HOLLYWOOD—After the burial, Jason had tears just looking at Suzanne's parents. They shared shrugs and hugs. What a shame, what a terrible loss, who could conceive? Jason extra sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Katselas, they got cheated by fickle fate. Heaven knows they were so proud of their little girl who'd hit it big in
Hollywood. And now for the rest of their lives they'd be reciting the dangers of
Hollywood and mixing drugs and alcohol.
“It was so beautiful what you said at the service,” Mrs. Katselas, his former mother-in-law, told Jason. “It will always give me comfort,” she said and leaned down to Kit: “Don't cry.”
Jason smiled his thanks and saw true gratitude reflected in their faces. After Mr. and Mrs. Katselas stepped away, Jason asked Kit, “What did I say?”
It was the longest walk Jason had ever taken in his life, the walk back to the cars parked along the winding roadways in
Cemetery baking in the sun. Numb to the world, Jason was surrounded by his mourning entourage, his mom, Kit and Candy. They couldn't take one step without having their hands clasped by people they didn't know. Eight-year-old Kit especially. The funeral guests seemed to take perverse delight in making her cry at some remembrance of her late mother and then telling her, “Don't cry. It's going to be all right.”
One mourner, immaculately clad in a black suit cut very close to his body, approached Jason. Handsome, impossibly handsome in a European way, this figure was known to him from many tabloids. Bruno Panini, who had been Suzanne's fiancÃ©.
“I am so very sorry, very sensible to your loss,” spoke the immaculately suited foreigner. His breath reeked. He leaned down and gazed deeply into Kit's eyes and grasped her hands. “Forgive me for not introducing myself,” he said, standing up. “I am Bruno Panini. I was a friend of your mama.” Both Kit and Bruno regarded each other sadly.
Then he stood and spoke to Jason, “It's so very tragic. Suzanne was very upset about my e-mails breaking off our engagement. It's a shame, somebody hacked my computer. This guy is no good. He wrote to Suzanne breaking the engagement and posting old pictures of me kissing another woman.”
His drunken, semi-broken English gave the effect of a dazzling smile with one tooth missing.
“I didn't write these travesties,” Bruno continued. “Maybe one of these gossipy people did it on purpose to sell newspapers. So sad, so very sad. If Suzanne had only checked her e-mail at midnight, it could have been averted. This horrible tragedy, to die by her own hand.”
“We don't think it was suicide,” Jason said. “We know she was very depressed. It was probably an accident. But they'll write what they want.”
He gestured up to the sky, the source of a bothersome helicopter hum.
“Oh, these people,” Bruno sighed. “I'd like to take a sling shot and knock these paparazzi out of the sky.”
Bell helicopter dipped and hovered to get a good shot of Bruno hugging Jason. The photographer could already imagine the innuendo-laced headlines.
Then a funny thing happened. Bruno and Jason jumped backwards from a fleeting shadow and the loud thump like two 50-pound sacks of cement hitting the ground; their hearts leaped into their throats. Before them was a young man, sprawled over a headstone. Frozen and dead. He had tumbled out of the helicopter. Near him, as long as a bayonet, an obscenely large camera lens rested on the cemetery grass, its metal rings intact, the glass pulverized by the fall's impact.
Bruno and Jason looked at the dead paparazzo, looked at each other. After the initial shock, their hearts slid back down into their accustomed place in their chests. They looked at each other again.
“Oh my god, what happened?” shouted a lady in hat while the rest of the mourners were still assimilating what had happened.
“This guy decided to drop in for the funeral,” Bruno said. He laughed. Jason laughed weakly.
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. And with that weak chuckle he took the first step towards dealing with his quantum grief.
(to be continued)