This book has had a mind of its own and in many respects wrote itself. I was available for the grunt work and I did the best I knew how to. Any errors that may exist are the result of gaps in my understanding of how certain esoteric forces work. Where there is clarity you may be sure it was provided from another source. There seems such a dearth of good occult fiction that I felt compelled to finally contribute to the larder myself. Whether this is a legitimate addition is for you to decide.
Along the way I have had some help and assistance in my labors and it is only fair that I thank those individuals who made my labors less arduous than they might have been. My wife Susanne and her wonderful mother Liselotte Kramer have blessed me with a wonderful environment of love and support. I cannot thank them enough but I will spend my life trying. Bud 'the birdman' Clifton saved my ass several times when my world collapsed. His generosity is unrivaled in my experience. He is also a gifted martial artist and we have spent many an hour knocking each other about, much to the consternation of whoever might have been standing nearby.
Let me also convey my overdue gratitude (in no particular order) to Paul Dumont, Beate Dumont, Peter Blum, Svargo Bernard, Michael Perkins, Gary Irving, Gerald Stewart, Isaac Shapiro, Bruce Metz, Howard Coon and Douglas Hume, Franklin Russell, Bob and Denise Lowe.
Corrina Bettencourt was washing her breakfast dishes when the phone rang; she reached for the phone on the wall and it squirted out of her hands. 'Shit!' she exclaimed as she picked it up from the floor. 'Hello.' She said.
Although she could hear breathing on the other end, there was no answer. 'Hello...' she repeated. She stayed on the line for several seconds more and then slammed the phone down, 'Fuck!' she exclaimed. The phone call had made her nervous. She was due at the St. Albans Daytop Motel in an hour and, no two ways about it, she was going to be late. This was not the reason that she was nervous however. She was nervous because she had a date for sex with one of her husband's customers, Bobby Datour.
If her husband found out, Datour would die in one of a number of unpleasant ways, all of them involving the removal of his manhood and Corrina would receive the beating of her young life. She'd been warned after Royce had seen her getting too friendly with a guest. The memory made her wince. But except for a few cursory blowjobs, Corrina hadn't had any sex for months and blowjobs didn't count for much satisfaction on her end. Royce had been heavy into the user end of his product lately and either it was affecting his sex drive, or he was getting it somewhere else. Most likely he was getting it somewhere else, since he was Mr. Big Time Gangster-Drug-Kingpin; Royce Bettencourt.
Royce hadn't been around much lately, very mysterious, setting up some big deals that were; 'none of your fucking business.' She wondered for a moment if the silence on the other end of the phone was a warning, some mind game of his. He wanted her to believe that he had his eyes everywhere. She knew otherwise though and she doubted that it was him calling. He was devious and clever but he was not subtle.
Corrina was twenty-one going on thirty-five. There wasn't much she hadn't done in her short life. Before she met Royce she had been on the arm of one small time operator or another since she was fifteen years old. Action and adventure drew her like a moth to a flame. So far her youth had protected her beauty. She knew it wouldn't always. She was intelligent but she had no spine, no discipline and no patience. She loved the comfort that easy money brought and it didn't matter where it came from. She had no intention of working in the straight life. All she had to do was open her legs or her mouth and the world came. She was a visual delight, a pocket Venus, barely over five feet and ninety-five pounds. Royce called her 'a spinner' and he'd shown her why. She had curly blonde hair that framed a perfect heart shaped face and bow-shaped, bee-stung lips. Her most common expression was one of petulance, followed by mischief or, alternatively, boredom. She knew she was unique. A lot of women looked like the real article but performed no better than a blow-up doll. Corrina fucked like some wild jungle cat. She was to die for. All in all, Corrina could name her price but she could not find her way free to a life of her own.
Royce Bettencourt was the main supplier from Seattle to San Francisco of a variety of illegal comestibles and related felony product. He was a handsome, rich and ruthless sociopath who, at the age of thirty-five, had broken every law on the books. He was presently in LA, on his way to Phoenix to purchase twenty-five kilos of 87% rock cocaine. Corrina knew nothing about this. Royce knew nothing about the phone call or Bobby Datour but if anything ever happened, he would. He owned a half interest in the Daytop Motel and used it for the same purpose that Corrina intended to use it.
The few dishes done, Corrina left the kitchen and went upstairs to the bathroom in the master bedroom suite. The house was a beautiful two-story redwood with a wraparound deck. The western face extended out over a sheer cliff. A hundred feet below it rolled the long combers of the Pacific Ocean.
Corrina stripped in front of a floor to ceiling mirror. Staring at herself she laughed and cupped her breasts; 'This is power,' she said. In a little while Bobby would concur. She had met him at one of Royce's parties. They were frequent when he was in town. Late that night everyone had jumped, naked and stoned, into the pool. Corrina could not forget the sight of Bobby's cock. It was as large and thick as any she had seen and she had seen a few. Bobby had noticed her interest and he had let her know he was interested too. He had called a few times when Royce was away. Corrina, her survival instincts prevailing, had resisted but now she was pissed off. Fuck Royce!
Corrina pulled at the blonde tuft of hair between her legs and shivered in anticipation; an afternoon and evening of fine cocaine, wine and sex. This was what she needed. Royce might own her but he couldn't be everywhere all the time. She stepped into the shower, set the dials and pulled the curtain closed.
The UPS van parked in the driveway. The driver stepped down with the computer pad and the package and hurried to the door as UPS drivers do. He knocked at the door. A moment later his hand grasped the knob and he entered the house. He walked through the downstairs until he heard the sound of the shower above him. He smiled to himself and set the computer pad on a coffee table. Whistling softly through his teeth he climbed the stairs with the package in his hand.
'Look Pritchard, leave me the fuck alone!' Lt. Augustus Boren of the California Highway Patrol loomed over the Channel 7-News reporter like the Angel of Death. 'I don't give a shit what you want right now and I don't give a shit what you want at any other time either. If you don't get out of my face pronto, Corporal Williams over there is going to haul that fire hydrant ass of yours behind those squad cars and let the police dogs piss on you!'
Boren was spitting in the reporter's face with every word as he backed her up over the lawn to the news van. This accomplished; he turned on his heel and walked back to the house.
'You can't threaten me you jerk!' She screamed at his retreating back. Boren took no notice of her. She'd been caught trying to slip through a window at the rear of the house. Emily Pritchard was universally despised and feared by every civil servant that had crossed her path, except for Boren, who simply despised her. He had once kicked her in the ass and sent her head over heels down a highway embankment into a drainage ditch. She had slipped into a crime scene and begun to go through the evidence that was temporarily stored in the back of a police car. Boren had come upon her and in a rage, had spun her around and booted her down the hill. Only two other officers, who both swore that she had tripped, had observed the act. The thin blue line remained intact. The lesson had no effect on Pritchard, who had worked for the tabloids before coming to television.
Two reporters remained near the front of the house along with one cameraman. Boren's face was red from anger and years of drink. The cords on his neck stood out like rebar. 'When I know what's happening you will all know what is happening. Is that clear?' No one answered him and he continued, 'Until that time, no one will be allowed beyond the yellow tape and anyone that attempts to will go directly to jail, especially you Ms. Pritchard!' This last was delivered over his shoulder as he re-entered the Bettencourt house.
The call had come in three hours before. A friend had dropped in to talk to Corrina and had found the house open. She walked in and eventually discovered the body when she heard the shower running upstairs. Lt. Boren had been nearby in St. Albans on another matter. He came on the scene shortly after. What he found was as gruesome a tableau as he had seen in his career. A witness had placed the UPS truck at the house that afternoon. UPS had no record of a delivery scheduled for that address. Boren assumed that one or more assailants had hijacked a truck and used it for camouflage. Presently one truck and a driver remained unaccounted for.
'Clifford?' Boren called into the bedroom, where the crime technicians and members of the coroner's office were at work. Moments later a tall thin man in a lab coat appeared in the doorway.
'Yeah, Gus, what can I do ya?' Clifford Whelans, the County Coroner, snapped the latex gloves as he removed them from his hands and dropped them into a sanitary basket that stood by the side of the door.
'You ready to talk to me? The vultures are slathering on the lawn and more coming. I need to tell them something.' The murder of a drug lord's wife in an upscale California arts community was big news and would be getting bigger as soon as word got around. These days word spread quickly.
'I'll meet you downstairs in a minute.' He pushed his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose and disappeared into the bedroom.
Boren returned downstairs and sat at the kitchen table. He was going over his notes when the coroner came in followed by a short, very fat man in a shiny brown suit. The fat man was detective 'Stew' Copely who, after wrestling with his weight for years, had finally given up the struggle and put on nearly fifty pounds in the last year. This was the result of his marriage to a Lebanese woman whose passion was cooking. Copely would not be with the force much longer if he didn't get a grip. Boren figured that it was a toss-up whether the department or a heart attack would get there first. The floor trembled as Copely landed in the chair across from him.
'Jesus, Stew!' Boren grimaced as the chair groaned under Copley's bulk. 'If you don't lose some of that weight, you're looking at a custom casket with a lot of unhappy friends who won't be able to lift it.'
Copely smiled and lit a cigarette, 'Lieutenant, if I can't eat, I don't want to live. I denied myself too long. Let me have my heaven before I go into the deep freeze.' As if to punctuate this statement Copely unleashed a voluminous fart. Clifford laughed while Boren just shook his head.
Turning to Clifford he asked, 'Well?'
Boren snorted in exasperation, 'You know goddamn well what Clifford, now let me have it!'
'We've got one dead woman,' Copley interjected.
'I know she's dead, Stew. I'd like a little more detail from the doctor here.'
Clifford slipped around behind Boren and took a seat on the other side of him as far away from Copley as he could get, waving his hand in the air, whether from the fart or the cigarette was indeterminate. He set his clipboard down and pretended to read from it for a few moments. This was a dance that had been going on between Clifford and the lieutenant for years. Boren knew by now that the quickest way to get what he wanted was to do and say nothing more.
Finally Clifford cleared his throat and began; 'Death occurred sometime in the late afternoon. There were a lot of fun and games prior to; subject was raped and sodomized. Ligature marks at the wrists and ankles indicate that she was hog-tied during the recreational period. Whatever implements were used on her are gone, otherwise nothing but some fibers. We won't know about prints for a while but I wouldn't be optimistic, we've got smudges and other evidence that suggests the killer wore latex gloves. The perp may even have worn plastic shoe covers. It looks like whoever did this is more than half careful and all crazy; did a hell of a clean-up job on the bathroom. We'll have to wait on the lab, maybe we'll get lucky...' Clifford paused at this point and began to worry the inside of his left ear with a forefinger. Boren stared in fascination at the abundance of hair that trembled and twisted in all directions away from the rooting finger. Boren had not seen so much hair growing out of an ear since 1974 when he went with his new wife to the San Diego Zoo.
'Subject was tortured extensively. Tongue was removed, probably early on; this would cut down on the noise factor. The eyelids were removed along with the nipples.'
Ouch!' Boren winced as uninvited images forced their way into his thoughts. Clifford continued without pause. 'He used some kind of burning device that left circular marks similar to the coil on a cigarette lighter but it couldn't be that. I can't see him running back out to his vehicle every time the thing got cold. Besides, they don't have cigarette lighters in UPS trucks, do they?'
'I don't think so,' Boren replied.
'Anyway, there are twenty-seven such marks on the torso, neck, soles of the feet, behind the knees. That's a bad spot I hear. This guy really knew how to inflict pain. He took his time and must have enjoyed the work. He painted a smiling face on one butt cheek with a lipstick. Her ears were boxed so hard that both of the eardrums were ruptured. I'm assuming that from the blood and bruising.'
Copely laughed, 'I can just picture him saying, 'listen up. Can you hear me? Where's the money and the coke?''
'Put a cork in it, Stew.' Boren snapped, 'And what makes you think it's got anything to do with drugs?'
'C'mon Gus, that's Mr. Coke's old lady up there. It's academic.'
'Nothing is academic, Stew. There were two killings just like this in San Francisco last week and neither of the victims were into drugs. One of them was a priest.'
'Priests don't do drugs... in San Francisco?' Copley looked skeptically at Boren. Boren, a Catholic, stared him down until he looked away.
'All right,' Boren said. 'You nail things down in here and I'll go talk to the honey bucket patrol. Thanks Cliff.'
'Don't you want to know about the note?' Clifford said to Boren's departing back.
Boren whirled, 'Note, what note? I didn't see any note.'
Clifford smiled, 'You should have looked in her pussy Lieutenant. It's kinda wet but you can read it.'
Boren winced again. 'Just tell me what it says, Clifford. You know, you and Copley should take your act on the road. You could dress up like something out of the Munsters and call yourselves The Gallows Brothers. Don't you have any respect for the dead?' In all of his years as a policeman Boren had never become inured to the tragedies of the human estate. He had especially not grown used to the callous commentaries of his fellows.
'Gus, when you've been around as many dead bodies as I have, shit! I see more people dead than I do alive. It gets to be like going home to see the wife.' Clifford was slouched in the chair now looking gray and beaten. The humor had vanished.
'You don't respect your wife either?' Boren asked.
'No Gus, I don't.' There was a story there. Boren saw the emptiness in Clifford's eyes. He let it pass.
'What does the note say?'
'See you in Hawaii.' Clifford replied.
'What the hell is that supposed to mean?'
'I don't know Lieutenant but whoever it was must have meant it. I looked in there myself and the surfboards are gone.' Copley interjected.
'You know Stew, you're a real card. Have the flight manifests for every airline in the state that does Hawaii on my desk tomorrow. Boren punctuated this with a big grin when he saw the look on Copley's face.
'Hey,' he said. 'You never know.'
The phone started ringing as Jennifer Gladden came into the house from the pool where she had been sunning herself for the last hour. She opened the connection on the cellular phone in her hand and said, 'Hello.' She brushed a strand of blonde hair away from her face as she waited for a reply. There was nothing, just the empty hum of an open line.
'Who is this?' The hum continued. Finally she switched off the phone and set it down on top of the television. Jennifer thought no more about it. A lot of unexplainable things happened every day and Jennifer paid no attention to any of them. Jennifer's world was Jennifer. If it didn't directly concern Jennifer it had no relative importance.
She'd come to LA from Wisconsin to be an actress. She had gotten some modeling work. She was a striking woman, tall and slender with hypnotic green eyes. Everyone thought that she was an LA native. After six months of on again off again work, with barely enough to live on, she had met John Morales. Morales was a Colombian national, a drug trafficker and Royce Bettencourt's partner and best friend. The house in Topanga was a fortress.
Morales had spotted her one evening at 'On the Rox', an exclusive location for Hollywood insiders. It was a private party and she had been invited as the friend of a friend. Morales noticed her and made inquiries, he arranged to have her invited back to his house for an after party, party. Morales came up with the idea when he decided that he had to have her that night. He had to fuck her and then he had to own her. Morales was into control, first of himself and then of everyone and everything around him. For the many transplanted women with dream dust in their eyes, Morales had another kind of dust to make them dream of him in their minds. A woman's fortune could change dramatically under the tutelage of Senor Morales, as long as she acceded to his every wish, as long as she realized who was in control. On those occasions when it seemed that this was not understood, Morales had the mind and the means to be instructive and no woman, no matter how hard she might try, could avoid the need for such instruction on the occasions when Morales considered it necessary. It was the price of being with John Morales. Only Royce and a few others had any hope of parity with him. The word of John Morales was law.
After that first night it was only a matter of days before Jennifer came to live at the house. She had been living there for six months now, heir to all of the amenities, both abundant and cruel, that such a residence conferred. Other women came and went but so far Jennifer remained. The price she paid was worth the goods received. She enjoyed it. Whether Morales knew of this she was not certain but she would never tell him. She knew the rules of engagement. She knew them intuitively in that place where her soul might once have lived. Her fear made John Morales' cock as hard as an iron bar and Jennifer did not have to pretend, Morales scared the shit out of her. The fear was so much a part of her sexual being that it thrilled as much as it terrified. The pain that came with it was gravy.
When Morales told her to service Royce, or some other acquaintance, in front of whomever might be there, she did it with all the joy and servility she might have felt having tea with the queen. On occasion, he would use her as an end table or serve coke from on top of her naked ass. She was a perfect archetype in John Morales' perfectly controlled world - tame and obedient until death on the choke chain of life.
She walked into the living room and removed an ivory case from its niche in the bookshelf. Then she carried it into a sunken sitting area of couches and low tables, setting it down on a lacquered table emblazoned with scarlet and emerald dragons fighting in a sky of lapis. Opening the case she withdrew a tiny golden axe, two headed, like the ones used by Viking Berserkers when they plundered the Irish coast. With it she removed a golden straw and a small Petri dish upon which glistened a single large rock of cocaine. Slowly and carefully she shaved away at the rock with the axe, occasionally grinding with its flat face upon the crystals. When she had a significant mound of it prepared she cut away two lines and snorted them with the gold tooter. As she felt the rush of the coke flood to her brain she fell into the couch and threw one leg over the back. Jennifer was on a cloud. She had been on a cloud since Morales took over her life. Sometimes it was a white fluffy cumulus cloud, like last night when she had done the speedball and sailed her couch across the starry seas of the California night. Sometimes it was wind torn cirrus; high and distant in a cold blue sky. Sometimes it was a massive thunderhead, when Morales was angry with her and she was about to be punished. They were all good. Life was good. 'Yes', she thought. It was like the commercial says; 'It doesn't get any better than this.'
Jennifer was slowly sliding down the side of a glacier in her imagination when the phone rang a few minutes later. This time it was Roberto, the guard at the gate.
'Ms. Jennifer, there is UPS here with a package.
Jennifer sighed while formulating a reply. 'Well just sign for it Roberto and then bring it up to the house.'
'Can not do, he say only you or Mr. Morales can sign, is very important package.
Jennifer looked at the mound of coke on the table. There was time for a couple more lines before the delivery arrived. 'Okay Roberto, send him up.
Early mornings were the worst time. Alan could never sleep past 5:00 am and it didn't matter how late he had gone to bed the night before, the grief gave him no peace, even in his dreams. The alcohol amplified it, made it terrible to bear but he knew that without the alcohol he could not bear it at all. His life had become a pattern of such ironies. He drank from the moment he awoke until he passed out at whatever moment oblivion finally arrived. It never lasted for very long, a few hours to drain the cortex and then back on the train, a gone dead train, sooner or later it would run out of track. The sooner the better as far as Alan was concerned.
For as long as he could remember Alan had led a life of discipline. It was the glue that held his life together. Now it was in the toilet along with his career and all that he loved; six months of grayscale existence edged in black, three of those months while he was still on the force and three since he'd gone his way. One night he'd have enough of it, swallow his gun and say good-bye.
Two things still stood between him and the void; the mystery of Elizabeth's death and his faith in a supreme being. No matter how bad it was he had been unable to let go of either one. As he lay in the darkness his heart reached out for comfort from the one that had guided him all of his life. Earnestly he reached for understanding but the darkness of his room mocked him. There was no one there. Racked with sorrow, his eyes filled with tears that flowed slowly down his face to the pillow beneath his head. He had never imagined that his life would come to this. He had wet himself during the night and now he lay on the cold urine soaked bed, still drunk but needing a drink, trembling, stinking and praying for death.
With the back of his hand he brushed angrily at the tears and pushed the blanket from his body. Rising to his feet, he moved unsteadily to the bathroom where he fell to his knees and brutally retched into the toilet. Fury boiled in his gut as he felt the wetness of his clothes and the cold touch of the porcelain base. He cried again in despair but it was routine now.
He wiped the bile from his mouth and pulled himself to his feet. Unable to both stand and pull his pants off at the same time he had to sit on the toilet in order to remove them. He climbed into the shower and turned it on.
Ten minutes later, having shaved and dressed, he filled a glass with ice and bourbon. Later, there would be no ice and often enough no glass. He took a long draught and dropped to the couch. Fumbling in the cushions he found the remote and switched on the TV. He lit a cigarette and stared through the smoke at Geraldo Rivera and a stage full of grossly overweight women of various races. Alan heard and saw nothing. His mind was already far away, searching in the past for answers that would not come.
In the first month after he quit the New York City Police Force there had been phone calls from some associates and the few friends he had made in his years with the department. An intensely private individual, Alan did not make friends easily, nor did he have a lot in common with other police officers. He wasn't one to go out of his way to encourage relationships with others unless they shared his interests and few did. Very soon the calls decreased, then stopped altogether.
Alan had slain several men in the course of his duties. This was an anomaly in a field where the larger percentage of his colleagues never even fired their guns at anyone. A superior had once commented that the reason he was so good at his job was because he was exactly like the men he pursued, friendly and engaging on the outside, dark and dangerous within. He had been jealous of Alan's accomplishments. Though what he said might not have been true, it was true that Alan saw deeper into the motivations of his prey, deeper into the workings of their demented psyches, than any of his contemporaries.
He'd found and killed the Central Park Ripper in a howling blizzard on Thanksgiving night in 1987. Two years later he ended the insane career of Richard Bolen, moments before he would have killed his thirteenth victim. The inquiry that followed had determined that Alan acted with necessary force when Bolen ignored his command to surrender and then raised the massive butcher knife to kill his seventeen-year-old captive.
There were those, rivals in the department, politicians and journalists of a certain bent, who felt that in neither case was Alan justified in his actions.
The shit hit the fan in July of '94. For six months Alan had been the lead investigator in a series of brutal homosexual murders that were taking place in the meat packing district in and around Fourteenth Street and the docks in Lower Manhattan. The area was host to a number of rough gay bars that came and went on a regular basis. Some were no more than empty basements or lofts with mattresses in dark corners, where projectors screened pornographic films on rough concrete walls. In one place, the bar was made of two sawhorses over which a sheet of plywood had been set. Also in the neighborhood were abandoned and condemned buildings and open truck trailers, where anonymous sex took place every night of the week. Someone was luring victims to an unknown location where possibly torture, followed by dismemberment, took place. Body parts wrapped in brown butcher paper had been discovered in some sections of the city, usually places with a high daytime concentration of people. The packages were roughly marked with their contents, weight and price in black ink. Rumor had it that someone had also been distributing unidentifiable cuts of meat to the cities homeless, who were known to barbecue whatever they could get on old refrigerator grills in abandoned lots.
The very politically powerful, gay community was inflamed. Large demonstrations had been organized in front of police precincts and the mayor's mansion. Patrols of militant gay activists took to the streets in the areas of disappearance, seeking to accomplish what the police had so far been unable to do. Five days after this was initiated, the paper-wrapped organs of two activists appeared in front of a very chichi gay restaurant in the east fifties. They had been marinated in a variety of herbs and a recipe for sweetbreads had been attached to one of the parcels with masking tape.
Enormous pressure was brought to bear on the department. Alan had been summoned to the office of the Chief of Detectives on two occasions to be threatened, pressured, cajoled and promised anything if only he would solve the case. Finally he disappeared into the gray underworld of the city of night. In the process of the investigation Alan encountered a depravity he had not previously imagined. Some of the settings he came upon reminded him of a Boschian nightmare, a spiritual wasteland of tormented souls, who wandered the dark landscape of the cities nether regions.
He'd met a number of men in his travels, cloaking himself as a passive Voyeur, he had able to avoid the contact they sought. He trusted in his instincts to reveal the beast he pursued. He continued onward through elaborate torture chambers, razor blade branding bars and defacatoriums, always guided by that rarefied awareness that had made him such a gifted man hunter. One night Alan met his nemesis.
He found Arthur Penace in an illegal club called, The Mine Shaft. It was a dank cellar with moss growing on the exposed concrete. The toilet was composed of a row of bathtubs in which men lay awaiting some unknown moment of epiphany. There was one large room with a rough-hewn circular bar that served nothing but beer in the can. Smaller rooms led into private worlds without light.
Penace was a hulking bear of a man, over six feet tall and weighing close to three hundred pounds. He sat by Alan at the bar, posturing like a queen and had set off his antenna by appearing to be more intoxicated than he was and from the menace in his eyes. The eyes remained flat and cold, regardless of the face's changing expressions. There was too much force of will. Here was a man who compelled others to do what he wanted. Here was a man who might be capable of anything. This is what Alan's instincts told him. Penace invited Alan back to his restaurant in the West Village. A fine dinner would straighten them right up. He leered, hoping Alan would catch the reference.
Alan Douglas was forty-two years old at this time, as tall as Penace, he weighed one hundred and eighty pounds. He was an accomplished martial artist and was temperate regarding those practices that cut short the lives of so many of his peers. He wore his dark hair in a military cut, luminous black eyes were framed by regular features, except for the nose that had been badly broken once and had healed in a twist to the left. Elizabeth said that it gave his face character and saved him from looking like every other boring man with a handsome face. He had a deep cleft in his chin and a brilliant smile that would light his face with a childlike enchantment on the occasions that he permitted himself to smile. Too often the nature of his work gave him the serious mien of a Jesuit.
Alan went with Penace back to the place of business that he operated as a chef/owner. Penace told him that when it was open it was one of the busiest in the neighborhood. Now it was dark except for a light over the bar. Penace had promised Alan 'a fantastic meal' accompanied by a 'magnificent Merlot'. It would be an intimate meal, to be followed by intimacies of another sort.
Alan stood watching Penace dancing through his kitchen, like a Sumo Wrestler who had studied for the ballet. All appearance of intoxication had fallen away from him. Irrespective of the outward charm and bonhomie, there was no mistaking the aggressive glint in his eyes. Alan's sensibilities had been honed by a lifetime of police work. He felt that he could actually hear warning bells ringing in his mind. There was something very amiss about Penace. He gave off waves of ill concealed rage as he worked.
Alan knew from forensic reports that the previous victims had all been drugged. Penace didn't mind being observed in his preparations so Alan assumed that the potion would be contained in the wine.
Penace prepared a table in a rear alcove of the restaurant. Upon it he placed a tablecloth, candles and eating instruments; along with a bouquet of white carnations in a blown glass vase. There would be atmosphere, fine wine and who-knew-what for the main course. Various parts of the victims remained undiscovered, amidst the slaughtered ruins of the dead.
The wine arrived already in the glass. It was definitely the wine then. This in itself was a departure from the ritual corking and tasting one would expect under the circumstances; a chef in a trendy eatery seeking to impress his date with the pomp and ceremony of a special night.
There was a Caesar salad to begin with, followed by the main course. It was served in the nouvelle tradition that had become fashionable in recent years. There were small medallions of what appeared to be beef with a multi-colored bearnaise sauce trickling over the edges and surmounted by a teepee of decorative vegetables.
Penace sat down and raised his glass to Alan, 'Bon appetit' he said. He took a sip of his wine and suggested that Alan do the same. His cousin had sent the wine from the Napa area of California. Alan told him that he never drank with his meals and would drink the wine upon the completion of the dinner which he had no intention of eating. Penace laughed humorlessly and suggested that this time he make an exception. There was a palpable force coming at him. Alan could feel his will compelling him to drink. He demurred and said he would save the experience to cleanse his palate later, Penace again insisted, all humor gone, and his face now grim.
Alan held his gaze. His spirit remained calm in the midst of this murderous charade. He asked Penace why he wasn't frightened to travel at night in the areas of the murders. Alan could see the red highlights of madness dancing in his eyes. The beast was rising and the man was gone. Whatever Penace may have seen in Alan's face he never said. Suddenly he knew that the game was at an end. Penace's features transformed themselves into a thunderous scowl.
'Won't drink the wine will he, wants to save it for later, later....' Penace was looking down into his plate as he spoke to himself. Alan watched him carefully, the hairs on the back of his neck trembling from an invisible wind.
'Wants to talk about murders but he won't taste the wine. We'll show him murder.' Penace's hand emerged from below the tabletop with a gleaming cleaver.
With a speed Alan could not believe, the man launched himself across the table swinging the cleaver at Alan's head. A lifetime of training saved his life. He brought his left hand up moving Penace's wrist, lifting it, as the force of the swing bore the cleaver so close past the top of his head that he felt the edge of it whisper across his scalp. A deadly struggle ensued and in the process Alan broke Penace's neck. During the fight he received a serious cut to his left shoulder.
The next day from his hospital bed he learned that the meal Penace had prepared for him came from the rump of one of his recent victims. A search of the restaurant revealed other cuts of meat that had been butchered into portions. It later came to light that Penace was well known on the gay scene for rough sex.
With typical irony, certain vocal elements of the gay community began calling for Alan's head. Citing his previous use of deadly force they charged him with over-reaction and some accused him of 'homophobically' inspired murder. Alan did not endear himself to them when he asked a reporter from the Village Voice for the etymology of the word.
Representatives of the press wondered why yet another of Alan's investigative targets died, without the benefit of trial or treatment. More privately, some of Alan's superiors suggested a strong and undesirable maverick streak. It was against every rule in the book to confront a suspected murderer without the assistance of a partner or a back-up unit. Alan pointed out that the Chief of Detectives had told him to use any means necessary within the law. No one in the department other than Alan's immediate superior had had any idea of what Alan had been doing. It did not blow over quickly. Even several months later there was the odd article calling for further investigation. Regardless, the man in the street considered Alan a hero. Perhaps it was the hundreds of calls and letters that came in the first month that saved him from official charges and more penetrating scrutiny. When the worst of all possible events happened to him twelve months later, these questions would surface again, adding to the unbearable sorrow of a man broken by terrible fate.
Two slim black men slouched low in their chairs, with their hands thrust into their waistbands, had now joined Geraldo's guests. Alan rose to his feet and went into the kitchen where he filled his glass with ice. He returned to his seat, poured bourbon to the top and took a long slow drink. A calm had begun to settle over his features. He even smiled briefly to himself as he thought of how his life could be worse. He could be Geraldo. Then he would have no choice but to kill himself immediately. It had surprised him for some time that, in this age of homicide, in this city of killers, no one had yet focused on talk show hosts. He had little doubt that sooner or later it would happen. Then the problem would be to find someone to investigate and prosecute what was less a crime than an act of public good.
His momentary ebullience soon crumbled as the mind was drawn inexorably back to the well of memory. For an instant he could see his wife standing in front of him, her long brown hair falling around her shoulders in soft waves, dark eyes brimming with love and that special wisdom of life upon which he had relied for so long. Then the image faded and tears formed in the corners of his eyes. Once again it was Memorial Day evening of the previous year.
Alan had been pulling a lot of overtime that month, trying to clear the books of several drug murders. These were the result of a turf war between an entrenched, Jamaican posse and the advance guard of a newly formed Colombian cartel, which was replacing the decimated ranks of the previous cartel.
Alan often worked late, as did Elizabeth, who was a psychiatrist at Bellevue. Evenings were the busiest times for psychotic admissions and this was when Elizabeth chose to work. Alan liked the advantage of the night. It was also the time when those that he hunted were most often afoot.
In the previous weeks Alan had begun to feel uneasy. He became concerned for Elizabeth and had been asking her to take a cab home. She'd brushed off his fears and told him his job was making him paranoid. She loved the excitement of the subway. It was her curiosity about the human mind that had led her to her profession. What better place was there in the entire world to satisfy it than the New York subway, where the entire spectrum of the human experiment was in evidence? She had pointed out that she had never had a single problem coming or going and that Alan should have more faith. Angels watched over them. Hadn't he always told her so?
Earlier that evening Alan had located Bosco Rawlings. Rawlings had shotgunned the relatives of Emanuel Rodriguez - father, mother and two sisters. Rawlings was an enforcer for the Black Jam Posse. They'd decided to take a page from the Colombian's own book and kill the families too. Under very tense circumstances, Alan, along with several detectives and uniformed police had managed to separate Rawlings from his associates in a downtown rap club, without a shot being fired. A long evening of booking, interrogation and witness I.D. lay ahead of him.
The call came in six hours later. Alan had finished up and was having a cup of coffee with his crew. Elizabeth had been hurt and was in the emergency room at Bellevue, no details. Alan flew out of the precinct and into his city issue car, red light flashing from the driver's side roof, driving as if all of the demons of Hell were on his tail. He was too late, would have been too late in any case, Elizabeth was DOA. In an apparent, attempted rape, Elizabeth's neck had been broken, her lifeless body had been thrown on the tracks, where mercifully the train's motorman had seen it before it was cut to pieces.
A dark abyss opened at Alan's feet. His heart and his life fell away into nothing. Elizabeth had meant everything to him. Now she was gone and there would be no returning. The immensity of his loss swept all thought from Alan's mind. He was adrift in an alien landscape. There was nothing he could recognize. Rage would follow but for the moment there was only despair and incomprehension.
The next day he learned that transit authorities were searching for one Calvin Withers. Withers had a long record of assaults against women. He also had two felony drug arrests and was a member of the Black Jam Posse. Withers had been seen by several witnesses as he was running from the station.
Alan's superior placed him on forced compassionate leave. Alan was never able to remember any of the events of the following week. The combination of alcohol and sedatives blotted out all memory.
Three days later Calvin Withers was found chained to a railing in the same subway station in which the crime had taken place. Someone had poured gasoline over his body and set him on fire.
When detectives arrived at Alan's apartment they found his formerly tidy quarters in a state of chaos. Lamps had been knocked over, the bookcase pulled to the floor and the books strewn everywhere. Liquor bottles lay where they had dropped or been thrown. Alan was filthy, unshaven and incoherent. On the surface it seemed doubtful that he could have had anything to do with the murder. One thing could not be resolved. Investigators had found his business card taped to the railing next to the smoking corpse. On the back of it in a fine copperplate someone had written, 'too little...too late.
As the investigation continued, it became clear than Alan could not account for his whereabouts. He had no alibi. His distinguished record and the faith of the department stood in his defense. No one in a position to charge him believed that he had carried out the act himself. But had he arranged it? Then again, who would leave his business card at the scene? The note was not in his handwriting and there was no other evidence; no fingerprints or witnesses to place him at the scene. Alan had been spotted in several bars during the preceding days. He'd been thrown out of one and others had refused to serve him. The investigation continued.
Two weeks later Alan returned to work. He'd trembled in his bathtub for twenty-four hours and except for being very shaky and malnourished, he seemed okay. But he was not okay. He struggled hard to focus on his work and to put distance between himself and the terrible events of Elizabeth's death but he was only going through the motions. He might have made it, if not for the fear and the terrible nightmares. Each night he was assaulted by horrible visions of Elizabeth's last moments. Only one thing would give him peace and it was not prayer or any spiritual technique which he applied. It was alcohol. At certain points in the day he would shudder from a palsy of fear that had no determinable source. It was a wave of fear without attendant images. Once again, nothing would make it retreat except alcohol. A few drinks would push the visions, or the fears, into the background, not gone, not gone in any sense but muted like distant music. You could still hear the song that was playing far away in the background. Given enough drinks it could be turned down completely, with nothing remaining but melancholia and despair.
His colleagues, in sympathy for his loss, tried to overlook his condition. His supervisors turned their heads. He practiced maintenance drinking during his shifts and then drank himself blind afterwards.
He began to miss important evidence. He snapped at his associates and embarrassed himself in front of his superiors. Counseling and help were offered but Alan ignored it. Prosecuting attorneys ceased to call him for appearances. He was no longer effective in his work and he didn't care. Alan had become a liability to the department he loved.
One night he ran his car into a fire hydrant. Word came down from above. A compassionate Chief of Detectives offered six months in an upstate facility with the promise of a return to duty. Alan said that he didn't give a shit. He was told to put in for retirement. He could receive his pension and move on or he could be fired. He retired. His friends shook their heads and let him go. His enemies smiled and said that the department, after all, would be better for his departure. With none of the fanfare that so often accompanied the retirement of a decorated police officer, Alan turned in his particulars and walked away.
For all of his life, Alan had had a deep and abiding faith in a guiding force. He had probed at the mysteries of creation and seen there a divine symmetry, governed by an invisible hierarchy of beings, who shepherded humanity through the ages, always in the direction of good. In former times he would retire to his study and read the works of mystics and philosophers. He had begun to read alchemical texts. It had opened up an entire world of new perspectives to him. He very soon realized that it had nothing at all to do with turning lead into gold and everything to do with transforming one's baser qualities into spiritual gold. Having read much of eastern religions over the years, he saw the tremendous parallels between alchemy and yoga. Except for the terminology and certain physical applications, they were the same. The foundation of all of his spiritual studies and endeavors was his faith in the divine rightness of things. He had felt that he was being guided to a higher understanding, that would eventually transform his life in a profound way. Elizabeth had begun to share his interests. So much was coming but in the end it seemed angels were not watching over them at all. Alan had failed the test. What test that was he did not know but he had failed it and now only desolation and ruin remained.
Elizabeth had a brother fifteen years her junior. When their parents died in an automobile crash they had taken 'Whip' in to live with them. Because of the disparity in their years and Elizabeth's inability to bear children he had become like a son to them. Alan shared with him his martial arts experience and coached him at baseball, which was the consuming passion of his young life. Under Alan's ministrations Whip developed into a talented baseball player and won a full scholarship to Stanford. It was Whip's intention to play major league baseball and in the two years that he had been at the college he had drawn the attention of several scouts.
Whip returned for the funeral as devastated as Alan but where Alan's grief was obvious to anyone who looked at him, Whip had become as cold and remote as a dead planet in space. They hardly spoke during the funeral. When it ended he was gone. During a rare moment of clarity Alan later called Stanford. Whip's room-mate said he had not returned.
It later occurred to Alan that Whip might be responsible for the death of Calvin Withers. It did not explain the presence of his business card at the scene but the thought would not go away. So the days passed, one following another.
At times, Alan would see that his state had become pathological beyond the ordinary grief of mortals. In moments of clarity he would sit astounded at the wreckage of his life and his lost career. He wondered where his strength had gone. How had he come to change to such a weak and despised creature? These moments would not last, soon the spell would overpower him again and he would tumble under the water to be spun around with the sand and the seashells and the coral rocks.
Finally, one night, Alan's awakening arrived. After a week inside his apartment he decided to take a rare walk to the package store. It was never necessary to leave your apartment in a city where everything could be sent out for. It was nine thirty in the evening when Alan descended unsteadily into the street. He'd been drinking through the day and had had nothing to eat since the night before. The sidewalk glistened from the intermittent rain that had been falling for the last several hours.
Alan walked up 64th street toward First Ave. On his way he would get some takeout from a nearby Indian restaurant. He didn't care if he ate or not but the food would make the drinking easier. He had begun to learn that there were rules to follow on the path to destruction. You had to be practical in the process of drinking yourself to death. As thoughts formed he pushed them away. He had no interest in the workings of his mind. Everything was shit.
He was half a block from the avenue when he heard the woman scream and saw the scuffle taking place across the street. Two men were wrestling with a woman, attempting to separate her from her handbag. As he watched one of them delivered a blow to her head.
Without thought Alan shouted 'Police Officer!' and ran across the street. Her assailants released the woman and turned to flee until one of them got a good look at Alan. Alan didn't look like a police officer. He looked like a bum, a bum with no visible gun and no badge.
Alan jumped the curb, preparing to land in a position for combat. The result was not what he intended. Months of inactivity and drunkenness, coupled with the drunkenness of the moment, caused his feet to slide out from under him. He skidded on his ass and slammed into a wrought iron railing. The woman fled while her attackers put the boot to Alan's crumpled form. He was lucky. The woman ran directly in front of a passing police car. At the sound of the siren turning down 64th street, the men ran away.
Alan was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries; these included a concussion, contusions, abrasions and three fractured ribs. In the morning he was so sick from withdrawal that they transferred him to the alcohol ward.
Through the days that Alan remained in the hospital, his eyes were finally opened to the state of his life. Something inside of him gave way and an ocean of grief and loss came pouring out. Life as he had known it was at an end but he now began to realize that he did not have to die on some nameless street. He did not have to spiral around the rim of the toilet bowl, until he was sucked away into oblivion. Something new was stirring inside him. If he had been asked to describe it, he would have said it was like the sound of a friend's laughter, forgotten until that moment, bringing with it an attendant rush of memories, that had the power of life in them. A wonderful calm entered his heart from an unknown source and he suddenly knew that he had not been abandoned after all. Terrible things happened to people every day, life still continued. A determination was growing in him to see what lay ahead. There was so much that he could not understand. Perhaps, somewhere ahead, the answers were waiting.
Leaving the hospital he returned home and began to make arrangements. As his head cleared, he began to feel a strong conviction that he should proceed with care. He was struck with the seemingly irrational feeling that there might be unknown forces at work. There was an unshakable sense of danger in the air.
Over the course of the following days, he packed the things that he still cared about, his beloved books and mementos of his former life, reminders of Elizabeth and a few pieces of furniture. He reflected on the chain of occurrences. It made no sense that the Black Jam Posse could have orchestrated Elizabeth's death in such a short period of time, or at all for that matter. It was an extreme over reaction. Had he not been so grief-stricken and then besotted, he would very quickly have seen through the absurdity of it.
It seemed too much of a coincidence that Calvin Withers perpetrated a crime of opportunity and.... who killed him? Who left Alan's card at the scene? Where was Whip? It was as if some inexplicable forces were manipulating his life. On the face of it that was ridiculous. Alan studied his past, looking for an enemy with the resources, the brainpower and the motivation to do anything approaching what had been happening. In his line of work, it was a given that you made enemies and most of the enemies were bad ones. But criminals rarely went after the cops that put them away. Both sides recognized the nature of the penalties involved in the game they played. Alan could think of no one, no one living, who could accomplish all that had transpired. He felt like a fool just to be considering it. Distance and time would bring new perspective. There was nothing left for him in New York except memories.
He was going to Maui. They had been married in a small church on the rugged, sparsely inhabited, eastern coast. Since that time they had returned, every other year, for a month long stay. They loved the wild beauty and the natural serenity that permeated the island. Alan often said that if God had a hideaway, this was it. For years they had planned to move there, when they retired. If any environment could provide the much needed healing for Alan's broken heart and troubled soul, it was the blissed out shores of this island paradise. Once there he would return to his disciplines and his studies.
Alan listed his apartment with a realtor that he had met on a case some years before. The man owed Alan a debt of gratitude for clearing him of a charge of murder. He was pleased with the opportunity to return the favor and promised absolute discretion. Alan gave him a price and a power of attorney. Finally he consolidated all other assets into a cashier's check.
Alan stood before the large bay window in his kitchen. He rubbed his hands over the dark wood of the eating nook. He looked out on the tree-lined street that had become so familiar over the years. He turned and took in the nearly empty apartment. A life had been lived here. Memories welled and tugged at his heart. He felt a catch in his throat. For a moment his eyes swam, as a parade of images flowed across his mind screen. The regret ached but there was a nervous thrilling in his stomach, as he considered the unknown that now waited for him, just beyond the front door. He pushed aside his memories and regrets. This part of his life was over. He walked quickly into the living room, picked up his bag and walked away.
CarryAnn lived in a world of plenty. She had never known it to be any other way. Unlike the many who struggle to survive or work each day to realize their dreams CarryAnn had never known lack of any kind.
She was generally blind to the conditions of other lifestyles besides her own. It wasn't that she had not seen people suffering or in want. She'd been downtown on occasion. She had seen her share of movies and television. But it wasn't real to her. She had no perspective on suffering. She was like so many who drove the highways in their air-conditioned cars and looked out of their windows at the people for whom the street was their life. When she saw someone hitching by the side of the road their presence did not register as anything more than an image on a movie screen. When the show was over everyone went back home. This was America and there was plenty for everyone here, or so it seemed to her. She wasn't selfish; she shared with her friends, who were also rich and shared with her. But there was so much, why not share? In many ways CarryAnn did not have a clue to what went on in the world.
CarryAnn's mother was a television actress in a long running situation comedy. With residuals what they were these days and the other bonuses and windfalls attendant, it could be said that she was very well fixed indeed. She got the house and more money when she divorced CarryAnn's father, an Italian film producer. He had discovered the joys of his own sex several years earlier. CarryAnn's mother returned unexpectedly one afternoon, a day early from New York, to discover her husband slamming into the butt cheeks of the Filipino houseboy. He hadn't even bothered to stop when she screamed. He calmly asked her to wait downstairs until he was done.
The divorce was speedily accomplished by mutual consent and since that time Anise Camiliano had seen a series of men, none remaining for any length of time until she met Simon Stein, a literary agent, in front of the avocados at The Ranch Market. Simon moved into the house several weeks later, a move he orchestrated after getting an eyeful of CarryAnn. CarryAnn at fifteen and a half was gorgeous, with olive skin and big blue eyes framed by an ocean of raven hair that tumbled down her back. Simon had a predilection for teenage girls that hadn't changed from the time he was closer to them in age. Now he was forty-six and if anything, he desired them even more. CarryAnn became a magnificent sugarplum that danced in his head. Still, this was Hollywood, where you could fuck anyone or anything, no matter what age, provided you were the right person and the wrong people did not catch you. Even then it might not be much of a deal depending on who you were. In that respect CarryAnn could be considered ripe for the picking. Girls younger than her were making their living at it every day.
Strangely enough, CarryAnn was still, for the most part, inexperienced. In contemporary Hollywood she was something of an anomaly among her friends, being still a virgin. Unlike her friends she loved to read and had been through The Lord of the Rings six times already. CarryAnn wanted to be in Middle-Earth a lot more than she wanted to be in Hollywood, especially since her mother had started in on the cocaine. As the use increased, Anise became less and less controlled about her behavior. On several occasions she had come upon her mother being serviced by Simon in the living room and once on a stair landing. On one occasion Simon had seen her watching and smiled at her.
Because Anise worked long days on the set of her show she was seldom home, except in the late evenings and on Sundays. Simon, on the other hand, was usually at the house. His office consisted of a telephone and a computer, which he could put anywhere and which for the moment was placed down the hall from CarryAnn's room.
Simon was a charmer. He had had years to perfect his craft, which was applied in a variety of ways. He applied it to publishers when he wanted to promote a book. He applied it to Hollywood when he bargained for the motion picture rights. He applied it in nightclubs and anywhere else when he wanted to get laid. Simon knew the workings of a young girl's mind. He knew how incredibly easy they were to manipulate if you pushed the right buttons. He had often remarked that they were the stupidest creatures on earth.
Simon was the present source of Anise's cocaine. He had access to every other drug as well. He knew the power and effect of various drugs. He used them in the pursuit of his ambitions. His primary ambitions were always the same; power, money and pussy. Simon was a Satanist. He belonged to a group of Hollywood insiders who shared his tastes and ambitions. Satanism was very big in Hollywood, always had been.
CarryAnn was a piece of cake. The first thing Simon did was to show her a single face, a kind, good, loving face. He spoke in even mellifluous tones. He moved in an avuncular and non-threatening manner. In a couple of weeks they were having a daily afternoon cocktail by the pool. The cocktail, along with alcohol, contained increasing amounts of an Ecstasy-like compound that quickly brought CarryAnn into a sexually awakened mood. Simon began to turn her on. A part of Simon had never grown up and that part of Simon was the same age as CarryAnn. He made her laugh.
One day it happened. Simon had moved from the casual touch, to the occasional kiss. He was a master of terms of endearment. He swam nude. He managed, by indirection, to persuade CarryAnn to begin swimming nude. Effortlessly and slowly he brought her to a willing state. That afternoon he performed oral sex on her in her bed. Following that it became a regular occasion. Two weeks later, Anise came upon them in the pool cabana shower to find half of Simon's cock buried in CarryAnn's mouth. The moment could not have been better timed as Anise had a young writer in tow that she had brought home to meet Simon. Simon was so far gone in the throes of passion that when he pulled free from CarryAnn's mouth, in the surprise of the moment, his come shot into her hair and on the concrete floor as his cock jerked up and down in orgasm.
Anise screamed and raced into the house for her handgun. She was going to kill Simon dead. Simon pulled on his pants and fled to his car, the tires smoking as he peeled out of the driveway. CarryAnn quietly dressed, never looking at the young writer who stood there in shock and had not moved an inch.
Later, CarryAnn's tearful explanation revealed the sequence of events. She told her story with such a little girl's sense of confusion that Anise was in tears. Simon had won her confidence, had helped her with schoolwork. As she told her story the picture emerged in Anise's mind of a skilled Lothario overwhelming a curious and impressionable girl with his vaster experience of life. From friendly hugs and brotherly kisses he had moved to acts of arousal. He told her that he would make her so skilled at the intricacies of love that no one could resist her. After he pleasured her she had no will to resist him. He had then convinced her to pleasure him as well. He had not penetrated her. CarryAnn did not know why. The fact was that taking her virginity raised a gray area of legal implication in Simon's mind. He had never expected to be discovered at work but he felt that should anything happen later, the fact that CarryAnn was still intact would protect him. He had promised her that he would consummate the act at a future time. For now he would be her teacher in all that was arcane in love.
Finally CarryAnn produced a squeeze bottle of honey that Simon had given her. He had told her to squirt it in her mouth while she sucked him. It would make his come taste sweet. Anise screamed in rage. She would call the police and Simon would go to prison. CarryAnn begged her mother not to. She could not stand to be interrogated by the police. She could not bear to testify in court. Her friends would find out and she would look like a whore and a fool. The police would wonder what it was like to do the same things to her that Simon had.
Though Anise burned with rage and the thirst for revenge, she understood her daughter's pain. She knew that all of what she said was true. Quietly she agreed. They would put this behind them. CarryAnn would get counseling. Anise would spend more time with her daughter. She hugged her close as they both wept. Afterwards they went back into the house. CarryAnn went to her room and Anise went in search of some coke and a drink to get her through the rest of the day. Hours later when CarryAnn emerged from her room to get a drink of water she found her mother screwing the writer on the sun porch, both of them too stoned to notice her as she got her water and went back to her room.
In the following weeks Anise became increasingly more degenerate. A new progression of men through her life was draining her physically and emotionally. It coarsened her nature and left her even more dependent on alcohol and drugs than ever before. Only the discipline of her work kept her from losing it altogether. Because of this she did not notice CarryAnn. Simons influence had introduced her to a realm of sensation she had been previously unaware of. Besides the erotic experiences there was now the supersensual realm of drugs. CarryAnn had really enjoyed the substances that Simon had turned her on to. Now, with the impact of what had occurred weighing heavily in her mind, she began to steal her mother's drugs. Being high meant not having to think about anything you didn't want to think about. Being high wrapped painful thoughts in a thick gauze that insulated the heart.
What hurt CarryAnn the most was how quickly her mother had pushed the events with Simon aside. After their initial talk, Anise had not wanted to discuss it again. She enrolled her in therapy and told her to work it out there. The truth was that Anise could not deal with the terrible guilt of what had happened and the certain knowledge that she was in some way responsible. So she ran away. For all her success and power, there was a great emptiness in her life, a void bereft of meaning. Combined with the chemicals it made for an unfulfilled state of being. It was an all too common reality for those who lived in the never neverland of.... movies equals life, life equals movies. It was a place where nothing ever satisfied the deeper necessities of the heart. She was one of those of whom Gibran had spoken when he said; 'they never laugh all of their laughter, nor cry all their tears.' Anise was slowly, inexorably, going the way of so many of her peers. It seemed to her that she had been happy once but she could not remember when. In any case, her happiness had been based on ignorance. What she didn't know hadn't hurt her until she knew it. Bereft of love, real love, real purpose and a real life, she relied more and more on the dream enhancing chemicals that fueled her day-to-day passage through celluloid zombie-land.
In a parallel dimension CarryAnn was waking up to the realities of life. There was no other adult figure in whom she could confide; she did not trust the therapist and she could not confide in her mother. She could not have discussed any of it with her friends. Far away on the East Coast she had grandparents that she seldom saw. She began to see how really alone she was. Nothing had changed but her perceptions. She had always been alone. A few weeks later Anise met Royce Bettencourt.
With the amount of coke that Anise was going through, the company she kept, it was only a matter of time before she came into the realm of Mama De Coca's darker acolytes. Through this time CarryAnn had watched her mother. She had watched her mother get drunk. She had watched her snort cocaine. She had watched her fuck her boyfriends. Her mother had no idea that CarryAnn was watching her. CarryAnn loved her mother, yet on a deeper level she was in competition with her mother. Part of her wanted to be like her mother. She wanted to have the things that her mother had, so she would drink her mother's liquor, she would smoke her mother's cigarettes. She would smoke her pot and snort her coke and she would dream herself into the erotic dreams of her mother. She was her mother, as she lay in her bed and imagined Simon or another, thrusting into her as he had thrust into her mother.
All this time Anise never knew. Her image of her daughter was an earlier image of herself. It was an image of stuffed animals and crushes on boys who didn't know, of long phone calls with girlfriends and all the awkward poses of development into maturity which was such a far, far distance away. She did not see the blooming Venus that sat at her table every day. She saw a little girl who played with make-up and wrote in her diary and talked relentlessly about Elves and Ents. She did not see the confusion, the resentment and the fear that was now emerging and threatening everything that was once safe in CarryAnn's mind. She got through her days by force of habit and will, doing by rote those things she had long ago become skilled enough to do with half her mind, doing the things that only took half a mind to begin with.
Tommy White was a sometime screenwriter and full time cocaine dealer, a mid-level purveyor to the stars and their satellites. The totality of his screen writing opportunities had come about through connections he had made while selling cocaine. He was not an inspired talent but he'd often done work on rewrites when the original ideas did not have to be his own. Too often his work resembled some recent major success where the comparison was too close for comfort. This sort of thing was fine for television because television was shit. All the shows resembled each other. The characters might be different but the plots were always drawn from the common events of the day and were the same on every network. The dialogues and plots were a perpetual rehashing of the same tired themes that involved doctors, or lawyers, or executives in an exchange of endless banalities.
Anise's show centered on a single mother raising two children in a ubiquitous urban setting. It was an updated version of 'One Day at a Time'. It featured a black family next door, a Jew who owned a deli and two homosexuals who employed Anise in their furniture store and were always working to bring the ideal man into her life.
Anise had purchased coke from Tommy in the past. As her use increased, she arranged for Tommy to be a writer on the show so that he was always around. It worked out well for both of them. Tommy got the appearance of a legitimate job and Anise got her coke whenever she needed it.
Tommy got his coke from John Morales. Every week he drove to Topanga Canyon for a quarter of a pound that he turned into six ounces. A few weeks following the event with Simon, Tommy was invited to a party at Morales' house. He invited Anise to come along. Morales was big on entertaining celebrities and Tommy knew that he would score points if he brought a famous television actress along. With the way Anise was doing cocaine lately, she would be glad to be in a place where it flowed like the proverbial milk and honey of the Promised Land.
From the moment that Anise saw Royce, it was as if no one else was in the room. Royce had that effect on women, handsome, magnetic and elegant, with an undercurrent of mystery and evil that drew them like the dove to the cobra. He was dressed in a white on white suit, tall and slender as a knife with the de rigueur ponytail that no music promoter or drug dealer was ever without. He was the tall dark stranger that the gypsy fortune teller said was 'going to come into your life.' He was a younger, better looking Steven Seagal and easily as dangerous. Royce often personally administered the violence that was sometimes necessary in his line of work. He felt this inspired the fear and respect that was bottom line necessary for his survival in the business. When Royce came to call, you didn't know for which of two reasons he had come. He had, by his own accounts, killed half a dozen men and two women. Not all of the deaths were quick or painless. Cool under all circumstances, emotionless and devoted to the pursuit of personal ends beyond all else; of course women loved him. Evil men fascinate women, whether it was the greasy punk in the black leather jacket, cigarette hanging from the lips; the imitation James Dean slouched against the school yard fence, waiting for the kids who still attended to be let out for the day, or a millionaire coke dealer like Royce Bettencourt, it was just a matter of degree. The reasons for this lay obscured somewhere back in the primitive origins of life.
Anise had done two large rails in the car before coming to the party. She felt electric and in love with the night. She sipped her wine and watched Royce work the room. She knew that he would find his way to her at some point. It was in the nature of things. She had never had any problem attracting men. It was part of the aura that she brought to acting. She'd had men in her hip pocket since puberty. It was second nature to her now. This arrogant self-assurance left her blind to the intentions of one to whom her superficial posturing was like that of a child learning to dance.
Royce had seen her across the room. Like her, his vanity assumed that no woman would be able to withstand him. But Royce was not limited in his actions by the benefit of conscience. He didn't care what happened to people after he was done with them. For him, the destruction of another person's sense of self had the same sense of exhilaration as winning at tennis. It made him high.
They met twenty minutes later when Tommy went to the bar for new drinks. Royce walked up to her, 'Hello.' he said. 'I've seen you somewhere before. I can't remember where and it is driving me crazy.' He said this last with a rueful smile on his face, showcasing his brilliant white teeth, as if it implied a lack of courtesy on his part.
Anise smiled and ran her fingers through her long black hair, 'I'm Anise Camiliano.' she replied, extending her hand. Royce took it and said, 'Call me Royce. I am a friend of John Morales and this is his home.' Royce swept his hand in an expansive gesture that seemed to say that everything, the house, the people in it, everything, was the property of John Morales.
'Where is this John Morales?' Anise asked.
'Regrettably he was unable to attend. An urgent matter causes him to be away. Are you a friend of Tommy's?' Royce's black eyes had a luminescence and a depth to them that reminded Anise of ambergris and whirlpools.
'Tommy works for me.' Anise replied. She was studying Royce's features and she liked what she saw, the cruel mouth that suggested a possibly violent sexuality, the high cheekbones and almost oriental eye orbits.
'That still doesn't tell me who you are...what you do...' Royce trailed off as his eyes watched her. 'You are very beautiful,' he continued. 'Of course you are in pictures?'
'Television actually, I'm in a show called 'Ramona'.' Anise felt slightly uncomfortable saying this, as if what she did was a lot less important to Royce than it might be to anyone else. He confirmed this with his reply.
'I seldom watch television. But had I known. I would have made the time.'
'You are very gracious.' Anise replied.
They stood there quietly studying each other until Tommy reappeared with the drinks. 'Hi Royce,' he said as he handed Anise her wine. 'I see the two of you have met.'
'How's it going Tommy?' Royce inquired as he turned to him and looked down into Tommy's eyes from his superior height. Tommy backed up a step. Royce had this effect on people, always standing too close, intimidating, making people feel uncomfortable, seeking the balance that had suddenly gone missing. It had one effect on men and another on women, but the result was the same. You felt compelled to do what he asked, to please him, to return into his good graces, which for some reason it appeared that you had lost. No one ever pleased Royce, so the effort never ended. It was the best of all techniques in this age of guilt and personal uncertainty.
'I'm doing good, Royce.' Tommy moved from foot to foot as he said this, uncertain of how to play the situation. He had slept with Anise on one occasion when they were both stoned out of their minds. It was not likely to happen again. It was nothing to him if she went off with Royce. Yet he felt he might not want to relinquish the illusion of his position just yet before he saw what it might be worth to him.
'I'm surprised you didn't inform me that you were bringing such a beautiful guest.' Royce turned his attention back to Anise. He had noticed the dilated pupils. Her voluptuous body was encased in a shimmering body sheath of iridescent blue, perfectly matching her deep blue eyes that swam in their wide sockets. She had flared nostrils and full rich lips, all framed by a dark countenance. Royce could feel the heat in her and knew she would be worth the effort. He had fucked actresses and they'd all been good. For them the bedroom was just another place to put on a show.
Anise reminded Royce of someone from another time. Over the years he had seen a change in the female climate, his instincts had begun to steer him away from certain women, women that Morales found so much of a challenge. Women who were no longer women but some hybrid, part machine, part Rottweiler bitch, part Medusa. In certain cases and imbued with enough cocaine, Royce would swear that he had seen their hair writhing like snakes. For Morales, it was all the more fun to break and humiliate them. Royce could be cruel with women but it wasn't a necessary part of his game plan. He much preferred to be charming. He wished rather for women to admire than to fear him. Of course, if they did not admire him, fear would do.
Royce took Anise's arm above the elbow and said, 'Please, why don't you both join me privately for a moment.' He steered them through the crowd into a long hallway. Near the end, Royce opened a door and gestured them in. It was a library, the walls were composed of dark wood paneling, there were matching tables and burgundy leather upholstered couches and chairs. They sat around a low inlaid table. Royce reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a slim gold case that proved to be a cocaine traveler's kit. There were items of paraphernalia and a glass enclosed section that held a considerable portion of shimmering flakes. Royce used a pair of tiny golden tongs to remove the substance. It looked like white mica with opalescent pink striations.
As Royce prepared it for them he said, 'I doubt that you have ever had anything like this. It is called Madre De Christos and it is very rare, the very finest of Bolivian flake.'
Their eyes were riveted to the product as Royce prepared it.
'I've never seen anything like that.' Anise exclaimed.
Royce grinned and answered, 'I think not.' His eyes twinkled with animal delight as he looked at her. 'Ladies first.'
Anise took the tooter from Royce's extended hand and bent to inhale two moderate lines. 'Oh my God.' She said.
Royce revealed two rows of perfectly capped teeth. 'Exquisite isn't it? ...And as with all things of this nature, very hard to come by.'
After he had taken his lines, Tommy got to his feet and said he thought he would get himself another drink. Royce got up and pressed a small glass vial into his hand. Tommy thanked him profusely and then left. After some conversation and more lines, they made their way back to the party. Anise was floating on a velvet cloud. She was sure she had never been this high before. The party lights cast a surrealistic sheen over everyone and every thing. Anise felt as if she had somehow crossed over into another land of wonder and enchantment.
Tommy had attached himself to one of the many bimbettes who were scattered through the room like party favors. The next several hours passed like a dream for Anise. She toured the party on Royce's arm, laughing and talking, drinking and snorting coke and remembering nothing. When the time came to leave, Royce offered to drive her home. Tommy had long since disappeared. Invited in by Anise, they left a trail of clothes on their way to the bedroom. They spent what remained of the night snorting coke off of one another's bodies and making love until the sun came up. They were still at it when CarryAnn peered through the space at the door hinges.
She had watched her mother make love before. Previous acts of voyeurism had helped Simon in his initial seduction of her.
He was better looking than Simon was and if her mother's cries were any indication, just as accomplished a lover. He had her ankles pinned at her ears and was slowly rotating himself in and out. CarryAnn watched them for a while. Her interest was more on the mirror of cocaine on the dresser than it was on the sex that was taking place. She hoped they would leave it there when they went downstairs. Her mother's eyes were half-shut and staring into emptiness. Her right hand gripped a handful of sheet and she was using this purchase to lever herself up into the hips of her lover. Feeling arousal beginning to build in her body CarryAnn turned away and slipped down the stairs and outside to the pool. When she returned an hour later she found them having breakfast in the kitchen. Her mother was buttering a bagel and her friend had the morning paper on his lap and a cellular phone in his ear. The other hand held a cup of coffee from which he took intermittent sips.
'Good morning, darling. Would you like some breakfast?' Her mother's voice was full of cheer but CarryAnn could see how stoned she was. The bottle of brandy on the table was not there for display.
CarryAnn shrugged and said, 'No thanks, I had something earlier. I'm going to go upstairs and change. I think I'll catch a movie this afternoon. Isn't it a little early?' She nodded her head at the brandy on the table.
Anise shot her a warning look and then glanced over at Royce to see if he had been following the exchange. He was scanning the newspaper and appeared oblivious of them. Occasionally he would speak yes or no into the phone. All of the conversation was taking place on the other end.
'Hell, Carry; it's the weekend.' her mother replied, fixing her with a 'don't mess with my good time' look. 'I'm taking a little quality time for myself. I work so hard all week and I've got to relax when there's time.'
CarryAnn nodded and smiled, 'I'm sorry Mom, you do good, you deserve it.' They stared at each other for a while, wishing words across the distance between them, words that would not be the same once they had been spoken and therefore would never be spoken. She was turning to leave when Royce abruptly hung up the phone and set it on the table. He turned his attention to CarryAnn and said, 'Good morning, I'm Royce.'
His eyes pinned her and probed. She felt an involuntary shudder pass through her body.
'This is my daughter, CarryAnn.' Anise said.
'Hi,' CarryAnn replied. The terry cloth robe effectively concealed the lines of her body, but Royce's imagination artfully sketched in what he could not see. 'Nice to meet you, got to go.' Saying this, she turned and left the kitchen.
Royce grinned at Anise, 'Teenagers are always in a hurry.'
'Yes, they are.' Anise replied as she watched her daughter disappear.
CarryAnn took a quick peek into her mother's bedroom and when she saw the mirror still in the same place, still heaped with coke, she hurried to her bedroom and grabbed a magazine and a pack of matches. Returning, she cut away an amount of powder she did not think would be noticed and then retreated to her room. Once there she locked the door and then poured the majority of the coke into a film canister that she secreted in her daypack. She inhaled what remained on the magazine and then launched herself upon her bed. She rolled onto her back and gazed into the space between her and the ceiling. Slowly the pleasure began to rush through her system as the exceptional cocaine followed the blood into the brain. 'Wow.' she mouthed, 'Wow, wow, wow.' Then she laughed thinking she sounded like a dog with a speech impediment. 'Wow.... This is great!'
Anise poured more coffee into their cups and then added a shot of brandy into each. 'She's been through a lot, growing up in Hollywood. I'm proud of the way she handles her life, especially since I can't be around all of the time.'
'She seems very poised and self-possessed. I guess she'll be off to college soon.'
'Not so soon,' Anise said. 'She's not sixteen for a few more months.'
'Really,' Royce answered, 'I would have never guessed. I thought eighteen. She's gorgeous but there is no question in my mind where she gets it.' Royce gave her a look of desire that Anise immediately returned.
'She is beautiful,' Anise answered. 'She doesn't have any boyfriends yet. She doesn't encourage them. She's had some bad experiences and spends most of her time with a couple of girlfriends or with her nose stuck in a book. That will change eventually, I'm sure.'
'Everything changes,' Royce replied.
Anise nodded. There was a brief flash of sorrow across her face as she said this. Just as quickly it was gone as she watched Royce pull the silver bullet snorter from his pocket and dangle it by its chain in the air.
'Would you like some?' Anise reached out and touched his hand.
'She'll be leaving soon and then be gone for hours. Maybe we should go back to my bedroom, just in case.'
A smile tugged at the corners of Royce's mouth as he looked at Anise, then it broke on his face and his teeth gleamed against the dark contrast of his skin. 'There's no problem there.'
While Anise practiced her fellatio, Royce mused over his discovery. He'd noticed the missing cocaine immediately. Royce never missed something like that. His strength was built upon recognizing the weaknesses in others and then exploiting them. He took advantage wherever he could find it. From the moment he had met Anise his mind had gone to work on ways to exploit their relationship. Now his thoughts encompassed CarryAnn as well. There was no question that John Morales would want to possess her the moment that he saw her. CarryAnn could have many uses for a man like Royce. Certainly he would fuck her and instruct her in every act that might entertain him, but this was only one facet of the thing. Royce had beautiful women all the time. CarryAnn would have far more value to him as coin of the realm. He could not hide his surprise when Anise had told him she was only fifteen years old. The combination of such youth and mature beauty could name its own price among the men with which Royce did business. Surely Morales would appreciate her. Eduardo, head of the Colombian cartel, would be considerably in his debt for such a gift. There was no telling what benefits Royce might reap from the girl. That she was the daughter of a famous American television actress would only increase her value.
It would not be long before Anise would do anything to maintain her supply of Royce's coke. Where else could she obtain it except from Royce? How could she snort the shit she had been snorting after tasting the real thing?
Royce laughed and then thought to himself, 'How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?' Probably she would not give him her daughter, not directly, not consciously, but there were a lot of ways to make something happen. It was only the results that counted. Royce would provide Anise with coke and Anise would provide Royce with CarryAnn. She was 'liquid smoke' as Morales liked to say. She was something to inhale and absorb, to suck the nectar from until the petals darkened and curled and then fell away. He wondered how extensive her sexual experience was, probably extensive considering her poise and her background, regardless of what her mother had told him, then again, if not, so very, very much the better.
Royce gripped Anise's hair in his hands and moved her head to and fro. Maybe he would get the mother and daughter together, who knew? He closed his eyes and dreamed of things to come and eventually he did.