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of the sofa as the siren-wail of his despondency grew louder, filling the room with the sound of a grown male who has lost every characteristic that separates man from infant from animal.
He wore a gold silk robe that was several sizes too small, exposing his scabbed knees. The ends of the sash just barely met to form a knot and the curtains of the robe hung half a foot apart, revealing a pale, hairless chest and, below it, saggy gray Calvin Klein boxer shorts. The only other item of clothing on his trembling body was a winter cap pulled tight over his skull.

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It was June in Los Angeles.
“This living thing.” He was speaking again. “Its so pointless.”
He turned and looked at me through wet, red eyes. “Its Tic Tac Toe.
Theres no way you can win. So the best thing to do is not to play it.” There was no one else in the house. I would have to deal with this. He needed to be sedated before he snapped out of tears and back into anger. Each cycle of emotions grew worse, and this time I was afraid hed do some?¬
thing that couldnt be undone.
I couldnt let Mystery die on my watch. He was more than just a friend;
he was a mentor. Hed changed my life, as he had the lives of thousands of others just like me. I needed to get him Valium, Xanax, Vicodin, anything. I grabbed my phone book and scanned the pages for people most likely to have pills??”people like guys in rock bands, women whod just had plastic surgery, former child actors. But everyone I called wasnt home, didnt have any drugs, or claimed not to have any drugs because they didnt want to share.
There was only one person left to call: the woman who had triggered Mysterys downward spiral. She was a party girl; she must have something.
Katya, a petite Russian blonde with a Smurfette voice and the energy of a Pomeranian puppy, was at the front door in ten minutes with a Xanax and a worried look on her face.
“Do not come in,” I warned her. “Hell probably kill you.” Not that she didnt entirely deserve it, of course. Or so I thought at the time.
I gave Mystery the pill and a glass of water, and waited until the sobs slowed to a sniffle. Then I helped him into a pair of black boots, jeans, and a gray T-shirt. He was docile now, like a big baby.
“Im taking you to get some help,” I told him.
I walked him outside to my old rusty Corvette and stuffed him into the
tiny front seat. Every now and then, Id see a tremor of anger flash across his face or tears roll out of his eyes. I hoped hed remain calm long enough for me to help him.
“I want to learn martial arts,” he said docilely, “so when I want to kill someone, I can do something about it.”
I stepped on the accelerator.
Our destination was the Hollywood Mental Health Center on Vine Street. It was an ugly slab of concrete surrounded day and night by home?¬ less men who screamed at lampposts, transvestites who lived out of shop?¬ ping carts, and other remaindered human beings who set up camp where free social services could be found.
Mystery, I realized, was one of them. He just happened to have charisma and talent, which drew others to him and prevented him from ever being left alone in the world. He possessed two traits Id noticed in nearly every rock star Id ever interviewed: a crazy, driven gleam in his eyes and an absolute inability to do anything for himself.
I brought him into the lobby, signed him in, and together we waited for a turn with one of the counselors. He sat in a cheap black plastic chair, star?¬ ing catatonically at the institutional blue walls.
An hour passed. He began to fidget.
Two hours passed. His brow furrowed; his face clouded.
Three hours passed. The tears started.
Four hours passed. He bolted out of his chair and ran out of the wait?¬
ing room and through the front door of the building.
He walked briskly, like a man who knew where he was going, although
Project Hollywood was three miles away. I chased him across the street and caught up to him outside a mini-mall. I took his arm and turned him around, baby talking him back into the waiting room.
Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty. He was up and out
I ran after him. Two social workers stood uselessly in the lobby.
“Stop him!” I yelled.
“We cant,” one of them said. “Hes left the premises.”
“So youre just going to let a suicidal man walk out of here” I couldnt
waste time arguing. “Just have a therapist ready to see him if I get him back
I ran out the door and looked to my right. He wasnt there. I looked