Author's Note: Hey guys I'm back... I honestly don't know where this story will go, I'm kinda letting it write itself. Hope you guys like it. Please review to give me your thoughts on it. Enjoy.
The Lights of Babylon Burn Bright.
Chapter 1: Gatsby in a Scarf
Roger Davis stepped off the airplane at John F. Kennedy airport and stretched then shivered. It was cold here in New York, the kind that got down to your bones. Roger had forgotten about the cold.
Pushing his shaggy blond hair out of his dark green eyes Roger looked around and smiled. There she was Maureen Johnson her dark red curls were longer and her she wore less make up and leather then she did last time Roger had seen her.
Roger walked up to her dropping his carry on bag and guitar hugging Maureen. It was good to be home.
"Joanne's sorry she couldn't be here and Collins couldn't get out of teaching today and you know Benny." Maureen said pulling back from Roger smiling her warm smile. "Jo has a case today?" Roger asked. "It's not her case but she has to sit in on it, she tried to explain it to me but I was preoccupied." Maureen said with a smile. "And what about Mark: where is he, I thought for sure he'd be here to greet me." Roger said that's when he noticed Maureen's smiled falter. "Maureen what's wrong, where is he?" Roger asked. "It's a long story honey. Let's get some lunch and I'll tell you everything." Maureen said reaching out to pick up Roger's guitar.
Roger sat with Maureen in a little café about six blocks from his loft. They ordered light lunches knowing that tonight they would meet the rest of their friends at the Life Café. "So tell me about everything, you opened for Bon Jovi and there's nothing to say?" Maureen asked. "No Maureen, I opened for a group that opened for Bon Jovi." Roger laughed. "Still, all those crazy groupies and no wild stories?" Maureen asked with a smile. "All this tour did was made me realize how much I missed home." Roger said leaning back in his chair.
A year ago Roger had left his friends to go on tour, an opener for an opener. He hadn't cared, he was living his dream. The company that had hired him let him cut a c.d. to sell while he was on tour and it had done fairly well. Roger could remember standing on stage looking out into the audience scanning faces listening to their screams, it had all been a high, but soon the high would falter when Roger realized that he kept scanning the faces for his friends.
None of them were there, not Mimi Marquez with her bright warm eyes. He and Mimi hadn't ended up working out but at least they had remained very good friends. He couldn't feel the cooling presence of Tom Collins or the joy of Maureen and Joanne as they cheered him on. He didn't see the cocky smile of Benjamin Coffin the third mocking him saying, "See I told you so. I knew you would make it someday." Mostly he didn't see the complete support in his best friend and roommate Mark Cohen's face.
"Okay Maureen, you've avoided the subject enough, where's Mark?" Roger asked finally as their food was served to him. Maureen sighed and leaned back, "I didn't answer because we don't know." Maureen admitted. "What?" Roger was in shock. "What do you mean you don't know?" Roger asked. "Simply that, no one's seen him in six months Roger. We know he still lives at the loft and we know the rents being paid by Mark's checks, but he's not there. We've waited in the loft for days at a time and he never comes home. He's quit working for Buzzline all together. No one knows where he is Roger and frankly we're worried sick." Maureen admitted. "What happened?" Roger asked. "We don't know. Alexi said that one day Mark walked in and gave his two weeks notice and that was it." Maureen sighed.
Roger saw from the look in Maureen's eyes that she was worried. It just wasn't like Mark to disappear on them. He looked up at Maureen's face and noticed tears welling in her eyes. "Oh God Roger, what if something has happened to him?" Maureen's usually strong voice broke. "Don't worry Maureen, I'll find him." Roger promised taking her hand.
Roger walked into the loft and the first thing he noticed was how empty it looked. Looking around Roger noticed something was missing, something that had always been then there but Roger really hadn't noticed.
He walked in the kitchen and found old sticky notes that Mark wrote to himself to remember things. The notes read things like Roger's in Boston today and will be in Louisville, Kentucky tomorrow. Or Remind Roger to pick up new Rx of AZT. The last one caught Roger's attention, it was a check list, Call Alexi, Call Christen, Call club, Take test, Call Rx in, Work 8:00. Who the hell was Christen, and why was Mark calling a club, and what test was Mark suppose to take? The note made it seem like Mark was really busy but with what?
Roger opened the fridge to find it was full. Most of it health stuff, fresh vegetables, fruit juices, fresh milk and cheese, eggs, Mark had taken his vegetarianism to a whole new height it seemed. Grabbing a bottle of water Roger walked to the living room where he dropped the bottle in shock. There was a new couch, one with no duck tape. They now owned a coffee table and in the corner was a nice stereo. That's when Roger realized he wasn't cold, they had HEAT! What ever Mark had been doing he had made living in the loft a whole lot more comfortable.
Roger walked to what use to be his room. Opening the door he found it clean. Roger never cleaned his room. He had a real bed and what looked like a new mattress. Not the piece of shit he was use to sleeping on. This had a bed frame, simple like Mark knew Roger would like. Roger's bed was made! It had sheets, black, with a dark red comforter that looked heavy. Roger's floors wear swept and polished. Opening his closet door Roger found most of his clothes had been washed and hung up. WHAT THE HELL! Was all Roger could think, not bothering to close the closet or bedroom door he walked over to Mark's room.
Mark's room looked even better. There was carpet; there was a rod-iron bed frame, with a white down comforter and dark blue sheets. There was an entertainment center with TV. and a V.C.R., with tapes and books next to it. Roger opened the closet and found new clothes. Nothing second hand it looked like. Clothes he would've never dreamed to see Mark in, Mark had shoes for ever occasion. That's when it hit Roger. Walking out of the Mark's room he looked in the corner where Mark's film stuff usually sat. It wasn't there. There was no film equipment anywhere.
Roger heard the loft door open and in walked a little woman about 52. She smiled at Roger, "You must be Roger." Her voice was that of a soothing mother. "Yeah, who are you?" Roger looked confused, "Oh, Mr. Mark talked about you all the time. Said you'd be coming home soon. I'm Hannah, Mr. Mark's housekeeper." She smiled. Roger liked the look of her, she was short no more then 5'1" with a plump look in her face. She had warm honey colored eyes and salt and pepper hair.
"He'll be so tickled your home." Hannah continued. "Wait did you say housekeeper?" Roger asked. Since when the hell could Mark afford a housekeeper? "That's right, I come in and make sure everything is here, tidy up, I check on Ms. Mimi for Mr. Mark and retrieve his messages. He's such a busy boy anymore." Hannah said going into the kitchen. "You must be famished. Sit down boy, let's feed you. It's so rare I get to cook anymore." Hannah said.
Roger sat dumbfound on the kitchen table. It was the same metal table but now it had nice dark blue velvet barstools. Roger watched as Hannah busied herself in the kitchen. Roger was taking everything in. Mark apparently wasn't poor anymore. Hannah said he paid her well and she saw him every Sunday to receive her pay for the week (extra pay if Hannah had to clean up after one of Mr. Mark's parties.) Mark bought Mimi's medication that Hannah picked up every last Friday of the month.
Roger's head turned again as the door opened. In walked Mimi Marquez. She looked beautiful and healthy. Mimi's hair was long and curly and amazingly shiny. She wore simple jeans and a NYU sweatshirt. She had a healthy glow to her skin all in all she looked like a girl who had nothing wrong with her. A girl who wasn't once a heroin addict, who had never had to strip for a living, Mimi looked like a girl who had the rest of her life in front of her, not one that was dying from A.I.D.S.
"ROGER!" Mimi squealed dropping the book bag that she had over her shoulder as she ran and hugged Roger. "Mimi." Roger smiled returning the hug. "How are you?" Mimi asked taking the barstool next to him. She didn't seem as shocked by the changes in the loft as he was. "Good, good, and you, wow, you look amazing Mimi." Roger said still holding onto her hand. "It's all Mark's doing." Mimi smiled.
"Hi Ms. Mimi," Hannah said smiling as she walked out with a plate of spaghetti, "Have you eaten girl? You look rail thin." Hannah pestered. "Not yet Hannah..." Mimi admitted. "Well you're going to eat now girlie and I do not take no for an answer." Hannah said sitting the plate in front of Roger. Mimi smiled sweetly at the older woman. "So tell me everything that's been going on with you." Mimi said turning towards Roger. "Just the tour and the c.d. release, forget me, tell about you." Roger said shrugging. Mimi smiled and launched into her story.
"Okay, so after you left everything was miserable for about two months, Mark and I were barely surviving. He was a mess with out you. Then one day everything changed. He started disappearing for days on end and I was really worried. Then one day in October I hear a knock on my door. I open it and there's Mark. He tells me "You're going back to school." Course I looked at him like he was crazy. He explained that he got this great opportunity and that he had decided to take it. It paid like ten times better then Buzzline and he was much happier doing it but it also meant that he wouldn't be around for awhile. I was skeptical at first but then he made sure I got my G.E.D. and then, then he helps me apply to college. ME! I'm going to college can you believe it! I haven't declared a major or anything. Mark helped me get financial aid to pay for it and he helps pay my rent and utilities. Then, THEN he gives me a whopper of a Christmas gift." Mimi smiled at Hannah as the older woman placed a plate in front of her and then went back to the kitchen. Roger could hear the sounds of running dish water as Hannah cleaned up.
"So where was I?" Mimi asked taking a bite of the spaghetti. "Christmas," Roger answered looking in awe of everything Mimi was telling him. Mimi was in college and Mark had helped put her there. Roger smiled, he remembered New Years Eve of 1989, when Mimi had said she was going back to school. "Can I ask…?" Roger started. "Two years clean last October." Mimi smiled knowing what Roger was asking. "And my t-cells are sky high." Mimi answered Roger's silent question. "That's great Mims." Roger smiled. "So you were about to tell me this whopper of a gift Mark gave you."
"Oh right, so I'm sitting in Mark's loft, as you notice he's redecorated. Nice isn't it. I was spending a lot of time here since its sooo much nicer then mine. Anyways, so I'm sitting here eating lunch waiting for Mark to get home so we can go to Jo and Maureen's Christmas party. When Mark comes home he says he has a surprise for me. I'm like what? He says I'll see. So he leads me down to my loft and opens the door and oh my god I freaked out. Mark had completely redecorated it. My loft has carpet; it has working appliances, and heat. I've got the beautiful bed and a TV. I own a couch; I've never owned a couch even when I lived at home with my mom. He said he couldn't stand living in such comfort knowing what I was living in. Mark's done so much for me Roger. I'll never be able to repay him." Mimi finished.
"So do you know exactly what he's doing? Have you seen him recently or even talked to him?" Roger asked. "No, last time I saw him was March. He said he wouldn't be around much. I asked why and he said he had things to take care of. That he had to fulfill his promise to Angel. I really don't know what he's doing. I know he's alive. He calls and leaves a message on my machine or he'll leave a sticky note on my door for me to find in the morning. But beyond that I really don't have a clue where he is or what he does. He would never tell me." Mimi sighed.
Roger could tell it bothered Mimi that she never saw Mark anymore. "I'm worried Roger, really worried. It's just not like Mark to well, desert us like this. I mean he takes care of everything, but to not be around. I'm just worried about him." Mimi admitted. Hannah bustled in, "Ms. Mimi I'm going to go, and there are leftovers in the fridge. Please make sure to eat something more sweetheart. Mr. Mark will have a fit if he finds you're not eating properly." Hannah said leaving.
Roger and Mimi sat in silence for a moment. "Mims, do you know a Christen?" Roger asked. "No why?" Mimi looked at him confused. "I was reading a posted that Mark left himself. It says call Christen, I was just wondering if maybe he would know where to find Mark." Roger said shrugging. "Sorry Hun, don't know a Christen." Mimi said then standing. "Well I need to study for a bit before we go to dinner. I'll see you later Roger." Mimi kissed Roger's check and then headed to the door picking up her back pack.
"Hey Mims," Roger said. Mimi turned and looked at Roger. "Yeah?" Mimi asked. "You really do look amazing." Roger smiled. "Thanks." Mimi smiled back and headed out the door.
Roger sat on the couch for hours thinking about everything Mimi had told him. Mark was bringing in big bucks whatever he was doing. Mark had also seemingly given up his dream of become a director. Roger laid his head back on the back of the couch looking at the ceiling when he heard the door open again. Turning around he saw a woman enter. She was tall with dark blond hair and blue eyes. She wore a mini skirt and a black suit jacket. Roger wondered if she realized that she looked like some man dirty fantasy of a secretary. The woman jumped as she saw Roger.
"Oh hi, you must be Roger. Mr. Cohen sent me over to see if you'd made it." The woman said. "Mr. Cohen?" Roger asked raising his eyebrow. "Um, yes, I'm Nancy, Mr. Cohen's personal assistant." Roger just stared at the woman. "Uh, yeah, so did your flight go okay? Mr. Cohen says he sorry he couldn't meet you but he's very busy." Nancy muttered on. "Nancy when was the last time you saw Mr. Cohen." Roger asked. "Um: this morning." Nancy answered. "Oh so you've seen him in the last six months?" Roger snapped. "Yes sir." Nancy answered. "And will you see him again in say the next six hours?" Roger asked. "Yes sir." Nancy nodded. "Then do me a favor Nancy, tell Mr. Cohen, that he needs to get his ass back here and talk to me himself. Tell him I'm pissed as hell at him and want to talk to him tonight." Roger said calmly looking at the woman. Nancy nodded, "Of course Mr. Davis. I'll tell Mr. Cohen as soon as I see him." "You do that." Roger said laying his head back, "Oh and ask him where the hell my Fender is." Roger said no bothering to look at the woman as she left.
Roger was awoken by the phone ringing. Roger looked back as the answering machine picked up, "SPEAK!" Roger grinned at least Mark hadn't gotten rid of their message.
"Roger wake the fuck up and throw down the key."
Collins, Roger grinned as he grabbed the key from where it usually hung and walked out onto the fire escape. "Hey bitch, catch." Roger yelled tossing the key down to Collins.
Roger waited as he heard Collins coming up the stairs. Collins opened the door walking with a large grin on his face. "Hey Roger," Collins said embracing Roger. "Hey," Roger said feeling a little calmer then he did before. Thomas Collins, bag-a-bon anarchist, had that effect of Roger. Collins made Roger see clearer; he never let Roger's hot temper get in the way of Roger making an important decision.
"So what do you think of your new digs?" Collins said setting the bottle of Stoli he had in his hand on the counter. "I think I live somewhere else." Roger said sitting on the couch. Collins grinned from the bar stool he had brought over from the table. "Kind of crazy isn't it?" Collins said. "I can't believe he did all this. This place is actually livable." Roger said. "I know, makes me and Benny want to move back in." Collins said. "Benny? What's up with him?" Roger asked. "You don't know? Allison left him. Said it was either she or us. He chose us. He's living above you. He still owns the building and the lot across the street but he's single again." Collins explained.
"What about you? What are you up to?" Roger asked. Collins smiled, "Not much. I'm back at NYU, I'm teaching philosophy to juniors and seniors, and you know, people who actually care about what I'm saying. And I'm seeing someone. It's all still knew, we've known each other for awhile now but we didn't know each other was interested until about a month ago. So we're both taking it slow. We don't want to ruin our friendship. Plus he's a grad student at NYU and we really don't know what the rules on that since he's getting his masters." Collins shrugged. "I'm glad for you; Angel would want you to be happy. No day but today remember?" Roger grinned at his friend.
"So when was the last time you saw Mark?" Roger asked. "Saw Mark or talk to Mark?" Collins asked. "Both." Roger answered.
"That last time I talked to Mark was in February. I found him at Angel's grave talking to her. He was telling her about his new job he got. I don't know what it is before you asked. He kept repeating that he was going to fulfill his promise to her and that he was determined to make her proud. They grew really close when you went to Santa Fe for those few months. He would visit her all the time in the hospital and they'd have these conversations like they were talking around something but they both knew what they were talking around. Anyways so I found Mark at Angel's grave and we talked grabbed lunch. Then he said he had to go. When I asked where he just said work. Wouldn't tell me where. I asked if everything was okay and he said yeah and soon everything would be okay with every one else too. A month after that is when he started really taking care of everyone. Making sure Mimi's rent was paid so she could attend college full time. Making sure Benny had to best divorce attorney and that he was taken care of. That Maureen and Jo were happy. He helped Maureen get a part in an off Broadway play. He gave Jo someone to gripe at when Maureen got to be too much to handle."
Collins stopped looked down at grinned, "He made sure I was okay. He got me counseling when my drinking got out of hand and helped me go on hiatuses so I could go to rehab for my drinking. He's always making sure we all have our meds and the best doctors he can afford. I really don't know what we'd do with out him." Collins said.
"You said you saw him, when?" Roger asked.
"About two months ago. I was out with a friend and we walked past this restaurant. I looked in and there was Mark sitting having lunch with this group of people. They were all in suits except Mark. He looked good, his hair is longer and he doesn't have those big black glasses anymore. He at least looked alive. I couldn't get in to see him but he saw me, he waved and motion he'd call me. He never called, but at least I knew he was alive." Collins said. Roger sighed, "I've got to find him Collins. His personal assistant came over earlier. I was pretty nasty to her but I was so fucking annoyed that Mark just didn't come home."
"That's just it Roger, he doesn't come home at all. He's never here. I stayed here an entire week and he never came home." Collins explained. Roger looked perplexed. Mark had become like some kind of guardian angel that took care of everyone but no one ever saw.
Soon Roger's thoughts were interrupted by a ringing. He looked at the machine and realized that wasn't what he was hearing. He looked at Collin who sheepishly pulled out a cell phone from his jacket pocket. Collins had a cell phone.
Tom Collins was actually blushing at the expression on Roger's face and shrugged. "Mark thought we should all get one, just in case we needed help ever." Collins said answering it. "Hey Joanna, yeah I'm with Roger. Okay yeah: ten minutes: we will be there. I promise, tell Maureen I promise we won't be late." Collin said smiling and then hung up.
"You own a cell phone? What the hell is Mark doing that he can afford all of this? Whoring himself out?" Roger was in raged. Partially because no one seemed to care that their friend had went from being dirt broke to being a millionaire it seemed, and partially because Mark had never once mentioned his good fortune. Becoming a millionaire was something you call your best friend about.
"Roger I'm sure whatever Mark's doing it's legit. You know Mark; he's got too much of a guilt complex to do anything illegal." Collins said standing. "Come on; time to go meet everyone at Life." Collins said helping Roger up.
Closing Notes: Is Mark whoring himself out? If not where the hell is the money coming from? And why has no one seen Mark in six months? I'll tell you EVERYTHING in the next chapter… soon as I figure it out.