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Tell Me Your Dreams, Page 2

Sidney Sheldon

Chapter Two

  "All around the mulberry bush,

  The monkey chased the weasel.

  The monkey thought 'twas all in fun,

  Pop! goes the weasel. "

  Toni Prescott knew exactly why she liked to sing that silly song. Her mum had hated it. "Stop singing that stupid song. Do you hear me? You have no voice, anyway. "

  "Yes, Mother. " And Toni would sing it again and again, under her breath. That had been long ago, but the memory of defying her mother still gave her a glow.

  Toni Prescott hated working at Global Computer Graphics. She was twenty-two years old, impish, vivacious, and daring. She was half smoldering, half firecracker.

  Her face was puckishly heart shaped, her eyes were a mischievous brown, her figure alluring. She had been born in London and she spoke with a delightful British accent She was athletic and loved sports, particularly winter sports: siding and bobsledding and ice-skating.

  Going to college in London, Toni had dressed conservatively during the day, but at night, she had donned miniskirts and disco gear and made the swinging rounds. She had spent her evenings and nights at the Electric Ballroom on Camden High Street, and at Subterania and the Leopard Lounge, mixing with the trendy West End crowd. She had a beautiful voice, sultry and sensuous, and at some of the clubs, she would go to the piano and play and sing, and the patrons would cheer her. That was when she felt most alive.

  The routine inside the clubs would always follow the same pattern:

  "Do you know you're a fantastic singer, Toni?"

  "Ta. "

  "Can I buy you a drink?"

  She smiled. "A Pimm's would be lovely. "

  "My pleasure. "

  And it would end the same way. Her date would lean close to her and whisper in her ear, "Why don't we go up to my flat and have a shag?"

  "Buzz off. " And Toni would be out of there. She would lie in her bed at night, thinking about how stupid men were and how bloody easy it was to control them. The poor sods did not know it, but they wanted to be controlled. They needed to be controlled.

  And then came the move from London to Cupertino. In the beginning, it had been a disaster. Toni hated Cupertino and she loathed working at Global Computer Graphics. She was bored with hearing about plug-ins and dpi's and halftones and grids. She desperately missed the exciting nightlife of London. There were a few nightspots in the Cupertino area, and Toni frequented those: San Jose Live or P. J. Mulligan's or Hollywood Junction. She wore tight-fitting miniskirts and tube tops with open-toed shoes having five-inch heels or platform shoes with thick cork soles. She used a lot of makeup - thick, dark eye-liner, false eyelashes, colored eye shadow and bright lipstick. It was as though she were trying to hide her beauty.

  Some weekends, Toni would drive up to San Francisco, where the real action was. She haunted the restaurants and clubs that had music bars. She would visit Harry Denton's and One Market restaurant and the California Cafe, and during the evening, while the musicians took their break, Toni would go to the piano and play and sing. The customers loved it. When Toni tried to pay her dinner bills, the owners would say, "No, this is on the house. You're wonderful. Please come back again. "

  Did you hear that? Mother? "You're wonderful. Please come back again. "

  On a Saturday night, Toni was having dinner in the French Room at the Cliff Hotel. The musicians had fin-

  ished their set and left the bandstand. The maitre d' looked at Toni and nodded invitingly.

  Toni rose and walked across the room to the piano. She sat down and began to play and sing an early Cole Porter number. When she was finished, there was enthusiastic applause. She sang two more songs and returned to her table.

  A bald, middle-aged man came up to her. "Excuse me. May I join you for a moment?"

  Toni started to say no, when he added, "I'm Norman Zimmerman. I'm producing a road company of The King and I. I'd like to talk to you about it. "

  Toni had just read a glowing article about him. He was a theatrical genius.

  He sat down. "You have a remarkable talent, young lady. You're wasting your time fooling around in places like this. You should be on Broadway. "

  Broadway. Did you hear that. Mother?

  "I'd like to audition you for - "

  "I'm sorry. I can't. "

  He looked at her in surprise. "This could open a lot of doors for you. I mean it. I don't think you know how talented you are. "

  "I have a job. "

  "Doing what, may I ask?"

  "I work at a computer company. "

  "I'll tell you what. I'll start by paying you double whatever you're getting now and - "

  Toni said, "I appreciate it, but I. . . I can't. "

  Zimmerman sat back in his chair. "You're not interested in show business?"

  "I'm very interested. "

  "Then what's the problem?"

  Toni hesitated, then said carefully, "I'd probably have to leave in the middle of the tour. "

  "Because of your husband or - ?"

  "I'm not married. "

  "I don't understand. You said you're interested in show business. This is the perfect showcase for you to - "

  "I'm sorry. I can't explain. "

  If I did explain, he wouldn't understand, Toni thought miserably. No one would. It's the unholy curse I have to live with. Forever.

  A few months after Toni started working at Global Computer Graphics, she learned about the Internet, the worldwide open door to meeting men.

  She was having dinner at the Duke of Edinburgh with Kathy Healy, a friend who worked for a rival computer company. The restaurant was an authentic pub from England that had been torn down, packed in containers and shipped to California. Toni would go there for Cockney fish and chips, prime ribs with Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash and English sherry trifle. One foot on tile ground, she would say. I have to remember my roots.

  Toni looked up at Kathy. "I want you to do me a favor. "

  "Name it. "

  "I want you to help me with the Internet, luv. Tell me how to use it. "

  "Toni, the only computer I have access to is at work, and it's against company policy to - "

  "Sod company policy. You know how to use the Internet, don't you?"

  "Yes. "

  Toni patted Kathy Healy's hand and smiled. "Great. " The following evening, Toni went to Kathy Healy's office, and Kathy introduced Toni to the world of the Internet. After clicking on the Internet icon, Kathy entered her password and waited a moment to connect, then double clicked another icon and entered a chat room. Toni sat in amazement, watching rapid, typed conversations taking place among people all over the globe.

  "I've got to have that!" Toni said. "I'll get a computer for my flat. Would you be an angel and set me up on the Internet?"

  "Sure. It's easy. All you do is click your mouse into the URL field, the uniform resource locator, and - "

  "Like the song says, 'Don't tell me, show me. "

  The next night, Toni was on the Internet, and from that time on, her life changed. She was no longer bored. The Internet became a magic carpet that flew her all over the world. When Toni got home from work, she would immediately turn on her computer and go on-line to explore various chat rooms that were available.

  It was so simple. She accessed the Internet, pressed a key and a window opened on the screen, split into an upper portion and a lower portion. Toni typed in "Hello. Is anyone there?"

  The lower portion of the screen flashed the words "Bob. I'm here. I'm waiting for you. "

  She was ready to meet the world.

  There was Hans in Holland.

  "Tell me about yourself, Hans. "

  "I'm a DJ in Amsterdam at a great club. I'm into hip-hop, rave, world beat. You name it. "

  Toni typed in her reply. "Sounds great I love to dance. I can go all night long. I live in a horrible little town that has nothing to offer except a few disco nights. "

>   "Sounds sad. "

  "It bloody well is. "

  "Why don't you let me cheer you up? What are the chances of our meeting?"

  "Ta ta. " She exited the chat room.

  There was Paul, in South Africa:

  "I've been waiting for you to check back in, Toni. "

  "I'm here. I'm dying to know all about you, Paul. "

  "I'm thirty-two. I'm a doctor at a hospital in Johannesburg. I - "

  Toni angrily signed off. A doctor! Terrible memories came flooding through her. She closed her eyes a moment, her heart pounding. She took several deep breaths. No more tonight, she thought, shakily. She went to bed.

  The following evening, Toni was back on the Internet. On-line was Sean from Dublin:

  "Toni. . . That's a pretty name. "

  "Thank you, Sean. "

  "Have you ever been to Ireland?"

  "No. "

  "You'd love it. It's the land of leprechauns. Tell me what you look like, Toni. I'll bet you're beautiful. "

  "You're right. I'm beautiful. I'm exciting and I'm single. What do you do, Sean?"

  "I'm a bartender. I - "

  Toni ended the chat session.

  Every night was different. There was a polo player in Argentina, an automobile salesman in Japan, a department store clerk in Chicago, a television technician in New York. The Internet was a fascinating game, and Toni enjoyed it to the fullest. She could go as far as she wanted and yet know that she was safe because she was anonymous.

  And then one night, in an on-line chat room, she met Jean Claude Parent.

  "Bon soir. I am happy to meet you, Toni. "

  "Nice to meet you, Jean Claude. Where are you?"

  "In Quebec City. "

  "I've never been to Quebec. Would I like it?" Toni expected to see the word yes on the screen.

  Instead, Jean Claude typed, "I do not know. It depends on what kind of person you are. "

  Toni found his answer intriguing. "Really? What kind of person would I have to be to enjoy Quebec?"

  "Quebec is like the early North American frontier. It is very French. Quebecois are independent. We do not like to take orders from anyone. "

  Toni typed in, "Neither do I. "

  "Then you would enjoy it. It is a beautiful city, sur-

  rounded by mountains and lovely lakes, a paradise for hunting and fishing. "

  Looking at the typed words appearing on her screen, Toni could almost feel Jean Claude's enthusiasm. "It sounds great. Tell me about yourself. "

  "Moi? There is not much to tell. I am thirty-eight years old, unmarried. I just ended a relationship, and I would like to settle down with the right woman. Et vous? Are you married?"

  Toni typed back, "No. I'm looking for someone, too. What do you do?"

  "I own a little jewelry store. I hope you will come and visit it one day. "

  "Is that an invitation?"

  "Mais oui. Yes. "

  Toni typed in, "It sounds interesting. " And she meant it. Maybe I'll find a way to go there, Toni thought. Maybe he's the person who can save me.

  Toni communicated with Jean Claude Parent almost every night. He had scanned in a picture of himself, and Toni found herself looking at a very attractive, intelligent-looking man.

  When Jean Claude saw the photograph of Toni that she scanned in, he wrote, "You are beautiful, ma cherie. I knew you would be. Please come to visit me. "

  "I will. "


  "Ta ta. " Toni signed off.

  On the work floor the next morning, Toni heard Shane Miller talking to Ashley Patterson and thought. What the hell does he see in her? She's a right git. To Toni, Ashley was a frustrated, spinsterish Miss Goody Two-shoes. She doesn't bloody know how to have any fun, Toni thought. Toni disapproved of everything about her. Ashley was a stick-in-the-mud who liked to stay home at night and read a book or watch the History Channel or CNN. She had no interest in sports. Boring! She had never entered a chat room. Meeting strangers through a computer was something Ashley would never do, the cold fish. She doesn't know what she's missing, Toni thought. Without the on-line chat room, I never would have met Jean Claude.

  Toni thought about how much her mother would have hated the Internet. But then her mother had hated everything. She had only two means of communicating: screaming or whining. Toni could never please her. "Can't you ever do anything right, you stupid child?" Well, her mother had yelled at her once too often. Toni thought about the terrible accident in which her mother had died. Toni could still hear her screams for help. The memory of it made Toni smile.

  "A penny for a spool of thread,

  penny for a needle.

  at's the way the money goes,

  p! goes the weasel. "