Monday morning January 8, 1979 – Con’t
Amanda dialed Jackson’s number before Deanna was on the elevator. It was disconnected. Without a goddam word. The little shit. She punched her phone, waited.
“Bonjour, Developments of Morisé, Alix —”
“Alix, did Jackson tell you what he would do if Deanna leaving was more than a theory?”
“Le petit bijou, she has flown with the coop, oui?”
“Yes. Five months early. Jackson?”
“Ahhh. Le Université de musique du sud de la Californie he found most to his liking, my love. Yu-Ess-See?”
“I speak French, Alix.”
“Not often enough, I think, and never in la chambre. Jackson also flies in the coop, no?”
“I’m not sure. Come home, we’ll talk. I’ll practice my French.” She hung up, punched her phone again.
“Stacey? I know you’re not reception, this is personal. Get Sheffield on the phone, get him up here.”
“Sheffield himself, not just someone from security?”
“Sheffield. Get him up here.”
Forty-five minutes after leaving Amanda’s office Deanna was in Jackson’s apartment, looked around at a furnished, semester lease college apartment that was now completely empty and new tenant ready except for a lettuce box with “Deanna” written in marker on the couch where she used to sit. He’d cleaned up all the posters, the hippie tapestries, the pictures after the last Valentine’s day she forgot. She’d told him it looked almost barren. He’d said barren was symbolic. She thought it was one of his artsy moments at the time, but now with even his cobbled together, tweaky musician’s stereo she was almost forbidden to touch, two little TVs and the pile of warm quilts missing, all of him was gone.
The lettuce box was loosely packed with all of her leftover things. Some earrings, a bracelet, too many loose pictures of the two of them, her toothbrush and hairbrush. Even the blow dryer of hers that he liked. The plastic trash bag beside it had some clothes, bathrobe, her knee socks and favorite jeans. They were his jeans, really, and too big on her, but she loved to wear them. His favorite sweater on her, so he said, and even the small tube of KY in a zip lock bag. Jackson bought it for her a couple of months ago after he’d told her she either wasn’t interested, or didn’t like him anymore. They’d only used it twice. Only made love three times in two months. She’d said ‘Lover, it’s nothing. I think it’s the pills.’ That wasn’t a lie, or too much of one. She’d stopped her birth control pills she’d been on under doctor’s orders since she was fourteen, and it had wasted her female chemistry. She didn’t want to mess with strange doctors and all of that in England. And Jackson used condoms most of the time anyway. They’d laughed about doubling up for safety, back when she’d been able to laugh. She was afraid he’d thought there’d been more than his business involved in some of her stunts and didn’t trust her.
He’d finally told her that if she needed an oil change before having sex with him she should just go home. He’d hold her some nights, but usually he said nothing and opened the door for her. Like “making love to the couch” he’d said. He told Amanda he knew. His apartment had said he’d known all along. If he had asked her, directly, what would she have told him? Would her brain have been just as dry as the rest of her? Would the transparent lies have come?
When it came to Jackson the words she wanted were never there. Last week she’d dreamed she and all of her words for him were locked in a jail, surrounded by bars and jailers without faces. She couldn’t talk, couldn’t ask for him, but he had to know she was there with her words, waiting for him. But he wouldn’t come and the jailers circling her cell slowly turned into demons with red eyes and long black robes. She woke up alone, drenched and shaking again. She knew she’d screamed in her sleep because her throat burned all morning.
Amanda had set up Morisé Private Security after Blackbeard’s burned down, for the sole purpose of keeping Sheffield available. Whatever business Sheffield got up to running private, high level secret service style security for politicians, heads of state and media darlings to the dark side of free lance intelligence and ‘assignments’ she left up to him. As a mercenary bouncer he’d cleared out two city blocks worth of pimps, dealers, low-lifes, junkies, every sort of bad guy who could prey on women around Blackbeard’s. In that job he and two Nam vets in a band had saved her life when a nutcase went off on an armed rant over an ex-girlfriend in ‘Beards.
It took Sheffield two hours to get to Seventeen Hundred after Stacey’s call. Amanda saw him step off the elevator and met him in front of her desk.
“Thanks for coming, Shef. I hope I didn’t interrupt —”
“You said emergency, I’m covered. I might have used every favor I had banked with the Troopers in two states who waved and didn’t stop me on the way.” He checked his watch. “Three hours and fifteen, legally. In two hours and three, even.” He crossed his arms at the wrists, low, gave Amanda a loose smile, waited.
Sheffield made her comfortable, something rare in men. He was okay with who he was, got dangerous jobs done without a load of macho bravado. Like Jackson, he could carry on a conversation with a wall. Unlike Jackson, Sheffield was carrying two handguns and knew at least eleven ways to kill a man with his bare hands while he was standing up.
“I need you to find Jackson.” Her arms were crossed as well, and she was patting one bare foot. Sheffield knew if she still smoked, she would be.
“The kid? The old band kid, boyfriend of the prize? Where’d he go?”
“Gone. I don’t mean down the street gone. He took off, I’m sure of that. Probably west.”
“Interstate gone, huh? He still have the same car?”
“Yes.” She shook her head, walked back around her desk. “Maybe it’ll blow up again and make this easy.”
“Prep and a plan make easy. Starting to sound like he pulled a shit and git.”
“That’s exactly what he did. I understand he’s been purging things for the last year, like he had a plan, but whatever plan he had just blew up in his face. He’s disconnected and gone.”
“Talked to his mother?”
“Not yet. He won’t go home. He might drive by and dump any leftover shit he didn’t want to take with him, but that’s it.”
Amanda pulled Jackson’s card out of her Rolodex, handed it to him.
He studied it, briefly. “When we find him?”
“Tell me where he is, how he is. Don’t be obvious or intervene unless he puts a dangerous spin on headstrong stupid.”
“Until he’s settled. If he lands somewhere, check on him from a distance. If he moves I want to know.”
“Not a daily?”
“No. Just where and how he is, a couple of times a week.”
Sheffield popped the Rolodex card with his finger. “We don’t have trackers on payroll, and this is an inside job. Contract the right help if he’s out of range?”
“You run security, not me. Hire whoever needs to do what needs to be done. Just find him.”
Sheffield switched on a radio in his sport coat pocket and started reading Jackson’s personal and car information to the air, waited for confirmation. When the radio squawked quietly he handed the card back.
“Thank you. Again. I know it doesn’t seem important, but…”
“Yeah, I know. Shame to lose his Cary Grant.” Shef’s smile was small and short. “Should we check with the girl?”
“She’s the reason he’s gone, Shef, and she hasn’t got a clue.” She locked her face like it hurt. “God, I hate to say this about any woman, but without him, Shef? She may never.”
Amanda waited for Sheffield to square up with the elevator, punched her phone for Amber again, who arrived in exactly two minutes, clutching an empty folder.
“Amber, dear. Why are you carrying an empty folder?”
“It started when we were interns, with Bev. She was in finance and always had one, and you were always talking to her. Stace and I thought she was your fave and we started carrying them everywhere, so it looked like we were doing something important.”
“My father said there were two kinds of employees on a job site. the guys who were working, and the guys who carried a shovel and walked fast all day. I’ve seen you and Stacey do real work.”
“Yeah, well…And then Stacey got an office and I became a lawyer way back in the corner, in a place full of lawyers. No biggie, I’ll address my insecurity issues when I get a minute.”
“Do not ride through this building naked, on a white horse, covered in nothing but all that hair you have bundled up to resolve them. Understood?”
“That was college. You know that can be.”
“I do.” Amanda pulled up to her desk, started a list on a legal pad. “I need you to shut down the D.C. Collings Project. All of it. Anything we’re signed up for, part of, related to…Shut it off. Check with Stace and Bev, see if there is anything else open with liability attached. Have Stacey file all of the research, and put it in the library for now. Park the publishing company. Don’t kill it because we own the name and some material was published under that umbrella. Give all that to Stacey as well. Tell Bev to keep paying the bills, you keep signing documents, whatever is involved at the life support minimum, but park it. Stop the textbook conversations. Politely. You and Stacey will know how. And tell Bev to watch for any outstanding payables on the Collings project, particularly any personal expenses from Miss Collings, and bring them to me.” She started to put her list in a fresh folder when Amber offered hers. Amanda shook her head, took the folder, loaded it and handed it back.
Deanna left a huge mess of unfinished business in her wake. C.A. Morisé forfeited the three paid, professional D.C. Collings presentations, and Amanda was furious. Not about the money, but about their credibility hit. The Collings Project. Stacey packed away the unfinished textbook research and publishing materials along with Amanda’s dream of publishing an accurate historical representation of women’s history textbook and Alix’s topical reference on rape, abuse and the law in the Twentieth Century. All of it shut down in Amanda’s uncharacteristic reactionary response to one confused girl’s behavior.
Seventeen Hundred Oilman’s Bank Tower was on its way to becoming the tomb of women’s dreams left by Deanna Collings, and her alter ego, D.C. Collings. She might as well have taken their purpose in her wake when the glass door shhhhhed closed behind her.