Little Girl Gone – Chapter 4

Reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing.


Copyright © 2011 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 4

(Click here to read Chapter 1)

(Click here to read Chapter 2)

(Click here to read Chapter 3)

 

Little Girl Gone Cover

A few miles away, in the town of Arroyo, Django Jones dreamed of his mother. She was wearing her favorite red dress with the pleats that flipped out around her knees, and her hair shimmered with lights of silver, copper, and gold. Django had a green garden hose in his hand and he was spraying her and she was laughing. Her laugh was like light, like rain, like water splashing over rocks.


The room in which he awoke—it was the third morning now—was a quarter the size of his bedroom at home, and he could tell from the boxes shoved into the closet and corners that it had been a kind of utility room before his arrival. Across the room on a beat-up old dining room table, Django’s backpack reminded him that he was going to school that day whether he wanted to or not. He tried to imagine Arroyo Elementary School, K through eight, and he knew he wasn’t going to like it.


He fished his laptop off the floor beside the bed, powered on, and checked the time against the clock on the table. He had half an hour before he needed to get up. As he logged on, his hands trembled with hope.


First he Googled Jacky Jones, his father, and there were many new entries: bios and obits and memorials, a lot of people writing about how they knew him when he was the hottest guitarist out of England in the early seventies. He scanned these quickly. A woman wrote about having sex with him after a concert and making a plaster cast of his penis.


Gross.


He went to Facebook and did a quick scroll, not paying much attention to the entries, looking for a clue that his parents were alive. He was sure they would find a way to send him a message. He went to his e-mail, saw nothing interesting. If the story of the accident was part of a top secret government thing, a message from his parents verifying this would be in code, of course. Django was smart; he would figure it out. Or, if they were being held for ransom, the note would come by mail or maybe a telephone call. Django’s father was super rich and famous, and his half brother, Huck, was probably a billionaire. The kidnappers would want a lot of money, but Django had made up his mind that he wouldn’t call the FBI when he heard from them. The feds would tell him to be cagey, not to pay the demand, but he was willing to pay any amount to rescue his mother and father.


There was nada from his homies on Facebook or e-mail or Twitter despite his having written them a couple of times every day since he got to his aunt’s house. Plus texting and tweeting and leaving messages on their cells. He looked up at the ceiling and opened his eyes wide to dry up the tears he felt coming. He blinked hard but it didn’t help. He was twelve and everyone said his parents were dead so it was normal to cry; but Django had never wanted to be normal.


Jacky and Caro Jones had driven to Reno over the Memorial Day weekend because Jacky wanted to try out his new black Ferrari on Interstate 395, the sweeping stretches of highway and long sight lines north of Bishop. If they had left Reno a half hour later or stopped in Bishop for coffee, if they’d gotten sleepy and decided to risk the bedbugs in a roadside motel. If they hadn’t been driving back to Beverly Hills late Monday night along the dark, deserted highway through the Rand Mountains, the hilly, twisty section between Johannesburg and Randsburg. If a drunk in a pickup had not shot out of an unmarked side road: no lights, ninety miles an hour.


Django wanted to jam a pencil through his ear, kill his imagination and obliterate the screams and the sound of metal slamming into metal.


The morning after the accident when Django came into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, it had not seemed unusual to see his father’s manager, Ira, leaning against the kitchen counter, drinking coffee. Ira had been his father’s manager since the seventies, and they often had morning meetings at the house in Beverly Hills.


It was Ira who had broken the news and swore to Django that his parents had not suffered. Death had come instantly, he said. The news charred Django like a sapling struck by lightning. It burned a hollow space inside him that now, two weeks later, he knew nothing would ever fill. That first morning, Mrs. Hancock, the housekeeper, put her arms around him, and they sat beside each other on the double chair on the kitchen porch. As Django recalled—his memory of those first days had big holes in it—they sat there all day as the sun moved across the wide planks of the whitewashed floor; but it couldn’t have been that long because his parent’s lawyer came, Mr. Guerin; and he and Ira closed themselves in Jacky’s office. While they talked Django went outside and sat by the swimming pool. His father said that exercise was the best thing when a person was upset so he tried to swim laps, but he only got to the middle of the pool before he couldn’t be bothered. He lay on his back and floated, staring up at the gray sky. Typical June gloom.


The truth was, when Ira told him his parents were dead, Django had not felt much of anything except stunned. And later, when he started to think about what automobile accident and dead really meant—what Ira and Mr. Guerin would call the long-term ramifications—he mostly felt scared because no one seemed to know what was going to happen to him. He thought he was probably too rich to go to an orphanage, but he had seen the musical Oliver! when the senior students at Beverly Country Day presented it at Christmas. After the performance he had asked his mother what gruel was and she said oatmeal, and his father said it was oatmeal mixed with sand and lint and dirt and dog hair swept up off the floor. Django knew he would never have to eat anything so awful, but he remembered the song the orphans sang about food, glorious food and it looped through his brain. He went to sleep thinking/singing it and woke up with it still going round and round.


The first day was the longest day in the history of the world. Then, near dinnertime, Huck, his older half brother, turboed through the front door with his bodyguard behind him, talking fast like always. Then Django heard the bawling sounds come out of his mouth and there was no way he could stop them. Huck was almost thirty, the son of Django’s father by his first marriage. He had his San Francisco Giants baseball hat on backwards, and he was crying too.


Time and memory got tricky again after that. Mrs. Hancock packed a bag for him and he loaded his laptop and iPad into his backpack. He hunted all over for his phone, and then he found it, in plain sight, right where it was supposed to be. Ira had driven them to a small airport in the valley where Huck’s plane was parked. Ira told Django, “Your dad was a great guy and you’re his boy all the way.” That was when Ira’s saggy-baggy face drooped even further and he began crying; and seeing an old guy cry embarrassed Django, but he cried too. Junior, one of the buffed-up bodyguards who always traveled with Huck, picked Django up and carried him over his shoulder and onto the plane like he was two years old.


The chopper they took from the San Jose airport landed on the helipad in Huck’s backyard. Huck disappeared into his office, and Junior handed Django over to a girl who said she was his brother’s personal assistant. Time passed and Django ate a lot and watched television and played video games, and every day people came and went and looked at him and there were more phone calls and quiet voices behind closed doors.


Huck’s girlfriend, Cassandra, walked around the house in a bikini, and when she hugged him her boobs weren’t soft like they looked. Django smelled marijuana in her hair, same as in his mother’s after a party. Cassandra brought him cocoa and popcorn and cinnamon toast and asked him how he felt, trying to be motherly.


Once, when they were playing gin rummy, he asked her, “Are you going to marry my brother?” He had been thinking about what it would be like to live in this house with her until he grew up.


She thought he was joking. “My parents’ll kill me if I don’t finish college.”


Huck had given Django some games his company was developing and asked him to test them out, but Django couldn’t take the task seriously. So what if his score went backwards and his avatar got pounded? In real life—every minute—the living, breathing Django was fighting to outrun his misery and the awful sounds and images in his head.


He thought he was going to stay with Huck; but after almost two weeks and lots more murmuring behind closed doors, there was another flight in a small plane, only this time Huck stayed behind because of business. Junior kept Django company and turned him over to Ira and Mr. Guerin at Montgomery Field in San Diego. They drove for an hour to his aunt Robin’s house in a town called Arroyo.


Mr. Guerin told him he was going to live in Arroyo now. “Your mother’s sister, your aunt Robin, will be your guardian.”


“But I don’t even know her. I never met her in my life.”


“I know, Django, I know. But your parents wanted it this way. They rewrote their wills last year for that particular reason.”


“Does she have kids?”


“No. She’s never been married. She’s a spinster.”


Old maid, Django thought. Was anyone, ever, going to tell him some good news?


“I want to stay with Huck.”


“I’m sorry, Django,” Mr. Guerin said, blinking hard. “I’m terribly sorry.”


Not only were Django’s mom and dad gone forever; the Django who lived in Beverly Hills was gone too. The person who woke up in his aunt Robin’s house looked like Django Jones—


Same straight blond hair and brown eyes, five feet four inches tall, one hundred and ten pounds—but he was just a shadow.


He had been with Aunt Robin since Tuesday. Today was Thursday, which was a stupid-ass day to start going to a new school, but nobody had asked him his opinion. Around here he just got told.


His aunt had been kind to him, but she was a chilly kind of person, a perpetual-motion robot who never stopped moving for long enough to really look at him. She was constantly off to do something or go somewhere. She was an accountant with a lot of clients. Around the house she was always cleaning and cooking and sorting through papers and drawers and cupboards, carrying laundry up and down stairs and ironing. Robin had a vegetable garden big enough to feed every kid at Beverly Country Day, and when she wasn’t working in the house she was outside in a big hat pulling weeds and watering each plant by hand to conserve H2O.


No matter what she was doing, there was a subzero negative force field around her like the one that protected Jett Jones when he liberated the children held captive on Planet Chiron in the second Jett Jones Boy of the Future novel.


At BCD Django had a great sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Cody, who told him he should write a science fiction novel because he needed somewhere constructive to put his imagination before it got him into trouble. At first Django thought it would be hard to make up a story with a plot and outer-space scenery, but pretty soon he got the hang of it. His father had started calling him Mr. Spielberg Sir and bought him a new laptop.


Django had called his teacher from Huck’s, but he realized when Mr. Cody’s voice got thick and gravelly that his call had upset him. It was the same when he phoned his homies, Lenny and Roid. They talked, but it was freaky, not like it had been.


Django put aside his laptop and closed his eyes.


Life would not be so demented if his friends would just communicate.


Django had never had a lot of friends, but Lenny and Roid were a couple of weirdoes like him and they were tight. They were math geniuses, but Django was the more creative type, although he aced math and science. Django and his friends were a posse, Mr. Cody said. Something else he said: “Give you dudes time, you’re gonna rule the world.” Django wondered if this was still true, now that everything in the world had changed.


Django’s mom said he was like the empath on Star Trek. Often he could sense what people thought and felt just by watching and listening for the words under their words, the words they didn’t say. In this way, he knew without being told that Aunt Robin was sending him to school to get rid of him for a few hours.


Django got out of bed and stood at the window. In whichever direction he looked he saw hills and scrub and rocks. Except for the radio he heard playing down in the kitchen, the quiet was so intense it made him think of church and funerals and death.


A memorial service had been held at Forest Lawn. A grownup kind of thing. Django didn’t attend but he read about it online and knew that hundreds of famous people were there, including all the members of his dad’s old band. Huck faxed Django articles from the Los Angeles Times and Variety, and he said there was going to be a story in Rolling Stone. Someone would call him for an interview but he didn’t have to talk if he didn’t want to. All the articles said the same thing, that Jacky Jones was one of the great rock guitarists and composers of the twentieth century. There had been music and speeches at the funeral. Paparazzi. Django was glad to stay away. He didn’t want to be photographed and stared at. The poor little orphan kid.


He dropped to the floor and lay on his back, staring at the cracks in the ceiling, trying not to remember the time before. After a while he rolled onto his stomach and began, slowly, to hit his forehead against the wood. He would keep it up until something good happened.



Read Chapter 5



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Reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing.


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