Thursday, 28 September 2017

Failed Openings To Mystery Novels I Will Never Finish Writing

Death Of An Insurance Premium
I was never an attractive man. Far from it in fact, and yet somehow I made that ugliness work for me at the insurance agency. Perhaps clients looked at my face, saw the failure and hopelessness etched into its crags and creases, not to mention the moles and boils and rashes and such, and thought, yes, I do need some kind of protection. After all, life’s a racket and you just need to stay ahead of the game. That’s what they teach us in the insurance business and then I just pass the fear on to you and eventually, over time, climb my way up to salesman of the month. And then salesman of the year, despite daily eruptions of facial pus from my many boils not to mention those few lawsuits I’m still facing. But it’s lonely at the top. All the candy in the five candy dishes that were so artfully arranged on laminate pressboard and sturdy metal-legged tables draped with festive tablecloths in the Holiday Inn convention centre room for Roy’s retirement party, that was all on my dime. Just a gift from the salesman of the year to show how generous I am even though no one knew it was me who bought and stocked the candy dishes, and though I do like to give anonymously I did have cause to mention it a couple of times to a few folks around the punchbowl and in the buffet line. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn and I don’t mean farting in a cold car somewhere on the outskirts of Minnesota with an inexplicable erection in 30-below weather.
“Say, did you get a chance to try some of the candy?” I asked, nonchalant as all hell. I got some nods…yes, yes, they did try some candy. Yes, they enjoyed it though, judging by their reactions, either they were just drunk or they weren’t that sold on the stuff. Of course the double martinis didn’t help, no doubt dulling their taste buds. Time to show these souses what really went into being top of the heap.
“Yeah, well, I put that together. I’ve always felt candy is the unsung icebreaker at parties. I mean, put out a nice dish of candy, or five dishes if you’ve got the money, which I do, and soon everyone’s talking and rubbing elbows and shoulders and fornicating in the cloak room and feeding each other canapés and exchanging phone numbers and shoe sizes and vacuum cleaner repairmen advice and baby-sitter recommendations, and tax bracket loopholes and, holy crap if you haven’t created a thriving little community. How great is that? And that’s what I’m all about. Community, fornication, tax loopholes and shitting in your enemy’s pants. I mean shoes.” People were always impressed with this little speech of mine and I would deliver it at the drop of a hat, even at a baptism, funeral or even once at a bris.
It was at one of those office parties that I met Guinevere. She was the wife of the company’s head chartered accountant, Del Plunkin, a mousey guy who had more cardigan sweaters than Siberia has musk-oxen or the frozen bodies of dissidents who had tried to escape the Gulag twenty years earlier, and I’ll be damned if this woman wasn’t all over me, backing me into a corner behind the grand piano and a potted palm tree and there behind the fronds she rubbed my penis through my trousers with one of those extra long shoe horns that rich people or those with arthritis seem to own. The next 86 hours were bewitching as we ditched diplomacy and roamed from motel room to motel room, engaging in every carnal activity known to civilization and I’m including all species in that declaration so, that my head wasn’t bitten off during the proceedings or I wasn’t left to guard some eggs for six or seven years, I can only thank my lucky stars.
It was at the Sea Horse Motel after an especially rousing round of lovemaking that left friction burns on my forehead, earlobes and ankles, no thanks to the vinyl headboard and a carpet-sample book that found its way under the sheets at the height of our frenzied coupling, that Guinevere turned to me as we lay on the Magic Fingers Massaging Bed, enjoying the last vibrations out of our last quarter we’d dropped into the slot only moments earlier and said, “You know, Leopold, if only my husband were out of the picture we could be together forever.”
“I’ve thought about that, baby and I like the sound of it.”
“Well, you’re an insurance guy so you know all about the triple indemnity clause whereby if you kill my husband but make it look like an accident or that he was chewed by feral dogs or a meteorite hit him, but only in Saskatchewan, then I get triple the amount of money on his insurance policy that I’m going to take out on him, with your help.”
“And what do I get out of the deal, honeybunch?”
“You get my everlasting love and the fact that I’m willing to overlook the pus eruptions from your many boils, even at intimate moments because pus really has no place in the bedroom I’ll remind you yet again, so that should count for a whole lot right in of itself. Oh, and I’ll throw in fifty grand for your troubles.”
“Hmmm. A measly fifty grand out of the, what…3.3 million you’ll be collecting on the triple indemnity policy. Forget about it, sister. I got other plans. Anyway, truth is, if we’re together after we off your husband why aren’t we sharing the money?”
“Oh, we would. Of course we would, Leopold. The fifty grand is just a little something extra for you, a little play-around money. Take a friend to Las Vegas or something. On me. All you need to do is one little thing.”  
“Oh, why didn’t you say so? In that case, lay it out for me in terms I can understand. I’m a man who likes clear instructions and a nice roast chicken on a paper plate. Down-to-earth, greasy and disposable, that’s my motto.”
“Okay. I’ve figured it from every angle and this is the one that works. My husband and I are due to travel to Saskatchewan next month to visit his ailing mother. In fact she may be dying but either way I intend to hasten the process along because both my husband and I are named in her will and she’s sitting on a ton of money due to her investments in both the electric cattle-prod and paperclip industries. She lives in a small town called Moosamin, and as they’re an affluent family, the town grain elevator is named after them. So, every time we visit the mother insists on schlepping us out to this hideous thing where we stand and gaze up and marvel at the family name painted on old, moldy, rotting wood. You starting to see where this is going?”
“You want me to push them off the grain elevator?”
“No, you idiot. What did I just say about the triple indemnity clause? Remember, if Del gets hit by a meteor anywhere in Saskatchewan, the insurance company will honor the policy. I figure with his mother standing there we might as well kill two birds with one stone and quadruple our money.”
“Now you’re talking, honey. But seems to me just standing around hoping for a meteor to fall on them, well you could be there for days. Even months. Or years. I mean isn’t this whole meteor thing a bit of a long-shot? Can’t we just go back to the feral dogs?”
“Of course it’s a long-shot, you twit. You think we’re going to stand around a grain elevator waiting for a meteor to fall on them. We’ll die of old age before that happens. What I’m suggesting is this. You remember Siegfried Putchkin? He’s the guy who made those fake flaming meatball centerpieces for Clifton and Bernice’s wedding.”
“How could I forget? Right after that they promoted Clifton to head of the accounts payable division. This for a guy who can barely write his own name on a cheque. Those flaming meatballs really impressed someone.”
“Well, yeah, what did you think? Bernice is the daughter of Colby Hamstring, the president of the goddamn insurance company. Anyway, this guy, Putchkin, he’s really got a talent for constructing faux-meatballs. Kind of like his own little niche market. I had no idea of the size or scope of the fake meatball industry when I started this little project. So I called him up and asked him if he thought he could create a fake meteorite. Well, that had him thinking for a while until I explained to him that meteorites are not unlike meatballs. Spherical but with lumpy surfaces, happy and durable in extreme heat and deadly if traveling at a high velocity with absolutely no regard for human life. Meatball or meteorite, the description applies equally to both. After that he was all in. I’m awaiting delivery of the meatball any day now. He’s constructed it from papier-mâché and liver pâté. Light enough for us to carry but heavy enough, when dropped from the top of a grain elevator, to crush a person’s skull. Something to do with how Putchkin freezes the liver pâté first. I just need you to drop the damn thing on them while they’re gazing up at their flaking-painted name.”
“Better yet,” Leopold replied, “why not hedge our bets by throwing some feral dogs into the mix. I’m sure I could round up a bunch of half-starved psychotic mutts and let’em loose on Del and his mom in case the meteorite doesn’t kill them right off. Meteorite, feral dogs, c’mon, how can you miss? If the fake meteorite doesn’t crush their heads then the dogs will eat them. And the frozen liver pâté to boot. Which is like eating the evidence if you think about it. Either way we’ll be laughing all the way to the offshore bank in the Cayman Islands and the dogs’ll be chewing intestines till the cows come home.”
“I was thinking more the Antarctic.”
“What’s that?”
“The Antarctic, for an offshore bank to hide our money.”
“They got banks in the Antarctic?”
“Of course. No safer place to keep your money these days than in the Antarctic National Bank. Makes the Swiss look like wussies in the world of international finance. Your money is hidden deep beneath the ice and guarded by an army of penguins who will peck any intruder to death. Beats the shit out of those Alps and those stuffy Swiss twits with their moldy cheese breath any day.”
“Is that true?”
“Which part?”
“The part about the penguins.”
“Of course. And they’re trained by the Israeli army in the art of Krav Maga.”
“Uh, yeah, whatever you say, doll-face. I dig the ice. And penguins. I dig penguins guarding our money and I dig the Israeli army even though I’m no so big on the desert climate , so really, the Antarctic sounds fine by me. I like things a little frosty. For me, for you and for our money. And maybe we can find time for some below-zero loving, if you catch my snowdrift.” Little was Leopold to know that these words would come back to haunt him, not in the frozen wasteland of the Antarctic but instead out back of an Olive Garden in Winnipeg in 13-below and a backlit figure on a snowmobile pointing a .303 hunting rifle at him and the last thing he could feel was the cool snow beneath him that he’d collapsed into and how it turned a bright red like a snow cone, reminding him of those hot summer days when the mosquitoes were plentiful and bounced off your forehead like bloodied raindrops, but with needle-shaped proboscis and spindly legs and a high, whining sound that he’d come to associate with youth and skin afflictions and lactose intolerance at the fair-grounds and getting whapped with a partially-frozen bible by his high school gym teacher after another sad display of rope-climbing, finishing with the teacher announcing to the class that if Leopold should ever be so fortunate as to procreate then all his children would look like potato chips. Time would prove the gym teacher right, amazingly enough, but that’s another story and depended on who you asked, since some claimed the kids looked more like those jumbo shrimp in shrimp cocktails due to their reddish hue and many tiny legs and the dark sand veins that ran up the back of their tiny heads and the way they liked to cling to glass surfaces and then just look googly-eyed at things, especially if they were tomato-sauce based.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Dr. Haltiwanger's Top 7 Best Books of 2016

This is that time of year when every Tom, Dick, Harry and Fred, Cindy, Boris, Petunia and Ed,  Morton, Dorothy, Ludmilla and Oscar, Sydney, Mindy, Horsham and Mildred's cousin Mitzi Plotzman, like to publish their top-ten book lists for the past year and I felt, as an avid reader myself, there should be a Haltiwanger top-ten book list but I could only come up with seven, perhaps due to my unrestricted ingestion of Neo-Citran. Usually I fall asleep between putting on socks so that's a good indicator of how far I get with pages. Nevertheless, here are some of the best books of 2016 that I think I read.

The Voice-Thrower of Thornhill, Ontario by Milton Doiley and
Abigail Tundry

There are some contemporary Canadian novels that seem so steeped in a traditional sense of place that it’s as if you can smell the pine beetles and poutine drippings and loon droppings and wheat chafe and bowling alley shoe deodorant spray from a mile away. Some would claim that continuing to write such fiction is like trying to beat a carpet with a geoduck, and they wouldn’t be far off but there’s still something to say for a book that wears its maple leaf on its snot-covered sleeve, and this is such a book. The motifs tumble down like maple leaves on a blustery fall day only to be used by wandering bands of out-of-work hobo rodeo clowns as toilet paper after a ten-course dumpster buffet. Skip back to 1973. Thornhill is just beginning to become a burgeoning suburban bedroom community, a place where you can be friendly but still get lost, in the woods or rifling through your neighbour’s garbage, the perfect hideaway for Clyde Torkins and his wife, Tilly, on-the-run from police in Michigan for a series of bank robberies. It’s not long before Clyde becomes a top janitorial supply salesman and Tilly, following her life-long dream, is soon a popular local ventriloquist with her dummy, Mr. Dentalis, who she takes to visit schools to teach the children about good dental and other forms of hygiene. But beneath this perfect suburban façade lies a seething and strange world of unworldly desires with Tilly leading the charge as a paid-for-hire topless ventriloquist, performing for groups of slobbering married men in rec-rooms across the district. This novel is a beautiful and touching examination of the bonds of marriage tested in an oncoming new world where the old values are cast aside like burger wrappers out a car window and racy jokes around a rec-room bar become a plot for revenge and perhaps even murder. Not to mention a run for president of a balloon manufacturing company with links to some allegedly corrupt Rotary Club funds. The plot thickens like a stew left on the stove too long.

The Crimson Pistachio by Torrance Fippler

Remember when pistachios used to be dyed red? Then they stopped doing that for some reason that I know nothing about. Well this book delves into that mystery like a squirrel into a bag of nuts and holy smokes if you aren’t shocked by the results. A captivating read, like being chained to a radiator in a run-down motel. The book’s cover didn’t seem to have any designation whether the book was fiction or non-fiction but I’m erring on the side of non-fiction because it makes the plot, characters and pistachios all that more intriguing. Especially once the KGB become involved with an Iranian pistachio smuggling ring.

Pinsky Geltman’s Last Stand by Hamish Recondo

A great chess player is blown up while eating pickled herring in kosher restaurant in a Toronto strip-mall. On the other side of the world a young child wanders away from the family yurt and is flung into a world full of menace, malice and hailstones as big as gallstones. Then they turn out to be actual gallstones. In the neighbouring village the local butterfly collector finds a note in one of his killing jars. It’s a note from a Russian soldier semi-frozen in Siberia to his betrothed back in St. Petersburg. She’s already dumped him for another guy but he doesn’t know that as he freezes to death in a Siberian field blowing last kisses to her into the frigid air. Are these seemingly unconnected events part of a brilliant short story collection? No, they’re part of a brilliant novel that jumps around like head lice in an elementary school. If you can’t follow it, that’s your fault. Better luck next time, bub!

Heavy Snow In Vaagasraagard by Ilsa Oogaard

I’m not one for the fantasy genre but Ilsa Oogaard really hits it out of the fjord with this one. This novel has more characters than all the changes of underwear in a George Martin trilogy but they’re much more fully rounded because Ms. Oogaard has the good sense to incorporate their shoe sizes. It’s little things like that that really make their personalities pop and add an air of realism to the world of Gloogvarnishhooven. All I can say is that when Rankgnor, lord of Svenoorgorlogen discovers the magic lichen near his journey’s end and is then able to reverse time to bring his dead father back so he can pay him the three gold coins he owes him (about fifty bucks in today’s Canadian dollars), I wept like a baby seal lost on an ice floe. Then I went outside and chopped some wood and let my tears fall upon lumber that shed its own tears as I struck it over and over again with a potato peeler. It was going to be a long, cold winter.

Alcoholic Dogs by Clayton Tononoclot

Here’s another one I’m not sure is fiction or non-fiction but hot damn if it isn’t a great read either way. This is a poignant book that challenges you to, if not change your life, at least change your socks occasionally. Many books have titles that are misleading but for this book not to worry. Alcoholic dogs galore are pouring from the pages, stumbling about in the alleyways, sprawled out on the sidewalk, on the couch, vomiting on favorite chew toys…no sirree, it’s not a pretty sight. But then Psychiatrist Bob shows up and Mitzi Tobogner from the women’s auxillary at Dapson Falls First Penetcostal Church and even with a roving band of distempered alcoholic dogs unwilling to sit down with Psychiatrist Bob to really get at the root of their problems, the town never gives up hope. It’s a piquant narrative, like accidentally sucking a red pepper flake up your nasal cavity, but is able to portray the grey areas of moral dilemmas, such as taking a pair of hockey gloves out of a community centre lost and found box even though they’re not yours, filling them with luncheon meat and then putting them back, with great subtlety (and by that I mean both the sneaking of the hockey gloves and the insertion of the luncheon meat). A story of love, redemption, of alcoholic dogs puking on your carpeting and most of all, families and their pets and the co-mingling of their hairy parts during normal day-to-day and evening activities.

The Upholsterer by Lesley Melby

Who is the Upholsterer? Hitman, world renowned artist, or maybe both? Who knows, and by the end of this fabulous novel that breaks so many novel-breaking rules some reviewers have described it as The James Joyce Semen Express ejaculating through the glory hole of the death of language itself, you’ll feel like you’ve been slapped upside the head with your own scrotum (for those who don’t own a scrotum you can substitute frozen peas thawed in a plastic sandwich bag, or for those with a scrotum but are unable to slap themselves in the head with it, no problem, the book actually comes with a realistic plastic scrotum shrink-wrapped to the cover so you can whap yourself silly with it each time the text prompts you to do so), and be all the much wiser for it. But it’s not all just slappy scrotums and cat-scratched sofas dragged into the upholstery shop. Beneath the slapdash barrage of words lies deep underlying ideas about arts and culture in a society that values money and jumbo shrimp that have been successfully transplanted with human heads, above all else that is decent and worthy of a mall kiosk or even grandmothers spoon-feeding baby lizards while navigating a mine field in Eastern Europe. The main character, an upholstery artist, literally nail-guns her way up through the swanky ranks of the New York art world with her performance pieces where she refinishes a sofa while teaching an incontinent parrot to talk or enlists the aide of genuine hoboes to smash up Louis IV furniture to use as firewood to heat up their cans of pork and beans on the rooftop of the Guggenheim. But that’s just a teaser to the places this novel will take you and all I can say, after finishing this book my teats were sore for weeks and I had hoof and mouth disease for six months. The power of words is not to be underestimated. This novel is also an homage to the world of upholstery and the toll it takes on those who practice this demanding and dark art.

Tungsten! By Dr. Jamon Jambon

You thought you knew everything about this wonderful metal but think again. By the time you finish the first page of this fascinating book you’ll have to rethink everything you’ve ever thought about tungsten steel. From its discovery to its rare properties to even its very name (in German it means ‘wolf cream’ or ‘wolf froth’ stemming from a time back in the 16th century when rabid wolves wandered the countryside dragging off babies and ham hocks for sustenance and strudel-bakers’ wives for mating with), tungsten will never be the same old reliable metal you once knew it to be. In the end though your eyes will be opened to new insights, only to be closed again by burning ingots of smelted steel shooting out from an arc furnace that these words will construct in your cranium. The next time you mention tungsten and someone nods their head dismissively, you’ll know now to act quickly and deliver them a swift kick to the shin and yell “Tungsten!” at the top of your lungs to snap them back to reality so that they can fully understand and appreciate the precarious position of tungsten in the world today, whether it be the global marketplace or down-and-out in a scrapyard in New Jersey.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Failed Openings To Mystey Novels I Will Never Finish Writing

The Case of the Salivating Salami or The Worm Drives A Hearse – A Hal Vershtmeyer Mystery
“What is this? Where are the coagulation results?” Dr. Wolf threw the test tube to the floor, the glass smashing on the tiling. He was brimming with dissatisfaction much like when the brim of a hat takes on too much rain. “The saliva-to-potato mastication ratios are all off. Who took these measurements? We’re talking millions of dollars here. Wake up folks!”
A hush settled over the laboratory, many of the scientists farting under their lab coats in fear that they were the next to be fired from the project.
“Dr. Wolf,” a meek voice wavered from behind a shelf of beakers. “I think if you speak with Ludwig he might be able to explain to you what went wrong. Apparently something to do with contaminated saliva and the potatoes sent by Farmer Dan had too many eyes, which altered the test results significantly. I don’t think we should view this as a setback. It might actually have pointed the way to a solution.”
“Okay then,” Dr. Wolf barked. “Find Ludwig and bring him to my office. Why isn’t he here?”
“He’s in the tunnels, sir. Looking for rats. And wall sponges.”
“Well find him. I want answers fast before the investors back out.”
Twenty minutes later found a sweating and grimy Ludwig traipsing along the hallway to Dr. Wolf’s office. His pockets were full of wall sponges that had extended their tentacles, burrowing through the fabric of his shirt and trousers and then into his flesh with their miniscule tentacle teeth so that now they were feeding upon Ludwig’s blood but he didn’t mind. It made him feel as if he belonged…as if he were part of something larger, a family maybe. Anyway, this was his job, what they paid him for. Whenever he walked into the laboratory with a twinkle in his eye and wall sponges feeding on his blood supply, there was always a group of friendly faces waiting there to greet him and offer him a coffee and occasionally even a doughnut with no more than one or two bites out of it and sometimes even an untouched blueberry Danish. One day they gave him an apple fritter. He still has dreams about it. Once he saw an apple that had the same markings as the liver-spotted hand of the  scientist who gave him the fritter and he felt it was meant to be. He bought the apple and kept it in an old Philishave electric razor box where, over time, it liquefied into a furry sludge that, in the right light, resembled Hanks Snow’s toupee if it hadn’t been combed for a week.
He knocked on Dr. Wolf’s door. No answer. He knocked again. Still nothing. He pushed on the door and it swung open.
“Dr. Wolf,” Ludwig called. “Dr. Wolf, are you there? You wanted to see me? I got some beautiful wall sponges from the tunnels. They’re feeding now. Should be nice and fattened up for the experiment next week. As long as I can get that transfusion later on. These little buggers sure are hungry. It’s only been an hour and already I’m feeling dizzy. And I ate at least half my weight in rat meat today. In another hour I’ll be bone dry. You won’t be able to squeeze a drop of blood out of me if you were old Jesus H. Christ himself. ‘Course that was water into wine or something but with me it would be psoriasis into potato salad or boils into bouillabaisse. Anyway, you know what I mean.”
A desk lamp fashioned from an elk horn flicked on illuminating, although in shadow, a figure sitting behind the enormous desk built from timber rumored to be from the remains of a Viking ship, even though it had IKEA stickers on it.
“Dr. Wolf is dead,” the figure said. “He met with an unfortunate end at a ball-peen hammer factory. What caused him to be there in the first place is anybody’s guess? He was actually supposed to be at a chicken-skin rendering plant in Fluxenburg but somehow he got sidetracked and ended up in an industrial park on the outskirts of Nornvonhooven, being ball-peen hammered to death on an automated assembly line by usually trustworthy robotic machinery that punch a time clock just like any other human, pay their union dues, support their families, contribute to their community, coach the local little league or sit on the P.T.A. In other words all upstanding members of society, albeit robotic. And yet they’re picked on, time and time again. Shunned by the very people who invented them. Maybe that’s why they sought some form of revenge on poor Dr. Wolf who sat on the board of directors for the Abolishment of Robots from Places of Both Work and Leisure. We believe he was set up.”
“Who are you?” Ludwig asked.
Bletchford Capillary, sole heir to the throne of England, that is when England was part of the Antarctica back in the 5th century. Currently I’m a chartered accountant working for a yoga pants company. My wife, Mitzi, is a hired assassin who goes by the name Buttercup. The reason I’m telling you this is because, of course, now Mitzi, or Buttercup if you prefer, is going to kill you. We have to do this you understand to protect our board of directors and their unrelenting demands. One year it was three-toed sloths. That’s all they wanted. If it wasn’t a three-toed sloth they didn’t want to know you. You could give them a brick of solid gold and they wouldn’t have blinked. This year it’s something far more insidious. I’m not at liberty to reveal the details but suffice to say it involves rats wearing pants and replacing all the eyes on potatoes with mouths and teeth. I tell you this because you’re going to be dead in a minute.”
That’s what you think, Ludwig thought to himself and then he threw a wall sponge that he’d worked loose from his left buttock at Bletchford Capillary who fell to the ground screaming as the wall sponge fed upon the blood-flow to his face. Ludwig tore another wall sponge loose from his flesh and readied it for the arrival of Mitzi, no doubt bearing a Glock, a bullet-proof brassiere and sharpened assassin’s teeth.
But that was not to be the case because instead of Mitzi coming through the door it was his old boss from the mop-head factory, Hal Vershtmeyer, who had been dead for the past twenty years but now was apparently not. Ludwig had attended the funeral. He still remembered the catering at the reception afterwards. Who would’ve thought that mini-eggrolls would go so well with mole sauce?
“Mr. Vershtmeyer, is that you?”
“Ludwig, come with me. I have some people I need you to meet. They live in the centre of the earth. Don’t be scared. They’re hairless but kind. Do you have a pair of galoshes?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Not to worry. We’ll fix you up with some once we get under the topsoil. Now let’s hurry. There’s not a moment to waste. The fate of the world rests upon how quickly we act. The tubers are mutating every time they reproduce. Are your intestines able to process dirt?”
“How so?”
“Like if you eat it.”
“I dunno. Never ate dirt before.”
“Not to worry. You’ll love it. Tastes like chicken. Well, chicken covered in dirt. Think of it as an herb crusting for poultry. Now let’s go save mankind. Oh, just one more thing. Ever wrestled a worm?”
“Worms? Hell, yeah. Hundreds of times. Why didn’t you just say so in the first place? Could’ve saved us all this yakking. I learned worm rasslin’ at my daddy’s knee before I even learned to blink or regurgitate.”
“Music to my ears, Ludwig, music to my dirt-filled ears. Now let’s go give those worms a taste of their own medicine. Remember, best to catch them unawares during their excretion or lovemaking times.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I’ve got a room full of trophy worm heads that I procured while they were either sitting on the potty or engaging in some conjugal activity. C’ourse worms don’t actually sit on a toilet seat when they defecate and I can’t truly say the worms I saw making the beast with two segmented backs were married or just dating, but you know what I mean.”
“They live to eat and excrete, eat and excrete,” Hal Vershtmeyer said, an odd glaze coming over his eyes and his face exhibiting small facial tics. “The worm is devoted to digestion,” he continued in a monotone voice, “and thus is a perfect soil-enriching machine. Eat and excrete, eat and excrete, passing its nitrogen-rich soil casings, fresh from its intestinal tract back into the earth where they nurture life with their digestive system enzymes. We are one with the worms, the worms are one with us,” Hal Vershtmeyer began chanting and just as Ludwig was starting to get worried Hal hit Ludwig over the head with a Chicago 58 salami that he’d pulled from the pocket of his Kevlar bathrobe, knocking Ludwig out cold and then, pulling up a clod of turf Hal Vershtmeyer uncovered an iron hatch set into the dirt, which he opened by spinning the wheel lock.
Flinging the hatch open Hal called down, “I’ve got him. Everything in place?”
“We are ready,” a gravelly voice answered from beneath the earth. “That’s the second-to-last one we can cross off our list. With Ludwig as our hostage our bargaining chip just increased. Those wall sponges can suck blood in hell for all they’re worth.”
“Who’s next on the list?” Hal Vershtmeyer asked.
“Your wife and children, of course.”
Vershtmeyer didn’t even blink. He just adjusted his cufflinks, no mean feat when you’ve jerry-rigged them to a bullet-proof bathrobe and readied himself for the task at hand. From Helsinki to hell in two easy steps, he thought, with maybe a stopover in Timmins, Ontario for doughnuts, a shower and that hooker with the cheese string connection and her fantastic Flat-Tops record collection. That’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of, even when it’s 20-below outside but you’ve got sixty Sterno cans burning in the double-wide, melting cheese strings over Wonder Bread and illuminating the prefab molded plastic shower and half-sized bathtub in a flickering romantic light, plug-in Brazilian Carnival-scented air freshener working overtime and the Flat-Tops singing “Sneaking Kisses Behind The Iguana Farm,” in those famous falsetto voices that once made the Queen of Sweden soil herself in the royal dinghy while crossing the river Torne at twilight, on her way to cull the royal geese with a Gatling gun given to her by the King of Thailand as thanks for introducing herring into his diet. That’s the kind of sock-it-to-you thinking that got you somewhere in this life and soon the world would know who Hal Vershtmeyer was, one swing of a Chicago 58 salami at a time…one swing of a Chicago 58 salami at a time. It may not be a herring but never underestimate the power of a salami’s velocity, especially on cooler nights with few prevailing winds and the barometric pressure hovering at around 30. Like a grand slam in the old brain pan with enough meat grease left over to high-five an overworked butcher and leave plenty of fat slime on his palm to give him reason to stop and ponder. As it would anyone, as Hal Vershtmeyer was soon to discover. Either way, no worm conquerors were going to pull the dirt over his eyes.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Failed Openings To Mystery Novels I Will Never Finish Writing

CSI: Janitorial Division –The Chopped Liver Killer Dossier
The rain was hitting the pavement with the kind of force you usually reserve for hammering nails or mashing potatoes but not driving nails into mashed potatoes because, hell, even a drugged iguana could do that. Anyway, it was just that kind of evening.
Al the janitor sat at the bar tapping a grime-encrusted fingernail against his shot glass and pondering the role of dog feces in the history of world sanitation and its various customs and hygienic problems. For some, Al had been led to understand by his now long-dead and doughnut and cheese Danish-loving community college instructor in Building Cleaning Maintenance 101, dog feces at certain points in history were not looked down upon but rather revered as instruments of fortune-telling, shelter-building material and occasionally as a form of currency between countries and nations.
Al was conflicted by these thoughts because in his involvement with dog feces, both past and present, it was just another disgusting task he had to endure, usually in the underground parkade of the condominium complex he cleaned and he found it difficult to find anything to revere about these canine droppings. The only positive thing he could say is that his vast experience picking up these turds had given him an uncanny insight into the types of dogs and their dietary habits just by what they left behind. Not just visually but his olfactory senses too were called into play and then the analytical part of his brain kicked in as he ascertained date, time, enzyme production and breakdown, proliferance of flies or likewise discoloration from dried to almost mummified in appearance and proximity to the underground ventilation fans that could hasten such variations in either preservation or decomposition depending on breed of dog (usually determined by fece size and meat or vegetable content), weather conditions and a host of other factors. It even gave him an insight into the psychological make-up of the dog. All of which made him much in demand as a CSI Janitorial Division consulting expert when the police had an especially messy case on their hands. And that was only half of his talents. His thoughts on the chemical breakdown of finger and hand smudges on the stainless steel panels that line many of today’s contemporary and stylish condominium complex elevators was renowned among fellow janitors in a fifty-block radius and one custodian in Istanbul.
It was precisely this kind of expertise that impelled Lt. Tungsten of Homicide Division, 28th Precinct to creep up behind Al the janitor as he sat on his bar stool and whisper in his ear using his hand puppet, Goobly Tungsten Jr. III, the same puppet he used to intimidate and interrogate the vilest of criminals that the city seemed to produce with the same ease as growing lichen upon lichen upon lichen upon moss, “Would both fresh dog feces and smudged fingerprints on the glass lobby doors instantly be construed as the perfect evidence to secure a murderer’s arrest and conviction, if, of course, a dead body had at first been found in the east stairwell of the condo building, the body lying near the rear exit door, a Canadian Tire plastic bag over its head to catch the oozy run-off trickling from the hole in the back of its skull and clutched in its rigor mortised hand two tickets to tonight’s large mouth bass fishing convention at the Holiday Inn at the junction of Truncton and Hwy 3, the overpass offering a wonderful scenic view, especially in the winter if you’re lucky enough to snag a front room. Bass fishing be damned when you’re sitting back with your tootsies on the radiator, sipping a rye and ginger ale, munching Moo Shoo pork-flavoured beef jerky and watching semis navigate the tricky turnoff during a winter white out, just waiting for a jackknife, and a little porno on the TV for a background soundtrack and to add to the enchantment of the evening.”
“That’s a hell’uva build-up but you know that wouldn’t be enough,” Al the janitor replied, completely nonplussed by the hand puppet in his personal space or the voice and body behind it. Even with all the warty afflictions or phlegm-filled smoker’s cough.
“Up for re-election are we, Al?” Tungsten enquired after he’d cleared his throat into a handkerchief and tucked it away in the top of his cowboy boot.
“I have served the Canadian League of Custodial Workers well in my tenure as their monthly scribe and many have commented favorably on both my penmanship and my unique perspective on most cleaning matters. I am appointed, not elected so back by popular demand, you’ve got me for the next four years, yet again. Now what can I do for you, Lt.?”
“Like I said, dog feces, smudged fingerprints, Canadian Tire money and I mean a whole suitcase full of it, dead herring in the air ducts, red herrings in the lobby, fish oil on the carpeting and a whole lot of nothing on the witness end of things. Seems everyone was running their dishwasher or air conditioner or vacuum cleaner at that exact moment when some poor helpless soul was screaming for mercy in the hallway while a ruthless killer hovered over them, wielding, what appears to be from the evidence left behind at the crime scene, a piece of raw liver. But that’s just the coroner’s guess, right now. Me, I’d say it’s the Chopped Liver Killer except something isn’t sitting right but I’m not sure what. Call it a hunch.”
“Could be, Lt., that the liver remnants found were raw and the Chopped Liver Killer follows a whole different M.O. beginning with the fact his liver is cooked. I think we’re looking at a copycat but one, who no doubt, wants to separate himself from the original, to leave his own mark so to speak but still pay homage to the liver fetish.”
“But why leave the bag of Canadian Tire money? I counted it. There was enough there to buy a pack of picture hooks. Maybe even an air freshener, like you hang from the rearview. That’s no small potatoes.”
“It is if you live in P.E.I. They got potatoes there as big as your head or the tumor they took out of my Aunt Edna’s rear end. Anyway, to the point. He’s not in it for the money. He’s driven by other, more ungodly, more degenerate desires that you and I could only begin to understand, perhaps after we drink six packs of Neo-Citran and eat all the chemical debris at the bottom of a bag of ketchup-flavoured potato chips. Then, and only then may we even attempt to probe the depraved depths of this fiendish mind.”
“Okay, if you say so. Think you can help? I’ll even spring for the Neo-Citran. And the potato chips.”
“Yes, but I’m going to need to see those dog feces and any remnants of the liver used as the murder weapon. Also, perhaps I can have some of that Canadian Tire money. I need a new mop head.”

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Failed Openings To Mystery Novels I Will Never Finish Writing

Requiem For A Pogo Stick

Imagine that one of the greatest crime bosses in the city sat up at 3 in the morning, crying as he watched freshly hatched baby sea turtles scurrying for the water getting snatched up by marauding seagulls on TV. Even though he had ordered the hit on his wife’s brother only minutes earlier (because he woke up with indigestion and felt he had to kill somebody he didn’t like), it was the sea turtles and not the fact that he had just okayed the murder of his brother-in-law (because he couldn’t find the Pepto-Bismal), that caused his tear ducts to well up. In Sicily when your well was dry legend said that you were to bring ten virgins to cry into it and soon the well and the cisterns would again flood with water but as the big crime boss’s mother used to tell him, “Fluppo, it makes no difference how many virgins you march to that well. Stuff dries up ‘cause the gods are angry and eventually they’ll defecate in your gutters and you won’t be able to enjoy your roast suckling pig and potatoes and soon you’ll have to wear boots in your very own home because of the amount of god shit covering the floor. So keep your nose clean. And anyway, who th’hell can find ten virgins anymore. Not with your father loose in the village.”
Now, at 3:30 in the morning watching baby sea turtles scampering for freedom from the pesky beaks of predators on the Nature channel, Fluppo Kapolski, who had never been to Sicily, nor had his parents since they were Polish dissidents who had settled in Hungary years earlier but began passing their son off as Italian early on as a joke but then the joke stuck like when you make a face too much and someone tells you if you do it too long it’ll stay that way, confronted his mortality for the very first time when the patio door slid open and a man on a pogo stick bounced into the room.
“Holy shit,” Fluppo yelled, “it’s like some kind’a half-man half-kangaroo fuckin’ mutant.”
“Relax,” the guy on the pogo stick huffed. “I ain’t no mutant. My name’s Pup Toranado and I’m here to avenge the murder of my cousin who you sawed in half two years ago in a lumber mill and then mailed one half to each side of the family, which really upset everybody. We’re still in therapy y’know.”
“What, I never sawed no guy in half. I’m in dry cleaning.”
“Cut the crap, Fluppo. We both know the truth.”
“How th’hell did you get past my security.”
“Good old pogo stick, Fluppo. Hopped over the laser beams, the attack dogs, the piranha-filled moat, right across the lawn, over the swimming pool and right into your room. And all in under two minutes flat. Never underestimate spring-loaded technology.”
“Hey, I know what you mean. I launder a bunch of money through a spring and ball-bearing manufacturing company and they gave me some of their heavy-duty springs as a gift. Well, I’ll tell you, I can catapault a dead body off’a a coupl’a those things a good twenty feet into the air and into the middle of the river. I’m not kidding. And that’s where I’m gonna catapault you in a minute if you don’t get off that fuckin’ pogo stick and show me a bit of respect. My neck’s starting to hurt watching you bounce up and down.”
“Respect, that’s a laugh. You didn’t show my cousin any respect when you ran him through that band saw. Eh, Fluppo.”
“He was a two-bit numbers runner who was skimming from my take. Believe you me, guy like that steals from me, I run him through the band saw crotch-first so he lives a little longer and can watch his dick get torn apart in the blade. I got movies if you want’a see’em?”
A sudden rage thrummed through Pogo-Stick man’s body, a rage so pure, so crystalline it was as if both he and his pogo-stick were one entity, not unlike Bruce Lee and his nunchucks in Fists of Fury, and Pogo-Stick man felt himself fused in some unholy alliance with his main mode of transportation, flesh and metal combining so as to mete out justice for those who couldn’t mete it out themselves or most likely didn’t have at their disposal spring-loaded weaponry and in a frenzy of pogo-stick activity Pogo-Stick man attacked the biggest crime boss in the city, springing up and down and then going almost horizontal to pogo-stick drop-kick Fluppo Kapolski to the ground. That’s when things really got ugly.
Lt. Bilcher of homicide stood scratching his head and wondering what and who could do this to a body. A human body he might add. He’d seen worse done to a sawhorse used as a decoy during a heist, the sawhorse paying the price as a group of hobos carried it off to their hobo camp to battle it out for the sawhorse’s hand in marriage and the lucky winner getting to consummate the wedding under a bridge in the honeymoon suite refrigerator box. It’s said the lucky hobo had the splinters to prove it.
“Whaddya think, Lt?” one of his detectives asked.
“The markings are unusual and yet somehow seem familiar. It’s almost like something out of my childhood and yet I just can’t seem to recall it.”
The coroner piped in, “The whole body is covered by these strange circular indents but there’s truly nothing in my years of experience that help me to recognize what the origin of these markings are. Obviously, whatever they were, they were no doubt the murder weapon. I’ll have to assemble every round object known in the world and then test them all out on my own flesh if I run out of lab subjects. By the way, let your friends and family know I pay fifty bucks for test subjects. Little extra money never hurt for the frozen beef fund or bus fare to the Buttonhole Museum.”
“You know,” Lt. Bilcher said, “being he’s a big-shot crime boss with a lot of pull in local politics we’re going to want to tread easy on this one boys so I’m issuing special homicide slippers that I designed to be both durable and incognito, whether you’re sloshing through blood, Bloody Mary’s or the blowholes of exploded Cetaceans.”
“Hear, hear,” Detective Vinblot called out but he was faced down by a crowd of angry police eyes, some of which were glass but nevertheless, full of police-like emotion and menace and forlorn thoughts like empty bullet casings lying beneath some ferns, a lush counterpoint to the decaying body that lay just ten feet away speckled with pine needles, fungus beetles and cigarette butts. Exploded cetaceans was still a sore point around the precinct, even though it had been over a year since the Great Exploding Cetacean Catastrophe that had claimed ten lives but claimed so much more in increasing the growing rift of distrust between humans and their marine mammal friends. No one could forget the day that the Trojan Whale was delivered to the doorstep of the precinct house, it’s blowhole secretly loaded with dynamite and the ensuing bloody aftermath, some people actually crushed beneath thousands of pounds of exploded whale meat and others hit by whale bone shrapnel that tore through their bodies and pinned them to the linoleum.
All this was of no concern to Pogo-Stick man as he calmly bounced from the crime scene, unnoticed by the police. That’s the thing about a pogo stick. Everyone just takes you for another exercise nut and not the scheming murderous maniac that you really are, seeking revenge not just for yourself but even for say the woman you just met at the grocery store who told you about how a shoe salesman sold her the wrong insoles and now she has corns. Pup Toronado had heard it all and then some and he was out to remedy the situation even if he had to pogo-stick half the city to death to finally get justice for the misled, the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the pork rind addicted and any stigmata aficionados working the blood donor clinics in their burlap sweat pants.
Late at night you might hear a strange squeaking, an “er-er, er-er, er-er” and think it’s the sound of your neighbour making love to a ceramic pagoda he stole out of a goldfish bowl in a bailiff’s office, something he’s expressed an interest in previously over glasses of pruno in the boiler room with the words, “Man, I’m so horny I could fuck a ceramic pagoda like you see in those goldfish bowls,” but were you to get up from your soiled sheets to gaze out the window you might see a figure silhouetted against the moonlight, bouncing up and down on a pogo stick and think, I bet that guy’s here to save the world. And you just might be right.
But you can only save the world one filthy, despicable scab-encrusted criminal at a time so when Pogo-Stick man got back to his rooming house and listened to his police scanner while wolfing down some Chef Boyardee Beefaroni to maintain both his stamina and his crime-fighting physique, he nearly shot a Beefaroni noodle out his nose when he heard this:
“Calling all units. We’ve got a 345 in progress, 2786 Plubber Blvd., suspect appears to be holding a prize-winning pumpkin hostage and threatening to blow its pumpkin innards from here to kingdom come. Requesting backup.”
Without further notice, Pup Toranado bounced his way out the door, down the stairs, through the lobby and then pogoed for twenty-seven blocks to get to the hostage taking. He loved pumpkin judging contests and goddamn anyone who got in the path of this glorious autumn event where only the largest of gourds had a shot at winning the whole shebang.
Somehow though, in the back of his mind, as he bounced down the sidewalk, his brain whapping against the sides of his cranial cavity like gelatin in a preschooler’s lunch bag, it all seemed too picture perfect, as if someone were playing on his nostalgic pumpkin memories and his penchant for exotic gourds artfully arranged on staircases. He wondered if perhaps there might be a more devious mind at work behind this, setting him up for something so diabolical, so evil even his pogo stick wouldn’t be enough to protect him and destroy the enemy.  
That’s when his pogo stick slipped on a worm and then everything went dark.
You know how they say you’re not in Kansas anymore. Well, when he awoke not only was he not in Kansas, it didn’t appear he was even on the planet as far as he could tell. Instead, gazing out the windows in a chair that felt both surgical and sofa-like simultaneously, he saw what he could only describe as outer space. The windows wrapped around a semi-circular enclosure that featured all manner of confusing technological matter and through the huge windows all he could see was blackness and stars.
He shifted about in the chair and that’s when he discovered his hands and legs were strapped down. Then, as he waggled around some more he realized that he wasn’t actually feeling anything in his legs. They were numb and when he managed to move them a bit they had a metallic creaky sound. My god, he thought, what’s going on? He bent forward and peered down to the most unspeakable horror. Or was it?
From the hipbone down, his legs were gone. Instead, in their place, were two pogo sticks, seemingly grafted to his flesh judging by what he saw for his pants were gone. Perhaps his legs were still wearing them, wherever they might be.
A figure hove into view in front of him. He must be groggier than he thought because he’d never seen anything hove into view before, much less a human. Maybe a cruise ship but that was still pushing it. The man spoke.
“Mr.Toranado, I trust you had a good sleep. Nice to see you awake and hopefully fully recovered and refreshed. Oh, by the way, while you were napping we performed a bit of surgery. All for your benefit of course. That worm you hit with your pogo stick did a great deal of damage. Who would think from something so small such disastrous injuries would result but isn’t that really just the way of the world.”
“Where am I? What have you done with my legs?” Pup Toranado croaked.
“One question at a time. First you are on the Hybris 6, a top-secret government Black Ops space station orbiting earth at 17,000 miles an hour and 320 miles above the planet..  And yes, we have replaced your legs with pogo sticks. An apparatus you are no stranger to, as we have observed during your crime-fighting escapades. I think you’ll find these new, top-of-the-line gas-hydraulic fed spring mechanisms to your liking. With these you could wipe out a hundred despots, if they were lined up end to end in less than five minutes without breaking a sweat. So, Mr. Toranado, or may I call you Pup, what do you think about joining our little Black Ops team.”
“Hot damn,” Pup said, “where do I sign up?”
“You already have, Pup, you already have. Now, are you ready to put those pogo stick legs to good use, wiping out evil around the world, one country, one city, one village, one anthill at a time?”
“You bet, uh…?”
“Glubon. Agent Glubon.”
“You bet, Agent Glubon. Now unstrap me and let’s put the ‘go’ back in pogo stick.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Agent Kugle, ready the departure-capsule. Mr. Toranado is going home. Your first mission, Pup, is in London, England. We’ve had a report of a fish and chip shop that’s been over-breading their fish. Think you can handle it?”
“Just watch me,” Pup said. “Now where’s my pants?”

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Failed Openings To Mystery Novels I'll Never Finish Writing


The Eyeball Eating Corgi Caper

“Go on, you and your crummy ventriloquist dummy get th’hell outta here. Neither I or the children love you anymore.” Those were Gertie Plutachrisides’s last words to her husband.
And those so happened to be the last words spoken to Felix Plutachrisides by any immediate member of his family before he moved on to a skid-row hotel where he successfully assembled an army of cockroaches to take over, what he believed to be the epicenter of the city – the revolving restaurant with its faded waiters and carpeting and maybe even faded pee stains around the lobby, in a needle-like tower with a saucer-like protrusion near the top that was the actual restaurant and where people revolved and ate Waldorf salads and leech pudding and ostrich-foot consommé and nibbled the earlobes of sloths as well as their own betrothed. And if that wasn’t enough his dummy wasn’t sleeping properly, keeping the both of them up all night with its incessant talking and nattering and hacking and coughing and gum-chewing and in the wee hours, though Felix was loathe to admit it, the sound of masturbating, especially when one of its new dummy magazines had arrived in the mail.
So when Gertie turned up dead the next morning, her pet Corgi having eaten her eyeballs inexplicably before nuzzling up to her body which is how the police found the two of them, the children fortunately still at school, Felix was amazed when the cops showed up at his flea-bag hotel room and asked him to come downtown. Especially because the downtown had burned down months ago during a riot over free twist ties at the Chez Maurice Chevalier Institute of Science and Technology. Oddly, when told of their mother’s death a day later, Piltron, the son asked his sister, Verbia, “Do you think the Corgi finally ate her eyeballs?”
Verbia could only nod her head in agreement. Everyone knew the family Corgi had a hankering for eyeballs day or night and they all walked around with protective eyewear on like what you’d wear at a construction site, for fear of losing their sight when Balthazar, the Corgi, tried to eat their eyeballs, be it in the kitchen, the bedroom, the garage or the den nodding out in front of the TV, one of the best spots for eyeball eating Balthazar discovered though he truly, in his heart, wasn’t that discerning as long as eyeballs were on the menu.
“The queen’s corgis never ate no one’s eyeballs,” Felix would say but Gertie would ignore him or reply, “She’s got all the money in the world to hush up all her corgi eyeball-eating lawsuits, that’s why you never hear about it, you dumbbell.”
It was these exact words that the homicide detectives threw back in Felix’s face like an old washcloth used to swab a prize-winning pig after a particularly strenuous showing at the 4-H Club, but Felix just looked at them blankly while deep inside his mind he began jerking his nerve-endings into telepathy-carrying waves in order to call his cockroach army into action and break him out of this two-bit excuse for an investigation. Plus he didn’t kill his wife but he thought he might know who did.
But to prove it he’d need every cockroach in the city on his side along with the mayor, two dentists, an entertainment director at a senior’s home, a butcher, a wombat impersonator and carte blanche at a Buddhist funeral supply store. Then, once they’d settled into their revolving restaurant headquarters he could proceed with his big plan. The steps leading up to it just chicken feed as far as he was concerned. The real work would begin once they were up there in the clouds, looking down and spinning around on some rusty hydraulic system, sucking on vintage bread crusts for sustenance as he and his dummy and his cockroach army tried to figure out how to save the entire human race. And it all began with the murder of his wife that pointed towards an international conspiracy of incredible proportions and would eventually stretch from the tony neighbourhoods of Beverly Hills to the slums of the Antarctic.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning when Thurman Pipler, the father of the modern revolving restaurant was himself being hatched in a petri dish back in a dustbowl dead horse town in 1936 by a most unusual doctor and the world had no idea that at that moment the entire course of history would change and would coincidentally parallel the arrival of the complimentary bread basket to the restaurant dining table. But that’s a whole other story.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Failed Openings to Mystery Novels I'll Never Finish Writing

The Roman Toilet Ultimatum
by  Torrance P. DerSitis (my thriller novel pen-name)

“City coroner,” the voice on the other side of the door stated with all the authority you would expect from a person who was allowed to exhume the dead on just a whim, rip open their bodies and poke around to their heart’s content and Chisley Torgair thought, “But wait, I’m not deceased. What could the coroner possibly want with me?”
That was to be his final thought because just then a pigeon began cooing madly at the window of his dingy one-room walk-up and when he turned to look he was met with a .22 slug right through the head. He never heard the breaking glass. Oddly, his last question was answered with the pull of a trigger.
A shadowy figure on the fire escape, still holding a smoldering gun then uttered some seemingly nonsensical words that would soon reverberate not only through the local precinct house but internationally from a yurt in Irkutsk to a back deck barbeque party in Tobermory at the tip of Georgian Bay with everyone in casual slacks, plus a couple of stops on some ice floes along the way, beneath which lay secret laboratories where recreational mutants were being bred, part insect, part mammal to undermine the willpower of the human race, the project headed up by a group of disgruntled ex-KGB and CIA agents and scientists who were not happy with their severance pay, or so some said. “Makes the Cold War seem like Miami, eh, Yuri?” was the joke they liked to beat like a dead horse around the facilities. A dead horse they would have gladly eaten instead of having to chow down on freeze-dried and microwavable entrees with names like “Glucose mit Hoof und Meatbowls and Chocolate Cesspool Pit.”
“Tungsten spit-croft filberts divisional seepage trust wingo-wingo gestational crust,” were the enigmatically strung-together words the shadowy figure murmured reverently as he watched Chisley Torgair momentarily twitch on the ground before his lights went out. Doesn’t take long with a .22 drilling you a third eye while a pigeon shits in that sad excuse for a flowerbox outside your rooming-house window that you fill with your stubbed-out cigarette butts and lung oysters hawked up morning, noon and night and all that despite your first name being Chisley. How did Chisley Torgair, a broken-down and alcoholic Venetian blind assembler, though once the scion of a wealthy family until he got into black market guinea pig breeding and tried to pass off a couple of rats with glued on hair he cut from passed-out drunks sleeping in his alleyway as “show pigs”, now currently jobless and his only family that hadn’t disowned him the yellowed and mottled pictures that came with his wallet, fit into the big picture? Moments later the city coroner and his assistant broke down the rooming-house door but they were too late. The assassin had disappeared.
“Goddamnit, Plitzsky, we’re too late!”
“I know, didn’t you just say that a moment ago?”
“No, that must’ve been someone else or else you’re hearing things. When’s the last time you got some sleep, Plitzsky?
“Don’t worry about me, Chief. I can run on empty until I’m mummified.”
“If you say so. Anyway, this guy’s playing us like a marlin on 120 Ib. test line. Teasing us for hours until we just wanna give up, fling ourselves in the boat and die.”
“I hear you, boss. My gills are hurting just thinking about it.”
This gave the coroner pause for as far as he knew his assistant had never before displayed any type of affinity or affiliation with fish species.
A hundred miles away in the countryside in a heavily secured barn surrounded by an electrified fence, rows of cows stood, their skullcaps cut away and plexi-glass domes placed over their brain cavities. Their udders were hooked up to lie detector machines and the cows were being asked questions by a group of men in lab coats.
“Your mother’s maiden name?” one man barked.
“You have eight apples. Sally takes away two. Then a laser disintegrates another. But the laser is so swift it’s actually beaming into the future. So, did those apples actually exist in the past or did you create them with extrapolations based partly on memory, partly on misguided future desires mixed with an overwhelming sense of regret and despair?” yelled another. The cows looked neither confused nor intrigued. They appeared neutral as did their test results.
In an office overlooking the barn floor below, Dr. Mibley Forblooth took it all in and lit a stick of incense before placing it gently in the makeshift shrine he had erected to Phil Horvance, philosopher, god, chartered accountant and his recently deceased brother-in-law and who had vouched for his initiation into the secret sect of which he was now president. A sect that was now poised to take over the world if they played their cards right and the detonation buoys they’d contracted out to a bunch of undergrad engineering students to build were both working and had been placed in the right freighter shipping lanes. Of course all the students would have to be killed afterwards.
As he placed the incense into the shrine built from the limbs of superhero toys, condiment packs pilfered from fast food restaurants and rat droppings, and ignoring a text message on his phone asking “How’s it going with the bovine?” he intoned the holy words, the words actually not nonsensical at all but a code for a very simple set of instructions with nevertheless complex and catastrophic repercussions beginning with the downfall of the three great superpowers of the world. And with all the technology of today to think that this entire, crazy scheme had actually been hatched way back when in the lavatories of Rome when some bad mutton had sent a bunch of scheming senators into the communal facilities where they then, between grunts and gas-passing swore and plotted revenge on all emperors, past, present and future. But as they say, “when in Rome…” I guess the same could be said for Sudbury after the sun’s gone down.