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SINGING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: Chapter 16, You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley

Gwenyfar Rohler is encore’s fact-or-fiction writer for 2018. Her serial story, “Singing in the Dead of Night,” follows the death of a young movie star and the emotional aftermath that follows, as local media try to uncover the events leading up to the high-profile “murder,” which takes place while filming in Wilmington, NC.

Fact or Fiction

“I play a rock musician and I get to quote Edgar Allen Poe freely,” he must have said on every talk show they booked him for publicity. His enthusiasm was genuine and infectious.

He did publicity so well, Kitty thought as she switched off the tape.

She was amassing quite a video library related to Jeffrey and his death. Once she started taping them herself and requesting them from clippings services, they began piling up pretty quickly. She flipped to “Entertainment Tonight” and hit record. Rob Ronin was on explaining how guns on movie sets are not real and how he wants real answers to what happened.

Don’t we all? I am going to get answers.

Ronin was one of the biggest action stars in the world. After Jeffrey’s father died, Ronin was part of the group that took Jeffrey in and watched over him. When Jeffrey decided to become an actor, they helped get him his early roles. Of course, they were all in action films and came as trading in on his father’s name. He proved himself and paid his dues—cranking out straight-to-video action films and steadily getting bigger roles. Then he got the break he had been waiting for: an acting role not just about a really great roundhouse kick. A musician? Could he even sing? He taught himself to play guitar credibly. He relished every second of it.

“My dad’s name opens doors,” Jeffrey commented once in an interview with Kitty. “But it also sets limits.”

She remembered the day clearly—the pregnant, thoughtful pause that followed. “I like martial arts, but I really love acting. I want to be a successful actor. I studied acting.”

He looked away.

“Sometimes I wonder if I can ever live up to him, you know? It feels like he was gone so quickly, and I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to find him and figure out where he ends and I start.”

His gaze was far inside himself. With a start he seemed to remember he was talking with a reporter. “I can see the headline now,” he joked. “‘Star’s son not sure who he is.’”

He laughed and poked her arm. “But you have better taste than to do that, don’t you?” He gave her a sexy, playful look that made her blush.

Kitty nodded. Part of her was amazed at how deftly he handled the press, handled her.

Actors, she thought. You just can never trust they are telling the truth. He probably had to learn pretty early how to deal with reporters, win them over, keep them at arms’ length. I mean, his father’s funeral was broadcast on TV, for crying out loud!  

And women—this guy could have any girl he wanted from a very early age. I mean look at that hard, gorgeous body.

She realized she was staring at his thighs and looked away quickly.

OK, down girl, down. Think of cold showers. Buckets of ice water.

“So, acting, not marital arts?” Kitty prompted.

“Yeah, I mean, I love martial arts, don’t get me wrong; my dad started training me when I learned to walk, so it’s like it’s just part of me,  I guess. You know, the stuff we do on screen, that’s not real. Right? But real martial arts, like street-fighting techniques… You know, one of my dad’s maxim’s was a person holding a weapon is limited by that weapon.”

“Like a gun?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “Like a gun. Once you’re holding a gun, all you think to do is aim it, right?”

“Sure. I guess so,” Kitty nodded. She had never held a gun, but it seemed like a logical statement.

“Or like a knife,” he laughed. “This guy broke into my house in California one time, and I came home in the middle of the robbery. He had my VCR, and where I lived at the time like all the rooms connected in a big circle with the doors open. He saw me come in, and turned and ran through the house, and we’re going in circles around the rooms. So I have huge 8-foot-tall pictures of my dad, and a couple of him and me together, hanging up in the living room. It’s not like people don’t know who my dad is; he has one of the most famous faces in the world. Right?”

“Right,” Kitty agreed.

“So there are bigger-than-life pictures of him hanging, and I have to think that at some point this guy looked at them and figured out, ‘Oh, shit! I broke into the wrong house.’ Like I just have to think he puts it together—because that explains the knife.”

“He brought a knife?”

“No! It was my knife! At one point he grabbed a knife in the kitchen when we were running—we did a couple of laps through the house—and he turned on me with the knife in his hand, like coming at me. That’s when I knew I had him.”

“You had him?”

“Yeah, because he had a knife and that was all he could think about.” Jeffrey shook his head. “He wasn’t even holding it properly.”

“So what happened?” Kitty asked.

“I disarmed him and broke his arm and ankle. Then called the cops.” Jeffrey chuckled. “He was happy to go to jail after that. He really wanted to get away from me—far away.”

“What did it feel like?” Kitty asked in shock.

“What do you mean?”

“What does it feel like to break a man’s arm? Is it good? Is it exciting? Is it a rush of power?”

“He turned on me with a knife,” Jeffrey shrugged. “At one point I was obligated to protect myself. Though I broke two bones, it was fixable. I mean, it would heal. I probably hurt him a lot less than he would have hurt me.”

He paused.

“You know, if it were a scene in a movie, he would have been dead before I left,” he continued. “But in real life he was just immobilized—hopefully, he will think twice before he resumes his career of larceny. If it were on screen, and my character killed his character, audiences would cheer.”

She remembered nodding her head at the item. What he said made sense. In retrospect she saw his mother—filing the lawsuit, naming people responsible for his death, pursuing justice as an extension of the movie analogy.

“It’s kind of like Poe said,” Jeffrey continued.  “‘The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?’”

Gwenyfar Rohler is encore’s fact-or-fiction writer for 2018. Her serial story, “Singing in the Dead of Night,” follows the death of a young movie star and the emotional aftermath that follows, as local media try to uncover the events leading up to the high-profile “murder,” which takes place while filming in Wilmington, NC. Catch up on previous chapters at encorepub.com.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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