in medias res

...(fade to blackout).  18 Months Later...

Lana walks up the steps and sees that there is no doorbell.  Just a huge cast iron knocker on the reclaimed cathedral door.  She is about to knock when the door swings wide open.  The rockstar looks at her with raised eyebrows.  I’m Lana Radley, PI.  Your message said you might have some work for me.  Yes, thanks for coming.  Come on in for a minute, Lana, while I grab my coat.  The house is really bright, with an open floor plan on the ground level.  Maple floors, white walls, track lighting on the high ceilings.

He comes back with a jean jacket.  What’s your hourly?  $80 an hour, plus expenses, she says, looking at him with a pained expression, as if expecting a much lower counter.  Alright, I’m on your clock.  Let’s go.  You can learn a lot about a person from their car.  We’ll talk about my case on the road.  Her face betrays a deer in the headlights look.  My car is a mess.  Then we’ll clean it.  Head to the car wash, the one over on Mission.  And he walks past her to the passenger door of her car, and waits there.  It’s a beat up hatchback coupe.  Give me a minute, and she starts throwing things in the back.  And she finally reaches over and gets the door.  The CD player buttons are all scratched up by fingernails.  He reaches over and turns it on.  Sia’s Chandelier starts playing, and he turns it up.  She quickly turns it off.   He grins at her.  Just wanted to make sure that you weren’t a stalker.  If you had my CD on deck, it would have freaked me out.

So your case, Mr. Asgaard?  Rolf.  Mr. Asgaard is my father.  I’m a night owl.  Always have been.  I need someone to man the door, and keep visitors away, and to respect my privacy during the daytime while I’m resting.  That’s it?  You have no idea how much I crave an unbroken good day’s sleep.  Someone is always at the door.  Ummm, why not get a gate?  I’m a creative; I’m not about to place myself behind bars; it would limit my expression as an artist.  She looks ahead and chokes down laughter.  You don’t have a very good poker face, he tells her.  So why me?  You carry a gun and you know how to use it.  She says nothing to this, and drives in silence for several minutes.  So I’m scarey, and you can tell all the guys in your band that the killer cop is your doorman.

Look, he tells her, you got a bad deal.  Not that I support what you did before the shootout.  Drugs should be legalized, taxed and regulated.  You were fighting for a lost cause.  But you’ve moved on, and I respect that; we all have to deal with knockbacks.  When the local news did a follow up on you, I knew that you were the right person for the job.  You didn’t come across as bitter or sad, just tough and resilient.  And what impressed me most is that you refused to respond.  So I know that you’re discrete, and I don’t have to worry about my business being out on the front page.

She pulls up to the car wash, and goes over to the vacuum station.  He puts in five dollars, while she starts throwing away all the accumulated debris.  A custom grey Dodge Challenger with black stripes down the middle pulls up alongside.  The bass guitarist of Slaughterhouse Five gets out, and walks around Lana’s burgundy Scion, checking it out.  Vintage, he says to Rolf, and nods in approval.  It’s so street.  It’s the rims that sold me, Jax.  Wanna trade, Rolf?  What are you going to throw in?  My Fender.  Rolf rubs his head in agitation, like he’s tormented.  Let me think about it.

What did you think of that riff that Mike and I sent you?  It’s going to be huge.  I couldn’t sleep, and have been trying to match it.  Needed a break, and some fresh air, you know what I mean.  The guitarist nods.  It’s even got a moonroof, he says jealously.  C’mon man.  Three day trial, Rolf tells him, looking over at Lana.  Thanks, bro.

A month later...

Lana, you’re still here.  What are you working on?  Rolf asks her as he comes up from downstairs just after the sun has set.  She’s at her workstation in the corner, where she is able to see the drive out the window.  Missing person case.  She shows him a picture that she’s just printed out.  She’s memorable, Rolf comments.  Who called it in?  Her roommate.  Last seen?  You’re pretty good at this, Lana notes.  Bettina was supposed to meet her at this club in the warehouse district last night, but something came up at her work; she’s a freelance reporter.  Who is?  The roommate.  So what does the missing girl do?  Lana looks at the picture on her computer screen for awhile.  She’s a cop.   <pause>  We went through police academy together.  Let me guess, she’s a narcotics officer.  Lana looks at him, and doesn’t say anything.  What’s special about this club?  Not sure.  Might be a front for laundering drug money, might just be a place to blow off steam.  Probably both.

Please don’t go near this, Lana.  Let the police handle it.  Bettina already wired me a retainer and practically begged me to check it out tonight.  She’s worried sick about her roommate.  You don’t operate under the shield anymore, Lana.  Let them take care of their own.  No, Rolf.  This is the best part of what I do, actually helping people.  I’m so tired of documenting disability fraud cases for the state.  He looks at her for a long time.  I’d feel better about this if you’d let me tag along.  What can you do?  Not much apparently, he says, and heads back downstairs.

Jax is waiting at Lana’s apartment complex when she comes back out.  His muscle car  parked directly behind her coupe.  He cracks the throttle as she walks over.  Rolf called you.  He shrugs.  Hop in, Lana.  Where to?  TK.  Buckle up, he tells her.  And peels out of the parking lot, runs a red light, and zig zags through night traffic.  Trying for James Dean?  Then lose the beanie hat, tough guy.  Wrong analogy, Lana, I’m not driving a Porsche.  I meant the jean jacket and white tshirt look, and the fact that you’re driving reckless.  A couple blocks further, a police cruiser lights up behind them.  And Jax slams on the brakes and makes a left hand turn across traffic.  Heh, heh.  He chuckles to himself.  Um, cops have radios.  So do I.  And he cranks the stereo.

Fifteen minutes later, they arrive at their destination without incident.  The long line of people waiting to get in stare at them as they get out, and a bouncer comes over.  You cannot park there.  I just did, Jax responds, and hands him a thick wad of twenties in a well-practiced exchange.  Keys are in the car, he tells the man over his shoulder, while he and Lana go straight into the club, bypassing the line.

Alright, let me see the photo of your missing person, he tells her.  She shows him.  This is going to be easy.  But the bartenders all shake their heads no, and security soon comes over, and escorts Lana and Jax to a downstairs office.

A tall handsome Spanish man in an expensive grey suit and pink shirt sits behind a desk.  I’m the manager here.  How may I help you? he asks Lana.  I’m a private investigator.  I’ve been hired to find a missing person.  She was last seen here.  The man takes the offered photo from her and examines it carefully.  What day?  Last night.  What time?  Her roommate was supposed to meet up with her at 10pm, but she had to cancel, and hasn’t heard from her since.  The man types something into his desktop, and gestures Lana over.  They watch outside security footage of a stunning redhead entering the club.  He fastforwards the footage, and forty-five minutes later, she leaves willingly with a good looking man in a suit.  A luxury car pulls up, and the man gets the door for her, and then climbs in after her.

Let me guess, her phone goes straight to voice mail, the manager says in an amused tone.  Thank you so much, sir.  My client will be so relieved.  May I have a copy of the security footage to show her?  I’m sorry, but no.  Lana looks down and doesn’t say anything.  Your companion may view it to corroborate the account though.  Jax doesn’t move.  That’s not necessary, Lana says.  I know this may seem indelicate, but I’d really like to get in touch with her.  Is the man in the footage known to you?  He starts to speak, but catches himself.  I’m sorry; I’m not comfortable discussing our VIPs.  She nods in understanding.  Thank you sir, for your assistance; you’ve been very generous with your time.  He grins.  Please come back to the club when you aren’t working, Ms. Radley, and you can buy me a drink, he says with a dashing grin.  You have the advantage of me, and her voice trails off. Raul Gutierrez.  Thank you again, Raul.

Text a cab company to come get us, Jax yells into her ear over the beat.  She gives him a puzzled look, but does as he asked.  It’ll be here in twenty minutes.  Let’s dance, he says, and takes her arm, and leads her out to the floor.  Where he hooks his thumbs in his belt, and starts doing an abbreviated line dance in the limited space.  Lana laughs hard at him, as do all people nearby.  She gestures for him to watch her.  And she crosses her arms in front of her, and then extends them out to her sides, snapping her fingers, and she repeats.  He adds a clap, after every kick step, and she laughs some more, as she launches into a two step shuffle to keep pace with him.  Suddenly the strobe lights are shining on them, and they are up on the big screen of the club.

Ten minutes later they walk out.  Him sans jean jacket and beanie hat, which he has given to a bevy of laughing admirers.  Nice guns, Jax! a girl waiting in line yells at him.  One of the bouncers comes up and tries to hand him the keys.  Your car is parked five blocks away.  Whoa, wrong guy, dude.  And he and Lana get into the waiting cab.  He has the driver take them to a Denny’s.  Where they grab coffee.

Are you really so rich that you don’t care about your car?  Yeah, but I’ll still file a police report tomorrow that my car was stolen when I left it at my girlfriend’s run down apartment complex.  Don’t you dare involve me in your deceit.  So now what?

If my car is clean when I get it back, then it’s just a romantic weekend for your redhead.  But if they planted drugs in it, then your girl is in big, big trouble.  She looks at him.  You’re actually a really smart guy, Jax.  And you are devious, Lana.  The rejection, then retreat compliance technique.  It almost worked on the manager, if that’s what he was.  He barely caught himself in time.  She grins.  We should crash at Rolf’s tonight.  You may have spooked someone.  Which is why you didn’t want the cab to go direct to my apartment.  He shrugs.  Why didn’t you want to watch the surveillance footage?  Just seemed like he was testing me.

So we head to Rolf’s?  She gives him a puzzled look.  I’m sure he’d be cool with it, he adds.  So am I, but I don’t want to impose; I’ve got a good gig.  Just drop me off at home.  Jax looks disappointed.  You’re the only person I know that he’s invited over.  Really?  I was hoping I might get invited in with you.  She doesn’t say anything to this.  So what made him trust you? I don’t know.  He just seems like a really nice guy.  I really don’t know that much about him.  None of us do either.

We were scheduled to go on tour once.  And Simon, our frontman and lead singer, got  sick just before the sold out kickoff concert.  Now normally, our band manager covers for Rolf on drums when we do awards shows and radio appearances and other stuff he hates.  But Rolf is really into live shows.  And he asks James, that’s our band manager, if he’d cover for him.  I’ll fill in for you, brother, he tells Simon.  I’m only doing this once, so get some rest, and be ready for Detroit.  So we get out there, and he doesn’t want to rehearse that afternoon.  He tells James to make sure that the A/V recording is down.  Let’s just kick it old school, riff open, then drums.  So I start in, and Mike and Jon do a call response, while Rolf paces around, and there is so much energy, and the excitement is just palpable.  Palpable?  Lana laughs.  Jax gives her a look.  When James kicks in on drums almost a minute later, Rolf takes off his beanie hat and starts banging.  What’s banging?  Headbanging.  And he spun around a couple times, flailing his arms and legs.  It was the best bang I’ve ever seen, and it set the mood for the rest of the show.  The audience just went crazy.  The surge caught us all by surprise, and then he storms up to the mike and sang his heart out.  The fans all say it was the best concert we’d ever done.  That’s a cool story, Jax.  What did Simon have to say?  That’s the best part.  Rolf sang the whole concert in some other language.  I thought it was German, but the fan boards speculate that it was Old Norse, and that it tracked our lyrics perfectly.  She gives him a skeptical look.

Lana Radley, we have business to conclude, a voice intrudes.  She looks over and is shocked to see the man from the surveillance video looking down at her.  May I join you?  And he slides in next to Jax without further ado.  Your missing person is no longer missing, and has been returned to her residence.  He speed dials a number on his cell phone.  Bettina?  Fenton Hardy.  I located Lana, your resourceful private investigator, he says, looking across the table at her.  He listens in silence.  She wants to talk to you, he says, and hands her the phone.  Lana, thank you so much.  I don’t know how you did it.  But thank you.  How is she?  Sleeping it off.  I’ve got to go, Lana says, and hangs up.

What did you do to her?  She was not harmed physically during her interrogation, and she has been returned whole.  Are we good, Lana?  No.  Tell me what you did to her.   She was gassed unconscious, stripped naked, and awoke restrained on a gurney in a shipping container.  She was under a bright light, and saw no one.  Once the alcohol had been purged from her system, she was given a cocktail of psychotropic drugs along with a much heralded placebo truth agent, and then questioned at length.  I repeat, she was not molested in any way.  You have my word.  Who are you?  Someone who has no interest in having an adversarial relationship with you, Lana.  Are we good?  Give me your card.  He does.  What is your name?  Kostamo.  Please, Lana, are we good?  Yes.  He leaves immediately.  Jax sees three nondescript men detach themselves from various stations in the restaurant, as their principal moves.  Two go ahead of him, one follows behind.

What just happened?  She asks Jax, who is staring at her dumbfounded.  She calls Rolf’s cell.  He answers on the first ring.  Lana, what is it?  Case closed.  Something really weird is going on.  Ummm, can Jax and I come over and talk about it?  There’s a pause.  Sure.  See you when you get here.

They all sit down together, and Jax and Lana fill in Rolf on what happened.  Fenton Hardy/Kostamo was scared, bro.  He asked Lana three times if they were good.  What was your impression, Lana?  It was like I had some kind of hold over him; it doesn’t make any sense.  What do you think, Rolf?  Sounds like this Raul really wants you to buy him a drink, Lana.  It doesn’t scan, Jax protests.  Sure it does; Lana is a beautiful woman.  Jax gets embarrassed.  That’s not what I meant, he tells her.  Rolf is right.  You are beautiful.  You aren’t so bad to look at yourself, she tells him, with a grin.  Here’s what doesn’t scan.  The guys at the club were enforcers, muscle.  The guys at the diner were brains – they blended right in, and really knew what they were doing.  So I place Kostamo a lot higher on the pecking order than Raul.  Lana nods at this, and they look at Rolf.  All’s well that ends well, he says with a shrug.  I’ve got guest rooms upstairs.  Come on, I’ll show you.  And they follow him up the stairs.  Lana’s – he says, as he opens the door to a small bedroom with an old fashioned narrow bed.  I dabble in antiquities, Rolf mentions, as she looks at the other furnishings in the room.  She glances at Jax, and says nothing as they proceed further down the hall.  Bathroom, he announces, turning on a light.  And then they all walk further to the next door.  Jax’s – Rolf announces.  And turns on the light.  Whoa.  Jax announces as he takes in the canopied bed and the Baroque furnishings.  He makes a circuit of the room.  Lana, check out this master bath.  It’s bigger than your room.  She goes to see it.  Trade you, Lana offers.  Not happening – you turned down my last trade, remember.

Goodnight, boys.  And she leaves and heads down the hall to her room.  Then turns around, and heads back to ask Rolf a question.  She stops at the door, and listens.  Thanks for looking after her, bro.  It could have gone bad if you weren’t there.  Nah, she can handle herself.  That’s what the redhead thought.  That guy was scared, Rolf.  What do you think it takes to scare a man like that?  Not worth dwelling on.  I’ve got some lyrics to write.  Don’t wake me up in the morning unless the house is on fire.  Get her home safe.  Sure, no problem.  Check her place if she’ll let you.  Got it.  All right, good night.  And Lana rushes back to her room, feeling guilty for having eavesdropped.

Mmmmm, that was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, Lana says to Jax, as she comes down the stairs.  You?  He looks at her with tired eyes.  That bed isn’t designed for sleeping; I should have traded you.  There is a mirror on the ceiling, Lana.  And she starts laughing.  I’m going home to sleep now.  Drop you off on the way.  She gives him a look.  He slaps his forehead.  I just realized, I don’t have a car.

=========================================================

The taxi pulls up to the apartment complex.  Keep the meter running, Jax tells the driver, and hands him a twenty.  I need to borrow some sugar.  Lana raises her eyebrows.  Just going to make sure everything is copasetic, then I’m gone.  She nods.  She checks her mail, mostly junk, and a few bills.  And unlocks the door to her ground floor apartment.  Inside, things are strewn everywhere.  I like what you’ve done with the place, Jax jokes.  I better call this in.  Fifteen minutes later, cops arrive.  My car’s been stolen, Jax interrupts when he comes back in after “searching” the parking lot.  I looked everywhere, around the entire block.  The cops look at him.  Who cares about her crappy little apartment.  It’s a custom Hellcat.  Charcoal grey, two black strips down the middle of the hood.  License plate “BLEST5”.  You just noticed that it was missing?  See that cab?  That’s how I roll when I know that I’m going to down a few.  Just because I’m a world famous bass guitarist doesn’t mean that I’m irresponsible.  The cops look at each other, now very interested.  So where were you all night?  I don’t remember.  We all ended up crashing at a friend of a friend’s.

Lana has a suitcase packed by the time the cops have finished interviewing Jax, and have moved on to the merits finger playing instead of using a pic.  I’m going to stay with a friend, she tells an officer.  You have my contact information.  Hey, give me a ride back to my place, Jax demands.  But she ignores him and leaves.  We’ll give you a ride, the cops tell him.  Appreciate it.  So you and her?  He shakes his head no.  You dodged a bullet, buddy.  You know who she is, right?

=========================================================

Lana is waiting for Rolf when he comes upstairs after sunset.  Hi, Lana.  What’s wrong? He asks when she doesn’t reply.  My place was ransacked.  You’re welcome to stay here.  Thank you, Rolf.  I was hoping that you’d offer.  I slept really good last night, for the first time in long time.  She looks down.  I’ve got a suitcase in my car.  I’ll grab it for you.  No, I’ll get it.

A couple hours later, Jax pulls up in his supped up car.  I thought I’d find you here, he tells Lana, when he comes inside.  My car was found five blocks away from a club in the warehouse district.  Keys on the seat, doors locked, and a couple ounces of coke in the center console.  Enough to get me busted for possession.  This looks really bad, Lana.  Last night could have gone a lot worse.  Raul is jealous, Rolf says with a grin.  I want to talk to your redhead friend, Jax says.  She’s not my friend.  When I needed her, she wasn’t there for me.

The next morning, Lana comes downstairs to find Jax sleeping on the couch.  He’s dragged a blanket and pillow downstairs.  She laughs at the sight.  He wakes up.  It’s not funny, he says.  I’m exhausted.  Second night in a row with hardly any sleep.  Alright, you can take my bed.   He perks up.  You know what I mean.  He grunts, and heads upstairs.

Rolf sees Lana sleeping on the couch that night.  Everything alright?  Jax is occupying my antique bed.  He’s been out since this morning, and I don’t want to disturb him.  Poor guy was just exhausted.  Rolf nods.  I’m going for a run; I’m training for an ultra, so I’ll try not to wake you up when I get back in.

Jax comes downstairs in the early morning and sees Lana sleeping on the couch in her clothes.  He goes back upstairs and writes her a note, and leaves it on her desk.

This bed was made for sleeping.  Thanks, Lana.  Luv you.  -Jx.

The rumble of his car starting wakes her up, and she stumbles upstairs to her room.  She sees that her bed is made, and that there is a note on her desk.  She reads it and smiles.  Then changes out into shorts and a tshirt and promptly falls asleep.  When she wakes up, it’s almost noon, and after she’s stumbled to the bathroom, she heads downstairs in her bedclothes.  Rolf is never up this time of day, anyway, she mutters to herself.  She grabs some OJ from the fridge, and heads over to her laptop, when the  alarm beeps, meaning that a vehicle has entered the drive.  She listens, and hears the rumble of a muscle car.  Jax is back, she thinks.  Should I change?  Nah.  And she goes over to the door a minute later, and swings it wide open with a smile.

And she recognizes the gorgeous blonde looking at her.  A white Mustang in the drive behind her.  Sorry, I just got out of bed, Bettina.  That explains the bedhead, and not wearing a bra.  But it doesn’t explain the smile I saw when you flung open the door.  Lana blushes and looks down, embarrassed.  And is suddenly hugged.  Thank you for rescuing my roommate, Lana.  How is she?  We need to talk.  Are you going to invite me in?  You have a really nice house, by the way.  It’s not mine; I’m just housesitting for a friend, and the owner doesn’t like to have guests.  But we can get together later this evening.  No, I’m working then.  Well, another time then, goodbye.  And she starts to shut the door.  Wait! Bettina exclaims.

Who is your friend? Rolf says from behind her.  Lana turns around and sees that he’s leaning against the downstairs door.  She immediately crosses her arms over her chest.  I’m so sorry.  I slept in.  I’ll keep your friend company while you get changed.  And Lana walks past him up the stairs.  Bettina, she whispers.

I’m Rolf Asgaard.  Please come in, Bettina, before you get rained on.  And close the door behind you.  So this is where you live.  I recognize you from your band.  You’re a fan?  Totally, like I’ve got tattoos of all five of you.  Want to see them?  And they both laugh, as she follows him into the kitchen, where he stops at the fridge.  Anything to drink?  Miller High Life, it’s the champagne of beers, so I’m told.  And he laughs again, and she smiles at him, as he hands her a water.

Lana comes downstairs to see the two of them talking animatedly, and walks over to join them.  I’ll leave you to your guest, he tells Lana.  Please stay; I like you.  Bettina declares.  And I like you.  But I’ve got to prepare for a meeting.  If you’ll excuse me, Bettina.  And he leaves abruptly, and heads downstairs.

Are you two together?  She asks Lana.  Who doesn’t say anything.   Speak now or forever hold your peace.  He’s mine then.   Now what do I owe you?  You said $120/hour plus expenses, correct? I had six hours.  Expenses?  One of my friends covered the club.  He’d be offended if I tried to pay him back, so don’t worry about it.  The electronic eye beeps.  Stay here.  Lana tells her. And she goes and looks out the window.  And sees a flower van pull up.  And a man get out.  She opens the door a crack, so delivery guy can hear her voice, but not see her.  Just leave them on the doorstep, please, she says.  And presses the barking and growling dog app on her phone.  Stay down, Cujo.  The delivery man quickly leaves, and she opens the door, a hand on the pistol tucked into the small of her back.  Does a quick scan, and then picks up the flowers, and relocks the door.  She sees Bettina watching her.  You’re very clever, and very paranoid.

Where were we?  She says, walking by her and dumping the flowers unceremoniously on the kitchen counter. Bettina looks horrified.  This arrangement must have cost a fortune: blue roses and a purple orchid.  So?  Do you even know what they mean?  That someone is thinking about me, Lana declares.  More than that.  Blue roses are for mystery, and the purple orchid signifies admiration.  She starts opening cupboards, looking for a container to put the flowers in.  What are you doing?  You have to put them in water.  Lana opens the fridge and empties out a plastic bottle of squeezed orange juice into a glass, and hands the empty to Bettina.  This is perfect, she says, beaming at Lana.  And she starts opening drawers, and finally finds some black duct tape, and starts wrapping the orange juice container.  Repurposed art deco, she announces.  Then she partially fills the black vase with water.  And takes a knife, and slices off the stems of the blue roses, and arranges them.  She leaves the orchid longer than roses.  What do you think?  She asks Lana, who is drinking her glass of orange juice, watching this production.  She shrugs.

Now read the card.  “Miss Lana Radley” is written on the envelope in a flowing hand.

She slices it open with a kitchen knife, and hands the envelope to her.  She sees Lana’s eyes grow wide, and moves so she can read it over her shoulder.

Inside is an invitation on white parchment written in gold foil.

You and a guest are cordially invited to attend a celebration at 35 Governors Park, date TK, in honor of the Senator of the great state of Louisiana, the Honorable John Johns.  Dress is formal, the evening begins at 8pm.

Attached on the back is a post-it note.  Please come.  –K.

Who is K?  Lana says nothing.  Aren’t you interesting, Bettina declares.

How is Toni doing?  She’s on leave, and has put in for a transfer.  Did she tell the brass?  No.  I’ve seen the footage, Lana.  They left a digital recorder with no memory card when they dropped her off.  They broke her, Lana.  She told them everything.  Then they told her that they would send DVD’s of her confession to everyone at the department, to every newspaper, and to everyone she had ever known, if she didn’t do their bidding.  And then everything just changed.  The interrogator said that he didn’t know that she was a friend of Lana Radley’s, and apologized profusely.  Now I’m going to give you a sedative, and you’ll wake up in your own bed, and this will all seem like a bad dream.  We will never contact you again; you have nothing to fear from us.  And it was lights out.

So how did they return her?  Some clean cut guys stopped by with her.  Frank and Joe Hardy.  And said that you had enlisted them to arrange her safe return, and that their dad, Fenton, was trying to find you, as a professional courtesy, so you’d stand down.  Then he called me, and I asked to speak to you, and you hung up on me.  How was Toni when she woke up?  We watched the whole thing together.  Then we destroyed that camera.  Smashed it into bits and pieces.  She’s moved out, and is staying at her parents.  What happened, Lana?  And she tells Bettina the story of the previous night.

Since Toni’s moving out, I’m going to need a roommate.  What do you say, Lana?  I like it here.  I want to show you something.  And they go upstairs to her room.  See that bed.  Yeah, it’s tiny.  If you roll over in your sleep you’d fall off.  It’s a magic bed.  I’ve never had such good sleep.  Bettina looks at the note that Jax has left on the dresser.  What’s this about?  So when we came here, Rolf assigned us guest rooms.  And Jax got the nice one, and didn’t want to trade…

Let me see it.  A minute later, they’re both lying on the bed with their shoes off, looking up at the mirror. Lana is just down the hall, Bettina says in a deep voice, and pretends to toss and turn.  Well, hello there.  Lana laughs.  I want to try something.  And she turns on her side and closes her eyes.  It’s still looking at me.  And Bettina snuggles up to her, and gives her a hug.  There, is that better?  Much.  Bettina yawns.  I am kind of tired.  Maybe I will take a quick nap, just to prove it can be done.

That evening, Jax looks in and sees Bettina and Lana cuddled up on the bed, sleeping soundly.  Whoa.  Rolf motions shush, comes back a couple minutes later with a thermal blanket, which Jax helps him drape it over the girls, then they leave.  You run the coolest house, bro.  Speaking of, I’m headed out for a run; I’m training for an ultra.  Marathon?  Yeah.  Hard core.  Welcome to stick around, and meet Bettina, the roommate.

Jax flips on the TV, and is watching the rerun of Cramer’s Mad Money on CNBC, when the electronic eye beeps.  He goes over and gets the door.  An older lean man in a suit flashes a badge.  Captain Ron Howard, NOPD.  I’m here off duty, as a favor for a friend.  His daughter missed a meeting and hasn’t returned her calls or texts, which is most unlike her.  She’s sleeping upstairs, Jax says.  The cops look at him.  Follow me, Jax says.  And they head upstairs and he knocks softly on the door.  The older cop barges in and turns on the light switch.  And sees Bettina and Lana sleeping on the canopy bed.  OMG, what time is it?  Bettina announces, springing awake.  I am so sorry, Ron.  Tell daddy that I’ll call him in a little bit and explain everything.  I just need to get my bearings.  This isn’t what it looks like, Lana exclaims.  The men leave without saying another word.

Jax is back watching his TV show, when Lana and Bettina come downstairs.  Um, did you put a blanket over us?  Lana asks, shamefaced.  Yep.  Jax says, continuing to watch the show.  Why didn’t you wake us up?  He doesn’t answer, and watches Cramer’s antics on screen. So what stocks should I buy? Bettina asks him.  I like energy infrastructure plays right now.  Bet my car can outrace your car.  He immediately shuts off the TV and gives her his full attention.  You were saying?  You must be Jax.  That’s right.  Are you seeing anyone?  My ex left me for an Indian.  You probably read all about it in the gossip rags.  Nope.  How are you dealing with it?  I’m good with it.  Really?  Yeah, I’m happy for her.  Those people like to worship cows anyway.  Lana bursts out laughing.  Bettina looks between them.  It’s a joke, Bettina, he explains.  I get that you think it’s funny to demean and objectify women.  Now wait a minute, he starts to say, when he sees her grin.  And he grins back at her.

So I come here around noon, and…  Shut up, if you want to live, Lana warns her. Is this about the flowers?  Wicked vase, he comments.  My creation, Bettina owns with pride.  Lana goes and gets the invitation and shows him.  This came with them. It says “and a guest”.  Will you go with me?  She asks him.  Nah, take Rolf, and he turns the TV back on.

Bettina looks at Lana.  He’s pouting b/c you wouldn’t let me finish my story.  Fine you can tell him while I go to the bathroom.  When she comes back, Jax looks at her.  Yep, I’m going with you.  So I opened the door without wearing a bra under my tee.  It’s how I sleep.  I just didn’t want you to awake up Rolf by pounding on the door.  Bettina bites her lips.  I only told him how you smiled at me when you flung open the door.  Lana covers her face with her hands.  I’m not that kind of girl.  I know, Lana.  Jax says quietly.  I’ve got to call my dad, Bettina says, and goes out to her car to get her phone.

What did you do with Lana?  Bettina asks when she comes back in five minutes later.  She’s taking a shower upstairs.  How did the talk with dad go?  Well, I couldn’t exactly tell him about the magic cuddle bed at the rockstar’s mansion, and how I’ve never slept so good in my entire adult life.  Jax laughs.   Where is Rolf?  He’s out running.  Training for an ultramarathon.  Me too!  She enthuses.  Really?  She gives him a look.  But I can pretend, she says with a grin, and he laughs.

Lana comes downstairs with wet hair.  My sleep schedule is totally mixed up now.  We need to talk about the elephant in the room.  Bettina announces.  And Lana blushes deeply.  My roommate was abducted, then brutalized psychologically, but thankfully, not physically.  She’s moved out, and is trying to put all this behind her.    So I need a new roommate.  Lana, you shouldn’t be living with a couple of rockstars.  Staying up late, prancing around in your nighties in the middle of the day, and now knowing that there is a magic cuddle bed upstairs, and a handsome guy downstairs.  You can see where this is leading.

You are not taking that antique bed, if you leave, Jax says quickly.  I want to talk to Rolf first, Lana replies.  Who knows when he’ll get back.  Let’s drive to my place, and see if we can get the wind to dry your hair.  I’ll follow, Jax says, so I can see where to pick you up Saturday.  You won’t be able to keep up.  Just give me an address to plug into my nav system, and we’ll see who gets there first.