SiP 3/61-90

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

 

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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.”

 

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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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?”

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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