This is the first of my writing to be created into a movie. The Death of Kevin Frye was filmed in 2009.
The workweek between Christmas and New Year’s Eve passed by without event. Everyone felt sluggish and ready for the glitz and glamor of the holiday season to be over.
This New Year’s celebration, Victor had something special in mind for Jazz. Instead of the company party, he took her to a quite, but elegant Italian restaurant. In a solitary little booth with a window overlooking a river bathed in cold moonlight, he held her hand as they waited for their meal. “I’m glad we decided to spend New Year’s together, just the two of us.”
Jazz’s phone beeped a text message, interrupting the conversation, “911-Jazz, call me! Keri”
“I’m sorry Victor. This won’t take long.”
“It’s fine, we have all night.
Jazz dialed Keri’s number. “How’s the party?”
“It’s pretty lame. Hey, are you with Victor?”
“Look, I know we’ve worked with him for a long time, but no one seems to know much about his past. It’s really cloudy.”
“How would you know that?”
“I’ve looked in his personnel files.” Keri replied, guilt apparent in her voice.
“I can’t help it Jazz. I’m a reporter, it’s what I do.”
“You’re paranoid and way out of line, Keri.” Frustrated, Jazz hung up on her.
“Is everything okay?” Victor asked.
“You know Keri, always drama. It’s nothing important.”
“Well, I’m glad it’s nothing serious. Jazz, there’s something I’ve wanted to talk to you about.”
“You seem worried. Are you okay?”
He picked up Jazz’s hand, “Jazz, I have something to tell you,”
The waitress came by with their meal. Victor waited until she left.
“Actually it’s more of an admission. Do you remember that first night I asked you out, the first time I tried to kiss you?”
“Yeah, how could I forget?”
“What I didn’t tell you was that I’ve been watching you for a long time. Even before we started dating.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was in Houston last year on a job. I stopped at your old bank to deposit my earnings, actually you’re the one who helped me, but I’m sure you don’t remember me. There were a lot of people that day.
“Even then something about you struck me as unusual. It was something in your eyes that drew me to you, and I watched you. In fact I watched you the rest of the day. You never knew. I was so amazed at how you treated everyone the same way that you treated me, and some of those people were very rude. You smiled and made everyone feel like you cared. I haven’t seen very much of that.” Victor looked down at the table, “I hate to admit it, but I started watching you every day. My business was finished in Houston, but my life had become so dull and depressing. You were the only bright spot in it. I’d been feeling the need for change, and I was beginning to see that I wanted you to be part of that change. After about a month, I followed you home.”
“You followed me?” Shocked, Jazz removed her hand. Her eyes got big. What kind of man was this?
“Yes, I followed you. I really intended to ask you out then, but I just couldn’t get up the nerve.
“When you left the bank in Houston, I was frantic to find you. I found out you were here and came here myself. I got a job with the magazine so I could continue to be near you.”
“You’ve been stalking me?”
“No, no. It’s not that at all.”
“Well, I’d like to know what else you’d call it. Victor, I thought I really liked you, but I don’t know what to think now.”
“But I wanted to ask you to marry me…”
Surprise splashed across Jazz’s face. In one breath he was telling her he stalked her, in the next he asked her to marry him? She got up from the table and started walking out, intending to get away from him as quickly as possible. Now she was scared.
“Jazz wait, please,” he called while plunking money down on the table. Victor rushed out the door and stopped as he saw that Jazz was trying to wrench free from the grasp of a man with dark hair and wearing an overcoat as well as a man with tattoo sleeves on both arms. A third man with a shaved head sat in the front passenger seat of a suspended Suburban. He stared darkly at Victor. Cold fear sent ice through his veins.
“You and your girlfriend need to come with us. Mr. Johnson wants to see you.” The man in the overcoat told Victor.
“Victor is going to take me home first, and I’m not his girlfriend!”
“Jazz, just do as he says,” Victor urged as they were forced into the car. He felt like she’d just stabbed him.
“I don’t know why I should. In fact, I know I don’t want to,”
“You don’t have a choice.” the bald escort replied coldly.
“Of course I have a choice, I don’t want to go. You seem to know these guys, Victor, tell them to let me go.”
“Jazz, we’ll talk about this later. Right now you have to trust me. Okay?” Jazz could see fear for her in his eyes. Not knowing what else to say she stopped talking altogether. More afraid of her chauffeurs than of Victor she huddled closer to him, her only protection.
The driver took them on a long winding drive out of Prairie Oak, and into the surrounding hills. After twenty minutes, the driver stopped in the driveway of a huge sprawling house she’d never seen before. They were hustled out of the car and through a door which led to an office. Victor kept his arm firmly around Jazz’s shoulders, wondering what she was thinking of him. Certainly fear of their situation kept her close to him, but now she feared him too.
He felt her press herself against him more, and wished he knew if she truly trusted him now, or was just afraid. Whatever Johnson wanted, Victor was certain he would use Jazz as leverage against him. He’d seen Johnson work before.
As they walked in, Jazz saw a man with light brown hair, graying at the temples, in his late forties wearing a black shirt and charcoal pants. He was leaning against his desk with his back to the door they’d just entered. Jazz’s immediately saw he was holding a glass filled with a venomous green beverage. He took a sip.
“Hemingway, Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde and Poe all drank from thy cup, oh beautiful Green Fairy. Absinthe, absinthe, what colorful dreams in my mind you haunt." The man quoted in a deep Machiavellian voice. He turned and walked toward Victor and Jazz swirling his drink with his little finger, “I’m sure you're a good Christian girl. You've probably heard of wormwood. That's what it’s made of. You might like it, it's an aphrodisiac.” Johnson slightly tilted his head and one of his men behind her suddenly grabbed Jazz’s shoulders while Johnson painted her lips with the beverage still dripping from his finger. With a blast of anise and other strange herbs in her face, he laughed at Jazz’s repulsion, and she knew what the mouse facing the snake feels like.
He turned again, silently drinking. Afraid and disgusted to the point of nausea, Jazz waited tremblingly close to Victor, not sure what to expect next. Who was this odious man? She scanned the richly furnished room. Several ponderous bookshelves filled with leather bound books and a few mementos stood opposite a brown leather couch and matching chairs. Several paintings hung on the walls. Finally her eyes rested on a painting sitting on a pedestal beside a bookshelf. It was a framed surreal painting of a small town beside the sea embroiled in storm. Jazz couldn't help staring at the bleak story it seemed to tell. Lightening illuminated the texture of the angry clouds; rain beat oppressively against the small buildings. No lights shone in the windows. The village was as oppressive as the room that dripped with luxury, elegance and evil.
Johnson finally spoke again, "Do you like the painting? I painted it while drinking absinthe. It's my best." Only half of his drink was left in the glass. He turned toward them slightly. "It's good to see you again... uh, Victor. Isn't that the name you're using now? We've had a hard time finding you. Why did you want to hide from your old friends? Yes, it took us a very long time to find you. And here you were all the time, right in my own back yard. It’s quite funny.
“I have a little job I’d like you to do for me.”
Johnson turned his smile on Jazz, “You don’t mind listening while we talk business, do you my dear?” the ice in his voice sent a chill through Jazz’s soul. She wasn’t sure how to respond, so she said nothing. Apparently, that was just the answer Johnson was looking for, “Good,” he said, “Victor and I go a long way back. Did he ever tell you about his old friends?”
“Well, Victor, you know I’ve had a long association with Monroe. Unhappily we’ve come to blows, and I need you to take care of the big problem he’s become.
“Victor, you and I belong to an elite brotherhood. We complete our tasks with meticulous care and finesse. Monroe, on the other hand, is an uncivilized degenerate. I need you to eliminate him for me.”
Looking at Jazz and hoping she knew what he was telling her, Victor replied, “Mr. Johnson, I’m not doing that kind of work anymore.”
“Oh, come now. You can’t mean that. You’re one of the best I know, and right now you’re the most affordable.” Suddenly Johnson’s eyes shifted toward Jazz. “Victor, you used to be more careful. Once I realized you had a… ‘liability’…” he paused long enough for the word to sink in, “I knew it would not be difficult to find you again. So I called off my search and took the risk. I guess the risk paid off.” Johnson smiled.
“I’ll pay you the usual fee and have my men take you back to your car now. Just remember that we’ll be expecting results very soon. Do you understand?”
Victor nodded. Johnson smiled at them, nodded toward his chauffer, and sat down again at his desk. Victor and Jazz were taken back to Victor’s car.
Victor drove Jazz home in awful silence. When they arrived at her apartment, he started to walk a still quiet Jazz to her door. Suddenly the young man with the Mohawk appeared around the building with another man who was bald, both carrying guns. Immediately Victor pulled his pistol out, but the men pointed their pistols at Jazz, and the Mohawk ordered him to drop it. A moment of frightening indecision hung in the air as Victor considered his next move. He gave up his gun. For the second time that night, Victor and Jazz found themselves invited into a car.
They drove toward the small town of Derrick about thirty miles south of Prairie Oak, and turned down a gravel road. They stopped at a large house with a tall peak that seemed to touch the sharp bright stars. Jazz found it to be oppressive as they were forced out of the car and brought to the door. Victor took a moment to whisper, “Carl Monroe,” in Jazz’s ear. She gave him a quick look, and then averted her eyes. She’d once told him that the eyes were the window to the soul, and now he saw its truth. His heart broke.
Victor and Jazz were taken directly to Monroe’s office. The guards remained in the room with them, their guns hidden in their coats.
As Jazz looked around the room, she was struck with the ludicrous differences between Monroe and Johnson, wondering how they’d ever become partners. Johnson had been scrupulously neat. Monroe, a short stout man with a round face covered with gray stubble, wore a black silk shirt with neon skeletons in top hats dancing around the tails. Baggy pants hung on his body like Spanish moss hangs on a tree and he wore a shoulder holster with a gun. He looked like Jazz’s idea of a Confederate colonel with small eyes.
Blue obnoxious smoke from his odious cigar caused the room to reek. His short, gray hair lay stuck up everywhere on his head, as if he’d gelled it the night before and then went to bed. He leaned back in his chair. On his desk a mini Uzi and its holster lay quietly waiting.
Monroe arose from his desk and walked between Victor and Jazz, who was being held by the bald man. The man with the spiked hair kept watch on Victor. Monroe eyed Jazz a moment and then lovingly picked up a pool cue that had been leaning inconspicuously next to the door. “Ever play, Victor?” he whispered.
“No,” Victor said simply.
Without warning, the sharp electric sound of a taser ripped through the room; painfully Victor fell to his knees. Before he realized what was happening, an unfamiliar whooshing noise whizzed in his ear followed by an excruciating whack on his shoulder and neck.
Gasping, he looked up at Monroe as the man handed the broken pool cue to the young bald man.
“I don’t play either, but I’ve recently found these to be very handy. This one’s lasted for quite awhile. I guess I’ll have to remember the brand and get another just like it.”
Jazz, horrified at the abuse, struggled to free herself from the vice grip of her captor but was unsuccessful. Monroe nodded and the man released her. She helped Victor to his feet. He looked in her eyes, and again saw her feelings for him as clearly as the anger he’d seen earlier. In spite of the pain in his back and his inability to catch his breath again, a seed of hope was planted in his heart, but at this moment he had other matters that needed his absolute attention. The man who’d been holding Jazz grabbed her again, pulling her away from him.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.” Monroe continued, “Your taste in women has improved a great deal. Good for you. Have you had any luck yet? No? Oh well, with time you always get the women.” Monroe got close, Jazz fought the nausea that threatened to overwhelm her from his whiskey-cigar breath. Victor made a lunge toward Monroe, but the man put his hand on his holster and shook his head laughing. “Now that I have your interest, Victor, I want to get down to business. We’ve had a tough time finding you, but once we did, you were a lot easier to shadow than I thought possible. I guess it’s always that way. We men are so distracted by the softer sex.” Monroe smirked a cruel smile, stroked Jazz’s arm and sat back down behind his desk.
“By the way,” he continued, “when did you decide you needed church? I was really surprised when Buck told me you were there. I’ll have to have you take care of that preacher-man next. He almost had Buck believing him, but he’s okay now. I told him it’s nothing but a myth. If it was the truth these Christians would be living the life they preach. Not so most of the time; is it.
“Victor, you know as well as I do that Christians are just as cutthroat as the rest of us. Everyone’s got their angle; we just play the other side of the coin. It’s all extortion.” Monroe had picked up a switchblade and released the knife, fingering the sharp edge thoughtfully. Neither he nor anyone else in the room noticed the split second furrow that flashed across Buck’s heavy brow.
“But back to business. Listen, I’m tired of dealing with Johnson. If he wasn’t in the way I could run this organization much more efficiently. Every time I try to send someone after him, he slips through my fingers, so I decided to find you and get your help in this matter.” Monroe picked up a small rope, thoughtfully winding it around itself.
“Monroe, I don’t do this kind of work anymore. You’re going to have to find someone else.”
“Now Victor, you wouldn’t want anything to happen to that sweet little thing, would you?” his phony smile turned as he examined the noose he’d made, “I hope you understand what I’m saying.”
“Yes, I understand.”
“Good,” Monroe took several hundred dollar bundles from his desk drawer. “You take care of this job for me, and I’ll pay you well. Haven’t I always paid you well? Why would you want to say no to me?” then nodding toward the guards he added, “They’ll take you home now. Oh yes,” he lifted a glass of whiskey, “Happy New Year!” he laughed as they were led out the door.
The trip back to Prairie Oak was as bad as the trip in Johnson’s car had been. Victor felt stiff from his beating and the long ride. It was three in the morning when they were finally released in front of Jazz’s building.
If this wasn’t so serious, Victor would have laughed. The whole thing was crazy. Both Johnson and Monroe wanted the other one out of the way. Both hired him. What made it more bizarre was that he was ready to leave the business altogether. But he knew both men were a very real threat and to make it worse for him, Jazz didn’t trust him anymore. He was already angry with himself for not telling her about himself sooner. How angry was she with him? His thoughts clutched that promise he saw in her eyes while at Monroe’s, but he wasn’t sure what to think. Was she feeling as conflicted as he? Probably.
As soon as she was able, Jazz made a bolt for her door. Victor, not expecting her to run, lunged at her, grabbing her purse, spilling its contents everywhere. His body still ached from the vicious abuse he’d received at Monroe’s but he bent over to help her. She’d still not spoken to him
“We’ve got to talk. Can I please come in?”
“I don’t want to hear it Victor... or whatever your name is.” She pushed at him, and ran for her door, intending to shut Victor out as soon as she was in, but he was in the apartment with her before she could shut the door on him. Frightened, she began to back away. There was no where she could go. He advanced toward her, she bolted toward the door. He caught her, and tried to fold his arms around her, “Jazz, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Too late,” She swung at him with her right fist, landing a good hard one on his jaw, surprising him enough to cause him to loosen his grip. Again she darted away. He caught her waist, and pivoted so that he could lean her against the door. He secured both her wrists in his one powerful grasp, panting. She struggled, but he was too strong for her. She stopped struggling. “So when were you going to tell me you’re a hit man? Now that I know, are you going to get rid of me, too?”
“My name is Jasmine, thank you.”
“Okay, Jasmine, please, we need to talk. This is very important.”
“Let me go.”
“Can I trust you not to run away?”
“I want you to leave.”
“Let me explain, then if you still want me to leave, I will leave. You’ll never have to see me again.”
Jazz began to struggle again, but she could not get away. Completely exhausted, she finally agreed.
“Let’s sit down here,” he invited, as he carefully eased back on the couch. The scuffle had not helped his shoulder.
Reluctantly, Jazz sat in a chair.
“Not with me?”
“How’s your hand?”
“So does my jaw,” he rubbed it grinning, hoping to loosen her angry look just a little. A small smile escaped before she was able to capture it and keep it under control. Victor could see she struggled to stay angry. At first he was glad to see it, thinking he’d broken the ice a little, but the angry tirade that came out of her took him by surprise.
“My dad warned me about you, he told me that you were a wary man, and that I should be wary myself, I should have listened to him. Everyone told me that I should be careful about you, but I didn’t see it. You’ve stalked me all this time, pretending to care about me. Are you going to rape me now? I should never have trusted you. I don’t even know your real name. You could be anyone, and here I am alone with a criminal. You told me you exterminated rats and I believed you. You’re a rat yourself. How many innocent men with wives and kids did you kill?”
Jazz stopped a moment.
”Jazz,” Victor tried to take her hand, but she pulled away, “I swear, I wasn’t pretending. Have I ever done anything that would make you think I would hurt you?”
“No, at least I didn’t think so until tonight.”
“I’m sorry everyone told you I’m bad.”
Jazz looked down not wanting him to see the tears start in her eyes. Had she said everyone? That wasn’t exactly the truth. She couldn’t let that go, even as much as she wanted to.
Pausing a moment before she said anything, she attempted to harden her voice, but it trembled, “No, but Dad, Mom and Keri just told me to be careful. They never really said you were bad.”
“I know I’ve done this all wrong. I can understand how you could easily think I was stalking you, but all I wanted was to be close to you. Don’t you see Jazz? When you’re around I see life differently. I see there’s hope, even for me.”
Jazz tried hard not to respond, but he could see her eyes soften. He knew she loved him. He moved to the floor at Jazz’s feet. More desperate than he’d ever been in his life, tears moistened his eyes. “Jazz, I can’t lose you. And I understand that after tonight, when all of this is over, that is a strong possibility. It scares me. It scares me more than anything.”
“Jazz, I know what I’ve done in my life is wrong. I knew that before I saw you in Houston. I really want to get my life on the right road. I love you, I want to marry you.”
“I don’t know Victor, it’s hard to accept what you are, and now I’m involved in this. I feel like I was lied to. I don’t want to be lied to, and I don’t want a man who is able to lie so easily.”
“It wrenched my guts to lie to you like that, but I didn’t know what else to do. What would you have said if I’d told you?”
Confused, Jazz rose from the couch and stood near the fireplace. She was afraid of what she knew she had to do; she didn’t want to do what she had to do.
“I don’t think I can do this, Victor.” She sobbed.
He rose and came near her lovingly holding her arms. Alarmed, she backed away from him. She knew she wouldn’t be able to be strong with him so close. She wanted to be in his arms, but she didn’t want what he was. She couldn’t live that way, but she wanted him so badly she could almost feel herself giving in. With each step back, he stepped forward until she was against the wall.
“Jazz you can do this. Nothing has changed. I still love you.” he said, looking deep into her eyes.
“Everything has changed Victor. I don’t know who you are. I think you need to leave.”
“No. Jazz, please. You know me. You know me better than anyone. You can’t want this. It’s not too much. I can take care of this, I can take care of you.” How could he make her see how much he loved her? The thought of losing her so soon was too much for him to comprehend.
In desperation he held onto her more tightly. He couldn’t think beyond helping her see his love for her. If she… no, if was too big a word. “I love you Jazz, and I know you love me. You’re my life,” he kissed her cheek, “you’re my breath,” he kissed her lips. She responded with all the love he knew was inside her for him. It gave him hope. He kissed her neck, her lips, her cheek, and back to her neck; she softened in his arms. Suddenly, before he realized it she hardened again and pushed him away. “Jazz…”
“Victor, I do love you, but I can’t be those things for you.”
But she didn’t respond. He knew he’d lost. Slowly, still hoping she would call him back, he walked to the door. With one last look, he walked out, closing the door behind him. Leaning against it, his heart cried out. Was God really listening? At that point he doubted it. “If there is a God,” he thought to himself, “he’s cruel.”
Slowly he walked to his car. He didn’t know what to do. He’d lost the only thing that made his life meaningful. Sitting in the driver’s seat, he started the engine. There had to be some hope. She loved him, he knew it. He would win her back. How, he didn’t know, but he did know that he’d have to solve the problem Monroe and Johnson had become. As he thought of Johnson, he suddenly stiffened. Pulling away from the curb, Victor found a concealed place to park near her apartment. He knew the man enough to know what to expect.
Just as Victor turned the lights and engine off, he saw the huge Suburban pull to a stop in front of the house. Although not surprised, he frowned. Two of Johnson’s men got out and stood beside their car. Suddenly, startling him, his cell phone rang.
“What is it Jazz?’
“Those men are outside my apartment. I didn’t know who else to call.”
“No, you did the right thing. They’ll be watching you from now on.”
“What? What about work? I can’t just stay home.”
“Just keep to your regular routine. It’ll be okay. I’m sorry I’ve gotten you into this.”
“I could call the police. Remember Mr. Ray? He could help us.”
“No, that’s not a good idea. Besides, what would you tell him?”
“Victor, I’m scared.”
“I know. I know.” Victor’s heart broke for her. He wanted her in his arms, he wanted to protect her, but the best way to protect her now, he knew, was to watch her from a distance and try to figure out what to do about their dilemma. Maybe this was the best thing that could happen. Suddenly his heart felt lighter. Yes, he could concentrate on Johnson and Monroe and after they were eliminated, he could win her back. She loved him, she’d told him she loved him. He would use that as his lifeline and they could still have a life together.
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