Faded Star

an excerpt


"Why don't you give me the keys and let me drive you home," Malcolm Brown said to Heath Evans.

Heath staggered across the parking lot of the bar where he and Malcolm, who were actors, had gone after the news broke about Heath's alleged affair with his costar, Aaron Campbell.

"Fuck off," Heath said. "I'm perfectly capable of driving myself home."

"No, you're not," Malcolm argued. "You're drunk and upset about what Aaron did."

"I am not," Heath argued back. He squinted, trying to make out Malcolm's face in the darkness. What time is it? Heath looked down at the watch on his right arm but could not see the time in the darkness. He walked away from Malcolm, trying to find his black truck. At night all dark colors looked the same to him.

"Don't be a fool, Heath. You're too drunk to get on the freeway," Malcolm said, still trying to get the keys away from him.

Heath pushed the smaller, black man to the ground. "I don't need help," he said with a belch. His breath stank from the whiskey he'd consumed earlier.

"Suit yourself," Malcolm said as he rose and dusted the dirt from his pants. "If you're hell-bent on killing yourself, do it."

Heath grumbled and then found his truck. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, he managed to get the truck door open. He stepped inside, closed the door and put his head down on the steering wheel until everything stopped swimming.

Malcolm pounded on the window.

Heath lowered the glass. "What the hell do you want?"

"Why don't you sleep it off in your truck," Malcolm suggested.

Heath put the key in the ignition and started the engine. "No," he said, taking the shift out of park. "I'm going home to sleep in my bed, and besides, the truck knows the way home." He laughed at his own joke, which made his head hurt. "Now get the hell out my way." Heath shifted into reverse and backed out of the spot, barely missing Malcolm.

"You almost hit me, you damn fool," Malcolm shouted at him.

Heath ignored him, shifted the gear into drive and sped away. Who does Malcolm think he is anyway? I've been driving tractors since I was eight. Surely I can handle this truck. He continued up the deserted street, fiddling with the knobs on the radio, trying to find something decent. He found nothing but rap and hip-hop music. Damn, this crap makes my head hurt more.

A driver sounded his horn behind him.

Heath looked through the rearview mirror. The lights blinded him so he couldn't make out the other car or its driver. He chose to ignore the horn and continued driving, heading toward the Hollywood freeway.

The damn fool behind him continued to blow his horn and Heath continued to ignore him. He entered the ramp to the freeway, increasing speed so he could get into the traffic. His head bobbed. Must stay awake. Sleep beat in his brain with a passion. Heath yawned, trying to shake off the drowsiness. How many drinks had he had? Heath shook his head again and moved around in his seat. Why did Aaron have to go and open his big mouth? I thought he loved me.

Heath's head bobbed again. Shit, maybe I should have listened to Malcolm. His eyes felt heavy, which didn't help.

A loud horn blasted from the left. Heath woke up just in time to get back into his lane. The driver who blew at him flew past him in an eighteen-wheeler.

Fuck you. Just because you're bigger don't make you better. Heath chuckled to himself. Those big rig drivers think they own the road. His eyes began to close and he stretched them opened again.

The truck swerved on the freeway.

Heath grabbed hold of the wheel and tried to correct as the exit approached. "Shit," he said as he over-corrected and lost control. The front of the truck careened into something solid and he felt himself being lifted and snatched out of the driver's seat. For a moment he seemed to be flying, and then his body landed solidly and painfully on something hard. What the fuck? he wondered as the need for sleep overtook him. Then everything went black.

Chapter One

Grace Evans looked over at the young Asian man the rehabilitation hospital had sent to her. She read his folder. Seiji Kichida, twenty-one years old. Born in Kansai, Japan and now an American citizen. Excellent marks, exemplarily work ethics. A trained cook, housekeeper, nurse and rehabilitation specialist. She looked over at the young man again. He was dressed nicely in a black business suit, tie and a white shirt. He wasn't bad looking, a little taller than most Asians she knew, with a medium build and nice eyes.

"Your credentials are excellent," she said to him. "And you come highly recommended." Seiji didn't say anything. He just looked at her as she spoke. "I guess you've already been told about the patient."

"Yes," he replied. He had a soft voice, which might not work in his favor. The patient needed someone who could stand up to him and handle his nasty tirades and temper tantrums.

"The patient is a well-known actor, which means any and every newspaperman, news journalist and hack reporter will be trying to find out information on him and his condition. One of your duties is to make sure this doesn't happen." She looked him over again. "I don't mean to sound rude, but do you know martial arts?"

Seiji made a face. "Enough to defend myself."

She didn't know if he spoke the truth or not, but she could not miss the flicker of humor in his eyes when she asked the question. Grace suspected that he got that a lot. He'd need a sense of humor to get through the next couple of weeks. His patient was a big, hulking man with an arrogant cowboy attitude and a grandiose ego. "Good, you never know when you might have to use it."

"Anything else I should know? Is he on a special diet?"

"Yes, the doctor sent it ahead. I left his instructions in the kitchen." She paused. "He will have to be fed for a while. He's left-handed and it was injured in the accident."

"Okay," Seiji said. "I will feed him and help him with anything else he's unable to do."

"I think I should warn you. He doesn't have the best disposition in the world, which has nothing to do with the accident."

"I've dealt with difficult patients before, Ms. Evans. I'm sure I'll be able to handle your brother. I will tend to his every need until he recovers."

"Thank you," Grace said. "And don't let him bully you. He's a big guy. I left a list of instructions in the kitchen and important phone numbers you might need." She rose. "I guess I should show you around the place since you'll be living here with him. I've arranged for someone to help maintain the lawns and the other properties, but you will be responsible for the inside. The other employee will report directly to you, too." She sighed. "I know it's a lot to put on you, but Heath needs quiet so he can recover. The less people around him the better."

"Is there anything else I should know about him that I can use to make him comfortable?" Seiji asked.

"Well, he's pretty out of it from all the anesthesia, so you won't have to take care of him emotionally until he fully awakens. When we were younger he used to like me to read fairy tales to him." She smiled. "He was such a precocious child, always eager to please. I remember he had a thing for comic books."

"But he's thirty years old now," Seiji said. "I think he's a bit too old for comic books."

"Yes, I suppose so," she said. "But all of us still have a little bit of child inside of us."

"Got it. I have a bookstore near my apartment. I'll stop in on my way home and pick up a load of books to read to him."

"You're sweet," Grace said.

"Anything else?"

"Just one more thing… Absolutely no beer or alcohol in the house, and lock his medications away until it's time to administer it. There's a cabinet in your bedroom that should be sufficient."

"Yes, I'll see to that."

Grace walked toward the door and Seiji followed. She prayed to give him strength to make it at least a week with Heath once he woke. It wasn't going to be easy since her brother was hell-bent on self-destruction.