Book Title: Kept
Author: Jim Arnold
“Kept” is a (crime mystery) desert neo-noir about George and Connor, two young gay men who get mixed up in a deadly Palm Springs real estate scam and fight to survive in a twisted world of desire, double-cross and deception.
Palm Springs: Jorge Gomez leaves his poor family behind and remakes himself as ambitious George Gomes.
Soon young gay George is picked up by Connor Hurst, who takes him to an empty mansion for a night of lust. Connor convinces George to work alongside him in a scam targeting gullible retirees with classic desert homes.
George appears to be on a strange path to the American Dream, until his help covering up a violent death propels him toward bigger risks—perhaps even murder, one that seems justified, one promising a sizable payday.
George doesn’t know his role is to take the fall.
Yet he isn’t as stupid as everyone thinks. Left alone, literally hanging on a wire with a corpse, George must fight enemies real and imagined if he has any hope of finding his dream—or even staying alive long enough to enjoy it.
Pilar Greco’s folks never trusted Sy.
Parents sometimes came in dreams like messengers, gods of the old world, those Aztec gods—warriors, yes, but also the odd cannibal and baby killer. Which made her shudder.
Pilar Greco’s father could get away with wearing that kind of Mexican native monumental headdress—he had the features for it, even if he wasn’t wearing anything other than a simple sensible suburban shirt and shorts in her dream. She, in turn, took after her mother—small, finely featured, but with the very same jet-black hair, now accentuated a tiny bit with each salon visit.
In her dream, they sat around the pool in the backyard of their Scottsdale home. Mr. Galindez never understood why his Pilar had married an Italian, a Jew Italian, but that was the least of his worries. He was wary of Sy Greco even as he appreciated his better qualities. It was in the eyes; it was always in the eyes.
“You just have to look, look hard, mija. In the eyes.”
Such was the memory that surfaced when the nosy Desert Sun reporter Nancy Argento called the office. Pilar didn’t usually answer the phone; she was distracted after nibbling on a Godiva someone left at reception. Worrying it might discolor her teeth, and what could be more disgusting than little brown bits stuck in dental work?
She was distracted, so she answered the call, and it was this Nancy. Told an impossible tale of deceit by a crazy old bag woman; she must be a stupid writer to believe such a thing. From someone who lived under a bridge!
This reporter Nancy wanted to talk to Sy; he was even there, present in the office. But Pilar was the one who did the talking for them. Sy didn’t know when to shut up; he always gave out just a shred more information than he had to. Information that could and would come back and bite them both in the ass.
Pilar knew this Nancy was fishing, but there wasn’t going to be anything ever caught on that line. Greco & Greco invested in classic mid-century homes; what was strange about that? Everyone with a little bit of cash was doing the same thing—the new century’s version of a baby boomer gold mine.
So there was no excuse when she got a little flustered, and who could blame her, anyway? There seemed to be a conflict of interest, Nancy Argento said. What was a realty company doing in the home-remodeling business, anyway?
Whenever Pilar took a difficult call like this she focused on the photo framed on her desk, the one of her and Sy with their son, Angel Greco, sitting down in front, taken just a few weeks before he died. If she’d just held on to him like in the photo, her hand on his shoulder, squeezing his bony twelve-year-old flesh. His hair had been as dark as hers, but it had a little curl in it, courtesy of his dad’s DNA.
Don’t ever let go; don’t ever let that beautiful boy leave you.
Across the office, Sy stared, his mouth open, as if to ask, Why are you still on this call with this person, this person who wants to destroy us? She wanted to scream at him, slap him: She knows, you idiot; she’s on to us!
But instead, she hung up; mid-sentence, she hung up on Nancy Argento, Desert Sun reporter. Pilar felt detached from herself as her shaking hand dropped the receiver back into its cradle; it was as if she were watching one of those old-style dramas unfold in slow motion on TV.
Just as quickly her stomach sank to her ankles. Realizing what a stupid mistake that was. How she was not cool, not calm, not collected. So glad her father, Mr. Galindez, was not there to see her being the bad businesswoman, the one whose company would be destroyed because of that lapse in judgment.
She would go to the ladies’ room, put herself together and call Nancy back. They were both professionals, after all. They’d come to an understanding.
* * *
Pilar resisted driving by the Las Palmas intersection where Angel’s skateboard had met the Range Rover. Sometimes she’d park there on her way home from Greco & Greco, if she had something to think about or if she was merely avoiding Sy. Despite the violence of what had happened, it was a quiet residential street. Maybe the boy’s essence still hovered there, his spirit. He might give her comfort, might give her an answer, even.
To pressing questions.
Like, for instance, if she should divorce Angel’s father. It was true: He preferred Connor Hurst to her, but the other truth was that she, in her own way, preferred Connor to Sy. So there they were.
She smiled, a rarity these days. She watched herself through the rear view, as much to look out for other neighborhood kids being reckless—she would scare them with the tale of the death meted out here—as to check makeup. Lipstick needed a slight touch-up. The formulas still weren’t resistant to this Palm Springs brand of insane and constant inferno.
Pilar knew her feelings were all wounded pride, and misplaced pride at that. They had a good thing going, she and Sy Greco, so intertwined at this point that even the mere thought of dividing it all up exhausted her.
No, really, the alternative she and Connor had planned for him was vastly superior to any boring no-fault California divorce.
She should get home, check on the orchids. It was their day to be tended to. She glanced at the dashboard: 114 degrees! She’d brought every pot of them inside at this time of year, but supposed one or two were forgotten in that spot in back of the pool.
Additionally, Jim is the author of the feature screenplays Me and Mamie O’Rourke (finalist and Honorable Mention winner, One in Ten Screenplay Contest, 2007), Lovelines (second round finalist, Austin Film Festival 2005), The Lourdes Kelly Story, and Kept (finalist and Honorable Mention Winner, One in Ten Screenplay Contest, 2008).
For television, he has written the original hour-drama series and pilot Troll Palace (finalist, pilot category, Exposurama Contest, 2009).
Jim also directed the critically-acclaimed documentary short Our Brothers, Our Sons, about generational differences around HIV/AIDS in gay men, (nominated for Best Documentary at the 2002 Turin International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival).
Jim has worked extensively as a free-lance journalist and has published in Frontiers, Variety, Prime Health & Fitness, Age Appropriate and other periodicals, online and in fiction anthologies. He began his career in musical theatre and holds a BA in journalism and film from Marquette University, and has studied film production/writing in the MFA program for Cinema/TV at the University of Southern California, the Writers Program at UCLA, and at Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco.
He blogs at www.jimarnoldcommunications.com.
Jim Arnold Communications (www.jimarnoldcommunications.com) provides business to business (B2B) writing services. Jim is a veteran entertainment PR executive, having held communications management positions at Paramount Pictures, Dolby Laboratories and the American Lung Association in California.
Other Useful Information:
Jim’s a 4th Generation California Native whose ancestors came for the Gold Rush and stayed despite not finding any! He’s also a cancer survivor who has run a marathon and can literally do cartwheels. An unusual talent is that he can rollerblade backwards so don’t be shy about asking for a demo. A former teenage church organist, Jim now tries not to irritate his neighbors when playing standards from the American songbook on the piano.