Unweaving April's web

Nancy discovers that their run-of-the-mill blackmailer has contacts in high and low places.

Published September 20, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Tuesday, August 17

April's been on the front page of the New York Post two days in a row. Yesterday, Jasmine brought me two copies -- and showed me the photo of April exiting a courthouse in a wide- brimmed hat. "Missing Link to Web-site Madam," read the headline.

"Who's this Web-site Madam?" I asked Jasmine.

"Anabel Weston! She's been in the news for three months!" Jasmine exploded. "Don't you remember when that Web site on the West Coast was shut down by cops? And then the madam's mom was quoted in the Times? She had some Hollywood johns ... and she's being charged with wire fraud -- and money laundering!"

"That was months ago! A small item in the Times ... You know I don't follow these New York Post stories."

"I can't believe you're so out of the loop," Jasmine said. "You really have to get that genteel head of yours out of your --"

"All right, already," I snapped. "So how come you didn't make the connection, if you've been following this news story? You never mentioned a word of this before."

"Well," Jasmine admitted, putting her vulgar rampage on hold, "I never thought someone like that would end up in bed with us. I figured it was just one of those crazy things that sometimes happens with those West Coast types -- like the Heidi Fleiss fiasco. And this is the first time April was mentioned in the news."

That was yesterday ... This morning, Jasmine actually got up at 7 a.m. -- to buy the newspaper. I guess a good Post scandal will do that to some people. Then, she called me and left some snide but chatty voice mail: "Check it out. They're using April's picture from the Web site. Was she walking around with that huge-looking hair in New York? I hope not. She looks like a porn star! Well, I guess everyone in L.A. does, so she blends right in." The Post headline promised to take readers "behind the screens of eBabez.com." April was featured, in a tiny bathing suit -- underneath the hair -- kneeling in a Florida postcard pose. Not exactly on her hands and knees but almost.

According to the Post, "April Ford, a former Internet call girl, is the prosecution's key witness. Ford alleges that she was one of Anabel Weston's favorite girls, and a frequent visitor to Aspen, where S____________ and other Hollywood heavyweights enjoyed expensive weekends with Weston's well-paid 'eBabes.' Weston's escort-service Web site -- www.eBabez.com -- offered prospective clients tantalizing 'sound samples' and 'sneak peeks' of Weston's girls. A list of call girls could be sorted in ascending or descending order by hair color, height and cup-size. As Ford testified, 'Blonds with matching pubic hair were listed separately. Anabel provided proof of my blond pubic hair with online snapshots -- but only for the best customers.'" The part that made my eyes pop was, "Ford testified that eBabez customers were encouraged to bid on hourly rates and sex acts at an on-line auction held each Wednesday."

When I saw that, I called Jasmine back: "What kind of tacky operation was this? Eileen introduced me to April! I had no idea Eileen was mixed up with -- with those kinds of girls."

"Well, first of all," Jasmine replied, "I wonder how much of it's true. When C_____________ was arrested in 1984, the police were claiming that she kept a chart of the girls' menstrual cycles! Can you imagine such bullshit? As for Eileen, you'd better call her."

"I'm afraid to call her now! Maybe they're onto Eileen. If April's a witness ..."

"Not just a witness: an informant," Jasmine reminded me.

"... she could be telling them about Eileen, about us ... Or maybe Eileen's been part of this Web thing all along. Who the hell knows?"

"Well, she got involved with April because of some girl who moved out to California ... Eileen can't really control what someone else does once they get to L.A. And you know how California changes people."

"That's true," I agreed. "But Eileen's always had this careless streak. She's too eager."

"Greedy," Jasmine commented. "Eileen's eager because she's greedy. That's how you get into trouble."

I started to feel guilty about bad-mouthing Eileen -- she is greedy at times but maybe she has a reason to be. After all, Jasmine and I don't have parasitic siblings to support, as Eileen does. Seriously, I doubt that Eileen would be that careless -- I'm sure she would never work with someone who advertises.

Tuesday night, August 17

Today, I've heard from everyone I know who ever met April -- except for Milt. Eileen apologized profusely, making me feel even worse about my earlier comments. "I'm really sorry I introduced this awful chick into your life! I just wanted to help someone who was in trouble. I didn't even take a cut from April at first." God, I thought -- I was the one who was making money off April by introducing her to guys. So who was being careless and greedy?

Allison called to talk about the $1,500 April had given her. "This is very bad karma, don't you think? I'm walking around with her money and she's never going to forget it! It bothers me. It's -- it feels incomplete." Her voice was rising to a frenzy. "Allie," I said suddenly. "I'm sorry but I have to hang up. I just remembered something."

The mystery creep at the health club! Was he part of this in some way? Investigating me because of April? Maybe this thing has reached New York and we don't realize it.

I put in a call to Milt's secretary -- something I hardly ever do -- and left one of my cloaked messages: "It's Susan Layton from Jerry Fogel's office. Could you tell him Jerry has extra tickets to the U.S. Open?"

"He'll be returning on Thursday," I was told. "I'll make sure he gets the message."

Damn it. I really wanted to warn Milt as quickly as possible.

Then I put on my biggest sunglasses and a beige cap, before making my way to the health club. Randy was standing guard -- albeit informally -- in the reception area.

"Have you been staying away because of that stalker guy? I just want you to know -- I think I scared him off. He hasn't been back," Randy said. "I'm keeping an eye out for him, though."

"Me too," I said quietly. I had tucked my hair under the cap to confuse the "stalker" -- in case he was hanging around. "I think maybe I should freeze my membership or -- or disappear from your records. Could you figure out a way to do that? I think I have to move to a different gym," I told Randy. "I think that guy ... might be very bad news."

Like a cop. But what kind of cop?

He looked pensive for a moment -- then said, in a soft but direct voice: "Let's talk about it over coffee. OK?"

I consented to coffee with Randy -- but not to the fluttering, breathless feeling that was interfering with my plan. Does anybody actually consent to such a feeling?

By Tracy Quan

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