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).
Detective Martha Yee called at nine in the morning. "Mr. Connor, can I see you right away? I think I have some important new information."
They met an hour later on John's brick patio at a table under an umbrella. John had provided a large pitcher of iced tea with fresh cut lemons. Martha Yee was pleasant. She wore a gray skirt that showed off smoothly muscular legs. Black high heeled shoes added height, and carried herself well. She wore a yellow silk blouse that let a hazy daylight through whenever she sat at a certain angle. "Mr. Connor, I have some more clippings here." She showed him one.
John started. It was the old Rolex ad again. Eight years younger, dressed only in swimming trunks and a Rolex Oyster, he was smiling mysteriously, had a glow in his eyes. Like lions climbing an armorial field, three bikini-clad beauties swarmed up his body while eyeing the camera with a squinty, sultry fury. The backdrop was a seashore wreathed in fog and foggy sunlight. There was beaded water on the watch dial, and the picture was so real that you could still, despite the yellowed page borders, almost hear the surf's rocky shuddering.
"I told you, that woman is definitely Jana Andrews."
"Correction," Miss Yee said, "Jane Willoughby. Someone at Rolex sent us this copy from a storeroom collection. The woman you call Jana Andrews is, or was, Jane Willoughby. That information made the Dolly modeling agency's memory come alive. There was a Jane Willoughby, aged twenty at the time, who modeled for Dolly Agency clients. She gave an Ohio address of origin, and the FBI tried to trace that address and found it was bogus. An empty lot that nobody in recorded history has ever built on. Of course the modeling agencies aren't the federal government. They don't do background investigations. Whatever lies this girl told when she was hired, they accepted as gospel."
"Jane Willoughby was using an assumed name?"
"Well, it's a possibility. People who use pseudonyms frequently, even unconsciously, make up a name that somehow sounds like an echo of their real name."
"Jane/Jana," John mused.
"Yes," Martha said. "Let's try another picture."
She laid a glossy blow-up on the table.
"Holy Smoke! That's her again," he exclaimed. "Even with the eyes and all." It was an advertisement for an automobile. Against a velvet-black night sky, filled with sultry clouds illumined by a mysterious full moon, a slender woman stood in a dance-like pose beside an automobile. The automobile door was open and a soft glow emanated. A neon glow, a Gegenschein. The woman wore an expensive coat thrown open at the edges by her movement, arms spread, legs jackknifed as though she were being pulled into the car by an irresistible force. Her lipstick was a red explosive pout. Her cheeks were vermilion, racy, shameless, hollowed by desire. Her eyes glowed deeply from within, a blue neon joined by threads of light to the light coming from the car. An invitation to get in and ride away. A sensual, sexual message. Get in this car and experience sexual satisfaction on some drug-like plane.
"It was never actually used," Martha said. "The archivist says another version was used in which the eyes had not been touched up to look like blue neon. Here is the version that was actually used." Martha placed another glossy on the table. Same picture. Only no neon eyes."
"No mistake," John said. "That's her. That's the woman who bought the ring from me."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.