Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 12

That was the roughest day of my life. My physical wounds were not too bad. The tattoo, buttocks covered in welts, testicles dotted with tiny blood blisters from being constricted and bound, a few odd bruises, probably from manhandling me around. But worse was the amnesia.


I felt like him now. I drank moderately to quell my shaking hands, but I kept finding myself holding Lex, wiping tears out of his fur.

I had been violated in every sense of the word. But what would I do? Barge into Scream’s house and risk getting put under again? Kill someone? I wasn’t a killer, until maybe now. Call the cops? Not even worth thinking about.

I remembered Jayne’s askance handling of her rape. She would be who I would turn to. And, of course, she would hear only what I felt was sensible to tell her.

It took hours to pick up the phone. Hours as I clawed at my memory for the whole story and received only vague glimmers. Ariana’s laughing face. Tasting her luxuriant body. Fucking her with animal savagery. Seeing her taken by other men, dark, muscular men who throbbed with lust. Taunting, heavily oiled women. Faces like masks. Bodies intertwining, genitals mingling, like some scene out of a carnal Hell. I remembered drugs held under my nose, vapors that made me think I was going to die, but making me harder and ever more virile. I remembered riding crops and howls of pain and strange couplings and over it all the resonant pounding of a huge drum, screams and laughter. But, it was all through a fog as thick as wool. Whatever drug I’d been given had rendered my life a blurry dream.

I remembered manacles, pain, acts I could not, would not, name. Service.

I remembered the pictures of Al Stirling.

* * *

Jayne was happy to hear from me. It took her a few moments to realize this wasn’t a mere social call. When my voice cracked, she said she would come over.

I had showered and dressed, but she still told me I looked like hell when she walked in the door. She had brought a bottle of Canadian rye whisky. I took this to be some measure of her realization of the seriousness of my call. She figured her usual champagne wouldn’t make the nut.

She poured a couple of stiff shots and, as we drank, I recounted an edited version of my tale. “So you got laid, but good,” she said, trying to make light of it. “These things happen. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been mauled trying to get a job....”

I showed her the pictures from Stirling’s apartment. “Do you think these are from a session when the same thing happened to him?” she asked.

“I don’t know. They’re a lot cleaner than what I recall happening, but, I’m not sure about my memory. Maybe I’m making it out to be more debauched than it was.”

“Like maybe you had a good time?”

“There’s that possibility. But, I doubt it. My overwhelming sensation is one of being violated. Of manifest unpleasantness. And what right did anyone have to do this?” I showed her the tattoo. She clucked and I suggested that she call LaVey and ask what the tattoo in that particular location meant. I was also toying with the idea of asking for a revenge spell.

“You realize that there are undoubtedly pictures of you engaged in these acts, maybe film.”

I nodded. Of course, there would be.

“And you think that this is all tied in to the baby mutilations?”

“It has to be. That’s what Stirling was investigating. Ariana wouldn’t have come prepared to deal forcefully with someone if she didn’t suspect. This matter has obviously been discussed in Scream’s office. My fake identity didn’t hold water. They know who I am.” I told her about Boyer’s licence and tooth.

“You’re in this some kind of deep,” she sighed.

“I can’t just walk away from this.”

“You couldn’t now even if you wanted to,” she said. And I realized with a shiver of terror how right she was. Whether I liked it or not, I was in their web.

* * *

Jayne called LaVey and described the tattoo. When she hung up, she told me, “It’s an initiation mark. Its location is so its easily concealed. Nice of them to worry about your cosmetics.” Then she looked worried. “He says it means whoever did it has a part of your soul.”


“He says so. But you’ve got to realize that he has a vested interest in this sort of stuff. I’ve learned that most of this stuff is symbolic.”


“Well, I have seen some things that defy explanation.”

“Like what?”

“The deaths of those who have crossed me.”

“So you think these curses work?”

“I know they do.”

“Maybe I should get Mr. LaVey to whip one on these bastards.”

“You could. But it’s not like they tried to kill you or anything.”

I didn’t say anything. I felt that they had tried to kill some part of me, and they may well have succeeded. “You say you’ve done it.”

“I’m a more vengeful person than you’ve ever seen.”

“I think maybe I’ve become a little vengeful myself.”

Lex sidled over to Jayne and rubbed himself against her stockinged leg.

* * * *

Seasons Greetings from The Dark Corridor!!!

Bing and Bowie for those of us old enough to remember. Always thought this showed a lot of class on both performers' parts --an alcoholic and a blowfiend working together in perfect harmony to create a holiday classic rendition of The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth.
Season's Greetings from The Dark Corridor, where it's always... kinda dodgy, actually.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 in The Dark Corridor

Back in the day, at Vancouver magazine or TV Guide, I would write a year-end wrap-up. So, I thought, as this year closes, I would revive the tradition on The Dark Corridor. Herewith, the pontifications, in no particular order:

Things I Liked in 2007:

Daisy, my Maine Coon love.

Welcoming Calliope, the Pixie-Bob, to our family and Wisemanor.

Ron Asheton’s wah-wah playing.

Iggy and the Stooges concert in Seattle.

Arch Enemy concert at The Commodore.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Zappa Plays Zappa at The Orpheum.

Everclear at The Plaza.

Meeting Arch Enemy at Scrape Records (though Angela is my dream date, each of the band members were the nicest people you could hope to meet). Thanks to J.J. and Lucy Caithcart for a day of being a fan again.

The Dark Corridor blog.

Love & Rockets graphic novel compilations.

John Skipp & Craig Spector back in action.

Good old reliable Dean Koontz.


Pixie-Bob shenanigans and antics.

Internet reports that have me married to Kate Beckinsale.

Chrissie Hynde and Nick Kent in the old days.

Blackberry Curve.

David Icke’s lizard-people theory.

Michael Amott’s incredible guitar stylings.



Arch Enemy, Stooges, In This Moment, Motorhead, Everclear, Zappa Plays Zappa, Ministry, Trivium, Slipknot, Mastodon, Dimmu Borgir, Dragonforce, Behemoth, Oasis, Celtic Frost, Lamb of God, Cradle of Filth.


Trace-Fusion by Frank Zappa, Rise of the Tyrant by Arch Enemy, Hudson River Wind Meditations by Lou Reed, Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker by Ministry, The Weirdness by The Stooges, Make Believe by Weezer (hey, go figure), Tragic Beauty by In This Moment, Stop the Clocks by Oasis, Live to Win by Paul Stanley, All Answers Inside by Beyond This Veil, All You Can Eat by Led Lobster and, of special note, Lou Reed’s classic opus on bereavement, Magic & Loss, which helped through some hellish times.


Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition by Caroline Alexander, Alias the Cat by Kim Deitch –these two left all other contenders yards behind. Support your local library.

The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child –great character, great thrillers!

Blaze by Richard Bachman, Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka, , The Frank Book by Jim Woodring (an acid trip on paper –and no words). Wages by John Armstrong –deadly aim, spot-on accuracy and a laff a minute.

The Lucifer Code by Michael Cordy, The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen –two new discoveries to me.

Pig Island by Mo Hayder –the scariest and most perverse novelist of our day.

Whatever Tim Dorsey was on about. The funniest writer working today.


The Pursuit of Happyness, New York Doll, March of the Penguins, Born To Boogie –Deluxe Edition, Live Apocalypse by Arch Enemy, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. (I don’t see many movies and those that I do see are generally dreadful.)


Rome, Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, Corner Gas, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, October Road, Heroes.

Sex objects:

Angela Gossow, Kate Walsh, Gabrielle Miller, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Aniston, Janice Dickinson, Jennifer Garner, Christina Applegate, Victoria Beckham, Laura Prepon, Gisele Bundschen, Cameron Diaz emeritus.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy (so what do I know, he won the Pulitzer, but more likely as recognition of a lifetime’s body of work rather than this rather retrograde story), The Religion by Tim Willocks, Our American King by David Martin, When the Light Goes and Telegraph Days by Larry McMurtry, Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, The Ruins by Scott Smith, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and still nothing new from James Ellroy.

Things I Disliked About 2007:

Death of Gatsby Wiseman, my love, my hero, my brother, my son, my best friend.

Death of Alex Grant, who showed astonishing courage and strength in the face of death, a true-life hero and the dearest of friends.

Death of Kurt Vonnegut.

Death of Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Death of Norman Mailer.

Trepanning of Keith Richards.

Death of Dean Koontz’s Trixie.

Chronic illnesses of friends and family.

HST still dead.

Death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Trip to and from Seattle to see Iggy. Simply Hellish.

I am sure there’s more to add to this list, but, like any session of wanking, enough is enough.



Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 11

There is a dark corridor you slip through on strong drugs. A passageway where you check your sense of self at the door and become something other. Whatever happened to me in that corridor was full of dark personages, sleek seductive sexuality and amorphous vague bodies like satin shadows. I know I had sex many times, couplings previously undreamt, and, through it all, rang Ariana’s laughter, imperious and disdainful. Her voice commanding and sharp as the lash I felt many times. I was imprisoned, bound and forced. There was no more sense of the outside world, only loins surging with urgency, vast releases and dark humiliations.

* * *

I came to feeling a rough scraping on my face. My eyes squeaked open and, even in my grogginess, I realized it was Lex ministering to me. I tried to move my arms and they banged into something. My eyes slowly came into focus in a dull light. I made out the steering wheel of my car. I heard Lex begin his roaring purr. I figured he knew that I was going to live, even if I had no certainty on the subject.

During a half-hour, I pulled back into the world. Checked my watch, it was five a.m. The neighborhood wasn’t familiar. I opened the car door and heaved onto the asphalt. I’d had worse hangovers, but not many. I stank like a monkey. I concentrated all my energy on getting Lex home.

Once I started driving, I saw that I was only a few blocks from my pad. I crawled the Rambler there and managed to carry Lex through the front door and spill some kibble on the floor before I lurched to my bed and faded away again.

* * *

I got to the phone after over a dozen rings. It was Hy, wondering why I hadn’t shown up yet. I begged off sick, telling him that I had been working on the mutilation story and had been on an all night stakeout. Yes, I told him, I was sure it would generate some copy soon. He remarked that I sounded hungover. I said I hadn’t been drinking, but had been roughed up when I’d gotten too close to something. This seemed to cheer him and he told me to get in as soon as possible. I said it probably wouldn’t be today, but I’d be in extra early tomorrow morning.

I felt incredibly bad and reached for my tried-and-true-hangover cure: a room-temperature beer. As I nursed that, I took stock of myself. I ached all over and had a particular pain under my left armpit. Lex sat quietly on my bed watching me, making small sympathetic mews when I moaned.

I stripped on the way to the bathroom and, when I reached the mirror, I lifted my arm. There was a gauze bandage on my left side. My stomach roiled. Carefully, I removed the bandage. There, still bloody and puffed, was a tattoo the size of a silver dollar. It was a pentagram, the lines drawn thin as thread.

I had been deeply violated. I washed with a soft washcloth. I didn’t think iodine would be a great idea. I rubbed my shriveled genitals and smelled the sex on my hand. When I sat on the toilet, I felt a pain and a horror like I had never felt before. I held my head and sobbed uncontrollably.

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 10

Because of my early appointment with the cops, I got to city hall just after the workday had begun. Hughes’s murder had just been announced and many of the staff were clustered around discussing the news.

I found out that she worked in the engineering department, fifth floor. I asked for her supervisor and was sent in to meet with Chris Canyon. I did not tell him I had discovered the body. I learned Hughes was well-liked around the office, that she was a looker, that Canyon knew she had gone out with Stirling. Her main duties were as secretary of permits and licensing, which meant she also kept things in order in the plans and blueprints office. Recently, she had been working on a number of projects, but the one that caught my attention was the new additions on the pediatric wing at City of Angels Hospital.

Hmm, babies, also the site of one of the child abductions last month. I didn’t know what questions to ask that might further my personal investigation, but I learned that Hughes had access to plans of every square foot of the place, and indeed of most every other building in L.A. A handy person to know.

Lex was weathering his stay in the car just fine. He purred when I entered and I talked to him as I drove to the paper.

I filed an update on the Hughes murder and made some calls until lunchtime. Then, I drove over to City of Angels and went up to see Boyer.

His eyes got real big when I walked up to his bed. He was a handsome guy, but now his face was a mess of bandages, scarlet abrasions and blue-black puffiness. Before he got too agitated, I said, “Look T-Bone, I just want you to know that I didn’t have anything to do with you getting beaten. I got threatened that night myself. I just want to know why you thought I might have been involved.”

“I don’t remember much,” he said, his voice an awkward, spit-spraying slur.

“Now T-Bone, don’t kid a kidder. We know that people don’t issue stern warnings without letting the person being warned in on what it’s all about.”

“It ha somesing to do wit you ratting me out bout shtory I was sposed be wookin on bout buby aducshuns. ’Cet I no wookin gat stoey ‘t all. Ayne was invoved, doo. Bu, I’m fuffed if I know how. Un o da goons ket caaing her da Ledder Lady. Mg any ses to you?”

“Maybe,” I said. I had lots of questions to ask him, but they would all give him an idea of what I was seeing come together. So, I made some small chat and wished him well. He said he would be out tomorrow. Though, with his fingers busted, he would be dictating his stories for the next six weeks. He’d probably get light duty on the edit desk. I told him he could do just as much damage there.

Back in the car, I told Lex that I was going to have to get a date with the lovely Miss Ariana. At the mention of her name, he hissed and bared his fangs.

* * *

Back home, I was relieved to see that no one had broken in. I checked a few places for any disarming presents. Lex sniffed around and seemed satisfied, comfortable enough to make short work of a half can of Dinty Moore. I had Scream’s number from Jayne.

When I got the receptionist, I asked for Ariana.

“Who is this, please?” he asked.

“My name is Samuel Strong, I’m a dealer in arcane literature. I have a recent acquisition that I have been told Miss Ariana might be interested in.” This seemed to satisfy him and I heard the phone ring through to another line.

She sounded like she was pleasantly high. Medicating away a hangover, I suspected, or just coming off the nod. Too euphoric to suspect a scam anyway. I told her that I had come into possession of a Victorian rare edition of L’Histoire de Pasuzu, a chronicle of possessions by the middle-eastern daemon that I suspected was illustrated --uncredited-- by Aubrey Beardsley.

She said she was interested in it as a gift. I gave her a ballpark price of eight hundred dollars and she said she would like to see the book. No, I could not bring it there, but I could meet her in the restaurant of the Metro Art Gallery. She said that sounded stuffy and instead gave me an address in East L.A. “It’s a private club. Tell them that you’re meeting me and they’ll show you to my alcove, Mr. Strong. Shall we say four o’clock?”

I agreed.

* * *

At a quarter to four, I cruised by the address. The neighborhood was mostly industrial supply shops, chandlers and auto parts. Not exactly some ritzy private club address. There was only a black door with a grilled peep window.

Parking down the block, I decided to let her enter first in case she came escorted. At four ten, a yellow cab pulled up and let her off --alone. Rather than walking in, she took a key and unlocked the door and slipped in. This made me nervous. What was I walking into here?

I tried the door, but it was locked. When I knocked, a partition behind the grate slid away and I announced myself and was let in by a small, pudgy, bald man in a black suit with a black shirt and tie. He led me through a curtained doorway into a dim room.

About two dozen high-partitioned booths circled the room and a low stage was set in the center. I was led to the farthest corner of the room. Ariana sat with a martini glass in front of her. The booth was lit only by a thick black candle set on the table. I wondered if she would recognize me. I slid into the seat across from her.

“Mr. Strong.” she said. She wore a black low-cut business suit made her own by the lack of a blouse underneath. Her cleavage was impressive. Her hair was loose and straight, thick black bangs hung to the tops of small, wire-rimmed sunglasses. She smoked black-papered cigarettes with gold filters. Sobranies --cocktail cigarettes.

“Tell the waiter what you would like to drink,” she said.

I said a martini would do. As he slid away, I looked her over. Waiting for her to say that I looked familiar. Whether she had been too blitzed to remember, or whether she was shocked and wondering what to do next, she did not say anything until, “The book?”

The waiter brought our drinks and, when he went away, I asked about the room. ”This is a private club, very exclusive. It caters to those with a need for privacy, yet who share certain tastes.”

I looked around. It was hard to tell how many others were in the room, hunkered back, deep in their booths. I heard some chatter. A cigarette lighter flared across the room. The waiter brought trays of drinks to other booths. “There are performances of a sexual nature on the stage during the evening. But, otherwise, it is just a quiet discreet place for a drink. On occasion, I find it quite soothing. Most places are too bright for my eyes, which are very sensitive.”

I took a sip of my martini. It was everything a martini needed to be: big and cold. I could not read her eyes behind the dark lenses. “The book?” she said, again.

“There is no book,” I said. “I used that as a ruse to get you away from Scream’s residence.” I must’ve been nutted.

She stiffened noticeably, but I kept rolling. “I was a friend of Al Stirling. I cleaned out his apartment after he was killed and hidden away. I found some photos of you.”

“If you are here to blackmail me, I can assure you that with a snap of my fingers I can make sure you never see daylight again.”

“No, you don’t see,” I acted. “I liked them. I loved them. They’re all I can think about. I close my eyes and I see them. I saw your power over Al. Now that he’s gone, I want... to... serve y-you.”

She stared at me, then startled me with a laugh, full and throaty. “You’re just a good-looking young man who has been aroused by some dirty pictures then.”

“I’m sure you don’t find that odd.”

She laughed again and a large dark shape slipped into the seat beside me. Before I could do anything, one arm rammed my head against the wall and I felt the needle slip into my arm through my sport coat. As I was held there, she laughed and laughed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 9

Bed was forgotten. I spent the next couple of hours pacing. Who had been in my apartment? I checked my hidey-holes and none of my secrets had been disturbed. Sombody just wanted to throw a sweat on me. It was an action that implied contempt, saying, “Look here, we’ve been in your place. We don’t think you are significant enough to bash around, but look here, we messed up this other guy pretty good, keep your nose clean or it could happen to you.”

What was my connection to Boyer? News competitor, big deal. Competitor for Jayne, that could inspire something like this. Maybe some other guy in the equation. Mickey? That was a strong possibility. How about my mentioning of Boyer to Scream regarding the investigation of baby murders? That one held potential as well.

I checked the lock on my door and put the derringer on my bedside table before I finally followed Lex to my bed. He sniffed the sheets and gave me an inquiring meow. I told him I didn’t know.

I stripped the bed and put on fresh sheets and pillow slips. Then I lay down and he slipped into the crook of my arm and began that wonderful throaty purr. I listened to its rise and fall and appreciated it as if it were the song of angels.

* * *

Kennedy was on the blower. “I can’t start my day without thinking about you, Holcomb. Pay us a visit down here at the station on your way into work, will you?”

I was too dopey to argue. Confused, I wondered about telling him about Boyer’s licence, but decided it could wait.

I opened the medicine cabinet and grabbed my toothbrush. Something fell into the sink. It was a bloody tooth. I could guess from whom. I hadn’t brushed my teeth last night. I threw the brush into the trash. I folded some notepaper around the tooth and put it in my jacket.

I hadn’t had enough sleep and the tooth made me more apprehensive than my previous discovery. If somebody could easily access my apartment, I had no security. Fortunately, I didn’t have any real valuables, but I worried for Lex’s safety. Hell, how did I become a mother?

I got a heavy ceramic dish and put some Dinty Moore in it and took it out to my car and put it in the trunk. Then I took the tire iron and held it in the passenger side rear corner of the trunk and slammed it as hard as I could. The trunk lid buckled slightly when it closed: air hole. Then I got in the back seat and pulled up the backing section of the seat until there was a nice gap about four inches high where the backing had formerly met the benchseat. The backing was held in place by the pressure from the sides and it would be secure unless I hit a hell of a bump. It would do until I could figure out something better.

Then I went back inside the apartment and got myself ready for the day. I explained the back-seat system to Lex, who looked back intelligently. Then, I took him in my arms, locked my door and went to the car. I put him in the back seat and he immediately smelled the food and popped through into the trunk. A nice little refuge for him that would be cooler than the passenger area of the car. I would check on him if I was gone more than an hour or so.

On the way to work, I stopped and got a block of ice in a plastic bag and put it in the trunk. It would keep things cooler and he could lick the condensation for water. If things got real bad, I felt assured that he could claw through the plastic to get water. The trunk had carpet on its floor and it might mildew, but I would have to worry about that later.

On the drive to the police station, Lex amused himself by going in and out of his new hideaway.

* * *

“Eric Boyer told us you don’t like him,” said Kennedy. I sat across his desk from him.

“He’s a hack and a leech. He gets all his ideas from me and most of his facts, too. He holds down a job by rewriting my stories.”

“I thought there might be something more to it, like a woman.”

“I’m single. I don’t know about Boyer.”

“You don’t know about ‘T-Bone’ Boyer?”

T-Bone was a nickname reserved for those who were particularly well endowed. My stomach rolled as I thought of Jayne comparing notes. “Quite a swordsman is he?” I said, as uninterestedly as possible.

“Yeah, seems Miss Jayne Mansfield enjoys his kielbasa injections quite often.”


“Rumor has it that you’ve plowed that turf on occasion, as well.”

“Comes with the job, I guess. But if you think jealousy over some doxie, who’s married anyhow, would inspire me to stomp the hell out of some guy, you’re way off. As a matter of fact, I was visited by whoever did Boyer.” I pulled out the licence and the tooth and dropped them on his desk. Told him where I’d found them. “Seems like whoever stomped Boyer had some idea we were connected somehow, too. I don’t think you should suspect me. What you should be doing is offering me protection.”

Kennedy was nonplussed by the keepsakes. “Boyer told us he thinks you had something to do with it.”

“Well, apparently I do, but I’m not the instigator. I’m as mystified as you are.”

“What about Hargitay?”

“Possible, but I think he and Jayne have an understanding. I think it turns him on. I’ve seen her leave with guys right in front of him. I’m casting a wider net in my suspicions. Jayne swaps spit with other guys than us. Maybe it’s someone else who dislikes both Boyer and me and figured beating up one of us would be enough of a warning for the other. I’d be interested if any of her other gentlemen friends got any little Boyer mementos stuffed under their pillows.”

“Not that I’ve heard about, though a couple more of his teeth are missing.”

“That might be worth following up. What did Boyer say about his assailants?”

“He was sapped from behind while entering his apartment. Doesn’t have much of a recollection, least not that he’s telling us. Big guys, a couple of them. Claims he heard your name mentioned. That’s all he’s saying. I get the feel that he’s hiding something more. But, he’s definitely pissed at you.” Kennedy fiddled with his coffee cup. “I don’t figure you for a bruiser, so you’re free to go, but keep in touch if you hear anything.”

“What about Bianca Hughes?”

“Some of my men are on the case. Stay out of their way.”

“I have to follow the story for the paper.”

“Then you’ll probably run into my guys. Don’t impede their investigation and let us know if you turn up anything relevant.”

I nodded and headed out the door.


I turned and looked at him. I could see the curiosity in his eyes, the embarrassment that he had to ask. “Is it good?”

“She’s unbelievable, Pat.”

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 8

I phoned in my story from the cop shop. It was good dress rehearsal for making my official statement. I stuck to my original story, fully aware that the missing two hours that I had spent perched on the observatory could come back to haunt me if the cops asked my neighbors when I had left my apartment. But, somehow, I didn’t think anyone would believe my real adventure. I wasn’t sure I did myself.

Kennedy gave me the regular warnings, nothing more. He thought I was a dink, but he was pretty sure I was not a killer. My cooperation so far bolstered that opinion. So they let me walk out.

I expected an extremely disgruntled cat, but Lex was fast asleep in the car, now having found the back seat a good place to stretch out. I figured I had used up my share of luck, in that the car did not reek of cat crap, so I ran us home immediately.

I put out some Dinty Moore for Lex who took a few nibbles before making a beeline to his box. Sure that we had scooped the other papers, I called Weigel at the Santa Monica Fee Press and gave him an abbreviated version of the story. As I had with my own paper, I left out any reference to Al Stirling and just covered a killing, leaving myself out of the story, just as if I’d come running after monitoring the police radio, which had been what I’d told Hy. The reason people distrust newspapers so much is that they deserve so little trust. Enlightened self interest is a crime reporter’s philosophy. They do not pay you enough to get yourself killed, so you inform the public as much as won’t cause repercussions to your well-being. Kennedy had agreed that my name be kept out of the police public statement while he thought over his strategy of how I could be of use to his investigation.

I called Simone. Big hunting knife was probably the murder weapon. Heart the only organ missing. Ripped out by someone who knew where to find it and had the strength to remove it by hand.

I’ve always hated naps, so even though I felt like sleep-deprived dog waste, I showered and made a sandwich. As I was washing it down with a beer, I figured I’d have to get some quotes for the paper from some of Hughes’s associates for a follow-up piece. Precisely the way I’d carry on my vested interest re Stirling. But, it could wait, I was taking the rest of the day off. Getting disarming quotes from people was always best first thing in the morning before their minds sharpened up enough to be defensive.

Lex leaped up on the kitchen table while I drank and took a few notes. I was thinking of seeing what the B-girls were up to when the phone rang.

It was Jayne. “Did you hear what happened to Eric Boyer.”

My stomach rolled. Was Boyer up for some journalism award that would bring him great lucre and send Jayne into overtime in his boudoir? Had he finally rewritten one of my stories to have a book deal dropped in his lap?

“He was shitkicked within an inch of his life last night.”

“Oh, I thought it might be something bad,” I said and looked at the four beer bottles now arrayed among my notes.

“No, Danny, I mean serious. Wired jaw, missing teeth, danger of losing an eye, ribs cracked, two broken middle fingers.”

“Who did it?” I asked, thinking of my mention of Boyer’s name to Scream.

“I’ll be screwed if I know, but he was found crawling out the door of his apartment. Apparently, he won’t say who did it?”

“So, when are we getting together again?”

“Such sympathy.”
“Look, I’m sorry Boyer got stomped, but you must know I don’t care for the fellow. All he ever does is steal my stories and rewrite them.”

“So much for the brotherhood of the fourth estate.”

“Never was such a thing.”

“Anyhow, I’ll call you soon.”

“Hold it. I want to ask you about LaVey. Does he have some sort of interest in me, to the extent that he might be following me?”

“He likes to stalk people. It gives him knowledge that he can use later on. He fancies himself a bit of an amateur detective. So, he might be trailing you for fun. Why?”

I told her about my encounter with the coyotes. When I told her about the surging rats, she cut me off. “Lower creatures,” she said. “A sorcerer can command the lower beasts, scavengers and such. Rats and coyotes fall into that category.”

When I told her about the panther, she hemmed and hawwed. “That sounds like it could be Zoltan, LaVey’s cat. But, if it was, it sounds like that’s a good thing. That cat may have rescued you from beasts that some other black artist sent after you.” Then she changed the subject. “How’s Lex doing?”

“I’ve got to thank you for him. I’m getting really attached to him.” I told her how good he was in the car and how patient he was through the time I spent with the cops.”

“He was there at Griffith Park?”

“Yeah, patient as can be.”

Then, she started chuckling. “That’s an amazing cat you’ve got there. He must really like you.”

“Why, because he’s so patient?”

“Something like that. Anyhow, we’ll get together soon, sweetie. I’ll call.”

I hung up, thought about masturbating, then saw Lex staring at me. Locked in the gaze of those alien golden orbs, I lost my ardor and decided to sack out.

As I slipped into bed that night, I felt something under my pillow. I pulled it out. It was Eric Boyer’s driver’s licence.

* * *

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interview with Frank Zappa

The maestro at his most bizarre.

Frank by Steve Vai

A lovely tribute by longtime collaborator Vai.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 7

I lay still for ten minutes, listening. When the crickets and frogs starting singing again, I got to my knees. Where had a big bejeezuz panther come from in the middle of L.A.? Barring an escape from a zoo, or a mutant black puma, there was only one place. Anton LaVey, as one of his many affectations, kept a panther as a pet. Apparently the beast had not followed me. It was, in effect, my savior from the oddly behaving coyotes. I began to revise my opinion and felt rather grateful to the beast. Though not so grateful that I planned on leaving my perch before daybreak. I was there for the count; it was the only sensible thing to do; I was no hero.

I started to take a look around, standing up, stretching on my little balcony of safety. The facility’s lights illuminated the surrounding asphalt walkway and the bordering handrails. I was looking at a shrub against the rails when I had a sinking sensation. It was not a shrub. It was something draped over the railing and, as my eyes plumbed the darkness, I got the distinct idea that it was a body.

Those screams before the panther appeared, just as I was about to shoot the lead coyote. My assignation?

I huddled in the dark until around five, when the sun started to disperse the darkness. Then, I climbed down and walked over to the body. A female. I did not touch anything, but bent to look at the face. Late twenties, touch of Hispanic, long dark hair that now dangled to the ground. Face now an unholy blue black mask from being draped over the rail like an old coat. No idea who she was.

She had not died nicely. Hunching down, I could see she had suffered a massive chest wound. Probably a full frontal attack with an axe. I thought of going through her pockets or purse to look for clues. But I was a reporter, not a detective.

I ran to the parking lot. Lex was fast asleep on the passenger seat. I ruffled him awake, as glad to see him at that moment as any person ever in my life. Then I drove to the nearest pay phone and called the cops.

* * * *

Next, I called my editor at home, told him I was on a page-one story for the afternoon edition. I had persuaded the cops that they did not need to pick me up and drove back to the crime site. In the minute before the sirens pulled into the parking lot, I snapped a photo I knew would never run.

Pat Kennedy shook his head. “I’m getting sick of your face, Holcomb. How’d you come on the body?”

I decided it would be best to give an expurgated version of my story, avoiding odd wildlife. “I was called in the middle of the night to meet a female with some information on my friend Al Stirling’s death. I show up and this is what I find.”

“Is this the person you were supposed to meet?”

“I dunno, she wouldn’t give a name, but I would suspect it’s her.”

“What time did you find her?”

“Just a few minutes before I called you.”

Over his shoulder, Kennedy yelled for progress and a detective came over. “Name’s Bianca Hughes, all her ID is in her purse, money too, forty bucks. Rings still on her fingers.”

“How did she die?” Kennedy asked the detective.

“That’s the ugly part, Sergeant. She seems to have been held by someone, while she was stabbed below her sternum. There’s a big jagged hole in her torso, but no evidence of a gun shot.”

Another siren came up the hill. We watched Dom Simone step out and head directly over to the body.

Stirling’s sister told me that he had been going out with a girl named Bianca Hughes,” I offered. We stood staring over Griffith Park as the sun came up, our backs to the body.

Simone came over after a while. Kennedy just raised his eyebrows. “Cut was made below the sternum, about ten inches wide. Then it appears someone reached in, grabbed her heart and pulled it out.”

“Was she alive?”

“Can’t tell yet, but if she was it’s highly unlikely she was conscious past the initial slice. There’s a body wall that has to be breached before anyone could get a hand in.”

Kennedy looked over my face. “What the hell are you involved in here, Paperboy?”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gothic Fiction: Class Reunion

Here is a gothic short story I wrote about that most lame of traditions, the high school reunion. CBC was going to buy it to make into an episode of an omnibus TV series, but the series never got off the ground. What else is new....

CLASS REUNION by Les Wiseman

You got the invitation and you wondered. Grad class twenty-year reunion. Why? You hated those knotheads then, why would you want to go back to that small town and get together with them now? When you've become your own person via two decades of hard labor. You never fit in, were never part of the in cliques. And since you left it all behind you'd made real friends, people who respect and admire you. Who don't know that in high school you were scorned. These days, people think you're cool. And during a decade of journalism you had occasionally gloried at the thought of those high-school turds reading your byline with envy while they pumped gas or labored in mindless repetitive jobs while their sows whelped. And you thought of the great sex you'd had, with beautiful women who loved your body and never knew the kids wouldn't let you walk home with them. You had taken drugs and drank with some of the brightest minds of your generation. You were a known entity in the cultural mosaic.

You were proud that you had put out two books of horror, that were birthed in high school when you read weird magazines and comics while the jocks played on their petty little teams and made out with their vacuous little squirrel-headed cheerleaders. And while you never had a leather jacket or any of the fashionable clothes because your parents couldn't afford them, your agent had just negotiated a six-figure deal for your third book. And while kids would put "Kick Me" signs on your back in the hallways, you now got letters from fans who would like to meet you. And when you stepped away from the podium at a reading, you knew there were always going to be a couple of women who wanted you because of what you had created. Your power.

So, you figured you had your ego in check enough that you could go to the reunion, not to gloat, but just to show how you had turned out. Better than most.

You had what you wanted. A book contract, a mortgage, and you had found, after some rakish searching, the dearest woman in the world. You had given up thinking there would ever be a right one for you, but then she had walked into your life. True, she was substantially older than you, but all relationships are weird. And though she had a few lines, it was obvious that she was a beautiful woman. Plus, she had a mind. She read books. You could talk about things that mattered with her. And she had no ego screwiness; she did what she wanted and the rest of the world could go sit on a tack. Your books never shocked her. She read all that sort of stuff. And at conventions, the other writers who had come to accept you were always delighted to see her because she knew their work and could talk about it intelligently. She was a gem. And she left you alone to write, but was always right there doing the little things that kept her happy, her cross-stitching, her knitting, her recipes. You had a wonderful life together. And while the other guys in your class might've had wives that were sleeker, none had one remotely as full of worth and goodness.

So you went. Back to that small town. To that high school gym. You couldn't resist an Armani suit. And while the little woman was noticeably a few axe-handles through the beam, she looked fabulous in her diamonds.

You knew you weren't going to be the richest guy there. You'd heard that Donny Paulsen had started a lightbulb business with a couple of other jerks and had turned it into a multi-million dollar distribution company. But, hell, he was still just a glorified lightbulb salesman. You wondered about that Deanna Allen, the haughty genetic-wonder cheerleader who you lusted over mightily and once called you a loser. That had destroyed you for weeks, maybe longer. You'd heard that she was divorced from that alcoholic football player now and was waiting tables in a series of restaurants. Might be nice to go there for dinner, make sure to get her section, leave a fifty dollar tip, blow her away.

When you entered the old gym, there they all were: fatter, balder, saggier, but strutting around like puffer pigeons, each one wanting to meet only those whose lives hadn't turned out so well. And you'd gotten your wife a drink and she whispered that you had gone to school with an awful lot of severely ugly people and that made you want to hug her right there. You knew there was no place she would less like to be than here, but she was humoring something inside you that needed to be aired. You saw a few you'd known. Saw them look you over. And it came to you with a panic flash of flop sweat that your wife was going to find out that you had been a loser in high school, that you did not have any friends to be reunited with.

So you skirted the walls of the hall. Absorbed yourself in looking at the photos put up there, clipped from the annual and new stuff sent in by people who had some sense of spirit about this thing, pictures of their homes, their kids, their boats. Among some of the older pictures you saw an annual clipping of you, sitting in a chair alone. Out of context. You felt the sweat rise again; you knew that you were sitting alone at a dance. Some joker with a Brownie had snapped your picture to display to everyone what an outcast you were. But now the picture didn't communicate that to anyone else, you assured yourself. So you pointed it out to your wife. She said she could tell that you had potential despite that ridiculous haircut.

And you heard that voice and felt that tap on your shoulder and turned around to see Donny Paulsen. Tanned, in a suit as expensive as yours, but much more conservative. He breathed scotch on you, his eyes filigreed with red capillaries. He looked you up and down, then smiled all teeth and warmth. Then, he reached out, and before you could do anything, he ruffled your hair and chuckled. He indicated the picture with his scotch glass. You knew he could spill the beans, that he knew where and why the shot had been taken. He just laughed and shook his head. You heard a quaver in your voice as you introduced him to your wife and he gave her a cursory "I could have you" glance. You mentioned that you heard he was in lightbulbs. And you saw a flare of anger in his eyes when he heard the derision in your voice. He said he'd tried to read one of your books, couldn't remember the title, but he didn't have time to get through it. You felt yourself flare and you couldn't look over at your wife for fear that she could see that this guy was ranking you. He looked around the room, saw someone he wanted to see and, before he turned away, he lifted his hand again toward your hair, but prepared you shot out your hand to intercept it, but not before he had dropped the hand. It had been a feint. He'd got you again. He chuckled and shook his head as he walked away.

You told your wife what a prick he was. She allowed as to how that was quite obvious. Asked if you wanted to split. You said no and went and got a couple more drinks, yours a double.

Cliques were starting to gel. Goobers who were flyspecks on the social calendar were clapping each other on the back and eyeing each other's wives. Your wife and you were starting to look conspicuously isolated.

Some geezer made a speech. A band stumbled through some tragic retro rock. Despite the fact that you went to school in the '70s, high school always seemed denoted by '50s clinkers. You talked with a few other incongruities, didn't remember them, but were polite and glad for the company. And when your wife went to powder her nose, Donny Paulsen and a couple of his lightbulb cronies seemed to appear beside you. Asked you outside to see something; implied that there would be primo lines. You figured a little toot wouldn't hurt. You hated the thought of your wife coming out of the can and not finding you there, but you'd be quick, besides you wanted to smack Paulsen on the cheek and ruffle his hair. You thought after a line you'd tell them about the time you did a rail with Hunter Thompson.

Then outside the door, in the parking lot, they came too close. Grabbed you, bent you back over the hood of a car. You laughed for a second until you felt them working your pants down. Then you started to kick, but they overpowered you. You flailed frantically and their ugly violent faces laughed down at you. Donny kept shaking his head. Telling you that what you were in high school is what you would always be. Then your belly and thighs were white in the fluorescent glare of the parking lot lights. Your manhood exposed, shriveled with fear and adrenaline and you felt something thick and wet being smeared on it. You looked down at the black mess they were marking you with. Black balling. Then they let you go and you slid onto the gravel, the bumper bruising your hip. You watched their backs recede into the building as you scrambled for the tatters of your pants. No dignity. And you wondered how you would get to your wife. You imagined her waiting inside alone, worried. You imagined going in to get her and the room turning to laugh and point led by Donny Paulsen who had told everyone of your treatment. Of your wife's humiliation adding exponentially to your own.

They'd had to teach you a lesson, that you could never change, that you could never rise above the station that you were ranked into by your superiors in high school. And, if you got uppity, they would be there to knock you right back down into your proper place. No matter how snotty you got when you were out of reach, you couldn't escape it, there was a law of the jungle to be maintained.

But suddenly she was there. Her good, warm face creased with worry and concern and when she touched you whatever composure you had left broke and hot tears of shame and humiliation flowed down your cheeks and she helped you to the car. She drove. Back to your hotel. When you tried to explain, she shooshed you. She helped you in the bath and she gave you a sedative and she put you to bed. Somewhere in the night you saw light from the outside the curtains penetrate the room and you weren't sure but you thought you saw her naked, coming in through the window. Her eyes blazing, her mouth smeared with red. When you woke, it all came back to you and you felt your stomach sink and roil. But then you heard her singing above the sound of the shower in the bathroom and you lifted your head.

The morning paper was on your chest. You caught the headline, "School Reunion Marred By Parking Lot Slaughter." You caught a fragment of the subhead, "Millionaire industrialist and two of his employees. . . ." And she came out of the bathroom rubbing her hair with a towel and you looked at that little dumpling of a body and you thought that she was a good dear thing. And, even though she was no spring chicken, you loved her all the more. Sure, she was a bit older than you. A couple of centuries, give or take. But she was a good woman nonetheless. And you were lucky to have found her.

-- 30 --

Friday, November 23, 2007

What They Said About Les Wiseman in the High School Yearbook

“They said he had gone forever mad. . . They said he could commune with wolves, howling back and forth with them over the miles of open prairie. That he could see in the dark like a bat, could smell any lie. He could know the thoughts of the dead when he stood over their graves. He could hear a human heartbeat at a distance of fifty yards. He never slept. It would not have surprised any who trafficked in such lore to learn he could set fires with a hard stare, could look hard at an overhead hawk and see the country all around as the raptor saw it. . . Some whispered he’d made a bargain with the Devil, though others said that made no sense at all, that the Devil didn’t make bargains to gain what was already coming to him. . . .”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

* Tranquilize OFFICIAL VIDEO - THE KILLERS feat. Lou Reed *

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 6

Opening the first envelope, I pulled out a ream of five-by-seven photographs. They were of Ariana. She was dressed in garter belts, leather corsets, holding bullwhips and a cat-o’-nine-tails. In some, her legs were spread, in some she had insertions. In some, she was servicing a man wearing a full-head black leather mask. In some, she was being spanked and, in others, she was handcuffed in a dungeon setting, her face contorted in ersatz pain as the hooded guy lay the cat-o-nine-tails against her upthrust buttocks. Then there was another unsealed envelope. Inside it were three shots of her with Al Stirling. She was the dominant one here. Stirling’s organ showed his appreciation of this sort of treatment. I stuffed the whole mess down the side of the box with Al’s typewriter and files.

Then I rummaged through the drawer of the bedside table and hit gold. Stirling’s bank books were there. In one account there were several recent $500 deposits and in the withdrawal column, a number of $200 withdrawals leading up to a couple of days before his death. I stuffed these in my pants pockets.

When I walked back out into the living room, my footsteps woke Angie. She complained of a slight headache, so I built her another drink and got one for myself. “Did Al ever mention having a ladyfriend?” I asked.

“Not for a long time,” she said. “His social life was always shot to hell by his job. He was always getting called out after dinner and in the middle of the night. Some drunk throws a punch at closing time and he’d have to cover it. Same as you, probably. His last girlfriend was nice, but she couldn’t take all the last-minute cancellations. Her name was Bianca, Bianca Hughes, I believe. She’s a clerk at city hall, planning and permits department.”

“Do you think she would know anything about why Al was killed?”

“I doubt it. They haven’t been stepping out for almost a year.”

“Do you know if Al was getting any money on the side, maybe from freelancing for magazines?”

“No, he didn’t have any time for that, his job ate up all his time. Though I think he wanted to write a book one day.

“What on?”

“Satan worship in Hollywood, I think. He’d often say that I wouldn’t believe who was involved in it.”

“Did he ever say who?”

“He mentioned Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis Jr.”

“He ever tell you about attending any rituals, black masses, that sort of stuff?”

“No, he never mentioned that, but I presume that would go with the territory for an investigative reporter.”

I liked her matter-of-fact manner. And that she didn’t ask dumb questions. She knew what I was doing and she was helping. “You’re a cool cookie, aren’t you?”

“I’d like to find out who killed my brother, too.”

I took my box to the car and locked it in the trunk. When I came back inside, she had started on another bottle and while we drank and small-talked we got all Al’s stuff boxed up in the next three hours.

* * *

I was dead asleep when the phone rang. I lunged for it and when a black shadow arched across the room, I realized I had also launched Lex from where he was sharing my bed.

“You’re interested in the death of Al Stirling, I understand.”

“Who’s this?”

“I have some information that might be helpful to you. If you want it, meet me behind the Griffith Park Observatory at four a.m.”

Before I could say anything, she hung up.

It was three and I grabbed a quick shower and a tap coffee. From under my mattress I pulled out my only firearm, a two-shot .22 Colt derringer with an inlaid mahoghany handle. I had picked it up one time when a card club was being raided and slipped it into my pocket when the cops couldn’t see me. I had never reported it and bought some ammo. Now, I dropped it into my right jacket pocket.

Lex had seemed mightily interested in my actions and thinking it was time to get up, he had stretched and eaten something out of his bowl. Now he was standing by the door. I pointed to the cat box, but he didn’t catch my drift.

I picked him up and put him on the couch where I thought he could amuse himself by tattering my heirloom upholstery, but when I opened the door, he zipped by me and trotted down the stairs and along the sidewalk.

When I got to the car, he was sitting in the passenger seat, having insinuated himself through the window. “Okay, Lex, we’ll drive to the end of the block and if you move around or come near the pedals, I’m taking you home.” He just blinked at me.

Turned out he was a perfect car cat, sitting in his seat, watching everything through the windows and making no overtures to move. The lights of Hollywood seemed to hold endless fascination for him and when I came to stop signs, he just dug in his claws and hunkered down. Luckily, I didn’t have leather upholstery.

When I got to Griffith Park, I told him to hide under the seat if there was trouble and I wound up the windows to prevent him running away.

I kept my hands in my pockets, my dinky derringer in my right palm. I didn’t know what this was all about, so I decided not to take any chances. I circled around through one of the many trails that filagreed the surrounding hillside and figured if I kept my wits about me I’d end up able to see my appointment before she saw me.

It was dark as Lex’s ass in there. But the moon gave enough light that I could make out where I was putting my feet and by keeping my hands in front of me, I could keep from running into branches. I’d also brought along a penlight.

I guess the smell alerted me. That wet dog smell. Then I saw their eyes flare in the dark. I hoped they were just park security hounds and a guard would be calling them off momentarily. But, I could not bet the farm on that hope.

I thumbed the hammer back on my derringer, lifting it slowly out of my pocket. I swung the light on them and my feeble beam lit up silver fur, snarling muzzles. Coyotes. Three of them. Whip thin and mean looking fuckers. Most coyotes will hightail it at first scent of man in their domain, but these were altogether on the offense.

The lead dog seemed to take in the derringer in my hand and he stopped his slow advance. The seeming intelligence in that move sent a shiver through me. What kind of coyotes were these? Too damn close kind, came the answer. Sweat was gluing my boxers to my butt. Two bullets, three coyotes. Undoubtedly, two would scram at the sound of the gun taking down the lead dog. But, these animals were not behaving in any natural way. The one on the right was waggling its head as if in love with the sensation. Crazed, likely rabid.

I lifted the derringer straight out in front of me, directly at the lead dog. It snarled again, but stayed its ground, lifting its muzzle to the air and howling.

As if on cue, I heard a patter like a heavy rain pelting the foliage a hundred feet away. It drew nearer and I realized from the shuffling undergrowth that it was not rain. It was something advancing like a carpet over the forest floor. A horrible pattering, surging, shoving aside the foliage more violently as it approached. The coyotes looked over their shoulders, but remained where they stood.

My beam picked up a brown wave coming toward me. Vermin of some sort in a formation over the ground. Writhing slick little shits on a collision course with my legs. I couldn’t run. The coyotes would be on me at the first sign of a flinch. I figured the sound of a gunshot would be the only thing that might rout the onslaught. I better use the bullet well, take out the lead coyote, who seemed entirely calm as he leered at me, his teeth bared, uncaring of the groundstorm swelling behind him. I felt faint, thought my head was going to burst like a boil. My finger tightened on the trigger.

Then I heard the screams. Female. From up above, by the observatory. The coyotes surged forward. Behind me, I heard a roar and a crashing of brush. Then, the air seemed to tear with a banshee scream of anger and outrage. A huge black shape bulleted over my shoulder.

The creature dropped to the forest floor in a hunched ball directly in front of the lead coyote and let loose another shrieking roar that bespoke pure killing rage. My hands flew to my ears. The coyotes were shocked still for a microsecond. Then they leaped over each other to get away. Like black lightning the creature’s arm arced around, its ebony claws glistening, then sinking into the retreating right flank of what had been the lead dog, throwing the coyote further into the retreating pack. Tumbling like dominoes the panicked animals whimpered and yelped, scrambling to their feet, frantic to get away from this apparition that snarled and spat and lunged.

Panther, I realized, just as the thing turned toward me. I had a second to see the wet fangs, the black fur rolling up the cat’s forehead and the absolutely dead, merciless eyes.

The underbrush tried to trip me as I pounded frantically up the hill toward the observatory. I didn’t dare look behind me, hoping the panther would go after the coyotes and was just warning me away. As I breathlessly crested the hill, I figured there had to be some safety here, some window I could dive through, some ladder I could climb. But, when I got to the observatory, there was nothing and I turned. Maybe the cat had been leery of the lights. It was not behind me. I could not bet the farm on it not being just beyond the light, however, and I warily skirted the dome until I came to a doorway with an overhang. A running jump got me a purchase on the overhang and arm muscles jacked with adrenaline got my upper body onto the tar and gravel roofing. Face down on the gravel, I tried to catch my breath and felt my heart pounding into the pebbles. This was as safe as I could get for the time being.