MAYBE TOMORROW – CHAPTER 3 / A Novel by Peter Nolan Smith


With thirty-one more shopping days until Christmas, not a single wreath hung in the porno shops, strip clubs, or X-rated theaters above 42nd Street. Accordingly Santa Claus was steering clear of 8th Avenue, for every night people were robbed, cheated, murdered or worse on the ?Deuce?. Social scientists claimed red-light districts contained crime and the higher arrest rate validated the politicians? designation of Times Square as New York City?s Babylon, however the sheer volume of victims had overwhelmed the police and standing in front of the Haymarket Bar Johnny Darling bore witness to the law?s losing battle on the Minnesota Strip.
Suburban tricks cruised teenage prostitutes straight off a bus from the Midwest and slick hustlers struck cowboy poses on the street corners, while unsuspecting hicks were trailed by dope-hungry muggers. The action should have tapered off before a holiday, except the players on the Strip were dedicated to acting naughty and not the least bit nice. 365 nights a year.
A sharp gust unravelled a pile of trash and discarded newspapers scattered in flight over the sidewalk. Johnny dodged a page, as the door to the Haymarket opened for a tall blonde transvestite in a white leather jacket and pants. She wasn?t wearing a shirt or bra and her heavily made-up eyes simmered with slattern lust, as if she were rehearsing for a porno film.
?Looking for fun, baby?” The blonde sashayed behind Johnny for shelter from the cold. She was taller by four inches in her stiletto heels.
“More a quick score for my rent, Dove.? The twenty-year old leaned into the powder-skinned beauty, her skin radiating an unnatural heat for this time of year.
?You shouldn?t aim so low.? The blonde transvestite caressed the nape of Johnny?s neck with a tenderness of a teenybopper finding a long-lost teddy bear.
?I have simple tastes,? Johnny declared over KC?s THAT?S THE WAY booming on the bar?s jukebox. ?My guitar, drinking at a bar, eating a little food, good music, and someplace warm to sleep.?
?What about dreams of stardom?? Dove cuddled closer to her childhood friend.
?You?re the only star I see in the sky.? Johnny had witnessed Dave?s transformation to Dove in the seclusion of their parents? bedrooms. Their mothers? lingerie and make-up had given way to clothing stolen from Macy?s. ?Remember when you dressed up as Jodie Foster in TAXI DRIVER??
?A pink tube top, white silk hot pants, and red spaghetti strap pumps.?
?The traffic on 42nd stopped dead.?
?That act was good for one summer. Now I?m a Vogue model. You should have seen me at les Jardins. I was queen of the night.?
?As you are every night.? 42nd Street was Dove?s runway. Men?s eyes were the cameras. She was selling glamor.
?When are you going to be a star?? Dove twirled a lacquered strand of hair in her fingers.
?I?m starting a new band.?
?Another band playing at CBGB?s or Max?s.? Dove sighed with exasperation. ?Playing to 200 punks isn?t going to save me from all this.?
?Knowing your tastes, I?ll have to fill Madison Square Garden.? Johnny stepped aside for a priestly gentleman and two teenagers entering the Haymarket. They were both 19 and Dove said, ?They won?t get pass for 16 much longer.?
?Not unless they lower the lighting inside.?
?A well-placed shadow is a girl?s best make-up.? Dove hushed into Johnny?s ear. ?You hear about Jimmie Bags??
?How the cops gave their favorite bagman a machine gun for his birthday?? Johnny had heard this news an hour ago. People told him everything, although sometimes he wished he could retire from his unofficial position as the Strip?s confessor, since most stories had bad endings. Presently the only applicants for the job were the police and no one plea-bargained their sins with the Law. ?And how the idiot tested the gift, wounding three cops in the line of duty??
?You hear and see all.? Dove backed away from Johnny.
?And on no account do I tell all.? Their secrets dated back to their playing ?Doctor? in grammar school. Whatever entered one ear didn?t leave their mouths. ?At least not about us.?
“That’s my baby.” Dove kissed Johnny?s cheek. ?I got to save my date from some Miss Thing?s claws. Mr. DeMille, I?m ready for my scene.?
Dove entered the bar and a middle-aged trick beamed a licentious smile. Johnny shook his head. He was waiting for a better offer, then silently asked, ?How long I been saying that??
Most of his old friends and competitors were dead or in jail. Times Squares? math was loaded against hustlers like crooked dice. Chilled by the premonition of his luck running out, Johnny blew on his trembling hands without giving any warmth to his numbed fingertips. He scanned the quagmire of faces for action. Two seconds later Frankie scooted up to him and announced, “We have a live one on the way.”
?Left or right?? His prot?g? specialized in taking unnecessary risks.
“This shit-faced white guy was cruising the peep-shows. He sees me and I motion him to follow.” Frankie glimpsed over his shoulder to an overweight businessman staggering along the sidewalk. His tie was adrift, his face bloated by beer.
?I?ll take him into a peep show and pickpocket his wallet.?
?We have to give him a miss.”
?He’s drunk.? Frankie was bouncing with a need to get the rust out of his veins.
?Take a closer look. Those thick-soled shoes are for running and the undercover cop across the street is back-up.
You want to spend the night in Spofford?”
“At least Juvie Hall is warm.? Frankie had racked up two 30-day bids in the Bronx jail famed for rotten food, sadistic guards, and bloody gang beatings. ?I need money.”
“The night is young,” Johnny assured the drummer, although it was past 10.
“And colder too.” Frankie wanted everything yesterday.
“We?ll score soon,” Johnny said, but the after-theater crowd was thinning out on the sidewalks. The easy marks would be replaced by drunks with little cash in their pockets and their fellow hustlers were turning to more predatory pursuits of purse-snatching or knifepoint robberies.
?I hope so.? Frankie swept back his hair. “How I look??
?A young Richie Valens.?
?How many times I have to tell you.? The young boy clenched his fists. ?I?m Puerto Rican, not Mexican.?
Faking fighting prowess on the Strip was a fatal error and Johnny slipped a left under Frankie?s guard. His fist barely tapped the teenager?s chin, although the young boy jerked his head backwards into the brick wall. Tears dampened the corners of his eyes and Johnny gave Frankie two dollars. He was down to three.
?Stop your crying and go get warm.?
?You know where I?ll be.? The young boy hurried to the subterranean Eight Avenue arcade. $2 bought eight pinball games out of the cold. Frankie was skilled enough to make the games last an hour.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE replaced KC?s disco hit and Johnny fingered Lou Reed?s anthem on air guitar. His Les Paul was safe behind the counter of a porno parlor.
?In the backroom she was everyone?s darling.? It was impossible to not join the chorus. ?And all the colored girls sing.?
Dove popped from the bar, tugging on a paper-thin white leather coat. She slipped a wallet inside Johnny?s jacket.
“Meet me at Adonis.”
She clattered around the corner in high heels before a moustached man in his thirties exited from the Haymarket, his head bopping on his shoulders like a turtle on Speed. Any honest citizen would have been shouting for the police. Not that they were any use on 8th Avenue. Her victim clawed at his pockets.
“You see a tall blonde?”
“She have a white coat and a boa scarf?” Johnny knitted his brow with concern.
“Yeah, that’s the one.? The sucker bought his sincerity with frantic gratitude. He had a wedding ring on his left finger. His wife was waiting in the suburbs. Most of Dove?s tricks were straight or so they told themselves.
?Which way she go?”
Having heard the truth about the coat, the man was primed for a lie.
“She headed toward the Port Authority. Maybe thirty seconds ago.”
The man darted down the crowded sidewalk and Johnny casually crossed the avenue, since running was a sure sign of guilt. Opposite the Haymarket he stuffed the money in his levis and left the credits cards in the wallet, which he wiped once and dumped in the trash.
Johnny counted the bills fast. Dove had scored over $300. He walked down the sidewalk to the Adonis. When he stepped into the foyer, he slipped the cash into Dove?s jacket pocket. She handed five $20s to Johnny.
?Thanks.? His end was a little more than normal.
?Most of the scum on this street would have stiffed me.?
?We go back.? To childhood. ?Plus I have three rules; trust no one more than you trust yourself, steal from the most deserving, and avoid the sin of greed.?
?Such a good Catholic boy, too bad you?re not into women.”
“Never said I didn?t like women.?
?You ever been with one?? Dove fluttered her eyes at a moustached john.
?All the women care about is turning me straight.?
?So there?s no hope for me?? Dove cinched the belt of her leather jacket and Johnny nodded that the there was no sign of her victim.
?You?re different.?
?Because you walk like a woman and talk like a girl.? He had changed the last word from the Kinks? song LOLA knowing how hard Dove tried to stop from sounding like a crow on helium.
?Sweet mouth,?
?And it?s not all talk. One day I might love you.”
“I’ll be counting the minutes till then.” The transvestite strutted onto the street to flag a taxi. A checker stopped immediately and Dove flipped back her head. “You care for a ride to CBGBs? The Ramones are headlining.”
“I have to take care of Frankie.” $42 covered his back-rent at the Terminal Hotel and a twenty would happy up his prot?g? and $38 could last another two days. It was time to call it a night.
?You?re a soft touch.? Dove waved good-bye from the taxi window. ?That kid will be the death of you.?
?He?s no trouble. No more than you.?
?Me, no trouble? Baby, trouble?s my adopted name?? Dove shouted out the window, as the taxi turned left on the next street. Johnny pulled up his collar and clocked the foot traffic on the sidewalks. The scammers outnumbered the scammed 5 to 1 and he hurried down the sidewalk. A day had passed since he had slept and he was dreaming about his bed at the Terminal Hotel.
Before his foot could leave the curb on 44th Street, a black Lincoln blocked his path and a hand white as smoke beckoned from the rear window. Suspecting a set-up Johnny peered through the crack at a grim blonde boy in a black silk bathrobe. Pale-skinned teenagers were only cops on TV shows. This thin boy was not the law.
?You want me in the car??
The locks popped open.
Johnny stepped around to the other side of the car. The seats were leather, but the interior smelled of medicine.
The passenger slouched against the opposite door, as if his back was out of place.
“You’re staring.” his host replied with a private school accent strangely hoarse almost as if from disuse.
?It?s not often you meet Howard Hughes? illegitimate son.?
?It?s Hugh Hefner who wears pajamas.?
?Sorry, I get millionaires mixed up.? His host obviously had no sense of humor.
?Where to?? The thick-necked driver coughed in front.
?Down the block.?
A sheet of black glass cut them off from front seat and the car cruised farther from 8th Avenue. Rich perverts were no different from poor ones other than their wealth afforded stranger tastes.
?So what you want??
“Not sex.? A halo of platinum hair framed the passenger?s face without a taint of saintliness.
?That?s a first for Times Square.?
?I saw what you did?? The passenger scowled, as if he had co-authored the Ten Commandments.
?Do what?? Johnny wasn?t admitting to anything.
?I saw you steal that money.? He held up the discarded wallet with a handkerchief. ?You helped that ?girl? and dumped the wallet in the trash. Two weeks ago I saw you rescue a drug dealer by dropping a bag of grapes in the path of the police.?
?Really?? Johnny was irritated by the absence of this incident from his memory and even more so that he hadn?t noticed this car or its passenger. On 42nd Street any slip-up cost could cost your life and he asked, ?How much??
?I don?t need your money.? The passenger fidgeted to get comfortable, as the Lincoln turned onto 9th Avenue and sped uptown.
?Good, because all I got is $100.? Johnny?s hand grasped the door handle, hesitant to jump out of moving car, then settled back into the seat. The passenger was rich and rich was an opportunity not to be passed up in Times Square. The soles of his slippers were unsoiled by dirt and his pajamas were freshly ironed. He was skinnier than Johnny and his gaunt face was warped by a tic under his left eye.
?You?re staring again.?
?Sorry, I wasn?t wondering why you picked me up. It?s not for sex and you don?t look like a druggie. At least not street drugs.?
?So why did I stop?? It was a challenge.
?The truth is that you don?t know why.?
Johnny was a musician as well as a hustler. Both understood the importance of timing and he allowed several seconds to pass before spinning his web.
?I worked at a sideshow on Coney Island, guessing tourists? ages, weights, and occupations. They billed me as the ?Idiot-savant?. An old Gypsy woman taught me the ancient art of palmistry. The left hand revealed the past and the right hand predicted the future. I was good at it and when the boardwalk closed for the season I took the A-train to Times Square. Strippers, massage girls, pimps, cops, dealers paid me $5 for a reading. Their fates ran like highways to hell and I closed up shop.?
?You can divine the future??
?I learned that most people want the same thing. Money, love, happiness, so anything I think about me, I can tell another person. Right or wrong is unimportant, since everyone enjoys hearing about themselves and usually they?ll tell you the truth without even asking.?
?So it?s a trick?? This revelation clearly disappointed the young man.
?Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I?m not sure when is which.? Johnny sensed the passenger?s desire for answers and spoke without any inkling as to what he would say, ?We are all trapped by the past. It is the future that frees us, if your present isn?t a jail. I bet you haven?t stepped on the street in months.?
The passenger?s eyes widened with this plundering of his soul.
?And I?m probably the first person you spoke with in a long time.?
?That?s not true.?
?Someone other than your driver or family.?
The passenger?s silence confirmed that he was on the right track.
?You don?t talk about anything with anyone. You don?t ever leave this car either and I know why.? Johnny played him without pity. ?Because whatever happened to you didn?t kill you and sometimes you wish it did.?
The passenger reached forward to knock on the window, but couldn?t make the distance. The effort hurt more than he was willing to show, giving Johnny another insight into why they in this car together.
?You had an accident. A bad accident. It changed who you were into who you are now and you don?t like that person, but you?re not the only person in the world that changed from who they wanted to be. I was a good kid once. An altar boy. No one recited the Mass better than me. Families hired me to serve their weddings or bury their grandparents. I was vain enough to consider myself special. A priest did too and he corrupted my life with one selfish act. He taught me humility.?
?I didn?t need to be humbled.? The passenger had been born on the Upper East Side and his future had been set to reap the benefits of the A-list schools, winter holidays in the Caribbean, summers in Europe, and sophisticated friends in high places.
?And neither did I.? A red light stopped them at 49th Street and Johnny slapped his palm on the dividing window. It slid down halfway.
?Pull over to the curb,? Johnny told the driver and turned to the passenger, ?I can only tell you what I see. It?s no trick. I see you trapped in this car, praying for the boy to come back from the grave, but both him and my innocent altar boy are dead. We can only become someone else. Someone new.?
“You make it sound so easy.”
?It?s easy. Leave this car and live.”
“With them?” He regarded the passing parade with a noticeable disdain.
?There?s more to life than them or this car. Other people, other places.?
?If I fall, I could hurt myself more.?
?That?s probably true, but have you fallen since your injury??
?A couple of times.?
?And you didn?t die??
?I can understand you?re scared of getting hurt again, but this mummifying yourself in this car is a form of death. That?s why you picked me up tonight.? Johnny told the driver, ?Me and my friend are leaving the car.?
?Mr. Ames?? The driver asked, as if getting out of the car was against the rules.
?Robert, park the car for a second.?
The car braked at the curb. Johnny stepped out of the car and reached inside to assist the young man from the back seat. The passers-by stared at the silk pajamas and Johnny sensed his unease.
?Ignore them. They?re nobodies. You?re what matters. How?s it feel??
?Like I should return to the cocoon.?
?Too late for that. Breathe.?
The young man inhaled the cold air like an astronaut testing the atmosphere of Mars. The garish lights unfiltered by the Lincoln?s smoked windows jarred his eyes and the noise battered his eardrums, then a harsh wind kissed his skin with an old lover?s forgiveness. His knees buckled from the sensory overload and Johnny caught him. The young man didn?t weigh much.
?It?ll improve with practice. Trust me.?
?You expect me to trust a thief??
?We have more honor than the squares. You play an instrument??
?A little piano.? The young man sounded worried that he might have given an incorrect response.
?Think you could play an organ?? Dove was right. Johnny was soft. This kid was primed for a scam and he was letting him off the hook.
?A Bach fugue worked for Procul Harum in A WHITER SHADE OF PALE and the Doors on LIGHT MY FIRE. An organ is definitely hipper than a piano for punk.?
“The New York Dolls, the Ramones, and Patti Smith.? Johnny?s blitz of information knocked his new acquaintance off-balance. ?You ever hear of them??
?No, the only times I heard the word ?punk? have been in reference to this incense burnt to stave off mosquitoes.?
?It?s also a jail definition for another convict’s sex slave.?
?Sorry, I?ve been out of touch for the last two years.? The young man stood straight with pained discomfort.
?At least you have an excuse.? Johnny glanced around the sidewalk. Most people had no control over the music on the radio. Only the record executives possessed that power. ?I?ve had two bands. The Disappointed and the Precious Few. They failed, due to ego problems or talent conflicts, but I haven?t abandoned my music and you can?t give up on life. Today is your lucky day.?
?Lucky?? He looked to the car, as if he expected his driver to rescue him from this pseudo-messiah. The doors remained shut.
?Lucky, because I?m offering you a crash course in punk, unless you want to spend the rest of your life watching TV movies you?ve seen too many times. That?s no life. None at all and punk will bring you back from the dead. It?s wild. You know LOUIE LOUIE??
?Yeah, duh, duh duh, duh-duh, duh-duh duh.?
?Now make it faster and rawer and nastier.?
?Like Slade.?
?Knowing Slade proves you’re not dead.? Frankie had been the drummer in the Disappointed and Cheri from room 301 had sung for the Precious Few. Bass players were as rare as light bulbs, but an organist with money was a prime asset for a climb to the top.
?When you first stopped, I was thinking about ripping you off, but I said to myself, I rip him off for couple of hundred dollars. I can score that from anyone, but then I saw you in my band.?
“I-I-I-I never said I?d join in your band.?
?Okay, don?t join my band.? Johnny backed away, although he wasn?t going anywhere. The passenger snagged his arm. He was hooked, but good and Johnny had yet to tell one lie.
?You?ll love punk. Burning down the temple of soft rock. Pissing off the Disco Gods.? Two thousand people belonged to the scene in New York, LA, and London. One more could only help the cause.
?Couldn?t I like it first??
?Like works for a distant aunt. Come with tomorrow to Max?s Kansas City.?
?I?m having dinner at the Carlyle Hotel with my father and sister.?
?Turkey Day.? Johnny was losing him to family.
?I can meet you afterwards.?
?Great, but do yourself a favor and lose the Hugh Hefner pajamas.? Johnny fingered the buttery silk. They had to cost a fortune. ?Go to St. Mark?s Place in the afternoon and buy anything black and leather at Trash and Vaudeville and get Snookie to cut your hair at Manic Panic. You have a number??
“Yes.” He handed Johnny an embossed card. “You can call me ?Charles?.”
The accent inhibited the use of Charlie or Chuck and Johnny acceded to his new friend?s request.
?Charles, my name’s Johnny Darling. Now you?ll have to excuse me, I have a previous appointment.”
?Your young friend??
?I forgot you were spying on me.?
?Sorry.? The apology sounded heart-felt. ?I?ll stop.?
?Only stop if it gets boring.? Johnny helped Charles into the car. ?You?ll meet Frankie tomorrow. He?s the drummer.?
?Your band have a name?” The rich boy was visibly relieved to be off his feet.
?A name?? Johnny swiftly stripped one letter from the top bill at the Adonis Theater. “GTH. It?s short for ?Gone To Hell. I’ll call you tomorrow, ?Charles?.?
“Any time after noon.”
?I?m a late-waker too.”
Johnny shut the door and the Lincoln disappeared down the street. Nearby drifters envied his imagined score. They could think what they wanted and Johnny headed down toward 42nd Street. Entering ShowWorld, his nose reeled from the smell of pine oil used to clean the viewing cubicles. The elderly clerk passed his guitar from behind the counter.
?More than you can imagine.? Johnny left the porno emporium, praying this encounter with Charles Ames III was the chance of a lifetime.
Across the avenue Frankie was begging for a handout under a movie marquee promoting THE DEVIL IN MRS. JONES. Tonight his helplessness was no act. No one owed anyone any favors on the Strip and Johnny could walk away without a twinge of guilt, instead he shouted to Frankie, who lifted his head like a dog hearing its master?s whistle. He ran across the avenue and Johnny slipped him $20.
?I almost love you.” The young boy stamped his feet on the pavement.
“Love no one. Not me. Not anyone.” Only fools followed their own advice.
?I?ll remember.? Frankie had adopted Johnny as his God, even if worshipping him might cost his soul.
“One more thing.? Dove?s score was none of his business. ?I ran into an ‘angel’.”
?What kind of angle you talking ?bout?? Failing Algebra had ended his schooling.
?Not angle. Angel.?
“You turning religious on me?” Frankie had lost more friends to the church than drugs.
?I?m talking about an angel to help a band off the ground.? A priest?s kiss had permanently soured Johnny?s faith. ?With money.?
?You mean the Dispossessed?”
“No, new one.? His hands itched to create new music on his guitar. ?GTH.”
“GTH? Is that a drug?” Frankie asked, eagerly.
“That’s the name of our group.? They had to write songs. ?Gone To Hell.?
“Gone To Hell?”
?You have a problem with the name?” They needed a place to rehearse.
“I don?t want to burn in Hell.?
?You?re not going to burn in any Hell. Not while I?m around.?
?Okay, if you say so.? Frankie bongoed a beat on a car. “Who else is in GTH?”
“This rich kid?s on organ and Cheri will sing.?
?She has a terrible voice.?
?Cheri can shake her ass. The straight guys and the lezbos will love her. The organist is a cripple. The girls will love him. You get to beat the drums and I have the licks.? No formula existed for fame and fortune, however success never came from contemplating failure. “We might have a number one hit for a hundred weeks and end up living in Hollywood.”
“Movie stars, palm trees, and swimming pools,” Enticed by Johnny?s enthusiasm, Frankie chanted the words like ‘lions, tigers, and bears’ from THE WIZARD OF OZ and then asked, ?Care to score a few bags??
?I have to stay straight for this ?angel? tomorrow.? Johnny couldn’t preach moderation in fear of throwing a stone through a window in his temple of weaknesses. ?You can crash at the Terminal later.”
“Thanks, Johnny.” Frankie headed to score in Bryant Park with reckless determination and Johnny hailed a Checker, instructing the middle-aged driver, “14th and 9th.?
?You have money??
Flashing a twenty, Johnny asked, ?Satisfied?”
?Do a runner on the other end and I?ll drive you down.” The driver coldly flipped on the meter.
?Thanks for the warning.?
?It?s a promise, not a warning.?
At the meat market on 12th Street the taxi turned onto Washington Street and dropped Johnny at the Terminal Hotel. He paid the driver and raised his eyes to the third-floor corner room. The lights were out. Cheri was either asleep or in bed with a new lover. Johnny was knocking on her door either way and entered the hotel lobby.
?You have my money, cuz no way yer gettin? a key widout payin?.” The nearly toothless clerk turned off Johnny Carson?s interview with Robert Blake on THE TONIGHT SHOW.
?Shut your hole, Ernie.? Johnny slapped forty-two dollars on the counter and snapped a fiver before the wino?s roadmap of wrinkles. ?And a bone for you too, you old alkie.?
“Fer me?” Ernie licked his swollen lips in the anticipation of a soul-quenching bottle of Thunderbird.
?For you.?
?Sorry, Johnny, I like you, but you know the bosses don?t like anyone gettin? behind. Even the Great Johnny Darling.”
?Hey I know, but who else takes care of you like me?? Johnny patted the old man?s cheek.
“Only you, Johnny Darling.” Ernie pocketed his tip. “By the way Cheri left you a box.”
“Left me a box?” He palmed his key.
“Cheri split ?bout two hours ago fer the airport. Said sumthin? about goin? to Paris.” The old man toed a cardboard box from behind the desk.
“She say anything about coming back?” Johnny had dismissed her late-night prattling about art school in Paris as a bedtime lullaby she told herself since no one else was listening.
“Damn is right. Guess she wuz spooked by this hippie boy.?
?Spooked?? Johnny had heard Cheri talk about this hippie. She had never spoke about her lovers before. Maybe Ernie was right.
?She spent last weekend with this hippie boy. He had stars in his eyes and a girl like Cheri gets scared by a young fool in love killing her dreams.?
?Why you say that??
?This hippie is supposed to show tonight. She left him this letter.” The clerk held up an envelope and Johnny tried to snatch it. The old alkie was faster. ?Gotta give that to the hippie, Johnny Boy.?
?So you?re not going to give it to me.?
?I?m like the US Mail that way.?
?I?ll keep that in mind the next time you run short for a bottle of wine.? Johnny lifted the box and walked over to the elevator. ?They ever fixing this??
?Boss sez soon.? Ernie shouted, as Johnny climbed past two winos arguing over who was the most beautiful member of CHARLIE?S ANGELS. On the 2nd floor a madman ranted about the president-elect?s being a Christian. Johnny gave him a quarter and continued to the 3rd floor, where he opened the door to #301. Cheri?s room was empty. A painting of a naked hippie covered one wall.
?Fucking hippie.?
Johnny entered #308 and dropped the box next to the stack of LPs. He laid the guitar on the bed and cued the Dolls? LONELY PLANET BOY on the stereo. A quick ferret through Cheri?s box produced clothing, two wigs, and no letter. She had loved dressing him as her. ?Long as you stay the same weight, you can be my mirror.”
He struck a discordant twang on the steel strings of his Les Paul. Cheri?s leaving was the hippie?s fault. He repeated a ragged A chord and visualized this longhair. He would be broken-hearted by her disappearance. Maybe even cry. Tears made a man defenseless. Another A chord and an F. Johnny envisioned Cheri?s ex-lover facedown in the street. Not a penny to his or anyone else?s name. A-F-A.
He ended his three-chord solo and strummed along with Johnny Thunders. No one in the Dolls had a spectacular voice. Not even David Johansson. Singing came from the heart not the throat and he would find a girl with that talent tomorrow at Max?s. Tonight he could only wait until tomorrow and tomorrow was never far away from midnight.

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