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Authors: Linda Barnes

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Fiction

The Perfect Ghost (9 page)

BOOK: The Perfect Ghost
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TB:
Where is she now?

 

JF:
England, Australia, playing the provinces. She’s still a kid, what, sixteen? Wow, wouldn’t it be something if Daddy’s directorial comeback was Jenna’s film debut? Hey, don’t say that I said that. Pure speculation, but a Malcolm touch for sure.

 

TB:
Does she go by Jenna Malcolm?

 

JF:
Who knows what name an actress will choose? But when she makes it, everyone will know. They’ll realize right off. She looks like Claire, moves like Claire, speaks like Claire. Garrett sent her away, wanted her well away from the craziness here, taking her falls out of the country, where nobody would recognize her, where nobody gives a good goddamn about the Malcolm name. Didn’t want to read about her in Hollywood gossip columns, who she’s screwing, which celebrity hangout she’s gracing with her presence. You give one good performance here and then everybody wants to get the goods on you, partying with the wrong pervert or doing drugs, and then you’re in rehab or jail and welcome to a career as a coulda-been, which is a level down even from a career as a has-been like me.

 

TB:
Do you still act?

 

JF:
Kind of you to ask. I dabble in a few things. Investments, real estate, and I do voice-overs, read for books on tape, which still qualifies as acting, I suppose. If I wanted to, Cousin Garrett would employ me as the third spear-holder, but I don’t want his charity and he knows it. I don’t want his bit parts, either, to tell the truth. I’m a traditionalist and I don’t like the way he does Shakespeare up there now. I go by the book, and I don’t want any modern interpretations. The old stuff is good enough for me, but Cousin Garrett is always reanalyzing, doing the plays in ways Will never dreamed of. I can’t abide that showy garbage, and so we go our own ways artistically. And you can see who has trod the most successful path.

 

TB:
Wait a minute. You were in one of the Justice movies. I recognize you now. The third one, the one Claire Gregory was in? You had blond hair?

 

JF:
Almost white. Yep. I was a minor bad guy, Sal, one of the few parts I ever played who had a real name. Brookie shot me on the bridge over the Bass River?

 

TB:
God, yes. You were terrific.

 

JF:
Thanks. I only had two lines, but it got me my SAG card—Screen Actors Guild. God, we had fun. That night was so cold, when I got shot, and we did that bit so many times, at the end we were screaming loonies. I thought that role would lead to something else, that’s what you think when you’re young. You do one role and it’ll lead to another role, and so on and so on, up the mountain range, each peak bigger than the next. You don’t realize you’re at the top of the hill until you’re down in the valley. At least I wasn’t in the valley alone.

 

TB:
You’re talking about Brooklyn Pierce? You call him Brookie?

 

JF:
Brooklyn was a blast to work with, but Garrett didn’t like sharing the spotlight, didn’t want anybody to outshine the director. People talked about the Justice movies like they sprang out of Brookie’s head, didn’t give Garrett proper credit or respect. Jesus, cut all that shit, that’s all off the record, okay? Brookie had a swelled head, too. I mean, how could you not, with the reviews he got, the attention he got. He was young, too, hell, we were all young.

 

TB:
Are you still in touch with him? With Pierce?

 

JF:
Yeah, we’re old buds. I’ve been talking to him about collaborating on a screenplay. You might mention that to my dear cousin Garrett, if he asks how I’m doing.

 

TB:
Sure. And if you talk to Pierce, can you tell him I’d like an interview? I’ve been trying to get in touch through his agent, but—

 

JF:
Brookie can be hard to reach. Look, if there’s anything else you want, let’s do it another day, okay? My head’s pounding. That’s enough for now, okay? I need another cigarette. Maybe a drink?

 

 

 

CHAPTER

twelve

 

I congratulated myself: The scrawl on the yellow pad was most likely JFLY, not JULY, and it probably referred to your interview with Garrett Malcolm’s cousin, James Foley. You often took notes in a consonant-only shorthand. JFLY
=
J. FOLEY.

Teddy, as I listened I realized it wasn’t your questions but your silences that made your technique so devastating, those long, unspooling voids during which the interviewee waited for the next question, waited, but heard nothing, and so rambled on almost in desperation, answering the question he heard in his head as the logical follow-up. You got not only what he deemed important in the subject’s life, but what was vital in his own. You got insight.

Your silences worked their magic in your classes and in your office hours as well. How many times, when you were a professor, did you wait your faithful students out, luring them to volunteer? Remember that girl, Doris, the one who was so eager to get an A? She served as your unpaid teaching assistant; she’d volunteer for anything, even chauffeur you around the city. All you had to do was give her the eye. And wait.

If JFLY was shorthand for James Foley and 2nd BST BD meant you’d slept in the second-best bedroom here in the rental house, the one I’m sleeping in now, then what did HMB stand for? I did a quick tally of interviewees and failed to locate a match. Why had you been thinking about the Foley interview, a background piece we’d considered relatively unimportant? He’d mentioned Brooklyn Pierce; maybe that was the reason for your interest.

I called Pierce’s agent and left a detailed message. I tried to keep my tone mild and unaccusatory, but I’m not sure I succeeded. While waiting for a callback, I paced the living room of the rented house and skimmed every other transcript that so much as mentioned Brooklyn Pierce. I Googled him, viewed his fan Web site, checked Wikipedia and the major magazine sites. Not a single gossip site placed him on the Cape; one swore he was filming in Australia, another put him in an L.A. rehab spa.

How essential was it that I get an interview? His star had flickered since the Justice trilogy, but he was still a player. Even if there was currently more speculation about his bedmates than his upcoming movies, a few revelations from Brooklyn Pierce could mean an additional hundred thousand book sales. Hardly as large as the figures you’d scribbled on the yellow pad. I put my cell on the bedside table. It was three hours earlier in Los Angeles; his agent might return my call.

I tried to sleep, but I kept pondering the identity of the man in the blue van who’d peered in the windows and crushed the neighbor’s crocuses. Inured as I was to ambulances wailing along Storrow Drive, the beep-beep of backing trucks, the shuffle of the elderly man in the overhead apartment, the strange and unexpected noises of the isolated Cape house alarmed me. A low hum issued from the heating system, punctuated by an occasional bang.

I got up and rechecked the doors; front and rear were locked and chained. I shoved the backs of kitchen chairs under the handles for good measure, found my purse where I’d left it on the counter, and scrabbled in its depths for my bastard file.

How you used to laugh about the bastard file; when I first mentioned it, you thought I meant “file” as in manila file folder, or possibly computer file. You never considered a metal file, a tool, till I held it under your nose. Clutching the file, admiring its heft in my hand, I climbed the creaky stairs. The wind whistled through the pines, a droning accompaniment to the faint pounding of waves on the shoreline. The ocean felt like a looming presence even though it was out of sight. I placed the file beside the silent cell phone on the bedside table.

“Bastard” in conjunction with “file” refers to the fineness of the teeth, between middle and second cut. My file is technically a smooth knife-edge file, but the mechanically minded foster father who gave it to me termed it “bastard” as a joke, with the recommendation I use it only on its namesakes, of which he certainly counted as one. I drew the thin blanket close and huddled into a cocoon near the edge of the bed, well within reach of the file so I’d be able to grab it in case of emergency. The sheets felt rough and icy against my skin. Someone must have changed them. There was no smell of you on my pillow, but I was comforted by the thought that you’d slept here. The wind rattled as though it wanted to knock out the window glass and invade the room. Irritated by each ping and bump, I finally set the radio in between stations so the white noise would overwhelm the rest of the water torture.

I must have doubled my Ambien by mistake because I woke late and groggy. Ashamed of my midnight fears in the piercing sun, I removed chains and chair backs and restored the metal file to my purse. Wrapped in my bathrobe, I spread peanut butter on toast, using sparse provisions brought from Boston. I made a grocery list that included coffee and orange juice, then worked through a tricky transition in a section about Garrett’s youth, keeping in mind the positive spin he wanted to place on his childhood.

Today’s interview was scheduled for three o’clock. I tried on my sophisticated Manhattan outfit, but it looked all wrong for the Cape. I sniffed the crotch of my jeans. They were ostensibly clean, but when I put them on, they looked unexpectedly grungy, and my all-purpose V-necks seemed worn and drab. Confronting Garrett Malcolm was challenge enough, but when I thought about the additional possibility of facing a heartthrob like Brooklyn Pierce, my heart quailed.

One of my foster mothers wore so much makeup it looked like she pasted a mask over her real face every morning. She wore what she called “foundation garments” that completely altered her actual shape. Another so-called mom regarded makeup and push-up bras as cheating, not only ungodly but a fraud perpetrated on men by girls who lacked character and natural beauty, which came from deep inside or the grace of God, depending. Any man would recognize and disapprove of such fakery, she maintained. That she was dead wrong about men did not deter her one iota.

I patted faint pink gloss on my lips and considered phoning the Dennis Port Police Department, returning Detective Snow’s call. They must have an online presence, a screen displaying a phone number other than 911. I could call the general number and ask for Detective Snow. But if I used my cell, they’d keep a record of the number. I hated the idea of strangers knowing my cell number.

Damn. My list of necessities cried out for more than coffee and orange juice. Hadn’t Malcolm challenged my professionalism with his query about my age? I felt wounded by the encounter, in need of something akin to battle armor, a mail shirt, a corselet of polished bronze. My chances of finding such a powerful garment prior to our afternoon session seemed remote, but once the thought entered my mind, there was no remedy but a quest.

Detective Snow could wait.

 

 

CHAPTER

thirteen

 

In jeans and faded olive tee, I made the half-hour drive to the Cape Cod Mall. If all else failed, I would wear them for the interview and Garrett Malcolm would look right through me.

The salesladies at Macy’s gazed through me as well, and even though I’d chosen the mall for its size and anonymity, at the deciding moment I spurned the big anchor store. Too many choices, a kaleidoscope of solids and prints; too many colors, clashing oranges and purples; too many departments, catering to teens and young adults and working moms; too much stuff. I blundered on, hardly noticing where I was going, eliminating stores based on the merchandise in the display windows. Had I panted after running shoes or kitchen accessories, my quest would have been easier. I wanted to look professional, but I also wanted something more.…

Glamorous? The saleslady attempted to finish my halting query when I stammered a request for help. I decided she was making fun of me and started to leave, but she put a restraining hand on my arm. I usually hate that, but she was gentle and apologetic. A plump woman in her thirties, she smiled and said she’d be happy to help me find an attractive outfit. Her right cheek dimpled when she inquired what sort of work I did. When I nervously babbled that I was a writer, she assumed I was the one who was going to be interviewed, maybe on television. She asked my name, so I made one up. She dimpled again and said she thought she’d heard of me.

She seemed to understand how flustered I was, how overwhelmed and confused by the racks and shelves of garments. She guessed my size, just by looking, and insisted I’d have plenty of choices because I was so small. She led me to a curtained dressing room so I could be by myself. The flowered curtain billowed, blown by a fan. I didn’t mind the tiny room; it was cozy, like a dollhouse.

She asked what I had in mind. I didn’t really know, but I had a guide to Malcolm’s preferences: all his movies, all his leading ladies. He liked slim, which I am. He liked demure, which I can be. He liked classic lines.

Maybe a simple sweater. A skirt. Neutrals.

The saleslady balked and said I needed color. Not red; it would overpower me. She said I had interesting coloring, and I thought “interesting” is what you say when you don’t know what else to call it. Neither here nor there, that’s what another so-called mother said. Your eyes aren’t blue and they aren’t green, either. Your hair’s not blond and it’s not brown. The saleswoman, Laura, brought me colors that weren’t one thing or another, either. Medium hues and saturations, neither green nor blue, neither blue nor gray.

BOOK: The Perfect Ghost
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