X - Wheel of Fortune
"And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you're going to fall,
tell 'em all a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call.
Go ask Alice, when she just small.
One man on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go . . ."
April 13th (Good Friday the 13th):
April knew what she had to do now, and she was/wasn't looking forward to it. All of the information stored in the boxes had to be pulled and utilized. It wasn't going to be easy to do. Each invitation had to be dated, a puzzle piece in each sealed envelope. A thousand points of light . . .
She managed to swing a deal with a caterer but it required this and that, which depended on someone else. It wasn't such a problem yet because the event was almost a year away. But she had the date, and the place.
Easter was Sunday, so she chose to mail the whole package on Monday. The first ones were delivered two days later, on Wednesday. By Thursday, the phone calls began.
Skeptical assistants queried her repeatedly for the first week, but sounded sold by the time she got off the phone with them. Physically drained, she recorded the information onto an answering service that used her home number, giving out her new number for more information. The calls still poured in.
Yes Oui` Si` was born.
This umbrella organization became the promoter of the next big charity event. Thus, The Mad Hatter Tea Party & Charity Ball was alive. She found the response overwhelming. Television crews were scheduled to do interviews every day for the next week. She broke out the good clothes, which were tight by then, so she began to run again. The woods were beautiful this time of year.
The first interview went easy enough:
Q: Why did you choose March 24th?
A: Because of the March Hare. Alice followed him down the hole.
Q: Which charity will be chosen?
A: We've selected . . .
The second interview was tougher:
Q: Who are you most anxious to see attend?
A: Uh, . . . me? I've had this dream since I was little and I guess dreams can come true . . . crossing my fingers.
Q: Has anyone not responded that you had hoped would by now?
A: Yeah, Elvis . . .
Overall, the Mad Hatter Project became instant news. She ran into few snags, until the bills began to pour in. Suddenly, she had to come up with money, quick. She wasn't sure how to set up accounts for charity promotion, so she deposited all the check into an account she called Yes Oui` Si`. There the money sat. Until she was sure, she chose not to touch it.
On a whim, she submitted a short story called The Last Concert, written in high school for a teacher who accused her of plagiarism. What's plagiarism? The teacher had said it was good, where did you get this story? April had taken it as a compliment. But as she sealed the envelope addressed to the magazine, she wondered, maybe that teacher thought I was too stupid to write.
Either way, it sold. She paid her bills.
The last time April felt this good was that day in the hills. Chance owned a house in the hills, two houses, actually. One was in Malibu, overlooking the ocean up the hill, not on the beach but overlooking all of the estates. He liked the ocean better than the beach.
The other house was off Sunset, up the tightly wound roads, past the madness, or above the madness but still in it. The night of the riots had convinced him to relocate. She didn't know that then.
All she knew was that he lived in the hills, and she was going to find it. It wasn't very hard. Since it was LA, the notoriety of celebrities made people happy to point to a house and tell a stranger all they knew about the place or the person who owned it.
She was embarrassed to ask.
But that was how she met Ghost and Jesse, two ragged bikers that chugged coffee at the next booth at breakfast that day. They had started the conversation, by offering a cup of coffee or head. It hadn't turned her on. Small talk led her around to asking about tourist information, star maps.
"Who are you looking for? I know where they all live, don't I, Jesse?" Ghost pronounced it in Spanish, like essay.
Jesse asked, "Who are you looking for?"
April swallowed hard.
She started to blow it off but then realized that it really didn't matter what these guy thought of her anyway. Maybe they did know. Just as she started to answer, they got up from the table to leave. Ghost put on his leather jacket, reached onto his pocket and tossed a couple of dollars on the table. He nodded good-bye to April,
"See, you around!"
Jesse pulled a twenty out of his wallet along with his card. He handed her the card.
"There's my pager number, in case you want to go hang out sometime. I'll catch your coffee, okay?"
"Thanks! I'll see ya'll around."
She was used to the ribbing about her Texas accent, "That's right, ese!"
Alone, at the table, she began to regret not asking the question. Surely, she could find the place, but how? Her thoughts raced through her options, but nothing felt right. Besides, what am I going to do there anyway? It occurred to her that maybe she should get a star map and at least look at it.
A few minutes later, she finished her coffee and stood up to leave. She left a tip on the table, checked with the waitress to make sure the bill was paid, then went to the bathroom. On the way, she passed a phone booth, but she knew he wouldn't be listed. She checked it anyway.
Outside in the driveway of the rock and roll diner, she slid her sunglasses down onto her nose. The morning sun glared off the windows of the parked cars, blinding her momentarily. That's when she realized that it was them.
"Hey, I got you," Ghost had his handlebars angled to where the mirror reflected into her eyes. She put her hand up to block it.
"I thought you guys left!"
"We came out to burn a joint. Want to do a line?"
She replied, "Sure. 'So, do you come here often?' Did I do it right?"
Ghost rolled his eyes, "What are you? A fucking comedian?"
"People laugh at me but fucking hasn't been part of my act yet."
"Maybe you ought to. It might be funnier."
She wasn't too offended. These losers weren't exactly her target market. And they didn't appear to wield too much clout in the entertainment industry. But she bit her tongue anyway, just in case.
"So, who are you looking for, anyway?"
. "Well, I'm not really looking for him. I've met him before back in Texas, and I heard he lived somewhere around here. Just curious."
"Well . . . are you going to keep it to yourself,?"
She cast her eyes at Ghost's, which twinkled handsomely. April noticed for the first time how good looking he really was under his brutish exterior. If she wasn't careful, she might think about him later. While it might have been good to distract her, he wasn't exactly the wisest choice of men to dwell upon.
"Chance . . ."
"Chance to what?"
"Lee . . . Chance Lee."
Ghost smiled at Jesse. He didn't answer right away. He just chuckled as he fumbled with the bungy cord which strapped his helmet to the bitch seat. Handing her the helmet, Ghost mounted the bike.
"Get on. I'll take you."
April stepped away, "Uh, back the truck up!"
"Do you want to see where he lives or don't you?"
Si` . . . see . . .sea . . .C
She handed the helmet back, shaking her head. What do I say now?
"My mom warned me about people like you."
"Your mom doesn't know about people like me!"
April convinced Ghost, with Jesse help, to let her follow them in her car. Ghost relented.
"But we're not going to stop. I'll point it out but then we're going to bail."
"That's fine. I just want to see it."
"Why? Are you his number one fan? You want to have his baby?"
"Yeah . . . of course! Don't you?"
"No, but his girlfriend does! I'm sure she'd put up a hell of a fight with you. What do you think, 'esse?"
Jesse smiled, "You know it! She's your girl!"
April squinted, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Ghost turned over the motor, stood the bike upright, and strapped on the helmet. Jesse James followed suit. She took that as a hint.
In the car, she pulled slowly out into the street behind them. It would have been easy for them to lose her in the traffic, but they seemed to wait. Her hand automatically opened her blade, tucking it in the pocket of the driver side door, out of sight / still in reach. Just as promised, the guys slowed in front of a house, and with a quick goodbye, they were gone.
She felt her luck was changing.