The Textbooks



These darned things are heavier than I thought.  Helluva a burger though. Damn.




Spent the last of my cash on the taxi.  Back at the office.  Books weigh a ton.   Where’s the… found the key.  Got the door open (barely).  Don’t want to drop anything.



Settled in.  He’s not about the girl.  Not for a bit here, I mean, it clearly drives him, it gives me more of what looks like a motive but…

But that’s not what’s moving him forward.

The scholar, I started calling him.  Wells-Herbet.  He’s smart as hell.  Knowledgeable.  He goes in depth, he sorts through details, he sorts and he sifts.  He’s organized, he’s crafty, he’s focused.

We’ve been writing this guy off too long.

Granted, his focus is on Egyptology and especially cryptology, which is, frankly, useless, but.

I mean, what if this guy had played the stock market?

He’s deciphering ciphers of ciphers of a language that’s several thousand years dead.

It revolves around this book, if you could call it a book – The Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld.  Thing’s more like a series of wall illustrations around a dead guy’s tomb.  Like a museum piece or something.

His references go six or seven sources deep just to get the exact meaning in the exact context of one symbol.   It’s dizzying.

It’s fascinating.

This book he’s deciphering, it deals with immortality, I think.  Or the death of the sun, or something.

I don’t know, but I won’t figure out this guy until I do.

How did it get to be 5:00am already?


Woke up to Sergeant LeFarge knocking.

“Working late, Detective?”


I never liked LeFarge.  There’s a kind of people as is kind, and a kind as is kind as it pays to be.  I didn’t like LeFarge’s kind.

He smirked on into the room, decked out in khakis which he’d ironed within the week.

Laundry was somewhere on a list somewhere stockpiled up in the apartment.

He wore suspenders, LeFarge.  The kind you see in old noir movies.  No one wears suspenders.  LeFarge wore suspenders.  And LeFarge smiled.

I knew that smile from gambling halls and casinos, I’d seen it sneak out of the back of many of a card cutter’s face.

He had an ace on me, had LeFarge.

“Brass says you’re off the project.”  He was leaning on my desk.  A hand crumpled a part of my research.

“They say pack it up, they’re taking you off the Wells-Herbert.”

The only thing I got is the Wells-Herbert, and I tell him so.

“They say it’s cold,” says LeFarge, “they say it’s like week old fish.”

And I got a bunch of bluechips says black it’s another case has turned up with a 12:34 timestamp from the day we found Wells-Herbert missing.  But I got my hunches.

“They don’t want you running ragged no more.  I don’t think –” smiles LeFarge with that smile of his — “don’t think they want you around no more.”




Cases backed up hour by hour.  Where’s the time?  there’s Crime every minute.


My badge and my gun are with the force with my paycheck.  Least I get severance.  It’ll buy me the week, maybe.


It’s getting warmer.  AC bill will be higher in the apartment.



Took forever getting home.  Subway backup, traffic, you name it, it hit.

And on the door to my humblest of abodes, here it is.


Couldn’t keep up with the payments.



I know Billy, I known him for years.  Kindest old Pollack you’d hope to meet, just fat enough to trust, just mean enough to like.  Asshole.  Friend.

No longer my manager.

Took a bad heart attack a couple months back.  I hadn’t noticed.

Went to live with his ex wife and kids.  Looks like in the wake of tragedy, maybe things are looking up for Billy.


Not for me.  New guy’s a face.  Pretty face, with a pretty little wife, too young and too foreign to be legal.  Lives pristine, cuts beard down as stubble, smiles and makes direct eye contact.  Gives fewer shits about my situation than my ex wife did.


Got smiled out of my apartment by six today.



Papers are packed.  Don’t want the photos anymore.

I call my PI’s.  Johnny’s free. Shoot him the sob story and he says he’ll come by.


4 pm


Watched old family movies like a sobbing idiot.  Went through the good food left in the fridge.  Clothes are in boxes and there’s a truck on the way.


Knocking at the door.  It’s Johnny.  Right eye black with a shiner like a patent leather shoe.

We share a look so’s we know it’s a work related injury.

‘Not paying me enough,” says Johnny.  “I dunno I can help youse no more.”


Johnny’s a filthy Jersey wop with too much spark and not enough sense.  Good kid, though.


“times is tough,” I answer, cause they are.  “rent’s going up every day.”


“where you gonna live?” asks Johnny.


I give him the noncommittal shrug I gave the mirror at two.

That doesn’t matter.  Doesn’t none of it matter.

The case though.



We’re out about five minutes late by smiley’s standards.  He sets his watch ahead, I can tell.

Johnny’s taking my things for the time.  For now it’s me and bags full of papers on the Wells-Herbert case.

Johnny had mentioned some opportunities for work but I know I won’t be able to focus on them until this damn thing is closed.

Heading to the library.


Books are laid out. Chronology papers’s set up.  Scanning headlines for more cold case releases.  Got Phil reporting to me, though the phone plan is up so it’s now just going to be notes at the library.  Where I might be sleeping for a bit.

Setting all this to an order.


It all keeps happening at 12:34.  All that same day.  All that hour.  Every case.  Wells-Herbert.



Thought occurs to me.

What if this is all preplanned?  Some big conspiracy type thing?  Wells-Herbert, Egyptologist, gets big into this cult, this old old cult, and he tries to pull off some kind of blood ritual.


Well, the girl he love, she’s got to suffer.  to get scared.  So he jumps her, takes her hair, he dips.

And there’s this highway.  Maybe the number on the exit matches something?  Is it number?  Is it geographic location?  And the robbery.

And more and more of these cases keep piling up.


Maybe he stored his blood, let it out to commit this thing.


No way to check with forensics now.  Though maybe they owe me  favor.


If it is all planned, then we know a time to look for.  A time to check out and research and see.


Maybe this whole thing could come down.  Bring it down, get back the job, get back to…

Place is closing.  I need to pack up and hide.

And hopefully it’ll be too cold here to sleep.


Place is finally clear.  Last of the janitor’s left.

I head to the microforms.


I need to some research.  What else happened that day?  What was the weather?  Any odd occurrences around 12:34 on the 19th of February?  More murders?


This could take time.  But now that’s all I have left.


Witches of Iz Update – April 2014

Alright all.

So it’s been a while since you’ve seen an update to the actual book, ‘Witches of Iz.’

Is it on hiatus?  What’s going on?

The book’s not on hiatus, it’s just in process.

I have this nasty habit where I get excited and run around a lot.  Both literally and mentally.  So I’ll get a great idea, a grand idea, a bold idea, and they’ll all be different in universes entirely!

So Gale and friends have found their way into a goblin cave occupied by a Witch of Iz.  Golden. Grand.  Have I forgotten where they are going?  No.

Here’s the deal:

I have a massive world planned out for Gale, for Ker Sara, for Jerren, and for many others (John the Nurse, for example… Don’t think you’ve met him yet.)

This world is so massive, it’s going to take seven books.  And the Tome of Tales is just the first.

The Tome of Tales is the story of a woman without magic trying to find her daughter in a post-empirical fantasy world.  And I’ve figured out how I want to tell it.

I mean, I had a whole outline and a series of character arcs.  And then the secondary characters came along and were so interesting, and I had to give them arcs, and so on, and so forth…

And then there was the question of how to craft it.  How to Tell it.  Third person?  First person?  Epic?  Pithy?  And here’s what I’ve decided:  The Tome of Tales is a series of Letters.

I first got the idea for these stories while reading Frankenstein and Dracula and the Island of Doctor Moreau (what?  I like horror).  So I like the letter format.  It also works wonderfully for a blog (if I bring it back to the blog).  There’s also another reason for it to be in a letter format, but we’ll get into that later…

So, while I don’t have any more Witches chapters in the Tome of Tales to post for you all, know that I am working on it, and that I now know how to tell what I want to tell (in as much as my style of writing goes).

And in case you’re wondering, the next two books are going to be written as an epic poem a la Beowulf and as a series of poems, a la Emily Dickinson.  I think.  I’m pretty sure.

Whatever, I said I’d write this one over two years and it’s been…  well, I have time until the next two.  But I have a plan!  I promise!

Alright, that’s all the rant I’ve got for today.

Thanks, all, for reading.

Writer’s Take: Time

External now by two degrees, a line out of line from story and stories:

A coworker acquaintance with whom I am acquainted but do not really work passed by on his way out today.

What made this unremarkable event eventually remarkable was his remark on the time.

Not to say that he gave me the time of day, it was a comment I heard in passing – as I said, his passing by.

‘It never stops.’ He said. ‘Life doesn’t ever set to stop.’

And another coworker commented on what happens when it does.

Despite of (rather in light of) the terminal implications, I take occasion to find exception to this information.

Time does stop. It stops all the time. I mean, if you go into an old philosophical paradox, you find it stopping all along an arrow’s flight. But old paradoxes don’t occur every day. Or at least, most wouldn’t care.

But horror does. Love does. Reality does. There are moments, monthly, weekly, daily moments where time itself stands still.

The seconds between 4:59 and 5:00 on a clock travel almost backwards in the workaday world. The time you stand being stood up. And moments of joy – being accepted, or sharing something. Time flows like water, and like water, it crystallizes and solidifies, only to melt away again.

Time stops all the time. We just can’t make it stop.


The Light

The thing about Hell is location.

Location, location, location.

It’s vital in real estate, it’s vital in history, it’s vital in abstract moralistic concepts bordering around the rules of space-time.

Hell is all about location.

As I ride the blazing heat of the Egyptian desert, bouncing about the back of an uncomfortable, out of date death contraption that has decided to excuse itself as a bus, I look up at the sun.


See, I can fry this fellow’s eyes out and it really doesn’t limit their functionality for me.  At least, not in the short run.  Bodies are pretty durable so long as souls are generally intact.

And I am giving this man his dream.

But as I feel the little jelly-globules pan-searing in the arid desert dayscape, I think back to a time not so long ago (but, of course, ancient in your days).  It was a Monday, as I recall.  Well, not a Monday.  Not any Monday.  The Monday.

People call it ‘the Beginning,’ or the ‘big bang.’  They classify it as the separation of space and time, the start of all things (and, some even, say the end… spooky, I know.)

But for me, it was and is, Monday.  The first day of the calendar week at the start of time.

There was the deep, that’s everything, just broiling, unmitigated chaos.  I think back on this time, when nothing had definition, and definition had nothing, and then somebody (I won’t name names, honestly, there’s blame enough to go around)  decided to separate the light from the darkness.


That was how it all began.

Now, it all seems pretty simple when people say ‘let there be light.’  Because nobody said ‘there will be darkness.’  There just was, and it was separated from light.

Now let me tell you a little something about light.

Light is only great in terms of its position.  Of its… location.

Location, location, location.

It is wonderful to be the one holding the lamp.

It is crap to be the one into whose face the lamp is shone.

And sometimes, you just kind of wonder what good the lamp is doing anybody.

Now, to be fair, there’s a very important verse which everyone tends to forget, or look over, because they’re so big on the ‘let there be’ line.

Which is great. It’s fine.  I mean, somebody said it and when somebody says things, they tend to get written down and bandied about.  Whatever.

Some of us have to work for our publicity.


The important verse (before I so rudely interrupt myself) is ‘and God separated the light from the darkness.’

So here’s the deal.


Yes he did.

Because he saw that the light was good.

He didn’t want to call names, or point fingers, but he did call the light good.

He didn’t call the darkness bad, he never said that, but he did separate it from the good.

Here’s why.

So some of us.  We saw this thing, this light, and it was.

It was a lot of things.

It was definition, it was form, it was rules and arguments and people not being the same thing as celery.

Which is, I mean, fine.

But it could lead to so many problems.  So many issues.  So many pointless…

So anyway, the Big Guns downstairs take the issue to management (which before Monday was like passing a note a conference table the width of a coffee table with the attendance of a Convention) and management gets its sixteen hundred feathers all ruffled up, and then it’s all ‘he-said, she-said,’ and so…

So the Big Guns come home (the other end of the aforementioned conference table).  And just start pouting.

You may wonder when pop music was invented.  The numbers and years and attributions that people will list you are wrong.  Pop was invented by the Big Guns downstairs.  The artist formerly known as Prince (of darkness).

I mean, we were all a chorus until ‘he’ started coming in with this (actually quite catchy) A-B-A-B rhyme scheme followed by a bridge with a really, really solid chorus.  I won’t tell you how it goes, just know that if you read Job and a bit of Revelations, and that one story about the pigs and the river, you’ll definitely get most of the lyrics.

But that was really.  I mean, some of us just loved it.  We really, really dug it.  And everybody else kind of got on their high horse (yet to be invented) about the whole thing.

And we kind of started a war in heaven.

There were seven of us, chiefly.  We kind of had this sick band thing going on.  If this had happened in the 20th century, we would definitely be a garage band somewhere in the northwest of America.  But it wasn’t, and we weren’t.  It was more like being really odd concepts in the midst of a zen meditation.  But also a grunge rock band.  It makes sense if you don’t think it over too much.

And it was less a war than a series of interventions, which we kind of kept using to sell our point of view to the crowd that was intervention-ing us.  And it kind of worked.  Like.  Roughly a third of the host liked the idea we had (or at least, hated the idea that the other company had).  So they came along.

Now, by came along, I mean…

I mean, there was a point where the intervention stopped.  Where the music cut off and the light suddenly wasn’t coming from us anymore.

It was shining right at us.

‘And [somebody] separated the light from the darkness.’

Because the light was good.  And we weren’t having it.

So here we are.  In the darkness.

And that’s what time is.

Light following dark following light following dark.

Which is why it doesn’t apply to any of us.

You can’t have yin follow yang (which most will say is giving us too much credit, we don’t balance the other company).  You can’t have oil and water mix.  They don’t.  They just… We don’t mix.

But humans.  They mix.  Reality, that mixes.  There’s a little of all of us in each and everything thing.  Every rose has its thorns (we like to think of ourselves as the rose, actually).

Here’s the thing: there was darkness first.  There was always darkness.  We liked that.  We just wanted to keep the status quo.

But there was this idea to try something, to try time, to try space, and we just thought it was the lamest thing.

But it happened.

And here we are now, staring at light pointed right in our eyes for eternity (remember, that’s always-never-everytime-yesterday-tomorrow-here-there-nowhere-somewhere), and we.


We get it.

But it only reinforces our position that much more strongly.

Now of course, in addition to time, there’s the idea of morality.

Light was good.

Everything was, whatever. So. There’s that.

And time, then, is a series of good followed by whatever.

Good always happens.

But whatever also happens.

And the fight here is to prove that, thanks making light, or good, or separating the blasted concepts, you cause more problems than if you’d never separated them.


And then (and this is fun, you read this in the same darned chapter!)

Then they have the audacity.  The gall.  The cahones (see: Adam) to throw it back in our faces.

They set it all up again, with the argument we were making staring these creations in the face.  Their creations.

And they give them two trees, one of life, the other of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I like to think of this one as the Tree of Light. Of knowing what Light is.  Or rather, knowing what light is.

It’s like…

I hate to use this human’s brain like this (I much prefer his scholarly side), but it’s like love.

This human, pathetic as it is, gets love in a very sad, very honest, very accurate way.

Light and goodness and all that, the whole labeling thing.

It’s like love.

When there was the deep, and everything was undefined and perfect and open, man you could do anything and it was grand.  All opinions were on the table, all choices were fun and inconsequential and whatever.

And then there was Light, which was good, which was love.

See, like love, light is nothing when it’s scattered.  It can be all over the place and fine.

Until you know what love is.

When it is a specific, exact and definite thing that shines out from one exact source.

That was what started the fight.

Somebody said, it’s this.  (In my scholar’s mind, it was the moment he picked her)

And everyone else (on my side) said, what the hell?  (The scholar was also pretty flabbergasted and pissed when he realized that no one else mattered)

Why should everything else but good be whatever?  Why should good be the best (which, to be fair, it isn’t, which makes it better than best, which is good, which is the worst.)

In my scholar’s mind, it was like this.  Everyone is looking for something, and that something can be as inconsequential and as immediate and small and personal as you like.  It can just be about you and your little victory.  But then love hit, and nothing else mattered.

Big or small, win or lose, whatever personal accomplishments he did, activities he partook of, it didn’t matter unless it mattered to the object of his love.  And when things were good, when small victories happened with Her, with his paramour, he was…  He was elated.  The moon was in reach, the sky was a walkway.  But when things didn’t go through, when she didn’t respond, or notice, or care, then everything was… The lamp in his face.

And that’s the thing.  That’s the same thing.  It’s what started all of time.  That damned lamp.  That euphoric absolutely.  That perfect O.

Everything else, not so much.  A little pat on the pack here.  It wasn’t the light.  It wasn’t good.  It wasn’t Her.

My scholar could have gotten along just fine with the opposite sex had he not had love fall into his lap and smitten him.

We got smit too.  Well, smote.  Whatever.

We heard them say ‘let’s make love’ and we said ‘what happened to free will?’

And they said ‘it’s the same thing, just…good.

And then we made pop music like a grunge band and then the lamp was in our face and now we’re renting a space that everyone assumes is somewhere between the crust and the mantle.

And there is still that light, that love, blaring at us, staring at us, right in the face.

And we can see the bastards holding it, letting it shine out.

Location, location, location.

The bus rolls on.  I let my scholar read a book as his eyes adjust to the light, and the mild but unreversable blindness he’s starting to suffer.

That’s what it’s like to stare into the light.  That’s what light does to you.

The Eden Lounge

Our Detective worked late into the night, looking over old books and new notes, paperwork and receipts, photographs and piles.

Haunted as he was by ghosts of his past, he preferred to study in places where everything about him was noise.

He heaped up carts of library books and stacks of copies onto a long bar table and set up a kind of hovel at the far, dark corner of a particularly seedy dive.

The dive in question was called Eden, and had a peculiar staff who worked there.

The Accountant knew it well, and had traveled there at many times in his lives on earth.

The Detective knew the place well, too.  It was his solace from the storm that raged inside of him.  And for all that his body of drinks was a shirley temple, he would inebriate his senses to the low swing rhythms plaid on brass and string.

Tonight, he was riddling deep into mysteries, driven by that explorative moling that bores into a soul of man infatuated.   He had a newfound understanding of his case, and that understanding only led to more questions.  He bored deep into the paper piles that made a pyramid upon his table as all around him, the bar became crowded.

One of his servers stopped by twice to give the Detective fresh water, the second time spilling some of the stuff onto the Detective’s paperwork.


He apologized profusely as the Detective tried to clean and salvage his things.  The waiter then bumbled back out of sight, to feel chagrin in the backroom for a moment before tending to the rest of his section.


Meanwhile, the Detective looked at dripping sheets of odd illustrations, and followed the drops to the pages upon which they leaked.  The running rivers that flowed over the Nile texts led the man to new places of inquiry, and he found a furious focus for his work.

As the hours drew on, the place became packed, hot and loud and boisterous as hell, but with a kind of heavenly conviviality.

If the Detective had watched better his surroundings, he might have seen something strange.

There was one Eden, upon a time, but things hot and loud and boisterous keep us men out of it.

There are many Edens today, and in those gardens, there are those who dance.

As the Detective worked, he grew hungry and ordered a burger.

Now the chef in the back was a man of skill who could make just about any meal you could order.  You could ask this chef for a venison steak au poivre, and marvel of marvels, out of the dive kitchen would the fresh seared carcass bound, catching you like a thing come up in the headlights.  It would be perfect, it would taste perfect, and you would think to yourself “god, why did I never learn to cook?’


So the Detective, having asked for a burger, downed the thing in a horrid and messy fashion, ruining his organization and putting his work hours behind.


It took him until the close of the bar to finish what he had started, not only because of the mess his burger had made, but because the Detective was worrying over a piece of the lettuce stuck in his teeth that kept him from focusing on the mysteries beneath him.

For those who work the Eden lounge, and those who sing, and those who dance, are often people you’ve seen before.  Just, not people as you understand them.


There are those who come into our lives on the fringe, or enter but for a moment.  Some we see and we say, what a bungler, what a clown, what a wretch.  And then we think on their folly and we believe more in ourselves.  We want to make the world a brighter place, to help alleviate the world of its petty mistakes.  There can be fools out there so ardently humble that it swells in our hearts and we take on that virtue.  There can be ignoramuses so strangely charitable with their time that we think, “I can do that job twice as well,” and hop right to it.   Such as these were working at Eden, including a particularly butter-fingered waiter.

Such as those work Eden, and such as the chef work there as well.  His kind dance, too, and they dance well.   They dance so fine that we watch and are filled with envy.  They cook so well it brings us to distraction, to need another, to consume so much.  There are those who are such smooth talkers and such loud boasters that their brags and swagger full us with a kind of spiteful pride.  These, too, fill the Eden lounge.

And the truth is, in places like Eden, where such kinds of people gather, everyone remembers that once upon a time, they worked together.  They dance hand in hand to a mixed message band, swinging like pendulums and rocking like chairs.  Those who bumble and burp and dance with two feet make the proud, sexy dancers feel that much more complete.  And those who swell full of wrath to throw out the louse give the charitable a reason to see the bum out, and safely home later.  They carouse and canoodle and talk about things half-whispered, part overhead, in languages that sound sloshed but are simply old.  In a place like Eden, everyone comes together, and laughs and cries and celebrates.

They feed off each other in a place like Eden, even as they race outside to deliver us – wherever.

And it was in the midst of this Eden, in this swirl of angels and demons, that the detective studied and worked.  And at three in the morning, the hour that witches call home, he packed up his books, downed his last brew — a watered down temple — and was seen out by the crew.

Everyone in the lounge had a look at work, and one little waiter with clumsy hands went home with a smirk.

Typically, the clumsy ones, the flunkies and the fools, they went home singing jolly little tunes.

But the chef had got his burger back, a clean plate he noted.  And beneath, stuck in grease, was a copy of ancient text.  Something in him told him someone downstairs was going to be a bit displeased, that bigger things than him were stirring and starting to crack.

The chef went home from Eden as his kind often do – scared, insecure and alone.

The detective, in the end, did not go home.  He went to work, and slept until he heard a rapping at his door.

The Witness

Feb 20

She breaks down.

Stephanie Melbourne is a mess.  A real mess.  And under interrogation, she lets slip a few things.

She knew our perp.  They had been… I don’t know, acquaintances, apparently.  But she recognized him.  Explains the lack of forced entry.  Still can’t get her to go into detail on how he got out with the wounds she described.

They went to school together, it seems.  He was a grad student studying archaeology, she was in the business school.  He may have tried to pick her up once.  Seems from her account it didn’t work in his favor, but he was persistent – or at least, consistently present.  Sounds kind of like a creep to me.

But we’ve got details like we never had before.  I’m getting to know my missing body on an emotional level.  He’s lonely, he’s unlucky in love, he’s losing time… He’s a wallflower.  An observer. An academic.

He’s an outsider struggling to get in, more comfortable with the looking but feeling that very human need.  And thinking… what?  Just by waiting, or being present, he’s doing his part?

I ask Stephanie to go into the first meeting.  I want details of his behavior, his ticks, his vibe.

She gives me the short of their first encounter.


It was a deli on campus.  Some big brand name, dealing out overpriced food.  She was at a little table taking in the fall afternoon, just looking out and not thinking.

He comes in.  He’s got on this heavy overcoat, too big for him, and this v-neck sweater with something caked on the collar stained from breakfast.  He wears these square glasses and has this grassy bushel of blonde hair.  He wears a pencil stash, blonde as well, which is not so much coming on as trying to survive.

She notices him about five minutes into his wait in line.  He’s been looking at her for a bit, and kind of shuffling through.  He moves with a kind of jerky awkwardness, his face round and vacant.

He orders a drink and a sandwich and keeps watching her while he waits.

She pulls out her phone to start texting nobody, but she feels his eyes.

And, sure enough, ten facebook updates in, he’s next to her.

He kind of stammers out nothing.  But he’s there.

She looks up at him.

My perp is tall.  He’s got those fixed snaggleteeth that are mildly working their way toward yellow, his mouth hanging a little open.

Finally, he gets out a statement.


She kind of dismisses it with a terse hi and a tweet.

He sits and kind of looks out.  She thinks maybe he’s done with her, and is just going to eat his sandwich.

But no such luck.  He starts talking to no one in particular about the trees.

And he goes on, kind of talking louder and trying to be funny, and she realizes he is definitely talking to her.

So she humors him a bit, nodding a bit and listening, and starting to text a way out of the situation.

And he turns his body and tries a little lean, pulling on the overcoat he’s sitting in.

He’s older than her by a little bit, but he’s trying to play that off.

And she’s being nice while getting ready to go.

He asks her name, and she gives it.

He tells her it was nice to meet her —

She gives a little curt nod and goes to leave.

As she leaves, she sees him kind of stare at the place she used to be, his hands gesturing some statement he could have said, should have said.

“And that was all, for two weeks.”  Stephanie says.  She’s been in for a while – murder’s a term getting bandied about, maybe, so we can keep her.  She’s my only link to this missing body.

She ran into him next at a party.  She had gone with some friends who were after a certain boy.  Our blonde archaelogist had been there, and across the room, spotted our blonde little miss.

While it took him the better half of the night to get around to talking to her, he certainly kept her in his sights.  Kind of kept to the walls, nursing a watered down drank.  Hovering.

She had been on her way out when he had said ‘hey’ again.  One of Stephanie’s friends, an ‘idiot’ who was into older men, took a bit of an interest and kept the three of them conversing for a while, which our archaeologist took for a good enough sign.

From that point on, they ran into each other at more and more parties.  He was always shy but up for eye contact, and consistently somewhere in the background.  Even her idiot friend lost interest in him.

I asked her if it ever led to anything.  She said no, she got a boyfriend and stopped going to big parties, changed her social scene.

This guy, though, he keeps turning up.  Clubs.  Parties.  Games.  He goes to everything, tries to be everywhere at once.  Like he could control time in some fashion.


If only.


And she gets a bit weirded out by it but he’s always just at the edge of the scene, and he’s not too aggressive, just present.


But it gets to be more than coincidence and she knows it.  So she does the mature thing and calls him out on it.

“She just stares at me, and I told him, I’d get a restraining order.”

And from that point on, he was gone, she says.  He just disappeared.

“But here’s the thing.  He just like, he had this smile one.  Not like, in face he had this slack, creepy face.  But his eyes.  They were alive, and that scolding was the best thing he’d ever seen, or something.  He just…stared at me, the whole time.  It was really creepy.  Just.  Ugh.”

Something in me cracks listening to this.  But it’s cracked in a backwater shoved behind a fridge hidden behind the trash piles of life, and doesn’t hit me much.

I ask if she’d seen him again since school.  She says no.

“Not until the incident, then?”


No, not until then.


So the easy entry doesn’t make sense.  Not for how close he got.  Where she started off in the room when the fight happened.  He’d have to have had a conversation or something.


She was lying.


“So how long did you talk?’


“Talk?  I told him to get lost.”


“When you saw him.”


“At the party.”


“which party?”


“The one I was just telling you about, with the restraining order bit.  What are you asking, detective?”


“You didn’t talk at all before he attacked you?  You didn’t let him no?”


“No, like I said, just appeared.”


“Like, out of the bathroom window?”


“No, like, out of nowhere.”


Okay, there idioms, and there was respect.


“Miss, I am just trying to help you.”  People don’t just appear.  “You were what, handling your shoes, putting them on, checking your stockings?  Help out here, your story isn’t make sense.”


“I work a desk job!  I play on a volleyball team!  I read shitty romances and I try to keep things very, very normal.  You think I like this story either?”

And I see by the light and the fear in her eyes that she totally believes in what she’s just said.

“Where is he now?”

I don’t know why I’m attacking.  But when faced with the surreal, you come back for the sake of facts.

People don’t appear. That’s a fact.  She has to be hiding something.

And I nearly get to yelling at her in the course of ten minutes and I leave.

“Alright, there?”  Asks Bob Hindersen.

Sunuvabitch wouldn’t know a case if it hit him in the face.

It’s cold out, and the wind’s wrapping around my face.

I want a whiskey but I’ve been telling me no.

I head back into the station to the evidence locker.  I pull out everything we pulled.

I don’t know if it’s night in the basement.  The fluorescents don’t tell time, and the clock’s been broken for a day.  Stuck on an odd hour.  12:34.

And I read until my eyes shut.  Read and notate.  Catalog and chronologize.

My foot is numb, my shoulders sore, and there’s three more boxes.

And the wife comes in to keep me company, but she’s cold in the face.  Not like outside, not like seeing her in the winter after I was gone.  Like just before left, when everything went to hell.

She just looks at me.

“Working again.”

That little thing I hid behind the fridge rolls out, cracking a little more, resting its shattered shape on top of a pile of rotting food.

And it beats for a minute.

“Working late.”

I nod.

“How are they?”  I ask her.

“They’re asleep.  You’re dinner’s in the fridge.”

“I’ll have it in a minute.”

And I look to the clock.  12:34.  And I see myself.


There’s that face.  It’s bad news that man is hearing, but it’s from someone he loves.  He sees her there and she’s talking and she hates him but she’s talking.


Our perp was in love.

“What would you know about it.”

Her name was Jessica.  She had the most pristine jewish curls, black-brown and kind of italian, all her father’s side, and the tightest skin around her eyes, crow’s feet tiny and trim and perfect in the lamplight.  A little nose that nuzzled like a soft beak in the dark when she slept.  Eyes of green and lips as tight as her skin, thin and pale like all of her.  Freckles and a couple of moles just below her perfect jaw.  And she is still mad.

“We can’t keep this up.  They need a family.  I need a husband.”

No I’m wrong.  We used to screw when she was mad.  She’s just tired now, and honest.

I remember this.  I remember the words, and I let it become a song.  There’s a fermata over every rest, interrupted by her precise decisions.  Sixteenth, trill, triply drawing me in and quartering me.

And once, they cut me into pieces.  But that’s on the floor by the fridge, and it beats just to see her.

And for hours, I sit in her presence and I love how much I hate myself, how much my shoulders hurt and how badly broken that thing in the corner is.

Then I wake up.  That shattered thing is beating furiously and I learned something here.

I have some more reading to do.

The Mission

The thing about hell is it’s anywhere.

Being a nontemporal and nonspatial state, hell isn’t limited to being in any one place.  Just because it exists outside of reality doesn’t mean it isn’t right in the middle of the damned place.

Now, telecommuting in a body gives us demons a certain freedom from the inclusiveness of our home, but it doesn’t mean we can’t sense it.

And nowhere can we sense it better than on holy grounds.

Maybe that’s why we like churches so little.  It is not belief in God that makes men worship him, but fear of the devil.   People can practically smell him the moment they walk in – they reek of him.

But a while can feel the demon on them, a demon walks into a church, and he can see his front lawn sitting overlaid with the pews.

What I mean is, places of great belief tend to be areas where the barriers between reality and truth break down.  The rules do not apply as much, and men get their glimpses into the worlds that exist without all the wonderful dimensions that limit the mortal world.

Humans have a natural barrier from our simultaneously ordered and chaotic palatial crawlspace.  Limited in every sense by the five senses, bound to view time only as a continuously elusive present, the body gives men the freedom of quiet which is not afforded angels and demons.  Granted, angels like talking all at once – why do you think they call it a chorus?  But demons, we’re born solo performers.  And when we step onto holy grounds, the great calm of reality gets a little bit more… noisy.

So here we are, my little archaeologist and me, waiting to be picked up in a little church.  And over the prayers that a child sends up to… the Other company… come voices of my coworkers complaining around the watercooler in the office.

Amon brags and boasts, Leviathon mutters snide comments, Azzy pops in and out, grabbing snatches of the conversation.  And all the while, I can feel them kind of noticing me.  I just hope they don’t try to talk to me while I am in here.  It makes it very hard to keep your cover when the only language you can speak outside of time is one that makes people go chemically insane.

After you’ve done a few too many exorcisms, you realize that people just can’t handle their aramaic.

I am looking over my steps for the grand plan.  One of the first steps is, we need a lock of hair from a virgin.  And not just any virgin – the best virgin.  It takes a certain sacrifice to get things rolling on the paperwork I have to do.

“No such thing.” Pipes in Azzy.  She’s next to me now, forming herself into a bawdy rendition of the virgin mother, makeup smeared, one sandal in hand, a glass’s worth of shoddy burgundy staining her cyan blue dress.  There’s nothing he enjoys more than irony.

“There’s no prize for virginity,” she says, her voice less pure than coy, “there’s no runner up, either.  Most virgins just lose in the end.”  She smiles a naughty smile to herself.  “What is all this?”

If I answer her, my body will answer.  It’s not unlike a person talking out of a dream.  And as I mentioned, mortals don’t like their aramaic.

“What are you doing in a church anyway, M?  Tourism?  Scouting?”  She touches the lapel of my collared shirt, letting her hand linger as he leans the ruined virgin’s image a little closer.  “Spying on the competition?” She nips lightly at the corner of my scholar’s lip and somewhere in my head I feel my archaeologist react to her.

I can’t do much but shoot her a look.

The human face can convey so many emotions, but normally, they like to keep things closer to a dull, even keel.  I get that.  I appreciate it.  I do.  But if there’s one emotion you understand from living in hell, it’s being annoyed.  And human faces don’t usually contort this strongly when they’re annoyed.

“You alright?”  Asks a backpacker across from  me.

He can’t see Azmodeus.  No one can.  They haven’t got the zipcode.

I wipe the archaeologist’s hand against my nose, stretch out his face.  “Sneezed.”

The backpacker gives a dismissive acceptance.  People love it when they can chime in but not solve problems.

Then the virgin’s hand is running up my archaelogist’s thigh and I am doing everything I can to keep from screaming.

“What, M, you won’t talk to me?  You’ll give some stranger there the time of day but won’t acknowledge your old friend?”

We were not old friends, Azzy and I.  More like really dysfunctional housemates.

“What are you looking for, M?  What’s the virgin you need so much?”

Then, with a sudden timbre change, Azzy is clothed in brown robes, a bottle of water in hand, with a long face, a properly kempt beard, another kind of virgin.  A man, worn and weary and aging.  Alone.  His hands are now his own, private and reserved and lonely.

“It’s a certain kind of virgin that qualifies for best, I guess.  It’s funny.  People look at best like it’s an absolute thing.  I guess, points to you, M, for that.  People like to compete for the exact same dream, even while they each demand that their own personality really matters.  What is the best, anyway?”

The water bottle is guzzled down until it crumples in Azzy’s aged hand.

“I think.  If you’re looking for the best virgin, you have the find the one that matters most.  The one that…  Not purest, or longest, or any of that… something about being dear to someone, I think, makes something ‘best.’  Something that that person deeply needs.  Like someone a person loved, whether they returned it or not.  Especially if not.”

Azzy’s old man eyes were sad and stoic, like years of seeing a life of beauty had worn on his soul.

“Love… is a monster.  It takes on a life of its own, and wears people into the ground.  And you look back on time, at all the missed opportunities that you never jumped at, at all the whims to which you said ‘no, this is bigger.’  Love, that kind of love, is a virgin.  Not letting life change something about you.  Not letting yourself change your own aim.  Being stuck in a straight line, coursing with one other entity, equally damned and bound, time out of mind.  Chasing one dream that doesn’t belong to either of you but keeps you from running at all the rest.”

I could see that, as much as she was doing her best parody, she was struck by the mission as well.  She, too, was watching the candles we once knew in another life, and she too, was feeling that cold thing that defined every corridor of our company.

“You’re smart, M.  You teach them that they can’t get time back.  That it matters what they do with their careers.  Their money.  The number of people that talk about them, the number of faces that recognize them.  You keep them from remembering that each little love, each little moment, is an infinity, and that the time they spend, on whatever it is they spend it on, is not time wasted.  You help them forget that they are growing.  They’re always growing.  They can’t know that.  They can’t know that, or we’re done.”

“So.  You’ve got to find the one that helped your archaeologist grow.  The one that got away.”

“That’s the best virgin. ”

Then Azzy was gone, lost in the noise and the jumble of my ragtag band of brothers, their jostling and prodding colliding into a dull roar that I soon realized matched the sound of the arriving bus.

I got up and followed the backpacker out into the blazing Egyptian sun.  On to the dusty old metal coffin.

We left behind a oddly crumpled water bottle, a wicked and inexplicable thing.

A love note for the family back home.