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).
Hettie VanDerVoort, 23, had a small sturdy build, shoulder-length black hair, frecklesome tanned skin, and brown eyes. Johnno had met her months earlier during a party at the beach. Something about her had attracted him, and he had struck up a conversation. That relationship had sort of half-blossomed in the ensuing months. She did not want to be tied down, and he supposed she was just too young for him.
She had called him on a whim this evening, and he met her for a late dinner at a pancake house. There, she shared her dream about winning a surfing championship. John gamely sipped an orange juice and nodded as she spun her fantasies. She sat beside him and played with his leg.
When he pulled up in his driveway, Hettie was right behind him in her convertible yellow VW beetle, top down of course. She looked enthused in her splashy yellow shirt, tight black skirt, and sandals. White earrings shaped like seashells dangled from her earlobes. The VW's radio belted rock music.
John checked the mailboxemptyand rattled his key ring while locating the house key. Inside, Hettie unbuttoned her shirt. He poured white wine and sat on the couch.
Hettie went to the stereo. She found her station and the house began thumping. She stripped slowly, gyrating in dance. John had dreamed about Hettie recently. In his dream, he had lain asleep under a warm night sky. Two brown eggs had descended from the stars, wide ends downward, and settled on the earth. A night thing had flown over, dropping two pink blossoms that landed on the pointed ends of the eggs. Instantly, the blossoms had turned into nipples and the eggs into breasts, and Hettie had turned onto her side offering an embrace.
"Love me," the real Hettie cried just now. Her tight butt in black skirt rocked to the music. He pulled her close. Her ripe breasts were firm and jutting as the eggs in his dream. Her arms, wrapped around him, were soft and her hunger was strong.
John woke later because Hettie kissed him goodnight and slammed the door on her way out. She had meant for him to sleep sweet dreams (so her husky voice echoed saying) but he was restless and lay half awake on the couch debating whether he should spend the night on the couch or in his bedroom.
Half-awake, he listened to the night sounds after Hettie had left. A car passed, throwing slats of light on the ceiling, cubes and pentangles that mutated and whisked away into the walls. The car stopped.
He heard footsteps. A woman's heels, clicking. They paused on the sidewalk outside. Clicked again, closer. He pricked his ears up. The footsteps were headed closer to his door. They stopped. He sat up on the couch, his heart pounding. Heard a single thumping noise, a rustle of hedges. Then the sound of a car. He jumped to the window as the footsteps clicked rapidly away. Tore open the curtain, looked over dozing bushes at the street. The woman, walking to the waiting car with its thrumming engine, a white Porsche, plate indecipherable in street lighting, looked back and must have noticed movement in his curtains. She stopped a moment, turned toward him.
She was a slim blonde in sunglasses and miniskirt, wearing a leather coat and pillbox hat. As John stood transfixed, a light flashed on the surface of her sunglasses. Was it the alchemy of night lights, maybe a throw-off from some store window? Just for a moment the light on her sunglasses flashed blue neon.
Frozen a second longer, John watched as she walked to the car, her long legs scissoring.
He bolted for the door, running barefoot onto the sidewalk, just in time to watch them roar off. Did not get a look at the license plate.
Rubbing his eyes, he turned to go back into his house. In the wan light seeping from the living room, he saw a thick manila envelope in the hedge by his door. He took it in the house. After drawing a glass of water, he sat and emptied the envelope onto the couch. Out came newspaper clippings, fresh white ones and old yellowed ones. The clippings had ballpoint stars beside pertinent items and were from various newspapers. "Police Raid Call Girl Service," one read. "Drug Raid Nets Six," another read.
John dialed Martha Yee's private phone number.
She answered in a sleepy voice.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, "I know it's late, but the weirdest thing has just happened." She said never mind, she'd be right over. "Former Fashion Model Sentenced," a clipping blared as John kept reading. The name Jana Andrews floated up from the newsprint in several places.
Martha Yee, wearing a beige jump suit and deck shoes, arrived within the hour. He offered tea. Martha Yee let the clippings sift through her fingers one by one. "Amazing." The clippings were dated in a broad, scrawling hand, in ballpoint. "And you say a woman with sunglasses left these things?"
"Yes." He described the woman, the Porsche, the sunglasses flashing with blue neon.
Martha held the clippings outspread in her lap. "Somebody has gone to a great deal of trouble to detail Jana Andrews's life from the time she was a model in New York."
"You mean Jane Willoughby."
"Yes. Let's assume for the moment it's the same person. If we arrange these clippings in chronological order, we have a pretty good history of her life. She worked as a model at the Dolly Agency. Here is her picture. And here is the Rolex Oyster shot. There you are, with her hanging on your arm. A year later, here is a gossip column article about her. She is running with a fast set who are into cocaine and designer drugs. She makes a fool of herself at a New Year's Eve party. Next year, another gossip column about her. She is dating Solly Witz, a prominent New York computer genius who is also underwriting her venture in film noir. Next year we have Solly Witz committing suicide in an upstate New York resort hotel after his company goes belly up. A year later again, we have Jana Andrews a.k.a. Jane Willoughby being arrested in Minneapolis, of all places, as part of a porno ring. She is sentenced to a year in a state penitentiary. Next year, we have Jana Andrews a.k.a. Jane Willoughby, again, arrested in Portland, Oregon as a high-priced call girl involved in the downfall of a city councilman
a steady slide down hill. These pictures of heris that the woman you remember?"
John looked at the fuzzy newsprint pictures. "I could be wrong. Tall woman. Same glamorous look. She would have been ten years younger. Yes and no. It might be her."
Detective Martha Yee ran her fingertips through her glossy black hair. "By the way, the man with the ring? He's a dead priest from Connecticut. He, and your glamor lady here, may be involved with a big drug ring. There are two police officers flying in from Connecticut. One is a police detective, the other a DEA fed. You will probably get to meet them."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.