Busted Axle Road
Chapter 55

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

Jennifer lay on a chaise lounge in the quiet back yard of her parent's cottage. The sun was waning a little as the afternoon wore down, but it hadn't warmed up the cold feeling in her gut much.

Jennifer had remembered seeing Jackie around town in the past, but somehow, she'd never quite remembered meeting her. Still, there had been a sparkle in her eye when she'd walked into the sign shop, and she'd known she'd found a friend. They'd flown south slowly, as Jackie related a little of how she and Mark had flown the plane around the country on their honeymoon, and when they'd seen the lights of the police cruiser on the ground behind them, they'd circled out of sight over the woods and flown back north to the club.

Jackie had dropped her off at the club's airstrip hours before. Jennifer had offered to get her something to drink, or something, at least to thank her for the plane ride, but Jackie demurred. "Thanks, but I'm not a nudist," she'd said. "Stop by the house sometime, and we can have a long talk."

"I think I'll do that," Jennifer promised, knowing she'd found a new friend.

That had been hours before. Jennifer had kept to herself in the time she'd been at the club. Somehow, it hadn't seemed like the refuge that it usually was, and she wondered if she could ever feel free here again.

She heard a car pull up out front, but didn't get up to see what it was. Probably, it was her brother, back from work, or maybe her parents. It didn't matter.

"Hey," a voice said, "I didn't think you'd have a bikini on here."

She looked up; it was Mike, with a big grin on his face. "I borrowed it from Amy Ashtenfelter," she said. "I couldn't see making some asshole with a telephoto lens an instant millionaire."

"Well, you can take it off," Mike said. "They've got to be halfway back to L.A., now."

"Are you sure?" she said, sitting up.

"They were so glad to have someone drive them to the airport that they gave me two hundred bucks," Mike reported. "I deserve an Oscar for the line of bullshit I fed them. Those two aren't likely to ever be back here again."

"What did you tell them?" she asked.

Mike laughed out loud. "I haven't had that kind of fun in a long time. I'd sure like to have seen Harold and LeRoy. God, that was funny. After you left, Harold called me up, and he said, 'What did you mean when you said to hassle those two?', and I told him, 'Come on, Harold, you've seen movies like 'Macon County Line'. Act like that'. They dropped them off back on the old Ward Grade right where I told them to, and I hit it on the nose. They couldn't have been out of the woods five minutes when I found them hitching down the highway."

"They're really gone?" she asked.

"Incidentally, they didn't get any usable footage," Mike went on. "They only had odds and ends on the tape in the camera, but if they write and ask for their camera back, the only thing the tape is going to show is going to be out of focus footage of a car door. I ran the tape back to the beginning and set it running. The other tapes in the car and at the motel were still in the package."

"Well, thanks for being thorough," she said. "Thanks for everything, Mike. I knew I could count on you."

"Like I said, it was kind of fun," Mike said. "What's more, we didn't break any laws. Maybe their story will get around the Hollywood underground a little. Might make it easier, next time."

"It might make it harder, next time," Jennifer said, laying back down, still uneasy. "The next time somebody comes, they might be more prepared, and not as stupid. Mike, how can I ever come back here again?"

"It's that bad, huh?" Mike said, sitting down on the ground.

"It's that bad," Jennifer said. "I mean, out there, I have to be Jenny Easton, and it's hard for me to remember that I'm really Jennifer Evachevski. As long as I've been able to get back here and be Jennifer Evachevski once in a while, I've pretty well been able to get along. But when I'm here, I don't want to have to be Jenny Easton, here, too."

Mike found himself longing for another one of Webb's cigarettes. "You said something like that this morning," he said. "I thought about it a bit on the way back from Camden, and look, I don't know how to say this, but it's unhealthy for you to believe that you're still plain little Jennifer Evachevski. You can call yourself whatever you want, but you've got to accept that you're still Jenny Easton, too."

"But Mike," she said. "I don't know how I can do that and stay myself."

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