Thursday, 10 April 2014

Fade to Black - 10 April 2014

Here we go, Friends - onward into the depths of Act Five.  This is the remainder of the Act, and then we move on to the finale.

Just a recap so far of the acts:

Act One - A Story In The Village
Act Two - Nothing To Fear
Act Three - Soon Would Be Found
Act Four - Flowers On The Path
Act Five - As Night Approached

Get out your leather bound copy of April Rain and refresh yourself.  Then read on...






Fade to Black

© 2008 CL Seamus

15 OCTOBER 2004

HB: Well, good midnight to you all, 
    welcome to Shadows 88.1 FM. This is
    the Banger, and that was Nife with
    their first single, released in 1972.
    A little number called Hate Farm.
    Cultivate, mutilate, obliterate, live
    in hate. Now, if you've driven by the
    station in the last couple of hours,
    you've probably noticed we have about
    a hundred fans in the streets, and
    they’re here for the special treat
    we’ve been promising for the last week.
    I first met this guy when we were
    freshmen in college. He was writing and
    I was headed into broadcasting. The lady
    at his side, I’ve not met before, which
    tells you just how out of the loop I’ve
    become. So without further ado, I give
    you India Bowman and Allan Baird. Welcome
    to you both.

IB: Hi.

AB: Morning.

HB: Now, as I said, I’ve never met you before.
    India, where have you been all my life?
    You’re an absolute beauty.

IB: Thank you.

AB: Wait a minute. Am I not a beauty, too?

HB: I don’t know, man. You used to be, I guess.

AB: Ouch.

IB: He’s getting a bit wrinkly, isn't he?

AB: Seasoned, darling. We discussed this.
    We agreed to use the word seasoned.

HB: I read in Wallace’s rag that you two are
    like a couple of old hens who nag and fuss
    and scrap with each other at every corner.

AB: Tim Wallace has lost his edge. The whole
    world knows it. I’ll always love him as a
    person, but his fangs are yellow now.

HB: Is that a bit of tension I hear in your voice?

AB: There was a time when all we talked about
    was writing and human psychology. Now the best
    he can come up with is, “What’s your favourite
    sexual position?”

IB: But he’s right about the old hens thing.

HB: India? What’s your favourite sexual position?

AB: Oh, God. Here we go.

IB: Swinging from the chandelier is always nice.

HB: But it gives you heat burns on your thighs.

AB: She doesn't know her favourite position.
    She’s usually asleep during sex.

IB: He’s right, you know.

AB: It’s the only way I can get any.
    Sneak up on her.

HB: Is that right?

AB: Oh yeah. A few tranquilisers in her prune
    juice and she’s out like a light. Then I
    can do my worst on her.

IB: And believe me, when he says worst,
    he’s not kidding.

AB: Hmm, maybe she needs a higher dosage.

HB: Hey, you two should have your own
    comedy show.

IB: I thought sex was our own comedy show.

HB: Baird, is she like this all the time?
    I mean, we see her in films and she’s
    all moody and dark. In person, she
    seems like a real wise-ass.

AB: She’s drunk.

HB: Oh, well that explains it. So I guess
    everybody’s waiting to hear about the film.

AB: I have a real soft spot in my heart for
    this one. It was actually the first
    one written.

HB: Why did you place it fourth to be filmed?

AB: Older than Dirt was my pitch to Coleman-
    Kopanski. I thought it would appeal to the
    audience already familiar with my work.
    They knew me as a writer of darker fiction.
    Nobody knew I was also penning a more classic
    kind of noir.

HB: India? How do you feel about being the visual
    incarnation of his work?

IB: I like it a lot. Dirt was the first thing
    of his that I read. I think it’s wrong that
    fans call it a vampire movie. It’s about
    reincarnation and how you can meet up with
    people you've known in a past life. In this
    case, the one being met is Heroq and he’s a
    baddie. But I don’t know that he’s a vampire,
    just because he bites.

HB: We’re going to take a break for commercials,
    but when we get back, Allan’s going to tell
    us why he’s been outside throwing underwear
    into the crowd. After this.


HB: Okay we’re back with - did the name King Noir
    ever stick? I saw you referred to as King Noir
    in VL.

AB: I get called a lot of names. Mary is the one
    that comes up the most, but I’m sure King Noir
    is in there, too. Although I think Queen Noir
    would be more appropriate.

HB: No kidding. I remember you from school. You
    were always such a terrible fag.

AB: Terrible? Actually, I thought I was kind
    of cute.

HB: So, I guess what we really have here is
    a bisexual?

AB: Actually I think I’m more of a--

IB: Girl.

AB: She said it, not me.

IB: He’s my bitch. Let’s just leave it at that
    and get to the underwear.

HB: What’s Night’s Lesson about?

IB: One part is about a bride who suspects
    her husband is cheating. The other is
    about a killer. Worlds collide.

HB: How does underwear fit into it?

IB: Each of the two stories has underwear
    as a pivot point.

AB: We don’t want to give away too much here.
    Pink panties figure in each of the
    two storylines.

HB: Speaking of giving things away, let’s
    talk about the contest.

AB: Come to the station and pick up a pair
    of specially marked pink panties. Starting
    Monday, we’ll have a Pink Panty Patrol
    cruising the streets. If you spot the van
    and show up with your undies, you win
    passes. Some are regular free passes and
    some are for the special advance screening
    set for Thursday at midnight. Now, the rule
    is, if you’re carrying them, you get one
    pass. If you’re wearing them, you get a
    double pass. All contest information
    and rules are available on the
    Vampire Life website.

HB: The rules are also here at the station.
    Now, did you throw the special panties
    into the crowd before?

AB: I did. There’s no charge for them. But
    you have to have them with you when
    the van comes around.

HB: Are you going to be in the van?

AB: We have ten vans working ten cities.
    I plan to spend some time in the staff
    rotation. As will Indie.

IB: I, of course, will be wearing my
    regular underwear.

AB: Checkered boxer shorts.

IB: Not a big fan of the silky gonch.

AB: So get your panties and watch for
    the vans.

HB: Is this a sample of the infamous
    bloomers? This film takes place
    in... what?

AB: 1946.

HB: So we’re not talking thongs or
    g-strings here?

AB: Authentic 1946 panties. Pretty.

IB: Should be fun to see people in them.

HB: Now, men as well as women should
    wear them?

AB: My wish is that only men wear them. Pink
    panties are so overdone on the girls.
    I want to see football players, wrestlers,
    and construction workers in pink panties.
    Whoa! Getting a little warm in here.

HB: Do people have to strip to show them?

IB: No, just flash the hip patch with the
    special coding. We have these hand
    scanner things to read the codes. We
    don’t want people undressing in public.

AB: It’ll be fun to imagine guys marching
    around in women’s underwear, just
    waiting for a chance to show them.

HB: I have a feeling you’ll get a lot of
    full frontal shots. I’ve seen
    your crowd.

IB: Okay, let’s just get something straight.
    No nudity. Anybody who doesn't obey the
    rules gets nothing. I don’t want to see
    any bare bums. Or anything else bare
    for that matter.

AB: There you have it.

HB: You heard the lady. Just a hipshot,
    or the panties in your hands.

IB: And if you bring them in your hands,
    please make sure they’re washed.

AB: You know, all these additional rules
    are going to scare away the

HB: One more break and then we’ll say
    goodnight. Come back after the
    commercial, Midnighters. I have a
    question for Baird, and you’ll all
    want to know the answer.


HB: Okay, we’re back with India Bowman and
    Allan Baird. Now, we all know there’s
    been some real tight lips around this
    picture. Dave Rabelle, who writes for
    ‘The Stars’ magazine, said they made
    everybody on the set sign agreements
    to keep their mouths shut about
    anything they saw during filming.
    What’s the secret being protected?

AB: See the film and you’ll find out.

HB: Is it like a plot twist or something?
    Secret ending?

AB: No, no. Just some fun we had with the

HB: So why the secrecy?

IB: He wants to see if people can find it
    themselves. Just some fun. It’s a
    visual thing. Something you may or
    may not be able to spot.

HB: Once the first screening takes place,
    is it going to be on the news?

AB: It’s nothing heavy, really. Just
    something we want to let the audience
    figure out for themselves. It speaks of
    some of the subtler possibilities of
    the characters’ backstories. There are
    many layers and dimensions in this film.

HB: Okay, now I have to see it.

AB: Here. The first freebies.

HB: Double pass? Nice job, Baird. Let’s
    wrap up here. Um, India? Do you only
    date this guy? Maybe I could interest
    you in a handsome broadcaster.

IB: Okay, well, find me one and we’ll talk.

AB: Whoa! Ouch. Don’t mess with her.
    She’s sharp as a tack.

HB: That sound you heard was my crest
    falling. Thanks for coming in, you two.
    I’m going to pick up the pieces of my
    shattered ego. We’ll be right back.


     If it was thought India’s paranoia level couldn’t be raised any higher, the panty stunt knocked that notion on its ass with a right hook. What started out as a cute idea quickly cascaded into a fiasco, the likes of which she wasn’t remotely prepared to handle. The Panty Patrol hit the streets as planned and fans appeared from every corner, waving undies, exposing coded hip patches as instructed. 88.1 FM reported the progress, and even gave Panty Alerts. Panty Van last spotted moving south, blah, blah, blah. It attracted extra attention when Allan was on duty in the van. People would follow and wait for the announcement. When the van slowed the din would intensify. The doors would then burst open and out he’d jump with a bullhorn. “Show us your pink panties!” Men and women alike would wave underwear, unzip jeans, waggle their pink-clad fannies.

     Though India agreed to a turn at giving away passes, media coverage of Allan’s experiences scared her. The mobs were aggressive and grabby. People didn’t just flash hip codes - they dropped their jeans to their ankles.

     “I don’t think I can do it,” she worried as they lounged in her bed and reviewed videotape. In contrast to her checkered boxer shorts and bare chest, Allan reclined in his flimsy mauve nightgown and fuzzy slippers. On the bed table was a bottle of wine and a plate of crackers.

     Allan sipped from his glass and clicked in boredom at the remote control. “They’re just having fun. Think of it as the public holding of Queen’s Court.”

     “I hate Queen’s Court.”

     “So load up on weed and go with it. Like with the leash thing. That was a riot.”

     “Seeing Rennie’s or Tim’s bare ass is different to having strangers drop their drawers in front of me. What if there’s a pervert in the crowd?”

     “I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t.”

     She laughed but still shook her head in doubt. “They treat you differently to me, y’know? You’re one of them.”

     This was the point in life when her youthful, enigmatic funk wasn’t haunting anymore. Reporters had enough dirt on her past to remove all veils that had been her allure at seventeen. It happened with all actors. When you’re new, you’re novel, a mystery to be solved. Once the crowd figures you out, the thrill is gone and you simply belong to them. They want you on their terms. You’re a friend, you’re like them, and you’re expected among them. You either spent every waking hour trying to find new and exciting ways to keep people on edge, or you went away.

     Dealing with fans was best done under sedation. India had taken strongly to lorazepam and usually kept low levels flowing through her veins. With a new doctor more forgiving than Humphrey, she didn’t panic as much in public, but she did stop doing the events most likely to piss her off. PROTECTION MODE was all but unusable anymore. As a teenager she drew upon pain to force her to the places of her roles. Now her repertoire was so full that childhood seemed pale by comparison. Queen’s Court alone stocked her larder with more than its fair share of perversion. The only thing that kept her childhood ugliest was that it was always viewed through innocent eyes. But it was much more faded than the baggage of today. Queen’s Court, drugs, alcohol, group sex, strapons - it was all behaviour in which she engaged with consent. She’d said it to Rennie long ago, when she blew dope smoke in his face. “I’m a legal adult.” The more legal adult situations that came her way, the farther away seemed her worst memories. How could she ever again use the past to force her to safe places when simply recalling last week felt so unnerving?

    With no more interest in panty news, Allan threw on a movie. “Boomer wants to have sex with you again. With us to be precise.”

     “Yeah, that’ll happen.”

     “You don’t want to?”

     “He doesn’t want to have sex with me. He wants to have sex with you. He just wants me there so I won’t get mad.”

     “You liked it and you know it.”

     “If I got pregnant, you want me having Rennie’s baby?”

     “We’ll use condoms.”

     “Not good enough.”

     “He and Dave broke up. He’s not seeing anyone. Lonely.”

     “Not my problem. Tell him to have sex with Tim or Howard.”

     He laughed into his glass during the last gulp of wine. “Can I have sex with him then? By myself?”


     “Why are you being so mean?”

     “No and no, and that’s final.”

     He fumbled with his little baggie of coke. “We could just do blowjobs then. I promise no penetration.”

     “Would you stop it already? We’re trying to have a baby. It demands faithfulness of spirit, mind, and body.” As she straddled his legs, the phone rang. “Hello?” she answered.

     A hesitation. “Is this India Bowman?”

     “Who’s this?”

     “Come downstairs, bitch. I want you to suck my fat cock and let me shoot my load down your throat.”

     She hung up. “Asshole. How do they get my number?”

     “Who was it?”

     “Another pervert call.” She got up and pulled on a muscle shirt. Lights off. A low duck as she snuck onto the balcony. Without lifting her face above the level of the privacy panels, she peeked down to the gated driveway entrance. There stood a lone male, though she couldn’t get much detail. He seemed to be staring up. He’s outside the gate. You’re ten floors up. She tried to calm. “I can see him,” she whispered back toward the bedroom.

     Allan grabbed binoculars off the desk and crawled out to join her. He scoped through the panels. “How do you know it’s the same guy?”

     “He said I should come down and suck his cock.”

     “Ooh, I think he’s masturbating.”

     “Give me those.”

     “I want to watch.”

     A grumpy noise as she took the binoculars. “Holy shit. He’s holding pink panties. I am so not doing this van thing.”

     “He’s just trying to freak you out.”

     “He’s doing a good job.”

     There’d been a lot of browbeating from Dan and Allan, and so - despite her fears - India found herself in the back of the Panty Van as it readied to unload the last passes before the advance screening the following night. With her were two techies from the studio, both loaded with gear to record the event. Last to pile in was Head Banger, who’d promised Allan he’d go along to keep things under control. He was also in charge of the bullhorn and the yelling of the infamous phrase. India had been given the job of scanning the bar coded undies and issuing passes. She wanted two things. One was more sedatives. The other was to be anywhere else in the whole world.

     The van slowed and Banger reached for the door. Unable to see out, he relied on the driver for the lowdown. “How are we doing?”

     The answer punched at India’s senses. “Probably about a hundred people.”

     Banger nodded. “They can’t all have panties. Inventory says there’s fifty sets left out there. Even if they all showed up tonight, that’s only half.”

     India took out her pills. “Nobody film me or I’m leaving.”

     The guys watched, but didn’t seem to care one way or the other if she needed medication. If India ever learned to loosen up around people, she might find a few extra friends in the world. People weren’t all out to destroy her as she feared. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the world doesn’t give a damn if you take sedatives, girl.

     The back door swung open and Banger jumped out. “Shadows 88.1 FM brings you the premiere showing of Night’s Lesson, starring India Bowman. If you’d like to attend a screening for free, then... SHOW US YOUR PINK PANTIES!”

     India slung over her shoulder the cloth bag that held the passes. In her hand was the small electronic barcode reader. So far, so good. Fans jostled excitedly but all seemed cool. Some waved panties in the air. Others showed swatches from out their assorted bottom wear. She scanned codes - the device did its electronic recording thing, confirmed the panties as authentic, and passes were issued. They’d practiced enough to make her comfortable with the routine.

     One of the fans grabbed and hugged her. Banger eased him back. “Just the passes, people. Let’s not get crazy.”

     India backed closer to the open door of the van but continued to do her job.

     “I loved ‘Older than Dirt’,” said the girl next in line.

     “Thank you,” she smiled. Scan. Confirm. Passes.

     Two guys were next. India could smell the alcohol. Nobody light a match. These two will explode and take us all with them. One of them suddenly yanked up the other’s pink panties in a fierce front-wedgie to expose the heart-shaped monogram patch that contained a code.

     “Ouch,” India giggled nervously. “That’s gotta hurt.” She scanned. “Fakes get diddly-squat.”

     “It’s not fake,” the youth protested in a stagger.

     “The reader says it’s not one of our codes. Sorry, boys. These things are all numbered.”

     The one with the wedgie jumped forward and squeezed her boobs before he and his friend took off into the crowd.

     “Goodbye.” She passed the scanner to Banger and marched away.

     “Wait a minute.” He went after her.

     Leaving was worse than staying. Another guy grabbed her in a hug. He kissed her and made her taste bubble gum. It earned him a fist to the jaw. Someone dropped trou and showed off his big stiffie.

     When she geared up to cold-cock him, Banger held her arms to her sides. “Okay, don’t do this. People are taking your picture. Come on. Like a pro, India. Don’t let it get to you. You’re a pro.”

     In her head, she yelled at herself in fear. Don’t you ever let people see that again! A couple of bigger guys in the crowd assumed the job of bodyguards - without being asked, they held back the fans and kept protective watch. One of the techies called for police, and as Banger escorted India back inside the van, the driver got out to continue the code-reading and giveaway. All the while, cameras rolled.

     India spent almost half an hour in the back of a patrol car after the one with the sore jaw complained. Fortunately, enough people confirmed that the fan had grabbed her, and that she’d only belted him in self-defence. Seems she had a few friends after all.

     Banger escorted her home in his car. She’d taken her Jag to the radio station but decided to leave it. There’d surely be fans or reporters outside the gates to her building, and she couldn’t guarantee that another punch in the face wouldn’t happen if anybody else crowded her that night.

     As they approached, they saw a handful of people at the gate. “They’re here,” said Banger. “Maybe you want to duck down or something.”

     She crawled to the back seat and lay on the floor, covered herself with one of his coats and a laundry bag. “They’re going to sneak in when you open the gate,” she mumbled from her hiding place. 

     “Is there a doorman?”

     “Yes. But they’ll find a way in. Or they’ll phone me.”

     “Did you call Allan?”

     “No, and I’m not going to. He’s the one who set me up to do this stupid stunt.”

     “I don’t think he planned for this.”

     “I’ll call him later.”

     He slowed at the gate. All the eyes searched him and his car. Fortunately, it was dark enough that he wasn’t easily recognised, and India was invisible. He punched the buttons to open the gate. As the car passed, the entire group followed. Banger sped up enough to get into the garage and have the overhead door close before anyone made it through. The doorman would have to handle the rest.

     He parked and took her hand. “I’ll see you get upstairs.”

     “On your way down, can you stop and speak to the doorman? If anybody knocks at my door, I’m coming out with a bat.”

     Once inside, she cried, but only for a minute before she got mad. In the shower, she opened her mouth to the spray and tried to erase the taste of bubble gum and a stranger’s tongue. Panic rose fast and she bit the bar soap. Bad idea. The air became a confused and angry mix of the hissing shower and her reflexive gagging. Soap mush splattered to the tub floor as she flooded her mouth with water. With her eyes wide and hysterical, she started pummeling and pulling at her breasts. What the fan had squeezed, she wanted off her body. His touch had left residual energy and she felt his palms over and over again. Backed to the tiles, she punched herself in the chest until there appeared bruises. Her face was red hot with aggression. Only when it hurt too much to continue, and the rage fizzled to exhaustion, did she stop.

     She plugged the drain and made for a bath instead. If she didn’t calm, she’d trash the place and again have to deal with police. While the tub filled, she stomped naked to the bedroom to get her sleeping pills. Her badly shaking hands slipped, and pills scattered in the rug. Lovely. What else is going to go wrong today? To her knees she went - each pill retrieved went immediately to her mouth. Good. I hope I die. After shutting off the bathroom light, it was a slow sink into the foaming suds. The phone rang but she ignored it, covered her face with a hot cloth.

     Silent in the darkness. No tears, no rage. Quiet, vacant.

     Just before she went unconscious, she regretted taking too many pills and raised a limp hand to push fingers into her throat. Despite her repeated retching, nothing came up. Just sleep. Everything’s fine. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. Relax. Peaceful and quiet. She slumped to the side of the tub, rested her face on the edge. Her breathing slowed. And slowed. The little sparkles before her eyes were pretty and soothing. Was she even breathing at all anymore? Maybe just a little. Nice. Nice to feel calm. Nothing can hurt you.

The phone began a fresh bout of ringing. India’s vision went black.


     The next time India saw daylight, it was from the comfort of her own bed. The warm sun illuminated Allan’s face at her side. He was asleep, curled up with his arms about her. Her mouth felt and tasted like dry cotton. Though muddy in the head, physically she didn’t feel too badly. It took several minutes before she put two and two together to come up with a reasonable understanding of the situation. Just go back to sleep. You’re awake, but not really. Not yet. She lightly kissed Allan’s unshaven cheek. “My boy,” she whispered.

     He stirred, closed his hold about her, and settled again. Don’t wake up.

     It had cost Allan quite a chunk of under the table money to make this go away. He’d paid Dr. Park to put in the report that it hadn’t been a suicide attempt, that she’d suffered an accidental overdose after misreading instructions on the bottle, since it had been a new prescription. She just assumed the pills were the same strength as the old prescription. A careless accident. If the words possible suicide attempt appeared in the report, they’d have her see a psychiatrist. And prescription or not, she’d have to answer to Ted Coleman again. It would finish her and probably the fifth picture as well.

She never should have been made to do the fifth picture

     While India was treated in the ER, Allan went home to collect what cash he had in the house. No cheques for this one. The money bought the words accidental overdose and an ambulance ride back home, instead of a night in hospital under observation. It was for peace of mind to have her wake up in her own bed.

     Allan had been the one trying to call when she was in the bath. She didn’t answer so he’d contacted Banger, who said he dropped her off after the trouble. Banger assessed her mood as grouchy, so Allan attributed her lack of response as just another of her isolationist funks. It was her way. The phone was an annoyance. She either answered or not. Who cared? With the increase in crank calls, she’d been ignoring the rings more and more. Monday, she was supposed to change her number. Again. She was even thinking of moving. Again. So when he didn’t get an answer, he didn’t panic.

     But Lucy had promised to stop by with the dry-cleaning. She knew nothing of what had happened with the Panty Van and figured India would be expecting her. She parked her car and carried the clothes into the building. The fans at the gate frightened her a little. Now they were hanging around outside her home. At least the hallways were quiet. Obviously the doorman was doing his job.

     Lucy knocked. No answer. She pressed the bell. Since she was expected, the silence bothered her. Try the cell phone. No answer. Opening the door and letting herself in was a last resort, but India had given her the key, and so knew she might once in a while have to use it. There was always the chance she’d walk in on some indulgent episode of sexual activity, but didn’t sense that was the case here.

     To be on the safe side, she opened the door and poked in her head. The place was completely silent. “Indie? It’s me. I’ve got the cleaning. Are you here?”

     The silence continued and Lucy looked at her watch. They had agreed upon eleven p.m. No mistake. The day had been hectic and she said she’d only be able to drop off the clothes on her way home. Her watch read eleven-ten. She waited in the doorway. “Indie? Are you home?” She set the dry cleaning on the back of a living room chair and clicked on the lamp. Under her breath, she grouched, “Don’t tell me eleven p.m. and make me come all the way out here if you’re not even going to be home.”

     She moved to the bedroom and hit the lights. Bath towel folded on the chair. Clothes on the floor. Open pill bottle on the bed. Empty. She read the label. India’s sleeping pills. She’d filled the prescription herself only yesterday. How could it be empty so soon? “India?” Her voice rose a degree in panic. Then to the bathroom. “Oh my God.”

     When next India woke, the sun was gone and she was alone. When she lifted her head, however, Allan jumped from his spot in the big armchair and crawled in next to her. “Hey,” he purred through a sea of smothering kisses.

     “Hey yourself,” she mumbled. “...water.”

     He offered the straw from a bedside water glass. “What did you do?” he scolded.

     “I took too many pills. I tried to throw them up.”

     He kissed her nose. “The bottle was empty.”

     “I spilled them on the rug. I tried to open the bottle and they spilled.”

     “How many did you take?”

     She rubbed her eyes. “Um, I don’t remember. Maybe eight. I panicked. But the rest are just imbedded in the rug. I didn’t take the whole bottle. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I mean, if I had, big deal right? But I just wanted to sleep.”

     He nestled his face to her chest. “It’s my fault. I should have listened to you. Banger showed me the tapes.”

     She winced and eased him back. Her entire chest was bruised and tight with pressure. “Some guy stuck his tongue in my mouth, Allan. He stuck his tongue in my mouth! And some lunatic grabbed--”

     His finger to her lips. “Shh,” he calmed.

     She wiped her eyes. “I was so mad. I just wanted to get to sleep and make it go away.” She took more water. “When did you find me?”

     “I didn’t. Lucy did. She brought your dry-cleaning.”

     “Shit. I forgot about her.”

     “If she hadn’t come, Dr. Park said you might have died. You were barely breathing.”

     A resigned sigh. “Part of me doesn’t care. I’ve had enough. I’m so sick of this. The fans. The stunts. I’m fed up with it. If I had died, it would have been the best thing that could have happened.”

     “I’m sorry, honey. You don’t know how sorry I am. Please don’t leave me again.”

     She fisted his hair. “I want you to promise me you’ll never do anything like this again. No stunts. No games.”

     “Never. I promise.”

     Without a doubt, the advance screening of Night's Lesson lacked somewhat without Allan and India to stoke the fire. While theatres bustled with panty-wearing, van-chasing followers, India lay in bed with Allan at her side. She’d slept all night after being ambulanced back home, then slept through until the time when the film would have been about forty minutes in.

     This was when most started taking seriously India’s claims that she didn’t want to be a star. When one watches TV, one often hears the high and mighty shunning their own celebrity. The next time we see them they’re eating it up with a spoon. India wasn’t that kind of hungry. She wanted to act, but if this was the cost, she was done. Even if she stayed long enough to do Veil of Murder, it would be coda to her career.

     Despite stellar reviews garnered for Lesson’s leading lady and the lean, tight presentation of Baird’s directing, it was lost in the wake of the panty stunt. Critics said of her performance, “India Bowman continues to grow into a talent of unique style and consistent skill.”  What should have been praise that she was indeed a good actor meant nothing in the shadow of the stunt headlines that ran parallel to the reviews.

     And what of Allan as Lacey Laverne? Quite simply, once recognised as a woman in his own movie, he was crowned King of Kink. At first, it was only devoted followers who picked him out. ToJo had kept viewers guessing even longer by putting smile-changing caps on his teeth to hide the trademark grin that would have been the giveaway. Critics had a field day with abuse, fans a celebration of his chutzpah.

Big deal

     India Bowman moved to a posh hotel, where rich snobs paid good money for extra security.

     India Bowman took another year off from movie making.

     India Bowman bought a gun.

     For protection. What if a fan really attacked her? If they could grab and kiss her, they could just as easily throw her in the back of a car. She couldn’t stay locked in her room forever. Everyone knew stories of fans who stalked celebrities. Was that next? And how much fight could she possibly have left? There had to be some changes. But a gun? Would she really use it? Probably not. Scared she was, but hardly likely to blow someone’s head off. Usually, the mere act of showing a gun would back off a home invader. Just a semi-automatic security blanket she’d keep in the drawer of her night table.

     What a shame. Lesson’s success should have meant more. The studio was happy. Fans were very happy. Allan wanted to be happy, but found his excitement low-key because of his worries about India. What made you decide to play Lacey? Did you write the part specifically for yourself, or was it a last minute thing? Come on the show dressed as Lacey. It seemed a godsend that his turn as a female had grabbed some attention - it kept him safe from the pink panty questions. Media wanted to talk Lacey with Allan and panties with India. Madge Hart wanted the couple back on the show. Allan returned her call but said India probably wouldn’t do it. She’d put her foot down about media and declined even the shows she enjoyed. Madge had Allan on by himself, but not dressed as Lacey. Sadly, he was shunning association with his special gem of a film. Oh sure, things would probably settle away to normal when India got back, but until he had confirmation that she’d be on board for Veil, he kept celebrations of Lesson to a minimum. Only the bottom line spoke of its value.

     Allan took a trip and spent his downtime with Mondo and Lisa. Ever soothing to be with the folks. Like old times, when they’d talk over tea and cake in the evenings. Though not likely to last, he also got clean again - once more to the time when all was decent and refined. It was an easy slide back into the routine of the dandy.

    Father had said something that kept Allan up for more than a couple of long nights. He hadn’t been the first to speak such words of India Bowman. “Maybe you should be careful, Kiddo. She seems a bit unstable.”

     He told them about Baby Avalon, though asked that they not pass judgement. It was a sad thing and he didn’t want to dwell on it. He just shared thoughts on how she’d look, what they’d be doing if she was alive. His little raven-haired dreamboat in purple velvet bows and patent leather shoes. He showed his sketchbook and its many drawings of infant, baby, then toddler. She’d be about five by now.

     Nope. They couldn’t be detached. Tears flowed, the baby celebrated with lit candles and incense.

     India spent her time on the road again, alone, and in complete disguise. She cut her long shaggy hair into a punk spike, caked her face in Goth make-up, and disappeared. While Allan was off recapturing his artsy roots, India slopped barefoot through small towns. She turned heads, not from celebrity, but from her outrageous clothes, and the contrast between her hobo demeanour and her spending habits. What sort of Goth punk drives a Jaguar? What barefoot lady tramp pays for pizza with high-end plastic?

     At the studio, nobody was authorised to disclose details of their whereabouts. Lucy and Marcie fielded calls, answered mail. And what a load of post-panty lechery it was, too! People mailed dirty underwear to India. Men offered money if Allan would perform sex acts while dressed as Lacey. Lucy and Marcie themselves began to be affected by the baseness of it all. The ladies stopped opening packages altogether, threw away anything other than flat envelopes. Good gifts suffered in the same dumpster as the filth.

     Dan kept in touch with Allan by phone. They discussed when the film would start. India had changed her number and nobody had it but Allan. Dan, the picture - it would all have to wait until she felt well enough to come back.

     First thing on Allan’s list upon his return was a check-up with Dr. Bartone. Being off coke hadn’t done anything to stop his chest pains. After tests, Bartone put him on nitrates. Concern was expressed about his need to slow down. He had to be mindful of the stresses of movie making, and the effect it was all having on his vulnerable heart. Nitrates would help, but somewhere down the road they might have to talk bypass surgery. Allan knew it would never happen and resigned himself to whatever fate lay in store. He’d once said that the universe belonged to God and he had no say. If it was his destiny to drop dead of a heart attack, so be it. He once called it justice.

I’ll see you on the other side

     India did come back, and in a reasonably fair mood. It was how it usually went. Time away to shake off the strangle-hold of people and events too close to handle. After Allan performed a very serious cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die ritual in which he guaranteed not to stage any more stunts, she agreed to Veil of Murder.

     On other fronts, Rennie was seeing someone else and had - by and large - grown tired of the games. Allan was too deeply ensconced in what he described as “India Bowman’s Crazyweb,” so he distanced himself. His duties as A.D. continued, however, despite the curbed feelings for his delicate friend.

     How long that would last ran parallel to the amount of time Allan would likely be able to stay off the toot.

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