I finished writing the first chapter for the James Patterson thing. Eh. It’s alright I suppose. I’ll post here (below). Otherwise, I revised two more chapters of KINGDOM. Though it’s a long ways off, it hit me too that I have a severe plot issue to deal with later on. I suspect it will mean a major rewrite, once I figure out what to do with it. Sigh.
First Chapter: Video Star (working title)
The suite was red, of all things. That irritated Jolene right off. She tossed her headscarf onto the bed before slipping off first her shirt, then her jeans. Sweat still coated her body from the show earlier. She needed air. The sliding glass balcony door didn’t move when she pulled on it. With a sigh, she yanked up the bar lock along the floor. Once open, she stepped out nearly naked, Miami Beach sparkling in a rainbow of colors below.
Her phone buzzed on the side table inside the room. She ignored it with a toss of her head. Not tonight, she thought. She would have none of it. A hot wind swirled up the face of the hotel, shooting her hair in wild strands. She thought about Weldon again, whether he would show here or not. The movie wrapped over the weekend, but he had not texted or called since. TMZ had pictures of him with some girl on a beach, one of those paparazzi-on-a-boat shots. Still, he promised to come on the last night of her tour. He had one more night then.
The phone buzzed again and this time she wandered back in to check it. Unknown number.
“Hello,” she said after answering.
The only sound on the other end was something like water running. It could be someone breathing, if they had an odd pattern to their breaths: quick, shallow, as if hyperventilating, rising up in swells. A part of her brain tingled at it.
“Mama,” she whispered as if someone might hear her.
Still no reply. In the background came a fainter sound, maybe a bell. No, it was wind chimes, and the sound was wind forced into the phone’s mouthpiece. It could be the person was holding up the phone so she would get a message subtly, those familiar sounds sparking reluctant memories. It worked. That twinge she had in her head grew into panic.
“Dammit,” she screamed, “stop! Just let me go!”
She slid her thumb to end the call and then threw the phone on the bed. It bounced once, slid to the edge, and flopped onto the floor. She rubbed her temples. The first thing she snatched and tossed was a small, but heavy lamp. It crashed into the far wall with a loud clatter. Next came the hotel phone by the bed, though she had to tug the cord from the wall first. It hit a little below the spot the lamp did. Both collisions left jagged holes in the drywall.
Her tirade went on, with pillows, a bible, several pens and notepads, and her shoes added to the debris. She tore the bedding up and tossed all of that too. When she was done, her mania at its peak, the purge came. It all left her with a single exhale, and she collapsed to her ass on the floor, her arms draped over her legs, and her head hung in exhaustion.
“Fuck,” she murmured.
Two days. That’s how long it would take to wrap up the tour, figure out things with Weldon, and get home to LA. Her fingers twitched at her hair as if picking for bugs, the ends being twirled and twisted into knots. She muttered quietly. No matter what she did, when these attacks came, the whispers came with them. Other sounds creaked in the dark too: chains dragged across cement floors, the whir of a whetstone grinder and its sister sizzle of pressed blade, screams bred from cruelty. A black crater grew in her chest as her breath grew slow.
In the end the memories themselves calmed her. That was really the worst part.
A knock on the hotel door snapped her back. The first rap was slight, polite. After thirty seconds of no response, the second was firm. Each time three knocks in quick succession. By the third time it was obvious a balled fist pounded on the other side of the door. Jolene stayed herself right where she was. Though the nightmare daydream passed, her body still shivered. She bit at his fingernail until it tore off in her mouth. It rested on her tongue for a second before being spit to the floor.
The pounding came with more fervor, coupled with a woman’s voice muffled through the door. Jolene crawled from the bedroom into the living room suite, before finally standing. Her eye pressed to the peephole. Jennifer, her assistant, stood stiffly on the other side, her palm raised to begin another pounding. She had changed into a t-shirt and sweatpants and looked like someone who shouldn’t be on this floor. A devious part of Jolene considered calling the police to see what would happen.
“Hold on, Jennifer,” she said, her face leaned against the door.
The security latch flung back hard against the wall, and then the deadbolt clanked to its open position. Jolene pushed down on the handle so that Jennifer almost tumbled into the suite.
“What the fuck, Jolene,” she admonished. “I thought maybe you were in the shower, but you knew I was coming right here. Goddamit, don’t leave me standing in the hallway again.”
Anyone who didn’t know the two of them might think their roles were reversed. But Jolene had trusted her best friend since she was fifteen, when they met and soon ran away together from Boone, North Carolina, the city named after Daniel Boone. Jennifer had taken the dizzying ride to fame right alongside, protecting Jolene from potential harms of all kinds. She was less a personal assistant than a full-time, brawling bitch of a bodyguard, though there was real beefcake for that job. Jennifer was her chosen sister, someone who kept the world grounded and who could remind Jolene from where she had come.
“I got a call again.”
“Your mama again? What did she say?”
Jolene closed the door with an absentminded shove. “Nothing. Just held up the phone, let me hear those wind chimes on the front porch.”
What Jennifer did not know was the extent of what Jolene had escaped. She knew some of the bad, but not the worst.
“You’re safe now, you hear me? I told you I can call some people to shut this right the fuck down.”
“No,” Jolene said. “Don’t do that. It will only make things worse. The tour is almost over. I’ll take care of it then.”
Jennifer wrapped an arm around Jolene’s shoulders and walked her back to the bedroom. Once there, she perked Jolene up straight, lifted her chin with a finger, and slinked in for a long, noiseless kiss. When she pulled away, their lips continued to reach for each other.
“I love you, baby. Don’t every think I’ll leave your side.”
Jolene smiled. “I love you, too. Listen, can you get us some food while I take a shower?”
“Of course. I know what you like,” Jennifer said and followed it with a teasing purse of her lips.
She started to saunter toward the phone, noticing the stripped bed and pile along the wall.
“What the fuck, Jolene? Oh my god, it really got to you this time. I’m so fucking sorry. You should have told me!”
Jolene stared blankly, not really noticing the room around her. Jennifer’s shrill voice sounded like the nightmare sounds earlier, off in the distance and thin.
“They want me to come home,” Jolene muttered.
Jennifer didn’t hear her, instead whisked through the room cleaning up. The way she could focus on a single task was one of the things that benefited Jolene the most. Do this, get it done, then do that, get that done. Get out of my fucking way, don’t argue with me. The bed was made and all the objects put back in their spots, though some broken beyond repair. The last to go back was the Bible, which Jennifer handled with all the care of a used Kleenex. She tossed it back in the drawer, which she quickly slammed shut.
“You’re still standing here,” she asked in a squeal. “Get undressed. Now!”
Jolene allowed herself to be dragged into the bathroom, stripped, and pushed under the four shower heads of hot water. Mist stuck to the mirrors and shower doors within minutes, so that Jolene was cast into a cloud.
“Jennifer,” she called.
“Please keep talking to me. I need to know you’re here.”
The shower door slid open after a minute, and Jennifer stood holding a towel.
“How about you just come out here with me. Did you use any soap? No. Okay, we’ll do that later. Come on, out you go.”
She managed to help Jolene into a robe, some slippers, but gave up on panties. Jolene’s mind was elsewhere and dressing her was turning into a chore. Just when everything was settled, and Jolene sat on the bed looking somewhat at peace, and the room was back to normal, the cell phone buzzed on top of the nightstand. The glass was now splintered beyond repair, but the screen was still visible enough.
Unknown caller. Jolene screamed and started to grab it. Instead, Jennifer snatched it up, answered the call after some fumbling with the shattered glass, and screamed into the mouthpiece.
“Fuck you bitch! Stop calling or I’ll send in some hurt on you all that will put you in the grave!”
The voice on the other end came weary and scratched to hell. “The grave. Come on down then, we know something about that.”
Words written today: 1,100
Total for 2017: 31,240
Revision today: 2 chapters
Revision total: 6 chapters
Total words for this manuscript: 108,059 (-208)