Phoenix Ascending, Part 1

(by, 29 December 1996)

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Article 25990 of
Subject: Story:  Phoenix Ascending, Part 1 of 4
Date: 29 Dec 1996 13:02:25 GMT
Organization: AOL
Lines: 416
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Notice:  This story has been rated "NC17" for adult language, nudity,
strong sexual content, violence, and explicit smoking.  If you find any of
this objectionable, try "Alt.Dr_Seuss.Fan-Fiction" instead.

Copyright 1996 by G. M. Sullivan.  All rights reserved.  This story may be
copied and distributed for the uncompensated amusement of others only. 

DEDICATION:  To Linda, with love.

Author's note:  This is a sequel to my previously posted story "Dying for
a Cigarette."  For a full understanding (if it's possible), I suggest you
read that story first.

"Phoenix Ascending"  Part One of Four

Part One:  Epiphany Approaching

1.  New York, New York, 8 January, West 52nd Street, 10:11 AM


Back from COMMERCIAL in five, four, three, CUE MUSIC, one, CUE MATTHEWS...





MATTHEWS:  Hi again, we're back, live from New York and ready for our
first guest!  She's the only one to survive the ASK-man's attack, the
Christmas Miracle girl herself.  Everybody, let's welcome Miss Dorothy


CAMERA 2 pans to follow as 13-year-old DOROTHY enters from Stage Left,
walks toward MATTHEWS' desk, and takes the adjacent chair.


MATTHEWS:  Hi, Dorothy!  Glad you could be with us this morning!

CAMERA 3, Extreme Close Up, DOROTHY

DOROTHY:  Hello, Mr. Matthews.  I'm glad to be here.

CAMERA 1, Two-Shot.

MATTHEWS:  Call me Jerry, Dorothy.  Now, tell the audience, do you think a
miracle saved you an Christmas eve?

DOROTHY:  I don't really know, Jerry.  The policemen said it was a falling
branch, but there was no tree where...he was.  At least, I was very lucky!

DOROTHY removes a pack of CIGARETTES and MATCHES from her PURSE.

MATTHEWS:  We should all be so lucky!  Oh, sorry Dorothy, we can't let you
smoke here.  Our insurance guys won't let us!

LAUGHTER as DOROTHY, looking disappointed, puts the cigarettes away.

MATTHEWS:  So, Dorothy, what do YOU think it all means?  What's the lesson

DOROTHY:  Well, Jerry, I love to smoke and so do many of my friends.  The
ASK-man hated us for that.  Someone, maybe Santa, maybe God, saved my
life, and now the ASK-man's dead.  I think we should learn to be a little
more understanding of each other, and not be so quick to hate.

MATTHEWS:  Great, Dorothy, like someone once said:  'why can't we all just
get along?'  Amen to that, eh folks?


MATTHEWS:  And I understand you'll be speaking at the Javits Center
benefit on the Tenth, right?

DOROTHY:  That's right, Jerry.  A lot of people have called and written to
me.  They believe something important happened that night, and want to
know more about it.  I'm going to tell them the best way I can.

MATTHEWS:  Just call 223-TIKS, folks, it's all for a good cause and I'm
sure it'll be a whale of a show!  Now, I'd like to bring out our next
guest.  She's the young lady who helped trap the ASK-man that very same
Christmas Eve last.  Let's have a warm welcome for Natalie Kelly!


DOROTHY moves one seat further from MATTHEWS' desk as NATALIE enters from
Stage Left.  NATALIE takes the seat vacated by DOROTHY.

MATTHEWS:  Good morning, Natalie, thanks for coming.  It's been a hectic
two weeks for you...

NATALIE:  You're welcome, Jerry, and yes, it certainly has!

MATTHEWS:  So tell us , Natalie, how you came to be involved in the trap
that snagged the ASK-man.

NATALIE:  Well you know, Jerry, I worked for Bradley Stephanson, the
ASK-man, at the West Side Lung Association.  As soon as I saw the first
stories in the paper, I suspected it was him.

MATTHEWS:  Because he was a real so-and-so, right?


NATALIE removes her CIGARETTES and LIGHTER, offers one to DOROTHY who
gladly accepts, and takes one for herself.  Not waiting for an objection,
she lights each CIGARETTE.  Both GUESTS draw heavily, opening their mouths
to reveal thick clouds of SMOKE within, then inhale.

MATTHEWS:  Uhhhh...

NATALIE:  Yes, Jerry?

NATALIE's words are accompanied by exhaled SMOKE.  DOROTHY is beginning to
exhale her own dense PLUME.

CAMERA 1 zooms to ECU, DOROTHY's LIPS, exhaling SMOKE.

CAMERA 1, pull back to Three-Shot!  Hank, what the hell...?!

CAMERA 1 pulls back to Three-Shot (after a short delay).

MATTHEWS:  Never mind.


MATTHEWS:  Did you know Lt. Flinn, before...?

NATALIE:  I met Jake Flinn on the 23rd.  He is a really excellent cop and
a very nice man.  He listened to my theory...

NATALIE pauses to take another PUFF.  DOROTHY is smoking with a delighted
look on her face, wreathing herself with SMOKE.

LIGHTING adjusts to improve visibility through the HAZE.

MATTHEWS:  And the two of you cooked up the scheme to trap the ASK-man!

NATALIE:  Right, and you all know how that turned out!


MATTHEWS:  We sure do!  And we'll be seeing you at the Javits on the
tenth, also?

NATALIE:  That's right, Jerry.  Dorothy was kind enough to invite me.


CUE MATTHEWS, fifteen seconds to COMMERCIAL.

MATTHEWS:  All right, folks, we're going to take a short break and then be
back with two guests from the American Cancer Society, who have a slightly
different view on the lessons we should learn from the ASK-man.  Let's
thank Dorothy and Natalie for joining us, and don't forget January tenth
at the Javits Center...




2.  8 January, West 147th Street, 10:29 AM

Still chuckling, Lt. Jake Flinn thumbed the remote, killing the TV.  The
ACS's opinions were of no interest to him.  Those self-righteous pricks
were still trying to make hay out of the pain of the ASK-man's victims,
despite their embarrassment over the fact that the killer had proven to be
one of their own.  It really ticked him off.

Flinn was still on desk-suspension while the department held its pro-forma
investigation of his shooting of the killer.  His assumed shooting, he
added to himself.  Actually, Natalie had been the trigger-woman, but that
was their little secret.  Theirs, and one other's.

That Christmas Eve, after it was all over, Sergeant Mendoza had pulled
Flinn aside back at One Police Plaza.  

"Okay, Jake, what really happened?"

"It's all in the report, Pete..."

"Bullshit.  If you shot that perp, then you did it right through Miss
Kelly, and she looks a little too healthy for that.  Where'd you stash her

"Her coat?"

"Cut the crap, Jake.  The uniforms on the scene saw you holding her coat. 
No one's seen it since you got back to HQ, and she doesn't have it. 
What's the game here?"

Both the coat and "smoking permitted" sticker were buried in a dumpster
behind HQ, safe from prying eyes, Flinn hoped.

Flinn made sure they had privacy, and told Mendoza the truth.

"Jesus, Jake," he said.

Flinn and Mendoza went way back together.  Mendoza was Flinn's inside man,
a forensics expert whose instincts were usually bankable.  Many mutual
favors were outstanding.

"Okay, Jake," Mendoza said finally.  "I understand.  It would be a rough
ride for you and Miss Kelly, but especially for her, if we wrote it up the
way it really happened.  Merry Christmas.  Just try to keep that filly in
the barn from here on in, okay?"

Flinn had agreed, and that was that, for now.  With Mendoza presenting, he
was sure the Deadly Force Review Board would declare it a righteous shoot
any day now.  Meanwhile, he was riding out his suspension at home, taking
his first vacation time in years.

Sudden fame had not been welcomed by Flinn and had forced the breaking of
many long-cherished habits.  He now had an answering machine and an
unlisted number.  He was recognized on the street often, pressed for
autographs, hassled by kooks.  He had to think about where he was going
before he went there.  His old haunts were often haunted now by the press.

And the offers!  Appear here, appear there, write this, exclusive story
for that.  Some of the offers could let him retire in comfort right now. 
He liked his job, though, and had no desire to give it up.  The department
frowned on active cops selling their stories for the big bucks, and that
was fine with him.  NYPD public relations had told him he would be
expected to show his mug on TV once or twice, with a pre-approved list of
questions and answers.  Even so, he dreaded the prospect.

Natalie, though, had not hesitated to grab the brass ring when it came her
way.  Working through her sister's fashion agency, she had cut some
lucrative endorsement deals.  She was also hitting all the talk shows,
often with the Risling girl, and she looked good doing it.  She was
blowing smoke up some pretty tight asses, too, undoing a lot of the damage
the ASK-man had caused to the practice of public smoking.  Flinn didn't
mind that at all.  He lit a Marlboro.

Despite Natalie's hectic schedule, she and Flinn had gotten together on
several nights since the shooting.  He thought he would probably never
know why she had practically raped him on their first meeting, and while
still a virgin for God's sake!  But now their relationship was proceeding
along more normal lines.  They made love, of course, but quietly,
intensely, slowly, with Flinn usually taking the lead.

It was a risk, of course;  She was still largely a mystery to him, and
from what little he did know they were poles apart in most ways.  But
compared to the risks of the job, this one was a pleasure.  One day, he
might even take the plunge a second time.  One day...

Tonight, they would be having dinner with Dorothy, at the invitation of
her parents.  It was not Flinn's first choice of an evening out, but it
would be interesting, at least.  Maybe he would finally understand what
this Javits benefit was all about.  And that was
something to look forward to.

3.  8 January, Fifth Avenue, 10:45 AM

Ahmad Rachmani sat before the TV in his room at the Pierre Hotel.  He was
also catching this morning's "Jerry Matthews Show."

Even after many visits to the States, Americans never failed to astonish
him.  To kill, to die for a great political or religious cause was a noble
thing, though Rachmani greatly preferred the "killing" part.  But to
murder and perish because one objected to...smoking?  This would never be
believed in Tehran.  It was a bad joke.

Rachmani lit a Winston, enjoying the rich smoke.  It was far superior to
what passed for tobacco back home, and he always indulged himself when the
opportunity arose.  He was annoyed often, though, by America's schizoid
attitude towards cigarettes.  Producers of the world's finest, they
nevertheless restricted and abhorred their use.  This latest madness was
only one symptom of America's insane attitudes, attitudes he was here to

Because of his many past successes, the regime trusted him to pick his own
targets, make his own plans.  Materials which he requested were always
supplied without question.  His last operation in Tel Aviv had taken 30
lives, despite the Israelis' increased security measures.  He had not been
present at that scene, of course.  There was always a good supply of
Palestinians anxious to enter the gates of Paradise.  As for himself, he
enjoyed his work too much to take that road any time soon, if ever.

Here, he hoped to achieve a more ambitious result.  To that end he had
obtained five pounds of ST-7, a new Semtex variant with improved
properties, and the needed accessories. The only matter to be resolved was
where and when to use it.  Waiting too long, now that he had the
materials, was a risk.  He needed to choose a target quickly.

On the TV had been mentioned something about a benefit at the Javits
center, having to do with a ridiculous "miracle" and the anti-smoking
killings.  That convention center, he knew, could contain many tens of
thousands of people.  The meeting was associated with infidel religion,
which was good for his purposes.  And perhaps this "smoking" thing also
cut closer to the heart of America than even he realized.  Yes, he
thought, this event should be investigated...

4.  8 January, East 55th Street, 1:32 PM

Natalie entered the offices of Marcia's fashion agency and was greeted
warmly by Cissy, the receptionist.

"Hi, Natalie!  We all caught the show and you looked GREAT!  Marcia has
the tape, wait 'till you see it!"  Cissy, a 20-year-old, lovely blonde,
puffed on a VS 120.   She executed a charming French inhale, and blew
smoke toward the ceiling.  Marcia had managed to keep her agency
smoker-friendly by buying the older building which housed it along with
several other commercial tenants.  "Marcia's in her office," Cissy said
through little white puffs of smoke.

"Thanks, Cissy, I'm anxious to see it," said Natalie, and entered her
sister's office.

Marcia rose from behind her glass-topped desk to greet Natalie.  "Hi,
kiddo!  Looking good, sounding good, as usual!"  Marcia and her sister had
always been close, but never closer than during the past two weeks. 
Natalie now worked full-time at the agency, and her sudden fame had
brought a totally unexpected source of income to the firm.  Marcia's
investment in Natalie had been repaid ten-fold, with much more to come. 
This made Natalie very happy.  She hated being in anyone's debt.

"Thanks, sis.  That Matthews is a real idiot, though."

"Isn't he now!  But he's an influential idiot."  Marcia produced a pack of
Kent Menthol 100s, gave one to Natalie, and conducted the lighting-up. 
This had already attained the status of a sisterly ritual in spite of the
fact that Natalie had only been smoking for two weeks.

Natalie drew hungrily on the cigarette, doubling-up the first drag,
watching as her sister did the same.  Her exhale, when it finally came,
was a dense plume that met Marcia's exhale over the center of the desk,
mingling to form a thick cloud.  Marcia smiled mischievously through the

"The movie's just about a done deal, kiddo.  Paramont faxed me a tentative
cast list this morning.  Get this:  Alyssa Milano as you, Nick Nolte as
Flinn, Sharon Stone as me, can you imagine?"  Marcia attempted a
Stone-like drag and exhale, her eyes flinty and hard, then laughed.  "And
Quentin Tarantino as Stephanson!"

No matter what liberties Hollywood took with the published story, Natalie
thought, they won't come close to the truth.  That she had kept a secret
even from Marcia.

Natalie laughed, expelling smoke heavily as she did so.  "I just can't
picture all those famous people pretending to be us!  I'll have to wait to
see it."  The women exchanged some more personal updates for a while,
smoking together.  Natalie was the first to get back to business.   

"Did you order the backdrop I asked for, sis?"  she asked.

"It'll be there, have no fear.  That's my specialty."  Marcia was lending
her expertise and the resources of her agency by acting as producer for
the Javits benefit.  It would not make anyone any money; all proceeds were
going to the New York Violent Crime Victims Aid Center, which seemed
appropriate.  Although this was far different from Marcia's numerous
fashion shows, she was proving her ability at juggling a myriad of
details.  "The boat and RV show moves out late on the ninth, and
everything will be in place by 5:00 PM on the tenth.  No sweat, kiddo. 
Now, maybe you'd like to share a little more as to what it's really all
about and why we're involved?"  

"It's Dorothy's show, sis.  I'm just a guest speaker.  Her parents asked
me if I knew anyone who could handle the logistics, and that's when I
volunteered you."  Natalie drew on the cigarette and continued through her
thick exhale, now her favorite way of speaking.  "Which doesn't really
answer the question, I know.  A lot's happened to me, and is still
happening, and I just think I'd like to express it all, somehow.  Maybe
the pressure of 'packaging' it and delivering it to a big audience will
help me to clarify it for myself.  As for Dorothy...she's an unusual kid. 
She was deeply affected by what happened to her, and she wants a chance to
talk it all out too."  Natalie wondered if would make any difference to
Dorothy if she knew of  Natalie's  role in the "miracle."  Somehow, she
didn't think so.  

Marcia shook her head, blowing smoke.  It was hard to believe this was the
same kid sister who had often frozen in panic while talking to a single
stranger.  Well, she'd have a chance to try her new skills before a likely
audience of 40,000.  Advance ticket sales were brisk.  The musical acts
and low ticket price helped, of course, but a lot of people evidently
wanted to hear from Dorothy.  The "Christmas Miracle Girl" was already a
genuine Legend of New York.  And Natalie was too, Marcia supposed, if in a
lesser way.

"It sounds good to me, kiddo.  I'm proud of you, you know.  Proud of the
way you've helped others, proud of the way you've helped yourself.  I'm
just the gofer, now; you're the star.  I love you, Natalie." 

After exchanging more endearments, the women sat contentedly for a while
in the smoky office, communing and smoking in silence.  Then Marcia
glanced at her Rolex.

"Oh geez, I'm late for my appointment at Young, Rubicam.  Could you do me
a big favor, kiddo?"

"You're the boss, sis.  Just name it."

"I'm short of smoking models with three big shoots coming up.  I've got
two volunteers who need help getting started.  Could you handle the
tutorial for me?"

"I'm hardly a veteran smoker..."

"Hah!  You could give lessons to Rita Hayworth, kiddo.  Conference room
'B.'  I'm off."  The matter was settled. 

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