The Binding of Adara excerpt

Chapter 1

October 29, 1977

Fighting back rare tears of frustration, Adara thanked the clerk for the spare key and hurried towards the privacy of her dingy hotel room on Santa Monica Boulevard. She stepped over a couple of young women, sprawled oblivious to the world, outside the door across the hall from her room. One of the women clutched a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels under her cheek like it was a pillow. Must be a musician staying in that room, Adara surmised. More groupies than travelers seemed to fill the building; at least, they populated the hallways outside the rooms.

The Tropicana was constantly trafficked by bearded and long-haired men coming and going at all hours, carting guitar cases, drum sets, and huge speakers. Invariably, they were trailed after by scantily-dressed women. They all looked undernourished and drug-addicted to Adara’s small-town perspective. If she didn’t find a solution to her sudden poverty, she’d probably start to look like them soon enough though.

At least she was in the right place. If she got evicted from her temporary lodging for failing to pay her bill, she could just hang with a few of the females scattered about the place and blend right in. The professional musicians didn’t seem to prefer one woman over another. They obsessed more about their music than the females who followed them in and out of the place.

Just the morning before, when she was initially searching for her room number after checking in, she saw two guys maneuvering an upright Steinway piano towards the back of the hotel where a number of rented bungalows were located.  Someone said that the instrument was bound for Tom Waits, a famous rock-n-roll star whose album had made the top 100 charts. Apparently fame did not equal money. She had no idea why someone with fame and money would choose to stay in such a grungy hotel, much less move an expensive piano into it.

At first, realizing she’d checked into a hotel with lots of aspiring rock stars, the Tropicana had seemed exciting beyond measure. The stained carpet and faded wallpaper exuded a sort of decayed old Hollywood ambiance. After two nights though, she had grown tired of the loud late-night parties in the adjacent rooms and the stink of alcohol, vomit and stale smoke that permeated the halls and lingered in the rooms. Everything about the experience quickly became seedy and unsavory. Perhaps, had she been adventurous enough to knock on a door and join one of the late-night sound fests, she’d have enjoyed the experience, but she was too intimidated to approach these hip people who all seemed to live life fast and hard. Truthfully, she wasn’t interested in a series of one-night stands with intoxicated men. Even if it might keep her off the streets.

She let herself into her lonely room and threw herself onto the bed. It sagged dispiritedly in the center, groaning at the weight of her body. A wayward spring dug into her lower back. She sat up, crossed her legs and dropped her face into her hands.

Gone. All her money was gone. She hadn’t dared leave it behind in her hotel room because she hadn’t trusted the maids or other inhabitants not to steal her valuables while she was out.  The irony was that she’d been robbed anyway. Her purse and all its contents snatched right off her shoulder as she left a Hollywood Way restaurant where she’d just filled out a job application.

She looked around the room. Ironically, the tiny suite appeared untouched, exactly as she left it hours ago. No one had broken in to take her things. The maid hadn’t even come by to change the bedding or towels. She got up and opened her suitcase to check her meager belongings, making sure her mother’s journal was still tucked in the hidden pocket at the bottom, under her clothes. If that book disappeared, she didn’t know what she’d do next. It was the only clue she had to help her in her search. She lifted out the worn leather-bound book from the case and ran her hands over its soft, thick surface. Opening it up, she scanned the unfamiliar words in her mother’s familiar hand-writing. All she could decipher were a few names—strangers’ names—followed by numerical strings that were probably out-of-service phone numbers. She packed the book back into its secret slot, and covered it with her clothes again.

As dreary as the hotel was, at least it offered her a sense of security for the moment. Unfortunately, she didn’t even have the $10.00 to cover another night’s stay, much less buy a meal. And her stomach was growling. She’d skipped breakfast that morning so she could get an early start in her job search.  No money for food now.

It was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon according to the bedside alarm clock. She couldn’t be sure whether her nausea was caused more by stress or a lack of breakfast. Probably a combination of both circumstances.

What in the hell was she going to do?

She sank back down on the bed and flopped on her back in defeat, momentarily submitting to the lumpy mattress and a rising desperation at her pending homelessness. She couldn’t call her cousin Jim. Connie would likely answer the phone and she’d never let Jim wire Adara money. Plus, he’d already slipped her $200 without his wife’s knowledge before Adara left for Los Angeles. If she called to say the money had been stolen, he’d never agree to send her more without Connie’s permission. And if Connie found out about the original loan, she would blow a fuse. No, Adara couldn’t count on anyone back home to help her out of this mess. Jim probably had to scrape his bank account to give her what he had. Plus, the two of them had a baby on the way. They needed every penny. She abandoned any hope of help from that source.

Still, it was against her nature to abandon all hope. She wasn’t one to sulk or whine. Ten minutes of self-pity and she was already sick of herself. All problems had solutions. She just had to think of one and make it happen.

Her mind reviewed her options. How long could she stay in the hotel before the manager kicked her out? She was supposed to pay by the day, or prepay. That meant management would probably kick her out come morning, if she didn’t prepay the upcoming night in the next couple of hours. Or they might even kick her out by dark. When the night manager came in at 3:00, he’d probably review the accounts and come looking for her.

A waitress job would be the quickest way to come up with the cash she needed—she could pocket enough in tips the first day to pay the hotel bill, and she could probably eat for free or at a discount. So far today, she’d applied at a dozen restaurants with no promises of being called back for an interview—calls that would come to this room, so if she lost it, she’d never know if any of those businesses wanted to hire her. But LA was huge. Restaurants lined the boulevards. If she went back out and completed enough applications, one of them would hire her. It was a numbers game. Maybe, she’d even get picked up for a late night shift if there was a no-show. She had experience.

Nothing to be done but get back up and hit the pavement until she had a job. One that started by tomorrow, if not today. Management might let her stay the night, if they knew she would have money the next day to bring her bill up to date. She hoped so anyway.

She forced herself up, splashed fresh water on her face in the bathroom sink, checked that her hair was still neatly braided, and straightened her shoulders. She sure hoped someone would hire her without an ID. Her Nebraska driver’s license and her social security card had been in her purse with all her money.

She smiled grimly at her reflection. Things might look bad, she told herself, but there was nothing to be done but continue to fill out applications until she developed blisters on her fingers and couldn’t walk another step. She was young, strong, resourceful. She would find a solution to her dilemma before the day was over. Nothing worthwhile ever came easily, right?

She moved toward the door to the hallway just as someone knocked on it. She frowned.

Was that management coming to ask for the rent already? Shoot.

She peeked out the peep hole.

A tall, dark-haired man, stylishly dressed in a suit, stood outside. Definitely not management. The night manager was old, bald and short. Her heart slowed to a more reasonable beat. She squinted an eye and checked again. Not a musician either. His style was more business man than creative guitar player. Some famous music producer knocking on the wrong door?

“Yes?” she called through the door.

“Adara Lane?”

Huh? He knew her name.

“Yes?” she called again.

“I’d like to speak with you. I’m your cousin, Paul.”


She didn’t know about any cousin Paul. Well, she didn’t know much about her extended family at all. She could have tons of cousins.

“Paul Worden. I knew your mother when she lived in Los Angeles years ago.”

Adara cracked the door open, leaving the security chain in place and got a better look at the man. He wasn’t just in a suit, he was in an expensive wool suit. At least it didn’t look like it came from J.C. Penney. He looked about thirty years old. She couldn’t hide the astonishment in her voice.

“You knew my mother?”

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