SiP 3/31-60

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

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