Jackson C. Frank

I first met Jackson C. Frank while queuing for an iPhone 4S outside the Apple store in Santilun, Beijing.  

As part of my mission in China, I had been visiting an unmarked stall located under the cinema in The Village that sold fireworks by weight. From each fist hung a plastic carrier bag filled with powerful Horse Brand firecrackers. I was to meet Jon Anderson in Linjiang, a city close to the North Korean border.  

Passing the apple shop I had been seduced by the crowd and joined them, allowing myself to get swept up in their excitement.

As the store was about to open a man who was stood behind me, another Westerner, whispered in my ear. We need to get out of here, sir, he said.  

Turning around, I was confronted with a heavyset man sporting a wild beard and an eyepatch over his left eye.  I’m intrigued, I said to him.  

I’m Jackson C. Frank, your handler here in Beijing, he said.  

Jackson C. Frank the singer? I asked.

Yes, but that’s not important right now, it’s about to get ugly.  See that man?  He pointed to a security guard who had exited the Apple store that was yet to open.  

He’s a bit short for a security guard, I said.  

He’s about to announce that no phones are available, said Jackson.

That sounds worth the wait, I said.  

You like egg on your face? he asked.

I like eggs in the morning, I said.  

You also like being chopped off at the knee? Most of these people around you are part of the 369.  It’s a trap. We need to go, now.  

The security guard began speaking to the crowd.  My Mandarin isn’t the best, but I got the gist.  Jackson was right, no phones were being released.  An egg whistled from the crowd and smashed against the clean, clinical lines of the Apple store, smearing the glass.  

I’m with you, I said to Jackson.  

We pushed through the crowd, moving in the opposite direction of the general sway.  More eggs were being hurled.  The crowd was growing vicious.  Looking back, I saw the security guard being dragged down into the crowd.  We must help him, I said.  

Jackson looked back. It’s too late for him, his skin will be sold on the black market, we must save ourselves.  

Our retreat was catching more attention than it should from the crowd.  Those close to us tried to push us back.  I felt a numb sting to my arm, looked down to find yolk dripping down my sleeve.  

I’m hit, I said.  

Stand back, shouted Jackson, brandishing a guitar he’d pulled from his vest.  A circle formed around us, hands held aloft holding fully loaded eggs.  It was a classic Mexican stand-off.  

Easy, said Jackson, as he cocked the guitar in the crook of his arm.  

Easy, he repeated, his fingers moving up the fretboard.  

Easy, he said a third and final time, before he deftly plucked a string.  Quicker than the mind could comprehend he launched into a heartfelt and desperate rendition of Don’t Look Back from his self-titled 1965 debut album remastered and re-released in 2001.  As the song progressed the crowd slowly lowered their eggs.  

As he was closing the song, Jackson shouted. Now!  

I flung several firecrackers down and bolted with him away from the crowd.  Seconds later, the explosions behind us sent people running in every direction.  We ran south, headed for the Cold Stone Creamery which held a safe house in the basement.  As we turned into the Ya Show Market I heard a cry by my side.  Jackson had been hit square in the back of the head by a stray egg.  So much yolk and albumen, it was a sickening, desperate sight. 

You must go without me, said Jackson.  He was on his knees, the egg gore running down his neck, soaking into the frayed collar of his vest. The mission is bigger than both of us, he said. 

I can carry you, I said. 

I’m done for, he said. Just go. Now. 

I looked back to our pursuers, they were closing fast. 

I never leave a man behind, I said, putting my arm around him for support and pulling him to his feet. Get moving soldier, I need you.  He could tell I meant it, and we’ve been friends ever since.


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