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).
While it was still dark out, Martha Yee whispered something affectionate into Blue's ear and slid away. Later Blue woke alone. Startled, she sat up. And immediately grabbed her head to protect it from the 900-pound pliers pressing on both temples. First she went to the bathroom and threw up. A half-hour session with hot towels, sodium bicarbonate, and glasses of water, and she felt able to call room service. She ordered a toast and black coffee. Never again, she vowed. She found in her bag a megavitamin to replace any essentials the alcohol had leached out of her. By ten a.m. she felt well enough to call Eddie, whose immediate question was: "Blue, where have you been?"
"I was in bed. Hung over."
"The switchboard said you left orders last night not to be disturbed. Geez, what happened?"
"Eddie, I saw the city and it saw me. What did you do?"
"I called to see if you'd like to go for a drink."
"Don't mention drink to me."
"You and Martha Yee must have tied one on."
"You could say that."
"I'm leaving for Connecticut this afternoon."
"Yes. Another priest. A monsignor this time."
"Yes. Your Monsignor Gordon. Found burned to death under suspicious circumstances in Vermont at a ski resort."
"Doing what? Don't tell me. Stupid question. Skiing."
"Actually, he was sleeping in his car. Drunk, they think. I don't know any more. Chief Murphy wants me back there today."
She called Tomasi. There was a funny twist to his voice. She could tell he had something on his mind. "Humboldt, I'm glad you called. How are you doing?"
"Just fine, Chief. I've met Barnes and Yee and Connor. I understand Eddie is being pulled back. Also, this Monsignor Gordon has been found dead?"
"Good work on your part. I wish we'd followed it more quickly. I'm having Vito cover that for us. I want you to stay in San Diego for now. Work with Barnes. I'll keep you posted on what goes down back here. I feel good because I'm covering all the bases, I think, with my budget. But Laurel."
He'd never used her first name before. "Yessir?"
"There's a lady who has been making a nuisance of herself."
She wished she could crawl into a hole.
"This lady is a well-known artist, with a rather weird lifestyle. Apparently you befriended her some time ago."
"I was impressed," Blue said, "that she was an artist and an intellectual. I had no idea she was also a nut."
"You made a mistake. But you're young, you're learning, and I don't want to know. I asked her to stop bothering us at the office, since you obviously gave her the high sign."
Blue felt mortified.
"It won't go any further than this. You're an outgoing, friendly little skate. Watch yourself, okay?"
"Yessir. I could call her, ask her not to"
"No, don't encourage her."
"We all make mistakes. The matter is closed. I said you're indefinitely assigned out of town, don't call us again."
Blue really resented Maggie now. She picked Eddie up at his hotel. It was different with Martha Yee. Martha could not threaten her without exposing herself. It was sad that matters of love should be reduced to such mercenary calculations. Eddie asked her to drive him to the airport. In the hotel restaurant, over sandwiches and beer, Eddie looked at her closely. "Do you have boyfriends?" It seemed to be a question he'd been dying to ask after all this time.
She realized she must be an enigma to him. "Eddie, I just broke up with someone in Manhattan. I'm not ready for another relationship. So I'm sort of being a nun."
She drove him to Lindbergh Field. There she helped him unload his baggage while a jet thundered away in the cloudless sky. His hair blew in the balmy breeze. He extended his hand wistfully. "So long, Blue. Hope to see you again soon."
She squeezed him in a brief hug. "Keep an eye on that cold, drafty apartment in Hamilton for me, will you? See you."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.