SIP

STRANGERS IN PARADISE 1-1

Flashback:

Ten years ago. At Puncture High School Francine Peters is rehearsing her lines for the Sip1-1school play. She’s about to go on in a few minutes, but she complains to Miss Beem that her toga won’t stay up like its supposed to. Miss Beem doesn’t want to hear about it. Suddenly Francine is yanked into the shadows by her naughty friend Katchoo, who was suspended for blowing up some guy’s locker. Katchoo says she doesn’t want to miss watching her best friend make a fool of herself in front of the whole school. Francine misses her cue. Miss Beem finds Francine and thrusts her out on stage. Francine is playing a serving wench, but she drops a pot of liquid refreshment. Freddy Femur slips on the spilled liquid, and grabs Francine’s toga on his way down. Francine is left standing there wearing nothing but her panties after her wardrobe malfunction, boobs revealed in all their glory.

Flashback:

Last week. Freddy Femurs and Francine Peters are sleeping together, but he’s too clumsy. He grabs the wrong things, licks the wrong things, and rolls over on Francine’s hair. She makes him sleep on the floor once again. In the morning Katchoo’s alarm clock goes off. She pulls a gun out of her drawer and shoots the clock, destroying it. This draws her roommate Francine rushing in to see what happened. Freddy mutters that it was probably her vibrator backfiring again. Freddy follows Francine into Katchoo’s room and starts giving her a hard time. Katchoo won’t roll over for him, she retorts that Freddy should keep trying to get laid, every dog gets a bone if he begs long enough. In the kitchen Freddy is upset, not so much that he had to take Katchoo’s crap, but that Katchoo was right. This leads to an argument where Francine reveals she doesn’t want to “give it away” because she’s afraid Freddy will have his conquest and immediately leave her. Freddy works himself up into a rage and leaves her right then. Katchoo sits next to Francine on the floor as Francine cries, and tells her she believes no man is ever going to love her like she wants them to because they don’t know how. Then Katchoo says if Francine wants somebody to beg for her body every night she would do it herself. This is a joke to Francine, who begins to laugh through her tears, but it is no joke for Katchoo. She pretends to woo Francine, and almost kisses her, but Francine freaks out, screams, “Why does everybody keep trying to…” and leaves. And Katchoo punishes herself for being so stupid.

Francine misses Freddy, she leaves message after message on his machine. In an art museum, Katchoo expresses her disdain for a sculpture by leaving a used tampon on it. This is observed by David Qin. When he catches up to her, he mentions what he saw her do, and she replies, “Sexist crap!” Then he says asks, “What does this piece say to you?” and she merely replies “Piss off!” and leaves. He follows her out into the rain, and receives more abuse, but he’s persistent. He brings up the idea of just having coffee together, and this finally breaks through to her.

Francine goes to Freddy Femurs’ office to see him, and barges her way past the secretary, Margaret, who is trying to ensure Freddy’s privacy. Francine insists, however, and goes straight to his office where she throws off her trench coat to reveal a voluptuous body in a bikini. But Freddy is already in the middle of banging a secretary on his desk. Francine is devastated and flees in tears. Freddy fires Margaret.

In the coffee shop Katchoo gets more and more agitated as she lays down the law how things will be, and if David ever lies to her she will feed his balls to his cat. The waitress offers some decaf.

At home Francine has been on a food binge all day. Katchoo says the phone is for Francine, it’s Freddy, and Francine rushes to pick it up. They arrange a meeting. Francine admits it was her fault he turned to the other woman, and she wants to start over fresh. Freddy says it’s not worth it, and he has to get going, he’s got someone waiting in his Porsche. Francine has zero self-esteem at this point, she is begging for him to reconsider. Finally she strips off all her clothes and throws them in his face, ready to give her body to him at last, right there in public, but he won’t do it.

At home Katchoo is doodling in her art studio, and naturally Francine’s face pops up on the painting. David is there and he’s very impressed with her style. Katchoo is pleased, but she pretends that his saccharine sweetness is too much. Outside their window, Francine crashes her car into a tree. She’s unconscious. Katchoo can’t open the driver’s side door. David can open the other door, but he’s reluctant to pull Francine out because she’s naked. Katchoo makes him carry her into the house. In her delerium, Francine says, “No Freddy, don’t…” and Katchoo comes to the conclusion that Freddy raped her. She swears by almighty Goddess that he is a dead man.

1-2

Katchoo is wearing Army fatigues and is trying to get a canvas bag full of something into a van. Her geeky neighbor tells her to stand aside and he’ll load it for her. But it’s verySip heavy, and he drops it, and it sets off a LAWS rocket which destroys her garage. But it’s all just Freddy’s nightmare.

David reads poetry to Katchoo. She decides to break it to him so he doesn’t waste any more time. She says, “I’m not interested in men.” He looks at one of her own paintings of a muscular nude, and this seems to throw her off guard. Francine stumbles into her studio, awake at last. Katchoo takes her back up to bed because she has a concussion. Francine doesn’t even know who Freddy is, indicating amnesia. Katchoo grabs a gun and runs out after Freddy at last. David looks in at a sleeping Francine and sheds a tear.

Katchoo comes upon Freddy while he’s wrestling with a drunk floozie on the floor. Katchoo whistles for Debbie to come in. Debbie is a mountain of muscle with a mohawk, a cigar, and a “Girl Happy” t-shirt. Katchoo suggests that Debbie take the “sweet tart” for a walk. Freddy picks up the phone to call 9-11, but Katchoo cuts that short with a drawn pistol. Freddy tries to explain what happened with Francine, but Katchoo doesn’t believe him. She tells him to take off his pants. When he stalls, she says get them off or Debbie will do it for him. He says he has friends in high places who will “fix her”. She retorts that Francine is in a coma, can he fix that? Freddy didn’t know that, but Katchoo doesn’t believe that either. A stray shot from her gun is what finally convinces him to strip. Katchoo has an electric carving knife. Freddy freaks out and tries to run, but Debbie throws him to the floor and ties him up good. Freddy offers her money, his car, anything. Katchoo says she only wants one thing from him, but not to worry, she’ll hand it right back in a second.

Katchoo comes home, checks Francine, and thanks David for sitting with Francine all night by giving him a kiss on his cheek. She tells him Freddy won’t be jumping any woman for a long time.

Freddy hangs by his hands in the display window at Macy’s, naked, his face done up like Bozo the clown. A crowd of laughing women have gathered around. There’s a magnifying glass set up right in front of his unit, and he’s wearing a sign that says, “Hi, my name is Ready Freddie! Won’t you take me home with you?”

1-3

This morning Katchoo destroys her alarm clock by dashing it against the wall. She goes to check on Francine, but can’t find her in bed. She’s in the kitchen chowing down on volume01issue03anything she can find. She really wants liver. She still has amnesia. Katchoo answers the door bell and its the cops, who read a long list of charges filed by Freddy. When they haul her away, Francine’s memory returns. Freddy tells her Katchoo tried to kill him, and Francine can’t believe it.

Detective Walsh, homicide, interrogates Katchoo down at the station. He says she’s there on felony charges, and he mentions that she looks familiar. She didn’t put any prior arrests on her paperwork, and she’s reluctant to answer any questions. Detective Walsh is forced to look it up on the computer. He finds that the FBI has a lock on her file, so he can’t even access it. Meanwhile, in her cell, the jailkeeper tries to get cute with her, she’s one third of his weight, but she gets him on the floor with a nose-lock that threatens to rip his face off. Only the return of Detective Walsh saves him. David Qin visits her in jail to comfort her.

Freddy’s former secretary Margie helps Francine sneak into his office as revenge for firing her. Margie knows about some shady dealings of his, and she gets on his computer in a back room to obtain proof. Francine hears someone coming. It’s Freddy! She goes out into his main office to confront him. To play for time, she lifts up her shirt to flash some tit. Freddy has a baby powder fetish, and she’s wearing baby powder. Margie has the disk and slips out of the office, seen by Francine. She straddles Freddy and starts to make out, but then goes, “But first, if you don’t drop all the charges against Katchoo, I’m going to give your Berger Foods file to the DA!” It spoils the whole moment. Freddy agrees to release Katchoo immediately.

Later at home, Francine and Katchoo and David reflect on their friendship over wine and a spaghetti dinner, together with Margie. The 106-issue epic love story that is Strangers in Paradise has only just begun.

STRANGERS IN PARADISE 2-1

For two months Katchoo has been missing, with not a word where she went. For five weeks Darcy Parker has put a detective to watch Francine and David’s every move until ICO003921Katchoo shows up. She finally arrives at the airport on a flight from Canada. Francine has let her bangs grow too long and gained a lot of weight.

Flashback: Katchoo is a top shelf hooker. She’s riding in a limosine with a woman named Emma as they travel to the next customer, but we guesss she’s really thinking about Francine and she’s crying. Later we learn she is actually worried about Emma.

Flashforward: Katchoo, David, and Francine are in a diner, and Francine has eaten everything on her plate. Katchoo gets her to admit none of her clothes fit anymore. Katchoo says she’s known her since seventh grade, and when she eats like this it means she’s unhappy. The three play a game of musical trivia for a while, then Katchoo hurries up to leave. Francine whispers to David that something’s wrong.

When they get home, Katchoo is upset that Francine didn’t water her plant, and it’s dying. She says, “I’m so sick and tired of everything around me dying!”. Katchoo storms off to bed. Francine tells David she doesn’t know what that meant, but she intends to find out.

Late at night Katchoo comes out to the piano and plays a piece of sheet music written by Emma just for Katchoo called “I Dream of You”. Katchoo’s eyes well with tears, and she says, “Oh Emma.”

2-2

Katchoo dreams she’s a character in a Disney cartoon like Red Riding Hood, walking in the woods with a basket of flowers. She’s being chased by an anthropomorphized alarm clock and seeks sanctuary in a tree with some cute chipmunks. The animals smell strangers-in-paradise-2something dead, and they realize it’s Katchoo. They want her out of the tree now. The alarm clock goes, “Dead girl dead girl dead girl…”. The chipmunks stomp on her fingers and she falls into a black abyss. Then she wakes up and throws her real alarm clock in the toilet.

She goes downstairs and intercepts Francine eating a midnight snack consisting of a tub of ice cream and a whole bottle of chocolate syrup. They have a serious talk about what’s bothering Francine, and it has to do with how Katchoo just disappeared for two months without saying a word. Francine thought they were close friends who would never do such a thing.

Darcy Parker checks in with her detective, who is parked in a van outside Katchoo’s house. He reports that Katchoo is still inside. Darcy mentions in a menacing tone that the detective has already lost Katchoo one time, and a second time would be intolerable. To make her point, she tosses her drink over her bodyguard’s (Bambi’s) shoulder. Bambi draws a pistol and shoots the glass dead-on. This seems to get the full undivided attention of the detective, Mr. Digman.

David calls Katchoo and asks her to come down to a certain art gallery. When she arrives, she sees all her own paintings on display. David saw a chance and took the liberty of putting them on display when Katchoo was missing. This is her big break, something she’s been waiting for, but she cries and runs outside into a park, followed by David. He tells her Francine is upset because Katchoo won’t say what’s wrong. Katchoo says she can’t because it would break her heart, and she tells David her secret:

Katchoo told Francine she quit high school to live with her aunt. In truth, she became an alcoholic living on the streets of LA, doing anything to survive, because home was a mother on Prozac and a father who raped her when she was fifteen. Then Katchoo met Emma, who took her in and cleaned her up. Emma was a prostitute, and for a while so was Katchoo. When Emma went back to Canada, Katchoo moved in with Francine.

Katchoo went to Canada to be with Emma for a while, because Emma is dying. She has AIDS.

2-3

Late one rainy night Katchoo sits awake remembering Emma, and the advice she gave before Katchoo took on her first customer as a call girl. “Ah come on, Honey,” Emma says when she finishes. “It’s not like it’s going to kill you!” Sad memory.

Katchoo goes to her ICO003923drawer and pulls out a t-shirt with an image of a bagel on it. She remembers Emma feeding her bagels and telling her to “put some meat on that scrawny butt of yours.” Happy memory.

David stumbles in when Katchoo is partly undressed, then chastely averts his eyes and waits outside. By coincidence, he has brought her some cream cheese…and bagels. Katchoo is in such a good mood David feels ready to tell Katchoo his secret: He’s falling in love with her. Katchoo gets very angry suddenly, and slaps him silly. She doesn’t know what to do with that revelation, and she asks David if he remembered when she said she didn’t like men.

David tells her he understands that she feels that way after being raped by her stepfather and being a hooker. She sets him straight on that. Katchoo wasn’t a hooker, she was a call girl. She only had two customers who paid her to be companions, and sometimes much more. And Katchoo charged them a fortune for it. David says he knows a lot of guys with girlfriends like that. Katchoo replies that her customers weren’t “guys” they were women. But she admits she doesn’t know what she feels for David, he confuses her.

David tells her it means a lot just to be able to stand near her and share something of her life. This sincerity is picked up by Katchoo, and she kisses him. Francine witnesses this.

Telephone call for Katchoo, it’s the hospice in Canada. Emma has taken a sudden turn for the worst. Katchoo starts packing her bags to leave, over the objections of Francine who begs Katchoo to finally tell her what’s going on. No time. David says, “Please let me help.” Katchoo touches his face and says, “You already have.” Then she leaves.

Mr. Digman the detective calls Darcy Parker while he’s chasing Katchoo’s SUV in the rain. He tells her she’s making a break for it, but he’s on her like glue. At the last second, Katchoo takes a right turn for the airport, while Digman keeps going straight.

At St. Mary’s Hospice, Katchoo shares Emma’s last few hours on Earth. David and Francine arrive too, but they remain outside in the hall. It’s snowing outside. In Emma’s final minutes of life, Katchoo looks at a picture of her and Emma in Hawaii, when they were so happy. She reminisces about their time there. They were so brown. Emma wrote a song for Katchoo, “Baby June”

…and if your baby let you down at night,

well Baby June would make it up alright,

and I was never ever happier than in the arms

and in the charms of her.

2-4

The detective, Mr Digman, is accosted by Tambi, the twin sister of Darcy’s bodyguard Bambi, in a dark alley. Tambi is about six foot seven with long flowing blonde hair. She says she’s the Tooth Fairy and smashes Digman’s face into the wall to obtain a tooth.ICO003924 Then she grabs him by the nostrils to get his undivided attention. Tambi says Katchoo is a dangerous woman, and since Digman has failed to report her whereabouts for the last week, they were worried for his safety. He says he lost her at the airport. This is not what Tambi wanted to hear. She breaks some bones, and the interview continues.

Francine makes some french toast. At Katchoo’s request, Francine kisses Katchoo with her mouth full of french toast and syrup. Katchoo says her kiss is just as sweet as she thought it would be. Francine interrogates Katchoo about the kiss she saw her give David, and Katchoo feigns ignorance at first. Then she says it was just a reward for David saying something nice, it didn’t mean nothing, she kisses her cat too.

Francine’s mother drops by unannounced, with uncle Maury in tow. He’s had too much to drink on the plane, and he keeps dropping hints that he needs another drink. Momma doesn’t like “Tina” very much (that’s what she calls Katina Choovanski, aka Katchoo), and asks if she’s still dating girls. Momma and uncle Maury then proceed to embarrass the heck out of Francine as only relatives can, but Katchoo grins and bears it all with unworldly patience.

Darcy Parker arrives in town. The owner of the Florence Hotel tells her the penthouse suite is ready, but they were unable to locate a bottle of 1812 Chateau d’Yquem, but they found an 1811 Napolean Grand Cognac and had it flown in that afternoon. “Not for me you didn’t,” she says. “God I hate this town.”

Tambi is waiting in the adjoining room with Mr. Digman tied in a chair, looking quite the worse for wear. Darcy greets Tambi warmly, then says, “Well, Mr. Digman, I ask you to do a simple job…”

“Parker?” he interrupts her.

“Mrs. Parker to you, dead man! Mrs. Darcy Parker.”

2-5

Katchoo has another troubled night, with one nightmare nested within another about Emma and Francine. She calls David to talk about her dreams. He is glad she is reaching out again. He thought she was cutting him out of her life.volume02issue05

Darcy’s female butler Samantha informs her that Mr. Digman’s vital signs are dropping after his “meeting” with Tambi, and if he does not receive medical care he will die. Darcy says she’s made her point and Digman may leave. And she says give Tambi a raise.

Francine is caught in a rainstorm when she goes to the grocery store. She’s dripping wet as she walks the aisles. She grabs a box of cereal, opens it right there and starts munching. Suddenly she bumps into Freddy Femurs. He has a blonde girl named Casey with him with a perfect tan, perfect body, and perfect boobs. She’s an aerobics instructor. Freddy announces they’re going to be married in Hawaii standing naked under a waterfall, which Casey thinks is the most romantic thing she ever heard. Francine is “happy” for them both. Casey offers her services to help Francine lose the extra weight, then they move along, leaving poor chubby Francine standing there, crying in a puddle of rainwater and cereal.

Katchoo is working in her studio. Francine comes home wearing a mini-dress and looking so good that Katchoo’s ovaries nearly drop on the floor. Katchoo says she is so gorgeous she could eat her with a spoon. Francine tells her that Freddy Femurs is engaged to be married. Katchoo is pissed that Francine has been in a funk for the last year over Freddy, and she’s only now pulling out of it because Freddy is unavailable. “That’s sick!” But being totally neurotic is part of what makes Francine who she is, and Katchoo loves her for it.

Detective Walsh goes to the hospital to see Wayne Digman. He has a blown kidney and other damage. His face looks like someone hooked his nose and tried to peel it off. This isn’t the first time it happened to him. Katchoo did the same thing to him a year ago when Digman tried to get cute with her in the jail cell. Detective Walsh tells his lieutenant to get a warrant and arrest Katina Choovanski on suspicion of felonious assault. Walsh looks again at what bad shape Digman is, and says get a second warrant just in case, for murder one.

Finally Darcy Parker has her report on Katchoo. They lost her in Hawaii because she bribed one of Darcy’s own porters to take her to a dumpster hidden in a trash bag, and then come back later to drive her to the airport. Katchoo got the money to bribe the porter from a Mr. Chalmers who gave her a large sum to dine in his room. The porter was terminated, and Darcy vows to repay Mr. Chalmers later. In the meantime she wants to know everything about the girl. Katchoo’s roommate. Francine.

2-6

Francine’s turn to dream. She and Katchoo and David are little kids drawn in a simple ICO003926_1style, like “Peanuts” characters. Katchoo calls David a doo doo head and wants him to go away. Francine gets upset and says she likes David. She likes him a lot. She loves David, as a matter of fact. She wakes up confused about whether she loves David or not. But one thing she’s certain of, she doesn’t want to get in between Katchoo and David.

On the refrigerator Katchoo has left a note for Francine to join David and her at the mall. But on the way out the door, Francine is intercepted by the police, who have a warrant to search her house. They’re looking for Katchoo, of course. Francine doesn’t know where she went. When they ask if she left a note, Francine lies and says no. They make Francine aware of Katchoo’s past felonies, and that there’s an FBI file on her as thick as a phone book which mentions prostitution, drugs, embezzlement you name it. Francine doesn’t believe them.

Darcy’s butler Samantha tells Darcy that the police have an all-points bulletin out on Katchoo, who is currently at the mall. She also says Tambi is on her. Darcy doesn’t want to lose Katchoo to the police after all the effort she has taken so far. She gives orders for Tambi to pick her up. And she wants Katchoo in one piece.

Now here’s the interesting part. Samantha, and Tambi, it seems, are double-dealers. Over the phone Samantha tells Tambi to move in on Katchoo, and to do whatever it takes to keep Darcy Parker from talking to her.

Katchoo is picking out clothes with David tagging along. She sees Tambi moving in, and excuses herself to go to a fitting room to try on a dress. Tambi follows her to the back of the store and looks under the stall doors. She says, “Hey Cinderella. Tick Tock. I told you it was just a matter of time.” No answer. She bashes in the door, but the stall is somehow empty.

2-7

David reconstructs for Francine the events leading up to Katchoo’s disappearance. He gets to the part where Katchoo wanted to try on a dress in the fitting room, and Francine’s ICO003927_1alarm bells go off. She takes David into her room and shows him Katchoo’s closet. No dresses there. Has he ever seen Katchoo wear a dress, she asks? No.

They get into an argument because David is asking Francine questions that she feels David would know better, since Katchoo seems to confide in him more. David complains that he wants to fit in, but there’s no room. Francine spells it out for him: Katchoo is gay. David isn’t so sure, but he knows why she’s not interested in men right now. It’s because Katchoo is in love with Francine, he tells her. And this throws Francine for a loop. David decides its time to tell Francine everything about Katchoo, and Emma…and him.

Speaking of throwing things, Darcy throws a flower pot because Samantha and Tambi lost Katchoo. Darcy wants her because she’s got $850,000 of her money. And there’s another problem. Wayne Digman survived surgery and he might soon be talking to the police. Darcy goes crazy and pushes Samantha’s head into a mirror. She threatens to pin it all on her and leave her to rot in jail if she doesn’t take care of their Katchoo problem and their Digman problem right away. Then she has an idea. “Bring the girlfriend to me. That will flush Baby June out.”

Digman can barely speak. He fingers Darcy Parker for Detective Walsh and says her file is on his desk downtown. Walsh dispatches a policeman to retrieve it. They watch a tall muscular nurse come up to tend to Digman and leave. In the hallway Walsh and his lieutenant Reeves talk about the nurse, put two and two together, and realize she’s the assailant. By the time they get back to Digman’s room he is dead with a sudden cardiac arrest, and the “nurse” is gone.

Katchoo almost succumbs to the bottle sitting in her hotel room. She remembers her AA meetings, and overcomes the temptation to drink. She asks God not to let Francine hate her, and then makes a call. During the conversation, Francine says that David told her everything. She loves Katchoo and doesn’t care if she was a prostitute who went by the name Baby June. Katchoo freaks out. She says she never told David her nickname. There is no way he could know...unless David is one of them!

Francine says a limosine just pulled up in front of the house. Katchoo keeps screaming at Francine they are killers. David approaches Francine. Katchoo screams at her to run!

2-8

Katchoo is still on the phone, but Francine is not. She has been replaced by Samantha, who recognizes “that hoarse little voice anywhere”. She reminds Katchoo the deal was she 51w0jqCqnkL._SY445_disappeared forever, and they wouldn’t kill her. Yet here she is. Katchoo just wants to talk to Francine to know she’s alright. Samantha says Wayne Digman didn’t appreciate being thrown off the police force after Katchoo pressed charges for sexual assault in the jail cell. Digman had access to Katchoo’s records, and now Darcy knows everything.

Samantha lays out Katchoo’s choices. Either she agrees to meet with Darcy, or she gets to listen to Francine’s brains being blown all over the room. David is no help, he’s being held by Bambi. Katchoo breaks, and says she’ll do anything they want, but don’t hurt Francine.

Detective Walsh goes over the Darcy Parker file in his office. She’s 36, and married to an 80 year old billionaire. Walsh finds a blurb about Senator Frederick Chalmers, under investigation for financial discrepancies in fundraising for the Republican Party. He was found dead last week handcuffed to a bed, with polaroids all over the place. But four years ago he was found unconcious at a party in the Parker residence, officially of “exhaustion”. The FBI discovered he was having sex with two prostitutes at the time. When he passed out, the prostitutes are alleged to have removed 12 cashier checks of RNC “clean money” worth a total of $850,000 from his wallet and disappeared. And the file goes on to say Darcy gave the name of one of the prostitutes as Katina Choovanski.

Who, coincidentally, is trying to get through on the phone to Walsh with information about Darcy. Walsh takes the call.

Francine sits in a chair in Darcy’s penthouse suite, with her hands tied behind her back while the mountain of womanflesh named Bambi reads a magazine. Francine keeps trying to rattle Bambi, but nothing works until she says, “You dye your hair, don’t you?” This finally earns her an icy look.

Then Darcy arrives, saying to Francine, “So you’re Katina’s flavor of the month.” Francine tells Darcy she is in big trouble for kidnapping her, and this earns her a slap. Darcy asks if Katina ever mentioned the money she stole from her. Francine says she wouldn’t steal from anyone, she doesn’t even care about money. Darcy says, “Not anymore she doesn’t.” Francine won’t rat on Katchoo no matter how much Darcy tries to scare her, and Darcy is quite the psychopath. Finally she says she likes Francine’s loyalty.

Katchoo is admitted into the room. When she passes by, Bambi says, “No matter what goes down here tonight, your ass is mine.” Katchoo isn’t rattled, she just tells Bambi to get in line.

Katchoo sees that Francine is bleeding from the mouth, but otherwise alright. Katchoo tells Darcy she didn’t take the money. When Darcy asks who did, Katchoo makes eye contact with Samantha but says, “I don’t know.”

Darcy asks if Katina knew she had a brother. She produces David, and says, “I believe you two know each other.” Katchoo is shocked. David sheepishly tries to explain, but Katchoo’s shock turns to anger because he was lying all along. “You bastard!”

Darcy tells her not to be so hard on David, she would be dead now if not for him. David lived with her for months and saw no sign of the money. David is family, so Darcy believes him. Darcy asks if Emma took the money. Katchoo tells her Emma is dead. Darcy whispers to her now. “You want to go live happily ever after with your girlfriend? I’ll let you go, I promise. Who took the money?”

Katchoo turns her head to make eye contact with Samantha again. Darcy follows her glance.

Samantha realizes she’s been fingered. To Darcy, it all makes sense. “You tell me those girls took off with my money, but four years later I find them broke or dead, and I find you making deposits into several Swiss bank accounts!” Samantha reaches for the gun in her waistband while she stammers that there’s been some mistake. Darcy screams, “There’s a four year old Swiss bank account with $850,000 in it, and it’s in your name! Explain that, Samantha!”

She puts a gun to David’s head and tells Darcy to back off or she’ll blow his head off. Katchoo is wired for sound. Detective Walsh, who is listening in a car outside, orders everyone to move in.

Darcy antagonizes Samantha, causing her to aim the gun at Darcy in her rage. The police bust down the door and tell her to freeze. She turns and takes some shots at them, suicide by cop. Walsh puts a round right through her head.

Bambi only cares about taking Katchoo out. She yells, “Cinderella!” and fires one shot. Francine can only sit in the chair as Katchoo goes down. The police fire at Bambi and take her down as well.

Walsh scoops Katchoo up and carries her downstairs to a squad car, with Francine in tow. They rush to St. Lukes, ETA four minutes.

Katchoo says she feels so cold. Francine tells her to hang on, “Don’t leave me, I love you, I love you…” Two minutes to the hospital. Katchoo hears, “Hang on Chewie, we’re almost there.”

Only Emma called her Chewie. Katchoo searches Francine’s eyes. “Emma?” Her eyes well with tears. “Oh Emmie…”. Then she falls silent and her eyes stare off into infinity.

2-9

ICO003929_1Katchoo sees Emma in a place that looks like Hawaii, and asks if this is heaven. “Sort of. You can see it from here,” Emma replies. Katchoo doesn’t want to go back. Emma tells “Chewie” she must go back, her whole life is in front of her. It’s a gift from God. “I’ll be here when you come back,” she promises. She turns in her hospital bed and sees Francine there waiting for her. Katchoo takes her hand, and Francine sheds quiet tears of happiness.

Katchoo has made a rapid recovery from her bullet wound. Detective Walsh stops by, says anyone brave enough to walk in there with a wire he considers a partner, Samantha Weis was pronounced dead at the scene. Bambi Baker is recovering a couple floors above them, when she’s ready she will be indicted for the murder of Wayne Digman. Darcy Parker herself is rich enough to wiggle out of any trouble she might be in. Katchoo mentions that Bambi has a twin sister Tambi, and she thought she saw her recently, but Walsh says Tambi has been in California with alibis and witnesses.

Walsh gives Katchoo her FBI file, he had a buddy pull her file out and purge her from the computer. Katchoo is free and clear, but Walsh says he thinks Katchoo has more than a gunshot wound to recover from. He wishes her luck.

Freddy runs into a pal who once dated Francine. He talks about what a wild girl she was, and how great the sex was. This gets Freddy thinking about her again, and in fact this turns into an obsession. He starts leaving messages on Francine’s machine, but Francine rejects this emphatically. She walks away saying “No! No! No!” to herself with each step.

Francine brings Katchoo’s clothes to the hospital and is ready to take her home. She says the state is paying for the operation, it was arranged by Detective Walsh. Then David pokes his head in the room too. There is ice in Katchoo’s glare, as well as Francine’s glare, and David can feel it. He says he’s going back to New York and wanted to make sure they were okay. He has a small gift, but Katchoo doesn’t take it. He leaves it on the bed. He’s sorry how things worked out, and he sees that he hurt both of them.

Katchoo says “Tell your sister to give you a raise. You did a great job. You had me fooled.” David replies that he doesn’t work for Darcy, he’s just an art student who came to Houston because Darcy asked him to do a favor. He doesn’t care what’s going on between her and Darcy, and he doesn’t care about the money, he lost the best friend he ever had and no amount of money is worth that. Then he leaves.

Katchoo opens the gift. It’s a picture of the same house where Katchoo lived with Emma in Hawaii. Darcy gave it to David in return for staying with Katchoo and Francine, and now he has given it to Katchoo. Francine asks Katchoo if she wants to recuperate in Hawaii. Katchoo says it’s a great idea but she needs to stop in Zurich first. Francine realizes that Katchoo had the money all along and put it in Samantha’s name to frame her. Katchoo says Samantha was embezzling millions of dollars of Darcy’s money, and it was only a matter of time until the storm hit, so she hid her own money in the eye of the hurricane.

Francine wonders aloud what will happen if the mob finds out. Katchoo tells her to relax, it’s a dead account, nobody knows about it and nobody cares what two girls from Houston do. They ride away in a taxi, watched by the statuesque figure of Tambi Baker.

2-10

ICO003930_1Two weeks after being shot in the liver and miraculously surviving it, Katchoo returns home from the hospital with Francine, who left the heater going. She takes off her sweater, saying, “I’m hot!” Damn straight, mutters Katchoo contentedly. But Freddy has left 43 messages on the answering machine. Katchoo gets so mad she pulls some of her stitches. She swears she will kill Freddy if he comes near Francine. On a side note, their landlord is evicting them because they haven’t paid the rent for three months.

Casey is wearing some naughty underwear and tries to get Freddy to come to bed. He doesn’t want anything to do with her, because he’s thinking about no one but Francine these days. He leaves another message. Francine hears it but she won’t pick up.

Next day in the video store Francine gets goosed by none other than Margie McCoy. When it comes out that Francine is being evicted, Margie offers her small garage apartment for free, just so it won’t be vacant. Margie can’t think of anyone better to occupy it. She says Francine and Katchoo make the cutest couple. She says she wishes she had the courage to come out of the closet like Francine. She says “I guess dating Freddy would turn any woman gay.”

When she gets home Katchoo is on the phone to David. He says he loves her, and Katchoo says she doesn’t care. She is shedding tears of remorse even as she says it. She tells Francine she thinks she loves David.

The phone rings again. Francine picks it up. It’s Freddy. Francine hurls language at him that would make a sailor blush and hangs up. Francine screams, “No more phone calls! No more men! They’re ruining our lives!” Katchoo has her sit on the floor and gives her a beer. Francine reveals that Margie called her and Katchoo a “couple” and it was probably the happiest moment of her life.

Now we are getting somewhere! Katchoo says, “Would you hate it if I kissed you?” Francine says she would hate it if she didn’t. They draw close together. The doorbell rings! Katchoo runs to answer it, saying, “I don’t care who you are or what you want, you are dead! Dead! Dead!” But it’s David. He wants to come in to talk about “us”. Katchoo says there’s no “us” and there never was any “us”.

David persists, until Katchoo gets so riled up she lays him out flat on his back with a roundhouse uppercut. This is witnessed by the neighbor gal, who gives a play-by-play to her husband. The husband is uninterested until his wife mentions that Katchoo is standing in the rain in her underwear and you can see right through them. But he never gets there, he is in such a hurry he slips and hits his head on the coffee table and ends up on the floor covered with Cheetos.

David gets back up covered with mud and declares his undying love to Katchoo again, which earns him a slap. “I love you Katina Choovanski, and you’re never going to be that out of me.” He says if that’s how they want to spend their time together so be it, at least it will be her fists that beat him. This finally breaks Katchoo. She’s so sorry for hurting David. They embrace.

Once again Francine sees the whole thing and feels cut out. She goes back into the empty house for a while, then returns to the window to watch David and Katchoo in the rain.

2-11

volume02issue11Freddy goes to the house of his buddy who once dated Francine, the one who still has her bikini and some sexy pictures. The lie Freddy is using is that he’s back with Francine and she wants that stuff back. Chuck has his own girlfriend Rachel there, and he doesn’t want her to know he still has that stuff, so he runs off mysteriously. While Chuck is looking for the goods, Freddy asks her how long she has known Chuck. “Long enough for him to know better than to keep any secrets from me.” She pulls up her shirt and flashes Freddy her boobs. “There, now we have a secret from him.”

When Freddy gets in the car he pulls out Francine’s bikini bottom and sniffs it like the disgusting dog he is. Then he gets to the main event, a spectacular picture of our Rubenesque heroine Francine in all her glory, wearing that bikini on a sunny beach. Now Freddy is good to go.

David wakes up in bed to the smell of coffee. “K-K-Katchoo?” he stammers. “Who were you expecting to wake up to, K-K-Katy?” she replies. Men are all the same, she mutters. Give them the time of their life, and they immediately forget your name…

Poor Francine walks all alone to work, but Freddy finally catches up to her. He wants to talk. He loves her. Oh, so that’s why he wants to marry Casey the buttless wonder, she replies. He tells her he has been playing racquetball with her boss and he called in for her, telling them she’s having a family emergency. That will give them time to talk.

In the elevator he hits the stop button between floors. He confesses that life has lost all meaning for him since he broke up. What’s the use of having a townhouse and a Porsche and a downtown club membership if he has nobody to share it with? And he doesn’t even care about sex anymore. Freddy wants Francine to admit the same thing has been happening to her. She’s let herself go to hell, her hair sucks, she’s put on weight, she’s working a job she hates and she lives with a lesbian pit bull.

Francine says leave Katchoo out of this.

Freddy says he wishes he could leave Katchoo out of this, but it’s like she’s joined to Francine at the hip or something. Freddy explores that angle for a bit, and then concludes that Francine is gay. That explains why she wouldn’t have sex with a real man like him, she couldn’t handle it. Which means Chuck must have been lying to him about Francine the lean mean sex machine when she’s really just the singing nun.

Francine says things with Chuck were different. Freddy says no joke. Freddy says “The thing is, you actually fucked both of us, but he’s the only one who got laid!”

Francine slaps him. He almost hits her back, but he restrains himself. He says he’s disappointed in her. He thought she was special. He drops an e-ticket on the floor that he says Francine won’t be needing after all. It’s a hop from Houston to Honolulu. After Freddy leaves, Francine picks it up and reads it, so deep in thought she blocks the door to the elevator for someone who needs to get on.

2-12

ICO003932_1

David remembers a party at his sister Darcy’s house. He wasn’t wearing glasses then. Darcy tells Katchoo she wants her to meet somebody. Katchoo is drunk. Darcy turns her to face David. She says, “Hello Somebody. Well lookit you, aren’ you som’thin cute.” Then Darcy points her at Frederick Chalmers and tells her to join Emma, because that’s the Senator he was telling her about. As she walks away David declares her to be the most beautiful woman he ever met, and his future wife.

Darcy says that would be a neat trick because Katina is already involved with somebody. When David asks who, Darcy says, “Me.”

David follow Emma, Katchoo and the Senator upstairs and watches from a distance. Emma strips the Senator’s clothes off, but leaves his pants around his ankles. Katchoo makes him trip until he’s on all fours. Emma stands on his ass, flattens him to the floor, and douses him with champagne as Katchoo breaks out laughing. Here’s the good part: With the Senator howling up a storm, Emma pulls him into the room by his balls. They shut the door. You can imagine the look on David’s face.

Later Katchoo tells Darcy she’s going to drive Emma home and get some Taco Bell for her and Darcy on the way back. Emma says she gave the Senator what he wanted, he won’t be able to walk for a week. Katchoo says she got three rolls of pictures, they’re priceless. “But come to think of it, they do have a price, don’t they?”

After Katchoo leaves the fit hits the shan. Samantha reports that the Senator is having some sort of seizure and foaming at the mouth. Darcy sends her up to get him out of there before the police show up and find him all screwed up. Too late, an FBI agent shows up, he says he has reason to believe there’s a medical emergency on the premise involving a US Senator. Darcy is furious that they are bugging her house, and threatens to go to her attorneys. This doesn’t deter the agent, he’d love to get her in a court room.

Darcy complains to Samantha that the Senator is holding her “clean money” from the RNC. Samantha says he already searched him and it’s gone. David reports the Ferrari Katchoo was driving is abandoned with the keys locked inside it. The FBI agent demands to know why a United States Senator is handcuffed naked to a ceiling fan in Darcy’s bedroom.

Back to the present, Katchoo hands David a note from Francine. As far as he can tell, it’s a nice enough note that mentions that there’s lasagna in the freezer and that Francine is happy David and Katchoo worked things out. But to Katchoo the note is a cry of despair. She tells him yesterday Francine was reaching out to her in one of those moments you wait a whole lifetime for, and then David showed up to ruin it.

Katchoo goes on about what a great person David is, “my kind of person” she says, but he’s not Francine. No matter how confusing life gets, Francine is “home” to Katchoo. She says she loves Francine with all her heart, and she could never feel that way about anyone, man or woman. David understands. Katchoo says besides Francine, David is the best friend she has and this means the world to David. They reach an agreement, and there’s a moment of mirth as they both poke fun at how maudlin David can be sometimes. But then Francine calls. She’s on a plane to Hawaii. She just called to say goodbye.

2-13

ICO003933_1

David and Katchoo are following Francine to Hawaii. On the plane, Katchoo says she wants to start painting nudes, with David as the model. He whines and moans but he can’t get out of it.

Freddy and Casey are walking on the beach at night in Lahaina. Freddy thinks he smells baby powder and wants to find out what it is. Casey gets mad, and says it better not be a hangup from an old girlfriend who wore baby powder. He comes very close to catching Francine hiding among the coconut trees. Casey says it must be all the flowers he smelled. Francine doesn’t even know what she’s doing there, and convinces herself she is crazy.

David and Katchoo are checking in to a hotel. They want separate rooms, but there’s only one left. Katchoo spies Francine throwing a rock into the ocean, then rushes out to the beach after her. Francine is nowhere to be found. Worse: The hotel room only has one bed.

David can’t help glancing at Katchoo when she takes off her bra. He sees a lily tattoo on her breast. It’s exactly the same tattoo Darcy has on her ankle. He remembers asking Darcy about it one day. Darcy says it’s her brand, she puts it on everything she owns. It’s on the legs of some of the girls there. Darcy even says she had it put on her lover’s breast, right over her heart.

David objected that Darcy could not own people. She says don’t be stupid, people want to belong, they are sheep, and the secret to life is to be a wolf. When David asks what happens when people don’t want to belong anymore, Darcy says she turns the matter over to Tambi. “I haven’t lost one yet.”

David thinks Katchoo is asleep. He says, quietly, “Someday you’re going to need me, Katina, and when you do, I will be there, I promise.”

Freddy and Casey are naked in a pool under a waterfall, and their teeth chatter as they freeze. The justice of the peace can’t read the vows fast enough for them. Casey keeps slipping and her legs are numb. Freddy tells the man to cut to the chase. “Do you, Mr. Pushy Man, take little Miss Tiny Titties here to be your God forsaken wife?”

Just then, Freddy spots Francine hiding behind a tree. He crawls out of the water and runs after Francine. She says, “Forget I was ever here.” But she did it, she came, that means she still loves Freddy. “No I don’t, but I had to see that I don’t belong here anymore. Goodbye Freddy!” He begs her not to do this to him. “I’m not doing anything to you, I’m doing this for me. Go back to your lovely wife.”

Freddy won’t give up. He says she’s not walking away from him, that she’ll never get rid of him. Just then a hand hooks his nose and slams his head on the ground. Then with the heel of that same hand, his nose is broken. “Touch her again and I’ll kill you,” Katchoo tells him. “Talk to her and I’ll kill you. If you even look at her, I’ll kill you. Remember this hand Freddy. If you ever come back into our lives, this is the hand that will kill you.”

Francine tries to apologize to Katchoo, but Katchoo says she doesn’t have to say a word. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Anywhere you want, baby.”

And then there’s David. Katchoo says she can’t get rid of him, so they might as well keep him.

Only ninety more issues to go.

3-1

ICO003945_1It’s Francine’s turn to dream. She’s a mild-mannered secretary by day, buxom super heroine by night with bee-stung lips. Katchoo is a super-villainess with an eye patch, a cigar, and a fully-automatic pistol with a thirty-round clip. Katchoo pauses in her villainy long enough to kiss Francine’s hand. Then they are separated. Francine calls out, “Don’t leave me!”

When she wakes up, her cute little daughter with pigtails wants to crawl in bed with her. Francine looks years older. She’s living back at her mother’s house now. She goes out to meet her husband for lunch. He’s late, but Francine runs into Casey at the restaurant. Casey mentions Katchoo, but Francine says she hasn’t seen her for ten years. Casey mentions that she just saw Katchoo in the lobby. Francine excuses herself and runs out to meet her. Nothing.

Flashback: Francine remembers the time when she lived with Katchoo in a tiny garage apartment, eating mushroom pizzas and doing Elvis impersonations. Katchoo hates it when Francine does her “Fat man” voice (this is an important cue weeks later, when Detective Walsh brings Katchoo a mushroom pizza from “The Fat Man” to let her know Francine is safe).

The nosy neighbor lady watches Katchoo and Francine galavant around and worries that they are two wild girls who will bring boys over and do drugs. She can’t get her husband to get up and take a look even when she says one of the girls is half naked on her porch singing at the top of her lungs. After his wife goes to bed, he does get up and take a look-see. “Well, whadya know, maybe it will be a good year after all.”

3-2

volume03issue02In her tiny apartment Francine gets ready for a job interview. Katchoo says why bother, the rent’s free, she’s going to start painting again, and they can live off that until they can get the money in Switzerland. But Francine has her heart set on it.

Katchoo suggests she lies to them in the interview, since that’s what advertising agencies do anyway. Lie. Katchoo sends her on her way. “What a ditz,” she mutters. “But she’s so cute!”

The landlady flirts with Katchoo after Francine leaves.

Then David shows up and invites Katchoo to lunch. She’d rather paint David nude. He thought she forgot all about that. She has to talk him into doing it again. “We’re artists!” she says. “We leave these magic images in our wake like the footprints of God! What is a gallery but a collection of fires set by the stars who fell to Earth!” At the end, Katchoo tells him this is her way of getting closer to David. He can either accept it or reject it, no conditions. He says yes.

At the agency Francine witnesses a high-pressure brainstorming session as the employees hash out ideas for an account. Then the boss is ready to do the interview. Francine tries to remember all the things Katchoo told her to say, but she completely muffs her lines. Somehow Francine gets the job anyway because the boss is so stressed out she can’t even focus on reality and see that Francine has zero experience.

In the elevator after the interview Francine is on the left side of a bookcase a man is moving. On the right side a pair of men come in talking trash about the new girl who was just hired. They really grind Francine into the dust, because they have no clue she is there. The man moving the bookcase tries to be sympathetic to her, but she leaves in tears, wishing she could get even and make men crawl.

On the street on the way home Francine passes a gym. An athletic woman intimidates a man in the street who is staring at her and tells him to get out of her face. Francine decides to join that gym.

3-3

volume03issue03Francine comes home and sees the male nude painting Katchoo has started. Looks like David, she says. It is David, Katchoo replies. Francine wonders what he will say if he knew Katchoo was omitting his clothes. Katchoo replies that David posed nude for the painting. And this turns into a fight. Francine is jealous. Katchoo says she’d rather paint Francine nude. Francine says she’ll think about it, once again too timid to jump in with both feet, but at least she’s off the subject of David.

Francine goes to the gym and is assigned her own trainer, Monica, a girl with huge arms and no butt. Monica takes her measurements and weighs Francine. She’s 169 lbs, so she needs some work. When Monica puts her on the machines, Francine starts thinking of killing Monica, because she knows too much. Not even Katchoo knows her true measurements.

By the time Francine was finished, she was too tired to walk the three blocks to work, so she thought she’d flag down a bus. The next thing she knows, a bus splashes mud all over her nice work clothes.

Back at the apartment David sees the partly-finished nude and he says it’s obscene. This really pisses Katchoo off. He’s got a lot of nerve to walk into her house and say her art is obscene. Does he think it’s wrong for an artist to paint her boyfriend? She compares David to his sister Darcy Parker, always playing head games. She presses this button some more, and it hits a nerve, he blows up. “SHUT UP! I’M NOT LIKE THAT! I AM NOT MY SISTER!”

Katchoo asks what he’s doing there. He says he just wants to share her life. She swings her arms around the tiny apartment. “This is my life now, David. I do nothing. I keep my mouth shut and try to forget about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, who I did it with.” There’s a sudden silence, and she continues. “I paint.”

David says he knows the feeling that makes her want to hide for the rest of her life. She asks him how he got through it. He answers, “Jesus Christ.”

Francine’s friend at work steals some dry clean clothes from the condom commercial they are shooting down the hall. It’s the best she can do. Francine is grateful, but she dreads spending her first day at work dressed like that (later when Katchoo sees it she says she looks like a hooker in a school crossing, “I don’t know whether to jump you or wave you across”.) Francine steels herself and opens the door. “Oh my god,” the director says…”THAT’S IT! That’s the look we need! People, THIS is the new Command Purpose Condoms Girl!”

3-4

volume03issue04Francine is being pressured to pose for a commercial for condoms, but she doesn’t want to do it. Her new boss says they’ve spent three months trying to land this account, and she doesn’t care if Francine is asked to quack like a duck, she better do it.

At the apartment, David tells Katchoo if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, he would be in a hole six feet under. Katchoo asks why he didn’t tell her he was a Christian before. Would it have made a difference? “Did it make a difference in your life, David?” Yes, he replies. “Thanks for sharing.”

Katchoo then launches into a series of questions about her past. David knows the answers to all of them, even the ones Katchoo is certain she never told David. “I always know you weren’t telling me everything, David, but now I realize you’re not telling me anything, and you won’t even share your God with me.” She congratulates him on finding a new way to abuse her that she never imagined existed.

“Katchoo, wait…!” he objects. But she won’t let him call her that. Only her friends call her that. She slams the door, and David must go home in the rain.

By the time Francine comes home from work, Katchoo is rip-roaring drunk. Francine is upset because Katchoo knows she’s not supposed to be drinking. When Francine goes to make coffee, she finds the nude painting of David smashed up in the pantry. She asks if Katchoo and David had a fight. Katchoo pulls Francine close for a kiss…

Cut to Chuck having sex with Rachel. He finds it “earth shattering”, but Rachel is bored out of her mind. She talks about how her company hired Francine Peters (his old girlfriend) to be the new spokesperson for Command Purpose Condoms. She titilates him with a description of what she was wearing, but Chuck is uncomfortable talking about Francine to her. Rachel assures him she doesn’t care what they do as long as it’s not boring. She tosses her long dark hair back and we see the Lily tattoo over her breast. Rachel is a Parker Girl.

Back at the apartment Francine has locked herself in a closet rather than have sex with Katchoo. She won’t open the door because she’s too embarrassed. Why? Katchoo asks. We didn’t do anything. “No, but I was going to! I wanted to!”

3-5

volume03issue05Francine spent the whole night in the closet (literally) rather than allow her attraction to Katchoo to flourish. When she finally comes out it is to get ready to go to work. Katchoo says she doesn’t have to be ashamed, there is nothing Francine could do with Katchoo that she hasn’t wished for. Francine says she wasn’t prepared for how it made her feel: like somebody else. Katchoo tells her, “I know I’m spending my life with the right person. Are you?” Francine starts to cry and goes to work.

Rachel grabs Francine and takes her to a presentation. Along the way Rachel talks about her boyfriend Chuck Janson. Wow, what a coincidence, Francine thinks. Yeah right. Rachel says she’s meeting Chuck for lunch after the presentation, why don’t Francine come along? She doesn’t want to do it, but Rachel is persistent.

Katchoo goes to David’s apartment. He’s already moved out. She tells the landlord she needs to find a family heirloom, so he lets her into the vacant apartment to look. The only thing Katchoo finds is a crude drawing David made of her and David, holding hands, naked, standing on top of Francine’s head. It makes Katchoo break out laughing for a second, then she starts to cry.

At the presentation, things aren’t going so well, until Rachel asks Francine to hold the chart under her breasts. Rachel squeezes the back of Francine’s blouse, causing her boobs to stand out as she talks about growth, expansion, the coming year, busting through restraints, stripping the competition bare, etc. The meeting ends in a standing ovation, they’ve not only won the account, some of the guys want to give her the whole damn company. When Francine and Rachel leave, Francine is mad as hell. Rachel tells her she just showed her the secret to life, the universe, and everything, and what she does with that power is up to her.

At lunch Rachel interrogates Francine about her life and hears about Katchoo (she pretends not to know her). She talks about Brad while Brad is sitting right there and she is very frank about their sexuality, which makes Francine uncomfortable. The conversation drifts back to Katchoo, and Rachel gets more and more creepy until she finally asks, “Is she a dyke?” Francine gets totally upset and leaves. Rachel mutters to herself, “Fascinating, she really draws the line at Katchoo.”

Francine doesn’t wait for a cab, she runs all the way home, with Rachel’s words ringing in her ear, “Immigrant’s daughter…questionable character….what will people think…is she a dyke…?” Francine’s mind overrides this with one repeating thought: SHE’S MY BEST FRIEND. She throws open the door and takes Katchoo into her arms.

3-6

volume03issue06While Rachel is taking a shower, Chuck looks in her purse and finds a 9mm semi-auto. While he plays around with it, Rachel, dripping wet, comes from behind takes it from him, drops out the clip, and ejects one round that was in the chamber, the one that would have killed him if he kept playing with the gun. He says he was just looking for her keys. “Chuck,” she growls menacingly. “Next time. Ask.”

At the apartment, the newfound closeness between Francine and Katchoo is spoiled a bit when Francine says something that is misunderstood, and Katchoo’s temper boils over. She takes a mighty swing and knocks their whole dinner setup to the floor. “I dream of you, and you have nightmares of me,” she says, No, that’s not true, how could you even think that? C’mon, it’s me, Francine, I love you.

They go out to eat instead. Francine is in awe of Katchoo’s willpower, but she knows that it’s so strong because she has to use it so much. The conversation drifts to David. Katchoo says he creeped her out by knowing little things about her that she never told him, while remaining a complete mystery to her. Francine says maybe he was just more interested in Katchoo than himself. Half the women in America are looking for someone like David. Then Francine mentions that it was obvious that David was abused in his childhood, but of course Katchoo knew that already, didn’t she? Katchoo turns pale. She missed the signs. Now she begins to cry, because of what she did to David, killing their relationship. She has to find him.

Meanwhile, the head of one of the five crime families is having a sit-down with Darcy Parker. He says he covered for her on that embarrassing Senator Chalmers thing, but now she’s got this new deal with a Presidential candidate going, and he’s concerned about the way Darcy yanks her girls in and out of these setups. Someone is going to make the connection if she keeps it up. She’s pissed off that Sal is telling her how to run her business. Sal says she’s already under federal investigation. If she screws up this DC operation, there’s nowhere she can hide.

At Chuck’s house Rachel takes a call from Darcy. Rachel’s real name is Veronica. Darcy tells her she needs her back in Washington by morning.

Katchoo is going to Los Angeles to find David. What she doesn’t tell Francine is that David is probably in the heart of his sister Darcy Parker’s lair. Francine sees her off at the airport with tears.

Rachel/Veronica is packing her stuff, and Chuck wants to know why she’s leaving. She’s stone cold silent. He gets more and more adamant. Finally she flips him onto the ground and gets him in the trademark Parker Girl nose hook hold where she nearly peels his face off. She says, “Someday you will lay beside your snoring wife and try to remember every inch of me, and I’ll always hate you because you can.” She releases him, and says he has no idea how lucky he is. Then she leaves.

3-7

volume03issue07Now it’s Francine’s turn to wake up and destroy her alarm clock. At work she gets the news that “Rachel” is gone. Her coworkers say it’s funny, because she came in the same way. Their parent company PACKARD-YERR sent Rachel there four months ago with orders to make her fit in.

On the streets of LA “Ralphie” and “Norton” walk into a lesbian bar, oblivious to what it is. Ralphie starts hitting on Katchoo, who is drinking shots and building a pyramid of the shot glasses when she’s finished with each one. Katchoo passes out and falls on the floor under the bar. Ralphie picks Katchoo up, but no one will help him because she’s a “Parker Girl” which means “hands off”. Just then Tambi walks in, a giant of a woman. She takes Katchoo off Ralphie’s hands and slings her unconscious over her shoulder. A femme exclaims, “How romantic!” as Tambi walks out of the bar and loads Katchoo into a limo.

The next morning Katchoo (who doesn’t remember Tambi scooping her up) checks into a dive of a hotel in LA and calls Francine, who tells her that Rachel quit her job just the other day, and now she’s on television, with a new name “Beverly Pace” and she’s engaged to be married to the Republican candidate for President after the “untimely” death of his wife Barbara in an car accident last year.

Francine mentions that her parent company PACKARD-YERR pulled Rachel off the job. This makes Katchoo swear like a sailor. When Francine asks what’s going on, Katchoo tells her that it’s an anagram for something else. But she has to go, she’ll call Francine later tonight.

Francine grabs a piece of paper and works it out. Packard-Yerr. Card Yarder. Perrd Racka. Dark Pace. Darcy Parker.

3-8

volume03issue08Darcy Parker is the most wicked woman in America. Once, long ago, Katchoo was Darcy Parker’s lover and closest confidant. But nobody walks away from Darcy and lives happily ever after. At first Katchoo thought Darcy’s brother David was a DUC (Deep Underground Capability) asset. But Francine made her think maybe David was for real. And he might be an emotional cripple. If that is true, Katchoo can’t turn her back on him. Katchoo is there in Darcy’s mansion to find out, to either save David or kill him.

Katchoo was involved with the security modifications to Darcy’s place, and she deliberately left some blind spots which she is now utilizing. She overhears David asking Darcy to give her blessing on his relationship with Katchoo. Darcy can’t do that because she’s not finished with Katchoo yet. Darcy says he can’t love her because he doesn’t know her. “We’ve all made mistakes,” he replies. No, Katina didn’t make mistakes, Darcy countered. That’s what made her so brilliant. She’s a cold-blooded murdering lesbian who specializes in things he can’t even imagine. David offers to do what his sister wants and join her organization if only she lets Katchoo go free. Darcy refuses.

Katchoo can’t hear what David is saying. She needs to get closer. But she is cut off by Tambi wielding a big stick. Lights out.

Francine comes over to see if she can find Rachel. Chuck is high on painkillers and his nose is bandaged up, and Freddy Femurs is there. Chuck’s mouth starts flapping, and it comes out that they have pictures of Francine on a beach, together with the bikini she wore. Francine freaks out when she finds out Chuck gave them to Freddy. Francine demands them back from Freddy or she’s going to tell Casey every slimy secret he has. She runs through a litany of them, but Freddy is bored. When she gets to the hair plugs, Freddy relents and promises to bring the polaroids to her, And the bikini.

Katchoo wakes up, in Tambi’s words, “43 floors above the spot where you’re going to die.” Tambi brings up the stolen money. Katchoo insists it was planted on her by Samantha the night Emma and her were with Senator Chalmers. Sam was going to double cross Tambi just like she was doing Darcy. Sam used Katchoo as a blind to get the money out of the house, but she didn’t know Katchoo planned to run away with Emma that very night. And she couldn’t return the money because Darcy would kill her anyway.

Tambi still wants the money. Katchoo says she can have it if she has the guts to draw it out. Everybody and their mother is watching the account. “But you’re not very smart, you came back,” Tambi said. For David, Katchoo says. “Then he’s next. And after him, your girlfriend.” Katchoo freaks out and begs Tambi not to hurt Francine, she knows nothing. “Have you been telling me the truth?” Tambi asks, while she dangles Katchoo over the balcony. Yes, every word. “Good, I believe you.” Then she drops Katchoo.

3-9

volume03issue09“Welcome to hell, Katina,” Darcy Parker says. “Remarkable how it looks just like Los Angeles.”

Katchoo has only fallen a few feet to a balcony below. Old gang interrogation trick. “Without me your life is one big fall,” Darcy continues. “Today I caught you. But tomorrow?”

Katchoo says tomorrow she’ll be as far away from Darcy as she can get. Darcy says if she runs, then she can make funeral arrangements for her girlfriend. Everything Darcy has worked for depends on one more job and she needs Katchoo to do it. Darcy reveals that Veronica, one of her DUCs, is Francine’s friend Rachel. That’s how easy it is to get to Francine, if Katchoo doesn’t do this last job.

Francine is freaking out because Katchoo hasn’t called her like she promised. She goes through Katchoo’s stuff and digs out her FBI files even though she promised Katchoo never to look at them. When she gets to the polaroids she is disgusted and drops the file to the floor and cries. Everything Detective Mike Walsh said about her was true after all.

Francine goes to Walsh’s office and reports that Katchoo is missing. Francine also mentions Emma, who died recently of AIDS. Walsh says he’s investigating that as a murder, chemical warfare from Darcy’s people. Francine says she’s got to find Katchoo, and when she finds her, she’s going to tell her she loves her and she wants to spend the rest of her life with her.

David takes a shower, gets dressed, all the while rehearsing how he can make an offer to join Darcy in exchange for letting Katchoo go. Surprise, when he goes downstairs for breakfast, there’s Katchoo at the table with Darcy. “Don’t just stand there, David,” Darcy tells him, “say hello to our little guest!”

3-10

volume03issue10Darcy briefs Katchoo on her job while David sits at breakfast with her. She glares at him and Darcy’s words fade into a dull background roar.

A newspaper reporter named Marshall is called into his editor’s office to answer for his latest story on the “Big Six”, which everyone else on the newspaper thinks is a mythical organization, like the Illuminati. The editor says he won’t publish a word of what Marshall digs up until he can prove the Big Six even exists.

After Marshall leaves, the editor calls Mike Walsh to talk about Beverly Pace. Mike says she’s connected to Darcy Parker. The editor tells him the Parker people murdered his wife, and they threaten to shut down the newspaper next time. He asks for Mike’s help to stop these people before they walk into the White House. Walsh asks, “What makes you think they aren’t already there?”

Now Walsh calls Francine, says he has a lead on Rachel and he’s going to fly out to Los Angeles to investigate. Francine asks if he’s going to look for Katchoo. He says yes, he’s got vacation time coming and he’s taken a personal interest in the case. Francine says she will meet him at the airport to go with him, and she won’t take no for an answer.

As Darcy wraps up her briefing, Katchoo asks what she really wants. “The White House.” Katchoo chuckles. That’s a popularity contest for white male gentiles. “Oh, I don’t want to live there, I just want to control it. Veronica can be the occupant.” Katchoo says even if she makes it and becomes First Lady, she’ll never stay there. Someone will find a loophole in her story and they’ll have Veronica before the Senate, and then behind bars, and finally they will come after Darcy. “Not necessarily. I’ve managed to get two terms out of my current girl, haven’t I?” Katchoo is impressed.

Darcy keeps talking while she aims a pistol at a man who is standing tied up in her room. She doesn’t skip a beat even as she pulls the trigger and kills him. Katchoo drops her wine bottle, but she shows no other sign of fear. Katchoo even manages to show some contempt when Darcy asks about her “trademark” tattoo, which Katchoo considers to be a scar. Darcy says “Let me tell you about the man you are going to fall in love with.” A man? Darcy launches into a litany of praises about him, and Katchoo keeps asking, “A man?”

David listens to everything while sitting on a staircase.

3-11

volume03issue11Katchoo flies to the “job” in New York, so jaded that a ten second free fall when her lear jet hits an air pocket doesn’t even make her blink. Katchoo has tried a hundred times to call Francine but there’s no answer.

She’s greeted at the airport by an Asian Parker girl named Sharon, who takes her to an apartment. First appointment is with Sonia, for a haircut. Sharon says Darcy told her Katchoo has been out of it a while but she used to be the best. Sharon tells Katchoo to trust her.

Salvadore Tuccanni, a huge mafia Don covered with thick body hair, calls Darcy but has trouble getting through. He’s pissed off at the disrespect. Darcy compounds this by putting him on hold just to mess with him. After another fit of rage Sal asks her why the Senate committee on crime is handing out subpoenas like Christmas presents. He reminds her that she said she would have that committee busted up last week.

Darcy urges patience, his way will only make them regroup, her way is permanent. Sal explodes and says he’s taking over Big Six.

“This isn’t 1963, Sal!” she tells him. “You can’t just blow away the men in charge of your public investigation.” Sal gives her until the end of the week, after that he’s not responsible for what happens to her.

In a rage Darcy hurls the phone. David has his bags packed and walks out of the mansion. “You’re not going anywhere!” she yells.

“Try and stop me,” says David.

She fires a gun and nearly hits him. “You’re not leaving me, little brother, not after everything I’ve done for you! I’ve built an empire, and it’s just for you and me. We don’t need anybody.” She draws close to him. “It will be just like when we were kids, remember? We never needed anybody else, we have each other.” She kisses her own brother. David throws her off from him, and this causes the gun to fire again, lodging a round in his arm. For some reason he doesn’t feel it or know it.

David tells Darcy the only thing she loves is watching things die at her feet, because it makes her feel immortal. Everyone around her is paid to be there. Everything she owns will belong to someone else when she dies. David says he has nothing but his faith. Then he walks. Darcy warns her not to go near Katina, or he’ll end up dead.

“I’d rather die with her than live with you.”

Tambi offers to stop him. Darcy says let him go. When he gets outside the estate walls, he looks at his hand, sees it covered in blood, and falls into a swoon.

Francine and Mike Walsh drive the perimeter of the estate just then. They see David. “What’s he got on his hand, a glove?” Francine asks. That’s no glove, Walsh replies. He runs to David, and tells Francine to bring the car.

David wakes up in the hospital with Francine. She tells him he’s been shot and his wrist is broken, but David doesn’t remember getting shot. After Francine assures David that Walsh is a friend, he tells him everything he knows about where Katchoo is and what she’s supposed to do.

Katchoo has been rude to Sonia, and Sharon tries to smooth things over with Sonia after she’s done performing her makeover of Katchoo. “WHAT is your problem?” Sharon screams at Katchoo after Sonia leaves.

Katchoo’s problem is…now she looks like Darcy Parker. She’s wearing a designer dress and makeup and her hair is completely different. Sharon says, “Well, yeah! Didn’t she tell you? That was the whole idea!”

3-12

volume03issue12Chuck is despondent at work, he’s always thinking about Rachel.  But lo and behold, the paper is delivered, and there’s Rachel on the front page, engaged to be married to the Republican front-runner for the White House.

Chuck isn’t totally clueless, he’s a lawyer after all. He remembers Rachel sliding the magazine back into her gun and saying, “You have no idea how lucky you are.” He puts two and two together and calls the FBI.

Katchoo drinks coffee and reads the same paper, making chit chat with Sharon about Darcy’s plans. The door rings, and Sharon gets it. A pizza guy is there, but Sharon says she didn’t order pizza. It’s really Mike Walsh. He says a certain code words which only Francine and Katchoo know…Fat Man. “The Fat Man ordered the pizza, you wouldn’t want to break the Fat Man’s heart would you?” Katchoo comes to the door and says she ordered it. Sharon has to go into the back room to find some cash.

Now Mike Walsh and Katchoo talk quickly and quietly. Katchoo can walk away right now if she wants to. “No, you need to hide Francine.”

“She’s safe.”

“There’s a party at the Lincoln Center tonight. It’s black tie, I’ll leave your name at the door.”

“And a guest,” he adds.

“Francine can’t be left alone.”

“I know.”

Katchoo is supposed to meet a Senator Bram tonight and seduce his wife so the press will be distracted from Henneman. Katchoo tells Walsh that Beverly Pace is a Parker Girl. Walsh is impressed. Darcy intends to shut down the Senate probe and wrap up the White House all in one move.

All Sharon has is a fifty. Mike Walsh takes it and gives it to the real pizza guy, with a thank you. Then Walsh gets in a cab with Francine and says they need to go shopping.

At the party Katchoo is putting the moves on Senator Bran’s wife. Katchoo has been made up to look just like her old girlfriend in college, and Marilyn is intrigued. Mike Walsh interrupts them and takes Katchoo aside. She didn’t recognize him without his thick moustache. “You clean up good, Walsh.”

“So do you, Choovanski. So do you.”

He has someone waiting for her. It’s Francine. And Francine hardly recognizes her. “Katchoo, a dress?! OMIGOD, makeup??!!! You cut your hair!!”

Katchoo slams her hand over Francine’s mouth and pushes her into the men’s room while Mike Walsh stands guard outside and tells a gentleman it’s not a good time to go in there right now. When Katchoo comes out of the men’s room she says, “I’ll be at the bar.”

It’s not very clear what Katchoo did to Francine in there, but Francine staggers out looking like something the cat dragged in, and she even purrs like a cat, and sighs, and she’s very happy and flushed.

Everyone at the party downstairs sees a television report with Senator Henneman’s “fiancee” Beverly Pace being arrested by the FBI after a tip from Charles “Chuck” Janson. The partygoers start asking a lot of questions, and the reporter Marshall Weinstein is there trying to fill in the gaps. He brings up the secret organization called the “Big Six” and says he’s been trying to get enough evidence to print, but he needs a miracle. Katchoo says she knows what the Big Six is, and she wants very much to talk to Marshall. He asks who she is. “Call me Miracle.”

When the paper hits the streets the next morning Sal gets a call from one of the other members of the Big Six. “I see a woman in flames. She needs a fireman.” Sal says he’s got one on it. Been there all along.

The amazon Tambi gives the maid a copy of the newspaper for Darcy to read: PACE A PAWN OF BIG SIX PLOT CLAIMS “MIRACLE” INFORMANT! “Oh God no,” mutters Darcy in a tiny voice.

“You’d be surprised how many people say that in the end,” Tambi says, aiming a pistol right at Darcy. “I always tell them the same thing. God is not with us.” She pulls the trigger and blows Darcy’s brains all over her pillow. Then Tambi puts the gun in Darcy’s dead hand, and takes a polaroid for Sal. “Goodbye Mrs. Parker.”

Sharon packs her things and leaves before the Feds come and raid the apartment. Everything Marshall gathered, including the information from Katchoo, is spilling out on cable news. He swears never to reveal Miracle’s identity. And the news goes on to say Darcy Parker, 42, was found dead of apparent suicide.

At a cemetery David leaves a flower on Darcy’s casket. Only he and the priest were present for the funeral. But Katchoo arrives. She tells him, “You know why I don’t like men? Because I’ve never met one who was faithful…until now.” They embrace and kiss.

“It’s over,” David tells her. “You can go home now.”

“Not without you. There’s just one condition. You have to share.”

3-13

volume03issue13

In which we go back to the day when Francine met Katchoo…

In high school, everyone’s assignment was to write a poem. Young Freddy Femur recites a stupid one about gay people popping up everywhere. The teacher practically has to drag Katchoo’s poem out of her. She stands and addresses the class:

This mask I wear, you gave to me

One winter night beneath the trees;

Its black and blue enshrounds my life,

Surrounds my eyes and blinds my sight.

This mask I wear pretends I’m here

And hides me from the awful fear

That you might find the heart of me

And take that too, beneath the trees.

This mask I wear to hide the pain

It’s all I have to keep me sane,

I just fell down, I’m told to tell.

There are no words to stop this hell.

This mask I pray to God for why

He hates me so to watch me die

A little more with every night

This man comes in and rapes my life.

But little girls grow up, my friend

And learn the wicked ways of men.

And this mask I wear comes off the day

This mask I wear lays on your grave.
The class sits in stunned silence, until Freddy breaks the mood with a stupid joke and makes the class sink into chaos. Katchoo sits like a statue. Later, in the lunch room, Francine Peters walks by with her tray and tells Katchoo, “I thought your poem was incredible.”

In the school auditorium a leather-clad Katchoo smokes and watches Francine rehearse for a play. She watches Francine cower under the verbal abuse of the teacher. Just then a boy in a leather jacket comes close to Katchoo and tries to make a move on her. Katchoo lets him have it in the nose with her elbow and makes her escape. “You’re dead meat! You hear me? You’re DEAD! Dyke!”

At home Francine is pampered by her mother while she does her homework. Mom wants her to get even more involved in school. Francine begs her not to call her principal and pull any strings. But overall Francine has a good relationship with her mother and she’s happy.

After Francine’s mother leaves, Katchoo shows up outside Francine’s window. Francine opens it and lets Katchoo take a look. It’s very nice compared to her house, which is down by the power lines and not even cockroaches can live there. Katchoo says she watched Francine rehearse and calls Miss Beem a pig for yelling at her. Then she kisses Francine’s hand and quotes some romantic lines that come across as a little jokey for Francine, but Katchoo is quite sincere. And Katchoo slips off into the night, banging herself on the Peters’ sprinkler system on the way.

3-14

volume03issue14Francine gets knocked down with a volleyball spiked right into her face. Later in the girls’ locker room Katchoo sees the big red mark on her face. Francine glances at another girl to let Katchoo know who did it. Katchoo avenges Francine sure enough, but the gym coach sees it and makes Katchoo stand in one spot the rest of the day.

Later that night Katchoo passes by Francine’s house and looks in the living room window. Francine is sharing dinner with her brother from college and her parents. A little bit later Katchoo shows up outside Francine’s bedroom window again. The get to talking about family, about school, and Katchoo tells the story of how she got her nickname…when she was born her father said she was no bigger than a sneeze. Katina Choovanski was too big a name for so small a girl.

Katchoo says Francine can call her that now.

For the school play Francine’s toga is too small, and Miss Beem insists she wears another one. The only other one available is too big, but it will have to do. Francine overhears that Katchoo was suspended for putting a cherry bomb in Johnny White’s locker. She concentrates on her small part but of course everything goes wrong. Freddy slips, grabs her toga, and yanks it off as he falls down, exposing Francine to the entire auditorium (this is exactly where we entered Strangers in Paradise in Volume I issue 1).

Francine is so humiliated she hides in bed and cries. How can I ever show my face in school again? “Well you might as well, honey,” her mother says. “They’ve seen everything else!” Whoops, that didn’t come out right. Her mother says some more cheery things like that, and then she finally leaves.

Katchoo taps on the window but Francine is not in the mood for her right now either. “Not now! Go away!” But the taps keep on coming. Francine raises the blinds and takes a look. Katchoo has been beaten to a pulp. Francine pulls Katchoo into her room. She’s really hurt, with swelling, massive bruises and facial lacerations, and Francine wants to run for help. Katchoo just says, “Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave…” and they embrace for the first time in their lives.

3-15

 volume03issue15

Katchoo goes to a food mart, still looking beat up, where she is watched with suspicion by the owner. In a rage Katchoo kicks in a glass display case and starts throwing the stock all over the place. The owner flees in terror after hitting the panic button. The police find Katchoo on the floor inside the ruined store, feeling sorry for herself.

It’s Francine’s birthday. Everyone tries to give her a good time at the pary, but she’s thinking about Katchoo. Francine’s mom and dad have a fight and he ends up going to his office on a Sunday night (or at least that’s what he tells his wife).

Katchoo gets bailed out of jail by her mother. “What do I tell Ace?” she asks. Tell him to stop raping me, replies Katchoo. But her mother refuses to believe it. Katchoo repeats it again and again, he beat the hell out of her and then he raped her. Katchoo’s mother doesn’t want to hear anything negative about Ace. “Get in the car, Katina! We’ll talk about it when we get home!” I don’t have a home, Katchoo answers. She walks away, flipping the bird.

It’s Francine’s first day at school since the play. All the boys in school greet her with a cheer: “Toga! Toga! Toga!” The teacher says, if Miss Peters will kindly keep her clothes on for the duration of the class they can get started. Francine is so embarrased. But Freddy is interested. He tries to get something going between the two of them. In her locker Francine finds a note from Katchoo that says she’s leaving tonight but she wants to see Francine at the practice field before she goes at 6:15pm.

Katchoo tells Francine she wants to go to Columbus Ohio to live with her aunt. Francine says she wishes she could go to a desert island where nobody saw the stupid play. Katchoo says she thinks they are already there. The name of the island is Paradise. Francine gives her some cookies. She’s sad because she finally met her best friend, and then she moves away. Katchoo says she must go, but she promises to come back someday. And then she looks away, never looking back.

And we see Francine many years later looking at this scene through the eyes of memory.

It’s been ten years since Francine last saw Katchoo. She has slipped into a deep depression. She keeps telling her mother, “I wanna go home.” She’s crying all the time and this is upsetting her daughter. Finally her mother breaks out a phone number she’s saved for many years.

Katchoo is a rich artist who lives in a New Mexico adobe house with only a maid for company. She gets a phone call from Marie Peters who tells her something has happened to Francine. She’s so sad and tired all the time, and she drinks and cries herself to sleep every night. Francine says she wants to go home. Marie says, “I think she means you, Katina. I can’t watch my daughter die like this. Whatever happened between you two, let it go. Whatever I said about your relationship, I’m sorry. Please, come back.”

3-16

volume03issue16Now we find out what the hell does Strangers in Paradise have to do with Xena: Warrior Princess anyway…

Katchoo runs through a checklist of cookies, chips, cokes, chocolate, popcorn, and hoagies and Francine yells check after each item. Because every Thursday night they watch Xena. And when they watch Xena, they eat everything in the house. Katchoo is thinking of the two of them dressing as Xena and Gabrielle for Halloween, but Francine is a little tall and she would have to wear a blonde wig. Francine says she had it figured the other way. Katchoo says, “There’s only one Xena in this house and that’s…”

Francine accidentally slams the door in Katchoo’s face and knocks her silly. “Katchoo, are you okay?” I think so, yeah. “‘Cause nap time is OVER!” Francine reaches for the sword she carries sheathed on her back. She’s dressed like Xena. Katchoo is dressed like Gabrielle.

They get in a tussle with two ruffians clad in loincloths who are looming over them. Katchoo knocks one out with her staff. Francine goes “swoosh” with her sword, and the string holding up her ruffian’s loincloth is cut. “Hey genius…missing something?” Huh? “I guess when the other guys are raping and pillaging, you’re just pillaging.”

She turns him into a eunuch and turns to see how Katchoo’s doing with her guy. She’s going wackity wak wak with her staff like a crazed maniac. Eventually Francine gets her to realize she’s killing her date, and Katchoo stops. “My date. He’s not the enemy, he’s my DATE. I knew that.”

Another ruffian screams he’s found them in the tower. “Time to fly,” Francine yells, grabbing Katchoo by her Bilious Green Sports Bra. Katchoo wants to stand and fight. “Wrong! You can’t bluff an arrow, Chewie!”

Francine jumps out of the castle and pulls Katchoo with her. “Francie, there is a lake or something down here, right?” Yeah. “Is it coming up anytime soon?” Probably. “You have no idea what’s down here, do you?” Not a clue.

Francine the Princess Warrior and Katchoo her trusty sidekick splash into the moat. Katchoo comes to the surface and tries to say, “I’m not a sidekick” but after going under a few times she says, “I’m not a swimmer.” Francine drags her out of the water like a drowned rat.

David sits on a hill trying to write poetry, but he can’t rhyme squat. “So much for David, the greatest poet who never was! I don’t have any inspiration! Nothing ever happens around here.”

Katchoo wants to get a sword in the next village. Francine says she’s deadly enough with that stick of hers. David pokes his head out from behind a tree and greets them both. Katchoo says she’s got a stick and she’s not afraid to use it. “You’re a little feisty for a sidekick, don’t you think?” Katchoo demands to know what makes him think she’s the sidekick. “Well, it’s kind of obvious, I mean she has a sword and you get the stick!”

David looks at Katchoo and tells her she’s really beautiful when she gets angry. He says he hears birds singing. Katchoo can’t hear a thing. Francine sighs and says she hears the birds all the time. Then she covers her mouth. “I said that out loud didn’t I? I hate when I do that.”

The mighty Amazon Tambi stands over them and says, “Maybe I can help you with that problem…permanently!”

Francine draws her sword. “Stand back, I’ll handle this. I don’t know who you are lady, but you’re gonna have to move, you’re in my light.”

Tambi claps her hands together and catches Francine’s sword blow in an iron grip. The vibration of the sword makes Francine ring like a bell. “Whooooooow that smarts! Ouch ouch ouch!”

Tambi goes “Next.” Katchoo tries to hit her with her little stick. Tambi picks Katchoo up off her feet with the stick and says, “Well what do we have here, a little version of me!”

“Let go, you frickken Lurch!”

“Never! I got you now! You’re MINE!”

David taps her shoulder and says, “Excuse me.” Then he plants a big kiss on Tambi. “Ta da!” Tambi goes nooo! Noooo! and stumbles backwards until she falls off a cliff to her death.

Not bad, kid, Katchoo tells him. What made you think of that? “Anyone who loves fighting that much is afraid of something else!”

But Francine wants to know what happened in the tower when she got knocked in the head. “It was the strangest thing, I dreamed we lived in the future! And you were there, Francine, and you too kid, and we all lived together in a little red castle we called ‘Rent House’…”

3-18

volume03issue18

At a two-bit art school the instructor is impressed with Katchoo and he wants to put her stuff on exhibit. He needs the exposure and so does she. Katchoo says she would rather die. She only comes there for the models. The instructor says no one has to know she came up through his “system”, he can just be her private sponsor. She relents.

When Katchoo announces she will be featured at the exhibit, Francine wants to go shopping. She doesn’t want people to think they live in a rent house by the railroad tracks. Katchoo says, “We do live in a rent house by the railroad tracks.”

David suggests she put her male nude paintings on display. Katchoo says she’s looking for something softer and closer to her heart. Just then she lets her eyes rest on a half-naked Francine. “Oh no! I know that look! No way!” But Katchoo begs her. “You are my model, you are already in everything I do, everything I dream. So when do we stop hiding from each other? When do we get to live as if we belong here?”

That was years ago. Francine wakes up, still depressed. She looks out the window at the falling leaves, Then she stumbles downstairs. She hears people talking in the kitchen. She takes a look. Her daughter sees her. “MOMMY LOOK! I’M MAKING BISCUITS WITH AUNT KATCHOO!”

Francine staggers into a seat, overjoyed to see her. Francine’s mother takes the girl upstairs to get dressed so Francine and Katchoo can be alone for a bit.

Katchoo says, “You have a beautiful daughter, you have a beautiful home, a beautiful man, a beautiful life. So what’s wrong with this picture?” All Francine can do is cry. They embrace, and Katchoo promises not to leave her.

3-19

volume03issue19

Katchoo notes that Francine looks too old for her age, nothing can hide the lines of heartbreak on her face. Her eyes are dull and tired.

Katchoo says she lives about 45 minutes north of Santa Fe, in the mountains. Francine is surprised she’s been so close all this time. She thought Katchoo lived in Hawaii. She did, until about four years ago.

Francine says she thought she saw Katchoo a few days ago, in a hotel gazebo. It was Katchoo. Why didn’t Francine say hello? She wanted to, but she got held up, and then Katchoo was gone. Katchoo says it was probably when she was checking out. She was in town to make funeral arrangements for her mother, who recently died.

Francine asks how she got so lucky to see Katchoo in her kitchen after ten years. Katchoo says Francine’s mother called her. So not only one state away, but just a phone call away. And what about David? Katchoo reveals she was married to David, they both lived in a house in Maui. It was the happiest time of her life.

“What happened?”

Katchoo almost cries. She takes a deep breath. Control. Control. Francine wanted an answer.

Everything had been so perfect once, the three of them against the world. Then one day it was gone, and Katchoo knew the day it happened:

Flashback: Francine models for Katchoo’s paintings. When she finally sees the result, Francine doesn’t recognize herself because Katchoo’s paintings are beautiful. Katchoo says that’s because Francine herself is beautiful. What does Francine see when she looks in the mirror? “Not her.” Francine grows offended when Katchoo suggests Francine has a problem knowing who she is. She locks herself in a room. Katchoo says if she doesn’t open the door she will kick it down. Francine doesn’t open the door. Katchoo kicks the door into a million splinters.

3-20

volume03issue20The door to Francine’s room lays in shards. Katchoo says, “Talk to me or I’ll kick this whole frikkin’ house down!” Francine is astonished that Katchoo even could destroy the door like that. Katchoo asks why Francine is locking her out. Francine says its because she’s not Katchoo’s best friend, she’s her best project.

Katchoo says she hates it when Francine twists her words. Francine says, “Oh, I guess that must be another one of my PROBLEMS!” Katchoo tries to calm things down, and she says all she meant was Francine is filled with self-doubt, and this is why she can’t keep a boyfriend and all that.

Francine says what this is really about is Katchoo wants to be lovers, and Francine won’t do it. It’s wrong, she wasn’t brought up that way, and it would kill her mother.

Katchoo destroys more of the house. “What are you going to do, Francine, run off everybody who tries to get close to you?”

Francine says, “Don’t give me that pious act, you are so gay and I know it, I saw the pictures!”

She wasn’t supposed to look at the pictures. She promised Katchoo she wouldn’t look at the pictures. Francine says she had every right, because Katchoo ran off twice and never told here where she was going or why. Francine says, “I always knew you weren’t telling me everything, but now I realize you never told me anything!”

That shuts Katchoo the hell up, because she once told the same thing to David, word for word.

David comes home, with the news that he made an A in Art History. Francine goes to her bedroom and slams the door. Katchoo goes to her room and slams the door. David’s room is destroyed and there’s a chair thrown through the plate glass window.

Katchoo calls Francine from across the house with her cell phone. She wants to stop the stupid fight. Francine won’t talk to her and hangs up. This starts another round of destruction, so Francine covers her ears with her pillow and tries to sleep.

3-21

volume03issue21

At Katchoo’s exhibition David tries to get her to drink Pepsi, but she has already had three stiff drinks, not so much that she is nervous, but because she is in a big fight with Francine. Katchoo goes off in search of a bar.

The influential Caroline Hobbs of the New Hobbs Foundation Museum just misses Katchoo. David says it’s not a good time to meet Katchoo because she is a little tense right now. Caroline gives David her card, which knocks his socks off, because he’s an art student and he knows how important she is. Caroline asks David to tell Katchoo she is trying to meet her.

Freddy and Casey show up looking for Katchoo, but they see only David. “I didn’t come here to talk to the house boy,” Freddy says, “where’s the artiste? Where’s Choovanski?” David demonstrates infinite patience as he steers them to Katchoo.

At the bar Katchoo yells out for some whiskey. A British man says he likes a woman who likes whiskey. She says, “So do I.” Freddy shows up and Katchoo makes fun of his goatee, which is so original…not.

David tells Casey the girls haven’t talked to each other for two weeks. Casey starts to come on to David. She asks, “How does one very good looking guy manage to live with two women and keep them both happy?” But David is distracted by screaming. It sounds like Francine. He runs to find out why.

David, Freddy, and Casey find Francine in a separate gallery staring at three huge, sensual paintings of herself. Casey goes, “Francine is it really you?” Freddy goes, “It’s like a dream, a dream come true!” David goes, “Oh man, this is trouble!” Francine goes, “I’ll kill her!”

Katchoo shows up. Francine points right at her and says, “How could you do this to me?” Katchoo is happy that Francine is at least talking to her now. The paintings are just idealized images of what Katchoo knows best. And she knows Francine best. Francine doesn’t want to hear the art talk. She can’t stand that everyone will see her nude, just like at the school play.

“Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t give you the right, Katina! I have the ability to post those pictures of you and Darcy on the Internet, do you think I should do it?” David asks, “Katchoo and my sister? What pictures?” Then Francine launches into David, and blames him for all this. Francine is throwing blame around like wild shotgun blasts.

By now a whole crowd has shown up to see what the commotion is about. Francine complains she’s not a person anymore, she’s just another work of art for everyone to stare at. Then she walks away, and tells Katchoo to just stay away from her and leave her alone. Katchoo tells the curator to take the paintings down, but he is reluctant to do so because they are the best ones in the whole exhibit.

Caroline Hobbs finally meets with Katchoo alone. She says she has the ways and means to bring the whole art world to Katchoo’s feet, to make art history, and all she has to do is say yes.

David takes Katchoo home. Francine has already packed, she’s going home to mother in Tennessee. David tries to stop her. “You don’t want to do this! It’s crazy!” But Francine remains adamant. He takes her bags out to the car. Francine pushes her way past Katchoo, who stands in the doorway.

At four in the morning David is still up, watching the static on TV and thinking about things. He gets up, finds the patio door open, and goes outside. Katchoo is sitting there in the dark and the pouring rain. “Do you think God hates me?” No. “Then why doesn’t he kill me?” David scoops her up and tells her he loves her, over and over, with each step as he takes her back into the house.

3-22

volume03issue22

Francine is back at her mother’s house. She sleeps right past lunch, dreaming that Bill Clinton is honoring Katchoo with an award. He’s got his arm on her shoulder. Hillary blurts, “Both hands where I can see them!” Bill says he and Hill have always been big supporters of the arts, right Hill? She blurts, “Don’t talk to me.” He’s about to unveil a painting that will hang in Time’s Square for everyone to look at.

Katchoo grabs the microphone and says first she wants to thank her model who has appeared in over 200 of her other nationally commissioned paintings. Katchoo says you already know everything about her. She has no secrets. Ladies and gentlemen, my model, your model, America’s favorite tabloid topic for three years now, FRANCINE PETERS!

She jerks awake, looks around, sees her luggage there unpacked, then goes back to sleep.

Katchoo is sick from the trauma of losing Francine and from sitting in the rain for hours. David helps her vomit, then helps her back into bed and runs to the pharmacy to get some medicine. Katchoo whispers, “Don’t ever call me baby again or I’ll kick your ass….honey’s okay.” David smiles.

Aunt Libby and Uncle Maury are visiting when Francine finally wakes up and comes out. All she wants is coffee, then she goes out on the porch. Mother comes out with the coffee and asks if Francine wants to talk about it. “No.” Okay, they have all the time in the world. The sun goes down.

Casey sits down to eat and read the paper. Finally she looks up and sees one of Katchoo’s giant paintings of Francine hanging in the living room. “FREDDIE!!!”

Caroline Hobbs calls. Katchoo agrees to let her gain exposure to her art, but she can’t have the Francine series. Ever.

While Katchoo is talking to Caroline, Casey shows up and tells David her husband has hung one of the Francine paintings in their living room. “How can I compete with her great big huge fleshy overweight body parts hanging over my head? It’s so gross!”

David says the paintings were not for sale, but Freddy convinced one of the volunteers they were and gave him $500 bucks (probably the same one Katchoo beat up). Casey asks David if he ever lived with someone who was obsessed with somebody else. He breaks the fourth wall and looks directly at the reader. Casey cries because Freddy doesn’t love her, and she wants David to hold her. She tackles him, and they end up horizontal on the couch.

Casey starts to make out with David, saying, “Come on, you’ve been sending me all the signals!” David goes what signals? He was just being nice.

Tap tap on the shoulder. There’s Katchoo with a big smile. “Hi there! How the hell are ya?”

3-23

volume03issue23

Francine goes fishing and thinks about the big ripples in her life made by Katchoo. She’s got the privacy and the the peace and quiet she thinks she wanted, but now she has to think about whether it’s what she wanted or not.

Katchoo suggests that Casey and David should get a room. Casey says she was just talking, and David fell, “…and your hand was stuck in his pants,” Katchoo finishes. “Yeah, I’ve heard it before. Off!”

Casey complains about being married to Freddy, and she says she’d give anything to be gay like Katchoo. Would Katchoo like to make her gay like she did Francine? Katchoo grabs her and asks who put all these crazy ideas in her head? Freddy. Aha. Katchoo says everything that man has told her from the beginning has been a lie, and the reason she and David don’t say anything is because they feel sorry for her. And if she ever repeats that crap about Francine Katchoo will pop her implants. And she tells Casey to quit throwing herself at people, she’s just spreading a bad marriage around like a virus.

Tambi is in a meeting with the American Yakuza lawyer. He says David has inherited a full position in the Big Six, but Tambi predicts he will pass. He says David ran one of the biggest gangs in Los Angeles before he was seventeen. Tambi says he’s a born again Christian now, hence a loser. Tambi says its her job David never gets a chance to be corrupted by power.

David gets a phone call that leaves him stunned. He was left Darcy’s entire estate, which equals $1.4 billion dollars. Casey begs him to take her. David needs a drink of water. He’s upset that she had all that money and never helped all these starving people and hurricane victims. Katchoo says no one can save the world, not even a billionaire. David says she didn’t even try. David says when he dies he won’t have any money left in the bank, only a lot of healthy children and rebuilt schools and health care funding for people who had none. Katchoo says she’s never kissed a rich socialist before. And she kisses him.

They go to bed. Casey goes into their room and takes her clothes off, and tries to jump in bed with both of them. Just then Francine announces she’s home. They have to hide Casey quick! The only place to hide her is in the bathroom, with David.

Katchoo pretends to be asleep. Casey and David make a noise, and Katchoo pretends to wake up. “FRANCINE! What are you doing here?”

Francine tries to stammer out what she worked out by herself in Tennessee. She’s afraid of Katchoo’s paintings because they are proof Katchoo sees someone Francine doesn’t know yet. Katchoo says, “Francie, if only you could see through my eyes!”

3-24

volume03issue24

Casey puts her clothes back on while Katchoo and David make lunch. David casually mentions that he’s a billionaire now. Francine goes, A billionaire?! Katchoo spells it out for her “One. Billion. Dollars.” David offers Francine a sandwich. Casey shows up and tries to apologize. Katchoo says no reason to, they’ve all been guilty of trying to hard sometimes. Casey says she’s probably the only one who took off all her clothes doing it. Katchoo says, “I think you’ll probably fit right in with this group.” Casey smiles.

David says he won’t get the money until he goes to New York to sign some papers. Casey starts crying because they’re cool, they’re rich, they have each other, and she has to go home to Freddy. Then she remembers why she came over in the first place: Freddy has Katchoo’s paintings of Francine. Katchoo and Francine yell, in unison, “HE WHAT?!” Katchoo starts looking for her keys. David says, “I’ll drive.” Casey can tell Katchoo is really mad, and so is Francine.

Freddy comes home and yells for Casey to make his dinner. He gets a beer from the fridge, downs half of it, and belches a good one. Then he says to the painting, “To the one who got away…you can run, but you can’t hide!” Then he sits down to watch the painting of Francine as though it were a football game.

Katchoo invades his home. “Where are you, Maggot?!” He protects the painting with his body and insists it belongs to him, he paid for it and he has a receipt. “I wasn’t selling! Katchoo gives him one chance to stand aside. He won’t do it. So she starts wrapping her fist in tape. “Everything’s gotta be the hard way with you, doesn’t it?”

Freddy says that thing in Hawaii was a lucky shot. “Bring it on, tinkerbell.” Roundhouse left and Freddy goes flying into his china cabinet. Francine says she could have killed him. “Didn’t I? Well prop him up again.”

When he comes to, Casey slaps him and screams that she’s sick and tired of his obsession with Francine. Francine goes, “Where are my polaroids, you pervert? And where’s my bikini?” Meanwhile David and Katchoo sneak out with the paintings.

Freddy sees Casey driving backwards out of the driveway in his Porsche and runs after her. Everyone ends up at the police station to sort it out. The police let Katchoo, David, and Francine go, but Freddy and Casey have to answer for damages to the neighbor’s trees. Katchoo is grateful for the head start. She and David will fly to New York first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile, in New York, Tambi works out with weights. Her pistol lies on a shelf. She has a picture of Darcy, Katchoo, and Samantha on the wall. Darcy and Samantha are X’ed out, leaving only Katchoo.

3-26

volume03issue26

(SiP 3-25 was a “summer at the beach” episode that flashed back to the time right after Darcy was killed in 3-12. It was a break from the ongoing storyline so it will not be summarized here. We now rejoin 3-26 already in progress…)

Francine dreams its her wedding day and she goes out on a ledge high over the street to “think”. She slips and hangs upside-down in her wedding gown with her undies showing. Her mother and father insist she goes through with the nuptuals. Katchoo is in the window just below the ledge and offers to save her. Francine slips, her father loses her grip, and Katchoo can’t grab her. Francine wakes up on the floor after having fallen out of bed.

Katchoo tells her to get her butt in gear if she wants to go to New York. Francine says it doesn’t feel right, so go without her. Katchoo shrugs and goes, “Okay.”

So Francine follows her and goes, “That’s it? Aren’t you interested in WHY it doesn’t feel right?” Nope, Katchoo is tired of this swing going back and forth. She says, stay home, or go to New York, but for once in her life make a frikken decision and stand by it!

Francine asks, what about David? “I can count the people who love me on one hand, Francine, I’m not going to push them away with the other.” Francine says this guy is the brother of her worst enemy, the woman who tried to kill her. None of this should work for her. Katchoo replies, “I see someone who loves me and who will stand by me no matter what, who doesn’t try to change me. I’ve waited for you, but there is a limit!”

Francine forces Katchoo to declare her love for David. And she declares she loves Francine with all her heart, but Francine can’t tell Katchoo what she wants from her. But David does know what he wants, and he’s been waiting for her. So they leave.

Francine is in the empty house crying. Casey calls and says Freddy left her. Francine offers to come over to talk to her and try to make her feel better. She leaves the phone on the bedroom floor.

Something very wrong happens to the plane Katchoo and David are flying. There’s a horrible noise, the service cart goes flying, followed by a baby everyone else who isn’t strapped down. The captain says something is wrong with the hydralics in the tail rudder and they’ll try to land in Nashville.

At Casey’s house Francine says, “The more they love you the more they need. Love makes promises you have to keep.” Casey says she tried to keep her promises. Francine confesses that she didn’t.

Katchoo realizes they’re not going to make it and tries to call Francine, but she’s not home. David says one of the passengers has a broken back. And he says they can call Francine when they reach Nashville. Katchoo says they won’t make it to Nashville, a plane can’t fly without a tail rudder. The captain comes on to the intercom and tells everyone they need to land immediately, so assume crash positions.

David asks if Katchoo has been baptized. She said she was when she was a baby. David says that’s not good enough, she needs to make her confession in Jesus Christ. Katchoo confesses that she loves David, that she loves clouds in summer, she loves the snow falling in moonlight, she loves the ocean, but all she will miss is Francine.

WHAM!

Francine is at Casey’s house, and she wants some aspirin. Casey tells her it’s in the cabinet in the bathroom. When Francine goes to get it, she sees an apparition of Katchoo in the mirror. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be…” Francine turns around, but no one is there. She starts screaming, “NOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOO!”

Casey comes in and says, “Omigod, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!” But Francine just goes on screaming.

3-27

volume03issue27Flight 495 is broken and burning in a corn field. Katchoo somehow survived. Emma appears to her as a ghost, but she doesn’t speak. She leads Katchoo to David, who lies partially inside the plane amid many corpses. Katchoo can’t budge David and appeals to Emma for help. Emmma can’t speak or lift a finger. The plane catches fire, which spurs Katchoo to call up inside herself reserves of superhuman strength. She manages to get David free and carries him over her shoulder. They get some distance away, but the plane explodes, hurling both of them to the ground. Two farmers try to help Katchoo. They tell her they think David is dead. “No, he’s sleeping. He’s just sleeping, see? He’s so tired, don’t wake him.”

Francine is crying, because she has a connection to Katchoo and she knows something happened to her flight. Casey calls the airline, and confirms the plane was to make an emergency landing. Then Casey turns on the television, and it’s covering the crash in all the gory detail.

Francine’s mother gets the news and she’s shocked. Tambi gets the news and she’s pissed. She gets a phone call from Veronica who explains what she’s done. “What I have done, Dear Tambi, is eliminate all our obstacles in one afternoon.” Tambi said she needed them alive, she was to meet Sal Tuccanni and make an offer on Darcy’s share of Big Six. Veronica says, “Tell Sal he can kiss my butt, Blondie, I have Darcy’s share now!” She hangs up.

The plane went down close to where Francine’s mother lives. She went to the hospital, and there she sees Katchoo on a gurney. She holds Katchoo and tells her to let it all out, she’s with family now.

Tambi helicopters out to see Sal. His own henchmen are too afraid to check the Amazon if she’s packing heat. Tambi tells Sal the kids were on the plane that went down yesterday. She says she got a phone call from Veronica Pace, and she claimed she arranged the plane crash. She wants to reorganize the Parker Girls and she thought David and Katchoo were in the way.

Sal is pissed off. He says, “I told you not to help that woman with her legal problems. That Parker witch almost took the entire company down with her, now her flunky’s screwin’ with me and causin a federal investigation?” He tells Tambi to find out more about the crash, see if any of the kids are still alive. They’re both named in the will, even if one of them is alive he can deal with them legally. And Veronica? He doesn’t want to hear any more about Veronica. In fact he wants to eliminate all twelve surviving Parker girls, except Katchoo, at least until after she signs.

Francine and her mother ask about David. A hospital intern says the survivors were taken to three different hospitals to keep the ER from overflowing. And, he hates to bring this up, but did they check the morgue? And if he’s not there, they can check the FAA’s warehouse where they are collecting body parts and unidentified bodies.

Francine goes in to check Katchoo, who asks what happened to her hair. A big lock of Francine’s hair has turned gray overnight. Katchoo doesn’t want to talk. Francine watches her in the hospital room until she falls asleep.

Tambi shows up. “How can you sleep when everyone around you dies?” Katchoo steals a worried glance at a sleeping Francine. “No, she’s still with us. But for how long?” Katchoo asks what she wants. “You. We’re calling you in. The party’s over, Cinderella.”

Katchoo refuses. “Darcy’s dead, I’m out of it!” Tambi says 144 people died yesterday because of you, are you at peace with that?” Katchoo is confused. What does Tambi mean? “Not everyone in the company is impressed with the miracles she performs.” Katchoo still refuses to go. Tambi warns her that if she doesn’t get away from Francine as soon as possible, she will be taken away permanently.”

Katchoo begs Tambi to kill her now before anyone else gets hurt. “I’m here on business, not pleasure. Get rid of the girl….you’ll be ready to move tomorrow. Good. We have to stop and see David on the way out of town.” Katchoo sits up in shock as Tambi leaves. David?

In the morning Francine suggests places to go to eat. Katchoo goes batshit crazy and deliberately strikes Francine in a rage, actually cracking one of her ribs. Katchoo yells at her to get out of her life. Katchoo is tired of her neurotic crap and she’s sick of looking at her big fat butt all the time. Francine tries to ask what is wrong, but the rib hurts too much. “Get out!” But I love you! “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LIFE AND DON’T COME BACK!!!!”

Francine wails in tears and leaves. But Katchoo is suffering far more pain that Francine, and all of it is self-inflicted. This was the most difficult thing she ever did in her whole life. Katchoo pulls the pillow up to her face and cries for all she’s worth.

3-28

volume03issue28While Tambi signs papers assuming financial responsibility for David, Katchoo visits his bed. He is alive, but he’s on life support with a fractured skull. Katchoo tells him a secret, even though he’s in a coma. She says the day he came up to her in the museum wasn’t the first day they met, she knew who he was all along. She says she met him at the party, but she already knew everything about his past. And she fell in love with him right there. But there was nothing she could do about it then, and there’s nothing she can do about it now.

Tambi tells her it’s time to go. Katchoo tells David, in Japanese, “I love you, Yousaka Takahashi, I always have, I always will.” She kisses his hand. He grips her hand to let her know he was listening. Tambi insists they leave now.

Francine’s cracked rib is bandaged up by her future husband, Dr. Brad Silver. He says, “Tell your boyfriend no vigorous activity for a while.” She says she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she’s not what you would call a real find. He wants to disagree with her over dinner. Francine acts cool toward him, and disappoints her mother. After he leaves, Francine says, “He looks like like Freddy Femur. They all look like Freddy Femur with that stupid copy-cat fashion flunky gay warlock wannabe mini-beard and that matching prison camp castrate me haircut.”

Her mother tells her she’s found David. He’s alive, but they don’t expect him to live through the weekend.

3-29

volume03issue29

On a private plane Tambi tells Katchoo that Veronica and Samantha were plotting to seize the operation from Darcy before Katchoo even came in. Sal Tucciani and the others in the Big Six were never happy with Darcy’s lack of respect and discretion. After some probing, Tambi also finds out, to her amusement, that Katchoo loved Emma.

She goes on to say that Katchoo always had a gift for this line of work, and her influence helped to build the Parker Girls up to be more powerful than anyone thought possible. So Veronica and Samantha set Katchoo up to be blamed for stealing the bribe money from Senator Chalmers. But Emma beat everyone to the punch and took it herself. Katchoo says, “It’s pissing me off you knew all this and didn’t say something.”

Tambi says Katchoo flew to Zurich and opened an account in Samantha’s name, very astute and far-sighted, by the way. By the time everyone caught up with Katchoo and Emma in Hawaii the money was secure, she could say she didn’t know what Tambi was talking about, and Darcy wanted the prodigal daughter to come home. When Katchoo ran to ground in Houston Darcy sent David to find the money and give weekly phone calls.

But who was the starving artist who watches soaps and tries unsuccessfully to seduce her trailer park girlfriend? Could this be the same woman who once ran the world’s most powerful empire from the wings, who traveled the world in designer fashions and knew the global elite on a first name basis?

Tambi comes to the point. The Big Six built their empire on muscle and force, but the new untapped territory is cyberspace. Tambi wants to start a new branch of the company and she wants Katchoo to run it. This is what she was groomed for, and it is her destiny. All she needs is a decision from Katchoo before they land.

Meanwhile Francine stays up all night with David, reading the Bible to him.

3-30

volume03issue30Francine remembers a game of tag football she played in high school. Katchoo, wearing a baseball cap backwards, was the quarterback for her side. There’s enough time for two more plays, and they need to score to win. She tells Francine she really needs to get open, but Francine complains that Freddy keeps holding her. Katchoo tells Marge, “Line up left and fake a slant inside for a couple of steps, then cut back to the outside. I’ll roll left and make like I’m going to run, when Chuck comes back for me, I’ll lob it over him and hit you in the flat, then you run to glory.”

When the play starts, Freddy grabs Francine around the waist. She yells “Holding!” The play goes as Katchoo planned, Marge receives the ball and runs. Chuck takes a flying leap and puts two muddy hands on Marge’s butt. Katchoo says, “Ten yard penalty for sexual assault!” Freddy objects by saying there’s no sexual assault in football. The call stands, so he plans to teach Katchoo a lesson.

Last play of the game, Katchoo says if Freddy is covering Francine again, they’ll try to run it in, but if he’s covering Katchoo, she will pass the ball to Francine. She hasn’t caught a thing all day, so they won’t expect it. All she has to do is get open.

In the play, Chuck is covering her. Francine grabs Chuck around the neck and plants a big kiss on him. Freddy almost sacks Katchoo, but she throws the ball in his face to lay him out good. The ball comes right back to her. Francine pushes a lovestruck Chuck to the ground, then gets up and runs, “I’m open!” Katchoo lobs a pass at her. Francine catches the ball and runs for the touchdown. She’s so happy. The team lifts her up on their shoulders.

(This is the emotional heart of the whole Strangers in Paradise epic)

Francine remembers it was Katchoo who did it all, for her. She points at Katchoo and gives her a big smile as she is carried away by the rest of the team. Katchoo touches her heart and then points right back at Francine. Katchoo gets smaller and smaller as she stays on the field while Francine is carried away. In her mind’s eye, today, Francine still sees the tiny Katchoo on that football field, even as she looks out a hospital window and remembers.

Outside the hospital Francine talks to her mother, finally, about what happened. Katchoo told her she never wanted to see her again. Her mother never liked Katchoo, and says it might be for the best. Francine says Katchoo is more than her best friend. Her mother gets suspicious. What do you mean? “Katchoo is my soulmate! If it wasn’t for her, my life would be a horrible mistake!”

Her mother wants Francine to tell her flat out if they were lovers. Francine sighs and says no, to her mother’s great relief. Her mother says Katchoo never received the love and support she needed at home, and she looks to Francine for that. That’s okay, that’s what friendships are about sometimes. But Francine needs to back up and not get carried away with this thing, its making her miserable.

On a park bench nearby a giant man reads a newspaper.

Francine’s mother tells her to move in with her. Francine realizes she has no friends, no job, and no choice. They get up and walk away. The giant man follows them.

Francine tells her mother to go ahead on up to the hotel room. Then she confronts the big man. “Are you following me? Every time I turn around I see you there watching me!” Yes ma’am, he says. He’s following orders.

His name is Tip, and as for who sent him, “Let’s just say you have a very powerful friend.”

Francine asks Tip to deliver a message for her to her powerful friend. “Tell her I love her. And I’m open.”

3-31

volume03issue31The two guys who arranged the airplane crash are in a dark warehouse with their hands tied behind their back. Veronica runs through a list of federal agencies looking for them. She says, “Your job was to make that plane go down with no evidence of sabotage. Now I have every federal agent in the country sniffing my tracks while the two people I wanted dead on that plane survived!” She kills both of them with one bullet to the head each. “And that, my friends, is what the Parker Girls used to refer to as a Baker Refund!”

Veronica asks who’s left. These two dead men confessed they bribed a security guard and a maintenance worker to gain access to the plane. Veronica says eliminate them next, and everyone they may have talked to. Family members, workers at the airport, everybody. Make a clean sweep. No bodies, no blood, no traces, no clues. Sharon informs her that David Qin remains in critical condition in a Nashville hospital. Katchoo has disappeared. Sharon tells her she wasn’t that impressed with Katchoo when she did the last job with Darcy. Veronica tells her to find her anyway or she’ll slit her throat.

David lays in a field in Tennessee and talks to God. Francine comes out to meet him. She’s lost thirty-three pounds. David says the lawyers came out and he’s got the entire Darcy estate. He’s a billionaire now. And he tells Francine he’s going to give her a fund with ten million dollars in it. Francine say, “I can’t believe it. I get rich and engaged in the same day!” David is shocked. She reveals that Dr. Brad Silver just proposed to her in a restaurant.

Francine runs back to the house. David goes more slowly, relying on a crutch. When Francine gets there she thinks she sees Katchoo and runs up to greet her. But it’s Casey. And when David hobbles up she gives him love and affection too. Maybe a little bit too much. Francine has to pull her off. “Try to keep the yard G-rated, Casey,” Francine says. “Small town neighbors and all.”

In the evening Casey asks Francine if her engagement is a dream come true. Francine looks up in the sky. “See that star, the one shining brighter than all the others? I know the girl who hung it there.”

3-32

volume03issue32A year later and Sharon still hasn’t found Katchoo. Meanwhile, Katchoo has put together the fastest growing branch of the company, dealing with next generation hardware and global networks, cornering the market on technology, the source of 95% of new money generated in the world. As promised, Veronica slits Sharon’s throat. She says, “In a moment you will find yourself in a hell you never imagined…no one will listen to your screams, no one will stop the pain…when you get there think about your friends Tambi and Katina, I’m going to send them to you. And tell Darcy her cousin Veronica said hello.”

Francine calls David down to breakfast, but he can’t eat, he’s leaving on a plane to New York to take care of some unfinished business, and he must go alone. Francine begs him to stay and wait for Katchoo together with her. “She won’t call,” he says, “I have to go to her.”

When he gets in the cab Francine whispers to David that if he finds her, please bring her back to take her away from Brad and this life. David promises he will do it.

Katchoo is drunk, watching the Griffin Silver concert in Central Park on TV. Tambi calls her and tells her she’s found Marshal Weinstein in little pieces after a gruesome torture session. “They were looking for a confession and it looks like they got it. Whoever ‘Miracle’ is, she has a problem.” Katchoo doesn’t want to talk about it on the phone.

Marshal tells Tambi that Veronica Douedaues did it to him. Tambi regrets she can’t save him, he’s lost too much blood, but as a final gesture she tells him everything he dug up about the Big Six was true, they’be been controlling every major event in America since the crash of 1929. Marshal dies vindicated, but that vindication is horrible to him.

Backstage Griffin Silver takes a phone call from his brother Brad, who says he’s going to be married to Francine Peters. Griffin dedicates his next song to them by name, but Katchoo is too drunk to notice.

Sal and Tambi meet on a wharf. Sal complains that Tambi hasn’t killed Veronica yet. She says she has someone watching her in her group. He says, “It wouldn’t happen to be this little girl here, would it, because the Fed Ex guy delivered her this morning in a box.” His henchman presents the body of Sharon. Tambi knows her, but she’s not her girl. Sal says he doesn’t care what the yelling is about, he doesn’t need the noise. Tambi promises to wrap it up soon. Sal says David Qin wants a meeting about his seat on the Big Six, and he wants Tambi to take care of it. He liked things better when they were simple and ex-hookers weren’t running around acting like wise guys. As he drives away, Tambi mutters, “Your simple days are over, old man.”

Katchoo executes a takeover of “Nerdcom” over the phone while drunk off her ass. The board thinks Katchoo is a man. She goes out onto the balcony and thinks about Francine, exactly at the same moment Francine has taken leave of Brad to go out on the porch many miles away and think about Katchoo.

3-34

volume03issue34

Tambi checks in on Katchoo in her Manhattan condo. She’s drunk and high on drugs, sitting fully clothed in the bathtub. When Tambi flushes her smack, Katchoo says she just flushed $40,000 down the toilet. “We have a meeting at the Bank of the Americas tomorrow, remember? This is the one that counts, the one I’ve been working all year to set up so straighten up!”

Katchoo jokes that Tambi ought to know better than anybody she is anything but straight. Tambi scoops her out of the bathtub with one hand. “I need you alive for 24 hours! After that, you can kill yourself and I’ll even buy the drugs for you.” Katchoo eggs Tambi on and almost gets her to kill her. She wants to die. Tambi drops her on the floor. “It’s the girl, isn’t it?” Katchoo tells her to leave her out of it. Tambi says, “I thought you were just using her for cover but you really love her, don’t you? This girl, Francine Peters, she’s the source of all my trouble.” Tambi leaves without a word. This scares Katchoo into straightening up.

Francine visits a cemetery with her mother. Marie walks over to the caretaker’s shack to have a few words with him. A woman with a Gibson Girl hairdo and early 1900’s garb visits Francine and says she can recognize the same chill in Francine’s eyes. She loved a colored man, but her family wouldn’t accept him, so he left, and it was the biggest mistake this woman ever made. She tells Francine to go home while she can still find it. When Francine’s mother returns, this woman is nowhere to be found.

David goes to a dark alley where he was told to meet Tambi. He meets Veronica instead, with two henchmen. She lies and tells him Tambi was the one who sabotaged the plane, but David doesn’t believe anyone would do that. Veronica laughs and asks, “Is it true that you and Darcy were…close?” This disgusts David and he pushes her away. He just wants to see Katchoo. Veronica says the word in the pipe is that Katchoo is dead, it was a Tambi Baker job. And one of her henchmen backs her up.

David wants to find Katchoo dead or alive, and he’s not interested in anything Veronica has going on. “In that case, on to plan B. Kill him!”

Her henchman sticks a gun in David’s face. David knocks the gunman’s hand away just as he fires, then he proceeds to kill him with his bare hands before he even realizes what he’s doing. “That’s the Yousaka I remember!” Veronica shouts. “Thank you God for throwing him back!”

David is horrified to learn he killed the man. Veronica says of course he killed him, he only knows one way to fight. David’s hands are covered in blood. “Welcome back, Yousaka! Welcome to hell!”

In her mother’s house Francine finds a picture of the woman she met in the cemetary. Marie tells her the family doesn’t talk about her very much. Such a sad story. Look at the date on the photo. 1911. Lillian was Francine’s great-grandmother, she reveals. The one who committed suicide.

3-35

volume03issue35The huge bodyguard named Tip finds Francine’s house in Tennessee in the snow. He says he’s been asked by Francine’s friend (who is really Tambi) to take her with him. Francine leaves a quick note for her mother on the back of the picture of her great grandmother, and then they leave.

In New York Katchoo dolls herself up to look a little bit like Darcy again, with makeup, purfume, a short black long-sleeved dress. and her hair pulled back. “Hello you,” she says to herself in the mirror. “It’s been a long time. Okay, you can do this. One way or another, by tonight it will all be over.”

When Katchoo shows up at the Bank of the Americas Tambi says, “I knew I could count on you. You look good.” Katchoo brings up the issue of Francine. “It’s no longer an issue,” she says. What the hell does that mean? “Do you ever shut up?” Tambi asks. “I’m not completely ignorant in matters of the heart.” She opens the door to a huge white limosine, and Francine is waiting inside. Katchoo’s eyes flood with tears. “You have two minutes Choovanski.”

Katchoo stepped into the dream and the waiting arms of Francine. Tambi shut the door behind her. “I thought I’d never see you again,” Francine sobbed. Katchoo drank in Francine’s southern drawl and the smell of baby powder. She wanted to apologize, but the only thing she could say is, “I’m home.”

When the two minutes were up, Tambi knocked on the door and Katchoo stumbled out, crying like a baby. “Control, Choovanski. Compose yourself before we go inside.” Why did Tambi have to bring her into this, she sobbed. “Because you weren’t going to make it. You need her. And I need you.” Tambi then outlines what Katchoo has to do. Katchoo is shocked at all the lives lost or destroyed so Tambi can take over the Big Six. “Pick a side, Choovanski.” Katchoo points at the limousine and says she’s on her side. Tambi convinces her that Francine will never be safe as long as the Big Six exists. “We can put an end to all that right now, you and me.” And Tambi promises Katchoo that when it’s over she can walk away and never look back, if that’s what she wants. “Twenty minutes, then paradise.”

Sal Tucciani signs a mess of papers, thinking he’s bringing Tambi’s group in under his umbrella. He’s really signing 17% of the US economy over to Tambi, and his own accountant is in on it. When he’s through, Tambi says, “You should have read what you signed, Sal. You just signed all the joint assets of the company over to King Enterprises. Thank you.” His accountant sheepishly apologizes to him.

Sal goes into a rage. “This is bull! It’s nothin’ but paper!” Paper covers rock, says Tambi. It’s all legal in a court of law. “I am the law you frikken witch!” he yells, reaching for a gun. But Katchoo hits a button on her laptop and a tray spits out a pistol, which she points right at Sal with steely resolve.

Tambi offers him two retirement plans. “You can choose immediate, or you can go to your granddaughter’s Christmas pageant and enjoy the rest of your life. Which will it be?”

Sal’s accountant Bob says, “I’m sorry Sal, they’re just too powerful.”

Sal stares at Katchoo, then slides back down into his chair. “So this is what Parker was grooming you for,” he says to her. “She would have been proud. You even look like her.”

On the way out Katchoo declares to Tambi that she’s out, she wants no more part of it. The limousine is locked and Katchoo can’t get in. Tambi smashes the window. Tip is dead and Francine is gone.

3-36

volume03issue36David is being held somewhere by Veronica. Her henchman tells David that they have Francine now too. “And if your friends will not come for you, perhaps they will come for her.” David tells him he’s working for a loser, Veronica is not smart enough to take on the whole company. In the shadows Katchoo emerges so only David can see her. She’s wearing a black body suit and makes some hand gestures.

David asks his guard if that gun is supposed to be there. The guard comes into the room, but he gets a hand chop to his throat which kills him. Tambi is there too, dressed like Katchoo. She slides the guard out of the light. Katchoo kisses David while Tambi peeks out the door. “They have Francine,” David whispers. But Katchoo already knows where she is.

Tambi tells them to go on, she will follow. She can smell her sister Bambi in the darkness. What follows is a long-awaited and epic fight as the twin Amazons go at it. “Prison made you weak, sis,” Tambi says, “you kick like a girl!” Bambi’s foot slashes out, but Tambi leaps over it and lands a blow on Bambi’s chin. “I don’t like your choice of friends, sister,” she says. Bambi retorts that she doesn’t like being left to rot in prison. “I wanted you to have time to think. You make too many mistakes.”

Bambi starts to talk about Katchoo, but Tambi tries to shut her up. Darcy’s henchman puts two and two together and realizes Katchoo is the sister of both Tambi and Bambi, fathered by Sonny Baker on a Chicago prostitute. He laughs and tells Bambi she’s been played the fool. Her sisters are taking over the company…the hitman’s children rise to avenge his murder.

Bambi hates Katchoo (“Cinderella”) and she is pissed that Tambi shut her out. They engage once more, and Tambi throws her sister against the wall. When she is in the air, a stray bullet from Big Mouth hits her. Tambi throws Big Mouth out the window to his death.

Katchoo and David are hugging each other in the street below when the guy’s body falls through the roof of a nearby car. “Looks like Tambi is about done up there.” David says he heard what she said to him in the hospital. Katchoo says, “I was drunk.”

Tambi turns to look at her sister. Bambi manages to squeeze out the words, “Mary, I…” but then she dies. Tambi rips Bambi’s necklace off.

Tambi strings one of Veronica’s guards up by his neck after a head-twist. She communicates with Katchoo by a bird call.

Katchoo has killed another one of Veronica’s guards. His blood stains the snow. Her hand is stained. She stares at her handiwork in shock, perhaps feeling remorse for killing for the first time in her life. The words of Sal Tucciani that she was groomed for this are ringing in her head.

3-37

volume03issue37Becky the Gun Girl stands guard over Francine while Veronica torments her with words much in the same way Darcy did once under the same circumstances. Veronica recounts a near seduction by Katchoo that ended with Katchoo slapping her face, hard. She demonstrates by slapping Francine so hard she is knocked over in the chair she is tied to. But a piece of tape over her mouth prevents her from crying out. Becky picks Francine and the chair back up.

Veronica brings up Emma, who competed for Katchoo’s love. Veroncica tells Francine she filled her full of heroin with an HIV infected needle and sent her on her way. “It took six years for her to die and I loved every minute of it.” She threatens to torture Francine slowly with a knife. Becky cocks her gun. Just then the door rings, and Veronica tells Becky to get it. David is there. “Don’t tell me you talked Lars into joining your side.”

“Lars is dead, they’re all dead, there are no sides anymore, Veronica. It’s over.” For the first time, she really looks rattled. Veronica stands behind Francine with a knife and starts making crazy talk. Becky’s finger slides inside the trigger guard on her rifle.

“Veronica!”

It’s Katchoo with her hair dyed black. Veronica thinks it’s Darcy come back from the dead. Tambi fires a round through Veronica’s shoulder from outside the house. David runs to Francine and gets her loose.

Tambi compliments Becky on her job, watching Veronica every day for a year from the inside. “I thought I was going to have to move on her.” Tambi is glad she didn’t. She wants Veronica for herself.

Katchoo hugs Tambi. “Thank you Mary.” Tambi says you’re welcome…sis. And she says Katchoo doesn’t have to worry about Sara. It’s just her and Tambi now. Katchoo is all the family Tambi has left. Katchoo invites her to visit for Christmas. “And Veronica?” Say goodbye, Tambi says. You’ll never see her again.

Everyone leaves except Tambi and Veronica. Tambi ties Veronica into the chair and begins to kill her the same way Veronica killed Marshal Weinstein, one finger at a time, one limb at a time.

David, Katchoo, and Francine walk toward the SUV being driven by Becky. When they hear Veronica’s terrible screams they hurry a little bit faster and get into the vehicle.

3-38

volume03issue38This issue marks the exact halfway point in the Strangers in Paradise mega-epic.

A car pulls up to the house of Francine’s mother. She’s thrilled to see David and Francine, less to see Katchoo. She’s never seen Katchoo wear a dress and lipstick before. “Yeah, well, take a good look ’cause you won’t see it again.”

Francine crashes on the couch. She doesn’t want anything but to sleep. Brad is upset that Francine said nothing about leaving. David and Katchoo have to make up a story about where they’ve been. Brad introduces himself to Katchoo as Francine’s fiance and David realizes there’s going to be trouble. Katchoo didn’t know. Brad says Francine has told him all about her, but Katchoo replies that Francine never mentioned him.

David wants to go to the bathroom, but Katchoo won’t let go of his shirt while she has a few words with “Bert.” Brad! Katchoo imagines they have a cute story of how they met. Sure, Brad replies. They met when he was tending to a cracked rib Francine got…in an argument with Katchoo. She tells David to start the car. Then she launches into a diatribe on what Katchoo has seen men do to Francine. Brad stands up for himself here, and says he’s going to marry Francine and he doesn’t need Katchoo’s permission to do it.

Eventually Brad wins the argument, and Katchoo concedes. But, “if you ever hurt her, you son of a bitch, there won’t be anything left of you to bury.” She leaves just as Maria comes back. “I mean it, be good to her.” She stalks out.

Brand asks Maria what all that was about. “Stepping aside.”

David and Katchoo get seperate hotel rooms next door to each other. David goes to get something to eat, but Katchoo doesn’t answer the door. She showers and watches TV. Sal Tucciani has been arrested by the FBI David comes back with food and calls, but Katchoo won’t pick up. But later that night Katchoo comes into his room, contrite. In the dark, David asks her to marry him. She agrees. And then she makes love to him, using some special tricks she knows, and David is astonished at the pleasure.

But she doesn’t sleep, she cries all night and uses a half-box of Kleenex. “I’ve lost her David!” He tries to console her and tells her Francine just needs time.

In the morning David takes Katchoo back to Francine and tells her to go talk to her. Francine is sitting on a porch swing. Katchoo sits next to her and they hold hands. “I want children,” Francine says. Katchoo says she knows. “And I’m running out of time.”

Then she sees the ghost of her great-grandmother once again in the snow.

3-40

volume03issue40Issue 3-39 was a “very special episode” with all Freddy Femur, all the time. The author resumes the main SiP story arc here in 3-40.

The last time Katchoo sat in this spot in Hana, Hawaii Darcy, Veronica, Bambi and Emma were all alive. But now: No more Parker Girls. No more Big Six. Katchoo has her privacy back. She feels like she died and woke up in a new life. But she never thought she would be here without Francine. She spends her days swimming, hiking through the hills, she rarely wears clothes, she’s tan and healthy. Caroline Hobbs sold her first set of paintings and clamors for more.

David lost his $1.4 billion dollars. The IRS said Darcy’s estate was mostly illegal gains, and David could spend his whole life trying to get it back. He let it go. But he had to tell Francine she wouldn’t get any money he promised. He felt like a turd about it. Darcy screwed him one last time.

Katchoo herself is richer than anyone knows, except Tambi and a private bank agent. She doesn’t care. The money doesn’t keep her safe or make her happy. Katchoo regrets pulling David into bed that night when she learned Francine was getting married. She loves David, but not like that. And now she regrets the inevitable conversation. He slept with a woman in flames. But Katchoo is back now, and she does not lie down with sheep.

Francine calls and wants Katchoo to be her maid of honor. Katchoo wants whatever makes Francine happy. She goes to bed alone again, and doesn’t talk to David. He washes dishes, but has some sort of attack and falls to the floor holding his head in excruciating pain as everything grows dim. He cries out, “God be with me!”

Francine was just as depressed as Katchoo when they parted company, for just as long. One time she suggested to her mother that Katchoo is so much more than her friend, and marrying Brad was looking like the biggest mistake of her life. Her mother dropped a bible on her bed and said, “Try telling God that, you wicked little girl!” She didn’t mention Katchoo since that day. But Francine admits to herself she’d rather be with Katchoo than with the man she’s going to marry.

When Francine calls Katchoo to ask her to be the maid of honor she is nervous, she wraps the cord around her hand, she curls up on the bed and sheds tears. Brad hears the whole thing from the living room.

The next morning David goes jogging and passes a little church. The priest has only his dog for company. He asks if David wants to make a confession, but David only wants to commune quietly with God for a while. The priest joins him in silent prayer.

3-41

volume03issue41Casey Femur gets on a flight to Hawaii to go see David and Katchoo. She’s got a new pair of boobs and this draws a lot of unwanted remarks from a pervo ticket counter guy.

In Tennessee Francine is in the garden. Her mother brings their pastor by and then makes herself scarce. Francine knows what she’s in for, of course. After a bit of introductory chit-chat she comes out and says she’s in love with someone else. No she hasn’t acted on those feelings. Perhaps if she did she wouldn’t be in this mess. “I should just go to her right now and beg her to take me back.”

Francine’s use of the word “her” throws him for a loop. Yes, Katina, the one I love, Francine says. The pastor puts his hand on his bald head and says, “You know, Francine, the bible says…” But Francine knows what the bible says and what her mother says and what Brad says, but nobody cares what she says. The pastor insists that homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord. Francine remembers reading that, but she wants to know why. The pastor says God made men and women to complete each other.

Francine launches into a diatribe about how somewhere in the last few years men no longer viewed women as a mystery to unwrap for a lifetime, they want the whole package up front, and if you don’t give it to them they just go looking for any one of three billion other women who will. The pastor suggests that Brad isn’t like those men. Francine complains that he’s going to become a gynecologist. And she describes how Katchoo in her role as an artist can somehow know what you look like right under your clothes. You are laid absolutely bare to her at all times. And it’s quite the experience to be on the receiving end of it. Katchoo already knows everything there is to know about Francine, and she still loves her. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Francine doesn’t feel that same acceptance from Brad, only a sense of being obligated to him. The pastor asks Francine to pray with him. She feigns a small injury and runs into the house. The pastor apologizes to God.

On the plane to Hawaii, Casey is attracted to a Mr. Joe Campbell who sits next to her. When they shake hands, Casey gets a flush and her heart beats like crazy. She can’t let go of his hand. Their life stories pour out and it’s a series of coincidences. He’s even been to the same fitness center where Casey works, he likes the sauna there. Casey admits her heart has been pounding in her chest from the moment she laid eyes on him. “You too? I thought it was just me?” She invites Joe to dinner when they land.

3-42

volume03issue42Katchoo screams for David to wake up. She’s in the kitchen baking a “Good Boy Cake” and she needs him to run to the store for eggs. David nags Katchoo for a kiss, a hug, something, and she finally relents and gives him a hug. He says, “You feel like home.” This freaks Katchoo out because that’s what she always says when she hugs Francine. She pushes David away and insists he gets eggs. He doesn’t realize what just happened.

When he rushes out the door his face runs smack into Tambi’s boobs. She says, “I’ll give you first base but second will cost you your legs.” She’s just kidding. Tambi’s on vacation to see her sister Katchoo, who is very glad to see her.

Tambi and Katchoo go snorkeling amid some very beautiful coral. Katchoo sees Francine as a mermaid. When she tries to reach out to her, Francine swims away. Katchoo rushes to the surface calling out for her. Eventually Tambi follows her up onto the beach, saying, “That was fantastic.” She’s got a big tiger tattoo on her back. Katchoo asks if she saw her. “Who? I saw the porpoise, that what you mean?”

Francine is puking into the toilet. She’s got morning sickness. Her mother calls down and tells her Brad is there to see her. “Are you coming out?” she asks. In a minute, Francine answers. In a minute.

Tambi loves the property. Katchoo says Griffin Silver owns the place next door but she never sees him. No block parties, just a bunch of rich hermits. Very peaceful. But just then Casey calls out, then attacks Katchoo like an Irish Setter. “Casey, down girl! Down!”

At night David and Joe are drinking beer around the campfire. Joe thinks the girls sound like they’re having way too much fun in the house without them. David says “Better get used to it Joe.” Joe discreetly asks about him and Katchoo. He can’t figure out if they are a couple or what. “Neither can I, Joe. Neither can I.”

Casey tells the story about the pervo ticket counter guy. Tambi suggests it’s Casey’s boobs that makes them do it. “Do you like them? They’re brand new! These babies are power!” She suggests Katchoo get some because men fall all over themselves to serve you if you have big boobs.

“Omigod that’s so true,” Katchoo says, “men were so like that around Francine!” Katchoo enters a reverie about Francine. “When she’d look at you with those soft brown eyes, smile, turn on that accent, swear to God it was like an angel on the wing.” Casey suggests Katchoo calls her. “No, she’s had enough, let her sleep.”

Francine tells Brad and her mother she has to call the wedding off. “I have very strong feelings for someone else…Brad, I’ve told you little bit about my friend Katchoo…” Francine’s mother begs her not to do this. “I think I’m in love with her.”

“You’re gay?” he asks. Francine looks at Brad and her mother, and says, “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Her mother despairs and breaks down crying. “I have to go to her Brad. I have to find out once and for all what these feelings are. I have to know.” What if you never come back? he asks. “Then I guess I was never really here.”

3-43

 volume03issue43

In Which The Author Paints Himself Into A Corner And Delivers A Pam Ewing “It Was All A Dream” Episode, But Then Redeems Himself In Later Issues.

Ashley Katchoo Silver, the grown daughter of Francine, is trying to sell her novel to a publisher in New York. The editor complains it is too repetitive. Katchoo and Francine can’t make it work, they split up, they obsess over each other, they get back together, lather rinse repeat. The editor couldn’t finish it. She only got as far as when Francine called off the wedding. Real people don’t act like this, she says. She wants a rewrite. On her way out, however, she asks, “When Katchoo visits David in the hospital and tells him she knew who she was all along, she didn’t really know, did she?” Ashley smiles and thanks her for reading.

Ashley gets in a limo where her Moms Francine and Katchoo are waiting. They are about sixty years of age. Katchoo offers to pay for it to be published through a university press, but Ashley wants to do this right. They go have lunch at a barbeque sandwich joint. Francine is upset over the “repetitious” remark. Her life with Katchoo was just…complicated. Katchoo wants to know what she thought of Francine’s wedding when she punched Griffin Silver out. Ashley says she didn’t read that far.

They fly home to New Mexico. Francine has caught her usual airplane cold and Katchoo says, “I swear, I can’t take you anywhere.” Francine says she’s ready for a nap. Ashley looks off into the distant mountains as the snow falls. Cut to the house, she’s still looking at the mountains, but they are all around her. The doorbell rings, and Ashley gets it. Koo is there. She’s the grown daughter of Katchoo, with long blond hair and lots of freckles. Koo and Ashley look like chips off the Katchoo and Francine block. They kiss. Koo goes upstairs to check on her Mom. She sees Katchoo lying in bed with Francine’s arm around her. Katchoo is still awake, and she smiles at Koo, Katchoo is immersed in the total bliss of being “home” with the woman she has always loved. Koo sighs, closes the door and whispers, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Koo rejoins Ashley downstairs, and they talk about her novel. Koo says, “You have the power to change everything. Just follow your heart.”

“Follow my heart,” Ashley says.

Koo answers, “Follow your heart, Francine.”

Back we go to the very beginning when Francine’s toga was pulled off by Freddy in front of the whole school. Francine fainted. Freddy wakes her up with a splash of water. Katchoo asks, “Are you okay?” and Francine is amazed that she’s so young. “Is this real, or all Ashley’s imagination?” David and Veronica show up and tell Miss Beem the ambulance is here. Francine faints again.

The next day Katchoo shows up at Francine’s house. “You really brought the house down last night. One minute you’re the caste water maiden, the next, lookatme dot com. Every guy in school wants to go out with you. You’re legendary!”

Francine says, “Say you ran away tonight because your stepfather raped you…”

“WHAT?”

Francine goes on. “And I spent my whole life going through bad boyfriends in order to avoid my fears. These are choices we make, right? We can shape our own destinies.” Thank you Dr. Peters, Katchoo says. “Go ahead, laugh, but you’re going to thank me for this later, trust me. Everything is going to be different from now on, Katchoo, I can feel it…

3-45

volume03issue45Francine is back in the bathroom puking. This is a sort of nexus in time where she tries to choose what path to take in her life. This time she thinks of Katchoo as a kind of Peter Pan figure, a wonderful part of her childhood but someone she must let go in order to grow up. She must choose between Never Never Land and the real world. This time she chooses the real world, the “Wendy” option.

She goes downstairs and tells her mother and Brad she’s pregnant. Brad says he needs to sit down, and he’s already sitting down. Her mother is overjoyed and wants to tell the whole world, but Francine reels her in and demands it be kept private for now. “Control yourself…Grannie.”

Jump cut to the distant future when Francine’s own granddaughter Kiley is four. Ashley dishes out ice cream. Francine gets the phone. It’s David. Francine is so happy, she hasn’t talked to him in years, and just last night she was dreaming of Katchoo. But he’s calling with bad news. Katchoo died of ovarian cancer last night. Francine didn’t even know she was sick. Francine says she and Brad will be there for the funeral in Hawaii tomorrow.

Ashley comes in to comfort her mother. Francine had so many things to tell her, but now it’s too late. Francine can’t believe it hit her like this. “You loved her, Mom. Time doesn’t change that.”

Kiley screams, “Mommy what’s a deviant?” and this cracks up Francine and Ashley even as they are mourning. Ashley leaves Francine alone. Francine prays to Katchoo now. “I know you never forgave me for marrying Brad but he’s made me very happy Katchoo…A beautiful home and family, everything I ever wanted…I wish you would have shared it with me…I’ll never say goodbye, not to you. Not ever.”

Reset back to the bathroom and Francine’s puking again. Katchoo’s in Hawaii, Brad’s in the kitchen, and both of them are waiting for an answer. Think, girl, think!

Katchoo is alone on the beach wrapped in a blanket. David joins her and wants to talk about where they stand. She just wants to sit. He says, “Ever since that night together you’ve been treating me like a date that went too far. I thought we were closer than that, Katchoo.”

“I’ve never led you on,” Katchoo answers. “Can you say the same?”

“I want a relationship. But you sit here on the beach every night thinking about Francine, What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m just not into the whole boy girl thing right now. So back off! You’re not a woman, okay? It’s not your fault, but you’ll never know exactly how I feel! No man can!”

David says quietly he misses Francine too.

Francine admits to herself with Katchoo what you see is what you get. She has secrets, but she wears her heart on her sleeve. Then there’s Brad, the quiet brother of Griffin Silver with a little butt and skillful hands. The father of her baby. Then Francine realizes she is torn because she is trying to choose whose sidekick to be. But she’s not a sidekick, she’s just as important as everyone else. The weight of dreams and expectations that belonged to everyone else drops off her shoulder once and for all.

Francine is not a frightened little girl anymore, she is a lover, a friend, a daughter, a mother, and a woman.

3-47

volume03issue47Strangers in Paradise 3-46 was a “Molly & Poo” issue that doesn’t fit inside the ongoing story arc. We now return to SiP, already in progress.

A Miss Noel is in the law office of Freddy and Chuck, recounting her rape. Chuck says they have enough to go to court. Freddy asks how she can be so calm about it. Miss Noel says the rapist took her past, and all she has is her future. If she lets anger consume her, she will lose that too.

Chuck says after listening to Miss Noel, he feels closer to his girlfriend Denise. Freddy laments that he’s on his eighth girlfriend that year. Chuck mentions that Francine is back in town, he ran into her at Whole Foods. She wants to go it alone for a while, no Brad, no mention of Katchoo. This fires up “Freddy the Francine Hunter” and Chuck hangs his head, knowing that Francine is going to kill him for shooting his mouth off.

Casey is sunning herself on the beach when Francine calls. She tells Francine she’s at Katchoo’s house in Hawaii, but “We have to come Sunday. You don’t know about Joe, do you? We have so much to catch up on!” Francine says she is moving to Houston. Casey says welcome home, and she wouldn’t be surprised if Katchoo flew back with her. Francine says she’ll be waiting, so “we’ll see.”

The doorbell rings. Francine thinks it’s the pizza guy, but it’s Freddy, with flowers. When he gets back into the truck with Chuck, Freddy is wearing those flowers.

Tambi hugs Katchoo and drives away. David says, “I’m glad she’s gone. I don’t think she likes me, and people she doesn’t like tend to wake up dead.” Casey and Joe are taking one last walk on the beach before they need a ride to the airport. David wants to finish their talk. He graps Katchoo’s wrist. She says Let go of me asshole! David is shocked. “We’ve gone from I love you to asshole?”

“What is your frikken problem, David?!” He says with Francine out of the picture she’s retreated into a shell and he can’t reach her. “Every dog gets a bone if he begs long enough, you got yours, what more do you want?” David lets his head sink. He’s given everything to be with Katchoo and now she wants his self-respect too. He falls into a very dark emotional place. It’s time to take Casey and Joe to the airport, but David won’t go. Katchoo leaves without him. When she’s gone, David flies into a berserker rage.

At the airport, Casey tells Katchoo to call Francine. She has my number, Katchoo says. “Don’t be like that, you’ll end up a lonely old maid.”

When Katchoo gets home David is gone. He left a note apologizing for working his way into her life and screwing it up. He wishes her only peace and happiness but he knows she won’t find it with him. He tells her to work things out with Francine, she’s the only key to her heart. While she reads this, David gets a one-way flight to Japan. He’s going home.

Katchoo breaks down first and calls Francine. We can’t hear what they’re talking about, but both of them look happier than they have been for the longest time.

3-48

volume03issue48Casey and Francine meet Katchoo at the airport. Katchoo hasn’t seen her for months, but she is radiantly beautiful to her. For a few minutes they are both in their own little world while Casey bounces around feeling invisible. Casey says, “Hello? Can anybody hear me?” and a bag lady says she can hear that outfit she’s wearing.

Meanwhile, at an airport in Japan, Tambi disembarks, and is greeted by a Yakuza official. “I home you will have time for pleasure as well as business, Tambi-san.” She says her business will be a pleasure.

Two young lesbians are hiking in the woods in upstate New York to find a private place to have sex because they are tired of sneaking off to a hotel. But they didn’t count on it raining. The one named Denny slips down a wet hillside and breaks her leg. And she screams not from pain, but because she finds a human skull. Later, FBI agent Sara Bryan is given orders to look into it.

Katchoo makes fun of Francine being pregnant, and says she ought to have a handicapped sign in her car. Francine offers her the position of godmother, and that shuts Katchoo the hell up.

In a Japanese countryside in the rain Tambi puts a GPS in her pocket, a pack on her back, and marches off into the bush.

Francine shows off her baby room. Casey gets Katchoo to say it’s “cute”. Francine says cut the crap, cute isn’t in her vocabulary. Katchoo admits that its very different than talking on the phone with Francine. “Face to face I have to deal with how beautiful you are.” And Francine replies that she has to deal with the fact that she loves an eccentric genius. Katchoo admits she’s seeing a shrink. But her shrink doesn’t give her hugs when she needs them. Francine thinks she needs lots of those, and she wraps her pinky around Katchoo’s pinky. Later, Katchoo writes that “SHE LOVES ME!!!” in her journal, and much more.

Tambi takes a swig of water and continues to climb a mountain toward a curious ball-shaped house with one of those Japanese roofs.

The FBI has a match on the dental mold. Sara Bryan is surprised how fast they got it, but it doesn’t take long when the subject has been in federal prison. “You ready for this? It’s Veronica Bouedaue.”

Tambi arrives at the round house. David is outside meditating. Tambi says, “You left her.” She doesn’t love me, David says, she loves Francine Peters. “Francine Peters cannot impregnate her! You are the only man Katchoo lets near her.” It’s over, David insists. Tambi pulls out a pistol and points it straight at his head. “Then you are of no further use to me.”

Six shots ring out.

3-50

volume03issue50The usual caveat, we are skipping an issue to stay with the main Francine / Katchoo / David / Casey / Freddy / Tambi storyline…

Francine and Katchoo stay up until late at night talking and playing footsie. Eventually Francine asks Katchoo if she slept with Rachel aka Veronica Pace. Katchoo says, “No. We didn’t sleep.” Flashback memory of some brutal sex. Francine means did Katchoo have sex with her. After another flashback of Rachel begging for more, Katchoo says, “Yes.”

Tambi says, “The next bullet goes into your brain. Do I have your attention now, Zen boy?” David says kill me or don’t kill me, either way he’s not crawling back to Katchoo. He asks Tambi to let her alone and let her live her life. “No! We have no heir! I will not let our family die out!”

David’s Japanese girlfriend shows up, calling him by his real name, Yousaka. Tambi puts the gun directly to his head and nearly pulls the trigger. David says, “There is another way. Katina is not the last Baker. There’s you! If you want an heir this bad, then you have it, and I will help you!”

Freddy has some clumsy painful sex in the dark. The phone rings. It’s Chuck, they found Miss Noel’s rapist, he tried to attack a female body builder and she beat the crap out of him. He has four broken bones and a punctured lung. There is a God, Freddy shouts. “If so, he was on duty tonight, partner,” Chuck says. “He was on duty tonight.”

FBI Special Agent Sara Bryan knew that Parker Girls were meeting a grisly fate one by one at the hands of a consummate professional. A predator more deadly than a Parker Girl, someone who chopped off their pretty little heads and threw them out the windows of high-rise buildings. She swore if it took her the rest of her life, she was going to find this predator and bring him, or her, to justice. She would do this by doing what the FBI had trained her to do, become the predator’s worst enemy.

David says he will cooperate with Tambi for as long as it takes for her to get pregnant. In return, she must agree to leave Katchoo alone and live her life the way she wants. “Artificial insemination, a week in the Bahamas, it’s up to you.” Tambi asks about his girlfriend, but she says it would be an honor to bathe Tambi-san for Yousaka. What’s in it for you, Tambi asks. “Katina’s freedom. I just want her to be happy. We need to leave her alone, Tambi. She’s in love. You’re the one who wants an heir, the question is how bad do you want it? You were willing to kill for it, are you willing to love for it?”

Yousaka’s girlfriend takes her gun away. “No take life. Make life, with us.”

Francine says she doesn’t care what Katchoo has done who she did it with, “You’re here with me now, that’s all that matters.” Casey comes out bleary eyed, astonished that they are still up. What are you waiting for? she asks. Do you love her? she asks Francine. “Yes!” Then she turns to Katchoo and asks, do you love her? Oh yeah! says Katchoo. Then get your butts off that couch right now and go to bed! Now! Casey doesn’t want to see them come out for the rest of the week. She will slide their meals under the door. Anybody can boil a pancake.

But it doesn’t work out that way. Francine couldn’t bring herself to do it. Katchoo goes to a hotel. The next morning Francine asks Casey if she had ever been with another woman. “Twice. Once in a threesome. It’s no big deal Francine! It’s just sex! How are you going to know what you like if you don’t try it?” Francine asks her if she liked it. “If the right person came along, somebody that I could trust, I’d do it again.”

“Everything would be so simple if Katchoo was a man,” Francine says. Casey replies that she would trade all the men in her life for one Katchoo. And if Francine ever loses her, Casey swears she will be all over her like white on rice.

3-51

volume03issue51

David and Tambi sit on a floor mat across from each other in front of a low table while David’s girlfriend brings saki and two shot glasses. She has to show Tambi how to do the sake ritual. Then she bows and leaves. David says he knows Tambi paid his medical bills after the plane crash. “You were important to my plans. Darcy wasn’t. She would have brought the whole company down with her, just like Veronica.” David offers a toast to Katina. Tambi asks, “How many of these you have to drink to have sex with me?”

Francine and Katchoo are in an art supply store. The clerk girl calls Francine “Ma’am” just like she’s an old lady or something. When they check out, Katchoo puts on an old lady voice and says don’t forget the brushes young lady. They just have a handful of supplies, but the girl, Piza, says, “That’ll be $639.63 Ma’am.” Francine says don’t ma’am me, I’ll have you know I’m 29 years old! I am not a ma’am! Katchoo says to excuse Francine, menopause and all that. Piza smirks. Francine wants to know what Piza listens to, she bets her she’s got the same CD’s. “Lincoln Park, Manson.” HA! Lincoln Park! Head like a hole, right? The lead singer shot himself for Courtney Lovitz or something…Katchoo pushes her out of the store.

Detective Mike Walsh, formerly of the FBI but now of the Houston Police Department, owed Katchoo big time, and he tried to clean up her tracks. But he couldn’t erase the first request he made for her file, the one that was turned down. Now Sara Bryan calls him because she needs to find her.

Katchoo rolls a suggestion past Francine as a trial balloon. “What if I buy a house in Houston, just for the two of us, and babies, and move into it together, you and me, and we live like that for, you know, ever.” Francine thinks about it. “What is the freaking hold up? Casey practically locked us in the bedroom together and nothing! Are we going to do this or not?” Francine says that’s why she called off the wedding. “Don’t use me as your excuse Francine! I’m right here and you’re keeping me at arms’ length. I’m not going to go through life in a bad relationship because it helps you define yourself. I have more self respect that that!”

Suddenly Katchoo falls silent because she realizes David said exactly the same thing to her in Hawaii. Finally she says quietly, “I’m ready to fight for you, but I have to know that’s what you want.”

Sara Bryan suspects that Mike Walsh knows more than he put in his report about the Parker Girls and she wants to know why. Innocent people were getting killed. Spouses, children. He walked away before blowing the case wide open. Sara wants to know about Katina Choovanski. Mike gets Katchoo’s file for her, and reveals that Katchoo was Marshal Weinstein’s “Miracle” source. His Deep Throat. Katchoo was the one who blew the whistle on the Parker Girls.

David’s girlfriend delivers more saki. The little Japanese paper door goes “Shhhhd!” A haggard-looking David steps out and downs the saki greedily. He’s got five o’clock shadow. GET YOUR ASS BACK IN HERE YA LIL’ STUD MUFFIN! Tambi screams. “My God, the woman’s an animal! No more saki for her.” Shhhhhhd!

Francine goes into the gay and lesbian section of a bookstore wearing sunglasses, as if she’s under deep cover. She thumbs through a book called “When the Love of Your Life Is Your Best Friend”. Meanwhile, Katchoo studies a painting she made of her and David together nude.

3-52

volume03issue52

Francine goes to see a psychiatrist, but the doctor is herself when she was about nine years old. She’s doing her Texas history homework. Francine tells mini-me not to bother studying, the teacher will be fired for sexual harassment before the holiday break and everyone will get a pass. They talk about other teachers like “Obie Wan Otmo” who was the Milk Nazi.

Lil’ Francine says she wants to be a ballerina and throw huge parties at the top of the World Trade Center. Francine doesn’t bother to tell her why that dream won’t happen. Lil’ Francine says, “I like you, you look a lot like my mother. What do you dream about?” Peace.

Okay, let’s go with that, she says, and she reaches for her notebook. What would bring you peace? “Love. Knowing that I’m loved.” Lil’ Francine writes “Marry Fireman, Have Babies” on the notebook, rips out the sheet, and asks for seventy five dollars.

“What about Katchoo?” Big Francine asks. “How am I supposed to love her and love a man at the same time?” Wait a minute, when you say you love her, do you mean MARRY HER love her? Like boyfriend and girlfriend? “Yes.” EEEEEUUUUUUW! I’m going to grow up to be a weirdo! “What do you know about it, you’re just a kid! Nobody will stay with me but Katchoo!” You had a doctor! We were this close to having it all! “Don’t you get it, without Katchoo we have nothing!” Lil Francine says go away and leave me alone. “We can’t leave it like this,” Big Francine says to herself, “we have to find a way to get along or we’ll never be happy.”

Then Francine steps into the office of her real shrink. It’s Lindsey Noel, the woman who says she was raped.

Katchoo is hiking alone, and reaches the top of a mountain after great effort. She pulls out a knife and plunges it into her own heart and twirls it around. Then she pulls her own heart out and throws it off the mountain. It turns into a white dove. Francine is there in a gown, she graps the dove, kisses it, and throws it back into Katchoo’s chest. Katchoo falls off the mountain. As she falls, she points back in exactly the same way she pointed at Francine when she caught the football and was carried off in victory.

Katchoo turns into an olive, and its the one she’s dropping into her martini in a lesbian bar. “That’s what it feels like anyway. That’s my life in a nutshell, what about you?”

A woman nearly as big and scary as Tambi named Cherry Hammer says, “Oh, the usual, in town on business, lonely, this was the nearest gay bar.” Katchoo notices that Cherry is wearing baby powder, and asks what she does for a living. “I’m a DUCk hunter. Deep Undercover Capability.  Parker Girls. I find them and then I terminate the contract.”

3-53

volume03issue53Katchoo reaches for a razor blade she keeps in her bracelet. Cherry Hammer says, “You can put that away, I’m not here for you. I’m here to protect you. Tambi said you wanted to be a silent partner, but you still own half the company so technically I work for you too. But my orders come from Tambi.” Katchoo says Tambi never mentioned a Cherry Hammer. “I’m not exactly a perk of the company, usually I’m the last person you meet.”

Now Katchoo knows who’s been hunting down the Parker Girls one by one and killing them. Cherry says she’s doing it for Katchoo’s personal safety, and she’s on the trail of one who is working on Katchoo right now. Katchoo calls Tambi to verify Cherry’s story. She’s drunk and naked with David, getting smacked around by one of those giant Q-Tips that Marines train to fight with. Tambi jokes around and acts like a Cherry Hammer is a cocktail she’s never tried. Katchoo says, “Mother fuck!” and a dyke in the bar thinks it was directed an her. She’s about to get in a scrape with Katchoo, but Cherry Hammer slams her up against the wall by her neck with one arm while protecting Katchoo with the other. Cherry is a full head taller. “Down Fang,” says Katchoo. She gets back on the phone with Tambi. “Do you, or do you not, know Cherry Hammer? Oh. Oh! She wants to talk to you Miss Hammer.”

On the way out Cherry gives Katchoo a sat card phone so she can call her from anywhere. Katchoo leaves open the possibility of hooking up with Cherry later.

On the advice of Miss Noel, Francine cooks dinner for two and gets all dolled up, but Katchoo never comes home. Where is she? Katchoo knocks on Casey’s door. What’s going on? “Nothin’, I’m just tired of being alone every night, that’s all. I’m tired of being alone.” Casey extends her hand and lets Katchoo in.

The next morning Francine gets up and goes to Casey’s house complaining about how Katchoo never came home last night. “Why are you looking at me like a deer caught in headlights? Am I interrupting something?”

Why, yes, there’s Katchoo in her underwear eating cereal on Casey’s couch. Francine says, “I had this whole big special evening all arranged! I waited up for you all night but you never came! You didn’t even call! Where are your pants?” Katchoo’s guilty face is framed by a telescopic rifle sight. “What’s going on?” Casey is speechless. Francine gets it now. “Oh. My. God.”

In a police lineup, Monica identifies her attacker, and Lindsey Noel says that’s the guy who raped her too. Freddy and Chuck warn Miss Noel that a rape trial can be a rough experience. “Will it leave me for dead on the floor of my bedroom?” On the way out, Noel talks to Monica and asks if she knows a personal trainer named Kelsey, Katie? Casey. That’s it. She wants to meet Casey. The perpetrator screams he’s never even heard of Lindsey Noel, and he’s being set up.

Tambi finally leaves David passed out on his mat. He’s more beaten and bruised and scratched than he’s ever been since the plane crash.

3-54

volume03issue54

David dreams that Katchoo comes to him in a field of grass, embraces him, and says everything is going to be okay. He wakes up crying. His girlfriend tends to his extensive abrasions and wounds from his “love” encounter with Tambi.

Francine realizes that Katchoo slept with Casey and starts crying. Katchoo says no, she only slept on the couch, but that’s a big lie because Casey’s bedroom is chock full of the evidence. Francine runs out muttering the name of her husband. Katchoo tries to run after her, but she bangs her knee on the coffee table. Then she runs outside wearing only undies. Kevin Smith (the director of  Chasing Amy) is Casey’s neighbor and he’s loving it. Katchoo tells him to grow up and get a frikken girlfriend.

Inside the house Katchoo is pissed off that she threw everything away with Francine for a one-night stand with a horny cheerleader. Katchoo throws more invective like this at Casey, then she breaks down and cries. Casey forgives her because she knows Katchoo is in a great deal of pain to say that stuff to her. They embrace.

The rock star Griffin Silver, his girlfriend-model Nikki, and his brother Brad search Francine’s neighborhood looking for her. A fan wants Griffin to autograph her bra, which Griffin was about to oblige until Nikki smacked him. Brad complains that he can’t take those two anywhere.

They split up to make the search go faster. Griffen bumps into Francine and she recognizes him. What are you doing here? she asks. “We came to ask you to come back to the family.” We? She turns to look, and there’s Brad standing with Nikki.

“Francine, honey, I love you, please come home.” She falls into his arms. Nikki stands there and says, “Frikkin A.”

3-55

volume03issue55

Miami, 1988. A big-time drug lord named Leo comes out of his bathroom to find his wife bound and gagged, and Tambi holding a gun to her head. When he reaches for his own gun in the bedstand, Tambi cocks the gun and pushes the barrel tighter against his wife’s head. He puts his hands up and asks what she wants. “The same thing you want, Leo, respect.” He asks how she got in his house. “I think you should use pros instead of relatives for bodyguards, they suck. Plus they’re dead!”

He thinks she’s lying and promises his men will carry her out in little bags. She shoots one of his ears off. “Call me a bitch again and I’ll shoot the other one off.” He growls, and she shoots the other ear off. “Close enough. Okay, listen up, class is in session. Pay attention, so far you’ve been flunking this course. Mrs. Parker feels neglected.” Leo complains that Parker wants too much money and it makes him lose face in front of his people. Tambi says, “You make money because we allow you to make money. That’s that you’ve been set up to do, make money for us. You’re a machine to us Leo, and now you don’t work properly, so you need a realignment.” She unties the girl. “Get on the bed Vicky.”

The girl obeys Tambi. “Olivia is just a figment of your recreation, Leo. The submissive little wife played to perfection by your very own Parker Girl, Vicky Weiss. You didn’t think we’d let you walk around with all that money unprotected, did you?”

Leo is pissed. All this time he has been married to a whore. He tries to attack Vicky, but Tambi slams the phone in his face. “Call your banker in the Caymans and tell him to transfer all your money to this account at the Chase Manhattan. Pick up the phone, Leo. Pick up the phone.”

But Leo sits there getting more and more depressed. Tambi lectures him that his marriage, his business contacts, his big house on the Bay, all of this was courtesy of Darcy Parker so he could make money. Everything he touched belonged to Darcy, including his wife. Leo swears to kill his wife, whoever she is. Tambi grabs his by his nostrils and starts firing rounds into the floor, getting closer and closer to his balls. “MAKE THE CALL OR I’LL RIP YOUR FACE OFF! MAKE THE CALL OR I’LL BLOW YOU APART ONE LIMB AT A TIME! MAKE THE CALL OR I’LL ANNIHILATE YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY AND DESECRATE THEIR GRAVES! MAKE THE CALL! MAKE THE CALL!”

Finally he relents, but he takes too long to call. “I think you shot my foot!” I know I did, Tambi replies. Pick up the phone and make the call. Hurry, the fire’s spreading. “What fire?” Tambi smashes his liquor all over the place and lights a match. That fire. “You’re crazy!” he screams. No, Tambi replies, I’m the ‘bitch’ who’s taking away everything but your heartbeat, make that call or I’ll take that too!

He makes the funds transfer while Tambi ties Vicky up to one bedpost. “Mrs. Parker regrets to inform you your services are no longer required.” Tambi ties Leo’s arm to the other bedpost, and throws a single knife on the bed between them. “I’m going to leave you two lovebirds to work out your marital difficulties.”

Vicky Weiss wakes up in bed after reliving this as a nightmare. When she raises her head, we see that she is Lindsey Noel.

Francine flies home on Griffin Silver’s private plane. Griffin notices that she keeps leaving messages at a number back there, and he says, “There’s someone else, isn’t there?” It’s over, Francine says. “And yet, you still love him.” Please shut up, Francine says, and collapses in sobs.

Casey wakes up to find Katchoo crying in the bathroom with half a box of tissues scattered around her. She takes Katchoo into her bed. Their silhouette is watched by Cherry Hammer from a car outside in the street.

3-56

volume03issue56Katchoo and Casey are having lunch in a diner. Casey knows Katchoo is fixing to leave because she had a fight with Francine and she always runs away when things get bad. Katchoo denies they had a fight, but Casey insists they’ve known each other for so long if one of them so much as raises an eyebrow and the whole world comes crashing down.

So Casey makes a pitch to be Katchoo’s girlfriend instead. She has Katchoo admit Francine was more off then on, and now she’s gone, but there’s six billion more choices left. And if Katchoo insists on feeling sorry for herself, she will miss out on the best thing that ever happened to her: “Me!”

This freaks out a Catholic priest who has been listening to the whole conversation. He says, “Young lady, if you have no care for your own soul, mourn for the souls of your unborn children!”

Katchoo says, “Yeah, that’ s what we want to do, supply you guys with more children. Don’t you have a parish to torment?” The priest walks away swearing oaths to Mary and Joseph.

Casey resumes the conversation. Katchoo’s thing with Francine was on, off. Her thing with David was on, off. She needs to set down roots with someone she can depend on, someone who will be there every day. She offers herself as a roommate. Katchoo asks where she would sleep. Casey offers her bed, but Katchoo says a one-room apartment would drive her crazy no matter who she shared it with.

Katchoo was going to work with Tambi, she is half-owner of a company with her sister Tambi (she doesn’t mention it controls 17% of the US GDP), but she accepts Casey’s offer and she will be roomates instead. Casey is overjoyed.

Agent Sara Bryan gets permission to make contact with Katchoo undercover. She gets a complete makeover, and is dolled up to look like Audrey Hepburn. If you want to catch a Parker Girl, act like one.

Katchoo calls Carolyn Hobbes and arrages to get the keys to a studio she keeps. Katchoo wants to start painting again and she needs a space to do it. Carolyn says Katchoo has a bright future ahead of her, and she’s grateful Katchoo is letting her share it.

While Francine watches Griffin Silver play his guitar and work up a new song, Katchoo leaves a message on her voice mail, which Francine refuses to answer. Katchoo apologizes for being a hard person to live with, and she can’t bear the thought of Francine treating her like a past life and shutting her out of her life. “I love you, Francine, I always have, I always will.”

3-57

volume03issue57Katchoo comes to a movie late and sits next to a girl in pigtails. When she plops down the girl is Francine at her age. When she puts some popcorn in her face, Francine is about 35 and has a baby. Katchoo says, “What did I miss?” Francine is now 70 years old. She says, “Me.”

The movie is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Hoc, Adolph, Weiner, Blimpo, Sleezy, Hippy, and Freddy). They come home from work to find the door of their cottage open. Since no one fesses up, they go to Snow White’s cottage to see if she did it. Snow White is Francine, and she’s barefoot and looks pregnant (a wicked witch gave her a bite of an apple earlier).

Snow White keeps getting fatter and fatter. The dwarves give her a chalice of alka seltzer. She wants a straw, but they go, “Just drink it already! Damnation woman, crap on a cracker!” When she belches it is so powerful it sends all of them flying. A bucket of silver (get it, Brad Silver?) falls on Snow White and kills her.

The wicked witch is revealed to be Veronica, who gloats that the last good girl is dead and the prince is “Mine, all mine!” But a gust of wind inflates her cloak and carries her over a cliff to her death.

At the funeral of Snow White she is carried by the dwarves in a glass coffin. Lord Bradley shows up on a white horse. He’s dead, Sire, they tell him. “No, not dead, just forsaken.” Lord Bradley kisses Snow White, and she awakes. “At last, my prince has come! Take me, sire, I want to have your children.”

“Then we’ll have to adopt,” he says. Come again? Lord Bradley pulls off a mask and it is Katchoo. He says, “Come away with me, my love, be my bride.” But you’re a woman! “And you love me, your kiss doth betray you.” But you’re a woman! It can never be, my mother speaks for God and tells me we would be damned for all eternity! “With you beside me eternity would be but a maiden’s gasp. If love be proof of his design, are we who feel its fire not tempered by the same hand? Who do we offend, the smith of our hearts? Come away with me! What say you fair maiden?”

“Well, yes!” Yes? “Yes!” And you’re sure? You’re not going to change your mind on me, are you? “Sire, please! What kind of maiden do you think I am? Snow White does not change her mind! Ever! Now, are you going to throw me on your horse and light my fire for eternity, or not?” Oh God, I love this woman! Katchoo screams.

Hoc says, “Well, there goes any chance we had at network TV. Looks like independent film for us.”

Katchoo wakes up from her dream with her face covered in tears. She washes up, then goes downstairs to see Casey doing things with yoga that men would pay her money to see. Casey tells her what she’s got planned for the day, and asks Katchoo about what she’s doing today. “Getting on with my life, Casey. Getting on with my life.”

3-58

volume03issue58After rebuffing a car salesman who mistakes her for a dumb college girl, Katchoo buys a beat up old truck. She waxes philosophical about the love of her life running away to join the soccer mom Corps, and she thinks about Casey, who isn’t deep, but she’s there and she’s not hung up on some fantasy. She gets her old paintings out of storage and takes them to her new studio. She sits there in the sun on the tailgate of her truck, eating a hamburger and fries and thinking she’s had worse days. “I can do this. There is life after Francine.”

Francine is in the hospital getting an ultrasound, she thinks her baby is so cute, but the technician is puzzled. The doctor checks her out, and gives her the bad news, her fetus is dead. There’s no heartbeat. The artist alternates frames of Francine’s silent scream, fading to black, with scenes of her child growing up, scenes that will never come to be.

The studio is the size of a barn with a natural north-facing skylight for illumination. Katchoo loves it. Carolyn Hobbs assistant, Daniel, says they put the word out to their usual stable of models that Katchoo is auditioning. He tells Katchoo not to be surprised if strangers drop by wanting to take their clothes off for her.

After Daniel leaves, Katchoo unwraps her paintings. The studio is hot,so she takes off her shirt and makes a note to talk to Daniel about the air conditioner. When she looks at her paintings of Francine she sees the proof that one time she loved somebody with all her heart.

Sara Bryce, going as Sara “Fitzgerald”, comes into the studio pretending to be an art groupie who knows all about Katchoo and is stunned by the Francine paintings. Katchoo is suspicious and asks, “Who are you?” Sara gives her name and says she hopes to be her new assistant. “I don’t need an assistant, I need a model.” Sara says if she can do a night jump over water, she can probably be a model for an artist. She accepts the job and agrees to come by at 2 pm the next day.

Brad was told of Francine’s miscarriage and is rushing over. Meanwhile the doctor tries to console Francine, who calls Katchoo’s number. She really needs to talk to her now. But Casey intercepts the call and erases the message before listening to it. “No more games Francine, she can’t take it anymore! You had your chance and blew it! It’s over you freaking boomerang!”

3-59

volume03issue59Tambi takes a home pregnancy test and fails. Cherry Hammer calls her with information about Vicky Weiss, aka Nazi Girl. Tambi says she worked the Florida cartel until she “fired” her. Cherry found a therapist who’s lawyers were both romantically involved with Francine Peters, “Katina’s favorite vice”. Noel started training with Casey at a gym, and Casey is Katina’s current roommate. That’s a lot of coincidences, so Cherry followed her. Lindsey, Casey, and Katchoo all went to dinner, and Cherry got Lindsey’s prints off a glass. Its Vicky Weiss.

Tambi tells Cherry not to do anything, she is sending Becky. “That’s kind of drastic, isn’t it?” But Tambi doesn’t want to mess around, she doesn’t care about what Vicky’s plans are. The dead have no plans. Cherry is to keep an eye on her for three hours until Becky shows up. And that’s that.

In a coffee shop Marge tells Casey that Francine lost her baby, and Casey realizes that was what she was trying to call Katchoo about. She feels awful and rushes to see Katchoo. Sara is posing nude for Katchoo in the studio. Casey says she needs to talk. But she gets another call from Lindsey Noel who invites her to bring Katchoo for a party downtown at the four seasons. While she talks to Casey, Miss Noel takes out a can of gasoline and some primer cord and lays a gun on the bed. “I’ve arranged for a little surprise this evening, my way of saying thanks for your friendship. It’s going to be hot!”

And she thinks to herself, by this time tomorrow, Tambi, your little sister will be burned to a crisp. You’ll put two and two together and……

When she reaches for her gun, her hand explodes and turns into a bloody stump.

In a building across the street Cherry Hammer watches with binoculars and says, “Don’t play with your food.” Becky says she’s just saying hello to an old friend.

Vicky Weiss looks up and sees a neat hole in the window. “No!” A second sniper round is a head shot.

Tambi is having dinner in a nice place (she wears a tux). Becky sends her video of the scene from the telescope over Tambi’s cell phone. Tambi says, “See the gas can?” Becky’s third shot hits the gas can and the entire hotel room is destroyed in an explosion.

Tambi breaks out a cigar to celebrate, and mentions to Cherry that she arranged for a certain actress to be waiting for her in Cherry’s townhouse, wearing an Elvis costume complete with sequins. “Damn, boss, I don’t care what Becky says, you’re the best!”

Now Casey lays it all out for Katchoo. Francine is getting married and she lost her baby recently, and Katchoo got a call from her recently but Casey erased the message. Katchoo is furious. Casey says she was just trying to protect her, because last time she was sick for a month. And to top it all off, Casey gives Katchoo a letter from Katchoo’s mother. She read it already, naturally, because she could see the word funeral through the envelope. Katchoo takes the letter and yells for Casey to go home.

As Katchoo recites her own poem, she vandalizes the grave of her step-father with “Child Molester” and rigs it to burn.

This mask I wear you gave to me
One winter night beneath the trees
It’s black and blue, enshrouds my life
Surrounds my eyes, and blinds my sight

This mask I wear pretends I’m here
And hides me from the awful fear
That you might find the heart of me
And take that too beneath the trees

This mask I wear to hide the pain
Is all I have to keep me sane
I just fell down I’m told to tell
There are no words to stop this hell

This mask I pray to God for why
He hates me sot o watch me die
A little more with every night
This man comes in to rape my life

But little girls grow up my friend
And learn the wicked ways of men
And this mask I wear comes off the day
This mask I wear lies on your grave.

3-60

volume03issue60Francine is getting married but she’s still sad about losing her baby, and her mother Marie worries if its too soon for her. But she gives Francine a pep talk. “Marry this wonderful man who loves you dearly, make a family and give me grandchildren to spoil. Could you do that for your poor old mother?” Yes Mama. Marie cinches Francine’s waist within an inch of her life to get her into her wedding dress. “Just take small breaths,” Its the wrong dress, according to the tag. In a Church across town a Hispanic bride is crying because her dress is too big.

Griffin Silver shows up with a haircut and no sunglasses, and Nikki is there too. They meet Uncle Maury and Aunt Libby and Griffin tells Brad that will be him and Francine in fifty years. Francine’s brother Benjamin shows up, and Marie sends him out to get the right dress at St. Marys and give the Latina woman her dress. Then Marie’s husband Frank shows up. Marie slams the door in his face. Francine can hear him out in the hall saying he came for his Pumpkin to give her away, and Francine says, “Oh Daddy thank you” but Marie bars the door between them.

Casey and Katchoo take a cab to the wedding,. It’s raining. Casey asks if she wants to go through with this but Katchoo runs inside. Brad intercepts Katchoo and says, “Please, it’s our wedding day.” Katchoo just wants to talk to her. Griffin Silver recognizes Katchoo from her Parker Girl days and almost blurts out her code name, “Baby June” but Katchoo knocks him out with a wicked jab before he can get the name out.

Francine asks “What’s happening out there Daddy” and he says a little blond girl just punched out the best man. Marie runs out there muttering that Katina is not going to ruin our wedding. Francine goes, our wedding? and lets her head droop.

Casey recognizes Griffin when he starts to come to, and says she’s got all his CDs, even the French one nobody likes. She asks him to sign her bra. “G-g-got a pen?”

Katina and Marie get into an argument, and Marie says Francine lost her baby after she went to see her and Marie holds her partially responsible. Katchoo says, “Get out of my way you fat cow, or I’ll tell everybody about the modelling career you had in New York City after high school. You probably don’t even know you have a cult following. Whatever happened to Mary Midnight they all want to know.” Marie’s mouth drops wide open and she freezes like a statue, which permits Katchoo to go in to see Francine.

This the the eye of the hurricane, a little quiet place where they can hash things out.

Katchoo is sorry about the baby. She didn’t know until a few days ago. Francine says, It’s over, and those two words close the book on many things. Katchoo sighs. “Helen Francine Silver, that’s going to take some getting used to.”

“I have to do this.” Katchoo says she knows.

“It’s just, where did we get off track, y’know?” Francine says she’s only losing a fantasy, somebody to put on a pedestal and worship. Katchoo says, “You have so much potential Francine, I can see it, but you waste it all on all these mindless traditions.” She touches her veil. “This is the illusion Francine. This!” Francine says she’s marrying Brad because he loves her for who she is, not for who he wants her to be.

Katchoo is frustrated. “This is so important and I’m not doing it right. Okay, marry him, have kids, even soccer moms need a friend to have coffee with once in a while. I’ll be your coffee friend. But don’t shut me out! I couldn’t bear it!”

Francine says, “And what happens when one of those Parker Girls comes calling when you are with my family? You can’t even come to my wedding without punching out the best man.”

So Francine’s dress arrives and she gets married, and is driven away in a big white limo while Katchoo stands in the rain.

Losing you I dream of you
Is it the same way for you?
How can I take my heart from you?
Even though I’m losing you
I still dream of you.

 

3-61

volume03issue61Yousaka Takahashi adminsters the Han-Goroshi (half-killing) to a fifteen year old Chinese boy named David Qin just for walking across the street to buy groceries and crossing an invisible line into the territory of the Yakuza youth. David Qin’s sister begs him to leave David alone, he has asthma. “Are you so weak you have to pick on helpless boys to feel strong?” When Yousaka attacks her, she uses martial arts to get him prone on the street with his arm in the position of being broken at his slightest move. His fellow gang members laugh at him. His attempt to escape leads to another move where she scissors her legs around his body and smacks his head against the street. Yousaka asks where she learned to fight like that. “David taught me.”

The Qin children leave, but the Yakuza gang wants more action. Yousaka tells them to let them go. One of the gang members blows smoke in his face and insults Yousaka’s own sister Darcy. David retaliates by getting the fellow’s nose hooked by his fingers. This is observed by a Kusomo, a member of the real Yakuza who is observing Yousaka for his father. Kusomo asks why didn’t Yousaka kill the China Boy. “There’s no honor in drowning a puppy,” Yousaka replies. Kusomo says Yousaka’s ability to see the good in people is his fatal flaw. That puppy will grow up to be a scorpion.

At home Darcy steps out of the pool. Yousaka complains that he can see through her bra. She says, “Oh grow up Yousaka!” and pulls him into the water. Then Darcy takes off her bra altogether and jumps on Yousaka’s back.

Inside the house, their father Kenichi Takahashi complains, “My son shows no desire for power, my daughter has no power over her desires. If something happens to me, who will lead the American Yakuza?” His brother Ichiro mentions his son Kusomo. “He will be dead if you leave him on the street!” Ichiro says the gangs are a good training ground for him. “No one lives more than five years in the gangs. Those boys are just movable corpses, nails we hammer into our enemies!”

Kenichi proposes an end to the ongoing gang war under terms that will leave the Takahashi family in firm control.

In the pool Yousaka wants Darcy off him but she says, “You have to buck me off.” Yousaka says he’s not bucking his sister. “Half-sister, and the non-half wants to buck!” Montaro from the gang shows up and says Darcy is a hot momma. Darcy conceals herself behind Yousaka and utters oaths in Japanese. Yousaka says ask Dogan what happens when you disrespect his sister after he gets off the painkillers. Montaro apologizes and warns David the police are looking for him. That Chinese boy he beat earlier? He went home and died. He just laid in his bed and didn’t wake up. David Qin is dead.

3-62

volume03issue62Yousaka Takahashi killed David Qin, but his family has the lawyers and the resources to get him off, especially since the sister only has a single lawyer working pro-bono to pursue the wrongful death case. Nobody beats the Yakuza in a court of law. But even after the verdict comes down, Yousaka lowers his head in remorse, and David Qin’s sister sees that. She leaves him with an envelope.

Darcy congratulates Yousaka for making his bones and being baptized into the church of the Yakuza. Darcy takes Yousaka to lunch in her Mercedes. She calls a sushi bar on Sunset that doesn’t even have an address, you just have to know it’s there. She has Tan clear “last years sex symbol” out of her favorite table and tells him to get a new chair so she doesn’t have to sit where that ass has been. Meanwhile Yousaka sees David Qin’s sister waiting for a bus in a bus stop with a homeless person sleeping next to her.

Ichiro wants to build a bridge to Japan for the American mafia, but Kenichi Takahashi doesn’t want to do it. His mind is made up. Ichiro gets out of the car and says he wants cigars. Kusomo is in the back seat, he doesn’t want anythung. Kenichi complains they’re going to be late to a sit-down.

Kusomo pulls out a gun and says, “You don’t have to worry about being late ever again. Did you know my old man banged your daughter?” Which one? I have two. “You lying son of a bitch!” One here, one in Japan. “What’s her name?” Yoshiko. “Where in Japan?” Private school, away from all this. “That’s smart, it’s too violent here.”

Kenichi has been reaching into his pocket during this whole exchange, he shoots through the car seat back at Kusomo. Then he sees his own brother come out the store while he loads another magazine into his pistol. “Ichiro you son of a…” But Kusomo is still alive, and he manages to finish the job. He blows Kenichi’s brains all over the windshield. Ichiro looks inside the car. Both men are dead. He leaves the scene on foot.

Nothing Darcy can do or say will cheer Yousaka up, even though he won, not lost, in court today. All he can think about is that Chinese family with a hole in it that will never be filled. Darcy kisses her brother full on the lips. He refuses her advance, and goes to his own room alone.

He opens the envelope the Chinese girl gave him. There’s a cross on a chain, and a picture of David Qin and his sister in happier times. David kneels on the floor and prays for the first time in his life.

3-63

volume03issue63David arrives home at Darcy’s estate in LA after attending art school in New York for a number of years. He meets Bambi and Tambi and Darcy’s personal assistant Samantha. Darcy is in the pool, she is overjoyed to see “Saka” her little brother. He insists that she call him David Qin. He has taken the name of the boy he killed to honor his memory. When she hugs him he says she’s getting him all wet. “That’s my line, dear boy.” They dry off in the sun. David is amazed at all the changes since their father died and Darcy took over the business. “The frikkin Yakuza shut us out and tried to take away everything he worked for. If I hadn’t taken over and gone into business with the Americans, I don’t know what we could have done.”

David asks about the tattoos everybody is wearing. It’s Darcy’s brand, she puts it on everything she owns. David has seen it on the legs of the girls there, and objects that Darcy can’t own people. She launches into a monologue about how people are sheep who just want to belong to someone or something, and the secret to life is to be a wolf. “And if one of your possessions doesn’t want to belong anymore?” Then I turn the matter over to Tambi, she says. I haven’t lost one yet.

Inside the house, Katchoo asks Veronica who is the man with Darcy. “Yousaka, the brother. Only he calls himself David Qin. One of those born again types.” Katchoo likes his long hair and wonders why she hasn’t seen him before. “Darcy keeps him on the east coast out of the way of the business. Why have you been avoiding me? What you did to me, it was like a release! I’m desperate to see you again, to explore what we have together…” Katchoo interrupts and says It’s always about you, isn’t it Veronica? As Katchoo continues to stare at David, Veronica walks away.

At the party for Senator Chalmers Vicky Weiss offers David a drink, and a screw. Darcy steers her away. “Don’t eat the babies.” David sees the ghost of his namesake at the party and he doesn’t feel so good. Darcy brings Katchoo up to introduce her to David. “Baby, I want you to meet somebody.” Katchoo is drunk, she says, Hello somebody, well lookit you, aren’t you somethin’ cute. This is where she later says she fell in love with David. Darcy steers Katchoo over toward Emma and Senator Chalmers.

David tells Darcy that’s the woman he is going to marry. “That would be a good trick,” Darcy said, “for one thing she’s already involved with someone. Me!”

David follows Emma, Katchoo, and the Senator upstairs and witnesses the incident where they strip his clothes off, dowse him in campaign, and drag him into a room backwards by his nuts.

Later, Katchoo offers to drive Emma home, and promises to get some Taco Bell for her and Darcy. David steals one of Darcy’s pictures of Katchoo. Samantha reports that “We have a problem” to Darcy. The RNC clean money is gone.

Two years later, Darcy calls David in his NYC dormitory and says, “Do you remember Katina Choovanski? I introduced you to her at the party a couple of years ago, before she ran away with a pocketful of my damn money!” Darcy is idly shooting a pistol as she speaks. “I just found out she’s living in Houston with another woman. I want you to go there and keep an eye on her for me. You know, find out what she’s doing and who she’s doing it with.”

David doesn’t want to spy on Katchoo, but Darcy begs him to, and promises to buy him the house in Hana he likes so much. “All I’m asking you to do is watch a beautiful woman for a few weeks, what’s wrong with that?”

So David follows Katchoo into the museum (as seen in Volume 1 issue 1), watches her leave a bloody tampon on a statue of a man and woman embracing. He introduces himself to Katchoo, and follows her out of the museum in the rain as she tries repeatedly to shake him off with rude remarks. “Katina, don’t you remember me? We met at a party once. I guess I was hoping you’d remember the party.”

Katchoo pretends that she’s never met him before. She says, “Here I am standing in the rain talking to the worst haircut I’ve ever seen.” Eventually after some verbal fumbling David passes her test, and qualifies to buy her a cup of coffee. The rest, as they say, is history.

3-64

volume03issue64

Katchoo is in therapy. It’s been a year since Francine left her standing in the rain like an abandoned dog. In her mind, Katchoo wanted to marry Francine and be a real couple, make a home together. Francine left her just like her father did when he died, and David. “Everyone you’ve ever loved has left you, haven’t they, Baby?” Katchoo curls up into a ball and says yes. And she goes off on a spiel about being a monster and everyone left when they saw through to the real Katchoo.

The shrink says, “You’re not delusional, you’re not a loser, you’re not even a monster. You’re just a good person who can’t control the world any better than the rest of us. Stop trying. If God can’t control people what makes you think you can? Francine and David didn’t leave you, they just had to move on with their lives. That’s just life, it’s what people do. And you have to let them go because someday you’re going to meet someone who won’t leave you, and you don’t want to mess it up because you’re looking over your shoulder at the past.”

That’s it for the session. Katchoo is booked for the following Wednesday. She asks her shrink Juretta if she’s coming to her opening night. “Of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

At the gallery, Carolyn Hobbs’ assistant Peter asks an old lady not to lick the paintings. It turns out she is Mrs Vanderbuff, an incredibly wealthy patron. She complains that they don’t have salt like Picasso, but she’ll take all the male nudes. So Katchoo has sold half her work at a single stroke.

Carolyn is overjoyed. If Mrs Vanderbuff likes them, all the other art patrons will follow suit.

Freddy and Chuck are looking at Francine paintings. “That’s the one who got away, Chuck.” But Chuck points out that Freddy’s the one who dumped her. Chuck didn’t have a choice. “I must have been out of my mind,” Freddy replies. Chuck asks what Freddy is doing there anyway, he never expected to find him at an artsy function honoring Katchoo. “I support the arts,” Freddy says, “I write that check to the Rush Limbaugh show every year.” Their chit chat comes to a complete stop when they are confronted by a gigantic portrait of Francine, Katchoo’s best one yet. “That’s the biggest boob I’ve ever seen!”

Katchoo arrives late to the opening because her truck crapped out. Carolyn says after tonight she can buy a new truck, they just sold half of her paintings to one customer. She spanks Katchoo and says, “Let’s get out there and get your career started!”

3-65

volume03issue65

Carolyn introduces Katchoo to Mrs Vanderbuff, who tells her, “I like the naked men. The pretty girls are depressing! I had enough trouble keeping them out of the house when Mr. Vanderbuff was alive.”

She signs an autograph for a web designer who says he’s going to tell his partner that she is the find of the year. An art critic for the Houston Free Press is less impressed. He says it’s the biggest collection of sexist stereotypes and lamecore porn he’s ever seen, boring and offensive to the liberated mind, and he thinks his editor won’t even waste the space on such an obvious attempt to cash in on the sex fantasies of the puritannical upper class.

Freddy wants the big picture of Francine and he writes a check for $200 dollars. Jet (another assistant to Carolyn) says that wouldn’t even buy the canvas. Freddy makes a loud scene, bringing Peter over. He announces that this particular painting is not for sale. “This painting will be mine and you know why? Because I’m a shark, that’s why! I’m a shark and you’re the legs. Shark! Legs! Shark! Legs!”

Katchoo signs autographs in a snit because she’s still thinking about the bad review. Freddy comes over and starts some crap, and Katchoo tries to make peace with him because at least he never lied to her, they both like sports, cars, and the same woman. “Friends! You hung me by my wrists in the window of Macy’s!” You had me thrown in jail! “You broke my nose!” You broke Francine’s heart! “Are you going to sell me the big painting of Francine or not?” No! If you wanted to look at Francine you shouldn’t have dumped her, asshole! Peter and Chuck drag Freddy away while Carolyn holds Francine back. Soon the incident is over.

“I can tell I’m going to have my hands full with you,” Carolyn says. You seem to enjoy that, Katchoo replies. “Yes I do. Yes I do.”

 

3-66

 volume03issue66

Katchoo lies in bed thinking of her recent models. There was Sara “Fitzerald” (actually Special Agent Sara Bryce) who was very pretty and had an aura of danger around her, but she had to go to Baltimore all of a sudden. Then there was Pia, but she was so skinny it was like painting a popsicle stick. Then there was this muscle man with no confidence, more trouble than he was worth. When Katchoo fired him he sat in his car for twenty minutes and cried. She even did a few self-portraits. There were also some paintings so weird that Carolyn didn’t want them.

One time when she was starving and trying to survive on the streets of LA she stole a steak from the plate of Kevin Spacey in an outdoor bistro. Then she sat on some steps and worked on a science fiction comic book called “The Winter Chronicles” (which is actually an old work of Terry Moore, he’s recycling it here). Then Kevin Spacey’s escort, Emma, finds Katchoo. That was when they first met.

Katchoo misses Casey and decides to go out to Las Vegas to see her. She’s a showgirl now.

Sara Bryce is at FBI Headquarters doing shooting practice. All six rounds are in the groin of her target. Odd grouping, her boss mutters. “Rapist,” she explains. “I think I found another Parker Girl.”

Her boss is pissed. Sara is supposed to be working counter-terrorism. Every available agent is working CT until Mueller says different. “Yes sir.”

He relents and asks her what she has, but he looks at his watch. She gives the details about the death of Lindsey Noel, and mentions the evidence of a sniper working from 1000 meters away. She mentions Leo Dominguez, and she mentions his “wife” “Olivia” who got into a knife fight with him, set the fire, and killed all the bodyguards on the way out. She spent a month in a Cuban hospital recovering from her wounds, then disappeared.

When Lindsey Noel filed rape charges in Houston, the police documented her scars and they were consistent with deep laceration knife wounds. She posed as a therapist but the police could not verify her credentials post-mortem.

Her boss tells her to send him what she’s got and he’ll look at it. “I have, it’s been on your desk a month.”

Counterterrorism is priority one, he repeats.

“Dammit Keith! Sir! Everyone Lindsey Noel made contact with are friends or associates of Katina Choovanski. Seconds before the explosion, Noel was on the phone with Choovanski’s roommate. Let me go examine the body and get samples for a DNA test. If they match the blood found at the Dominguez house, we’ve got a Parker Girl, and Katina Choovanski has a lot of explaining to do.”

 

3-67

volume03issue67

Freddy Femur meets Detective Mike Walsh at the Harris County Morgue. Doctor Stryker is the one performing autopsies, and Sara Bryce is waiting for them. There’s a round of introductions.

When the corpse is unveiled, it’s Lindsey Noel, a burned up stinking shell. Freddy passes out and sleeps through the whole autopsy because Sara gives him a tranquilizer. Mike Walsh offers to buy Sara lunch…barbecued ribs. “You’re a sick man, Walsh.”

When Freddy wakes up he sees Doctor Stryker and says she has beautiful eyes. In answer to his query, no she is not married.

Francine’s mother is met by a freelance writer from LA who is tracking down Mary Midnight.

Sara and Mike Walsh go to Katchoo’s apartment. Katchoo is overjoyed to see her, it’s been so long, but when she hugs her and looks over her shoulder she sees Walsh and realizes something is wrong. Sara drops her file on Katchoo’s coffee table and says, “Gotcha!” Katchoo screams OH GOD!

Francine is riding on Griffin Silver’s yacht with her father and they do a little bonding. He says he regrets not being with his wife anymore but he can’t mention why, and Francine complains that her mother can’t mention why, and she says the whole thing is stupid.

He says, “Follow your heart, Francie, trust what it tells you no matter what other people say. You don’t want to end up like your old man, sitting on the back of a boat looking at where you’ve been, wishing you could go back.”

 

3-68

volume03issue68

The free-lance writer who has tracked down Marie Peters shows her evidence of her worldwide cult fame, as she has a huge following of fan clubs, magazines, comic books, posters, t-shirts, prints, buttons, you name it, and she knew nothing about it. Marie digs out an index card with Katchoo’s number and calls her.

Katchoo is being interrogated by Sara and Mike, and she’s pissed because every time she trusts someone they screw her. “I’m your friend, Katchoo, but if the FBI has a beef with you we need to get to the bottom of it.” When her phone rings so goes, “Who is this, the CIA?” It’s Marie Peters. She tells Katchoo there’s a reporter there with pictures of Mary Midnight and accuses Katchoo of telling the press where she lives. “Hey, I didn’t say a word, I told you Mary Midnight is a cult phenomenon. If I were you I would get a lawyer and incorporate. All those people using images of you owe you lots of money.” This gets the wheels cranking. Katchoo starts to ask about Francine but Marie hangs up. Mike Walsh is astonished that Katchoo knows Mary Midnight.

In Chicago Tambi kicks the stuffing out of a punching bag. Katchoo calls her and says the FBI has a huge document on her, racketeering, tax evasion, its all bogus but the FBI don’t press charges until they can make them stick. They’ve got pictures of her Ferrari from the Parker Girl days, Swiss bank account numbers, the whole works. Tambi has an idea. Katchoo doesn’t want her to kill them, she’s in enough trouble as it is.

Tambi hangs up and has Gina put her through to Sara Bryce’s cell phone. Sara is celebrating a little early that she nailed Katchoo’s ass. Walsh warns her that these people have a way of surprising you. She gets the call from Tambi, who says, “Not supposed to keep the little fish, Sara. I’m the one you want. This is Tambi Baker. I want to come in!”

In the Bahamas Francine gets drunk and gets a Darcy Parker lily tattoo on her breast, just like Katchoo.

In Las Vegas one of Casey’s showgirl coworkers, Rusty, is late because she couldn’t get a babysitter. Her boss puts a picture of another girl on her mirror. “This is the twenty-one year old will replace you next time you’re late, capische? Thirty year olds can’t afford to be late, Rusty.”

Rusty’s child Cody is outside the casino. Casey brings him inside. “Okay ladies, cover up, my boyfriend is in the room!” The girls shower him with kisses. But Madam is coming back. They hide Cody under one of the girls’ gown and Casey leads the group in prayer. This throws Madam for a loop, she says, “Ten minutes to curtain,” and leaves.

Rusty says she hates the slinky costume. The show starts with a short MC cracking smutty little jokes while Casey and the other girls stand there. Rusty puts on a false smile and gives it everything she’s got in the slinky costume, which looks exactly like a toy slinky.

 

3-69

volume03issue69

Francine and her mother have a heart-to-heart talk. Marie drops a bombshell on her: She was “Mary Midnight” and that’s how she met her father, he was in a photo club. But when she became pregnant with Benjamin she left it all behind and concentrated on being a good mother.

Her father had fallen in love with one woman, but ended up married to another, just like he always said happened.  Francine can tell her Dad misses the woman he fell in love with. She says, “We are grateful you tried to do what was best for us, but we’re all grown up now, what about you?”

Tambi meets Sara and her boss on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah. She wants to trade an iPod for Katchoo. The hard drive of the iPod cointains all the banking and corporate information of the Parker Girl operation. In exchange, the FBI obtains complete absolution for any and all charges against Tambi and her girls. Then Tambi will assemble an elite team of her best to work for the U S, but they will not exist on any payroll. They will go where the US officially cannot go and do what the US cannot do under existing laws.

And if the FBI says no, then Tambi goes back to the way things were, keeps the money, and does it all without them anyway.

Tambi strikes the deal. Becky and Cherry Hammer will work with her. Katchoo is a free woman. And she wonders what free people do.

In Carolyn Hobbs’ office Peter sticks his head in and says there’s a tall gorgeous brunette down in the gallery asking about Katchoo. “Is it Sara? She dyes her hair, you know.” It’s not Sara, it’s the real thing. Katchoo briefly hopes it might be Francine. But it’s David.

“Hi. Remember me?”

3-70

volume03issue70

Katchoo wakes up in bed naked with David and looks out the window. “Las Vegas? Huh.” She goes to the loo. That’s where she sees the marriage license posted on the mirror. She’s married to David and she has no memory of it.

Casey and Rusty drive in the desert, and Casey brags about Griffin Silver signing her bra. Rusty says, “Honey, if I ever met Griffin Silver he could have my bra, after I wrote my phone number on it of course!” They stop and get out to hike cross-country. Rusty is looking for anything that looks like it came from her missing husband Beau or a F-150 pickup or a dog.

David and Katchoo eat breakfast and try to reconstruct what happened. David remembers a little more. Katchoo was glommed onto him like a koala bear, but the hotel was sold out, but they gave them the Emergency Suite. Katchoo put on quite a show for an elderly couple in the elevator and they barely made it to the room. “Greatest night of my life,” he says. So they really are married.

When Casey and Rusty get back to the car, they find that Rusty has a stalker. He left some semen on the car seat and a note telling her that she’s going to hell. Back at Rusty’s trailer Casey cooks burgers on a barbecue grill and then Katchoo and David show up.

Now it’s Casey’s turn to glom onto him like a koala bear. Marry me! Casey implores.

“Too late sweetcheeks, he’s mine.”

3-71

volume03issue71

David and Katchoo come backstage to see Casey between shows, and now it’s David’s turn to get all the attention lavished on him that little Cody received earlier, and he even ends up hiding under a showgirl’s skirt when Madam shows up, which makes Katchoo jealous. “The rules are, if you’re going to dive under a dress, dive under mine!”

You don’t wear dresses, baby.

“Don’t you dare do Elvis when I’m yelling at you!”

Then Katchoo says she needs to get him out of there before he impregnates somebody. Casey says its not his fault, he’s like fresh meat in a shark tank.

One of the Japanese girls says, “Bye David! Denwa shite kudasai!” Katchoo flips her off and says, Denwa shimasu ama! “Oh, she speaks Japanese! She called me a bitch. Pretty bold for a midget.” Casey tells her Katchoo’s a lot tougher than she looks so be careful.

Brad surprises Francine with news that he’s going to join a practice in Houston, she can be with her friends again, and live normal. They even pay his practice insurance, so they can get a big house in a nice neighborhood. Francine jumps for joy, but this lets her lily tattoo on her breast poke into view briefly, and Brad sees it. He asks where she got it.

“The Bahamas.”

That explains why she has given him the could shoulder since they got back.

“I’ve had cramps!”

For two months? Fine, call my office and make an appointment. Brad freaks out worse when she says it cost $300 to get this incredibly invasive thing done to her by another guy. “And then you try to hide it from me? Not cool, Francine! Not cool!”

Rusty is using the bathroom when a man comes in and scrapes something on her stall door. She threatens to call the police, but he doesn’t leave until he’s finished. After he leaves, she sees what he wrote on the door: We’ll burn in hell my desert rose, together forever, I own your soul — Slit Lurker

3-72

volume03issue72

Rusty and her little boy Cody are staying in Katchoo’s hotel room until Katchoo can catch her stalker, or kill him, whichever comes first. She bought a ring for David to make the marriage more official, but he can’t accept. A ring is a symbol of trust. He has something to tell her and it won’t be easy: He slept with Tambi. Her militant amazon right-wing killing machine half sister.

Brad rings up “Francine, Woman of Mystery” to apologize about blowing up at her over the tattoo. So everything is cool between them. But he asks why a lily on her breast? Why not a little butterfly on her hip or something. What does it mean to her? “To me, it’s a symbol of love, eternal undying love.”

David says he did it for Katchoo. She came to him in Japan angry that David didn’t stay with Katchoo until she got pregnant. David wasn’t going back because Katchoo didn’t want him. Tambi threatened to kill him, so David offered to give her the child instead. Tambi had to get very drunk to do it. “Katchoo, I love you, I don’t love Tambi. I let her use my body that’s all. I felt I had no choice. I never thought I’d see you again.”

She gets up and walks out, leaving the ring on the table. Images of David and Tambi using each other in a mutual rape disgusts her. She calls up Tambi to get the straight story, but Tambi is in Iraq fighting with Cherry Hammer and Becky. The cell phone gives away their position, so Tambi tosses it and Becky destroys it with a number of rounds.

So Katchoo goes out to the parking lot to wait for Casey and Rusty. She smells cheap cologne and sees the stalker. He approaches with a gun. “Rusty? Rusty Smith? I love you, Desert Rose.” Katchoo comes behind him and gets him in a classic Parker Girl nose lock and throws his head down on the asphalt.

“That’s for treating women like prey,” she says, then she rams her knee into his face, turning it into jelly. “And that’s for terrorizing my friends.” Rusty begs Katchoo to stop, it’s enough. Katchoo wants to break the guys arms but she sees Casey smile and finds mercy. The police come and haul creep away. They find his apartment full of Rusty pictures and a video diary that documents a two year spiral into madness. Katchoo wonders why people who hear voices never hears, “Do charity work! Give to the poor! Hug a widow!”

Casey later gives up the showgirl gig and moves back to Houston so she doesn’t pick up a stalker of her own someday. David returns the ring to Katchoo, it’s too big. She says she’s got a plane to Houston at 1:30. David says he needs to take care of some legal stuff in New York, and then, he doesn’t know what to do. Katchoo offers him a job at her studio, she needs the help. “I love you D-boy, you’re the only man I’ve ever said that to.” They hug, and she winces in pain, she’s got a new tramp stamp, that’s why she’s wearing a sundress. David thanks her for giving him the best week of his life.

3-74

volume03issue74

Katchoo has an idea. Studio Katchoo, a working and teaching studio with lots of rooms for different projects, classes for the aspiring artists, studio space for the working artists, something for everyone. But she was broke. The company she shared with Tambi no longer existed, and neither did its assets. Her secret stash is still good in Switzerland, but Katchoo doesn’t want to touch that $850,000, it’s her retirement fund.

Katchoo has $27.14 in her pocket after filling up her truck. Twenty hours later she’s with Carolyn Hobbs, who gives her a check for some paintings they’ve sold lately, and wants to go in with Katchoo on her studio idea, and bankroll it.

Carolyn will handle the business, Katchoo will handle the creative stuff, and Carolyn gets to represent any prodigies she finds. Katchoo thinks it sounds good but what else does Carolyn want? Carolyn wants to know her as a friend. “What are you doing tonight?” Katchoo asks.

Somebody is rigging ambulances to blow up when the medic uses the paddles to restart people’s hearts.

Freddy is having dinner with Dr. Emily Stryker, and they get into a political argument after he asks the server if she’s a liberal. Freddy realizes he’s surrounded by liberals and needs a drink fast. Emily takes a call, she has to abort the dinner and go back to the morgue. Somebody blew up an ambulance.

Francine watches Griffin Silver unplugged on Austin City Limits and gets drunk. She cries, because the lyrics remind her of Katchoo. “If I had known she was to leave, I wouldn’t have known her from the start. Instead she winds up with my heart.”

3-75

 

volume03issue75

Francine and Brad visit Francine’s mother in Tennessee on their way back to Houston. Maria has turned the whole house into “Mary Midnight Productions”. Aunt Libby and Uncle Maury are employees, Maria says Katchoo has helped her with lawyers and agents and advised her to incorporate. Mother says, “You should cut her some slack, dear.” And best of all, Francine’s father has moved back home. They’re back in love. Francine cries tears of happiness.

Mike Walsh investigates the burned out ambulance while Dr. Emily Stryker examines what’s left of the body. “Poor man, how did you go from a babe in a womb to a burned out shell on my table?” she asks. Freddy is disgusted and says it looks like roadkill. She says, “He is irreplaceable, you will treat him with respect, somebody loved him.”

After David’s plane crash the headaches never stopped. In New York he undergoes an MRI which pinpoints the problem. He has a brain tumor in a place that surgery can’t reach. “Sometimes life is black and white,” thinks David. “Sometimes the answer to your prayer is no.”

Casey comes home to Katchoo and attacks her in the usual affectionate way.

Later, Francine leaves a message on Katchoo’s answering machine thanking her for helping her mother with all the Mary Midnight stuff. “God Katchoo, I miss you so much.” But her husband is coming, asking for the towels, so Francine hangs up.

Emily tells Mike Walsh she found residue of an explosive called RDX, used by the military. He asks how it got inside an ambulance. She says, “It was inside the patient.”

Katchoo comes home and listens to the message Francine left. It is the first time she’s heard Francine’s voice in more than a year. “…personally I think my mother has lost her mind but that’s beside the point, she asked for your help and you gave it to her, even after all the awful things she said to you. We said…”

Katchoo goes back and plays the message two more times, and starts crying.

volume03issue76

Katchoo walks in a park by herself thinking about the things she used to do here. Ride a merry-go-round, lose her virginity, hide from the cops after a firecracker spree, kiss her first girl, all in this park. Freddy broke up with Francine here. There’s a guy who has been dogging her for the last twenty minutes while she walks through the park. He asks her for the time. She goes, “Sure, it’s four-thirty.” The hand with the watch on the wrist is holding a pistol. He stares her down, then moves on. Never be a victim. If they bark, you bite. If they hit you cut, if they cut you shoot, and do it without hesitation. This is the gender that gave us rapists, dictators, suicide bombers, a biological kudzu strangling the planet one woman at a time.

Katchoo Studio is just getting off the ground. David is running the still life class. Casey is running the nudes. But Jet has put them both in the same studio, so everyone is drawing nudes covered in flowers. Freddy shows up and says his offer of $200 for the big Francine painting still stands. Jet tells him the painting sold for $150,000. Freddy asks Katchoo out on a date and he’s being sincere. Emily is out on one of her “Frankenstein conventions” and he’s got to show up at a charity gala with a beautiful woman or he won’t be able to sit at the president’s table. Katchoo is actually impressed that Freddy thinks she’s beautiful. “It’s up here in the head you’re screwed up, Choovanski.” She throws him out on his face.

“The truth is Francine is going to be there and I just wanted to see her, that’s all,” Freddy says. “I just thought you might want to see her too, I mean it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I don’t know about you but I really miss her, a lot.”

The door clicks open.

At the party Katchoo says, “If she’s not here Freddy, you’re dead meat.” Freddy assures her that Brad will be there with her because Brad is a big wheel at St Luke’s hospital.

Katchoo detaches from Freddy and hides in the crowd straining to get a glimpse of her. Francine is more than beautiful, she is radiant. Gone is the goofball Katchoo had known, to be replaced by a mature woman who looks comfortable in her own skin. Katchoo realizes that anything she had left to talk about would be ancient history. I should go, she thinks. I don’t belong here anymore.

Francine has a feeling and turns around, but Katchoo is already gone. She goes back to the studio and finds David still there, drinking a root beer. “My choirboy, my beautiful choirboy. I love you David.” I love you too, Chewie.

volume03issue77

Katchoo turns Jet on to some Griffin Silver on You Tube. Jet says she loves music history and learning about all these old guys. She leaves Katchoo sitting there, blinking. Old? Next month on her birthday she will be thirty. Katchoo wants to ask David if she looks old but he’s in the men’s room and he’s busy. He orders her out. Caroline catches her coming out of the men’s room. She wants Katchoo to think about doing commissions. Who called? Katchoo asks. “Have you ever heard of Mary Midnight?”

Tambi’s accountant says the Cayman accounts hit their mark she she split them again, 15 accounts at one million each. Tambi says she’ll feel better when they have 35 million. Patience, the accountant says. Oh by the way, the David Qin medical account shows no activity after November. No doctor visits, nothing. It just stopped. Tambi says get Dr. Fourney on the phone.

When he is reluctant to answer the call, Tambi’s accountant threatens to bring the IRS into it, and force him to spend the next year accounting for the previous seven, both professional and personal.

Tambi gets the call back in a few minutes and says, “Tambi Baker. I am an agent of the federal government that’s who the hell I am, and I don’t work with a branch that has to be polite to assholes who forget how lucky they are to be doing business in America. Shut up and cooperate or I will take awy everything you have and give it to the poor. That’s better.” She asks about David Qin. What she hears makes Tambi cry, and she smashes a window in her rage.

Francine’s mother is looking good, she’s on a stairmaster and talking to Francine by phone. She says she commissioned Katchoo to paint a limited edition of Mary Midnight and they’ll sell them through her website. Francine is convinced her mother has lost her mind.

David is teaching his class and has them painting Pia nude. He gets another bout of headaches but this time he sees black spots everywhere. But it fades when Katchoo rings him up on his cell. Katchoo tells him Francine’s mother, who practically called her the devil at the wedding, now wants her to paint her as a pinup girl. David says go ahead, Francine might get so mad she’ll call Katchoo. She might even pay a visit to tell Katchoo off in person. Thanks D. No problem. Katchoo asks him out for dinner, but he’s got a date with Casey. David has to go, Pia fainted again. Katchoo says, “For crying out loud, tell that girl to eat a meal!”

On the TV the ambulance bomber death toll is said to be fifteen now. David is talking to Francine over the phone now as she lets her dinner burn on the stove. Francine gets to the point, “My mother wants my best friend to paint a picture of her nude so she can sell it over the internet! Over my dead body!” Best friend? David points out that she said best friend, and asks how long she will keep up this feud. “Until she stops pulling stunts like this!” David says Katchoo has really changed, she has gone to therapy, but Francine says she’ll believe it when she sees it.

Casey comes to his apartment with flowers, wearing a little black dress. She says, “I’ve waited five years for my turn with you, handsome.”

“I’ll get my shirt.”

“Don’t bother, I’ll just have to rip it off later!”

volume03issue78

David wakes up in Casey’s bed. Her alarm clock is a little ballerina that kicks her feet. Casey brings him breakfast in bed that consists mostly of his one weakness, bacon. They shower together and Casey scrubs and massages his back, and then gives him a shave. On the porch when they drink coffee together, David tells her he wants to get Francine and Katchoo back together. Casey comes up with a plan to get them one at a time to a recording studio, ostensibly to watch a performance of one of their favorite artists.

When Francine sees Katchoo’s Chevy truck parked at the studio she is reminded of Katchoo but she doesn’t know it’s her truck. Casey grabs her arm and rushes her into the building before Francine has too much time to think about it.

When Katchoo and Francine realize they are in the same room together they blush. David says “This is an intervention.” Francine doesn’t want to do it and tries to leave, but the door is locked. David says, “I don’t care if you have me arrested for kidnapping, you’re not leaving this room until you work things out with Katchoo.”

Katchoo tells David to let her go. David refuses. Including Casey, he says, “We’re a family, the four of us. It’s the only family I got! Don’t break it apard, don’t spend the rest of your lives regretting it. He takes Francine’s hand. Then he asks Katchoo for her hand. She throws it over her back. David slaps handcuffs on them, binding Katchoo and Francine together. Casey throws the key in her bra, and Katchoo scoffs, like it’s a place none of them will go.

They don’t talk for an hour. Finally Francine asks if Casey got another boob job, they seem bigger. “I don’t know,” Katchoo mutters. She probably leases them. Francine asks if Katchoo knows how to pick the lock on the cuffs, since she’s the one with the criminal background. Katchoo says “You’re the one who had all the kinky boyfriends, maybe you know.”

This breaks the ice and they start talking about where they went wrong. Katchoo tells her the Parker Girl thing is over, Tambi works for the government now, and all she has left is her paintings. And all her paintings look like Francine. But none of them have a lily tattoo on their breast. Francine shows her. Katchoo objects that it was a mark of ownership by Darcy Parker. Francine says now its a symbol of love.

Katchoo says, “You did leave me to start a family.” Francine admits that it doesn’t work without Katchoo. Nothing works without her.

They stay up all night talking, and finally at 5 AM they pound on the glass and demand to be let out. Katchoo says she and Francine are back to being friends. David uncuffs then. But Katchoo says if David ever pulls a stunt like that, she will superglue his feet to his back.

Casey hugs Francine and asks to be forgiven. Francine forgives her, but she cuffs her to David and pulls Casey’s blouse out to let the key fall into her hand. Then Francine and Katchoo leave the two lovebirds in the studio and go out to eat. Casey stands there cuffed to David and says, “Kinky.”

volume03issue79

Pia Petrescu is a model for Katchoo, but she is 30 lbs underweight. Katchoo and Jet try to get her to eat a grape “no bigger than your eyeball” but Pia says no way she is eating an eyeball. If she eats it before posing for class she’ll be bloated. The conversation drifts and Katchoo screams to get it back on subject. Outside, Jay tells Silent Bob, “Damn, dude, I can hear that bitch from here.” Silent Bob fires up a gas torch, and Jay says, “Snoochie Boochies!”

Pia was the one who called Francine “Ma’am” and made her feel old. Katchoo could never use her as a model because she was too skinny, but she uses her in the studio because the models need to see a variety of body types. Katchoo realizes she can’t judge Pia, “We’re all deer in a field of lions, trying to live above the fear.” Katchoo resolves to ask David if he wants a big cheeseburger for lunch. She sees Casey sitting close to him and kissing him. “Of course some of the deer are back-stabbing jackals. Animals suck! Jungles suck! Metaphors suck! Sucking sucks!”

Francine calls her husband Brad and wants to treat him for lunch, but he’s working and he’s too busy. He’s always working, what happened to their talk about making time for each other. This angers Francine and she hangs up.

Casey tells Katchoo she knows she loves David too, but its her turn. She waited long enough. “He’s not a ride, bimbo,” Katchoo says. She launches into a bitter tirade about her riding him like a bucking horse with her rodeo bangs flopping and silicone sloshing, and her pretzel tricks. Casey says she forgot her two nose jobs, and she forgot to do a whole comedy routine about her dyslexia. Katchoo apologizes. Casey says its hard to hear when it comes from Katchoo, but she realizes Katchoo is just a little jealous.

Casey says, “I can’t see you in a long term relationship with any guy, even David. It’s just not you.” Katchoo tells her not to tell her what Katchoo wants, it just pisses her off, she’s the smart one here. “Yes, you’re smart and beautiful, but when it comes to love you don’t know what you want and you’re afraid to commit. David is the one for me, you had your chance and you blew it, so stay out of the way and don’t mess it up!”

Katchoo karate-chops a coffee table in half, then she grabs Casey’s shirt and flops her onto the ground. “If you hurt David I’ll kick your ass!” Casey says she loves it when Katchoo gets physical.

Francine comes to the studio and wants to take David to lunch, but he takes a pass because he has a headache. So Francine goes upstairs and invites Katchoo, and she accepts, but first she wants to go to the hospital because she broke her hand.

Casey goes looking for David, but he’s passed out from pain in the men’s room. Later, he takes the bus home, and listens to message from Casey and another message from Francine about how Katchoo chopped a table in two and broke her hand. Finally he gets a message from Katchoo about she’s cool with him and Casey doing backflips on the bed, even if it’s kind of disgusting. David is unconscious and doesn’t even know Katchoo called. Tambi comes into the house like a giant dark phantom and stands over him. “When are you going to tell them?” He scoops David up off the couch and carries him upstairs to his bed.

volume03issue80

David wakes up, smells bacon, and thinks of Casey. He sees his closet neatly organized and thinks of Casey his closet fairy. He goes downstairs wearing teddy bear underwear, but it’s not Casey, it’s Tambi. “Sit, eat. You little bear looks hungry.”

Tambi reminds David that he promised to give her a baby, and she is holding him to it. “Meanwhile here you are surrounded by all these beautiful women like the last man on earth, going from one to the other. Is there anyone in the group you haven’t slept with?” David is embarrassed to answer. Tambi says, “Relax, I’m just teasing you.” She pulls a folder out of her bag. It’s David’s X-rays. “These women care about you, why haven’t you told them. Why didn’t you tell me? I paid all your medical bills, I watched out for you and protected you and even traveled halfway around the world to have sex with you. Imagine how I felt when I found out you’re dying. And my feelings are nothing compared to Katchoo’s. You have to tell her.”

David says he doesn’t have the heart.

Woodward Beinstein writes a crappy review of Katchoo’s art, and she stuffed a dead squirrel through his mailbox in reply. Jet says he’s going to sue. Katchoo is too busy to think about that right now. Besides, Tambi shows up at the studio. She’s there to tell her that David is dying.

David himself is going to break the news to Casey. From the way he begins, she thinks he wants to break up with her, and it takes the longest time for David to get a word in edgewise and when he does, he gets another attack and falls to the floor. “I don’t want to go…not now, not when everyting is finally working out. I don’t want to die!”

Katchoo races in her truck to see David, but he’s not home, he’s out in the park with Casey. At least, that’s what a female ghost tells her before disappearing before Katchoo’s eyes. Katchoo gets back in the truck and races to the park where so many events in her life unfolded. Casey and David are there standing on a footbridge over a stream. It begins to snow. Katchoo runs out to them, and David embraces both women who love him with a hug.

3.81David has a brain tumor that leaves him with nine to fifteen months to live. Tambi, Casey, and Katchoo gather in his house to talk to him about it. David doesn’t want to do anything, because it would leave him with a life of dependency and confusion. “If God wants me now he can have me.” Tambi growls that the tumor is coming out if she has to dig it out with a rusty shiv. David says he would rather go to his grave as himself than live another five years as something less. Katchoo says he’s turning stupid. Tambi says it’s not stupidity, it’s fear.

Jet calls Katchoo and says Pia is in the emergency room with an irregular heartbeat. Katchoo has to go because she knows how to fill out the insurance forms. Casey offers to drive her rather than let Katchoo borrow her car. They leave Tambi alone with David. She says, “Okay, Mr. Qin, now you’re mine.”

Pia is suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. Katchoo is blunt. “Look at her, she’s a dumbass anorexic.” Casey pulls out a picture of herself at seventeen and shows it to Pia. “That’s me, 5’8″ and 90 pounds…I changed my ways Pia, but I couldn’t change the damage I’d already done to my body…now I’m finally with the one for me, and I’d give anything to have his child, but I can’t because of what I did when I was seventeen.”

David washes up in the bathroom. The ghost of his sister Darcy Parker is there to tell him about the dark conditions of the afterlife. “God is a fable, little brother. No angels, just darkness and lies. Helluva ride. They know your name here, ‘Saka. They’re waiting for you. I’m waiting.”

Tambi comes into his bedroom and says, “Time to make good on your promise.” David takes his shirt off and mutters about mood and anticipation. This is not how real couples do it. “You’re funny,” Tambi says. Cherry Hammer comes in with a portable liquid nitrogen freeze tank. Tambi says they’re going to freeze David’s sperm. “You didn’t really think you could keep banging me until we got lucky?” She gives a vial to David. “Fill this.” David takes it and says he’ll give it back tomorrow. Tambi insists he do it now, she’s got a plane to catch. David says he’s not a cow, he can’t do it now even if Tambi held a gun to his head. She says, “We thought of that.” Cherry whistles, and a pretty actress steps into the room. “We heard you like Annie Graham movies.” Like The Constant Virgin and Brokeback Virgin and A Virgin Runs Through It. Cherry says she owes them a big favor. Annie and David go into the bathroom to be alone. America’s favorite virgin puts out again. Tambi says they have five minutes.

Katchoo asks Casey if she meant what she said to Pia about her eating disorder. “Absolutely. I’m sure you thought about having children, right?” Not until now, Katchoo replies. “I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with David,” Casey says. “Now I have to face that fact that in a few years I may no even be able to remember the sound of his voice.”

A female ghost watches David while he sleeps on the sofa. She’s gone when the doorbell rings. David answers the door, it’s Katchoo and Casey. He tells them he missed them when Casey asked. and when Katchoo asks about Tambi he says, “They…she just left. She didn’t say where.” Casey remembers that Katchoo needs a ride home. She says she’ll stay. Casey says she’ll get a blanket for the couch. Katchoo tells her to chill a minute. Then she faces David and says she wants to have a baby. She wants to have David’s baby.

volume03issue82

Francine wakes up at 2:30 AM and her husband is not in bed with her. She calls him, but he’s busy, so she leaves a message and says she would appreciate it if he told her when he was going to do that. “I’m your wife, remember me?”

Cherry Hammer puts David’s sample on a plane to Chicago where it will be stored until Tambi is ready. Tambi tells Cherry to go to Japan and find David’s other sister, the one who was sheltered from the family business. Cherry opts to take Annie Graham with her to keep her bed warm.

David sleeps on the couch while Casey and Katchoo talk quietly. Katchoo is all cried out, but Casey still has some tears. She says they have to have a child to love by David, so when he’s gone it will be like David is still with them. And Casey admits that Katchoo will have to be the mother because David loves Katchoo more than anybody. But she insists that Katchoo will have to put up with Casey in bed with David, because she’s not leaving his side again. Katchoo says she’s okay with that, but “David may wonder what heaven he fell into.”

Francine hears a ring and tracks down a “secret” cell phone in Brad’s coat in the closet. Francine assumes it’s Brad’s phone and leaves a message on it. When her own phone rings it’s Brad, he says another ambulance blew up. Francine says she found a phone upstairs, and Brad says it belongs to another doctor in the hospital. Brad has to go, he’s being paged.

Then Francine thinks for a bit, and runs upstairs. She calls the company associated with the phone and finds out Brad lied, it does belong to him. But hey can’t answer anymore questions because the phone is registered in Brad’s name and they can only discuss the details with the account holder. “But I’m his wife! I pay the bills, why haven’t I received a bill?” They keep blowing Francine off. “I AM HIS WIFE, DAMMIT!! wHAT THE HELL’S THE MATTER WITH EVERYBODY, AM I INVISIBLE? HE’S NEVER HOME, HE NEVER CALLS, AND NOW I FIND A STUPID TOP SECRET PHONE IN HIS COAT AND NOBODY WILL TELL ME THE TRUTH! WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAP!”

Francine calms down and calls the number from the outgoing call list that Brad calls 10 times a day. It’s Jennifer in radiology. Francine asks for Doctor Silver, but Jennifer says there’s no doctor there by that name. So Francine hangs up. Then Jennifer turns around and calls the phone in Francine’s hand. She says, “Brad, oh baby, I’m like totally freaking out here, I think your wife just called!” Francine screams YOU’RE HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH MY HUSBAND! Jennifer says, “Oh crap!” and hangs up. Francine throws the phone and shatters it, but she herself is shattered. She smashes a picture of her and Brad, then drives to a hotel, not heeding traffic. Brand tries to call her, but she ignores him and tells the phone, “SCREW YOU!” before shutting it off.

Katchoo wakes up on David’s couch and goes upstairs. She slides into bed with David and Casey, and three three of them spoon, fully dressed.

In the morning Francine sees 17 messages from Brad, 5 from her mother, four from Katchoo, etc etc. “Jeez Brad, what did you do, tell everybody we know?” Downstairs in the lobby she sees a man standing there reading a newspaper and the headline reads: SILVER SHOT DEAD — LEGEND MURDERED ONSTAGE

volume03issue83

Francine is on a yacht with her husband Brad and Griffin Silver’s girlfriend Nikki, who was there when he was shot. Brad scatters his brothers ashes into the wind. Then he gives the urn to Nikki, who scoops out a little bit of dust with her finger and sticks it into her mouth. The day after Griffin was killed, Nikki lost her baby.

Brad apologized to Francine a million times, saying “She didn’t mean anything, I don’t love her” which only makes the infidelity worse for Francine. To risk losing his wife for something less than love. Francine is 30 years old and she feels like a total failure.

Nikki admits to Francine that Griffin cheated on her too, but at the end when she got pregnant, Griffin said he didn’t want to be with anyone but her. Francine tells Nikki she is probably going to leave Brad because he won’t change. Nikki asks about her friend Katchoo. That day they went to get her, she made a choice, and it was the wrong choice, wasn’t it? “Is it that obvious?” Life is short, Nikki tells her. Don’t screw around with love. It’s all over so fast. Sometimes without any warning.

Katchoo is shaken by Griffin Silver’s death too. She’s got his songs on her iPod and she remembers when she decked him at Francine’s wedding for blurting out her Parker Girl code name. David has good days and bad days, and if he feels sorry for himself he doesn’t let on. His faith helps him cope. Katchoo admits to herself the threesome with Casey and her and David is crazy, but for right now it works.

Tambi has a meeting with a shady doctor with an experimental procedure that might save David without the surgury he refuses to undergo. But he wants 5 million euros up front before he begins. And if he dies, no refunds. If the meeting had gone badly, Tambi would have reached in her other pocket and produced a packet of photographs showing the the doctor at a local night club kissing a 15 year old male prostitute. She didn’t like such cheesy tactics, but she always had a plan B. The doctor was in the middle of a messy divorce, it might have been necessary to use the pictures to get David in on her timetable. And if the meeting had gone even worse, with threats of legal action and police, there was always Plan C, the Baker Refund. Or in short, kill the bastard.

Cherry Hammer calls and reveals that David’s sister in Japan is a cocktail waitress in a place called the Omotesando Cafe. Tambi says don’t engage her, just stay on her tail and don’t lose her. Cherry says she looks clean, as in no rap sheet, no ties to crime.

Griffin Silver wakes up in a bed and the female ghost that haunts David is there too. “Where am I?” He asks. Home. “But I didn’t finish.” No one does. “Nikki, my family…” One by one they will come home too. “They’re in pain.” What did that feel like? Griffin can’t remember, and the woman says his family and friends won’t remember too. He hears a tune in the distance. Now he knows her name. “Ma Malai.” Welcome home, Griffin.

volume03issue84

David pukes in the toilet when Katchoo is taking a shower, because he’s having another attack. Tambi calls him and says she’s got him set up in a clinic in Berlin which has had good results in cases like his. He insists no surgury. Tambi says this is different, they don’t dig a hole in his head. He wanders off and Katchoo takes the phone. She tells Tambi how things are going with David, not good. Tambi tells Katchoo all the details. He has to be there in two weeks. Then Katchoo repeats all the information to Casey while David writhes in pain from the light in the ceiling fan.

Katchoo tells Casey that 7 of the 12 patients treated so far have died, but it’s better than no chance at all. David thinks he smells chicken and he thinks the bed is being lifted up. Katchoo wants to go to Switzerland to get her money, but Casey insists that she stay, because they only have two weeks to get her pregnant and after that David might not come back. David asks what if he’s not in the mood. Katchoo says, “Two words: Baby June.”

David flops back on the bed and says, “Oh Lord, you might want to take me now because it’s going to be a lot harder to forgive me in two weeks.”

Nikki takes Francine to a small cottage on the large Long Island property belonging to Griffin, and now Brad. Inside the cottage is the large painting that Freddy always coveted. Griffin had bought it anonymously at Katchoo’s first showing. “Portrait of Francine.” It covers one whole wall of the cottage. Francine can’t deny the beauty of the painting. Katchoo was revealed to her for the first time as a genius.

Nikki says, “The artist loves this woman. It’s not a painting, it’s an embrace. You’re not going to find this twice in one lifetime, Francine.” She offers the painting to Francine. It’s so big, Francine doesn’t know where she would have room for it. “But that’s the whole point of things like this, isn’t it?” Nikki says. “For something like this, you make room in your life.”

Francine thinks back over her whole life, realizing she always liked the attention from Katchoo but never the price. God gave her all these chances for happiness but Francine never took them. And she had no one to blame for herself.

Francine stands up and takes her life back. She confronts Brad and makes her irrevocable decision to give him a divorce, despite him begging her to reconsider. When she leaves, Brad tells Nikki that she’ll come crawling back. “No she won’t. She’s going to something magical.”

3-86

Katchoo hobbles downstairs after another rough night with David trying to get pregnant. “Hang in there baby,” Casey says, “one more day to go.” Katchoo says she’s done, no more sex for her. Katchoo adds that Casey ought not call her baby, it makes her sound like someone she doesn’t want to sound like.

Casey says, absentmindedly, “Like Darcy.” Then she realizes she made a mistake. Katchoo is suspicious. Casey never knew Darcy, as far as Katchoo knew. She stares Casey down. Casey tries to change the subject, but finally she admits that David told her a little about all that, the Parker girls, etc. Casey leaves the kitchen, and Katchoo is left wondering if Casey is lying, because David probably would not have told Casey Katchoo’s code name, Baby June.

David is shaving when Ma Malai comes to him. She says, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.”

Casey finds David collapsed in the bathroom. She screams for Katchoo to come. He has no pulse and he’s not breathing. Katchoo administers CPR while Casey calls for an ambulance. When they come, they administer cardiac shock to restart his heart.

David finds himself on a bare crossroads in a desert, under a partly cloudy sky. Ma Malai is there, and they both smile.

Francine arrives at Casey’s house in time to see the ambulance team pull David out on a stretcher. Katchoo sees her and falls into her arms.

David says he knows the woman, but he can’t remember her name. “I have many names. You can call me Ma Malai. It’s time David. It’s time to go.”

At the hospital the doctors examine x-rays of David’s head and despair of his recovery. They break the news to Katchoo.

David tells Ma Malai he had so much to do, to experience, to love. She says, “Everyone says that. Is it really wonderful…life?”

“You don’t know?”

“I know before and after, but life, no. I can only observe.” David tells her that yes, life is wonderful. And now he remembers who she really is. He asks what he must do. She tells him to take her hand. David asks where they are going. She replies, “Home.”

Tambi gets the news of David on her cell phone while she was working out and even she begins to cry.

Katchoo waits beside David’s bed and falls asleep. She dreams that David winks at her, and she winks back. The nurse wakes her up and tells her David is gone. Katchoo closes his eyes gently, then she backs out of the room in shock. The last four panels of this issue are pitch black to illustrate her loss.

3-87

Cherry Hammer is tracking a girl named Yoshiko in Japan. She is David’s sister, but she is oblivious to her relationship with him or that her father was the head of the American Yakuza. Tambi calls Cherry on her cell with tears in her voice. “David is dead, let her go. She’ll be better off not knowing.” Family, wealth, power, the girl was 30 feet away from the truth, but now she walks away into a life of anonymity.

Freddy Femur was David’s attorney, and he executes his will. Tambi, Katchoo, Francine and Casey are present. The will gives everything to Katchoo, which shocks Casey. There are also four sealed lettes which Freddy reads to the four women. The first one is to Francine, thanking her for nursing her back to health after the plane crash. He reminds her of the ten million dollar gift he promised her that got caught up in the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is resolved, she is to receive the gift in full. Until then, he hopes she doesn’t give up on Katchoo, because he knows Katchoo hasn’t given up on her.

To Tambi he says he knows she killed his sister Darcy. He forgives Tambi, and he will leave judgment to God. He does ask that she be truthful to Katchoo about the deal they made in Japan and her desire for an heir. Katchoo wants to know what deal, but Freddie insists they read the rest of the letters first per the terms of the will.

To Casey, David expresses his love in a way that embarrasses her ex-husband Freddie, but he moves on. He wants Casey to admit to Katchoo that she works for Tambi. The time for deception is past and Katchoo deserves to know the truth, it’s the only way to put the past behind us. If Katchoo doesn’t forgive her, David assures Casey that love is based on truth, not an illusion. Katchoo gets up and stares out the window, seething in rage now.

Now David lays everything out on the table for Katchoo. He mentions when Tambi came to Japan angry that he had not produced a child with Katchoo to be heir to both the Baker and the Takahashi families. He tried to make this heir directly with Tambi to spare Katchoo more drama. Then he returned to Houston under false pretenses to get back in Katchoo’s life. He even mentions the sperm sample he gave. And he says Casey worked for Tambi, she wasn’t a DUCk, but a CPA, sister of Becky the Gun Girl, who got bored as Tambi’s accountant and asked for a field assignment. He begs Katchoo to forgive him, forgive Tambi and forgive Casey, they all meant well. He goes through a list of his assets, and finishes with an admonition that Francine is her future, because that’s where the love is. Follow the love.

Casey cries and tells Katchoo she’s sorry, she wanted to tell her. Katchoo tells her to just shut up. Tambi tries to talk to Katchoo, but she doesn’t want to hear it. It was all lies. Katchoo is pissed off that Tambi deceived her and played games with the people she loved. “Go to hell, Mary Beth, and take your stupid goons with you!”

3-88

ico004149_1-_sx360_ql80_ttd_

Katchoo drives through the New Mexico desert with David’s ashes. “How does Santa Fe sound to you?” she asks him. After a long day of driving she gets a hotel there, pours herself a beer, and looks at the mountains. The Francine from “Portrait of Francine” calls Carolyn Hobbes looking for Katchoo, but she hasn’t seen or heard from her for days. A twenty-year old man named Clay introduces himself to Francine when she hangs up. Francine smiles and says, “Hi Clay, I’m ten years older than you and I’m gay.”

Tambi comes up from behind Clay and scares him away by her sheer presence. Then she has a seat to talk to Francine. Tambi lets on that she knows where Katchoo is, but Katchoo needs time to think. Francine begs her to tell where she is, she divorced her husband to be with Katchoo and she wants to spend the rest of her life with her as a couple.

Freddie drops by to see Casey as she’s packing to move back to Chicago. She tells him her real name wasn’t Bullocks it is Campbell, and their marriage was a sham. Everything was a lie. Her whole life was nothing but lies. He says, “So you used a fake name and you talked to Katchoo’s sister once in a while. Everything else was real. They’re still your friends, right? You spent six or seven years doing what friends do, that’s real, isn’t it?” When he asks her if she loved him, he takes her smile for a yes. He says the best friends are the ones who know everything about you and like you anyway. And he manages to get her to change her mind about leaving the best friends she’ll ever have behind.

Katchoo sits in the mountains drinking her beer, talking to David’s ashes. “WHY DOES EVERYBODY LEAVE ME?” she shouts, and her voice echoes off the hills. Back at the hotel Francine is waiting for her in the courtyard. How’d you find me, she asks. “Tambi.” Katchoo sighs. Francine offers to take her to a great Mexican cafe she heard about from the concierge. At the restaurant, Francine says, “The fireplace smells wonderful, the whole town smells wonderful.” You smell wonderful, Katchoo tells her. They have a toast to David, who is also sitting at the table in his box.

After the meal, Francine offers to walk Katchoo to her room. She tentatively agrees. At the door, Katchoo asks why she is here. “This is where I belong.” She leans in for a kiss. What are you doing, Katchoo asks. “Something I should have done a long time ago.” They kiss for a long time, oblivious to a man who walks by in the hallway watching them. Finally Katchoo pushes her away and says stop. What is this? “Unstoppable,” Francine replies, and she leans in again.

Katchoo pushes her away. “Don’t screw with me, Francine! Not you!” Then she goes into her room and slams the door shut, leaving Francine alone in the hallway. She walks back to her own room in tears.

3-89

ico004150_1-_sx360_ql80_ttd_

The movers arrive to transfer Casey’s furniture to the moving truck, and Tambi arrives to put a stop to it. She’s pissed because Casey won’t return her calls. Casey tells her she quit. Tambi replies that quitting is not an option, she’s not finished with the job. Casey screams that she’s not a puppet and slaps Tambi twice. On the second blow, Tambi grabs her wrist and flips Casey around so she’s being gripped from behind. Casey kicks Tambi in the knee, which is her one weak spot, and Tambi screams in pain. But she doesn’t let go of Casey. She falls to the floor and brings Casey with her. As Casey struggles, Tambi tells her, “It’s not your fault you fell in love. I’s not your fault David is dead.” Now Casey lets all her emotions out, while Tambi’s battle grip turns into a hug of support.

Katchoo is up early in the morning to look for David’s final resting place. Francine rushes out to the parking lot still wet from her shower. She insists on going with Katchoo, but Katchoo isn’t sure where she’s going. “Let’s go find out.”

Casey puts ice on Tambi’s knee. Tambi says the knee has been bugging her for a while, she might need to get it replaced. “Everyone has a weakness, Casey. You found mind.” Tambi tells Casey she can fix the IRS problem for Katchoo, but she needs Casey’s help. She’s got “leverage” on an IRS commissioner, but she needs Casey to create a transfer plan so the money disappears in dozens of little ratholes so the IRS can never touch it again. Casey grabs Tambi’s hand and asks how she got the scars all over them. “Living with Darcy Parker. Life, hell, I couldn’t tell one from the other. Sometimes I’d cut myself. It was the only pain I’d let myself feel. The only pain that reminded me that I was alive. And that gave me hope for a life where I could be like other people, be like Katchoo, smile, laugh, cry, care about someone…maybe someday someone care about me.” Casey embraces Tambi in love.

As Katchoo drives, Francine lets her hair blow free in the warm wind. They find a house for sale in the mountains for $4,375,000. Katchoo loves it. The view in incredible. Katchoo says, “This is it, this is the place. This is where David should be.” Twenty percent of the asking price is $875,000. That’s the same amount of money Katchoo has in Switzerland. “It’s a sign. This is what I’m supposed to do.”

Francine asks where she fits in. Katchoo doesn’t know what she means. “Oh come on, Katchoo! I’m literally throwing myself at you and you act like I’m not even here.” Katchoo tells Francine to just shut up and go home. She says I’ve never been anything but a fantasy to you and you know it. Go back to your stupid husband and your stupid wife life!

Francine says she left Brad and is getting a divorce so she can be with Katchoo. “We’re not a couple, Francine, we’re just friends who toyed with each other’s emotions. Find someone else to jerk around. Try Casey, she’s into all that BS.” Francine says Katchoo has no idea what she’s been through to see her. “And you have no idea what I’ve been through!” Katchoo retorts. “That’s the whole point! We don’t even know each other anymore!”

Katchoo runs through a litany of reasons the house is better than Francine. It doesn’t lie, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, it doesn’t leave Katchoo standing in the rain…”

Francine is mad now. “Listen to me, Katina Choovanski, you are going to take me back! We’re going to by this house together! Brad is rich, I have the money! And we’re going to have babies and grow old together, and I’m going to make you so happy you’ll be shitting sunshine!”

Katchoo says, “You’re all yack and no shack, sweetcheeks, get in the car, I’ll give you a ride back to the airport.”

Francine throws one of her shoes at Katchoo. Then she starts to strip, just like she did for Freddie in issue one. “Okay, okay, I believe you! We’re not going to do it in the yard, at least until it’s our yard.” Francine is stopped by Katchoo’s mention of our yard. She says, “Yes, you crazy broad, you had me at ‘shitting sunshine'”.

Back in the car, Katchoo asks Francine, “Tell me the truth, are you a spy? You don’t work for Tambi, or Darcy, or the feds, or the secret society of people out to get Katchoo and drive her completely nuts?” Francine says No it’s just me babe, for better or worse, just me, fat, happy, and madly in love with you.” Katchoo answers, “Then I love you, and you can call me Baby.”

3-90

ico004151_1-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

Tambi, Wendy and Casey come out of a meeting with the IRS high-fiving. Even Tambi breaks into a smile at what they have done.

Francine and Katchoo get ready to go sign the papers and close on the house. Katchoo doesn’t feel right. The symptoms she describes remind Francine of how she felt when she was first pregnant. She promises to get Katchoo a home pregnancy kit. Katchoo is in shock, so Francine has to walk her “little girl scout” out to the car.

At the Escrow company Katchoo gets a call from Tambi. She wants to meet, and they arrange to get together at the “Cowgirl Cafe”. Francine insists on going with her, and if Tambi tries anything funny she’ll have to get past Francine first. “And trust me, I can be a very big problem to get past.”

Casey is whining about what might happen when Katchoo sees her. Tambi tells her, “What if I throw you over my shoulders and spank you until you quit whining and trust me?” Casey says she would love that.

Katchoo arrives and tells Tambi she bought a house together with Francine. Casey hugs Francine and Tambi says, “Good move, sis.” Katchoo and Francine do little things to express how close they are now, and this makes Casey and Tambi look at each other and smile. Francine announces she is pregnant, this is something she hasn’t told Brad or even Katchoo yet. Casey and Katchoo hug Francine while Tambi remains seated, grinning.

Tambi says Casey has something to say, but before she does that, she wants to clear the air between her and Katchoo. She apologizes to Katchoo at length, and Katchoo stops her and says, “It’s over, I love you.” Casey is so happy and hugs Katchoo, but Tambi just says, Aw crap! Can we get the hugging under control here? This is getting ridiculous!

Casey wags a finger at her, and says, “No no no! Bad girl! Be nice or no dessert!” Tambi growls. “Aw, I love it when she growls like a bear, she’s so cute!” Francine and Katchoo are in total shock. Casey hugs Tambi and says, “You’re just a big ol’ teddy bear, aren’t you Tambi?” and kisses her. Tambi just grunts. Katchoo and Francine squeak to each other in a precious voice, Teddy Bear? No Dessert? Sweet!

So everyone sits back down and everyone is cool with everyone else, Francine even gets Katchoo to admit she is cool with Tambi. “Just…no more secrets, okay? No more surprises.” Tambi says she’s got it.

Casey tells Katchoo that Tambi and Wendy (her assistant) came up with a plan to settle the dispute with the IRS concerning Darcy’s estate, which comes to her through David. They had dirt on the IRS commissioner, and they got him to settle the lawsuit for half. Tax free. Katchoo has her inhertance now. $700 million dollars. And Casey arranged to squirrel the money away in a global financial network that will keep any government from every seeing a penny of it again. Tambi is quite pleased about that. So Katchoo is very very rich.

At their new house Francine and Katchoo sit on an inflatable mattress and Katchoo takes the home pregnancy test. She’s going to have David’s baby.

That night Katchoo realized that Darcy, Bambi, Veronica, the Parker Girls, the crime, the sex, the drugs and wicked deaths were all gone out of her life, and the only thing that remained was her, the baby, and Francine. The only thing that remained was love. This night was the first time in Katchoo’s life that she felt completely loved and completely in love.

Every day after that with Francine was better than the last. Francine’s parents came to help them set up the house. They didn’t know the details, but they knew they had spent years trying to work this out. Marie was especially excited that she was going to be a grandmother at last.

In the snow outside, Katchoo scatters David’s ashes while Francine looks on. Francine gathers her lover into her arms. Katchoo resolves to write the entire story of her life down for her children to read. This story would be called “Strangers in Paradise”.

Months later, Francine and Katchoo are playing with their baby girls in the house while Francine mentions to Katchoo that she told Casey that they’re going to Hawaii for the winter, but Casey says Tambi wants them to come to LA. She interrupts her story to get up and close the door with a smile on her face.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s