Matthew Licht

jh ghost 5

A Big Star, Part 1

A ghost made of egg shampoo flew through the air in broad daylight. Mr Johnson held an over-designed remote control ray gun. He made the opalescent UFO shuttle back and forth from nowhere to nowhere in a game of video ping-pong. When he got bored, he hit the freeze button. 

“That’s me, basically,” he said. “Or half of me. This is where I come into the picture, if the story’s true.”

He pushed another button and the load splashed down on a high cheekbone and the bridge of an upturned nose. The brunette whom those features belonged to ran her tongue over her lips and slightly crooked teeth.

“Mom,” the client said. He sounded sad.

In the final frames, a sunken face mimed, “Phew!”

“And there’s Papa.” He softly repeated, “If the story’s true.”

Mr Johnson pushed another button and the TV screen died. He went to his desk, pulled another remote-control from a drawer, zapped open the wooden blinds to reveal the Hollywood hills where the porn loop was shot. 

The client was some species of Hollywood executive. 

He looked into the distance from his office window. A woman with flowing blond hair drove a jeep slowly up the canyon. “My mother already wasn’t looking too hot the last time I saw her.”

The woman in the jeep disappeared behind a blind corner. Nothing left on the hills but the landmark sign and TV antennas. 

“I know a man,” the client went on, “whose mother claimed he was Jimi Hendrix’s love-child before she died of a drug overdose. He’s the right color, got long fingers, but he can’t play. This guy lives in a car. Parked permanently on Venice Blvd. With a crazy German lady who sells love beads on the Boardwalk.”

“Life’s hard.”

“My mother’s life was. I’m glad she ditched me with her father in Palmdale. The old guy taught me values.”

The client pulled $500 cash from his pocket, and slid a copy of the videotape across his desk.

“She said that,” he tapped the black plastic rectangle, “was the high point of her life. I want you to find out if her story’s true.”

The client winced when I lit a cigarette. “Not my kind of case, Mr Johnson,” I said. “I’m in the living missing person line. This’d be a matter for the Coroner’s Office.”

He snorted. “The moral of the story about Hendrix’s alleged son is that he might not be living in a car if he could prove paternity. He’s got nothing to go on except his mother’s say-so. The music biz, in case you don’t know, makes the film industry look soft.”

“I doubt there’s a John Holmes estate. He smoked whatever he earned up a crack pipe.”

“I’m not concerned with that sort of inheritance. Holmes didn’t contribute much to the culture, but he was a star. Understand?”

I didn’t, but said I’d do my best. We didn’t shake hands. Mr Johnson didn’t show me out. 

 

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