Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).
John Connor, 30, had retired four years ago with two million dollars in the bank, well-deserved after his hectic years in New York City. He did not need to work, but a limited partnership at exclusive Ajanian's filled his need to be with people.
Ajanian's In The Mall: A subdued elegance under bluish light, a potpourri of glittering jewels among mirrors, oriental rugs, paintings, watches, statuary, everything highly priced.
John was tall and slim, a shade over six feet. He looked damn good in his dark business suit. He had a small sculpted nose, witty mouth, strong jaw and dimpled chin. He had dark thoughtful eyes, well-shaped, and strong arched eyebrows under a broad intelligent forehead. Wherever he went, women's eyes followed him. He was divorced, and had a number of girl friends, but nobody special in his life.
One February evening, in walked long-legged Jana Andrews. John was standing behind the watch counter when he saw her. He loved the watches. Especially the diving watches. There were Seikos and Bulovas and Rolexes and every brand imaginable. Every watch emitted its glitter and precise perfection. Ajanian did not fool around. No baubles, no trinkets here. He traveled to New York, to Amsterdam, to Rome, to London, to you name it, and he left the loud stuff behind. What came to San Diego on his signature were the silently demanding objects.
Jana Andrews (or whoever) was one of those rare women who leave a propeller wash of stares. She brought a whiff of crisp air, a glitter of night skyline under her long and genuine lashes. Her eyes were a striking color, like a dark blue Porsche freshly waxed. Ouch. Smoldering.
John approached the tall woman, who was eyeing a tasteful s colored luggage. "May I help you?" This was not normal Ajanian etiquette. Ajanian said: Let the customer talk to you first, always. It's a matter of seduction.
She looked up with an amused look. You've taken your time, her look said. Those skyline eyes, couched in exclusive cheekbones like alabaster, gave him their slitty wounded look. She had wide, expressive lips that would have looked vulgar on a shorter woman. Her skin looked fine and pampered, but this body had to be worked hard somewhere with weights. Her lips slyly wrinkled like a moving caterpillar when she spoke, and her voice had that nasal huskiness that tall stretchy women have. She pointed into the glass case beside the luggage. "The yellow diamond on that man's gold ring is nice. How much is it?"
John stepped around and, with the key on his wrist on a spiral band, opened the back of the case. He placed the ring on the counter on a black velvet pillow. "Two thousand dollars. The stone has exceptional qualities."
She lifted it, touched it with a red lacquered fingernail. "The little diamonds on either side, are they real?"
"Everything here is real," John replied.
"Including you," she countered dryly. There was intelligence about her, but also a hardness. Her gorgeous hair dangled as she opened her purse. "I'll take the ring."
"Would you like these gift-wrapped?" he asked, glancing at her credit card, "Miss, er, Andrews?" She pursed her lips to one side, looked indecisive for an instant. "All right."
He engraved Ajanian inside the band and placed the ring on its cushion in its plastic box. He wrapped the box, first in tissue paper, then in foil-backed paper with Ajanian's watermark. A red bow with a dangling miniature card in embossed eggshell stock finished the job. She took the packet. "I keep thinking I've seen you somewhere before."
He thought hard, could not place her. There had been many such women in his life.
She squinched one eye. "Hmm. Long ago, I think New York."
"Really." He felt conflicting emotions, old residuals both exciting and frightening. "I worked in New York a few years."
"Let me guess." There it was again, that edge. "Modeling."
He felt exposed. "Yes. For a number of years. And you?"
She nodded like an old comrade. "Yep. For several years. Dolly Agency, Feltman, Shine & Shine, you name it."
"Small world. I did TV commercials for Ford, Shulton, IBM, Rolex
"Rolex. That was it. You married whatserface."
John was taken back. "Amy."
A reflective nod. "You were a haul, we figured." He felt embarrassed. Her grin flashed like sword steel. "One time, I was draped over your shoulder while you showed off your Oyster."
"I'm sure I noticed at the time."
She softened a bit. "And Amy?"
"I am too. But it's history. Years."
"You seemed like a nice guy. You still do. I remember that about you."
He was embarrassed that his own memory was so short.
"Well," she said, "I'll be toddling along."
"We should get together and compare old ads," he said.
"No thanks. I'm out of it." She touched his cheek. He felt the faint scraping edge of her red fingernails. Her touch lingered with a hint of, what, nostalgia? wistfulness? She walked rapidly out of the store and did not stop to look at anything more.
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.