When news of Callie’s death circulated around campus, it was decided, out of respect for her and her family, the play would be delayed until the following week. A small service was going to be held in the chapel for her friends and fellow classmates, but Martina did not attend. Her overwhelming guilt was almost tangible.
She wondered if Joe Blow would make an appearance, but she wouldn’t know him if he did. “Besides,” she thought to herself, “drug dealers don’t usually go to the services of the people they’ve effectively murdered.”
She called Randall and asked if he would meet her at the coffee shop. When they arrived, a black wreath was hanging on the door. The mood was somewhat somber, but it didn’t dissuade the regulars from doing what they had always come to do…drink themselves into oblivion and release the animal they otherwise kept at bay.
Randall ordered two glasses of wine. They stood and Martina said, “here’s to Callie. Stand by your glasses steady, and drink to your comrades’ eyes. Here’s a toast to the dead already, and hurrah for the next to die.”
Randall said, “wow. Was Callie Irish?” Martina said, “I don’t know. I just know it was her favorite toast.”
After a few minutes, she said, “I don’t think Callie was afraid to die. It was almost like what you said, about the brightest burning out the quickest. When I think back on some of the conversations we had, her urgency to somehow get me to break free of my prison, and her dogged determination to basically live life to its fullest, I think maybe she knew that her light was going to burn out quickly.”
The next two weeks were hectic for Martina. Most of her time was spent studying her lines, and anticipating being the next “break-out star” of the drama class. She had been keeping Randall at bay, but he took it in stride.
Finally, the big night arrived. Martina was a bundle of nerves, worrying and fretting about whether or not she would freeze in fear as soon as she stepped onto the stage.
Randall managed to slip backstage unnoticed, and watched as she paced the floor, script in hand. Looking at the program he was handed when he arrived, he smiled when he saw the names portraying the characters. There in black and white, he read, “introducing Martine as Fantine.”
He quietly slipped back into the audience and sat down in the front row. After two and a half hours, the play was over. The cast came onstage and bowed to near deafening applause, and a standing ovation. Martina’s performance outshone them all, and calls for her to re-appear were thunderous.
Completely captured by the adoration, Martina didn’t notice mother sitting with Randall. When she walked back stage, surprise wouldn’t quite describe the look on her face. It was almost a combination of fear and shock. She stood quietly frozen until mother walked over to her and said, “I’m very proud of you.”
At last, Martina felt validation. She felt worthy. Her staid, submissive mother had elevated her to some semblance of importance. She expressed pride. But of course, all those expressions were tempered with mothers’ obvious concern of her name change.
“Did you change your name, or was it a misprint?” asked mother. Martina smiled and said, “no, mother. It wasn’t a misprint. I am now Martine. Martina has been deleted.
Mother sighed with disapproval and said, “well, what are your plans now, and what happened to that dreadful creature…what was her name? Callie?”
Martina said, “if you ever want to see me again, don’t ever say anything about Callie.” She stood inches away from mothers’ face and almost growled, “do you understand? Now, to answer your question, I’m going to quit school and move to New York. I’m going to be a star on Broadway.
Just picture it in your mind, mother. My name in lights. Martine as Fantine.”
Mother sighed and said, “you must speak to your father.” Martina disrespectfully said, “I don’t have to speak to father. I can do what I want. You seem to forget that I am an adult now, and you nor father, have any control over me.”
Mother said, “maybe not, but we do have control over your finances. How do you expect to live in New York?” Martina smugly asked, “are you threatening to cut me off financially? Go ahead. And while you’re at it…go fuck yourself.”
Randall witnessed the entire conversation and thought for a minute, mother might faint. She looked at Martina and said, “Martina, what has gotten into you? Where did you learn that filthy language? Was it from that crude, disgusting girl?”
Martina said, “it’s MARTINE, mother. MARTINE. Say it. Say it. MARTINE.”
Mother turned and walked away. Randall knew she hadn’t noticed Martinas’ huge, dilated eyes, but he had. He looked at Martina and said, “you’re using, aren’t you? You’re as high as a kite, and not just because you perceive yourself to have given a hugely successful performance. You let the animal out of its cage.”
Martina rolled her eyes and said, “oh, please. I just needed a little pick-me-up for the play. I needed something to steady my nerves. You understand, don’t you? I mean, you were once an addict. I, however, am not. I can quit anytime I want.”
Randall said, “Martina, I asked you not to use, and you promised.” Martina said, “it’s MARTINE and I never promised. And, by the way, I don’t need a lecture from you. If all you can do is preach, then just leave me alone.”
As she was leaving the room, she turned and said, “you must excuse me. The cast is going to the coffee shop to celebrate, and you are not invited.” Randall watched as she walked away.
After a few steps, she turned and smiled at him like a bully, who had just emotionally gutted someone. She had become Martine.
Randall understood how Martine was feeling. She was feeling in control and she was loving it. She was feeling a sense of power and she was loving it, but in reality, she had power and control of nothing. The drug had the power and control, which she refused to acknowledge.
After that night, he reached out to her several times, but his efforts were fruitless. When the semester ended, Martine left. No goodbye, no note, no phone call, nothing. She was gone. Just as she said to mother…”Martina had been deleted.”
Mother was beside herself and father was little more than an obtuse bystander, shaking his head and saying his tired, “she’ll be back if you just give her time” statement. Mother angrily conveyed her belief that Callie had successfully ruined Martine, and was instrumental in her change of personality and subsequent disappearance.
Randall didn’t tell them about Callie. He didn’t tell them that Martine was using drugs. He didn’t tell them about his own past. He only told them that he would ask around.
Putting on his imaginary Deerstalker, he began to look for her. Unbeknownst to Martine, he knew the dark shadowy figure behind the coffee shop. “Joe Blow” had been his drug dealer in the past, and he knew that for the right price, not only could he get drugs, he could get information.
Two large was what it cost Randall to find out that Martine had gone to New York, just as she said. “For another two, I’ll tell you exactly where she went, and I’ll even throw in the name of the dealer I hooked her up with,” Joe said with a laugh. “By the way, I’ve got some ‘ICE’ if you’re interested. It’s as pure as the driven snow. How ’bout it? Been a while, hasn’t it? Come on. I’ll even give you a break on the price…for old time’s sake.”
Randall was aware of the monsters that sometimes reappear when trying to help an addict while you’re in recovery. You can be drawn back into their world. You can be pulled under. You can actually believe that it can be only once, “for old time’s sake,” and he only confessed to himself that not a day went by that he wasn’t lusting after a fix, even though he knew that fix could potentially lead to a marble tombstone being placed at the head of a mound of dirt.
Randall passed on the Martines’ “exact” location, drug dealers’ name and the drugs. Walking away, he remembered the exhilaration he felt after his injection, and for a split second, he did think about going back. Like all addicts, the want was always going to be there, his animal would always try to get control, and he knew the cage must never again be opened.
Gathering his thoughts, he reasoned that Martine would head to Manhattan. That’s where the Broadway star wannabes always went. The question was, could he find her?
Going to New York was not a trip he wanted to make, so he sought the help of a private detective. Richard Benton was the friend of a friend of the family. Through the grapevine, Randall heard that not only was he first-class, he could be trusted. Having no real information, other than his suspicions as to Martines’ whereabouts, he called.
Benton answered the phone. After Randall introduced himself and gave him a brief synopsis of his plight, Benton said, “call me Dick. No need for formalities here.” He told Randall that he would do what he could, with basically nothing but a name. Randall told him that he wasn’t sure if she was even using her real name. All he could offer was Martina or Martine Hamilton, and he wasn’t sure if she had changed her looks, other than the effects of whatever drug she was using. Dick reminded him that one could very successfully hide in New York. “It’s a big place,” he said. “You can move just one block away, and no one will ever find you.”
A month went by, and meager information was all Randall received. A few people said they thought they had seen her, and wanted money for information, which of course, might or might not be accurate. In Randall’s experience, most people could be bought, but it didn’t mean that what you were buying was worth the price.
He wondered what he would do if he found her. Would she talk to him? Would she treat him the way she had before she left? Would she accuse him of stalking her? He was sure of nothing, but felt as though he had a debt. Someone had helped him through his addiction, and he wanted to pay it forward. Someone had saved his life. He wanted to save someone else’s. He wanted to save Martine.
Randall had become comfortable calling Mr. Benton, Dick, rather than “sir,” after Dick repeatedly said, “I keep telling you that I want none of that sir bullshit.” He had taken to calling Randall, “son.”
Dick was an old movie buff. His chosen genre was about old beaten down private eyes, who lived in dank one-room flats, and sat in bars drinking beer, dreaming of the “big case” that would send their name into infamy.
He played those roles perfectly when necessary, and he had a reputation for getting the job done. His personalities ranged from portraying a forgetful podunk hillbilly, to a man with a license, a gun and justifiable homicide in his eyes.
“Well, son,” he said. “I have news, but not much. Word is, she’s going by the name Martine Monroe, but I’m not sure how correct my information is. Randall chuckled as he echoed, “Martine Monroe? That’s interesting. Do you have an address?”
Dick said, “working on it, but nothing so far.”
Randall was tentative about asking Dick to try to locate a few of the local drug dealers, because that could potentially put him in harms’ way, but Dick was slick. Randall believed that he was the kind of man who could actually sell drugs to a drug dealer, so he asked.
“Already on it,” Dick said. “I’ve got some feelers out. Money talks, as you well know, and some people will sell their mother for a little cash.”
Without explanation, Dick hesitated and said, “son, I don’t get into people’s personal business. I just do my job and cash their checks, but sometimes I tell a client that they have to ask themselves if the person and the expense is worth it, and this is getting pretty expensive.”
Randall said, “I believe she’s worth it. I may be wrong, but let’s just say…I’m hoping she’s worth it.”
Dick said, “you also have to understand that some people just don’t want to be found. Furthermore, you have to understand that what you find out may not be what you want to find out. Just keep that in mind.”
“I will,” said Randall. After the call, Randall started thinking about what Dick said. He questioned himself again as to his motives. Yes, he wanted to save her, but did she want to be saved? He didn’t believe he needed saving when he was flying high, nor he didn’t want to be saved. He thought he was living. He thought everyone else had a problem.
“I’ll give it two more weeks,” he thought to himself. “Then, I’ll let it go.”
To be continued_______________________________