It Isn’t Blackmail
K. A. Williams
Manning University held its five year class reunion at the Hammersmythe Hotel and I went, hoping to see Roy Dalton. He was there, of course, smiling and basking in the admiration of his peers. I could see him from the desk in the lobby where I got my name tag, before I entered the main room.
He looked at me and his smile wavered slightly as he headed my way with an outstretched hand. “Jon, I thought you might come. It’s so good to see you again after five years.”
“Is it? We need to talk.”
“Yes. But not here. Meet me outside in an hour.”
I shook my head.
“I drove the Skylark here. We’ll go for a ride and talk. You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you?”
Roy knew how much I liked the vintage 1967 Buick Skylark convertible he used to drive in college. I checked the time on my watch and nodded. “One hour.”
I hadn’t been very popular in college, but there were a few people there that I knew and enjoyed talking with, so the hour passed quickly. I found the Skylark in the hotel parking lot and waited for him there another fifteen minutes.
“Sorry,” he said, not looking like it. “Such is the price of fame.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“You can drive.” He tossed me the keys. We got into the red car and I lowered its white canvas top.
I drove slowly, enjoying the breeze from the open air and listening to the radio before the station began to crackle. I thought the car might have an electrical problem when the headlights cut off and then back on, so I pulled into the parking lot of a closed store.
“What have you done to my car?”
“Nothing. It needs to go to the shop. Let’s have that talk now. Did you think that just because you renamed it “The Diamonds Of The Aliens”, I would never find out that your hit movie screenplay was based on the story we wrote together for our creative writing class midterm assignment?”
“I guess you want money.”
“Yes, I want money, but you’re making it sound like blackmail. You owe me that money. I deserve half of the money and you know it.”
“I revised it a lot,” he complained, “and did more research. I’m currently writing the sequel based on people I’ve interviewed recently who claim to be real aliens. I don’t think you deserve half.”
“How much will you give me to keep quiet and let you keep taking all the credit!” I shouted over the howl of a sudden gale.
“I’ll give you this now.” He opened the glove compartment just as a bright light shone on us from above.
Afraid, I scrambled out of the car, scooted under it, and stayed until the bright light disappeared. I got out from under the car and looked around. “Roy!” I yelled, but he didn’t answer. He had vanished. I stood there shaking in the darkness, remembering the static on the radio, the faulty car lights, and the powerful wind right before the bright light. There hadn’t been anything wrong with the car after all.
I looked up into the dark sky. Apparently Roy interviewed something he shouldn’t have and now I was glad he hadn’t shared the writing credit with me. I was also glad that no one knew we had left the reunion together. Now I didn’t have to explain his disappearance to the cops.
I hadn’t driven far and I could see the hotel a couple blocks away. The keys were still in the ignition, some thief was sure to steal it soon in this city, and I was sorry I’d never see the Skylark again.
First published in November 2000 in SF Satellite issue #1 under title “Old Friends”