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[End Page 48]
When my old college roommate Steve Girardi called me, I knew who it was before he uttered a word. I could hear his smoker’s wheeze echo through the receiver, and then he said, “Neil Desjardins. Can I have your autograph?” [End Page 49]
This was Steve’s old line. I’m the author of a long-running series of best-selling detective novels.
“Sure,” I said. “But it’ll cost you. Friend discounts are going for about a grand now, Steve.”
He laughed, but his laugh disintegrated into a hacking cough, and it took him a few seconds to catch his breath.
“Sorry about that, Neil. Sorry,” he said. “Neil! So, did I catch you at a bad time? I hope I didn’t.”
In fact, I had just walked out of my house and was heading to the beach with my family when I’d heard the phone ring. But I said, “Not a bad time at all. What’s up?”
From the window in my study, I could see my wife looking at me. She opened her hands and shrugged her shoulders. I mouthed Steve’s name. She turned and walked through the high beach grass, which led to a narrow path toward the beach and to my son and grandson, who were visiting for the week.
For several minutes, Steve caught me up on the events of his life since we’d last spoken more than a year ago. First he explained that he had a new girlfriend named Jean Anne. She was a labor and delivery nurse whom he’d met online—a free dating site, since the pay ones were a scam—and who was a real piece of work and always game for anything. Then he told me about a “major” investment he’d made in a cutting-edge sustainable bug-killing technology with an outfit out of San Diego. “They use these, uh, sound waves. Sonic waves. Real high-tech stuff.” In the meantime, he was having some issues with the IRS, which, with nothing better to do, was hounding him about some independent home inspection gigs he’d done three years ago.
“Can you fucking imagine?” he asked. “Can you?”
He did not ask about me or about my family. Then he arrived at the reason for his call.
“Anyhow. So, here’s the question I had for you, Neil. Actually, okay, it’s a favor. It’s for Mikey.”
Mikey was Steve’s son from his first wife.
“He’s moved out to LA. He wants to be a writer! Like you. I mean, not like you. He wants to write for the movies. You should see this kid. A year ago he says, ‘I’m gonna be a writer.’ He goes whole hog. He’s just grinding out script after script. I’ve read a couple of them. They’re good, too. I mean, vivid. Problem is, as he explains it, you really need connections. That’s the name of the game in Hollywood, I guess. His words.” [End Page 50]
Steve was calling to see if I knew anyone I would be able to set Mikey up with.
“Just to get a meeting. I mean, you need that foot in the door, you know?”
“Let me think,” I said. “The truth is, Steve, I don’t have much to do with that Hollywood stuff.”
This was, in fact, true. My books were made into films, but I had long divorced myself from Hollywood and that part of the business.
“Sure, sure. ’Course. Yeah,” he said, sounding glum.
“What I mean is, I would want to think about whom to connect him with. You want to be strategic about these things. I’d have to give this some thought. But of course, I’m happy to help, Steve. You know that.”
“No. I get that. Obviously,” he said. “Hey, I have an idea. How aboutyou talk to Mikey? You know, get a sense of his—you know—genre or whatever you guys call it. Then maybe you two could, like...