There are certain men who women find irretrievable, gone over into a kind of nightmare where strength and beauty attract as honey does the bee.
They know what being crushed is.
They’ve drunk too much coffee.
Circumcised, shaking in too many meaningless ceremonies, excruciating their pain, driving them endlessly bending from self-love; they have withdrawn to correct it.
They are made of feathers, children’s voices, and the sound of difficult breathing. They sit listening to each of the lights: the kings and queens who drift past cities, the saints who bleed above uncharted seas. At times these men and women slip into the warrior show. They catch fire.
The survivors of this bizarre attachment become even quieter like wind rippling light.Then, they bathe in a true picture of their condition. They hide their fire, solidly enclosed, a sweet science.
For Richard Dwyer, K.O. and Stephanie…
The Last Killing …….………………….. 149
Saturday - Christine climbs down the steps to her garden and unravels like a snake.
I can see her lashes closing down over her dark green eyes. I stand in front of her while she
undresses, unbuttoning her pants, letting the blue denims slide down her legs to the dirt floor.
I kneel and grasp her ankles as she struggles to lift her slender feet. My hands travel to the waistband of her butterfly patterned underwear, and I slide them down her coltlike legs.
Lying down in one another, we are surrounded by a large wooden fence. "Become gentler," I can remember her saying on one particular brutal afternoon. And yet, I will nibble on her
flowers, undisturbed, for an hour or so.
I love watching her masturbate. Suppressing cries, rolling over on her stomach, with
her right hand she'll touch her buttocks. Turning to me and letting her tongue slip out to caress her painted lips, she'll moan quietly and say, "Fuck me good."
I enter her house. She has her childlike drawings and bulletins of the latest events
taped to the walls. "Christine," I say, "are you home?" I can hear the shower. I walk down
the hall and open the bathroom door. She is bending over, a full moon. A white terry cloth lies on the tile floor. "Am I disturbing you?" I ask.
"Not at all," she says, "I was hoping you'd come back."
Her face is between her legs. Her body is tan and blonde. My cock is aching to break
out of its skin.
"Take off your clothes and come on in," she says, "the water's warm."
"Did you plan this?" I say.
"Don't be stupid. C'mon, I'm not going to stay here all day."
She lifts her head up and turns to me, and puts her hands on the porcelain tub.
My clothes are off and I'm coming toward her, brushing her erect nipples, kissing her
neck, easing my way into her. Our movement is slow and circular. The steam from the
shower creates a sauna. She keeps looking over her shoulder. With a net I'm chasing her,
driving her, across a rain soaked field. I think I might never catch her. I'm right.
Sunday - I call her. I thought I had been dialing Bishop, my psychiatrist. She says
that what she was doing was trusting; she was trying to trust. That I should look at it that
way, too. I tell her I love her. She says I don't like her tender, soft parts. I say that isn't true.
She says, "You don't like the cracked part, that's the tender part. It's the same thing." My god, are we crazy!
I have to reply. I say, "I thought you said you didn't want to lose me?"
She says, "I meant that."
Then she starts to cry. She says she is sick, and she has too much work to do. She
is crying when she hangs up.
I quickly dress and drive to her place feeling yes, I can see her again, and offer my
help: rub her back, make tea (but she drinks coffee in the morning), buy her groceries, fix
the bathtub handle (for the hot water).
When I arrive, I park at the top of the hill; there is a parking spot in front of her
house. I look up at her window. There is a tall, young man, with black hair, sitting in the living room. I watch him for a minute, shrug my shoulders, and leave.
Sunday afternoon - This is my chance. My chance to prove how much I love her; cracked tenderness, romantic clown, sheer energy, that she is. I must hold fast and be calm. I walk the three levels of my house, through the terraced garden of rose bushes, and a wild backyard, around the orange and the lemon trees near the mint growing in the corners.
There is a panoramic view, from the living room, of the San Bruno Mountains, a railroad
yard, the San Francisco International Airport, and the Bay. I sit on the edge of the pool
table. Will I fly away? I see a jeep parked at the top of her hill. I recognize it. It is the same jeep that Christine's uncle let her drive in the desert. She loves the desert. Loners, old women, with pull-down poker lamps above their tables who wear green poker shades; tough and eccentric desert people.
That jeep is ours. She's driving. I'm sitting next to her. We've returned to the desert in search of food, she and I.
Monday afternoon - Bishop is tall, blonde, with the battered, mashed-in face of an
alcoholic; his eyes are bright diamonds, a cocaine blue. How innocent it sounds. What
emotional junkies we are. I like talking with him because he sympathizes with me, but he doesn't believe me.
He knows or thinks he knows that I'm suffering from some egotism, a delusion; he thinks
I really don't understand reality, the reality of human life, and so, I can't love. He doesn't understand that I'm being controlled by something other than myself, some force that is making a farce out of my existence. I keep monitoring my thoughts, sifting through, looking
for the image, but I know when it comes. I can feel it.
I enter his office - stereotypical. He looks like he's sorry for me. I feel great. He
says you look like you should be leading a Russian circus with Russian bears following you.
"The Christians and the scientists are dead," I say. He likes that. It's safe ground.
I show him the letter I received this morning.
Dear Bill -
I am sorry for the negative things I said to you. It takes away from all the nice and
special things that happened to us, with us, for us. It is not so much that something was
wrong between us, not looking for something else, but open to it if it happened, I guess.
Somehow I felt that what you wanted was a playmate and I was that. It never occurred to
me that you were looking for a more permanent kind of relationship. You told me that you
didn't want to live with anyone until you had a lot of money, and then you wanted children,
etc. I knew I couldn't be the person you would want. If things weren't exactly what I wanted,
I didn't worry about it. If I was sad, I wrote notes which I never sent, because I didn't think that's what "we" were all about. Looking back at it, I feel like I gave you my best love and attention and let you know me. That I didn't do what you wanted, I am sorry - but we hadn't made that kind of commitment - we had never even mentioned living together. Even now, I don't think you would want to be saddled with that kind of responsibility.
The qualities you admired in me at the start now make you angry. I can't be made
to feel guilty and hurt because I didn't do what I didn't even know you wanted. I must feel
free to do what I feel is best. But I am responsible to you - if you want to talk to me I will be available, without fear. I had hoped we could be friends, work together and whatever happened. I understand your hurt and I am sorry. I cared and still care very much for you and I know that you know that.
Right now I don't have anymore to add to the above and preceding except that it was
good talking to you yesterday and I still mean it about talking more if you want to.
I don't want to sever all connections with you - but I do feel that I need to find out
what the other thing is all about. And I want to send you this book since I finally found it. And I'm glad that you
brought the Tomato Soup writings back. Love,
The Tomato Soup writings are her diary, which she had given me a few weeks before. I had
been tempted to keep them. The book is Malamud's The Natural.
"There it is," he says, "it's all verbalized. Do you accept that?"
I nod my head and watch his eyes, very blue. Inside there, it looks like someone's lost at sea. He says, "Have you seen your wife?"
"No," I say. I pause.
He looks at me. He must think I'm a fool to think I'd tell him the truth.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" I ask.
Without blinking an eye, but slouching, he says, "Trying to understand you."
"Fuck off," I say, and, once again, leave. He expects it. He just says, "See you
There are greater, less explored realities. Psychiatry has had its two deep sea divers.
The rest, and all the divergent movements, are pale imitations, piranhas living off the Freud-
Jung creation. For the past twenty years, the great field has been extrasensory, human
telepathy, interstellar communication, Chardin's Alpha & Omega, the revealing common
unconsciousness: In short, Jung's world.
There is an obsession in our culture with drugs, with books that speak of life after death. People die knowing these things. They spill their blood to the Greater Truth, for it
is the only sacrifice the God will accept: the complete transformation of human reality. To
go beyond this narrow plain of war and religion. Bishop is a fool, but I will continue to work on him until he breaks through the mask.
Someone says calm down. How can I? It's an exquisite, heartbreaking afternoon. The sounds on the street, the car horns, the whistling of children, birds, the large dog barking, its
mouth agape: an orchestrated symphony of domesticity...a pleasure to listen to from a
distance. My concern is for the lower vibrations. I must keep myself in tune to the humming that one cannot hear, to the invisible engine that one knows is there.
Does Bishop realize that what he thinks and feels is the community, the intermin-gling emotions of what his group is thinking? The feeling of the forest is coming from the forest, from the inhabitants of that mind.
Tuesday morning - Sometimes, it's difficult to get moving in the morning. I like to lie around, in the early winds, catching those slow, cold explosions from the approaching sun. I like to stand on the stairs above the garden, especially after a rain, and let all the
fragrance seep into my body. It's a sexual fatigue the plants and trees feel after a strong rain.
I've got my light blue jeans, maroon sweater, and not quite matching levi jacket on.
I'm wearing buckle-over dress shoes, and a Russian hat. Liz, the blonde, hook-nosed
bartender, from a bar I frequent, the Mauna Loa, brings down black coffee and scrambled
eggs. She says, "I've got an appointment at 10:00. I'll see you later."
"Wait a minute," I say.
"Oh no," she says, bending and giving me a kiss. "I'll see you later."
"All right. Bye."
I watch her walk up the stone stairs. She has trouble closing the gate, but she finally
does, and leaves.
Rain clouds have appeared. I have to take the eggs and coffee inside. Someone has
come and is standing near the orange tree. I can't make out the form. It's trying to say
something. "You are loved by her. You must act on it." Slowly, it vanishes. Patience,
somehow patience was what this was all about.
Tuesday night - Life in the city, the bee into the various beehives. The hummingbird
in the garden of delights. The smoke, the ground haze that surrounds us. The drugged beauty. The dance of changing partners, and the constant money exchange for services rendered. Sleep in the city is fitful without sex. If not sex, certainly alcohol. The tensions
are too continuous. There is no rest, no peace in the city.
I hear the grove of eucalyptus being rustled by the wind. I've always heard it, and
the sound and sight transfixes me. It's as if I made the sound, when I was born, and will make it, again, when I die. A creaking. In and out. An almost leathery sensuality. A gentle
passing, like the sound of ice melting. I see Christine tonight. I feel there was hope for us. We talk, turning in the bed, aching. All night long, holding each other. I can't fuck her. She can't let me back in.
"Remember," she says, "you feel right." She nods her head. Indicating she still feels that way? I tell her I’ll wait one month before leaving. I want to live with her. Have us become successful. Business, lovewise. Gently understanding the feelings. In response, I write her
this letter: "Even now you don't think I want to be saddled with the responsibilities. Are we joyous people? Do we believe in love and experience, work and the healing of wounds (old
wounds)? Of course, we do, of course, we are. If only I could have pulled off the road, and
spoken to myself about the depth of my feeling, about my desire. If only I could have
spoken to myself and resolved the conflict." I think she says she hates me and she loves me.
I arouse all those feelings. Basically, she doesn't like me. So what am I to make of that?
I continue. The car is burning; I have to jump out. My feelings unwind slowly. I wake up
to myself. I have lost (for the moment); I went to the station, but the train had left. I look
at it go away. I run after it; I run. I restart the engine. I love you. I wait for you. For the
train that you are on. Return. But I'm in the past, aren't I? I have become another memory,
almost a fantasy.
Wednesday morning - It's curious how weird I can become. People begin moving across the veranda. There's no end to them. Their faces are smiling; they all believe and are attached to God. They have a general, and he mutters something about topping, and, as one, they halt the march. They break their lines and stretch out. A few lie on their backs to catch
the morning sun; others sit in circles and talk. The general looks off into the distance. His
wife has sent him a nagging letter. She says he's been away too long. Goddamn woman, he
thinks to himself. This journey may be a delusion, but I must do it. "Do it, do it," the
general says, hardly visible, staring madly out of the shadows. The creatures, hearing him,
stand and walk back into line, leaving the sun and their circles. Why is he so obsessed?
Why are they so obedient?
No one wants to buy the ping pong table, but I have sold the pool table, my car,
metal desk and filing cabinet. The fuse has been lit. I'm leaving this shattered kingdom. To Bishop, I have given my papers. To my wife, Barbara, my appreciation and respect. I don't
want to think about Christine: smiling, frowning, waiting, serious, businesslike, expectant, gone from my life, a kind of poetry, a delicate strength, a projection of my feelings. I feel
there is more to say about this. I am moving because I do not want to repeat the same cycle. I am hungry. I do not
want to become an old cigar, or plain brown shoes. I'm diverging. Like a falcon, I must
circle closer to the quarry.
Wednesday morning - Stars are roots. I replay one of our sex scenes; She moves into
my bedroom and strips, removing her shoes, and then her pants.
"I'm here," she says.
Startled, I turn to her pretty legs.
She says, "I'm here to get fucked."
Now, she could say it, a stroke of independence. She says it again, "I'm here to get
"All right, I will."
I walk nakedly with a stiff hard-on pulling me along. She drops to the floor. "I hope this satisfies you," she says, tilting her head back. "Does it?" I slip her panties off, and kneel with her. Separating her, I unravel her.
"Oh, Bill," she says.
"I miss you," I whisper.
Wrapping her legs around me, she says, "I know."
Wednesday afternoon - I walk to the road above my house. I'm not really possessive.
I just want to make sure, when I lose something, that I haven't been ripped off. Drifting,
from moment to moment, without checking and balancing, is an escape from the depth.
For instance, the man I call my old man was given a blueprint of his contract, yet,
chose not to believe it. He told me the story, at least twenty times.
They had been on their second honeymoon, a winter in Northern Canada. I was two
years old at home, with my grandmother. Great time, he said. Skied, fooled around, you
know. On the sixth day they were riding on a land bordered by tamaracks. Anne, my
mother, talked about the possibility of an avalanche. The horses became skitterish. The old man heard moans, human sounds, coming from somewhere up the lane. He jumped off; she held the reins. He walked toward the sound. The old man said he was scared, but he turned
to pure fear as he saw the unfortunate soul, all too human, caught in a bear trap, his mouth
agape, his blood frozen. He cries at night when he dreams of that cold uncomprehending
stare. Sometimes I feel like telling him that the man in the trap is him, his contract, but I
think it would break his heart. In a lot of ways he's innocent, well protected, a good sport.
There is a wild bed of roses growing on top of the hill. I am not in tune. As I look
upon it, I become aware of the struggle. Inside, there is a world. So, there is a world outside. They are not in tune. I've stopped thinking. I know because there is a creek that runs alongside the road, and now I can hear its glib gliding sounds. It's true, though. From each of these confrontations, the tree that is me grows a little
more, the soil becomes enriched by the psychic blood that flows through the trunk and into
the roots. The blood is like paint and winds its way through the trunk and into the roots.
The paint winds its way into a discernible form, a painting which vibrates and sends out
messages. The picture is called Tenderness. I will not hide from my tenderness.
I call Bishop. He says that I've been in this lush, vibrating California pit too long.
He's drunk. He's got a woman he fucks but doesn't love, a child he loves but cannot see, and a wife whom he is indifferent to. He doesn't smile much.
The happiness I feel at this moment is the result of a small glass of beer. My father
sits across from me on his yellow recliner. We are surrounded by sun. The magnolias turn.
He nods. "Where are you going now?"
"I think I'd like to drive a cab, or maybe I'll get back into commercials but I won't be able to do that stuff for about a month. Can you loan me $500 until I get going?"
"I don't know. How much do you owe me now?"
"If you want to know the truth, Bill, I think you're wasting your life."
I stand. The old man tries to look tough, but age has softened his face leaving his
brown eyes tender and domesticated.
"You think I could have been a pro, eh?"
Wistfully, he says, "Everyone thought so. You were the best end in the country,
"It was your dream," I say, "not mine."
He doesn't like that.
"It just shows how irresponsible you are."
I smile. "Right."
I can see him over sixteen years ago, on a cold evening, bowing down in his
bedroom, and saying a "Hail Mary" for the team. Then, he rose from his knees to climb the
stairs and knock on my bedroom door. "Come in."
"Would you like to share a brandy with me?" he asked shyly.
"I'd love to," came my voice from the other side. "I'll be there in five minutes."
"Fine. I'll see you downstairs."
Carefully, he closed the door.
His brandy was excellent. He boasted it was his only drinking weakness. Above the
television, in a Blackburn portrait, a boy was shoeing a horse.
I accepted the snifter. He sat across from me, in a chair, and sipped the deep amber
colored wine. I can remember I felt like telling him that this was all a joke, that he shouldn't
take it so seriously but I knew he'd think I'd gone completely crazy.
"I know what you're thinking," I said.
The old man moved forward. "What?"
"You're worried about the game. You're wondering what happened, aren't you?"
"That's what's been on my mind, yes."
"All right. Let me tell ya. I was tense. It's true. I, also, felt disoriented. Now, what
blows my mind is your taking one lousy performance so seriously. I'm fine. The team's fine.
We had a let down. We don't feel good about it. But it happened. We don't think it will
"I think it will."
"I can't say, this is a delicate subject. You're a football player, maybe, a great one.
You should just stick with it. You know?"
"I know what you mean."
"You know...good. There's plenty of time for women. You've got to stick with it."
"That's up to me, I think."
The old man nodded his head. "Alright." He raised up. The brandy glass in hand,
a red Pendleton on his back, he turned to the fireplace.
"You know, I love you," he said. "I want the best for you." Against the fire he,
looked like a monk.
I looked clearly at the brandy, at its silken texture. I touched it, raised it to my lips.
I looked up. "I love you, too," I said.
I felt the old man was crying. "What's really wrong?" I asked him.
He kept his face from me.
"I don't know."
I watched the left side of him. He looked bloated.
I left the brandy on the table and came up to him. I touched him on the shoulder and
said, "I love you."
He said, "Go on."
I turned and left the room, flickering a deep orange and red.
"C'mon," I say, "I'm hurting; I need your help. Goddamit!"
"I've got room for a truck driver. You can have the job.
"I can't work with you."
I feel like we're aching there in the sunlight, linked like two dogs in heat, needing
someone to throw water on us.
"You're a fool," I say.
He peers up from beneath his baseball cap. As I pass by, he stares at me. He says,
"Don't hurt yourself, Bill."
After quitting football, I got up to 320 pounds. It took three years. I hitchhiked
down to a fat farm in Raleigh, North Carolina. I don't think I've ever had a happier time.
To the majority of the people there, the farm was home. They felt no pressure being ugly,
obsessive, or disgusting. They fucked each other with care, and love. Once a month, around
midnight, three or more of us would sneak out to an all night Denny's and eat a dozen eggs,
a pound of bacon, pancakes, and hamburgers. Back home, getting into bed, we'd pop a water
pill, and shed the pounds. When I left three months later, I weighed 240 and attributed the
loss to a steady diet of fucking, and an ample supply of water pills.
There's nothing I can do to prevent all this from happening. Nor do I have any desire
to. I am receiving pictures from the past, or the future, and occasionally, I can feel, but not
see, all the steps in the movement, all the moves in this chess game have been played out.
I am a hunter who looks for an opening, a clearing, a clarification of will, a demonstration
of clairvoyance. A madness is growing in me.
On top of Russian Hill, a fire is blazing. Sirens arch through the city heading for
what is probably Macondary Lane. From the spark, the entire city could burn. Visions of
grandeur. The red trucks stamp it out and cones of smoke drift toward the Bay.
I have been there before. The last time I was unsuccessful. This time I will complete
the process. I have the feeling I created this situation and have done it many times. Each
time failing to complete it. This time I know I will not fail.
What is the purpose of it all? Wouldn't you like to live and let live, to build on the
old, create from the new, survive and raise your young? If so, it is within your grasp by
disarming and learning to share. Too simplistic.
The fact is that is not what you want. People the world of your imagination, with
your desires, crown it with your dreams, and the phantasmagoria that arises would put any
single genius' portrait of hell to shame. The true picture of man is in Sappho, Aeschylus,
Bacon, Balzac and Melville. Obsessed with power, a gabby mouth, a desire for salvation,
a cunning unmatched in creation, he walks about glum or smiling, repeating old worn out
phrases, which he knows will enable him to pass by unnoticed, and undisturbed.
I might have a drinking problem. I should go to Triple A and get towed away. I
close my eyes, and picture the painting, Yradsgil, A Tree of Life. It's a masterpiece of light
greens, whites, browns, and greys. The tree is the center. There is an unmistakable fish in
the left hand corner. The rest is shapes and half-forms, a Rorschach. It hangs in my wife's
living room. I see a white tiger hurling itself through the upper branches. In the upper left,
looking toward the nearest frame, a sea horse, and to the right, four legs tucked under him,
sitting on a branch, a smiling ram. Above the ram, a strange creature with a large moose's
face, but without the antlers or hair, and with a patch over one eye, and a long, flaccid penis
lying on its back. I think it is somehow connected with scholarly work and manipulative
desires. At the roots of the tree, above the fish, is a football, and a host of half-creatures in
the process of being born.
At the top of Market Street, before the tram enters the tunnel, I slip out the front
door, and walk up 17th Street, away from Christine's and head for the view on Twin Peaks.
It's a climb and I'm out of shape, but reaching the top, standing below the Benign Protector,
the crucible through which all our visual information blows, I get the microcosmic flash, the
profusion of parks, the deep, orange towers of the Golden Gate.
At the end of Market Street, I can see the World Trade Center, one of the few
survivors of the 1906 earthquake. We don't need a war to keep us on our toes. Though right
now, from here, it would be nice to see the planes and the troops, the underground against
the overground, maybe the smokers versus the nonsmokers in an old fashioned destructive
I've calmed down enough to smoke. I light it in the wind. In a '56 Chevy, two white
kids in their late teens pull up alongside me. I'm sober enough to sense trouble. I look over
at them, and unzip my coat. They're "good times" kids, punks riding the 50s crest of
nostalgia and aggression. I want them to know I'm no one to fuck with. The one driving,
a younger version of the "Fonz," rolls down his window and says, "Eh, man, you got a
match?" I look at him. He doesn't seem too frightened. His buddy raises a can of Coors.
With the left hand I scratch my beard. "No, I ain't got no light," I say. "Sorry."
The driver nods and rolls his window up. I don't want to turn my back on them, and
I know they're not going away. I begin walking backwards. I'm tempted to blow their tires
apart. The passenger opens his door, stands up and walks to the back of the car.
"Hey," he yells, "you got a couple of dollars we can borrow? We're almost out of
That does it. I take the .32 out and point it at him.
He panics. "Wait a minute," he says.
"Tell your friend to get out of that fucking car." The young "Fonz" ducks. I can't do
it. I fire two shots into the air. The passenger falls behind the fender, and I run for the hill
adjacent to the Television Tower.
I watch them take off. From where I am, it looks like they'll go off the road, but they
make it down. I wonder if they'll head for a bar, or go home.
I feel trapped, but safe. This has suddenly become my territory. "Who’s next?" I
yell to the pastel rows, the jigsaw puzzle of cheap Mediterranean style housing.
I look out over the water. It has become dark. Slowly, I climb down the mountain.
At the Twin Peaks bar, I call Christine. She answers; I hang up. "Take a chance," I say, and begin moving toward her place. My heart is pounding; tears stream down my face. Why
this emotion? I catch a glimpse of myself in a parked car. I look insane. From a hill above her house, I watch her in a chair reading. I don't think anyone else
is there. I climb over the back fence. Standing on top of her stairs, I look down on her garden. She is growing greens, mints and lettuce, amid the flowers. A bust of a woman with a Harpo Marx wig sits near the bottom of the door. It is locked, but the window opens easily.
What does it matter that she has redecorated her kitchen, or what book she is reading.
I unzip the jacket and place it cautiously around the arms of a chair. When I walk into the living room, she looks up from the book and doesn't bat an eye. She doesn't register fear or surprise as I point the .32 at her.
She sits in the chair with a yellow bandanna around her neck, wearing a black and
white cowboy shirt, and a pair of Levi’s. No shoes. Her legs are tucked underneath her.
There are three neatly rolled joints on the table at the base of her lamp. Vibrating,
in back of her, the diamond lights of the city look like so many stars. "T'ai," she says, "fast and clear as a mountain stream. You know, I was just thinking about you when you walked in."
I pull the trigger. It sounds like the Earth’s sighing.
"Dearest Marilyn, I can see you walking in the fresh morning grass. With your right foot you'll find a small rock; your toes will curve around it; to lift it and fling it into a blackberry bush.
I cannot hide from my sorrow. I am bound on all sides by this past winter's snow.
The patterns and traps of Washington, the feelings of remorse, what are they but to enslave
us, to keep us here. Now, I am being followed. Someone, if I am not very careful, will
murder me. I dream every night that I am flying to you. I want you with me in this time of
trouble. What am I waiting for? I will go to you.
I loved your sun, your water, your tent, your dreams; why haven't I returned sooner?
My hands go up; I got lost in a whirlpool, without a memory, in a fantastic country of my
But finally, out of necessity, I am planning my trip back to you. I am leaving
tomorrow. I want to talk with you, see you, kiss you. I think if only I can let myself into the
warm folds of your country, again, I'll be safe.
“I'll be arriving on the 22nd, 7:00 o'clock - Amtrack, Oakland.
She folded the letter and slipped it into her back pocket. She sat in the grass,
drawing her legs toward her, tilting her head toward the light.
The note of desperation puzzled her. Six months ago an article in Newsweek hailed
him as one of the country's leading therapists. Newsweek had spoken of him as a realist, a
man in touch with practical solutions. There was a hint, in the article, of Joseph's political
ambitions which she found alien to her knowledge of him. Possibly that, the political
pressure, plagued him. She jumped the two feet into the shallow brown water and began
walking toward the road.
Like a bird arranges and rearranges its feathers after a rain, her feelings and thought
reconstructed themselves. His power to make her believe in what he said, to feel for him,
attested to her affection. Watching the light play in the trees, she knew that was what she
liked. Little black Joseph, gentle and strong, placing himself in her so she could not forget.
Once she had described a place, a jar that someone had given her. She said she lived
in the jar. On one level were flowers, another pots and pans. She lived at the bottom of the
jar on a floor coated with raspberry jam.
"My God," he exclaimed, "do you really?"
She said, "Yes," her soft brown eyes laughing.
"Don't you feel trapped in that jar?"
"I feel secure."
He had nodded.
The sweet smell of cherry blossoms brought her back. Sliding over rocks she felt the
snakelike turns of the creek. She moved onto the grassy bank.
Across the Bay, in Japantown, the streets were lined with the signs of festival.
Lights, plastic flowers, parades, and demonstrations of ability exploded into sight. In the
spirit of the season she turned her body into a tent, an old Japanese custom.
If one could appreciate the little things in life, the grains of soil at the bottom of the
grass, strife and conflict would evaporate. To become absorbed by life was its secret. Her
one great enemy was this dream she had about thinking there was an end to her flight for
To her right she noticed a bluejay landing on a small eucalyptus. It frightened all the
smaller birds from their perches. He, or maybe it was a she, looked around angrily. "You're
a bad bird," she said.
She scowled at him. Unmoving, it stared back.
She moved toward the road. It cut her property in half. There were no cars in sight.
Quickly, she ran across the old stone bridge, then into a small meadow of poppies to reach
the front door of her house.
She stood in the doorway staring at the piece of paper tacked to the wall years before.
She was naked, the beads of water drying, being absorbed by her skin. "If you are to live,
you must fight, gently, quietly. Against you are all the enemies of the past. You must
always go forward." Her first husband had written it six days before his plane crashed.
She turned to look through the bay window at the hills and admired the red texture
of its soil, the clay and grass surrounding it. She noticed two figures, people scrambling on
all fours up the side of it. The sight gave her a warm feeling, as if she had created the hill
and placed the people on it. She knew there had been a time when she had first come out of
herself, when she wasn't sure. After his death it seemed quite plausible to her that she was
the Creator. Now, she only flirted with the feeling.
Joseph turned the tape recorder on.
He heard himself say: "I'm going to give you one chance to redeem yourself, one
opportunity to show me that you are alive. What is this?"
A boy's voice, a high tenor, replied: "A knife."
"What do you propose to do with it?"
"Against the wall."
"That's a good suggestion. Do you think you can make it stick?"
"I don't know. I've never thrown a knife before."
"You're lying. I want you to throw it. But I also want you to make it stick."
"Is it okay if I throw it at your head? I think I can make it stick."
A robust, incredibly intelligent ten year old, his orange hair and blue eyes were
running, churning somewhere outside of him. Joseph shook his head. In a way they were
both walking across the same street, a long nightmare stretch of white and blue, the absence
of darkness, the heat of a thousand dreams.
He pushed the button down. "The child must be given every opportunity to channel
his aggression." He shut it off and lay back against his seat. Looking out the window he
saw himself in the glass. There was no joy there. His face had been scarred and stretched
by the American changes of weather.
So many changes of clothes. So many disguises. Was nothing real? For what?
Now, I am another illusion, he thought, being chased by the sky. The making of another
At 7, the train pulled into Oakland. He tucked his recorder into his case. He carried
the case at his side and stepped down onto the waiting platform. He passed through the
aluminum gates. He heard his name pronounced, flatly, mechanically...Petaca, please come
to the Information Booth...Joseph Petaca... He hurried. His normal walk was like a gorilla's,
but now he was a ludicrous imitation of one, moving quickly, his head forward, his shoulders
hunched. Marilyn had left a message. He was to take a bus to the city and then a cab to her
place. At the bottom of the piece of paper was an asterisk and next to it this note: "I was
afraid my car would blow up. Love."
He hung his head, smiled. She was probably right, it would have...
Six years ago in Paris, standing in front of a bookshop on a steamy street in a section
called Rue de Loin, she was turning and running inexplicably down the street. He tried to
follow but slipped on the pavement. He gathered himself and continued after her thinking
she was in trouble. He heard the blast as if it were the sound of a man screaming. He
stopped to turn and saw a thin, black creature crumpled like a paper bag, his head shredded
and bloodied, lying in front of the window they had been peering into. Twenty yards ahead
she stood in a doorway, visibly afraid. Her voice trembled when she said, "Joseph, let's find
beauty." There was something so alert in her eyes. She had made him realize he had almost
On the bus it was a good night, clear and bejeweled with the lights from the Casino,
yacht harbor and two bridges. A former maximum security prison had been transformed into
a gambling casino, a sign of the times. The hills of Marin stood overlooking the bay like
prehistoric monuments, gentled and quieted. The mystery of this region remained in
evidence. The Golden Gate spanned two continents. The smell of savagery mixed with
elegance to create a heady grin on one's face. But it didn't last. Here western civilization
rammed head on with the mystical, the hypnotic, and lost.
E. M. Ciroan had said, An Age of Self-Pity. The people had lost their sense of
humor. The time that had spawned a Cioran (who had understood the peoples' powerful and
sometimes subtle rush to destruction) did no more than count the splinters from the
wreckage. Did Newsweek understand how conspiratorial his methods were? How he
wished to overturn the American system?
The bus floated down the Main Street ramp and pulled, gears shifting, into the
terminal. 7:31. He walked through the clean corridors and heard the announcer maintain
there was a bus leaving in ten minutes for Los Angeles.
Outside, three cabs leaned against the curb. Petaca walked. He knocked on the first
cab's window. The driver, a small long-haired, white man of about twenty-seven rolled
down the window.
"Can you take me to Marin?" Petaca asked.
"I sure can," the driver said.
They turned left on Pine and down to Franklin. The driver crossed the bridge and
shot through the Rainbow Tunnel.
They were flying down the Sausalito hill. The water, houses, trees, surrounded by
a silent night sky.
"Can we turn off at Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and head for the College of Marin?
I'm going to Ross.”
"Maybe you should turn on that radio."
"It's not necessary," said the driver, "unless you really want to hear it."
"No, that's all right."
"I envy these people," the driver said.
Petaca nodded, "They in turn envy something else."
The driver looked in the rear-view mirror. "What do they envy?"
"A vacation in Colombia...two weeks of silence..."
"I'd like to blow a few of their heads off."
"You ought to spend more time out here," Petaca said.
"Not a bad idea," said the driver, rolling down the front window.
"With the trees and flower bushes, and horse trails," Petaca said, "this is another
country, a dreamland. That's what you're envious about." The driver snorted.
"This is our version of Beverly Hills. Plenty of professional guards make their living
In front of a large yellow mansion set far back from the road, they stopped. Petaca
gave him fifty, thanked him for the ride and stepped out.
He was caught in the magic of the place. The fragrance was alarming. After a
moment his breathing returned to normal.
Jack Monday, prematurely grey, former head of ITT, sat at the top of his stainless
steel desk reading the speech that had galvanized the country three years ago. Cocaine
dripped like honey into his throat. A ping pong table occupied the middle of the room,
paddles lay on each side of the net. The sight of it, through the green netting, momentarily
took his mind off the speech. He adjusted his glasses and turned back to the sheets of onion
skin, his eyes skimming over the rocklike surface of words. "I believe in repression as a
means of managing human life," a gruff statement, fascistic. But then he lightened up. "The
rules of the game I intend to play are governed..." His mime, dressed in jogging clothes,
stood watching him from the end of the room. She smiled. He spoke aloud, "...by the extent
to which I am able to compress this fever we have been gripped by these last twenty years.
We have lost faith in ourselves, as watchers, gaugers of our own spirit. Our way of life has
been distorted by rising prices, shabby goods, a loss of value. As a nation, we act as if we
no longer know what any given thing means: a kiss, an apple, a job well done.”
"We must repress our desires and begin to look more clearly at the things that
surround us, at ourselves and our country, our friends. We must kick the money habit and
focus our attentions on the qualities of the goods we produce. We are still the richest, most
fallow nation on earth...etc...etc."
He threw his hand away. "I want to talk to Barber."
She arched her eyebrows and lifted her paddle. She squeezed the ball between her
index fingers and tossed it in the air.
"Now," he bellowed, "I'm in trouble."
She turned, paddle and ball in hand and, military-style, marched from the room.
Barber headed what was fondly known as the Bloodsucker's Division, a political
surveillance wing, whose job it was to key into anyone who was becoming politically active,
find out who they were and what, if anything, they were capable of.
The Barber maintained a thick head of brown hair with short, well clipped sideburns;
the cut exposed the trombone shape of his ears. His eyes, like a boa constrictor's riveted the
watcher to a stop. His cheeks were slightly puffed, mouth hard and turned up at the edges.
The face of a cowboy. He never spoke of his business. Indeed, through two presidents he
had never been called upon to divulge his information.
He held a pen in his left hand as a pool player would hold a cue stick, first finger
pressed gently over the thumb. He looked down at the photo of Joseph Petaca. He met
Petaca's large, spidery eyes. There was intelligence, compassion, a normal sense of
The light flashed above his door. He picked up the receiver. It was Monday's
The appropriate buttons pushed, Barber was now on the line with Monday. In
response to Monday's order, Barber said, "If he's as politically disruptive as you think, why
not charge him with a crime and let the publicity do the rest?"
"He's committed no crimes, and besides, I don't want to take a chance on making a
martyr out of him. Do you have any other suggestions?"
"Then do it."
Barber hung up a moment after Monday. He called his secretary. "Gimme Karl
Marsh," he yelled.
Marsh sat in a booth at Tadich's Grill. He was impressed by booths. He could press
an ivory button and a waiter with a white cloth draped across his arm would appear. The
swordfish was the best he'd ever had. The man, Geoffrey Hoop, who sat across from him,
ate salmon. It was two o'clock in the afternoon. Outside, a clear sixty-two degrees.
Hoop acted as if Marsh was one of the most fortunate of human beings. He didn't
talk about what a great product he had.
"Knowledge was what we were both after," he said. He wanted to know where
Marsh had heard about it.
"From a friend."
"What friend?" He stopped, not wanting to be too serious. "I'm just curious," he
continued, almost apologetically.
He couldn't have been more than thirty years old, yet his hair was white.
"A friend of my father's," Marsh said. "He's a man interested in news; he keeps his
ear to the ground."
"What did he tell you about it?"
"He told me it was something that would be good for the government."
"I think he was quite right. If he was speaking religiously. I think it could
revolutionize our world, if handled properly."
A passing waiter refilled their wine glasses.
"What do you mean?" Marsh asked.
"You'll see, Karl. The bottle's finished."
They passed the waiting customers and out the swinging doors.
"You know, you look different," Hoop said.
"What do you mean?"
"I think we knew each other a long time ago Karl. But you don't remember, do
Marsh looked puzzled. "No. When did we know each other?"
Hoop moved quickly to his car, opening the passenger door, and walked around it,
a '69 grey Ferrari.
"You'll see," he said.
The drive out of the financial district and up the long, high California Street and
down Van Ness to Lombard terrified Marsh. Hoop drove fast, changing channels on the
radio as if he were typing a letter.
Marsh kept turning to look at him, wondering what he was doing.
He responded as they approached the bridge, "The gestalt of the robotic culture,
twenty channels are better than one."
Marsh said, "I didn't understand any of what we had listened to."
Hoop shifted into low gear, easing the grey machine through the passageway.
"Good for you," he said, almost yelling, and roared onto the bridge.
This manic, self-absorbed creature was not the human being Marsh had been talking
to in the restaurant.
"What's your real name?" Marsh asked, hoping to bring him back to his senses.
"My real name," and he turned to him, "is Geoffrey Hoop. What's the matter, Marsh,
am I scaring you?"
"Machines scare me," he said. "I don't understand them."
"Would you open the glove box, Karl, and get my glasses? The sun should be out
Marsh reached into the box and picked out a typical pair of aviator shades. He
handed them to Hoop and asked, "Are you on this chemical now?"
"Once you've been on it," he offered "you're never off it. Right now, see if you can
enjoy going down this hill."
Marin stretched out before them, an exquisite water-filled land of rolling hills and
boats in harbor. The Ferrari roared wiping out the curves.
They pulled into a gravel driveway. In front of them was a rustic, two-story, on
stilts. It overlooked the Tiburon lagoon.
"The chemical was imported from the Amazon. They had a distilling process which
turned the plant into an easily transportable liquid, a gallon of which would sell for
$100,000. A lifetime supply," Hoop said, "for one thousand people. As necessary as water.
A drop is too much. Lightly wet your finger, that's all that's necessary."
"What is it?"
"Come inside. I'll give you a glass of white wine."
They moved through the spacious house and out to the back porch.
"I put some in your drink. Here."
"Actually," he said, rolling his eyes, "you are about to learn to fly, Karl."
Marsh sat down. Hoop moved to the railings of the porch.
"That water is sacred."
Marsh nodded his head.
"You know, some day I think I'm going to go for a long swim in that water."
Marsh wanted to say, 'this is a nice house you have.' As he began bringing the words
up, he felt his heart enlarge. He could barely breathe. He wanted to call out to Hoop to tell
him he was in trouble. He made an effort to get his attention but Hoop looked out to where
a light breeze had appeared, rippling across the surface of the water.
Marsh released himself; a bubble burst. The cords and muscles in his body vibrated
like birdsongs. The sun felt like a shower of pure mountain water. Hoop turned. Marsh
took him in. Hoop raised his upper lip and tilted his bead back eyeing him. Marsh felt a
warmth, an ease in the other's manner. It was funny because Hoop looked grotesque. Marsh
remembered where he had seen Hoop's face - he was the spitting image of the old
archeologist priest, Teihard de Chardin. His nose was not as hawklike, his eyes not as
piercing, but he looked like that man.
"Do you wanna try and stand?"
"I'm just beginning to talk," he said, "but feeling better about it. I feel like a
plant...sprung from the wood."
Hoop smiled, "Well, I'm gonna have another drink." He started to move into the
living room. Marsh began to laugh.
"Yes, I...maybe I'd like one, too," he said.
"What do you want?"
"I don't know, something..."
"How about Bull's Blood?"
"It's a Hungarian wine."
He had never felt so rooted. A benign monster had been released from him and now
it sat in the sunlight. He could see why the officials were interested in it, the sensation of
raw power created a feeling of self-confidence. Happily, he sat sipping the Bull's Blood,
enjoying the weather.
"C'mon, you have to stand up, Karl."
"I don't want to."
"C'mon, I'll help you."
Hoop took his hands and helped him to his feet. Marsh felt a rush of blood, his head
a bloody flower.
"I'm a thousand and fifty years old," Hoop said. They were standing.
"What's your real name?"
"You've already asked me that."
Marsh was not actually interested. He wondered what would happen after Hoop was
busted. Would he tell the government about his age, the Amazon, all the rest.
They passed blackberry bushes and stunted trees.
Marsh felt sorrow for all their branches, reaching out, extending hopelessly. The
bushes entangled in one another. Like us, he thought, they are trapped in a density of their
Suddenly, they were standing at the water, the lifegiver. Marsh's face shone above
it, a bland, calm, clean-shaven face of no distinction.
Karl said, "Did you see that?"
Hoop said, "Yes, you're beautiful."
Marsh laughed, "How can I be beautiful? I am dull and flat." White fire crackled
all around them.
"Energy from our own bodies," Hoop said, and smiled.
Across the lagoon, across the bay, the buildings of the city stood like electric
mannequins, a bright army of computers.
"It's breathtaking," Marsh whispered. He meant it.
"I can arrange to have the money tomorrow if you'll drive me back into town. Now."
Hoop shrugged. "Fine," he said, and they walked back to the car.
On the way to the city, Marsh saw the ground, the people, the colors of the sky, the
birds, the sun, roads, and tires, for the first time. It was the work of a great artist. All
existing in one space, one frame. He shook his head at the wonder of the balance.
The Bureau had placed his account with the Bank of America. A fitful night's sleep
where he would awaken to find himself hanging from the ceiling had not done anything to
On the fourteenth floor of the calliope-shaped building, he received two hundred five
hundred dollar bills, all marked along the red thread that ran through the nose.
He could go no further with Hoop. Barber was calling him. Others would take over
and it would be up to them to decide how to use him.
To Marsh's surprise, because he thought they'd possibly go back to Hoop's place,
they made the exchange outside the bank. Hoop opened his trunk and produced a large gift-
wrapped bottle and handed it to Marsh.
"Try not to drop it, Karl," he said.
Marsh gave him the attaché case. Flamboyantly, Hoop turned to the street and hailed
the first passing cab. "Airport," he said to the driver, as Marsh slipped into the cab.
"Keep in touch," Hoop said.
The garage smelled clean and efficient. Karl had just left Barber. A small drop of
rain, a pinprick, hit his windshield. The road was curving to the left, he turned the wheel.
About half a mile ahead on the right hand side of the road stood the "two temptations from
hell": twenty-four foot female nudes, sculptures, that "encouraged the people," as the
President said, "to fuck and devour one another." Like so many of his contemporaries, Marsh
was impressed by Monday's rhetoric but, unlike many of them, he did not believe much of
what the President said.
Looking up at their legs and hips, he traveled slowly around the circle. The rain
began to pour more steadily. He reached over and tapped a button. The wipers swept away
He crossed the bridge and turned into the deepest parking lot. He was surprised to
see only nine cars. Petaca was scheduled to give a speech at noon.
Crazy, he thought; he felt like going for a long walk in the rain, but sat tight. He
imagined a pretty blonde woman about his age passing him and holding a tan umbrella above
her head. He was surprised to find himself smiling at her and she returning the grin.
The sign said Johns Hopkins Medical School. Inside the building, Petaca talked.
Faint lighting made it difficult to make out the features of his face or the contours of his
body. Marsh could have shot him right there...no one would have said anything. Instead,
he joined the medical students and their teachers, upright and attentive.
Petaca stood on the stage and said nothing. He looked gentle and unassuming. A
few in the audience coughed.
"I'm sorry," he said. "We communicate too much with words. In this silence I can
hear what's really going on. Generally, I don't want to hear it. The words that I use are
playful or serious tools which are supposed to mirror thought. When I laugh or cry it is
caused by feeling, not words. We have lost touch with our feelings. Real feeling is
expressed in silence. Yes, in lovemaking, in gestures, in the way we look at one another.
Not in words. Words are great deceivers.
"As I stand here talking, I feel two definite things. You want to be fed and you want
to fight...fight me, I suppose. I'm not sure I can fight you. Possibly we can talk. I'll take
questions later, if you have any."
A few people nodded their heads.
"I'm going to tell you about a boy, an extremely powerful boy, that I've been working
with. His basic interest is murder...His name..."
As Petaca talked Marsh watched a pretty blonde woman sitting off to the right of the
stage. She looked like the one he had imagined, the one holding the tan umbrella.
Apparently she was with Petaca.
Marsh left the hall. It was still raining. Their car was easy to spot. Obviously the
rented automobile. He tried the driver’s front door. It opened. Marsh took the explosive
device from the black bag in his trunk and placed it under the seat. The pressure switch
would complete the job. With the first plop on the driver’s seat Joseph Petaca and his lovely
blonde would begin their final journey.
Marsh started his car and drove out of the parking lot. He was on his way to the
airport, eventually to Marquesa, an island off the coast of Tahiti. It was Barber's idea.
"A place of lofty peaks," Barber said. Massive head walls, plugs of volcanic stone,
bare, grotesquely curved turrets, a land where a thing called the 'no-no fly' lives. A perfect
place for a man like you.
At the gate, John Mouton, a short man with a beard, waited. Approaching him,
Clifford Mason, the entrepreneur, held out his hand. Mouton, barely making contact
said, "Your car is parked in a restricted zone reserved for police. We better get moving."
"No hurry," Clifford said, "they aren't working at this time of the morning. How
"Terrible! I've gotten a lot of tickets because of that car. I wish you'd have stored
Clifford said, absently, "Parking tickets?"
"One for parking, and one for crossing a double yellow line. After that, it was
about a week ago, I stopped driving it. The fan belt broke too, but I put it back on."
As they rounded the corner, he saw the right front fender had been bashed in,
giving the car a kind of snarling grin.
"What's that?" he said.
"Bob Cracker ran into the side of a mountain. Do you mind?"
"Funny world. No."
Mouton did not reply. His shop, at the bottom of Pacific Heights, on Sacramento
Street, displayed miniature unicorns on softly colored slate landscapes, Buddha’s perched
on ledges of driftwood, and silver coat clasps. A jeweler, Mouton had been at this spot
since '72. With his steel-rimmed glasses and blowsy satin shirt, he would sit and listen to
the ladies' conversation.
As they entered, the radio voice warned of rain. Clifford sat on a half-broken
wooden stool, adjusting the leg beneath him.
"There is a hole in the ceiling and a pail in the corner. So watch it!"
"Have you got any grass?"
"No. But Yanno has. Do you want me to check on the price?"
"Whatever it is, I don't want to pay more than three hundred a pound. I've got a
little money. I've got to make it work for me."
He nodded. "I'll ask him."
"What have you got there?"
"It's just a cigarette."
"How is Yanno?"
"Fine . . . " Mouton paused and chuckled. "I've been drinking for four days.
Yesterday, I started feeling a little guilty about it, a little scared." He laughed. "I told
myself, 'I've got to tighten up.' Sometimes, I think I'm losing my mind. Way to much. I
was at a party two days ago and everybody left around nine thirty. I was the only one
left. I didn't even know where the host was. Drinking white wine. I walked home. It
was about five in the morning. I was flashing around. It was a weird space, and a cop
stopped me. No big deal, that's what they do.”
"Did he think you were a burglar?"
He was coughing. "That was kinda weird. I was so high, so stoned . . . "
"Did he get out of the car?"
"Oh yeah, he got out of the car. He wanted ID and all that."
"Then what happened?"
"Not much." His voice trailed off. "I told him who I was. I told him I
understood what he was doing -- it was his job. I'm walking along, people don't do that at
five in the morning. I told him it was my business. The cop seemed to understand."
Clifford smiled. "You could have told him you were a stock broker."
Mouton nodded. "Listen, I want to lay low, but there's another party tonight at
Bruno's. He's moved in with a woman named Jule."
"They're having a party?"
"Yeah. At 2610 Chestnut."
"Do you want me to pick you up?"
"No, that's what I'm saying; I don't know if I'm going."
"Okay. I'll call you before I leave."
"Cliff," John said, "you don't look too good either."
Carlos Yanno was everybody's rich friend. His house, a large Victorian,
contained the finest collection of Tiffany stained glass in the West. Yanno's hair, like
Orphan Annie's, came out about two inches from the sides of his head; his arms were
short and his eyes were shiny.
"I know what you want," he said to Cliff and strolled to a Captain's sea chest set
against the far wall. Opening the lock, he said, "This is Mexican sensimilla."
Yanno said, "It's worth a hundred an ounce." He placed it on the scale and
weighed it. With his back to Clifford he said, "How come you weren't at the party last
"I was sick. How was it?"
Yanno took a deep breath. "Very important." He came back and dropped it on
the table in front of him. "Sit down. Bruno was talking about G.I.V.E. Though I don't
think it can solve any real problems, it's a happy medium, good to talk about. I mean it
has no sign-up sheet or proposed fee. Basically, Cliff, it's a simple, fun-loving notion.
Besides, I don't think you take it too seriously."
"No, but the time is right for G.I.V.E.," Cliff said. "Look at the way Hakeem puts
the people on a positive wave length. They're willing to contribute ten dollars apiece to
him, rather than going to dinner. He gets maybe two hundred people a night."
He passed Broadway. A Pinball Factory stood invitingly at Pacific. He walked
past the restaurants; the Butcher Shop and the Casablanca.
There were no colors like these in any other city, the architectural pastels; greens,
red, browns, and blues mixed with the layout of trees and flowers, and gave a feeling of
storybook unreality. The houses were more like ships or chess pieces, many varieties,
each with it own personality. He looked down on the Wharf, and turned left onto
Chestnut. In front of him, a white cloud sat above an apartment building. With the Bay
in the background, it looked like an advertisement for Greece. The houses were the
treasures. They gave the place definition: The sad and solid Tudors, Victorian castles,
the mansions like mausoleums, the reconverted and almost Southern-style whorehouses.
All contributed to the feeling that San Francisco was a stage set.
He stood across from Jule's apartment and looked up to her window. A hand
tapped him on the shoulder. "Mr. Mason," a voice growled. "It's too bad you missed the
party, you would have been appreciated there. I met quite a few of your friends . . . "
"Bruno," Clifford said, "can I buy you a beer?"
Bruno nodded. "I'll follow you."
He wore white pants with a light blue shirt and a blue blazer. With his salt and
pepper beard, he might have just parked a yacht and stepped off for a leisurely stroll.
The redeeming feature of Chestnut Street was its nearness to the water, the feeling
it gave of being a town in a seaside resort.
"This is not chance," Bruno said.
"I'm familiar with those ideas. And chance as far as I can see is not ruled out. I
suspect you're making something of this. I'd like to know what it is."
"Matter of fact," he said, "I'm interested in your religion."
"You're an honorary member. Cheers."
"All right. What have you been doing with this G.I.V.E. thing? I've been looking
for an idea like yours for the past year. We've entered an age of renewed religious fervor.
Your idea could be expanded."
Bruno's cause was found in the Ferris wheel turning, in the circus smells. When
they first met, in the Midwest, Bruno was a barker. Clifford tended a concession called
the Mirror At The End Of The Road.
"I'm interested in . . . " He hesitated. "What I'd like," he said, "are your straight
legitimate answers and your promise that you will stick to them, just in case I do let you
in on this. I am planning a move. You'd be invaluable, but I don't want people laughing
and hooting at me. For instance, what's your background?"
"I'm a magician." Bruno smiled.
"A stage magician?"
"No. A real magician."
"Good. What did you do before that?"
"I've never done anything else. I was born in New York City," he said, "in 1930,
if that helps. In 1958, I married; you know all this. In 1966, my wife and child died in an
automobile accident. I quit my job and became a public relations man for Rockefeller
Center. That lasted for six years, etc."
Bruno's hands were on his thighs. He seemed relaxed. As he spoke, Clifford
watched for any nervous movement, any sign of drugs, but there were none. He seemed
wise and giving, a champion of the world.
"Actually, I'm glad you're here. I can't afford any fuck-ups. My idea is the same
"What?" Bruno said.
"Expand it. Turn it into a big-time religion. There's a need for giving. For
"Then let's do it together."
Clifford nodded, and finished his beer. "I'll check back with you in a couple of
She had been Yanno's mistress, an ex Las Vegas showgirl. Outside her window
clouds drifted like dirigibles. From her perch the city looked like an island on a wind
He said, "I'd like you to meet Bruno and you can tell me what you think of him."
She said, "I don't want to meet him. I don't want to have anything to do with your
friends. I don't want to hurt Carlos' feelings." She walked into the kitchen; he rose and
followed her. "C'mon," he said. They walked back into the living room. She had him
sit. She was giving him a haircut.
In the living room, she stared out the window, and said, "I don't know what you're
all upset about anyway."
"We're not upset."
"You are. Sometimes you talk complete nonsense. I think I'd be better off going
to New York." She faced him. "All the people I know here get swallowed up in their
own petty concerns."
"I'm not upset."
"There's something ugly about what you do. Sinister and fragile is the way I see
it. Carlos too. It's repulsive."
"You've got to strike out more on your own. Spire. Are you still seeing the
carpenter and the lawyer?"
"They're no better."
"It's this town," she said. "It's a breeding ground for malcontents."
"You protest too much."
"Actually, the men here don't stick around," she said. "I get turned on, and then
they leave. I need a change of scenery."
"Every time I come back here I appreciate it more."
"Oh sure," she said, "you can have the pick of the litter. I had a dream about you
last night. You were walking through a mess. It looked like dead bodies. It took place
in Ghirardelli Square. You climbed the stairs to the fountain. And then, a young man
pointed a gun at you. He held the gun, it sort of froze and then he fell backwards, the
gun, you know, firing up. The man was crying, tears falling, like paint down his face.
He said, 'Yanno started this war,' and turned over on his face. You said, 'I'm sorry,' and
you, too, turned away. Then my dream changed to something called the Reality Land
Amusement Park and I was on a desert. It was a problem. If I couldn't find the correct
way out, I heard someone say, 'She will suffer great pain.' Even so, standing there I
could feel the heat. It was unbearable."
She placed the scissors on the couch. Pulling away and pointing at him, she said.
"Now you look like a German." She moved closer to him, and said, "I won't tell you
anything more about yourself if you're nice to me."
Clifford stood. "I have a lot of work to do. I'll be back."
"I wish you could stay," she said. "It's another beautiful day."
"Spire, I'm going to give Yanno your number."
"Oh, so that's it," she said. "I'm a pawn in the game."
Clifford pictured Yanno saying it again: "She's too young; she's got too much
energy. When she learns how to control it, she'll abandon me. I'm too old besides." She
was 28 to his 40.
High expectations. No return. Either they didn't know what it cost, or they didn't
have the strength to hold on to it. Everyone wanted to be taken care of. In the coming
time, would the people be able to see the necessity for getting down on all fours to pray
and kiss and kneel in front of one another?
From the highest hill in the Alta Plaza, he watched the sails, like water flies,
maneuvering in the harbor. Marriage, Clifford thought, was the traditional way in which
societies grew, maintained course, and prospered, and the counterweight to egotism and
despair. He would have to marry again.
He walked down the hill to Sacramento Street. Mouton's sign, a miniature of a
fully dressed courtier surrounded by two nude women, said Closed. There was a light on
in the back. He knocked on the glass. No answer. Out of habit, he pressed down on the
latch, and the door opened.
"Mouton," he called. "Mouton," but there was no answer. He walked around a
glass case and into Mouton's workroom. Mouton's legs were sprawled, arms at his side.
His eyes looked like Greek sculpture. There were three envelopes by his right side. One
was addressed to Paula, his second wife, one to Cliff, and one to his parents, who lived in
rural Pennsylvania. Clifford pulled up a stool, and opened his envelope.
"I'm leaving you my sword. It hangs over my bed. The sheath goes with it. I
think I told you I found it in the desert in Mexico, lying on top of the sand." Standing in
Mouton's bed, Clifford knocked over an empty bottle of beer. He wanted that sword. He
called the police. He said, "I think I have a dead man on my hands."
They said, "What's the address?"
The paramedics were the first to arrive.
Clifford sat while they pounded on Mouton's chest. Then, he watched them lift
him onto a stretcher and carry him off. He had not moved from the stool when Gordon
"Red" Knightsbridge walked in. He had been an outspoken critic of the mayor,
homosexuals, and the Police Chief. Red had the face of an orange peel.
Red looked over his glasses, and said in a loud, raspy voice, "You came in."
Clifford extended his hand. "My name is Clifford Mason."
Red said, "What else? Tell me the whole thing. Give me that sword."
"I walked in. I wanted to see John, he was a friend of mine. The sign on the door
said Closed. I pressed down on the latch, the door opened. I walked in and found him
here. There were three letters, one to me, which I have in my pocket, and the two you see
on the floor."
"Give me the letter." He handed it to him.
"You'll have to come down with us."
"Am I being booked?"
Clifford widened his eyes.
"We want you to fill out a report, Mr. Mason."
"Mason." He said it as if the name had gotten stuck, like a chicken bone, in his
The coke was on top of Yanno's armoire, gleaming crystalline flakes in a
cellophane bag. He brought down a large oval mirror and put it on the bed and dropped
about four grams. He opened the armoire, put the coke inside, closed it, and left the
The magnolia strains of Nina Simone came on at about the same time as the
central heating. "Oh, Baltimore," she went with a slightly reggae beat, "ain't it so hard
just to live."
The night air, cool and foggy, was an appropriate shroud. Some people could be
seen at the edge of the yard near the bougainvillea. A shadow behind a tree looked like
Yanno's cab driver, Michael Manley, the Padre. He took a few steps and then looked
down at the Padre, who had his face turned to a tree and his shoulders slightly hunched.
The Padre turned his head from the tree to look over his shoulder. From the hill
Clifford yelled, "Unclap thy hands and you will find your life hanging in the balance."
The Padre chuckled, a deep-throated, mucous-choked laugh.
Clifford turned and walked back into the house. There had been a slight chill in
the wind, and he thought he could use a shot of brandy and a nosefull of cocaine. In the
kitchen, he poured the brandy into a crystal snifter.
In Yanno's bedroom, Louise Nettleson, the painter, sat on the bed, her knees bent,
tying the shoelaces to her sneakers. He poured another glass and walked in. From the far
left corner of the room, he heard snatches of conversation.
"It's all internal."
"I think I agree. He's not stimulated by the outside. The relevance of what's
happening outside is immaterial compared to the amount of stuff that's going on inside."
He turned. There was a man he knew, who owned a restaurant called Down
Home, and his wife. The other couple, in their late fifties, he did not know. He thought
they had been talking about somebody's newborn child.
Louise handed him the mirror.
"Fair trade," he said. "How's the work going?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm having my annual show next week." She took a deep breath.
"How many paintings you gonna have?"
"I've got about fifteen ready. It'll be on Saturday and Sunday. Can you come?"
"I'll sure try. I've been in New York."
"I love New York."
"Are you still with Zack?"
"Yes." She smiled. "He's having a show in about three weeks. He doesn't like
parties. Actually, he doesn't like Carlos."
"That's because Carlos is more paranoid than he is."
"I think that may be true," she said.
He bent down to the mirror.
Louise painted whales diving through the ocean and suns flaring above Mexican
deserts. She had a knack for bringing out the light. "Have you talked to Cracker, yet?"
"Are you the official guard of this cocaine?"
"It seems that way. Not a bad job."
"Not a bad job at all. I'm going into the living room."
In the hallway, Frank Black, the architect, and Cracker were talking.
"It's kind of like yours and mine," Frank said, "very matter of fact, and yet, they
are famous and they have their relationships only because they are there together."
"I don't think it's fame so much as the kind of circuit they're on," Cracker said.
Cracker leaned his heavily bearded face toward Cliff and whispered, "Tennis players."
"That's what I mean," Black informed Cracker, "it's the machine they're on.
They're probably just as human as anyone else though they appear at that point in time to
be playing a specific role that makes them part of the elite. I don't think they see
themselves in that way."
"Rather marvelous thing about them, if in fact it's true, because I think the
audience is totally tripped," Black said. Clifford looked into the kitchen and saw Carlo
Beni with Big Mary. They made an odd couple. She was a supporter of lost causes.
Beni was an opera buff.
In the living room, Yanno turned Simone down to a light hum, and had the people
sitting around listening to the taped conversation between Karen Lily and Mouton.
Karen sat next to Carlos, with Kennedy on her right. She was smiling. Clifford came in
and sat down next to Paula, Mouton's second wife.
Mouton said, " . . . in a quiet way, not even a quiet place, I didn't have any time to
talk to him, because I had this other trip going."
"Right, right," Karen replied enthusiastically. "It's so strange, John, our paths
crossed. Did he mention my daughter?"
"I mentioned you to him."
"He said you recommended me."
"He's such a nice person. The old fashioned idea of going to visit an old friend
and sharing his thoughts. My daughter has been seeing him once a week for two years.
She's such a nice person, my daughter, but I'm in a funny position. I'm her mother, and
she's still young. She's the kind of kid who'll slide if you don't stay on her."
Mouton laughed. "You don't want to get the reverse reaction, which is real easy
to do with people, what happens most in the world, you know what I mean. Well-meant
criticisms are interpreted the other way by the receiver. You know what I mean?"
"Right, and yet I don't want to criticize her. I want her to get a picture of herself.
The minute I said that I thought it was really dumb. She'll get a picture of herself soon
enough. But I mean the way she walks and writes, you know, we are what we write or
the way we walk. We give off what we are, you know what I mean?" Clifford heard the
sound of desperation.
"That changes though," Mouton said. "While you're growing up, it changes.
She's really young, but you've been around her for twelve years. She's real young, but
not to you."
Paula started to cry. Clifford put his left arm around her. She said, "I'll be all
right." The conversation continued for another few minutes with Karen complaining
about how hard it was to raise children, alone, and how deep down she felt a bitterness
and sometimes could not help but communicate it to her daughter. Mouton sympathized
Clifford remembered something Mouton had said to him about couples. "They
were shock troops for the future and the conventional wisdom had nothing to say about
relationships." He wondered if Mouton might not be alive today if he had made a
commitment to Paula.
Carlos shut the machine down. Paula stood up. "I'll take you home if you like,"
Clifford said. Paula shook her head. "I'm driving." Carlos walked over to the living
room door and said, "I believe it's time for wine. Mr. Kennedy, Karen, friends, would
you like to join me? Would you like to help me with the bottles, Clifford?"
As Cliff walked back into the kitchen, Carlo Beni turned as if he'd been caught in
the act. He looked startled. He looked toward Big Mary. Cliff saw guilt, but what was
he guilty of? He said, "Carlos, I'm afraid I have to go. Like the rest of us, I'm sorry.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness." He tried to slow down.
Yanno said, "I'm glad you could come."
"Goodbye, Carlos, I'll be talking to you." They shook hands.
Big Mary said, "I'll go too. Good night all."
Big Mary caught up with him. Side by side, they reached the living room, and
called out "Good night," opened the door and left.
"I know for a fact that she was instrumental in hiding at least two of the top
political fugitives of the early 70's," Yanno said. "I also believe she has quite a bit of
money, but she keeps up a good front. In her gingham dress."
He handed Clifford a corkscrew and two chilled bottles.
By 3:30 that morning it was apparent to Clifford that Yanno was losing his mind.
Together they had polished off five bottles of the stuff, and now they were alone in the
living room. It amazed Cliff how everything remained so neat and clean after one of
Yanno sat on the couch; Clifford sat on a chair next to him. "Where is that
spirally bitch," Yanno asked leaning back. "Do you know?"
"Yes," Cliff laughed. "This may break your heart, Carlos, but I've been sleeping
"Oh, you have," he said, sitting up and leaning toward him. "Exquisite, isn't she?
You're kind of a bastard, aren't you, Cliff. A sliding, conniving kind of guy."
"You know better than that."
"I do?" His eyebrows went up. Clifford was seeing precisely the kind of reaction
he had hoped for.
"You threw her out," he said. "A few overtures and she'll be back."
"Why don't you, ah?"
"You see how ridiculous it is. You can't even say it. I enjoy her company, but
living together with a woman is not for me. I'm no threat to you, Carlos."
Yanno raised a clasped hand to his mouth and tongued the knuckle of his left
God, he was strange. "I don't know why you don't marry her and have children.
What else are you going to do with your life?"
"Do you know the only reason I'm considering this?"
"What's her phone number?"
"Thank you. Help yourself to the coke. I'm going to bed."
Yanno stood. He looked wobbly. Clifford followed him into the bedroom,
reached into the armoire, and picked up what was left.
Yanno slipped into his dressing gown, a heavily brocaded satin robe. It was torn
under the left sleeve.
Clifford nodded. "Good night, Carlos."
"Okay, you crazy fucker," he said, and turned and fell into bed. "Make sure you
lock the door on your way out. And don't let the sun up!"
Walking around San Francisco at a quarter to four in the morning with a quarter
ounce of cocaine in his jacket, and wine on his breath, he decided to stand at a bus stop.
It was late enough that anyone seeing him standing there might think he was on his way
He had been surviving for years without work. Not that he hadn't done his share,
but he could see there were larger issues. He didn't mind dealing for a living, but he felt
he couldn't get big enough; either he didn't have the resources, or the brains. Playing the
horses was still a possibility.
Sitting in front of him was the opportunity of a lifetime. Yanno had the money,
Bruno had the organizational ability, and he had the fuel. It looked like the forces were
operating in his favor. If he could bring the three of them together, he thought, he might
pull it off.
He thought about Yanno, how fifteen years ago, he had, supposedly, devised new
methods for bringing in the cocaine; how he had become an expert at covering his tracks.
Yanno often bragged he didn't think a law enforcement agency in the world connected
him with the drug traffic. Yet, he was frightened as a hare; as the next man caught in
Clifford thought he now had an edge, that psychological difference that could set
his life to music. Attacked from all sides, its basic tenet, the pearl, remained firm. The
core was a miracle, the essence of all religions.
A woman hung over the street vomiting.
Bruno, the Great Bruno, for that was how Clifford really thought of him,
answered his sister's buzzer with a friendly and comical "Helloo."
Cliff said "Hello" back. "Are you receiving?"
"Mr. Mason," he said through the intercom, "please come up." Bruno laughed as
Clifford came up the last flight of stairs. "You look tired, Clifford." Bruno stood with
one hand on the balustrade. "Why didn't you take the elevator," Bruno continued.
"I need the exercise. I guess you've heard of Mouton's death."
Bruno nodded ceremoniously; he was more interested in the present.
His sister's apartment was sparsely furnished.
They sat around the kitchen table along with an overflowing ashtray and two
"I've decided to take you up on your offer," Bruno said. "Yes, I'm pleased. I've
been thinking about it and I believe the first step is finding and then applying the money."
Bruno raised his eyebrows and gave Clifford his Cheshire cat smile.
"Yes, I know. I'll be talking to Yanno either today or tomorrow. You're going to
handle all the publicity."
"Well." He folded his arms. "I suppose you'll be preparing a sermon."
"I'm sure I will."
"You know, we shouldn't have this coldness between us."
"I'm keeping an eye on ya."
"That's a good idea, eh?" Bruno said.
"Mmm. This is going to be a celebration. I don't think right now you can believe
what's going to happen, but the one thing I'm not, in this, is an idealist. The thing you
must remember is that this is not a vehicle for your own expansion. This is something for
everyone. Do you understand?"
"I am myself." Bruno spreads his arms. "I am a big man, as you can see. I love
crowds, I love the stage, and I love people. I should have been an opera star, but I had no
voice, or a transvestite, but I wasn't partial to dresses or make-up. You can't suppress
it . . . and you, Clifford, no longer have the stomach for it."
"George, what role do you see yourself in, besides the organizer of publicity?"
"I want to be the master of ceremonies."
"You got it."
In front of a large audience he couldn't help but impress them with his large, grey
Clifford sat back. "You must be pleased,” he said.
"Indeed, Mr. Mason, indeed."
He had no idea what Jule did for a living, but if her apartment was any evidence,
she had not been gifted with a high paying job.
He stepped back onto the street. In the bus stop three boys, maybe eight or nine
years old, had broken a wine bottle, and were kicking the pieces of glass against a liquor
store wall. An old woman wearing a ski cap, curls coming down over her ears, finished
eating a Neato Burrito, and let the wrapper fall to the sidewalk.
He dialed Yanno from a corner phone booth. Yanno said, "I'm busy right now,
you know." He said it as if it took a monumental effort to speak. "I'll talk to you
"Fine. I'll see you at eleven o'clock. It's important."
"Okay." Yanno sounded resigned. He could picture him: the contrite lover,
saying, "I've missed you, Spire," and Spire holding his hands and smothering him with
Carlos Yanno and Clifford Mason sat in the garden overlooking the pool.
Yanno's upper lip curled over his teeth and his mouth was slightly open. His hair had
"My plan," Clifford said, "is to make t-shirts with the letters G.I.V.E. on the front,
and the explanation on the back, to organize an event to kick off with, and to eventually
build a center, a kind of clearing house for new ideas, a club where everyone is
"That's what a church is, isn't it?"
"Yes. It would be member-supported. We would need a half million to begin
with. I think you, Bruno, and I would be on the board of directors."
"What about Spire?"
"That would be nice if we could manage it."
"Yeah." He looked out over the pool. "I think I'm going to go for a swim," he
said. "I don't know if I like the sound of this."
He stood up, slipped out of his robe and walked, bare ass, down the hill. He
turned. "I'll think about it while I swim," he said, and nodded as if to agree with himself.
Cliff went back into the house to get another cup of coffee. He wondered if
Yanno had proposed to Spire. It would be easier for Yanno to change gears if he had
Spire to keep him company.
Yanno came back up the hill. He was talking. "You know we have to
incorporate, now, before they rewrite the non-profit organization laws. We'll need a
lawyer. Probably Kennedy. I'll have the money transferred to the corporate bank
account with only you and I having withdrawal signatures."
Yanno reached over his chair and pulled on his gown.
"Isn't that okay?"
Clifford nodded. Yanno sat down.
"I have your new number."
"Well, we both have a lot of work to do."
"It's going to be a lot of fun, Doctor."
Carlos nodded, and said, "It's a new life."
"Don't look so sad."
"It's not sadness."
"It looks like a frown."
"Like the barber says, one learns you can't please everybody."
Clifford leaned forward a little.
"What d'ya mean?"
Yanno closed his eyes and smiled.
"I mean you've got to take care of yourself," Yanno said. "You've got to make
"It's the ways people have of doing that which surprises me," Clifford replied.
"Well, I have something else to tell you, and it may not make you very happy, but
there's nothing I can do about that."
"It's about Mouton."
"I killed him."
Carlos squinted at him. "Mouton was blackmailing me. I suffer from an
emotional condition, something like consumption. People excite me to the point of
madness. My whole body begins to shake, including my brain. I know it sounds crazy,
but you see, I can't control myself. It's degenerative. I need certain drugs to keep me
calm. Like sedatives, only the opposite. Cocaine, occasionally did it, but it was a
degenerative drug. I've been experimenting for years. At first a derivative of Ayahuasca,
a South American liana, harmine, did the trick. I was getting very used to it, you could
say, bored by it, and I was in the middle of concocting a new chemical compound, a
combination of two drugs in conjunction with harmine. John was here. You must
Yanno leaned toward Clifford.
"I had the drug prepared. I asked him, 'How would you like to try this
experimental drug,' you know? He asked me what was in it. I told him. About a month
ago he had drunk Ayahuasca for the first time."
Yanno stood up from the chair. His face was twisted; his nails dug into his skin.
"Life is an experiment," he said, calming down.
"Of course, Doctor, what happened then?"
"He took the drug, and about an hour later had a massive coronary."
With his left hand, Yanno began to squeeze his eyebrows together and pull the
Clifford put his arms around him. "Come on, let's go inside."
"He knew he was taking a risk," Clifford said.
"Yes, fuck, yes," he repeated. "It was horrible."
"Let's go inside."
"I'd better go to bed now."
"Yes. Who else knows."
Together they opened the door.
"The Padre drove the body over."
"It's amazing no one saw him." As they went through the door, Yanno looked up
at him in horror. "Maybe someone did," he said.
He slid into his covers. Clifford stood at the foot of the bed. Yanno propped
"Before you leave, bring me the phone. No matter how we may feel, we still have
business to attend to."
"Did you type the letters?"
Yanno placed the phone on his stomach. "Yes."
"Thanks for the sword."
He wasn't aware of any laboratory Yanno might have had, but then maybe it was
He was staring at the sun. It was a question of honor. Hard to swallow. The
closer he got to Yanno, the crazier, and more of a liar, he seemed. Clifford was nodding
his head automatically, but he had no idea what to think. It was too late to back out now.
Clifford thought of his first year in a Jesuit military academy when the freshman
president had declared that the new quarterback was to be his prize whipping boy. For
protection, he had aligned himself with two of the largest linemen, Cioti and Laughlin.
They spent most of their time together outside the school. Clifford always felt a little
ashamed that he didn't challenge the other freak's authority. Now, here he was in a
similar spot. Deep down, he must have harbored a feeling of inferiority. The other boy
was stronger and smarter than he was. If he had applied his energy, concentrated, he
knew he might have taken him, but he had drifted. The other boy must have known he
He pushed the faded velvet curtain and entered Mauna Loa, always dark and
quiet. His contact sat at the far side of the horseshoe bar. Clifford walked by him and
into the bathroom. Within minutes, the other man, Gunnar, followed and locked the door
Gunnar said, "Clifford Ray, how are you?"
"Look at this. Five hundred," Clifford said. "It's the best."
"Oh, I know," Gunnar said, and took the package and handed Clifford five $100
"Well, George, did you get the news?"
"Mr. Mason, I've come to the conclusion that you are a genius. It's fantastic. My
instinct has again been proven correct. A fine instrument for survival. Dr. Carlos Yanno
called me in and in no uncertain terms outlined the corporation and where I was to sit.
It's fine with me."
"What did he say, George?"
George's voice dropped. This maneuver made it sound like a trigger being
"He told me about the money. How he was setting up a non-profit and asked if I
would be the advertising manager."
Bruno burped and said, "Excuse me."
"Would you like to handle the public relations, that's what he said. I hear you
have some knowledge of the field."
"That was it?"
"That was it, except for saying that you would call and give me the details."
"Okay, I'm going to take $40,000 out of the bank and I want one-tenth of that to
go into the making of t-shirts with Dr. Yanno's name on one quarter, 'The Padre Lives' on
one quarter, G.I.V.E. on each of their backs and the other half just the letters G.I.V.E. on
the front and the explanation in small lettering on the back, 'God's Inner Vision for
Everyone,' 'For Everyone' in bolder letters. All colors and one style. I want at least 3,000
of them. For fifteen grand I want you to reserve full page ads in the local papers and take
space on billboards. Set up your checking account. I want money shifted into your
account this afternoon. I'll call you later and give you the rest of the information. Your
salary is $400 a week."
"Adequate," he chuckled. "Actually," he said, curling in upon himself, "that's
very generous. You know it's all done with press releases."
"Bruno," Clifford said, "did you ever hear of the 'mental patient manifesto'? It
was something that was being passed around in the cities two years ago. It went, and I
quote, 'mental patients are part of the untouchable class of humanity in America.' In
India, they go into a village, round up several untouchables and shoot them in the village
square. The untouchables who see this quit fighting and give up their human rights.
They would do it the same way here in America if they thought they could get away with
it. So they do it in a lot of different ways. So clever, and covered, it is almost impossible
to prove it is happening. But you and I know it is. The American Civil Liberties Union
needs to hear from you. Please telephone or go to the office."
Cliff sat back and looked out the kitchen window.
"They were really getting fucked over. Reagan had thrown them out of the
"Fine," Bruno said. "Excellent. This movement is for everyone."
"All right, I'll talk to you later."
Clifford knew Bruno was an elitist. It was the reason Bruno refused to speak
Bruno was about six years his father's junior. Clifford thought the magician
concealed himself in too much bullshit, too many nodding agreements. He never spoke
of his troubles, never of his defeats.
Bruno lived in a fantasy world where he was the star, the main attraction. His gift
was that, sometimes, he could make people believe it.
Sausalito had once been a proud and hard-working artists' colony, but now, like
everything connected with the city, it was exploited for commercial purposes. It had
fancy, overpriced boutiques, jewelry stores specializing in cocaine paraphernalia, and
overpriced restaurants. The last of the poorer artists had been driven out of the
houseboats when a developer bought the property next to the water and asked the city to
declare the houseboats trespassers on his property. When the artists protested, the city
responded with helmeted cops wielding batons and pressurized hoses.
As he came up Bridgeway, Clifford noticed the Padre's Model Cab in the Trident
parking lot. He could see Yanno was in the back, and with him sat a shadowy Spire. He
stopped about 20 feet from the cab. The Padre swung out of the driver's seat and walked
toward him. He walked bow-legged like a cowboy who'd been on his horse too long.
His gaunt face, on which he wore black-rimmed glasses, arched into a grin that reminded
Clifford of a dinosaur mouth.
"Hi, Buddy," he said.
"Hi, how you doing?"
"Fine. We're having a good time."
They walked over to the car and Cliff opened the door. The Padre stood next to
"I've proposed," Yanno said, sitting back on the other side of the car. He wore a
black suit with a white shirt and a polka-dot tie.
Clifford looked to Spire. It was as if the lights of Vegas had fallen, permanently,
into her flesh.
"May I kiss your fiancé?" he asked.
He reached in and kissed her carefully on the mouth. She reached out and gently
held his cheek. His eyes slid over and met Yanno's watching eyeballs.
"Congratulations," he said. "I am happy for you both."
"Will you join us for lunch?" Yanno asked.
"Just a taste," he said, and he helped Spire out of the car.
Yanno spoke a few private words to the Padre, who then stepped back into his
Inside, on the deck of the Trident, Carlos was in high spirits. He pointed out a
"cigarette" boat. It was sixty feet of elegant power as it drifted by Angel Island. Yanno
said, "It's a smuggler's boat capable of speeds of over ninety miles an hour."
Yanno leaned toward him.
"We're going to have a big wedding, Cliff. I think you'll be able to use it for
"Is that wise?"
"Yes. It's all right."
"Why wouldn't it be?" Spire asked.
"I don't know. You'll probably attract a lot of attention."
"I think that's what we're going to do," Carlos said, "and film it. I'm in the
process of selling the shop, and then we're going to go a-traveling."
Spire smiled. "It's fabulous," she said. "I can hardly believe it."
Clifford poured her, Yanno, and himself another glass.
"I really can't stay long," he said, and raised his wine glass.
"Believe it, Cliff," Yanno said, and slowly shook his head up and down.
"What will you do when you get back?"
Spire laughed. Her euphoria was catching.
"I don't know yet."
"I mean how are you going to occupy your time, Doctor?"
"I don't know. What shall I do?"
"Rely on your instincts."
"You're a wise man, Clifford. What are your immediate plans?" His agate eyes
Across the water Clifford saw the fog rolling through the gate.
"I have work to do," he said. "You know that."
"Goodbye," Spire said. "See you soon."
G.I.V.E. was against all forms of abuse.
The Padre drove by. He stopped the car in front of Clifford. Then, waved him
over. "Come here," he demanded, "I want to talk to you."
Clifford shook his head. He didn't like the tone.
"C'mon," the Padre said.
"Come in," he said.
"Are you going to throw the meter?"
The street was lined with poplars, the road went straight up.
"What Yanno told you about Mouton was a lie. He was testing you."
Clifford watched him.
He wore his matter-of-fact expression, basically hard, denoting his awareness of
the strangeness of life.
"I don't care one way or the other, Padre."
"Is that so?" The Padre took off his glasses.
"Don't you think it matters?"
"I don't know. I suppose it's the lawyer in me."
"Well, it doesn't matter because it's nobody's business, but our own. And either
way it has nothing to do with our goals.
Maybe Yanno thought he was playing with his mind, but it was his heart that
ached. Death lay at the bottom of these contradictions. Meetings like the one with the
Padre tried to change the course of things but couldn't. Mouton had been a friend of his,
but his death was not his problem. It didn't matter whether Yanno had helped him to die,
A familiar voice called out to him from the kitchen as he entered his front door.
"Who the hell is that?"
It was Detective Knightsbridge, leaning against Clifford's stove, his eyes cocked.
"How the hell did you get in here?"
"Doing a little investigating, son."
He looked electrocuted. His hair seemed a mass of light, red waves. His face, a
battered orange to begin with, was grimy like a little boy's. He wore dusty overalls and
"I find it a lot easier to go right to the source. You clean your own house?"
Clifford was flabbergasted.
Red laughed. "I wouldn't want to be your age. From where I sit, the party's over.
I'm gonna retire and put a machine gun on my terrace. It'll overlook the front steps. Out
back will be a sheer drop. Me and the rest of 'em over here will defend our territory.
There are going to be a lot of people scrambling for crumbs. Look at your poor friend on
Sacramento Street. He was straight, wasn't he?"
"Where did you miss the boat, Red? If you don't mind I'd like you to leave."
"Call me if you come up with anything."
Clifford twisted in his sleep.
Knightsbridge would put a machine gun on his terrace; he felt threatened by the
forces exerting themselves in the world. His reaction was widespread. The 1979
California ballot indicated the extent of the fear.
The two major initiatives were, one: an antigay item, originating in Florida, which
said homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to teach children for they influenced their sexual
behavior. The second was called Proposition 13. Its rallying cry was "Stop the
government spending. Curb government waste. Give the homeowners a smaller tax to
pay." Its effect would be to limit educational facilities.
Clifford thought it was all part of an attempt by the aging power structure to shore
up, to plant their idea of the world in every emerging head.
Bruno moved smoothly across the floor talking into his instrument. He cradled it,
gripped it like a scepter, purred into it, summoning yesses from the other side.
"Fine," he said. "I'll send you a check in the morning. "Fine," he repeated loudly,
as he slammed the phone down. "That was a t-shirt manufacturer."
"We have to line up some celebrities," Clifford said, "before we break these ads."
Bruno looked at Clifford.
"Yes, my friend, I sure would like to get Jule in on this, but she has a terrible
phone manner. I don't know what she could do." He let his words drift. "I know just
who I'm going to call," he snapped back, "Just in case, I kept, Mr. Mason just in case
something like this occurred, a notebook with the names and addresses and phone
numbers of all the stars on the left coast. This is good."
He nodded again. "How about a glass of wine?"
George returned from the kitchen holding two plastic yellow glasses filled to the
brim with red wine.
"Louis Martini, Pinot Noir, 1973," he whispered. "To you, my friend," he said.
"The first time I met you at the amusement park, I knew we were linked to share a great
"To your health, George," Clifford repeated, "and to the fact that we are doing
this for others and not solely for ourselves." He raised his eyes.
"Of course," he replied, and drank the wine.
That slightly sinking feeling Clifford had toward Bruno was his knowledge of the
"What about Knightsbridge?"
"Mouton's death doesn't interest Knightsbridge, Clifford, and the police
department wants him out. The town no longer has sympathy for his kind. I think you
have to watch your paranoia. I don't have time to do any thorough checking."
"Okay, we've got the ads breaking in three weeks. I'm renting one store front at
Fillmore and California. We'll do the beginning work there. I intend to wear my Ben
Franklin glasses, eh?"
"Good touch," Bruno said.
"Now listen, we're going to tie the centers into a job exchange. Three weeks from
today, after the pre-publicity has made its way, I want you to have three celebrities come
up and participate to dramatize the event, the idea would be for them to work regular
jobs. It will be a demonstration, an alternative to the present philosophy of employment.
Instead of training people in one job, G.I.V.E. will propose a job exchange. Bankers will
exchange jobs with construction workers, successful actors with construction workers,
cab drivers with insurance salesmen, fishermen with farmers, farmers with salesmen,
waitresses with dress designers, architects with cops . . . Ultimately, we hope to see a
broader educational base. People would still choose professions, but they would get a
chance say once every eight years to see, to try something else, to see what the other guy
is doing. My reasoning is that all professions become incestuous. Lawyers deal only
with lawyers, waitresses with other waitresses. This begins to encourage idiocy, and that
permits our barbaric foreign and domestic policies.
"Idling with one's own kind has created a nation of dwarfs. It's an old story,"
Bruno continued, "Man is driven to market. Do you know Keys?"
"You mean Francis Scott?"
"No. This one has written a number of books in our time. He has shown, Mr.
Mason, how in a picture advertising a scotch, a crystal filler with ice cubes is, also, a
picture of something quite different. Inside one of the cubes is an elaborate air brush
painting depicting torn limbs, monsters, and death masks. These bloodsuckers, and I
know them well, have found that the consumers buy more when there are images of
death, perverted sex, and destruction slipped in. The idea is that we receive the message
"That's close to treason."
"Maybe Keyes is hypnotizing everyone else into thinking these images are there.
Do you have a copy of the book?"
"No. I don't think so. These artists are paid to put those images there."
"I can't understand," he said, "why they constantly appeal to self-destruction
instead of self-creation."
Clifford peered into his friend. He saw him leafing through his little black book,
saw him sitting in his robe, pitching them, then listening to the effect his sound made. If
there were arguments, protestation, he would launch into the financial, moral, aesthetic,
and political virtues of his project. When it came down to it, Bruno offered the same as
the other advertisers, from the first oracles to the pompous Ogilvy, protection from day-
to-day friction, a place to hide.
Tuesday, the ad broke; Tuesday, the doors would open and by Wednesday the
actor, Paul Newman, would begin a two day stint driving a cab. The Padre had
generously supplied his. Thursday and Friday, Barbra Streisand would wait on tables.
Friday, Liza Minelli would be included among the mimes at Ghirardelli. The topper
would occur on Sunday afternoon; Luciano Pavarotti, the Earth's greatest singer, would
perform in Golden Gate Park. It would be a free concert with the San Francisco
Symphony backing him up.
Sunday arrived. He awoke with a headache. With poached eggs and wheat toast,
he went out onto the back porch to watch the white stuff gather in one corner, billowing
like parachutes up against the mountain. Today, it would surround the bay, a luminous
wall of protection.
The phone rang. Bruno said, "I guess you haven't heard. Moscone and Milk were
shot this morning. Dan White shot them in their offices. I was listening to it on the
radio. Then, it was reported that a salesman on Van Ness Avenue spotted White and his
wife walking past his window."
"There's going to be a scandal."
"Going to be?" he laughed.
"The t-shirts are doing nicely. And gold is beginning to rise."
"What do you think about a huge concert after this Pavarotti thing? We're known.
We'll say it's the first Annual G.I.V.E. Concert for the Starving Artist; and we'll solicit
applications in all the major dailies."
"Please, don't panic."
"I have a lot of groups in mind."
"Yes. Are you going to be there today?"
"Of course. Yes, okay. There's one complication. I received a call, just a few
minutes ago from the acting mayor. She would like to turn the performance in the park
into a requiem for our fallen leaders."
"Have they caught White yet?"
"He gave himself up."
"How about in memory of. Just have Pavarotti say . . . in memory of."
"Didn't you know? Haig took complete control during Nixon's breakdown. It's
obvious. He represents the fusion of the corporate and military minds. He's the obvious
ruler. Now to the matter at hand, see if you can get this connection. Moscone appointed
Jones. Being a politician, it was a political appointment. His poor judgment in that
matter was beginning to trouble him. Some said, after Guyana broke, that Moscone was
finished as a politician. Once again, in the White affair, we have him exercising poor,
moral judgment, opting for a move that can only be described as politically expedient.
By changing his mind about White, by giving in to Harvey, he side-stepped the moral
issue, the right thing to do. Wrong action creates wrong action."
"To begin with, no one should profit by their sitting there. That's the problem."
"Oh, most of them are set before they get on the board. White was an anomaly."
The park was crowded.
People hung from the limbs of trees; they spilled out onto the museum lawn.
Clifford stayed at the perimeter.
Standing on the stage, in front of a half-orchestra, Pavarotti, in black shirt and
white tie, and Bruno, resplendent in a white Russian shirt and jogging togs, had their
arms about one another. Behind them, a large banner, with the letters G.I.V.E., stretched
across the bowl. They swayed back and forth to the sounds of the orchestra. Apparently,
Bruno had made an introduction. Now, he was tipping his hand in salute and leaving the
Pavarotti, sweet and gangster like, began the first aria. It lasted three minutes.
There was a tumult of hand clapping and then roses were flung onto the stage. He
gathered one up and looked out, with seal eyes, at the clapping and then raised one finger
to his lips and the crowd boiled down. He began again, seemingly flinging open the vault
After each song, the roaring of the crowd became a kind of song in itself. Even
the police, sitting on top of their horses, seemed beside themselves. Pavarotti took
everyone into his private conversation with God.
After the first hour, he daubed at his face, his handkerchief in constant, but
Clifford noticed Detective Knightbridge to the left near the first horseman.
Cliff craned his neck and caught a glimpse of him again before someone moved,
obstructing his view.
The songs ended. Pavarotti scooped as many roses as he could and bowed deeply
to his orchestra and then turned to the crowd. From the wings, Bruno came on, dancing,
walking on a cloud. Again, they threw their arms around one another. Bruno bent down
to the microphone. "Will you, please, make way for the man who made this
magnificence possible. He's in the back, the co-founder of G.I.V.E., Clifford Mason.
Please, Mr. Mason, I saw you. Come up."
As he moved toward the stage, he received blows on the back. Instinctively, he
threaded his way toward the steps and looked to the left and saw Knightsbridge moving
across his vision. Pavarotti embraced him. Clifford turned to the audience. "We're
always about to begin," he said. Knightsbridge was now below him; his face a neon
pomegranate and in his hand he held a toad like thing. Cliff saw a flash. He noticed
Pavarotti hold out his hand and the last thing he heard was Bruno scream like a bird.
A man in his late twenties in a large overcoat and carrying a camera case and a tripod
walks toward the Washington Monument. Ten yards from the base of the monument, the
young man sets up his tripod and places his camera upon it. He walks back toward the
monument and turns around to face the camera. He unbuttons his large overcoat and tosses
it onto the ground. Strapped to his waist is a belt of explosives. He begins to talk to the
“I always know when I am out of sorts when I cannot bring myself to write or call
you, and for this past month is has been difficult. In ‘difficult’, I mean I find myself
unable to explain myself, and the longer I wait, the greater this difficulty becomes.”
Inside a monitoring station a mile from the Washington Monument, an older
woman looks at a screen. She sees the young man standing in front of the monument.
She zeroes in on the belt of explosives. She reaches for the telephone and alerts the
“Code blue at the W.M.. Looks like he’s wired to blow.”
A few moments later, she watches in horror as the young man blows into
The security force arrives. A helicopter circles above. In front of them are the
shattered remains of the young man. The camera in unharmed.
Inside a Washington D.C. newsroom day.
There is a reporter. She is, also, a spy. Her father is a Persian King and an
inventor; her mother is an Anglo Catholic with real blonde hair and a Master’s in
Political Science. In the newsroom where she works it is Sunday. She sits at her desk.
Her name is Heather Ahmid. She is one of four people working that day.
She is concentrating on completing a story about the young man who blew
himself up that day. Against the far wall, satellite feeds from all over the world bleed
through the TV monitors .
The young man who looks like a young Abraham Lincoln thinks the Big Business
Partnership between the media and politics is an evil thing. Evil. Like cutting down rain
forests. Heather met him at an anti-globalization rally. Now there are two parcels on her
desk. She better look before continuing. She shuts down the PC. The first envelope
contains an invitation from her boss, Colonel Alexander Rand. The second envelope
contains a disc. She slips it into the Sony vid cam.
The long-bearded face of George stares back at her. His eyes glitter clear and
bright. He says, “I always know that I am out of sorts when I cannot bring myself to
write or call you, and for this past month it has been difficult. In “difficult,” I mean I find
myself unable to explain myself, and the longer I wait, the greater this difficulty
becomes. Finally, I have no choice but to send this to you. Follow me.”
George walks a few feet.
“As you can see, Heather, I’m strapped in.” He tugs at the explosives wrapped
around his waist.
“Originally, I was going to take a few tourists with me. But your remark the other
afternoon got me to thinking. You’re right. I wasn’t made for this world.”
Heather stops the P.C. and moves away from her desk. Two photos accompany
the note. She slices open the envelope.
The white man is Dave Anders and the Chinese gentleman is Ho Sin Mae. Anders
will be your next assignment. If you’re free this afternoon, you can drop by my place for
Colonel Alexander Rand.
She returns to George who explodes. She toys with the image- speeding it up and
slowing it down. She shuts the P.C., opens a drawer, removes a single page of copy and
with the disc, slides it into an envelope. She stands with her P.C., the envelope and walks
across the near-empty newsroom. She stops in front of an old woman's desk. The old
woman has her back to Heather.
“Excuse me, Margaret.”
Margaret turns and smiles.
“Hello, darling. What’s up?”
“Ned wanted to see this for possible inclusion on the evening news. He instructed
me to have you peruse it.”
“All right, dear. You can count on it, as soon as I’m done here. Did ya hear about
the horse that came into Baker’s the other night? Really. The bartender, you know Joey,
he looks at the horse. He asks, ‘Why the long face’?”
Heather smiles slightly.
“Sorry, Margaret. It’s been a weird day.”
Heather walks out of the building and into the D.C. sunshine. A cab waits at the
curb. She is silent during the ride to Colonel Rand’s townhouse. The doorman tips his
hat and she instructs the elevator man to the fourth floor.
Colonel Rand, a tall, gray-haired man of 55, waits for her in his apartment. He sits
in a big, easy chair listening to a Stockhausen recording from 1959. Hearing the buzzer,
he stands to let her in.
“Heather, what’s the matter?”
“Fenn killed himself last night and recorded it with instructions to give me a copy
of the video.”
“Here. Let me take this stuff from you. Don't let the turkey's get you down,
Heather. He was a goner long before he met you. “
Heather shakes her head. “You’re right. You’re right.”
“Please. Just let me catch my breath. I’ll be all right.”
She slumps into his easy chair. Colonel Rand comes back into the living room
with two Becks and pulls up a chair to sit in front of her. He hands her the bottle. She
takes a swallow. They clink bottles. He moves back into a chair. They each have a few
“I can't believe that prick did that to me. I was this close to a complete analysis.”
“Who's doing the psychological autopsy?”
“I don't know.”
Colonel Rand reaches into his attaché case and brings out a file on Dave Anders,
Ho Sin Mae and Jonathan Canne.
“This is big, Heather. Your father will be proud you are assigned to this. Have
you spoken to him recently?”
“Last week. He was in great shape.”
Colonel Rand tosses their photos onto the coffee table.
“I've never seen such a devoted couple as these two. They have discovered a new
energy source. We're introducing you to the younger one tomorrow at the White House.
A few days later you'll fly to where this gentleman works and... you know the drill. We
want you to get close to him. As close as you can get. We have to know what he's
“Would you mind putting on another musician?”
“Sorry honey. How about Ofra Haza?”
Colonel Rand stands and slides in the latest Ofra Haza disc.
“Do I communicate with you?”
“No. You stay on the ground. Close to him. That's all.”
Colonel Rand sits and listens to Ofra Haza for a few moments. Heather stands and
stretches. She breathes a sigh of relief.
Heather look at this. Dr. David Anders, mathematician/scientist, currently
working for The Center of Exploration. The Center is a branch of the State Department
near Palo Alto. He’s regarded as the world's top bio-physicist specializing in bio-kinetic
energy research since 1986. He's regarded as a true genius in scientific circles for his
This is his teacher, Ho Sin Mae. He's China's premier mathematician/scientist.
He taught at Stanford, where he and Dr. Anders became professional colleagues and best
friends. We are sure he is close to the discovery. Three weeks ago, communication
between them was disallowed for security reasons, but transmission between them has
Dr. Jonathan Canne, Chief of Staff for The Center of Exploration. He is the main
operative for the State Department. Considered a conscientious objector by U.S.
officials. Close personal contact with Anders. He has contacts everywhere. Even with
your father. We don't know who he's backing at this point.
“What's his relationship with my father?”
“They worked on the carboatplane together. Dr. Canne was one of the first pilots.
“Oh. That’s great. Have you ever flown it, Alex?”
“No. It’s more of a toy than a fighting machine. What time is the party? I’ll pick
you up at nine.”
It’s hot in D.C. The night wind is blowing, the trees are moving. Stars are
flashing in the sky. Sounds of music come from the building to the left, mixed with
laughter. Guards are like human shades against the walls, here and there, under the trees,
and close to the bushes. The large gate opens. Two human shades move to the left and
one to the right. Two headlights appear. A limo enters through the gate.
The darkness of the limo is pierced with light. Colonel Rand sits next to Heather.
The door opens and the shoe of a man appears, and then the other. The man steps out.
Heather’s legs appear from inside the limo. Her hand reaches for the door. She starts to
walk. Her heels get stuck between the stones. She is falling. He grabs her. He wants to
hold her, but she gets away with a polite ‘thank you.’
Small ground lamps light the way to the great White House. Her hat covers her
face as he leads her by the arm to the door.
He is dressed in a black tuxedo. She is dressed in a tight gray skirt and black vest
to her waist. Her black hair is cut short. In the darkness, she is a mystery. The guard by
the door smiles.
The rooms are large and men in tuxedos and women in evening wear are scattered
throughout the Great House.
As they walk inside, people are saying ‘hello.’ Waiters walk round with trays full
of champagne. Dancers move across the massive seal of the U.S. Eagle. The party, being
led by a 30-piece band, is gracious and elegant.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to welcome you, on behalf of the
President of the United States, to this final evening of the International Energy
Conference. I think the President has a few words for you.”
General applause as the President walks up, shakes the hand of the Announcer,
and has a short laugh with him.
“Hello. Well… This time, I think we can safely say we’ve done it.”
He looks once to the left and slowly, with a smile, turns his head to the right. He
sees everyone in the room looking at him.
“I would like to end this Conference by expressing my overwhelming gratitude to
all of the individuals who compose this team. This has been the most exciting conference
I’ve attended. Period. Every person here tonight is very special to me, to my family, and
to this country.
Col. Rand notices David Anders and Ho Sin Mae standing at the bar. He nods to
Dr. Anders, dressed in a black suit and loose tie, is 43. He stands next to Ho Sin.
Ho Sin is a man in his 50s, 5’8” with a round, clear face, tall, gray haired and dressed in a
dark gray, Chinese-style outfit. His black eyes stare at Dave.
“Well, Dave, I must be going soon. The gentlemen await.”
Dave bows slightly to Ho Sin.
Two Chinese diplomats watch them from the right corner of the bar.
“You see what I see?” Dave points at Rand.
“The bait is in the trap.”
Ho Sin stares at Rand. Across the room, Rand’s boss, Jack Follet comes over to
Heather and the colonel and blocks Ho Sin’s view.
Follet says, “Between you and me, I’d kill him.”
Heather raises her eyebrows. “That’s an interesting point.”
Follet turns and looks at Ho Sin, then turns back to Col. Rand.
“I thought you’d like that.”
Rand watches as Ho Sin and the Chinese leave. Ho Sin stops at the door to say
good-bye to Dr. Jonathan Canne, head of the Center for Exploration, and PROF. Kaplin,
special advisor to the President. She smiles. Rand takes a deep breath.
“They’re all here. The hideous gang.”
Follet looks across the room in the same direction as Rand. Follet points him
toward Prof. Kaplin.
“Prof. Kaplin wants a word with you. Meet her over there.”
Follet grabs Heather gently by the arm.
“This is a very big deal, my dear. And I know with your way of doing things . . .
Well, he’s over there. Go to him now.”
Across the room, Anders stands idly by the bar.
Anders looks around the room, then he looks at Heather. He smiles briefly.
Slowly, he walks up to her and stops. He puts his hands into his pants pocket and looks at
“That’s where the danger lies—in the bubbles.”
Heather, holding her drink with her left hand looks at her glass, then up to him. Her eyes
“If bubbles were all the danger there was, I’d be one.”
Anders, with his chin hanging low and only his eyes moving, answers as if he just
“And safety is important. My name’s Dave.”
Heather, takes another sip from her glass. Her red lipstick sticks to the glass. She
wears light make-up around her eyes. “I’m Heather Ahmid.”
“So, are you one of us or them?”
She laughs. “Which one are you?”
“A Saving Sanity Scientist.”
“Good. Then I’m one of you.”
“Really? What do you think of cold fusion?”
Heather takes a moment. “I’m 100% for solar.”
“Really? What’s your field?”
“Telekinetics and energy research.”
“Oh really! That’s interesting. I’m one of the main men in that field. I mean
“For Exploration and Research in Portola Valley.”
“Oh, that’s even more interesting. I’m being transferred there.”
“Well, this is actually some good news. I’ll be watched by you.”
She looks up to him. Her self assurance lapses slightly. “Is that so?”
Inside the surveillance room large TV screens and security monitors cover most
of the walls. Security guards stand in front the screens. Some move around passing
papers and informing each other. There is a big wooden table in the middle of the room,
on top of which is a complete holographic model of the House and the grounds. Dr.
Kaplin stands next to a heavy wooden seat. She looks uneasy. Thick carpet covers the
floor. Colonel Rand stands next to Prof. Kaplin.
Dr. Kaplin looks at Rand. She is serious and direct.
“The trade-off with the Chinese and the absence of Dr. Mae are going to
Rand looks down at his feet. “How so?”
“We gain nothing by giving him up, and we loose our trump card in case Dr.
Anders doesn’t make it. I think we’re going to miss the boat on this one.”
“That remains to be seen.”
Dr. Kaplin turns and leaves the Surveillance Room.
A thirteen-piece band begins a song by Cowboy Junkies, ‘If I Were a Woman.’
Anders asks, would you like to dance?”
“Testing the theory. Can scientists dance?”
“This is only a test, right? Not an actual emergency?”
“Oh, and even if it were …?”
They walk to the dance floor and begin.
“So, how do you like government intervention in your life?”
She pulls back.
Anders continues, “They look at things under their magnifying glass until it
catches fire and burns. I have heard a government official say, ‘We didn’t imagine that
would happen.’ Just like ducks, they wake up to a new world every day.”
“That’s some dangerous ducks.”
In the main hallway, people are moving in different directions. Dr. Kaplin is
walking down the hall. She says hello to people who recognize her, and keeps walking.
Dr. Canne, who is Anders’ boss, is talking to a man and a woman. He sees Dr. Kaplin
coming down the hall. As she approaches his circle, Dr. Canne moves into position to get
“Good evening, Dr. Canne.”
Canne replies, “Ms. Kaplin. I was hoping you’d make it here to charm us all.”
“Well, I couldn’t miss it, of course.”
They shake hands.
“Yes, of course. How is Washington treating you?”
“The time of my life. And California, is it still shaking?
“Stretching is the word I prefer to use. Always expanding its horizon.”
Colonel Rand stands behind an operative, watching the television monitors. He
lights a cigarette. He stares into space as the music and conversations feed in. He looks at
the screen showing Anders and Heather. Anders says something to Heather and they
walk off the dance floor to the balcony.
Vines are climbing by the side of the railing and the gardens look ghostly.
Heather walks out to the railing. She touches the railing with her hands and looks up to
the sky. She turns around and lays her back against the railing.
“It’s really nice to have someone to dance with,” she says. She stops and turns
her head and listens.
“Sometimes I get this feeling that I’m aiming too much to please. Yes, away,
somewhere, alone. Or …” She turns back and looks at him with a sad face.
Inside the surveillance room Rand is glued to the monitor. His mouth is closed but
he is grinding his teeth.
“Oh Christ, here it comes,” he says. With his fist, he hits the monitor.
Dr. Anders closes in on Heather.
“I was just thinking a friend of mine has been taken away but now I've found
“Scientists do dance. New evidence confirms theory.”
Dr. Canne appears on the balcony. Canne says, “Well, there you are. And just
like you to try to keep the most beautiful woman in the party to yourself.”
“Oh. Does the gentleman have a reputation?”
“Other than having a possessive nature and being an introvert, yes, probably.”
“Yes. But it’s all classified.”
Canne looks at Anders. “Especially his good side only the trusted few see. I’ve
read your resume Dr. Ahmid. I’m pleased you are joining us. You have a very
impressive background. Did you know I worked for your father?”
“State Department . . . In the gory days.”
Canne moves around. He turns to Anders.
“We must go.”
Anders takes a couple steps back.
“I go. Jonathan knows best.”
“Well, it was nice to meet you. A friendly face will be good to see.”
“Keep up the good . . . work.”
Heather is trying to stay on top.
“Oh, the tortured scientist. I’ll be lucky if you look up from your work to say
hello to me.”
“Good evening, Heather. See you at the fort.”
The band is in full swing with an elaborate jazz version of Michael Jackson’s
“Billie Jean.” Colonel Rand strides across the dance floor onto the veranda. Heather has
her back to him.
“How did I do?”
Rand moves to her side and looks quietly into the distance. “As usual. You have
a gift. Shall I drive you home?”
“Thank you, Colonel. You’re very thoughtful.”
Together they walk to the foyer and out into the night. Rand’s limo promptly
emerges from the shadows.
“He’s a good looking boy, isn’t he?”
“I thought Ho Sin Mae was better looking.”
“Probably not for long.”
Drawing up to the entrance to her apartment building, the limo stops.
“I’ll let myself in.”
She bolts out of the limo and walks quickly into the building.
Her walls are painted beige and white. They are bare. There is an expensive
stereo system, a couch and a chair in the living room. She flips a switch and the room is
suffused in green light. She plays Indian music and sits in the lone chair in the middle of
the room. After a few moments she begins to dance.
Russ Elliot emerges from a cab to stand in front of the world headquarters of
British Petroleum. He is the President’s personal advisor. He walks quietly, as is his
manner, into the imposing façade. The lobby hums with a cacophony of English voices.
Mr. Elliot takes the elevator to the penthouse floor. He is greeted by a phalanx of armed
guards, then ushered into another elevator which takes him to the board room, where the
seven controllers of the seven largest energy companies await his report. The man at the
top of the conference table, Farroh Ahmid, greets him.
“Welcome, Mr. Elliot”
The Center for Exploration in Portola Valley is a twenty-acre estate. The main
house is made of red brick, wood and titanium steel. Heather drives up the long narrow
road to the main house. She is met at the chateau by a uniformed guide.
“My name is Jann. I’m going to show you to your office. Lucky the facility was
finished last year. This place was so noisy that everyone worked at night. The days of
Heather acts as if surprised. “What’s that?”
“That’s the name the construction guys gave all the scientists here. Bats.”
They enter her office. It is full of wisteria.
“Am I going to get a tour?”
“Dr. Canne will be down to see you in a few moments.”
Inside Anders’ office, Dave works at his computer. The console displays multi-
symbolic formulae ‘biophysics.’ Dave moves his hand on his lap to another board and
types equations. Looking between screens, comparing the two, he sits back.
On another screen next to the computer he sees Canne staring at the camera above
Anders presses a button on the console.
Canne, on screen, says, “Taking visitors?”
Anders presses another button and the door opens. Dr. Canne enters the room as
Anders continues to work.
Canne looks around him. Bookshelves cover one section of the room. A long
window overlooks the hills. Canne walks toward Anders and stops next to him. He looks
at his computer.
“Your specs on the new cable frequency worked. Kramer and Juke say it’ll be
ready at the end of the day.”
Anders stops typing and turns toward Canne. “What? She’s here?”
Anders turns back to his computer. “Oh, I’m just finishing the calculations on the
storage capability.” His face is lit with the colors from the computer.
Dr. Canne puts one hand on Anders’ chair, the other on the console, and bends
closer to him. “The technicians will be working this weekend on finishing the
installation. The reception of energy is only one small part.”
Anders is still looking at his computer.
“And the storage problems?”
Canne moves back and puts his hands in his pockets. He turns and walks slowly
toward the window.
“Our guys are always going to push too hard, but they know the limitations you
face, especially without Mae whom they took too quickly. What a pity.”
Anders stops, turns his seat around, and crosses his hands on his lap.
“The greatest teacher a man could have. And they’ve got him imprisoned.”
“You keep the faith, Dave. You and Mae. You’re the light at the end of the
Anders turns back to the computer.
“And the train, too. They just want too much of us, and they really haven’t a
Canne moves close to him and he puts his hand on Dave’s shoulder, and in a very
soft voice says, “We're going to make this happen. I'm going to welcome her. Do you
want to come?”
“Not now, Jonathan. Can you have her meet me in the garden in a half an hour?”
“I'll tell her.”
Anders turns back to his console and continues his work, twirling numbers
through virtual shapes in virtual space.
Heather stands amid the flowerbeds and trees as she tosses a set of keys in the air.
Dave walks across the grass and stops in front of her.
“Hello Doctor,” she says.
“I see you've been given the guest house. Would you like to go for a ride?”
“Let me throw a few things together and look at this cottage. Can you pick me up
in thirty minutes?”
“Will do, Doctor.”
Inside southern China, on a remote terraced hilltop Ho Sin Mae and a tall Chinese
man, Lin Yee, walk through a garden of roses.
Lin Yee speaks, “We had access to the Russian research years ago. We pointed
you in that direction.
Ho Sin Mae replies, “I know. There is something unpredictable there. We can
capture it, but we can't seem to contain it.”
“Your mathematics indicate otherwise.”
“As Descartes established the infinite as a fact using numbers, so have I created
the possibility of containment by using numbers. None of us know if either proposition
“We're sending you two of the finest minds to assist you. They should be ready to
join you in three days.”
They continue to walk.
Inside Heather’s cottage the walls are painted a rust color. The solid wood black
doors make the cottage look very old. There is a straight back chair, twin bed, and a
Heather takes care of some paperwork at a small desk, which is next to a window.
She gets up and walks down the hall and into the kitchen. She walks to the refrigerator
and opens the door, picks up a can of soda and takes a few sips. She puts the can on the
counter and walks down the hall, into her bedroom to her closet. She dresses in jeans,
leather boots, and a white T-shirt. She opens the door and gets a red T-shirt, takes off the
white and puts on the red. She then walks across the room to a mirror. The buzzer rings.
She walks to the door and opens it.
“Hi. You’re on time. Would you like to come in? I’ll get my jacket.”
“Do you have gloves and a scarf?”
“Bring them with you. It might get cool.”
Heather walks to her closet.
“You have a convertible?”
Heather gets a black leather jacket.
Anders and Heather walk across the grass to a nearby parking garage. They walk
by her car and up to a new BMW motorcycle.
Heather says, “The ultimate convertible.”
He hands her the helmet. Anders jumps on the bike and starts it up. Heather puts
on the helmet and hops on behind Anders.
He maneuvers out of The Center and takes a left. Heather holds onto Anders as
they speed up the winding road toward La Honda. Trees fly by as the BMW picks up
speed. They head for the ocean.
Walking toward the ocean, Heather looks out and stretches. Anders walks off
toward the jutting rocks. The sky is clear and the sunlight reflects off the water.
“I love this.”
“You know I’m glad they sent you. I tell you, I feel like I’m busting out of a
Heather says, “Afraid of who might be listening?”
“Part of the price”
They move further up the beach.
“Do you hate them?”
He takes a good look at her as she stares at the ocean. “No. Hate would be too
strong an emotion. Pity is more like it. A world of followers bothers me.”
“I’m surprised anything bothers you, especially that. I’d have thought you’d be
“While some see others look.”
She makes a face. “Huh?”
“See or look?”
“Both, I hope. I’ve been tested for it continuously.”
“Do you work for them or with them?”
“I think scientists are supposed to be a little more specific in their procedures of
evaluation. Who is it you’re talking about?”
“I’m glad you cleared that up for me. I had hoped so.”
“Are you now answering for me? I don’t like to have someone else put words
into my mouth, thank you.”
“None of us does, it’s the nature of the beast. Changing our minds, making up
our answers, controlling our actions, reacting to what others think.”
She smiles. “Putting on a pretty face.”
“Listen, hear me out. A lot is involved with my work. I don’t know if you know
all there is or anything at all. The dangers of being with me or against me seem to be the
same nowadays, depending on the day. I have to provoke an answer.”
“And do you feel I’ve answered your provocation?”
“Yes. I know you’re not just a researcher, which is good. We all need to be more
involved, and being here is part of your job. But being with you is part of mine. We are
on the same side, just seems different at the moment.”
“And which side is that, at the moment?”
“The one in which everyone wins. It’s the best game there is, but the rules are a
“You should function well, then. Why be vague about everything?”
“Can’t read your mind.”
“You. I thought you could.”
“Some I can.”
Heather is contemplating the discussion. They stare and go inside each other’s
eyes. He moves to kiss her. They kiss. It’s one that really connects them.
Heather breaks away. “Not here. Let’s go back to your place.”
A peasant walks up a hill with a basket on his back. Inside the house Lin Yee
stands at a window and watches the peasant struggle up the path.
Lin Yee says, “Did you know the Americans are implementing the system in
Ho Sin Mae stands behind him.
“They are behind schedule.”
Lin Yee, his hands crossed on his chest, turns his upper body and looks at Ho Sin.
“The energy is our future.”
“The power of numbers. Our quantity cannot overcome the quality.
“You are the genius. It was your mind that discovered it and you will complete it
for the good of all. The Americans would have taken this from us.”
“Now I’m here and the experiment has not even been tested. Time must be
“You will solve all problems. As a son of China, for all the people, you will
succeed. The machine you worked on will be ready in five days. Then the glory will be
“You have a sharp ear. Be happy it is allowed to you so freely.”
Ho Sin watches Lin Yee go out the door. A football is perched ceremoniously on
a writing desk. Ho Sin picks it up and twirls it in the air.
Ho Sin looks out the window as darkness follows the setting sun.
Outside of Dave Anders’ cottage it is cold and wet. Inside a fire rages.
Reflections of light slide over the walls. The clock on the computer screen reads
Dave and Heather are asleep. Anders’ eyes open almost as if he were not asleep.
He gets up and goes to his computer. Words appear on the screen. His cat, Esmerelda,
sleeps on the keyboard.
The cat opens her eyes and looks at him. She blinks her eyes at him. He does the
same and looks back at the screen.
The words read, ‘Their lips encircle me. I caress their breasts. They beat with the
cycle pulse of the moon.’
On a note pad, Anders transposes the words into numbers.
‘Underneath I place my hands. From far above I slide my golden cock into her.’
Anders raises his hand to his head in horror.
Colonel Rand sits in Follet’s office. Both are dressed in uniform.
The desk is located in the middle of the room. Two long windows light up the
room. Follet sits facing Rand. Photos of the President and the First Lady hang on the
wall next to the N.S.A. Seal.
Follet says, “Her position with him is of the utmost importance; it cannot be put
in jeopardy. I want no one to contact her outside of regular communications. Is that
Colonel Rand is very serious, and words come from his mouth without moving.
“You surprise me sometimes, Colonel. Always the most difficult. In your field,
you’re the best, but you might be doing some injustice to yourself. You trained her. Now
if she seems to be attached too quickly to him, and though this might upset you, you must
remember we’re racing.”
Colonel Rand scratches his chin with his right hand.
Follet continues, “the President seems to like the State Department on top in this
“Then why are we even there?”
“Where would you like us to be at the verge of one of this century's greatest
“What’s happening to us?”
“You know I think we’re being superceded. Maybe we’re not organic enough.”
The intercom flashes on his desk. He extends his heavy frame and reaches for the
“Professor Kaplin, sir.
“Thank you. Please let her in.”
Professor Kaplin enters the room. She is dressed in a white shirt, a black jacket
and a skirt above her knees. In her left hand she is holding a small briefcase. Follet and
Rand watch. She sits next to Rand.
Follet rises from his chair. “Well good to see you, Isabella. Thanks for coming
over. I am glad that you are here.”
Professor Kaplin says, “There’s no information yet on Dr. Mae’s progress, but we
expect the Chinese to finish within a week.”
“Well, our team should finish and have it in operation by Tuesday. Then all we
have to do is let the thing run its course.”
Rand’s eyes are glued to Kaplin’s .
Professor Kaplin says, “Colonel Rand, do you have any further observations?”
Rand recovers himself, and replies, “I’ve never felt so out of an operation. I think
we should consider an alternative while we still have the chance.”
Follet waves his hand. From his desk he retrieves an electronic device. He
presses a button.
They all turn and look. A section in the middle of the bookshelves moves to the
right, and a large screen appears. At the same time, dark drapes cover the windows and
the room turns dark.
On screen, through an infrared lens, we see Anders’ cottage. Follet taps a button
and now we see a close-up of the house. The focus is the bathroom. Anders is urinating,
flushing, then turning the light out. We follow him through the house into the bedroom.
We see him kiss the woman in bed and leave the room with his clothes and shoes in hand.
Anders stands in front of his computer. We see his back as he sits down and stares
at the screen. Now the eye focuses on the screen, so we see the message.
The animal is outside.
I am permitted to
disregard my surroundings though
I have no real retreat
I am the hunted
shudder across a lake.
On top of the computer is a note: “Change code every day, the NSA never sleeps”
Anders ties his shoes and types back.
The ice is thin
in this cold air
Don't lose hope
Follet says, “We've got the Cipher people on it.”
Follet looks at his watch. The intercom flashes.
“The President, sir.”
The President enters Jack Follet's office followed by General Franker and Russ
Elliot. Follet, Rand and Kaplin stand.
The President says, “Good morning. Shall we get right to it.”
Professor Kaplin stands in front of one of the chairs and stares at the President.
“Mr. President, we are facing the dilemma of using human energy, so to speak, to
build what could be the ultimate weapon.”
She stops and looks to see if everyone is paying attention. The President
The President nods, “Continue, Professor.”
“We are dealing with a new type of fusion, that of a sub-element, the potential of
which hasn't been determined until now. This new device has made possible the
disintegration of an atom, no longer as a whole, but that of the so-called root particle.
This is the basic, fundamental element scientists have been looking for since the first
nuclear experiment. This idea goes back to Einstein's work in 1917, but no one has ever
made this sizeable a leap.”
“Is Anders cooperating?”
Dr. Kaplin takes a breath and holds her hands together in front of her.
“As far as we can tell. Certain equations are vague but we believe Anders has
already figured out how to contain it. We have five platinum boxes at Stanford. We trap
the energy as it leaves the body but it keeps escaping. That's what we are working on
now: containing it.
The fact that energy is released by humans at the time of death has long been a
principal of ancient cultures, cultures in which sacrifices of the ‘soul’ were used to satisfy
their deities or gods. They believed that the emanation of the energy associated with
death was ultimately powerful. This power was perceived as having the ability to render
phenomenal supernatural status. The Egyptians classified it as a type of ‘spirit’ that hung
around the burial sights in the after-life. This spirit or ‘soul’ was a permanent fixture in
the world of the dead. Similar versions of this belief have been made by other cultures
including Tibetans, Eskimos and Christians. We believe this is the power Ho Sin Mae
and Dr. Anders have discovered.”
General Franker leans forward. “Are you saying that death is itself the ultimate
energy source, the final power of future society.”
Dr. Kaplin looks directly at General Franker.
Dr. Kaplin continues, “The technology that Anders is trying to develop could
make all present forms of power obsolete. Once containment is perfected, it could end
the world's quest for resources. It might be a perpetual energy source.”
Russ Elliot speaks up. “The perception of a fundamental crisis in all natural
systems is pervasive, almost universal among the public. People believe natural systems
are breaking down. This Technology may not be the solution but rather the culmination
of the crisis.”
The President stands. “So far, Anders' work has remained covert. We have
successfully maintained the highest level of security. Not even Moscow has questioned
us about it, though they may be communicating with the Chinese about Ho Sin Mae.
Dr. Kaplin continues, “The discovery of an energy source derived from human
emissions at the time of death will pose many problems for all world powers and their
societies. Questions of the economic value will be raised. In the pursuit of expansion,
the determining factor will be the volume of energy produced by the dead. Eventually
this might even be promoted as the ultimate form of dying for one's country. It will be
ones duty to be recycled.”
Russ Elliot turns to Kaplin. “Of course any attempt at implementing the program
is likely to cause problems with the religious communities. Undoubtedly Rome and
Mecca will have the most powerful say on the use of the energy. The President received
an official Vatican memo three days ago. Kind of an inquiry, wasn't it Mr. President?”
“Well, we can deal with that when the time comes. Right now, we must assure
ourselves that Anders’ work is completed. If we’re going to achieve our goals we must
provide him with the safest, most secure environment possible. We must have every
assurance that Anders will remain in our custody. Colonel Rand is flying to California
now to oversee the operation. We gotta go.”
“There was a meeting this morning in Washington; there’s concern about your
progress, Dave. They’re afraid you might crack up.”
Dave looks at Canne and nods his head in agreement.
“Heather’s worried, too. She’s too compassionate. How does she even work for
“In one way or another, we all do.”
Dave raises his head.
“Or we’ll wish we did. Do unto others as they would you, something like that,
“Do you think we can trust her in the long run?”
“I do believe we can.”
Grinning, Anders sits in Canne’s chair while Canne paces.
“You guys are in love.”
Anders does not reply.
“Okay, they know we can tap the energy as it leaves the body. The corporations
are pushing for completion, but I think the NSA will be patient. They’ll wait ‘til it’s
finished and perfected to make any kind of move.”
Dave shakes his head. “It may never be functional, you know.”
Canne walks around the table in slow motion, dragging his hand over the table.
“They want the bugs worked out before they continue their plans.”
“Bugs? They don’t understand what we’re talking about here, the enormity of
what we’re proposing. Weaponry powered by the energy released at death. The way they
are behaving, I suppose there’ll be a cartoon about it on Saturday morning, followed by
sermons on Sunday.”
“Why do I always agree with you?”
“Shit, you know the reason. Here we are looking for a solution to the energy
problems, for the right cause, and the pressure is building around us to energize the
military. For Christ’s sake. How can they expect us to work and concentrate on the
Canne looks on as Anders continues.
“The Public Relations people have already begun the groundwork. Imagine the ad
campaign! You’ll still be here after you’re gone, giving ‘til eternity. Located wherever
the dying congregate. Along freeways, in hospitals and in high crime areas.”
“Listen, we both know the pressure you’re under. That’s why I’m worried about
your safety. But you have to understand, the corporations know the potential of this and
they are determined to beat the Chinese. The economic repercussions have made tensions
“I’m sure that if they plan something on that level. Heather will tell me.”
“If they tell her, of course.”
Anders and Canne leave the room and travel through the Center. They walk
through an atrium that looks out onto the garden. Canne stops and says, “Representative
Clark is waiting for you in the game room. Try to be nice.”
Professor Anders walks into the game room.
Jerome Clark who stands next to a snooker table says, “Hello, Dr. Anders.
How’ve you been?”
“Fine, Congressman, just fine. And you?”
“Well, to be honest, Dave, I need some information and I think you can help me.
That’s why I asked Jonathan Canne to arrange this meeting for us.”
“You see, it’s about the project you’re currently working on. I realize it’s not
public knowledge yet, but some of my constituents have asked me to look into it.”
He stops. Dave is watching him. Clark continues. “The corporate community to
be exact, to find out where you’re headed with this thing.”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that, sir. Besides, it would be completely premature
at this point to even consider any practical sort of application.”
“But it isn’t even finished yet. We’re way ahead of ourselves here. We can’t
control it. Hell, we can’t even contain it. You think this is a substitute for nuclear power?
You could light a whole block of flats with the equivalent of one-thousandth of what we
use to make a car run today. You could, but we haven’t figured out how to break it down.
There seems to be something irreducible there.”
Clark leans forward and raises his voice. “But all that is just a matter of time,
Dave. You’ll figure it out. We have the basic premise and that’s all we really need, isn’t
Anders turns and looks to the side, then turns back to Clark.
“No, it is not! My God, have you thought about it? Any of you? We have no
idea what its effect will be, but the military is raring to go, to start marketing and selling
it. First as a weapon, then to run the street lights.”
“You know, David, we are reaching the end of politics. Soon, there will be no
external control that can be exercised over any people. You can help me make that day
energy-efficient by doing the right thing for your country.”
“What! My God, are we all insane?”
The front door opens from the other side and Jerome Clark gestures to Dave. He
taps the right side of his nose.
Colonel Rand flies his jet. In the background, he listens to the violin of Yo Yo
His phone rings.
“Alex, it's Isabella Kaplin. Creepy Elliot has been to see Pleaides.”
“Not good. Does the President know?”
“I don't think so.”
“I'll be landing in Moffit in a few minutes. Call me if there is any more news.”
Rand dials another number.
Inside Anders’ cottage, the phone rings. Heather comes out of the bathroom. She
has a white towel wrapped around her.
She answers, “Hello.”
“We have to meet.”
She sits on the bed. “I don’t have much time. Forty-five minutes, MacArthur
She comes out dressed in black jeans, leather shoes and a black turtleneck. She is
moving fast. She is wearing her black jacket. She stops the cat from exiting.
She leaves the house and walks through the woods to her car.
She strides into the restaurant. Colonel Rand stands as she approaches his table.
Rand says, “You’ve got to try harder.”
Heather has her leather purse open. With a small mirror in her hand, she applies
“What else can I do? I think I’m losing him. I don’t think he feels patriotic about
the issue anymore, if he ever did. He’s thought it over and he feels he’s been dealt a hard
card. He’s basically pissed.”
She closes the mirror and puts it back in her purse. She turns and looks at the
Rand beckons to the waiter and orders a scotch for himself and a bottle of Beck’s
for Heather. He places a microscopic transmitter on Heather’s sunglasses.
She turns and looks at him. He smiles.
“No United States President can let anyone else, any other bloc, take power. We
can’t let anyone get ahead of us.”
“Dave says we are in the midst of a civil war.”
“We are always in the midst of a civil war. That’s what democracy is.”
She takes a good look at him.
“Sooner or later you’re going to get orders to kill him. And you’ll ask me to help
The waiter serves the drinks.
He bends over the table and gets closer to her.
“Come on. If there’s one thing the world has learned, it’s that you can’t stop
anything by assassination. This guy that you’re with is a dangerous weapon.”
“Yeah, right, he is; but it’s not his fault.”
“Heather, you are working for us. That’s US, the United States government. He is
no longer working for anyone but himself. You now see me as some kind of a
combination of a superpatriot and the hit man in ‘Apocalypse Now’… You never tried to
get to know me very well and you don’t know Anders very well, even though you’ve
tried. . . . I admit I’m a bit jealous of Anders, and I envy his youth. . . . you don’t meet
many women like you. But the personal is secondary . . . I wouldn’t like him even if I’d
never met you. Not for who he is, but for what he represents. With all your
romanticizing he’s nothing but a high class technocrat and I’m an old fashioned soldier ...
I detest all this modern technology which has fucked up the world so much . . . and this
death gasp thing is the last straw.
“You sound like the unabomber.”
“I don’t think he was so far wrong, except I’m not that unhinged.”
“Can’t you see David and I agree on a lot of what you say?”
“So what's he doing about it?”
“What can he do about it?”
“He could commit suicide; millions of men have died for less.”
She flinches, but keeps her cool.
“What about Mae? What if the Chinese get it?”
“Mae will never let them have it; I’m tuned in to the little poetic messages Anders
has been getting, and if I don’t miss my guess they’ll either have to kill him or he’ll kill
himself . . . Although I’d never be able to convince Defense or the White House of that.
Anders hasn’t got that kind of moral fortitude. He’s just a God-damned liberal who’ll
continue to waffle.”
“At least you could tell your bosses your theory about Ho Sin Mae.”
“They’re not interested in psychological conjecture.”
“And you don’t want to admit you’re in a double bind like everybody else.”
“So it gets back to you wanting David to quit, providing Dr. Mae’s out of the
“He won’t quit. Not only would his career be ruined by NSA, but he’d have the
FBI on his ass for the rest of his life . . . which would likely be short, as China will
definitely be after his ass . . . either to kill or kidnap.”
“So what you are telling me is that you may have to terminate him.”
“I don't know. It's up in the air. Maybe he’ll kill himself.”
“I don’t see him doing that; he’ll just stall and stall, praying China will have a
resolution, or maybe Washington and Peking will get together and see the whole idea is a
“You'll let me know?”
“You’re my only direct contact with him.”
As Heather gets up Rand also rises. She salutes him then takes a final swig of her
“Good to see you Colonel.”
Outside, she opens her purse and gets her phone.
Anders is standing above his computer.
“I just met with Rand. I’ve got a feeling he’s about to make a move on you.”
“Touché. He’s handcuffed. I don’t feel like eating. How about dancing? I’ll be at
Balloons in half an hour. Be there?”
“I’m on my way.”
Anders changes a few equations on the blackboard, then wipes it clean.
At the Balloons, a private club for Silicon Valley scientists and technicians, there
are face-balloons of the patrons everywhere. Inside the door, the bouncer looks
suspiciously at Anders, then recognizes him, as Dave removes his sunglasses.
“Doctor, she’s waiting at the bar.”
Anders enters the bar. Against the wall, to the left, are wooden booths occupied
by people eating lunch. Beyond that, there is another larger room.
He sees Heather and walks in her direction.
Heather says, “I reserved a table.”
They walk into the second room. The room is three quarters full. They exchange
greetings with other patrons. At one table, a completely bald skinny older man beckons to
them. He is Cassein, a Russian scientist. Warily, Anders and Heather approach him.
Cassein, with kind blue eyes, says, “Will you join us?”
Anders looks mockingly around for the invisible others.
“I’m afraid not, Dr. Cassein.”
“I heard you were about to break it.”
“Break it, eh?” Anders shakes his head.
Cassein looks at both of them. “I don’t blame you. If we agree that a living
organism is an open system, it feeds on the energy and materials in the environment. It
keeps building up more complex chemicals from the chemicals it feeds on. But your
research is demonstrating that the energy that leaves our body at death does not feed.
Isn’t that it? Please …”
Anders likes what Cassein has to say, he replies, “A completely integrated power
Cassein moves his head forward. “You know, David, these open systems are
always, even in death, changing into something else. It looks to me like you’ve stopped
the process in man by capturing it.”
“Capturing it, the so-called soul of man, putting it to use?”
Heather gives Anders a push. She wants to move.
Cassein says, “I suppose there will be devices in all the hospitals.”
“I suppose Stanford and some of the independents along the coast won’t
Anders and Heather signal ‘later’ to Cassein and take a table at the far end of the
On the stage, at the front of the room, is an all-female band, The Terrakians. They
begin to play and people get up to dance. Dave and Heather are among them.
The band finishes its number.
Two men, followed by another, pass from the back room into the second room. A
gay man, an attendant, walks across the dance floor. The attendant leans over Cassein
and whispers something, then leaves.
As the music starts up again, Anders and Heather are the first to notice Cassein
slumped in his chair.
She dances. Anders looks hard at Heather and she sadly nods her head.
They exit the club.
Heather says, “Let's see if I can make you blow that damned cool of yours.”
In a remote section of Southern China, the sun penetrates the few clouds in the
sky. Birds are going crazy, jumping from tree to tree.
Inside Ho Sin Mae’s prison house, Ho wears a white gown with black specks that
resemble birds. He wears headphones and a cassette player strapped to his belt. A man of
dignity, he walks slowly, preparing to die.
He steps out into the garden and stops by a gigantic rose bush and examines a
single rose’s petal. His hands play in the air. He brings his hands close to his chest, as if
he were holding a ball.
He goes back inside and makes his bed. He sits down in front of his computer
Our pincers raised
We moved one another
In and out of the shadows.
See you in the Shadows.
He strides off to his meditation chamber. He kneels down against a shimmering
blue neon background. In front of him, on the floor, is the football. His right hand
extends upward as he throws an imaginary bird, his soul, skyward.
Anders rolls out of bed and stretches. The cat walks up to him while he’s bent
over and Anders pets her. He then walks over to the computer and reads the message:
Our pincers raised …
Anders goes back into the room and gets his clothes and leaves the bedroom. He
dresses in the dark, the only light comes from the computer screen. He sits forlornly in
front of the glowing computer and says, “At any cost! Any cost? It's in us. Our job is to
discover the secrets.”
Heather appears. “Dave …”
Anders lowers his eyes.
“Can you cry?”
Heather says, “Yes.”
“My friend and I were too dumb to know the difference.”
“Between what and what?”
“Between crying and not. Living without that peculiar luck. He’s dead, Heather.”
Heather watches Anders move toward her. He stands in front of her.
“They thought I was going to sell it to Cassein.”
Heather shakes her head.
“You would think that. That was probably unrelated. You’ve got to play ball.
Otherwise, you’re next. They’ll kill you.” Heather gestures hand-to-head.
“All the movements indicate more control over our destiny, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I think I’m more concerned about you than your goddamned contribution.”
“You don’t. How could you understand the beauty of it; the perfect mathematical
reality of it.”
“I know . . .”
“I know what to do. If I give them perfection, they’ll use it, and that will destroy
us. It’s better that I die than the entire human race, don’t you think? Don’t you think there
is something in each of us that wants to die?”
“That’s nonsense. We want to fly, become greater . . .”
“Ah yes to take our rightful place on the Earth.”
“I'm sorry. Come back to bed.”
Hand in hand they walk back to the bedroom.
Fading into what looks like the surface of a moon. It is actually a magnification of
one side of Anders’ face. It appears spherical. As it turns, we notice, in the upper left
corner of the frame, Anders’ watching right eye and curving eyelash. He is dreaming.
Fading into a dream sequence. As “the sphere” continues to turn, two Chinese
Grave Diggers, caked with mud and holding shovels, walk forward.
1ST Grave Digger (in Chinese), “How are they made?”
Behind the Grave Diggers, in the distance, a bus can be seen.
A bus pulls around a corner and stops outside a small house. Standing in the yard,
Anders has food in his mouth and a parrot on each arm. He is wearing old, tattered
clothes. The Driver of the bus, Ralph Kramden, pulls back the handle, and the door
opens. He climbs down and walks across the street to confront Anders. Behind Ralph, the
bus is filled with laughing people.
Ralph says, “No, don’t. Please, relax.”
In the background the sound of static accompanies a lazy Benny Goodman
The parrot on Dave’s arm says, “Yeah, it’s work.”
An inaudible static becomes louder.
Those who work create; those who don’t, suffer.
Anders is looking at Ralph.
Ralph says, “The honeymoon’s over, pal.”
Anders gives him the parrot.
Ralph climbs back aboard the bus. We hear the sound of distant planes mixed
with the sound of the ocean and little girl voices.
Dr. Anders awakens. He is staring at the ceiling. He leans over and picks up his
watch. It is 6:30 A.M. He gets up. Heather is asleep. Anders makes himself a cup of
coffee and munches on a croissant.
He walks outside and stands on the porch.
Colonel Rand emerges. “Morning, I'd like a word with you.”
“You’re on my private property.”
“I’m holding the thread you’re hanging by, asshole.”
Anders smiles and walks over to him. “Spun from the hands of In God We
“Don’t tell me you’re a hate-America type. I’ve always considered you a
thoroughly unprejudiced person. I thought you hated us all equally.”
“All this could have been avoided if our research could have remained
“We live in a practical culture Dr. Theories turn into tools. Is this theory of yours
going to work?”
“Right again. So you and Einstein have gotten together and destroyed our world.
And while you doodle away, the Final Chaos begins. Yet you and Einstein see yourselves
Colonel Rand slides his right hand through his coat and retrieves a Glock 9 mm.
“You don’t understand Dr. You have made death more profitable than ever. I let you
go… Say goodbye, Dr.
Colonel Rand squeezes the trigger and pumps two bullets into the other man’s
admirable brain. He kneels down and feels for a pulse. Then, quickly, moves away from
the cottage and into his car.
The Last Killing
A knee cap floats in the murky water behind Scomas. A seagull dances on it. The
cap belongs to Bobby McKnight, a bad boy alcoholic who had been embarrassing the North
Beach crowd with his lack of finesse. Poor Bobby, there were four attempts to straighten
Despair creeps in gradually, accumulates like dust through an old window.
I walk down Chestnut Street and notice a party at the Art Vault. I walk in. One guy
catches my eye. He’s with two radiant 20-somethings. He’s around 50, 5’11”, 200 lbs., and
a shaven head. We start chatting. Turns out he’s in the porno business. The two ladies with
him are producers. Stephanie, and Judy L. He introduces himself as Rumple.
At one point I suggest that perhaps they can help me produce and distribute a movie.
“I own the property and could put up say $100,000…”
Rumple says, “Make it $120,000 and we’ll talk tomorrow.” He hands me his card.
At home, I tap into their website. I am pleased to see most of their stuff has story;
the actors keep their clothes on for the first 7 or 8 minutes and they attempt to create
character. I think I might be able to do business with these people.
I suppose Rumple’s origin to be German. He is a collector of sixties cartoon art
(Ryan, Mouse, and Crumb). There isn’t a pornographic image in the house.
He invites me down to the backyard. After we have settled in with a coffee and a
joint, he asks about the story. “What’s the hook?”
“Two scientists who fall in love at a U.S. Energy Conference and constantly watched
by the Government as the viewer.”
“Why do you think it’ll cost $100,000? I could do that for $30,000.”
“Read the script. Different locations and some digital animation.”
“Oh. Did you bring the script?”
“No. I want to get the details straight”
Rumple says, “Do you think we can work together?”
“You’re the producer. I’m the director.”
“Normally, I get my fee up front.”
“You present me with a contract saying you will help me here, shoot, cut and
distribute, and I want to see what you have in the way of distribution contacts, and I’ll give
you $10,000 on signing.”
“That’s good,” he says. “I, also, get 49% of the profit and $10,000 more when we
wrap. I’ll send you the contract tomorrow by noon.”
I say, “You were there in the 60’s?”
“Must have been great.”
“This is better,” he says.
I am bent by a sense of the absurd. Was it mother who wove it into me by pointing,
during one of my rages, and saying “Look at yourself in the mirror, Lyle?” I did and I was
absurd. Is it because through the millennia we constantly talk about changing ourselves but
I feel I am standing on a precipice overlooking a chasm. Behind me, there is nothing
I put my shoulder holster on and place the 9mm Baretta in it. We have a meeting
today with the prospective actors. Judy L. has been assigned to be my assistant. We pare
it down to seven actors. The two leads are college students. The supporting five are
veterans of the skin trade. We meet in the Mission at Rumple’s warehouse. He’s nowhere
to be seen.
I give each of the actors the script, instructions and a 30 day shooting schedule. I ask
the two leads, Jack and Jill, to fall in love during the shooting. From them, I say, I want
tenderness and heart.
We are going to shoot the opening scene at night in Masonic Hall. There will be a
four piece band, thirty-two extras, and here, Jack and Jill will meet for the first time.
Two minutes into rehearsing the dance, Jack slips his hand up Jill’s dress. I’m afraid
he’s going to start howling but he keeps himself under control. She begins kissing him.
Yes, the cameras are rolling. By God, they start to fuck right there on the floor. One camera
gets in close. The other moves around them like a boxer.
We’re in the 21st day of shooting. Rumple thinks we’ve got a hit.
“This film of yours might inspire a trend toward fidelity,” he says. “Anyway it’s
great work. We’ll have no trouble selling it.”
“What’s the next step?”
“I think we’ll have a party. To celebrate. I’ll make copies and send them to my
compatriots in L.A. and Montreal. See who’s the highest bidder.”
“When’s the party?”
“How about this Friday.”
“Who are you inviting?”
“The usual cast of players.”
“You won’t show the film?”
I’m disturbed that I won’t allow myself to get close to people. I think the film is
teaching me about my need for intimacy.
Surrounded by lit candles I sit alone in my apartment and look through old
photographs: My first wife, brown-haired with granny glasses and large teats standing next
to me, in our Haight-Ashbury flat in ’74. Our cat, Black Milton, unable to walk or see,
destined to spin in his own shit, and his calico sister, Fantambule, who totters from wall to
wall, spinal cord warped half brain-dead cats we inherited from their incestuous mother; a
red farm house in Hudson, N.Y.; my second wife, blonde and muscular, hanging from a
diving board in her red Speedo; our Golden Retriever, our vacations, our Christmas trees;
Dad and I; My brothers and I.
I interrogate myself. Have you ever though of why you did what you did to yourself?
Chasing the rainbow? Possibly. Probably that simple.
I turn on the TV. A good looking pudgy and tan Newt Gingrich gives a speech on
the abolition of adolescence and the reformation of our mutilated educational system. God
knows our educational system needs abolishing.
The day of the party and I feel a little gloomy. I call Rumple and tell him I’m
coming. I dress in a white shirt, silk pants, and a black merino wool jacket, and take a cab
to the warehouse. Rumple’s got a pair of guards at the door. Apparently, Rumple is
charging fifty bucks to get in unless you know the password, which I don’t. I step back a
bit and say “Will you please ask Mr. Mesbusch to come to the door?” Rumple appears and
throws an arm around me. The warehouse is loaded .
Subdued lighting surrounds the dancers. The music is the pounding, thumping
techno variety. Nothing to soothe my nerves. At the far end of the room, a five foot
sculpture of a vagina is encased in plexiglass.
“Jack and Jill aren’t coming,” Rumple says.
“Too bad,” I reply.
I am staring at the nipples of a dancer in her thirties who is wearing bottoms and no
shoes. She moves languidly and then jerks up and forward to a hip-hop tune. She begins
to slink, her left hand on her left hip, her right hand on her head. I start laughing. There is
a child-like openness in her face framed by dirty blonde hair. She ends her dance with a
twirl and comes up to the bar where I am drinking.
“Are you in the porno business?” she asks.
“I’d like a Becks, Please.”
“You seem to be enjoying yourself.”
“See that couple over there in the corner, the two men kissing. They brought me
here. I’m looking for a man. Do you dance?”
“No,” I say, “but I can take you outa here.”
“Who are you?”
“Lyle. Desmond. I developed the movie some people are celebrating tonight.”
“You’re a porno…. developer.”
“Not really. It was my first and probably my last. Something I always wanted to
“I love to watch myself fuck.” She has a slight, Swedish accent. She takes a swig
of her beer.
“If you still want to take me out in ten or fifteen minutes, I’ll let you.” She puts her
beer down and walks away.
I haven’t wanted a woman in 2 ½ years. After another Becks I walk through the
dancing crowd and over to her.
“Shall we go,” I say.
“Do you have a car?”
“I do. Let me dress and tell the boys goodbye.”
I see Rumple watch us as we walk out.
She stops in front of a white 80’s Lincoln. “I’m Jasmine Lang,” she says. She turns
and opens her door. I walk around to the other side.
On a corner a block from my apartment, they are tearing down a Jack-In-The-Box;
cleaning the debris and paving. The sounds of shovels and pulleys, the pounding and
twisting of concrete and metal tumble in my ear like the sweet and excited flatterers in
Dante’s 8th Circle of Hell. I hope Jasmine Lang is not just a one-night stand. She left hours
In the morning Rumple calls sounding out of breath and panicked.
“We’ve got a disaster on our hands. Someone broke into the safe after the party.”
“When did you last check it?”
“On my way out last night.”
“What was in it?”
“Your negative of the film and $20,000 or so.”
“Have you called the police?”
“Wait till I get there. I’d like to look at the safe.”
The party ended around 1:15 A.M. The place had been cleaned by Rumple and Judy
L. They had left around 3 A.M. Rumple came back to the warehouse at noon. The front
door and the safe had been opened by a pro. There had been no force involved. It was a
We start calling the people connected to the film. The only anomaly is both numbers
for Jack and Jill have been disconnected.
Rumple says, “If they planned it from the beginning, their resumes will be
Jack, whose name on the resume is David Isralow, had completed his third year of
a Baccalaureate at UCLA Jill’s name is Heloise Jonah. She had graduated from UCLA with
a BA in Psychology. I check with the schools and the names are real. Would the faces
“I guess you’ll be going to L.A.,” Rumple says.
I call Jasmine and leave a message. I feel like inviting her, but I don’t.
At U.C.LA. I check with Admissions and sure enough their faces match. I call
Heloise’s mother (her only surviving parent) and tell her Heloise has interviewed for a job
at IBM in Customer Relations. I ask to speak with her. Mother volunteers that Jill is in
Vegas, but she doesn’t know where. I give her my name and cellphone number. I call
David’s house but there is no answer.
On the third night, I’m sitting around Les Deux watching the starlets mingle with the
business people and the cell rings. It’s Rumple.
“They called a little while ago. They’ve sent it back.”
“Do you have it?”
“It’ll be here tomorrow.”
“They’re getting married in Vegas. I guess they were going to burn it.”
“They said something to that effect.”
“They decided against it?”
“So they say.”
“Yeah well… you wanna bet they made a copy?”
“What do you want to do about that?”
“It’s in the contract, right? All pirated versions etc…”
“Definitely. But bootlegs overseas, down south?”
“Let me think about it. Call me when you get the package. And let me know the
return address, sender and the postmark. What did they say about your $20,000?”
The package arrives the following day. The negative is in fine shape. They are
honeymooning at the Luxor. I call them. Jill answers the phone.
“Jill,” I say, “it’s Jack Rack.” (my stage name)
“Oh, Mr. Rack, how are you?”
“Better now that we have the film back.”
“We’re sorry, but you have to understand…”
I cut her off.
“Jill did you make a copy?”
“We did, but it’s just for us. Dave wants to talk to you.”
“Mr. Rack, we were afraid. Our parents… they really don’t know about us. I don’t
know when we decided to do this but we now know we were wrong. Do you accept my
“No. David, I want your copy.”
“We can’t give you that, sir. Heloise wants to say goodbye.”
“You really helped us, Jack. You’re a valuable man. We’ll never forget you.”
“Will you come back to San Francisco and help us launch the premiere?”
“We’re not there anymore.”
“Jill, do not under any circumstances pass out copies. Capisci?”
“I said, we’re sorry.” She hangs up.
Should I go and grab the copy? Will they be there? How many have they made?
Fuck it. I’ll fly home.
That evening, Jasmine comes over. She brings a six pack of Becks, and wears a
black silk Chinese pants suit. She moves lovingly about my apartment, asking about my life.
“Other than making me so happy, what do you really like doing?” she asks.
“I like cooking vegetables.”
She stares at me. I feel loved.
“I used to be fond of hand to hand.”
“Combat. I boxed and wrestled as a kid. It’s all on the line. Taking it. Standing
“I knew it,” she says. “That’s why I feel comfortable.”
“When I was nineteen I killed a man in a knife fight.”
“Did you go to jail?”
“No. It was ruled self-defense.”
“When was your last fight, Des?”
“Ten years ago.”
Suddenly, she is in my arms.
“Do you have a lot of friends, Des?”
“You know over the years we’ve sort of lost contact. I was very much in love with
a girl named Jill three years back.”
“Is that why you named the girl in your movie, Jill?”
“Yes. Do you want to see it?”
“I’m not into that. I like my movies straight and if not enlightened at least not
“What are your favorite movies?”
“The Secret of Roan Innish, Burnt by the Sun, Central Station, Gods and
“Never heard of them.”
“Did you see Sixth Sense?”
“Yeah. That’s good.”
She got a lot out of me that night. After dinner, she led with, “You won’t always be
a mystery man, but I like your mysterious side, Des. Don’t worry about me getting too close
My father was a powerhouse right hand puncher. Feet slightly apart, his defense
consisted of moving his shoulders up and down and covering his face. His body took
thousands of shots from quicker, stronger men. He won 40 and lost 36, and retired from
boxing in ’57. His next job was cab dispatcher, which was like a vacation to him.
My mother never allowed us to watch him fight. But once I did see him on TV on
an under card at the Garden in ’56. I don’t remember much about it.
In the morning I check my messages. There’s a job in Brussels. Jasmine comes up
“Are you going to take it,” she says.
“I don’t know. I have until July 13th to decide.”
“This is what you really are,” she says, “a bodyguard?”
“Yeah. For the last eight years.”
She smiles and walks towards the living room.
“Do you want to use the shower?”
“No,” she says, “go ahead.”
When I come out, she is at my computer. I walk into the bedroom and dress. When
I come out again, she is gone.
Killing a person, for me, is not easy. The hardest part is deciding who needs killing.
I observe the behavior of the marked individual for one week. At the end of the observance
I know I’ll take the job.
A fellow traveler, Jack Burner, calls himself a travel agent. I prefer the term cleaner.
Sometimes the client gives the cleaner instructions as in the case of Bobby McKnight;
dismember him, grind him up and throw one body part, other than the head, into the Bay.
This anonymous culture I live in, which has no philosophical vision, no juicy gut, is
with its absence of critical support for the new either killing itself from self-hatred or
unconsciously ferreting out weaknesses and thus readying itself for a New Heroine, and a
Rumple calls and tells me he’s close to a deal with HotZone. They are offering ½
mil for all U.S. distribution rights.
“I’m trying to get 10% of the gross but it’ll only be for the U.S. Brace yourself, man.
Jack and Jill were murdered in Hong Kong last night. Jill’s mother called. She was very
“Are you sure?”
“You see the problem. Whoever killed them…”
“Stole the tape.”
“I’ve called the D.A. and told him of our involvement. I’m sure it’ll go through the
proper channels. It might help them find the bastards.”
“Idiots. I can’t believe this.”
An assistant D.A. calls and would like a word and permission to view the film. She
would like to make a copy to send to the Tokyo police. I arrange to meet her tomorrow at
That night Bobby McKnight’s knee cap floats above a stormy San Francisco bay.
It’s an oracle. It talks in a grave garbled voice about world’s weather: sunny in Rio,
torrential rain in New Delhi, bridges collapsing along the Danube, drought in the MidWest…
then, I’m in a delicatessen and Jasmine is to my right. Behind are a covey of French school
girls. The clerk starts walking toward me. The girls begin a French song – a wonderful
patriotic song which fills my eyes to the brim.
The sun rises in my kitchen and travels around the apartment to set in the bathroom
above the Golden Gate Bridge. My grandmother’s paintings look very good today. Her
young girls in bikinis look life-like.
I arrive at the warehouse at 10. Rumple and the assistant D.A. sit at the coffee table.
“The director appears,” Rumple says.
“Hi,” she says with an upbeat English accent.
“I’m Frances Sheffield.”
“Desmond,” I say.
She has a sharp nose, frizzy blond hair, and an easy sensuous manner.
“I was telling your boss, here, we’ll make another copy for ourselves and send this
to the Hong Kong police. “Perhaps if the film surfaces they’ll be able to pin the killers.”
“You’ll see what wonderful kids they are,” I say.
Rumple looks a little glum. She hands me a piece of paper. “If you’ll sign this, I can
be on my way.” It’s a release form. It makes them responsible for any bootleg copies that
may derive from their mishandling of the tapes.
Rumple says, “if it gets out we’ll sue.”
“Don’t worry,” Frances Sheffield says, and stands. She says with a wink, “I’ll let
you know what I think.”
Rumple walks her out. He comes back and says, “these people have their own
agenda. I wouldn’t have given it to her if Hallinan wasn’t her boss. I met Hallinan at Dennis
Natale’s wedding. I knew Dennis.”
“Yeah. Any word on HotZone?”
“They said they’d talk it over and give me an answer by Saturday. What are you
“I don’t know.”
As I walk out I think of Dennis Natale. I didn’t know him, but I knew someone who
did, who had been at Dennis Natale’s wedding at the Flower House. Natale had been
assassinated a few blocks from his house by Vietnamese hoods. Apparently he was the
lawyer slash bagman for his killer’s competition. Natale and his client had been murdered
on the same night within minutes of one another.
The phone rings. Jas tells me she is going to New York and I can’t come.
“It’s going to be non-stop work, Des,” she says. “I’m with a negotiating team which
will try to untangle the Verizon problem.”
“Well that’s too bad. I was looking forward to tonight.”
“I’ll be back next Wednesday. I hope. See you then. Gotta go. Bye.”
Days go by. I should have taken the Brussels job. I call my contact. He says,
“nothing, unless you want to take on a million dollar deal.”
Million dollars deals are high profile evil doers. Million dollar deals are death
warrants for the assassin. At least, the Giants are leading the West. Fall and football are
around the corner.
I tried for two decades to become a peaceful creature. I decided I was kidding
myself. The only time I really felt peaceful was when I fasted. I, being a typical
representative of humanity, am not peaceful. I am restless yet disciplined. I am fiery yet
cold. I know the reservoir of anger in me is deeper than most and my method of channeling
After my two decade meditation on violence I found only the expression of violence
could make me happy. It looks as if most of America feels as I do. Increasingly I notice
people sitting on hair triggers.
I dream that night I’m with my second wife, blonde neurotic Allison. We’re on the
Russian River listening to Eric Clapton with a couple hundred others. We dance. Behind
us, in the river, bloody hands float by swimming children and empty canoes. I think I will
have a place to go with my lady, a place always where we can go to worship. I think I will
have a fulfilling job, one that demands the very best of me. The dream, like the day, slips
Another job comes up from Global Security. It’s the United Nations Millennium
Conference. I take it without thinking. I see in the protocols the founder of Global Security,
Terry Kingsberry, will be there.
Terry started me out. Eight years ago, I was his fifth employee. Now, he has three
hundred plus people on board. I give him a call.
He answers. “You remember that July 4th party last year?” he says.
“That was intense. Did you go to Brussels?”
“No. Just paddling away under the fluorescent skies. You should see some of the
insane money that’s moved into my neighborhood.”
“I’m going to New York.”
Kingsberry, who is 6’6”, 270 with a scarred boyish face, looks awkward in an
expensive black suit. He’s originally from Martha’s Vineyard. He cut his teeth and rattled
his mind with the Special Forces in Vietnam. He was awarded the Purple Heart and three
years of psychiatric care. He is the great and good warrior – the one man you want on your
battlefield. Married happily now for twelve years with a beloved and darling wife and child.
“She keeps me on my toes. Why don’t you come up this Halloween?”
“I’d like that.”
“I’m looking at the detail. I think you could be the lone wolf. You can go anywhere
in the building except to private meetings. There. Your pass will be at the front desk. If you
hear anything talk only to me. This will be my number 415-386-2024.”
“I’m cooking lamb. I’ll see you there.”
I call my father. He lives in a little apartment in Jersey – his mother’s former place.
A Puerto Rican woman cooks and cleans for him. His rent is subsidized by the Veterans
Act. I tell him I’ll be visiting in a while.
New York – mid-town Manhattan:
I stare at the perky, deluded faces in the crowd before me. I’m on edge. In my
room there is a message. “Des,” she says, “I’m sorry I didn’t call. I’m a mess. Dad
died. I called you a few days ago in S.F. I called your work. They told me where you
were staying. I’m meeting a school chum at 450 – 24th St. I’ll be done by 9. Could you
meet me at the bar on the corner of 24th and 11th? I think it’s called… I don’t know. If
you don’t show I’ll understand.”
I listen to her voice a couple of times, then erase it and leave the room to go down
to the hotel bar.
I am wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying the Baretta. In the bar I see John
Barnes and Semel – the only female operative of ours at this convention. Semel is part
German, African and American Indian – a slender beauty, tough and cruel. John is from
the Bayou. They’re schmoozing. I’m tempted to join them. Instead, I start a
conversation with a Mets fan. He thinks the Mets beat the Braves and the Giants go all
the way. Finally, I take off.
The city streets are a labyrinth of cordoned off areas and construction sites. At
28th I cut over to 9th. I unbutton my coat and walk on the left side of 24th to stop at 450
London Terrace, a monstrous apartment complex. It’s 8:45. I linger. I imagine school
chums kissing and exchanging presents. Eventually, I walk down to the end of the street.
I approach the bar. I turn the corner and peek inside. No females. I stand to the side
and look at the cars drive beside the Hudson. Bang – one shot hits me square on the left
chest. I twist. Bang – another shot hits my left shoulder. I’m down, stunned, but not out.
Three guys rush from the bar. One guy is on a cell phone. The ambulance arrives first
followed by two squad cars. Now there are six, seven, eight people around me. One of
the paramedics leans down and sees me smile.
“I’m wearing a bullet proof vest,” I murmur.
“Well you’re arm isn’t.”
They lift me onto the gurney and drive away. One guy is taking my jacket and
vest off; the other guy works on my arm.
“We’re going to look through this jacket and tell the police who you are so they
can start working this up.”
I’m a little drowsy. At the hospital they remove the bullet and give me pain
killers. Two hours later I’m in the hotel with a stiff left arm; it hurts like hell. I pop two
more Percosets and order dinner. The phone rings. It’s Kingsberry.
“Des, what happened?” His voice ends on a high note. “I just finished talking
with the Gestapo. You don’t want to talk?”
“No, it’s not that, Terry. I’m trying to figure out what happened.”
“Do that out of town. That’s my advice. And run. I certainly expect to see you
on Halloween. Right?”
“You get full pay. Injury and all. I gotta go. See you in the morning.”
In the morning I call room service for the Post. My story is on page eight.
SECURITY GUARD BUSHWACKED IN CHELSEA.
An unidentified assailant pumped two bullets into a man standing at 24th
St. and 11th Ave. around 9 p.m. last night. The recovered bullets came
from a Winchester 44 carbine. The guard was set to begin work at the
U.N. Millennium Conference. The man, in his mid 40’s, survived the
The Winchester 44 carbine is an odd old weapon. A small rifle, which can fit
under a coat, it is or was used primarily by Western deer hunters.
I start up the laptop and tap into my home files. I search for a connection. I start
with the last first. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Terry. He crushes my right hand.
“I’m heading to the opening ceremony. Let me see the arm.”
“Was it a flesh wound?”
“It didn’t break a bone.”
“The police aren’t going to follow this. It seems like a random sniping incident to
them – weird gun and all.” He stares at me. His eyes seem to be searching for
“We’ll talk later,” he says and reaches into his suit pocket and hands me a little
“It’s a 22 Baretta subsonic model 21A. What the Mossad use on their up close
and personal assignments.”
He drops a box of bullets on the table and walks out.
Bobby’s file is deeply layered. It takes me half an hour to get in.
Bobby was born in Wisconsin. Father divorced Mother when Bobby was ten.
Mom received custody. His father remarried a Danish cheese executive who had a
twelve year old daughter, Annette, by a Danish national. Could Bobby’s step sister have
known him? I need a picture of Annette McKnight. I type in Copenhagen.org: an
exquisite web site. It takes me an hour to scroll through school year books, but I find
her. Annette is Jasmine. I’ve got to assume she is here and suicidal bent on finishing the
They must have been lovers. What else could account for her behavior? She
could have killed me in the beginning, but she wanted to taste my flesh, to have me
merge with her as Bobby did when they were young and secretive. Why not be a good
girl and go back to Copenhagen?
I wear a black merino jacket over a new vest and gray slacks with the 21A in my
pocket. I walk vigorously through the lobby and onto the bristling street. I’m a little
panicked. I walk cautiously among the crowd and hail a cab and ask him if he’ll take me
through the tunnel and into Maywood. He says with a West Indian accent, “gladly.” I
call my father and tell him I’m stopping by for an hour. At the moment, I don’t like
myself very much.
Maywood is a garden of earthly delight. I cheer up as soon as I see the ballparks
and the sugar maples which envelop the streets.
He greets me at the door with a hug. He looks frail and kind; sides of him that
were non-existent when I was growing up. He’s been in Maywood most of his adult life.
“What’s the matter with your arm?”
“Why don’t we stand side by side – eyes to the front,” he says.
I laugh. He nods his head. His turtle-like face grins. He hasn’t bothered to pop
in his dentures.
“I was thinking of Ruth all morning before you called.”
He lights a cigarette and starts coughing.
“About the time we went to Lake Placid when your brothers were conceived. So
cold and beautiful. We didn’t have a reservation. Ruth didn’t care. She said we’d find
something and we did. A cabin with the works. I think it was $8.00 a day. This is in
’45. Oh, we had some nice horses, Des. Do you miss your brothers?”
“I miss them.”
“War is the great defiler. When you got the college deferment I was happy. I am
sad to say it but I was.”
I walk into his bedroom where Grandma’s two earliest paintings hang. The first a
snowy scene in New York City painted in 1905 when she was ten; the other a portrait of
my father when he was nine.
I go back into the living room. We talk baseball. We sit together locked in a kind
of dream state. We’re the last of the Desmond clan.