HOLLYWOOD—Jason's mom went back to
Ohio in the day after Suzanne's star-studded funeral. He gave her a lift to LAX. Her sadness at the turn of events was leavened by a smugness that she had left her son married with money. As the progenitor of Suzanne's one heir, Jason, and his mother in turn, would enjoy the benefits of her sizable estate.
After hugging his mom goodbye on the sidewalk outside the terminal, he went directly to a law office in the 9000 Building on Sunset Boulevard. A white-gloved Mexican concierge pressed the elevator button corresponding to the floor where he had his appointment. Jason entered a tall wood-grained door, made for basketball players of whom the lawyer represented a few. The door bore no name or sign—which was a sign of prestige in
Los Angeles, where signs incessantly jeered and hollered, and billboards crowded then sky.
In the vestibule stood the robed figure that had appeared at Cedars the night of Suzanne's death. An alligator briefcase rested on the floor at his side. He regarded Jason with compassionately hooded eyes; the azure seemed to spill out of the eyeballs like blue ink in water. An elder secretary, with a neck the texture of kelp, led both the robed figure and Jason into a room with African masks leering from the wall and a mahogany meeting table a mile long. There was a dazzling view outside the window of you went in for that kind of thing—the
Hollywood hills, the lush greenery, the red-tiled roofs rushing upward. Jason supposed that if he looked hard enough he could spot Suzanne's swimming pool and house, but he wasn't ready for that just now.
The robed figure started talking. Jason was startled to hear words other than the woeful chant of “No birth, no death.”
“We'll miss her,” he said. Jason didn't have to ask who he was talking about.
They gazed at each other and both teared up. The robed one seemed very wistful for a holy man who dwelled presumably in a deathless world, beyond pain or grief.
“She was so sweet, so smart,” he said. Jason nodded in agreement.
“Actors and artists must be this tender bougainvillea blossom, this pool of passionate magenta that calls out 'look at me.' And yet bougainvillea is this thorny unstoppable desert shrub, the scourge of gardeners; nothing will kill it, not drought or fire, it'll engulf your house, and when you cut it, your hands and arms will be lacerated if you fail to gird them in gloves. Such are the survivors in show business. Suzanne was a shooting star—a rose without thorns, who left only a sweet smell and the memory of laughter.”
“That's beautiful,” Jason said. “You have a way with words.”
“It's what you said it at the funeral,” said the robed figure. “Don't you remember?”
“That's funny,” said Jason. “I don't even know what bougainvillea is. I will say Suzanne had a few thorns. She never was on time. Always short of money. I never figured that out. She was making a lot of money on the series.”
A hunched man, wearing dark burgundy jogging clothes, shuffled into the room. Overweight, on the lee side of 70, he appeared never to have jogged a single day in his life. Oval wire-rim glasses rested on his beak nose. He had to adjust them up from the tip of his nose, sore along the ridge from many such proddings.
“Gentlemen, we all know each other. I'm
Harvey,” said the man in the jogging suit. “Jason Finch, father of Suzanne's daughter, this is Juan Paisley from the Mylanta Foundation.”
The two younger men nodded and shook hands. After
Harvey grunted and took a seat, he bid the robed Mr. Paisley to speak.
“We at the Mylanta Foundation have claims against the estate of Suzanne Katselas in the sum of three-point-five million dollars,” said Juan Paisley, making a dizzying shift of discourse from eulogistic to hard-nosed. Now he turned apologetic, “Of course, Suzanne was very encouraging to the Foundation and the Master's mission to spread light in the dark corners.”
“Three-point-five million clamshells is a lot of light,” exclaimed
“She generously donated to the Foundation and was an avid follower of Mylanta's teachings.”
“Maybe what you're saying,” said
Harvey, “is that she was malleable clay in your hands and you brain-washed her.”
(to be continued)