Mary Reinholz “Exit from Eden”: The Saga Of A Female Fugitive Continues

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April 1, 2014 · Posted in Exit From Eden -Mary Reinholz 

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The author in photos  from the era she’s writing about

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BY MARY REINHOLZ

CHAPTER 8

The white princess phone was ringing when I got back to Phoebe Whistlethorpe’s East Village flat at noon. It was my hostess on the line, calling from the green fields of Connecticut to say she’d be returning to New York in two days and asking me to pay the telephone bill “or those robots from Ma Bell will turn off service before I get home.”

She sounded breathless and more scattered than usual. Then she dropped a shit bomb that could put  me at risk for a murder rap and serious jail time for killing Jed Scott while he was choking me to death in Arkansas.

“And oh, by the way, Joanna–sorry, I mean Cassandra,” she went on in a syrupy voice. “I met this divine man at a jousting match who used to work at a gallery in Pasadena…he remembers you from the Los Angeles Free Press as a sexy red headed reporter who covered the Renaissance Faire in Simi Valley. This is really funny– he said you tried to get him to pretend he was Robin Hood and to shoot arrows at a Sheriff’s Deputy. Did you really do that? I love it! Anyway, I told him, ‘Oh no, she’s not crazy like that any more. She dyed her hair this mousy brown and she’s very much the straight laced working girl in New York.’ I shouldn’t have said all that, should I?”

Fear gripped me and I found myself yelling. “Jesus Christ, Phoebe, what else did you tell him?”

Now she sounded defensive. “I didn’t tell him what your new name is if that’s what you’re worried about.  I keep forgetting it anyway, because Cassandra is such a clunky one. You really ought to change it. And I’m telling you this as a friend, who has opened my doors to you.  I never understood why you changed your name, or your problems with your last boyfriend with the orange hair and I don’t understand your enormous anger and paranoia. You need help, girl, professional help. You are a very troubled person these days.”

She rattled off the names of a couple of high priced therapists, one of whom was an Upper East Side  pal who had helped his much older second wife commit suicide via the sleeping pills he had obligingly dropped in her glass of champagne a few weeks after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and expressed a desire to die “without a second of pain” surrounded by her husband and a few close friends. Yes, with friends like Phoebe and her collection of quaint cronies, I didn’t need the usual enemies.

After she hung up, I paced her living room floor like a maniac, my mind racing.  I longed for a cigarette, but Phoebe had forbidden smoking “death sticks from Big Tobacco” in her apartment and I had decided to stop smoking anyway to save money.  I could use a joint but figured that narcs from the NYPD’s 9th precinct would probably sniff me out.  The Marxist landlord had weed, but a gothic housewife on the fifth floor, who sometimes bought grass from him for trysts with assorted lovers, told me she believed the FBI already had an eye on him as a suspected domestic terrorist with ties to the Weather Underground.

Assuming a lotus position, I started breathing deeply, remembering relaxation techniques recommended by some leftie radicals I had met at a White Panther commune a few blocks away. They had joined a 1967 non-violent protest against the Vietnam War in Washington D.C. with yippie leader Abbie Hoffman and beat poet Allen Ginsberg, both neighbors  in the East Village, who had attempted to exorcise and levitate the Pentagon. One of the White Panthers claimed, “I don’t do drugs anymore. I meditate.”

Clarity came eventually: Yes, I told myself, it could just be a coincidence that Phoebe’s new romantic interest remembered me from the Freep having a little fun at the Renaissance Faire. He might not be a federal agent, but I couldn’t take any chances. I’d have to leave her place as soon as possible because it was only matter of time before she’d blow my cover to someone else who might be heavy undercover heat.

Later that afternoon, it was almost a relief to pay her phone bill at Ma Bell’s office on Second Avenue and East 13th Street: it was like ridding myself of any further obligation to an overbearing babe who constantly reminded me of her generosity. It was time to leave her but now I didn’t have enough money for an apartment of my own.

The next day, I got a break from the one person in this world who always came through for me: my own mother, Ma Willowby from sunny San Marino, California, who had my East Village address and was still in the dark about my name change. I tore open her letter from the coast. Out fluttered a check for $200.

Dear Joanna,

Dad and I hope you are enjoying New York and keeping warm in the cold weather. Does Phoebe have a nice apartment? You told me in your last letter that it’s in the East Village, which I’ve heard is full of hippies who take all kinds of awful drugs and might be like that Charlie Manson monster.
I’m worried. Having a good address is so important when you’re meeting men and wanting to make a good impression.

You’ve had a good upbringing and you deserve respect. I hope you will never allow yourself to dissipate by drinking or taking drugs because that would put you at a terrible disadvantage with men. And men, as I’ve told you often, will try to use you. Dad and I are both so happy you have stopped smoking and are finding secretarial work until something better comes along. Enclosed is a little check for you to buy some new clothes for job interviews. I know that being well dressed is very important in New York….”

She ended with more advice about avoiding “intimacy” with men until they popped the question. My sweet Mom, who grew up in a Massachusetts mill town and had found a passport out in New York, was too good for the likes of me. But her check was also good and it would get me out of Phoebe’s pad and into the Chelsea Hotel. For the past couple of weeks, I had been typing letters for a drunken lady poet at the bohemian stronghold and had gotten to know a few other writers there. They only knew me as Cassandra Ryder, a scribe from California and “the sweetest girl” at the hotel, as my inebriated employer had remarked in one of her mellower moods.

That day I packed up and left a note for Phoebe, thanking her for her hospitality. I left a receipt for my payment to the agents of Ma Bell and told her she should ask her landlord to get a better lock for the front door of the building. And I signed the note, Peace and Love, C. S . Ryder without leaving a forwarding address.

Richard, a British homosexual desk clerk who worked the day shift at the Chelsea, found a budget vacancy for me on the fourth floor. He was a kindly man close to 50 with receding reddish hair and watery blue eyes. He lapsed sentimental as we spoke about arrangements, reminding me that the venerable hotel where he had toiled for 20 years had a long history of nurturing great creative talent like Dylan Thomas and Arthur Miller in their younger days. And he noted with some awe that recent guests included leftwing celebrities like Jane Fonda, “the activist actress” who was working on a film called “Klute” about prostitutes in New York and Australian author Germaine Greer, the beautiful  frizzy-haired feminist who had recently published “The Female Eunich,” a best-seller.

The Chelsea itself struck me as a grim relic of the Victorian era, a massive red brick building with wrought iron balconies. The wild
abstract expressionist art and sculpture on display in the lobby were mostly donations in lieu of rent money from grateful guests.

Richard made it clear I would have to share a communal bathroom and shower in the hall a few steps from my room. But I would have a bed, a desk, a telephone and maid service every day. He also promised me a kitten  as soon as his pregnant calico cat, sleeping peacefully on a cushion near the mail boxes, gave birth to another litter.

And so I took one of the Chelsea’s two ancient creaking elevators up to the fourth floor, pleased to discover that my room also had a closet and French doors leading to a tiny veranda overlooking a low rise bank and a dime store. I unpacked for the most part, but kept the .22 caliber pistol buried beneath a pile of underwear in my backpack. It was this working girl’s best friend in the city until a modern Robin Hood came along.

Then I walked outside with my key and into the bank across the street, opening a checking account as C.S. Ryder and deposited mom’s check. With my available cash,  I purchased a portable typewriter and a ream of copy paper at a stationary store a  few doors down from the hotel. Time to begin working for Jason Slade and the Daily Bugle as yet another Chelsea girl with a fake ID.

 

CHAPTER NINE

Jason Slade’s deadline for turning in my three sample columns for The Daily Bugle’s magazine was two days away and I had only finished one. It featured vignettes about women office workers in the so-called “pink ghetto” fending off advances from oppressive bosses and  blue collar females fighting sex discrimination as they applied for jobs as construction workers. I wanted  more humor for column number two, something that would amuse Slade.

Ever since my arrival at The Chelsea, I had my eye on a gum-chewing Jamaican woman of about 30  in the neighborhood who dressed up as an old fashioned Roman Catholic nun in a floor length black habit and a belt of wraparound rosary beads. It was the costume she wore begging for  charitable donations “to help orphans.” No nuns from my youth ever chewed gum, so I knew immediately she was a phony.
.
Every morning at 7:30 or 8:00, I’d see her sweeping through the  hall of an automat on the corner of 23d Street and 7th Avenue, her straw basket extended as she solicited cash contributions from  working class patrons entroute to their jobs and grizzled retirees dawdling over their coffee and reading the OTB racing forms. I was among those mostly male customers, drinking a mug of steaming brew while taking a break from the solitude of my fourth floor room. When this hustling sister passed me, I asked her  what order of nuns she represented. Her reply was concise: “I don’t need to tell you nothin’!  I know a cafeteria bum when I see one!”

Her scam aroused my curiosity. Earlier in the week, I had followed her out to Brooklyn
by subway and stopped near a white clapboard house she entered on a tree-lined street. It was surrounded by a chain link fence. I could hear dogs barking. Neighbors told me she lived there with a “bishop,” about 8 children and a couple of snarling Doberman pincers.

Back in the automat, I described the fake nun’s arrangement to a bearded  white man about my age who sat next to me. He chuckled and said he had heard she had belonged to an evangelical sect “called the Church of the Floating Fathers.”

We both laughed heartily when this enterprising woman of the cloth approached us on her rounds, pausing to flash the peace sign. She warned, “Don’t smoke too much dope!” A savvy sister, she was.

My new cafeteria bro pulled out a Lucky Strike from behind his ear and asked if I wanted a smoke. He had a nearly a full pack in his flannel shirt pocket. I shook my head no, but murmured maybe later “if my writing block continues.”

He smiled and said he was a writer himself for the underground East Village Other newspaper. “It’s fun and sure beats working for a living,” he said. When he mentioned his name–Phil Lanier–I recognized it instantly. This offbeat guy in jeans and a frayed houndstooth jacket was a star of the alternative press, a prolific word smith whose work I had read in Los Angeles. He had been a student at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech movement and said he  traveled to New York City on a Greyhound bus. “I wanted to be part of the counter culture in the East Village because the hippies have the right idea: make love not war,” he said.

His voice was earnest, sincere, delivering a subtle come-on. He talked about his family in upstate New York. “I grew up on a farm and wanted no part of it as I got older. I I like the communal urban scene. Sometimes I write in laundromats.”

He seemed like a kindred spirit and before much more time passed that day, he was in bed with me in my fourth floor room at the Chelsea and I was giving him a blow job. I wouldn’t let him inside me so soon after Jed Scott’s rape on the road,  telling him, “I’m sensitive down there right now.”

He didn’t ask any questions about my past and a half an hour later I gratefully sucked his dick again, feeling it harden inside my mouth. Then I gave him a hand job, watching his rod swell and his semen explode. In that moment, I felt powerful and in control, safe with him even though I was repelled by his uncircumcized penis. I wondered vaguely if it was
typical  of what you’d find among farm boys in the vineyards and apple orchards of rural New York.

Phil didn’t fill me with romantic longing like the kind I had just talking with Sean Collins on a park bench. But it was comforting getting close to a nice guy who understood the writer’s life and probably wouldn’t judge me too harshly if I told him about Jed Scott. I didn’t think God or even my mother would object much.

Besides, fooling around with Phil sure beat working alone that day. He didn’t spend the night but we talked for hours. And he had some advice to improve my writing after he scanned one of my drafts for sample column number one. “Don’t pack so much information into the first sentence,” he said. “But keep it witty. Keep it honest.”

Next morning, I had column number two about a different kind of nun’s story ready for Jason Slade and his large Catholic readership.

***

Sample column three was giving me trouble because I knew Slade wanted hot copy on the anti-porn  feminists and their fierce attacks against Harvey Jewell, publisher of the headline grabbing F.U. sex tabloid.  I didn’t give a damn about Jewell or the glamour girl Noreen Turette from Media Women Ink who wanted to sue him. If I had any feeling towards those two at all, it was mild distaste. So I called the literary agent Sasha Freed who had referred me to Slade and told her I was blocked a day from the deadline he had given me at the Daily Bugle.

“Just take yourself out of it and be the good reporter you are,” Sasha advised. “Call up Noreen and invite her to lunch. She told me late yesterday she got a settlement from Jewell and she won’t be suing him after all. She might introduce you to Jewell. So get stepping Ms. Ryder,” she commanded after giving me Noreen’s new telephone number and clicking off. Sasha was becoming like my mother in Manhattan.

It was around 11 am when I called Noreen. She picked up on the second ring and sounded suspicious when I introduced myself. “Oh yeah, I remember seeing you at the Women’s Ink’s meeting the other night,” she said. “You mentioned writing for Cosmopolitan magazine when you lived in California. But when I asked my editor at Cosmo if she knew a Cassandra Ryder, she said you do not exist.”

“Oh, I write under a pseudonym so my  crazy ex can’t track me down,” I lied, stifling a sudden urge to strangle her. “But let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you for this column I’m trying out for. And by the way, Jason Slade is a good contact for you,” I wheedled.

Noreen agreed to meet for lunch at a 24-hour Greek coffee shop a few doors west of the Chelsea Hotel. She said she lived nearby in an apartment off 8th Avenue, a crowded roadway that became  a cruising ground at night for prostitutes and pimps, many of them showing up in stretch limos. At least the joint looked clean and even respectable at 1 pm in the afternoon. There was no one in sight wearing a fedora and double breasted suit, a pimp uniform that I had noticed in the neighborhood at night.

It was chilly outside and Noreen had on her mink coat over tight jeans and a black turtleneck sweater that accentuated her ample bosom. I stood up to greet her as if she were visiting royalty. It was all a show but Noreen seemed to appreciate it as she settled into the booth I had commandeered and ordered a Greek salad.

She withdrew a check from her wallet and showed it to me proudly. It was for $2500 and signed by Harvey Jewell. “This is going to help now that my husband Stanley is suing me for divorce and refusing to pay alimony,” she said, elaborating on the story she had told at the Media Women Ink meeting. “He claims I’ve been unfaithful but he can’t prove it.”

When I took out my notebook, Noreen looked nervous.  “I don’t want that in the Daily Bugle,” she said. ” And I don’t want anything about Harvey Jewell’s settlement in print. Editors reading something like that might not give me assignments at the better women’s magazines if they knew I had written for F.U. even with a pseudonym. They wouldn’t have Jewell and his rag in their living rooms.”

She grew agitated and I was beginning to feel sorry for her by the time her Greek salad arrived. “Don’t worry, Noreen,” I said softly. “I’m not trying to hurt you. Just tell me what you want on or off the record.”

Noreen speared a chunk of Feta cheese with her fork. “Off the record, I wish Jason Slade would have let me compete like you for the women’s lib column he’s starting,” she said. “Sasha told me about the opening, but when I called Slade, he said he had completed interviewing applicants. So you got lucky, didn’t you? You’ve got long legs and he probably wants those skyscrapers around his neck,” she said, glancing down at my stems, which I had sheathed in black tights from the dime store and wore beneath a midi-skirt with a slit in front.

Noreen bit into a hard roll, then looked at me reflectively. “Maybe what I just said was sexist,so sorry that. I know a lot about the women’s movement and maybe you can let me  fill in for you as a guest columnist if  you have to go out of town. Would you keep me in mind?”

“Sure, why not?”  I said, hoping she’d keep on talking. She seemed to need to.

“You might do something for your sample column on feminists like me who like pretty things and aren’t into burning our bras,” Noreen went on. ”And by the way, nobody burned bras at the Miss America pageant. That was just media hype. But a lot of feminists go braless and I won’t. I need to wear bras because of the support they give and I don’t feel like apologizing for it. But if you have big boobs like I do, most of the bras over size B just come in black and white and they look like crane lifters. I’ve always wanted a bra with pretty floral patterns.”

She certainly had a point that could be made in a future column if I got lucky with Slade.

“I don’t think it’s a crime for feminists to look fashionable,” Noreen said. “But when I ran into a  radical feminist from W.I.T.C.H.—that actually means Women’s Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—she accused me of wearing a “counter revolutionary dress! So crazy doctrinaire!” She sipped her diet soda with a straw. “Some of these feminists are bossier than guys I know.”

I asked Noreen about the  stylish Gloria Steinem, a budding feminist star who had been photographed by The Daily Bugle wearing mini skirts and aviator glasses “good for icing male chauvinist pigs.”

“Gloria is gorgeous and destined to be famous,” Noreen said as she finished her salad. “But eventually her background with the C.I.A. will catch up to her and it could make for very bad publicity.”

This disclosure about Steinem was jolting. I raised one eyebrow. “A nice liberal feminist who worked for a big bad secret government agency? How do you know this? I can’t print gossip.”

“It’s not gossip and she already admitted it to the New York Times in 1967,” Noreen said, claiming that Steinem’s alleged stint with a “CIA front” began years before when the spy agency secretly funded a group she directed that sent students to youth festivals in Europe. “It was a long time ago, people were worried about the Red Menace. If you read the story, she sounds proud of what she did, like it was a  patriotic thing at that time. I get the feeling she always wanted to be Mata Hari–but don’t quote me,” Noreen said.

I nodded, reminding myself to be wary if I ever managed to interview Steinem.

By the time the baklava arrived, drenched in honey, Noreen and I had become friendly and conspiratorial. I wondered aloud if she thought  Harvey Jewell would talk to me about his views on the women’s liberation movement –“on the record”–and if she had his private line at F.U.

To my surprise, Noreen said she’d be happy to introduce him to me personally and I could find out for myself. “F.U. is just a few blocks away,” she said. “I’ll walk over there with you, but first let me deposit Jewell’s check.”

CHAPTER TEN

Harvey Jewell, F. U.’s publisher, held forth in a decaying loft building on West 27th Street, his firm reachable by a freight elevator. It was the last office past Rosa’s Palmistry, Optics by Dr. Sophocles, and Four Square Gospel Books. Noreen pressed an intercom button and identified herself to the woman’s voice that answered. An armored door opened to a no- frills reception area enlivened by a sculpture of female breasts bolted above a bullet-proof window, nipples blinking red lights.

The face of a middle aged receptionist wearing hornrims appeared in an opening in the glass on the other side. “Nice to see you again, Mizz Turette,” she said. “I don’t have you down to see Mr. Jewell. He’s getting his daily massage. I never disturb him while he’s relieving his stress.”

“Helene, I’m sure Harvey would want to say hello to me and my  friend  Cassie Ryder from California,” Noreen replied cheerily. “Please tell him we’re here.”

Helene agreed and we took seats in multi-colored directors chairs.  There was another woman  waiting with us, a platinum blonde with enormous cleavage. She was reading back issues of F.U. when a couple of hipster males in theit late 20s were buzzed in the room, carrying Chinese take out. They greeted the blonde warmly and escorted her into F.U.’s inner sanctum.

“That’s Marshmellow Sublime,” volunteered Helene, her grin revealing gleaming dentures. “Marshmellow is a stripper who does magic tricks with her vagina and she’s here for a photo shoot.”

Helene recounted how Marshmellow could squirt hand lotion from her  privates and even pop out ping pong balls. She seemed to think this was an astonishing achievement, suitable for late night television.

The baklava was beginning to give me heartburn. I had interviewed girls like Marshmellow in L.A.—mostly uneducated girls who made a living taking their clothes off for bored and lonely bachelors and married men on the make. I knew lots of men liked to look to look at Playboy centerfolds to help them jerk off. But hardcore pornography had always struck me as a sleazy, sweaty and sad business that drew desperate characters like Marshmellow, who seemed a tragic figure, a victim of capitalism in its worst forms.

Harvey Jewell, however, seemed to view his business as a barrel of laughs when he suddenly appeared before Noreen and me in bedroom slippers and an orange terrycloth bathrobe, a fat Neptune rising from a sea of primordial slime.

He looked about 40, of medium height with a neatly trimmed goatee and a full head of light brown hair that seemed carefully arranged  in a mass of curls. His hazel eyes gave him away. They were sultry but alert, the eyes of a shrewd and mischievous child who likes to dress up as Satan for Halloween tricks and treats.

“Noreen, you are making my day,” Jewell said in greeting, giving me the once over and fixating on my legs. “Does my check for $2500 get me a three-way?”

“Just a few minutes chat with two intellectual women, Harvey,” Noreen said. “And you don’t have to pay a cent.”

“I love intellectual women as you know and I always pay,” Jewell said.“But I’m a busy man, ladies, so let’s make it a quick  meaningless  experience.  We can talk about all the clits I’ve licked today.  But first, what is your lovely friend’s name?”f

Noreen introduced me and then winked as Jewell summoned us to follow him down a hallway and past  a warren of cubicles. The two hipsters in denims  who had escorted Marshmellow Sublime to her photo shoot were lounging by a desk. The taller one was lean and darkly handsome with an air of authority. Our eyes met and his boss seemed to notice.

“Pay no attention to those two losers,” Jewell said loudly, his voice jovial and teasing. “They’re  both pansies. I’m the only guy here with a perpetual hard-on.”

His office was at the end of the hall, tastefully decorated with oil paintings of nudes and Andy Warhol lithographs of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. A framed shark’s carcass with fangs bared hung over his desk, showing another side of the porn king’s aesthetic. Then I noticed a shot gun leaning against a corner.

“Expecting unwelcome company Mr. Jewell?” I inquired, as our host motioned us to two leather chairs.

“We had a break-in last week –a couple of spades wearing stocking masks  tied up  staff and pistol whipped me after I opened the safe,”  Jewell said briskly, taking a seat in a swing that hung from the ceiling. “So we’ve added more security. I could move to a  better neighborhood, but it’s cheap here and I don’t need to impress the hookers.”

He eyed me more closely. “What did you say your name was— Rye, Ryan?  You look Irish. This fat Jew is crazy for Irish Catholic girls. I’d dodge a bomb in Belfast just for a chance to kiss their pussies.”

“C.S. Ryder, Mr. Jewell,” I said, assuming an air of gravity that bordered on the farcical.  “I’m a reporter and was hoping to interview you for the Daily Bugle –“

Jewell’s smile vanished. He  swung around to Noreen, visibly angry. “Oh Noreen, you double dealing bitch,” he said. “I settle with you big time over a minor matter and you repay me by bringing in a reporter for a rightwing rag that wants my testicles on a plate. Why don’t you two ball breakers leave? You’re wasting my time. I’m due at Weight Watchers in 20 minutes.” He glanced at his watch. It was an expensive time piece. It looked like a Cartier.

“Now Harvey, don’t be paranoid,” Noreen said. “Cassie is going to be writing about women’s liberation for  Jason Slade, the Bugle’s new Sunday magazine editor. He’s liberal and hip and he actually seems to like you–“

Hearing the word “women’s liberation” struck another nerve in Jewell, who suddenly jumped off the swing and lumbered over to a file cabinet. Flipping through  folders, he pulled out a letter-sized sheet of paper and handed it to me. “You want a hot story about  fascist women’s libbers who want to put me out of business forever?” he said. “Check this out.”

The cheap paper he handed me showed a blurred head shot of Jewell seen through a drawing of a telescopic rifle lens and typewritten words: “The fire next time for a pig exploiter of women.”  There was no written signature– just more words typed in capital letters: F.I.R.E. Feminist International Radicals in Exile.”

“This  death threat  could be from a group of one, Mr. Jewell,” I said. “Did you call the police?”

My question irritated the hell out of him. “Are you crazy? Of course I didn’t call the cops!” he snapped. “The police are looking for any excuse to bust me or haven’t you read your own newspaper?”

He  waddled over  to his desk and pointed to another file folder in a wire basket. “I get  hate mail all the time  from Christian bible bangers and Orthodox Jews opposed to masturbation, but nothing like this. This was personally delivered yesterday by someone who slipped it under the door  before we opened in the morning. Notice the phrase, ‘The Fire Next Time,” which is an obvious reference to James Baldwin’s book about growing up in Harlem. It’s his civil rights manifesto. The unmitigated gall of these crazy radical feminists! They actually think they’re oppressed like black people even though their leaders are lily white and have trust funds.”

He grabbed back the document and resumed ranting. “This letter is from some fancy feminist writer getting off on death threats to a pornographer: She reminds me
of that lunatic Valerie Solanes, who wrote the ‘Scum Manifesto,” calling for the extermination of all men. She considers us genetically inferior to men, barely good for stud service, and  this was before she shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol.””

His tone became defiant: “If I’m going to go down, I’m going go down screaming. You want a quote from me?”

“Yes I would, very much, Mr. Jewell,” I said,
maintaining the respectful tone that seemed to goad him. I took out my pen and notebook as Jewell began dictating.

“Here it is, Ryder, and quote me accurately:  ‘The women’s liberation movement is actually a breeding ground for neo-Nazi females who are frustrated and out to destroy the male gender because they’re losers who have never been laid right and will never get any hot stuff between their legs. Got that?”

“Yes, I got that, Mr. Jewell,” I said. “But I  wondered:  Is there anyone close to you who could have written this letter—like your wife? I read somewhere you were getting a divorce and these things can get nasty…”

“No, Sophie doesn’t have the balls to write a letter like this,” Jewell said. “She’s too busy now taking care of our son and trying to bleed me for a huge amount of alimony and child support.  Typical broad who sees men as money objects. Isn’t that right , Noreen?” He shot a scornful glance at my companion.

Noreen was beginning to look decidedly  uncomfortable. It was time to go but I had one more question before leaving the pornographer to his anger and his fear.

“What about your distributors, Mr. Jewell?” I asked, standing up. “Aren’t you afraid of them too? Is it possible you got on their wrong side somehow and maybe one of them wrote this letter to scare you, to get you under control?”

Jewell laughed bitterly.  “If you’re trying to get me to admit that I have Mafia distributors, Ryder, forget about it. We’re not ashamed of it—we’re proud of it. We also believe in free speech even though your feminist friends don’t.”

I actually thanked Jewell for his candor as he practically pushed me and Noreen out of his office. He had made my sample column number three write itself.

Yes, I mused as we took the freight elevator down to the street level, his words were a gift, a contribution of consciousness from a fat man who must have been an English Lit major before he began raping the language and whatever else came his way as a hip capitalist. I remembered  my sister Valerie, a librarian, once telling me: “You, little sis, have sympathy for the devil, for Lucifer, the falling angel, the bearer of morning light.”

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