We’ve been meeting the cast of THE LEGEND OF JACKSON MURPHY, which will officially launch on July 20th. So far I’ve shared interviews with the star of the show, Jack Murphy, his wife Jenny, and his mistress, Whitney. When you stop by the official Facebook launch party on the 20th, these little introductions will be quite handy, because some freebies and fun will include the information I’ve provided in the interviews and excerpts. Katrina Monroe will also be live-tweeting with Jack trivia, offering prizes and fun for Twitter folks too. Follow me (@ReneeMJ) or Kat (@AuthorKatM) or use the hashtag “#WWJMD” to get in on that fun. We’ve got some fantastic prizes, including free copies of my books, as well as some other authors worth checking out. There will be a grand prize for local folks, meaning those of you from Tweed who have been so awesome in your support of my books, and another grand prize for the not-so-locals, meaning the rest of you.
While Jack is possibly one of my personal favorites in terms of characters I’ve created, the other characters in this book had to be of equal caliber, or they’d fade behind his awesome assholery. So let’s continue meeting the characters and get to know Ray, Jack’s business partner.
Age: Early 40’s
I met Jack when I applied for a job. I answered Jack’s ad in the paper, but his company wasn’t very big then. It didn’t employ very many people. Jack was nice. Jack tried to be kind to me back then. Said if I wanted to, I could just work from home. I could stay home and just help him keep the books straight.
I had money because I lived with my mom. I lived in my mom’s basement. She’s dead. My mom died a few months ago. Heart attack. Her heart just exploded in her chest. They say that’s not what really happened, but it’s what I see when I think about her. See her heart just exploding. My mom was a good woman. Sad about her heart…
Anyway, I offered to buy into Jack’s business. Offered to give him some cash to bid on a couple of bigger jobs when he said he needed to get them to expand. Then Jack said I could be his partner; work with him as his business partner. We made a lot of money. Jay-Ray is a money-maker for sure, but Jack keeps doing bad things. Jack likes to work with bad people.
Jenny’s nice too. She’s nice to me mostly. Jenny hates Jack and that makes me happy and sad. I think I love Jenny. I love her, but Jack’s my best friend. Best friends and lovers don’t mix well. They don’t go so well together. Not when they’re married. God, none of this is good.
Not sure what you mean. Don’t know what “mental characteristics” implies. You mean my psychological state? Do you want to know if I’m crazy? Probably. I’m probably nuts. I am nuts. I see a therapist. I talk to someone about my insecurities. I share my thoughts and the therapist takes notes. Therapists can’t tell anyone about their notes, though.
I take meds too. I take antidepressants. Since my mom died it’s worse. Worse without my mom. She kept me together. Kept me from falling apart. Now Jenny helps me. Jenny keeps me together. It’s wrong. So wrong. I’m weak.
Jack says I’m unbalanced. I’m up and down and Jack says that’s unbalanced. He’s right. Jack is usually right.
I’m a Christian. I’m not a good Christian, but I believe in God. Think I’m probably going straight to Hell. I’ll go to Hell and it’ll kill my mom all over again.
Emotions are my Achilles’ heel. They’re my weakness. I care about people too much. I love everyone, even Jack. But sometimes they don’t share my feelings and I get depressed. I get feeling down. You know? Then I get nervous. I think about it all and I feel anxious. Things are bad right now. I feel bad. Not happy. Not happy at all. If Jack was gone… if Jack wasn’t here it’d be better. But then who would be my friend? Jack’s my only friend. Who would like me if Jack was gone? No one probably. Maybe Jenny, but that’s different. Jenny’s not the same as Jack.
Just want to be happy. I want to feel content.
Jack says I look like Woody Allen. I’m not as handsome as Mr. Allen. Not as attractive as that guy. He gets all the girls. I don’t get girls.
Jenny says I’m a teddy bear. I’m cuddly or whatever it means. I don’t know. I feel like I’m average. I’m a normal guy with average looks. Bald though. My hair is thinning and I don’t like that.
What do you fear?
Germs can kill you. Bacteria can get into your blood and then Bam! You’re dead and your skin is gone. Scares me every day. Driving is dangerous too. Getting into your car is never a safe thing to do. People like Jack on the road just wait for you. Jack gets in his car and I think he might kill someone. He’ll kill someone, some day.
There’s also the dark. I’m not a baby, but darkness is total, and you can’t see in it. Don’t like darkness at night mostly. Can’t see.
Do you have secrets?
Yes. I have things I keep from people. Jack mostly. I keep things from Jack. Wish I could tell him. I want to tell Jack everything. I can’t, though. Can’t tell him. Jack’s a good guy, but he doesn’t understand sometimes. Jack can’t understand other people. If he knew about Jenny…never mind. Forget what I said. Forget the Jenny thing.
Jenny with Ray? Absurd. Definitely trading down in Jenny’s case. Jack may not be George Clooney, but he knew he was a damn sight better than Ray. Jack rated himself an almost-Brad Pitt-level of attractive. Ray, at barely five and a half feet tall, thick glasses and thinning hair—with a personality to match his good looks—didn’t come close. He repeated himself every time he spoke and his allergies kept him inside all day during the spring and fall. Jenny would choose better company than Ray. Besides, who would choose Woody Allen over an almost- Brad Pitt?
The elevator stopped on the fifth floor. Jack stepped out shaking his head. If she’d found someone else, it might give him leverage in a divorce. If she wanted to be free to be with her new lover, she might let him have what he wanted.
Not likely, Jack.
He strode down the hall toward his office located near the end, across from an old guy who Jack swore couldn’t leave his apartment unless he’d shit his pants. The shit-man’s door opened, hinges creaking over a shuffling of slippered feet. Jack rushed forward. The “C” hung crooked on his door. He straightened it before opening.
In the apartment, Ray sat at his desk. He’d already dimmed the lights and closed the pale yellow drapes so the sunlight streaming through the patio doors behind him couldn’t reflect on his computer screen. That gave Ray migraines.
Ray’s office was in the living room and faced the door. Jack’s was in the master bedroom. Both had great views of Carrey Park and featured small balconies. Ray preferred to host clients either at the job site or over dinner. Jack thought it was a bit eccentric, but who was he to judge? He liked two-hundred dollar shoes. Dirty cups lined the edge of his desk and the dust on the coffee table was thick enough to write in. The older gal who came by to clean had been out sick the last couple of weeks. Menopause or a stroke, Jack really didn’t care. Ray dealt with that shit.
The apartment worked better for Jack than an office. He stayed many nights until he felt like returning home. Ray used to burn the midnight oil with him. Lately though, he left at least twice a week before Jack arrived back from the job sites.
Jack paused. Was it always Mondays and Fridays? No, he remembered that sometimes Ray left early on Thursday… the same day Jenny usually went to the gym. The question was whether Jenny worked up a sweat on the treadmill or on top of old Ray. He shrugged the thought away. She wouldn’t. Ray wouldn’t; he couldn’t stand dishonesty. An affair with his best friend’s wife would drive him over the edge.
Jack smiled and cleared his throat, still amused that he’d ever considered Ray and Jenny fucking around. Ray was too smart to ruin a good thing by sleeping with Jenny. Jack wasn’t really sure he’d ever slept with anyone. The possibility of someone’s germs contaminating his body probably horrified Ray.
“You’re early. Early for you,” Ray muttered without looking away from his computer.
“You wanted the bid ready for the mall over on Elm. I just got the materials cost figured out. In about an hour, I’ll have an idea of labor and the final figures.”
“That’s great. Let me know and I’ll call John when we’re ready to tender. He’ll put it in with the rest. You got my list of the other ones?”
“The other bids? I don’t want to know how you got those. It’s not legal you know. No not legal. Nope.” Shuffling his papers, Ray shook his head and sniffed. The faint light from the draped window highlighted Ray’s rapidly receding hairline and the unfortunate attempt at a comb over.
“You think the other guys are bidding blind? Fuck, you’re naïve. You still let your mama wipe your ass too? It’s just business; no one is getting hurt.”
“If you say so.”
He was far too honest. Jack teased him about it all the time. Ray rarely mentioned Jack’s dishonesty because he also avoided confrontation.
“Listen.” Ray said without meeting Jack’s gaze. “I need to be out of here by six at the latest. If you need anything, let me know or you won’t get it until tomorrow. I need to leave by six.” He turned to the computer, his face red as a tomato.
A little bell pealed at the back of Jack’s mind. Mondays, Fridays, and sometimes Thursdays… if Jenny could get Jasmine to watch Allie. “Funny, I have to leave around the same time. We should have driven in together.”
Ray grimaced. He drove like an old woman, and called Jack’s driving “maniacal” and “dangerous.” Jack felt he drove offensively, and he got where he needed to go in a timely fashion. No accidents; yet.
“You don’t leave before nine, ever. What’s the hurry tonight?” Ray asked. “Why would you hurry home? Are you going home?”
The bell rang louder. “Jenny wants some family time. I figure I better go with her so she doesn’t waste twenty bucks on a burger that Jasmine won’t eat, and another ten on a glass of water. What are you up to tonight? Hot date?”
It might have been Jack’s imagination, but Ray seemed to search for an answer. “I just wanted an early night. No plans really. Not like dinner or anything. Come on, who would have dinner with me? Just wanted an early night.”
Maybe Jenny did prefer Woody Allen.
Ray moved papers around, still not meeting his gaze. No, thought Jack. This was Mr. Honesty. The man could not tell a lie. He’d been hardwired to tell the truth and nothing but. Ray couldn’t stab anyone in the back like that. Could he? Maybe he knew who Jenny was fucking and didn’t want to be the one to open the can of worms. As Jack watched his partner pretend to be absorbed in the Elm Street bid, the bell’s clangor now deafening, a plan formed in his brain. If Ray was up to something, Jack would catch him before the night was over.
“Hey, if you aren’t doing anything you should come with us. You’d save me from getting nagged all night. Jenny loves talking to you and you haven’t seen the kids in months.”
Ray’s hands froze. “I don’t want to intrude….”
“Intrude? Shit, I’m insulted. You’re family.” Jack found Ray’s acting skills pathetic; either he was nailing Jenny or knew who was. “I’ll call Jenny and tell her to make it for six. I’m sure they can pull an extra chair over.”
Before Ray could object, Jack turned toward his office and clenched his fists before the open door. Fuck, how many times did he have to tell Ray that his door did not open until he arrived?
Ray just couldn’t stand leaving anything in that little box on his desk. He crossed the room to the balcony doors to open the blinds and allow some light in. His eyes burned after the gloom of Ray’s office and blinked to adjust to the bright May sunshine.
Turning from the windows Jack sighed as his gaze fell on the stack of papers Ray had left on his desk. Signatures mostly, but still he hated beginning his morning with a mountain of paperwork. He pulled out his chair, sank down into the plush leather, and reached for the phone. How would Jenny react? How awkward would it be if there was something going on between her and Ray? Jack didn’t particularly care. He just had to know if they were fucking him over. Watching the two of them together would at least put his mind at ease. If not, he couldn’t let them get away with it. No one lied to Jackson Murphy.