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).
The telephone chime woke John Connor. Early sunlight beamed through the venetian blinds in his bedroom. He had been dreaming incoherently but pleasantly about pink pigs rolling down a ramp. He had been jostled by happy pigs which, he recently read, made great pets. As he groped for the telephone, he remembered he had recently seen a Porky Pig cartoon at a pizza place. The bedroom smelled of socks and wood. A rustling palm tree nuzzled the sliding glass door. Birds trilled. "M'ello?"
"John, are you awake?"
"This is Lollie. How are you?"
He yawned. "Aren't you going to work?"
"Work? What's that? It's a beautiful sunny day and I thought I would go shopping instead. Then I thought of you. What are you up to?"
He scrunched the pillow up behind his head. The clock's display read 7:35. "Well, I've got to work this evening." He felt good about that. These two working days gave his entire week structure. Because he worked Thursday and Saturday evenings, he always had to be aware of what day it was. When you were retired, that made a big difference. "And I have six star pines, two giant bird of paradise plants, eight Canary Island date palms, and a flat of ivy to plant."
"I could use some exercise."
"I'll fix us an omelet."
"What a guy." She added a kiss and hung up.
John stretched and sat up. Stepping into the hot, steamy shower, he remembered his dream with faded affection. Lots of round, pink pigs rolling down a chute, and he with them, jostled, nuzzled, snorted on. His dominant feeling from the dream was one of feeling the pigs' affection. So he wanted affection, that was it. Didn't everyone? Wasn't everyone starved for affection?
He tied a towel around his waist and went barefoot into the kitchen. His wet dark hair was plastered around his forehead and neck. At 30, he had everything, really, but something was seriously missing. A family, perhaps. He'd tried that once. He had plenty of women to draw from, and they were all his friends, respected, admired, accomplished, attractivebut none could offer a relationship for one reason or another.
"Waahh." Fontainebleau, the Siamese tomcat, was sitting on the blond chopping block. The cat's creamy fur was fluffed out and his tail stood straight up in a "hello." Fontainebleau owed his name to a wine label. John and a young womanname since forgottenwere partaking of Fontainebleau wine when, shivering and hungry, this beautiful kitten had come crying at the sliding glass door. For a retainer of milk and cat food, Fontainebleau provided companionship and an occasional slain mouse or lizard left at the sliding glass door for inspection and approval.
"Oh yes," John said rubbing the cat's back. Fontainebleau rolled over onto his back and John rubbed his belly. "You want your milk. Okay." The cat prowled between his legs at risk of being stepped on while John opened the refrigerator and extracted a quart of milk and poured a smidge into Fontainebleauís bowl. The cat discovered the milk and forgot all about his master, though his tail remained hoisted in thanks, or was it self-love. After Fontainebleau had eaten he gave John a long, agate stare and thudded toward the canyon to sun himself.
John prepared eggs, bacon, and toast. Lollie, a tall blonde of forty, arrived with paper sacks. "Picked up a few things."
He embraced her in the doorway. They went through the living room, through the den, through the kitchen, to the little garden he had built on. The garden had a white wrought-iron table and chairs on sugar-fine gravel, shaded by palms and broad-leafed tropical plants on the northern side of the house. They ate a leisurely breakfast.
Lollie had finished the family-raising part of her life. In their honest discussions, she had made it clear she would not marry again to start a new family, not that he had really considered it, but it made her a safe playmate. She would step out of the way if he met a woman he loved.
In the yard below the redwood deck they carted his plants around. The morning fog had burned off and they worked in full sunlight. Sweat dribbled down Lollie's face and neck. Her T-shirt clung to her and was specked with dirt. the T-shirt became transparent and revealed a bikini bathing suit. Laughing, they hoed and spaded and planted.
Connor's garden had a northeastern exposure overlooking the two-mile wide, quarter-mile deep Mission Valley which cut through San Diego. It was slightly more than an acre of land, much of it at a steep angle like an amphitheater overlooking magnificent freeway architectures straddling the sky. The sky was cloudless, with a sort of haze and the yard had the transcendent stillness of being above everything.
John was drenched with sweat when he was done. They packed away empty pots and clodded shovels, showered in the house, and, protected by high walls overgrown with bougainvillea, swam near nude in his pool. The shirt was by now translucent, revealing expansive brown aureoles.
They dried off and entered the living room. There, John put on slow dance music amid mingled aromas of lemon blossoms and jasmine. The house throbbed with music. She stepped expectantly close to him and put her arms around his neck. Declining her facecheeks flushed, eyes half closedshe sought his mouth with hers. His arms slipped around her. At 6'2", she was taller than he. There was a thing they had discovered together. A naked man dancing with a naked woman taller than he can dance together while sexually joined. Their passion was aroused. Her every movement was graceful. Slowly, she moved one leg slightly apart and grasped his erect penis. She was soaked for him and he slipped in easily. She shuddered, arms on his shoulders and head arched back. They swayed slowly together. As she moved with him, he marveled at her big body's china-lightness, the ease with which he could lead and she followed, just like at a high school dance. She lifted each ankle in turn, in a swaying motion, and moaned. He felt the firm weight of her breasts against his chest. Her aureoles were hard, almost scratchy, and he had only to raise his hand and guide a willing nipple to his lips. It was exquisite torture, a contest to see who could last the longest in this breathless state before pulling the other on the floor.
He felt Lollie grasp his head against her cheek, thought her knees wobbled
He moaned. Gently, without disengaging, he guided her down onto the floor. He grasped her by her buttocks, as her heels rested on his shoulders. He rocked hard while she bit her knuckles. They rose to an explosion of pleasure.
The doorbell rang insistently. John, belting his bathrobe, found a man and woman at his front door. The man, dressed in a well-pressed tan suit, showed a gold badge. "Detective Sergeant Barnes, SDPD. How are you, Mr. Connor?" He was a light-complexioned black man, slim, with short flat-topped hair and the most startling hazel eyes like maple syrup in autumn sunlight. "The young lady with me is Detective Martha Yee."
Martha Yee smiled with chiclet teeth. Her mascara eyes squinched into equal signs. Her oval face had a butterscotch complexion and her cheeks dimpled. "How do you do, Mr. Connor?" She had a custard cup of rich black hair that feathered when she moved her head. Her inflection was multi-generation American. She wore a white blouse, dark pants with knife-sharp creases, and black flats.
Barnes said: "You are Mr. Connor of Ajanian's, right?"
"I wonder if you would be helpful. It's about a homicide."
"A homicide! Come in."
"Thanks." They stayed near the door, respecting his privacy. "There was a shoot-out over a drug deal yesterday. One of the bodies had no ID, just a gold ring in his sock. The ring had a yellow diamond in it, worth a lot. Ajanian was graved inside. We checked and Mr. Ajanian says according to the records you sold the ring a few days ago. Do you remember?"
Dread panged in John's innards. "Yes. A tall woman named, let's see
Jana Andrews bought them."
"We got that name. The credit card turned out to be stolen, so that's a dead end. What can you tell us about this woman?"
"She said she was a model in New York City while I was one there also. We were supposedly in a watch ad together."
Lollie leaned into the room and waved a perfunctory goodbye to John. "See you soon." Now why was she sneaking out the back. Chicken-chips, he mouthed at her with a mock frown.
"Sorry we intruded," Barnes remarked. Martha Yee's gaze followed Lollie musingly, then her coal eyes, in sliced-nectarine eyelids, turned chilly attention on John.
"No problem," John told Barnes. He told them of his years' background as a male model, his recent encounter with Jana Andrews, her claim of having known him, and his lack of recall.
Barnes said. "What we are after is who ordered this little drug battle. We might catch a drug lord or two. First problem, we don't know who the dead man was. Young guy, maybe thirty. Clean looking, but he had tracks. Heroin addict, but not your shooting gallery stiff. If he had a wallet, it was taken. Without ID, it's real hard. He looked clean-cut but strung out. Second problem, we don't know the woman who bought the ring. A strange case. Suppose you describe this woman as best you can."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.