Authors: John Herrick
Tags: #fiction, #romance, #hollywood, #suspense, #mystery, #home, #religious fiction, #inspirational, #california, #movies, #free, #acting, #dead, #ohio, #edgy, #christian fiction, #general fiction, #preacher, #bestselling, #commercial fiction, #prodigal son, #john herrick, #from the dead, #prodigal god
FROM THE DEAD
Published by Segue Blue at Smashwords
Copyright © 2010 by John Herrick
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my brother Mike,
who shared the vision and held me accountable.
Thanks to all who played a part behind the
My family: More than anyone else, they shared in the
celebrations—and listened to my ugly rants. I love you all.
My early draft readers: Heather Manning, Melissa
McLean and Pam Rempe.
Elsa Dixon, my editor.
My encouragers: Kathy Wakeman, Elizabeth Behling,
Bobby Schroeder, Marnie Thompson, Lisa Fendler, Gigi Stanton, Terry
This novel would still exist on my to-do list if not
for Aisha Ford. God used her to get my butt in gear at the
Years ago, Phil Lewis provided my first opportunity
to write for radio at then-station WCBW in St. Louis. I’ve never
And to each person I’ve undoubtedly failed to mention
here. You know who you are.
Jada Ferrari lit the collection of miniature candles
along the coffee table. Darkness evaporated from the living
As Jada leaned forward, Jesse Barlow admired the
curvature of her figure, the way her brunette hair fell in curls
past her shoulder blades.
“I just bought these today,” said Jada, who brushed
her hand above the flames and sent the aroma of jasmine wafting
through the air. Ever the center of attention, she sat on the edge
of the sofa beside Cameron and Gavin, friends from an apartment
downstairs, as Gavin lit the round of joints.
The scene, once common, had grown less frequent in
recent months. Nowadays, Jada, a burgeoning film director’s
assistant, sought company with people who could further her
Jesse’s career, on the other hand, begged
From the recliner at the far end of the room, Jesse,
distant and disengaged, stared out the window at the crisp glow of
a streetlight two stories below. At the chirp of an activated car
alarm, Jesse leaned toward the sound in time to see a male
silhouette emerge from the shadows and wander into the apartment
building next door.
An anonymous man. Los Angeles is filled with
Then again, everyone is anonymous to
And everyone has an anonymous side, a shadow within, a guarded
corner where secrets hide.
Gavin passed a joint to Jada. With a puff, she held
her breath, coughed a few times, then fell back against the
cushions and hung limber, as though she’d craved this all day.
Cameron grinned. “Next time, you buy.”
Spoken like a low-level accountant.
Jada waved her joint toward Jesse in a hypnotic-like
motion. “Are you gonna keep staring out the window or get in on the
Years ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated. Never an
addict or heavy user, Jesse enjoyed a recreational hit when the
urge mounted within. But the pleasure had long passed. He’d grown
tired of breathing the strange air, the subtle loss of control.
He wished his guests would leave but knew it would be
a few hours. Soon the music would start—Beck’s
doubt—followed by a raid on his refrigerator. Gavin and Cameron
would argue whether “Loser” or “Where It’s At” was the singer’s
Oh, what the hell.
“All right, hand one over.”
And with that, Jesse reached out his thumb and forefinger.
“There you go.” Jada beamed as she passed Jesse a
joint. “You never have fun anymore. Gotta live a little!” She
turned to her couch mates. “Right, losers?”
Lightheaded, Gavin giggled.
With the joint in his fingers, Jesse sank into the
recliner once again. He yielded to the sharp herbal fumes that
crept like a current through his veins and loosened his brain. The
effect seemed immediate, his body no longer conditioned to the
stuff. He focused on the array of candles as their flames increased
in clarity and the jasmine grew richer.
Gavin exhaled a deep cloud and leered at oblivion, a
pensive look on his face like a stoned Socrates. He waved his joint
in front of his face, as if in afterthought. “You know, those
Rastafari guys say this stuff helps you get close to God.”
thought Jesse. The God who never seemed
to give him answers to a lifetime of questions. And as Jesse sat,
present yet isolated, those questions resurfaced in a torrent.
Why did she have to die?
Why did I leave them behind?
Jesse leaned back further against the black leather
cushion and clenched his jaw.
I’m a preacher’s son,
So how did my life get so fucked up?
The screech of an alarm clock pierced the 3:30 a.m.
silence. Jada, groggy from the night before, groaned as she felt
around the pre-dawn darkness for the button to make the ringing
stop. Not one to snooze, she sat up in a heap as Jesse rolled over
“Is Barry scheduling sunrise meetings now?” Jesse
Barry Richert, as Jada
reminded everyone who would listen. Barry Richert, whose unexpected
success arrived two years ago with a low-budget film that became a
sleeper hit. These days, the man received hundreds of screenplays a
“A location shoot in Malibu. Call time is seven, but
he needs me there an hour early.”
Her commute from their Sherman Oaks apartment would
require less than an hour, but Jesse knew Jada would spend much
longer perfecting her image in the bathroom. She pressed her
fingers against her head, which must have continued to pulsate from
the prior evening’s get-together.
“Go back to sleep, babe.” She stroked his chest once
and climbed out of bed. Jesse leaned on an elbow and eyed the
silhouette of his girlfriend, clad in a slinky black negligee, as
she tiptoed across the crowded bedroom and turned on the bathroom
Through the cracked door, Jesse heard the sputter of
a shower. Then he buried his head in the pillow and dozed off. He
had come to dread the sunrise in recent months.
* * *
“A polarizing filter will help reduce glare,” Jesse
explained. “Kind of like wearing a pair of shades at the beach.”
From a display rack on the sales floor, he peered out the window
while, for the sixth time, he rattled off the benefits of camera
filters to a newbie.
“What about this one?” asked the customer, who
grabbed a transparent red filter from the rack and held it toward
the overhead light. “It looks like half a pair of 3-D glasses.”
“More or less. It can be used to cover up skin
blemishes. Heavy acne, that sort of thing,” Jesse said.
The customer chuckled in a series of mother-hen
clucks. She tucked a lock of silvering chestnut hair behind her ear
and said, “That would come in handy for my daughter-in-law. The
latest one, that is. Spent thousands on a boob job but can’t get
rid of that acne along her neckline. Spends half her life in the
tanning booth to cover it up. That reminds me: Can any of these
filter things hide my son’s inheritance from her?”
LensPerfection sat on Ventura Boulevard near the Van
Nuys intersection. Crammed within a dense stretch of bricked
retail, the photography shop shared its walls with a Java Cup
coffee shop on one side and an incense store on the other. Jesse
found humor in the string of palm trees that loomed outside, whose
lazy branches lapped sunlight in strategic array but, in the end,
sat unnoticed by passersby. With their perfect spacing, the trunks
appeared victims of a transplant, carted to the side of a busy
street to project an image of California perfection.
Jesse smirked. Even the trees were cosmetic.
Once he’d satisfied all his customer’s questions,
Jesse led her to the checkout counter with a handful of filters he
doubted she’d ever use.
By eleven thirty in the morning, LensPerfection
attracted its usual surge of foot traffic from those who took an
early lunch hour. Most were browsers. A portrait studio sat toward
the back and lured the occasional actor-to-be, who arrived with a
designer coffee or vitamin water in hand, ready to schedule a shoot
for the head shot that would make him famous.
Jesse’s head shots were free. After several years of
part-time employment, the owner allowed the extra perk and arranged
Jesse’s schedule around his bottom-rung work on film and television
shoots. But the shoots had become sparse and, for two years
straight, Jesse had not met the minimal hours required to secure
medical coverage through his union. At this point, however,
benefits were the least of his concerns.