The Faust Syndrome: scenes 7-10

*sorry this is late*

 

Scene 7: open to Sam attempting his entry into politics.

Sam

(narrating)

After the death of Frankie’s girlfriend, I deemed it necessary to back off from my mischief in my own community. Instead, I decided to start my climb up the political ladder. I knew, being young, I would face a hard climb but I had an ally no one else had. I was backed by the very Devil himself and I had been given my first mission. Infiltrate Congress.

Sam

(campaigning)

…And I promise that I will do what is best for this community and the state as a whole. We will prosper as a state and a community. Let’s move this state forward.

The crowd cheers, drowning the rest of his speech out.

Sam

(narrating)

Many in the community saw sending me to Congress as a way to banish me from their midst without incurring my wrath. Indeed, most were so frightened of me that they thought I would visit them in the night if they didn’t do something that was in my best interest even if it meant betraying their country. So, they sent me away to Congress. And in my delusion, I believed that they had seen my true worth.

Pan from Sam packing to his arrival in DC.

I didn’t realize, nor did I care, that they would ultimately use this extended time to find all the damning evidence against me they could. I  did not care  because I believed that those who had evidence would be too terrified to give any testimony. I merely thought that the Devil would keep me from harm. I would be wrong in both respects.

Scene 8: Sam’s first day in Congress. He is observing, looking for the weakest members. These will be the ones he will blackmail and/or pull into his sphere of influence.

Sam (from San Diego)

This bill concerns me. Nowhere does it explain who benefits and who does not. It is a disaster waiting to happen. (gesturing) Our dear colleagues across the aisle expect us to simply accept, not to debate. In good conscience, I cannot back such an endeavor.

George (from Miami)

I agree  with my esteemed colleague from San Diego. This is the biggest cluster fuck I have ever witnessed…and to think that my dear friend Mike was involved in the formation of this pile of shit. How can my Republican colleagues believe that this could ever do America any good.

Shelly (from Maine)

(waving her arms wildly)

We need to work together on bills like this! This is not a partisan problem or a partisan subject. These affect everyone. When we treat these things as partisan privileges, we play God with the lives of millions!

Mike (from NY)

(Objecting to the debate)

I call for a vote!

Sam

(indifferent)

I second.

Senate Majority Leader

Sam Machivala, You are out of turn. (returning his attention to the rest of the Congressmen/women) Vote denied. We will be resuming tomorrow to debate and possibly submit for rewrites.

Fade from assembly. New scene: Sam’s apartment. He has just walked in the door .he loosens his tie and throws his suit coat onto the nearby couch.

Sam

(with relief, to himself)

Home sweet home. (sighs) Never thought legislating was so tiring. Or stressful. Not really hard, just tedious.  

As narration begins, continue with various scenes of Sam  debating in Congress.  

Sam

(narrating)

I would spend six years as a junior senator, then the last three as a senior.I backed several beneficial bills, but they only covered many more “greed” bills that I pushed my fellow senators to pass. And pushing was something I was very good at. Very good.

Fade to scene of Sam hiring a group of private investigators to shadow his colleagues. He gives them specific instructions as the narration continues.

My first year in office, I spent a lot of time researching my colleagues. Their  vices. Their family lives. Their deep, dark secrets–those things they tried to keep hidden.

I found each weakness and began to exploit it to my own benefit. I found out which senators were sleeping with the wives of their colleagues. Which ones frequented prostitutes.which ones were sleeping with underage interns. And so on.

I found, though, that no matter how different both sides believed they were, there was always something I could use against them. They were the same, under the private lamp. None had true family values.neither one was truly conservative. Neither were truly liberal. Both lied. And lies could be used as blackmail.

It was all so exhilarating! The thrill of discovery. The thrill of the threat. The follow through. The watching as a career ended in a crash.

Ah, but I came to realize that it was an everyday occurrence in Washington. The power players had already set that wheel in motion, but I learned to use it much more adeptly than the rest. And I used it to its fullest potential. Often.

Fade to scenes of Sam sing every conceivable piece of information as blackmail against his colleagues as narration continues. End of scene.

Scene 9: it has been about a year. Sam stumbles into a young lady at a social function. It is a gala party being held at her father’s house. He assumes that she is in her 20s, she is not. She is more like 17/18, but looks and dresses older.

Sam

(narrating)

I was barely a year in my first term when I met her. She was the eldest daughter of one of my esteemed colleagues, but I knew I had to have her. I didn’t want to make her my wife, though I would temporarily just to further my career, but I had to have her sexually. I didn’t care if she was willing, I just wanted her.

Sam

(seductively.)

I want you. I have to have you.

He pins her to the wall.

Lil

(willingly)

What’re you waiting for? I won’t fight you. I want it too.

Sam

(grabbing her wrist)

Come on. Let’s get away from this place. Somewhere quiet. Secluded.

Sam and Lil leave the party in his car. He drives her out into the country and pulls off on a backroad. Zoom out of the interior to an exterior shot of the car as the occupants crawl into the back. As the scene fades, the car begins to rock.

Sam

(narrating)

To my surprise, though she was barely eighteen, she turned out to be very willing. Even more, she was much as I was. Filled with malice and hate for all. She did not love me, no. rather, she grew to hate me as much as she hated all in Washington. But she knew a power to be reckoned with when she saw it. And I was.

Fade in on wedding scene, then morph into scene of Lil playing laying with a cabana/pool boy. Sam acta as if he doesn’t notice.

We were married after our second tryst. I looked the other way as she dallied with pool boys and other members of the elite, including many of my colleagues–which she would record so I could use the tapes as blackmail. Oh how she loved that trait in me! But she also looked the other way as I led my colleagues’ wives into lustful orgies and much more. I, too, recorded every tryst to use as blackmail if needed.

Fade from scenes of Lil laying with and kissing on various senators, with the final scene panning out to reveal a camera concealed in a closet, to scenes of Sam doing the same with those senators’ wives. Again, pan out to reveal a camera concealed in the closet, then fade out.

Yet, as much as I hated my wife, and as much as she hated me, we decided to try for an heir. We wanted our union to look good. I wanted someone to carry on my legacy of evil, she just wanted a child.but our attempts were unsuccessful, for very obvious reasons. Yet, the reason had not dawned on me.I merely thought that it was natural that she and I were having this kind of trouble. I had never paid very close attention in health or science classes.

Sam and Lil are discussing something as the camera fades in.

Sam

We need a family. We need to look normal, even though we are nowhere near being such.

Lil

(nodding)

I agree. Just because we hate each other, we can at least try to be as normal as possible in appearance. Besides. I wanna baby.

Montage scenes of Sam and Lil trying for a baby. End of scene.

Scene 10: Sam watches as Lil leaves to visit her parents. After she is gone, he sits down on the couch. Leaning back, he closes his eyes. After less than 30 seconds, he sniffs the air and sits up, opening his eyes and sits up. He gets up and looks  down the hall toward the bedroom. Belial stands in the hallway, hidden in the shadows.

Sam

(narrating)

At one point early in my career, on my birthday, Belial visited me. My remaining childless was weighing heavily upon my mind, as were a few other questions. His appearance, at a time when she wasn’t around, was so opportune.

Belial

(with a beguiling smile)

You look a little long in the tooth. Is there something I can do for you?

Sam

(irritable)

Yes. you can tell me why I cannot have children.

Belial

(with a hint of surprise, his eyebrow raised)

Is it not obvious?

Sam

(getting more irritated)

No, enlighten me.

Belial

(sighs)

You have no soul. Soulless people cannot propagate. They are sterile. You will either have to go childless or adopt. (shakes his head in wonderment, muttering to himself) I swear. Some humans are so dense. They just don’t get all that they are giving up until they want something to carry on their name. (Sam winces in pain, the comments made by Belial having their desired effect)

Sam

(half in retaliation, half in frustration)

You did not explain this to me, Bea. you stated, and I quote, ‘you will have everything your heart desired.’ And my heart desires a child.

Belial

(heavy and dark, venomous)

Never call me Bea. There are no pet names between us. I am your friend, true. But nicknames between business associates is very disrespectful.

Sam

(remorseful)

I am sorry.i did not realize that I could not use terms of endearment.

Belial

(with a pleased smile)

There is more than that on your mind, isn’t there?

Sam

(warily)

Yes, but I need you to not become angry.

Belial

(quizzically)

And why is that?

Sam

I have some (he pauses) philosophical questions that are, shall I say, a little on the religious side?

Belial

(sternly)

You were warned about these kind of questions.

Sam

Just bear with me, please.

Belial

(sighing, disappointed)

I will have to check with my master.

Belial vanishes for a few seconds, then reappears.

OK, but just this once and no more.

Sam

My beguiling friend, why must there always be a war between Heaven and Hell?

Belial

(mortified)

This question is forbidden! Why must you ask questions of such a manner? Do you know that my master could strike us both down for such blasphemous questions?

Sam

(remorseless)

Please, I beg you, I ask only for philosophical purposes. To fully understand my own part in this whole thing.

Belial

(rolling his eyes, hissing in disapproval)

Alright, but no more of these kinds of questions after this. We need no goading from you to hate all things of Heaven. The war between Heaven and Hell has been an endless one. We fight because we hate all that is good and right. All that Heaven represents. When Heaven created man, we resented the newly created man and vowed to destroy Heaven and rule man as we desired.

Sam

(pressing his luck)

What of the Bible? Is it really the truth?

Belial

Your truth is whatever the truth of our lord is, not the truth of the life you abandoned or that most hated book. (he grows impatient and angry)

Sam

(still pushing his luck)

Is there anything such as redemption?

Belial

(icily)

We are lords over all the earth. Not God. Not man. We determine who is and who is not worthy of your so-called redemption.

Sam

(acquiescing)

Then I am completely satisfied. No more foolish questions.

Belial

(with foreboding)

Let me warn you. There will be no more questions on this subject. Remember, Faustus was a real man and he was torn to shreds for his infractions of our golden rules. But your fate could be far worse if you continue to pester me with such detestable questions.

Sam grows quiet  and visibly abased. He bows his head for a few seconds. Then Belial speaks again.

(in a softer tone, but commanding)

Come kneel at my feet. It is time for something important.

Sam

(looking up momentarily, then rising and going over to do as he is asked)

What?

Belial

(smiling maliciously)

Why, it’s time for you to take the oath, pledging your complete loyalty to Hell and it’s Dark Prince.

Sam raises his right hand to swear the oath. Pan out from Belial and Sam as the narration begins.

Sam

(narrating)

And so, i pledged my undying loyalty. Yet, I had never been so loyal that I had never betrayed those I was supposed to be loyal to, and I would find that Hell’s minions were the same. At nineteen, The Devil had gained my soul. At twenty-three, he now had control of my very actions.

Fade to black. End of scene. End of act 1.  

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The Faust Syndrome Act 1, Scenes 3 through 6

Scene 3: Pan to an event that happens before the library scene as narration continues Sam is in bed with the woman next door when his girlfriend (Sandy) walks in and catches them. A fight ensues and she walks out. lines here are ad libbed for sake of spontaneity. the argument is heated, but muted, being behind the narration. 

                                                     Sam

                                              (narrating)

                          I must digress a little. I was nineteen when the

Devil became the owner of my soul. In facts, the

                       eve that Belial came to visit me was the very eve

                      of my birthday and I had all but squandered the day.

                      I remember it all so well because I had just broken up

                      with my girlfriend for what I thought of as a betrayal.

                     She had not betrayed me, no, but my purposes.

She had caught me in a tryst with a married neighbor.

That was her only crime, and it really wasn’t a crime at all.

I had wronged her. I had destroyed her faith in my “love”.

But I didn’t love her. That was the problem. I didn’t love anyone.

fade to montage of scenes where Sam is with different women and chasing women as the narration continues.

                  I was far from being a loyal lover. Women were my greatest

                    vice. Or, should I say, my greatest weakness. I lusted after them.  

I stalked them. I even lusted after the ones I could not have.

And all I wanted from women was, well, sex. That, to me, was all

they were good for. Otherwise, they were a big waste of money and

time. Wine them, dine them, but make sure they go to bed with you in

the end–that was my philosophy.

It didn’t matter  whether they stayed or not, just as long as I got what

I wanted from the. I didn’t realize that it was all wrong, I just knew

that I wanted what they had to offer…even if they really weren’t offering.

I scoffed at my Christian upbringing, I was from wealth and privilege, I

didn’t need God or his rules.

Pan to scenes of Sam wining and dining women, then bedding them.Fade to scene of Sam making lewd gestures and laughing as he is driven past a church. Adlib lines to match scenes. 

In my young mind, women were there to do as I bid. My word,

where they were concerned, was law. If they didn’t give willingly,

I would take it. If I couldn’t take it, I would slander them. Shame them.

You might say that evil had already taken a fair root in my heart but not enough but not enough to destroy my soul. Yes, I had committed crimes against so many young ladies up to this point,but I had always been able to repent my evil away until I signed my soul away.

Scene 4: an hour after the pact is signed. Sam’s father’s fever breaks and he regains his health over the days that pass. Sam’s mother and father watch as their son begins to change. At first, it was subtle, then more apparent.

Sam

(Narrating)

Before I go on, I must tell you that my father regained his health in the days that followed. He had been near death for about a week,but for some reason, the fever broke and he was well almost within hours of my signing away my soul. He would remain a thorn in my side for over ten years and I would grow to loathe him. Yet, he was a good man and in the dark recesses of my mind, I knew that he just wanted to save his youngest son. Mama, too, could see the changes in me. How hard they tried to regain my soul for me!  

Fade to scene of Frankie’s bedroom. A dark corner. Frankie’s back is to the corner, he is getting ready for bed. Sam , in spectral form,appears in the dark corner and Frankie turns and jumps, spooked.

My first deeds, though, had nothing to do with my parents or women. It had everything to do with a friend who had “betrayed” me. yet , much like the situation with my ex-girlfriend, he had not really betrayed me.

Frankie

(spooked)

Jesus! Where did you come from?

Sam

(with an evil smile)

Nowhere. What are you nervous about, Frankie? Afraid I might do something?

Frankie

(starting to grow fearful)

How did you get in here? All the doors are locked. And the windows are all shut down tight with the shutters closed.

Sam

(maliciously)

Not everyone has to use doors or windows, Frankie. Sometimes all it takes is a guilty conscience or thought. Maybe I will visit your girl after I am done here.

Frankie

(defiant, yet fearful)

I don’t know what I have to be guilty of.I didn’t do anything to you.

Sam

(evilly)

Think, Frankie. Hard. You betrayed me. You told Susan where I was. She found me with Marla.

Frankie

(in desperation)

What the hell were you doing with Marla?

(suddenly realizing what the answer is. Shock suddenly registers in his eyes)

Oh God! Why’d you do that?!?

Sam

(coldly)

None of your business, Frankie. But I know you told her where I was. She told me.

Sam

(narration)

Of course, this last part had been a lie. She had not been told, nor had she told me that anyone had told her where I was. She had just simply stopped to see Marla and found us.

Frankie

(defending himself)

I did not tell her!!! Hell! I didn’t even know where you were! I swear it!

Sam

(coldly)

Too late, Frankie. No amount of swearing will absolve you this time. This time, you have betrayed me one too many times.

Sam forces Frankie to sit down and write a false confession  and suicide note. Sam forces Frankie to make a noose and hang himself.he waits until Frankie stops kicking and breathing, then leaves.

Sam

(narrating)

Over the next hour, I made him write out a false confession. It was a beauty,even though it was all lies. I made him write out a suicide note, then made him make his own noose. It had to be believable. Then, I made him hang himself. I waited until he stopped kicking and moving before I left.

Pleased with myself, I felt I needed to find a woman and celebrate. And who better than the girlfriend of my late friend? I smiled in anticipation.

Sam seeks out Frankie’s girlfriend and attempts to seduce her.  

Fiona

(angry)

Knock it off, Sam. I don’t love you. I never will. Go away. You can’t have me.

Sam

(viciously)

You will live to regret this.

Enraged, Sam returns home to plot fiona’s death.

Sam

(narrating)

I did not expect her to reject me. Devastated, I went back home to plot against her as well. Yet, I refrained from carrying it out right away. I wanted to let the shock of Frankie’s “suicide” go away. I wanted to punish her in other ways. I wanted to really hurt her.

Scene 5: fade to a later date. The sadness of Frankie’s death has seemingly eased for Fiona. Sam has been watching. Waiting. His eyes reveal that he believes that the time is right to bring his plot against her to fruition. He appears, one night, in her bedroom after she returns from a date with some friends. She is undressing when he appears.

Sam

(evilly)

Hello, Fiona. Have you missed me?

Fiona

(panic stricken)

Dear God, Sam! How the hell did you get in here?!?

Sam

(maliciously)

Magic!

Sam begins trying to force himself on her, pushing her toward the bed. As scene fades, she screams. Fade back in on scene of her lying on her bed, her hair messed, her face battered and bruised. She is crying. Sam stands where he had appeared earlier, an evil smile on his face.

Sam

(with an evil laugh)

We’ll continue this tomorrow night,  

(vanishes, leaving her to cry inconsolably)

Shakily, she goes to her desk and pulls out her diary and begins writing every event that has led up to this misfortune, including the rape itself.

Sam

(narrating)

Little did I know that she would be a witness to my crimes in ways even the Devil could not know. Yes, she would keep a detailed diary about me. The flags I raised in her mind. The horrible truth about what I would become.

She would keep a detailed record of every time I would visit her and every time I raped her. In the end, it would be one of the few documents that would seal my fate (pause) twenty years after her own death. The last night I would visit her, I would leave her a shattered mess. She lay, motionless, in a pool of her own blood after the beating I gave her as I made her do the things that would make her unravel. Unashamed, I left her that way.

Fade to scene of Fiona in a puddle of blood, Sam leaving. She regains consciousness after he leaves and seeks out her diary. After writing one last entry, she hides it where she knows Sam won’t find it. After this, she sits at her desk and writes a suicide note and hangs herself.

Sam

(narrating)

At some point in the night, after she had made one last entry in her secret book, and after hiding it well enough for me not to find, she wrote a suicide note and then hung herself to end the pain I had inflicted upon her. In her note, she left her family a clue as to where she had hidden the book but warned them not to look for it until I was well out of the community.

That night, I called upon a host of succubae to give me the pleasure I wanted in bed. I was addicted to their touch and their ways. So amazing were the nights they visited me that I forgot about women for a while. I had not been told that to call upon their pleasures would age me greatly over time, but I would not have cared anyway. I was young.what was a long life if I could not taste all the pleasures Hell had to offer?

Unashamed of the deeds I had committed, I went on with my life as if I had done nothing wrong. The town began to wonder what was going on, though. Two of their most beloved children had been taken from them for no reason. One had been savagely beaten and assaulted until she committed suicide, the other had simply committed suicide for no apparent reason. And I was the only one who knew why.

Fade to scene of Sam in his bedroom, surrounded by succubae. They are crawling on him, kissing him, and arousing him. Fade to black as the remainder of the narration continues. End of scene.

Scene 6: one year later. The anniversary of Belial’s first visit. Belial has returned.

Sam

(narrating)

I would spend the rest of my nineteenth year breaking into the houses of those I had gone to school with, taking all of their belongings and leaving clues that pointed away from myself. Small, petty stuff, but still another step in the direction of my own eternal damnation. I had no reservations. No pride. Just a vengeful  heart bent on hurting everyone around me.

I would receive a visit from Belial, once again, on the anniversary of our first meeting. Every birthday would be another friendly visit, goading me deeper into evil. Yet, he waited until all were asleep but me. I had stopped sleeping after Frankie’s death.

Belial

(hissing malevolently cheerful)

I see you have created quite a stir! Not bad!

Sam

(raising an eyebrow)

By whose measure?

Belial

(grinning evilly)

My master’s, of course. But he wants more. And he wanted me to deliver another message.

Sam

(looking at Belial quizzically)

And that might be?

Belial

He wanted me to remind you that, if you read the fine print, and I hope you did, that he will come for you at the appointed time. This means that he will come himself or send some of my coworkers to collect your body once your time runs out.

Sam

And how much time do I have?

Belial

(shrugging)

Roughly twenty years.

Sam

(frustrated)

Not enough.

Belial

(sneering maliciously)

No? You presume to tell my master how much time you need to do things?

Sam

(frowning angrily)

No, but if your master expects me to get into politics, he needs to give me until I am fifty.only one man has made it into the White House before they were forty.

Belial

Do you doubt the power of my master that you think he cannot influence enough to get you there before you are forty?

Sam

(shaking his head)

no , but I doubt the human willingness to follow his lead. Too many astute people who can’t be fooled by the likes of me.

Belial

(soothingly)

You tell a big enough lie and you can fool anyone into selling anything. Besides. We need you in office to raise our membership. We have fallen on some hard times and need you to recruit. Oh, and you won’t be in the White House until you go to Congress.

Sam

And you are telling me that I will be doing that soon, I take it?

Belial

(smiling evilly)

Sooner than you think.

 

The Morrow Family Saga, series 4, Book 1: Once Around The Ride, Chapter 14

Tom stood a short distance away from the others who had filtered into the hospital. He felt out of place even though he was considered family by both Natalia and Matt. Hell. Even Shasta seemed to think of him as family. He had been there for the family since the French Case. He had done all he could to keep an eye on Natalia throughout her journey to this point.

Yet, he felt as if he had let them all down. He had been unable to prevent this. For that, he felt as if he had betrayed their trust.

Matt, though, kept him from drinking himself into oblivion. As did Susie. God bless them both. They were his source of stability and sanity. The two things he needed the most right now.

He now stood among strangers. He had never met most of those now in the waiting room. He had briefly been in contact with the younger brothers, since they were born during the investigations that put an end to French Industries. Still, he really didn’t know them.

And their older brother Nick. He had been gone by the time Tom came into the picture. He knew Marty Venacek, though. But where was Dani? Had she made it yet? Or was she unable to do so?

There was a dark silence that had fallen over those in the waiting room. A mixture of acceptance and rejection, belief and rejection, made its way through each and every person. Like some unnamed poison, it permeated everything, causing everyone to be on edge.

Dani walked into the waiting room. She saw him and immediately came over to where he was. Putting her arms around his neck, she gave him a hug.

“Good to see you, Uncle Tom,” she whispered, “how has she been?”

Tom smiled sadly. “Not good. The virus has pretty much ravaged her. She has zero tolerance to anything anymore. Just when she gets her life turned around, she finds herself at its end.”

“It’s sad indeed,” she agreed, “I just wish we could’ve gotten her straight before now. Maybe we could’ve prevented this.”

“Natalia chose her path long before we entered it as influences.” He looked at her. “She had things all planned out before even I entered the picture. From what I understand, your uncle Mike tried his best to steer her in the right direction and failed. Well, it wasn’t his failure, but hers. She didn’t understand what he was trying to do.”

Dani nodded. “True.”

He watched her walk away. He was saddened to watch her go. She had tried to help him rein Natalia in during the sixties. But they had both failed and Nattie had slipped further away from everyone.

But that had been a crazy time. The sixties had taken their toll on everyone. The acid trips, the drug experimentation, the sexual revolution—it had all led up to the fallout of the last couple of years, right after disco.  And it was still taking its toll.

Gone were the days when innocence was god. That had been stripped away in the late sixties. Of course, a large chunk of the country’s innocence had been stripped away in the late forties and  throughout the fifties as well with the McCarthy led Communist witch hunts. Not to mention Eddie Hoover’s fixation with communists which ended during Nixon’s time in office.

***

Matt sat in the hospital parking lot, head in hands. This was almost too much to bear. He knew that his mother was nearing the end of her life and there wasn’t anything he could do to save her. just when she had found happiness, she was hit with this new and mysterious disease. And now, the disease was killing her.

His anger fed his pain. It fed his creativity. His creativity fed his career. At the moment, though, he was three steps from ending his career. Between the pain and the anger, he was beginning to overload.

Family was more important than a career at this point and his brothers and sisters now needed him. all of them. He would always be able to return to his career after he had finished raising them. He was all they had. And now, they were all he had.

He dried his eyes. This was no time to be crying. He had to be strong. He had always had to be strong. Always.

No one ever liked losing a member, but it was inevitable. Still, his mother was too young. Forty-something was too young. And right when she had finally found herself and happiness, she fell ill. It wasn’t fair.

But then, life wasn’t fair. It had never been fair. His father had been taken from him before he was old enough to really know him. At least, that was what his mother told him. After that, it was a steady stream of men where momma was concerned.

He couldn’t really call any of them dad. None of them remained in his life long enough. Some, he’d had to defend himself and his mother from. Others simply got what they wanted from her and left. That had changed in ’77 when she met Johnny.

Johnny Mark had been a porn legend. His films were the most complex in the industry. Of course, that wasn’t his real name, but he couldn’t have the world knowing his private life. It had been a risky move for Matt’s mother, getting involved with Johnny, but it had been the best thing for her.

Although he didn’t agree with the career move, he let her do her own thing. As long as it kept her out of trouble, he was willing to allow her a little leeway. Johnny got her parts in a couple of his films and things took off from there. At first, there had been multiple partners. Then only Johnny.

After twenty films, she stopped. She had made a fortune with her body and created a name for herself. In fact, she was somewhat of a Hollywood legend herself, though not under her own name. the Morrow name was never tainted by her actions. At least, not overtly.

She had tried to keep her parents from seeing her name or likeness. Of course, Iowa was a different state than California. What happened in Cali seemed to remain worlds away from Des Moines or any town in Iowa. Sure whatever made the news seemed to reach the Midwest, but it never had much of an impact. It never really touched the lives of the people. At least not personally.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 13

Shasta got her mother and father onto the plane from Des Moines to LA in record time. getting them packed and into the car was like herding turtles…or maybe that was herding cats. She smiled. It was always a joy to do things with her parents. Too bad Nattie hadn’t seen that. Maybe she would have been in a different position now.

Still, Nattie had always been different. She had always marched to her own drum. There was no reason to her rhyme and no real rhythm to her life. Just a haphazard inconsistency that had marked every step of her life. Now was no different.

Chance Spencer had been good for Natalia, that had been apparent. Their lifestyle, however, had been less than desirable. But at least they had been able to supply a comfortable life for their children, at least at the beginning. But now, the year after Chance had died, Nattie was about to join him. the disease that had taken him was now eating away at her.

It was unfair. Nattie should be healthy and happy. But no. The minute she had found happiness, she lost it. Again. for the third and final time.

Shasta smiled sadly. The decade of free love had had its consequences. Seemed nothing had been truly free in the end.  But why did Nattie have to pay the price as well? Why couldn’t she get a get out of jail free card? After all, she still had a lot of life left in her to experience.

Her father’s voice brought her out of her thoughts.“Shaz. Shaz. There wasn’t anything you or I could have done to save her from this. You were never meant to be your sister’s keeper. Matt should have never had to do what he was forced t do either. Nattie was on a self-destructive path long before she left home. We tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, Lord knows we did, but she had a mind of her own.

“She put herself in the predicament that facilitated her rape. She fell for Toby’s lies. She wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell her that the boy was just pure evil. She thought he was the way she was going to find her key to happiness and stardom. Unfortunately, he shattered all those dreams for her and stomped on her heart by taking her innocence.

“I tried to fix it all for her after it happened, but I just didn’t know how to approach it. I had already taken away the power of his old man through shedding light on his fraud. I even tried to take away the boy’s power, but I failed.”

She smiled and took her father’s hand gently. “Pops, you did your best. Just think of the thousands of other girls you prevented Tobias from hurting after the rape. He went away to war to get away from going to prison. He went to Vietnam thinking he could go, then return a forgotten menace. When you chased him out of Des Moines, you save more girls than you realize.” She squeezed his hand gently to let him know that she approved of all that he had done for her sister and everyone else.

***

Yuri Venacek arrived in LA with his cousin Marty. The two had been business partners in Dallas for several years and decided to travel together to say farewell to their cousin. It was sad that it had come to this, but Marty had filled Yuri in on Nattie and her…alternative lifestyle. He could’ve sworn that he’d seen Nicolai Morrow at LAX and if that was the case, this was the end. Nothing had ever dragged Nick back into the family circle unless it was deep and extremely serious.

Still, he hoped to catch up on things with Nick as well as whoever else they would run into. It was always good to see family, even if it was during times like this. Not that Uri didn’t feel sad for Natalia, but everyone has seen this coming. Marcus, Uri’s brother, was somewhere in transit. He had said he would be there. But where was he?

Yuri shook his head. Marty’s sister, Dani, was still not in either. Neither were many of the others. Shasta had gone back to Des Moines to help his uncle Michael and aunt Valeria pack and make it to the plane on time. There were Morrows from all over the globe coming. Some had never met Nattie, others remembered her when she was young. Still, family was family and the Morrows were one family that believed in being close knit.

When one was hurt, the rest would come to their aid. When one died, the rest would come to mourn. And the Venaceks had become a part of that family.  A grand family it was too.

Yuri and Marty made their way to the hotel to check in. Once checked in, they headed for the hospital. There, they knew they would find the rest of the family. There, they would also find answers.

***

Matt sat at the judges’ table with Tandy and Sal. Before them, an aspiring vocalist was prancing back and forth on the stage. She certainly had the showmanship part down, but she still needed way too much work for them to consider. Beauty and showmanship were only two of the prerequisites, not the whole list.

Matt interrupted her. “Sorry, but you aren’t what we are looking for. If you like, I can add you to the list for possible backup singers.” He shrugged questioningly.

She blushed, having not anticipated his response. Usually, an audition got a thank you, we’ll get in touch with you later, not an invite to be backup after an initial rejection. But she had just received an invite to be backup. It was better than nothing. “S-sure, Mr. Morrow. That would be a dream!”

He smiled. “Good. it seems a better fit for you than fronting. You seem way to nervous for the lead. Being backup will help you work on that.”

She smiled nervously and nodded, then left the stage.

“Next.” Sal’s baritone made the command boom through the arena.

Savanna appeared on stage.

Tandy looked her over. “Name?”

She smiled. “Savanna Morrison.”

Matt smiled back, reassuringly. “Alright, show us what you’ve got.”

She smiled. “Sure bet.”

The music began. Matt watched her as she waited for the exact length of the intro and began on cue without being told. Her eyes, closed in concentration, periodically seemed closed so tight that they might stick shut. Then, she would relax. She seemed lost in the music, totally engulfed and a part of it. She fit the sound and the sound fit her.

Matt interrupted her, cutting the audition short. “You’ve got the job.”

She looked at the other two judges. Tandy and Sal nodded in affirmation. Even though she felt like screaming and jumping wildly, she knew it could blow her chances of keeping the gig. She smiled and threw her fist in the air triumphantly. “Rock on!”

Matt smiled. “We start rehearsal tomorrow on new songs. Bring any songs or lyrics you might have with you for possible consideration.”

She looked at him. “What time?”

Tandy cleared his throat. “Be at the studio by nine. Matt will be there when he gets done at the hospital. The rest of us will be there to work on rhythm and backing vocals.”

Matt smiled and winked. “I will be bringing in your contract as well, so be ready to sign your soul away.”

She stifled a giggle. She knew he wasn’t serious about the whole signing the soul away thing. It had just been made in jest. “I will be there bright and early.”

***

Belinda entered Tahoe at dusk. She had to find a motel quickly. She hated to be out after dark. She supposed that was the reason she had never really felt comfortable in her relationship with Matt. All those late nights.

Of course, she hadn’t cared much for his family either—not that she’d had one of her own. She couldn’t remember her parents but that was probably because she had run away from home at fifteen so that she could be a groupie. And she had lived her dream. She had lived the glamorous life of a rock groupie.

But it really hadn’t been that glamorous. Maybe the sex had been great, but the lifestyle itself left one empty. Longing. But for what?

Perhaps it had been over-glamorized. She took in a deep breath. What she needed was to find a musician who didn’t have any family. Someone she could…nudge closer to the grave until they finally fell in and left her with their entire fortune. It was a nice dream.

But who would want a used toy? Surely not the world weary legends. Of course not. And up-and-comers weren’t rich enough for her blood.

She snapped out of her thoughts as she pulled into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. She parked and went into the office.

“May I help you?” The clerk didn’t even look up.

“I need a room for the night.”

The clerk scooted the register out to where she could sign it. “Please sign in.” he walked over to the board where the keys hung and took one down, then walked back to the desk and handed the key to her. “That’ll be thirty dollars.”

She handed him $30 and took the key. She turned from the desk and looked at the key chain. Room 231. That was cool.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 12

Nicolai Morrow was late getting in to LAX. He was the eldest member of the Morrow family. He had been away on business when he received Shasta’s call. Like his brothers, he had strayed from the family business. After all, Shasta had done well as CEO of Morrow Industries and had not needed anyone else to impede her progressive ideas.

Now, Halbrook, her eldest, had taken the reins and was leading the company into the new decade. Unlike their father, Shasta had known when to retire. Lord how he envied her, but in a good way. She’d been able to be a part of the company as it went through its changes while he’d fought in wars he knew to be unnecessary.

To Shasta and Nattie, he was a stranger. Neither had even so much as heard of him. After all, he had been away for most of Shasta and Natalia’ lives. Nick had served in Korea and Vietnam and had seen things he just as soon forget.

He’d even killed for reasons he knew to be wrong. He’d tortured for little to no reason, simply because his superior commanded him to do it. He had to live with that shame. At least his superior had not lived long enough to continue his reign of terror.

He smiled. Kendrick, the mysterious shadow warrior as he liked to call him, had appeared in the night with orders for Nick. Kill your commander and his lieutenants had been his command. Thus, he had picked those who had opposed Lieutenant Tobias French and had swept the command tents, killing all they could. But one had escaped.

His group had made it look as if the VC had swept through camp while they went on patrol. It wasn’t hard, since they’d swept a VC ammo and weapons dump a few days before Kendrick’s appearance. They’d used the Russian and Chinese made guns and ammo to do the deed, being mindful to not remove their service gloves until after it was over.

The one who had escaped had been on patrol and had been wounded, but had also escaped into the forest. Strangely enough, he had been the sole survivor of his patrol, making the whole thing suspicious. More suspicious than what Nick and his crew had done.

The following investigation concluded that the VC had indeed overrun the camp and had wiped out the whole command. Since his group had been slated for southern patrol, they had been discounted as suspects. One man’s word could not sway top command from their exoneration of Nick’s patrol.

After Vietnam, Nick had returned to the states after a brief assignment to Germany. Germany had been a side trip. He had not intended to do any more time in the military.

Once back stateside, he found that he was not wanted in many areas of the country. Iowa had been out as well. Few there remembered him and most of his friends had died in either war. He had been popular as a youth, but popularity was overrated now. He was more a shattered soul than a man. War had seen to that.

Korea had been his baptism of fire, Vietnam his descent into hell. Korea had been predictable. The Viet Cong had not. Korea had been a win. Vietnam had been a fail. There had been too many deaths between the two disputes. Too many young men had been killed. And for what?

Officially, they had died for their country and the concept of freedom. The reality was much darker. With the Cold War still in full swing, the U.S and other western countries that weren’t under “communism” tried to block the USSR and those countries considered Communist from spreading their influence to smaller, weaker nations. The problem was that Communism wasn’t a form of government, it was an economic system. The political systems that communist style economies tended to draw were authoritarian dictatorships that controlled everything from where you could piss to where you could die. Hell. they controlled the rationing of food that was supposed to be communally shared. In essence, those countries that were supposedly communistic were not really communistic. Communism, of and by itself, offered no real government structure. Ideally, communism allowed the leadership roles to be shared among all within the commune. There wasn’t supposed to be a central government, just the commune which supplied food, shelter, and all needed for the common good.

Still, the political parties in the US saw communism as a type of government and led their party members into believing the same pseudo-political crap that was designed to make the US feel superior to the countries that shared the same common economic system as the USSR. Of course, this did not help Americans in the pursuit of knowledge or understanding, just as their ignorance of world religions also kept them from fully understanding the Middle East and other countries that did not share a background in Christianity.

But America was never big in trying to understand much of anything except their own wants and desires. Hell. they didn’t even really understand how their own government worked or how the two parties should work together for the common good of all. No, they only understood that one party was supposed to be “liberal” while the other was supposed to be “conservative”. They feared homosexuals. They feared a new disease known as HIV/AIDS. They feared the atheists. They feared…just about everything.

They were blind to what was really going on. Corporations were creating reasons to send men and boys, even women, to wars that were unneeded. Corporations were taking over Washington. The common man had become a footnote in governance because of the growing greed of a minority. The same minority that tried to convince the masses to remain bigots and servants of the almighty dollar.

The noble experiment had failed. If Jefferson or Washington were to come back, they would definitely start another Revolution just to restore the government they had originally founded. hell. if Christ were to return, he would damn mankind for all his social blindness and unfounded hate. He would condemn the world so harshly for its distaste for growing in knowledge and wisdom. But, then, Americans-and their fellow “Christians” around the world-would probably institutionalize or re-crucify him simply because he would be preaching the exact opposite than what they chose to believe.

He shook his head. Sad how things went downhill in such a short time. the worst of it was that he was now too old to serve in another war, but he would want to die in battle before he had to watch the country sink any further in the gutter that both political parties had put it in. sure, Carter was a good man, and truly Christian too, but the President wasn’t the ones fucking things up. No, that responsibility lay with Congress. Their constant fighting, bickering, and the polarization that tended to separate the two halves seemed to keep the country from running at 100%.

Still, there were worse things out there. One in particular, a man by the name of Donald Trump, though still somewhat sensible, epitomized exactly the kind of person the country could not afford to put into office as President. Hell. he wasn’t even a man that Nick would stick in a management position. Yet, Don’s father had passed the young wannabe the reins of the real estate company he had built. That had been in the late 1970’s. Nick had watched as it happened.

Trump Real Estate would be lucky to survive Don. Nick shivered as he imagined just how inept and incompetent Don’s children would turn out to be. God. A monkey could do better than that prissy little shit.

Nick only hoped that the man would never run for President. That would destroy the country, polarize the nation even more than it already was. America couldn’t possibly be able to handle the strain of such a presidency.

Nick snapped out of his thoughts as he entered the hospital. Going to the information desk, he stood and waited for the attendant to come over to where he stood.

“Can I help you, sir?” The attendant seemed unnerved by his rough appearance.

“Natalia Morrow’s room.” He smiled, trying to break the tension.

“Morrow, Morrow, Morrow…no Morrows here, but there’s a Natalia Spencer in the ICU. She’s the mother of the rock star Matt Morrow, at least that is what she has said…”

Nick held his left hand up to silence the attendant. “That would be her. What room?”

“2218. That is second floor, room 218. The infectious disease wing of the ICU. Be sure to grab a mask to wear in if you want to go in and visit her.”

Nick didn’t like the attendant’s tone with that last comment. As if he was going to catch HIV through breathing the same air as his sister. God. What an idiot. He probably knew more about the virus than the doctor treating his sister and this idiot warned him to grab a fucking mask? Really?

He waved the attendant off and headed for the elevators. He would do this his way. He was the only one who could verify for his sister that the little asshole who’d raped her was dead. After all, he had been the one who killed the worthless little punk. As far as he was concerned, he had done his country a service that night. He had taken out Tobias French.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 11

Shasta had flown back to Des Moines to help her mother and father make the journey to L.A. She knew that this would likely be the last time either of her parents would make such a trip. They were getting too old to travel like they had when she and Nattie were young. Hell. they were too old.

Still, they deserved to see Nattie one last time. Perhaps she would give pops the forgiveness he so deserved and mean it. After all, pops needed to be able to forgive himself. The guilt had existed for too long. It needed to be laid to rest.

She snapped out of her thoughts as the taxi pulled into her parents’ drive. Mama stepped out to greet her. she hoped that pops was well. He wasn’t with her. She handed the driver the desired fare and got out of the taxi.

“Mama? Where’s Pops?” Her concern could be heard as she drew closer to her mother.

Valeria smiled. “He’s inside, dear. He-he is OK, just lost in thought lately. Mostly about how he might’ve handled your sister better when she was younger. What he might’ve done differently.”

Shasta smiled sadly. “I know how he feels. I doubt things would’ve been any different had he handled things any way but how he did. She was mentally shattered after Tobias did what he did. After that, it was a fight just to save her children from a life in hell.”

“And how are the children?” Valeria seemed unshakeable.

“With Matt as legal guardian now, they are well. Emotionally drained, but otherwise fine.” Shasta smiled sadly. “I fear for Matt, though. He has been the one who has had to be strong since the ’70.”

Valeria smiled knowingly. “Of course. After all, he is the oldest. Poor boy.”

Shasta put her arm around her aging mother. “Let’s go inside. We don’t have much time.”

“Alright, dear.” Valeria turned and went inside with her daughter. “Have you contacted Dmitri? What about Sasha?”

Shasta nodded. “Yes, mama. Both have been contacted. So have all who know Nattie.”

The two women grew quiet as they walked down the hall toward Michael and Valeria’s room. Michael emerged from the bedroom and Shasta rushed to hug him. “Pops.so good to see you.”

He put his arms around her. “Shasta, Dear. Wonderful to see you too.”

She hugged him tight. “Glad to see you too, Pops.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Come. We have much to do.”

They entered the bedroom, the three of them. Shasta would help them prepare for their journey. She had to. She was the only one of their children still close enough to help when it was needed. Dmitri, or Dee as he was better known by, lived in the Bahamas and had his own five-star restaurant. Dmitri’s was world renowned for world-class dishes that were well worth the price he asked. Dom, Dmitri’s boyfriend and business partner, had been welcomed into the family by Pops and mama almost immediately.

Sasha, the youngest of the siblings, lived wherever his research took him. At the moment, he was in the Patagonia. Tomorrow, he could be almost anywhere. Sometimes, Shasta believed that he had become the family’s Indiana Jones. In some ways, she felt that the boy had taken the Steven Spielberg movies too literal in his choice of what he wanted to do. Still, she was proud of him. he had done well so far.

***

Dee stood at the door of Natalia’s room. She was sleeping right now and he didn’t want to interrupt her. He hadn’t seen her in years, possibly since he was about five. Now, he wished he could have had more time with her. He dearly wanted to get to know his sister.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dom stop next to him. Dom’s arm went around his shoulder. Dee brought his hand up to rest upon the hand of his lover.

Dom smiled sadly. “I am so sorry, Love.”

Dee bowed his head. “I really don’t know her well. We were never that close. I was like five when she left home.”

Dom rubbed Dee’s shoulder. “Still, it ain’t easy knowing someone is that ill. I know it wasn’t easy for me when I lost my brother. It doesn’t matter how close you are or how well you know them, you still lose a small piece of your heart. What matters is how many people you have to help you heal.”

Dee nodded. “True.” He looked over at his lover. “Did you have family to help you?”

Dom smiled crookedly and nodded. “Yes. I had Cruella De Ville, Dumbo, and Attila the Hun. Mother never approved of my lifestyle, my father was a preacher who thought I was going to hell, and my little brother was just a confused little kid who tried-and failed-desperately to please mom and dad. But the grief of losing Gianni brought us together. Yep, the Candozas of Tampa were the most righteous Cubanos in Florida.” The bitter sarcasm in Dom’s voice was hard to miss. “Afterward, I was kicked to the curb and disowned. Maybe it was all for the best. Tomas rebelled after I left and was shot to death in a gang war. Guess being a minister’s son was too much for him. what hurt was that they never called me to ask me to come home and be at his funeral. Guess they were too ashamed.”

Dee turned Dom so that he could look him in the eye. “Their loss and my gain.’ He lifted Dom’s chin so that he was looking his lover directly in the eye. “No need to be ashamed for something that makes you who you are. You are a wonderful man. Don’t ever forget that.”

Dom smiled. “How can I? You continually remind me. for that, I am thankful…and I love you.”

“I love you too, Dominico.”

“How’s she doing?” A familiar voice asked, causing Dom and Dee to turn and find Sasha approaching.

Dee smiled sadly. “She is sleeping, which is why I have not gone in to visit.”

“Perhaps you can go to the commissary and whip us up one of those world class meals you’re known for.” Sasha was smiling. “Just a suggestion.”

***

Shasta loaded her mother and father’s luggage into the back of their station wagon. The drive would be a short one, but the journey would be long. She only hoped that they could handle what waited at the other end. Sure, they knew that Nattie was in bad shape. But how would they handle it when they realized that she was dying?

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 10

Belinda had taken her things. She had packed up and loaded her Corvette. She had left it all behind, never looking back. She had gone back to her world of one-night-stands and group sex.

Matt was glad to see her go. No one tried to control him. No one. And no one told him who he could or could not bring into his home.

Matt wanted to cry. Not because of Belinda’s leaving, but because he knew that his mother was dying. But he couldn’t cry. He had to remain strong.

He had his brothers and sisters  to think of. To be strong for. Only the oldest would know what was going on.  They were the most important part of his life, not some two-bit tramp who thought she had the right to demand his complete attention.

He couldn’t help smiling through the pain. It had been ironic, the whole incident about her demanding that it would be her or his family. There had really been no question. It had always been family. That meant that he would always step in and take care of the youngest in a time of need. He always had.

What had made her believe that she would ever get his way? She had been warned about him and how he saw life. Sal had told her. Tandy had told her. Hell. the whole band had told her.

Still, she had insisted that she could change him. But she hadn’t. instead, he had given her far less than she had been after. No house, no apartment, no millions…just a meager $10,000 trust account meant to build interest and a sports car. Not enough to even sneeze at.

Hell. She had probably already been to the bank to withdraw her trust to find that she had to allow it to mature over a couple of years. But he had warned her. He had told her that she would not be able to and she had not believed him.

Of course, the bank had contacted him to let him know that she’d tried and failed. It was funny, really. Some people never listened and she happened to be one of those. For her, the party never ended. As long as she could find sex, drugs, and a rock-n-roll star, she was happy. Maybe a bit too happy.

If it wasn’t for the pain in his heart, he would laugh. But the pain was more than he could bear at the moment. But pain let him know that he was still alive. Still, there were some days he wished that life would just leave him alone. And today was one of those days.

***

Belinda had closed her account at the bank. No need to remain in L.A. still, Matt’s lock on the trust he set up for her angered her. it was supposed to be her money. that had been the agreement. Yet what had he said to her when he told her that he had set it up?

“The account has a time lock. It has to remain in the bank for at least two years before you can begin to use it. That ensures that you will accrue interest enough to live for a good five years. Try to withdraw it right away and you will be refused.”

Damn him! Damn him to hell! He had tricked her, even though he had warned her. She frowned.

She had been such a fool. He would never change. Never. He was too set in his ways. His family was too important to him.

Maybe she should have taken things into her own hands and removed the threats. Maybe she should have just killed them all. There were too many maybes. She blinked back the tears.

No matter, it was better this way. She just needed to put distance between the two of them. Maybe the miles would deaden the pain. Maybe she just needed to find the next party. Or the next target.

Yes. That was it. She just needed to find another millionaire who was too stupid to realize what she was doing. She needed to be on the take. After all, that was what she was good at. Being a con.

***

Thirty-four years had led to this. Michael Morrow, now 90, knew that he had hurt his daughter in ’59 but had been unable to ask her forgiveness.  Even when he had reunited with her briefly in the 60’s, there was no asking for forgiveness, just a reunion as a family. And then, she was gone in the 70’s.

Now, before he could ask, his precious Nattie was dying. No parent should have to outlive their child. The child was supposed to outlive them. He fought back the tears.

Valeria hadn’t aged past the age of sixty. She was still so beautiful. He forced a smile even though he didn’t feel like it. She had been his greatest support over the past seventy years. Lord, how he loved her.

He had remained faithful throughout those years. Never once had he strayed. And they had been happy…happier than most. Even through the hardest years.

Yes, they had been the best years of his—no, their lives. They had been inseparable and fully immersed in love. Their children had been their lives and still were. As were their grandchildren.

He closed his eyes. Now, he was going to L.A. to say goodbye to his daughter. Yes, he had two of them, but Nattie had always held a special place in his heart even after she had run away.  And he had blamed himself for that. He had not taken the time to listen to her after Tobias had raped her.

He had tried to prevent that incident, of course, through his objections to her dating the detestable excuse for a man, but his objections had fallen on deaf ears. After that, it was too late to turn back. And he had handled the result poorly.

At the time, he hadn’t known how to handle it. He had been both angry at Tobias and hurting along with Nattie. He had lashed out blindly and spoken out without thinking. She had taken his words as an attack and fled. That had been in 1959.