The Drazen World: The California Limited (Kindle Worlds Novella)

BOOK: The Drazen World: The California Limited (Kindle Worlds Novella)
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Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Flip City Media Inc.. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original The Drazen World remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Flip City Media Inc., or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

 

 

THE

CALIFORNIA LIMITED

By, Catherine C. Heywood

 

 

 

 

For chance meetings that change lives…

 

 

 

 

“Don’t sit in awkward positions—and never look bored, even if you are.”

— dating advice for the single woman,

Click Parade magazine, 1938

 

 

Prologue

 

Sheila Drazen Residence, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

December 24, 2035

“Gabby, ease up,” Monica Drazen said as she came into the music room.  “You’re driving me to drink and the midrange sounds a bit flat.”

A careless dirge, all heavy chord progressions and lazy fingers, battled Bing Crosby’s honeyed Christmas issuing through tiny speakers throughout the house.

“I know, Mom,” Gabby replied, sitting back on the piano bench and peering up at her, her face drawn.

Monica leaned on the open grand and looked at her daughter with tired indulgence.  “Then if you know, why do you keep playing the same notes and expecting it to be different?”  She spied a glistening glass with a sliver of amber liquid on the bottom, picked it up and sniffed.  “Was this whiskey?”  Gabby’s face was flat and Monica made a show of looking under and all around her.

“What are you looking for?” asked Gabby.

“Your book of Sylvia Plath poems,” said Monica.

Gabby pursed her lips and Monica cocked her head and put up her hands.  “Why the mood?  You love Christmas.”

Gabby shrugged.  “I miss Dad.”

Monica nodded.  “Me, too.”  Then she pointed out the door.  “Don’t let your cousins hear that or, God forbid, your aunts.  They’ll harass you into happiness and it won’t be pretty.”

Gabby broke into a painfully full grin, pressing a finger to her cheek.

“See?  Was that so hard?”  Monica straightened.  “Come on.  We need to get ready to go.  I’ll take a look at the piano tomorrow.”

“I
am
ready to go,” Gabby said.

“You’re wearing
that
to mass?” asked Monica.

Gabby looked down at her clothes, black jeans and a black turtleneck sweater.  With her dark hair and eyes and her brooding, she was a black shroud.  Then she looked up, her brow furrowed and hands held out as if to say
what?

Monica sighed and moved to the door.

“Mom, who’s this?” Gabby asked, pointing deep into the piano.

Monica turned back and peered over Gabby’s shoulder.  “Oh, that.  I had forgotten that was there.”  A smile threatened the corners of her mouth. “That was a woman who worked for your great-grandfather.”

“She autographed the inside of his piano?” Gabby asked, her tone dripping and dubious.  “Ah. 
Worked
,” she said, pulling air quotes.  “What else did she autograph?  And what’s this mean?  OLeander 4549?  Is that a nickname or code?”

“I don’t really remember the whole story,” said Monica, throwing her arm around her daughter and leading her out of the room.

“So there’s a
story
.  I bet Aunt Sheila would know.”  Gabby’s eyes were alight, her mind turning.  “Or Aunt Margie.  Right?”

“Right.”  Monica considered her sudden enthusiasm.  “Why are you always thinking something sordid?”

“I don’t know, Mom.  Because the Drazen men are so boring?” Gabby supplied drily.

“Like plain toast,” said Monica.

“Right,” said Gabby with a lingering note of doubt.  “Toast.”

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

June 12, 1935

“Jonathan Seamus O’Drassen, Jr.”  President Gallagher, SJ, his voice tinny in the microphone, called out names to the accompaniment of flags snapping in the breeze.

Jack, bright-eyed and brimming like a prince receiving the keys to his kingdom, walked across the stage to receive his diploma.  In a sea of young men on the precipice of lives destined to be easier and greater than those that came before, he might have been unremarkable.  Nearly all of them were only one or two generations removed from older shores, their fathers and grandfathers stoop-shouldered by discrimination.  Sons of Ireland mostly, but some from Italy and Germany, too.  Today they stood tall, those fathers and sons.

Yet there was nothing unremarkable about Jack O’Drassen.  Just over 6ft. in height, flame-haired and square-jawed, his eyes the clear, deep-water blue of his mother and her Depression glass, he had an uncanny beauty that was intimidating and a charisma that begged to be approached.

In the crush of congratulations after the ceremony, his parents’ stood with proud smiles, his nine younger siblings ranging from cool admiration to frenetic puppies.  The youngest Jack gripped by the arm as he bent and whispered, “Ned, would ya still yourself.  Calm down.”

His best friend Jimmy Burns’s dad nudged into the circle.  “O’Drassens, congratulations to ya,” he began, his words curling and thick with the musical Donegal brogue.  “A fine day.”

“And to you, Jem.”  Jack’s father Seamus shook the man’s hand.  “You and Cathleen must be very proud.”

“We are, o’course.”  Jem turned back to Jack extending a big bear hand.  “I saw your one-hitter against Holy Cross.  Remarkable arm, son.  Remarkable.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jack said, meeting the man’s meaty shake.

“I suppose the next thing I’ll be hearing you’re signed with the Sox, throwing next to Lefty Grove.”

“Nothing so sensible as that, Jem,” said Seamus.  “The boy’s got some notion about California.  He wants to make movies.”  He stressed the last with brows raised in incredulity.

“Well, you’ve got the chin for it.  Always were a looker.”  Burns nudged his wife as if she sought nothing more than to be reminded of a careless comment made when she had one too many old-fashioneds.

“No, no,” said Jack.  “I’d like to produce.  I love to tell stories but have more of a business head, I think.”

“And here we all thought you’d take over The Commodore from your dad,” said Jem.

Seamus O’Drassen shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped back a foot, grumbling under his breath.  Jack glanced at him then spoke carefully.  “I’d be lucky to do that, sir.  Lucky.  But I don’t think hotels are my game.”  He threw an arm around a younger brother.  “Besides, Dec can’t wait to get his hands on it when he graduates next year.” 

Declan O’Drassen, every bit as tall and arresting as his older brother and his coloring the same, there was no mistaking they were brothers.  Still his features were cut and shaded differently and he had always been more guarded.

“I know how fortunate I am, Mr. Burns.  Dad did so well when others struggled.  I have a little seed money and I mean to make my family proud.”

 

Two days later Jack stood on a platform in South Union Station and said goodbye to them amid restrained handshakes and strangling hugs, his mother hiding tears in the silk handkerchief crushed in her hand.  Enough seed money wired to plant new orange groves in Ojai Valley awaiting him, he boarded the
Senator
bound for NY.  Then he turned back to wave, his cheeks as shiny as his shoes, before beginning the four-day journey west.

 

Union Station, Chicago, IL

June 15, 1935

A day later he stepped off the
Broadway Limited
at Union Station in Chicago.  Having never ventured off the Eastern seaboard, his expectations for the great middle of the country were born from Sinclair Lewis’s
Main Street
, that it was sparse and ugly, the people small-minded and smug.  It did not prepare him for the beautiful buff Beaux-Arts building, her massive Corinthian columns, shiny brass fixtures, and gleaming marble floors, and the soaring and domed Great Hall lit by gridded sky.

Though Saturday, throngs of people moved with Tuesday-morning efficiency, their heads bent and strides purposeful.  He knew this beauty, these people and with more confidence he adjusted his French-blue fedora, collected his luggage, and headed to the Ambassador to freshen up.  He had six precious hours before he would board the last train on his journey.

 

“Final boarding on Track 7…”  The announcement crackled into the station as Jack stormed into the concourse.  “…The
California Limited
– Kansas City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles.” 

“Oh, balls!  Fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck!” he exclaimed under his breath, his oxfords falling fast and heavy as he ran down the grand staircase.

At the hotel, he had bathed, eaten, then promptly fallen asleep.  It would be just his luck that he was so comforted by Chicago’s familiarity that he would be forced to stay.

“All aboard!” the conductor called as step stools were taken up.

Jack strode to a porter, turned over his luggage, and handed him a dollar.  “You remember me, George, and I’ll remember you.”

The porter nodded with a smile and Jack reached for the rail.

“Wait!  Please!”

He was turning around just as a soft body slammed into him.

“I’m so sorry,” the young woman said, gripping his arms to steady him, her canary-yellow day gloves bright and warm against his gray Glenplaid suit.

A black slouch hat tipped back to reveal the largest and most beautiful steel-blue eyes he had ever seen.  Round rose-flushed cheeks, lips that were…moving?  He frowned, frustrated by his distraction.

“…you for waiting,” she spoke to the porter, handing over her luggage with a dime.

“Not at all, miss.”  The porter smiled in reassurance, then he looked at Jack with anticipation.  The woman, after craning her neck to look around, her eyes frantic, looked anxiously at him.

When he didn’t move, she said, “You’ll forgive my carelessness?”

“O-of course,” he finally said, shaking his head and turning to board.

 

63 hrs. to Los Angeles

Luggage stowed and door closed on his private sleeper, he tossed his hat on a shelf, unbuttoned his suit coat, and collapsed onto a couch.  He had
just
made it.  Wouldn’t that have been a story to tell:  his abortive move to California.  No, he would never tell that story.  A story where he was anything less than perfect he would not write and his parents would never hear.

After the train got underway, the now-familiar
sh-kick, sh-kick, sh-kick
sound of the wheels turning steadily over the rails, he glanced down at the pristine
Chicago Tribune
.  He considered it for a moment, then stood and buttoned his coat.  Peering in an oval mirror, brass pendants on either side warmed the wood paneling and made his face glow.  He smoothed an errant wave in his pomade-slicked side-swept hair back into place and was satisfied.

Walking down narrow aisle after narrow aisle, the fields of Illinois framed in windows as it glided by, he finally found who he was looking for.  She sat facing away from him near the end of a coach car.  Her hat removed, he realized that he had not even noted her hair color, a deep, coffee brown.  Black high-heeled oxfords peeked into the aisle on crossed ankles.  Still he might have missed her entirely were it not for those canary-yellow gloves, one hand casually flipped in the air as if signaling to someone.

“I generally don’t like to face the opposite direction I’m traveling,” he said, sitting down across from
BUtterfield 8
, held with rapt intent by a gloved hand, the other poised to turn the page.

She pulled the book down a fraction and peeked at him, those steel-blue eyes crinkling with a surely-hidden smile.  Marking the page, she placed the book on her lap.  “I don’t either.  The seat across the aisle is free,” she said, nodding to it.

Swallowing an amused smile, he nodded as his gaze crawled over every inch of her from top to toe.  Makeup deftly applied, hair swept back and rolled.  In full appraisal, she was beautiful.  Not slight and drab and pale as so many women were these days whose meals were scant and measured.  In her eggplant afternoon dress, a floppy bow lying over large breasts, she looked delectable.  And her perfume, rose and jasmine florals over a seductive musk and…pear, of all things.  He wanted to eat her
and
jazz her.  He would set about laying the table as soon as she removed those jaunty gloves.  His eyes had already flicked to her ring finger and he could not discern a rock, but in these days many women had been forced to pawn them, a slim band all they needed.

Beyond the gloves, he hesitated because she was a paradox.  A siren, yes.  But there was something else beyond all the polished curves, a creamed-corn sweetness that was utterly corruptible.  He couldn’t decide if he would be the wolf or the gate.

“Have you come to remind me of my carelessness, sir?  If so, that’s vile of you.”  Her tone was light and teasing.  “I don’t make a habit of slamming into people like that, but you seem no worse for the wear.”

“Not at all.  Forgotten, in fact.”
That
was not entirely true.  He was there, in part, because of her soft breasts slamming into him.  Where his body had felt them still radiated with the memory.  “Allow me to introduce myself:  Jonathan O’Drassen.”  He extended a hand.  “My friends call me Jack.”

She shook his hand.  “Mr. O’Drassen.”

“Jack, please, or you’ll have me looking over my shoulder for my father.”

She nodded once in polite acceptance.

There was a pregnant pause as they looked at each other.  Then he said, “In courtesy, this would be where you would volunteer your name.”

She stared at him for another long moment, the corners of her lips threatening to curl.  “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” she finally said, picking up her book and putting it between them once again.

Jack stared at her in plain astonishment and no small admiration.  She had dismissed him and done it so subtly, so seductively in the long lengths of her stares that he wanted to leave and lay her bare in equal measure.  He sat wondering what to do, then caught a glimpse of the book lowering to reveal the tops of her eyes.  Their gazes locked and he squinted, chewing on his lips as he considered her, then she put the book back up.  She was playing with him and he would not have that, so he left.

BOOK: The Drazen World: The California Limited (Kindle Worlds Novella)
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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