I have received some feedback from quite a few people who tell me they were not happy with the ending of this story and what happens to Jackie Hemingway. So I have written an alternate version which has subtle changes peppered throughout, so even if you have read it before, read it again from the beginning.
As she and Brenda walked to her home, Jackie Hemingway noticed several people standing outside of her building. Among those waiting she saw a somewhat familiar face. It was someone she had only met as a fan of her books who persistently asked her for her autograph. His name was Eric Walker and though she often saw him as a nuisance she tolerated him with a professional politeness.
While Eric Walker may not have bothered Jackie, he did bother Brenda. She was particularly careful to be aware of people around Jackie who may want to harm her. And this guy raised red flags with her.
A year or so earlier was the first time she and Jackie had encountered Eric. It was at a signing for her recent book and Eric, along with many others waited patiently in line for some time as Jackie autographed each book personally and took the time to speak to each person she encountered.
When Eric reached the table where Jackie was signing books she had no way of knowing he had been to three other book signings. He had a mustache at those signings and now he was clean shaven.
When he handed her his copy of her book she took it and asked him his name for the inscription.
“Eric…and can you sign it, ‘to my number one fan’?” He asked politely.
Jackie smiled and nodded and inscribed the book as he had asked.
“I love your books Miss Hemingway.” He seemed a little shy at that moment.
“Oh why thank you,” Jackie replied.
“I can’t say I agree with your lifestyle choices but your books are wonderful.”
Jackie paused and looked up at her number one fan.
“My lifestyle?” She asked. A moment of concern flashed through her mind.
“Being transgender…and a lesbian.” Eric’s shyness had dissipated and a blank look hung over his face.
“Oh…well I suppose everyone has their own opinion on that.” She was beginning to feel uncomfortable and glanced over at her assistant Brenda who moved in next to Jackie.
“Ok sir, that’s enough, let’s keep the line moving please,” Brenda instructed.
A smile returned to Eric’s face, “I love your books ma’am.” He nodded and then walked away.
“There’s one in every crowd,” Jackie mumbled to Brenda.
“I don’t like that at all,” Brenda said motioning for the next person to approach the table. “We need to start having security at these signings. And you need to wear it.” She tapped Jackie on the shoulder to emphasis her feelings.
Calmness returned to Jackie as she brushed the encounter off and signed the next book.
Some months earlier Jackie had been accosted by a protester when she and Brenda attended a Pride event and someone recognized Jackie. It wasn’t a particularly violent assault, someone was drunk and hit her over the head with their sign and another person lit a string of firecrackers. The latter bothered Jackie the most.
Brenda dropped by Jackie’s shortly after the protest incident and gave her a gift. It was wrapped in a large box with big red ribbons and bow on it.
When Jackie opened the gift she looked at Brenda quizzically.
“I was hoping it was going to be a leather coat or something.” Jackie said with a grin.
“This is much better…” Brenda said with a smile.
Eric Walker was something of a simple and complex individual all in one. A loner most of his life he demonstrated early signs of Asperger Syndrome though never diagnosed. In addition, he displayed anger at people or things he felt did not adhere to or demonstrate behaviors he deemed appropriate or in line with his beliefs or desires.
Not being particularly religious he did not identify with any particular religious belief system and his political identity was centered around the uber conservative right wing spectrum.
In reading Jackie’s books Eric found a way that he could enjoy or experience a release from those foundational beliefs without feeling like he had compromised them in any way – after all, they were just books.
Though in real life he could not accept the LGBT community, their beliefs and lifestyle choices, when reading Jackie’s stories he often fantasized at what it would be like to be Jackie’s main protagonist character Jack Hemingway, who was in fact Jackie in her prior gender role. He envisioned himself as Jack, the reluctantly masculine Hemingway who struggled with inner self-identity.
As Eric and a handful of others waited while Jackie and Brenda walked down the sidewalk he thought to the month prior when he was at a gun show in Tampa. He occasionally bought a gun if he felt it would add to his odd collection that was only of significance to him. He had guns either similar to or the same model as those used by Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and a similar gun used by Squeaky Fromme in her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.
At the Tampa gun show he came across a pistol that interested him. It was a Charter Arms Undercover .38 Special revolver. It was the same model gun used by Mark David Chapman when he assassinated John Lennon. But it was the gun’s previous owner that intrigued Eric the most.
“This is the same type weapon used by the killer of John Lennon on December 8, 1980.” The gun vendor explained. “I bought it about five years ago from the writer woman there…Hemingway.”
“Jackie Hemingway?” Eric asked almost excited.
“I’ll take it.” Eric said without even asking the price.
“Two hundred dollars,” the vendor stated.
Eric paused a moment as he thought. “How do I know she owned it?”
“I got the receipt she wrote by hand and signed it.” The vendor produced the folded receipt and showed it to Eric.
Eric’s heart raced and his palms became sweaty as he took out his wallet. There were no background checks required to buy a gun from a private seller at a gun show.
“There’s an ATM right over there if you need to get some cash.” The vendor stated pointing across the auditorium.
“I got the two hundred.” Eric took out two hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills and counted them out three times before handing them to the vendor.
The vendor collected the money and made sure the gun was zip tied so it could not readily be used and handed the gun to Eric.
“Got any ammo for it?” Eric quizzed the vendor.
“Nope, but you can get some down that aisle by the entrance.” The vendor looked at Eric for a moment and added, “now don’t go shooting anyone with it.”
“Nah, just for my collection.”
The vendor nodded and moved on to help another customer. Eric bought a box of ammo before leaving the gun show with his new prize.
The revolver had in fact been owned by Jackie for a number of years. She bought it for its compact size and stopping power. As a transgendered lesbian woman in the public eye she did occasionally have to deal with people who vehemently disagreed with how she lived her life. She had been threatened several times both in person and by mail.
She sold the gun when she found out it was the same model gun used by Chapman to kill John Lennon. She said owning it gave her the creeps so she sold it when she had a garage sale. Besides, she knew it would be difficult for her to ever kill another person. She opted to carry very strong military grade tear gas and settled on that as her personal protection.
As Jackie and Brenda neared the small group of people outside of her building Jackie noticed the doorman James Wilson nod to her as she approached. She nodded back and took out a black sharpie from her purse. She noticed Eric standing at the back of the group of people. He had arrived last and didn’t want to barge ahead of anyone who had been waiting longer than he had.
Jackie had a rule that she would only autograph books – preferably her own. She would occasionally be asked to sign someone’s favorite Ernest Hemingway book which she would indulge. She glanced up in between autographs and saw that Eric had two books he was holding.
People also often asked to take a selfie with her which she was not fond of, but she would allow. Brenda availed herself to take photos with their phones while Jackie signed their books. A couple of people meandered off after acquiring their autograph and a few stuck around as Jackie turned to her number one fan.
Eric smiled and handed her his two books. She smiled as she opened the cover to her latest novel and paused.
“To my number one fan?” She asked Eric.
He beamed a smile at her. “Yes ma’am.”
Brenda looked at Eric and frowned. She didn’t like that he sought out Jackie so frequently.
She signed it as requested and handed the book back to Eric. She looked at the second book he wanted signed, Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger.
She was puzzled by his request and looked at him.
“Catcher?” She asked. Eric nodded.
She signed the book and for some reason her palms turned sweaty. She was uncomfortable and wasn’t sure why.
“Do you know what today is?” Eric asked, catching Jackie off guard.
“No.” Jackie replied. She glanced over at Brenda who shot her a disapproving look.
As she finished the autograph she recalled the date, it was December 8. She closed the cover of the book and read the title again and then realized the significance of the date.
As she handed the book back she saw a gun in Eric’s right hand.
“Oh shit,” she murmured as Eric squeezed the trigger over and over.
The first two bullets struck Jackie in the chest sending her staggering back. It was at this moment that James Wilson reacted and raced towards Jackie and Eric. The few other people who had sought autographs jumped back screaming at the sound of gunfire.
The third bullet hit Jackie in the right shoulder as she began to fall turning away from Eric’s direction. At the same time Brenda reached out and grabbed Jackie’s left arm trying to pull her to the ground.
The fourth bullet struck her in the back as she fell and hit the ground. She lay on her side, her legs bent in an odd way with one arm extended out over her head as the other lay limp behind her. She did not move as blood seeped from her body onto the ground.
James tackled Eric from behind knocking the gun out of his hand before he could squeeze the trigger again. He reached out and grabbed the gun before Eric could retrieve it. Others nearby ducked for cover.
James took the pistol and beat Eric over the head with it a few times. He looked up at a man nearby and yelled for him to call 911. He kept Eric face down with his knee in his back.
“Just twitch muther fucker and I’ll blow you away!” he said as pressed the gun to the back of Eric’s head.
Eric lay sprawled out with his face on the cement looking over at Jackie.
“You’re not transgender anymore,” he said almost with an air of relief.
“Shut the fuck up asshole!” James fought every urge to put a bullet into Eric’s head.
Brenda leaned over and put her hand on Jackie’s chest. Then she got up and went over to where Eric Walker lay pinned to the ground by James Wilson and another male bystander. She cursed at Eric and kicked him in the head and then demanded the gun from James.
“Ma’am I can’t do that.” James said.
Brenda kneeled down and grabbed Eric by the hair and yanked his head up until his eyes met hers.
“You’re lucky he has the gun or you’d be dead!” Then she deliberately pushed his head down hard into the concrete.
Two people had called 911 and with the police station just half a dozen blocks away, they arrived fairly quickly.
Bystanders had gone to Jackie’s side trying to help her while they waited for the police and ambulance to arrive. There was little that could be done at that point but wait for the paramedics.
The police took Eric Walker into custody without any resistance as an ambulance screeched to a halt in front of the building.
The paramedics examined Jackie and quickly put her onto a stretcher and hoisted her into the ambulance as Brenda got in with her.
The siren wailed an almost eerie and sad call as the ambulance made its way through the empty streets.
Inside the ambulance the paramedic tending to Jackie inserted an IV needle into her arm. The needle slipped a bit as he stuck her.
“I’m sorry ma’am…you’re going to feel a little prick…”
“What did you call me…?” Jackie said with a laugh.
The paramedic smiled and shook his head at her lame joke. Like I’ve never heard that one before, he thought to himself. He taped gauze to her shoulder wound which was relatively mild.
He cut open Jackie’s blouse to hook her up to a heart and vitals monitor.
Jackie looked down at her chest as a faint smile traced across her lips.
She turned to Brenda. “This is much better…” Jackie said with a smile as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Jackie rested her hand on her chest and the gift that Brenda had given her — a bullet proof vest.