listen?"
I was hearing one side of a conversation, in spurts. Sometimes I'd hear something. Sometimes there'd be silence.
"Oh, dinner at Koka's. It's tempting, but I'd have to say no. Why don't you ask one of your other women?"
"Some guy named Arturo just asked this woman to Koka's," I thought. "And she turned him down."
"I would die to be taken to Koka's. Just lay my body out on the dessert table." That was obviously Gwen thinking.
"I don't believe you can change. Because you're Arturo Jansen, you think can have any woman you want."
"You're not going to believe this," I thought. "She said, 'Because you're Arturo Jansen, you think you can have any woman you want'."
"The Arturo Jansen?"
"How many could there be?"
I heard this shriek inside my head. Was it her or me?
It was both of us.
"He was so awesome in 'Poker Player,'" Gwen thought. "The way he beat up that loan shark..."
The woman Arturo was talking to kept turning him down, again and again. Meanwhile. I searched through the back issues I had in my closet of Hollywood Weekly. I found Arturo among the "new faces to watch" in the March issue.
Arturo had these incredible hazel eyes with dark lashes, and dark brown hair that reached to his shoulders. He was pictured with his girlfriend, a slender blonde named Palma Horvath. According to the article, his next role was as an air cavalry officer in the remake of "Apocalypse Now." It was going to be filmed in Brazil.
"He's the Sun!" I thought.
"He's beyond the Sun," Gwen thought.
"I bet Palma's the one he's talking to right now."
"How could anyone turn down a date with Arturo? It's not possible," Gwen thought. "Denyssa, are you making this up?"
"Swear to God!"
"All right, Arturo. I'll meet you at the door at Koka's at seven tonight!"
"Hold on. Palma just gave in," I thought. "They're getting together tonight."
"I don't believe a word you're saying," Gwen thought. It was just Gwen and me now. The other conversation was over.
"I can prove it," I thought. "Tell your parents you're coming over to my house tonight, and we'll go to Koka's."
"Koka's won't take our reservation."
"I didn't mean that. We'll stake out the parking lot."
We squealed again in unison.
This was going to be so icy!
Gwen came over and picked me up in the Thunderbird her parents gave her for a birthday present. We got to Koka's a few minutes before seven. Since it was summer, there was still plenty of daylight left.
Koka's had valet service, so we didn't even try to park there. The medical building next door had a parking lot that was practically empty. Gwen found a spot that looked out toward the restaurant, but was shielded by bushes. We took turns focusing on the entrance with Gwen's binocular-camera.
I was on duty when Palma Horvath pulled up in a new Packard. She was blonde and willowy, exactly like the photo. A guy met her at the door. It was so quick, I hardly got a chance to focus before they were gone. I took a snapshot with the bino-camera, though, and we examined the image.
"It's Arturo, all right," Gwen said. "I will never doubt you again."
"What do you want to do now?"
"Let's wait till they come out," Gwen said.
We split a pack of M&M's while we waited. Gwen said, "I hope he doesn't get back together with her. I want him for myself. When I have an apartment of my own, I see him coming to the door with a heart-shaped box of chocolate--it's Valentine's Day--and a dozen red roses."
"No, Gwen. We're going to be roommates. You answer the door, and it's Arturo, dressed in a tuxedo, but you're just wearing sweatpants, because he's come to pick me up. He's taking me to the Academy Awards, where he's been nominated. I'm wearing this beautiful red dress with slits down the sides. He wins the best actor award, and leans over and kisses me. The cameras focus on me, Denyssa Reilly, and I appear on TV all around the world."
"Fat chance," Gwen said. "You'd be such a fashion casualty that everyone in the world would flip the channel."
We had so much fun imagining our lives together with Arturo, we almost missed seeing Palma Horvath call for her car. It was like three-quarters of an hour after she arrived. We waited to see if Arturo would join her, but she drove off alone. Arturo didn't come for his car for another fifteen or twenty minutes.
Gwen started up her Thunderbird. "I'm going to follow him."
"Icy!" I said "Let's get back on-line. Maybe I can hear something."
Gwen and I had to be on-line for me to hear anything. I figured this out earlier, when Gwen called me up, and I immediately started hearing some guy talking to Arturo about a script. It was clear the conversation had been going on for a while.
So even though we were sitting next to each other in her Thunderbird, we got on-line. My father would think it extravagant, but so what--he's got a lot of money.
We followed Arturo's red Saab convertible from about half a block behind. Gwen went though two red lights in order to keep up. Once he got onto Santa Monica Boulevard, he made a call.
"Arturo! Haven't heard from you in a while, hombre."
Obviously, he wasn't speaking to Palma.
"Rio's great. Especially around Carnival."
Then there was a lull, and then I heard, "Oh, that's too bad. She'll come around....You want some Blue Death? How much?...Okay. I gotta make another stop first....I'll be over at your place around nine. Ciao."
"Blue Death. Isn't that some kind of synthetic?" I asked Gwen.
"Someone's making a dominos at Arturo's tonight."
"It's icy to know a star's secrets," Gwen thought.
"Yeah. It's like we're his best friends, and he's telling us stuff."
We followed him all the way home. We saw him turn into a driveway. By the time we passed by, the gates were closing.
"Why don't I pull over?" Gwen thought.
"He's probably in for the night. Besides, his friend's coming over and might spot us. Why don't we come back tomorrow?"
So that's what we did. We followed him for the next several evenings. It was funny. For a movie star, he didn't have much of a social life. I guess you could've said that about us too. But Gwen and I were teenagers. We had an excuse.
One night, we followed him to a residential area near UCLA. He suddenly pulled over. We were afraid he'd seen us. We kept on going. If he saw us, he didn't mention it when he called Palma.
"No, Arturo. You have to learn to let go," she said. "You could meet someone tomorrow. I'm not that special, believe me."
"What's wrong with her?" Gwen thought. "He's so dreamy."
We followed him the next evening, this time staying far back. When we got to this one intersection, he went through a yellow light. It turned red before we got to it.
"Go through it, Gwen," I thought.
Cars started across from the other direction.
Gwen screamed, and slammed on the brakes. "Sorry," she said aloud. "I guess we lost him."
Then I caught a very brief exchange between Palma and Arturo. "Don't come over here!" she said. "This is starting to get weird, Arturo. You need to go back to your therapist." Then she hung up.
"He called Palma again," I thought. "She's through with him."
"You know, we came this way last night," Gwen thought. "I bet I could find where he went. Look for a Dandelion Donuts. That's where we turn."
Sure enough, after a mile or two, there was a Dandelion Donuts. Gwen swung a hard right. It was a residential street, and we continued on it for several blocks. There was Arturo's Saab, parked haphazardly in front of a beige house with purple shutters.
"Voila!" Gwen thought.
We parked a discreet distance away, and waited. Arturo came out of the house about a half an hour later. He looked around in all directions as he opened the door of his Saab. We slumped down.
"Do you think he saw us?" I thought.
"I hope not."
By the time we sat up again, he'd disappeared.
"Sure you can come over," I heard a voice say.
"He's not going home, Gwen," I thought.
"What kind of problem?...You can count on me, hombre....I'll back you up. I'm your loyal puppy, Arturo. I only shit on your newspaper."
I laughed when I heard that line. I relayed it to Gwen and she put a finger down her throat.
We went to Ollie's Pizza afterwards. While we were waiting for our food, Gwen kicked me under the table and said, "I'm your loyal puppy, Denyssa. I only shit on your newspaper."
When the cute waiter came with the pizza, I told him, "We're loyal puppies. We shit only on your placemats."
We both cracked up. He must have thought we were dooby.
The next day was weird. I was having dinner by the TV, watching "Tunesville." At the news break, they said that the body of Palma Horvath had been found. She'd been stabbed multiple times with her own kitchen knives.
Hearing about a murder is a great appetite suppressant. They showed the picture of the house, and it was the beige one with the shutters we'd seen Arturo come out of.
I immediately called Gwen and told her to turn on the TV. "I bet he killed her," I thought.
"Bullshit. It was some burglar."
"He was there last night."
"Well, thank God he didn't spend the night with her or he'd be dead too."
"I bet you he did it."
"You are so wrong, Denyssa."
We followed the story religiously over the next few days. The police said they had no leads, but didn't think it was a burglary. An autopsy fixed the time of death at approximately 9:30 PM on the night before the body was discovered.
"He did it!" I thought. "That's exactly when we saw him at the house."
"Wrong! It was like 8:57 or something. It certainly wasn't after nine."
"Close enough," I thought.
"Doesn't prove anything."
"That guy, C.J., said they were together all evening. We know that's not true. He's the loyal puppy."
Gwen had no comeback. I was sure I'd won the point. But I wished I knew what she was thinking. You see, having Telepathy doesn't mean you can hear every single word someone thinks. God, no! Gwen and I would have had so many fights. Dr. Feinberg said there's an "inhibitory circuit" wired from the nerves to the chips. I don't understand it, but basically, you have to want your thoughts to go out.
"He couldn't have done anything so horrible," Gwen said, after quite a bit of silence. "Arturo's not like that."
"We don't know him," I thought. I couldn't believe she was still defending the guy.
"Maybe that's the problem," Gwen thought. "He must be feeling terribly lonely without Palma. We know how much he wanted to be with her."
"Well, she didn't want to be with him."
"He needs some support now. Someone to lean on."
I laughed. "He's got C.J.!"
"He needs a woman, Denyssa."
"Who do you have in mind?"
"Me, of course. But I'd want you to come along too."
"What if he fell in love with me and not you," I thought. "Palma was blonde."
"He might be in the mood for a brunette now."
"This is the doobiest idea you've ever come up with, Gwen. This guy's a murderer."
"He is not. I wish you'd stop saying that. If he's a murderer, how come he hasn't been arrested?"
"I don't know."
"Of course you don't. Well, I'm going to find some way to meet him, whether you come with me or not."
I didn't know what to do. It seemed like a bad idea. But Gwen was my best friend. I could be totally wrong about Arturo. And if he was dangerous, she'd be better off with me by her side, watching out for her.
I always end up giving in to Gwen.
We spent days plotting how to meet Arturo. "We could ram his car with your Thunderbird," I suggested. Gwen didn't like that idea.
Then I overheard a conversation between Arturo and his agent. "I was having lunch with a producer who's a trustee of Children's Hospital of Pasadena," the agent said, "They're having a benefit for neuromuscular transplantation. They want a celebrity to appear....This would be good for you, Arturo....There's sympathy out there for you because of Palma's passing. By raising your profile tastefully--I'm talking tastefully--we may give you a shot at some leading roles."
That's where we ended up meeting Arturo--at a charity event. Arturo put on a mime act for the kids. He made believe he was a lion, then an elephant, and then a seal. He made those poor kids so happy for an afternoon.
"He's adorable," Gwen whispered to me.
Later, there was a crush of people hoping to get his autograph. We knew we only had a few seconds to make an impression.
"Hi," Gwen said. "We love your movies."
"We're sorry about Palma," I said.
"We're your greatest fans. We know everything," Gwen said, "And we love you."
Gwen slipped a note in his shirt pocket. It was a love letter signed by the two of us. It contained both our Telepathy numbers.
Gwen lowered her voice to a whisper, "You could even say we're your loyal puppies, and we only shit on your newspaper."
Arturo's eyes widened. He looked like he was about to say something, but the big shots at the hospital made us move on.
An hour later, though, after we had arrived back at Gwen's house, she got a telepathy call. She didn't say anything, but I could tell from her expression she was talking to someone.
"It's Arturo," Gwen shrieked. "He wants to know if we want to party!"
We both screamed. I didn't know what I was getting myself mixed up in, but it was hard not to be excited.
We arrived at Arturo's at twilight. At the gate, we didn't even have to press a button. The camera focused on the driver's side window, and we said, "Hi, it's Gwen and Denyssa." The gate swung open.
The house was two stories, with whitewashed walls and a red-tile roof. Arturo appeared at the door in shorts and a yellow T-shirt. He was barefoot. Gwen parked on the red brick patio.
Gwen had on a blue halter top and a Giverny miniskirt. I wore a little black dress and sheer black nylons. We strutted up to the door.
"Come on in."
We stepped inside.
"Denyssa, can you believe it?" Gwen thought. "We're hanging with a movie star!"
"This is maximum icy. Even if he is a murderer, he's a gorgeous one."
We were on-line with each other, so we could make comments without Arturo overhearing us.
We followed him to a small room that looked out onto the garden. "This is the living room," Arturo said.
"I love it," Gwen said.
"You've got a great decorator," I added.
We sat down on Arturo's love seat.
"Where are you guys from?"
"We're not in high school, Denyssa!" Gwen thought.
"We share an apartment in West Hollywood," I said.
"Do you want a beer?"
"That would be great," Gwen said.
He disappeared into the kitchen.
"Did you see the look he gave me?" Gwen thought. "He was undressing me."
"I got the same look," I thought. "It lasted longer."
"You're such a liar."
Arturo returned, carrying a tray with three bottles of beer and three tall glasses. He opened each bottle and poured the beer into a glass. As he handed me a glass, he told me, "You are a beautiful woman."
I felt flushed. "He thinks I'm beautiful," I thought.
"And you are exquisite," he said to Gwen.
"I'd rather be exquisite than beautiful," Gwen thought.
He sat down.
"I'm a big fan of yours," Gwen said.
"I'm a huge fan. I've seen all your movies," I added.
"I'm the bigger fan," Gwen said. "The poster I have in my room is bigger than Denyssa's."
"You're quite a pair." Arturo smiled. "That line you used with the puppies, how did that go?"
"We're your loyal puppies. We only shit on your newspaper," Gwen said.
"I like it. Did you hear it from somebody, or did you make it up yourself?"
"It's a line from a movie," Gwen said. "Wasn't it in 'The Godfather'?"
"Gwen, you are so stupid," I said. "It's from '101 Dalmatians.'"
"No, you're stupid. It was definitely 'The Godfather'."
"Now, ladies. It doesn't really matter. I was just curious. You said that you know everything. What did you mean by that? That you've read all about me in the fan magazines?"
"Oh, we know more than that," Gwen said.
"But we would never tell anyone," I added.
"Please don't leave me in suspense," Arturo said.
"We overhear your Telepathy," Gwen said. "That's how we heard about loyal puppies. It's not really a line from 'The Godfather'."
Arturo nervously placed his glass down on the end table. He looked stunned. "You overhear my Telepathy?"
"Gwen can't hear anything. Only I can."
Arturo shook his head.
"If you don't believe us, try calling the guy you get your drugs from," Gwen said.
"You know about that too?" Arturo fell silent. Then he cracked a smile. "Wait a second. Did C.J. put you up to this?"
"We've never met him," I said.
"I know you're putting me on. I'll call C.J. right now."
I heard C.J. answer, "How are you doing, hombre?"
I repeated, "How you doing, hombre?"
I don't know what Arturo asked him, but C.J. answered, "I screwed six women in five days."
I laughed. "He said he screwed six women in five days."
"Holy shit," Arturo said audibly.
Arturo wrapped up the conversation with C.J.. Then he asked me, "How do you do this?"
"I don't know," I said. "I guess there's something wrong with my chip."
"Don't worry," Gwen said. "We respect your privacy."
"I guess I should feel thankful for that."
"We know about you being at Palma's that last night," Gwen said. "See, we've been following you. But we're loyal, just like C.J.."
Arturo got up and began pacing around the room. "A lot of women can't keep a secret. They have to tell their friends."
"We tell our secrets to each other," I said. Gwen nodded in agreement.
"A lot of people might even pay for stories about me."
"Don't worry," I said. "Our families are rich. We don't need money."
"What do you want, then?"
"We want to be with you," Gwen said.
"You didn't tell your friends you were partying with me tonight?"
"No," I said.
"Nobody," Gwen said. "We understand the meaning of the word confidential."
Arturo squeezed in between us on the love seat. He put his arms around us.
"Okay. You can hang with me as long as you keep it quiet." Then he kissed each of us on the lips. I felt my legs go soft.
We drank some more, and we talked about his movies. After a while, we were feeling maximum comfortable. I was wondering if he was going to have sex with both of us together. We'd never done that before.
Instead he asked us, "Do you guys want to do some Blue Death?"
"Gwen," I thought. "What do we say?"
"Sure," Gwen said.
Arturo opened a bottle of champagne, and poured it into fluted glasses. He mixed in a blue powder. "You have to drink it all at once." Arturo watched us as we both downed our glasses.
Before I finished it, I felt sweaty. Then, major nausea. I don't know how much time passed while I was out of it. The next thing I'm sure of, I felt a jolt. I was thrown against something hard. My neck hurt--I mean, really hurt.
I was alert now, though I still felt dizzy. I could feel a warm body at my side, and I knew it had to be Gwen. She wasn't moving at all.
We were in some sort of dark chamber. There was music though, loud Razor music--I'm not sure which band--coming from all around. I tried to speak, but I couldn't open my mouth. Something was covering it. I couldn't tell what it was, because I couldn't move my arms. I couldn't move my legs either, for that matter.
I tried Telepathy. "WellCell on," I thought.
But for the first time, I didn't hear a dial tone.
God damn it, I thought. What's wrong with this? "WellCell on. WellCell on."
My Telepathy wasn't working! I couldn't believe it.
I lay there for a while, confused. I assumed I was hallucinating, but as time went on, I became more and more certain I wasn't.
The second jolt convinced me. Earthquake! We're trapped under debris. Either that, I thought, or we're in the trunk of a car. There was a bump, and then another bump. There was a whole series of them. This was like no earthquake I'd ever felt. We were in the trunk of a moving car.
I suddenly felt a chill. We're such idiots, I thought. Arturo drugged us and then stuffed us in the trunk of his car. He's going to murder us, just like he did Palma. "WellCell on. WellCell on." But it wouldn't come on.
Sobbing, I struggled to free my arms. They were bound with sticky stuff, maybe duct tape or something. There was a ragged end, and I got it started. I was able to unwind it to the point where I could separate my hands.
Ha, I thought. Arturo's character in 'Deadbeat' would have tied a better knot.
Once my hands were free, I ripped the tape off my mouth. Ouch! I shook Gwen, and peeled the tape off her mouth, but she didn't come to.
Oh, my God. Maybe she's dead, I thought. Lying on my side, I brought my knees up to my chest, and unwound the tape from my legs. As I flicked the tape off my fingers, I happened to touch my throat. All I felt was skin. My choker was gone, and with it, my Telepathy chip.
I went insane. I kicked wildly. I tried to break the trunk lock, but broke a heel instead. My new black pumps--trashed, and I didn't even care.
I clawed at the lining of the bottom of the trunk. I was hoping it wasn't metal underneath, and I could tunnel my way out. I tugged at the fabric until it ripped. Good, I thought. At least if Arturo kills us, he'll have to get his trunk reupholstered.
I grabbed onto some electrical wires. That's when I remembered something I learned from a TV movie. That little lever next to the driver's seat that opens the trunk lock--there's a wire that runs from the lever to the lock. If you break the wire, the lock opens.
That's what I did. I kept tugging and tugging until I heard a pop. I gave the trunk lid a gentle nudge, and it gave way. I looked back at Gwen and gave her a shove. There was no sign of life. I knew if I didn't jump now, I was dead. If I tried to drag her along, we'd be caught, and we'd both be dead. My best chance, and Gwen's, was for me to get help on my own.
I sprang up, lifting open the trunk lid, and jumped out. I fell onto what was a dirt road. I rolled downhill for fifteen or twenty feet, and came to a halt underneath a bush. I was all scratched up. I felt something sticky on my lips. Oh, my God, I thought. I'm bleeding.
My shoes were gone, but I stood up. I didn't know where the hell I was, except I was in my stocking feet in the middle of a wilderness. I was in some kind of canyon, probably in one of the California State Parks.
I could see in the dark easily, thanks to having been in the trunk for so long. There was a hill over to my right outlined against a hazy glow. I figured that was probably the street lights of LA reflecting in the smog.
I wasn't sure if I could walk, but when I heard the Saab screech to a halt and shift into reverse, I decided to run. I plunged into the bushes. There were no trees to hide behind, but there was plenty of scrub brush.
After I had gotten away from the dirt road, I shifted from speedy to sneaky mode. I went down on my hands and knees, and crawled through the brush as quietly as I could.
As the ground started sloping upward, I got up off my knees into a crouch. I slipped for a second on loose gravel. I didn't scream, though. I don't know how I avoided it; usually, if I got a paper cut, I'd be babbling about it with Gwen for ten minutes.
I heard the throbbing of an engine. Peeking through the scrub, I saw the car, its headlights pointing back down the road. He'd turned the Saab around. Arturo was out of the car, peering into the darkness. The red tail lights reflecting off his face made him look like the psycho in "Slit Skirt." And to think I liked that movie!
As I continued up the hill, I kept telling myself not to stand up when I reached the top; he'd be able to spot me against the smoggy glow of LA. I crawled on my belly the last ten feet. By the time I was safely on the other side, my dress was all slimy.
I could now see a line of houses along a ribbon that might have been a county road. There was a smaller road snaking up from the main highway into the hills. I wondered if the dirt road branched off of that.
I bounded down the hill until I slipped and nearly sprained my ankle. As I stopped to rub my ankle, I looked back toward the top, dreading the moment when Arturo would appear. But there was no sign of him.
I was feeling happy as I limped down the hill. Gimp or not, I was going to live. At the base, I pushed my way through the last stretch of brush. Then I saw a fence. At first, I thought it was barbed wire. It wasn't, but then I wondered, what if it's electrified? I pictured my hair frizzing up like Ms. Frankenstein.
I touched the fence lightly, expecting a jolt. It felt a little damp, but otherwise perfectly harmless. I was being paranoid. You get that way after you've been kidnapped.
So there I was climbing a fence in my little black dress. If that wasn't enough to make me feel self-conscious, the fence started to give. Before I knew it, the fence post keeled over and I flipped forward onto the ground. This is hell, I thought, as I lay sprawled on the soft grass. Am I that much of a moo?
I lifted myself up, and jogged across the grass. A spotlight flicked on, set off by a motion detector. With the light in my eyes, I dashed past the pool and the car port and across the small front yard.
I scrambled up a flight of redwood steps to the front door. The house was dark. I rang the bell but there was no answer. I rang it again and pounded on the window pane, trying to make as big a racket as I could. Nothing.
I needed to get to a phone. I stepped back down to the front yard. Neighboring homes also seemed to be dark. What time was it, I wondered. Had everyone gone to bed?
One house across the road seemed to have a light on. I stepped toward it. Then I noticed a car approaching in the distance. Its lights were very bright. Was it Arturo, searching for me?
I backed away from the road and I decided to break into the house. I looked around the yard for something I could use. There was a planter, but it looked too heavy for me. Then I noticed a wooden stake with a sign hanging from it. It said, "The Silva's." I gave the stake a good tug. That loosened it, and with a second yank, the stake came out of the earth.
The headlights were getting nearer. I raced to the picture window, dragging the stake behind me. I was about to shatter the glass when the car pulled into the driveway, its lights blinding me.
I'm dead, I thought. I was so close to being alive.
A man stepped out of the still-running car. In a booming voice, he said, "What are you doing on the Silva's property?"
Whoever it was, it wasn't Arturo. Was it his drug dealer friend? I didn't know what he sounded like in person. Well, I figured, if it was C.J. I was dead, but if it was anyone else, I should be honest. "I need a phone," I said. "I've been kidnapped."
The man walked closer to me. He was in uniform. He had a nightstick and a communicator, but I didn't see a gun.
"Yeah. My friend is still kidnapped. He'll kill her if I don't save her." I might have sounded a little spacey because of the Blue Death.
"It looks like you're breaking and entering. Isn't that really what's going on?"
"I don't care if you believe me. Arrest me. I want to be arrested."
He said nothing.
"You're not a real cop."
Another car pulled into the driveway. A man climbed out. He had a baseball cap pulled down low over his face, but I knew who it was.
"There you are," Arturo said.
"Don't let him near me!"
"I'm sorry sir. My niece has been abusing drugs," Arturo said.
"That's clear," said the security guard.
"Her parents sent her to stay with me to keep her away from bad influences." Arturo spoke with a foreign accent--it was some sort of actor's trick. "She ran away. I'll take her back now."
"Don't let him take me!" I screamed.
"She's yours," the security guard said. "Don't let this happen again."
Arturo grabbed my wrist, and pulled me toward the Saab.
I screamed. I lunged at the security guard and tried to take his nightstick. I grabbed it, but he was stronger than me. He pushed me down to the ground. So I bit him.
"Crazy bitch," he said, pinning me down with his knee.
"I'm terribly sorry about this," Arturo said. "Deeply ashamed. I'll put her right to bed."
I struggled to get away, but I was overpowered. I started sobbing. The next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs. First duct tape and now this, I thought. Shackled twice in one night!
"I'm going to call this in." The guard pulled out his communicator. "This bitch belongs in an institution."
Under the circumstances, those were the sweetest words I could imagine.
Arturo touched me on the shoulder. "Don't worry, honey. I'm going to get you a lawyer." With that, he got in his car and peeled away.
I was booked for assaulting the security guard and attempting to get his weapon. They took my fingerprints. Thank God they don't use ink anymore. I was dirty enough after a night in the hills.
I gave a statement describing everything that happened. I didn't leave anything out, not even the stuff about Blue Death, because I wanted to be believed. I didn't care what my parents would say. I didn't care what happened to me. I only wanted them to get Arturo, and to save Gwen if that was still possible.
When my father arrived, he was furious at me, for what I did, and for talking to the police without a lawyer. In the morning, I was brought in for more interrogation, this time with a lawyer.
"I have some good news for you," the detective said. He was in his mid-thirties, blond and good-looking. "Your friend Gwen's all right. She's fine."
I was so happy. I broke into tears.
"Is there anything in your earlier statement you'd like to amend?" he asked.
"No." I said, looking at Scheer, my lawyer. "Everything I said was the truth."
"Then we have a little problem."
"What sort of problem?" Scheer asked.
The cop flicked a blond curl off of his forehead. "Not only is her friend all right, she tells an entirely different story."
"What did she say?" I asked.
"Look Denyssa, if you tell the truth now, you won't be prosecuted for perjury."
"Everything I said was true."
"I would like to speak with my client privately," Scheer said.
"Ignore him. What did Gwen say?" "She says she spent the night with Arturo Jansen. She says he never left the house at any time during the night, and that you were there early, but left on your own."
"That's not true," I said. "You're lying. Gwen wouldn't have said that."
"We also have a statement by Arturo Jansen. His story jibes with hers. He says you were acting strange, and insisted on leaving around eleven P.M. on foot, despite his offer to drive you home or call a cab."
"He's totally lying."
"You admit you ingested diethylfedramine?"
"What you referred to as Blue Death."
My lawyer cast me a cautionary glance. "I admit it," I said.
"It's the word of two people against one, and you're not a very reliable witness. We've also checked with Wells Cellular. They're not aware of any problem with their Telepathy service such as you describe."
"I can't believe this. It did happen. I swear."
"Can you give us your chips? We'll test them."
"I told you. Arturo stripped them off of me."
The detective stared at me with his cold blue eyes. "You're telling me that Arturo Jansen, your friend Gwen, and the phone company are all lying. Why don't you admit that you were freaked out of your apple and were trying to break into the Silva residence?"
"What about the security guard? He saw Arturo."
"We showed the security guard a selection of photographs, including one of Mr. Jansen. He was unable to identify anyone."
They threatened to prosecute me for assault, breaking and entering, and lying under oath. Thanks to Scheer, I pled guilty only to a misdemeanor, for biting the security guard. I got off with probation and psychological counseling.
The counselor helped a lot, especially when Hollywood Weekly did a profile on Gwen and Arturo. They were now a romantic duo and Gwen was now a blonde. It made me sick. Asked about rumors of Arturo's involvement in Palma's death, Gwen responded that Arturo was gentle and kind and was devastated by the murder. "There are always people willing to make up a nasty story," Gwen said. I took a match to that issue and burned it.
I was in school, in English class, when my teacher received a message on his monitor. He told me to go immediately to the principal's office.
My mother was waiting there. "Sgt. Reese wants us to come down to the station. I called Scheer." The crow's feet by my mother's eyes become obvious when she's upset. "It's time you get a part-time job to help us pay these legal bills of yours."
Scheer met us at the station house. Sgt. Reese, the cop who handled my case, sat us down in a conference room. "You told us a pretty crazy story a while back about hearing voices in your head," Reese said.
I kept my mouth shut. There was no use arguing.
"You may be interested in this news item."
Los Angeles -- Wells Cellular Corporation has corrected a software flaw which affected a small number of subscribers to its Telepathy service. In some circumstances, packets sent to one subscriber were being duplicated and sent to another. The flaw, which occurred only with rare combinations of Telepathy numbers, has been corrected in the switching centers and will not require the recall of any chips released to the public.
I looked straight at my mother. "I told you I didn't make it up."
My mother straightened the hem of her skirt. "Mothers make mistakes too."
Reese broke in. "It's not like we never believed you. Arturo Jansen has always been a suspect in Palma Horvath's murder." Reese ran his fingers through his curly blond hair. "But we never had anything we could bring to a judge without being laughed out of the courtroom. Are you willing to testify in court about what happened to you on the night of your kidnapping?"
"Yes, and about the night Palma was murdered too."
"If you'll stand by your statement, we can use it to get a warrant to search Mr. Jansen's residence. Are you willing?"
"Totally!" I said.
I had the satisfaction of learning not long afterward that the "dreamy guy," Arturo, had been arrested. The search netted fibers from his clothing that perfectly matched microscopic evidence found on Palma's body.
As everyone knows, he's now awaiting trial. It'll probably be broadcast in its entirety. I'm not supposed to watch because I'm a witness.
Two weeks later, Gwen the traitor called me up--on the telephone. "Do you want to take the call?" my mother asked.
"I don't want to speak to that bitch!"
"She says she wants to apologize. Why don't you talk to her?"
I took the phone. "Hello, Benedictine Arnold."
"I'm a jeremy. I admit it. I was totally wrong. I woke up in his bed that night, and I truly did not have any memory of being in the trunk. I was zoned. We made love, and it was fantastic. I asked where you were, and Arturo said you'd gone home."
"You believed him?"
"He said you went home because he liked me better and you were jealous. I'm sorry."
"So you lied for him?"
"He was everything I'd dreamed of. When the police called, and we went down to make a statement, he told me what to say. The way I figured it, he needed me. What better dump insurance could I have?"
"Weren't you afraid of him?"
"Look, I didn't think he killed Palma. I was wrong. Besides, even if he had done it, I knew he couldn't get away with killing two girlfriends in a row. And I really wanted to be with him. I am so sorry."
"What you say means nothing to me."
"I'm testifying against him too," Gwen said. "They gave me immunity."
I felt immense relief. I'd dreaded taking the stand and having Arturo's lawyer cross-examine me, using Gwen's statement to make me into a liar.
"I'm really, totally sorry," Gwen said. "Can we be friends again?"
"No! What you did was rotten."
"I admit that. But what about the summer after seventh grade? Camp Coronado. You spent every moment with that boy from Phoenix. You totally ignored me. Then, when the fall came, you wanted to be friends again. I forgave you."
"What you did was worse."
"It was worse, but not all that different."
"It was three times as bad," I said.
"All right. Two times."
"So can I come over?" It was a good thing Gwen couldn't hear the names I called her in my head. Still, I find it hard to hold a grudge where Gwen is concerned. We go back all the way to first grade.
"Yeah," I said. "But you better bring
something, and it better be chocolate. You are maximum going to make
this up to me."